the day is too short…

Like many adults, I have a problem with consistency. I get excited about certain things in my life, and then when I get closer to a certain date or deadline I choke or drop out. This happened to me recently with a half marathon that I was training for. However, not only has my consistency lead me to drop important things in my life but has to lead me down some paths where I have learned to not like my actions or decisions.

Last Septemeber I ran my first half-marathon. The end of school and entire summer, I worked pretty hard to get myself to where I wanted to be. It was hard, but it was exactly what I needed at the time. I was coming up on my year of being diagnosed with fibro, and I wanted to do something to show that I was more than my disease. So, I trained and I ran. I was slow as hell, but I did it. I realized that I liked running. Running made me happy, it relaxed me, and I always felt more focused. But, after the half–my body did not want to do anything active for a long time.

I was going to the gym, but I felt that I needed some sort of push to make me want to do more. I would do yoga, but for some reason, I never thought that this was enough. I felt that in order to make changes in my body (which never came) or really feel like I was working out, I needed to completely exhaust my body.

So, I signed up for another half-marathon in March. At the time I felt that I needed a program to keep me going. So, I started training and since it was winter, I was inside a lot of time on the treadmill. I had a hard time focusing, and thought it was just because of a stationary. I still felt great, but I was also getting bored. The nicer it got, the more I went outside. I would run, but I always was annoyed that I wasn’t doing better or that I was too slow, it was becoming really toxic for me.

Then, I got a sinus infection–the blessing in disguise. I was so physically weak from being sick, and I also wasn’t allowed to take antibiotics until a week after I went to the doctor, which forced me to sit out for an entire week. After getting back to work, I wasn’t patient with myself. I was annoyed that I was slow, I was annoyed that I couldn’t improve, I was pushing myself too far.

See, with me and my fibro, I am not sure that my day is going to be like anymore. The weeks are hard to work out because my energy levels decline, and my pain gets a little worse. Half of the week I am struggling to keep my eyes open driving home, let alone run five miles. Usually, I was able to push through it and often felt better after the workouts. But, I think I was pushing myself too far, too fast. Six days a week to work out physically was taking its toll.

One Sunday I was running, and I was having such a hard time getting into it. I was supposed to go seven miles, but halfway through…I just hit a wall. I called my mother and told her about the anxiety that I felt with running. I started to cry–what at first was causing me good health and happiness, had started to do the exact opposite. When I told her, I felt like my soul has been unburdened, I relaxed.

However, I also felt this overwhelming sense of, “Here’s another thing that I don’t follow through with again.” I started beating myself up immediately for not seeing my training until the end and feeling like a failure to myself. The self-doubt was setting in, but I had to learn to combat it.

Following through with things has always been a problem for me–making promises, but not always keeping them. It’s like a tell someone what they want to hear, in order to just to have them leave me be. I am so quick to just get someone an answer, or do something…but not actually think if this is something that I want to do. And, I know where it stems from. It goes back to a complex that I have created for myself. I am afraid and I have anxiety about letting people down–I want to be a person that can be relied upon and trusted. However, I create these situations where I agree to something that I never wanted to do in the first place (or…agree to something that I didn’t realize or was never told it was a huge commitment) and then end up having to back out.

I think of so many times that this has happened to me, and have felt back every single time that I have done it. But, I notice that when I am fighting with myself during these decisions–I am always looking for approval and justifying why I should or shouldn’t do something. I don’t have confidence in actions or in my decisions. I rely on people to tell me what and when I should do things, and I am always constantly worried about disappointing people.

However, there is something that all of these things have in common–I  am only thinking about myself. In my life, many people have told me, consistently, how selfless I am. And, I think that’s a great compliment–but, at some point in my life, I have turned into a martyr. Or, at least I think that I am. While I volunteer my time and energy for things, I complain about what is being asked of me–depending on the situation. Or, if there is something going on, I usually am quite judgmental and think about how I would have handled the situation. In my actions of selflessness, my intentions and attitudes are at time selfish.

It’s like that meme out there, “Washes one dish in the sink: I am the backbone of this family.” I laugh because I think that. Seriously, I clean up the kitchen once for my family, and I am criticizing the little that my middle brother does. What the hell is that? All of these thoughts of self-absorbing and worrying about what other people think of me is actually a perception of what I think of myself. I have been riding on a high horse for a while now, thinking that I am above reproach–and when I do something completely normal or mess up somehow, I am worried that people are going to criticize me or come up with reasons that they shouldn’t.

I have been thinking about this since I went to a Penance service last week before Holy Week. I was sitting in confession, talking to my priest, and I told him how angry was becoming with the people around me. I have been judging them and had selfish reasons for things that are not typical of me.  I have been showing it off and telling people how selfless I am so I can avoid criticism.

But, where has that gotten me? I am exhausted. I am tired because I am trying to maintain a life that completely exhausts me…I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. I just need to stay in my lane, and focus on the things that matter the most. And, for once a for all, eliminate the things in my life that don’t add anything. I need to not be afraid to say no, I need to have the courage to walk away from places or relationships that are not serving me or helping me a better person. And, I need to not focus on what people think of me and just do my damn thing.

