Sometimes in life you have to get a little lost before you are truly able to find your way.

Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

DWD – Dating While Disabled

Are you the kind of person who just meets people anywhere you go? The supermarket, dog park, pharmacy? Or are you the bar-going type? Online dater? Doesn’t matter does it? Because all those conversations start off pretty much the same way. Hey, how are you; what’s your name; what do you do? Ahh…and it was going so well. Oh I’m actually on disabil….see ya! We’ve all been there. We’ve all had those thoughts. The “who is ever going to want to be with me? Who would ever put up with this insanity? Why would anyone choose to be with someone in my condition?” thoughts. Many won’t. Some will, but for the wrong reasons. Because they have a need to fill and taking care of you does that. Trying to “fix” you does that. But here’s the thing…there are people out there who don’t care what you do. They don’t care that you aren’t “able,” that you can’t work, that you live with pain they cannot imagine. Hard to believe right? If you can’t quite get there…let’s go back to that dreaded question…”what do you do?”

Why does our profession count for so much? How did it come to define who or what we are? When we lost our ability to work, did we stop being who we were? Or what we’ve always been? Did the person we are suddenly cease to exist too? No dammit! Ok, so yes, it sometimes feels that way. But the REAL answer is NO! We are not our job. Let me repeat that. WE ARE NOT OUR JOB. I used to work as a public outreach specialist for an environmental consulting firm. I was good at my job. I didn’t always love it. It challenged me. I traveled. I helped people. And there were parts of it I couldn’t stand. But the job was never my identity. Yet somehow, when we are stripped of our ability to work, no matter what that work is, we DO feel stripped of such a big part of ourselves. Partly because it strips us of our independence – but that is different and we HAVE to make that distinction. Partly because some of us truly love our jobs and we miss them. But that doesn’t change WHO we are or WHY we loved that work.

What if no one was allowed to talk about their jobs when asked who and what they are? How might that change the dynamics of dating, making friends, all kinds of human interactions? How would you answer? How DO you answer? I’m tired of answering with “well, actually I’m on disability so I don’t actually do anything.” Well that’s total B.S. Anyone on disability knows that being on disability is a full time job. I manage my condition, deal with insurance issue after issue after issue; doctor’s appointments, pharmacies, billing issues, coding issues. It’s exhausting. So no, I don’t do nothing. But all that stuff that fills an absolutely inordinate amount of time – that’s not who or what I am either, any more than my former job was. But here’s the real gem – it doesn’t determine my value either – not to myself, not to anyone worth my time.

Sounds like a bunch of idealistic B.S., I know. Everyone judges right? Wrong. There are people out there who don’t run. Who look at me as a person, rather than a liability or a charity case. There are people who see strength where others see failure or, my favorite – someone “working the system.” Please. If any of those people had ever tried living within the system – they’d drop that opinion real quick. It sucks. I didn’t want this. I didn’t choose this. This is not who or what I am. And it’s not who or what you are either.

So here’s my challenge. Answer. Answer the questions we all dread. What do you do? Tell me about yourself? Who are you? What are you? Leave former careers out of it. Leave disability out of it, if you want. This isn’t about lying or deception. This is about getting to the part of you that isn’t your disability. No one is going to fall in love with your disability – they’re going to fall in love with YOU. So dig deep. I have a feeling you’ve forgotten much of what ought to be in those answers. Let people see you. The REAL you. Not just the labels or the past or the stereotypes. Write it down. Scream it out loud. Tell it to a stranger. Tell it to yourself. Remember it. Believe it. Do. Not. Let. It. Go. Again.

Here’s to truth, denying jobs as identities and to the REAL YOU!

We’re never really grown-ups.

When I was 4-years old I told my mother that I did not want to have any more birthdays. I wanted to stay 4 forever. (smart kid eh?) My mom told me she wished I could stay 4 forever too. I don’t know if I was just having a lot of fun, or if I had somehow picked up on the fact that life for grownups seemed a lot harder than anything I was interested in. Either way – something in me was telling me that where I was in that moment was a pretty darn nice place to be. I often think about that day and that wish and realize I was certainly wise beyond my years.

