A Major Milestone

This weekend is Memorial Day in the US. This weekend is often time for cookouts, parades, and gatherings with friends. Memorial Day weekend has an entirely different meaning for me. It is about remembering, but it is also about celebrating. This is the weekend a major milestone was achieved.

This weekend is the one year anniversary of moving in with my boyfriend. The struggle of being homeless was officially over.

Finding a place to live for me meant everything. It meant freedom. It meant autonomy. It also meant feeling like a human being after what may easily be the hardest struggle of my life. Being homeless dehumanizes you. It makes you hard edged and cynical. You learn not to trust anyone since every person you meet in the streets is up to something. Since you have to find ways and means to survive, you find yourself doing things you never would, like panhandling. Having nothing teaches you how to survive. It also shows you how to appreciate what you have.

When you live in a homeless shelter, getting out seems like a pipe dream. As the date to sign the lease drew closer, i began to dream about it. Was I really moving into an apartment? The whole experience was surreal.

Moving into an apartment meant leaving the world of begging, shelters, and not knowing who to trust behind for good. It represented a new start in my life with a person I can see myself growing old with. We realized that we would be able to create a nice home for ourselves and that is what we have done. Our apartment even has two spoiled cats who are like our kids.

We have talks of purchasing a house together. Due to my medical conditions, I am a homemaker now. I have taken to my new role and enjoy it. Life has gone back to normal for the most part. I remember all too well the days living on Long Island in an unfinished basement sleeping next to an oil tank. Those days are a far off memory. They taught me how to survive something I thought was impossible. Those days showed me that I can have a good life.

This year went by so fast. Time flies when you are having fun.

What’s Forever For?

What does ‘forever’ mean in relationships? We hear this word bandied about, but what do we mean by forever?

Do we mean til we are separated by death? Until we grow sick of each other and want a new model?

I know of a few marriages that lasted until one or the other got bored. Maybe the sex wasn’t great any longer. Perhaps life became full of obligations and less about spending quality time. To me, that is sad. That does not mean there are not legitimate reasons for couples to divorce and relationships to end. Cases of abuse should not be tolerated. Personally, cheating would be a deal breaker for me. There are other couples that could withstand an indiscretion. It is not my place to pass judgement on that. I know in my heart I would never forgive that so, that would force me to cave on forever.

The cynical part of me insists nothing lasts forever, so why would relationships be any different?

My parents were married forty nine and a half years. My Uncle Bob and Aunt Agnes made it past fifty years. Both marriages had serious issues. Yet they stayed together. The concept of loving someone as they are is no simple feat. Agnes married Bob a few days before he was deployed to Korea. I cannot imagine what it was like to have a husband in the Marine Corps who may or may not come home alive. They loved each other through him fighting in Korea and Vietnam. He came back with an alcohol problem. It almost ruined their marriage. Instead of splitting up, they pulled together. Uncle Bob beat the bottle. He went to his grave never touching alcohol again. That is forever.

I look back on my life, and wonder if I am capable of that much love. Some days I think I am. Other days I don’t know.

Growing up, my house was chaotic. My parents yelled at each other just about every single day. Planes flew overhead, the dog barked, and my brother practiced his drums for hours. One of the biggest goals my upbringing gave me is a strong desire for a happy home life. One of these days I will own my own home with the person I am meant to be with for the rest of my life. I am aware that life is not perfect, but I know this much, nothing great was ever handed over on a silver platter. Writing this, a song popped into my head, which is not surprising since music is one of my sources of inspiration.

“So what’s the glory in living? Doesn’t anybody ever stay together anymore? And if love never lasts forever tell me, what’s forever for?” – Michael Martin Murphy

A Hornet’s Nest

Last week I read an article online about adopted people coming into contact with their birth parents. This has always been a bit of a hornet’s nest for me. I was adopted when I was five days old. The old feelings surface whenever I read something like this.

I was raised by Nora and Frank. I take after both of them in all sorts of ways. I have my mother’s love of the written word. I have my father’s love of the New York Giants and hatred of the Dallas Cowgirls. I have their work ethic. I have the ability to make sure that I take care of my duties before going out to have fun. All of these traits and more are from them, not two random people who couldn’t be bothered with raising the child they created.

I found out I was adopted when I was five years old. It took a long time for me to understand what it means to be adopted. As a young girl I got hung up on the words “given up for adoption.” Did this mean I was a bad baby? Did they sell me? Why didn’t they want me?

