Monday, August 25, 2014

If I Choose

“There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don't. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.”  ~Jose N. Harris
I heard Samuel L. Jackson's wife once answered a question about the secret to the success of her forty year marriage with "amnesia." Apparently she got a lot of flack for her frankness. Personally, I think she's brilliant. So right on the money I had to tell my husband of thirteen years. We laughed, and wholeheartedly agreed with Mrs. Jackson. Of course other elements must be present for a long-term relationship to sustain, such as love, compatibility, respect and a desire to be there. But sometimes you just gotta forget the past. It won't ever change, and is so flippin' awful if the past must remain the present, a person can't endure. That is where this Monday finds me.     

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. It has to be. The utter futility of spending one more moment embroiled in the bitter past consumes me with such fervor I just can't do it anymore. I'm so sick of crying the same tired anthems! The same struggles over the same issues involving the same people and everyone's tried-and-true same behavior dysfunctions, most pointedly mine. Well stop the world, I want to get off. Every moment of the past thirty-eight years has brought me to right now. A state of complete rejection of what is. Not for acceptances sake, but for future sake. I can't take what is into tomorrow. Hell, I can't even take it into this afternoon! I must be free from the past that burdens itself upon me.

Every darn action I subconsciously take comes from a broken and battered soul. My reactions, capabilities, coping skills, efforts and intentions are all tinged by the hurt from the past. Every breath I take floods lungs reeking of fear and trepidation with the stale air of a present that won't ever change. But it can change, in this moment, if I choose. I can be free from the woman who came before me, the one who allowed anger and unfairness to rule the roost. If I choose. I can allow the snakeskin of contention to shed itself from my slithery underbelly. I can respond to life with gratitude and compassion. I can allow revolution to rage inside me, a lotus to bloom where my clenched heart used to reside. I've been blessed with many gifts in this life, some the result of intense hardship. What I do next is what I choose.

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Monday, August 18, 2014

Divorcing Expectation

This Monday finds me where most Mondays find me...exhausted, worn out, spent, sick, overwhelmed and all together disgruntled. Fortunately, I've hit my max. I'm so sick of being in this state of perpetual victim-hood. It's like life is just something that continues to happen to me, turning me into nothing more than a ping-pong ball bouncing from reaction to reaction. All the mental coaching in the world isn't flipping the switch this time. Purpose, positivity, resolution, all very lost concepts my sick soul can't seem to grasp. And then I realized that is precisely why. My soul is sick. This goes so far beyond my physical ailments. This is me at my essence, at my core. I'm lost.

Somewhere along the way I started seeking approval again. In my world, that's the quickest slide down the rabbit hole. For I don't know one single person, save for my husband who has been by my side watching the entire thing unfold, who approves of my life. After exposing myself, during one of my weakest lows in recent history, to the endless expectations, opinions, judgments and criticisms of how I should be living differently, I'm a woman about ready to pull her hair out. Yank out my fingernails with pliers. Anything to distract myself from the bevy of disapproval I've opened myself up to, and for some sick reason, taken as truth.

I'm an island into myself. My happiness and success is my responsibility. Nobody else is going to fix my life, tell me it's okay, guide me down the path of least resistance. It's all on me, which can be a very overwhelming and isolating feeling, if that's how one decides to perceive it. The anger over such a harsh reality put me in one hell of a tailspin for a long, long time. But in the midst of all this tumultuous living I forgot I wasn't alone. I forgot my faith in God offers me the unconditional love and support of a mother, father, best friend and supreme confidant, all in one. I forgot I don't have to bear the burden of my trials alone. It's still my job, to find a way to live successfully given all my limitations, but I have not been abandoned. I am never alone. 

I must reframe my own expectations, while at the same time releasing the need for approval from others. I will never live up to what the world collectively wants from me. Many people spend their entire lives trying, running against time, racing to satiate the opposing interests in their life. It's certainly how I lived before I got sick, and still after all these years the default behavior I revert to when times are toughest. But I just can't do it anymore. Simply trying makes me a very sick woman. It's just the way it is. So with a lightness in my spirit I didn't have when I sat down to pen this revelation, I'm divorcing the controlling, passive-aggressive, harsh and unrelenting presumption others place on me. If everyone else wants to spend their life in that cesspool of disappointment, go for it. But as for me, I'm done. It's a beautiful day out, and I've got a life to try and figure out how to live. 

