worrying

My Mental Health is My Priority

Is it just me, or does the world right now seem like a pressure cooker that’s 2 minutes from exploding? My Facebook feed seems to be filled with only 2 things right now: cute videos of animals and images of violence/hatred/political vitriol/negativity. I’ll admit it: I was neck deep in a lot of that for a very long time. Every new social issue that came forward made me feel like I had to be the mouthpiece for the underdog. And I still feel the obligation pulling at me. But after nearly being swallowed up by depression over the last year or so, I finally came to a tough conclusion. My mental health is my priority and my primary obligation.

It’s very easy to think that the world is at the brink of destruction. Every day there’s a new video of a police shooting. Every day there are more stories (and now videos) of people overdosing. Every day more stories and posts about unrest and violence across the globe. It certainly *seems* like the world is more violent than it’s ever been. Except that the statistics don’t back that up. And neither does history. The world, and the people in it, are much the same as they always have been. Mostly good, some bad, but the bad ones always get more press. And now that we have a 24 hour news cycle, that bad press is in our faces non-stop. And with our addiction to social media, that means every bit of that violence and negativity is a simple click away. And I think it’s poisoning us, our society and our views of one another.

I followed this presidential race as closely as I’ve followed every other until I finally recognized that my social media posts were becoming more and more bitter and negative. And in the end, I also realize there wasn’t much I could do about the outcome of this election. People are going to vote for who they’re going to vote for, and one or two or one hundred posts from me, no matter how informative, wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference. In reality, who gets elected to Congress matters as much, if not more, than who’s in the White House anyway. And our country has had awful leadership before and we’ve survived. I see people in a panic daily about what they’re going to do, where they’re going to go if A or B gets elected. You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to keep on keeping on. We’re going to get up and go to work and get a paycheck. We’re going to tend to our families. We’re going to get sick and get well. We’re going to get married, have babies, go on vacations, and do all the other things we do every day. Because that’s how life works. One man or woman sitting in an office in Washington has a lot less power over how good my life is than I do. And I’m not willing to keep giving that power over to politicians and criminals and the media. I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR MY OWN MENTAL HEALTH AND HAPPINESS. No one else is.

peace

There’s a lot of money to be made in keeping people fearful and anxious. It keeps people watching the news and buying magazines and buying things to fix the existential hole they have inside. It keeps people obsessed with fitness and weight loss and aging – they’re afraid of getting old/fat/ugly/whatever. Fear keeps people from getting to know their neighbors. It keeps them buying guns and keeps them right where they are, mired in their fear and distrust. And it makes them feel miserable and helpless because they don’t see any way out of it. Then there’s the siren call of the social media notification going off every five minutes, letting you know that someone’s posted something that you just have to check immediately, because you just have to stay informed. You MUST be an informed, plugged in individual otherwise you’re part of the problem.

Well, I’m calling bullshit on that. On all of it. I’m tired of being afraid. I’m tired of being anxious. I’m tired of feeling bitter and angry every day at what I’m seeing in the media and on social media. And you know what? I am informed. I’m well-educated. I know the evils of the world quite well. But I’m not under any obligation to sit, day after day and watch the world burn. I’m just not. My only obligation is to my own mental health and happiness. My own sanity is my concern. I’m not burying my head in the sand and pretending that we don’t need serious reforms. I just have finally realized that sitting and looking at a tiny screen full of violence and hatred all day, every day isn’t going to make change happen. And what’s worse – it’s tearing people apart. And soaking all of that in just makes me unhappy. So I’m choosing to tune out most of it. I’m choosing to scroll past the political poison being shot back and forth. I’m scrolling past videos of people bleeding and dying. Because I can’t take any more of it and it’s affecting my health. It’s made me depressed and anxious and I’m tired of feeling that way. And for me, the only way through it is action. I’ll take action to make the changes that need to be made. And I’ll do my best to put more love and peace into the world. And I’ll work on quieting my own mind and bringing peace to my own life so that I am able to share that with my family and my friends and on some level, the world. I can’t help anyone if I’m so crippled by depression that I can’t leave the house.

So from here on out, my first obligation is myself and my health. And if that means that I have less social media and more actual socializing in my life, then that’s a win/win in my book.

Peace and love,

Mama Bear

Are-you-ordinary-or-extraordinary

Total Gratitude Tuesday: Volume 44

 

So that’s how MY week has been…how about yours?

I went to Hoopla. What is Hoopla, you say?

hoopla spongebob

Nope – not that weird thing from Spongebob.

It’s KEEP Collective’s annual conference. This year it was in Charlotte, North Carolina. My husband went with me, and though we had a bit of a bumpy start to the trip (his car leaked oil the whoooooooole way to North Carolina and the whoooooole way back – tip: don’t deal with KIA dealerships in the Charlotte area), and I was incredibly anxious before we got started, I can honestly say that the four days I was there changed my entire outlook.

To start with, I finally got to meet some of the amazing women I’ve been Facebook friends with over the last 8 months that I’ve been with KEEP. And they’re even more amazing in person than they are online! I’ve always said that I’ve never met a more supportive, encouraging group of women than my KEEP sisters and I know now how right I was. Every single woman there was cheering everyone else on and that is a tremendous thing to see. It was 4 days of motivational speeches, rewards, encouragement, sharing, tears, laughter, dancing, hugs, and learning. And a little alcohol. haha

I learned so much, and most of it really wasn’t just about how to run a business or how to be rich. It was about how to stop doubting myself so much. How to see opportunity when it’s right there in front of me and realize it really isn’t just for someone else; it’s for me, too! It was all about how to learn to close my eyes and leap instead of clinging to the ledge and worrying myself into missing out. I learned that I have everything I need already, so there’s no need to wait. And I learned and had reinforced over and over and over again that I don’t need to listen to the naysayers (even when one of them is me) because I have thousands of people rooting for me every step of the way.

