Category Archives: faith

WHAT UP 2015!?!?

I’m doing it: 2014 retrospective! Sorry so sappy, but my blog is nothing but trying to reinforce lessons I’ve learned, process life, and sort my thoughts. Meanwhile, a bit of a show I’m re- re- re- re- re-watching on Netflix struck me as a great theme for the thoughts of last year and aspirations for next! From an episode of Gilmore Girls:

Lorelai: Wait, wait. Look around for a second. Notice?
Rory: Notice what?
Lorelai: It’s not so scary anymore.
Rory: No, it’s not.

Pretty much everything I’ve ever been anxious about worth being anxious about includes that moment of realization that “this isn’t so scary anymore.”

In chronological order of things to be scared of this year:

  • I left a great job for another great job. A few months later, I was laid off.
  • I got engaged!
  • I planned a wedding! Although it wasn’t perfect, it was a blast. I have family and friends who made everything happen, and I love those folks overwhelmingly.
  • I got married!
  • I have an exciting career opportunity!

I wrote a little bit about my wedding, but that was a combination of trying to edit my disappointment while emphasizing the most positive parts. Meanwhile, our experiences and memories were a little different.

I met some fantastic people this year. People who I’ve known and loved had gone above and beyond for me. My husband is a rock star, in more ways than one. 2014 was good for us, but I am convinced 2015 will be much better!

Why I write

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ”

― Joss Whedon

I write for an audience of one: Me. OK, professionally, I write for the audience that I’m paid to write for, but the most rewarding stuff to write is my own blog. If anything I write encourages, edifies, or blesses you, I’m blessed to be a blessing. But I write for and about my own edification. It gives me strength. It helps me explore what I’m afraid of. It helps me articulate thoughts and feelings to myself. I’m best served by being honest with myself, and writing helps me do that.

These days, I’m writing to help me explore all the things I’m afraid of, and hopefully, to give myself strength! Also, I’m slightly hoping that Hogwarts will finally get wind of me and send me an owl with registration information.

I’ve been writing about change a lot lately. So much change! I’m moving. I’m starting a really exciting new job and leaving a job I really love. In the romance department, I think it’s fair to say some changes are coming. According to a report from my Pookie, my hand has been formally requested in marriage. That’s a pretty big change, right?! Also, I’m moving.

I’m tired just writing about it.

I had a big philosophical post in mind with an analogy that explains my recent career journey, but I was lucky enough to talk it through with my Mister, and I feel pretty okay about it without writing about. For now.

At the end of the day, the voice in my head is my college roommate’s: She told me not to believe the lies I tell myself. These lies are ones that other people — who don’t know me — have told me that I eventually accepted. A great career lesson is to explain your experience and clearly identify the career you want. Taking a job because you like the people isn’t enough. The greatest opportunity for success is when your employer knows your experience and expertise, and you know what your employer wants and needs.

Change is so scary for me that even writing about it has been terrifying. But I must write. I publish a small fraction of what I write, but in my recent experience, I write to give myself strength.

EDIT: I cancelled an upcoming face-to-face interview for Monday. When an employer doesn’t have a clear idea of what they want to hire, you don’t have a clear path to success.

Change, cancer, and other things that don’t define us

Today I made contact with a very lovely gentlemen who found me through this blog. That’s pretty shocking considering how intentionally little I market or publicize my personal blog. Specifically, he found my previous blog post about tackling change.

This gentlemen reached out to me about his story as a loved one of a cancer survivor. He didn’t know I was also a loved one of a cancer survivor. Nor did he know how deeply I’ve been affected by my friends’ mom’s struggle with cancer, or my friends’ daughter battle throughout her teens.

I share his family’s story to share hope with anyone — especially myself — facing challenging times. Theirs is a story of sacrifice, determination, and hope, which conquers fear and doubt.

I write about this family’s story to remind myself of the power of change. I write about this family’s story to validate their experience and amazing, hopeful message. I write to share their story with anyone who may read this.

