Friday, January 30, 2015

2015: Just Keep Swimming

My last post was depressing, so I am going to try to pick it up a bit.

2015 is here. I'm 20 days late in announcing that fact, but the world would literally stop spinning if I started doing everything on time. So, truly, I am saving the world.

I don't make New Year's Resolutions to a point. I have a rolling list of goals that I try to reach throughout the days, weeks, and months of every year. So, 2015 didn't start with me stating I would specifically do certain things because it is 2015. Rather, my many unmet goals of 2014 rolled over into this year.

Now, to completely contradict mysef, I am going to tell you some of my goals for this year. These aren't New Year's Resolutions, though. Those fail. These are goals that I will reach, dammit. There is no particular order here.

Muscles. I have slowly been working on adding some more muscle strength to my body. I am a very tough girl and I have a lot of strength, physical and mental. I seem to have week shoulders and wrists. It's weird. I can lift very heavy things and I pack quite a punch, but my arms get extremely tired in dance class. I specifically get tired in my shoulders and part of my upper arms (mainly triceps) and my wrists. I have a lot of wrist injury as well as chronic tendinitis in both of my elbows and wrists, so that probably plays a part in it. In my style of belly dance, Improvisational Tribal Style, we hold our arms up a lot. There's quite a bit of arm involvement in many moves. We also utilize movements from our wrists called floreos (these are inspired from Flamenco). I have also taken a few classes in sword work and those things are freaking heavy. I want to continue to work on increasing muscle strength in my arms as well as the rest of my body.

Sewing. Dear God Almighty, I want to learn to sew. I can sorta hand sew. I can stitch things onto other things and make it okay. My stitches are questionable, but functional. I really want to learn how to sew with a sewing machine. My mom has sewed for nearly her entire life. I wish I learned from her as a child and I really don't know why I didn't. I know that once I was older I was nervous to learn because I didn't want to suck. My mom would never make me feel bad if I didn't pick it up - it's just my own insecurities that stopped me. A few months ago, a friend attempted to teach me. We dance together and we were going to put together some costuming out of stuff we already owned. To be fair, my sewing machine was being a bit of an asshole, but I definitely presented a challenge for her. It took me a long time to figure out how to thread the bobbin. In the end, I sewed a wee little bit, but it was scary knit fabric and it looked like I had sewed it blindfolded. I'm not ready to accept the possibility that I may lack whatever it takes to learn to sew. I will keep on trying and I hope to have something to show for it this year.

Routine. Routine. Routine. I need routine. I function best when I have specific goals, lists, things to check off, a clear routine, etc. I have slacked off recently primarily due to health challenges and I need to get back into better routines around the home. I want to - and everyone says this - work on getting my cute little butt to bed a wee bit earlier at night and getting the same cute little butt up earlier in the morning. My goal is to get up and hour to and hour and a half before the kids. Typically, I wake up about 20 minutes before my son gets up for school. I think getting up an hour before them allows me to get just a little more work done without distraction. Plus, getting my work done before they wake means I can devote more attention to them.

Better health. I have a lot of health issues that have components somewhat out of my control. My health was a major challenge in 2015. While I have conditions that are chronic, progressive, and don't just go away, it doesn't mean that I have to willingly submit. I am only 36 years old and last year was very troubling for me in the way that my health got in the way of nearly everything. There was an insurance miscommunication (they sent me the incorrect cards and miscategorized my benefits) at the end of last year that prevented me from keeping appointments with specialists. All of that appears to be settled now, so I need to get my butt back into a whole lot of doctor offices and undergo more and more tests. It's not something I am excited to do, but if there are things that can give me definitive answers it would help with moving toward maintaining better health. Additionally, I want to pursue some complimentary therapies. I found success with acupuncture treatments, especially for my esophageal condition. Now, I cannot normally afford acupuncture. I am lucky that I am friends with an acupuncturist and that I can barter services. If not for that, I would have to do without. I am also constrantly striving to nourish my body better. It can be difficult when you are in a crushing financial situation like ours, but I try my best to make sure I am putting things in my body that will not harm it.