Growing up is tough. And it lasts a lot longer than we ever imagine. We’re always growing up. When you’re really little the high school-aged babysitter is a grown up. In high school the college kids are grown ups. In college those late 20s-early 30-somethings are grown up. It just keeps getting pushed back as we realize that the process of growing up has no end point. It is painful and joyous and hard and wonderful. It is full of goals – realized and missed; accomplishments, failures, love and loss. But most of all it is filled with lessons and knowledge and at some point, the wisdom of “old age.”

Like everyone, I have suffered through all kinds of heartache. The kind that comes from being hurt or betrayed by someone you love and trust. The kind that comes from hurting someone that you love – however well-intentioned your actions or words might be. The kind that comes from separation,  breakups of all kind – your own or those of loved ones; the kind that comes from physical pain, and usually worst of all, that which accompanies death.

The worst of all pain seems to have a life of its own, attacking us in waves when you least expect it. I wonder sometimes if that is our minds pushing it back, holding it at bay, then struggling to work through it, which requires feeling it. Or perhaps it is God giving us small breaks to catch our breath, then washing over us only as much as we can truly handle, even when it feels as though we might drown.  I’m sure I”ll never fully understand the way pain works. But it is something universal. Something we all experience, regardless of the different sources and degrees in which we all experience it.

The funny thing about pain, though, is that it is necessary. It shapes us. It strengthens us, even when in the moment, it feels as though it might break us. We come out stronger on the other side. And it doesn’t seem to matter what kind of pain it is. It could be physical pain, grief from losing a loved one, heartache from the painful end of a relationship. It fortifies us for the next round (and there is always a next round!). It transforms who we are into who we are becoming. I don’t know anyone, myself included, who doesn’t wish, beg, pray, scrape and claw through pain to make it end as quickly as possible. I don’t know anyone who attempts to prolong their own pain. At times, we experience things that seem impossible to overcome. It does not feel as though they will strengthen us, but instead be the end of us. Rarely is this actually the case. And at some point, we realize that today hurts a little less than yesterday. And a lot less than a few weeks ago. We reach a point when we can allow ourselves to think about the source of our pain with less trepidation and more fortitude. We grow – we grow through and because of pain.

I’m in a funny place in my life right now. My migraines are particularly problematic because I’m making my way through a month off of one of my medications whose side effects are so potentially harmful that every six months I have to come off of it for a full month and have CT scans done to ensure no damage has occurred from its use. At the same time I had my heart broken by someone I love very much. While I was completely overwhelmed when hit with these things, I see now that they are necessary. Necessary to keep me healthy, necessary for me to move forward, necessary for me to grow, and perhaps most importantly, necessary for me to get where I’m going and become the person I am meant to be, strong and able enough to do all the things I am destined to do.

In the moments when the physical pain is so severe I can hardly breath, or the waves of heartache that wash over me so overwhelming I think I might crumble beneath it all, it is difficult to stay positive. A few days ago I was angry. I was REALLY angry. But that got me no where. My relationship ended in a way that, in my opinion, did not honor what we had. I wish it could have ended differently, but it had to end. While dealing with this sudden loss I also had an overdue appointment with my neurologist. I drove to my appointment hoping that he would have some way of easing my migraine pain. Instead, he made a change that resulted in this month of increased pain. But this too is necessary. Anger doesn’t lessen what I feel. So once again I find myself grateful. Grateful for things that used to scare me, anger me, confuse me, confound and bewilder me. But even this pain is carrying me forward toward whatever the next big thing in my life might be.

Closing some of these doors allows me to find unexpected openings. I’m transitioning from some tough places/circumstances to a lot of unknowns and some dreams-come-true. Sure, I had my heart broken. But it’s OK. It reminds me that I’m alive. Feeling things so deeply – even heartache, can be inspiring. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to Lady Antebellum sing the words “I’d rather hurt than feel nothing at all” and thought to myself – “not me!” But they’re right. It is strangely life-affirming to feel something so deeply, even if it hurts. It is equally wonderful to know, deep down, that like all else – these feelings are only temporary, and soon the pain will be replaced with joy equal in measure.

