Mamma Mia!

My daughter is going away to college in a few weeks, and I ran straight into that reality last night as we watched the local production of Mamma Mia!

Abby has been dreaming and planning for this year of college for quite a while now, and she has been driving me crazy lately with all of her dorm room shopping and talk about dorm room shopping. It makes me a little crazy, because I don’t like shopping and I didn’t see the need to obsess over it months in advance. Aside from the shopping annoyance, I’ve been pragmatic about her leaving in the fall. I’ve made sure that I have the weekend free to take her to school, and I’ve booked the hotel room for that weekend. Time has kept its steady pace, and I haven’t been oblivious to the speed with which September is approaching, but I haven’t been emotional about it yet. Well, until last night.

There we were at our community theatre to watch the absolutely amazing performance of Mamma Mia! Abby had placed herself between her father and I for the night, which meant she and I shared many glances, nudges, and bits of conversation. We shuddered together over some fashion choices in the crowd. We nudged each other when someone from a middle seat had to get out in the middle of the performance, because we had talked about the tightness of the rows, our preference for sitting on the aisle, and the fact that it always seems to be a person in the middle who needs to get up during a show. During the song Knowing Me, Knowing You, I leaned over to hit her with the “a-ha” of the chorus, and that’s when reality smacked me in the face.

My girl is going away in a few short weeks, and I am going to miss her. The house won’t be empty, but there will be a void. Abby and I have a good relationship, and it is going to be strange to not have her here to speak sarcasm with and to disagree over Captain America and the Winter Soldier. I won’t have someone blessing me for having a pot of coffee on in the morning or understanding the need for chocolate. Instead I will need to make sure the cat gets fed and the litter box cleaned out, but I refuse to FaceTime the cat for Abby. Maybe towels won’t get lost in her bedroom once she’s gone, and maybe my chocolate will last longer.

Because I am who I am, my eyes leaked during the performance from start to finish. The waterworks were especially strong during the song Slipping Through My Fingers. Abby told me after that she had looked over during the song and seen the tears on my face. That made her laugh a bit, at least enough to stop her from getting too emotional. Typical.

My emotional balance has been restored with the light of day. For now. Abby tried to make me cry this morning by playing Slipping Through My Fingers again, but I’m okay. She’s determined to make me emotional about her leaving, and she will likely succeed at some point. That can’t be helped or avoided, but I am not at all sad for her to go. I am excited for her to go and learn and spread her wings.

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The Whiteboard

whiteboardpic

This is a picture of the whiteboard in my chiropractor’s office, and all of that mumbo-jumbo written on it relates to me. I cannot claim to understand most of it. The only portion that is of real relevance to me is the little bit at the bottom left corner, because those are some exercises that I need to do. The rest of it, as best as I can describe it, has to do with testing neural tension and how my body responds to it. My chiropractor recently announced that he will be taking leaving practice for a while to follow a slightly different path. I’ve been asked how I feel about it and what that is going to mean for me. The news took me by surprise and makes me feel that awkwardly odd combination of happy/proud/sad, but mostly, I wonder what is going to happen to my whiteboard experiences. But this blog post isn’t about his leaving anymore than it is about the words written on the whiteboard!

In the week or so since hearing my chiropractor’s news, I have been wondering why it is that the whiteboard has firmly cemented itself in my brain. I like to, often need to, think and process out loud, either by talking to myself, to someone who will listen, or in written form, so I have been talking and writing and processing. What is it about a simple whiteboard that makes me feel such an impending sense of loss? I think I know and it isn’t really about the whiteboard but what the whiteboard represents. It is relationship, connection, authenticity, and all manner of positive qualities that are so often lacking in our daily interactions.

From day one, my chiropractor has been different than any other health care practitioner I have ever seen, and I am fairly certain that he used a whiteboard that day to illustrate the problem going on inside my shoulder. My chiropractor is one of the smartest people I know, but he has never dismissed my doubts or questions or fears. He has always just been himself and accepted me as I am. His authenticity made it easy for me to trust him at a time when I didn’t think highly of chiropractors at all. Being able to trust him enabled me to be myself, and as a result his impact on my life goes wider and deeper than a routine spinal adjustment. I imagine that many clinicians maintain an impenetrable veneer to keep distance between themselves and their patients, and I get how that can be necessary. However, now I have first-hand experience of a better way, and I love it. I value and yearn for real relationships, not that I need to be the bestest of friends with everyone I meet, but I want to be seen as a real person and I want to see realness in others. Those are the people who inspire and motivate me, who challenge and encourage me. Those are the people I want to surround myself with.

