Fear

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Fear, what a simple word but what a toll it takes on me.  Living with a chronic illness is a fearful experience because you never know what lies ahead.  While healthy people may feel like this too, being sick, adds a whole layer of fear and anxiety to living out your life.

I was never afraid of the future when I was healthy.  I am smart, competent, rational and very capable of taking care of myself.  I  had a great job, with a fantastic salary, lived in a NYC apartment and my choices and possibilities were endless.  Then I got sick and my choices were very limited.

Until recently, I never realized how my fears were limiting me more than maybe they should be.  But how do I know when my fears are rational and justified or when they are manufactured because I’m just scared.

In 2008, about a year before I became ill, I met someone and was in a committed relationship.  During the length of my illness, we have been on again, off again more times than a 10 year old light bulb (good analogy because he’s an electrician..lol).  We are connected by something that not many can see.   He has helped me through so much and his love for me really hasn’t wavered.  Yet my fears have continually forced me to run from this man.  Each time this has happened, I blamed his actions and his treatment of me on my running away.  While he may not have always handled the situations to my liking, was my response of shutting down justified.

How do I know if my fears are rational and I shouldn’t be in a relationship or if  my fears are not rational and causing me to live a lonelier life than I need to.

What are my fears?  There are many, some related to him and some related to general life situations.

The top fears that come to mind relating to him are:

  • Do I have enough energy to put into a relationship?
  • Do I want to conserve my energy for myself?
  • Will I be able to keep him happy and content?
  • Will I be able to take care of him if he becomes ill?
  • Will he leave me if I get much sicker?
  • Can I survive another loss if something happens to him?

I’m not really sure how to combat these fears.  They are ingrained in me for so long now that they are part of me, but now that I finally recognized them maybe I can start working on minimizing my fear and anxiety.

I’m not sure I will be successful, but unless I try to work on myself, my fears may be more limiting than my illness itself.

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Grief

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This is what I’ve been doing for the last 3 months, crying.   I lost my mother, who was the kindest, most selfless, understanding and giving person.  She was my confidant, my friend, my housemate and my anchor.  While I can’t say her illness came on suddenly, her death was pretty quick and while I had 2 months to prepare for it, you can never fully prepare for it.

7 years ago, at the age of 82 my mom was diagnosed with stage 2/3 breast cancer.  She had a lumpectomy and went through radiation.  We closely monitored her situation and every 3 months went to another doctor, whether it was her oncologist or breast surgeon or radiologist.  She went for annual mammograms and sonograms and always got the green light.  We thought we were one of the lucky families, but then our luck ran out.

In 2015, my mom took a terrible fall  and was taken to the ER.  They did a body scan and that’s when we found out she had suspicious lumps on her lungs, although she didn’t have any symptoms.   My mom had said many times that if the Cancer comes back, she is doing nothing.  Her tag line was “whatever will be, will be”.  So that’s what she chose to do, nothing.  We didn’t biopsy the lumps, so there was no way to determine if this was a new cancer or if it was metastatic breast cancer.

The fall had left her with a broken wrist, broken nose and bruised legs and arms.  She was not able to live by herself anymore, so I moved in.  At first it was temporary, but then after living there for 3 months, I convinced her to let me move in permanently.

My mom loved her independence, even though she didn’t drive, she had lived alone for the past 3 years since my dad past.  Living with her was going to be an adjustment for both of us.  She lived in a very small 2 bedroom garden apartment, that was smaller than where I currently lived.  But there was no other choice and so that’s what we did.  I broke my lease and moved in.

I have many stories to tell about how we spent the final 3 years together, but let me fast forward to the end for now because that’s the emotion I’m currently dealing with.  The unrelenting GRIEF that I feel for her.  Yes, she past in December.  The cancer by this point had spread to her bones, liver, lung and brain.  From the time we found out to the time she past was 10 weeks.  We  only found out that it spread because she was in unrelenting pain down her curved spine.  I attributed that to old age and disc problems because by now she was 89.  But unfortunately, it was the CANCER eating away her spine.

The loss I feel can not be put into words, but those that have felt it know what I mean.  The hole in your heart, the loss of hearing her voice, the empty chair at the diner table.  I have a sister who is also suffering with the loss of our mom, but her grief is different than my grief.  I see the bed she died in everyday.  I look at the chair she used to sit in by the window and knit for hours on end.  I see the jumbo crossword puzzles books she loved and the mah jong card that provided her with endless hours of joy.

I am slowly starting to make some changes around the house, so that I am not haunted by the bad memories at the end, but rather embraced by the good ones we had during the last 3 years.

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I’m Back

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I haven’t written on my blog since 2014 and honestly had completely forgotten about it.  Recently I have been going through a very difficult time and decided to write a journal to try and get past my current situation.  I suddenly remembered about my blog and decided to search for it.  Well here I am and once again I’m ready to reveal my innermost thoughts, with the hope that it will free me and allow me to move forward.

I’m happy to share these thoughts with whomever wants to read them, but I’m really doing this for me.  I need to release my demons and fears and figure out a way to move forward because life is passing me by.

