Tuesday, June 16, 2015

If I Really Wanted To I Could

I did the "I Should" exercise yesterday. Today the exercise is to expand on those statements and instead of "I Should" use "If I Really Wanted To, I Could". Then you ask the tough question, "Why Haven't You?" Again, I'm typing out the question and answering it as I create this post.

If I really wanted to, I could be good with money and spend it only on things that are important and useful.

Why Haven't You?

I want to spend some money on things that bring me joy. Why should I deprive myself? It's too hard and nearly impossible to save money.

If I really wanted to, I could be happily married and have no conflicts with my spouse.

I'm afraid of getting hurt. I don't want to be abandoned. Compromise is hard.

If I really wanted to, I could be thin and perfect.

It's never enough. I'll never be perfect enough. I try and I try, but I never can lose the weight.

If I really wanted to, I could have a perfectly clean house where there is no clutter.

I'd rather be doing something else. If I want it messy, it will be messy.

If I really wanted to, I could be a model employee who does everything perfectly, never takes time off and never makes mistakes.

I'm a pretty good employee and work hard. Mistakes happen but they scare me. I don't want to disappoint my boss or get into trouble.

If I really wanted to, I could always be happy, have no problems, never cry or feel angry and I must be perfect in order to be lovable.

I try but I never seem to get it right. I'm always screwing it up.

What strikes me immediately is how young I sound. Like a child that is helpless and scared. The "should" answers seem to parrot some outside authority, not my own beliefs or opinions. The programming started at an early age. According to the book, there should be some relief but I don't exactly feel relief. I think that some of the original "shoulds" aren't exactly horrible things to believe in (mindful of money use, healthy body, tidy home) but the beliefs behind them are twisted and not my own.

I've re-read my responses again and I can now hear the rational mature adult that is me. It's like there is a tug-of-war - me vs old programming. No wonder I feel confused all the time!

According to Louise, the problem should begin to shift. The process has been started of releasing the feelings of "being wrong" because they are not fitting someone else's standards. I hope this is true. I don't feel like skipping through a field of wildflowers feeling light and airy but certainly it is good to clarify some of the self-talk behind some of these beliefs.

I am incredibly hard on myself. I set impossible standards that set me up for failure time and again. My mother was this way. I think she set her own high standards as a distraction to whatever her demons were. And like mother, like daughter. I learned well.

I Should

I am doing an exercise from Louise Hay's book "You Can Heal Your Life". It's entitled "I Should". You are to write that on top of a piece of paper, write 5-6 ways to finish the sentence. Then ask "why?" after each one. Here are my answers:

I should be good with money and spend it only on things that are important and useful.


Because you may lose your job, house, family etc. and you will be prepared in case of emergency. And spending it on things that are not necessities is extravagant and wasteful.

I should be happily married and have no conflicts with my spouse.


Because to be married means you are valid, safe, happy and doing what is expected of you. You're supposed to be married and if you aren't there is something wrong with you.

I should be thin and perfect.


Because as a woman I am to look good for other people. It's healthy and if I'm fat I will die prematurely and painfully.

I should have a perfectly clean house where there is no clutter.


Because other people shouldn't see mess. Clean and orderly means you are clean and orderly. We must appear perfect to other people.

I should be a model employee who does everything perfectly, never takes time off and never makes mistakes.


Because I should not disappoint those in authority and who are paying me. I should be grateful I have a job at all.

I should always be happy, have no problems, never cry or feel angry and I must be perfect in order to be lovable.


Because I won't be a bother to anyone. I won't take up space, burden anyone with my problems, and I should be grateful I'm allowed to take up any space at all. In order to be loved and be acceptable, I must make everyone happy.

I wrote my responses to the "Why?" question as I wrote this entry and well, I'm a bit disturbed. These came from my upbringing, in one shape or another. I don't think some of these were told to me directly but this was what I learned growing up. This was the best I could do with what I had. And now, for 45 years, this has been the way I have lived my life. To say the least, I have made things rather difficult for myself.