Most of all I was reminded of just how lucky I am. And I really am. I could list out a million reasons why I’m lucky (and I guess that’s kind of what I do here every week) but most of them come down to admitting that I have a really good life. I have a really good marriage to a guy that I LOVE being around, even after almost 30 years together! I have 3 extraordinary kids that I love with every bit of my soul and who never cease to amaze me with their kindness, humor and drive. I have an extended family of funny, down-to-earth, supportive, genuinely good people. I have an amazing best friend that supports me in every single thing that I do and loves me even when I’m a total pain in the ass. I have a wonderful “job” that allows me to meet strong, funny and caring women and help them bring their dreams to life and design beautiful things that show off what they’re most proud of.

And I am AMPED, y’all! Not just for new opportunities with KEEP, but for new changes in every aspect of my life. I’ve committed myself to some new habits not only with regard to the KEEP opportunity, but my health, my relationships, my marriage and even my mental health. There’s been a change brewing for awhile and I think that Hoopla was the spark that I needed to ignite the change. So while “Can’t Stop the Feeling” was our official Hoopla song, this one really shows how I’m feeling about life right now, so…

And now, I am headed to Cleveland with my son to see one of his favorite bands, Fifth Harmony. So I hope you have an absolutely extraordinary week or two! (I’m going to be in Quebec next Tuesday, so I won’t post because this is a strictly no-work vacation).

Much love. – Mama Bear

all gender

Do Your Business and Mind Your Business

I don’t normally deal with political issues on this blog. But really this isn’t a political issue and it never should have been. It’s an issue of compassion, human decency and equality. Period.

I’ve been pretty much buried in grieving Prince for the last few days so I don’t know how unisex bathrooms got to be a hot button issue all of a sudden, but all I can say is: get over it.

First of all, do I really need to point out the total wrong-headedness of equating transgender folks and gays with pedophiles? Because I sure as hell hope I don’t have to. I hope that we’ve come far enough that we’re able to realize the distinction between homosexuality, pedophilia and being transgender. Look here – when someone is a heterosexual, they aren’t attracted to every single individual of the opposite sex on the planet. That’s not how it works. Homosexual people are not attracted to every single individual of their sex, either. So get over yourself. All heterosexuals are not pedophiles, so why the hell would anyone equate homosexuality or being transgender with being a pedophile?

Let me tell you something. someone very near and dear to me is transgender and I love him like a brother. I know the struggles he’s gone through in his life. I know his heartaches and I know his suffering and I was blessed to be around to see the absolutely amazing transformation he underwent when he was finally able to start living his life as a man. HE IS A MAN. Period. I’ve known him since birth and he has always been a man. So yeah, this is a sensitive issue for me because I can’t stand to see him living in more torment and fear because of people with narrow minds.

And stop bringing up the sexual assault angle. Just stop it. If someone is bent on sexually assaulting someone in a bathroom, a swinging door and a sign with a stick person in a skirt isn’t going to stop them. And your children are safe, trust me. Stranger danger is a tired old myth. Child abductions by strangers or slight acquaintances make up one one-hundredth of one percent of all missing children. And up to 90% of sexually abused children are abused not by strangers, but by family members and other people they know. Your children are more in danger of meeting a sexual predator online or in their own home than they are in a public bathroom.

And once transgender people get into the bathroom that they actually belong in, what are they going to see? Well, if they’re identifying as a male and have a penis, then they’ll use a urinal just like every other guy. If they identify as a man and don’t have a penis, they’ll use a stall. Problem solved. If they identify as a woman and do or don’t have a penis it won’t make a damn bit of difference because there are no urinals in women’s restrooms. Seriously – when was the last time you saw anyone’s genitals in a restroom except your own? Everything private you need to do is done behind a stall door or else you’re doing it wrong.

Be honest – it’s uncomfortable. It’s new and it’s weird and it’s not the way things have been done before. I get it. Change is uncomfortable. Every time I get a new cell phone it takes me six months to figure out how to use the damn thing. But it’s not okay to discriminate against a group of people because you think something is icky. Look at the way things are headed and realize that change is inevitable. Gay people are going to keep being gay and they’re going to keep falling in love and getting married. That’s a fact of life. And transgender people have been using the bathrooms all along – you just didn’t know it because nobody was making a big issue out of it and making you feel all scared about it. So instead of digging in your heels and resisting equality, why not examine exactly what your real fears are about and think about whether they’re rooted in reality or if they’re just knee-jerk reactions because “the way things have always been done” is changing? I can assure you – they just want to pee just like you do!

I know this might piss off some of my readers, and if it does, well…I’m not going to say I’m sorry because I’m not. This is something I’m passionate about and I’m going to fight it until the day I die because it’s what’s right. But before you disregard what I’m saying, I want you to read these statistics:

  • Transgender people are four times more likely than the general population to be living in extreme poverty (making less than $10,000 a year). Many are forced into the sex trade just to be able to survive.
  • Almost 80% of transgender people reported having experienced harassment in school as children.
  • 72% of anti-LGBT murders were committed against transgender women.
  • Transgender people are 7 times more likely to experience violence at the hands of law enforcement than non-transgender people.
  • 90% of transgender people report having experienced discrimination or harassment on the job.
  • Nearly 20% of transgender people report having been homeless at some point in their lives.
  • 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide at least once. The rate among the general population is under 5%.

