The Release Project: Introduction

Lent. Call me a traditionalist, but I love Lent. I love what this time brings, I love the symbolism of the season, and I love that this is a time that people can stop and contemplate their relationship with God. Now, for Catholics, typically Lent is a time that we think about things to give up. In grade school, things to give up were chocolates, soda, candy, or a bad habit that we wanted to break. When I got to college, lapsing in my Catholic tradition, I decided that one year I was going to give up coffee. Such. A. Bad. Idea. Seriously, my addiction to coffee was so high in college—constantly pumping my system because writing papers and going to sorority functions were my life and I needed to keep going.

(The more that I digest this fibro thing, the more I realize that my college lifestyle definitely did not help my condition.)

Even when I walked away from the faith for a bit, I still loved Lent. I would think about giving things up, but would never really do it. I was angry with God at the time, and I decided that I didn’t want to give something up for Him. Once the fire was reignited, it was like that I had a new understanding of Lent. It wasn’t so much about giving up something, and denying yourself of something that you love; it is about symbolizing the sacrifice that Jesus made and giving yourself back to Him.

For the past few years, instead of giving something up I would do something extra. Two years ago, I tried to get to mass everyday—or a couple days out of the week to get myself in the right frame of mind for school. Last night I was thinking about what I was going to do for Lent this year. Getting up for mass every day before work would be hard for me now, so that’s out. Maybe I could get to Mass on Saturday mornings and a Friday morning here and there. I was also thinking about adding in more Eucharistic adoration back into my life. I used to go all the time, but grad school and life seemed to take over and I couldn’t make the time.

I thought that something was missing. I was talking to my friend about what else I could do, and things that I would give up for Lent. Judy is my mentor. Next to my mother, she is one of the most influential people in my life. Our friendship started out as one of student and teacher. When I decided that I wanted to become a teacher in my senior year of high school, she was the person that I looked to for advice. From there she and I developed this wonderful trusting relationships where we can talk about everything. She was the one that also helped me back into my faith after a particularly rough time in my life.

When my grandmother died, I was angry with God…angry with everyone. She was the one person, at that time in my life, was there for me when I felt no one else was and it hurt to lose her. So, during this time, I wasn’t going to mass or praying, and honestly thought religion was stupid. Judy never gave up on me. She was patient and kind, and talked me through so many rough patches. Although at times it was really hard, we came out on the other side of things, and I would like to thank her for the inspiration for this project.

The Release Project is what I am going to be doing during Lent to focus on developing my relationship with God and with myself. Yes, at first, it might sound selfish. But, it’s totally not. If we focus on the positives things in our lives, and the positive qualities that we have, then it makes it easy to see God and Jesus in those around us.

Judy sent me an article from Daily World, part of USA Today titled, “19 things to give up for Lent that aren’t chocolate.” This list is awesome, and was exactly what I was looking for. The 19 things are:

  1. Fear: God is on my side. In Him I am more than a conqueror. (See Romans 98)
  2. The need to please everyone: I can’t please everyone anyway. There is only one I need to strive to please.
  3. Envy: I am blessed. My value is not found in my possessions, but in my relationship with my Heavenly Father.
  4. Impatience: God’s timing is the perfect timing.
  5. Sense of entitlement: The world does not owe me anything. God does not owe me anything. I live in humility and grace.
  6. Bitterness and Resentment: The only person I am hurting by holding onto these is myself.
  7. Blame: I am not going to pass the buck. I will take responsibility for my actions.
  8. Gossip and Negativity: I will put the best construction on everything when it comes to other people. I will also minimize my contact with people who are negative and toxic and bring other people down.
  9. Comparison: I have my own unique contribution to make and there is no one else like me.
  10. Fear of failure: You don’t succeed without experiencing failure. Just make sure you fall forward.
  11. A spirit of poverty: Believe with God that there is always more than enough and never a lack.
  12. Feelings of unworthiness: You are fearfully and wonderfully made by your creator. (see Psalm 139)
  13. Doubt: Believe God has a plan for you that is beyond anything you could imagine. The future is brighter than you could ever realize.
  14. Self-pity: God comforts us in our sorrow so that we can comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
  15. Retirement: As long as you are still breathing, you are here for a reason. You have a purpose to influence others for Christ. That does not come to an end until the day we die.
  16. Excuses: A wise man once said, if you need an excuse, any excuse will do.
  17. Lack of counsel: Wise decisions are rarely made in a vacuum.
  18. Pride: Blessed are the humble.
  19. Worry: God is in control and worrying will not help.

