Thursday, January 16, 2014

Enter Reality, Stage Left...

Well then.
Two blogs In The Same Calendar Month, full of promise and resolve and perhaps a little bit of this:

la la la la laaaaaaa!
Yes. I was wearing yellow in those blogs, free of my high school friends agreeing that yes, yellow makes me look like a dead fish. And I can leap and dance and leave a trail of rainbow sparkles. Yup.

So then I hit post, and as if on cue, my old buddy Reality showed up.   He has lots of eyes and tons of grippy little arms and teeth. Oh yes, he does bite. Ahem.
My buddy, Reality.
He can do all the hand motions for YMCA at the SAME TIME, but that's about his only positive attribute.
Sometimes being positive and proactive is really, really challenging. I find that the challenge increases in direct proportion to me stating publicly that I’m going to be positive and proactive. I guess it’s like saying to the world “I AM GOING ON A DIET!” and then going to Costco at Free Sample Times when every sample is deep fried or sugary cream filled goodness. Or both. Alas.
I promise that this isn’t going to just become a weekly dose of existential crisis.  I just know when I read really positive proactive cheerful blogs I generally have a moment of whoa. That person has it so together. I JUST WANTED TO ELIMINATE ANY CONFUSION ABOUT THAT HERE. So. Not. Together. I figured I should acknowledge that post my blogging of light and energy and huzzah, Things Hit the Proverbial Fan. Those things were not smiling stars, those things that hit the fan. Although really, they’d stop smiling pretty fast if they whomped into the Vortex Windtunnel Fan-tasmic .

This week was way full of the Reality that tends to shut me down.
Trying to practice "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good" this pic is blurry and rushed--and posted, not procrastinated. But this is how it looks. And yes, that is actually what I'm wearing right now. Sans actual green guys.

Work, home, medical yikes (scan week for my baby, who is WAY old enough and WAY observant enough to get that scans Don’t Always End Well--although thankfully, hers did end well), devastating medical  news for 3 friends of ours, heck, even a lot of rainy days…this week was way more Boo than booyah. Waaahaaaaay more boo.

So the question becomes What Do I Do when my ol’ friend Reality crashes with my attempts to change the reality of my responses?
I have to admit I did finally open my Cadbury balls and yes, there was at least one brief marathon of Hoarders watching. BUT I have also tried in those moments of intense anxiety or frustration to breathe. Just. Breathe. To try and focus. To try and NOT jump immediately to scary (harder than you might imagine. Ergh.)

Baby steps. It’s all about baby steps, even if those steps are sort of tangled up in my many armed friend (who never travels alone). 
How do you all deal with intense stress or chronic stress/frustration situations?  I have tried slightly reducing my caffeine again, I am still exercising (4.1 miles run today! Woo! Only possible because of midterms at school, but I’ll take it), I am trying to read cheerful books, I am trying to breathe and pray in those moments of Tripping the Ugh Ughtastic. But what do you all do? 

Reality is with us, too much sometimes. Some people carry Reality so gracefully, not like my zombie shuffle. What is their secret?
So the truth is out. The rainbows end somewhere. But really, I guess THAT is where the work begins.

And I still have more Cadbury left—voila! the stars are smiling again. ;)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Baby Steps

So, I have returned.
Thank you to all who were so encouraging last week about my return to wordsplosionness. I do appreciate it more than you know. Seriously. Thank you.

And I have learned, in the last week, that as soon as you decide to Let Go of the things that bring you to constant yikes, those things SWARM like locusts upon thy house.  We had locusts in Jersey this summer. Nasty, nasty, nasty. Thank God our house is in a former corn field, 17 years ago there were few trees here for locusts…but we know by the end of the locust fest they did find our yard.

Note to self, move from this location before 2030.
Anyway, yes. I have been trying and trying to keep SAYING my non-resolution resolutions, just to remind me (and sadly, anyone within earshot) what I am trying to do. Be creative. Be with the people I love. Don’t get sucked into stupid. Breathe. Appreciate each moment.

So this has been a week of baby steps, and not just because it was super icy and walking the dog was somewhat like waterskiing.

But I have had a few little moments, and in an attempt to not just sink back under the swampy whatnot, here they are.
I have run just over 6 miles this year! Yay! And it’s still January!
(ahem. Normally I can’t say that until June. ;)  )  I know that whatever I decide in terms of running this year, whether I go for ½ marathon #4 or not, I will be WAY more peaceful about it if I try to keep up at least a 5k a week. I won’t have that despairing feeling of “aaaagh, I need to start again!”.  If I can keep up 3-6 miles a week, when I have to start adding distance in the late spring /early summer it will still stink (realities, people), BUT I will have eliminated the first and extremely daunting mental hurdle.

