Writing 101: Serially Lost

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Losing someone special or something that you care a great deal about is very painful, yet it’s something that everyone has to deal with and process in their own way and in their own time.  I lost 2 very special people, within a few months of each other and I’ve been thinking all day about which one I should write about and how to approach this post.  But as I sat down to write, I realized the greatest loss I have had in my life is losing the last 5 years to an illness.

When you lose a person, there’s a grieving process and the pain and sadness ease up after a period of time, but what happens when you lose your life to an illness and I don’t mean death, I mean having to figure out a way to live a purposeful and happy life, while you lost your previous life.  Grief associated with an ongoing illness isn’t as finite as losing a loved one.  The event happens and doesn’t go away.  How can time heal all wounds when your life is a daily permanent reminder of that loss and it is never ending.

Five years ago, I was in a great place, living a great life, not perfect but great.  I had entered a new relationship which was very special to me, I had a terrific job, where I was fairly compensated and I had freedom and unlimited choices.  I was happy and optimistic about my future.

It was a very cold February night as I went to sleep, thinking about the fun I was going to have at tomorrow’s Super Bowl Party and hoping that the numbers I picked in the office pool were going to net me the big win of the night.   I fell asleep quickly that Saturday night and when I awoke on Sunday morning, nothing was the same.

I couldn’t move, couldn’t get my legs to support my weight and I just lie there wondering what was going on.  After a while, my legs stopped shaking and I was able to make my way to the kitchen and brew a pot of coffee, thinking that would help me get on with my day.

Unfortunately, 2 cups of coffee later, I was in no better shape and had to go back to bed, where I spent the better part of the following week.  Everyone kept telling me I must have picked up a nasty virus and that I’d be back to normal in no time, but I knew something was very wrong and that a week in bed was not going to cure this ailment.

When you have a chronic condition, you are forever walking down a imaginary line that separates the past from the future. I think back to what I used to be able to do and think about the things I’ve had to give up and the time that I lost.  When I look forward, I can’t really picture what my future will bring, as I’m entering unchartered territory.

 

 

 

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Writing 101: Write about the 3 most important songs in your life and what do they mean to you?

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Music touches everyone’s life in so many different ways and really is such a personal thing.  What means something to someone, doesn’t necessarily resonate with the next person.  I can think of so many songs that bring me back to different places in time over my life like Paradise by the Dashboard Light or Oh What a Night, but these songs aren’t important in an epic way.  They bring a smile to my face when I think back about High School and College days.

Three songs that mean something to me in an important way are:

  • From this Moment by Shania Twain
  • There’s a Hole in the World Tonight by the Eagles
  • I Want to See you Be Brave by Sara Bareilles

From This Moment was my wedding song and I still get chills when I think about dancing with my now Ex Husband for the first time in front of all our friends and family.  The night was a magical night, unfortunately the marriage wasn’t.  I believe that when I met my Ex, my life was truly going to begin and that I did belong right beside him for the rest of my life.  But I guess after looking back, he didn’t feel the same way, as he gave up on the marriage.

There’s a Hole in the World Tonight is a sad and powerful song performed after the attack on the World Trade Center in NYC.  I lived through that day and the horror in the coming days and there was also a hole in the ground and in my heart for a very long time.  This song brings me back in a split second to that day and the weeks that followed.  The smell in the air, the confetti and gray ash flying all over the place and the armed guards standing ready on most street corners.

I Want to See you Be Brave is a song I wrote about earlier on my Blog and I think it is a powerful song about saying what is on your mind and saying what you really feel.  I won’t repeat my blog post but I do wonder why some people can say what’s on their mind and get their point across without being cruel and hurtful, while others just spit out whatever thoughts are in their head, without regards for the other persons feelings.

It seems odd that a collection of sounds and words gets immersed in our brain and becomes associated with such deep memories and emotions.  Certain songs bring us immediately to tears, while others put a smile on our faces.  And as I finish this post, Pharrell Williams “Happy” song is playing in the background and my feet are tapping away!!

 

 

Writing 101: A Room with a View (or Just a View)

http://www.nyhabitat.com (photo NY-14516D71)

 

I live in New York State, currently in one of the 5 boroughs, less than 10 miles from Manhattan.  Until I became ill and had to move out of Manhattan, I lived in NYC for 20 years, in the same apartment building.

Manhattan was great when you are able to walk around, take public transportation and have enough money to order in meals. But once I became confined to my apartment because of my illness, Manhattan became a horrible place to live.

Parking was a nightmare and none of my friends or family  could come visit me during the day, even on weekends it was difficult. I was a prisoner in my apartment, when I lived in the busiest city in the country, the city that never sleeps.  I sat in my apartment day after day,  looking out my window, seeing the world pass me by, as I tried to figure out what my illness was.