It feels like an insurmountable task to take these beliefs and shift them to something that is true, positive and uplifting. A daunting task, to be sure. However I don't think I can avoid this anymore. I don't think I can have a life of contentment, joy and usefulness if these things are not addressed.

Can I do it. I have to. I don't think I have a choice anymore.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Sun is Peeking Out

The water is beating up against the wall
The sun is bursting behind the shutters
The light of Life is trying to get through, ever present
Looking for cracks and crevices to slip through
Illuminating and energizing
Ensuring that breathing continues

More and more, each day, those secret passages
Through dark tunnels and recesses
Grow bigger and wider
Allowing the light to show the way
Corners are revealed
Boxes finally opened
Puzzles completed

Isolation lessens as the birds begin to flock
In trees and bushes
Gossiping and commiserating
The days adventures recalled

Eyes see the wheat from the chaff
Ears hear the subtelties and subtext
Senses are electrified by the ripples
Of emotions and intentions
The seed is finally sprouting and
Opening its leaves to the sun

The heart beats in anticipation of new
And upcoming adventures
And all will be experienced
From top to toes
Tasted, felt, seen, remembered

A body long neglected slowly moves
Clearing cobwebs, disturbing dust
Joints are oiled and losing their rust
And movement once again is a joy

Appreciation, balance, joy, trust
Release, reach, stretch, imagine
The sun is allowed back in
Worthiness realized
Love of self begins

It is a joyous day, a joyous month, a joyous year
Fireworks light the sky
As the celebration begins
Enjoy the fruits of courage and hard work
Let the party begin

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Crumbling into Dust

2011 was an "interesting" year, to say the least. For Christmas, I even created for my family t-shirts that had "I survived 2011" printed on them.

My mom unexpectedly died in November of 2010. My father was having chemo treatments at the time. The cancer in his lungs, because of other health issues, was not operated on and was not doing anything until the doctors noticed it had started growing again in the fall of 2010. I remember in the haze of it all to having to schedule his chemo treatment around Mom's funeral. It all seemed so ridiculous and overwhelming.

My poor dad. I can still picture the bewildered look on his face in those few weeks around the funeral. He hadn't (and honestly my sisters hadn't either) expected that my mother would go first. And he was alone, for the first time in 54 years. In the house they had shared together for nearly as long. I was able to help him close up Mom's estate (I was named Executrix for both of them) but I couldn't help him with their daily bills. Dad seemed to pick it up pretty quickly but my mother had done the budgeting and finances their whole married life.

As the reality of Mom's passing came over me, I immediately started to freak out about my dad. Her death hit him hard and slowed down any healing and recovery from his own health issues. My sisters and I had never seen him look more feeble. However, he had fought cancer a few times already; was he going to win this round too? No one knew and the reality that I could lose both of my parents in a year hit home very very hard. January through March or April was a blur. Between checking in and caring for Dad and grieving, I don't remember much except a lot of emotional pain that was so deep it was physical. I fought to not grieve for them both, but it happened anyway. I struggled because I didn't want to spend whatever time I had with Dad with grieving. I had the chance to have quality time and I was afraid of losing that. But the pain at times was so excruciating I didn't know if I was going to have a mental breakdown.

Then one evening I partook in a psychic fair (I don't think I was reading but helped organize it). I was washed out, dragged out and hung to dry. I sought out my friend Jennifer, who is an amazing psychic. I asked if she could give me a tarot reading to help guide me and help me find a saner place in life. As I talked to her, I broke down for the billionth time (I was crying so much around that time my cheeks were getting raw from the tears). Jen all of sudden said "Your mom is here".

This was something pretty new to Jen; channeling those who had passed was something she had only begun to experience and had not really worked out what she wanted to do when a spirit contacted her. Going with her gut, she began to speak for my mother. I don't remember it all, but I do remember a tremendous sense of peace and relief slowly washing over me that felt so so good. We talked about forgiveness, unconditional love and that she was so happy where she was. We talked about Dad and my sisters. I apologized for not being a good daughter and she apologized for not always being the best mother. My body began to relax and feel so much lighter, lighter than it had felt in months. I began to let go.

