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

Posts tagged ‘Family’

There’s no Trying on Everest! DO it!

35Tomorrow I turn 35. I have no big plans – just a quiet dinner with family, but still it feels like one of those “milestone” birthdays. I’ve been reflecting on the path that brought me here. I’ve mulled over all of the challenges and choices and lessons that brought me to this age, this frame of mind, these circumstances, the state of my health and of my relationships. I have looked back at years of thoughts and dreams and accomplishments and failures immortalized in ink. In journals, unsent letters sitting in boxes, tiny scraps of paper carelessly tossed into drawers. Reliving what the world looked like through the eyes of younger versions of myself is such a uniquely interesting experience. To celebrate, I thought I would share two gems I found. One is scrawled on a piece of scrap paper that seems to wind up in different boxes each time I move (apparently saved many times over from the recycling bin). The other is from a journal that documented a particularly difficult year.  I’ve read both of them many times. I find myself wondering about the moments when these thoughts spilled out of my brain, not sure exactly what prompted them at the time, but always amused that they remain relevant and empowering, no matter where I am or what I’m facing.


I have dreamed of being a writer, a dancer, a mother, an explorer, a journalist, a teacher, a scientist, a wife, an advocate, a traveler, a well person….my list goes on and on. Today, on my birthday, I dream most of being an independent person, open to new love, with the possibility of a career. They might not seem like big dreams, but from inside the walls of the pain I live with every day – they are my Everest, and I am busy collecting the tools I will need to conquer it. Life keeps on happening, and so do I.


 

TOMORROW I WILL DO BETTER. No matter how good or bad or mediocre my days are, I will always strive to do better, to be better. I will challenge myself to dig deeper; to think bigger, to be more generous, to love more openly, to be more kind. I will try harder to forgive others and to forgive myself. I will concentrate less on everyone’s faults (including my own..especially my own) and to BE MORE POSITIVE! I will SMILE more and LAUGH more and DO more to create happiness. I will focus on the good around me and in me. I will endeavor to learn more and cultivate new skills, new friendships and new hobbies. I will be more productive. I will have more fun. I will be a better friend, daughter, sister, self…

Nothing in this world ever changes if we focus on besting one another. We must challenge ourselves. Progress comes when we commit not just to TRY, but each and every day to DO better than we did the day before. So today, and every day, I promise that TOMORROW I WILL DO BETTER!!!

35 papers chloe

 

 

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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

Thank you and Screw you!

To the kind stranger on the bus, my appearance must have matched how I was feeling the other day when you offered me your seat. It was a long ride and you didn’t have to do that. I want you to know how very grateful I am for your genuine kindness. Thank you.

To my beloved furry friends, you have been by my side during every high and low of this remarkably long journey. You never waver. We celebrate together, we get knocked down together; and get right back up together…we endure together. You embody all that is unconditional. I love each of you so much. Thank you.

To my Coworker, you are just awful. Daily you put on your little show of friendship while undermining me further and further. You betrayed my confidence and revealed sensitive information regarding my medical condition to our boss all in an effort to take my job. How do you live with yourself? Screw you.

To my Doctor, Thank you for finally being the first to not give up on me. To not tell me that my only option is pain management with narcotics. To commit to finding the real answers, no matter what it took. For not being afraid to admit that you don’t have the answers right now, but we’ll figure it out together no matter how many specialists we have to work with. Thank you for being so committed to helping me stop just surviving, and finding a way to start living again! Thank you!

Dear random person on the street full of judgement and ignorance, you don’t even know I exist. You have no idea I overheard your horrible conversation the other day about the guy from your office who was “annoying the crap out of you” because your boss had agreed to give him a special schedule because “he freaking has headaches or some shit.” You said “it’s a freaking headache, get over it already! If I whined and asked to go home every time I got a headache I’d never get anything done!” Then I heard you say the word “cluster.” You even said that you had no idea what it was! You admitted that you are not educated about what this man is going through, and yet you have no problem judging him or your boss for his need to have an altered work schedule? I highly suggest that you do look up cluster headaches and I pray that you will never have first hand experience of what your co-worker is going through as it is one of the most painful headache disorders known to man! Screw you!

