Why Now?

A dear friend recently asked Why Now? Indeed, why change myself, my life, my life’s purpose and path, my lifestyle, and even the people in my life? And why now? What makes NOW different than last week, last month, last year, or last decade? What was wrong with last Tuesday?

Spirituality and religiously, I’d shunned the mainstream as far back as my teen years. During the breakup of my first marriage, it was made clear to me that my choices might cost me my children. Over the years, I’d tried many times to find a mainstream religion that would allow me the freedom to practice my spirituality and still be true to myself and my beliefs. Only one religion came anywhere close to meeting those requirements: Judaism.  So after three years of study, I converted to Judaism and, religiously at least, I was happy.

Spirituality, I found it hard to find my place in the Jewish community or the Pagan community. And I eventually made a decision that only an immature young person would make: I put my spirituality on the shelf. For more than two decades. Since my husband was neither Jewish nor Pagan, that worked for him. It meant that my whole life (before our marriage) could be shelved. I put on the mask of the 9-5 highly technical worker. I did and said the things people expected of me. I was assimilated into regular society as a respectable working mother and wife. For 25 years I put my spirituality on the shelf. I sat next to it most of that time.

About three years ago, I hopped off that shelf. And with each passing month, more and more of me re-emerged. I could have done it a decade ago. That’s absolutely true. But I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish much. Why? Because I simply wasn’t ready to admit to myself that I wasn’t happy. And when I finally did, everything in my life started to change.

Let’s say I’d been happy as a clam. Why now? I wasn’t ready, but now I am. Physically, I was busy fighting for my life – literally. Over the last 2.5 years, I’ve fought my way back from a stroke, learned how to stave off malnutrition, and successfully dealt with advancing ataxia (with swallowing and gait issues). Psychologically, that stranger I kept seeing in the mirror every morning had to be dealt with. The PTSD had to be resolved as best as it could be. And spirituality issues from my childhood would FINALLY need to be addressed.

I also had to redefine myself – the new me – not the mom, or the wife – me. This one thing alone is the core to everything in my life. Any change to ME, is expected to ripple through every aspect of my life, as well as every thing I touch.

So you may think you’re seeing a bunch of changes in quick succession, and they seem out of left field? Guess what? It’s the ripple-effect of changes that have been in the works for months; some have been in the works for three years. I’m fairly sure I warned you a few months ago to hold on tight – remember that? Remember?

There are new people in my life. I have a Spiritual Partner. I couldn’t be happier to have positive support from people who truly care for me. But the most remarkable thing: I can be my authentic self without reservation or judgement of any kind. And I’m accepted as I am. That’s the way it should always be between people who care for one another.

Why now? Because I’m finally ready (read: not afraid) to be me.

Why now? It’s time.

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Out With The Old…

And In With The New.

Yep, Monday is the big day. The solar eclipse. It’s also the new moon.  I don’t usually pay attention to these things – astronomy hasn’t called to me. Yet. I’m dreading that day.

The heavens are beautiful. I marvel at how different elements of the universe work in concert with one another. I participated in the debate on Pluto’s status as a planetary body. Yet I couldn’t tell you when the next new moon was. Ever. Except with this next one. Now, I want to raise my hand and squeal, “I know, I know when it is!”

So, what could it possibly mean to you, other than a few minutes outside of the office, burning your retinas with the rest of your observant workmates?  Well, it’s an excellent time to say goodbye to the dark, and hello to the light – just like the eclipse does.  Have I lost you yet? How about this: say goodbye to the people and things that don’t serve you and your life, and say hello to the people and things that do.

When the darkness comes, focus on the people and things that you need to let go of. And let go of them. You can do several things, symbolically, to drive the message home to yourself. I’ve added a few ideas below. Once the height of the eclipse has passed, the light will return… much like the light will return to your life. Especially now that all that darkness is gone.

Black/White Write Rite

The first way to symbolically say goodbye is with fire! Another way to get burned! For the purposes of my example, I’m going to say goodbye to the negative feelings I have when thinking about my mother. You think of something that really messes with your life in a negative way. Are you ready to commit to saying goodbye? Really think about it.

Note: I did not include ceremonial or meditative steps in these instructions. These are simply ideas for you to build on.

