Sunday, December 30, 2012

You Had Me At Hello

Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go. - Brooks Atkinson

As I'm sure you noticed, I have been on a mini vacation the last couple of weeks. With the holiday season upon us (now coming to a close) I became very busy with arduous tasks such as shopping, cleaning, traveling, cooking etc. It all left me very tired and with little to no mental energy for writing.

I am back this week, however just to wish you all a very Happy Holiday season and a blissful New Year. The last few months I have shared what this year has been like for me, so I do not feel the need to reopen old wounds. If you've kept up with my blog or with me on a personal basis, you know all too well what my ups and downs have been this year and now, I am just happy to see them all go.

I want to say goodbye to the good because if the good stuff happens again I want it to feel like the first time so I can enjoy it naively, innocently with joy, awe and wonder.

I want to say goodbye to the bad because, well it was bad and I want to forget the pain, the tears and the sorrow. Not what I learned from it, but just how much it hurt.

I want to say goodbye to the ugly because I know that there is so much beauty in the world and I refuse to let the ugly control or define me.

In 2013 I hope to say hello to many things including:

In 2013 I want to say hello to a new job: Learning Strategies and Development Specialist with the Jesuit Virtual Learning Academy. I start Jan 7th! However, I understand that it will require learning new things and being very patient with myself, but I am ready for the challenge.

In 2013 I want to say hello to new friends and old friends whose lives are changing drastically. Know that I want to be there for you even though your uphill battle will not be an easy one.

In 2013 I want to say hello to better health, with the understanding that on a daily basis the definition of "better health" will change, and accepting that that's ok.

In 2013 I want to say hello to new experiences and forgotten, unfulfilled dreams.

Finally, I want to say hello to 2013 without the foolish expectation that it will be any better than any other year. I am thankful and blessed to simply say: "Hello."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Do You Hear What I Hear?

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls. 
Mother Teresa 

I have been accused of being an "over sharer." And truth be told, I plead guilty. My constant Facebook status updates, my weekly (very personal) blog, and my incessant word vomit during every day conversations confirms this accusation. At first I was offended by this label, but the more I thought about the more I accepted and embraced it. 

You see, in my mind, the only way I can be a true advocate for myself, my disease(s) and those who suffer on a daily basis like I do, is to be an "over sharer." The way I see it, since the media isn't shoving it in people's faces like they do everything else, then I have to. My pain, my reality, my normal aren't going to go away just because you stop listening.  

However, I also recently discovered the power of silence. Sometimes in our lives we need to share less and listen more. This doesn't mean that I will stop blogging, or writing my memoir or even posting updates. It simply means that I am more aware of how much I share and how often. I am slowly learning that a good listener can be just as influential as a good speaker. 

There are two areas in my life where I have decided to speak less and embrace the silence: My personal life and my prayer life. 

My Personal Life: 

The realization that perhaps I need to shut-up more often came to me while having dinner with a few friends. I knew one of the girls I was dining with and she brought her sister to meet me. Her sister also has Lupus. We all wanted to get together to chat and share our experiences in order to feel connected, validated and like we weren't alone in this hellish battle. However, by the end of the night, I realized that while they both now knew my whole life story, I knew almost nothing of theirs. I had chatted almost the whole night and had rarely paused to ask any questions. I thought to myself: "Did I share too much?" "Do they even care how many pills I take?" "Why did I even mention the miscarriage?" "Why was she so quiet when I asked about her symptoms?" "Am I the crazy one for talking so freely about my illness?" 

This is not the first time this has happened to me. I have met with other young women who are diagnosed with one auto-immune disease or another and I always share more than they do. In my head I have rationalized this by believing that not everyone is as comfortable with their illness as I am. Not everyone is ready to air out their dirty laundry like I am. And that if I just keep talking about all the terrible times I've been through they'll think I'm strong. They'll think I'm a survivor. 

But the truth is, if I'd just taken even 30 seconds to close my mouth and listen I might have learned something. I might have truly made a connection with these ladies instead of simply trying to gain their approval. 

As important as it is to me to share my story with others, I need to not forget that their stories are just as important. Just as meaningful and inspiring. I've realized that I will probably impact more lives if I spend more time listening to their stories rather than sharing my own.

My Prayer Life: 

In my meditation practice and in my prayers I have also found that I am doing way too much "blah blah blah." In my head, all my words, thoughts, prayers etc are so loud and redundant. I ask God for things, I talk myself through my meditation practice and repeat my mantra over and over and yet I still feel a lack of peace in my life. I still feel like I'm missing a true connection with God. 

