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.

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Puddle-wonderful

Pluviophile

-a lover of rain; someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days

We’ve had some hot days recently. Hot enough for my husband to claim “heat exhaustion” as the reason for his after work nap yesterday, even though he naps on the sofa virtually every day. This morning started out quite warm and bright, but dark clouds rolled in mid-afternoon, plunging my normally sunny kitchen and living room into darkness. Soon there were little rumbles and grumbles to be heard, and I interrupted my indoor activity to step outside for a while to enjoy the cooling breeze with its hints of rain.

The back door leads from my kitchen to the deck, and the maple tree is beside the deck, close enough to provide afternoon shade and to touch leaves and branches without reaching too far. I love the maple tree, but it requires frequent clean up through the seasons: wind-blown blossoms in the spring, “fidget spinner” seeds in summer and, of course, the leaves in fall. Even though I had swept the deck only a few days ago, everything was once again covered with seeds. I grabbed the broom and began to sweep, even as I felt the first sporadic drops of rain on my bare arms. I called out to my daughter to open all of the windows as the rain drops got bigger and fell faster.

Back inside to resume the house cleaning tasks I had temporarily abandoned, I still frequently found myself in front of an open window, nose to the screen inhaling the fresh, earthy scent of the storm. I love the rain, especially when it comes in the form of an afternoon thunderstorm. The storms and rain never last quite long enough, although our cat would argue that they last far too long her liking.

“The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.”

~ ee cummings

I don’t think we got enough rain to leave any puddles behind, but the fresh scent is still wafting in through the windows. The dark clouds have long since moved on, leaving blue sky and a few straggly white clouds in their place. Although I seldom scope out the weather forecast, it wouldn’t surprise me if tomorrow is another hot and mostly sunny day. I suppose that’s okay, too.

Out of the Depths

peony

“The most beautiful people I’ve known are those who have known trials, have known struggles, have known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.”

~Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

These peonies are currently blooming in my front yard, which is in itself quite amazing given the black state of my thumbs. Maybe ten year ago, someone gave me a box of cuttings from her flower beds to plant in my own yard. While I have always known that I am not a gardener, I have a tendency to think that my thumbs might turn green one day. So I carefully planted the cuttings after perusing my heavy Better Homes & Gardens book on everything outdoor plant related. I planted the peonies, daisies, day lilies, irises, and a couple other plants of which I can never remember the names. Thankfully, each of those plants were perennials!

Not only are my thumbs not green, but my husband is also not the gardener type. He has dug up and mowed over many of my plants over the years. As such, our yard has become something of a wasteland, more weeds than grass, and certainly not a yard you’d want to spend time in. I usually make an effort to weed my flower bed, but with my back injury this is not a chore I can do this year. My daughter did do some weeding recently, so the flower bed at least looks mostly presentable. The peonies had been getting tall and leafy, and I was excited to see the first blooms the other day.

I took the picture of those first blooms and stood there for several minutes just contemplating the wonder of their existence. Any plant in my care is in for a difficult life, and survival is not guaranteed. No fertilizing or feeding. Limited watering. Limited weeding and pruning. Everything that a plant needs to survive and thrive is in short supply for plants in my care, and yet, these perennials come back every year and present me with the gift of colour and beauty.

I am someone who strives to see beauty and blessings in all situations and things, big and small. I strive to see reasons to be happy and thankful, but I am not a Pollyanna. I see the ugly and darkness swirling around us, and I feel their touches in my own life. My season of injury and pain is often a struggle. It sucks to hurt all of the time and to be unable to live your life the way you used to, the way you want to. It is no fun to bounce between medical appointments or to jump through the hoops of the medical and insurance systems. I have had dark days of feeling hopeless and overwhelmed by pain and frustration. But I am not stuck there in the dark.

I feel like my darkest days are well behind me, even though I am still suffering and struggling. Hope is bubbling to the surface like an unexpected spring in the desert. I am sipping lemonade and looking for positives wherever I can find them. I would never call myself a beautiful person, but I am making my way out of the depths.

