Butterflies

 

I have a butterfly tattoo on my ankle; a reminder of the changes I have made in my life. Sounds kind of corny and cliché, I know, but it’s a good analogy of  my life.

Twelve years ago, I was broken. I hated my life. I hated my job. I hated me.  I felt lost and alone, and what hope I had left was quickly diminishing.

But something happened that year. My first grandchild, Thomas, was born April 18, and at the time, I was unaware of the impact he would have on the decision to change my life.

Later that year, in July,  I was climbing the 20-plus stairs to our apartment. It was a hot and humid day; one of those days that Iowa’s known for. I had to stop half-way, because I couldn’t catch my breath. I drew air in air in, but I felt like I was suffocating. My heart began racing, and I literally saw my life flashing before my eyes.

I saw Thomas growing up without me. I saw an empty chair at his wedding. I saw him holding his child, and I wasn’t there to tell him how proud I was of him.

But as fast as the visions came, they were gone, and I was back in the hallway of our building, breathing normally.

The thought that came to me was, “I don’t want to die.”

I immediately opened the door of my apartment, took my cigarette pack out of my purse and threw them into the wastebasket.

I tried to quit smoking before, but it was only a day or two before my willpower gave out. But this was different. I knew if I kept going the way I was, smoking two packs a day, I would die. I was sure of it.

I got through the first day, and then the second, and soon I was celebrating a month without smoking.  I felt great! I could climb the stairs to my apartment without stopping to rest. I stopped coughing up crap from my lungs. I could take deep breaths again, and I knew it could only get better.

I was so proud of myself, because quitting smoking was no easy task. I used the patch for eight weeks, and then graduated to nicotine gum. I used the gum for a year and then switched to mints, which I carried in my purse to curb any lingering cravings.

I quit smoking when I found out I was was pregnant with my first baby, but started again as soon as she was born, kicking myself with every drag I took.  By the time I finally quit, I had convinced myself that I would die with a cigarette in my hand.

That is, until I realized I had two choices; I could continue living my life in the prison I had built for myself, or I could break free and do something with my life.

You see, smoking wasn’t my only problem. I had a drinking problem. I used alcohol to self-medicate, to calm my fears,  alleviate the stress, and numb the feelings of shame and guilt that consumed me.

My intention was to just to have one or two beers, to take the edge off, but once I started, I couldn’t stop.  I was drinking a 12-pack of beer a night, and that still wasn’t enough to keep those horrible feelings down.

The night of August 31, 2005, I was sitting at the computer, while my daughter was doing homework. She’d had a rough year and was trying to catch up so she could graduate with her class.

The third time she asked me for help, and I said, “Just a minute, I’m busy,” was her breaking point, and she threw her books against the wall.  She had a history of extreme outbursts, but that’s not what this was. I truly believe it was divine intervention, because what she said next blew my mind:

“I’m sorry you have so many problems, and that you’re so unhappy, but I have problems, too. …”

For the first time, I heard her words. She saw my pain and my unhappiness, and I saw hers. She was reaching out to me the only way she knew how.

She taught me something significant that night, something that has made me get out of myself and really look at the world around me:

“We don’t live in a bubble; what we do affects others.”

I had been so busy worrying about me and focusing on how bad my world was, I wasn’t seeing what my own children were going through.  My selfishness and self-centeredness had kept me from being emotionally available for my children, and now I had to take responsibility for it, and do something about it.

I was hurting, and I didn’t know what else to do but to close the world in on myself. All this time, I had been inadvertently killing myself, because I couldn’t face the pain I had caused others. It had gotten so bad, I couldn’t live with myself.

I knew I needed to take control of my life.  That night, when I went to bed, I did something I hadn’t done in years; I prayed. I asked God to help me. I promised Him that I would do whatever it took to have a better life, to be a better mother, a better person. I begged him to show me how to do it.

And he did.

The next day, I threw all the beer away and got rid of all the empty cans.

A few days later I met someone who introduced me to Alcoholics Anonymous and I started attending weekly meetings. A few months later I ran into a friend, who was also in the program, and she became my sponsor.

God was putting people in my life to help me.

But that was just the beginning.

To be continued ….

 

That’s What Friends Are For

One day a woman found herself in a hole. She looked around for a way out, but there was none. Suddenly, a man’s head appeared in the hole.

“Hello! Do you need help?” he called. He was wearing a stethoscope around his neck and holding a note pad.

“Yes, thank goodness! Please, help me, Dr.!”

The doctor wrote something on his notepad, tore it off, and tossed it down to her. 

“Take these pills and call me in the morning.”

She looked at he paper in disbelief. Then she crumbled it up and started to cry. 

“Hello!” she heard from above. She looked up and saw a man with a white collar. “My child, why are you crying?”

“I’m stuck … I can’t get out of this hole!”

The pastor made a sign of the cross, and said, “Bless you, my Child,” and walked away.

Just when the woman began to lose all hope, a shadow was cast across the the hole. She looked up and saw a face, smiling down at her.

“Need some help?”

Before she could answer the man jumped down into the hole with her.

“What are you doing?” she exclaimed. “Now we’re both stuck down here!”

“Yes,” he told her. “But I’ve been here before, and I know the way out …”

Winds of Change

Purpose is life in motion. If you can figure out what your purpose is, the reason you get up in the morning, you pretty much have it made.

After all, being grateful for where you are, along with having peace of mind, are two key components of living a happy life.

It’s taken me a long time to figure this out, but I’m still learning. I find myself constantly adjusting to the Winds of Change, whose fickle existence teases me with her bipolar whims.

I am accepting, eventually, because I know there are many things that I can’t control, no matter how hard I try.

There are times when I just want to break down and scream at the top of my lungs, “Why is this happening to me?”

