Grief – Revisited

This has been a tough and emotional week due to the loss of a family member, one of my best friends mom passed away.  She was really like my mom as well. I no longer distinguish between blood and chosen families, they are one because they all have significance in my life. I have been numb for most of it, and still haven’t processed it all yet.  The crash hasn’t happened yet.

The funeral/viewing was yesterday. The family decided to have a private viewing where only a few were invited to come, and to spend alone time with Donna. It was more intimate than any viewing I had ever been to, and I think I finally understand the originally intent of a viewing. It’s not meant to be a mass of people going up to the deceased, and paying respects for a split second. It is one last time for closure, and to spend time with them privately that you might not have had a chance to do so. It gave me an entirely new perspective on funerals. I took my time with her. I spoke with her, and expressed my gratitude for her and her family accepting me as one of theirs. I also expressed my concerns, and to send her strength to her family that could use her fortitude. She was one of the bravest, most sassy, and stubborn women I have ever known. The service was informal, and kept as “light” as possible. With mingling until 1:30, and then there were eulogies given. It’s what she would have wanted. It was perfect. It was Donna. The room was filled with pictures, memories, and moments in time that were captured and shared by her husband John and other family members.

happiness in my life

She fought until she couldn’t anymore. She gave us all she could give, and went out on her terms. She was ready. It reminded me so much of my Nana and her last day.

I have felt my Nana’s presence strongly in the past couple of weeks. I still don’t know what she is trying to tell me, but I am ready to hear it. Maybe Donna will help, too.

The Universe/God/Narnia has a plan and a reason, and sometimes that reason sucks at the time. I started to write an entry about the fluidity of friendships, and it has morphed into this. There are a number of friendships in my life that have become distant for a myriad of reasons, and some have already started to be mended. Life happened, choices were made, and we were all in pain for different reasons.. Sometimes you have to take care of yourself first because you are not capable of taking care of others. Learning that lesson this year was quite painful and hard. The grieving process has brought us closer together again.

grief is

It still hurts. All of it. I am sure it will hurt more in the next couple of days when it really settles in. I have cried plenty. I started crying at 9:30 yesterday morning and continued periodically until we left the funeral home at 2. I even sent a text to one of my best friends saying, “it’s too early for me to be crying.” She said, “Love. and it’s never too early to start crying.” I am crying now as I write this.

lauren funeral

It was not that long ago when I rarely cried. And never in public, except for once.  It’s being vulnerable, real, and present. It’s about letting it all in, and then letting it all out. I held all my emotion in for so long because I didn’t think I was worth the opportunity to express my emotion in public. People bond via emotion, and I am realizing while writing this that Grief brings us together. If the silver lining is that this brings more amazing people into my life, and relationships to mend, I’ll accept those gifts.

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Sense of Self Returned

Since the accident there have been a number of things that have been taking away. It is much more than I initially thought it was. The greatest loss I had, besides the actual car, was my inability to paddle a river.

Nature in general is my go to mental reset, and always has been. However, since I found paddling that became my instant happy place. Even going through whitewater, it’s better than any day anywhere else. When the accident happened, I lost my go to mental reset. They were worried about the twisting, and the possible implications of hitting my head on a rock. Which is entirely possible situation because I’ve done it.

Today for the first time since March of 2017, I got to paddle my favorite creek. The Tohickon, or as we call it the “Toh”. It’s a 3 mile Class Three paddling difficulty. I had been out paddling maybe four times since the accident on little local runs, and they were wonderful. However, they weren’t whitewater.

I was so excited this morning that I was jumping up at down at Presenter’s School this morning. As it actually became time to get on the river, I was getting more and more nervous; I didn’t see my normal crew, but I did find another group to paddle with. They are one of the best communities out there. Shout out to the Philadelphia Canoe club for always been awesome.

Apparently paddling whitewater is like riding a bike. Once you have a depth of skill, your muscle memory takes over. I nailed every rapid and every line I wanted to for the most part. The water wasn’t that pushy and it was glorious day. It truly was me stepping back into my true self, and it’s the biggest step I have taken so as I claim my life back. Hours later and I’m still pumped about that run. It was exactly what I deserved, and I’m so glad my PCC crew and Grink were there to encourage. After the first rapid when I hit the tight eddy, I knew I was golden. It feels so right being back in my boat, and finding something else that I lost. Sense of self returning one boat length at a time.

