Singling Out Shame

As I laid awake in bed last night, my mind randomly flashed back to a situation I found myself in about a month or so ago. It was the kind of situation that would be quite easy to ignore or glide over, but in chewing it over in my mind last night I was able to talk myself through the awkwardness and the negative emotions which threatened me in that situation. Of course, all of my best thoughts and words were probably used up in the dark of night, but let me try to spit it out now in the light of day.

I don’t know what day it was exactly, not that it matters at all, but we were at Costco, my husband and I. We had wandered the aisles and thrown a few items into our cart before planting ourselves in one of the long lines to checkout. As we were waiting and talking, I noticed a woman in a line next to ours, and I immediately recognized her face. That’s my super power…recognizing faces. It might take me a month to remember where I know a face from, but I remember faces. Anyway, I recognized this person as a friend of a former friend. I don’t know if she recognized me (we had met once or twice before), but I was instantly flooded with anxiety and shame. Our items were scanned and paid for, and we walked out of Costco, while I shoved those feelings into a mental closet and locked the door.

I know why I felt anxious and ashamed when I saw this person, but I didn’t want to spend any time thinking about it. Sometimes we think that shutting painful emotions off is the same as dealing with them, but that’s not how it works. It was easy enough to ignore how I felt in Costco all those days ago, and I could probably continue to ignore that for a long time yet. Until the next time I see someone with a connection to a former friend.

The anxiety comes from the fear of being disliked or treated with disdain, while the shame flows out of the fear of what the former friend may or may not have said about me. The end of our relationship was surprising and odd. The last conversation was confusing and one-sided, as if designed to create shame within me. In some ways, it felt like I was being gas-lighted. As confusing and hurtful as that was to experience, I was able to see the smoke and mirrors, even if I can only guess at the motivation behind them. It was surprisingly easy to move on, but maybe not so surprising given the growth in my self-confidence over the years. Seeing someone connected to the former friend rattles that confidence. Negative thoughts whisper in my ear, questioning what gossip or lies about my character might have been passed on. In actuality, I feel no shame about what happened with the former friend, because I know I did nothing wrong. But I feel shame in thinking that someone might have been told misinformation. Why? Why should I feel shame about that? Why should I feel anxious simply because I recognize a face in a crowd?

I have absolutely no idea if the former friend has ever said anything about me or the end of our relationship to anyone. No idea whatsoever! Quite honestly, I think it is more likely that this person hasn’t mentioned my name at all. Or maybe my name gets mentioned like a piece of trivia or a historical tidbit of information without emotion or explanation. I have no way of knowing, and I don’t want to care about it one way or the other. What is of greater concern to me is the way that I respond emotionally to a situation that I cannot control and is likely not even a situation to speak of, like seeing someone at Costco.

The feelings of shame that I felt in Costco that day were nothing more than lies designed to imprison me. To the best of my ability and with the grace of God, I have peace within myself in the end of that relationship, so there is no need for me to feel ashamed at the possibility of being recognized as someone’s former friend. I don’t need to stress out over what may or may not have been said about me, when I know my own actions and words and attitudes and have examined them most carefully. If some random person has a problem with me because of misinformation…well, he/she can have a conversation with me about it or not. As for me, I don’t have a desire to waste my time fretting over what ifs, and I do not want to be weighed down by misplaced guilt or shame. There may be moments or days when my confidence is battered and shaky, but I know who I am and I know my worth.

And now that I’ve got that off my chest, perhaps the only thing that will keep me awake tonight is the ever-present pain in my legs!

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So This is Christmas

I slept well enough last night, but it was also uncomfortable thanks to the multiple pillows necessary for maintaining a back happy sleeping posture. Unfortunately, the pillow positioning changes depending on which side I am sleeping on, and I’m not always awake enough to remember to change the pillows when I roll over. As such, I was awake around 6:00 this morning and coffee has since replaced the blood in my body.

Gifts have been given and opened. For those who know me, there is no surprise at the nature of the gifts that I received. Star Wars. Wonder Woman. Wine. Coffee. Journals. Fun socks. A puzzle. I am so easy to buy for, so easy to please and excite. And as difficult as my boys are to buy for, I think I can safely say that we managed to find gifts that they actually enjoy and will use!

Food is always part of Christmas. After we open our gifts, we have brunch. My husband makes most of it, while I contribute by making some mini frittatas. Normally I am adequately planned and prepared, but my life is not currently normal in many senses of the word. It wasn’t until we were ready to make breakfast that I realized I couldn’t find my old recipe, so I winged it. For the first time in all the years I’ve been making these, this was the first time that the frittatas didn’t stick horribly to the muffin pans! Go figure.