I already know, but there is something about letting everything go, even if it has to be ripped from my hands, that makes me go a little crazy. And it feels good.

Life is constantly in motion. Change is inevitable, and the Winds of Change doesn’t discriminate.  Go with the flow, but go a little crazy sometimes. It is how we keep our sanity.

tributecr.com

 

 

300

Earlier this year, I celebrated the milestone of being a blogger for 6 years. But that is small compared to reaching 300 posts. It is for me, anyway.

Yes, this is my 300 post, but that doesn’t count the 20 or so drafts I should have deleted, but decided not to, for whatever reason. Many are the result of rants I went on, after which, coming to my senses, decided against posting. I don’t need to spread all that negativity. I’m a lover, not a fighter.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t stand up for what I believe in. I’m just not as naive as I once was.

I have learned a lot since publishing my first post, “Note to Self,” in 2010.  For example, I can’t control how people feel about me. I used to bend over backwards for people who didn’t respect me, trying to gain their favor. When it didn’t work, I thought there was something wrong with me.

It took me a while to figure out that that’s just who they are. It’s nothing personal; they treat everyone that way. And with all the different personalities in the world trying to work and live together, people are not going to agree on everything, no matter what you do.

Oh yes … you can do everything to accommodate them, but that only reinforces what you already think about yourself; that you are less than they are, and that’s just not true.

We all start out the same way. Our personalities, our environments, our family, friends, and experiences shape us into who we become. And if our personalities are such that we look outside ourselves for approval, well, we’re kind of screwed. Because no one tells us this. We may go years trying to please others to gain acceptance, when in reality,  there’s just no pleasing them.

Ricky Nelson knew this when he sang it in his 1972 hit, ‘Garden Party.’ “You see, you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.”

You can’t make everyone happy. You just can’t. You will be disappointed if you try. All you can do is be true to yourself and live your life the way that makes you feel good about yourself.

We have to accept who we are, all the good parts and bad parts, and either change the things we don’t like about ourselves, or learn to manage them.

And if you make a mistake, learn from it, even if it takes you a few times. It’s ok. It’s called being human.

Another thing I have learned, is that we are capable of so much more than we know. Once we wake up to this fact, once we open our minds and challenge our beliefs and look at what is possible, nothing is impossible! As Audrey Hepburn once said, “Nothing is impossible; even the word itself says, ‘I’m Possible!'”

In the book, “Conversation with Gods,” by Neale Donald Walsch, the Almighty Him/Herself states that life is energy in motion. I take this to mean that life is all about creating. And we can create our lives to be whatever we want it to be.

It really is that simple.

Political change is inevitable

Everything changes. That’s a given. Sometimes we embrace it; sometimes we fight it to the death. And even though many of us don’t really like change, it’s our choice how we deal with it.

Borrowed from thebainreport.com.

Borrowed from thebainreport.com.

I consider myself an independent voter. Most of the candidates I voted for did not get voted into office, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed.

It was a tough year. The political ads were almost more than I could take, and by the time Nov. 4 came around, I stopped watching television all together.

One of the things that really bothered me this time around was how brutal the candidates were to each other. The ads have always been a bit on the bullying side, but this year’s ads were even more so.

What is this teaching our children? That all is fair in Love,War, and now Politics? I know this “is the way it’s always been done,” but isn’t it time to do something different?

Maybe for the next election, the candidates can focus on what they will do for us instead of what their opponents are doing wrong. One of the reasons I voted for the candidates I did was because their character; I watched how they treated others, including their opponents. Were they mean, spiteful and just plain nasty? If so, I had to ask myself if I could trust this person to do what the people wanted, or if they had their own agenda.

With that being said, I have to believe that this change will be good for our nation. So many are unhappy with the way things are going, maybe by shaking things up a bit, something good will come out of it.

We can only hope.

So, we can fight the change, or we can embrace it. But I think it will most likely be somewhere in the middle.

Contemplation-looking back on a great year

How many people do you know can wake up on New Year’s Day and say, “I hope this year is as good as the last one.” There might be a few people out there who can relate. But most people I know couldn’t wait to get on with the new year-a clean slate with hope for a better year. Some of my past resolutions included promises to quit smoking, quit eating, quit drinking, more exercise….blahblahblah.

My resolutions were often forgotten a few weeks into the new year. But last year I decided not to make any resolutions. And I have to say,  it was the best year of my life.

It wasn’t great because I opt out on the whole resolution thing. It was because I started listening to myself. It wasn’t easy. My parents, my kids, my friends, my siblings….everyone’s voice echoed in my head, “Be this, do that.”

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I don’t think they were doing it intentionally, but I found myself trying to be everything to everyone and it just wasn’t working. It was hard for me to say no and I often did things for people because I didn’t want to disappoint them. I ended up running myself ragged and the stress took a toll on me physically. This is something I have been working on for quite a while, but it was only last year when I was finally able to tell people, even those I love dearly, “No, I’m sorry, but it just won’t work for me.” (Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It wasn’t.)

I love helping people, but it’s a double-edge sword. I cared for others so well that I forget about me.

And then I started questioning my motives. Was I helping people because I want to or because I felt obligated? Was it a lack of self-esteem or over-commitment?

What I found out surprised me. It wasn’t all black and white. Sometimes I helped others because I wanted to. But there were a few times when I just didn’t want to let people down.

That’s when I realized I needed more balance in my life. I did some soul-searching and came up with the realization that it though it’s not my responsibility to make others happy, I really liked helping others when I could. But if I didn’t want to do something or if I just didn’t have the time, I could say no without feeling guilty.

I’m not perfect. I will have setbacks but at least I’m on the right track. I have a feeling a lot can come from this small action. As I have heard many times throughout my life, it all begins with one small step. You just have to know which direction to go.