I have an amazing life. Sure there are days where I cry into my Brussels sprouts but I just blow my nose and forge ahead. Meanwhile my sprouts are always tasty and no that is not why.
This year as I reflected inward to work on myself I learned many things. Sometimes they were little things but usually they were large amounts of small things that ended up making all the difference.
For instance during the weeks I am stuck on the couch in migraine induced hell I forget what I have been successful in and instead focus on what I am missing out on that day. One of the major problems of a chronic illness is that it becomes invisible to those who do not see you at your worst. I am talking about the kind of days where getting up to pee or brush your teeth feel like climbing to the top of Mount Everest without oxygen. Worse yet are the days you know you need to shower because you are bothering yourself but still aren’t steady enough to go it alone. There aren’t many people that will see you like that. I know that in my world it has been only my immediate family, lucky them.
Almost inexplicably the world keeps turning. Everyone else is going on with their lives while you try to remember what day it is. Then when you muster the innermost strength to go outside to return to “normal” life it is just about too much. I am nearly blinded by any sunlight and always overwhelmed commuting. By the time I am at my destination I am ready to cry and lay down. Unfortunately I never have that option when I need it most. It leaves me struggling to believe that there are days when functioning on a basic level doesn’t require so much work.
I am trying to allow myself to be more vulnerable internally. To allow myself permission to dig deep to heal old issues without creating new ones. When you are having a chat within yourself struggling to find the positive in your life to focus on, it is easy to forget all of the amazing experiences you have already banked. When I am blocked trying to remember what I am most proud of it is often pictures that weave my history right in front of my face so that there is nothing else to do but smile with pride on the inside as well as the outside.
A simple way to find those moments in photos is to look at my Twitter account and see what I have been posting for Throw Back Thursday (#TBT). Often when thinking of a posting for #TBT is when I realize my accomplishments. They are there in color and I share them for the entire world to see. After a few glances I can see what I have been doing in my thirty-four years and I know it is impressive.
Here see for yourself:
· Swimming with dolphins in Mexico;
· Watching the Can-Can dance in Paris at the Moulin Rouge;
· Attending the inaugural party for Mayor Bloomberg’s second term in office;
· Holding a baby alligator on a swamp tour in New Orleans;
· Visiting Graceland in Memphis;
· Walking the halls of the Supreme Court;
· Meeting Annie Leibovitz;
· Meeting future President Hillary Clinton;
· Having my picture taken in front of the legendary Apollo Theater;
· Seeing the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London; and
· Knowing the exact intersection in Chicago that is my favorite spot rain or shine.
These are just a bunch of highlights that quickly sprung into my mind. In just those few moments it took to comprise this list already had me smiling. Those experiences are intangible except for my memories, photos, and souvenirs I always buy to remind myself that these things have happened. I am able to cross them off the big bucket list of my life. For me a bucket list isn’t something to make at the end of your life but rather the point of my life.
The goals I set for myself are for all facets of my life. They include where and how I travel, the things I finally get to see with my own eyes, and the stages of my future to come. The big markers of my experiences show how far I have come and all the work it takes in between.
Since we are still in the holiday season there is further proof of these achievements right in front of my face. As my Christmas tree rotates I see the ornaments from places I have been, a favorite souvenir I try to get everywhere I go, even if I am not traveling far. The cable car from San Francisco, the boat from Mystic, Connecticut, a pizza peel shovel from Frank Pepe Pizzeria in Connecticut, and the sparkly ball from Serendipity in N.Y.C. have my attention right now.
There are also mementos from family and friends that I treasure. I am now in the stage of my life where I have shred those who aren’t worthy of my time and love. I can count on my hand those who are part of my right or die crew. Best of all I have myself.
I also can see the stocking from my first Christmas and I can look ahead to a tree that will one day have my daughter’s next to it.
As I become the woman I want to be I am taking things down to the most basic level. I have always had really good self-esteem for some reason. I was just born that way. What I am wearing never ever plays a role in that. However I want to dress for the life I live in my dreams. Now what I am wearing will reflect how I carry and value myself. This way what the world sees of me on the outside will reflect the encouraging way I treat myself on the inside.
I have always had a strong voice for others as well as myself. I dish out the truth and I can take it just the same. After all of these years I no longer have to remind myself that I am always right, or how I want to achieve the traits I am striving for. I fully believe what I have been telling myself all of these years. It feels like those wise words are finally kicking in. When I am having a great day, a truly blissful day walking and talking with great company sharing an experience I have longed to, there is no higher place for me. My passions bring me as high as my illness has low.
What is that saying “youth is wasted on the young”? I think I now know what that means. While we are young we don’t know our true selves. We aren’t in our right minds so to speak. But now in my early-mid thirties I am realizing I am the most complete version of myself thus far. I have security and strength that I have arrived here. I feel good in my own skin and actually know what that means.
I can look back at the past ages and stages of my life and see the fun, happiness, and even struggles those versions of myself went through and see how they have brought me to my current state. There are clear boundaries. I have learned to look back without judgment but rather affinity.
Skipping ahead a decade or so is not a frightening thought. I have end goals for each chapter of my life to come and my focus now is taking it day to day to see what I have to do now to end up there. I don’t have to worry I wont get there because I am ensuring it will happen. I am very present in my present world and even some quiet time in places you least expect bring about my greatest revolutions of thought. I can find the safe peaceful parts of myself on the quick allowing me to remain on the right track. I don’t have to mentally wander off anymore to figure things out.
Looking ahead to the next big holiday, the New Year, I have begun visualizing what 2016 will have in store for me. I feel good and confident about the year to come that I will create the next necessary steps of my journey this year.
I know part of it will be traveling solo to accomplish seeing parts of the world that are sacred to me that I have been holding inside. I don’t have to wait for the perfect time or companion thus giving me anxiety it will never come to pass. I know I am my own best friend, not my worst enemy.
At the end of 2016 I will be turning thirty-five and rather than the traditional markers for such an occasion, I have certain criteria to achieve in the year until that transition. The details of what will come after will come to me then as I lay out the next stepping-stones for the following year and so on. I plan to live my life this way from now on. Big yearly plan, while living life focused one day at a time. This will let me know I am headed in the right direction without overwhelming myself.
Everything is finally starting to feel like its falling into place. I am learning to acknowledge once and for all that I am capable of controlling my destiny, and even my health to the best of my ability, no matter what the outside work sees or thinks. The value of really only caring what I think has the power to change everything. It will guide me to make my dreams come true because I am the only one that can. That is a great feeling, I know from what I have already fulfilled.
Katy Perry sums it up best: “I went from zero, to my own hero”. It’s not just a catchy tune. It is a motto I aspire to live on a daily basis.
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To be continued. In a book to be written in my future.