Guilt

Author Note—Each day I have meant to break this unplanned writing hiatus but it just hasn’t happened. I have plenty of topics to write about – I just don’t make time for it- or when I do the words seem to fall flat. Usually when that happens I know maybe it because I am not being as honest in my writing as I should be. Sometimes there is a balance being able to be honest and keeping a boundary in my writing so as not to bring hurt to others I care about. Sometimes I just can’t find that balance and I don’t post what I write – but it still exists perhaps as a journal entry – or something I can go back to later. Either way the words inside me have been purged and sometimes- if I am writing in distress -that helps and there is no need to send it out to the “webisphere”.  But I want to make writing my habit again. I really do. So I just need to DO It!

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Soon after my son – I am going to call him SonA- went out of state to rehab I found myself sitting in front of his PA at the primary care office we all go to. I was there with another family member about their medical issue – and there I sat quietly in the small exam room- but there was that elephant in the room. PA knew about SonA and that he was in rehab. We had briefed him on the phone about it. So I wasn’t sure if I should bring it up to brief him on the latest info or stay quiet. 

 I didn’t want to bring SonA up because it was my other family members time but between the hellos , how are you’s and getting to the medical issue at hand – it came up. It began with just an update. SonA was going to be moved to a transitional program because there was an issue with insurance. A big issue that had required involving PA -but that is another story entirely – but it had been rectified by the time I saw PA. SonA was to look for employment, go to group meetings daily and see a therapist weekly. 

We chatted a bit about addiction and mental health issues. And all at once PA looks at me and tells me not to feel guilty. I looked at him trying to form a sentence – was I going to cry? He continued to say that so many parents blame themselves for the choices their kids make and that I shouldn’t because this was not my fault. I thanked him and told him I didn’t feel guilty because I know the choices SonA made were his own. Just as any bad choice I have made over my lifetime is not anyone else’s fault. Even though I blamed some of them on others in the past.

But I wasn’t really being truthful – there is guilt – it is multifaceted. So often I think to myself – did anything I did as parent push SonA into addiction? Did we have a bad phone call while he was at college and he went off angry and with a Fxck You attitude and guzzled a bunch of booze and that was the domino that turned into alcoholism? Did I not try hard enough over the years to get him to talk to therapists we took him too- where he would chat about his brilliant ideas (and he is amazingly smart) but he would never open up about his troubles? I begged him to give them a chance – he really never could. Or as he was growing up did I add onto the trauma he already had from being and adopted child? 

I wasn’t a great mom. I was in over my head. I got angry, I yelled, and I spanked my kids. I believed in spankings. I don’t anymore. My dad believed in spankings, we got the belt, or we were threatened with the belt. As a mom, when the kids were young, I had many convos over spankings vs no spankings, time outs vs time ins etc etc. All I can say is in hindsight I have changed my tune on many things. But I know I thought when I was raising my kids I was doing my best – and I was. But now I spend time hating myself for being so rigid, so stressed- just not the mom I thought I would be.

 I have guilt that I am trying to work on. I have apologized to my kids. Told them I hope I was fun sometimes. Was I fun? I think I was. I remember shopping in Walmart so many times for art projects that we could do on a hot summer day, or after school. We painted, and glued. Once or twice we all made gingerbread houses. I played with my kids, I love toys and I loved to play. I remember all of us dancing in the family room to classic rock. So I was fun too. But I still have guilt. 

I guess when you have kids that go through hard times because of their choices any parent may feel some of the way I do. I truly know I did not make my son into an alcoholic, I know that my son has had some mental health issues for a long time. But what I do know is that we spend our lives trying to undo the damage that our childhoods inflict on us. I hate to think I contributed to my son’s issues.

I think even the kid who grew up with the best parents like my husband did will not come out of childhood unscathed. He himself is an alcoholic with 34 plus years of sobriety under his belt.

We never come out of childhood without battle wounds. As we are developing our brains as young kids – becoming a more fully formed individual -we are effected by so much around us.  Then we spend much of our lives making choices based on our early experiences and we inflict that damage onto others and but hopefully we give them our good stuff too- it is why there are cycles of the same behaviors in families. If we are lucky and we begin to see the issues then we can begin to do the work to better understand ourselves –  and we can learn how the experiences in our lives have driven how we behave…and then we can work to have better reactions and to make better choices. Some people never get to this self discovery part. So I guess I should be happy I have. 