Thanks for joining,
Leah      

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Dust Settles

Thank the good Lord in heaven, I'm finally coming down off my reign of crazy. Even if the nasty septic tank of circumstances I find myself sitting in makes me want to run right back into insanity's open arms just for a distraction. The biggest lesson I can glean from all of this mayhem is that I can't do mayhem! Unfortunately, most people don't get to decide when, where and what to be stressed about in life. It's kind of something that just happens, a biological reaction to too much uncertainty or too heavy of a demand. Who are those people that walk through life's storms with a smile of assurance radiating from deep within their soul? How did they get that way? Can I ever be like that, or am I destined to be the reactionary, defensive, self-destructive spirit I've always been? Inquiring minds want to know!

I'm learning so much about myself it's not even funny. While I've experienced one giant, rolling flare after another, I've also never been so healthy. Since I got sick, that is. Over the last year I've made an intense investment in myself and my health. I now know all that time exercising and juicing, gulping apple cider vinegar and cooking all my own unprocessed food without chemicals, along with a bevy of other neurotic health-nut habits, are why I'm still standing today. See, so many things went wrong over the last two months, in years past any one of them would've done me in and sent me to bed for a week. Life is nothing if not a double-edged sword, however, because not being sequestered in a dark room with no human contact allowed Miss Type A to keep pushing herself. And push to the brink I did.

Now it's time to center, regroup, claim my balance. If I think about everything I have to do to get my life back to a functional level, I freak out. It's too much! So I only think about the one or two things I can realistically accomplish that day, and promise myself the rest will be waiting for me tomorrow. Surprise, surprise, the rest always is. Perhaps my biggest hurdle right now is the all-consuming negativity my mind seems intent on stewing in. So I'm going back to basics, the same way I pulled myself from the edge of destruction last year. Enter good ol' fashioned avoidance! Let's just say I'm washing the dishes, and I start to get mad at the man who cut me off and made me miss my exit earlier that day. Within a matter of minutes I could be sobbing in a puddle on the floor, and cursing the woman who almost ran me over in the crosswalk, along with the dishwasher repairman who made my kitchen sink spring a leak and flood my dining room. And we haven't even gotten to the people I actually know yet! The only way to not give my life away to the unsavory actions of others is to acknowledge my anger is, if not irrational, totally over-inflated. Then ignore it, and move on to something that either makes me happy or demands so much concentration it's all I can do. Because really, at the end of the day, is an aggressive driver or sloppy repairman worth the cost of me?

Thanks for joining,
Leah

Monday, August 4, 2014

I Lost My Laundry Card

The second I noticed it missing my blood surged with panic. I began feverishly roving my eyes around the apartment. As I searched through the melee of my halfway-unpacked home, the instinct of survival known as flight or flight took over. My heartbeat thundered in my ears. Each purposeful step of my foot splashed puddles of trepidation in my wake. "Where is my laundry card?" I cried in a panic. While retracing my steps back to the laundry room, my mind raced with thoughts of the consequences of my negligence. I had $5 on that card, and it’ll take another $5 to replace the card itself. Why don’t I just take a $10 bill and throw it out the window, or set it on fire for my own amusement? How could I be so careless? Do you know how many things can go wrong when a person’s not paying attention? I can’t afford to be so frivolous!

And then I got a grip. I took five deep breaths and forced myself to stop anxiously looking everywhere the eye could see. After about five more minutes of ignoring my better judgment I decided to listen to myself. As my inner crack-head calmed down, the pensive frown on my face relaxed, knot in my stomach untied and heartbeat slowed to normal. I’d given up on my hunt, and was instead far more concerned with the absurdly fragile state of my parasympathetic nervous system. Why on earth did I get so bent out of shape over a lost laundry card? For crying out loud, it’ll either turn up, or it won’t. What good does freaking out actually accomplish, besides making me sick and mentally unstable? My anger at life’s unfairness flared when I realized the move from hell, followed by more calamity than most people see in ten years, left me so reactionary and damaged that misplacing my laundry card was enough to torpedo me into panic-survival mode.