Supplies: a black votive candle, a white votive candle, a match or lighter, strips of black paper, a silver pen/marker to write with, a safe place to burn something, a small table or altar.

  1. Light the black candle.
  2. On each strip of paper, write the name of the specific thing (or person) that you are saying goodbye to. For example: Mine would be “Negative thoughts about my mother,” “Negative thoughts about my mother’s abuse,” “My own resistant thoughts about forgiving my mother,” and finally, “My mother, Jane Sally Smith.”
  3. Gather the strips of paper in a neat pile, making sure the ones with people’s names are on top of the pile.  Now, put the pile face-down on the ground, table, or altar. The strips with names should not be the first ones you draw from the (face-down) pile.
  4. Pick up the first strip of paper from the top of the pile. See what it says. Concentrate on it, on the memory and its associated negativity. Now read it out loud.
  5. Think of the most negative way that thing (or person) has affected your life. You are also saying goodbye to that. Say it out loud!
  6. Light the strip of paper on fire and visualize it disappearing into the darkness where it belongs. Do this for each strip of paper. Don’t rush this step – it can be cathartic.
  7. Just before the eclipse passes its peak, blow out the black candle.
  8. Sit quietly for a few minutes, thinking about the big step you just took. Think about how much improved your life will be, without all that baggage weighing you down.
  9. Now light the white candle.

“There is a spark in me, that shines like the candle: bright.
It illuminates my path, and guides my thoughts with might.
It supports forgiveness, compassion, and love’s embrace.
The spark is me, my heart, my soul, my spirit, my grace.
And so it is.”

10. Blow the candle out and enjoy your new beginning.

Another simple option is to create a Cord of Forgetfulness. This is a simple way to forget a bad memory (or person) who is on your mind a lot. You create a cord that holds the memory (or person) you want to forget, and you wear it. Sure, you see it each day. But after a few days, you forget the cord (and the associated memory/person) is there. And by the time the cord falls off and is gone, so is the associated relapsing bad memory. 

Supplies: 1 thin white cord/ribbon, 1 green fluorite bead, empty bowl, a cup of water

  1. Pour the water into the bowl, “River of Forgetfulness, wash me clean and bless me. Take away [memory/person] and leave my mind strong and clear.”
  2. Dip the cord into the water, “White of purity and innocence, renew me.”
  3. Dip the bead into the water, “Stone of perspective, clear my mind.”
  4. Concentrate/pour the memories of [event/person] into the cord.
  5. Pour the water out onto the ground.
  6. Put the bead on the cord and wear the cord on your wrist or ankle. Do not take it off.
  7. When it falls off on its own, leave it where it falls. If it falls off on your property or in your home, take it far away and throw it away.

I hope these little rites help you use this auspicious celestial event to leave things that don’t serve you – in the past. That will free up space in your life for the new. Embrace the new. Don’t settle for more of the past.

For the Ceremonialists: be creative. Think: Arts & Crafts Time.

My Working

I built a dual-working on these simple ideas. I’ll start the working by clearing my chakras of blocks, grounding, and centering. Then Sacred Space construction.

I’ll invoke Nemesis. I felt I needed Her when dealing with destructive and abusive people and their energy. “I invoke Nemesis, the Ancient Dark Goddess, who balances Justice with Retribution, and Exacts Revenge for Acts of Presumption and Hubris.  Oh Giver of “What is Due”, may I and my offerings receive your blessings and power for this rite.”

The first half of the working represents the dark (banishing the old memories, hurts, behaviors, and people).

The second half of the working represents the light (supporting my forgiveness, my letting go of those memories, and them). My anklet will have two beads on it, for two people. There will be a knot on each end of the beads, and another knot between them. The knots signify the separation of their (respective) negative energies. Additionally, the knots keep the beads from flying around the cord, representing their new-found restrictions (at least where I’m concerned).

I’ll then work on my energy again, clearing my chakras and flooding them with light. And I’ll walk lighter, smile brighter, and feel happier knowing my personal power effected change, where change was absolutely necessary for my future happiness.

May the light of the New Moon embrace you in her bosom.

I Choose

I’ve been busy this summer. Two and a half years after my perioperative stroke, I had but one area of my life that needed putting back into place: My Spirituality.