After brunch, the only other meal of the day will be a big dinner with turkey, ham, and all the fixings. The space between meals is left for grazing on nuts, chocolate, and whatever other goodies are laying around.

Games are always a big hit at Christmas, and we added several to our collection today. I think three new games have been cracked open and played already. Having young adult aged children means that time all together becomes increasingly more difficult to find, but it warms my heart to see our little family having fun together.

For the past several years, my husband has had the tradition of giving the kids new Nerf guns at Christmas, and there would always be a massive Nerf gun battle after dinner. This year my husband decided not to get any new guns. One child nearly freaked out upon learning that there wouldn’t be new Nerf guns under the tree. It might be safer for the bystanders tonight!

Christmas Day always means the Doctor Who Christmas special, and I’m looking forward to today’s episode as well.

On the subject of entertainment and Christmas, there is some disagreement in the family as to whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie. My husband and I say it is, while the kids disagree. What do they know anyway!

It’s cold and grey outside, but we’re warm and cozy inside. I wish we had a fireplace, but we don’t. That’s okay though. I have my heating pad that I can enjoy as I recline between periods of standing and activity. The legs are buzzing with electric currents…nothing new there!

So that’s a snapshot into our Christmas. It’s low-key compared to some people’s and likely extravagant compared to others. We are far from rich, but we are richly blessed. I am thankful for all of our blessings, and I am learning to be thankful for those things that are not easily seen as blessings. Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, I hope that this is a season of love and joy for you!

Worry

6. What did you worry about most and how did it turn out?

Worry is an odd thing for me. I tend to carry a lot of figurative weight around on a day-to-day basis, things like worry and stress; however, the weight of such things isn’t always heavy. For example, as a mom I had worries for my son when he traveled to Thailand recently. This was his first time undertaking such a lengthy and distant trip and without the presence of family or a large group. I am not naive about things that can happen when traveling (or at home). Although I did worry for my son’s safety, the worry was not heavy or consuming. I went about life without dread or fear. While I appreciated the bits of contact that my son made with me during his absence, I was not dependent on them to have peace of mind. I held worry in my hands but was at peace with the situation. This is how I respond to stress and worry over many details of life. I can feel the inner disturbance yet quickly regain solid footing. My natural inclination is not chaotic or dramatic but calm and rational. Mostly.

As for worry that weighed heavily upon me, I suppose I can pinpoint two situations.

1. A friendship ended this year. At the time and still to this day, I don’t really understand what happened there. The type of worry that eats away at you only lasted a brief period of time before I reclaimed my peace and solid footing. That short period of anxiety and doubt and worry was horrible, not so much for how it made me feel but for the sense of impending loss. I am often slow to open up to new people and cautious about who I allow into the deeper levels of relationship; however, once someone has been granted access and makes the choice to accept me, I invest in the relationship and value it greatly. When a treasured relationship ends, it hurts. There is confusion and uncertainty. Worry…about so many things! What did I do wrong? What did I say? What didn’t I do right? What didn’t I say? Those questions and doubts can attack with brutality, leaving you bruised, battered, wounded, and forever scarred.

Thankfully, my confidence and knowledge of self has grown stronger over recent years, and I was able to discern truth from fiction and weigh my worries accordingly. The friendship was gone, but I was not destroyed. I think I’m stronger now.

2. The other big worry for 2017 has been and continues to be my back. My back has been through a lot this year. This current disc herniation makes my earlier SI joint problems look like a walk in the park. Tomorrow will be 7 weeks since I herniated my disc. There has been improvements. I even think there continues to be improvements, but they are slow in the coming and not always consistent from day to day or even hour to hour. I am not in screaming, agonizing pain on a scale of 100 out of 10…thank goodness! But there is still pain. Too much standing/walking and the numbness in my left leg/foot increases, pain shoots down both legs, and the back hurts/aches/throbs. When I lie down I can feel the shock of electric currents traveling down both legs. There are moments when I feel almost normal, except for the permanent numbness, but such moments are brief and sporadic. I am so weary of this injury.

