Source: A Letter From a Backsliding, Prodigal Heretic, To My Christian Friends Still on the Inside
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I AM 50!
I have no idea why my past mistakes are haunting me this week. I am okay with it, and it seems others are going down this same road with me. Maybe it’s the “new year/new you” mentality.
Over the last week or so many of my friends are posting the pros and cons of regret (via Facebook).
I understand both sides. The con point of view makes sense—you cannot go back and fix what you’ve done. You can’t go back and change the way you’ve handled that relationship/that job/those decisions.
I feel the exact opposite. I cherish my mistakes. I don’t enjoy them, but I certainly would not be who I am if I just simply moved on. I make mistakes at work. I make mistakes with my daughters. I have made mistakes with my (ex-)husband. I have made mistakes in my relationships, my friendships, and with my parents and my siblings.
This is not the first time that revisiting my regrets has haunted me. I keep focusing on my negative traits. I am avoiding responsibility. I am having trouble sleeping. I’ve been down this road. I know I need to focus on what I am trying to avoid. I need to pray. I need to remember my good qualities.
At this point I am revisiting my past with a sense of melancholy. I’ve made decisions that have hurt me, but I know they have bettered me. I have (had) some in my life who have needed to change, and I was not helpful to them. I have hurt people by decisions I’ve made; some by being selfish, but most because I realize the road we were traveling (business, friendship, relationship) were not panning out as they should. I do not make these decisions lightly, but pray very hard and try to make it the best path for all involved.
Knowing that some of these regrets are just that, regrets, and not mistakes doesn’t always make things easier. A great part of acknowledging and welcoming those regrets is that when I realize that while I regret the pain around it, I know that whoever is involved will eventually be on the path we all need to be on, it will not only not hurt anymore but lessons will be learned. I just wish it felt better sooner.
It’s been a while since I’ve even peeked at this blog. This time I cannot blame procrastination; it has been out and out avoidance. I put myself through a lot and let others push me through a lot. I am not trying to place blame on anyone; not at all. I am completely responsible for that, and how I handled it. The fact is I let it happen. That’s on me.
I felt like I lost ownership of this place online I call my own. It was not overt, but I was getting a lot of suggestions (of topics I didn’t want to cover), some pressure (to be funny, honest, mundane, etc.), and–truly–a bit of grief over my time allotments to this and other things in my life at the time. Rather than fight for or against it, as it just wasn’t in me and I had bigger issues to deal with at the time, I just stopped.
Looking back over the last few months, and looking over those two previous paragraphs has shown me just how very much I’ve spited myself in behaving that way. I like my blog. Who was I hurting by avoiding this? Only myself.
This is a comfortable place to express myself. I enjoy that and I plan to continue it. I will confess that my mindset is still easily overwhelmed, but I have at least three future articles started. I figured if I was going to sheepishly confess that I crapped out and sheepishly ask to return to your computer screens for a few minutes a week, I better get at least a little prepared. Right now I am shooting for once a week, unless I come up with something that *just can’t wait!* But that usually doesn’t happen once I take a breath and realize that not everyone is in my same mental spot.
Just a last note–a huge thank you to my friend Natalie for re-posting my last year’s blog, “The Best Day for Resolution Makers” and refreshing my desire to get back to this! God put you in the right place at the right time!
I know, I know—by now this is an old story. But dang it. I just want warmth. No more being cold; no more wearing layers, even if it helps hide my “winter fat” that I wisely put on this past fall. Okay, lazily put on, but it’s still there.
My dog, Annie (Rottweiler-mix), loves to go outside, but I have to watch her closely through the window because like any child she doesn’t know enough to come in when she’s cold. I have to watch for her to systematically lift her paws because they are too cold.
Three cats live us. They are indoor/outdoor cats. At least they used to be. In this cold they are now indoor/indoor. I have a heated house for the back porch and a heated water bowl. An animal is using them, but none of our cats are! (I fear it’s Dan the Possum. My daughter is hoping it is.)