What is great is that there are Bible verse to go along with some of the things that we should give up. So, after reading this list I started thinking that I am going to take one things every single day and meditate on it. 40 days in Lent, I could work through this list twice. On Easter Sunday, my hope is that I will walk into mass and release all of thing that do not serve me. Hence, the release project. I want to be able to work on the negative parts in my life that I want to change, and bring out good qualities that I want to show people.

So, here how The Release Project is going to work

  • Word and mantra for the day—I might go in any way what might inspire me, or I might go down the list.
  • I might right this down in the morning, jot my thoughts about the topic,
  • Read a Bible verse that discuss the work or mantra
  • When I get a quiet moment in my day, pray about this. Ask God to free me from this problem
  • Now, this hardest part. Sit and let God talk to me. When I pray, it’s total stream of consciousness. I make lists, talk about problems, but I want this time to be about God talking to me and I need to be receptive to listening to Him.
  • Then I write about a blog post about my experience for the day and if this would be something that I should revisit during my 40 days.

I don’t want to limit myself. If I feel like I need to spend two days on fear of failure, then I am going to spend two days on fear of failure. If there is one word or mantra that you just want to solely work on, do that! This is something for you! This is taking care of yourself!

Part of the process with fibro is taking care of myself mentally and physically, and I have been trying to get a handle of the physical part, but I want to be able to work on the mental part—with the help of God.

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the quiet man.

Things I did today:

  • Work
  • Graduate classes
  • Did 30 minutes on the elliptical (after doing 45 yesterday)
  •  Shower and Bath
  • Watched The Quiet Man

A few months ago, these would not be things that I would celebrate, or even bother to worth mentioning. So, why am I? Because this is the first time in months that I felt like I nailed EVERY SINGLE THING today. Work, easy and the kids were good in class. Graduate classes, I didn’t feel like I was in a fog and was just on top of the readings. Plus, I remembered to print out my paper (damn it, has fibro messed with the simple tasks).

Now, working out two days in a row is a feat to be celebrated. Yesterday, I was having a pretty good day and I decided that I was going to go to gym. I ended up doing way more than I expected-45 minutes of a decent sweat on the elliptical. Once again, this is such a little task. This is something that is a day in the life for most people, but for me…I was just like “YASS Queen!”Okay. I didn’t say that…But, the constant drive in my head was saying that I could keep going.

I woke up this morning thinking, “Okay, this is going to suck.” But, low and behold; I felt good. Legs were sore, but they were a worked out sore…not the sore than I have been dealing with for months now. I was happy. Going up the steps at work, I was pissed off at my body like I usually am. I felt like I was back to what I used to be before the fibro. So, I did a little but more today. Now, I could only do 30 minutes. It was hard, I was tired, and I could feel it in my body that I needed a break. So, got off. Making sure that I didn’t feel defeated by the time, but more focusing on the fact that I did to cardio workouts in a row. Maybe next week I can do three in a row, maybe I’ll stick to do. I decided that I am not going to worry about what next week and what next month will bring–because I have to focus on the present. What I can do in the here and now..now what I might be able to do tomorrow. I’ll worry about that later.

Now, I was flipping through the channels when I got home I saw that The Quiet Man was on. Now, if there is anything at all that you should know about me is that I love all things Irish. I love John Wayne. And, I want to be Maureen O’Hara when I grow up. This movie has all three things. This was a favorite movie of my father’s, and I think about him every time it’s on. It instantly puts me in a good mood. I long for the time that I will be able to retire in a Irish cottage on Galway Bay, for my children and grandchildren to listen to the stories of my family and their lasting history in their world.

I was in high school when I first watched this movie, and I decided right there and then that I wanted to marry a man like Sean Thornton. Strong. Quiet. Dependable. Thoughtful. Compassionate. Passionate. He was a man that gave up fighting because he killed a man, but he fought a man for the woman that he loves. There is something so perfect and wonderful about that, and something that I always have wanted in my life. My father, in many cases, reminds me of Sean Thornton–besides for killing a man that is. And, I am pretty sure that Dad, to my knowledge, has not been in any fights. That I know of. But, he was quiet. He was strong. He was most certainly dependable and thoughtful. Compassionate and passionate all in one.

After having several bad weeks in a row, coming home from classes and seeing a truck for the company that he used to work for and being able to catch The Quiet Man on TV was my father throwing me a little smile from heaven. I try not to get sad about things like this, but it does make me miss him. I try to rejoice in the little pieces of my Dad that are still revealed to me. So, when I am able to feel like the me I know I cam be, and have my Dad reach out to me, it’s a good day.

