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New year... New me

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

Here we are.... about to turn the page to 2021. Like probably millions of other people, you might have slowed yourself down long enough to consider making some New Year's resolutions or goals (heck, some of you might not have even let your mind go there yet). But, just for the sake of sake, and for all of ya WordNerds out there, I will dig a little deeper: Resolution- A firm decision to do or not to do something (intention, resolve, decision, intent, promise, pledge, commitment). Goal- The end toward which effort is directed (aim, dream, idea, intention, objective, target). Thank you Google!

I firmly believe that some people respond better to lasting change by referring to it as a 'resolution', hence: no turning back now, while others respond better to change with a list of carefully planned steps that includes periodic check in's and progress reports. No matter, you do you, girl! (Or boy- whatever the case may be). The point is, we all respond differently to most things, and that is okay & definitely to be expected. Me, well I teeter back and forth between 'resolution' or 'goal' depending on the change involved. Like when I quit smoking... there was no 'goal' about it. I made a 'resolution' to smoke my last cigarette before leaving Oregon in 2012, and that is exactly what I did! There were no steps, no charts, and no progress reports about it (although I do celebrate my Happy Lung Dance anniversaries as they come up. I mean, wouldn't you?!) Whether a 'resolution' or a 'goal', the point is, you have a habit, behavior, or situation that you want to change. Maybe you want to put down cigarettes (You can do it!). Maybe you want to shed some poundage (You can do it!). Maybe you need to end a bad relationship (You can do it!). Or maybe you want to be kinder to you (You can do it!). Or maybe you want to get debt free (You can do it!). Just maybe you want to take a vaca, or learn to dance, or take a cooking class, or go back to school, or get a different job, or become a parent, or find a mate, or... literally anything. Setting a 'resolution' or a 'goal' is a great place to start! Now is your chance to look at what you have, where you are, what you want, maybe even what you are sick of... and make a plan to change that in a way that makes you feel better, smile brighter, and walk lighter!

