Embracing the “Soul” in “Soldier On”

We have had many blessing in our lives, as well as numerous challenges. We have been lucky to overcome quite a few, and wish we could overcome them all. Sometimes you have to brace yourself, and do what you can to make the best of what you have, and of what is to come. This has been my goal throughout the challenges in my life. Since the first, my diagnosis with Crohn’s in 1998, I have tried to embrace the positive while trudging forward. Today, I’ve decided to focus on a line from a song by “The Script,” titled “No Good in Goodbye, ” but flip it upside down, and prove there is a soul in soldier on.

For many years I have wanted to start yoga, hoping it would help in one of the many challenges we have had. I bought a few DVDs at various times and tried to practice in the living room, but it didn’t seem to do much for me. The thought of going to a class and stumbling around for an hour in embarrassment was not a great motivator, and I really thought it would be the same as the DVDs. I always thought of yoga merely as a way to help your body and mind relax. Slow moving stretches with some balancing moves that would help blood flow, respiration, and flexibility. In my mind it was not a serious workout, and definitely not an essential in life. My my, how things change.

When Bill got sick we heard from, and read, many sources claiming that yoga may help to slow his progression. In an attempt to do anything we could to treat his condition, it now seemed worth the time, money, and awkwardness to try a class. Since Bill was no longer working, we could go to classes mid-day instead of early morning, or later at night, which was always a motivation obstacle for me. We bought a Groupon for a few classes and then felt locked in to giving it a shot.

I went to our first class in full makeup, as it was in an upscale location where I thought I might feel self conscious. Our class was taught by a former Golden Glove boxer, in a dark and somewhat hot room. It was a mentally, and physically, painful jumble of arms and legs, where I cursed our instructor in my head repeatedly, and spent a good amount of time lost and reverting to child’s pose. We left absolutely soaked from head to toe. Makeup streaming down my face. Hair soaking wet. Defeated. Stinky. Sore. Exhausted. Surprised. Invigorated.

We continued once our Groupon ran out, and have spent the last seven months going three to four times a week. After about a month of going, I stopped silently cursing the instructor, we no longer looked like newbies in class, and we were used to leaving the studio looking like drowned rats. In the months since we began, Bill’s health has been fairly stable, my platelets (Essential Thrombocythemia) have been down, and our body strength is up. If you had told me at the beginning of this year what a difference yoga would make, I wouldn’t have believed you, but the benefits carry through every part of our lives.

We feel more settled, and calm, and know what to do if we are not. We have found yoga breathing comes in handy occasionally, a few daily stretches feel great, and for the first time since early childhood…..I can touch my toes in a forward fold! We continue to remove anything and everything negative, hateful, and/or toxic (that we have control over) in our lives, and try to find happiness in every way we can. We only have one life and believe in living it to the fullest, no matter the obstacles.

I hope we can continue yoga, and that it will help us cope with what is to come. As long as we are able, and with the help of friends, family, and God, we will continue to find the “soul” in “soldier on.”

Hidden Blessings

Sometimes I wonder why we are burdened with misfortune. Sometimes it seems like it happens more than it should. Other times I think about all of the blessings we have received, and wonder how we got so lucky.

As I have written in previous posts, between 2000 and 2002 I was severely ill, and almost died as a result of Crohn’s Disease. I have often said that due to that period of time in my life, I became a much stronger, happier, and confident person. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, and is preparing us for our future. There are always hidden blessings.

After life-saving surgery for Crohn’s, we decided to adopt our beautiful daughter, Carleigh. I would never have been so brave to put my trust in a foreign government and travel to China, if it wasn’t for my Crohn’s, and the realization I had to live life to the fullest and not be afraid to step out of my comfort zone. Once we brought Carleigh home, and the opportunity arose, we moved to Shanghai, China for 4 years. We would not have experienced life abroad and traveled to countries all over Asia, giving our children such unusual life experiences, if not for the disease I had, or the adoption we were honored with. There are always hidden blessings.

If not for our adoption, we would not have had the unfortunate experience of having a bullied child attempt suicide. There is nothing good about this. To even think that is unimaginable. However, if not for that incident, we would not have found the most amazing therapist, who sees three out of four of us, while we go through the medical issues that we are now experiencing with Bill. I also would not have the strong, confident, compassionate, thoughtful daughter who has learned so much through her difficulties. There are always hidden blessings.