Not all transgender people are as lucky as Caitlyn Jenner. Most live in constant anxiety, terrified they’re going to be “found out” and someone’s going to react violently. And they’ve struggled harder than just about any other group of people just to be accepted and treated equally with other human beings. So let’s stop making issues where there are none, okay? And here’s something I really hope catches on:

you're safe

 

I hope that this catches on. If you’re in Ohio and you want to use the bathroom you belong in, ladies – I’ll go with you.  You’re safe, love.

Much love. – Mama Bear

 

Daily Quotes

You Call It Luck, I Call It Hard Work

If you live a good life, you’re eventually going to run into someone who thinks it’s all just a matter of luck. The heavens have somehow blessed you in ways that they haven’t blessed someone else. And yes, I’ve heard it a lot. It used to really irritate me but now I realize it’s more a reflection on the other person than it is on me.

Because in reality, what they call luck is mostly just hard work.

From the outside, I’m sure it looks like I’m a lucky woman. I have an amazing husband, a good marriage, kids that I am crazy proud of, and I’m happy. So it’s gotta be luck, right?

WRONG. 

Nobody who has a happy marriage got where they are through luck. It takes a lot of hard work, perseverance, and a willingness to learn and grow with your partner, among other things. And I didn’t luck into marrying my husband. I walked away from the bullshit and dysfunction in other relationships I’d been in and recognized a good thing when it was in front of me. But we haven’t always been as happy as we are now. There were plenty of long nights of tears and arguments and silence and slammed doors until we learned how to argue the right way (yep – that’s really a thing) and figured out that since neither of us was going anywhere, maybe we should try to work on figuring out how to make this whole thing better!

And my kids? That’s taken a lot of hard work, sacrifice and time and attention from both my husband and I. Don’t get me wrong; we sacrificed a lot but wouldn’t have it any other way. It meant decades of living on one income, long hours at work and at home, and giving up a lot of other outside interests to foster a deeper connection as a family. And homeschooling, which has been one of the best decisions we ever made as a family, has also meant that the schoolwork and learning never stopped. When it comes to our kids, my husband and I are all in. It’s not to say there haven’t been hard times. I’m pretty sure raising kids is never easy. But above all, we treated our kids with respect and tried to set good examples for them in the way that we treated them and one another.

And yes, I’m happy. That’s been the hardest part of the whole deal, believe it or not. It has taken a lot of hard work and time looking at the parts of me I really didn’t want to see and making a concerted effort to change them. I’ve had to get out of my own way and recognize the ways in which I was contributing to my own unhappiness. It’s meant picking at old wounds and opening them up again to finally deal with what caused them to begin with. It’s also meant learning to love the parts of myself that were pretty good, and working to stop giving a fuck about what other people think of me (still struggle with that sometimes). All the heartache and hard work paid off because I’m happier and stronger now than I’ve ever been. But I’d be lying if I said it was a straight path or that it was easy.

your life does not get better

So look – I get it. There are people that look like they fell bass-ackwards into everything they have. They got the cushy job because they know somebody. They were born gorgeous so life is just a series of open doors for them. I think most of us look at successful, happy people and think they must just have been in the right place at the right time. And  yeah, some people are born into wealth. Some people are born beautiful. And maybe you’re neither of those things. But the first thing you have to do is reset your definition of success. While you may never be a billionaire or a supermodel, you definitely will never be successful if you don’t go into everything with an attitude that success and happiness are at least possible for you. And if you chalk it all up to someone being lucky, you’re off the hook for ever having to put forth any effort to change your own life. It’s a cop out.

right place right time

Think of it this way – even the things that on the surface appear to be nothing but luck have at least a tiny element of effort to them. You can’t win the lottery if you don’t play, can you? So yeah, you’re lucky if you hit it, but if you don’t play, you’ve got zero chance of winning. (No, I’m not advocating blowing your paycheck on lottery tickets; I’m just using it as an example.) I caught some good-natured ribbing when I won a $600 Sephora gift card recently in an Instagram loop, but even that required some effort. I had to spend ten minutes liking and following about 30 different Instagram accounts and (the hard part for me) keep track of it all. Was that hard work? No. The lucky part was my name being drawn, but if I hadn’t taken the steps and followed the rules of the contest, I would’ve had no chance at all of winning.

Even when you look at reality show stars (not mentioning any names) who look like they just fell into their millions by being famous just for being famous, there’s some effort involved there. They have to constantly and consistently chase that attention and keep themselves in the public eye and invent new drama to keep the focus on them. I’m certainly not suggesting you go out and make a sex tape or get drunk and pull crazy shenanigans in public, but my point is, there is at least a small amount of effort involved. Not really sure that I’d call that lifestyle “lucky”, but I know plenty of people admire their success.

Everything of value in life requires effort. And sometimes it involves taking a good hard look at what you’re doing in your own life and shifting your priorities and behaviors a little bit. And that can be quite uncomfortable for us. It’s hard to admit that maybe you haven’t been putting 100% into your marriage, your family, your job. But letting go of the excuse that someone else is lucky in ways that you’re not opens you up to learning new ways of doing things and new ways of being successful. The biggest lesson is being open to the idea that you can be successful, realizing that you deserve it, and finding a path to get you there.

