Turning the Page

Today is October 16th. I realized this today and the thought nearly knocked me down. October 16th means that Labor Day has come and gone. The anniversary of my stroke has passed. It tiptoed past me without a sound. And I didn’t notice.

Labor Day has held so much meaning to me by reminding me what I’ve experienced, what I’ve overcome, the person I’ve become. It takes me back to when my life was so dramatically changed and I’ve used it as an opportunity to reflect.

But I missed it this year. For the best reason ever.

This year around Labor Day I was preparing to have some extensive oral surgery that would make a huge difference in my life. I was scared and nervous and excited. I was also a little anxious about the 20th high school reunion that was approaching. I wondered if I would be healed enough from the surgery to go to the reunion and actually talk to people. I was spinning in a whirlwind of emotions. About the future.

I didn’t notice the anniversary of my past because I was looking ahead.

And I didn’t do it as a part of some plan to self-actualize or heal from within. It just happened. Naturally.

This doesn’t mean I’m not still proud of how far I’ve come or that I won’t still reflect on the trek. I think I will still look back on the journey. I think, though, that I am more focused on the wonderful things scattered about on the road ahead.

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Courage, Hypocrisy, & Focus – Oh My!

Something has been bothering me since I posted my last message. Two things, actually.

First, I am aware of the hypocrisy of my advice to my coworker. I told her that the courageous thing to do would be to be honest with her friend. But I am not completely honest with her daily.

In this rare case, I am a hypocrite by choice. (Usually the hypocrisy is purely accidental.) I would like to be honest with her and have been tempted several times to tell her what is on my mind.

However, I am pretty sure her reaction would not be positive. And we have to work together so I’ve held back. Rather than courageously telling her the truth, I make the choice to keep the environment friendly, and, thus, become a hypocrite.

The second thing is the one that is really eating away at me.  The more I think about the negativity I’ve expressed about this coworker, the more I realize that I’m focusing on the bad things. Granted, it’s not hard to do that as she offers many undesirable characteristics to focus on. This, however, is not the person I want to be.

I mean what if everyone in the world only focused on the negative characteristics of the people around them? What a terrible place this world would be!

And I would hate to think that anyone saw only my less than desirable traits.

I need to focus on the positive qualities she has. I don’t believe that this will make her negative qualities disappear but perhaps there will be more of a balance.

And I don’t need to limit it to just her. I need to make more of an effort to focus on the positive qualities everyone has to offer.

That would be a change I would like to see in the world.

Courage

So I have this co-worker. She drives me nuts but she does have some good qualities. I’m resisting the urge to just unload about all of the things I cannot stand about her because this message isn’t actually about her. She just happened to utter some words that made me think.

This co-worker loves to come in to my office, sit down, and tell me all about her love life. Please note that I have not once asked her about any of it. She says that she loves how she can trust that I will always be honest with her, even if the truth isn’t something she wants to hear.

So she tells me all about this guy she has known for quite some time. She said he is her booty call and has been for a while. She said that she enjoys that there are no strings attached and it’s not complicated at all. She mentioned that the last time they were together, though, it was different. She said that he wanted to talk and even asked her to stay.

She was clearly uncomfortable. She did not want a “relationship” with him. She said she didn’t know what to do. And she wanted my opinion. So I gave it.

“Well, you could talk with him about it; let him know where you stand,” I advised.

“I’ll probably just not call him back and not return his texts,” she replied.

“Well, that’s not very courageous,” I said.

“We’re not all trying to be courageous, Melissa.”

It was her last statement that has stuck with me.

Why not?

Why aren’t we all trying to be courageous?

What’s wrong with being courageous? Is it too hard? Maybe we just don’t know what it means.

So I decided to look up the definition of courage. As I looked through the various sources, I realized that there is not one definition of courage but many. They all have the same general concept: a quality or state of mind or spirit that enables one to stand in the face of danger. Some say “without fear” or “without showing fear” but I disagree with that. Without fear, it’s not really courage at all. It’s just action.