If I had to leave the apartment, I would count the steps required to walk up the block to the bus stop and then would picture in my mind how many steps were required to get to the doctors office that I needed to get to on that particular day.  My social life consisted of doctor visits and occasional phone calls when I had the energy.

My living room became my solace and I can still picture every last inch of it.  It’s etched in my mind and I loved being in that room.  I had lived in my apartment prior to my marriage and then remained there after my divorce.  Once my divorce was finalized, I redecorated the place so that I would have a fresh start.  I love to decorate and to pick out colors.  I don’t look at this process as work, or as a chore, like so many people do.  I was enjoying this process and everything I choice, I loved.

So if I could be transported back to one place, I would love to be able to go back to my old apartment in NYC and be healthy and once again enjoy what Manhattan has to offer.  I would visit the WTC Museum and have lunch at my favorite neighborhood place, which served the best grilled chicken salad, with hearts of palm and roasted artichokes.  Then I would walk cross town and go see the Broadway play Aladdin.

I probably wouldn’t have wanted to live in Manhattan forever, but I would have wanted to leave on my own terms and not be forced to leave because I became ill, went on disability and got fired from a company where I worked for 15 years at a job I absolutely loved.

Writing 101

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Since I enjoy writing and always want to be better at it, I decided to join the Writing 101 course offered by WordPress and today I have my first assignment.

The assignment seems simple enough, it’s to take 20 minutes and just free write, don’t think about what you are writing, just write whatever comes to mind.  Sounds simple enough as my mind never stops working but are people really interested in my random thoughts.  Well maybe today they are.

Mainly right now, I’m thinking about how cold I am this morning and how unprepared I am for the fall weather that has hit NYC. I love the fall, that’s my favorite season, but always hate the change in seasons as we go from warm to chilly to freezing and then again to warmer weather.  When you live in a small apartment, the change of seasons also means dragging out last season’s clothes and shoes and packing away the currents seasons items.  I have always hated this process and have come to hate it more since I’ve become ill.

I barely have energy to do what I need to do and this added work is a nuisance for me and takes about a month to complete as I can only do a carton a day.  Today I had to find my fuzzy slippers as flip flops won’t work any longer.  It’s funny how quickly the weather changes and your mindset has to change to.  Halloween is approaching and I even saw a commercial for Christmas Lay Away.  It is only September, but time marches on very quickly, even if I don’t march quickly.

I was excited about this course, as I was hoping it would help pass the days and also help me learn something as my mind has also slowed down, with my body slowing down.  I need to learn and am hoping this helps me feel challenged, even in a small way.

 

9-11

911MemorialMuseum

 

Today is the anniversary of one of the most horrible tragedies our nation has suffered and hopefully the worst that I will have to witness in my lifetime.  It’s almost unimaginable to think that 13 years have gone by since that cool, crisp September morning when NYC was under attack and I had to run for cover.  Thankfully, back then, I was healthy and could run and walk on my own. I often wonder what would have happened to me that morning if I had to rely on the kindness of others to protect me.

Many people were saved that morning because of the help of fire fighters, ambulance workers, police men and just plain old every day goodhearted citizens, but thousands of others weren’t so lucky and many of the ones that didn’t perish that morning were damaged emotionally  in ways that others can’t even imagine.

I won’t relive that morning, as I did it in my post on my blog a year ago, but I still felt it needed mention.  As a result of that day, many, many, many people’s lives were effected and unfortunately changed for the worse.  I know 2 people who worked in the towers and managed to escape and I know 1 person who was downtown that morning working in another building, and like me had to run for cover.  This last person is the one who emotionally has suffered the most and since that day, has never been the same.

Why is it that she has suffered the worst, when she hadn’t worked in the WTC.  We all saw horrific things that morning if we were by the Towers, but why is it that some of us have recovered emotionally and others haven’t.  To me this has to do with our mindset as we approached the day.

After witnessing the horrible events of that day, we all were in shock, and it took all of us time to process what had happened, to grieve for the people who lost there lives and the ones that lost their loved ones and then to heal.  But some people don’t heal, why?

Since 9-11, we’ve learned a lot about the brain and about suffering.  Trauma disrupts the balance of feeling, memory and decision-making in our brain and all these parts need time and care to come back into balance. Research has shown that even in the face of unimaginable tragedy and despite the fact that we will always remember what happened, emotional balance for many victims can return to normal within 2 years. This is a great cause for hope.  But what about the people whose brains don’t return to normal within 2 years, is there still hope for them?   We’ve also learned over the course of the last 13 years that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, affects not just the immediate victims of violence,  but also bystanders and witnesses.

In order to heal and recover, we must face our inner wounds and choose to fight them.  The alternative is to deny them, but then our suffering will continue and the healing process will be delayed.

My friend is working very hard to fight her inner wounds, but they are very deep and very severe, and unfortunately after 13 years, they are still there.  She has been crying since yesterday for the life she lost and for the person that never returned home from work the same.  I hope she is able to slay her demons (or at least tame them) this year and that the next time 9-11 rolls around on the calendar, it doesn’t have such a hold on her.