So yeah, call it luck if you want to, but I know the truth.

Much love. – Mama Bear

 

 

spring

Total Gratitude Tuesday: Volume XXII

It’s Total Gratitude Tuesday again! Welcome back!

It’s been a long week, full of ups and downs but still I’m grateful. It seems like Spring might finally be on the way. (But this is Ohio, so that can change at any minute.) I’m definitely not a winter person; I need sunshine and lots of it. I’m sure we still have a snowstorm or two in the wings but for right now, I can see an end in sight.

spring

Friday night, I had the opportunity to work a benefit to help a family achieve their goal of bringing their adoptive daughter home from China. My sister-in-law, Lori, organized the whole benefit. I feel really blessed to have her in my life, and I’m sure anyone that knows her feels the same way. She has a huge heart and is always the first one to lend a hand when someone needs help – whether it’s a friend, family member or complete stranger.

lori frost bush

Here’s Lori doing her thing setting up the prize table.

And like I said, the week was full of ups and downs, including some out-of-left-field drama that felt like a kick in the teeth for a minute or two. Then I settled down and remembered what I’ve had to remind myself of so many times – you cannot love people enough to make them whole. You can’t love them enough to make them treat you right. You can’t fix broken people who have no interest in getting better or fixing those broken parts but instead just cut and slash everyone around them with their broken edges. Sometimes it’s just not worth trying. And I’ve reached a point in my life where I’ve learned a thing or two and I’ve finally realized that toxic people are not going to change, and it’s not worth sacrificing my happiness and peace of mind by keeping them in my life. And it’s not going to kill me to lose someone that was never really invested in creating a healthy relationship with me anyway. So yeah, I can forgive the snake for biting me (cuz that is what snakes do), but I’m not about trying to pick it up for a hug again.

life is too short

And on that note, I am done being a free therapist. I realize it’s a job that I hired myself to do; no one else did. It’s always been my nature to want to give advice and support when I think it’s needed. But I am letting go of the need to help or fix people. I spend far too much time on it and it’s not healthy for me. I have come to realize that I have a particular way of doing things and approaching problems and that doesn’t work for everyone. It has helped me tremendously, and I’m going to keep on keeping on in my own personal growth, but I can’t help anyone else. And I am not obligated to do so. The only person I’m obligated to take care of is me. Oh, and my cubs. And Papa Bear. But they don’t need fixing, as they are pretty freakin’ awesome.

And speaking of the cubs, I’m thrilled to report that my daughter has found a job working at a wonderful salon here in town. I went up and got my color touched up and my  hair done last Thursday and once again, I was completely amazed at the magic my little girl can do with some hair color and a curling iron! There’s nothing like seeing your kids really in their element and kicking ass at life.

my hair

For some reason, we never remember to take “before” photos but trust me when I say this was a magical transformation. 

So I guess if there’s a theme for this week, it’s that I’m grateful for revelations, even when they’re painful. I’m grateful that life is always a learning experience. I’m grateful that I’m still here and able to learn these lessons and I’m grateful to have a platform to share them in this blog. And also, I’m grateful for the people in my life who make a difference in the lives of others.

Hope you’re having a beautiful week!

Much love. – Mama Bear

 

7

Abide.

Full stop. I put it there on purpose. Here’s why –

I love “The Big Lebowski”. It’s one of my top five favorite movies, actually my favorite in terms of philosophy (I don’t think you can include “Gone With the Wind” in that sort of list, really except for the whole “tomorrow is another day” thing.) The Dude is the ultimate protagonist, and really the ultimate good guy. Sure, he smokes weed, he drinks a lot of White Russians and then there’s that weird bit with Maude and his friendship with Walter – none of which detracts from his basic goodness. In the midst of all the furor and turmoil around him, he abides. He is simply The Dude and he remains unchanged, unmoved. He is a center of peace in a world that’s anything but peaceful.

Every once in awhile I get in a situation where I’m reminded of how much I need to simply abide. Today was one of those days. I’ve felt myself spinning for awhile, panicking or at least worrying about first this thing and then another. Trying to get the blog(s) up and running, applying for online jobs, the holidays, then taking on another job and underneath it all knowing that I’m going to be 46 in a couple of months and ohmigod, what am I gonna be when I grow up?!? And then there were all the little irksome things along the way. Like today.

Someone on one of the Facebook pages I follow posted an article lambasting introverts and specifically referring to the memes explaining introversion that have become so popular lately. Being an introvert myself and one who is finally understanding what it means and that it’s okay to feel the way that I do, my knee-jerk reaction was to be offended. The post was from a blog written by someone who’s a self-avowed cynic who uses sarcasm extensively in her writing. It was a mean-spirited blog post that went into great depth talking about how introverts are essentially looking to be treated as though they have a disability. Now, I don’t know if she was being serious about that or just trying at satire, but it left a bad taste in quite a few mouths. I had every intention of leaving a comment to correct her in her thinking, as we all know that the surest way to change minds is to get into a battle of words on the Internet, right?