Because the day is too short to be spending hour after hour being miserable and doing something that you hate.

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anxiety, part 2.

Well, this weekend was rough–the end of October is rough. Yesterday would have been my father’s birthday; 64 years old. Last year around this time, I was totally unaffected; I can’t even remember what I did or who I was with but I don’t think that it hit me as much as this year did.

Friday afternoon–I was busy at work helping with the induction ceremony for the Student Council and National Honors Society. And, we went out with some friends after work. I got home, and my high school friend came over for some wine. I was almost falling asleep, and for some reason thought more wine would help. I don’t drink enough to get completely drunk or plastered anymore–and honestly, I believe that I am in denial of my alcohol intolerance as part of my fibro.

Well, late nights and alcohol are not my thing anymore…and for some reason I wanted them to be. I hung out with my friend, but of course I thought I was my old self—pre fibro. This has been the hardest adjustment for me; I want to be the person that I have always been. Fun, happy, and just not having to plan everything out–I just can’t relax and have fun. I have to dial things back, and I am holding on so, so tight.

Saturday night my mom had my aunt, uncle, and cousins over for my brother’s birthday. I held off drinking until after dinner, and didn’t get so wasted…but my anxiety kicked up that was for sure. I said before my anxiety is like knocking on a door, think “The Raven.” Rapping, tapping, and finally just being coming surrounded.

My anxiety tells me that I am not good enough–my anxiety convinces me that everything I do is never enough, never good enough, and people don’t actually like me for who I am. This is really deep seeded for me–when I was in grade school I had a friend that treated me like dirt. I have since been able to forgive that friend, but I still have the aftershocks of what that kind of treatment and behavior has done to me.

When she and I were friends, everything I did seemed to make her angry at me–there was something I would do, and she would stop talking to me. She was manipulative and nasty, because 7th grade girls are nasty. However, this has so been ingrained in my and effected the way that I deal with friends and relationships–that I need to be constantly convince that what I am doing is right. Because, I am afraid and deep down believe that I am not enough in my friend’s eyes.

I judge my friends a lot on the words that they say to make, and take everything pretty personally. This is something that I have done to family, friend, and sometimes in the classroom (if I am being one hundred percent honest with myself). Well, I think this weekend I hit my rock bottom. I missed my dad, I felt like my friends didn’t want to be around me–and I just had a mini-breakdown.

Sunday. I did something totally our of character for myself, and that was lay in bed almost all day. I was worn out from crying, I was tried from not sleeping, not taking care of myself. I needed a break. Thankfully, I didn’t have much to do. I laid, and I slept a little, and I just relaxed. I realized that I had to get up and do something in order to feel like a real person. So, I painted my nails and stretched.

I blame myself for all the bad stuff, when I feel negative, but I always look to someone else to take that blame away. I look for a reason, or something to heave all this heavy shit off of me. Because this isn’t who I am (I tell myself)! I am better that this (I say, not believing a single word)! It is so easy for me to get wrapped up in the bad shit, that I totally forget all the good that I have. I forget how good my friends are to me. I forget how good my family is to me, and how much people love me.

I truly hate feeling this way at times, because I feel so broken and little. I don’t like showing my cracks or faults, because it makes me feel like that is another reason for people to stop being friends with me–like they are my friends because I try to be strong and there for everyone, that when I buckle or stumble…people aren’t going to be there for me. Which I know isn’t true.

It was good, though; because it got all this emotional shit that I have been sitting on out. It isn’t the worst thing in the word to realize, but I know that I am tired of this problem that I have effect my relationships–I want to be able to enjoy my friends and family. I want to be able to not take everything personally, to realize when people are joking with me, and I want to be able to feel confident in who I am.

I am totally done with second guessing the things that I say and do. I am totally done with not making myself feel important, and apologizing for who I am. I am totally done in not believing in myself.

I have to be okay with not being okay sometimes. I have to ask for help when I need it, and I have to stop trying to be perfect all the time. But it’s okay!

Anxiety

Anxiety.

I remember when I first started dealing with it; I was in grade school. 7th grade to be exact. Whether it was the joys of becoming a woman, or it was something that I always had inside of me I’m not sure. But, I thought about losing my grandparents, a lot. My father’s parents were older than all my other friend’s grandparents. When I was in grade school, my grandparents were already starting in their eighties.

I wasn’t obsessive, but I thought about it enough to keep me up. Then my anxiety blossomed into something that kept me awake at night. I would think that someone was breaking in, I would rationalize to myself how this wasn’t true. And, I would be lost in this abyss of what ifs and could this happen. It consumed a lot of my nights, and then it started coming during the day.

The thing about anxiety is that is doesn’t tell you what you should and shouldn’t be worried about, it makes those decisions for you. In my life, a lot of the big things that I had going on I had in control, and it was little shit that I had trouble dealing with; so, if the smallest thing went off the rail…. boom. Hit like a train.