I hear some of you right now 'But it isn't even New Year's Day yet (pouty face)... or some of you (after January 1st- of course) 'I didn't make a resolution, so now I will have to wait until January 1st... next year ('Darn It' you declare, with a stamp of your foot). Well, I call malarkey on that! I used to get caught in that mind trap and I would literally stay up all night on New Year's Day if I didn't have my list complete. By complete I mean written, then written again (thank you, very much Perfectionism), then checked for errors, analyzed, then over-analyzed while being run through the filter of 'can I "really " do this?'. And then, after being once again checked for good penmanship, no grammatical errors, and for sane expectations of myself... I would slip my perfectly numbered list into a sheet protector which would then be firmly snapped into my binder so that my list of resolutions would be kept safe, clean, and smudge free until I sat down to do this all over again the following New Year's Day (Barf!). And guess what? Believe it or not, perfectionism would never even seem to make it on that list... and wouldn't that have been the best place to start my new year?! (Every.year!). My mom has always said that the best time to make resolutions is on your birthday, that your birthday is the best time to make wishes and resolutions for the upcoming year... since the day you were born belongs to just you. I like that idea quite a bit myself. The thing about goals, resolutions, intentions, choices to make change, or whatever you refer to it as... is that there is not a set date on a calendar that you have to abide by (I know... shocking!). You can choose on a Tuesday in the middle of February that you are no longer going to eat an entire bag of chips... by yourself, tip to tail. You can choose on the first Friday night in June that you are going to start saving $10.00 each week to grow your Christmas budget so that you don't end up broke by January 1st. You can decide at noon on October the 10th that you are going to start walking, start a home exercise plan, or join a gym. You can decide on the 3rd Thursday in May that you are going to take a vacation within the year ahead of you to go somewhere you have never been. You can decide on a Monday night, any Monday night of any month, that this is 'the' Monday you are going to start that diet... and no more 'starting Monday' excuses. The point is, there is no set day... in any set month... on any set calendar... that you must abide by. Think of your calendar as wide open & belonging to just you! What matters most is that you make a decision that is right for you, at a time that works best for you, changing something that matters to you. And if your 'resolution', 'goal', or 'intention' has to do with a health condition, I urge you to not put that off until it "feels" right. Our mind can be a tricky neighborhood to get lost in and we can end up convincing ourselves pretty easily that 'after this box of donuts', or 'after this last bottle of beer', or 'as soon as I get my sh*t together'... then I will make more of an effort. Well, that is nothing more than an excuse to not take care of yourself. Oh, believe you me, I get it. I have literally spent years practicing the art of "knowing" I need to take care of myself... "seeing" the results of not taking care of myself... "feeling" the effects of not taking care of myself, yet still choosing to do nothing to bring change (short of adding it each New Years to a very long list of resolutions that may- or may not- get checked off that list). But let's be honest, when you intentionally neglect your health you feel like sh*t, you look like sh*t, and you ooze that sh*t onto everyone around you (by the way, I can hear some of you right now arguing that this is nothing but a bunch of sh*t). But by not taking good care of me, I was just not present like I should have been with the people that mattered most in my life. (And you won't be either). You know those commercials for depression, migraines, Crohn's Disease, addiction, heck... even ED (erectile dysfunction), where the actors act out scenes of the impact that certain condition is having on that person's life and how they appear to be removed from other people, functions, intimacy, celebrations... to the point of not even stepping out their front door? Well, that is a good picture (albeit small) of what can happen when we neglect our health. Do you really want to be the person holding up the sad face paddle in front of your face when you pick up your child from 2nd grade knowing their smile will turn from excited to see you... to disappointed that you aren't feeling well- yet again? Do you want to be the man telling his wife (or significant other) 'Not tonight' for the umpteenth time, knowing it is crushing his or her need for intimacy? Do you want to be the parent telling your son or daughter that, 'No, you can't drive them to get a cheeseburger because you have been drinking' ', knowing they are going to give you that sad 'When aren't you drinking?' look? Do you really want to be the parent in a mug shot instead of a fun dad & son (or daughter) selfie? Do you want to be that parent who has lost the attention of their child (or children) to their phones and computers instead of wanting to spend time with you... who is yourself buried in your phone and/or computer? The point is, there are so many health conditions that keep us not present with those around us. Yes, down to and including, addiction to technology. A health condition can encompass an official diagnosis from a medical professional to a visual black-and-white diagnosis from your checking account statement. How you choose to spend your time and your money tells quite a story about your health- physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. I urge you today to take a more honest look at where you can choose to make improvements that benefit not only you, but those wonderful people you share your life with... or soon will!

There are countless ways to set 'goals', record 'resolutions', or itemize 'intentions'. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has their own style, so I will not fall prey to that 'one-and-done' mentality with change. I myself, personally like lists- pen on paper lists. You, on the other hand, might like a particular app on your phone... someone else might like set reminders in their Outlook calendar.. and someone else just might like post it notes around their mirror or stuck to their coffee pot. There is no wrong way to initiate change. There is a real magic in finding what works best for you, rather than just conforming to how 'everyone else' tends to do something. Can you imagine if we only had one way to make a pot of Chili (insert horrified Emoji)? Or only one approved way to jump rope (insert eye rolling Emoji)? Or only one way to grocery shop... or budget... or spend money... or diet... or lift weights... or clean house... or vacation? (Blek!) Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more nauseating than believing the lie that there is only one way to do anything... especially involving change. Open yourself up to helpful suggestions, especially methods that have worked well for other people (but do keep in mind that you are uniquely different as a human being). Feel free to tweak something to better match your drive, enthusiasm, groove, or flow. By doing this, you will be more apt to stick with it until you find the level of change that you are seeking... or needing in your life.