But that still doesn’t take away my guilt. I just have it. I want to forgive myself for not being an awesome mom. I am working on it because I do know I did do some good things. But there are so many things I would like to redo. Maybe thats why some people dive into grandparenting with a vengeance so they get a redo. Some things are so much more clear in hindsight. We can do so much better when we have gained some wisdom. 

SonA called me early on in his rehab and I again apologized to him. He said it wasn’t my fault. He said that I had been a good mom and he had been a shitty son.  That hurt too. You never want your kids to feel so badly about themselves. 

I told SonA he wasn’t a shitty son. Had he been challenging? Yes. But I told him he was a kid and I was the adult and I have to own my part- there were times I could have done better – responded better.  He has a beautiful mind – a beautiful soul. He just has some things to work on if he will trust the program he is in and the therapist he is seeing. I don’t want him to live with guilt. 

Are we just destined to it? To live with guilt? Maybe when we feel guilty it is an opening to begin to dig deep into that feeling – own the mistakes, learn from them and heal. That is what I am trying to do. Own my mistakes – look at them and then work with them – if I need to apologize for something I do.  I try not to soak in the guilt because I get stuck there and that isn’t healthy.  I am a bit stuck now. I probably need therapy and will look in the fall for someone – I have so much going on this summer. Maybe I will pull myself out before then. Writing this helps…even if the mom police want to shame me. 

But the good thing is I am still a parent and I  get to be an improved parent to my kids. I get to make the adjustments and changes I needed to make. My parenting goes on though it has a changed role now that they are young adults.

But guilt can run deep. I have learned that others might forgive you, God forgives you, but sometimes the hardest thing to do is to forgive ourselves. 

Sometimes things work out…

All I can say is we just never know where we are going to end up. We have no real control over anything. All we can do is make plans and have hope that things will be okay. For  the last two years  the one thing I had wanted so much to do was to ride my horse again. It wasn’t  a lofty goal really but one that seemed to be unattainable to me not long ago. I didn’t want to give up the hope that one day I would ride again…..but for a while it was iffy…

Two years ago I thought I would never be able to do many activities again let alone ride a horse. My only goal then was trying to find someone to fix the pain I was in. That was a battle unto itself but I did not want to give up- because to do so left me in a very dire situation. One that I could not accept.

June 2016 was a start of an intense pain drama that was caused by breast cancer treatments. The pain had been an issue since my surgery in October of 2013. I had sought help for it with no luck and then it really  reared its ugly head in May 2016 leaving me bedridden for much of the next year. It was hell trying to find the a doctor who would listen to me and not send me away with a shake of the head. They either had no idea what was wrong with me or they thought I was nuts. But finally I found a surgeon who listened.

Today, three surgeries later. I am not that woman stuck all day and night in bed anymore- but I still live in chronic pain. But the levels I am managing- and there may be more surgery in my future. I am left with a disabled arm that I cant use fully and overuse causes pain. Sometimes I don’t know what that overuse is. But I just try to dance with it- sometimes I am in the lead and sometimes the pain is.

I have been hell bent on doing more living- I have always been a physically active person and I missed the mental boost such activity gave me. So many things I could not do. Some because of the limits of my arm and some activities were contra-indicated by my surgeon- one being horse back riding. It was a total bummer to hear this but I temporarily shelved that disappointment and sought another activity .  I bought a kayak with pedals so I could go out in the bay near our beach house. The feeling of independence being on the water propelling myself was intense and important in my recovery. I bought a bike. I began to walk more. I can do limited exercises in the gym.  But I was really missing the one activity I was told not to do—ride my horse.

In the summer of 2017 I was still in enough pain that I was not sure I could ride and on enough drugs I was not sure I should ride. But one day that summer  on a whim Kevin and I tacked up my horse Harley . He accepted the saddle and bridle so well  that I decided to get on and have Kevin lead me around the dry lot. I knew the surgeon had not been keen on my riding but I wanted to be in the saddle. It was just a pony ride but it was the kick I needed – I set a firm goal – I would  ride my horse again. But there were still obstacles to overcome.

I didn’t think it would take another year before I was able to ride again. I had another surgery in November of 2017 to hopefully further reduce my pain. I would say the result have been pretty good. I am off opiates but still need nerve pain medications. . I have pain flares more often than I would like. But I am doing more. The surgery itself – which was fat grafting -had a longer than expected recovery time.