In grade school, anxiety was small but it slowly got bigger. Friends and relationships were a large part of my problem. I was insecure, I was smart, I didn’t really fit in, I was heavier than most of the people in my class. But, these were things that I could deal with; I couldn’t seem to keep friends.

When you have anxiety, I found that it is a lot easier to blame other people and situations because you don’t have the deal with the issue at hand. I think of all the times that I was hurt by someone—and I think that I was genuinely hurt by people that I was friends with.

My best friend in grade school would literally play these mind games with me—she could be mean to me, hurt me, and then I would apologize. Because, in certain cases, she was hurt so I had to apologize. This was a pattern, every so often this would happen, and I would cry. I would let it happen to me. I would be so anxious about this girl not being friends with me and treating me poorly. But, I never stood up for myself.

Once I did, it seemed to set me free. But, I didn’t have friends. I didn’t go out, I felt alone. When I was growing up, I was, as most girls are a sensitive kid. I cared a lot—for other people and mostly about how people saw me. I got caught up in how people saw me and sought out perfection from other places. I thought that my mother didn’t understand me, and to an extent she didn’t.

Part of my huge insecurity deals with not feeling good enough. It seems like no matter what I do, I am always behind the curve. It started with when I was in grade school with my friends, and that still plagues me today. My constant apologizing to my friends in grade school has given me this complex that I am not good enough. Because I have been spinning my wheels. Now, as an adult, I need constant reassurance that I am doing the right thing, and I am doing what is expected of me. How exhausting right?

Well, it totally is. My need for wanting things to be okay, and not wanting to be at fault for things is now getting the point that it is crippling to me. This type of thing holds me back, in my personal growth. As soon as I start making great strides in a certain area of my life, it seems like the other shoe drops and I am back to feeling so small.

Which makes sense that I am like that because when I am hurting the most, when I am hurting myself, and I try to make others feel small as well. And, most of the time I don’t know that I am doing it, because I would never want anyone to feel the way that I do. But, I still do it. And, I usually feel bad that it comes to that.

This is something that I am trying to fix or work on, because this is something that is so deep and so shameful to me—that I portray this strong exterior, but I fear that I am not enough. I constantly fear that I am not good enough for other people, and that goes back on myself.

sometimes you have to go down the death trap slide.

So, as the school year is winding down, teaching seniors makes me a little nostalgic about high school. I had a decent high school experience—my high school was great, the teachers were awesome people, and the people that I went to school with were overall pretty nice people. It felt like a family atmosphere. Mostly, because families either knew each other or were related to each other. For example, when I was a senior in high school, I had a cousin in my grade, two cousins in the grade below me, and my brother was a freshman. There were five of us from the same family in high school together. And, we were not the exception.

A few of my students asked me what I was like in high school; and I really didn’t know how to answer the question. I was…normal. I was…like I am now. I was….well, I wasn’t popular, but I wasn’t a loser. I was smart, but I wasn’t at the top of my class. I was average. This, my students, did not believe. “You had to be popular, ma’am. Come on!”

I don’t think that I ever cared what my social status in high school was; I was happy where I was.  I wanted normal high school experiences, and I got into a few situations that didn’t reflect the girl that I was then. I was, like to think, the woman that I am today—except I was a little more insecure and I was more of a people pleaser.

I was never a girl to follow trends—I wore what I wanted, watched the shows that I wanted, watched the movies that I wanted. I was an old soul desiring to have an authentic high school experience…but I never really got it. I never had a relationship in high school, and that bothered more than I probably would have admitted back then. And I definitely struggled with embracing who I was, because I wanted to be something different. People liked me for me, but I couldn’t see that. I was so busy worrying about what other people did, and what people thought of me that I never learned to like myself for who I was.

There is one thing that I always look back to when I am fighting with who I am and what I want to be. I have a memory before I was in high school of being at the pool that I work at. It was the end of the summer, the pool was getting ready to close, and the one thing that I wanted to do was jump off the really high lifeguard stand into the pool. So, I did it. I climbed up and dove head first 20 feet into the water. The impact was hard, my back hurt, and I realized that if I hit the water a different way I probably could have been really hurt.

But, I did it. It was amazing, scary, and I felt fearless. This was the girl that I always wanted carry with me…I wanted to dive off a lifeguard stand because I wanted to do it and feel free. Monday and Tuesday, we had a class trip to the Poconos at an indoor water park. There was this intense slide where the bottom dropped out from underneath you—I hate heights, I hate 90 degree angles, and I hate climbing stairs.

Well, I was sitting, relaxing by the pool and the boys talked me into riding the death trap of a slide. I panicked the entire way up the stairs. The boys were like “Ma’am, you’re going to be okay. You’re going to be fine. You’re really that afraid of heights?” I never used to be, and I wanted to do this death trap slide because my reputation was on the line. Was I glad that I did it? Kind of, I would never do it again, but I did go on a mountain roller coaster that I would do again. A coaster that you were able steer down the mountain side and it was so cool!