Adulting – Lonely and Worth It

Since I talked about this with a friend of mine, I have been meaning to write it. I just didn’t yet. Because that means it’s real. It means I am becoming an adult. I will be the first to admit it is damned lonely and scary being an adult as a xennial. That is the weird generation in between Generation Y and Millennial. I am by definition a millennial (the last year), but I don’t define myself as one.

This is not because of the stereotype that incorrectly states they are lazy, bored, or entitled. They do not want to be stuck like Gen Xers, with a mountain of debt and for the first time ever worse than their parents. I don’t define myself as Millennial because I knew what the world was like before readily access to the internet, cell phones, texting, and constant social media presence. All of those things came later. It was glorious and free time to grow up.

mud

I will take the mud any day 🙂

Xennials have a different issue that might have real world implications later on. They are stuck between wanting to stay in the mindset of it’ll all workout and actually becoming an adult.  They have created a verb – Adulting. I will be the first to admit that being an adult can suck. Having to choose being participating in one of my passions and paying the bills for the first time was a big wake up call. In that moment, I want to run screaming and say “no, I can’t help you. I’ve got the Tohickon this weekend”. My adult brain says, “this your craft that you deserve to learn. The Tohickon will be there, and you can do it Saturday.” It literally hurts, but I know it’s the right decision.

There are people I know who choose to not be an adult, and I have no judgment for this.  It took me a long time to decide to be an adult. What I do not understand is their inability to see how painful it is for other people who are trying to grow up, and they ask unknowingly to join them in their life choice. It is not noble. It is not bold. It is a life choice. And it is okay to do so.  Sometimes I kick loose and do the same.

I never thought that being a 36 year old striving to be an adult would be lonely. But it is. More than I would like to admit my friends (and sometimes I) stay out too late and drink too much. There is no judgment in this, because I have also done those activities in excess. I am over that part of my life, though. My old self sometimes like to claw its way back, and say “you are this lifestyle. You don’t deserve better.” It is my job to say, “no, I’m choosing something better. Something that is going to enrich life”.  And sometimes I fail at that job, which is okay, too. You can live your life, have fun, and be responsible, too. They are not mutually exclusively.

The goal of life is to become an adult and own your life. Instead of your life owning you. I am striving towards that goal every day, but doing so does require becoming an adult in not only income but mentality. In the past six months. I have had to choose between a lot of things I love to do, and making sure I can cover my expenses. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do, and make choices you don’t want to make out of necessity. They suck every time. The most painful is limiting time with people in your life that just don’t serve your lifestyle anymore.  I miss them for a variety of reasons, and it’s a choice.

Personally that is the hardest part. When I realized my circle of friends, many I would consider family, do not have the same aspirations as you do. What do you do then? You love them where they are at, and this is crucial with NO judgment. You love them, but you end up spending less time with them because they are not in the same place emotionally you are. I still struggle with this. A lot actually. When my old-self and doubt come knocking, I usually response lately with “I’ve got this. I am growing into myself, which does not include you [former self].” I stay in, and am working on developing more friends who want to grow as much as I do. You choose. It’s rather sobering when you think about it. Expect judgment and criticism, and you’ll figure out what boundaries you want to draw.

Emotional Availability

I have multiple close friends who have trust issues (me included), and we completely understand the limitations of that barrier. There comes a point, however, where there’s gotta be a give back on some level. Even if it’s small.

This is hard for me to admit to, let alone severe the emotional cord. Let me be clear, this is not a friend breakup; this is an emotional breakup. I am still going to be friends, but I am going to do my damnest to not be quite as emotionally invested. It completely sucks, and for anyone that knows me, this takes a lot to push me this far. Or in this case, I don’t deserve or want to be at that point with her. We have been through a lot of shit together, and lately there is no emotional connection. Despite that we are both dealing with some of the hardest things either of us have gone through.   There is “let’s get together soon, I love you, etc.” I know she does love me (we say that a lot in my friend circle), but there is no follow up to complete the intention. Little to None.