But for some reason, the next thing that caught my eye on my Facebook feed was a post from another page: Dudeism. And I sat back and a scene from the movie came to mind:

your opinion

And you know what? He’s absolutely right. That whole negative blog post? Just her opinion, man. And it had absolutely no real effect on me, my life, my personality, my understanding of myself or my world. So why bother getting my panties all in a bunch and feeding into the negativity by posting a comment on her blog? Why give it more attention than it deserves? It’s JUST an opinion, man. How liberating is that?

And that applies to so many things in life, and in particular stuff that has to deal with the Internet and all the negative shit that goes on there. We have a choice at every turn – whether to let it get to us, or whether to be like The Dude and just abide. And I don’t know about you, but I find that when I let it roll off my back and just abide, life is a whole lot better. am a whole lot better. My world and my family and my relationships and my health are all a whole lot better.

Did stressing over the holidays make anything any easier? No. Did it suck some of the joy that I should have been feeling out of the whole experience? Yes. Will my blogging ever become my full-time hustle? Dunno. Will worrying about it rather than working and learning and writing make that happen? Nope. Is there something wrong with me that I’m going to be 46 and still don’t have it all figured out yet? Not necessarily. Is it still a fun ride? Hell yes! And does getting all bent out of shape over other people’s opinions, comments or actions ever serve to make my life better? NO.

So I’m going to choose to abide. As often as I possibly can, in as many ways as I can, I’m going to remind myself to just abide. Period. The Dude had it right all along.

2-The-Big-Lebowski-quotes

if you're going through hell

If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going

if you're going through hell, keep going

I have that exact magnet on my refrigerator, and I’ll tell you why…

This weekend marks the sixth anniversary of the beginning of a period of dramatic change in my life. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was the beginning of one of the roughest periods of my life as well. It began when one of our pugs, Coco, who was only 5 years old, died suddenly in our home. Just four days later, my dad was involved in a DUI that was so bad that the EMTs and police were sure that it was a fatality when they arrived on the scene. I actually drove by the scene as they were cleaning it up but had no idea it was my dad until the following day when my husband heard through it through the grapevine and had to come home and let me know. I was fairly certain I was going to lose my mind at that point. I was so shaken up at the idea of nearly losing Dad and so angry with him for not letting the emergency workers contact me to let me know that he’d been hurt. He was so concerned with keeping the fact that he’d been drinking from me that he couldn’t understand why I was so hurt.

Then just two weeks later, I got a call letting me know that my beloved grandma Dorothy was dying. I’ve talked about her before – she was my heroine, my role model and really, the only mother I ever knew. Even though it scared me, I stayed there in the room with her and my other family members as she passed. I’ve since come to realize that it was a profound gift to be there with her when she left this world, even though the pain of losing her was almost unbearable.

Over the next year or so, I lost two more family members. I never felt like I healed from any of those wounds before the next blow came. Then in February 2011, I went in for surgery to repair herniated and blown disks in my neck. While I was healing from my surgery, I found out my mom, who was living in New Mexico at the time, was gravely ill. She’d suffered a stroke and some other health issues right before I went in for my surgery, but it seemed that she was healing, albeit slowly. Within a month, she was gone. Even when my brother came to my house to prepare me (he’d gotten a call letting him know that Mom wasn’t going to last the night), I kept thinking he’d come to tell me that she was improving. Up until we got that final call, I still didn’t believe it. Her funeral services are a blur to me – I had a friend ask me recently if she’d attended Mom’s viewing, and I honestly can’t remember for sure. Those days I could barely get out of bed and the only thing that kept me from absolutely breaking apart was my family and Xanax. A bunch of drama blew up after she passed, but at that point, I didn’t even care.

Then in May, my grandpa Chester passed away. He’d been fighting Alzheimer’s for years, following a series of strokes and heart attacks, but he always seemed so strong even in spite of all that. The shock of losing him never fully set in – I had become so numb from all the other loss I think my mind just shut down at that point.

Soon after all this, our two oldest children moved out on their own. I wasn’t prepared at all for how that would affect me. They only lived an hour away, but not seeing them every day was just one more loss I wasn’t prepared to deal with.

Things were quiet for awhile and then in April of 2012, we found out my father-in-law George had lung cancer. Within 7 short months, he was gone. Even when the nurses said he only had 3 weeks to live, I thought they were full of shit. This was a guy who should’ve been retired but could never sit still long enough to enjoy retirement. He was still working, still mowing grass, working on the house, helping all of us out with various projects around our houses. George was a do-er. He was a man of steel. Invincible. And then he was gone. I didn’t even know how to help my husband and children grieve his loss at that point. I remember seeing my dad at the viewing, shaking my husband’s hand, giving me a hug, not knowing what to say, feeling so helpless. I knew how he felt.

Three months later, Daddy was gone. It happened so suddenly, and the circumstances were just horrific. I still have no idea how I got through the week leading up to his funeral. My dad wasn’t married, so it fell to my brother and I to do all the funeral planning, which I think was actually a lifesaver. It kept me busy enough that I didn’t have to think too much or feel too much. The day of the funeral came and I remember feeling so angry. Angry that I’d lost him so soon, angry at all the stupid, pointless things people say in those kind of situations, angry with myself for being angry at people who were just trying to be nice, angry that I hadn’t had a chance to say good-bye, angry that I wasn’t there with him when he died. The funeral itself is a blur. I remember getting hysterical at one point when they handed me the flag from his casket, but I don’t remember much else.

