Seeking My Best Self

trying to make sense of my life – and lose some weight

It was a Good Year

By most measures, this was not a stellar year. In 2014, my marriage turned rocky, my brother had a stroke, I had a heart event, and now my mother has died.

Death, ill health and relationship struggles dominated, yet I feel fondly toward 2014. “Wasn’t that a nice year,” I find myself thinking. “I hope 2015 is as good.”

Really? From the outside, this doesn’t look like it was such a great year. Heck, I didn’t even lose weight. I’m still hovering at the 150 mark, which is about 15 pounds heavier than I’d like to be. How can I feel optimistic about THIS year?

The thing is, for all its sorrows, 2014 brought significant emotional growth. I am more content and peaceful than I’ve ever been, and it was the challenging events of this year that provided the jet fuel for my rapid progress. (That, and being in my fifties. Did you know that happiness increases dramatically beginning in this decade? I’ll talk about this in another post, but for all you youngsters – it turns out aging is something to look forward to on a LOT of levels.)

ertswed1313I’ve been pretty close-mouthed about my relationship woes. I’ll admit, it’s been a pride thing. I hate providing fodder for all the I-told-you-so’ers, who rolled their eyes when I married a much younger man, whispering behind their hands that it wouldn’t last. (Yes, your comments DID get back to me. Gossips gossip.)

Despite my best intentions, when B and I married, I drifted into some of the same old poor relationship habits. He did the same. As a result, in March we made an almost complete emotional break. We’ve moved to different homes. But over the ensuing months, we’ve discovered that this relationship – whatever it will be – is worth working on. Changing for. We’ve both been doing hard work on ourselves, to be the people we want to be in this and ANY relationship.

I don’t know what ‘we’ will look like when we’re finished. If there will be a ‘we’. But I’m not looking ahead, I’m doggedly focusing on now. Let the future take care of itself. I’ve wasted too many nows worrying about thens. This year, thanks to our relationship crisis, I finally learned to live in the present. Turns out, I am much happier concentrating only on NOW. I have so much more emotional energy for the present when I’m not angsting about the past and anxious about the future.

mikecorinnaIn June, my brother had a stroke. I immediately moved in with Mike & my sis-in-law Corinna, to help and (let’s be honest) to hover. When Michael came home from the hospital, it looked pretty grim. He depended heavily on a walker. He couldn’t hold objects in his left hand. His face drooped. When I left a month later, Mike was walking over a mile a day without assistance – no walker, no cane! His face was symmetrical. He’d lost significant weight, thanks to new, healthy eating habits. He was even recovered enough to do some photography work for me.

I didn’t participate in a tragedy, I witnessed a miracle. I watched Michael take charge of his life; make changes that were needed; show determination and optimism in the face of a terrifying physical event. We can ALWAYS make a new start. It’s never ‘too late’. Our dreams and our life lie ever before us.

Even more importantly, through this event, my brother and I reconnected. We’ve always loved one another, but we’d drifted off into our own busy lives, and hadn’t been close in decades. This brought us back together – Mike, Corinna and me. It rekindled our delight in one another. We rediscovered true family. Became a strong, cohesive team.

mom webWe needed all of that new-found closeness to work cooperatively in helping Mom, who was showing signs of mental decline. We worked together to move her from her house and into an independent living apartment. She went from a life of isolation into one of community. For the first time in years, Mom had regular interaction with others. A social life. Friends.

Then Mom died in a freak accident. How would we have endured if we hadn’t re-established strong ties? But we did, and it’s made ALL the difference. We text and call daily. “How are you doing?” we ask one another. “I love you. I need you. I just wanted you to know.” Our closeness holds us together through this grief. It is a blessing.

My heart event came as a result of years of maintaining ridiculous cortisol levels as I worked too hard, too long, took on more than any reasonable person could possibly manage – in other words, led the typical Amerian life. Then came a kicker event: in October, a job that I thought was going to provide tremendous income for me and for the family members and friends with whom I’d contracted, looked as though it were going to tank. All these people were depending upon me, I thought, and it looked like I was going to let them down.

BOOM. My heart called a time-out. I spent a month wondering if I would need to revise the almost four decades of life I envisioned yet spooled out before me. Would I have mere months or years? Would I have to let go the dreams of 500 mile walking pilgrimages? Of travel to foreign lands? Did I have a future at all?

The tests came back negative. My heart is strong. Chances of another event verge on zero. But I am not immortal, and I do NOT want to spend what hours, days, or decades remain focused on unfulfilling tasks.

So, since October, I’ve published my first book. I’ve started an art project that mixes Spirit and photography. I’ve moved to the helm, rather than the decks, of the exciting new venture that melds ministry and business. And I daily embrace my friends and my family. It’s a good life. It was a good year.

And next year, I’ll get those fifteen pounds off. No, really.

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Family Matters

mikecorinnaIt’s been two months since I last posted. My brother has had a miraculous recovery from his stroke. He’s not *there* yet, still attending both PT and OT, but he’s back to work (for me!) and feeling good. He has lost 50 pounds in these two months, with a goal for another 50 by years’ end. That’s a dramatic loss, but he’s doing it in a healthy and measured way, and it’s his best defense against future stroke events.

My sister-in-law, Corinna, also jumped on the health bandwagon – and she’s also lost 50 pounds. It’s been so much fun to watch her explore new foods – discovering that cherries and other fruits are DELICIOUS. That salads can be a fun and filling dinner. In fact, I ate much better when I stayed with them – maybe I should move back!

The month I stayed with them allowed us to reconnect and deepen our relationship.  It was the silver lining in the stroke storm-cloud. Why did we allow geographic separation – and only 60 miles – to cause such emotional distance? As far as I’m concerned, this is the person  for whom the song “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother” was written. I would walk any road for my baby brother – no matter how long. I’m sorry it took such a traumatic event to bring us back together.

I am determined not to let it happen again.

 

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Wake-Up Call

mikeMy baby brother (he’s only fifty-one) called me Sunday before last. “I don’t think we’ll be able to get together tomorrow,” he said. “I think I’m having a silent migraine. I have tunnel vision and I just can’t seem to keep my balance. I’m so fuzzy-headed, I’m having to really concentrate to talk.”

“Those could also be stroke symptoms, Mike,” I replied. “Maybe you should go get that checked out.”

“Oh, I’ll be fine. If they don’t go away in a day or two, I’ll see a doctor.”

On Monday, he was in the ER. He was admitted and spent four days in the hospital. He did, indeed, have a stroke, and in addition, he was diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes.

The doctors had good news and bad news. The good news is, he’s likely to make a complete recovery. The bad news is, without significant lifestyle changes, he has a good chance of recurrence.

So I’m staying with him for a while so his wife can go back to work. I’m cooking for us all, and helping Mike with therapy and exercise. The diet is familiar – the one I’ve been imperfectly trying to implement over the past year-and-a-half. I’m not missing the mark now, though. This was a wake-up call for us all.

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