 

Absence Note

AbsenceNote

I haven’t been blogging for the past month, even though I enjoy writing more than I ever realized. My career, when I was employed, was working with computers and financial statements. Numbers are cut and dry and programming and designing databases, require a logical forward thinking approach.  I had a successful career and this vocation seemed to suit the way my mind worked, or so I thought.

Now after being out of work and on disability 4 years ago to the day, I realize that even if I were to return to work, what I did for 28 years is not what I would choose to do now.  My nephew is starting law school in the fall and is so passionate and excited about being a lawyer.  I was never excited or passionate about being a financial analyst.  It was just the logical thing to do after I received my MBA in finance.  I didn’t even interview for any other types of jobs and now I wonder why.  Why was I so focused on the analytic career path?  And once I landed a job, the career seemed to form itself and then an opportunity opened up for me to start designing databases and I started doing that and enjoyed it.

I was very content in my career.  I had 3 jobs over a 28 year career and 1 of those jobs was only for 11 months, so basically I spent 27 years with 2 companies.  I must have been content otherwise I would have made different choices.  I felt challenged, loved my work family and was very nicely compensated.  Maybe that’s why I didn’t even think of doing something else.  Most people have to reinvent themselves when they are challenged to do so, just as I have been since I became ill.

Writing has been a very different kind of enjoyment.  Writing is personal, writing is subjective, writing is relaxing and writing is solitude.  So why haven’t I been writing lately.  I’m really not sure.  I know I’ve been in my own head much of the time over the past month, trying to figure out ways to learn new things, meet new people and start enjoying life as I have to live it.

There are many paths people can choose when faced with a difficult life situation and I know I have handled mine with grace and dignity.  No one can take that away from me.  Maybe now it’s time to try and add in a little fun too!

 

 

Forgiveness

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This past weekend, was Yom Kippur, which is a solemn, reflective day to all Jewish people.  Everyone thinks back over the past year and reflects on things that have happened, people that have passed and the deeds they have done.

On this holiday, it is believed, everyone’s fate is sealed for the next year.  We atone for our sins today and tomorrow we start the new year with a clean slate.  It’s a new beginning, with new possibilities for us all.  In the spirit of the holiday, I have forgiven someone close to me who has hurt me tremendously, on several occasions.

I have been carrying around this hurt and annoyance and it was weighing me down.  I decided that forgiveness was the kindest gift I could give myself to lift my spirit and I also felt it was a gift to the person I was forgiving.  The person was very appreciative and apologized for the hurt and said that for me to forgive them, really shows that I am a special and understanding person.

It felt good to forgive someone, really forgive someone for something big.  We are always forgiving people for running 10 minutes late or for misunderstanding something we said or forgetting to wish us “Good Luck” on an important occasion.  These are little things, that in the scheme of life are unimportant.  But I felt like it was a cleansing to forgive on a greater scale.  Forgiveness brought me peace of mind.  So for now, I have let go of the deeply held negative feelings I had towards this person, but time will tell if positive ones will replace these newly released negative ones.

Forgiveness does not mean that I am forgetting what was done, nor does it mean I’m excusing the offenses.  It means that I am no longer holding on to this negativity and that I am free to move forward into the new year with a truly clean slate.

Writing 101: Dark Clouds on the Horizon

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One night, after I finished eating dinner, I was bored and lonely and decided to call my boyfriend.  We had been going out over a year, but during this time period I went from being a healthy independent career woman to someone with an invisible illness that had sucked the life and energy out of me.  My relationship was strained as a result of becoming sick, as my boyfriend was uncomfortable being around old and sick people.  I knew this before I became ill, but at that time it really wasn’t an issue.

It was a Wednesday night and usually we tried to see each other once during the week and then we spent the weekend together at his house.  I was isolated living in NYC with my illness and he really was my lifeline.  He’d pick me up on Fridays and drop me back home after the weekend, as at this point I was working from home, trying to sort out my health situation.

We had settled into a routine, although neither one of us was all that happy with our situation at this moment.  He wanted more from me and I really had no more to give.  I was like a battery on it’s last charge, puttering a little, but not completely dead.  We had bickered  a lot during the previous weekend because he didn’t want me to go home on Sunday and I said that I have no more to give, I’m completely exhausted and bone tired.  If you need more, then you probably should start dating.  He had said much worse to me and in a tone, that I became all too familiar with.

So on this Wednesday night, as I picked up the phone to speak with him, I wanted to smooth things out and figure out a way to avoid having the same situation occur the next weekend.  But to my surprise, when I dialed his cell number, I heard him pick up and I said, “Hello”, but he wasn’t on the other end of the phone.  Instead, what did I hear…  I heard him talking to another girl, yes he was on a blind date, with someone for the first time.

At first I couldn’t believe what I heard, I was in disbelief.  I didn’t know if I was more shocked that he was on a date, or that somehow the Universe was letting me know he was on the date and letting me listen in.  I heard all about her,  that she was a widow, with 2 grown kids and that her parents recently died.