Something I ask myself what happened to that girl that wanted to do things her way; that wasn’t afraid of adversity or pain and wanted to do something for the experience? I think there were a number of things that happened. I probably was made fun of for being different. I was too out there, I didn’t conform to what I “should” have been. And, I wanted to be like everyone else that didn’t stand out. So, what would I say to that girl now?

I would look her in the eye and I would confront her what all those uncomfortable times that made her question who she was and what she wanted. She wanted to be fearless, but instead of being fearless she became ridden with fear. She started caring about what other people thought, she started hanging out with people that didn’t give her what she needed, and she started chasing  things that weren’t good for her. I would remind her of the time she was on top of lifeguard stand and ask her to remember the feeling of falling into the water. The feeling was freedom, the feeling of letting it all go, and the feeling of freedom that you can do anything at all.

I got that feeling on the mountain coaster and the death trap water slide. I remembered what it was like to feel free again and feel like I could do anything. It was awesome. Embracing that side of me made me realize a few things—how much I have grown up, how much I have experienced in my life that is so awesome.

In high school I was able to see Julie Andrews in person, attend a papal mass in New York City, and travel to Italy for 10 days. I have seen the Sistine Chapel, the Roman Colosseum, and the Trevi Fountain. In college, I attended a Phillies World Series Parade, joined a sorority, learned value skills of time management and compassion for others. And, as an adult, I have learned value lessons and skills that I never thought that I would be able to learn. It’s all be such a cool, crazy ride.

Part of that ride includes all the heartbreak and problems that I have had in my life—they make up that map. It’s not something that I want to forget because those things have made me who I am today. Through my dad’s death I have learned how important it is to listen to people and to be there for people regardless of what is going on in our lives. Part of life is helping other, giving of yourself to people, and that was something that my dad always taught me.

One of most valuable lessons that Dad taught me, through his actions, was that regardless of your shit…people have other shit going on, too. And, unless you stop to listen to someone and care about that person…you are never going to learn what is going on. You don’t compare your situations to other people, because it’s going to help anything. Comparison only brings sadness and anxiety, and doesn’t allow you to open yourself up to the people that might need to hear from you.

Dad’s passing highlighted a lot of things for me. I learned who was there to support me because they loved me, and those who supported me because it was something they thought they should do. It made them feel better. That’s fine, because not everyone know who to deal with death. There is not handbook that you get when a parent dies that says, “Hey, you should do x, y, and z to help yourself.” No magic pill, and no magic way to tell people how to treat you. You show people how to treat you. You have to let yourself lean on other, and some will support and others will buckle a little bit. But, that buckle might not be because they don’t love you…it just might mean that they need a little support, too.

This is so, so important to recognize because you are recognizing and appreciating what someone is giving you. But, at the time, of course it feels like your being slighted. Because you expect people to step up, and when they don’t it’s disappointing. But, you have to remember, just because you focus in about your situation 99% of day doesn’t mean that other are going to, or have to. People are busy, people have other lives, people have families. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t love you.

This is all much harder to accept that it sounds. Really hard. Because in the moment, you feel alone and helpless. You feel that people have stopped caring about you, stopped thinking about you, but that’s not true. It’s just that they aren’t thinking of you right now. And, like a lot of things in life, only the people that get it really understand it. They know what it’s like to have your thoughts consumed, to want a break from the world, and to realize that certain bullshit just doesn’t matter.

Two years ago if I had gotten a text from my best friend about someone in our class that either got married or had baby, and ridiculing them for their decisions I would have taken the bait. I would have checked out the post on the Gram or Facebook and made the same comment. But now? Who the eff cares? Bullshit drama at work? Who the eff cares? People making more money that you? Who the eff cares? Someone got fat? Who the eff cares? The people that you see on your timelines and feeds, they are on their own paths. They are doing them, and if it makes them happy to post…who the eff cares? Don’t want to read it? Unfollow or unfriend. Or, instead of making fun of them, how about seeing their happy in the situation?

I came across a post of a girl that I knew in high school, and that I always said was copying my every move in life. She now has her master’s and just got a new job. My first thought was, “Oh my God, she’s trying to be me.” Um, hello? How productive is that? How is that helping me? It’s now. Comparison is evil, and I was succumbing to it.

How much of an ego could I possibly have to think that? Ew. That’s not me; and that never was me until I left my little shelter of growing up and entered the real world. Well, in this world you get to choose the things you care about. You get to choose the people in your story. You don’t like the people? Write them out. But, don’t forget that just because you’re the main character means to get to ignore everyone else.

Yes, I have started saying “Who the eff cares?” about the little things, but the people that you care about in your world and you have been your support system are the big things. And, they go through shit too. Shit that sucks just as much as your shit sucks. People have shitty jobs, shitty relationships, shitty friendships; but if it means something to them it means that you have to listen to them. Even though it doesn’t add up to the shit that you have been through. That’s not their path.

