Resolutions of 2012 (and what I learned from 2011)

Move forward or get stuck in the past

Choose, but choose wisely.

It is always something I enjoy doing – making my resolutions.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Resolutions are goals.  People who are like, “I don’t make resolutions ’cause it’s stupid” are likely to be the people with no aim or direction.  They probably float through life, accidental like, waiting for things to happen, rather than making them happen on their own.  I take issue with those people.  Now, conversely, if you’re the person who is constantly setting goals and re-evaluating them, then the prior statement doesn’t apply to you.

I’m not a fan of the cop-out resolutions.  Without defining, clearly, what your commitment is to, it’s easy to let them slip away.  If you go with the ones that are often broken (weight-loss, less debt, more family time, etc), you’ll find that you will have lost sight of them by March.  Because life happens and it’s easy to get off track.  Not that those goals aren’t worthy and/or easy.  They are *very* important and often difficult to achieve.  But, I guess I’m a bigger fan of goals that go deeper than that.

When I made my 2011 goals, my life was in a decidedly different place.  I stuck with many of my resolutions, but not all.  I’m okay with that.

I learned a lot from 2011.  I learned that things can change slowly, but you often realize the gravity of those changes all at once.  I learned that emotions that are bottled up for too long will find a way out.  I learned that my strength is a sleeping giant, but it will prevail.  I learned that, without direction, I am lost.  I learned that no one will speak better for me than I can.

So for 2012, here are some of the big ones:

  • I need to keep an outlet for my emotions.  A person or activity or both.  I need a place to vent, and I need an activity to safely process my emotions.  Currently, I have those.  I need to remember to use them and not feel weak when I do.
  • I will continue to focus on my physical health.  Not to lose weight, per se.  But to keep my body healthy by keeping my mind engaged.  I lost about 20 lbs in 2012.  And I did it through active participation from my mind.  I will keep that focus.
  • I will speak up when I have a concern.  But when I do, I will be insightful and kind.  It does no good to be hurtful.  I generally don’t do that, when I do say something.  But I find that the first step is speaking up.  I will speak up more often.
  • I will read more.  I read a lot during 2011, but I want to read even more in 2012.  It helps my subconscious process things while I escape.  Plus, it makes me a better writer.  Can’t argue with that.
  • I will be featured by WordPress at least once as a featured writer.  So, you hear that, WordPress peeps?  Pay attention to me, please!  I have stuff worth saying (most of the time).
  • I will be off meds by the end of the year.  So long as I am ready, at least.  I don’t want to take myself off them before I’m ready, but I will take the steps to try to be ready to do that.  Meds weren’t ever a long-term solution.  And although I am much more comfortable with my choice, now (thanks to my very dear friend who helped me through the decision), I don’t want it to be a forever thing.
  • BFF #1 and I will go blazing at least four times this year.  I value that time, so much.  And it gives us both an opportunity to express ourselves creatively.  That’s a good thing.  Plus, I got some kick-ass photographs this year.  I want that to happen again.

I have some others, but these were the biggies.  I have one more, though.  It’s one of the most important, I think:

  • I will take care of myself.  My mind, my body, my soul.  I will reward myself with things that make me happy without guilt and shame.  I will enjoy myself, and being in my own skin.
    I am a worthy person.  I know this, deep down in the cockles of my heart.  But I will practice it, in 2012.

What are your goals?  Do you make them?  If not, why?  And if so, what are some of them?

I hope you all have a wonderful, safe and exciting New Years celebration.  Don’t drink and drive, and move forward into a new year with love and determination to be the best person you can be.

I’ll end 2011 with a quote from my favorite movie, of all time: Forrest Gump.

“Don’t you just love New Years? It’s like you get to start over.  …..Everyone deserves a second chance.”