Every time I went to see my nerve surgeon – Dr. Williams- I would tell him that I wanted to ride my horse.  HIs concern was that my arm would be yanked forward if the horse pulled the reins forward suddenly- and this does happen. This can cause more damage to my arm. Also there is the risk of falling off but I think in my case the real concern was with the yanking of my arm. So I wanted to rectify that. How to keep that from happening. There had to be a way . Maybe I would ride one armed. I began to look into that as an option.

Then sometime this past spring my farrier came. I was telling her my plan to try ride again. I explained my concerns of riding with two arms and one getting yanked and I was also becoming nervous about not being strong enough to ride using only one arm (my horse is also neck reined) if my horse pulled suddenly. She told me to get a Daisy Rein. I had no idea what they were but it turns out they are used often for young riders. The rein hooks onto the saddle and also to the bridle and that keep the horse from pulling his head down. Maybe it would work for this old rider!

I saw my surgeon again in July and explained how much I wanted to ride and told him about the rein. He never did give me his blessing but he told me if I did ride I needed to send him photos after I was safely off.  So that to me was an ok to go ahead.

My plan was to move slowly into riding my horse Harley beginning in early August- but life threw us a loop as we suddenly  lost Harleys companion a- our beloved Arab mare -Airy to colic. It was a tough loss on all of us and I again shelved trying to ride. This time more for Harley than for me. I knew it was a stressful time for a horse when there are changes like that adding me riding him after such a long time off might add to the stress – and we wanted another companion for Harley so the focus shifted on that. It took some time but we now have Hank and Yukon here. Hank belongs to our neighbor and Yukon is our Guardian horse form a local rescue.

One  day a few weeks ago  I went out to the barn to feed the horses and our neighbor was bringing Hank back from a ride. I began to feel that envy. That yearning to ride my horse. I really felt it was now or never so I began to get Harley tacked up. It is a bit of a chore for me to get it on while trying to limit the use of my arm but I was able to do it with Kevins help.

Before long I told Kevin I wanted another pony ride. I have to use a step to mount now to get on- it allows me to not use my arm too much.  I got up and settled – feet in stirrups and I was holding both reins because we put the daisy rein on to give that a try too. He tolerated it well and best of all it worked! He couldn’t pull very far so no yanking of my arm.  After a bit, I asked Kevin to let me go and and I took a deep breathe in and let it out and off I went.  I maneuvered Harley around the dry lot for a while..at a walk.. nothing fast. He did very well – and we then called it a day. Best to end on a good note when working with a horse. And I was not ready to ride in the fields yet. But it didn’t take much time for me to be ready! So much for slow starts.

Since that day I have ridden twice out in the fields. The last time – this past Saturday- I was able to tack up on my own. I have learned to yank the saddle out of my locker with one arm and I can toss it up on his back with one arm too.  It was very freeing to be able to do this on my own.

I also can ride with one arm so I switch from using two hands on the reins to one. It turns out my arms are in a “safe” position so I don’t think I will get a pain flare if I am careful – but again it is that dance i mentioned above. That day I was in the lead. Dismounting is a bit of a challenge. I now lower the stirrup iron and dismount on the  right which is the opposite side we proper English riders are taught to do.

Obstacles aside I can’t begin to explain the mental effect being able to ride again gives me. It is something I have needed. It didn’t feel like it had been two years since I had ridden solo. It was as if no time went by at all. I felt right at home in the saddle. I am so lucky to have the horse that I have. Some horses may have been too much for me after not being ridden for so long. Harley is a true champ. We have a bond.

My goal is to ride twice a week for now. I will have to be flexible on this as well as I live my life around things we have planned – social visits, traveling, and doctors visits. So I often curb any physical exercise for a couple days prior to doing these things because I don’t want to have a flare up of pain which may require me to cancel the plans.

But that is life as I live it now. I accept it. You just never know where you will end up…right now for me I ended up back in the saddle. How lucky I am….

….And Dr Williams has been sent a photo..with more to come…

When the kids left…

Kevin and Zach in front of his dorm on move-in day.

When the kids left for other places…boys to college..daughter to Ohio…I thought I would be fine. I didn’t think I would have tears or that empty nest feeling. I was sooooooo wanting the boys out of the house. I cannot lie. I was so done with the mess, the not helping with chores, the living like mole people only emerging for food and then taking food that was earmarked for others in the house. Be gone – be gone!