Six months after Dad died, his brother Doug passed suddenly. It was like losing Dad all over again. I hadn’t even begun to start grieving my dad when I lost another family member. At that point, I was just pissed at the entire world. Sick of funerals, scared to death to answer my phone for fear it was bad news, and convinced that I was cursed somehow. I really felt that life was testing me – pushing me to see just how much it would take to finally break me. I was terrified that something would happen to my kids or my husband because I knew that would be the thing that would send me over the edge.

And every day I’d pass by that goddamn magnet. I’m pretty sure I nearly threw it away about a dozen times. I’m absolutely sure I flipped it the bird a time or twelve. “Keep going”?!? Like I had any other choice! I cried and ranted and raved and broke things so many times and yet I kept going. I didn’t know what else to do. Lucky for me I’m stubborn as all hell.

So why am I telling you all this? Well, it’s not for sympathy. And it’s not to one up anyone who’s gone through their own hell. It’s to prove a point, and that is this: that stupid magnet is right. The only way to get through hell is just to keep going. If I’d stopped at any point and let all that shit catch up to me, I’m not sure I’d be here right now. If I’d allowed myself to climb into a beer bottle or a bottle of Xanax to cope, I’d be stuck right in that same hell. I had to keep going and I was determined not only was I going to keep going, I was going to somehow create a better life for myself out of all the wreckage. And I have. It’s been years of progress and setbacks, of soul-crushing depths and also moments of heartbreaking beauty. It’s been a dirty, nasty, knock-down-drag-out fight, but I survived it and I used it to make the life that I have now. And my life now is pretty damn good.

Does any of this make me an expert on depression or grief or recovery or any of that stuff? No, not at all. It just means when I talk about changing your life by changing your thinking, I know it can work. It means that I know that it’s not easy to overhaul your entire mindset with positive thinking and self-care, but I know it can be done and I know that it’s worth it. It means that I’ve been through hell and clawed my way out of it. I’m not saying this as someone who’s had a rough day here and there and decided I wanted to write a self-help blog full of perky quotes. I think that there’s a bigger “why” in all of this and I think I made it through not just so that I could finally have a peaceful, happy life, but so that I could share what I’ve been through and hopefully make others see that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not an oncoming train! I’m not someone who’s necessarily comfortable with showing all my scars, but I don’t think that any of this matters unless I’m honest and open about why I’m passionate about what I’m doing.

So if you’re going through hell, keep going. And trust me when I say that it’s worth the fight. YOU’RE worth the fight.

Much love – Mama Bear

 

snoopy

Everything That Came Before “But” Isn’t True

So this happened to me today…

taye diggs is following me

Yep – out of the clear blue this wonderful, gorgeous, intelligent, centered, amazing actor who I have admired for two decades found me on Twitter and decided to follow me. And I was fucking ecstatic. There’s no other way to put it. I was seriously doing the Snoopy dance. I went over the moon yesterday because I got to 100 followers on Twitter. Not a big deal to everyone, but it was to me. And so I posted to Facebook how over the moon I was about it all, and a close friend shared it with her friends and then it happened.

The attempted buzzkill.

And it started with that passive aggressive “I’m not trying to be mean BUT…” thing that people use all the time when they really are being negative and judgmental but just want to add that disclaimer so they can backpedal later. It’s happened to all of us. But people need to understand this one fact:

Whatever came before the word “but” is a lie.

“I’m not racist but (followed by just about anything).”

“I’m not being sexist but why was she dressed like that?”

“I’m not trying to be mean, but someone built like that shouldn’t be wearing that swimsuit.”

“Not to be rude but those drapes are really tacky.”

If you have to quantify your statement in such a way, you might as well just not say anything that came before the word “but”. No one is going to hear any of that anyway. What they’re going to hear is “I am a racist. I am being sexist. I am being mean. I am being rude.” And it’s going to hurt their feelings or at the very least their opinion of you.

I’m not implying that people shouldn’t be honest. I value honesty as much as the next person. But there’s a time and a place for it. And usually, the way that I measure whether it’s the proper time or place is by asking myself this question: “Where is this coming from? Is it coming from a place of love? Jealousy? Self-righteousness? Or just a need to have my voice heard?” And if I’m not coming at it from a place of positivity or love, then there’s probably no reason to say anything at all. Whether I agree with what the person is saying or doing, it’s okay for me to keep quiet. If my thoughts aren’t going to help that person grow or feel good, I can keep my opinion to myself.

It’s not always easy and I get that. Often my kids and I don’t agree on music, as often happens with parents and kids. And sometimes I do get judgmental and share my opinion when I don’t need to. I’m trying to change that. I’m trying to adopt the attitude that if I don’t have something nice to say, then I don’t need to say anything at all. They’re entitled to their opinions as I am to mine, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is entitled to mine, too!