I have a confession…I secretly want to be a song writer. The one small problem with that – I have no musical ability what-so-ever! I can’t sing; can’t play any instruments and am pretty much tone-deaf. LOL. I do love to write though, and it’s amazing to imagine someone marrying what falls onto my paper with an amazing melody. I also want to be a successful jeweler, a wildlife rehabilitator and educator. I have lots of dreams. It’s good to have places I want to go, things I want to do. And amazing to be well enough, some days, to make some progress. Perhaps one of the doors that is closing in my life will open up to one of these dreams. When I look at it from that perspective, it is hard to resent the pain. And so much easier to embrace the change, appreciate where I am, wade through the tough days and look longingly forward to all that is to come. So here’s to life, with all of its twists and turns, pain and joy and wondrous possibilities!

I am who you made me, so thanks!


This world is wildly unbalanced. So many children grow up with no parents at all. And I not only grew up with two biological parents, but a whole host of pseudo-parents as well. Yes, my parents were divorced, but they were still there, loving and supporting me. And I had all kinds of other parents…my doctor and his wife (my mom’s best friend), my best friend’s parents, my older siblings, my fiance’s parents…I could go on.

I look at this (partial) list of all of these people who have loved and guided me through life at different stages and I cannot help be be overwhelmed by such immense gratitude. But today is Mother’s Day. So I want to say a HUGE HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all those moms, pseudo-moms, adoptive moms, etc., whether you’re in my life or you just happened to stumble across this post. You are doing something WONDERFUL. But I have a special message for my real mom….

You have empowered me. You have kept me going. You have been there for all the panicked phone calls and cries for help……when I was three years old, and today when I am thirty-three. The issues might have changed, but your love and support never have.

You have made me strong. You taught me over and over that I could do anything I put my mind to, and that nothing in this world was too hard to overcome. You told me over and over that as long as I had my friends and my family, that was all I would ever need to be successful. As it turns out I have had to measure my success differently than most, and all those lessons paid off. Had I not learned them early I fear for where I might be now. Thank you for that wisdom so early on.

You encouraged me to write. I did…and still do! You encouraged my creativity and allowed me to make giant messes just to see what it was I was trying to get to….thank you. You encouraged me to explore, and to follow my heart, no matter where it led…even when that was scary for you because it meant trekking off to the other side of the planet for half the year, or moving to California. The good news is, my heart has always led me home to my family, just as I’m pretty sure you knew it would.

You tried to teach me to cook…sorry about that one. 🙂 I’m getting better…slowly.

You taught me that believing in myself would always be rewarded. What I see now though, is that some of the very best parts of me, are really you, shining out from inside, instilled in me ages ago. You are so much a part of the woman I am today. Thank you for being such an incredible mom. I wish I could be with you today, and closer to you everyday.

Happy Mother’s Day

xoxo

Remembering is a Mixed Bag

Six years ago my fiance died. Every year at this time I struggle to understand what I’m supposed to do. How do I best honor and celebrate his life; how do I best live mine; what is the right way to remember him?

LIVE. There are certain answers that are true for all of us. (us being everyone who’s ever lost someone they love) Somewhere along the way (a LONG way down the road) I realized that the way I honor him is by living the best life I can.  That sounds absurdly simple when you read it, but that came after years of making my life about his life, our life, the one we had, the one we were “supposed to have”, and about his death. I also realized that I must do it for me, not for him (that part took some real getting used to). Each of us who has lost someone must live fully and take comfort in knowing that those who have passed have a beautiful front row seat to watch all of our accomplishments, and that they are with us for each of life’s tougher moments.

The inscription reads: "For a Lifetime of Memories - Valentine's Day - 2001"

REMEMBER. Remembering is a much more personal game. Pictures, shrines, memorials, cemeteries….it’s a mixed bag that is certainly not a one size fits all deal. Six years later, I have consolidated my pictures of Mark to one collage and a couple of other framed photos (the albums not included of course). I save looking through his memory box and mine for anniversaries like this one, and what would have been our wedding anniversary (six months apart, nearly to the day, coincidentally).