This is the brittle state I’m left in to go rebuild my life. Ironically, in the five times I’ve moved since I got sick nine years ago, this one physically affected me the least. But with far more to do than time to do it, a very time-consuming regiment of diet and exercise to keep my symptoms at bay, and more unforeseeable problems springing to emergency status every other day or so, I’m spent. Beat down. Woman on the verge. Which is why it’s a wonderful thing my perpetually peeled-back eye unearthed the almighty missing laundry card a few short hours later. There it was, lying in the bathtub like it belonged there or something. Wow. Isn't it such a great thing I listened to my better judgment and decided to skip the worry?

Thanks for joining,
Leah           

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Little Girl Lost

I don't know how to pick up the pieces of my life and start over. All I know is I'm crying every day. Feeling hopeless, lost, and so much anger I can't even see straight. There's so much to do I don't know where to start. We're out of toothpaste, for crying out loud, but have I gone to the store to get more? I'm over halfway done writing a book I can't fathom finishing because my head is such a jumble of chaos. Exercising, juicing, pacing, releasing stress and embracing the positive, those all seem like relics from another lifetime, another person's life. I worked so hard to create an existence for myself in Arizona I could be successful at. Now I live in a place where it's too expensive for me to not work, I have a bevy of rekindled personal relationships to disappoint, and everything I try to do makes me feel like a colossal failure.

Boy, I really need to go watch that Transformation documentary on Werner Erhard that changed my life last summer. Clearly I've lost my grip on the mere concept of acceptance and moving forward in life, not looking back and trading the precious present to stew in the cesspool of a hurtful past. This is what happens when I get stuck on the reactive living train. Suddenly life becomes about what happens to me, not about what I make happen. Then it's a real quick slide into the mire of perpetual victimhood. It's pathetic. It's also my default, the mindset I lived with for so many years. Because honestly, when a person gets sick, life becomes about survival and reacting to what happens. It's the most out of control I ever felt in my entire life, and I absolutely hated it. Hate it.

Is there enough strength buried deep inside me to rebuild my destroyed psyche? All I feel is so much yuck, gobbling up my health, my stability, my future, any hope of having a life. But I want my future! I want the future I planned. The one where I get my book published, change the face of Fibromyalgia awareness in this country, and actually do something to improve the world I live in. Right now I feel so far away from that woman, the one who thought she could impact change, that it's like I never even knew her at all.

Thanks for joining,
Leah 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I'm Back!

Finally, after over a month without internet, I'm sitting on my couch, on my own wifi, connected to the online world. This past month brought more chaos and calamity than I figured would find me for the rest of my life. But the bottom line is today finds me at zero. All the mental and emotional progress I gained over the last year, all that hard work I did to stabilize my existence, all that acceptance I swallowed to come to terms with my reality, well, it's crumbling down around me like the walls of Jericho. 

I'll find my footing. Perhaps there's still a bigger bottom to hit. Not much would surprise me at this point in the game. But simply moving one state over won't do me in. It may challenge me in new ways, shape me into a design I didn't know I wanted to resemble, cuckold me in the head a few more times, but certainly won't spell my demise. In fact, as I sit waiting for the refrigerator repairman to show up for the dozenth time, I'm beginning to think the grand lesson in this colossal, never-ending headache is to learn how to smile in the eye of the storm. I mean, after sitting in the direct path of pelting hail with no shelter in sight, dontcha just gotta start laughing at some point? Even if it's just to mask the rage-induced psychosis.   

Thanks for joining,
Leah   

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Demise

Los Angeles is beating the proverbial crap out of me. I’ve only been here two weeks, but so many darn things keep going wrong I’m sliding right back into survival mode. The one where at any given moment I’m prepared for an anvil to drop from the sky onto my head, semi-truck to careen into me from nowhere, and something as random as two strokes to strike my brain. It’s exhausting, living in a constant state of disaster preparedness. If things don’t start turning around quickly I’m not sure the town I’m from will allow me to continue. Over the years I wondered why I grew-up to be such a cynical, surly, hotheaded broad. Well I’m not wondering anymore! Simply surviving the insane drivers and aggressive, self-absorbed people I encounter at every turn is enough to make a girl want to crawl on her hands and knees back to the sweltering desert I just deserted. Or at the very least revert to my previous state of being known as ‘total bitch’.