Having nothing to do with religion, spirituality “is centered on the deepest values and meanings by which people live. It embraces the idea of an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality. It envisions an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being.” – Wikipedia

For me, spirituality ties the other parts of me together into a whole. Spirituality might redefine how I live my life, what my purpose is, and it might take me to places I never dreamed. Not surprisingly, it’s done just that. Additionally, it’s put my past, with it’s pain and joys, my eclectic interests, and my innate gifts for certain healing modalities, into a perspective and clarity I’ve never known before.

I spent the summer beginning a study of earth-based spirituality systems. I learned how to meditate; discovered my chakras and personal energy flow; embarked on a study of energy medicine; started lucid dreaming; and learned to walk between worlds. I began a course of study in modern shamanism. I found myself. I couldn’t be happier.

“Shamanism is an ancient spiritual practice rooted in the ideas that all matter has consciousness and that accessing the spirit in all things is part of what keeps the world and people healthy, in balance, and in harmony.” – Evelyn Rysdyk, Spirit Walking

I’m currently studying multiple shamanic belief systems, through more than six texts. I’m enrolled in my first local course with a well-trained Shaman. If that goes well, I’m planning to enroll in the training program at the Foundation for Shamanic Studies – arguably the best (Western) training program in the country.

One of the things I noticed in my shamanism studies is regardless of age, origins or culture, there are many similarities across the core beliefs of these shamanic systems. An example of this is the belief that the Shaman must be healed before she/he can heal. So if a community member has emotional trauma that needs to be healed, the Shaman wouldn’t be an effective healer if her/his own emotional trauma wasn’t healed beforehand. This particular example makes logical sense: It’s common for Psychotherapists to be directed, during the course of their training, to get into therapy themselves.

I’ve been healing my own emotional trauma off-and-on since 1993. The real work didn’t start until 2011, when I began Trauma/PTSD Therapy. Over the past four years, I’ve used EMDR to address individual traumatic (read: abusive) events. That therapy has been incredibly effective. The only thing left (apparently), is to forgive those that hurt me. That’s something I haven’t done. I’ve found it difficult to forgive people who don’t recognize what they did wrong and how it hurt me. People who are not truly remorseful for their actions or words. Furthermore, because they haven’t done any work to change their behavioral patterns, it sends the message (to me) that they don’t value our relationship. They aren’t willing to do the work required to make our relationship work. And they are doomed to repeat their abusive/bad behavior. How many times am I expected to be someone’s verbal/emotional punching bag?

I last spoke to my Mother over seven years ago. During that conversation she proclaimed that she’d “never done anything, to anyone, ever, that she needed to apologize for”. For someone in her 70s, that’s quite a feat; she should be considered for Sainthood. That was a defining moment in our relationship – because I had already lived through 47 years of her emotional abuse and manipulation. That was the last time I spoke with her.  I know that she cannot be cured. I know we will never have a relationship. Not one that I deserve. And I know we are better apart than together. I’m content to be motherless, even if her inability to miss me feels like rejection and is painful.

My sister and I last spoke on the day of my 50th birthday. I’d never had a birthday party and I was finally having one for this milestone day. Instead of happiness, my day was filled with tears and the following text messages:

“You don’t deserve a special day”
“I wish you were dead”
“Never contact me again”

There were many others, more devastating than these. My crime? I thought I deserved a special day for beating the medical odds and making it to my 50th.

Recently she reached out to me. She had an excuse for her actions and hurtful words during the entirety of our relationship. She even offered an apology. Yet she said nothing about the pinnacle event that caused us to part ways.  She believes that blood trumps my experiences in our dysfunctional and abusive relationship, but it doesn’t.

I choose the people I have in my life.

I choose to share my life with a small circle of people who lift me up. If you tear me down, you’re out.

I choose to be responsible and accountable for my words/actions.

choose to address my faults and weaknesses head-on by being open: to honest and frank discussion about my words/actions; to correction of those words/actions; to making changes in myself first; to seeking professional help in making those changes; and to having true empathy for people who experience my words/actions.

choose to recognize that I may have a problem if I exhibit hurtful behavioral patterns repeatedly. I will always seek professional help in healing the hurts that lay at the root of those negative or hurtful behavioral patterns.