With the exception of my grandmother dying in 2004 I had not experienced any major loss before then. I had not really examined what I felt about death. It scared me and it was something scary and to avoid at all costs. This experience has laid the groundwork for acceptance. This is still an ongoing process but I feel I am further along than I used to be. Thanks Mom.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

It's Okay, You Must Be So Tired

I haven't posted in few years (gulp!). So much has happened it is a bit mind-boggling. I will be documenting, post by post, the events that have rocked my world these last few years.

Christmas Eve 2009 I gathered with my family at my sister's house. Our mother, who suffered serious back issues coupled with arthritis, was losing her mobility and becoming stooped. She showed us her lower legs and it was horrifying - they were "weeping" fluid and the skin was red, scaly and blotchy. She had gone to the doctors and it was linked to congestive heart failure. The excess fluid had no place to go so it came out through the pores of her skin.

To clarify, I had a distant relationship with both parents for the sake of my sanity. I had learned a long time ago that I could not get the support and love I wanted, on a consistent basis, without extreme emotional pain. She was judgmental, dismissive and rather unkind a lot of the time. She began to display signs of mentally illness in my early 20's and refused to get help. Honestly was she ill long before then? I don't know. The things she said and did I guess were based from this, but there were times there was such clarity that I still don't know where they came from. As a result I kept my distance because the alternative would have sent me to a mental institution.

In the summer of 2010 things were getting worse for Mom. She was in constant pain, she was experiencing a lot of anxiety and she was slowly no longer capable of caring for her personal hygiene. She sat all the time. Moving was torture as her back had deteriorated further. She was giving up. We all tried to come to my parent's aid (by this time my Dad, who had a cancerous tumor on his lungs) was taking care of most household duties and was feeling helpless. Mom was fighting us on getting any kind of help; however we finally were able to get her to a pulmonologist about her legs, which had continued, on and off, to weep all year. We also were trying to get her to see a therapist because she was experiencing anxiety, depression and delusions. It was such a scary time.

We finally got her to agree to see a therapist. In September 2010 I drove to the doctor's office to meet them (my sisters and I were beginning to insist coming along to any doctor appointments so we knew what was going on). I see my parents in the parking lot, my father standing by the car looking angry while my mother, distressed, was sitting in the passenger seat. She could not breathe and my dad thought she was having an anxiety attack about the appointment. They had called an ambulance, which arrived a few minutes after I had gotten there. They took her to the emergency room.

Her body had a tremendous amount of fluid due to congestive heart failure and they sedated her because she kept ripping out the tubes they had inserted to help her breathe. This turned into a 2 week stint in the ICU as the doctors tried to stabilize the fluid and regulate her heart. She was sedated for most of that time.

She stayed about a month in the hospital. In the meantime we learned that my Dad's cancer was showing signs of growth and he began chemo treatment. My sisters' and I spent that September and October running between the hospital and the chemo place. It was exhausting.

Mom was not really getting better. She was transferred to a nursing facility for long term recovery but it was clear to us that she would likely never come home and spend the rest of her days in a nursing home. She was also being treated for mental health issues at this time. She would stabilize, and then have to go back to the hospital when the fluid got out of control. During this time Mom was semi-conscious and not very alert.

She stayed in two different facilities between hospital stays; the first one was under-staffed with horrible conditions. When she went back to the hospital we insisted she not return there. The second facility was near my house in East Greenbush. It was much nicer, cleaner and the staff more attentive. We were relieved and knew this was a good place for her.

3 days into her stay, on November 13, 2010, we got a call that she was once again sent to the hospital. I took my time getting there as this was becoming routine. However, when I got there I knew almost immediately that this time was different. The ER doctor came out to see us and told us that it was not looking good. They tried to resuscitate her at the facility and on the way there (this was a different hospital than the usual and they had no DNR on file). She was puffed up like a balloon with excess fluid and she was not breathing. They could not bring her back and my dad said she could be let go. There was no further need to bring her back because she was gone.

While it may appear to an outsider that this was not outside the realm of possibility, to us it was like a bomb went off. For a long time we were so focused on my dad, who had been fighting lung cancer for 5 or 6 years and had thought that of the two my dad was the one "to go" first. I don't think we had conceived the idea that Mom was so close to the end. She had always been so strong.