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The dairy-addiction saga continues

Firstly, I’m fine.  I’m not blowing hobos in dark alleys for a pint of Skim Milk (and yes… I totally get the implied joke here, but I’m deliberately avoiding it.  Just so you know.)  Now, in the spirit of full-disclosure, I *am* writing this while I drink a glass of milk.  What? I *like* milk.  I swear I do!  It has nothing to do with anything else but I like it.  A lot.

As for my previously mentioned breakdown… I’ve put all of that back in the box that was in the far reaches of my mind, again.  I don’t want to feel it.  So I’m going back to pretending I don’t know.  For now, it’s the safest thing I can manage, for my own health.

So here I was, minding my own business, surfing the internet when I stumble upon this:
Cheese addiction is real! This chick says so!

But then, I see this:
 Another site about cheese addiction!

I’m not even kidding, folks…. this might be an epidemic.

The moral of the story? Despite what you may have not believed in the past from my previous post about dairy addictions, it’s happening.  It’s real.  Ones upon tens of people succumb to their dairy addiction every decade or so (give or take a few years).  But 7 out of 10 million tell the real story.

So when you see that girl who looks strung out and sad wandering aimlessly around the grocery store, point her toward the milk.  That’s what she’s there for anyway.

Figuring it out, and why I wish I never did

They say that knowledge is power.  But I tend to think that ignorance is bliss.  Not knowing that you don’t know is a wonderful thing.  Sometimes knowing the truth brings pain…. I don’t always think that knowledge is power.

I had a good holiday, for all the right reasons.  I enjoyed time with family and friends.  I got to spend the days with my daughter and the hubs, and togetherness is truly what Christmas is about, for me.

But… in one fell swoop, I was suddenly reminded why I have a sincere disdain for the season.  I don’t want to share all of it, but it was related to the sexual abuse I endured for years as a child.  Suffice it to say that I really had no memory of the awfulness until Saturday night.  And it all came back to me.  With one swift movement, I went from trying to enjoy the day to really being consumed by the memories of one of the worst atrocities I’ve ever lived through.  It hurt.  I hurt.  I still hurt.  I cried and cried and cried.

I went on, through the weekend.  I mostly slept.  Besides still being on the recovering end of bronchitis (which is, in itself, exhausting), I just felt like sleep was the better choice.  I was tired. But I tried to be amicable.  Cheery was probably more than I could manage, but pleasant was as far as I could make it.

Xanax has helped control the mood swings.  Thankfully.  But unless there is a pill that makes you forget things, I sort of have to soldier through it, for now.

I fall between anger and sadness and guilt and self-loathing and disappointment and emptiness.

In a hole_Courtesy of Amy Holsinger

This is what I feel like.

For any of you who have faced depression and anxiety,you know what an oppressive companion it can be in your life.  I’m trying not to listen to the terrible things that are playing in my head.  But coming to terms with the terrible things that others have done to you can be a challenge.  I get the whole “forgiveness” thing.  Truth-be-told, I don’t want to.  Forgiveness is defined as releasing someone from retribution or debt; concluding resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake.

Here’s the thing: I won’t ever stop demanding retribution.  I won’t ever release him from it.  I won’t ever conclude resentment.  I won’t, and I will not.  I know all about the bullshit, “Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.”  Nope.  Forgiveness is also something you give to someone who deserves it.  And he doesn’t.

And I’m angry about it.  Still.  Knowledge isn’t always power.  I was fine in the blissful ignorance that I kept company with.  As far as I was concerned, I just didn’t like the holiday.  It was fine with me.  But now I know.  I wish I didn’t.  Knowledge isn’t always power.

“They say time heals everything, but I’m still waiting.”

P.S.  My apologies to my readers.  How much does it suck to read this boo-hoo sad story?  I’ll get back to semi-normal soon.  I promise.

Taking stock in 2011

I’m still sick. Remember in the comments of a recent post when I told El Guapo that I didn’t get grouchy…. I lied. I do. And as of yesterday I hit the grouchy point. Tired, voiceless, coughing, whiny, forced to be couch-ridden… I hate it. Being forced to stay home makes me feel totally useless.