I choose to respect the rights of others when they choose to discontinue their relationship with me. I recognize that it isn’t about me. They know what’s best for them, and if my being absent is good for them, I support and respect that decision.

choose to live by a moral code, built upon a foundation of Honesty, Integrity, and Personal Responsibility. My life is focused on the care of the Earth and all its creations, including Man.

I choose to share my life with those who have similar beliefs, lives, paths, and moral code. Being blood holds no weight with me if a person doesn’t behave like blood.

The Shamanic path requires me to forgive people who have made other choices.

And so I will. I will do it fully and completely. It doesn’t mean that what they did is ok, or that I’m wiping the slate clean. It doesn’t mean that I’m open to having a relationship with them – I’m not. What it means is that I am purging myself of their negative and destructive energies. And I will not allow them to return to me.

I choose happiness.

I choose to be my True Self.

I’ve been on a spiritual journey this summer.

Mother’s Day

It seems fitting that on today, Mother’s Day, I write a post about my mother. Mother’s Day is one of the many days throughout the year, meant to bring family together in celebration – even if that family spends most of the time on social media or squaring off in heated or silent family squabbles. Yes, yes, I acknowledge that some holidays were created by greeting card companies for the sole purpose of monetary gain. That doesn’t erase the fact that on these days, families regularly make pilgrimage to come together to honor, thank or celebrate the person(s) who mothered and fathered them.

While both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are painful for me, Mother’s Day is markedly the most painful. There is something almost sacred about the relationship between mothers and daughters. Mother’s Day is an annual reminder that my mother dishonored that bond, almost as soon as I was born. More importantly, the day is a constant reminder that I didn’t have the kind of mother I deserved. I deserved better.

I wasn’t the only child my mother failed. My older sister and I share both parents.  We lived together less than a year before our dad petitioned the court for separation from our mother. The [actual] petition to the court, claims that our mother failed to fulfill her wifely duties, including sewing and keeping house. It goes on to say that neighbors told our dad that she was entertaining another man during the day, while he was away working. And when he confronted her, she said she wasn’t going to stop and there wasn’t anything he could do about it. When a divorce was finally granted – it was done so in his favor. Our mother got custody of me, our dad got custody of my sister, and they both had unstructured, shared cross-visitation. What I’ve read in these documents, provided entirely by my sister, is not the story I got when I was growing up.

When I was 6 our mother remarried. She and her new husband moved to Dallas, with me in tow. She told everyone in Dallas that she had one daughter, me. I corrected her the first few times I heard the error. But quickly learned that it’s ok to lie, if it benefits you and doesn’t hurt others. We saw each other less than ~6 times during our childhood school days.  As a consequence, my sister and I never bonded. Hurt and resentment developed; my mother, her dad, our step-dad. The grass is always greener, isn’t it?

I was ~31 when I entered Trauma Therapy. As the Therapist and I walked through my life in a chronological fashion, I began to see events, but most importantly – people, more objectively. I didn’t know what a ‘normal’ family was. But I suspected mine didn’t qualify. I wasn’t wrong.

As a child, I spent thousands of hours observing my mother’s behavior. Trying to predict, trying to avoid, trying to stop the next eruption of hurtfulness. I did occasionally see glimpses of hope, usually in the form of special gifts or outings. But I quickly learned that these things came with strings. They solidified alliances and assured compliance. As I aged, my mother used IOUs as leverage and control over my life. They gave her the right to say and do anything to me and my children – without penalty.

There’s a difference between being a mother and mothering. My mother gave birth to me. My mother harmed me and put me in harm’s way. She either didn’t notice or she looked the other way. And when I tried to tell her, she wouldn’t acknowledge anything. She made no effort to put me first. To her, if she wasn’t the one being harmed, it didn’t happen or it shouldn’t be worried about. And if it wasn’t about her it wasn’t worth remembering.

What I never saw or felt was true warmth, unconditional love, and acceptance. I never felt like she had my back. Not even once.  It’s not that she didn’t try. It just wasn’t in her. So my mother clearly didn’t mother. Her lack of mothering has had a major impact on my life and my emotional health. The same truth holds true for my sister. I’ve been officially diagnosed (3 times) with Complex-PTSD from Childhood Trauma.  That trauma extended until the time I went NO CONTACT with my mother. I was 46 years old. It’s no secret where my issues come from. My sister is Bipolar. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like for my sister to be repeatedly left behind by my mother, and then not mothered at all.