She’s in a difficult situation right now, which I respect and that she probably doesn’t see. It physically hurts me (thanks empathy) to see her where she is in her life, and all of that I am okay to deal with. I can process that level of hurt with someone, and have done it more times than I would like. The not being able to connect with her on a deeper level anymore is where I now draw the boundary.  This is probably due to us being so close at one point.

that is pain

I am crying as I write this because I just came to terms with this today. And it hurts so damn much to have to do it. I have been on the opposite side of this. The non-giving side, and I didn’t realize what was going on at the time. I didn’t realize that by not offering any kind of emotional connection, which I thought was a burden, that it actually hurt their feelings when I didn’t. Once I realized that a few months ago, my past friend relationships and the fault in retaining them became so much clearer.

This is and is also not like that. Then I wouldn’t give any emotion to anyone, unless I was really not in a thinking frame of mind (e.g. drinking, a lot). We have extensively had that kind of emotional bond, and for some reason it hurts significantly more than if we never had that it.

I am also not saying it can’t come back, but I also highly doubt it’ll be like it was. The trust is gone, on both sides at this point. I can pinpoint when it happened, and I wish I could say I was sorry. It needed to happen, and I was hoping the aftermath would not be this result. It’s all good. The universe will conspire in one way or another to solve it, and this is another step to understanding my fellow human.

Five years: Choices, Gauntlets, and Life

My life can be awesome and hard at the same time. It might be counterintuitive, but they are not mutually exclusive. I absolutely love my life more than I ever thought I could, but it is often hard. Social media is the highlight reel. Real life is almost always different and more complicated.

Five and half years ago I was an environmental consultant. Steady job, decent salary, and it could be quite rewarding. I paid my bills, had money in my savings, and I could splurge now and then on something I really wanted. Sounds great right? A crucial part was missing. I wasn’t happy. I had minimal emotional connection to anyone; smiling was a rarity, and was apparently quite intimidating to people.

courage to grow up

You might be thinking, here it comes. The ode to Arbonne, which has been the catalyst to change my life.  It changed me, it’s always present, and I’m not here to convince you. This essay is more about the ode to my journey to self-worth, acceptance, and getting the fuck out of my own way.

In that time, my self-worth grew and I started to blossom. I went from someone who literally couldn’t look anyone in the eye while speaking to them, to becoming a leader in my business known for my perseverance and gratitude.

There are precious few in my life who know the full truth. Numerous events big and small have taken me from an unfocused mass of metal and forged into platinum that has yet to be cast.  I have been fired, twice. I have had to choose between paying my credit card bill and paying my car insurance. I have had family members die, and have had other family members have serious and almost fatal medical issues. My uncle had a series of strokes that left him with brain damage that he had to retire from dentistry. My friend and I called it “The Gauntlet.”  The medical issues were all at the same time.  It sucked, and our family fought through it.  I made sure to talk to all the doctors and ask the important questions when necessary.  I am so thankful that it didn’t become more serious in one of the cases.

Those times were hard, but manageable. I could do certain things to fix it, and I knew how to tackle the problems. I steadily grew my leadership and myself. Throughout all of that I tackled personal growth and development, and despite all of the shit that was happening I became a much happier and positive person. I developed a core group of friends and I would consider many of them family. I realized I never really had a group of friends like that before. I have deconstructed some of my trust and vulnerability barriers.  I started this blog, and have used it as an outlet that has been powerful for myself and others.  I promoted in my business twice.

All of that progress came to a screeching halt within the last year. It has sucked with a capital S, and the challenge consisted of personal struggle.

Periodically crises are like a ninja where it creeps and builds slowly in the background, and then WHAM! It becomes like whac-a-mole. One problem seems to be resolved, and another one appeared.

fb car pic

My car after the accident

Breaking my codependency, wage loss (partly my fault), traumatic car accident, finding a replacement car, ongoing months of physical therapy (very grateful for), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Good times. The car accident, which caused another layer of PTSD. You can read the details of each by clicking the links. I have broken through on a lot of barriers, but I couldn’t seem to get through these on my own. I started therapy last month because it wasn’t getting any better. I have trust issues, and despite that it’s going surprisingly well.

I thought I had put the issues of self-worth in a time capsule to be revealed 20 years from now and opened up to be like YOU caused all that trouble? Not so much. It decided to resettle in with nagging doubt, frustration and increased the fear. Once I figured out that this was still the underlying issue, it all started to make illogical sense. I didn’t think I deserved success, the apartment, leadership status, or living among the successful.