I will be honest I was not prepared to parent teens. It was harder than I thought it was going to be. Maybe because of the health issues I encountered just as they were entering their teens. One thing parenting will do is teach you a lot about yourself. Many times I felt like i was in over my head. I think we realize as parents that we really don’t know what we are doing. At least thats how I felt much of the time. With three very special kids who were adopted perhaps we did have some more challenges than some and I am very sure less than others. As my teens approached teendom (new word) I realized I wasn’t the cool mom I hoped I would be. But I was always championing for their success. I may not have been their best friend and perhaps sometimes I was their worst enemy but I never stopped trying my best help them succeed.

Motherhood will bring out the very best in us and sometimes the very worst. Over the years I was challenged with learning how to best deal with kids who had their own challenges. I didn’t always like how I behaved and I feel now like I was in a never-ending cycle of trying to improve who I was. I never really got where I wanted to be but I am always a work in progress.  And I loved my kids so much- I wanted to help them as best as I could. Thank God they have the dad they do as we balance each other out well and he picked up the pieces when I wasn’t able to.

I had my health challenges that basically covered  the span of my kids high school years and that effected all of us.  I didn’t want that to happen but it did. I often missed events and I didn’t feel well enough to become too involved in my kids school. I spent over six months mostly in bed. That is hard on your kids – and my were teens by then and not really able to process it all.

Where did the time go?  I was dealing with so much and I feel like I never got anything quite right. I sort of feel I got ripped off. What would it have been like had I not been sick? I will never know and maybe thats some of what I am feeling now. Sadness over what I wanted the years to be and what they really were.

And I miss the kids. As we dropped off kid 1 last week then kid 2 the next day I had this growing heavy feeling in my heart. Why I thought I would not feel this is beyond me. I guess it is because i prided myself on always having my own interests separate from being a mom.. I figured that these interests would still be part of me when the kids left home so I would not be sad because I had my own life. I am realizing this other stuff doesn’t protect your heart from the sadness of this new transition of your kids beginning to navigate on their own and you feeling that loss.

We aren’t a perfect family. We laughed, we cried and we yelled. But this is my family—warts and all  ..and now its changed. I will adjust.

But for now I am in transition. And I am a little lost.

I don’t hear from the boys much so far from college- and I laugh at myself for feeling sad about that bc we hardly ever had real communication when they lived here like moles. But the thing is they were here. And now its empty – and darn it – I have that dreaded empty nest sadness.

Kevin and I have things planned and intend on enjoying our new freedom- and I am excited about that. Thats one good part about the kids leaving. This empty sad feeling is just another part of it. And sadly I have to go through it.

So one in Ohio, two in college – my family has spread it’s wings. I know how blessed I am to have these transitions.

Pretty soon we will have the boys rooms cleaned up, their bathroom neater, and I will learn to cook for three (kevin, mom, and myself)instead of 8 (teen boys eat ALOT.). Soon we will fall into a routine and things will feel normal again. For now I am a little off kilter. My tears are a closer to the surface.

It’s all part of life…and I’ll be ok….

Learning Acceptance

I think I have been taking a sabbatical from writing. It hadn’t been my intent but it seems it just occurred.

I think I felt blocked in a way. I have had a lot of writing ideas so that wasn’t it. I had personal things that I needed to process and until I processed them -maybe not fully but processed them enough – I felt like maybe my writing would not feel authentic.

I was upset over something very personal that I could only touch on vaguely in my writing. So much wanted to come out and that stuff was better for a private journal than a blog.

I have had to decide where my line is in what I share on my blog. Just because I’m upset with someone doesn’t mean I need to air that in my writing. Sometimes it is ok. This time it wasn’t.

So I had to come to some acceptance with that family issue and I have had to try to come to acceptance with some other things that seemed to be causing me stress.

One such issue is my ongoing pain. I am sooooo much better. I am so very blessed. But there is still pain. I can’t seem to use my right arm ( which is my dominate arm) fully or for very long without some pain. I also get flares. It happens when I “overdo” in some way. The problem is I never know exactly what will trigger it. I am learning though but I still get surprised. A lot.

Ice packs have become dear friends. I have been known to walk through the grocery or hardware store sporting an ice bag of some sort under my arm. Ice really is my savior.