Oh wait, I can.

On Mother’s Day, I mourn the idea of the mother I deserved to have – but didn’t. I mourn for my mother, who will never truly experience what it’s like to be selfless for either of her daughters, her grand-daughters, and her great-grand-daughters. But I do not mourn her absence in my life. These last 8 years have given me the opportunity to truly define who I am as a person and as a woman. I celebrate and thank her for that. And I thank her for giving me life.

On Mother’s Day, I honor my mother-in-law. June was the closest thing to a mother I’ve ever had. She gave me a hard time about the difficult relationship I had with my mother. But 5 minutes after she actually met my mother, June pulled me aside and quietly said, “You poor thing. I’m so sorry about your mother. I’ll be your mother from now on”. And she truly was my mother from that day forward. She mothered me and my children. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her, celebrate her love, and mourn her passing.

Happy Mother’s Day Dr. June Ross

I Used To Be Big

I used to be big. Really big. 399# big. My fat was created over several decades, after a lifetime of abuse and hurts. And there were plenty of hurts: emotional, physical, and verbal. And neglect. The violence included rapes, threats at gunpoint, strong-arming,  and screaming. Lots of screaming. Neglect was medical, emotional, and physical. There were silent treatments, cruel and sadistic “jokes”, always at my expense. And there was purposeful devaluation of my feelings, strengths, looks, and worth to myself and others. The very people who I should have been able to count on to protect me, were the people who did all these things (but the rapes).

I began to gain weight after exploratory surgery turned into a total hysterectomy. I was 25. My (now) ex-husband, who had no idea the emotional impact such a thing might cause, could only mutter his displeasure concerning the expense. I’d heard the same complaints during two high-risk pregnancies, two c-sections, and the hospital stays that were required to provide him with two children. My health didn’t matter to him, only the bottom line and the avoidance of having an only child. I blamed the weight gain on the sudden hormonal changes, stress from not having the proper support from family, and the fat-laden diet my husband craved. It was cheap and tasted good.

As my marriage crumbled around me, my mother’s marriage did the same. Both men worked in the same office. And both men preferred to go home to other women. Women who also worked in the same office.

My ex-husband blamed the failure of our marriage on me and I blamed it on him. Now that years have passed, I know that it’s much simpler than that: we didn’t have what the other needed. Our marriage was going to fail no matter what. I needed someone who was patient and made me feel safe and secure. He needed someone older and experienced in life (like himself), independent and confident. We weren’t any of those things for one another. And while I wanted to make it work, no matter the cost, he knew enough was enough.

My mother had a different stance on her failed marriage. Despite being a good kid, being constantly controlled by her, marrying because she wanted me married, and doing/feeling/being most everything she ever asked (even if it hurt me), she blamed her failed marriage on me. “If you’d been a better child, the marriage would have lasted longer.” “You were a difficult child.”  “Things would have been better without a child. He didn’t want any.” She said these things and more, as I sat across from her in the booth at a local Furr’s Cafeteria. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I stuffed the fork in my mouth. I stuffed my emotions down as well.

As a child I’d been trained to suppress my feelings (they didn’t count and no one cared about them). Crying only brought punishment, so I tried my best not to do it. Now that my parent’s daily control and enforcement was gone, my emotions were out of control. I didn’t know what to do with them – they were foreign to me. Stuffing them back down was my way of surviving the Thursday mother-daughter lunch my mother demanded of me. My small children and I were a captive audience to a booster shot of weekly vitriol, as she controlled everything, including the transportation. If there was a way to exact more control over me, she took advantage of it. And I had to sit and quietly take it.

As I gained more independence from my parents and ex-husband, more emotions bubbled up, and the numbers on the scale crept upwards. Eventually I began a relationship with my (current) husband and sought counseling. During the following years, my step-father melted away from my life just like butter, reinforcing my mother’s words – he didn’t love or want me. This negative self-talk was my constant companion. It clouded all my relationships and made the process of developing my own sense of self, and trusting others, all the more difficult.