It’s all bullshit. I have fought on every level to achieve the life I was growing, and I’ll be damned if I let it get taken away. Even if caused by me. Everyone deserves success. Everyone deserves to live a life they love. It should not be a luxury of the rich.

unbecoming

When things got tight financially, I became innovative. In the past year, I started my photography business that I absolutely love. There is nothing like capturing a moment in time for people or a moment in the outside world to live forever. It’s another form of self-expression.

My life is messy, complicated, remarkable, and sometimes painful. I wouldn’t trade it for the life of mediocrity and safety I was living in over five years ago. The difference between my life before and today is choices and a path for something better. I am on my way towards sustainability in life, passions, love, and finances. The true American dream.

 

Going Back to Progress Forward

Sometimes I self-destructively go “back” in my self-development. I revert back to the apologizing, second-guessing, and self-esteem riddled self. And it sucks every time I do. Depending on where my headspace is at, I can pull myself out of it very quickly. Other times, it takes awhile to recognize where I’m at and get my ass out of it.

day stop self-destruction

I’ve been in a funk for quite awhile, and if I was honest it was well before the accident. The accident certainly added to the confusion of where I was going and what my path was. I was lost, and I wasn’t sure how to get out of it this time. It was a dark time, and quite frankly for a number of my friends, too. It’s like we were all going through our own personal gauntlet. I am quite frankly over the being tested by the gauntlet.

This is a mostly free write entry, so if it doesn’t make sense, I apologize. It’s okay if I lost myself for awhile, and my path. The important thing is that I’ve found it again. As most things in my life, it’s been the circuitous route.

me training 2-1-16

Training about my story when I promoted.

The past five years have seen some of the highest highs, as well as the lowest lows. Normally I wouldn’t use such a cliché, and it works in this context. Interestingly enough, they have sometimes co-mingled.  I have bled, cried, read, written until my hand couldn’t write anymore, confided and trust more than I had the previous 15 years combined. I had grown into the leader and person I am meant to develop, and I have shrunk back to the self-questioning person of my early 30s. It got too real. I was becoming known. For the first time probably ever, there was expectation. From both myself and others. Instead of growing into that expectation, I shrunk back into the role of self-doubt and mediocrity.

The reality and thought I had banished was that fraking onion of self-worth. Another layer of niggling thought, “who am I to deserve this?” This reflection and subsequent self-judgment came from a number of sources: people reaching out to me for help with their business, the accolades, and recognition. My own apartment, which for the most part remains undecorated. All of which originated my fake deep down true that I didn’t think I deserved. Even though I worked my ass off to achieve all of those things.  Somehow in my mind, it didn’t matter. I still didn’t believe I was good enough. For much of anything, really.

I figured out all of this b.s. was a self-worth issue about two month ago. Something I thought I had buried and was free from. Nope. Complacency brought it all back. The comfort of knowing I did it, and thinking I could forget habits that let me achieve greatness. It let doubt sneak back in, and fester like a spot of mildew on your bath mat that soon covers it with slime.

beat-her

I brought out the bleach and scrubbed it clean. Going backwards and cowering back into something you thought you had defeated sucks.  Examining and getting ready to “out” the coward is one of the best feeling I think I’ve had to date.

Family

My definition of family has expanded quite a bit the past several years. Anyone who truly knows me, I will do anything for my family, both blood and chosen. I am blessed to have developed many friends who have turned into family. And sometimes those people come from the most unexpected of circumstances.

I would say I have four types of family: blood, Arbonne, paddling, and everything in between. They have different places in my life, and I do not discriminate with whom I love. They span all genres, sexuality, and age.  I give readily, but rarely do I give myself.   I do not trust easily, and I readily hide myself because I thought it was easier that way. This is an error in judgment, and it’s a constant battle I fight with myself.  To be worthy of giving that trust.

genetically related

In truth, it is easier that way. It is much easier to show façade rather than to tell the whole truth. To pretend everything is perfect. Be the highlight reel for people.   One of my best friends says that “he has barely scratched the surface of me” after being friends for more than a decade. But it’s a lie. I love my life, and it’s not perfect. They are not mutually exclusive.