I tried a new recipe last night, a breaded pork chops with a creamy sauce that I found on All Recipes and tweaked for my family’s taste (ie no cream of mushroom soup) .
 I think my spouse may have licked the casserole dish clean when I wasn’t looking (because he knows I rebuke him if I catch him doing that). My picky girls liked it. The teen son inhaled some and went back to Xbox, I figure that means he liked it. Even the dog liked the speck we gave her, but she eats poop, so her vote doesn’t really count. But this one was a tasty little moment, and I felt good about taking the few minutes to look up something new.

  I signed up for Pinterest.
I know, how could I NOT have already done this? I guess I was intimidated by my impressions of Martha Stewart-esque creativity I can’t even get organized enough to look at, let alone replicate. And I know  myself too well, adding a way to waste more time is likely not a good idea for me. BUT I am thinking that if we avoid disaster in the next few months (truth alert: kind of terrified about the next few months) we will have a Big Birthday To Celebrate here, a Big Birthday that falls a month before a Big Survivorship Date.  I am afraid to even speak that, I know how quickly things can change. But I am trying not to live in the fear that is our constant companion here, I am trying to hope. And in this case, hope means pinning pink animal print sparkle party ideas. Did you know you can just put festive duck tape over a water bottle label and then your party bucket of water bottles looks super festive??  J

In the same vein, I applied for an Icing Smiles cake for this Big Day. I was reluctant and afraid to do this, but then decided to just do it. Baby steps.

As a side note, I have always been very Sweet 16 is overrated, making an extravagant HoodlieHoo about it is just silly. But in onco land, EVERY FREAKING BIRTHDAY NEEDS AN EXTRAVAGANT HOODLIEHOO, and for whatever reason (maybe because Scan Days Cometh?) I am just embracing that this year in a different way.

I have made a few specific attempts to not plummet into crazy psycho lady at the drop of a hat.

Yeah, it isn’t all glowing cotton candy and sparkly DIY photo booths here. I am trying and trying to be more patient, to breathe before responding, to just let stupid go. I know some discussions are NOT helped by facts, so really, stepping away is just healthier. I know my G can’t help freaking out about schoolwork,  I just need to breathe and have her read the 9 pages of English textbook out loud so I can explain things to her as she goes along (thank God I teach US I, that’s really helpful for G’s American Lit class).  I am trying (try. ing. ) to stay peaceful with the more sluglike attributes of a college student on winter break in my house. (ok, WAY still working on that).

This morning we had an unexpected day off from school due to the ridiculous wind chill, and my girls came into my room (I saw zero reason to get out of bed early) and my G sat on the end of the bed, and R curled up beside me so she could reach the dog curled up by my leg (no. we do not let our dog on the bed. Never. Um, nope. Not at all. *from Chapter 3 of Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen for this Furball). I realized how pretty G looked in her pink pjs (the child can wear ANY color), and how lucky I was to have such a sweetie as my R who wants to come curl up by mom still… 

It is a work, being positive. But geez, the dividends are pretty awesome.

And p.s. wrote a blog entry (however anemic) within a month of the first “hey I am going to blog again” entry. Win! ;) 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Holding On and Letting Go

Happy 2014, all.

So I was kind of struck dumb like Zechariah after the word-splosion of May. Once I got through telling our story, and realized it was turning into The Wheel of Time (87 volumes and still not done! Seriously, the author DIED and the series keeps going!), I just couldn’t summon the mental energy to put any other ideas into words. This coincided with our early stoppage of chemo because G’s kidneys declared THEY were done, and ain’t nobody got time to argue with a defiant set of protein hoarding adolescent kidneys.

2 stable-ish scans since then, a new school year, new battles, old crosses, small victories and defeats here and there... everything I tried to write seemed stupid.

But it’s a new year, and I have to start making sense of things in words again. It’s what I do. It’s what I live for…to help unfortunate merfolk, like yourself…

Gah, no. Sorry. We did see Little Mermaid as a family in June. That was lovely.

Now, I am going to try again.

I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions, I know myself too well, I break any resolution within 48 hours and then wallow in guilt for 2 months. So I more try to think of small steps I can take, or first steps towards tackling bigger things, stuff that isn’t all or nothing, but more a gentle progress that doesn’t create wads of guilt when I screw up by Saturday.

But over the last few months, I’ve really been confronted with my inability to let things go…and how many things I’ve lost my hold on.

I’m not referring to my sanity. I can hear what some of you are thinking, you know this, right?

Today I decided to start working on cleaning out my craft/office area, aka my Hoarders Studio.  My school papers are literally in piles a foot deep (ok, on top of binders and books and stickers I made and motivational posters and videos and a picture of a lighthouse that used to hang in my bathroom…not sure how THAT got in the pile). My old craft area is a fossil repository for things long neglected.

To start, I had decided a few weeks ago to throw away the giant lightbulbs I had hoarded. I saved them when I was doing craft fairs, I can see them as fat Santas (in fact I had made 5 fat Santas years ago, so I had a legit use planned). But I haven’t done craft fairs in at least 3 years, and these are a pain to paint…so I was Ready To Purge. Go me!