If not for all of the travel in Asia, Bill and I may not have caught the wanderlust “bug” that we treasure, and would not have had some of our recent adventures both before, and since, news of his health issues. We have already traveled to San Francisco, Las Vegas, Anaheim, Puerto Rico, Spain, Italy, New Orleans, and went on an East Coast and Midwest minor league baseball tour. Next month we are headed to Kansas City to see the Chiefs, his favorite football team, and if all goes well…Morocco in February with a 24 hour stop over in Paris. As long as money and health hold out, we are hoping to make it to Greece and somewhere in South America in the next few years. He is unable to work right now, and we are moving up the plans we had for retirement. If not for this unexpected health complication, we would not be able to spend every day together, and travel the world making memories. Sometimes these unfortunate events in life remind us to appreciate every minute that we have. There are always hidden blessings.

It is undeniable….life hands us obstacles. I deal with them like I am putting them through a colander. All the big bad stuff stays inside the wire mesh, and I do with it what I must, while the blessings trickle out into a bowl for me to discover and appreciate. Even when I couldn’t initially see them, they were there. If there is one lesson I have learned in this life, it is that there are always hidden blessings.

I hope you discover some beauty in the depths of a terrible situation and embrace it. Every individual is responsible for creating their own happiness. Love life through the good and bad. Finding a ray of light in a time of darkness can make all the difference. There are always hidden blessings.

Hold On

It’s has been a very long time since I have written a post, but there has been so much I have wanted to say. Although I will still not divulge all, for my husband’s privacy, I will give you a glimpse into what has caused my delay. This post is titled “Hold On,” in honor of Sarah McLachlan’s song of the same name on her Mirrorball album. I heard it for the first time in years yesterday and it spoke to me so deeply that I can still feel it resonating within me today. The words are as follows:

Hold on

Hold on to yourself

For this is gonna hurt like hell

Hold on

Hold on to yourself

You know that only time will tell

What is it in me that refuses to believe?

This isn’t easier than the real thing

My love, you know that you’re my best friend

You know I’d do anything for you

My love, let nothing come between us

My love for you is strong and true

Am I in heaven here or am I–?

At the crossroads I am standing

So now you’re sleeping peaceful

I lie awake and pray

You’ll be strong tomorrow

And will see another day

And we will praise it

And love the light that brings a smile across your face

Oh God, if you’re out there, won’t you hear me?

I know that we’ve never talked before

Oh God, the man I love is leaving

Won’t you take him when he comes to your door

Am I in heaven here or am I in hell?

At the crossroads I am standing

Now you’re sleeping peaceful

I lie awake and pray

That you’ll be strong tomorrow

And will see another day

And we will praise it

And love the light that brings a smile

Now you’re sleeping peaceful

I lie awake and pray

That you’ll be strong tomorrow

And will see another day

And we will praise it

And love the light that brings a smile across your face

Hold on

Hold on to yourself

For this is gonna hurt like hell

My husband continues to be by my side. I love him more than I could ever have imagined possible. We just celebrated our 28th anniversary. However, as we all know, life throws obstacles, and the best made plans are upended.

Bill is 51 years old, and has been the picture of health for most of his life. I was always the one sick, Crohn’s being my biggest health concern, as discussed in previous posts. Recently the situation has flipped, and it has thrown us for a loop. It is not cancer, nor mental illness, and that is a blessing, but it is still a very large obstacle. The kind that knocks the wind out of you. The kind that moves you to readjust your bucket list timeline. The kind that reminds you of how precious life is. The kind that forces you to count your blessings. The kind that changes everything, and nothing at all.

The love of my life is fighting a disease that he shouldn’t have to, a disease we never expected, a disease that came out of nowhere and slapped us in the face. and honestly…..it hurts like hell.

I Am Not Old, But……

I am not old. In fact, I am very young-at-heart. I love life. If you have read my previous posts you know that I have had some very rough periods in the past. I haven’t even told you all of them. It is because of these moments that I am the strong, confident, life-loving, person thar I am today. I refuse to be bitter, or harbor grudges or hate. Life is too short. Life is too beautiful. 