To my Dear Friend, you have been there for me, been there with me, literally, through so many difficult times, and equally, I am so pleased to be able to say, through so many wonderful moments over the years. Ours is a bond that is seemingly unbreakable. I am so grateful to you for so many, many things. Thank you!

Dear Wonderful Coworker, Thank you for being so fair, and brave. We hardly knew one another, but you saw something unjust taking place, and you came to me with the truth just in time for me to save myself. I am so grateful to you for your amazing strength of character, your grace and your selflessness. Thank you!

To my Boss, I know you are still young and fairly inexperienced. I make some allowances for that. Only some. Rather than comment on the past, I will wish you better for the future. I will hope that you will learn from the mistakes that have been made. I will hope that my life will have impacted you significantly enough that should you again work with someone with a chronic illness, you will remember how much more effort it takes to do the same work, and that he or she is coming to work sick/in pain everyday, so if they are calling out sick, it’s because things are really, REALLY bad, and that your remarks questioning the veracity of their claim are entirely inappropriate. I know not everyone who suffers from chronic conditions is a paragon of truth, so of course, use your discretion, but that, I would hope, would already have been done before you hire. Going forward, please keep in mind what people go through. Try to imagine walking in their shoes before you hit them over the head with them. Screw you!

To my Family, I know that my illness has taken a great toll on you all, but you have supported me in so many amazing ways. I know that you have not always agreed with all of my treatment options, but you’ve recognized that all options had to be explored. I know that above all else, it has been so difficult to not be able to fix any of this for me, to not be able to make me feel better, not to be able to make it right or lessen my pain. But you have all been with me along this journey, sometimes literally!…but always supporting me in ways that I have needed. I know you hate all the medication, but thank you for finally realizing that I have exhausted all of the other options. It is not ideal; I do not enjoy it, but I accept it and it makes me better. I am grateful to each of you for all the many ways you have helped me pass the point of just existing, just surviving, so I can get back to living. Thank you.

To my Love, this battle has taken perhaps that greatest toll on you. You have had to live it with me every day. Through every high and every low. Every dashed hope, every failed treatment. Every insurance battle and long night in the E.R. You have weathered all of my positive moments and my hopeless crashes and burns. You’ve played chauffeur, nurse, (despite your fear of needles!), even cook and maid when I could get off the couch for months on end. You’ve gone to extremes I would never have asked or expected. There were good moments. There were not so good moments. But you loved me through all the moments. Each and every one. I am so grateful for the many ways you saved my life. Sadly it cost us our life together.

To myself, thank you for getting up and tackling each day as an opportunity. THANK YOU!

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.


Death of a Great Matriarch

Evelyn Marion Colvin

Death, dying, passing away, losing loved ones…these are all words we use to talk about the unimaginably painful event of saying goodbye to someone we love. And for many of us…when someone we love has died, we treat it like a 4-letter word; we just don’t say it. We don’t talk about it. We don’t face it. We just plain do not deal with it.

But as we all know, death is, unavoidably, and sadly, a part of life for all of us, and one way or another, facing it is a necessary evil.  I’ve lost more people in my time than I care to mention. And while perhaps some might say that each of those deaths should be treated with equal emotional response, the fact is that my personal connection to each of those people was in direct proportion to my response to their passing. We all know there are good, or healthy, ways to deal with death, and those that are not so healthy.

After losing several family members in the course of just a few years, it began to seem as though “family time” was always being spent in black clothing gathered in funeral homes or cemeteries. And then the unthinkable happened. My paternal grandmother, the great matriarch of our wonderful family who has been healthier than me my entire life, the life of every party, the center of every gathering and the source of endless joy for the Colvin Clan, was taken to the hospital on Thanksgiving, 2004. I had never known my grandmother to be sick so the call to go to the hospital came as a complete shock. She was 95 years old and I was sure she’d live forever. I had grown up in the same house with her, spent summers with our extended family vacationing on the same beach on Cape Cod that she had been visiting for 92 years. I had brought her to say goodbye to her younger sister, Helen, just two months earlier, two days before she passed away after a long illness. But Gram was different. She was stubborn and set in her ways and healthy (despite the never-ending string of cigarettes that clung to her lips like permanent extensions). She told wonderful stories of her younger days, stalwartly bulldozed through the grief that came with the passing of family members and most all of her friends. She looked at me with utter confusion when I tried to explain my migraines, having never experienced a headache herself. She was “too mean for the bugs to bite” her. Her Scottish ancestry made her “hardy.” She always claimed that as a child her parents had set her crib on the porch…all year ’round because “the fresh air’s good for ya.” And year round, till the day she died, she slept with the windows open, no matter how cold the New England weather got.

