Not Afraid of Being Scared

Scared!If you know me even a bit, you know that I view every event in my life as an opportunity to learn and to understand, which is exactly why I write Simply Life Lessons.

Thinking that I am the Einstein of all the life lessons I share would be rather silly, because I know that everyone is on their own journey of learning and growing and living their own life lessons, even those who truly never get any of it.

For a life event to make sense, one must seek to find that golden nugget of wisdom hidden in the pain, suffering, tears, awareness, defeat, changes . . . Others may share their story, and you try to understand, appreciate, sympathize, and remember, but until you live out that moment for yourself, it is not real.

When I spend a brief second to ask, “Why me”, I really am looking for an answer. What am I to learn, to share, to take away from this experience?  An answer always comes.

An epiphany one day revealed that if I share and learn from what I am going through, then this life of mine would not be for naught. For there to be no purpose to the things I have experienced would be a tragedy in itself. I liken it to a scientist who does years and years of research, with trial after trial after trial. Even if his discovery does not save the planet, his work, failures and successes, only matter after he makes his findings known.

One morning, at 2:30am, after days of needing to know why I was faced with a debilitating health challenge, my answer told me that what was scaring me may actually be what would saves me because nothing speaks serious like being scared.

I haven’t admitted or acknowledged it often, but, I was scared, and being scared demanded my action.

Never doubt it. The rubber always meets the road. The chickens always come home to roost.

I have pointed out in other postings that I have not done a stellar job of taking care of myself. I’ve allowed my life to be filled with stress, cigarettes, drinking, unhealthy eating, inactivity, toxic people, and the price I pay could be very high, but what I came to realize at that early hour, is that being scared can be a good thing.

Many people of the Christian faith come to their decision to follow Christ because they are scared. Who doesn’t want to go to Heaven? And many lives have turned around with a heart attack or stroke. Some have written about being thankful for cancer because of how it positively changed their lives, and the soldier in the fox-hole who is scared beyond my understanding, makes promises and commitments for a lifetime that may not have happened if he hadn’t been scared.

Why be afraid of being scared?

I laugh out loud now writing this because being a private person, I am not ready to share my particular challenge, and it truly is irrelevant to this post, but is it possible to be private and transparent, too?

Since beginning this post, I have learned that I am fine.  After medical testing, evaluations and trial and error, I am more sure of what is before me. For now, just know that in the scheme of things, my challenge was nothing to cry about, just a reason for change.

I will never stop learning which gives me the privilege of being imperfect. I change what I can, sometimes, and accept what I can’t change, sometimes, and still struggle to know the difference.

I never knew being scared could be so promising.

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Falling Apart . . .

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I have traveled to the end of this road –  The realization that this journey was over was swift and clear.  Never mind what the street signs are showing, it is time to find a seat and check out that less-traveled road.  This is my route.

First decision when hitting the wall was to quit my job.  My last day is August 11th.  It will be a sad day because this job has been good to me.  The friends I have made have enhanced my life beyond explaining.  What I have learned about restaurant management is priceless, and the leadership I had the privilege of working with was selfless and sincere.

So, what the hell is going on?

There is always – ALWAYS – a catalyst to change, and this was no different, but knowing the catalyst is meaningless when understanding the change.  Believe me when I tell you that I did not run off with the Shamrock man.  I did not become allergic to Italian.  I am not moving back home.  There was no drama.  I was not fired.  I am not terminally ill., I did not lose my mind.  I did not win the lottery.  I did not get hired as aide to the President.  I am not pregnant.

It was just time for me to go . . .

Life can be mysterious, but there are moments of clarity where you know that you know that you know.  This decision was just that clear.

If you follow this blog, and know me, then you are aware that the last 5 years have been brutal.  I took the beatings and kept moving forward caring for my granddaughter, holding back the tears, shoving the pain aside and taking the next painful step. Numb is the word.  Weariness is real.

In order to feel again, I must grieve.  I have to stop and feel the pain of a very sad divorce, and mourn my dad, remember my moms – both of them, acknowledge the losses, accept the truths, face the facts and get up, take a step, and start all over again.

I always knew this day would come, but it had to be when I had time to stop – and when I felt safe to do so.