So back to the whiteboard…

I can get another chiropractor, and I’m reasonably certain I can get one that I’d like. The bigger question I ask is will I get the whiteboard. It’s not that I need illustrations and mumbo-jumbo, although I do tend to be a visual learner. What I truly want is someone who will get me and see me as a real person rather than just another body to poke and crunch. Quite honestly, this is what I want of most of my relationships. If I choose to or need to spend great chunks of time with someone, I want that relationship to be authentic. A friend made a comment the other day about a line she had read in a book, which talked about how old friends see each other’s original paint, no matter how many layers we have applied in our attempts to fit in and to be someone else. I like that. Whether old friends or new, when we can see a person’s original paint we are being authentic, and those are the kind of relationships I want.

 

In The Moment

When I pull my brain back from tomorrow and my heart from yesterday, I live with joy today.

(I came across that quote somewhere a while back, but I have no idea who originally said or wrote it.)

It’s been a weird week. There was the unexpected follow up appointment with the neurosurgeon and a couple of surprise announcements that are going to take some time to process and accept. After a deload week in my training, I began this week expecting a fresh training week feeling strong and fresh, but that never quite materialized. At the gym on Wednesday, I wanted to throw a kettlebell through a wall, because the back was so achy and uncomfortable, and I cannot always avoid feeling frustrated and stuck. I had no anger or frustration issues at the gym today; however, my mood was drooping and I simply felt tired and weak.

I didn’t sleep well at all last night, probably the worst night in a while now. Sleep has been tricky since the start of this injury, but the past few months has at least allowed me to settle into a reasonable, functional rhythm of lying awake, falling asleep, lots of tossing and position changes, and a few wakeful periods. Last night had plenty of tossing and position changes and lying awake…not so much sleep though. It wasn’t all due to the physical symptoms. The brain was racing for the first hour or two, twisting problems into knots before unraveling them to start over again, but the brain did eventually quiet and settle. Still no sleep. Despite the central air-conditioning and bedroom fan blowing, I felt too hot, too uncomfortable. The lack of sleep probably didn’t help me out at the gym this morning.

Although I stopped taking my prescriptions more than a month ago, I still have them. Lots of them actually because the last refill had been a big one. In all the time that I was on the medications, I never felt like they made a difference in the pain or symptoms, which is why I stopped taking them. I hate taking medication, but there are moments when I pause to consider the vials on my counter. What if I was wrong about the impact they made on the pain I felt? As much as my current pain levels are a far cry from what they used to be, I am still in pain. All of the time. It sucks. It saps energy and life from your body. It eats away at you from the inside and wears you down. Most of the time I can look beyond the pain and discomfort, but there are moments, sometimes days, when that is difficult to do. I think today is one of those days. Perhaps most of the week has been like that, and certainly my body is still re-learning and adjusting to being back at work, even if with limited hours.

I am tired, frustrated, and hurting, yet the day was not all gloom.

I got to go to the gym today! Although this injury has significantly impacted my ability to train as I would like, I am still of the mindset that going to the gym is a positive. My body might not always enjoy working out these days, but I am always glad to be able to do it.

My youngest son came by today. Sure, he was only here to pick up some mail, but that’s two days in a row I got to see my baby boy.

It’s far too easy to allow pain, fatigue, and low mood to throw road blocks in front of any sort of productivity I might have planned, but I managed to get a few things done today.

I laughed. Not the fake laugh one does when being polite but genuine laughter. Mostly at my own expense and that’s okay. It was still the sort of laughter that lessens the weightiness of whatever is sitting on your shoulders. And I didn’t laugh alone, which only increases its’ potency.

I finished off one book and began another. You would think that someone who had been off work and essentially idle for seven months would have read plenty of books, but the pain was too distracting and my head too foggy to focus on written words up until recently.

 

Not Your Regular Type of Anniversary

Tomorrow is an anniversary of some kind. Although it is most definitely not an anniversary of celebration and could easily be viewed as a reminder of a pain and loss, I feel ambivalent about it. I took some time this afternoon to sit quietly with my journal, something I haven’t done for a long time, and I wrote what came to mind. This pending anniversary has been lurking in the corner of my mind for a couple of days. While my mind does replay that day every now and then, it truly isn’t something that I waste my time or energy dwelling on much. I cannot change what happened, and although the events were hurtful and confusing, I have no interest in trying to rehash, resolve, or return to the past. That’s not my circus, not my monkeys.