I know a good motivator for me, is to look back over the past year and to allow myself to see- and to actually acknowledge, the good... as well as the bad, that it held. 2019 (looking way back) was just a hard year for me. My health kind of took a dive, which in turn robbed me of energy, initiative, motivation, and ambition. I literally had zip for energy to change much of anything other than 'trying' to remove some foods from my diet that proved more harm than good, making it to my Monday-thru-Friday job (when I was well enough to even show up), and checking off my list of scheduled doctor's appointments (insert exhausted Emoji). Even my usual late-spring-transition-to-early-summer excitement to be out in the sun, planting flowers, and taking drives was severely diminished. My joy felt like it evaporated into thin air since all of my energy was spent just trying to feel well. Towards the end of 2019 I had myself almost convinced that 2020 would follow suit, and that real joy wouldn't come until 2021 (big downer!). But you know what?! Looking back, maybe 2019 needed to be a year spent in the ditch. Although it proved to be a difficult year to get through, it was indeed necessary. I did end up growing in areas that I wouldn't have even thought to include on my list of New Year's resolutions. I grew in self-awareness (even though it didn't especially feel pleasant going through it ). I realized (and this is me being completely honest) that I was indeed lonely, unfulfilled, discontent, and even a bit disillusioned. I had somehow convinced myself (hook, line & sinker) that by being back in Oregon for over 2 years that I would have a thriving career, a rock-solid love relationship, I would be physically active & in shape, I would be going to concerts, holiday bazaars, taking mini-vaca's 'just for fun', that I would have a chunk of money in my savings account, that I would be making great strides in becoming debt free, that my trailer would be overhauled and looking downright fabulous, and that I would be absolutely... positively... and without a doubt, living my best life (Damn It!). Well... that didn't happen. My career (or lack of) turned into a long-term disability leave. I did not, I repeat, did not even step into a love relationship, let alone a rock-solid one. My physical activity and being in shape took a dive in the deep end of the ditch + 17 added pounds (big Yuck!). I didn't go to concerts, or holiday bazars, or escape on a mini vaca 'just for fun' (seeing my silly granddaughters does not count as a mini-vaca since those trips are 'necessary'... grandparents can relate), I didn't and do not have a chunk of money in my savings account, I took some forced strides to become debt free (by the way, huge hit to my pride), my trailer did not become fabulous... but instead compromised my health and sanity so was therefore handed off to the next codependent needing a fix, and I did not absolutely... positively... and without a doubt, live my best life, in fact I had to beg... and sometimes plead with myself, each and every day just to get through to the next. Mind you, this does not even touch on Covid and the year of the mask. (Just for clarification, this is not... is not, an add I would choose to publish on a dating site. Insert smh Emoji!).

I am here to tell you, that there is a tremendous amount of power found in acknowledging & accepting truth... not what you want it to look like or feel like, or what others think it should look like to them... but what it really is. Lonely, unfulfilled, discontent and disillusioned do not sound like 'feel-good' things. They weren't! But they were very necessary seeds planted to prepare me for this past year of 2020. By giving myself permission to feel (and to really experience) the loneliness, being unfulfilled, the discontentment, even the disillusionment... I grew an appreciation for other things. Things like when my son & my nephew replaced some flooring in my kitchen and hallway. Mind you, it was just subfloor- not even laminate, hardwood, or tile. But just having subfloor put in... I felt like I had won a million bucks! I, or anyone else that happened to drop by, could actually walk across my kitchen floor without their foot accidentally stepping on the soft spot that could, at any moment, cause the floor to cave in taking them down with it. Would I have rather had my entire trailer re-floored with all new subfloor and hardwood? Damn straight! But did finding appreciation in the new section of subfloor grow me? Definitely and in huge ways! Instead of falling prey to the belief that my life has to look a certain way to be good enough, I was able to appreciate a small change (and every small change after that) that sparked a bit of life back into me. And each morning when I opened my bedroom door and was reminded that I was about to step onto that new subfloor... I felt that spark of life again!