Decluttering/More organization. Just.....GAH!!! I have a very hard time organizing things in a sensible manner. I don't know if my brain just doesn't process things in that way or if I just suck. Either way, I constantly have to work hard to come up with an organization plan. Once I get to that point, however, it is smooth sailing. Once I have something organized, I can keep up with it. The challenge to this is my husband. This is constantly a work in progress.

Go to Church. I have a somewhat complicated belief system. I am a Catholic, but I have many pagan leanings. I am also very liberal. Religion is a tough spot for me. I believe in the bones of my Catholic faith, but there are certain aspects of the religion that do not sit well with me. I often avoid services because I do not want to hear hate mixed in with a sermon. However, I like church. I like going to Mass. I have found a couple of churches - plain Roman Catholic, Independent Catholic, and ELCA Lutheran - that I like with priests and ministers that I like, so I want to attend services a little more often. I went to Mass on New Year's Day and the priests homily was just perfect and I was definitely in the right place at the right time.

Become more financially stable. This has been a work in progress for a few years. It's been a major struggle for our family and we are working so hard to get out. I am very much dedicated to this year being the year we truly succeed. I said that last year and the year before that, but I have a much better feeling about 2015.

Visit family. My family is scattered all over the world. I never had grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles to visit with on a very regular basis as a child. Okay, that is a bit of a lie. My paternal family lives in the same portion of the city where I grew up. However, my grandfather was a bit of a Nazi (as in wearing Nazi armbands on Jewish holidays) and my father distanced himself from them a long, long time ago. Plus, they're dead now. My maternal grandmother passed away last year. My mom's family is large, but very much scattered throughout the country and the world so we do not have regular visits. I have an aunt and two cousins who live two states away and I want to make more of an effort to see them more than our usual once a year. I want my kids to have more of a sense of family. My brother moved 1,000 miles away. He has two children and I have barely seen them in the last 6 years. I really want my kids to know their cousins, especially since my one niece and my son are close in age. Unfortunately, neither of us can afford to make the trips for visits. My mom has mentioned going on a roadtrip to my brother's this Summer. I am hoping we can make that happy.

Pay it Foward. My family has received a ton of help in the past year. I have so much good karma to pay forward. I have been working hard at that, doing the best I can with limited resources. I believe there is always good that a person can do not matter how much money you do or do not have. While I am always in the mindset of helping others (this is also heavily influenced by my religion - this is how I grew up in the Church), I am really hoping to have more resources this year so I can do bigger things for people.

Stop sucking at make-up. I can't girl. I do not wear make-up regularly. First, I am just gorgeous as I am. Stop laughing. Second, I have extremely sensitive skin and cannot wear 99% of the make-up out there without breaking out. One of the only brands that hasn't bothered me is Bare Minerals and it is extremely expensive. I was given their powder foundation and pencil eyeliner as a gift, so I use those. Third, I suck at application. I won't even tell you how many YouTube tutorials I have watched and I still can't apply more than a very basic line of eyeliner. No wings for me. I can do simple eye shadow as well. It's enough so that my face doesn't disappear on stage. As a belly dancer, I wear make up to perform. when you look at Tribal belly dancers, their make up is amazing. Mine is meh. My teacher held an in class make up tutorial, which I found extremely helpful.

Belly dance. I just want to keep striving to be the best dancer I can be. I could definitely drill at home more often and need to commit a specific amount of time each week to doing that. To tie into my my Pay It Forward goal - I want to give back in some way to my studio because I have been given so much in order to even take classes. I have no clue how to manifest this, but it will come. Back to the dance - there are specific goals I have in mind for my technique. First, I need to work harder at executed left-sided moves. Like many people, my left side is weaker than the right and it's harder to execute moves. Second, I want to increase both my strength and flexibility. Third - zills. I need to play better. Finally, I need to work on my nerves. I used to shake like a leaf in class when it was my turn to lead. It's stupid, to me, because I have nothing to be afraid of. I think it is due to a long held fear of people laughing at me....rooted in my past. I no longer shake in class. I shake during performances. This is especially frustrating because I was never shaky during my first few performances. It just started to happen in the last 2 or 3 performances. Pisses me off. I have two performances (how many more times can I say that word?) coming up in a couple of months, independent of my studio's student troupe. One will be the first time my own little troupe will perform. I hope my nerves take the day off.