It’s official: I have bronchitis. I also have laryngitis. I also have a sinus infection. I also fell off the exam table *in* the doctor’s office and sprained my wrist. Yup… Life is pretty damn fantastic. So I took the day off work (against my will… although I did work for two hours BEFORE the appointment at the doctor). Went to get my meds filled. Bought way too much to eat because I just wanted to feel better. Went home. Ate the aforementioned food (which included, but isn’t limited to: tomato bisque, grilled two-cheese sandwich, cupcake, hot cocoa, snowman shaped marshmallows) (oh…and a rib roast….but the rib roast is for later). Made my cocoa, in my favorite cup, with the snowman accompaniment. It was fantastic. The best part of yesterday. Almost. I was alone at home, but I had good company. That was the highlight of the day.

Tasty Cocoa

Hot Cocoa in the BEST cup! Ever. Ever in the history of ever.

Slept. Slept. Slept. Watched Ally McBeal. Slept. Woke up today, still felt bad, couldn’t speak. “Called” in (it was a pathetic conversation). Slept. Watched Ally McBeal (Season 2!!). Slept. Heard this quote and it moved me to write this post.

“If you think back, and replay your year – if it doesn’t bring you tears of joy or sadness, consider the year wasted.” ~John “the Biscuit” Cage

I looked back at my 2011. Yeah. There are tears. Some joy. Some sadness. I couldn’t tell you the mixture… I don’t even know that I would want to know if it was 50/50. 30/70. 80/20. It wouldn’t matter anyway. Instead, I’ll tell you it’s been a phenomenal year. For good reasons and for not so good reasons. I want to summarize the year by telling you what I’ve learned, in no particular order.

  • We teach people how we want to be treated. As I was telling my BFF, yesterday, I’ve known that for a long time. But I didn’t learn it until this year.
  • Work is what we do, but it isn’t who we are. Being who we are is who we are. That may seem redundant. But it’s not. Trust me. If you are nodding your head, you get it.
  • I am full of very many talents. I still haven’t decided how to use them in a way that pays the bills and makes me happy. I’m not sure if there’s a way.
  • Patience is a virtue. It’s a virtue I suck at. I don’t know that I’ll ever change that.
  • Love is thrilling. It’s also destructive. If you don’t love yourself enough, you’ll never know when you cross the line between the two.
  • I wanted to learn to raise one eyebrow at a time by the end of the year. I think it adds character. I haven’t learned that.
  • I did learn how to move my ears when I smile. When I smile a genuine smile, my ears move. *That* adds character.

    If you could see yourself, just for a day, you'd see how everyone else sees you. And my God, you are fucking beautiful.

    My BFF is *awesome*!

  • My loved ones know my heart. And today I got this in the mail from BFF#1 and it brought me to tears. “If you could see yourself, just for a day, you’d see how everyone else sees you. And my God, you are fucking beautiful.”
  • There are angels all around us. Open your eyes to them and they can help guide you.
  • I don’t always know best. I need to do a better job of considering the advice that my loved ones offer. They have a better view of what’s happening, sometimes.

Finally….a biggie:

  • I will be okay. Despite the struggle, the good days will return more often. The bad days will come around less. And I will survive. Because I’m good at that.

Next week I’ll do a review of my resolutions for 2011. And then make the 2012 goals. I’m really excited about that. But it was worth taking stock of this year before I did that.

I’m just not that into you

I’ve been having a pretty good week. Riding this wave of contentment has felt great. I haven’t been looking for reasons to be dumpy, and when some reasons have presented themselves, I’ve dismissed them and moved on. I’m not sticking my head in the sand, I’m just comfortable with not letting anxiety and depression take hold of me. It’s been great.

But it’s funny how it can sneak in a back door, when you least expect it.