Cameron Von St. James (I originally called him Collin. Doh!) is the gentleman who reached out to me today. I am so blessed to have contact with this family, and I hope to get to know them more. Colin’s wife, Heather, has a rock star web site. I beg you to check it out because it’s awesome AND therapeutic! I think I should develop such an awesome site for my mom to raise awareness of her type of cancer! Heather’s site is fun. That seems odd considering the subject matter, but it’s true.

Check out Heather Von St. James website.

They have a specific day for “Lung Leavin’ Day,” so stay tuned for more about it.

Embrace

Change — even change for the good — is challenging. I face a lot of exciting, terrifying, thrilling, scary, happy, major change this year. Respectively, I am excited, terrified, thrilled, scared, happy, and out-of-my-mind anxious about it all. A friend of mine used to tell me to “surrender” to difficult situations, but recently a friend suggested a motto for 2014: Embrace.

The change in attitude may be subtle, but “embrace” is so much more positive than “surrender.” I get that we all experience situations in which change feels like ocean waves that roll over us. Those are experiences for surrender — hold your breath and duck. But some, if not many, situations are better when we don’t merely duck, but instead plant our feet, turn toward the tide, and lean in.

“Lean in” or “embrace” is a motto I want to adopt this year, but my initial challenge is choosing the particular wave to embrace or lean into. I’m trying to get my proverbial ducks in a row, but I find myself quite distracted by Downton Abbey. 🙂

I’m working on a new website with a new portfolio. My personal blog will have to stay personal — I have to stay true to my audience of one: Future Ashley. But I will incorporate a new design and new portfolio into the new site.

The heart of the matter

heart-of-the-matter

My mom once coined the phrase, “you’re blessed to be a blessing.” (My mom is so smart, right?!) Unfortunately, a friend of mine had some heart trouble recently, which will be resolved less soon than hoped, but soon.

Eventually, it dawned on me that I failed to share with my family what was going on with the patient, a member of my “family of choice.” I’m so glad we both reached out and started asking for and accepting help — it makes so much difference!

Everyone has a superpower. Mine is hospitals.

I was texting a friend last night regarding our mutual friend who was admitted to the hospital yesterday. He mentioned a couple of time his abhorrence of hospitals, which I get! It’s not my fear or phobia, but I realize it’s a legitimate one. Because I can “do” hospitals, that’s what I’ll do for my friend! I would do the same for you.

The same way we all have a superpower, many of us have a massive phobia or two. When you don’t understand someone else’s fear or phobia, it’s easy to mock them, tease them, or think they are crazy. It’s too easy to poo-poo other people’s fears because we don’t understand them. But this is my phobia, as demonstrated in this photo by CBS DFW of LBJ freeway in Dallas:

why-im-scared-of-trucksPersonally, I’m terrified of driving by big trucks. Last week a contractor for the LBJ construction managed to jump the median and crush two cars — one on each side! Two people died. I literally flinch when I pass a truck on the highway. Commuting’s a bitch.

What I’m not afraid of is hospitals. In fact, I think I developed a superpower for it. I have a couple of friends who travel a lot, and one of them taught me to take a picture of my car in the hospital parking garage so I can find it. Emotional exhaustion is the greatest enemy of the hospital visitor, so eliminating the aggro of wandering around looking for your car is crucial to a swift exit.

Also, mentally map out the nurse’s station. Knowing where those are makes finding the right room, elevator, ice machine, whatever, much easier. They are laid out in such a way that they always have the best access, so use the nurse’s station to get your bearings.

Despite my hospital-visiting mojo, I find that I’m always disoriented upon leaving. Last night, I left a hospital in an area I’m very familiar with.  I made two U-turns on streets that I had driven consistently over the four years I lived in Plano. I just couldn’t reconcile in my brain where I was against the deli I was trying to get to. Maps and apps don’t help. Trust me — visiting a hospital sucks out one’s sense of direction.