I am thankful that none of my friends have had to lose a parent or even a grandparent. That’s rough shit, but I try to use that experience to make me more compassionate and more patient. My cross might be big, but that doesn’t mean that someone else’s has to be, too. If I can use that experience and help my friends carry their crosses, I consider that a win; because I want the people that have been there for me to know what I will be there for them.

depending on something bigger than myself

I have always had a special place in my heart for the Easter Triduum. I am sure it goes back to when I was altar serving in 8th grade. As an older kid, I was responsible for teaching the younger kids how to serve during the masses. And, when your priest is a nonsense Polish man that loves a high mass—you get everything right.

I remember the only time that I was openly disrespectful for a teacher—it was during on practice for Holy Week. Father would call every single altar server out of class to practice for the Masses during Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

Somehow, I was never slated to serve the Easter Vigil. I have never, in my life been to one. My mother won’t go back to one because when she was grade school, she was in the choir and had to stand for 3 hours. She said she remembered deliberately dropping her hymnal so she could bend her knees. So, we always served the 7 am mass on Easter Sunday.

Anyway, my teacher wouldn’t let me and other 8th graders leave for practice, even though we were allowed. I told her that we had to leave, and she got this big attitude (for the record, this woman probably shouldn’t have been a teacher. She was a little nutty) and said that if Father had a problem, he could take it up with her. I snapped back at her and told her that she didn’t teach anything anyway, so what would it matter? Somehow, I didn’t get in trouble and she let us leave.

Holy Thursday was always required more practice than Good Friday. Holy Thursday we had to practice the incense, we had to practice the washing of the feet, the procession around the ENTIRE church during the benediction. It was a big church, and it always seemed to take an hour. We must have ran through the entire mass three or four times, and it must of stuck with me because at every Holy Thursday mass, I remember what we did, when, and I notice if it’s not done at other churches. For instance, during the Gloria—two altar servers go back and forth ringing the bells during the entire hymn. It’s the last time the bells ring during the Triduum. My parish doesn’t do that, I remembered that. I have been to parishes that don’t really do a procession—which I always find odd.

Holy Thursday always required a lot of planning, and it seemed like it was most important mass of the year since we practiced, literally for a week.

Good Friday was always much simpler—not a mass, veneration of the Cross, communion, and that’s it. Cake walk compared to Holy Thursday. However, there was one Good Friday that I thought we were going to be a man down. We had a very old monsignor—he must have been almost 90. My pastor had directly told him, when we prostrate do not lay down. So, when we processed in, our three other priests prostrated on the ground and one altar server tugged at my sleeve. I looked around, and there was the old Monsignor laying on the ground.

I went into the panic. What are we going to do? Is he going to be okay? Are we going to be able to get him up? Well, that’s exactly what we had to do. We literally had to hoist him up off the ground, and he just started laughing. I mean, it was amazing that he still wanted to do that, but it was definitely not practical.

So, I have always loved the ceremony behind the masses—I think they are beautiful and deeply meaningful to Catholics during this time. But, I have not always had the sense of connection and love for this time.

Before I started working at my school now, I was a substitute teacher in my Catholic school system. Looking back on those days, they were some of the most trying times in my life. My anxiety was a lot higher, I was really trying to figure out who I was, and looking back at it now it was a lot of growing pains.

I experienced a lot of failures at a particular school that I worked out. I was having trouble figuring out what kind of teacher that I wanted to be, I was struggling with who I was professionally and personally—there was this separation of it all, I think, and I just wanted my life to be different. This was all over a period of three years. I worked at this school for about six months, but in that six months—I gained something that I hadn’t gained in other places. I felt, in a way that I belonged—I liked the community and I really thought it was what God has planned for me. But, when we plan, God laughs.

So, after my six month stint, I kept going back to this school—I started helping a friend of mine in her office, because I was unemployed (This was the spring before I was hired at my full time job), and I needed something to do. Thankfully, that panned into a per diem job. But, then my grandmother died. Another shock to my system. I didn’t have a job, and I lost one of the closest people in my life. How could it get worse?

Oh, wait it did!

There was a guy that I worked with that I ended up really liking—he was everything that I thought that I wanted. Catholic, loved his job, and just was a great person. After months, maybe a year of interpreting and misinterpreting signs I told him how I felt. I actually believed that the feelings were reciprocal—and a lot of other people did, too. This was something that I never did before, and to do it took a lot of balls.

Part of my wanted to finally have an answer, and another part of my wanted to stop feeling like I was crazy or unhinged. So, I told him. However, the feeling was not reciprocal, and looking back on it—all the anger that harbored toward him was actually anger that I had toward myself. I was angry that I thought that I looked foolish—and put myself out there. Understandably, my ego was hurt. And, I thought that my life was spinning out of control.

I was unlucky in love, unlucky in my job, and I had lost my grandmother—I could and thought about giving up. But, I didn’t. This time was different, I prayed harder than I even could have in my life and tried to make peace with everything that had happened to me.