Then I moved on to fabric paints that I’ve had since my sisters were preschoolers (they are um, out of college), random dried out glue, sweaters with holes that I had planned to make into pillows, things like that. Easy Peasy.

And then I started in on my fabric drawers.


I have piles of fabric. Pieces big enough for clothing…a large piece of linen to make an 18th century style skirt for when I volunteered at the National Park (donate)…a 3 yard piece of wide wale red corduroy (ok, I saved that)….Lining fabric and fleece and flannel for a nightgown I never made for my daughter….Polished cotton to make sundresses for preschool girls. That ship has sailed. Sigh. But some of these I could donate, and that was ok. Some I saved, but I MUST use them soon.

Then I got to the drawer of small pieces…the odds and ends I saved for quilting projects I used to do, the bits of my now college age son’s Easter pants when he was a toddler, fabric from 6 or 7 year’s worth of Easter dresses I made for my second born, bits and pieces of days gone very much by—days before. Like, BEFORE. BEFORE the Elephant.

This was really hard. Really. Really. Hard. It was like tossing pieces of the life we had a long time ago, when things weren’t necessarily EASIER (life with little kids and a husband working lots of overtime has challenges), but simpler. We knew where we fit. We were young and unafraid…dreams were made and used and waaaasted….
I can’t help it. All roads lead back to musical theater.

But it was hard to throw away some of that fabric. And some of it HAD to be thrown away. (No joke, I know how those people feel on Hoarders).  And I was all OH, THE METAPHOR because I’ve been thinking so much about trying to throw away the bad feelings, to forgive, to just be at peace with how things are, trying to NOT be stuck in a pattern of slow ugh…

I did find more to donate, and some I saved…because even as I’m realizing I HAVE TO LET THINGS GO, I also am trying this year to hold onto the things I love that have slipped away…I need to make myself finish my last cross stitch project (a LONG overdue wedding gift), I need to start sewing again, I need to paint the little lightbulbs I saved and show my girls how to make ornaments out of random tchotchkes. These things brought me so much joy and creative fulfillment over the years. Creativity is good medicine.

Yes, teaching fills some of that—part of the reason my piles of school stuff resemble snow drifts is because I am always seeking to teach better, to use more resources, to engage students more…
But you can’t wear that, or give it to a friend, or hang it on your wall. At least, my spouse might wonder if I started hanging random charts I’ve made up about Jefferson’s vision for America vs. Hamilton’s vision for America.
That’s a pretty snazzy chart, though.

I think that really, this is what I need to do this year: let go of what I can—the jumper I made in high school and saved because the fabric was so nice (and my plaid is PERFECTLY matched, snapSNAP), the frustration with situations I face daily, the deep almost despair I feel over certain ethical situations that effect my family’s relationships. I have to let this go.  I’m not sure how, because I am a hoarder of things bad and good, letting go is so very hard for me. But these things weigh me down. They have to go, even if that means separating myself from the yikes and actively finding things that create joy (NOT just sitting and watching a marathon of Squatch Hunters because I am too mentally meh to try and actively find joy).

At the same time, I have to re-grip (not regroup, but the same idea. Just grippy) the things that matter, the things that bring me joy.  I need to teach my girls how to be creative the way my mom and grandmother and art teacher taught me. I need to hold onto my family, my sisters and brothers (and their spouses and kids) who I love so much and who remind me of who I am REALLY, with or without the Elephant and all he entails. I need to work more on my faith, which has always been a rock for me.  I need to sew and paint and make jewelry and embroider and do those things I loved. I’m not sure how I let go of them, or where they went…I think the Elephant in our room just sat on them or something. But I want them back.

Well, they didn’t actually GO, they are all still in my basement. In piles. Ergh. But yay, too.

I scandalized most of my husband’s family this year by admitting (ok, by declaring vehemently) that I  HATE the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. I find it intensely depressing. Yeah, George Bailey has friends who bail him out, and his life of continuous disappointment had value. But the next day, after the crowd and the carols and the little bell, you know that George probably still felt a pang when he saw the posters of the places he hoped to travel, he probably still had to breathe deeply when facing the yikes of the job he really never wanted. I know, it’s supposed to be uplifting…

But for me, it’s hard to let go of all of those disappointments and frustrations, especially when there’s no resolution in sight.

THIS year, I hope to look for the joy I know life has…even if that means those situations can’t be fixed. My continuous effort will be to reclaim those things that used to give me a lot of joy and peace (ok, except when I was trying to put a zipper in something and the zipper foot jammed and I was all unprintables! Except back then I didn’t use unprintables nearly like I do now, thanks, Elephant).  I am going to go all Capra on this year. Yes. In little tiny steps. That's the plan.

So, it took 7 months, but here’s around 1500  words and change. Holding tight to old joys, to family, to this brief reprieve we have…and letting go of frustration, disappointment, and all that is the plan.

Do you think I’ll make it past Saturday? ;)