So there I was, minding my own business, working on a Christmas present for my dad (I’m giving him a framed family portrait of our whole family – but having to Photoshop some people into it, which is somewhat time-consuming). I was browsing through old photos so I could find the people I need and I stumble on an old portrait session of myself with my mother. And I was thinner. And pretty. Wow… I was so pretty.

Now, two things happened:

  1. There is a really great picture of me with her, but I didn’t want her in the photograph with me. At all. Like….not.even.a.little. So I pulled it up and removed her, digitally. Which kind of messed with me.
  2. Spending that much time on a picture causes you to actually *look* at it for a while. And the whole time I’m looking at my face thinking, “You were perfect back then. Look at your face shape and your eyes and your lips. You were stunning.” Were. Was. And then….that messed with me.

And so the pain took hold. And for a while I was stuck with it. I was remembering how painful that visit from my mother was. I was remembering the emotional turmoil I was in. And then….I was remembering how it felt to feel pretty and desirable. To be fair, that picture was taken only 15 lbs from where I’m at now. But those 15 lbs might as well have been 150 lbs last night.

I remembered the mistakes I made that led me to disordered eating. I remembered the damage I caused my body. I remembered the damage I caused my soul. I started recounting all my mistakes. Friends I lied to, horrible things I said to myself….the selfish way I neglected my husband and child. I knew, in my head, that the girl in that photo wasn’t better than me. Actually…she was way worse off than I am. But she was me. And I am her. Last night, I just couldn’t escape that.

I went to bed and had very restless sleep. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, I had a nightmare. Among other, very personal things that happened in the dream, there was an ugly little tar-covered demon chasing me. I kept trying to get away from it, but it was always right there, just reaching out to get me. It was scary. And sad. I woke up screaming and terrified.

I was awake for a while after that. And thought a lot of about what that dream meant. And it occurred to me: that demon was *inside* that girl in the picture. But not in me now. Sure, I have to be vigilant against it. If I let my guard down, it’s too easy to slip into bad habits. But that thing isn’t in me now. And it’s clear that I don’t want it.

I did fall back asleep, finally. And woke up this morning feeling a little relieved. Although it was scary, my subconscious was reminding me that I’m not in that place anymore. I’m just not that into you, Bulimia.

And then, I was reminded that I was beautiful, and real. And human.

It’s probably a break through for me. I was able to feel the pain, and move on without it. That’s a big deal in these parts of the world. It feels good to be able to move past it. Yay for me.

This is the meaning of Christmas

I’ve long spoken of my disdain for the holidays.  The greed.  The outrageous behavior.  The ridiculous parents that spoil their children (who are already spoiled and misbehaved).  The people going further into debt because they just *have* to give that present to so-and-so because “it’s what you do for Christmas.”  The fighting between family members.  The nonsensical drinking at functions and the following justification because “it’s Christmas” and that makes it okay.

And I won’t even go into the “keeping Christ in Christmas” thing.  Today.  This time.  Out loud.  (Not gonna lie, I am totally on a soapbox in my head, but no one needs to hear that.)

BFF#2 even got me a “Humbug.”  This little creature that is ugly and, for me, symbolizes the ugliness of the season.

But beyond that, you might be asking yourself, “Why?  Why, flame, are you so fired up about this?”  I’ll tell you why.  It’s a little sad story I like to call the history of my life.  It may be depressing in the beginning, but stick with me.  It gets better, in the end.

I wasn’t always so jaded.  For the first few years of my life, I didn’t know enough to be jaded.  That all changed when I hit the ripe old age of 6.  I learned, then, that things aren’t fair.  And you know what?  I was okay with that, for a while.

We were poor.  When I hear my friends (who are all doing well for themselves) talk about not wanting their children to “go without,” you’d think they meant food or shelter or something equally important.  But no… they’re talking about laptop computers and other bullshit.  When I say, “I went without,” I mean that quite literally.  At times I didn’t eat.  At times we didn’t have electricity.  I was even homeless for a small time, and lived in a parking lot.