But, too this day, I am working on this. I still have bouts of self-doubt and jealousy of all those people that I worked with. After I left that place, it was like my connection to them was completely severed. Everything that I had done, and everything that I given of myself was just left there in a weird limbo and I hated it. I hated myself for being upset and scared, this was not who I was working to be and not who I wanted to be.

When you are hurt by someone and something that deeply, it is really hard to get over. But, guess what? It’s all going to be okay. Because, at the end of the day I still have my family and friends that still love me and still support me. I know the people that are supposed to be in my life. My friend Judy once told me about “reasons, seasons, and lifetimes.” There are people that are in your life for a reason, season, or a lifetime. But you don’t realize when or for what at the moment. I think now, those people that I used to work with were a season—they were there to teach me something about myself that would eventually make me stronger.

Learning how to deal with heartache and disappointment, but also being able to rely on God are what helped me through the death of my father. Something that rocked my world to the core, I was able to remember that I am that I need to lean close to God, not against Him. It was something that I learned to go through all that when I worked at the school, but in terms of what I have gone through now…it’s a blip. But, it was blip that made me learn.

So, this Holy Thursday—I actually went to my home parish for the first time. I was in so much pain from the fibro that kneeling and standing were taking such a toll on me—but, I persisted. I was thinking about how Holy Thursday has carried such an anxiety and disappointment for me that it was hard to focus on anything but that. But, I think that was what I was supposed to do.

I focused on the difficult things. The things that made me cry, the things that broke my heart, the things that had made me feel so small and so insignificant. I broke myself in front of God, because I wasn’t afraid anymore of my brokenness or of what was thought of me. I knew who I am in the eyes of God and in the eyes of the people that matter the most to me.

When Father took the Blessed Sacrament around the church, I had this heaviness of my heart. From everything that I was worried about, and once he walk by me…my heart felt light. As soon as he walked to the Repository and placed the Blessed Sacrament inside…my heart was light. Jesus had taken my suffering from me, and held with him until the next day—where that suffering would be shown on the Cross.

God never give us anything that we can’t handle in our lives. He doesn’t test us, nor does he enjoy watching us suffer. However, in times of struggle, we lean on God for what was cannot get from other people. There is a safety net about God; that can handle things that we cannot. And, being able to rely on Him during times of struggle has been something that I have needed in my life. It was powerful, moving, and I just felt like I could sing. I finally felt at peace, and it was the best feeling in the world.

The Release Project: Guilt

I have a guilty conscious. I am the person that walked into a store, looks around but doesn’t buy, and walks out hoping that the people don’t think that I just stole something. Yup. I am the person who thinks, “Did I do that?” When I most certainly hadn’t seen, or communicated with that person in weeks.

Some people would classify this as “Well, you care too much about what people think about you?” Yes, but no. I care about what the people are that the closest to me think of me. If I cared too much about what people think about me, I could never do what I do daily. Teaching is getting up in front of children and not caring about how they view you, because you’re there and they are there. The purpose isn’t a standoff, the purpose is to make sure that they learn something in that time you have them.

I care that my students think that I am fair, kind, and there for them. I don’t care that they think that I’m a tyrant for giving them work as a 4th quarter senior (They keep trying to make this a thing, but it’s not). Before lunch, two of my students literally were so annoyed at the work I keep giving them, they wrote a declaration of how they weren’t going to do work. I laughed at them.

So, no….I don’t get wrapped up in what people think about me. However, I am sensitive. I have always been sensitive. Being sensitive has always been something that I haven’t been totally comfortable with, but it seems that I have start getting comfortable with it because it is most certainly part of me. I am the girl that cried during The Hunchback of Notre Dame when Esmeralda lost consciousness and Quasimodo lifted her up over the cathedral. I was six, and I was sobbing. Why was I crying? I don’t remember at all, I didn’t understand what unrequited love was, but I knew that this was a strong emotion and I had some response to it.

Now, this type of reaction would carry with me my entire life; and I would spend half of my adult life trying to stifle it. Sensitive was a word that I heard very often after this movie. I would cry, scream, express emotions at inappropriate times, usually. I would hold emotions in until I couldn’t take it anymore, and then explode. I was a rollercoaster; most of this was puberty and hormones finding their home, but I can still be a little unpredictable with emotions.

I hated that people called me sensitive. Women in my family aren’t sensitive, they are strong. They are bold, and they don’t let emotions hold them back. I felt like none of these things when I was growing up. I felt disconnected, I felt like I was a black sheep, and I thought that everything that I was annoyed my family. Completely disconnected and totally lost in life, I sought out different ways to cope with these feelings.

I was friends with people that I probably shouldn’t have been friends with in high school, I started (not excessively), drinking, and most of all I started smoking. My mother, my grandmothers, my aunt, and my uncle were all smokers at some point in their lives. Somehow, in my delusional mind, I made the connection to smoking with a family thing—maybe that I would belong or something. I was so lost that I tried everything that I could.