Who Do You Want Me To Be?

XM radio has a free trial going on right now, so I’ve been listening to the 80’s station whenever I’m in the car. Twice in the past couple of days I have heard the same song, which isn’t surprising because the repetition of music is standard for any radio station; however, a portion of the lyrics caught my attention. The music catchy, but the theme was disturbing.

Who do you want me to be to make you sleep with me?   

“Obsession” by Animotion

This song may be from the 1980’s, but I suspect these words would easily fit into society today, and how sad is that. Why do we think that we aren’t enough the way we are? And it isn’t just about finding someone to sleep with. This insanity has woven its way through every aspect of our daily lives. Who do you want me to be to make you like me? Who do you want me to be to get a job or a promotion? Who do I have to be to fit in? What is wrong with being ourselves?

Just stop! I know it is easier for me to say that than it is to do it. I’ve been there, and I still fall into that trap on occasion. If your friends don’t like you the way you are, then they aren’t your friends. Do the things you enjoy and that make you happy. Who cares what others think! I’m 46 years old, and I freak out over Star Wars and Wonder Woman and powerlifting. Some people might not understand why, but it shouldn’t matter. It’s my life. It’s part of who I am, and I’m not going to change to make someone else happy.

If you want to lose weight or get in shape, do it but for the right reasons. Don’t fall for the lies that fitting into a certain size or lifting a certain weight will make you happy or define you. Definitely don’t do it to make someone else happy!

If you have a passion for sci-fi or reading or the outdoors or cooking or professional Tiddlywinks, enjoy it without worrying what others think about what you enjoy. This isn’t something you need to keep secret. If you were here with me in my living room, you would see Star Wars and Wonder Woman figures on my bookshelves, along with my grown up books and knickknacks. A new Star Wars movie comes out in a few days, and I am super stoked to go see it. I am just as excited about doing a wine tour with a friend at some point in the near future.

If you love bright colours and expressing yourself, then have at ‘er! I love to see people walking around with their hair dyed in vivid colours. While I am content to simply colour my hair to hide the greys, I love the fact that others feel confidence in themselves enough to be bold with their hair.

Are you an introvert? Ever been told you need to change or to be more outgoing? Ha! I’m sure almost every introvert has been told that more than once. Extroverts don’t always understand introverts, and vice-versa. Extroverts think there’s something wrong with us introverts, and the result is often misery for the introverts, who feel they need to become something they are not. If you’re an introvert (or an extrovert), there is nothing wrong with you the way you are! Stop trying to be the opposite of what you are and embrace yourself.

There are so many ways to be yourself without compromise; I couldn’t even possibly begin to list them all. But think about it. Stop and really think. What do you do to make someone react or respond to you in a favourable way that requires you to conform to someone else’s ideals? 

Of course, being true to ourselves doesn’t mean being obnoxious about who we are or what we do. It is about being comfortable with who we are and how we are wired. There might be things we do need to change within ourselves; growth is not the enemy. This is about removing the masks we put on to make ourselves look more appealing, to fit in with the crowd.

I love music from the 80’s, so here is a portion of a song with lyrics that are much better than the one I shared earlier!

You with the sad eyes
don’t be discouraged, though I realize it’s hard to
take courage in a world, full of people
you can lose sight of it
And the darkness inside you
will make you feel so small
But I see your true colors, shining through
I see your true colors, and that’s why I love you

“True Colors” ~ Cyndi Lauper

 

Weekend Whimsy

With my days a jumble of really bad, bad, and not so bad, some effort is often required to keep my thoughts all neat and tidy and composed. An idea or thought ignited in the morning is typically lost by the time I have the energy to execute it. In all honesty, my life feels mainly made up of movie quotes and song lyrics which would probably soar over the head of anyone I might share them with. My husband had some errands to run this morning and asked if I wanted to tag along for the ride, so I went. It wasn’t long before I was thinking to myself, “I shouldn’t have come!” Now I am a Star Wars fan, but I don’t know every line of dialogue; however, I am reasonably certain that Luke Skywalker makes a similar comment on the forest moon of Endor. My reason for regret wasn’t due to Darth Vader sensing my presence, but rather the pain and numbness in my legs as I sat in the car. The end of the month and my neurosurgeon consult cannot come soon enough!