By the time I was 8 years old, we lived in San Diego and had it rough.  My mother was sinking further into addiction (her drug of choice was meth, but I suspect she did other things, too).  She was also struggling with undiagnosed severe hypo-thyroid disease and narcolepsy.  My step-father, at the time, was sexually abusing me, and using heroin.  We had several other people living with us, all unemployed and all addicted to drugs and alcohol.  Both my brothers were working or away from the house a lot of the time, trying to make a living and/or escape the madness.  I had no such luck.  I immersed myself in books, school, and other cerebral activities.  If I was in my head, my heart was less attached to the awful situation I lived in.  We got two checks at the beginning of the month, every month.  Disability and child support.  We lived like Kings and Queens for the first couple of weeks.

The problem is that Thanksgiving and Christmas come at the end of the month.  When I was 9 years old, I didn’t eat on Christmas Day.  Nothing.  Not over-cooked turkey.  Not mushy stuffing.  Not even gross gelatinized cranberry sauce.  Not. Any. Thing.

When I was 10, we got on some sort of list that delivered food baskets for the holidays.  We also got presents that year.  I got a jacket.  And a toy, I think.  I remember my mom asking me what I wanted, and I felt uncomfortable asking for anything.  I didn’t know who was giving me a present, and I certainly didn’t think it was right to *ask* for anything when they were being generous by giving me anything at all.  I would be happy with what I got.  And at the end of the day, that’s something that’s never changed.

When I was 11 years old, I got a bike.  Someone, a stranger, bought me a bicycle.  A 12-speed.  I was floored.  When I was 13 I got make-up and a journal to write in.  The very first entry I made in that journal was that, someday, when I was older, I would do the same thing for a kid who was in need.

When I was 13 years old, I understood these things:

  • Life isn’t fair.  And you had to deal with it.
  • Poverty existed, and I was living it, but “poor” was a state of mind.
  • The best gift you can give or get is love.
  • Regular people had the power to do extraordinary things.
  • Although adults make really bad choices that make their lives the way they are, children suffer.  A lot.
  • The kindness of strangers can literally change someone’s life (and it’s changed my life a number of times).

By the time I was 14 years old, I lived with my dad.  We didn’t have a lot.  I’d even say that we still lived below the poverty line – but we were not poor.  We chose to make do with what we had instead of going on welfare.  My daddy sacrificed so I could have little things.  I did without, sometimes, so my dad still had money to go out and have adult space.

Fast forward to adulthood.  Those bell ringers you see?  I give whatever change I have in my pocket or purse to them.  And my daughter does the same.  I was in line at the grocery store, once, and a woman wasn’t able to pay for her Christmas meal (ham, potatoes and stuffing), so I paid for it.

But the tradition I have that is the most important to me is “The Giving Tree.”  (If you don’t know what that is, go to your local grocery store and find the Christmas tree that’s normally near the service/customer service desk.  There will be a tree that has little paper ornaments on it.  You can choose a name, go buy a present, bring the name and present back to the store and they will get it to the child.)
I go to the store every Christmas, and pick a name off the tree.  I look through the names and almost always find a name of a child who reminds me of myself, at that age: a girl about 11-14 who has general interests listed but no specifics.  I look, hard, for a gift that matches those interests and bring it back.  Sometimes it’s been a diary.  Sometimes a winter coat.  Sometimes an art kit.  Every year I do this.

That is what Christmas is.  Christmas is the act of giving.  It’s the act of giving to make someone else’s life better, without the expectation of receiving and without the sense of obligation.  I do this every year because I said, when I was 13 years old, that I would.  If you’re looking for Christ in your Christmas, this is where you find Him.  In giving.

I was moved to write this post after reading The Bloggess’ post about how she gives, and the suggestions she makes for her readers.  She inspired me.  And I hope I inspire you, this year, to give.  It doesn’t have to be money.  Give of your heart.  Give of your time.  Be kind.  Love people.  That is the spirit of Christmas.  Everything else is just noise.