One of my consistent challenges is to be vulnerable. I am certainly not unique in this aspect. I would go even further to say a majority of people when they broke down to the basis of their fears that it would rank very highly. We seek perfection in our society. I have written about this, and I am going to extrapolate further. It is much easier to portray the lie of perfection, then to tell the actual truth behind the mask. The truth is almost without exception, messy and multi-layered. There is no easy “fix.”

My closest family members are the ones I trust without question. The ones who ask and push the questions that no one else wants to ask when necessary. They push us out of our comfort zone into a whole new reality and space. Which is often terrifying, because we have often lived and believed our own lie for far too long. They help us confront the truth, which is often deeply buried and disturbing.

being broken

Blood family doesn’t often push that boundary for some reason, at least not in my family as of late. I am still puzzling all this out, and everything is becoming clearer.  Not crystal yet, but it’s getting there. Our own minds are often our biggest obstacles. As one friend of mine put it, “Stop using your big, beautiful brain and just do it.” Put your faith in trust, as terrifying as that may be.

I am working towards putting my trust in consistent vulnerability, and making myself known to everyone I love. It is scary. It is messy. And the effort and pain is worth it. I am worth it. It is one of the hardest aspects of personal growth I am pushing through. It’s another step towards my progress to being the best me.

I am the vault for people. People tell me things that they don’t tell anyone else, and I value that trust as sacred. I have rarely put that amount of trust into other people. And that is where one aspect of my self-worth breakdown is. When people trust you enough to tell you their innermost thoughts and feelings, you are worthy of doing the same for them. You not only deserve that amount of trust that people place in you, but they also deserve the same from you. It is not a burden to them. I will repeat because I have felt this way my entire life: it is not a burden to them. It is a comfort of reciprocity.   If there is not the same amount of trust, they will pull back from you. And it hurts. I have only now just realized why the pull back happened. Loyalty and trust must go both ways.

relationship detective

Thanks to those who haven’t moved on, and I understand the ones that did.  🙂

I have lived most of my life in fear of being hurt by trusting the wrong people. It is a path I am striving to banish. If you find this true about yourself as I have, and you realize the pedestal you place yourself on both undervalues your needs as a human being and the gift of your truest self to others.

Compartmentalize

I have
been
Compartmentalizing
my

Entire
life.

It’s
how
I’ve
lived

this

Long.

Until
now.

I

Hate

that I

Can’t.

not a
word
I use

Lightly.

I Hate

having
uncontrolled
Emotions.

I’m a

Problem
solver,

especially for

Others.

My own?

I’m not used
to
dealing
with

Emotion

on such
an

Unbridled

Visceral
level.

I am

Accustomed
to

my

Emotions

being like a

Switch

that
I

can

Control

with a
Flick.

On and
Off.

most of the
time

my
Emotion
is still

My

Switch.

Occasionally

it

becomes
like a

Renegade

Bomb

of

Precision.

like a

Lightning
bolt

Through
my

Soul.

just as

Quick,

Deadly,
and

Precise.

Leaving no

Mark.

only

Confusion.

of

my
Life.

 

PTSD (not military) and Acknowledgment

I was in a major car accident in late March, and since then I am so grateful to be alive. I walked away with injuries to my neck and upper back, but I walked away from the worst accident I’ve been in. One of my best friends right after the accident suggested that I will probably have PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder). Which, of course, I blew off.   I will explain below.  I just realized, months later, that I do, indeed, probably have PTSD.

Let me be clear I am NOT comparing my PTSD with those who are, or have been, in the military. I know several people both active or former military that served in the military and some of them have PTSD, and that is fundamentally different from mine. I could not imagine how haunting some of the circumstances they have been in would be for me. Both have lasting affects.

Stolen from Facebook. I don't know who, but I love it.

I didn’t think I had it.  I didn’t process much emotion during this whole ordeal except a few times. I thought I had dodged at least bullet out of this ordeal. It wasn’t until I got and read the police report that it sunk in how close it was. If the light had changed a second sooner, it would have been a full on t-bone collision.  And I, most likely, wouldn’t be alive to write this. However, one of my best friends said something to me the other day that struck so deep that I didn’t even give a half smile. I gave a full on grimace. He was listing my injuries to a police friend of his and at the end “and almost had to see a psychiatrist due to not being able to paddle [be on the water] for months”. I not only gave a full on grimace, I stood military straight and whispered, “that is not funny. It is not remotely funny.”