So it is the weekend…a long weekend, in fact! Every day is the same for me, more or less. Boredom. Lots of pain. Exercises. Short bursts of tolerable activity. Fitful sleep and too early mornings. There are so many things I want to do but cannot. Today I am going to share a few odds and ends about myself.

  • I drink my coffee black, but I prefer any iced coffee drink with some type of milk.
  • I love yogurt, cheese, sour cream, whipped cream, and ice cream; however, I seldom drink milk.
  • When I am sleeping, I almost always need to have my shoulders covered by the blanket and/or sheet, but if I get a little warm, I will stick a foot outside of the blanket (with my shoulders covered).
  • I don’t mind pineapple on pizza, as long as the pizza is still fresh and hot. Once the pizza is cold, I pick off the pineapple.
  • I love living in British Columbia with mountains and a lake on my doorstep, but I also love the prairies with endless sky and fields.
  • I am a night owl, but I love being an early bird for work. (These days my natural inclinations have no say in anything! I go to bed early, because I’m tired all the time, yet I wake up much earlier than I would like after another restless sleep.)
  • I have always enjoyed having strong fingernails that grow long, but lifting weights keeps my nails short and I’m okay with that.
  • I hate wearing socks. My preference is bare feet and flip-flops; however, I have a rather large collection of fun and funky socks.
  • I have loved English bulldogs for a very long time, since my days of watching professional wrestling and the British Bulldogs. But I am more of a cat owner than a dog owner.
  • I prefer silver over gold, except when it comes to winning medals.
  • A few years ago, I would drink 4-5+ Cokes a day. Since I quit drinking Coke, I find any pop too sweet to drink.
  • I love tomatoes, but I’m not so keen on sun-dried or cherry tomatoes.
  • Peanut butter is okay but I don’t go gaga over it. Mention salted caramel though and I’m all over it!
  • Normally I am a fast walker. These days I hobble slowly. Some days I could even be easily passed by a turtle.

 

Running on Empty

“It’s hard to grieve in a town where everything that happens is God’s will. It’s hard to know what to do with your emptiness when you’re not supposed to have emptiness.”

~Miriam Toews, A Complicated Kindness

This isn’t intended to bash husbands or anyone. It is not knocking faith in God or His will for one’s life. Many years have passed since I read the book this quote is taken from, so the original context is lost from my memory; however, I read this quote and agree with it and in ways that differ somewhat from grieving.

It’s hard to _______________.

I think that blank could be filled by many things. Feel pain. Be injured. Be physically sick. Be mentally unwell. Be poor. Be weak. Be lonely. Struggle with X, Y, or Z. Be sad or frustrated or angry or hurt. I am certain to have come up short on my list of potential fill-in-the-blank options, and I suspect everyone’s experience is unique.

Today has been a bad day for me as far as my pain levels go, despite having a fairly low-key day as far as activity. My eyes are leaking as I type, slow, random tears that trickle down my cheeks, which will leave a crusty salt trail in their wake. I am in pain all of the time, but I can tolerate it most of the time. Not so much today. During dinner I mentioned to my husband how much pain I was in, and he asked why that would be, what had I done to cause it?

Now I was already in a grumpy mood, but I refrained from making a sarcastic comment about herniating a disc months ago and simply said I didn’t know. That’s true…I don’t know. I hadn’t been sitting. I hadn’t spent too long standing. I hadn’t done any physical activity that I know I shouldn’t. I had done my nerve flossing and rehab exercises, but those have never resulted in this level of pain. Was it one brief moment that occurred in the middle of the night? I got up to use the bathroom and had only taken a step or two from the bed, when I felt a strong pain and “off” sensation in my lower back. I don’t think I had done anything out of the norm in getting up out of bed, but my back didn’t feel right for a few minutes. Was that the culprit for today’s increase in pain? Maybe? I don’t know.