Eventually I was diagnosed with C-PTSD from Childhood Trauma and Ongoing Abuse. This was real abuse. I hadn’t imagined it. I didn’t have unrealistic expectations of my parents at any age. And finally, there wasn’t anything wrong with me that wasn’t a by-product of decades of abusive. But those decades had taken their toll and it would take decades more to disbelieve what had been drilled into my head from the very beginning of my life. “You are unloved.” “No one wants you.” “No one cares about you.” “You are a dummy.” “You are worthless.” Intellectually I knew these things were untrue. But I’d heard them enough that on an emotional level, I believed every word. During therapy we brought painful emotions to the surface to deal with them. Later in the day, I responded by stuffing them back down with food.

I learned a lot during my first decade of therapy. Though I was told my mother wasn’t capable of loving me, I kept trying. Every time she did something terribly egregious, we’d have a cooling off period. But she’d return. She needed to control or verbally batter something and that something was often me. Eventually her abuse turned toward my children and husband. I asked for joint counseling, and she denied the request. “I’ve never done anything, to anyone, EVER, that I need to apologize for.” and “If I go to counseling, they’ll just say it’s all my fault and I don’t need that”.  I loved my mother. But it was when she made these two statements that I realized I needed to finally let her go. It was one of the hardest decisions I’d ever made. I mourned the loss. But not of her. I mourned the loss of the possibility, or idea, of the mother I should I have had. The mother I deserved and didn’t get. Most people don’t get perfect parents. Parents don’t get an instruction manual and their childhood experience often dictates their parenting abilities, or lack thereof. Some parents (including myself) strive to at least raise the bar some. My parents made no such efforts. I weighed 399# when I finally came to accept these truths.

Around the same time I was diagnosed with a progressive neuromuscular disease. For three (3) years I sat around and felt sorry for myself. My career was gone and any self-esteem I had went with it. My  Cardiologist warned that I was heading towards heart failure and would be in a nursing home in the next few years. She suggested gastric bypass surgery. But my Neurologist cautioned that the disease complicated anesthesia – so I should avoid surgery.  I managed to lose a little weight on my own, but not enough. I weighed 354#.

Two and a half years ago my Cardiologist announced that I was in the earliest stage of Congestive Heart Failure and had major Atrial Fibrillation issues and might need a pacemaker. I already had most of the usual co-morbidities that accompany super morbid obesity. I needed to “lose the weight yesterday”. But getting a Surgeon to operate on someone with my condition was challenging – most wouldn’t even see me for a consult. It took six months to finally find someone who accepted the challenge. The Surgeon quickly suggested we do an endoscopy under general anesthesia, to see how my body reacted. And things went well, but the Surgeon managed to find “Timmy the Tummy Tumor”.

Two (2) years ago (on 6 February 2015) I weighed 368# when my husband and I checked into the Surgical Registration desk. It was time to evict Timmy and have gastric bypass surgery. My husband waited alone, our grown kids (my only family) had better things to do with their time. I came out of surgery with more surgery done than planned, and I’d suffered a stroke in the left prefrontal lobe. When I left the hospital I went to a nursing home for care – the very place I’d hoped to avoid. That lasted all of two days, once we found out they really didn’t have a post-surgical care unit. At one point I pulled myself along the floor (with my left side) to the bathroom – they couldn’t be bothered to help me relieve myself.  They gave me the wrong meds, failed to care for multiple surgical drains, failed to care for the right side of my body – which was paralyzed. My husband rode in like a prince on a white horse, saving me. He raised his voice to administrators, made demands of staff, people were fired – that was the first time in our 25 years that I’d heard him raise his voice that loud. I’ve never been so proud and thankful. Later, I asked why he hadn’t backed me up like that before. “Because you do a pretty good job of doing that already. You don’t need me to get in the way.” he replied. I’d come a long way.

During my recovery at home (over the next seven months) it was just the two of us. My husband worked about a mile away. I had Physical Therapy at the local hospital, and my husband took on all the other care duties. It was, and still is, a lot for him to do alone. We have grown children in the area. One travels and the other lives less than two hours away. We heard the usual “Give us a call if you need anything” and actually did call once. But no one came. So we became a self-sufficient team of two.

Eventually I regained the use of my right side.  But 100% recovery wasn’t possible – a hard pill to swallow. My husband, friends, and therapist were my constant calming and supportive source of strength. There were times when I didn’t recognize the woman staring back at me in the mirror. As the weight disappeared, I felt more vulnerable and lost. I didn’t know how to be a woman. I knew how to hide my body, but not how to wear clothes I liked and feel confident in them. I didn’t even know what kind of clothes I liked.