Another thing that happened was I was given long-over-do answers to health issues that had plagued me for more years than I can even keep track of anymore. Was it easy for me to go through years and years of testings, trials, miscarriages, imaging, needles, medication experiments, surgeries, a bone marrow biopsy, and countless appointments where I would just spend the majority crying tears of defeat while handing over my hard earned money? Was it a pleasant experience to have so many medical examinations turn the tables back to 'Were you abused as a child... were you involved in abusive relationships... did you suffer violence in your past that hasn't healed and is manifesting in physical ailments?''. No, not pleasant at all. Did it feel good to sit with professionals I was supposed to trust with my health imply that I exaggerated, made up, embellished, or self-induced ailments just because I happen to struggle with anxiety, PTSD and depression? NO. As a matter of fact, it felt pretty f*ck'n lousy. But was it necessary to go through all of that to get the answers I needed? Absolutely. Not getting answers for far too many years is what led me to spending 2019 in the ditch. Mind you, getting answers does not always feel good although I am sure there are times it does, like when you are told you are cavity free (Yay!), or when your ultra sound or MRI scan shows the cancer is gone (prayers answered!), or when you find out your disease is in remission (praise God!). For me, getting answers was something I had been longing for, searching for, dropping tons of cash over a lot of years for... and the time finally came. And instead of feeling elated because I finally had answers, it just felt (and sometimes still feel)... bitter sweet. The answers didn't really solve the issue. The answers aren't the cure. The answers turned out to be that very first step at the bottom of the dark staircase I thought I had already spent energy and time climbing to the top of. So you might be wondering what the heck do I do with that? Well, I get grateful! I may find myself at that bottom step, and there may be a whole lot of steps still left to climb, but now I have the right people willing to cheer me on (and upward!). I have doctors with a true passion for treating diseases and difficult health conditions. I have family & friends who encourage me along, reminding me of my strength, my courage, and my ability to get better and to not give up. And most importantly, I have faith. There is not a sliver of doubt in my heart, mind, or spirit that God orchestrated all of it, down to the tiniest detail. He brought me all the way back from sunny southern California and caused me to cross paths with one person that started that necessary chain of connection. One chiropractor who recognized the symptoms I was dealing with handed me a card... the nutritionist on that card dropped me the name of a naturopath... that naturopath (who's name happened to have been shared with me before, not by a doctor)... sent me to first a hematologist for a bone marrow biopsy to rule out blood disease, and then on to a nephrologist who just happened to specialize in Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. And as the MSAS was being treated (and I was being taught how to understand and to manage it better), blood tests were ordered that tested me further (and came back positive) for Bartonella infections which led to a more tailored and effective treatment plan than the antidepressant/pain pill treatment options that had been handed to me over the course of countless years because of abuse (insert shuddering Emoji). And now here we are. There have been other doctors throughout this past two years that have helped me in one way or another, but believe you me, there is a clear distinction between them... and the level of help, passion, pursuit of answers, and degree of respect shown to me as a patient by the others through that chain of connection. Above all, this small team has made me feel human, worth their time spent, and valuable as a patient in their care. Never, not once, did they treat me like a chronic case, a pill seeker, a hypochondriac, or a crazy person. If anything, they validated the severity of symptoms, the roller coaster ride of emotions I had been on, and the impact these conditions have had on my life (literally for years). So even though I might fuss and complain about God bringing me back to Oregon, I cannot deny the power He has displayed in just over three short years here. And the blessing behind getting answers does not only effect me, it spills over to benefit my family, to better equip them to be prepared in their own health arenas. I cannot go on without adding that abuse, neglect, violence, and trauma can impact your health. They can have repercussions for years- even lifetimes, physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, spiritually, and financially. They do have the power, if left untreated, to worsen a condition(s), to keep you ill, to even make you ill. There is power and healing to be found if you choose to invest in good doctors, medications (if needed), good therapy found in a counselor, in a recovery group, or with a psychiatrist. You can get your health back by surrounding yourself with a good solid support team, by leaving that abusive relationship, by stepping through the front doors of a church even if just for fellowship. And never underestimate the power of God at work in your life to bring about good things! He, after all, created you with a purpose and a plan- and that plan is not to keep you down, even if you are diagnosed with a life-long condition (insert heart Emoji).