So those are a few of my goals for the upcoming year. Here's to hoping I succeed in meeting all of them. Much love!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2014: Whiplash

True to my procrastinating form, I am writing my 2014 review weeks after the New Year has arrived. At least I'm consistent.

2014 was a very harsh year for so many people. I saw many, "dear 2014, fuck off!" posts on various social media sites as the year came to a close. It was brutal for a good many of my friends. It was just ones of those years that seemed to be messy for a large number of people. This includes my own family.

We started 2014 out with the usual New Year hopes and dreams, promising ourselves that it would be an incredible year. Life had already been a struggling for the year or so beforehand and we were optimistic that everything would turn around. In some ways, it did, but every step forward was met with several steps back. It was a recurring theme for the year.

I have incredibly mixed feelings about 2014. While we struggled in so many ways, we were also met with incredible kindness and help from literally all over the world. Living in poverty prompted me to share our story, which I did on my friend's blog, Poor As Folk. My story went a little viral and people from all over donated to our family. We received monetary support to help with our bills and food, as well as clothing and food and goodies for the kids. We also received kind words, advice, prayers, support, hope, commiseration from all corners of the globe. Knowing that so many people were thinking kindly about us and cheering us on was the greatest high. Additionally, many people shared that they had thought unkind things about people living in poverty and what I had written inspired them to look at the situation differently and soften their hearts. Experience all of this goodness from people was nothing short of awe-inspiring and I still have trouble finding adequate words to express how it affected me and my family.

Of course, when you become so exposed there can be a negative side. For the first time in my blogging life, I experienced actual hatred coming from people. Me and my story were the subject of many a thread on message boards, reddit, Facebook, etc. I read untrue and unkind things about and my family from people convinced that I was trying to scam the world. To this day, I am still discussed in such a manner and people still come to this blog  to leave comments accusing me of duping the public. I can lie and say it never bothered me. Of course it did. I don't like being accused of lying. I definitely don't like being accused of stealing. I've never had much negativity on my blog, other than people yelling at me for my language or telling me I'm a dumbass for hugging trees. So, it was all new to me. However, even in this bout of negativity, I would have people emailing me to say they found my blog via these message boards and they read something of mine that inspired them or helped them - I had quite a few share some emotional releases about their own miscarriages. I still don't know how I feel about it. Part of me wants to really lash out, but what does that solve? Some minds cannot be changed because they do not want it. It doesn't matter how much I explain, how many of my real life friends say, "she's legit, yo!" and how much I attempt to understand where they are coming from (and as someone who fell for an online scam a long time ago I do get the mistrust), they don't want to hear it. Another part of me completely believes that quote - "Don't let people pull you into their storm. Pull them into your peace." (Kimberly Jones) So - hugs. Finally, there is another piece of me that's like, "fuck it. Let it go. Move on." So, fuck it. I cannot let *those people* drown out those who have shown me love and support.

2014 forced me to seriously change my perspective about myself in several ways. I am a very stubborn person. I do not like to admit to myself that I can't fix everything. I've always been a fixer. Friends in a fight? I'll fix it. Friend in trouble? I'll fix it. Got myself in a bind? I'll do it myself. I don't need people. If people come and go, that's fine. I'll live. I can do it all on my own. I have prided myself in my ability to unfuck a lot of things and be totally independent. To finally lay it out on the line that things in my life were not okay was both frightening and freeing. I had hidden our financial troubles from friends and family for over a year. I had hidden my marital troubles for a long, long time. In 2014, I released it. I admitted to myself that I hadn't been doing a good enough job for myself or my family. I couldn't make everything better on my own. I couldn't make everyone like me. I couldn't save everyone. Financial struggles aside, I also had to deal with the truth about certain friendships and the hard truth about my marriage. I had been holding onto a group of friends, not speaking up about things that bothered me, letting hurtful things slide for a while. I didn't want the "friendship" to change, but I was forced to realize some of those people were toxic and that I needed to separate myself from the bad seeds in the group and stick with the good ones, letting myself understand that I would never "Fix" things the way I wanted. I had to be okay with that.