 

The start

 

I first came to grips with my fibromyalgia diagnosis two weeks ago, I was sitting in my principal’s office, crying because I was having a bad day. The boys were particularly difficult this day, and ever adult in the building was getting on my last nerve. Now, I work with a small faculty, so we are like a little family; but even family has their limits. I snapped at almost everyone on my floor before lunch, and that was when I knew that I needed to take a day to myself. My first, actual, sick day.

I went to my principal during my prep period, and explained to her what happened. What I said, what I did, and that I needed to take the next day off. Thankfully, she understood–her sister has fibro, so at this point I was happy for the sympathy. As I was telling her that I was struggling with my illness, I started crying. I felt so overwhelmed and helpless. Like the world was crumbling around me, and I finally admitted to myself and someone else that I do, in fact, have a chronic illness, and there are going to be times that I am going to need a break.

Prior my illness, I could not sit still. I was always working, I was always doing something, teaching, volunteering at church, helping my family whenever the needed. Always making time to do things for other people, but making little time for myself. Before I got a full-time job, I was a substitute teacher. I bounced from job to job worrying about where my next paycheck was going to come from. I did a daily subbing gig for a while, until I finally landed my first long time sub job. It was only supposed to be from December until March, but somehow God was looking down on me and I stayed until June (This story is for another post). The first two years out of college were the years that I had never worked so hard in my life. I was tired, I was miserable, I was poor, and I didn’t feel safe in what I was doing. I had no security.

Stress. Stress. Stress. These two summers were all about stress. From not having a stable paycheck, to helping my grandmother with her cancer diagnosis, eventually dealing with her death, and trying to find my way in the world. I didn’t know where I was going.

Finally, I was hired for my first full time position–a position I have now held for three years. It has its ups and downs, but the job itself and teaching the kids that I do, makes me so proud and so happy.

In my second year at my job, around this time my family and I noticed that my father wasn’t feeling well. We wrote it off as a sinus infection, at first, but as the days went on we realized it was much more serious. My father was suffering from a stroke–and for some reason, he kept having these strokes despite what the doctors could do.

I held a lot of pain in during this time; I felt that I needed to be there for my mother and my brothers. Someone had to be able to get things done, and my mother needed her time to grieve and I wanted to help her. This is something that is just automatic for me; when I sense someone needs help, needs someone to think for them, or help them work through a hard time I just go on autopilot. Part of me is still dealing with my father’s death every single day, and it never gets easier.

Stress. Stress. Stress. When I was in college, two of the most stressful things in my life were pledging a sorority and being president of my sorority my senior year. I cried, yelled, bottled up, and usually drank my stress away. Which, albeit is not healthy at all, but I just always kept things inside until I hit a breaking point and I can’t take it any longer. Some of these things, sadly, I have carried with me as an adult. The stress that I have experienced in the past three years, makes my college years look like child’s play.

When my doctor asked me if I have experienced a lot of stress in my life, I laughed. It was defense mechanism, way easier to make something a joke than dealing with your feelings. Wait for the post about being Irish Catholic for more of an explanation. I know I have experienced with stress, but at that time–I didn’t need to deal with it. I compartmentalize it. I bring it out when I need to deal with it, or when it’s relevant at a certain place and time. Or, honestly, when I have had one too many glasses of wine, and literally cannot stop talking. Also, wait for the Irish Catholic post.

Stress was just something that I dealt with, when I wanted to deal with it. Which is probably why I am bad about going to a therapist. I thought that it would help me, but I don’t think that I am in the right place in my life for it. I’m certainly not denying that it cannot help, or that it could have some benefit; I just don’t think I am ready yet. Or that I will ever be ready.

But, I have learned that this stress has been doing terrible things to my body–which has manifested itself as fibro. And. I will tell you…it sucks. This is the most annoying chronic illness. My body is in pain constantly (shifts from place to place some days), anything can set it off, I am tired ALL THE TIME, it’s wiped out most of my desire to workout, muscle spasms at night are annoying, sleeping is terrible, walking, standing, sitting is uncomfortable. There are so many things that I can be annoyed at with this illness, and it took a long time for me to even accept the fact that I had an illness. But, I do. And I am still here. Fighting.

So, this is my journey with this annoying illness. This is my journey with my faith, feeding my soul, and learning how to take care of myself.