As I wrote in my journal, my thoughts swirled around that day, landing only on the final outcome rather than the actual happenings of the day. Most of my focus was actually spread over the past year, the days between July 14, 2017 and tomorrow. I echoed a sentiment I have expressed many times over the course of all of 2017 and thus far in 2018, that it has been quite the year! Tomorrow’s anniversary is only a small blip on the timeline. It might have felt bigger in the moment, but it’s power to hurt me evaporated like morning dew on a hot summer’s day. If nothing else, the months between January 2017 and today have been all about adversity and personal growth. There hasn’t been a whole lot that has gone as planned or expected in this time period, but I’m still standing.

I am being intentionally vague about this anniversary and will continue to skirt around it. A year ago, I felt shame and humiliation although I had no valid reason for either feeling, but that’s not the reason for my vagueness. In a way, I guess I am protecting others by choosing to not speak directly to what happened, and, if I’m going to be completely honest, rubs me the wrong way just a little. It doesn’t seem fair, to not take someone to task for their words and actions, but that is just the way life is sometimes. It’s not always fair. People hurt other people, and sometimes they even feel justified in leaving carnage in their wake. I don’t agree with it. I don’t like it. But I accept that it is what it is and my self-worth is not tied to any person’s opinion of my character. Despite all of the disappointments and challenges of the past year and a half, I have no regrets about anything I have said or done. I know I am strong, inside and out. I know I have only grown stronger through all of the challenges. I have remained true to my character, my nature, and yet managed to grow even more comfortable in my own skin. I think of this time last year with a dispassionate eye, because the events of that day can no longer hurt me. Truth is they haven’t had any power over me for a very long time, but I am a sentimental person who remembers such details as dates and events.

Be Kind & Mischievous

“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.” ~Mary Oliver

I do not always know what other people think of me, and I try not to care about that too much. But I do wonder sometimes. How do people perceive me, and does that perception line up with how I see myself?

I know that I am not always the easiest person to get to know. Ever the introvert, I open my doors cautiously, slowly, and there are many doors to pass through. It took my husband twenty years to realize that I have a thing for shoes, because I have kept that passion locked up tight. It’s not that my love for shoes was a secret I felt I needed to hide; in fact, I was actually surprised that my husband hadn’t been aware of it. (I think he knew it and simply forgot!) My reasons for not indulging in shoes have been financial (I had three kids burning through shoes on a regular basis.) and practical (Where am I going to wear 4 inch stilettos? And honestly, the heels I love are brutal on the body.) My shoe example might point more towards my husband’s attention to detail than my being difficult to know!

After powerlifting competitions, I have been told that I am so calm and cool on the platform. I go out and do my thing without drama or some grand production. That is just how I often tend to be. When I am at work, I tend to be mostly calm and cool and focused on the tasks at hand. In social situations, I am much the same. I might be trembling like a leaf with doubt and insecurity on the inside, yet I’m easy-going, calm, and doing what needs doing. But don’t let my calm manner and cool exterior fool you!

I know how to be silly and mischievous. I even sing, although usually when alone in my car or while doing housework or with my daughter when Bohemian Rhapsody comes on the radio. Green hair isn’t a shocking sight these days, but it definitely wasn’t common when I was a teenager, who on a dare sat in the front row at church with green hair. There are too many times to count when my family rolls their eyes at my fan girl freak outs over Star Wars and Wonder Woman, but I am a 46 years old fan girl! Fingernail polish and flashy jewelry are not permitted at my work place, but I have always enjoyed expressing myself through the colours painted on my nails and big, funky earrings. Sometimes I forget that about myself, because I have grown so used to being work place compliant. Kindness is something I know how to do, to be, even though I fail miserably at times.

Kindness can turn around and bite you though, and I bear many unseen scars. Earlier today, I found myself reading something I wrote quite a few months ago, which brought some of those scars to the forefront of my mind. The words I wrote were in response to being bitten by the very kindness I had given away. There is a measure of sadness in the memory, a touch of anger at the injustice, but mostly, I think, I feel so far removed from that actual attack. It happened, and I still don’t understand what doesn’t make sense. But I do believe that kindness is still a valuable commodity worth sharing with others.

Self Worth Project

I am having a love/hate relationship with summer this year, or more appropriately perhaps, my issue is related to my body more than the weather. Although my favourite season is Fall, I really do enjoy Spring and Summer, when warmer weather means bare feet, shorts, and tank tops instead of fuzzy socks, jeans and heavy sweaters. But I have been feeling dismay and disgust increasing along with the temperature outside, and my feelings are firmly rooted in my physical appearance. I know better than to focus on the scale, a size, or the image reflected in my mirror. I have fought that battle before and come out victorious, yet here I am again. Still.