After I fall apart, what will I do?  I have not a clue, but I am very excited for the rest of my life.

Having time to fall in love, explore, mediate, dance, dream, hug, believe, and laugh will be the tools I use to put me together again, and then I will be strong and sure and settled.

Everyone faces these times, so I am nothing unusual, but I am just transparent enough to tell you about it.  I hope my journey encourages you to know that life can be thrilling, whether you are falling apart or coming together.  Everything is a life lesson.

You won’t see me as much, or hear from me as often – for now – but rest assured that I will be back – with a purpose and a plan and wonderful, delightful, delirious happiness!

 

Calories and Diets and Scales, Oh, My!

I wrote this particular post to give me perspective. Please feel free to join me in reading it.

I have no idea how much I weighed at birth, and the certificate is tucked away in a little lock box and not relevant any more than you knowing how much I weigh today. This post is not about any number other than the 1,367,432 times I have started a diet. Following is my journey.

Stephanie’s grandfather use to tease her saying she ate chicken and dumplings the day she was born. When the doctor told my mother she could now introduce food, I know I threw down the bottle and cried for a buffet! Right away, food and I hugged tightly, and we became inseparable, and I became chubby, which was shown even by the tag inside my clothes.

We grew up in a food house – meaning Mom enjoyed cooking and baking, and we enjoyed what she cooked and baked. Everything her family liked, she made, and we really liked cakes and cookies and fried chicken and homemade ravioli and pork roast and potatoes and stews. Did you spot any healthy foods in that list? Food equated to love, and my mom loved us.

My first serious diet came in high school. Low-carb was the craze. I had the little pocket carb-counter book, and I lost around 40 pounds and kept it off for a few years. Too busy dating, dancing, working to think about food, my infatuation waned, food became like an old magazine, and we took different paths. Unfortunately, we met up again when I was 20 and newly married.

My life dream was being a housewife and mother, and, like taught, food speaks love, and I loved my husband, and I loved to cook. My crown of jewels came from the meals I prepared and the desserts I baked. We blissfully ate all hours of the day and night. I still remember my first meals at Taco Bell and Arby’s. Fast-food was so darn yummy! I had my man. I had my home. Putting on the pounds was not a concern, and not being able to fit into my bikini became alright as a married women shouldn’t wear a bikini anyway.

When I became pregnant, I immediately quit my 2-pack a day smoking habit, and tried to be more aware of what I ate. I did well, and after delivering a 9 pound 10.5 ounce baby, I soon returned to eating . . .

Somewhere in my 30’s I woke up, looked down at my plate, and decided I didn’t want to do this anymore. At that moment, everything changed. I set up a gym in the garage, counted calories and lost weight. I was back in a size 12, and it felt wonderful – until, overnight, losing weight went to the back burner when I started having serious pain in my arms, hands and wrists.

I backed off of the weight lifting but my pain only increased. After seeing my family physician and being referred to a neurologist, I received a diagnosis of Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. This misguided physician predicted, by analyzing my blood test results, that I would be in a wheelchair in 10 years. Depression, mindless eating, toxic medications, steroids, tests, oral chemotherapy, and many trips to a St. Louis rheumatologist followed.

After riding this roller coaster for too many years, I found myself at over 300 pounds, sickly and defeated. I was terribly unhappy.

No one knows me like I do. When something is out of sync in my body, I know it. I felt that I was being over-medicated, and I intended to steer myself into remission, which I did. With my doctor’s input, I ceased all medications, followed the healthy eating plan as outlined in What Would Jesus Eat by Don Colbert, and gradually my head cleared from the fog, much weight dropped off, and I felt empowered for having taken control of my life.

This was about 9 years ago, and today, I am preparing to take the next road of this healthy-living journey. The pantry is cleared out, the refrigerator is stocked, my resolve is set . . . . There is nothing complicated about making the right choices, but it takes, for me, determination, motivation, and preparation. One meal at a time, one mile at a time, one pound at a time. This can be my only sane approach.

Having studied nutrition and read hundreds of articles on the relationship between what we eat and anti-inflammatory diseases, I am equipped with the knowledge, and friends offer the encouragement I need, but practicing becomes more difficult than the preaching. Feeling defeated by the past failures will not further my cause, so my motto is “To be the BEST I can be today“.