FIND THE COURAGE TO SPEAK. What I love most, and what brings me the most joy and comfort, are the moments when I can just sit and open up enough space within myself to let him in and talk to him. It is easiest when I head up north to Rochester and I can sit at the cemetery where his body rests. It’s as if there is a gate there that opens up a direct line to him. It’s such a gift. I can only hope that everyone who is dealing with such a loss can at some point find a similar gateway. I don’t usually offer advice on this topic, but if I have any, it is this: find the space within yourself to let them in and the courage to speak. The rewards are endless…for you and your loved one!

This one’s for you Baby….it’ll always be our song!

Tough Love Sans the Love?

There are times in all of our lives when we have to accept and when we have to dole out some tough love. Sometimes we don’t realize when we’ve become stuck in a rut or when we have been running in circles because our attitude sucks and has trapped us. These are times when we need the people we love to step up and give us a good swift kick in the butt so we can get moving in the right direction again. Likewise, we have to do the same for those we love every now and then.

But when it’s your turn, remember, it’s tough LOVE. It’s meant to be a form of brutal honestynot just brutality. Your goal is to help push your loved one forward gently, not to knock them down with an iron fist. Remember, they are in need of your help because they are already suffering in some way – find a way to be strong and tough without leaving bruises or scars. You can give tough love and still be the soft place to land. Those who are best at it always are.

Where is home?

The concept of home is a challenging one for me. There are so many ways to interpret it. Where I was born, where I grew up, where I have spent the most amount of time, where I
feel most connected to (geographically, that is), where my friends and family are, where the man I love is. If only all of those things could be in the same place! But of course, as the case is for most people, they are in quite different places for me. I was born and raised (for most of my childhood and adolescence) in northern Massachusetts. I went to school six hours away in Pennsylvania. I moved to California, a place I had fallen in love with as a child and somehow “knew” was the place where I belonged. I spent 6 months studying abroad in Tanzania, a place I had known I would go to since before grade school. I lived in New Hampshire while I got my Master’s degree and got engaged. I have lived in Virginia for six years, during the most productive time in my career as well as the most painful moments of my life, and all the moments that followed while I put myself back together.  My friends are scattered far and wide across the country. Most of my family is scattered along the Eastern Seaboard from top to bottom. I am not married. I have not worked in my field for three years. I am in transition. But where will I find myself when I begin the next chapter? The place that feels most like home? (Sacramento) Or somewhere closer to most of the people I love – perhaps here in Virginia?

People always say “home is where the heart is” and “just follow your heart; it will always lead you home.” What if my heart is scattered in all directions, pieces of it residing in the places I love most, California and Tanzania, and pieces fumbling around trying to keep up with all the people I love all over the country? For a time, I was convinced that I could not be happy anywhere but northern California. Then it came time to go, and the ties that bind me to the people on the East Coast fortified themselves, and I chose to stay. The pattern has repeated itself. I find that now I am, for whatever reason, inclined to stay here, though I still ache to be back in Sacramento. My mother always taught me that home is where your friends and family are. I know this is the reason I’m still here. And perhaps it will keep me here. But I’m not sure if it will ever convince me that this place is truly home.

Small Wonders

For all those who have lost loved ones, I hope you find some comfort in these words.

In loving memory of Evelyn Marion Small Colvin and Helen Small Barter

Small Wonders

There are some things, some people,

that are like fixtures in our lives.

We always know where to find them, 

and just how they will be when we get there.

They are permanent; they have a place.

They are timeless, and elegant…

the perfect balance of wisdom, beauty and grace.

Without ever meaning to, 

or perhaps ever knowing that they do, 

they serve a purpose in the lives of others.

They are a sort of beacon about which we orient ourselves,

and come to know our own places in the world.

They serve as a standard by which we measure

not just our own worth, 

but the good of all that surrounds us.

We come to rely on them.

We depend on knowing where to find them, 

and just how they will be when we get there.

But when they move, or are gone, 

it takes time before our own lives make sense again.

This is the time in which we heal.


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