To which he responded, “because it’s true.”
I said, “yes because it’s true […]I also added, ‘he could have killed me for no reason’.”  The first responder in Bath, Pennsylvania, who wasn’t responding to a call almost killed me.

As I said, I am very grateful to be walking and talking considering the damage of the accident. But for an extensive period of time (almost 7 weeks), I lost my mobility, my car, and independence because I had to bring a friend to evaluate used cars for me to replace my destroyed, beloved Honda Fit. I am not writing this to gain sympathy. I am writing this because for the first time since the accident, I am realizing that my trauma goes much deeper than just my physical injuries.

fb car pic

Taken the night of the accident.

For the over 150 of my friends on Facebook who have seen the picture above and wished me well either through a comment or private messaging, I thank you. It meant more than you know, especially because I didn’t post it to my timeline.   It was one of the most humbling and amazing experiences of my life.

I thought PTSD was something only soldiers, first responders, and the like suffered from it. I still really don’t know what it means to me because I just figured out I had it. I just know that people with it shouldn’t feel alone and/or shouldn’t feel like they can’t talk about it. It happens, it’s real, let’s acknowledge it.

Perspective

I spent the past week teaching a group of autistic kids nature and photography in my beloved upstate New York in Lake George at Camp Moki run through an organization called Camp TLC. This camp is all about love and giving not only the kids, but also the parents time together in a safe environment. This was my first year teaching there, and it was life changing to say the least. I’m excited that I’m teaching at least one more, and possibly two this year. Shameless plug, Camp TLC that runs this and three different camps throughout the country.  Go check them out:  Camp TLC.

doodle

This last day of the month is one of my favorite days because there are so many qualifications, promotions, and awards being celebrated through people kicking it in their Arbonne businesses. I absolutely love congratulating people on their different achievements, more so than my own. It was amazing as always, but it felt different.

When the time came to relax and finally go to bed, I just sat in front of my computer processing the events of the past week. It hit me what was different. I was different. They changed me as much as I helped them. For my social media posts, I started using #whohelpswho because I knew that it was going to change me. In terms of capabilities of the campers at Camp Moki, they ranged from high functioning to a few of them had a great deal of difficultly speaking and communicating. They were such an amazing group of kids, and they all started to come out of their safe shells by the end of the week. It was one of the most rewarding and awe inspiring things to watch and be a part of. That is why we do it.   It puts life in perspective.

courage-fear-do-it-anyway

We always say in Arbonne don’t judge anyone’s life by the highlight reel that is social media these days. Life is a challenge, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. Lacey, another Arbonne consultant, was also remarkably at the camp with her two kids with special needs. One of them is quite disabled with Downs Syndrome, and she barely made it out of the cabin on Monday. Tuesday she was walking up and down the driveway path with her dad in tow. The dad and daughter both went home because it was too much for her, while her older son and Lacey stayed at the Camp. She wrote a beautiful post that described what their family goes through sometimes. You can go to as many classes, programs, and clinical rotations to get an idea of what it might be like to have a family member with special needs, but until you live it, you can’t possibly know the struggle. For those that don’t know, my sister has some special needs. As much as I love her, it’s a tough struggle that my parents are more involved in than I am.  This post isn’t to garner sympathy, just awareness. The more I mature, the more I realize that she is pretty amazing in her own right.

barriers-to-love

My life isn’t perfect and I have struggles with self-worth, discipline, and vulnerability, among others.   The universe conspires in odd and wonderful ways sometimes. I had been pondering for the last month or two about how I just deserved to get away for a few days and regroup with nature. Camp was at the perfect time, and because of the location allowed me to unplug. I never stopped being grateful, but after this past week I will strive to never to take my health for granted. Or my wonderful amazing extended family and friends. I do not think I have ever appreciated what I have in my life more than I do now.

Your life isn’t perfect either. Nor should it be. Struggles with family, partners, finances, jobs, etc are part of the package called life. It sucks at times, but don’t live there. There is always someone who has it worse than you. Bottom line: be grateful for everything you have. The good and the bad.  There’s a reason for all of it.