To remedy this situation, I came to the conclusion that I need to do less talking to God and more listening. Both in prayer and in meditation. Perhaps He's been trying to tell me things and I've just been too busy chatting away to hear Him. I need to embrace and accept the silence within me in order to hear God's and the Universe's words. I need to stop asking for health and wealth. I need to stop divulging all my fears and concerns. God knows all of these things already. He knows the desires of my heart. So, instead of talk talk talk talking my way to peace and prosperity, I will simply be thankful for what I do have, and wait silently for the rest. 


Sometimes I share too much because I don't want people to forget what I'm going through. Sometimes I share too much because I'm nervous or anxious and I want to hear comforting words. Sometimes I share too much because I fear that being silent would mean I have given up. 

But I've learned that with silence comes strength. The strength to listen without judgement or prejudice. The strength to carefully distinguish between what needs to be spoken and what can be left unsaid. The strength to let go and be still. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

"Side Street" Spouses

A long marriage is two people trying to dance a duet and two solos at the same time.  ~Anne Taylor Fleming 

“Her mind traveled crooked streets and aimless goat paths, arriving sometimes at profundity, other times at the revelations of a three-year-old." 
-Toni Morrison 

As I drove my overly-medicated self to the Dr.'s office last Thursday, I found myself taking back roads and side streets to get there. I chose this because I did not trust myself on the freeway. For some reason my meds decided to kick my ass that day and I was not feeling particularly alert or energetic enough to brave the Houston freeway. I felt lethargic all morning, my face had acquired the numbness of a cold winter's day (it was 78 degrees outside), and my head was swimming. All I had been able to do that morning was stare at the wall and zone out or sleep. 

So, of course, the responsible adult in me decided to take side streets half way across town. Which fortunately, in Houston, is quite easy to do. You really don't need to get on a freeway to get anywhere...except perhaps Humble...but I've never been out that far so I wouldn't know.  

As I drove through each stoplight and pothole (the main disadvantages of taking side streets in this town) I realized that I wouldn't know half of those roads were it not for my husband Lupe. He is notorious for taking side streets wherever we go, And I say "notorious" because HE does it at the most inconvenient times, like when we're in a rush to go see a movie. Or when we're already late to meet friends for dinner. He says it's because he's avoiding traffic and it's "faster." I used to argue with him about his "it's faster" defense, but I have found that I'm better off keeping my mouth shut and avoiding a raise in my blood pressure. Besides, it's better to get there late rather than never. 

Although, I am usually annoyed by his "side street" route taking, I found that I was uber thankful for this habit of his on Thursday. Because without him and his frustrating habit, I would not have made it to my Dr.'s appointment on my own.  

While at the doctor's office I thought about how the side streets we often forget to take are like the spouses/partners of those of us who live with chronic illness/pain. (Of course I think these things, I'm a writer) Those of us who are ill are the major freeway, always hustling and bustling. So much going on with pills, prescriptions, appointments, allergens, pain, progress etc. etc. Our spouses/partners (if they are good to us) take care of us, support us and love us despite it all. They celebrate our pain free days with us, and comfort us during our darkest nights. 

BUT, after all is said and done, what about them? We must not forget that they too have goals, dreams, heartache and hopes for their own future. That they too accomplish so much on an every day basis and it is our responsibility as a spouse/partner to celebrate those accomplishments in whatever way we can. We cannot risk losing our marriages/relationships because it all becomes about us all the time. 

For example, Lupe is an accomplished writer and a great teacher. On his best days he is getting published or being asked to read at a local University, or coffee shop. I do my best to celebrate these successes by attending the reading or baking his favorite dessert. If I don't have the energy to do either of those I send a simple congratulatory note on Facebook or via text. It's not much but he knows I'm listening and I care. 

On his worst days, he feels like a failed teacher or an incompetent writer and sulks by playing video games or fishing for compliments. So, I give him compliments, don't complain about the endless hours of Left for Dead game playing and again I bake something just for him. I give him hugs despite my self-proclaimed claustrophobia and strong aversion to hugs. (Because sometimes he squeezes too hard and my tender muscles ache and hurt when he does that) 

On his great days and horrible days I try to not bring up Scleroderma, or the side-effects or anything about me. I realize, during those times that the chronic illness freeway is closed and our marriage MUST take a detour on the side street of his life/his needs in order to survive. 

In my mind, I hear the GPS lady saying "recalculating...recalculating" and I know what I have to do.  

I change our usual route and head straight for the back roads and side streets,  and in the end I am always happy that I did.