And when it comes to someone celebrating something in their life, no matter how small or how trivial it seems, then I’m all for celebrating it with them. I truly believe that a happy life is made up of small moments, small victories – not waiting for the big ones to celebrate. So yeah, I am celebrating the fact that in this great big world of 7 billion people, all of them constantly swarming round and round on social media, a celebrity that I greatly admire somehow found me – a middle-aged blogging mom from the Midwest with 100 followers – and decided to reach out just by following me. Two years ago, one comment, one attempted buzzkill would’ve knocked me off my temporary high onto my ass and back into reality. Depression had me feeling that fragile. And what would that person have gained? A momentary flash of self-satisfaction? Honestly, I don’t even think it was a conscious effort from this person to do anything at all. I just think that people are so programmed to instantly respond to anything they don’t understand or can’t share in with cynicism and derision that they don’t even think before they speak sometimes. But how sad is it that someone’s knee-jerk reaction to someone else’s moment of happiness is to try to somehow pick it apart?

snoopy

There’s a happy ending to all of this. Because I’ve been working so hard on being positive and coming at the world from a mindset of happiness and love, it only gave me a moment of pause. And then I was right back up to shaking it off and doing my Snoopy dance. Whether or not it’s a big deal to the rest of the world, having Taye Diggs follow me on Twitter IS a big deal to me. And I’m not going to apologize for my enthusiasm. I’m not going to make excuses for why I get excited over silly things. I am going to toot my own horn and enjoy the tribe of people I’ve surrounded myself with who are right there alongside me Snoopy-dancing and celebrating my small victories while I celebrate theirs. And we’re going to build a tribe so big and so bright and so happy that all the “buts” in the world can’t penetrate it.

And did I mention that Taye Diggs is following me on Twitter now?

Have a beautiful, sparkly, Teflon-coated, crazy happy week! Because I said so.

Love – Mama Bear

7

The Importance of Taking Responsibility

Radical Self Love

This is the book I’m reading right now and I highly recommend it. It’s called “Radical Self Love” and it’s written by a blogger named Gala Darling. It’s out of print for the time being, but is being picked up by a big publishing company and will be back out in stores in February 2016. Put it on your wish list. You won’t be sorry. Until then, check out her website Gala Darling.

The reason I bring this book up is that I read an interesting excerpt from it last night. Here’s what she had to say:

“One of the major pieces of the puzzle when it comes to being happy is that you have to start taking responsibility for your life. 100% responsibility, in fact: radical responsibility. This is not up for debate!”

She’s absolutely right. And I’ll tell you why. Until you take responsibility for your own life, you’ll always be a victim of fate. And what’s worse, you’ll never be able to take full credit for your successes either.

We’ve all made this mistake from time to time. We make excuses for mistakes or bad decisions or just blame bad luck for the mishaps and missteps. And deep down, we know when we’re doing it that it’s wrong and it’s not helpful, but sometimes it’s easier to just blame someone or something else for what’s going wrong in our lives. Problem is, until we take responsibility for our lives and own up to our behaviors, we’re not going to change anything and we certainly aren’t going to make our lives better.

We all know someone that lives to play the victim. Nothing is their fault. It’s always someone else’s. They blame their spouses, their kids, their job, their parents, hell even the weather or traffic. Or they just chalk it all up to bad luck. And they’re usually the ones who will continually harp on how bad their life is and how everyone else has it better than they do and they just have shitty luck. That absolves them of any need to actually take action and try to improve their situation. It’s easier just to piss and moan than actually do something about it.

Now I’ll admit there are some adversities in life that you really can’t do much about. You can’t go back and fix a bad childhood. You can’t undo trauma. You can’t cure a disease or chronic health condition. But I guarantee you, there’s someone out there who’s been through the same thing, lived through the same pain and found a way to thrive. And that means that you can, too! That’s where a positive attitude and the right outlook can work miracles. Yes, you may have had a bad childhood and there’s nothing you can do about that. But what you CAN do is make a conscious choice to change your attitude about it. What does that look like?

The moment you take responsiblity

It means that instead of looking at yourself as a victim of your childhood circumstances, you can instead tell yourself: “Look, I had a bad childhood. It doesn’t mean I have to have a bad life. I can choose from now on to work to heal my life and forgive those who did me wrong. I can choose not to continue the same patterns in my life. I can choose how I interact with people, how I react to them and how much impact they have on my life. I have power now that I did not have as a child and I am going to use it to better myself.”

If you’re in a bad relationship, you can bitch about it till the cows come home or you can sit down and take a good hard look at yourself and decide if there’s something you can do to save it or if it no longer serves you in any healthy way. You need to be completely honest with yourself and own up to your own part in what’s going on and not take the easy way out.

If your emotions are out of control you can stop blaming everyone else for “making you feel angry/unhappy/depressed/sad/unwanted/unloved” and realize that you control how you react to any person or situation. They don’t “make” you feel anything. You can’t control their actions and they don’t control your reactions.

If you’re stuck in your career, again, take a good hard look at your life and try to figure out what you can do to make a change. Is it time to re-evaluate your career path? Do you need to look into going back to school? Or do you simply need to change your attitude about where you are? Again – people don’t generally stumble into success. They’re successful because they’re looking for opportunities, are smart enough to see them when they show up and brave enough to take chances. If you’re sitting in your cubicle griping about your boss and co-workers, you’re less likely to see opportunity if it does come knocking.

If you’re dealing with health issues, look into making simple choices that might help you deal with your illness or condition more effectively (always with the guidance of a medical professional). Ask questions. Find resources on treatment options or maybe even lifestyle changes that may help. Look to others who have similar conditions for support. Maybe even look on Youtube for videos of other people who have overcome physical obstacles and become successful. Find inspiration and empowerment wherever you can. Take responsibility for yourself and your health.