I have had to reach an acceptance with this pain. If I had to live like this I certainly could. Would it be ideal? No. Sometimes it’s really sucky. But I’m improved. I’m out living life.  I’ve lowered my nerve pain meds a lot. Hoping to lose some of the weight I’ve gained. Which is another area of acceptance I’ve had to reach. I can’t hate myself bc I don’t look the way I want. I am trying to embrace that I may never look like I really want again.

My body has been through hell. Three surgeries in one year and the last -fat grafting-was supposed to be liposuction on my abdomen that would make me look better and sadly I hate the outcome but the fat had to come from somewhere

So I’m trying to accept this. I’m into being in shape and being skinny. It’s how I grew up. Skinny was good. And sadly I was a chubby kid and That fact was reinforced often by schoolmates and Neighbor Kids. I have spent years battling my minds critical view of my body.

So for me it’s a mental exercise in trying to accept myself as I am now. I’m 54 and I’ve had many surgeries and cancer and I’m menopausal. I can work hard as I’m able (I limited in my activities bc of my nerve damaged right side) but I’m likely not going to look the way I want to ever again. I might but it may not happen and I want to be able to accept that. I don’t want to feel embarrassed for my husband to see my nude body. But I am. He thinks I’m beautiful. I have a hard time seeing what he sees. But I’m lucky that’s what he sees

I really am a work in progress on this acceptance thing. But I’ve come to realize that acceptance doesn’t mean giving up. It means that in this moment in time I accept that this is where I am.

I accept I still have pain but I won’t quit trying to find improvements. I just began laser therapy. It might help.

I do have gratitude for how far I’ve come and I’m thankful I found this brilliant nerve surgeon who wanted to help me as best he could.

I am accepting that my body isn’t what I want to to be. But really if that’s a worry in my life I’m pretty blessed seeing where I was two years ago.

As far as my family issue. I’ve had to forgive and I have had to give much of this to God. I can’t control someone else’s journey and I accept that. And I accept that where i am now – on the edge of this persons life – that I can’t do anything but let them know they are loved. That’s what I can do.

I think maybe I’m in a growing phase. Learning that I can’t be in control all the time.

My two sons just graduated high school. I have been waiting for this day! I feel like we’ve finished the first of a set of hurdles. It’s been a ride. But they begin college in the fall and now it’s up to them. They have all the tools to succeed.

Then going away is bittersweet for me. My role as Mom will change. It already has. Though I’m still buying the things on the “what to bring” list the College provides. It has to get done by someone and they seem oblivious to the fact that College is six weeks away. I, however, am ever aware. But soon I have to let go. I have to say “you need to try to figure this out  “ and let them muddl through.

Part of me can’t wait to boot them out the door. The other part is terrified. This is another thing I have to find acceptance with. I have to let go. I don’t know if I’ll grapple with the empty nest thing, I have my mom living here so I still have a bird in the nest to care for. But I think I’ll miss them more than I am imaging now. . And I know it’s time for them to fly.

But the acceptance comes with letting them do the flying. Letting them steer their course. I know they’ll need me once in a while. (At least for $). But I have to give this one to God and let go of my need to be in charge. I will always be their biggest fan even if they don’t realize it.

I also wonder what do I want to do? If I could catch up on all the things I’m behind on what do I want to do? There’s so many things. Some not attainable now. And some doable.

Since I had cancer I’ve been on this “you gotta live now” motto. And since I’ve been feeling better and have had less pain I want to avoid putting off things for later -when I can. But I can’t do all the things on my list now bc I have responsibilities to others that are a priority. I’ve had to accept this knowing it’s ok to take things a step at a time.

But my biggest question is who do I want to be now that all my kids will be gone from home? I think this is something that I’ll have to feel out.

If anything – I have begun to accept that I don’t always have immediate answers for so much in my life. I am learning to accept that sometimes we just have to wait and see.

And there is some excitement in that for me.

All you need is love -?


I was filling out a Valentines Day card today for one of my kids and it said on the front: “All we really need is love”— inside it said “but a little now and then chocolate doesn’t hurt.”  The chocolate part is true and I’ve found if I eat six small Dove chocolate candies everyday I am happier in those moments of chocolate bliss but maybe my waistline isn’t. And the truth is the happiness is short lived. But as for the first part of the card “all we really need is love” I am not so sure that’s true. 

All we really need is love….really? Is it?

Then what? The world for us is better ?  All our problems melt away? Sadly I’ve found this isn’t so. Receiving love is a gift and it can lift us up but I’ve found sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you love someone it doesn’t fix all their problems. A person may not want to receive our love and sometimes if they do it just isn’t enough. 