Hospital etiquette is also pretty weird. You knock on a person’s door, but you have a sliver of doubt that it’s the wrong room, you go in and it’s the right room, but you never know what you’re going to find. Doctor explaining prognosis? Sleeping patient? Shaved head? People visiting who you don’t know? People visiting who you do know? Nurses measuring urine output? Monitors blaring alarms? You knock, and you go in, and you do so with the expectation of the unexpected. You go in because the patient is less likely to fortify themselves against the constant barrage of the unexpected than you are as a visitor. I go in, despite all my anxiety, to be a little life raft in the storm.

Side note: I’ve been getting Facebook messages from people I don’t know asking about this particular friend. I’m unsure about that etiquette, but I’d like to say: I’ve barely slept, I have other stuff going on, and if he felt well enough to tell you or wanted you to know, he would take your calls or respond to your texts! And also, cool it.

cool-itDon’t stalk me on Facebook, person I’ve never heard of who claims to be a friend of my friend. Send a prayer, a good thought, some happy mojo, whatever you do. I’m sure you’re intentions are the best of the best, but contacting me only drains my hospital superpowers. Let me do what I can do for him instead of fretting over a response to you.

Anxiety paradox

Have you ever tried to call someone who you wanted to talk to and the number didn’t work? It’s pretty sad. Likewise, have you ever had a number for a person you really wanted to call but were too chicken to? Also pretty sad. Tonight, in a fit of bravery, I called both numbers.

One number was a bust, but the other resulted in an amazing experience. I have a friend who I have known since we were very little who is a truly gifted person. She is brilliant at thousands of things, many of which relate to humanity. She had a keen eye at a young age, and her observations have influenced me ever since.

The other important thing about this person is that when I was in a crisis, she was very generous with me. We met, she listened, she related, we talked about stuff to get my mind off my crisis, she completely supported me. She set me on a path of self-realization without even realizing it! (But that’s second borns do. We get work done with no expectation of acknowledgement.) I am so blessed to  have reached out to her in a day of need. Today’s call was inspired. I take no credit for it, but I relish in the blessings from it!

If you can relate to either sad experience, I give you a desktop from Reddit.

I’ve got a playlist coming, and a massive update about my therapy. Let’s not be sad; let’s be thankful for our blessings.

Tagged , ,

Really, exposure therapy? Really?

Enchanted Rock, Texas

This is an incredibly emotional post to write. I’ve been composing this for several days, and I hope that writing about it will make it less emotional to discuss.

My therapy has moved into so-called “exposure therapy,” in which I face symptoms of my panic attacks and other panic-inducing situations. It’s pretty scary, but it is pretty powerful stuff.

For example, I’ve hiked Enchanted Rock a dozen times over. When my boyfriend suggested that we check it out on our Hill Country vacation, I was pretty eager! We headed to Enchanted Rock State Park Tuesday with water, snacks, sunscreen, good athletic shoes, and bug repellant. One thing I didn’t even expect to bring was my newly developed fear of heights. This fear is, like I said, new to me, so it is frequently unexpected.

I got crazy vertigo going up E Rock, which triggered panic events. It was totally unexpected, disappointing, humbling, shaming, and kind of exhilarating. (That is to say, several times going up I got seriously freaked out by the heights and steepness of the incline when the wall of rock appeared.)

Going down the rock, we traversed great distances. I couldn’t really bear to look down much to opine as to best paths to travel — which was extremely frustrating because I’ve been trained to pick out hiking and bouldering paths! It’s an instinct that was over-run by sheer panic.

At one point, after following a series of boulders down a steep incline, we realized that we couldn’t climb over the boulders to join the trail. Seriously, we could not. It was a fine idea, but there was no way the two of us could’ve climbed those rocks without equipment that we didn’t have.

About this time, I had one of the two worst panic attacks of my life. One of my major triggers is my irrational fear that I can’t get home safely. And on that rock, I was convinced that I had no way home off the rock. Sheer will, tenacity, and a carote chop were all the skills availed to me. And, I suppose, a great deal of trust in my boyfriend.

For a panicked person such as me with a wacky, recently developed fear of heights, hiking 1850 feet is an accomplishment.

Unfortunately, I don’t have more pictures as I dropped my phone into water. This picture is one I took at a plateau in between panic attacks.