In the early stages of the injury, my worry was mild. In my ignorance of what was actually wrong with me, I was still optimistic that I’d be back to normal soon. When I was made aware that I had actually herniated a disc, that little blob of worry transformed into a giant black hole that sucked all the joy, peace, and hope out of me. I was worried, and this worry was heavy. As the days and weeks progressed and my recovery progressed so slowly, that worry began to crush my soul. Knowing that discs will eventually heal wasn’t enough to allay the worry. The lessening of the pain wasn’t enough either. The continued presence of numbness and the later addition of pain and numbness in the other leg only fed the worry I held inside. I’ve cried a lot of tears. The worry has been all encompassing. I’ve been worried about how my injury impacts my ability to do my job to the level that I am accustomed and that I desire to attain. I’ve been worried about how my injury impacts my co-workers who have had to cover my short-comings and my absence. I’ve been worried about my limitations in doing basic, every day stuff around the house. Worried about the limitations in my ability to train at the gym the way that I enjoy most. Worried about my future in powerlifting. Worried about the financial impact of this injury. Stress over the process of applying for a medical leave and employment insurance. The worry about my short-term and long-term health has been heavy. Even the process of seeking medical care is riddled with worry and stress. This worry has taken a heavy toll on me.

I am still dealing with this injury, tripping my way through recovery and medical care, and slogging through the muck of emotional distress. I am still worried, and I do not yet have resolution to this problem. I am still injured. Recovery is still in progress and hazy. There will still be a financial impact for months to come. There is no sneak peek into the future. Uncertainty remains. So does worry.

But the worry is less consuming now and I feel more hopeful than I did a week or two ago. I am far from where I want to be, but I do know how to put one foot in front of the other in order to take a step forward. I know how to work hard to reach my goals. I know what it feels like to struggle, to feel challenged in a task, and to succeed. I know failure, too, but I also know how to pick myself up again. Worry isn’t done with me and my disc and I don’t know how it will turn out yet, but I know I will be okay.

 

Gratitude

The third question on the list for ending your year intentionally is:

What or who is the one thing or person you’re grateful for?

Regardless of what my year has looked like or how I feel about it, I am always grateful for the people in my life and I have long been in the habit of expressing gratitude for things, big and small, on a daily basis. Thankfulness is part of who I am, and I could go on for days expressing all that I am grateful for over the course of the year.

To choose one thing or person is a difficult task, so I am going to approach it as a group result. Have you ever watched a boxing match? When the bell rings to signal the end of a round, the boxers go to their corners where they are tended to, coached, supported and encouraged. Cuts are tended. Sweat is wiped away. Water is provided. The boxer has people in his corner. I am not a boxer, but I know what it is like to have that kind of support and I am grateful for all of it.

1. My husband! He lets me do all these crazy things and willingly spends countless hours at my competition, most of which is just waiting for my turn to lift. He cheers me on, encourages me, and takes video for me. He has been at 8 of my 9 competitions, missing out on one only because he was still recovering from hip replacement surgery. It was odd not having him at Provincials this year, and I know that I felt the loss of emotional support when that competition didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I am glad that he was there at my most recent competition. When I broke the World record for my squat and emotion was bursting out of me, being wrapped in his arms was a wonderful feeling. Now that I am injured, he is still supportive. He encourages me when I feel troubled by worry and despair. He has my back. He loves me.

2. My chiropractor! I visit my chiropractor with some regularity as I put my body through a lot. He helps keep my body functioning as well as it possibly can, but he doesn’t just twist and crunch me. He seldom fixes me up without also giving me practical skills and advice to help keep my body working well. On occasion, I am also blessed to receive words of wisdom or encouragement that nourish my spirit and soul. In my eyes, my chiropractor is more than just a health care professional…he’s also a friend.

3. My coach! Perhaps coach should really be coaches, since I have had two different coaches this year. My previous coach got me started in powerlifting and played a big role in my journey. Even though he is no longer my coach, I cannot discount his part in my story.

My current coach and I are still in the learning each other stage, I think, but I have already experienced good things under his programming. Although I no longer have the direct, real-time contact with a coach while training, I still feel supported, encouraged, and challenged by my new coach. When I started with him this summer, I was recovering from another problem with my back or SI joints and hadn’t been in powerlifter mode for several weeks. I had the November competition on the horizon, and my coach took me through training on a level I had never done before…and it worked. I could hear his encouraging comments as I was on the platform. My injury has changed the nature of my training again, but I know my coach has my back!

4. My friend Sienna! For my competition in November, I needed a handler. This was only the second time that I have needed to find someone to help me out at a competition, because that role was usually covered by my coach. My daughter was my handler at Westerns last year, and my friend was my handler this time. She was probably quite nervous, uncertain as to what to do to support me, but I think she did a great job. I have competed enough that I know what I need to do and when to do it, but it is always nice to have someone there to chalk the back, offer encouragement, and remind you what you’re capable of.