Why did they make me if they didn’t plan on keeping me?

I cried my eyes out the way any five year old kid would. I asked about my “real” mommy. This concept was too abstract for me to grasp at such a young age. My mom did not handle my reaction well. She was upset with me. I felt alone and unloved. I felt abandoned. At that age, finding out your parents did not bring you into this world is devastating. The sacrifice that people who put a baby up for adoption was never discussed. To this day, I do not know the circumstances of my birth.

So, why would I want to meet these people?

All I want are the medical records of both parents. I want and deserve to know what, if anything, is floating around in that gene pool. Sure, it would be great to know which of them is left handed. It would also be nice to know why I am so short. It is frustrating beyond belief to go to the doctor and tell them repeatedly that my family history is not relevant since it is unknown. Holidays based around a certain ancestry always make me cringe. I don’t know what I am. I make up nationalities as I see fit. I never made it a goal to meet my birth parents, but that does not mean I don’t think others should not have the opportunity. Adoption files used to be sealed. It is a long process to get those files opened. I applaud those who have the fortitude to accomplish that feat. It means progress for all of us.

Adoption has changed over the years. What was once a dirty little secret is now out in the open.

Several years ago, I knew a couple going through the adoption process. It is a whole new deal now. Adoptive parents get whole files on the two birth parents that they can share with the children when they are old enough to understand. Medical files are also included so there are no questions later on in life. This is a good thing. This is a big step forward not just for adoptive parents, but for the kids they adopt also.

The fact that my parents did not bring me into this world is irrelevant. I loved them both.

My Biggest Struggle

Do you let your inner critic run your life?

The past few years, I have been dealing with a heavy load just like everyone else. There are days I do well with what I have been given, and days that I feel like giving up. Fact is, in the past few months, I have been ashamed to admit that my load is too heavy. See, I am the person who gets it done no matter what. I do not fail to accomplish things, even if the cost for me is high. My ego will not allow me to ask for help. This is my biggest challenge in life, I must get better at asking for help when I need it.

Growing up, my mother handled the whole house, us kids, dad, the dog, all of it with little help. For some ungodly reason, I have put the same enormous pressure on myself. The inner critic never seems to shut the fuck up even for a moment. My to-do lists for the day usually have at least ten items on them, sometimes more.

Perfectionism runs hard in me. It is one of my biggest downfalls. If I cannot do something perfectly the first time, I am not bothering with a second attempt. It is not only the internal parts that have to be perfect, I also have to look proper on the outside as well. It has been humiliating beyond belief that I have a weight issue now due to all the medications I have had to take over the past two years. Never mind that I am getting a handle on it now, I will not rest until I am a size four once again.

Having this inner perfectionist makes life tough in so many ways. Because I feel so imperfect, I have a limited social life. I don’t feel accepted in many places. Trying to make friends can be frustrating. Am I unfriendly? Too opinionated? Not one person on this planet is liked by everyone. Good people have their detractors in the same way that evildoers have their fans.

There is a large part of me that wonders if life would be different if I cared far less what others thought of me when I was younger. Learning on a daily basis to accept and work with what I have has helped me ignore the individuals who find me lacking, and embrace the ones who accept me as I am, flaws and all. The days when my inner critic shuts up are my favorite days. I am free to be exactly who I am, without caring one bit about what anyone says or does.

What is your biggest struggle?

What Are You Standing Up For?

Have you ever had to tell someone to back off? Were you ever the victim of online or in real life bullying? This issue seems all too common these days. Growing up, we had the boys who picked on everyone of course. Maybe we see videos of kids being picked on more and more due to social media. Because I was pushed around so much, I enjoy seeing an underdog give it back and then some.

Bullies are everywhere. I was bullied growing up on a constant basis. I was the shortest kid with the longest hair. I was adopted and called “orphan.” I was also the shortest kid who wore ugly glasses. I know a thing or two about being shamed for simply breathing. It sucked. I hated going home in tears. I used to dread school.

I had no safe haven at home either. Mom had severe anger issues, and if I came home crying, she would really give me something to cry about. Feeling different my whole life made me hate seeing my own reflection in the mirror. All I ever wished for was to be taller so I could tell the bullies off. This is why I learned to sharpen my sense of humor. If I made you laugh, then maybe you wouldn’t want to throw me in the ditch. My escape was books. In my imagination, I could be anything. Most of all, I could be loved no matter what I looked like.