What cancer gave me

If you review my blog, you’ll notice a gap in public posts from the last quarter of 2008 all the way through the second quarter of 2010. I have a couple of reasons for that, but the most significant one is that in January 2009, my mom was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Generally speaking, if you can avoid it, I’d suggest you do so. But if you can’t, here’s what I got from cancer:

  • A serious sense of humor. It’s not the oxymoron you think it is. When my mom was going through the worst of it (bone marrow transplant), she told me that I was the funny one. My job was to keep the family laughing. I took that job very seriously, at any expense. I find my sense of humor has been permanently changed. I can, and do, find humor in everything. People can be disarmed by the ease with which I joke about serious or taboo topics. 
  • Perspective. A lot of little things used to really get to me. I can more easily identify little things from the big things. With some notable exceptions. Stand by for that explanation.
  • Rock solid faith in my family. From the oldest to the youngest, my family pulled together when my mom was sick. My youngest niece was pretty young, but totally fearless — of hospitals, of her grandmother in a neck brace using a walker, of her aunt developing a brand new sense of humor, of everything her mother was going through. Even my late grandmother, suffering from Alzheimers,  was very supportive when my mom told her about the cancer.
  • Panic disorder. This one’s my favorite. I described it vaguely here, but the reality is that panic and anxiety grew to control my life beginning shortly before I knew about my mom’s cancer. My first panic attack was about ten days before I knew my mom was sick; although my mom’s cancer was pretty fully developed by that point, we didn’t know it yet. From that first panic attack, the anxiety cycled exponentially. I developed fear of heights and driving, severe social anxiety, and agoraphobia. A lot of little things bother me in a panicky way, but those are irrational things. The big, more logical things, are much easier to deal with.
  • A new lease on life. Since my mom’s cancer — I realize I’m describing everything in terms of that — I’ve experienced everything just a little differently. I push myself more than I ever have. And I love it. Although it’s hard to beat back feelings of panic, my current euphoria is a high worth riding.

My experience in a very brief nutshell.

2012 didn’t suck

Early this year, I created a playlist for myself, which I called “2012 won’t suck.” Guess what! It didn’t!

Today is a pretty good example of the year I’ve had — love and joy, loss, and amazing opportunity. One of my favorite people on the planet shared with me her very important decision to leave Dallas. It was choice I knew deep-down she would struggle with, but I also believe her decision is the best one, even if selfishly it means all those growing-apart things that happen when friends don’t live nearby.

(Does it seem silly to be sad about someone moving away in this overly connected world? Can we not see the minutiae of each others’ lives on Facebook? Will we not be able to text each other constantly? Do we not each have infinite wireless minutes with which to speak any time we want? My relationship with this person has been forged 99 percent face-to-face. We don’t text much. She barely uses Facebook to share. She’s not on Twitter [GASP!], Pinterest [PEARL CLUTCHING!], or any of the social media I use regularly. Knowing that she would eventually come “home” to Dallas always meant I knew I’d get to see her. But several weeks ago, I realized that she really needs to come home for realsies — her home. Dallas is my home, but it was never hers. And if I’d lived in, say, Arizona for five or six years, I’d be anxious to come home to Dallas. So, yes, it’s silly to be sad that someone — this particular someone, especially — is moving away, but even positive change can be difficult. This positive change makes me feel like I’m losing someone, and only time will prove me wrong.)

Shortly after learning that one friend is moving away, I learned from another that their year-long journey to add to their family is a reality! The pregnancy is early, so I won’t say anything more than how overjoyed I am to be an “aunt” again.

Major emotional swings today!

Naturally, I will share the best of my “2012 won’t suck” playlist:

 

04_The_Shadow_Proves_The_Sunshine.mp3 Listen on Posterous

01_Options.mp3 Listen on Posterous

05_Put_On_A_Happy_Face_(w_James_Taylor).mp3 Listen on Posterous

14_Long_Live.mp3 Listen on Posterous

08_Have_A_Nice_Day.mp3 Listen on Posterous

How_Soon_Is_Now.mp3 Listen on Posterous