5. My physiotherapist! This is a recent addition to my support crew thanks to my injury, but I feel confident in his abilities and treatment. I tend to be highly cynical when it comes to doctors and many aspects of “health care”, so I am always grateful to find medical professionals who are not stuck on out-dated methods and systems.

6. My friends, co-workers, and family! These people have cheered me on every step of the way, through thick and thin, weight cuts and water loads, disappointments and frustrations, sore muscles and all my back struggles. When I’ve had success, they’ve celebrated with me.

 

Enjoyment

Continuing the end of year reflection theme from No Side Bar that I began in yesterday’s blog post …

2. What did you enjoy doing this year?

2017 has been a difficult year for me in so many ways. What did I enjoy doing this year? That’s a question that requires grinding mental gears and peering deeply into the dark corners of my memories.

Yesterday I mentioned celebrating my 25th anniversary with my husband, and our little celebratory holiday was definitely something I enjoyed doing.

My most recent powerlifting competition was also highly enjoyable.

This summer when I changed my gym and my coach, I stepped out of my comfort zone into unfamiliar and potentially scary territory. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if I would thrive or even like what I was doing. As an introvert, it is not easy for me to dive into the unfamiliar or place my trust in someone I don’t know and doesn’t know me. At the time of the coaching change, I had already been through months of struggles with my SI joints and low back and a disappointing competition. My confidence in my ability to overcome those struggles and regain strength was a little shaky. Despite my struggles, doubts, and nerves, I can honestly say that I have enjoyed the change and the process.

It wasn’t easy to step into the unknown like that, but a small part of me was glad for the challenge. My doubts and fears resurfaced every week as I would receive my new program, yet a part of my spirit soared at the prospect of squashing those doubts. In the gym as I put in the work, the load sometimes felt heavy and hard, but I did it and I took joy in the results. Those months of uncertainty and challenge were enjoyable! It sounds odd to say that, but it is true. I enjoyed it, because I grew through the challenges instead of being destroyed by them.

This year I have also found enjoyment in the company of family and friends. Celebrating birthdays. Family holiday gatherings. Graduation. Escape room success. Celebrating successes. Cards. Texts. Notes. Christmas bake day with girlfriends. Grey Cup party. Homemade gelato. An impromptu dinner out with friends. Musical theatre. A heart-to-heart over wine with a best friend. Many of these instances are of little consequence in the grand scheme of a year. As a lover of words and authentic relationships, these small instances add up to a whole lot of love and affirmation.

Unforgettable

I stumbled upon an article this morning which immediately caught my interest enough to click on the title to read the entire thing, and I liked what I read. It is about ending your year intentionally by asking yourself some questions. The words line up with the way that I usually look at the end of each year and the start of a new year, so I think I am going to answer those questions on my blog over the remaining days of the 2017. Or at least as many of them as I can, because I feel like some of the questions can easily overlap.

  1. What makes this year unforgettable?

There are two things that immediately come to mind when I look at this question, and it isn’t surprising that both things are recent (or current) events. Undoubtedly I had many experiences and interactions over the course of the year which are memorable in their own ways. It is also easy to lose sight of those unforgettable people and events for no other reason than the passage of time.

1.Unforgettable number one was my powerlifting competition on November 4th. This was the competition that I had been working for and hoping to have for a long time. I’m not even certain that words could ever adequately describe just how much this competition meant to me on various levels. I’ve tried to blog and talk about it, but I fear that the resulting injury has overshadowed everything that was good and positive and empowering about that competition on that day.

I broke all the Provincial records and almost all of the National records (not the bench press). I broke a World record! I achieved every goal I had going into that day, and success is sweet. I am competition. I am driven to reach my goals, but my performance was so much more than just the records. So much more! My performance was the culmination of many months of hard work, sweat, tears, pain, stepping outside of my comfort zone, changes, uncertainty & doubt, and scratching my way back. Stepping onto the platform and walking off with white lights was empowering, reaffirming, redemptive, and peaceful. On the platform that day, I felt powerful and confident and competent. As I completed each lift, it was as if a heavy layer of debris was being shed from my body. Even walking off the platform in pain after my final lift, I still felt whole, clean, and powerful. I’m sure that sounds weird, but I have no better words to describe how I felt and still feel, despite the other unforgettable thing.