I heard him suggest his favorite Italian entree and I immediately knew what restaurant he had choosen. We had been there many times together and I was picturing him sitting there with this woman.  I heard him describe his situation, his children, his ex wife, his job and I felt like an intruder, yet I just couldn’t hang up the phone.  I was in shock.  How could he find someone to date in 2 quick days.  Was he dating all along, since I became ill?  Would I ever know the truth or be able to trust him again completely?

I feel that you should never ask a question that you won’t believe the answer too.  So my mind was racing, was I going to ask him about this date?, was I going to pretend I didn’t know? or was he going to own up and tell me that he went on a date?

At this point, 2 hours had probably gone by and I had my headphones on.  Yes, I probably should have hung up, but I couldn’t.   The dinner was coming to an end and he paid the bill and they exchanged pleasantries outside the restaurant.  Was he going to kiss her?  Well he didn’t, instead the conversation switched and they started talking about cell phones.  And what does he do, he reached into his pocket to show her his new cell phone and he sees that he’s connected to me on the phone..  OMG, I panicked and quickly hung up.

Now thinking back while writing this post, I’m laughing and have a big smile on my face, but at the time I wasn’t laughing or smiling.  I knew he would start calling me when he was alone and I really didn’t know if I was prepared to speak to him right now.  Sure enough 15 minutes later, the phone starts ringing and I don’t pick up.  His  personality, is such, that he won’t stop calling until I answer, he had displayed this behavior before, so I gave in and gave it to him!!  We had an argument and then I hung up the phone and tried to sleep, but I didn’t sleep.

I couldn’t shut my mind off.  I was hurt, very hurt, that 2 days after I told him to start dating if he needed more, he did.  Really what hurt me the most, is that I realized he must have been planning on dating way before the past weekend when we bickered a lot and he had this girl waiting in the wings.

The next day, he showed up at my door and apologized profusely, over and over again.  There was no connection between them, he doesn’t want to see her again and he wants to be with me, even though I’m ill.  It took me a while to get over the hurt, but I did forgive him and we did give it another try.

What happened that night, has always stayed with me, as one of the funnier situations that have occurred in my “off the wall” dating life. I have many of these stories, but this one is close to the top of that list.  Maybe the one that’s at the top is when I was on a blind date myself, after the meal, I had to go to the rest room and when I came back to the table, my date was gone.  He left the restaurant.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I don’t remember what we talked about, or else I could have used that story for my post!

Writing 101: A Girl Grows In Brooklyn

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I grew up on a typical street in  the 1960s in Brooklyn, NY.  I lived in the same 2 bedroom  house for my entire childhood until I left for college.  The small, but uncluttered house was home to my parents, my little sister and myself.  Once you walked up the 7 brick stairs, you immediately stepped into an eat in kitchen with yellow, orange and black plaid wall paper.  There were 4 vinyl brown swivel kitchen chairs, surrounding a round walnut table.  Underneath the table, was our toy apricot poodle, who waited patiently there so that she could get fed scraps of meals from my father, as he had a soft spot for this dog.

Next to our kitchen was the living room, with green shag carpet and a green plush velvet couch, covered in plastic.  There were 2 high back velvet flowered print chairs across from the couch and in between there was an oblong marble table.  The piano, which I played (but not very well), was on the far end of the living room, flanked by 2 candelabras.  Above the piano was a beautiful oil painting, done by my favorite uncle, who was a Canadian Artist.  The sheer white curtains, barely shielded the room from the intense sunlight, that would stream in and discolor the carpet and the couch.  The view was onto one of the most pleasant streets any child could hope to grow up on.

The pick and black tiled bathroom was an eyesore, with black and white square floor tiles and pink fixtures.  One bathroom, 4 people.  Imagine that!  We never locked any doors in the house. To this day, I still don’t see the point of it.  Knocking was key. The pink and black stall shower when it wasn’t being used, stored the laundry basket and portable clothes dryer, which was used during the winter, when the weather was just too cold to hang our wet laundry outside.

The 2 bedrooms were a little further down a rectangular hallway.  My room, was shared with my sister, who was quite a bit younger than me.  Our blue paneled walls, surrounded red shag carpeting. My side was the right.  Her’s the left.  The fake wood wall shelves that hung above our small desk were filled with little blue smurfs.  Hundreds of smurfs.  My parents bedroom had green painted walls and a light shag carpet.  The big room looked empty, as there wasn’t much furniture, until later years when they purchased a dark wood, used bedroom set from a neighbor that was moving.

Most of our time was spent in the kitchen.  Funny to think that we survived without cell phones or computers.  We actually talked to each other during dinner.  We had dinners together almost every night.

After dinner, we would sit on our porch and so would most of the neighbors with their children.  Many of these children, I’m pleased to say are still in my life, some more than others, but the contact with many has kept up over the years.  The block was an extended family, as I didn’t have many close blood relatives.  We would be playing hit the penny or stoop ball  or drawing hopscotch boards on the sidewalk, only to be washed away by the rain.

The house was filled with love and the block was filled with real lifelong friends.  That’s my most favorite memory.