I was told for years if I just loved my son more he would snap out of his issues. He just needed more understanding, more hugs, more of me – and a magic wand would wave and unicorns would fly from the sky and his attachment issues would go away, and he would stop wanting to destroy our home or himself, he wouldn’t want to steal from his family, or ignore us and our rules. 

Kevin and I gave of ourselves and we tried so hard and we loved and still love and still it isn’t enough. We have exhausted ourselves trying to love someone so much that they will change. Life isn’t that easy I have come to find. Sometimes love just isn’t enough- but here’s the truth about love – even when it’s hard – even when it might not be received- even when it might not make unicorns fall from the sky – in the end love is a choice. And we the love giver must choose to keep loving even when it doesn’t seem to matter. That so hard sometimes-believe me- I know. 

Love is a choice – these words were spoken as part of a sermon I heard once. The pastor reminded us that love can be a feeling and a very strong one but sometimes it’s hard to feel love for that prickly person, that defiant child, that homeless person on the corner, or our neighbor -and when that feeling isn’t there we should choose to love anyway. Thank you Pastor Steve.  

One time a number of years back when I was in a very bad place of despair,  at one point I may have been praying or maybe just crying and a voice spoke to me or maybe it was a thought that came into my head that clearly was not mine and it said “Love is all that matters”.  In that bad moment I saw that so clearly. Like that was so easy -like why didn’t it appear this clear to me before? And simply yes that is so true -love is all that matters. Love here on earth is kind of like fuel and kryptonite all in one thing. It can bring us up and tear us down.  That’s because we muddle up love in it’s purest form and we always will. 

 The kind of love that we are called upon to give is one that’s unconditional that we choose to give no matter if we feel it or not. It’s not easy to live up to that pure of a love. But on this earth love is important and it’s easy to get frustrated when all the love you give someone doesn’t seem to help them or even matter. But what matters is we love anyway. 

Sometimes we have to let go of someone because their choices are hurting us. We can set boundaries and still choose to love that person. And I’ve done that. But here’s why love on earth can’t be as pure as love in heaven – or if you don’t believe in heaven or an after life just skip the heaven part- we are imperfect people. Face it – who wants to love let’s just say as an example Larry Nassar- the doctor that sexually abused all those woman and just received 175 years in jail? We are called to love him and God knows someone out there does and some out there pray for him and his soul. But most of us can’t be that loving -all I can think about is what he did to the young women he hurt. I can’t love him. 

And let’s take it further…he probably was loved by at least someone in his life and he is still a broken person..has no remorse and obviously has terrible mental issues. Sadly love wasn’t all he needed. But someone chose and probably still chooses to love him even if they themselves are disgusted by his actions.  In a way that is the magic of love. The capacity in which we are able to love if we make that choice – this amazes me. Still I can’t love Larry Nassar..feelings aside or lack thereof -I can’t even make myself choose to…I’m not Mother Theresa. 

In the purest sense those words that popped into my head in that moment of despair are so so true. I’d like to say that all that clarity made me better at loving but I am still human. I became more aware but I am flawed like anyone else and I am not that good at loving that unconditionally. I could spend pages and many words on the semantics of love because as true as those words-love is all that matters -are,  love is complicated here on earth because we complicate it with our humanness.  

But the point is when we choose to love we have to accept that we may not feel like doing it, and even if we do we feel strong loving feelings we have to accept we may not receive anything in return, and further we have to accept that we may try to love up a person all we can but that might not make a difference for them at all.

But we keep on loving. As Pastor Steve said:”because we choose too.”  

Happy Valentines Day 
The Beatles always inspiring music here All you need is love…..

A New Fear

I have been a swimmer for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories that I have is of me taking swimming lessons in the baby pool at our swim club. Following that I spent years on swim team and also just playing in the pool. Many times you couldn’t get me out. I’d swim all day.

I had a respect for the water of course but I was never hesitant to be in or on the water. I spent hours riding waves with my dad and friends.

In the last ten years I stopped going into the ocean as much -the fear then was stepping on icky things. I was more wary of the currents and undertow. Probably because I had little Kids and even if they had ease in the water the fear of your child getting pulled out into the deep looms large for most parents I imagine.

I still had a love of pools if they weren’t too crowded (that’s a germ thing-yes I got more leery of the humanity in a pool as I’ve aged and well it grosses me out if there are tons of people swimming in a small enclosed body I water no matter how much chlorine is dumped in).