I understand why my husband asked me that question, but it made me think of this quote in the context of my injury. I am injured, hurting, and not even close to living up to my potential. It feels like a heavy weight on my shoulders, this injury and all that has flown out of it, the good and the mostly bad. Whether intentional or subconscious, it often feels like more pressure is placed on me by others expecting me to fit into their little boxes.

When my husband asks what I did today, I feel guilty for not having cleaned the house from top to bottom or cooking a gourmet meal. I’ve been home all day, every day for months…I should be doing more.  I know that is not driving his question, and my reaction to it is completely internal. But that’s where my brain goes.

When someone says they’ll pray for healing for me, I do appreciate and welcome it. Yet, I often wonder why. Some of those people barely know me, and even some of those who do know me seldom interact with me. I am a person of faith, but I can also be cynical. Is saying that you’ll pray for me to make yourself feel good or because you are genuinely concerned about my well-being? If you’re genuinely concerned, then why don’t you show more interest in who I am beyond this injury?

How do I respond when someone asks how things are going today? If it is someone I see regularly? Will they understand what I mean when I say it’s been a bad day? Will they understand what it means to have a herniated disc with all the symptoms? Will they look at me seemingly normal and healthy and question the truthfulness of my reply? Maybe I will be regaled with a sad tale of their own pain or even herniated disc. I could be lectured on all of the things I should be doing to get better.

My doctor seldom seems to actually listen to what I have to say, and I have been required to see him frequently since the injury occurred. He seems uninterested in deviating from his old-fashioned, slow approach to treating a herniated disc, which probably wouldn’t be so terrible if he would listen to me. In essence, it feels hard to heal when everything is my doctor’s will. Let’s misdiagnose. Let’s lecture on the perils of opiates. Let’s make multiple mistakes on paperwork. Let’s push a form of treatment that causes me more pain. Let’s ignore the expanding symptoms and paramedical recommendations for surgery until you decide surgery is warranted. I can’t just change doctors. I need my doctor to access pain medications, diagnostic imaging, and a surgical consult, but he isn’t making the healing process any easier.

Even in the process of grieving the repercussions of this injury, I feel the truth of this quote. I’ve lost a goal I had worked hard for two years to achieve. Four years of hard work and strength gains is being obliterated, and I know that getting back to where I was will take time and more hard work. It wasn’t an easy decision to go on medical leave, even though it was the correct decision, and that grief is still tender, knowing how much I have already missed out on. Any goals or expectations I might have had for this year have had to be discarded or held lightly, tentatively. Want to have an actual holiday this year? That depends on my ability to sit long enough for travel or potential surgery date. Want to compete in powerlifting this year? Not gonna happen! My daughter wants to make a trip to Ikea. The vacation wrenches apply to that Ikea trip, too. I am a planner. I like to know where I am going and when. I like to make my lists and cross them off. It’s hard to do that when so much uncertainty has invaded my world. Does that make sense to anyone else? Can they understand what I’m feeling about my losses? Grief is different for everyone. As a society, we don’t always know how to handle someone else’s grief, especially when the grief is not associated with death.

I don’t know where else I was going with this, but I hope I’ve made my point. Whatever that was! I did say that today has been a bad day for me…

 

Know Yourself

“Who you were, who you are, and who you will be are three different people.”

~unknown

 

Two recent conversations have left me thinking about who I am in this season of injury. The first conversation was with my husband, and he made a comment about me still looking to find my own identity. The other conversation was with one of my best friends and was about parents wanting more for their kids, while the kids are generally satisfied by enough.