I am not old, but I am too old to put up with negativity. It’s waste of time. If you don’t like it and it is not under your control to change, or the likelihood is exceptionally small, than figure out a way to live with it. You’re only hurting yourself and your health. When you are on your deathbed are you going to think….”I’m so glad I spent all those years being negative and bitter!”? Probably not. 

I am not old, but I am too old to worry about your opinion of me. If you don’t like my political beliefs, or they don’t line up with yours, and you feel that you cannot be my friend because of that, then  you have never been a real friend, because I have stuck with you regardless of your political beliefs. 

I am not old, but I am too old to deal with baseless rants. I am always up for a good debate. In fact, I enjoy them. I am open to your point of view, but you have to be open to mine. This doesn’t mean we have to agree in the end, but we have to be willing to listen and respond to opposing views with thoughtfulness and kindness. We should respect each other’s right to a differing opinion. 

I am not old, but I am too old to waste my time with anger or self-pity. Of course I have these feelings every now and then, but I only allow myself a day or two. After that it’s back to rainbows and unicorns. Why? Because life is too short, and I’m  going to enjoy every minute of it that I can. 

I am not old, but I am too old not to love the life that I am living. I wish more people would do the same. 

Into the Light

A little over four years ago, my son told me about a friend of his from school. He told me he was helping her study for math, as she was close to failing the class. As he proceeded to tell me a little more about her, he told me that she cut herself. Intentionally. She was actively self-harming. My first thought….the very first thing that came to my mind was……she must have a difficult home life. She must have absent parents. How could they NOT know what was going on with their daughter? The visions of her sad, lonely, parent-lacking life filled my head. I was not unique.  I was among millions of other people who don’t understand, or have never experienced, self-harm, suicide, or suicide attempts in a loved one.

My family is your average nuclear family. My husband and I have been married for 26 years. We have lived  in the same house since the oldest child was 15 months old (We lived in Shanghai for four years, but returned to our American home during the holidays and in summer.)  We have two dogs, two cats, great neighbors, and a small-town-feel neighborhood in a large metropolitan area. We go to church. We take family vacations, go out to eat, to the zoo, museum, baseball games, and more. We visit grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The kids play sports, but not too many. They have plenty of relaxation time. We are always there for our kids when they need us, and at times when they don’t. However, regardless of all we do right, we cannot control what happens all of the time, and things can go miserable wrong.

This will be the first time I have said this publicly. Close friends and family know, but we have kept the circle close. This is very difficult to say, because of the stigma, and they way many of those who have never had to deal with it react. In February, 2014, my 10 year old daughter attempted suicide. More than once. Without my knowledge. She was taking my prescription medication. I noticed I was low on pills, but thought I had been shorted by the pharmacy. It wasn’t until she came downstairs to me crying, on her third try, and told me what she had done, as a result of bullying. As a parent, it was like being hit by a train. How could this happen in our family? What had we done wrong? How could we not know that the bullying had continued at school? What do we do now?

I immediately went into panic-mode. Bill wasn’t home yet and Ethan had just left with my car. I asked what she had taken and how much, then I called a neighbor to take us to the hospital which is luckily only a few blocks away. I didn’t not tell her why, and she did not ask.  In the next few hours we would learn the extent of the situation.

I will not go into the details of what happen with the school and the bully, but you can get the story in my prevous blog post for which I attached a link below.

http://superfiveshanghai.com/until-the-scars-fade

In the two and a half years since her attempt, my daughter, and our family, has had an amazing amount of support and growth. With the help of her phenomenal psychologist and her psychiatrist, and with education on the subject and guidance on looking for and dealing with symptom we have all learned. We have not just learned how to deal with suicide, attempted suicide, and self-harm. We have not just learned how to create a new normal. We have learned that no one is immune.