In the last few years I had been making strides with making peace with her, knowing she did the best she was capable of and that I needed to accept her as she was. When she died I think that while I grieved a part of me had said goodbye a while ago.

She was a good person who was handed a lot of challenges early in life. She made a life the best she knew how and raised a beautiful family. She loved to read, play cards, and bake. She had a big uproarious laugh and she gave big strong hugs that could crush you. She taught us hard work and perseverance. She was my Mom.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dear Andrew

I lost a friend a few weeks ago. It was sudden, unexpected and shocking. One evening he decided to exit the world on his terms, by his hand.

I liked Andrew a lot. He was cheerful, sunny, very smart and generous. He was always so pleasant to be around, and he always had a joke to share. He had a very sharp and witty sense of humor that didn't aim to hurt. He knew the hard knocks of life and savored every last bit of it. So why did he choose to leave so early?

I don't know. It can be said that it was just his time, that this was part of the big plan. I (and many of our mutual friends) were not aware of the dark thoughts that obviously plagued his mind. He hid this all very well, hiding in this darkness and witnessing whatever demons visited him.

I wish I could have comforted him. I wish I could have told him it was going to be ok. I wish I could have said or do something that perhaps could have given him pause.

Andrew's leaving really brought home to me that death is not what is scary, but what is left behind. I truly believe that wherever he is, he has a smile on his face, a beer and cigar in his hand and tapping his feet to some Irish music. However, for those left behind, there is confusion, sorrow, bewilderment and anger.

As with death, it is the living that the funeral is really for. We often turn our thoughts inward, wondering if we can live without their smile, their presence. Let's face it: we are self-centered creatures. We make it about us. In situations like Andrew's, it often makes you think about those times when living wasn't such an enjoyable idea. When you thought that things would be so much better, that the pain would finally go away, if you could just end it. Just leave it all behind. I have thought it often in my life; not necessarily leaving permently but simply wanting to curl up and leave for awhile, escaping life's pain.

I miss him. I miss his sunshine. I don't know all that was going on in his mind and I am sorry he felt this was the way to go. Who knows, maybe it was. I hope it didn't hurt, I hope he felt some degree of relief once he made his decision and I hope he now free.

Andrew, I salute you. It was an honor knowing you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Daze

Wow, did this holiday season fly by, on wings coated with jagged ice and with a swiftness of tidal wave. I admit that it took me off guard. As a result I felt rushed this month, scurrying around to complete my holiday shopping, baking and other holiday-related projects. I started to take on the look and demeanor of one who breaks rocks all day, dragging the rubble from one place to another, the weight of the world literally on their shoulders. I became miserable.

Why? I guess I took on too much. I thought I could take on the Herculean task of baking dozens of cookies, shop for several people, wrap it all and participate in several holiday gatherings without any affect on my energy. I believe I miscalculated my energy reserves.

Quickly the panic came over me, as its shadow overtook me, my anger and frustration grew. My poor boyfriend, who takes a more relaxed approach to this time of year, became the focus for much of my ire. Why did he leave that sock on the floor? Why is he in the bathroom when I really need to use it? Why isn’t he helping me? This aggravation spread towards my co-workers, neighbors and even other drivers. Slow down! Speed up! I need that answer now!

While no one person is perfect, I believe my expectations for the world were rather ambitious. Of course, I am forgetting my biggest target, my self.

The wrapping is done. The cookies are all baked. There are a few more parties to attend. The apartment is slowly coming back together, recovering from the whirlwind of these last few weeks of activity. And I have finally had time to think.

The biggest, of course, is why do this to myself? I guess because I believe I would be disappointing people. That is something I truly fear. People expect things of me and if I don’t come through, that is it, it is all over.

As I think, grow and travel, I am beginning to see the faulty thinking behind this. And while it is easy to beat myself up over that, I realize that that too, is an old pattern with faulty thinking. So I have decided to let it all go.

So what will I do for next year? Enjoy the snow, sip some hot cocoa and watch the annual madness from a distance.