The cats, for the most part, aren’t that much of a nuisance. Our oldest and grumpiest cat, Martin, has reached an impasse with Annie and he only growls and hisses occasionally at her. (Annie will be two this spring, is about 70 pounds, and has no idea that she is big or that any cat in the world might not love her!)
The only time I have an issue with the cats is when my girls go to their dad’s house. My youngest is a cat magnet. When she’s not at my home, I become the substitute for their attention. This means I have all three of them sleeping on my bed. I use the term “sleeping” very loosely. They sleep, then around 2:30 a.m. the two kittens feel it’s playtime. That, in turn, wakes Annie who runs around the bed trying join them. This hullabaloo usually irritates Martin so he mews, growls, and hisses on his way to my chair. After the children decide playtime is done they both gather at my head, begging to get under my blankets. After about 15 minutes they are begging to get out from under the blankets, to venture as far as my face. They love my face. At 3:30 in the morning.
Today is February 23. Only 24 days until spring. Only 24 days until I have outdoor/indoor cats again.
I put a lot on my “resolution” plate for this new year. Some of the things on my list were thoughtful entries—health and faith. Some things were happenstance—stopping prescription medications (my five-year date is in April and will signify a completed post-cancer regiment). One unplanned resolution contributing a great deal to my current level of happiness came about in a fit of frustration and hurt.
My background is this: I am a people-pleaser. I will often put my comfort level on a back burner so situations that involve you and me will go smoother for you. It leads to a great deal of stress and unhappiness on my end, but if you’re happy then it is worth it. Or so I thought. I truly felt that if there were stress, I would absorb it so that you could be happy and content, and then I would be happy eventually. What I didn’t realize or acknowledge is that I was not eventually happy. I carried that burden for us and simply buried it. I had headaches, a stiff neck, and sleepless nights. I just brushed it off to aging.
I have gotten well-intentioned advice to remove toxic people from my life. I just wasn’t sure who they were or how to go about it. When your method is to only see good and to always boost others you begin to not be able to identify negative people. I’ve been encouraged to cut ties, block via social media, or otherwise disengage with people who fit the category of negative; those people who drain the happy from me and leave me with their emotional residue.
I was at a loss to remedy this for nigh on 49 years. The catalyst to change this was initiated for me: I was unceremoniously removed from a contact online who was rather paramount to my whole family. Me! Someone removed me!—and my whole family, to boot! I was infuriated. I was hurt. I was confused. I was relieved. Wait. What? Ahh, no more pretense. Mmmm, this was nice. I mean, I processed the rejection part but when the dust settled, I was … happy. I had delayed decisions that might be best for my family and this person hurried my changes. I sort of reveled in a new layer of peace I was unfamiliar with and I liked it. I took it a step further. I did some serious thinking and evaluating. I played back interactions that I had, or was still having, with a few people and whether or not I was receiving anything positive from them. Not that it was making me happy—my happiness is my job. But even in the midst of negative situations, there can be something positive. So I asked myself, “Am I learning? Do I feel better after interacting? Did I have a healthy engagement with this person?” If I could answer yes, great—life was proceeding well and things could be or were on an even keel. If I said no, I evaluated their merit in my life. Granted, I am not at that emotionally secure yet, so these people are in my life still, but I limit their negative actions on my life. And I am sleeping a whole lot better.
Sleeping Like a Baby
As I mentioned in my “Growing Old” post, there are many things that happen as you age that you are not warned about. We all know about the laugh lines, crows feet, and generally wrinkling up. Most of us are aware of the metabolism change resulting in the middle-aged paunch. As women, we know to start expecting hot flashes. We all joke about grandpa or grandma falling asleep in their easy chair.
Here’s what I didn’t know—sleep would also become a mysterious stranger. I have wondered over the last couple of years if I was under unknown stress that would wake me. Was I perhaps being awakened by a sound that I didn’t remember, but my mind woke me anyway. Maybe I was getting clinical insomnia.