I am walking in an “Out of the Darkness” walk sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I am walking for my daughter. I am walking for her journey from darkness to light.  I am walking for my friend’s son, who gave up on life last October, who couldn’t find light in his life, and for whom I wrote my blog post linked below:

http://superfiveshanghai.com/the-death-of-a-son-the-death-of-a-star

I am walking for all of those who have experienced any sort of mental illness in their life, or in the life of a loved one. I am walking for those who may experience it in the future. I am walking to raise awareness, to educate, to teach compassion and understanding. I am walking because suicide does not discriminate.

i am walking into the light.

 

 

 

 

Live. Love. Laugh…….and Handle With Care

Sometimes we forget. We forget that life is fragile. We forget that we need to seize every opportunity we can with those we love, because those moments are fleeting and can be gone in the blink of an eye.

Occasionally God gives us a little reminder. Something unexpected and sometimes tragic. A house lost to fire, a car accident, a serious illness in the family, a life taken too soon and without the chance to say goodbye. It is easy to take those we love for granted, to forget we have a gift that can be taken from us at any moment, and that what is here today may not be here tomorrow. We often forget that our blessings must be handled with care.

It is one thing that we all have in common. No one is immune. Even those of us who have had those reminders in the past will eventually fall into periods of ignorant bliss again. It is human nature. We will fall into comfortable denial, until we are once again reminded to appreciate what we have, and who we have in our lives. We are reminded to handle with care.

So what do we do?! Do we live in fear? Do we avoid risks at all costs? No! We live life to the fullest. We step out of our comfort zone and experience the world. We make amazing memories with those we love. We take every chance we get to spend time with friends and family. We never miss a chance to say “I love you.”  Never miss a chance to make a new friend, to reach out to an old friend, or to show kindness to someone we have never called “friend” before. We choose happiness and love. We choose to appreciate the wonders of this Earth, and enjoy them with others. We choose to find something  positive in even our darkest moments. We choose to embrace life, and do our best to live a life without regrets.

If there is one thing I have taught myself in life, one thing that has brought me the most happiness,  it is reminding myself of this:  Live. Love. Laugh……….and handle with care.

 

 

 

 

A Letter to my “Otherly-Raced, Religioned, or Abled” Friends

I am not racist. If you are a good person. Kind. Caring. Thoughtful. Honest. Polite. You will always be my friend. I don’t care what color you are, or what religion you believe. You are my friend.

I could never say that I didn’t notice your color, because I did. Just like my red-headed friend, or my really tall friend. I noticed, but I will not treat you differently than any other friend. If someone asks something, where I have to point you out as an area of reference, like “it’s over there next to the tall, red-headed girl.” I will. I may refer to your color: “See that Asian girl? It’s to the right of her.” But that means nothing about how I feel about you. We all have differences. I am short, and a little over-weight. Feel free to point that out. I don’t care. It’s who I am.

I don’t care if you go to church, synagogue, or mosque. Believe what makes you the best person you can be. What gives you hope. What makes you get up every day. Don’t try to change who I am, and I won’t try to change you, but help me grow as a person. I enjoy learning from my friends, or anyone for that matter. I love other cultures, and experiencing them.

I don’t mind a good debate. Don’t get mad at me if I don’t agree though. I will do the same for you. Mutual respect for differences is important. I have lived in an area that is populated by many, many people who have political views that are not the same as mine, for most of my life. That is not a problem for me. Again, if you are a good person, believe what helps you to be your best you. What makes you happy. What makes you thrive. I will never hold your beliefs against you.

If you have a disability, please don’t be offended if I say that word. It doesn’t mean I look down upon you, or think you are any less than me. It’s just a word. My friends are full of gifts to give the world. You contribute to society in many ways. You contribute to MY life in many ways. I don’t care if you can’t walk, talk, see, hear, or anything else for that matter. It doesn’t mean anything to me, so don’t be offended. It implies nothing, except  maybe a closer parking spot.

If you are not a good person, I don’t care what color you are. Bad people come in all colors, religions, races, and abilities. If I have a friend who is not who I thought they were. If I find out that they are not the kind, thoughtful, honest, and polite person I thought they were. They won’t be among those I call friends.  I surround myself with people who I feel have a positive effect on the world, and humanity. I don’t care what color you are, or what god you believe in.

Good people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and religions. I will take all the friends I can get. They are blessing from Heaven. Be a person to be proud of, and I will call you friend.