2. The second most unforgettable event of 2017 is my herniated disc. How can I forget something that has caused me so much pain and anguish and is still a major factor in my life? Although the competition is not entirely to blame for the injury, the two will forever be tied together. In the eyes of some, the injury casts my competition in a negative light, but I cannot see it that way. This is something that happened at a particular time, but it could have happened at any time or any place.

It’s slightly more than 6 weeks now since the herniation occurred, and I am still reeling. My left leg is still numb from butt to toes with pain radiating down from butt to ankle. The back sometimes feels okay and other times has solid pain, radiating pain, or spasms. About a week or so ago, the right leg began experiencing radiating pain from butt to knee and sporadic tingling and numbness in the foot. The new pain is not good. Heck, the old pain isn’t good either!

I had an appointment with my doctor this morning, and he is still an ass. However, he did give me two prescriptions for the pain, although I am fairly certain that he tried to lump me in the same category as opiate addicts. This is in spite of the fact that I haven’t been on an opiate and really have no desire to be on an opiate. I’d much prefer to not take medication at all. I’ve had the same doctor for close to 20 years and we used to attend the same small church…you’d think he’d know me better than he obviously does. Of course, he also essentially criticized me for going to a walk-in clinic previously, even though my reason for doing so was for a second opinion after he said I hadn’t herniated my disc! He treated me like a child, explaining the proper steps and procedures for getting the care I need. Hmmm…if only he had taken my pain, symptoms, and concerns seriously when I first saw him 6 weeks ago! Despite receiving an email from my physiotherapist recommending a surgical consult, my doctor will not initiate the referral until he sees the results from the CT scan, which would take months to get an appointment. Thankfully, my husband said that he was willing to pay to get an MRI done at a private clinic, which means I’m having the MRI on Wednesday, as in 2 days from now instead of months! The sooner we know what is actually going on inside of my back, then the sooner I can get adequate treatment, even if my doctor thinks it is perfectly acceptable to suffer for months, even a year before seeking further treatment. <insert colourful adjective here>

My one other request from my doctor was a bit more time off of work. I went in asking for 2 weeks, but he gave me 8 weeks off work. I am surprised by that, to be honest, and I don’t know how I feel about it. Torn and conflicted. Just as I was about my initial two weeks off work. I appreciate the time to heal and take it easy on my body, but I miss my job and feel like I’m letting everyone down. Also, the extended leave means that I need to apply for Employment Insurance, because that’s a long time to be without income.

3. I almost forgot about one other unforgettable thing! In August, my husband and I celebrated 25 years of marriage. We were able to get away for a long weekend at Harrison Hot Springs. That was probably the first no-kids, no sports event weekend away just the two of us, and it was amazing. We had no agenda, and Harrison is a small, relatively quiet tourist spot. We ate delicious food, drank some wine, did a lot of walking and talking. I love my husband, and 25 years has not diminished that love one bit. He is my biggest fan and supporter. He is everything that I am not, which means that we mesh fairly well, most of the time.

Fly Like an Eagle

It’s only been 9 days since my youngest son left for his trip to Thailand, and he won’t be home for another 3 weeks!

There are moments when I am walking down the hall and want to pop my head into his bedroom to talk to him…except he’s not there. Thankfully technology can be a wonderful thing sometimes, and we have the ability to keep in touch as instantaneously as his wi-fi connection will allow. He checks in with me almost daily, even if just to let me know his travel arrangements for the next leg of the trip. It is good to hear that he is enjoying the country and meeting people from around the world, that he was adventurous enough to eat a scorpion but not a fried pig’s head, and that he is beginning to miss food from home even if he’s not quite homesick yet.

As much as I do miss him, I am actually quite matter-of-fact about him being on the other side of the world for such a long time. I know he’ll return home; it’s not like he has moved there. The ability to communicate and see photo/video evidence that he is safe and having fun also helps set me at ease. But it is more than that. I am still a mom, and there will always be hopes and fears and love for my children, no matter where they are or what they do, but I long ago entrusted them to the Lord and I have found peace and joy in every season of their lives. Although I do sometimes miss the chubby cheeks of their infancy or the thrills of first words and first steps, I have always chosen to enjoy the present. Each age and stage has been exciting, sometimes challenging, but I have never wanted to rush through it or return to a previous one. Watching my kids become adults is just another stage in the journey. Letting them spread their wings and fly is a little nerve-wracking but oh so exciting!

That doesn’t mean I won’t be super excited and emotional when he gets home!