Something else that the past 2 years pushed to the surface was my need for connection. With a chronic health condition, it is very easy to become isolated. You run on fumes most of the time in regards to energy, excitement, motivation, and drive. I could push myself through my normal 8 to 5 day job only to find enough energy left at the end of the day to go home, change into lounge clothes (ok... pajamas), figure out what to eat, maybe watch a little boob tube, and my night was over. Those nights that I did find the energy to stop at the market on my way home were far and few between as I literally had to drag myself through the store aisle after aisle, usually making unhealthy, impulsive, and convenient meal choices with the target goal being to get home, change into lounge clothes (yes... pajamas), heat up my instant meal, watch a little boob tube, and go to bed. Chronic pain feels like having a hole in your gas tank. Your mind can be filled to overflowing with all the things you want to do... but chronic pain determines largely what you get to do. With the conditions I am dealing with, it has been very difficult to predict how I am going to feel on any given day, so it is a real challenge to plan ahead for social outings, especially at times when not much notice is involved. It is extremely hard to commit to things, even good things, knowing that I might have to cancel or reschedule dependent on if my body happens to be cooperating. Chronic conditions breed a level of loneliness that is very hard to navigate- let alone explain to someone. It seems that no two days are the same, so making plans, keeping plans, trying to have any type of social life... becomes a full-time job. And yes, I have agreed to go out when I probably should have listened to my body and stayed home. This was not fair to the other person(s) as they only got a piece me- a small piece of my attention, my fun, my interaction. And this was also not fair to me since I ended up paying for pushing myself. What this usually looks like is time down. I can literally lose the entire next day, or I will have pushed my body into a flare, which can impact me anywhere from one day to two weeks of harsh symptoms, of roller coaster emotions, or migraines that shut me the f*ck down. Because these past 2 years were hard years filled with weeks and months of flares and not feeling well, I pushed social activities down.down.down. It was during the second half of 2019 that I took a break from anti-depressants, as I do periodically. My headaches & migraines increased, causing my flares to increase, which equated to missed work, zero productivity when I was at home, added financial stress, and slow (very slow) recovery. All this managed to do was to feed the lonely, unfulfilled, discontent & disillusioned that I was dealing with. I barely made it through Christmas and it was then that my depression decided to bloom in shades of black. After weeks of dark thoughts, suicidal ideation, and isolation... I hit my wall and fell apart. Ugly cry is an understatement. I knew I could not live like this anymore. So I made a decision to go back on anti-depressants, I checked in with my docs, I started to reach out to friends that I count on in my life to be honest, supportive, and loving. I made plans to meet a couple of friends for dinner- this can be like taking medicine for your soul, and my soul by this time was severely depleted. I made up my mind that money is money- and that my health needs to come first (this has to be re-visited often as I need money to live but I also have no life if I don't take care of my health). And I reconnected with God in a way that I had let slip over time, not so much purposely as it was neglectfully. Now I know that just because I made choices for improvement does not mean that those chronic health conditions will just go away. I have wished at least a hundred times over that it was that simple, but it is not. Chronic means continuing or occurring again and again for a long time; always present (credit An interesting side note, it occurred to me that 'chronic' is almost entirely used in negative reference. For example: chronic illness (not chronic health), chronic overspending (not chronic saver), chronic complainer (not chronic gratitude), chronic fatigue (not chronic energy). If I let it, my mind will always and automatically slip into the negative connotation of chronic. I have to remember, and remind myself often, that chronic does not (does not) equal crazy, or nut job, or unfix-able, or forever f*cked up. Chronic is chronic, period. Trying to make it what it isn't is what will drive you freak'n crazy. What that means for me is being upfront and honest with the people in my life that I deal with chronic health conditions and that I will always do my best to make plans, keep plans, be present, and be half of the relationship- but to also allow for the fact that there will be times I have to cancel at the last minute, or only attend for a short time, or reschedule to a time that works better for me. 2019 (and now 2020) has shown me that the way I can best take care of me is to be honest about my health conditions, to still make plans, to still show up (when I can), and to work on creating a new way to live with a chronic health conditions. You do not have to let a chronic health condition define you, but at the same time, you can't cover it up with a cloak of denial hoping (& believing) that it won't be seen. Accept it for what it is and flip the damn script. Work harder at being chronically grateful! Put more energy into being chronically happy! Embrace the idea of being chronically invested in life! When people see you coming may they say, 'Here comes (fill in the blank). Man, she (or he) is a chronically awesome human being!!'.

So what changes do you need to make today, next week, next month, or this upcoming year? What mindsets do you need to adopt or rewrite altogether? What hobbies would you like to pick back up, what stories do you need to write, what songs do you need to sing, or what goals do you need to set? Your life is sitting right in front of you, just waiting for you to step in!! What are you going to decide to do today that is going to make your life even better tomorrow?!

Disclosure: I am not a licensed doctor or giving medical advise. I merely mention avenues that worked for me.

Sources: Google.

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