Everyone struggles with something, I believe, and everyone understands defeat. It is in the triumphs that we encourage others to experience their own victories. Coming out from behind the curtain is the first victory with many more to follow. Wish me luck! I will keep you posted.

Why I Cry and Cry Again . . .

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I am a crier. Not a town crier, mind you, but a boo too, sniffle, sniff and red-faced crier.

When younger, I would cry but it wasn’t that often. After I got through the skinned knee stage, my tears would be contributed to school girl disappointments that I thought surely would bring the end of my world. My mom would pat my back, tell me everything would be alright, and would I please go fold my laundry. Daddy would get a bit impatient, ask me what was wrong (so he could fix it because that is what daddies do), then try to make me laugh.

Girls get the “over-emotional” label unfairly written on their personality, but emotions involve much more than tears.  Maybe we just express ourselves easier, but easier is not the best word because there is nothing easy about crying.  Tears of any kind will eventually leave you profoundly changed – refreshed, cleansed, aware, and wiser.  Personal growth is never easy and never experienced without your tears.

Through the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, I seldom cried. There were personal tragedies and betrayals and hopelessness, and I certainly did my share of sobbing through these times, but for the most part, I stayed pretty tough, dealt practically and lived with an encased heart.

Today, life is quite different.  Yes, it is true that I cry nearly every day because nearly every day something happens that causes me to cry.

Living in the Rocky Mountains has allowed me the freedom to reintroduce my soul to feelings and wonderment, sadness and hope.  I cannot have a pretense or carry a façade when nature has so freely welcomed me to live out loud.

When Zia was born, tears came without warning, and even speaking of her tightened my throat, as the awe of this little girl overwhelmed me. Even now, nearly 5 years later, the love I have for her sometimes leaves me powerless to hold back the tears.

When my marriage ended, I cried buckets full of sadness. This was the darkest season of my life, but I saw the tears as a salve applied to bring my healing, and it did.  Sadness is now replaced with acceptance and trust that I am doing just fine.

Today, I cried, out of the blue, because I received the most caring message from an old friend whom I had not talked to for decades. He shared with me high school memories he had kept, and that I have thought about  for over 40 years but never talked about.  His kindness, and learning that he remembered the moments just as I did, was enough to bring me to tears of sweetness. There was no way to put this gift into proper words, but tears speak a perfect language.

Throughout my day there are many moments filled with kindness and goodness, and I cry.  Likewise, when I see injustices toward a weaker soul, I cry.  Every time I hear my brother tell me he loves me, I cry, because of the love I have for him.  Hallmark movies leave my popcorn soggy, and many times sheer happiness turns itself into tears.  When one of the young men at work gives me a hug and says, “Thank you” for helping or encouraging or understanding me, I cry.    If I hear a child cry, I want to hold him, listen and hug away his sadness.  When I pledge allegiance to the flag, I tear up, and I can never hear “Amazing Grace” without my soul being thankful through the tears.  I weep for the homeless and hungry and sob for missing babies who will never return home, and I will cry when these same little ones are found.

It may sound strange, but I rarely cry when I am sick, unless the nurse has just stabbed me the seventh time trying to get blood.  There is nothing sentimental or endearing about a bed pan or head hung over a toilet, so cranky works here just fine, but I have never heard the words that sound like terminal or transplant or there is nothing more to do.  If that day comes, I will cry.

Some people will cry when angry, and I once was one of them because I was too afraid to express myself.  These days, when angry, I deal with it without the tears.  This is not to say that words don’t hurt and my feelings aren’t injured, but these I can deal with intelligently, or so I try.

This would not be written by me if it were not completely honest and transparent about my life and the its lessons, so I must also tell you that I do still cry from sadness and hopelessness and loneliness, but the tears dry up quickly and are remembered as just another moment in time.

Will I ever cry myself dry?  Do others cry as often as I do?   Will I one day be tough again and unaffected by the life around me?  Should I apologize for the times my tears expose me?   I have decided all the answers whisper, “No”.  This is who I am, and when my days happen with wonderment and friendship and love and acceptance and life, my heart will cry, and my tears will fall, and I don’t know how to tell me not to.

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We Need You, Walter Cronkite!