Visiting a medical oncologist with irritating regularity still, one of the health forms I frequently fill out checks symptoms that could ail cancer/post-cancer patients. It asks about sleep patterns. I asked my doctor about it, figuring that it could be a side-effect of my medication. For the most part, it is not. Granted, my medication has an inconvenient effect of reducing an important female hormone that, when reduced, brings on aging effects. (I was going to say “aging symptoms” but they aren’t symptoms–they are the real dang thing!)
She also calmly and firmly reminded me that even though I am taking tamoxifen, that does not negate the fact that–like it or not–I AM (almost) 49, and the part and parcel that goes along with that is what I am experiencing. I’ve decided that rather than fighting it by denial, which I am prone to do, I am going to try healthy alternatives. I have recently upped my exercising. I am eating healthier. I am drinking less beer and coffee (both favorite beverages of mine). Something has to help!
At this time, I would like to point out something that resounds in my mind whenever I try a new anti-aging regime: It’s my mother’s voice calmly and humorously saying, “Oh, Julie … welcome to middle age.”
The Best Day for Resolution Makers
Today has arrived. December 31. The eve of a better you: a more fit, healthier-eating, spiritually-renewed, organized, and independent you. Or … hear me out – maybe just “you.”
Every year I make these commitments to myself. And every year I fail at more than one of them. Don’t get me wrong, I am still making the commitment to changing these very things about myself. I don’t exercise; I’ve joined a committed fitness group with a committed coach. I will have the support to stay motivated. Plus I have a cute swim-suit I haven’t worn in two years. I’ve already programmed my alarm to get me up early to exercise.
I have been lackluster in my faith. I’ve blamed God, my church, the school, and even friends for that. It’s not on any of them. I own this, so I have to fix it. I will start with what I deem is the core for fixing it—God. My path is to include regular attendance to my church. I am fortunate that my priest has been routinely in touch with my angst without knowing it; so I trust God and the Holy Spirit that this will be true and my anger and hurt can be healed. But it can’t unless I make the effort, too.
I always consider myself unorganized. I have learned in the past year that is not the case; not at all. I am rather pleased that I don’t have to think about that this year. On the heels of that, though, is the sad realization that that resolve has been replaced by this realization: I am sloppy and lazy. I don’t mean that I am not neat and clean. I am. I mean that the pile of papers sitting on my desk, or that stack of mail sitting on my counter, just sits there (sloppy). I mean that those appointments I need to track (and request leave-time for) need to be entered in my calendar and acted on (lazy). My resolve is to actually use follow-through and do these things.
Now for my big reveal: these resolutions are daily/weekly/monthly, every year, all year. These are not reserved as new-year’s resolutions for me. This is who I am, who I want to be, and my constant goal. I am okay with that. In the last few weeks, while I was preparing for The Big Day to better myself, I finally released guilt and angst over being a little “less” than others.* I have decided that constantly wanting to better myself is not a bad thing. My active resolve will be my faith-walk. I have to fix that because for me that is the core of fixing/having will-power/being confident in all my other betterment goals.
Now for the last item mentioned in my first paragraph: independence. Overall, in supporting myself and my daughters, I am independent. I have fully grasped the day-to-day, self- and family-sufficient tasks needed to be independent and a provider. No, my independence for me is to be true to myself.
Therefore, this year I resolve to:
- put God first and stop being faithfully-stubborn.
- be true to myself; realize it’s good and healthy for me, and a great example to my daughters, to take care of my needs so I can be strong for myself and others. In that order.
- forgive myself for not being everything for everybody; for not being who others want me to be, for being a gloriously-failing human, and letting others own their reactions to that.
- say no. Unequivocally, clearly, and without explanation: No. (I am not going to explain why I want to say no. I don’t have to. No.)
- to get my funny back. I miss my sense of humor and wit. I don’t even care if that’s arrogant to say. I am a funny person and I miss that about me.
* I do not truly think I am less than anyone, but do find myself wishing I had his will-power; her confidence, etc.
