Tuesday, October 20, 2015

"I am the storm."

In the past few months, I've felt better than I have been since the summer of 2013. That was when shit hit the fan in my world, and little did I know how much shit and how big of a fan I would be dealing with for what seemed like would be for the rest of my life.

Quick recap: In May of 2013, I was let go from my job as part of a downsizing. Not my first rodeo with a mom and pop company, but hopefully my last. The next month, my mom, on the day she was supposed to receive her LAST chemo treatment for ovarian cancer, suffered her first of two brain aneurysms and had her first brain surgery. A month later, one week into my new job at a new company, she had her second aneurysm and subsequent brain surgery. My friend, mentor and advisor, Norma Mall, also died in July of that year. And that fall, my son’s life started spiraling out of control, taking me with it.

Little did I know that the next two years would be a veritable shitstorm, leaving me clinically depressed, overweight and completely broken. Looking back, those years were so full of tears, sleepless nights, panic, sadness, hopelessness and fear that I am truly amazed I am still here today. There are a number of people who deserve credit for helping me through this time; but ironically, most of them are people I do not know well. Friends drifted away as I pushed them away; only one or two remain. New ones I met shared one or more common denominators that drew us together, for just a season or longer.

By some grace of God (and a balanced cocktail of medication), I feel like I am emerging from the ashes of the past few years, albeit more like a burn victim than a phoenix, but whatever. It’s truly taken some hard work, soul searching and a huge amount of letting go. It didn’t happen overnight, and I’m not all the way there yet. But instead of seating my emotions in the front car of an endless roller coaster, we’re more like riding in a convertible over the hills of Kentucky.

Here’s what I’ve figured out:

I can’t change others (aka "Serenity Now.") “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” Easy to say; difficult to realize. For so many years, I tried to parent the way I thought was best - because I was the parent and I thought that’s what parents did. But there comes a time when giving your best turns into giving too much and losing yourself in the process. This quote says it best: "I will not continue to set myself on fire just to keep you warm."

Even if you are completely sure what is best for your child, it will get to the point where you need to just stop, and realize that no change is going to happen unless the child wills it. So you stop parenting on the outside, even though it hurts to see your child flounder and make poor decisions and do things that you don’t think he should do. But in the end there is nothing – NOTHING more you can do but parent on the inside and let him know that you’re there waiting in the wings IF he should need you. So you take all that energy you were expelling and you work on yourself  - changing the things you can and gaining more and more wisdom every day.

I’m OK being alone. I mean this twofold. I enjoy being alone and doing my own thing. It’s been 10 years since I’ve been in a marriage and it’s true – the older I get, the harder I think it becomes to let someone in to my life on a daily basis. I like not having to answer to anyone and waking up on a Saturday with my own agenda. I’ve found that as much as I am envious of those I see on Facebook who go to this party and that social event and are always surrounded by a bunch of friends, I am not that person. I like my alone time and I have a few close friends, and that’s OK. Would I like to have someone to share life with? Yes, I would. I would love to meet someone who would not make me miss being alone so much. Someone with whom I’d rather be with than be alone. That’d be cool. But until then, I’m OK.

Calories in, calories out. It’s just that simple, and I credit my high school friend Mark Buesing for the mantra he’s been preaching for years that I just recently adopted. I mean, DUH. In the past month, I’ve started tracking what I eat and when I exercise, and I’ve learned a TON. Namely that I eat too many empty calories for no good reason. Like those stupid chocolates in the bowl at work. Now if I get a craving for one, I think, “This fun-size Snickers bar is 80 calories. Is it worth it?” Sometimes it is, and I work it off later. Sometimes I walk right by it. It’s awesome. I joined a gym right near work and realized I had forgotten how much I actually ENJOY working out. I gifted myself 10 sessions with a personal trainer that have been well worth the money simply for what they do for my mood, my confidence and my motivation. Hell, I’m going to the gym at 5:30 in the morning!!! Oh, and I’ve lost seven pounds since the end of September, thank you very much. Now this may sound vain, but being heavier than I have ever been made me hate myself to the point where I didn’t even want to go out for fear that someone would whisper, “Is that Amy? I barely recognized her – she’s put on weight!” I have a ways to go, but knowing I CAN drop it has given me promise.

I love my job and I better not f*&k it up. By the grace of GOD, I have somehow, at 48 years old, FINALLY landed at a great company where I truly feel like I have a CAREER rather than a JOB. A company with a retirement plan and great benefits that is well-run and did I mention less than five minutes from my house? It’s probably no surprise that I started this job in May, right around the time things started to turn around for me. Now it’s up to me not to screw it up. I’d love to make a difference here, advance here, and retire from here. There’s no reason I shouldn’t. I just need to keep my attitude in check, especially when it comes to being supervised by women younger than me. It can be a challenge balancing the fact that I know they know more than me or they wouldn’t be in their positions, but I wish they’d realize that I have about 10 plus years of experience on them and I’m more capable than I think they’re giving me credit for. Deep breath when this happens – don’t f*&k it up, Amy. This is a good one.

I can’t fix my family any more than my mom could (see Serenity Prayer.) My mom was all about family, and she absolutely hated it when things were not right with us, even when she was right at the center of it. I’m sure she’s not very happy with how we’ve done since she’s been gone. I guess I figured we’d all kind of bond together after her death just over a year and a half ago, since her illness seemed to bring us closer together. But that hasn’t been the case. I can’t remember the last time I saw or spoke to one, another won’t accept my sincere apology for something that happened nearly six months ago, and another I usually only talk to when something’s wrong. Who would have thought that I’d spend more time with my dad than any other member of my family? (Yes I know how lucky I am for sure about that!) However, I’d like to crawl into bed right before Thanksgiving and not wake up until after Christmas if it's all the same to you. But as much as this bugs me at times, I remember that if and when a crisis hits, all the crap will go away and we will be there for each other just like we were with my mom. And that will give her peace.

My happiness is my choice. A friend of mine is battling her second bout with breast cancer. In addition to her warrior attitude, she has an incredible and enviable Army around her (yes, I meant to capitalize that) who barrage her with uplifting support and gifts, help with her kids, meals and doctor appointments, and offer positive thoughts and prayers. A few weeks ago, I found a saying that I thought was so perfect for her because I could just imagine her face as she said it over and over. But the more I read it, the more I saw MYSELF saying it over and over, so much so that I taped it to my mirror so I can see it every day. It says, “Fate whispers to the warrior, "You cannot withstand the storm." And the warrior whispers back, "I am the storm."

My friend is in the middle a hell of a storm - I do not for a minute think that mine is worse than hers. Everyone has their storms, I realize. But over the past couple of years, I’ve weathered quite a squall myself, and came out of it completely drenched from head to toe, and I could have stayed that way. But I chose to dry myself off. I chose to face the sun again to warm me and lift me up. And that’s not easy – but I’ve stopped letting the things and people around me dictate my happiness. It’s not up to them – it’s up to me. As one of my son's mentors would tell him, “You choose, Buddy,” I now choose every day. I choose to wake up and decide I’m going to have a good day before the day even starts. I choose to exercise and avoid the Snickers (most of the time.) I choose to work hard at my job and blow off the annoyances as best I can. I choose to make the most of my life instead of looking for someone to make it for me. And I choose to “let go and let God” as much as I possibly can when it comes to situations and people I can’t – and shouldn’t – control or change.

For the first time in a long time, I’m hopeful. I know I’ll be faced with hard times in the future just like everyone else and yes, that does scare me – a lot. But for right now, I’m going to try to live my life the best way I can, choose to be happy and enjoy the calm (for however long it lasts) before the next storm.