Since herniating my disc six months ago, I have often felt lost and adrift without purpose, usefulness, or potential. Of course, those feelings have never been completely true, and yet, I struggle with the pain and physical limitations I am forced to endure. My life has been turned upside-down and inside-out. The activities I used to enjoy doing, I cannot do. I am on medical leave from work, so I feel the loss of being a part of my work community, and I stress about the loss of income for months on end. After competing in nine competitions since 2014, this will be the first year without a competition. Some of my powerlifting goals were crushed into dust the moment I hurt my back last November…a bitter pill to swallow. Although I have all the time in the world at home while on leave, my ability to do things is still hampered. Housework can only be done in short bursts of time, because standing too long results in lots of pain. My housework abilities are also limited to what is safe for my back. I wash dishes, sweep the floors, tidy the bathroom, fold laundry, make dinner, do grocery shopping in small, manageable trips. The rest of my time is spent going to appointments, going to the gym to do safe exercises and rehab, going to Starbucks for coffee and to soak up a bit of connection with my co-workers, and varying my position between standing and reclining as frequently as necessary. It’s a boring life and frustrating. I feel like I should be doing more and living a real life, not this paper doll existence I am living. With the warmer weather, I want to be outside and active, much more active than my body will agree to, and I fear that I will miss out on spring and summer just as I missed out on winter.

My husband’s comment took me aback a little, because I was confused as to why he would think that I was still in need of an identity of my own. Didn’t I already do that? In my opinion, that’s what I had done between 2010 and 2017. I had hit the bottom and clawed my way back to the top. Hard work, determination, and the right people in my corner allowed me to feel comfortable in my own skin and to be sure of who I was. Through powerlifting, I discovered something within me that I could never have expected, and I loved being strong both physically and mentally. There is no doubt that I had grown substantially over the course of those years, and I learned to weather the storms and grow through them. Who else could I possibly be? What was missing?

The conversation with my friend revolved around parents and kids, but I instantly grasped how the concept of ‘wanting more’ and ‘satisfied with enough’ could apply to me as I mulled over my husband’s statement. From the time I started going to the gym and focused on powerlifting, I have wanted more. This desire for more was focused on my performance and goals within the sport far more than it ever applied to the rest of my life. I’m an easy-going and low-maintenance kind of person. I’m not interested in keeping up with the Joneses. Even when there is something I would like to improve in my home or have as an experience, I am still easily content with what I can realistically have. Enough is perfectly fine for me, unless I’m in the gym and setting goals for future competitions. I don’t need to be the strongest or the best, although I will always strive to win while knowing there are others better than me. Most of the time I succeed at my goals, but not always. The sting of failure hurts for a little while, but I always manage to learn and grow through the experience. That is enough!

But here I sit (figuratively because sitting hurts like hell), not knowing what my future holds, where it will lead me, or when I will reach the next stage of the journey. When I realized the nature of my injury, I fully expected to be back to normal within a few weeks, maybe a couple of months. Six months later, I no longer have a clue when I will be back to normal, if that will even happen. I’ve been stuck in limbo, playing the waiting game with my body, my doctor, and now a neurosurgeon. My doctor has repeatedly said this will take time and that there are proper steps to follow in treating such an injury. Time, I understand, even proper steps, but I chafe at the unnecessary delays created by the medical system when a slightly faster pace could potentially create improved health sooner (and less of a burden on the health care system, my workplace, and employment insurance costs). I feel alone, forgotten, cast aside, and broken.

I believe that I am still me. This injury hasn’t erased the woman I had become in recent years. In many ways, I think this injury will only make me a stronger person. But in the meantime, I feel stripped of so much of what makes me who I am. Is that true though? I am a barista. I am a powerlifter. I am a wife, a mother, a friend. Those are things that I do or titles that apply to me, but they are not who I am. Last year I learned that lesson after a disappointing competition after a disappointing and frustrating several months of training. Powerlifting is what I do, not who I am. So, I know who I am even though I feel lost, but I am beginning to realize that this injury can shake up my assumptions and put them back together as something entirely different than what I had imagined. I don’t know what that means for me yet, but I suspect it will add another layer to claiming my own identity. In the same way, I also believe that the theme of being satisfied with enough will weave through that layer in a most wonderful way. It’s not always easy to sit in these days of uncertainty, but I am excited to see who I am at the end of it.