My One Week Countown to 35: Dedicated to the Ones I Love

living-with-parentsDay 3 is Dedicated to My Parents

1. I am grateful to my parents for taking me back into their home when my health got too bad for me to live on my own (with or without a partner). And for the times when live-in relationships deteriorated… 😉

2. I am grateful to my parents for the sacrifices they have made occupationally (my mom transitioned to telecommuting full-time to keep an eye on me when my seizure-like episodes were at their worst, happening a dozen times a day), financially (when money was tight for me, they made sure I had my medication, gluten-free and dairy-free foods and the most important bills—when they discovered they were delinquent—paid) and with their time (healing from a seizure-like disorder, I am unable to drive until I have six consecutive months without an episode, so my folks have been driving me to doctors’ appointments, to run errands, to see boyfriends and friends and for social and work events—when I was editor/reporter for my town, my dad drove me everywhere in my town to cover news almost every day of the work week.)

3. I am grateful to my parents for making me feel safe and supported during the scariest point of my illnesses. If I fell, they were there to catch me. If I needed someone to help me care for myself in day-to-day living, my mom fed, bathed and clothed me. If I needed to vent my frustration, they were there to give me a shoulder to cry on, arms to fall into.

4. I am grateful for my dad’s unflappable belief that I would get better. While fear caused temporary blindness at times, he always had faith that I would keep getting stronger and find myself back on my feet again. He was right. He encouraged me to keep fighting, to keep looking for answers, to never, ever give up. Both my parents have always believed in me and been my biggest cheerleaders, and I credit much of my successes to the faith they’ve had in my talents and abilities.

5. I am grateful that my mother has not only been a parent to me, but also one of my best friends. I go to her for advice, for cheering up, for reassurance and unconditional love. I love that I can also be an ear for her, that she trusts me enough to share what she’s feeling when she is comfortable doing so. I am so thankful that our together time is as important to her as it is to me, whether I am 3000 miles away or a hallway down from her.

IMG_0535Day 4 is Dedicated to My Friend Carly

1. I am grateful to Carly for becoming that friend I can talk to every day, beginning at a time when I felt very alone with the challenges I was dealing with. I believe we’ve helped each other a great deal to get through our health battles.

2. I am grateful that Carly is the kind of person who will pop up and surprise me at a doctor’s office because it’s been too long since we last got to see each other. She had recommended I see this highly regarded specialist, who is located closer to Carly’s home than mine, and she wanted to make sure that everything went well. Seeing her face touched me more than words can say.

3. I am grateful for the way that Carly always tells me exactly what she thinks and feels about something. Even when it’s about my behavior, and it’s not always something I want to hear, it’s usually something I need to hear. That honesty is absolutely refreshing and invaluable in a friend.

4. I am grateful that Carly always calls to check up on me after a big event, whether it’s a first date or a chemo appointment. She remembers when my niece was born, the significant relationships I’ve had since and before we’ve known each other and she always asks after my parents. I don’t ever have to guess whether she cares or wonder if she knows what’s going on in my life.

5. I am grateful that Carly puts up with my moodiness and occasional reclusiveness. I know it can be very tough for her as it’s very important that there is daily connection with her closest friends. I appreciate her giving and forgiving heart.

My One-Week Countdown to 35: Day 2

Better late than never:

Later this, I will be turning the big 3-5. I know, it’s hard for even me to believe it, but it’s true. While I know it’s not exactly over the hill, as a never-been married woman with no kids, it makes me feel pretty damn old if I think about it too much. So to silence the ridiculous screams of “spinster” and “cat lady” in my subconscious, I’ve decided to count the days until my birthday with 35 reasons why I am filled with gratitude that I am a perfect age.

Each day I will be listing off (at least) five reasons why I’m thankful to be me at this particular point and time in my life. They will be in no particular order. For the last week, I’ve been thinking of 10 things I feel grateful for each day, so I am hoping this will be no sweat. If you feel so inclined, let me know what you think.

1. I am grateful for the kindness of strangers.

The-Kindness-of-Strangers-mdnI am a proud bookworm who frequents our small-town library easily once a week, if not more. I’m a familiar face to all of the librarians, and I became friendly acquaintances with several of them while I was editor/reporter for a town publication, as I covered events at the library frequently. When I grew too sick to continue working that job, the librarians were concerned as I stopped coming in. When my parents would come to collect books for me, the librarians would express their best wishes and hopes for my continued recovery.

Once I was back on my feet, my regular visits to the library resumed and the women working there expressed joy to see me doing better.  One of those women soon became especially friendly. As soon as I walked into the library, she’d walk back to the book holds to get any books borrowed from other libraries that were waiting for me, and she always greeted me with a smile and friendly words.

One day during snowy weather, the library was still open and I got a call that some books were ready for me to pick up. This librarian offered to drop them off at my house, saying she drove by my house on her way home anyway. Surprised and grateful, I watched as she walked quickly through the wet precipitation with books and CDs in a plastic bag to hand off to me. I thanked her warmly for making such a kind gesture.

She just did it again when I had no transportation to get to the library all week. When I saw her, she said, “Any time you don’t get her for a while, I figure I can just bring your items on hold to you. I drive by your house every day to and from work, and bringing my son to school and back. It’s my pleasure.” Someday soon I will have to think of something very thoughtful to do for her.