“Our job is only to hold up the mirror – to tell and show the public what has happened.”    Walter Cronkite

In 1980 when Ted Turner and CNN started the plague of 24 hour news, little did I know that I was never going to escape the barrage of misinformation, worthless opinions, plundering pundits and the insults to my intelligence.

Having been a news junkie since about age 8, I still remember religiously reading the local newspapers – The Southern Illinoisan and The Herrin Spokesman.  Many times I would have to ask my dad what some words meant and why this article was news when the fender bender I saw yesterday wasn’t.  I found local happenings very interesting because in a small town chances were good I would read about someone my family knew, and the Sunday comics worked great with Silly Putty as it occupied me while Mom fixed dinner.  To this day, discussing current events is one of my favorite conversations to have.

Walter Cronkite

Every evening, I looked forward to watching the nightly news with Walter Cronkite.  He was a very smart man, and easy to understand.  Every viewer absolutely believed each perfectly enunciated, eloquently emphasized, and deeply delivered word Walter said.  During his tenure on CBS News from 1962 until his retirement in 1981, “Uncle” Walter united his viewers through an interesting era of American history.  He counted the days of the Iran hostage crises, and satiated our questions about Watergate and the Vietnam war.  When reporting on Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon, he was too excited to speak, but as soon as he recovered, he continued delivering the news.  There was no one better than Cronkite to deliver the news to the world that Martin Luther King, Jr. and President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.  It was as though we heard the sad news from an old friend.  When learning, while on air, that Lyndon Johnson had died, Walter left us watching silently as he listened on the phone for details before reporting to us.  There was never any guessing, supposing, assuming or floundering.  Cronkite did not need 27 people conversing with him about what they think they knew. Walter Cronkite was a professional and the most trusted news man in history.  One has to wonder what he would have done with 24 hours of air time.

Being on air around the clock is a huge challenge for cable news and breeds an unhealthy competition among networks.  The pressure to get the scoop before it hits the AP or Twitter, and the hustling of talking heads that try to tell me what to think all lead to mis-information, serious blunders, embarrassing retractions and mistrust from the viewers.  No wonder the word “Media” is a dirty reference of the 21st century.

Cluster News

Recently, when evil erupted at the Boston Marathon, our news agencies (newspapers included here) fell far short of conveying reputable information and keeping us accurately informed.  Bogus details got tossed around like a punctured balloon full of hot air. Everyone was throwing blame at unreliable sources and trying to prove their errors.   The media frenzy after the bomb explosions brought to mind the Keystone Cops.  I know that the chaos made it difficult to sort through the facts, but  I can respect silence knowing that the truth is coming.  I want to know that there is one place I can go to get reputable, accurate news.  Just give me the facts, please.  I do not have a need to hear the idle ramblings that spew from the mouths of anchors, pundits and newsmen, although I do find James Carville pretty funny.

Contrary to how it sounds, I have nothing against most pundits, but pundits don’t deliver the news.  There are a few names in the business that I trust and respect.  Jeffrey Toobin, who mainly reports on the supreme court,  has my trust, Wolf Blitzer does not.   Diane Sawyer and Brian Williams do a decent job, but they are not Walter Cronkite.  The Rachel Maddows, Erin Burnetts, Anderson Coopers, Bill O’Reillys are spin masters, and do a nice job of creating an atmosphere of division.  I will listen to them for a while as long as they say what I want to hear, but real news does not base its truths on opinions.  When I meet someone new, one of my first questions is which cable news channel they watch.  Their answer tells me more about them than most any other question I could ask.  CNN is not “the most trusted”, Fox News is not “fair and balanced”, and MSNBC does not always “lean forward”.

Having spent many years working in various capacities of the television industry, I can say with certainty that no matter how you twist, turn or squeeze it, television is just that.  Everyone feels pressured to entertain us so we get useless stories about the Kardashians but hear nothing about who is helping the homeless.  Hours of useless details were spent on Jodi Arias’ trial while no one reported on the outbreak of inner city violence.

Just like with Hollywood movies, we control the kind of news we get by what we watch the most, but we do not control how we get the news.

Walter Cronkite didn’t entertain, he reported.  I wish someone would decide to follow his example so I can trust the news again.

And that’s the way it is . . .

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