Every choice you make in life puts you closer to, or further away from, the life that you want for yourself. Maybe the best place to start is to look at one small area of your life that you want to improve. It can be something as simple as learning how to organize your home so that it’s more efficient and you spend less time looking for lost keys or trying to find a clean shirt. Find resources to help you be more organized. Talk to other people who are good at it and pick their brains for ideas.

eleanor roosevelt

You know what the upside is to all of this? It makes you feel powerful. When you sit down and realize that the Universe really isn’t out to get you just because you got a parking ticket (you just made a bad decision and parked where you shouldn’t have – own up to it!), it’s a lot easier to have hope that you can change things for the better. It means you’re not a total failure at being a grown-up if you’re late for work because next time, you can set the alarm for earlier, or set two alarms or whatever works for you. It means that maybe your relationship isn’t hopeless after all – you just need to find a different way of communicating to one another.

And as I said in the beginning, it also means that you can take credit for all of your successes. Because when you’re responsible for your life, that means not only do you have to own your mistakes, but you get to own your successes, too! It also means the sky’s the limit!

So what can you start taking responsibility for today? Feel free to share your insights

-Mama Bear

7

WWDD?

Hero

I have to be honest: I’m never really too shocked when it’s revealed that some celebrity or other has fallen from their pedestal. Some of their falls from grace are a bit more surprising than others, but somewhere deep down, I think I expect it in some way. And I think it’s because celebrities have never been my heroes. Okay, full disclosure: I think I wanted to be Sheila E., or one of the girls from “The Revolution” for a minute back in 1984-85. Or else the girl from “Flashdance”. But those dreams died out in the harsh glare of reality. I have never had any musical talent and while the fantasy of being a welder/dancer was a great one, I found out Jennifer Beals didn’t even do any of that stuff. Illusions shattered. So yeah, I burned out on celebrity heroes at an early age.

My hero was my grandma, Dorothy.

I’ve talked about her in another post. “Bless Your Heart”? Yeah, that was her. And in many ways, that summed up some of what I loved best about her. She was funny as hell, and never afraid to be goofy or silly in front of her grandkids. I was convinced until I was in my late teens that she had invented spoonerisms (I didn’t know there was a word for what she did). She’d say “bon of a sitch” instead of cursing in front of us kids (because we were evidently not too bright? I dunno.) She was empathetic to a fault. I never once cried in front of her that she didn’t start crying herself. She was that way with everyone and everything – couldn’t stand to see suffering. And she really did that whole “bless your heart” thing – she didn’t say anything bad about someone without following it up with something good or just a “Bless her heart, she’s trying.” She was kind and a genuinely sweet person, unless you messed with her kids or grandkids – then it was straight-up Mama Bear. Even then she was sweet – you just knew not to push it any further. I honestly never met anyone that didn’t like her.  Even her sons’ ex-wives really never had anything bad to say about her – a couple of them came to her funeral services to pay their respects.

Was she perfect? No, not at all. And she was the first one to point out her flaws. My dad used to love to tease me with stories about how vast the transformation was for her between being a mom and becoming a grandma. And when I got to be a little bit older, I learned about some of the struggles she’d had in life and some of the mistakes she’d made. It didn’t change my opinion of her one bit. Because her good qualities outweighed the bad. And I knew that she’d never willfully done anything to hurt anyone; she was just human. She was a good soul. And for as long as I can remember, my deepest wish was to be like her. Her opinion mattered more than almost anyone’s. When I found out I was pregnant just a couple of weeks after high school graduation, I was more afraid of her reaction than anyone else’s. I just couldn’t stand the thought that she’d be disappointed in me. My parents were going to tell her, but I told them I wanted to do it myself. Do you know what she said?

“Well, these things happen. It’ll be okay.”

I bet you were expecting something crazy profound, eh? Nope. She wasn’t Buddha. She was just Grandma. And she knew exactly what I needed to hear, and you know what else? She was right. It was all okay. And 6 years later, when I had a really bad miscarriage and was absolutely heartbroken, she called me. Now, I have to point out, she was a product of her generation and not at all comfortable talking about matters of reproduction and the like. All she said was, “The same thing happened to me a few times and the doctor always told me to get lots of iron, eat lots of red meat. You take good care of yourself.” And when I started to cry, I could tell she was, too. But once again, she knew exactly what to say, and it wasn’t anything profound or deep. She just let me know that she cared.

So yeah, I never needed sports stars or movie stars as heroes. (Not that I wouldn’t do a “Wife Swap” episode with Brad and Angelina if they asked *hint hint*.) And when it came to raising my own kids, trying to be like Grandma became the way I dealt with most things. I adopted a sort of “WWDD” attitude – What Would Dorothy Do? It just meant that I tried to do my best, tried to make sure they knew I loved them, and tried not to be too hard on myself when I made mistakes. And I tried never to take life too seriously and be silly and goofy whenever I could. I’ve even come close to making fried chicken as good as hers, but I know close is as good as it’s probably going to get.

In the end, I think that’s our job as parents – to be heroes to our kids so they don’t have to go looking elsewhere for them. And that doesn’t require heroic effort. It just requires loving them unconditionally, being there, realizing they’re always watching and emulating us and admitting when we make mistakes and trying to do better next time. Those cardboard heroes can’t ever live up to the pedestal that people put them on, and just one news article or paparazzi photo can make them lose heart. They might not ever say so, but we’re their first heroes by default. Just like Grandma was mine.

So today, on the occasion of what would have been Grandma Dorothy’s 91st birthday, I challenge you to find your hero and think of ways that you can be more like them. And while you’re at it, realize that you are probably someone else’s hero – act like it.

Happy Birthday, Grandma! And happy Friday to all of you!

dorothy
Grandma Bear

– Mama Bear