When she was hospitalized she was angry at all of us. It was “absurd” and she wanted to go home because there was “nuthin wrong with me!” I was terrified. I wanted to believe her. But the look on my mother and our family doctor, Dr. Asher’s faces told me the real story was very different. As it turned out Gram had suffered a mild heart attack and was dealing with congestive heart failure. While Gram was tearing off monitors and climbing out of bed to head home, my world was shattering around me. There was no time for that though. At that moment I had to help convince Gram to let the doctors do what they needed to do and to stop fighting them so much. There would be time for the pain and shattering to happen later.

That night Gram was admitted to the ICU (after QUITE a battle) and from that moment on she was not alone again for even the briefest time. Somewhere in me, in the parts of my heart and soul where Gram’s legacy thrived most fervently, I stubbornly refused to believe anything really bad could happen. I was still sure that in no time, we’d be bringing her home. One particularly wonderful nurse came in during the first few days and asked if he could call her Evelyn rather than Mrs. Colvin. She told him “you can call me a son of a bitch if you can get me the hell out of here!” That was Gram. Family members took shifts staying in her room with her. The ICU staff was wonderful about accommodating us and ignoring the usual visiting hours. My sister and I, in particular took on a great number of shifts. Not because we felt like we had to, but because we just couldn’t be anywhere else. Growing up with Gram had been such a blessing. We got to live with her, be surrounded by her amazing spirit and benefit from her stories and lessons everyday, unlike my cousins who only got to see her on holidays or when they visited our hometown or during the summers when we all went to the Cape. But that blessing came with a price. Not one I would ever trade, but a heavy one just the same. Two weeks after Gram was admitted, after a few hopeful improvements in her condition, she passed away with so many of us packed in her small hospital room. Windows open. I was holding her hand and hugging her from my seat by her bedside. Slowly, as tears fell, everyone began to move away, but I couldn’t. The thought of letting go of the very last hug I would ever have with my beloved grandmother was too much. I remember someone, my mother, I think, trying to pull me away and I pushed her arm away as if it were assaulting me. I just wasn’t ready. My sister was right beside me. One of my cousins said something to the effect of, “those poor girls, they’ve lived with her all their lives, this must be just killing them.”

My fiancé at the time, Mark, was there too, giving a respectful distance so we could all be as close to her as possible, but ready to catch me when it was time to fall into his arms. Some time later, I did release my stronghold on Gram. I knew that I too, had to let her go. We stayed at the hospital for a while; I couldn’t even guess how long. Time had seemingly stopped for me that day. As Mark drove me back to our home in Keene, NH, I told him we needed to stop at the grocery store. I needed to get hot dogs and yogurt.  Everyday for as long as I can remember, and for many years before that, Gram had eaten an Oscar Meyer all beef hot dog and Dannon fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt 362 days of the year (excluding Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving). In her words she was “a creature of habit…only the best!” (The best referred to her chosen brands.) I’m not sure how many days I ate that meal for, but for a while, I once again had lunch with Gram each day. Perhaps it was just food. Perhaps it was a silly coping mechanism. But looking back, I realize now that the important part was that I coped. I felt the pain. I endured the loss. I allowed myself to cry and laugh and sit with all the many emotions that Gram’s passing evoked. Her death was the last healthy grieving I did. Afterwards, I put up walls, made denial an art form, and tried (and failed) to protect myself from the pain that comes with living. And I paid dearly. In the last year I’ve done some difficult work. I’ve undone some of the damage from denying the losses I’ve endured since Gram’s death, and tried very hard to live as best I can. It is a constant challenge for each of us, but one that we all, ultimately, must take on, even if it means eating hot dogs and yogurt everyday for lunch!

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