As an adult, I am still short. I get passed over standing in line. I get pushed, stepped on, you name it.

A few weeks ago, I got stepped on again by a person who could not get out of my way all night. I had enough. Time to act. I told her exactly what I thought of her crappy manners. I felt terrified and excited all at once. This was no longer about some foolish woman stepping on my foot. I was telling off all the childhood bullies who made me feel ugly. I channeled all that frustration and stood my ground against this person. This person after I told her off, continued to be in my way, trying to tease me into a fight. After it became clear she was not leaving, my boyfriend intervened on my behalf to get her out of my hair. At no point did I back down from my original position. I was proud of myself for facing such a huge fear.

Standing up for myself is getting easier the more I practice it.

What gives any person the right to make another person feel bad to amuse themselves? Does anyone think about the damage they do, or have we become so dead emotionally that we simply don’t care?

Have you stood up to a bully for yourself or someone else?

What Have I Learned?

Two years ago today, I almost lost my life to a distracted driver. It has been a long haul of countless doctor appointments, specialists, medication changes, cognitive therapy, and learning to adapt. The following is what I have learned.

Success does not always mean money or material possessions

One of the first things I learned from my speech pathologist was how to schedule my day. I by no means have this perfected. Progress is what I look for here. The key for me is to know my limits, and respect them. I used to think that because I am unable to work I had to schedule myself to a snapping point. I was asking so much of myself that I was breaking down. Success these days now means I can make my scheduled appointments, take care of the house, and find time to take care of myself.

Being kind to myself does not make me weak or stupid

Part of my heath issues is PTSD. Living with this is challenging. Flashbacks to the accident come and go. They are most often triggered by an irresponsible driver. Flashbacks are without a doubt the most unpleasant part of what I have learned to deal with. They can be brutal at times. When they occur, I know what to do so I remain safe. This is what adapting is all about. Nightmares can be grisly replays of the accident, or it can be my mind telling me I am going to suffer some other horrible death. The nightmares come and go with zero warning.

There will always be individuals who think I do not have it that bad. All I have to say to them is this; I wonder if you can walk around not remembering what you said five minutes ago. I also wonder if you can plug up your nose so that you can smell noting. Not one thing good or bad. Walk around like that for a few days and tell me how you feel. Put your head in a vice and squeeze as hard as you can. Then, squeeze some more. I get it. Plenty of folks abuse the system. Other people make fun of me behind my back. So be it. My biggest lesson is simple, I choose not to be mean on purpose. We all do mean stuff from time to time, myself included.

So, what has this all boiled down to?

You never know when your number is going to be called. Hug the people that matter most to you. Even though the last two years have been hard, I appreciate life more now than I did before. Perhaps that was the point.

The Invisible Woman

Have you ever felt that you could disappear and no one would notice? About two years ago, I had to take a hiatus from blogging due to life circumstances. I had so much to say, but no way to get it done. I felt like I vanished off the face of the Earth. Not writing hurt me in ways I cannot fully explain. It made me feel lost. It made me feel invisible.

I struggle with feeling invisible from time to time.

Let me give you an example. A year or so ago, friends of mine got married. My closest friend was one of the bridesmaids, and I tagged along to the wedding with her and her boyfriend. A photo was taken with the two of us looking our best. The comments flew in on Facebook, all glowing comments about my friend and how glamorous she looked. Then, one of her friends mentioned me and my height (or lack of it) “Oh wow, your friend is so short.” My heart sank. I felt so invisible at that moment. My height? Really? Is that all you have to freaking say? I bet you that person didn’t even think about what they said. Maybe they even thought it was cute. My friend even came to my defense on Facebook. It meant the world to me to know she found that comment unacceptable as well.

This still happens today. If I had a dollar for each time someone said “Oh, I didn’t even see you.” I would have a stack of dollars from the floor to the ceiling. I know it is not meant to be personal, but there are times I grow sick of it. I know I am only four feet ten inches tall. Look around and you might see me. On most nights that this happens, I say “Look down!”

That is sarcasm so many people miss. If I have to say that, you have irritated me and again I feel invisible.

Growing up, I created a larger than life personality so that I would not be so invisible. That part of me will never go away. I loved telling jokes from a young age. When I was in second grade, we did a bicentennial show and I brought the whole house down. I have been chasing that feeling since that day. This is why I write, dance, do whatever. This is how I show myself that part of me will never be invisible.

Have you ever felt invisible? How did you deal with it?