 

Women Power & Purpose

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We have just passed the sad anniversary of when I went out on Disability.  I have been thinking about the 4 years since that happened and what has occurred in my life.  And what has stood out to me, has been the stand out and stand up Women I have met in this time.  I have met 4 women, through the course of my new journey that are Powerful, Grateful, Kind and Loving all in different ways, but all in ways that reach out to you.

3 of these women, I am proud to call my friend.  The 4th is a recent addition to my world, but she is unlike anybody I have ever met, as she is a Nun, who is also a Licensed Massage Therapist.  I went for a massage yesterday and also received a blessing as she prays at the beginning and end of the session.  I am not religious and not even Catholic, but yesterday I felt the presence of God during the session.  I so wish this woman was my grandmother, as she has spunk beyond her years and a twinkle in her eye.

All these women have their own life stories to tell, filled with their own trials and tribulations, yet all show up every single day with a welcoming smile on their face and are just grateful to be here another day.  Another one of these woman is a Reiki Healer and being with her is like transcending time.  When you are with her, an inexplicable peace just fills your body and you feel calm and relaxed.  There is an energy emitted by this woman and it too envelopes you beyond which any words can describe.

The last 2 women, are either struggling with their own illness, or the illness of a close loved one, yet they are grateful and appreciative for everything good thing in their life and try not to dwell or drown with the bad part.

I am so eternally grateful that my illness has brought these 4 Amazing Women to me.  They are role models and mentors in many ways and I hope they all know how much their friendship means to me.  I think about how they struggle, yet always sound cheery when we speak and never complain about these troubles, just talk about them as part of their life.

When you are struggling with a chronic illness or dealing with a chronic illness the illness creates your “new normal”, in such that now it is part of your new life and going back to your old life is not even possible.  Right now all I can do is accept my “new normal” and be thankful that I have these “new friends” to share them with.

 

Anger

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Today it was pointed out to me by someone who’s opinion I trust and respect, that I very rarely get angry.   This wasn’t the first time this was pointed out to me and I wanted to explore this further.   I said anger is an emotion I am not comfortable with.  I hate the emotion when it is displayed in others and especially when it’s directed at me.  I try very hard to live and act a certain way, so as not to hurt or anger anyone.  My intent is always pure and I expect others to act the same way.

But is it healthy not to get angry?  Can’t I be pure and good and nice and still display anger.  Am I harming myself  by not getting angry when it is warranted?  Shouldn’t I be angry that I am chronically ill and have no idea when (or if) I will ever return to health?  Shouldn’t I be angry that I had to stop working and go on disability?  Shouldn’t I be angry that I had to sell my co-op that I owned for 20 years and move to a neighborhood near my mom and sister, so that I had a support system near by.  Shouldn’t I be angry that I have been removed from society for 5 years and not able to move on with my live?

When I read this, I’m thinking of course I should be angry, but I’m not.  Or is this anger so suppressed  and buried deep within me, that it is keeping me ill and I don’t even know it.  It would be a lie to say that my life and my health haven’t changed for the worse, but I think I am making the best of a difficult situation and I just don’t see how being angry that this happened to me is of any use.

I grieved for the loss of my pre-illness life, as I would a loved one.  In fact, I was going through this period of mourning my old life, when my dad past, so I grieved for them both at the same time.  Just as I deeply miss my dad, I deeply miss the life I had, but as time moves on and you become more removed from the past, the new normal is your reality.  While I remember and have flashbacks of my dad when I see a mailman on the street (as that was his occupation), or when I have to parallel park (as he taught me how to expertly do that), I also have flashbacks and pangs of sadness when I think back to my working and dating days.  But not anger, never anger or rage.

I’m starting to wonder if this is normal.  I never really thought about it before like this.  What good is constantly reliving the past in our minds, it only holds us back from moving forward.  I have so many physical constraints, I don’t want to think that my mind is causing me to prolong my illness and recovery.

I strongly believe that a very important component of me getting well and feeling better is adapting to my new reality.  Even though my life is difficult, very difficult at times, I still have an inner peace that sustains me and helps me go on each day.   There are days when I feel useless and not productive, but I never feel like my life is without value or worth.

My particular chronic illness is an extremely physically draining one, but I would be foolish to think that it isn’t emotionally draining too.  The more I adapt to my current surroundings and my new limits, the happier I feel I will be.  I am very thankful, that before I became ill, I was a very resilient, easy going individual and this resilience has served me well.  I also am thankful that I have a social support system that is available to me when I speak up and ask for help.

So as suggested to me, for the next 30 days, I am going to keep a diary of situations that occur and my response to them and see if anger is warranted in any of the situations when I review the day in my diary.  I am hoping I don’t have too many entries!