The battle resumes

I’m back to the battle. It’s been a tough several days in my part of the world. But in the last week or so, I’ve made some pretty big decisions.

Part of the reason I have been struggling so much is the sheer unrelenting stress that I’ve been under at work. I’m a sticker-outer. I’ll wait, in a holding pattern, for a very long time when I’m unsure about something. Although I tend to be spontaneous with little choices (like, jeans or slacks today?), when it comes to the bg stuff, I’ll wait it out. Often times, I wait too long.

In the case of work, I allowed myself to wait too long. And last week, on my little break from work (6 glorious days off!), I made the decision to start looking for a new job. It wasn’t/isn’t to make that choice, but I had decided that I’ll never get better when things aren’t improving. All I’m doing is masking symptoms with the meds. And… I don’t want to be on meds forever.

Mediocrity has become the acceptable form of performance at my office. That isn’t something I handle well. I’m not tolerant of people who choose not to put forth their best efforts. Every now and then? Sure… we all have days when we decide that we can’t focus on things too long. But all the time…every day, this is how it is. I can’t handle it anymore. Their shortcomings become my responsibility. And I literally can’t take on any more.

So… there we are. I re-did my resume. I started job searching. I’ve sent out a few. No responses, yet.

There is a little bit of fear in that. I’m pretty fragile, right now. I’m putting on a very tough face for the world, but I’m breaking underneath. Hopelessness… it’s the worst. And when you’re putting yourself out there to be judged, personally and professionally, it is a little scary. So… I’ve been really struggling, inside.

I’m afraid of many things. Truthfully – they’re all the unlikely things. I’m afraid of falling down stairs. I’m afraid of zombies. I’m afraid of boogeymen under my bed. Turns out, I’m also afraid of failure. Which I realize is a very real thing for most people.

We make choices based on pleasure and pain. But pain is always the stronger motivator. And for too long, I’ve tried to justify the work ethic in the company I’m with. But now, the pain has become too much and I’d rather face judgement and failure from prospective employers than the misery at the office.

I’m praying, hard, every day. God… show me the way out. Give me strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Give me grace. He’s listening; I’m sure of it. And He’s sending me angels, and support, everyday.

It’s a slow process.

If you’ve been in this situation, you’ll understand that.
But know that you’re not alone. And be careful of allowing yourself to isolate. You may think that people are tired of hearing about it. You may feel like you’re a burden. You may even be tired of talking about it. That’s okay. First – the people who love you will never tire of helping you. Second – the definition of burden is “a heavy load”. It is heavy to *you*, but they have the strength to help you carry it for a while. And third – you don’t have to talk about it to talk. Just be sure you’re talking. Silence has a tendency to fill up with the very worst things.

If you haven’t ever dealt with depression or any other mental illness… maybe this will help:
There are good days, and there bad days. Everyone has those. But my bad days seem worse. And personal. Like, something goes wrong and it’s like everything in my body is screaming at me what an idiot I am. And then, because I’m already feeling like crap, every little thing that happens reinforces what a terrible human being I am. The ability to “let it go” and recover is hard.
If you’re watching someone go through it, be patient. Support them. Remind them that they are a wonderful person, even if they don’t feel that way. Ask how you can help. They may not know the answer, but it’ll mean everything that you asked. Take it one day at a time, and remind them to do the same.

The goal isn’t to only have good days. The goal is to have less bad days and more good days. The goal is to be able to identify when you’re overwhelmed and handle it in appropriate ways. The goal is to be able to recover.

You may have to make changes in your life to allow that to happen. You’ll do this when you’re ready. And when you’re ready, trust me, you’ll know. Until then… be patient with yourself.

My BFF said to me, “It’s okay to lose a battle or two. It’s fine. Don’t lose the war. Keep fighting.”

I will. I am. This war has only one victor – and that’s this girl. And you can quote me on that.