I love the water and I really love being near or in the water. We have a cottage just steps from a Bay. But I now have a fear of deeper water.

I was out on the bay the other day on my kayak. Kevin was along on his kayak. It was a chilly day. About 55 degrees. I’m a new kayaker. I got a boat with pedals as I can’t use my arm to paddle because Of my issues with nerve damage and pain. I was thrilled when I got the kayak. I motored around last summer and if the bay was a little choppy I found myself feeling somewhat nervous. I am no longer sure of myself as a swimmer. I can’t really swim which because of my limited use of my arms but it really didn’t seem to be a huge issue last summer because the Bay isn’t really deep and the water was warm. But the other day the water was cold and seemed deeper and it was choppy. I had wetsuit bottoms on but just a jacket and hat on. And I was wearing boots. Wellington’s. Maybe not the best choice.

While on the water as I was traversing some choppy conditions I felt myself panicking. A full out freak out was just on the edge of my brain. I kept picturing myself falling off the kayak. Or it tipping. Me sinking as my boots filled and my coat became heavy. I feel the fear now as I write this.

I had a flotation device but not on me – it was secured on the back of the kayak. I tried to reach behind me to grab but my limited range of motion and the rocking of the kayak made it impossible for me to reach it. That was a rookie mistake not to have put it in.

I told my husband I was feeling very scared. Kevin told me to take deep breaths and as I did I felt myself regain control of my thoughts. The choppy water wasn’t really that bad. The boat wasn’t really in severe danger of tipping. I tried to enjoy what I was doing and concentrate on the beauty. I’ve lost the ability of being able to do a number of things since my nerve damage became so bad and kayaking gave me the sense of freedom that I’d been craving. I didn’t want to lose that to fear.

We ended the journey on a good note. I was calmer but I had a wake up call. I’ve definitely lost my confidence that I could save myself if I got into trouble. I’ve never felt this way before. It made me mad. Just one more thing that had been taken away because of my limitation and because my body is weaker because of being mostly bedridden this last year.

But anger won’t solve anything. I’m a problem solver by nature. So moving forward I need to figure out how I can feel less fearful in and on the water.

Over last summer when I first went out to sit on the beach at the ocean I walked up to the waters edge and watched the waves roll in and I realized even then that I was very leery about even attempting to wade in to my knees and not for fear of stepping on something icky –it was fear I couldn’t even get up if I fell into the shallow but wavy water. As a result of this I decided to head to the neighborhood pool and allow myself to ease into a better comfort with the water. During the first visit to the pool I ended up in the deep end with a swim noodle and I was able to ditch that after a time and then proceeded to tread the water and I practiced floating. It isn’t easy to tread water with one arm but it’s doable. But this pool visit gave me confidence to venture into the ocean at least up to my knees or hips. And subsequent visits continued to help my confidence. I also worked on leg strength in the gym when I felt ok.

So why the panic the other day?

Well I’ve had another surgery since summer. Just four weeks ago. I haven’t been allowed to do much and maybe kayaking wasn’t a good idea. Maybe I felt vulnerable. I’m definitely weaker. It doesn’t take long to weaken when your on restrictions to not work out or do too much physically. And I think the cold water scared me. Cold water can be paralyzing. But most of all my biggest obstacle that day was my own mind getting the best of me.

I am not an “I can’t” person but over the last few years I’ve said that more times than I care to admit. I want to be strong again! Mind and body. It’s so frustrating to try to get stronger only to be met with Pain as a result. But I’m going to try to figure this out. I’m not likely to kayak anymore this year. It’s getting too cold. I plan to be in some type of workout program. We have a gym in our barn so I have no excuse to at least try. And somehow I have to get into a pool. We have some indoor pools nearby. (Maybe they won’t be too crowded!).

I just want to feel strong again. I still deal with pain and that’s limiting -I have had three surgeries in the last year to try to get rid of it and it’s much better -but there may always be some pain I have to figure this out despite that. It can be done. I know it.

Next spring when I break out the kayak again I want to feel I could cross the bay (it’s a mile). I may not ever try it but I want to feel like I could. I want to no be afraid. I want to be strong.

