Stay Strong

This was a difficult week for many women in America. Painful memories have been awakened in many of us. Memories of junior high, high school, or college that we have worked hard to deal with through counseling, self-help books, faith, and a positive outlook on our present lives. I write this post not as a political commentary, but to hopefully reach out to other women, and men who are hurting and finding it difficult to navigate each day.

I won’t go too much into my experience. I will say I was very young and in my first year of junior high. Too young to really understand what was happening. I was at an age when all of us want to be liked, especially by the ‘popular kids’. Boys go through this, but it is even more difficult on girls. My family moved around a lot. I often changed schools every year, sometimes in the middle of a year. Needless to say, that didn’t make me one of the popular kids, especially since many of the towns we moved to were small towns where everyone knew each other. I already had a mixed up view of what relationships were supposed to be like. When one of the popular boys started to pay attention to me, my insecurities and desire to be accepted led me to believe that he really liked me. I didn’t want IT to happen. I didn’t even know what “it” was. I was even naive enough to think that we were now boyfriend/girlfriend. I found out I was wrong when I returned to school on Monday to notice kids looking at me and whispering. It wasn’t long before I heard the word, “slut” murmured in the hallways as I walked past. I never told my parents what happened. I was afraid. I thought it was all my fault. My dad had a short temper and I didn’t want to trigger that.

Long story short, that word “slut” stuck with me. I started to believe that’s what I really was. It led me down a dark path through my early teenage years. It got to be too much and I tried to end my life at 14. My parents responded by taking me to counseling at a local church. Ironically, the kids who were calling me names and making my life hell were all “good Christian kids” and members of the church. I got my first real look at the ugly face of hypocrisy. Something did change that day though. My pain, depression, despair…it all turned to anger.

I spent the rest of my teenage years, and my early adult life expressing my frustrations and depression through anger. I didn’t lash out. I didn’t go to school with a gun. I turned it all inward. I shut off my emotions except for anger. I listened to the loudest, most anti-establishment music I could find. I did other things to try to escape. I would’ve been the kid voted most likely to punch someone in the face, but again my anger was turned inward not outward. I hated people in general, but I just stayed away from them. Family members who still didn’t know what happened would tell me I needed to “smile and be happy”.

I ended up getting married two months after I turned 18. I thought I could escape my life that way. It didn’t help. I just had someone to turn my anger towards. It was a rough couple of years until we moved far away from my family and the part of the country where so much of my pain had been rooted. I was 20 years old and 1,500 miles away from my family when I found out I was pregnant. I wanted a new life. I wanted a life different for my child than what I had. I tried so hard to have that new life, but the pain from my past was still there. I tried counseling. I tried church. I tried to put all of my energy into my daughter. I still couldn’t escape it. I didn’t trust anyone. I couldn’t make friends because I didn’t trust them around my husband or my daughter. Inside, I was living through hell. My marriage ended partly because I didn’t know what a healthy relationship looked like.

Fast forward to today. Most people would never imagine me as the person I was for so many years. I tend to be optimistic. I’m outgoing on a professional level, but still an introvert. I care about people. I work to make lives better. I have a wonderful husband who believes in me and supports me in everything I do. We’ve both been through a lot in our lives, but that’s a bond that holds us together.

I’m so thankful that I have him in my life because this past week has been absolute hell for me. Memories that I had dealt with came flooding back. What has hurt the most are the people who I thought I knew saying the most insensitive things about victims. I will be honest, the past two years have been hell. I’ll save the details but it isn’t about politics. It is about human nature. I’ve lost contact with people because I’ve seen who they really are and I don’t care to be part of their hate. I recently realized through a health tracker that I have gained 10 pounds just since 2016. I have done what I tell my clients not to do, feed emotions with food.

This week I started to feel that anger again. I felt myself wanting to withdraw from people. That is hard to do in my job. I reached out on social media with a list of resources for victims. Facebook denied my post boost because they don’t boost “political posts”. I challenged their decision since there was nothing political in my post, but they still denied it. I’m going back and forth between wanting to reach out, and wanting to withdraw. When I read posts from friends and acquaintances, especially the #WhyIDidntReport posts, I can’t withdraw. I know that I am not alone in these feelings. I know there are people out there who have been through even worse than what I went through. These stories haunt me, whether they happened last night or 40 years ago. I know the pain, but I don’t know all of the pain. I know there are others who have gained weight by eating or drinking their emotions away. I know there are those who don’t sleep at night. I know there are people who can’t exercise because it is all they can do to get out of bed in the morning and go to work or take care of their families. I know they are hearing and reading the same insensitive comments. “Why didn’t you tell anyone then?”. “Why were you alone with him?”. “Why did you drink too much?”. “Why did you wear that outfit?”. “Boys will be boys, that is just how it is.”. “That’s in the past. Don’t destroy someone’s life now.”. It is like hearing the word “slut” again, and again, and again.