2. I am grateful for the generosity of friends

It can be difficult to maintain friendships when your health (and sometimes mood) has so many ups and downs. Plans get canceled necessarily at the last minute. Some friends become frightened by what they don’t know—as I’m overcoming a seizure-like disorder, friends have anxiety that they’ll have to deal with an episode and not know what to do—while words like chemo can be triggers for other friends. Add that on top of the already hectic schedules that arise when the majority of your friends are 30 years and above, navigating marriages or long-term relationships, families, either working at home or at an outside office and other societal obligations.

Anyway, there was a local woman in publishing who had been keeping her eye on my work for a couple years. When she started a group for getting alumni together and allowing them to keep in touch and tied to their hometown, I was mildly curious, but I noticed most of the people involved were much older than I. Finally, this year, this woman reached out and encouraged me to come to one of the monthly events, promising that they were young at heart. So I did.

It turns out that this woman is one of the most giving and generous people I know. She’s driven me around when I haven’t had rides, helped to find me a music gig to get me back to performing again, plus she’s constantly going out of her where to do kind things for all the people she cares about in her life. She’s a networker who connects people because she truly enjoys helping people make their dreams come true.

She’s a giver of the greatest kind. A night owl, she’ll get up especially early to drive you to a job interview at 9 a.m. She’ll think of you when she has extra tickets to an artistic event she knows you’d be interested in. She’ll even drive you to the hairdresser just so you can look especially nice for your boyfriend and a large holiday party. I am so grateful to her for generous spirit—not just because of everything she’s done for me, but because she inspires me to keep giving, whatever position I happen to find myself in life.

3. I am grateful for the Soul Beauty challenge.

A fellow health coach and another great inspiration to me, Christy Foster, runs Soul Carrot Health Coaching at http://soulcarrot.com . As part of her own birthday, Christy ran an empowering, uplifting and enlightening program called Soul Beauty, which invited women to dig down deep inside themselves, to address their insecurities and fears, acknowledge what makes them unique and special and to be bold about their own beauty—from the inside out.

The sense of community that has grown from this program continues long past its official end. I continue to learn and grow from other women’s journeys and by answering some of the questions posed, forcing me to shine a light on my own blocks. Most recently, Christy posed the following question to us: If there was ONE thing you could do without feeling judged, what would it be? I had quite a few things that came to mind, but for the last few months, I’ve been itching to play around with my appearance. Apparently a lot of other women in the group felt similarly. We shared similar concerns—we felt we that we were “too old,” that changing how we looked on the outside too “radically” might not fight into a professional environment, or that dealing with more conservative friends and family who disapproved were a deterrent.

PinkHairA tattoo, something I could hide more easily, is too expensive right now. I am being extremely particular about the design, which will be more of a mosaic of tattoos. So while going to get my hair done on Friday, I got into a conversation with the hairdressing talking about the challenges of doing certain hair procedures on dark, naturally curly hair like mine. That’s when she mentioned an extremely convenient, newer option for bringing new life to my hair, at my own pace, in my own home. It didn’t take much for me to say, “I’m going for it!”

This is what resulted. I got overwhelmingly positive response. And best of all, I feel amazing. And, as Christy said to me, it looks like ME.

4. I am grateful for the unconditional support of friends like @thecrazymagnet.

Though we live 30000 miles away from one another, I feel like he is one of my closest friends, and we can share more intimate details, as well the everyday happenings in our respective lives. Though I know it can be hard for him to give objective advice when I come to him frustrated over different things going on in with me, especially with regard to dating and relationships, he still listens like a trooper, gives me his brutally honest opinion and is there to support if things don’t work out as I had hoped or expected. He’s also been great at keeping me entertained during those days when I couldn’t much more than leave the bed.

5. I am grateful for my improved communication skills in my relationship.

Last week, the boyfriend and I got into a disagreement, mainly because I was feeling taken for granted, mainly neglected, during a time that meant a lot to me to feel connected. I also felt my intelligence and experiences within the same discipline that he also is exploring, albeit in a different direction, were not recognized, honored, and therefore, when he spoke of his study, he spoke down to me as if I couldn’t understand the same underlying process our two passions. My frustration was building up over this and a couple of other things for maybe a week and a half before I had a talk with @thecrazymagnet, and I realized I couldn’t wait until I saw the boyfriend on the weekend to communication.

"ms. understood", conceptual fine art photography ©2006 kelly angard

“ms. understood”, conceptual fine art photography ©2006 kelly angard

Normally in the past, this would be considered as confrontation. I’d be too frightened to talk to my own boyfriend about my wants and needs for that either he didn’t really get it so couldn’t fix it, or that he did get it, but wasn’t really willing and able to do anything to change it—“That’s just how I am.” Unfortunately, we used the workday, which is the worst way to hash out a discussion, especially over IM. After some miscommunications and both of us equally frustrated, I finally took a breath. This is what I mean to say…I felt hurt that you did this because…I worry that you don’t take me as seriously in our conversation topics as you used to…And then I listened. Because the best thing I have learned while being int this conversation, is that when you’re with someone with whom you can so honestly and openly how you feel and what you fear, you are increasing the chances to be understand. Instead of just communicating to be understood, be both strive to really hear and listen so that we can understand. Makes a huge impact on the health of our relationship.