A year after surgery, my family (the kids) saw me in a just-above-the-knee sundress. I hadn’t worn a dress in over 20 years and the kids hadn’t seen me in months, much less in anything that revealed skin. I’d cleared the dress with my Therapist, making sure it was age appropriate and not too revealing.   I asked my daughter what she thought. “You wouldn’t catch me in a dress that short” she snipped back. Not the supportive answer I’d hoped for. On the drive home I asked my husband, who had heard the conversation, if I was being overly sensitive to her comment. “No, and I think you looked great” he answered as he smiled.

It had been tough to put that dress on, go out in public, let my ex-husband and his family  (who had hurt me) see me (when I was feeling vulnerable), and still feel good about myself. I counted it as a win and bought three more dresses!

Today, two years post-op, I weigh 192.8#. I’ve lost 88% of my excess weight. I’ve got 17.8# to go until I’m at my ideal body weight. And although it isn’t easy running on less than 1000 calories a day, and it’s created some really scary health situations, I don’t regret having surgery. It gave me more time to connect with old friends and build deeper connections with everyone. It weeded out the riff-raff. And it gave me the strength and confidence to finally say exactly what I think and feel. That feels especially good.

Last Friday my GI Specialist said “At least it got you two more years. I’m concerned you won’t make three”. The current situation is malabsorption – I’m not absorbing enough vitamins or calories. Weight loss typically ends between 18-24 months. I’m at 24 months and mine isn’t slowing down, it’s speeding up. I’m absorbing less than my body needs to survive. This is a life threatening slippery slope, as the deficit increases as time passes. So we need to nip it in the bud. Otherwise it’s “Not compatible with life”. Those are the specialists words, not mine.

And yesterday I found out my blood pressure is so low that I need additional cardiac testing. Yippee – not.

I’m sharing this with you because the very people who should have loved and cared for me the most, just didn’t. They were my family. When they were gone, there was only my husband, myself, our two grown kids, and our dogs. Our children flutter in and out of our lives – mostly out, oblivious to the daily stress and rigors of keeping me alive. Not aware of recent news that time may finally be running out.

I have two wins in my column (1) my husband – best decision EVER, (2) I don’t stuff my emotions down my pie hole anymore. I deal with them like an adult. I stand up for myself. I say NO MORE!

Today begins my second year of open, honest, and harsh truths. So get ready for it.

I used to be big.

Moving Forward

So I did it. Did you notice? The blog is in the middle of a make-over. But the biggest thing I did was remove my blog posts and all your comments from the past 2 years.

How’s it feel?

It’s January. This is the time of the year when we’re all expected to simply leave the past behind and move forward into the future. It sounds so simple. But in reality there’s really more to it than that, right? Because the past is an integral part of who we are. That’s true for everyone, some more than others.

When I removed my posts I backed them up to my server – it felt good. And safe. Some of those posts – truths that were hard to tell – will find their way into a book one day. So I don’t feel as if I’ve lost anything. But your comments, brilliant as they all were, have simply vanished. Those I will miss. They gave me comfort and support when I needed it. Thank you.

We each put so much of ourselves into what we do. So when someone, someone who hasn’t been through what I’ve been through or what many of you have been through, comes along in January and tells me to “Let go of the past”, I want to scream back “I’m trying, but my past won’t let go of me”! Then I’d like to grab my Nerf gun and let her rip. A girl can dream.

It was time for new and fresh. I get that. It’s a bit uncomfortable but I’ll get used to it. In the meantime, I challenge each of you to come up with creative ways to respond to those “Move On” comments. We hear them year ’round. But January is the worst.

How about we celebrate the fact that we made it another year; that we survived the holidays with relatives we don’t care for – and no one died?!?  Some of us also survived spoiled grandkids, ungrateful children, long lines, and horrid parking lots. Many spent money they didn’t have. Isn’t that enough? Do we really need to follow that up with working harder, accomplishing more with less, and starving ourselves just to lose 10 pounds? And we should also just “Forget about the past”.

If you simply forget about the past, you’ll lose part of yourself. Just like you lost the comments you made here over the past 2 years.

As for me, I’m trying to let go of nightmares of the past. It’d be a lot easier if they would let go of me.