What I hope those insensitive people understand is that the pain never leaves us. It shapes who we are. It affects our relationships. It affects our trust of people. I feared for my daughter when she was growing up. Now I fear for my two granddaughters. I can say there are positives that came out of my pain and experiences. I will always advocate for those who do not have a voice. I will always be aware of the struggles of others. I will always root for the underdog. I will continue to use my platform to help those who need help. I don’t care if it affects my business or puts a political label on me. I will always speak out for what is right. My business name is ReNu Your Life because we do have the opportunity to change our lives. We may have huge obstacles to overcome, but empowering others to use those obstacles to make ourselves stronger is the key. Don’t let the negative voices win, whether they are inside your head or coming from people around you. Log out of Facebook and Twitter if you need to. Unfollow or “Unfriend” if you have to. You may find out the hard way who your true friends (and even family) really are. Take a break from the news. Find people who will support you and listen, not shut you down with insensitive accusations and victim blaming. Don’t compromise. Our mental health and our physical health is taking a beating. We must stay strong.

 

Do What You Love

At the end of each year, I take time to reflect on what I did this year and how my business did. I will admit, 2017 was full of distractions and derailments. I became very passionate about injustices that were all around me. I always have been passionate, but this was the year when I started to take action. As important as that was to me, it did distract me from business matters and sometimes even from family matters. I had to take a step back and refocus on my business and my well-being.

Recently, I started to lament the fact that I wasn’t making as much money as I needed to be making. I love helping people. I love helping people live healthier, more functional lives. I’m definitely not looking at putting all of my “extra money” in off shore accounts! I’m more concerned about my account around the corner at the local bank. I’m a problem solver, so when I don’t like the way something is going I feel like I need to fix it. There lies the problem. In fixing the fact that I’m not making the money I need to be making, my brain automatically starts going into what I call “failure mode”. This is the mode that many of us who were not encouraged or told we would succeed in life reset to. I’m not parent blaming, but it takes work to overcome negative messages we were given growing up. The “failure mode” in my brain started to send message of, “you’re not successful”, “quit what you’re doing and find a ‘real’ job”, etc, etc.

I can proudly say that I don’t stay in that failure mode for very long. I’ve practiced for many years shutting that system off. Instead, I started thinking of more ways that I could help the people I’m helping now and others like them who I am not currently reaching. You see, I’m not in this career to get rich. I’m here to help others. I love the quote by Mark Twain,

“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

I love and enjoy what I do. Some days it seems like hard work, but other days it doesn’t seem like work at all. I’m a caregiver all around…for my clients, for my elderly mom, for my rescue dogs, even sometimes for my husband! I’m not rolling in money, I can’t take lavish vacations, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

As the holidays approach, I’ve been wishing my clients and class participants Happy Holidays. I may not see some of them for a week or two during break. Some are snow birds and I won’t see them until April. To hear them thank me for helping them this year and making a difference in their lives just confirms the Mark Twain quote, and what I am doing. All of the money and success in the world means nothing. Knowing that you have made a difference in someone’s life….that is priceless.

That Tug

Have you ever had an experience which causes you to reflect on life? I had one this week.  I was delivering fliers about our Parkinson’s group to a local medical office. Someone had suggested that I also drop some off at ‘His Hands’, a local free medical clinic. I had never been there, so I looked up the website on my phone and hit GPS directions.

The clinic was only a block or so away from where I was. I pulled in front of the small building and walked in. The office had a slight odd odor of dirty clothes. There was one patient sitting in the small waiting room.  I looked at the older man in his well worn clothes and immediately thought he might be homeless. I smiled at him and he smiled back with an almost toothless grin. Something tugged at my heart.

The receptionist was talking on the phone, but she smiled to acknowledge me. As I stood waiting, I heard her side of the conversation. I heard her verify with the person on the other end that they had health insurance but had a very high deductible. Yes, the clinic could help. I looked around at the small, simple, but clean office. Something tugged at my heart again.

A pleasant woman came through a door behind the front desk and asked if I needed help. I explained who I was and about the free programs for people with PD in the area as I handed her the fliers. She thanked me, said she would put some out in the waiting room and give some to the doctors to hand out. I thanked her and walked out to my car.

As I got back in the car, I looked again at the small building. It was a simple white building, nothing like the previous medical facility that I just came from with its large glass windows, spacious offices, and beautiful art on the walls.  I felt that same tug at my heart. This time tears came to my eyes. As I drove away, it hit me. “If not for the grace of God”.

Whatever your spiritual beliefs are or aren’t, we are one tragedy or bad decision away from needing services such as those provided by His Hands. I could be the homeless person in the waiting room if I had become addicted to drugs or alcohol, or had a mental illness that controlled my decisions. I could be there after being diagnosed with a disease or a became the victim of an accident that left me with medical bills that bankrupted me. I could be there if my child had been born with a condition that required expensive medical treatments.

We don’t like to think about the “what ifs”, but perhaps sometimes we should. It might give us a little more compassion towards those who are struggling. Maybe we wouldn’t see the man or woman on the street corner as a “bum”, but as someone who fell on hard times due to a drug or alcohol problem, or a mental illness. Maybe we wouldn’t stereotype the single mom who relies on Medicaid and Food Stamps to care for her family. Maybe we could empathize with the immigrant family who are just trying to find a better life for their children than what they fled. Maybe we could imagine what it would be like to be a veteran coming home to a different world that he or she is having trouble adjusting to.

Maybe, just maybe, we could all feel that tug in our hearts. That tug is called compassion. We all need to feel it.