Hurting my back has impacted my life in many ways and for much longer than I ever thought possible, so I also understand and accept that I will be in a state of “recovery” for quite some time and in many ways. My activity level has been severely hampered for months. Not only have I been unable to train for powerlifting or with significant weight or intensity, but my every day activities of work and life were wiped out. When you add months of medication with a weight-gain side effect, it really shouldn’t be surprising that I’ve gained some weight and look like a potato.

Now that the hot weather is here, I am finding it difficult to ignore the weight gain. I cannot easily hide under layers of loose clothing anymore, but finding cooler, comfortable clothing that doesn’t make me feel like a potato is almost impossible. After nearly eight months of wearing leggings and yoga pants almost exclusively, one of my biggest moments of panic about the possibility of returning to work soon is wondering how I am going to fit into work-suitable clothing again. Although I am a long way from being pain and symptom-free, every bit of progress and improvement makes me feel excited and hopeful that I will be back to normal again soon. Perhaps I get too excited in my expectations of being back to normal, thinking that it should have happened last week even though today might have been the first “good” day in a month. Sigh.

I also know that the only one who is actually critical of how I look is me. Even if someone were to mock my body, my confidence in myself is solid enough to see through the bluster and discard the garbage, but it isn’t so easy to stop insulting myself. Isn’t that the way it usually goes…being our own worst critic?

As I continue to heal, I know that I will return to work. I will regain strength and conditioning, and my weight and body composition will change. I know this to be true. In the here and now though, between the moment of injury and the day I am completely normal again, my confidence in the truth is often shaky. This isn’t where I thought I would be. This being less than isn’t who I want to be. In all honesty, I think this frustration of not being who I was is the ultimate source of my disgust with myself now.

Filling Cups

My husband texted me this afternoon to ask if I wanted to meet him at my Starbucks for a refreshing beverage. Since I had already been to Starbucks a couple of hours earlier, I hesitated but ultimately agreed. A few minutes later, we were sipping our drinks at the bar counter, where I could stand instead of sitting. This is where I work, so I frequently watch what is happening behind the counter, wanting to stay connected and involved even if I’m currently not working, and so, I picked up on some concern towards a regular customer who was sitting outside with friends. I am not usually the sort of person who makes a point of injecting myself into other people’s conversations, but I did this afternoon and I’m glad I did.

Her eyes lit up when she saw me, and she quickly stood to greet me with a hug that she was reluctant to end as she told me that her husband had passed away last night. This sweet couple have been regular customers for as long as I’ve been working there. Alf was always the quiet one, but there was a sparkle in his eyes as if he had been up to some sort of mischief. There had been health concerns for a while, so his passing shouldn’t be a surprise, and yet, there was also the sense that we would present him with his mug of green tea for a long time to come.

It’s not always easy or comfortable to interact with someone who has experienced such a loss, especially so recently, and such situations make me feel incredibly inadequate and awkward; however, I am thankful that I had the opportunity to see Corrine today, to share a bit of her grief, and to simply be a friendly face to hold onto. In her typical sweetness, she introduced me to her good friends and also asked about my own health and potential surgery (the last time I talked with her I was still waiting to see a surgeon). I listened to her share some stories of Alf, some recent and some not. There was laughter in her voice but also grief and loss and sadness. And strength.

I love my job. Mostly I caffeinate people, but I love that I also have the opportunity to nurture and inspire the human spirit, to fill the figurative cup of the people I serve. Of course, not every customer is going to want anything more than their cup of coffee, but we do our job with the knowledge that we have the potential to be something more. It is about connection, and that is one of the reasons why I started working at Starbucks. When you connect with people, even with a coffee counter in the middle, you get excited when a student passes that exam they’d been studying for. You know when someone’s been on vacation or when they’ve been sick. You encourage the teachers as the school year draws to a close. You welcome the snowbirds back in the spring. You listen to stories and share your own. You cry with them when they’ve received bad news. And you grieve when loss happens.

You don’t need to be a barista to experience this connection. People are everywhere, and I don’t know a single person who has their life all together and without struggle, pain or loss. As an introvert, I like my time to myself…I like it a lot; and yet, people need people. People need people who care enough to ask how they’re doing, to simply say hello, to lend a hand or even just a smile. Think about that.