So, smoking and I have had a relationship for the past ten years, on and off. Mostly on. After I mended my relationship with my family and my mother, I started thinking “Why am I still doing this?” It didn’t make sense, because I was doing something that was hurting me. But I thought it was helping me. At this point, smoking made gave me a lot of outs in life—if I felt uncomfortable or annoyed, I could step outside, if I felt awkward I could leave, it was a moment of quiet in my life. It didn’t make sense at all, but to me it did.

My friend, Judy, has been there through the whole smoking ordeal—and I have put her through a lot. I used to lie about this habit, and still partially do, to everyone. My family, my friends, students, coworkers. Because to me, this isn’t me. This is not something that I am, or something that I do. This lie has hurt a lot of people—including myself. But, lying about it hurt a lot of people in my life. It especially hurt my relationship with Judy. I lied about it constantly, and I just never listened to her. Partially, because it was because I wanted to do my own thing, and sew my oats. At that time, I was disconnected with smoking, because I was hiding it the best that I could, but it wasn’t really that great.

So, recently, I have been thinking about giving this habit up for good. It just doesn’t make sense for me—I have been working on me, who I am, and what I stand for. I had this habit, but I was going to yoga, I was working out, I was trying to eat healthy, but I was still smoking. I would break off of my cigarettes, but then I would experience something that would send me back to my habit. Fibro pain, my father’s death, stress, nervous breakdowns. I was sifting through so many things, that I didn’t know which way was up—who was I?

Since I started this “journey” (that I haven’t been consistent about documenting), I have been doing a lot of thinking. Mostly about who I am, and embracing myself completely; faults and all.  And, I have been trying to answer this disconnect this question about why I still have this habit that I swear I will stop, but seem to pick it back up. I have learned to cope with my own stress (I have really tried to bad stress in my life completely, because of the fibro), I have come to grips with my father’s death (and still go back and forth with grieving), and all the ups and downs in life I have learned to deal with it all.

So, how do I connect the dots now with smoking and my life. Well, there is no connection. For the past few days, I have been feeling low energy. I feel like I am giving out more than I am taking in The kids, people that I work with, there are things that have been out of my control that have been taking a toll on me. Like I said before, I have always been sensitive and I take on a lot from other people. A lot of problems that are not my own, I seem to take them on.

One of the girls that is in my grad class seems to be having a hard time, and I don’t know the whole story but I got a little stressed out for her. I don’t even know the whole story, but I felt so bad for her that she was feeling bad. I couldn’t make sense of it all. It was totally misplaced and weird, because the pain became my pain. How does this make sense? It doesn’t. Somehow, now smoking and stress has becoming to feeling stress and pain for other; overly empathetic. I felt that strong urge to start smoking again because of the pain that I was feeling for another person.

I have been thinking about this a lot the last few days, and I think that I found the connection for my disconnect. I experience and feel pain that is not my pain to feel, so I go back to something that should not be part of me. So, now I am struggling to put this habit down—the last few days I have slipped with letting this habit go. I pick it up, but them immediately regret it. It’s like I go into a trance when I want a cigarette. It’s all I think about, I legitimize it, and I make it reasons why I should do it. I know that I shouldn’t, I know that I don’t need it, but for some reason I think that if I just do it a little bit—it won’t be that bad.

But, now it’s hurting me in so many ways. It hurts my body, physically and it’s hurting my emotional game as well. I am relying on something that does not give anything back to me, at all. I have this abusive relationship with smoking, I know that it hurts me and doesn’t respect me but I keep going back to it and cannot break up with it. But, I want to make that change. I want to make that move. I have all these plans to be healthier and get better. I ordered all these vitamins, I have doing yoga, my prayers have definitely been off, but I think I need to fix that when I feel the urge to smoke. I need to be patient with myself, I need to forgive myself for the times that I have hurt myself, but that doesn’t mean that I need to continue down this road or make this my life.

Time to break up with the bad,  and get in a relationships with the good.

The Release Project: Pride

Much of my life has been spent in self-reflection. I have spent a lot of time thinking about the person that I want to become, a lot of time figuring out what I am meant to be, and what I want to stand for. Not bad things, right? Well, yes and no. There is nothing wrong with self-reflection and knowing how to read the room. There is nothing wrong with figuring out what you stand for and making sure that is in alignment with what is true in your heart.

The problem comes when you focus too much on defining yourself, that you forget yourself. That you think that you are better than the past life experiences that you have had and have subsequently shaped you. That you negate anything and everything the people closest to you, and really know you have said and want for you. When you become something you are not, because it’s going to please the general public, isn’t authentic and you have lost the point of self-reflection.

For much of my formative years, I was always trying to be like someone because, at that time in my life, I felt that being someone else would be better than being myself. In high school, I struggled with my relationship with my mother. I thought that I would have an easier time to be like my brother who, by his own nature, is much more cynical, practical, and critical. I subconsciously saw how easy it was for my mom and my brother to get along, that I thought if I did that, I would too.