The definition I like the most was from the Macmillan Dictionary (www.macmillandictionary.com)

Courage – noun – the ability to do something that you know is right or good, even though it is dangerous, frightening, or very difficult.

I think without that element of “right or good” you just have daring and not really courage.  But I digress.

“We’re not all trying to be courageous, Melissa.”

Well, I am.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Ever since I first read those words, I have tried to incorporate it into my life. And I would like to see more courage in our world. And I would like to see more kindness. And I would like to see more compassion.  And I would like to see more honesty.

And I would like to see less of that co-worker…if I’m being honest…

The Fountain

I love fountains.  I find the sounds of the water to be soothing, which I am aware is very strange for someone with a very strong fear of water.

I have fountains all over the house. I love all different types of fountains and am always looking for a good deal on one. So occasionally look on Craig’s List to see what is out there. What I find is usually either super high end (and quite expensive) or the super low end which is less expensive but also has quality issues.

So I was quite surprised when I came across this one really cool fountain not too long ago. I’d seen it before in catalogs and online and it is a higher quality fountain than the ones I’m used to getting. Thus it was always out of my price range. But there it was on Craig’s List and the list price was really inexpensive. I read and reread the listing looking for the flaw that must be there for such a great fountain to be listed so reasonably. Yet no mention of  water spraying straight up in the air or an unusually loud motor was made.

So I emailed my inquiry and received a response promptly.  Then life happened for a while and I forgot about this amazing find until I was cleaning out my inbox. At that point life had slowed down – I mean, I was cleaning out my inbox after all – so I sent the fountain lady another email asking if she still had the fountain. A few days later, she responded that she did have it. I happened to get that email on my birthday so I responded that since it was my birthday I wanted to get the fountain as a gift for myself.

So we set it up. I was to pick it up later in the week after work.

I arrived at her house and she invited me in. I heard a large dog in another room and saw a young girl head up the stairs to a loft area where she promptly started playing with some dolls. There was no tv on in the house (that I could hear, at least), there was a fire burning in the fireplace, and there was a beautiful Christmas tree in the corner.

The fountain lady walked over to the fountain, which was much larger than I had anticipated. It was beautiful. The copper had beautiful patina and the slate was in really good shape.  She mentioned she had considered having it running for me to see that it worked and how it looked when it was going but had opted against it because she didn’t think I would want a wet fountain in my car.

I told her it was beautiful and I started to get the money from my purse. She told me that she wanted me to take it as a birthday gift. I must have looked as puzzled as I felt. That’s when she told me that her daughter had wanted to “move” upstairs so she had needed to clear out the things that she had stored up there. And she kept going through things she had that she didn’t use or need any more. She mentioned that the only reason that she listed the fountain on Craig’s List because “what would a shelter do with something like this?” She continued on to say that it would make her heart feel good if I took the fountain.

I thanked her repeatedly and left. I decided immediately that the money I was going to pay her for the fountain, I was instead going to donate to a shelter (actually, I was going to double the amount because she was asking so little for the fountain in the first place). I mean, she would have given them the fountain if they could use it but they couldn’t. But they can use money, even if only a little.

On my drive home, I cried. I was moved. While, yes, she was sweet for giving me the fountain, that’s not what touched me.

She was a giving person, a truly generous person. She gave the things she didn’t need to shelters that do need them. And she said that as though she didn’t even know of another option.

And I had merely stumbled upon the chance to meet her.

Gratitude washed over me like…well…water in a fountain.

The flimsy door

“By choosing healthy over skinny you are choosing self-love over self-judgment. You are beautiful!”
~ Steve Maraboli

I saw this on Pinterest and, while I understand and appreciate the purpose of the article, I am disgusted by the photograph chosen to represent the “problem area.” If that represents fat in our society, then God help us all. Please stop contributing to the all too common body dysmorphia in our society. Glamorize health, not weight.