Growing Old Gracefully
Hmm, maybe that title should be Growing Old
I did warn you all that I am a middle-aged woman. I would love to say that life’s aches and pains are just a part of life and I try to not complain about them. But I do complain. It hurts. As part of my genetic make-up, I also find the humor in it. Like when my Cancer Friend Traci and I go off on the competitive “Who hurts more?” I do have to swallow my competitiveness because if we compare cancer battles, she wins hands down. I had Cancer Lite—the new and improved version. She had the old fashioned almost died, recovered, relapsed, damn-it-it’s-back, recovered, what-do-you-mean-this-ISN’T-“cancer”-if-she’s-still-so-sick?, relapsed, and (I think), remission. But she still has lots of battles due to all the treatments she has endured. But I digress—I was whining about my aches and pains. Let’s get back to that because this is my blog, I get to be selfish.
As young women, we all know menopause is coming and we can expect to gain weight, get some grey hair, actually lose track of tracking every 28 days, and get crow’s feet. What no one tells you is that it also uncomfortable. I imagine the same is true for men as they age.
I hurt. For no reason. Sometimes it feels like I just got done with a monstrous workout at a gym. Other times it is like the stiff muscles you have after a mild to moderate car accident. Sometimes the only time I don’t hurt is when I sleep.
So. There ya go. Whine whine whine.
Here’s the happy part (and no, it’s not the “just grateful I am alive” or “better than the alternative” stuff. Of course I am grateful. I am also a Christian, believing in the after-life, so I am okay with passing, too. I’d just prefer it later, rather than sooner)—the happy is because I think in my case, there might be a reprieve starting next summer.
Again, we women all know the aging is coming, but my not-even-to-Senior-Citizen age is not usually as painful and menopausal as I have been. My family all met for dinner last summer, and afterward three of us four daughters were talking. I complained about aging and feeling poorly, and the other two sisters both said they felt great and didn’t have the aches and pains I had. THEN I remembered—I am on medication that is “aging” me, as well as keeping me alive and cancer-free. Maybe, just maybe I will be given a few months’ or years’ break before all this sets in again.
This is my hope, and I am holding on to it. I am sure I’ll be sharing my post-medication pain-free life with you! Otherwise, grab some cheese—I’ll be whining.
The Gloriousness of Girlfriends, Part One
This is not a “girl power” post. Nor is it a post of how I couldn’t live without my girlfriends getting my back, standing beside me, and generally giving me my props. I feel any friend would do that, even in a small way. I have that over and over again with my all my friends.
Nope. This is a “thank God for the exact friends He put in my path” post. The ladies here are three of those friends for me—my twin, who has been a best friend from conception. Next in line is Natalie. We have been friends longer than Liza and I (last gal in this group, my best friend since Autumn of 1984). Natalie and her sisters would car pool with our family, and two others families, to get back and forth to C.C.D. (For non-Catholics, that’s Sunday school but on a weekday, after school.)
We try to get together at least once a year for dinner and drinks. Many, many of those years are skipped due to work or family responsibilities that pull us away. Never, ever have we had a slip in conversation; never, ever have we missed out on keeping each other up to speed on our lives. In one way or another, one of the four is almost in constant contact with another. More times than not, it’s Liza and I with each other; Kathy and I with each other; Liza and Natalie with each other; or Natalie and Kathy with each other. I could go into the nitty-gritty of how that plays out, but the bottom line is that we all originate from the same community of small towns. It just works.
We picked up our conversations from the last time we all got together (which, believe it or not, was within the last twelve months). We shared stories of how our families are doing, we insulted each other, we talked over each other, and we laughed with (or at) each other. We left with tentative plans to do this again in six months. No guarantee that it will work, but that’s fine, too. These ladies exist in my world, and that’s all I need to know – just that they are still here, in my circle of friends.
(In this picture, top left is my sister Kathy next to me;
bottom left is Natalie, bottom right is Liza.)