I’m damaged goods. There aren’t enough pep-talks inside me to keep going like this. I’ve barely healed from the previous nine years of sickness and random tragedy. I finally got to a place where I could walk around like everything’s fine and dandy, even though it isn’t. I liked pretend land! Because for so many years I was in so much physical pain there was no pretending anything, there was just wanting to die. A bold-faced game of ‘blend into the land of the healthy’ seemed like such progress for me… Now it seems to be my undoing. Of course I’m taking on more than I can handle. It isn’t really an option. I knew when we decided to move I was foregoing safe and comfortable for a life I actually wanted to live. It’s doubtful I would ever have enough insulation around me to not feel the bumps and bruises such a rough transition delivers.

Harsh reality tells me life doesn’t give a shit if I’m sick. Mr. Werner Erhard’s est school of hard knocks tells me simply by being alive I’m entering into a consensual agreement to accept whatever the hell may happen in the future, along with the responsibility to fix whatever it does to my life. And too much experience living tells me things can still get a hell of a lot harder than they are right now. But the bitterness is taking over. I got sick and it ruined my life. Does that mean I'm relegated to wither away living the life that happens to me, not the life I make happen? Am I ever going to rise from perpetual victim-hood and soar among the clouds of my dreams? I didn't ask for this life and I didn't do anything to cause it. Yet still, the charge to fix it is mine, and mine alone.

Thanks for joining,
Leah             

Friday, July 11, 2014

Lone Wolf In A Pack

Last week my husband and I put everything we owned into storage pods and left Arizona for good. The experience has been all the crazier because until we sign the lease on our new apartment tomorrow, we've been homeless. Not on the street homeless, but staying with family homeless. Prior to this upheaval I knew I was a reclusive, withdrawn, anti-social brat with little ability or desire to marinade my days away in the company of others. But even I didn't know how much I've come to rely on the ordered bubble of my solitary universe. It's hard, being around people all the time. I'm exhausted, stressed-out, freaked-out, wigged-out and overworked. Not to mention achy, fluish, and riddled with boils. However, despite so much insanity, I'm somehow holding it together. Most of the time.

Moving back to my hometown is intensely challenging my illness-life balance. While I'm thrilled friends and family are vying for a chance to catch up, I'm incredibly overwhelmed with obligation. Which makes me want to bury my head in the sand and run away at the same time. Or at the very least, revert to my former habit of not answering my phone or checking my messages. On the flip side, the voracity of my reluctance to engage socially makes me feel like an ungrateful child content to squander the affection of others. My brain tells me to get over myself and stop viewing people through duty-tinted glasses. I guarantee if the situation were reversed, and nobody from my youth gave a rats woo-ha about my return, I would feel a lot worse.

The extent of the grand challenge ahead of me is becoming clear. My Los Angeles relations have never really known me sick. Listening to someone bitch on the phone about how bad they feel is a far cry from a once-dependable person turning into a complete flake. I try to remind myself of how much better my health actually is, considering where it's been. Sadly that only flusters my inner type-A into reverting to the people-pleaser of my past. Then of course I try to rise to the occasion, and crash and burn into a puddle of my own frustration. Consciously I know there is no going back to my previous life-model. It simply won't allow me the focus, peace or solitude to maintain my health and accomplish my life. But until I get some order back in my universe, until my days are mine again, and I begin to de-stress from this wild ride life is taking me on, this lone wolf is having a very hard time settling into the pack.

Thanks for joining,
Leah 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

And Still I Rise

I moved to Arizona in 2008 a broken, battered shell of a woman. Although I was only 32 years-old, life was hardly done walloping the beat-down of a lifetime into the very essence of my humanity. Returning to work part-time meant I wasn't technically disabled, anymore. Leaving the cold of San Francisco took my daily pain level from a constant and pervasive Amethyst to a moody Mulberry. Relocating from practically the most expensive city in the country ensured everything wasn't going to be so damn hard anymore. Didn't it? Is this the part where I clutch my side and roll on the floor laughing?

With the good came bad, as is life. Phoenix was warm and affordable, and I was in less pain. But then all these other problems rose to the surface. Being sick for four years had sure done a number on my interpersonal relationships! I was on so many medications I felt like a Stepford Wife. The financial chaos my husband and I were sitting in was nothing short of its own tragedy. Slowly but surely we forged ahead, oblivious that the worst was still yet to come.