More surgery / and my vanity

I’m sitting here this morning in bed. I’m having a bad pain day. The nerve pain is hot across my right side and chest and the there is that tingling tickling burning sensation that travels across to my throat. I cough. Nobody knows exactly why. They know I have a lot of scarring that has adhered to my chest under my arm and I have radiation damage as well. They feel my sensations come because of this issue. All these things that are very hard to fix.

It’s funny how such a little area can make a person disabled when it flares up. It’s very frustrating. I’m so much better than I was last year but I’m still plagued with pain and it’s too much of a focus of my day and it controls my life too much. So on Wednesday next week two surgeons are going to try to ease some of the pain.

My wonderful nerve surgeon and a plastic surgeon are going to try fat grafting. This procedure requires liposuction of an area on the body. With me it will be my stomach- and my love handles 🙂 -see the smiley? I’m all for losing some fat since I’ve put on weight from the medicine I take for nerve pain.

Anyway they spin that fat so they get the good stuff and then they inject in my areas of scarring and pain. The idea is twofold. The scar will be lifted off the chest wall which may relieve some of the pain . Think of having gum stuck in you pants pocket and the two sides are stuck together. Well that is my issue on the side of my body where I had the node biopsy. So your skin is all one piece and when one part is stuck onto your chest wall it throws everything off. My neck gets tight because the scar is so tight it pulls the skin and muscle all the way to my neck. I get rib and breast aches and muscle tightness in my back. All from this small area of my body being off kilter! So the fat will create cushioning under the scar.

The other thing that is looking hopeful with fat grafting is that the stem cells in the fat can help regenerate the radiation damaged tissues. This has been studied over the last few years and the results have been very promising.

So that’s where I am. My third surgery in the last year. All in hopes that I will get to an acceptable pain level. Pain free is likely not going to happen and that’s been hard for me to accept. But I have come to terms with it to a degree but I continue to look for ways to help it improve.

Thankfully I have an amazing surgeon who wants to help. He has brought in a trusted plastic surgeon to do the grafting as he assists. I offer myself up to their expertise and they are pretty optimistic that I’ll get some noticeable relief. So I’m praying this is so and crossing my fingers and toes for an extra boost of hope. If I get some improvement a second grafting can be performed. (More lipo!)

I did ask the plastic surgeon if he would put the extra fat in my face. He said he would during my exam but later thought better of it. Maybe it’s just too much for one session! Maybe he had been joining. I Just thought getting a few wrinkles filled might be an extra bonus!

Since my cancer and subsequent pain issues and because I have three teens who like seeing my hair gray – I have aged a lot in the last few years. So I have had some filler done in my face.

I can hear people gasping. But hello lots of us are getting Botox (I’m not a candidate in my forehead because I have too heavy a brow), fillers and nips and tucks. I don’t want to age gracefully if it is going to go this fast. It is not graceful. So I’m just trying to slow it down -and crap after what I’ve been through I deserve to do things that help me feel good about me.

I’m not one of the confident woman who can accept their body changes and aging. I wish I were. I’ve gained weight and I’m out of shape because I’m limited in the gym. I do walk a lot. But I am not feeling good about me. I’m used to being thinner and more muscular than soft.

I will say that some filler I have had I’ve liked and some I haven’t and thankfully I did not get the kind that lasts lots of years. I don’t like my cheeks probably because I’ve gained weight since I have had my cheeks done. And I feel too cheeky! But I like the filler in my smile lines and in a couple other facial lines. I’m scared to get the filler under my eyes. Which is a problem area for me so I invest in lots of concealer.

I share this because I’m not afraid to show my vanity which come from vulnerability. I’ve been tossed around the last four years. It’s been super hard . Sometimes I wonder why I am still so vain and not just thankful for what I have. The fact is I’m both. I’m thankful and vain. And truly it’s each persons choice what they choose to do or don’t do with their bodies. So I own it. I’m vain but I tell myself that’s ok because I’ve been through hell.

So when the surgeon was thinking he might put some fat in my face I felt excited and nervous. It’s like maybe I could have pain reduction and a cosmetic boost all in one. I figure he changed his mind for a good reason. Probably wants to stick to the real issue at hand. My pain. Which is just fine with me.

In the long run if I had to prioritize what is most important – getting rid of pain would rank #1. Obviously. So heres to surgery number 3 for my post cancer treatment pain – I’m praying for good pain relief . (And if he has some extra fat for a wrinkle or two maybe he would surprise me).

Oh and there is the liposuction 😉

Hey whatever it takes to keep the spirits up right?