I was so, so, so, so, (times infinity) wrong. I just came across as angry, critical, uncaring, cold, and even though I tried to be something that I wasn’t, I was still sensitive and emotional. So, I was quick tempered, snarky, and just really a bitch. I couldn’t see how I was acting, and didn’t seem to care about what people thought. But, I remember when my grandmother said something to me, “Uncle Kevin thinks you’re being too critical.” Whaaaaaa? Me, of all people? How could he say that? See, I even got mad when someone pointed out a part of myself, that wasn’t myself, and something I knew I needed to change. If that isn’t prideful…

My second really significant phase came when I was senior in high school. I read Virginia Woolf once, and suddenly I was this tragic, romantic figure. Granted, I love Woolf’s writing, but the woman had some demons that she was working on. I felt like I craved for that kind of tragedy in my life, I wanted a place of deep hurt that would give me a reason to act a certain way. Seriously, what the eff was wrong with me? No wonder why my brother always thought I was crazy. I am sure at times it was like living with Eve from Three Faces of Eve.

But, I was yearning for a sense of belonging, because I felt like I was on the outskirts of life. A kid recently just said to me at school, “Ma’am, you must have been really popular, one of the cool kids in high school. You just seem like you would be cool.” I laughed in the kid’s face. I did not divulge to that child that most of my freshmen year was spent watching old movies in my room and crying because I didn’t have any friends. Hey, the kid things I’m cool, I didn’t want to mess up my image. But, if someone has said that to me in high school, I would have ran with it. I would have had this false optimism in my life that people liked me, or at least felt sorry for me.

Because of this sense of belonging, I mad friends that I shouldn’t have. Now, deep down, I am sure that they are both leading really fulfilling lives and making the best of what they have. But, at the time, we were three lost souls that happened to find each other. Our relationship wasn’t meant to last through high school. We got into trouble, we made mistakes, and I did things that are not part of the person that I am now. All three of us were looking to belong, but the other two were looking to belong to something bigger than what we had.

 

Senior year, I also met my friend and mentor, Judy. She was my principal at the time, and is responsible for endlessly trying to get my train back on the tracks. So, of course when she started noticing changes, she said something. She mentored me, she gave me examples of the person to be, how to be with people, and how to care for people. She has been telling me for years that I don’t have to define myself by other people’s standards. Sometimes I listened, and sometimes I decided to go my own path. But, I never really grasped her message—I have to admit that this still happens from time to time.

 

In college, I joined a sorority—but never really felt like a typical sorority girl, so that didn’t stick. But, I drank and I partied—nothing ever to hurt my future; but I did put myself into dangerous situations. Looking back, I probably drank because I was still feeling lost and going to parties gave me something that I felt like I needed at the time. I put myself into situations that I thought would make me feel better, but they never did. They just usually made me feel worse, and this was a pattern that continued.

 

I grew angry and rejected everything that I knew growing up. I rejected family, because I thought that I knew better about myself than they did. I thought that I didn’t fit in with them, that I didn’t belong to them, and it has been a repeated struggle for me. I rejected my faith because I thought that God wasn’t giving me the answers that I wanted. God just kept giving me struggles, he kept giving me things that I didn’t want to handle. At the time, I thought I had put so much faith in him, but He never gave anything back to me. Never in a million years did I ever think the answer to my questions and problems was to humble myself to His Will, instead of trying to fight against it.

 

This periodic up and downs in my life have been sporadic, and each time I seem to go through the same problem. I am trying to live up to expectations that don’t exist. I am trying to live up to expectations that I created for myself, because it was a time when I was not being true to myself. The plan that God has for me was not the one that I was following, and it has been hard to navigate the paths of life because of rollercoaster I was riding one was slowly trying to through me off.

 

When my father died, and being diagnosed, I had to stop and think about what was right for me. I had to think about what was a priority in my life, what were some things that needed to be taken out of my life. I had to rethink life with fibro, and adjust. I had to focus on myself and what was going to add to my life. Well, then I started thinking—who am I? I had tried to define myself in all these ways, but I never actually figured out who I really was.

 

I started an odd healing process during my time spent in graduate school—I was doing something that I loved. I was learning, I was exploring, I was asking questions, and I was learning about things and topics that were of interest to me. So, now I was doing something that I loved, I started to focus on love. My faith was strong already, but it got better. I felt like I was having an authentic relationship with God because I was listening to Him, not simply asking him of things. I was trying to put difficult situations into His perspective; trying to figure out what God was trying to tell me.

 

My relationships with people got better because I was focusing on being me, and not what they wanted me to be. Life with fibro has meant, expressing myself truly and honestly—and if people can’t accept that, then I can’t make them like me. I learned that listening to people, is better than just talking and talking and talking. The most important thing that I learned was not letting someone else or something else to define you—regardless of what others tell you are made in the image and likeness of God. So, be forgiving of others, especially of yourself.