Like Lyrica served a purpose for a short time in my recovery, Phoenix was what we needed when we moved here. My feelings are so mixed about this place, though, because the worst time of my life also happened here. The most painful, mortifying and horribly ugly phase I never though I would have to endure, happened here. So did healing and a freedom from pain I didn't imagine could ever be mine. It's on the back of this double-headed coin that this phoenix rises from the ashes of ruin, and bodes farewell to the desert state. The woman returning home to Los Angeles in a couple weeks is so much stronger than the girl who left for San Francisco twelve years-ago, with stars shining bright in her hopeful eyes. I'm so much wiser, compassionate, and determined to prevail. I'm also meaner, crazier, and certain that whatever life dishes out, I'll continue to rise.

Thanks for joining,
Leah 

Still I Rise

...Did you want to see me broken? 
Bowed head and lowered eyes? 

Shoulders falling down like teardrops. 
Weakened by my soulful cries. 



Does my haughtiness offend you? 
Don't you take it awful hard 
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines 
Diggin' in my own back yard. 



You may shoot me with your words, 
You may cut me with your eyes, 
You may kill me with your hatefulness, 

But still, like air, I'll rise...    

~Maya Angelou  
1928-2014    

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Finding My Health Part I: The Dirt On The Juice

I'm a bona fide health-nut conspiracy-theorist. Getting sick with something science doesn't understand, and medicine hardly believes in, forced me to look past my medical doctor and his prescription pad. It's been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad journey I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. But what I can say is once I stopped looking for a way to get "better" from Fibro, and instead focused on being a healthy human, everything started falling into place.

Juicing literally saved my life. I was so sick with immune-suppressed viral symptoms I was quickly losing my patience for this world. Then I watched a documentary called Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, which inspired me to give juicing a whirl. So I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond and bought myself a Breville juicer, then loaded up on fresh produce. My flu-ish symptoms responded to a fat dose of vegetable juice almost immediately. In fact, every night when I would drink it, I would feel noticeably better. It wasn't hard to keep at it with such instant results, especially when I would skip and feel like I smacked into the back of a semi-truck at 90 miles an hour.

The other benefits were astounding. My brain quieted down and I started to be able to fall asleep at night! Sleeping and not having the flu every day did wonders for my quality of life. I was able to institute a bit of order and routine, and actually began to count on myself for the first time in many years. Life suddenly seemed like it was worth living again. Then people kept telling me I was losing weight. I'd been exercising for a few years and slowly dropping pounds. Apparently once I started juicing it just fell off. But the biggest shock came when I had my monthly cycle. For years I would pop Vicodin and lay around in agony, feeling like knives were stabbing my gut from the inside out. That first month I didn't hurt nearly as bad. I took Advil and it...actually worked! I proceeded to go about my day and haven't taken a narcotic since. That was nine months ago.

I never stopped eating food, but drinking juice twice a day substantially cut down my hunger, so I don't eat as much as I used to. In and of itself, juicing is a time consuming pain in the ass. Although the inconvenience of shoving produce through a shredder doesn't hold a candle to Fibro. Nevertheless, I juice for three days at a time. While the juice looses nutrition the longer it sits, I still reap wonderful benefits and find it's a commitment I can actually stick to. It doesn't work if you don't drink it!

My breakfast juice is fruit based, which tastes better than the veggie, but many will shy away from because of sugar. I believe in the nutrition of nature and the important synergy of a balanced diet, which includes the fruit group.

Breakfast
Apple
Orange
Pear
Nectarine
Pineapple
Cantaloupe
Lime
Ginger
Spinach (lots and lots o' spinach, you can't taste it)

My dinner juice is hard-core veggie juice. Instead of trying to mask the green with fruit, I celebrate the earthiness with a splash of Tabasco and Worcestershire. I also add a generous amount of Apple Cider Vinegar (with the Mother). Believe it or not, I now crave the greenish-orange sludge people laugh at me for gulping with glee. It's like taking a bath from the inside out.

Dinner
Carrot
Celery
Cucumber
Tomato
Lemon
Kale
Parsley
Cilantro

While juicing hasn't "cured" my Fibromyalgia, it's doing a wonderful job of allowing my body to correct something severely wrong inside me. In conjunction with a million other random health quirks, I don't live at the mercy of pain and sickness every day. My results weren't achieved by a single effort, or in a rapid fashion. Instead, a life dedicated to seeking wellness, and a willingness to expand my definition of healthy, continuously guide my way.

Thanks for joining,
Leah