I also needed to learn to shut the fuck about the, "no one loves me," refrain that has played in my head for decades. Yeah, I can let myself go back to my school days and also to experiences in my young adulthood to see why I have had a hard time trusting people and letting them in. However, I also needed to realize that I'm 36 years old and the time for letting the past shape me has passed. I was too busy wondering, "gosh, does she actually like me or is she just pretending," to fully appreciate all of my friendships - and that's not good for any kind of relationship. I am constantly down on myself, telling myself that I am too weird and too odd for people to truly love me. Really stupid shit. To go back to our financial trouble - I had mountains of people helping me. My friends in my offline life held me up more times than I can count. They listened without judging and just held my hand through it all. They still do. I love my friends with all of my heart and I thank God for them constantly. I had to allow myself to feel worthy of their love, too. Clearly people like me, love me, respect me, and want to see me succeed. You don't get that from being a terrible person.

My health was another giant struggle. I have a quite a few chronic conditions that have been with me for many years. The biggies involve my heart, my esophagus, and my ears. My heart has almost been a non-issue for most of my life. It's problems have generally been manageable blips on the radar. I knew my esophageal issues (I still do not have a firm diagnosis, but they are leaning towards achalasia) had potential to become worse, but things had been quiet for a long time. Things with my heart and my esophagus changed a lot this year. I'm sure the mountains of anxiety have not helped my health one bit. In late Winter/early Spring, I began having frequent attacks with my esophageal condition. With these attacks, which come without warning, my esophagus spazzes, peristalsis halts, and food (sometimes just liquids) gets stuck. This causes extreme pain, lots of unglamorous drooling, and can impact breathing. Often, I can just wait it out and it will pass after 10 minutes. Other times, it won't stop no matter what I do. The risk there happens with the breathing as it causes pressure in the chest, makes breaths very short and shallow and can bump up the heart rate. The worry about loss of consciousness at that point. The unstoppable variety happened quite frequently this year, landing me in the hospital a few times. It's very frightening because you cannot breathe well at all and the pain is severe. The last time was right after Thanksgiving, when my 8 year old son was my hero and was able to call 911 (naturally, such an episode leaves me unable to talk). The remedy is a combo of IV drugs in an attempt to calm smooth muscle and, if that doesn't work, endoscopic interventions. Maybe I'll blog about it someday as it's way more involved in that and I know other people suffer from similar issues. As for my heart - she's been naughty. There have been many days an nights of pretty bad chest pain and rhythm disturbances. My cardiologist has seen me more in the last year than in almost all of the past 20 years since I began going to the practice. We've been trying to get to the bottom of everything, but my insurance company has stood in the way of needed diagnostics.  So, it's been a trying year. Every other week to every week has been quite a challenge with my health and it has lost me A LOT of work and has been a real drag. It's also forced me to look at how I take care of myself. Like most moms, I take care of myself last. I need to be better about that. Having my experience at Thanksgiving has really made me evaluate our family emergency plan. I am so glad my son knew what to do, but I know I need to step it up and have solid plans in place for situations such as these.

And my marriage. That is another blog post all it's own. The end has been coming for a long time, but this year has really solidified it. It's something we both know, but are not ready to fully accept yet. It's not for a lack of love or respect. Obviously, my husband has worked his ass off for our family and I will always love him for that. Unfortunately, there are many things that we may not be able to overcome. It's been very sad and frustrating. I have been living for quite a few years with the hope that things will get better, but the reality isn't supporting the hope and I may have to learn to live with it. For now, we are trying. There is a lot that is broken. We have both been ready to give up and throw in the towel so many times, but we are still here. Who knows?

I wanted so badly to end 2014 on top. I wanted to prove to everyone that I was worthy and that I could kick ass and overcome everything. That was my plan. I completely failed. As some of my readers know, I have beat myself up a lot in the past few months. I have cried, bitched, whined, hated on other people, hated on myself, wanted to give up, hated myself for failing my children and my loved ones. The end of 2014 had some dark times that quite a few friends saw me through. I have been disappointed in myself and disgusted.

I mean, I even got the Instagram and posted pictures of food and coffee. That's rock bottom. (I needed to break the negative vibe in this post).

I just can't do that anymore. I have kids. I have to keep my eye on the light at the end of the tunnel. I will not fail my kids. They deserve a mother who will not fail them.

I don't do resolutions for the New Year. Rather, I have goals at all times. For 2015 - I will make this year my bitch. Good things, people, good things.

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