“Weight loss is not the key to your dreams. The truth is there is no lock and the door is flimsy.”
~ Golda Poretsky

The Chair

In 2008 I bought several pieces of antique furniture. Some of the pieces needed some cleaning up. I started doing little things here and there to clean up the decades’ worth of stuff that had accumulated over the years. And then a little more. And then even more.

As it turns out that kind of detail work is a lot of fun for someone who has a touch of OCD. (Ok, less like a touch and more like a slap but I digress.) I was good at it and it was fun to me.

And at that time, my social anxiety was so severe that I rarely left the house so I had plenty of time to work obsessively on little crevices that had become the home to grime over time. Q-tips and toothpicks and time. It was the beginning of a perfect hobby.

And then I had a stroke. I couldn’t pick up a toothpick much less use it to delicately coerce gunk to get off of my furniture. And it was pretty low on my list of priorities.

Over the past 4 or so years, most of the furniture has been sold or given away. Except the chair.

An old Gunlocke desk chair was listed on Craig’s List for $25. It was in overall good condition. Except for this one thing. It’s a reclining chair and you should be able to adjust how far back it goes by turning a knob under the chair that adjusts the tension in the springs under the chair.

However, that was not the case. Turning the knob did nothing at all so when you sat in the chair it instantly reclined to its fullest extent. And this scared the shit out of people. It scared the shit out of me.

But more importantly it challenged me. I had a problem to fix. I played with it a little. I took it apart, inspected the parts, and put it back together again. I couldn’t see the fix to the problem. So the chair got pushed to the backburner as I worked on a Duncan Phyffe dining table and chairs. I made some progress. And then I stopped working on everything.

Circumstances in my life after the stroke required me to move a few times. And that broken chair moved with me. And I kept saying to myself and others that I would get to it. But the truth is I had no desire to pick up a screwdriver and see my hand fail to be able to control it. And the chair would remind me every time I saw it that I couldn’t do what I used to do, that I wasn’t who I used to be.

Finally, I was able to build up the courage to try. My hand gripped the screwdriver and my wrist turned. It felt so good to see and feel my body doing what it used to do. There were some limitations, of course, but nothing so big that I couldn’t work around it. It was good. I was good.

However, I was still posed with the reclining problem. So I took it apart and put it back together several times. I won’t dive in to the details but will just say that there was this metal plate that seemed to be the problem. I just couldn’t figure out how.

Until a few weeks ago. I finally figured out the puzzle that had been plaguing me for over 4 years. It would have been a “break out the champagne” moment except for one thing. The solution that would fix the problem required welding. Sure it was a tiny bit of welding but any bit is a problem when you don’t know any welders or where to find any welders.

So the chair sat in two pieces in the spare bedroom for a few more weeks as Paige checked with a few people she knew. I was about to give up and post on Facebook a request for anyone who could or knew someone who could fix this chair for me.

Before I did, though, Paige asked her brother who recommended this little business in Fort Worth. We pulled up to a metal building and saw one man working inside. He said that he could do what was needed and it would only cost a little bit. I didn’t have any cash so Paige drove me to a little gas station with an ATM and I pulled out the cash.

By the time we got back, he had already fixed it. I was giddy. So we went home and the only thing left to do was reassemble the chair and see if it worked. I went to work. I’ll admit that I struggled with it a little but did what I could. Paige was kind enough to help me with a few things that required two people.

Then we flipped it over and Paige tried it out. Success! A few minor adjustments were needed but it worked the way it was supposed to.  I was so excited! I had figured it out and it felt so good to know that I still had the ability to figure things like that out.

This chair has so much more meaning to me than just a project. It is my 360°. This piece of my puzzle journeyed with me from my life before the stroke to my life afterwards. It is a reminder of what I lost and what I reclaimed. I love this chair.

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