Thursday, October 22, 2015

My Happy Place

I used to believe happy places are defined as such, because of the place. And, then, I learned happiness comes from within; the place we are in on the inside. Happiness does not grow from outside places, people, or things. Ultimately, happiness is a state of mind. 

We make places happy. We make our relationships happy. We make things happy. The energy and support we offer - undying faith in a person or place or thing are what makes it happy - whatever it may be.

Lately, I notice, I find a lot more happiness living inside of me and around me. I noticed this happiness after I committed to paying attention to the happy brewing in my heart and fluttering in my tummy. Now, I see my happy places multiply, instead of divide. Today, as I wheeled along the river path with my sweet, happy walker, Belle, my mind was clear and filled with ease. My joy, palpable, and my awe, immeasurable. I only saw, Beauty, living and breathing around me. Beauty in the brightly colored leaves and sparkling river water. Beauty makes me happy every, single time. A few days ago, I reveled in chopping vegetables, using good knife form, and recounted the countless hours I watched Ina Garten chop on Food Network and, better yet, remembered the knife skills class Kelly gifted me. Dinners I cook or eat out, with the very best of friends, rapidly increase my laugh lines and I don’t mind these well-earned lines one bit. My morning cup of coffee is a reason to awake and peel my body out of my bed. I, all but cheered the other night, as I hit play on my DVR because TV, my dog, and salt and vinegar chips are such a happy space for me. I watch, as my dad takes care of my lawn and flowers and Hydrangea bushes, and can’t help but feel joy. I sit, with my mom, at my kitchen table and just yack; exactly like we did when I was a teenager and I can’t stop smiling. I go to Ashlea’s and spend time with her family and feel a bubbling over of goodness. I sit, write to you and for me, and tears of gratitude and faith and love and hope fill my eyes. Because, I realize, we are all in this life thing together. We are all working to find our happy places, together.

Yes, it is true, a place or a thing or a person can bring us a momentary happiness. But, what brings us the truest and most undeniable, unflappable joy is what we bring to the situation. It is what we offer, what we seek to find, and what we choose to expand that makes the given experience what it is. If our inner peace is a fortress, the outside muck doesn’t have a chance. We create these happy spaces and moments when we are willing to visit our happy - these feelings of joy - again and again and again. Go find your happy place; it already lives inside of you. I was trapped inside my house and inside my mind for a long, long time. There isn't any shame in this kind of entrapment. The sadness is just as much a part of life as the happiness. The only way out, though, is to do what you love. Always do what you love and makes your heart sing...even if it is for five minutes. The rest of life will catch up with you, I promise. 

Doing what I love most. Sharing a meal I love, with a person I love, and in a place I love. And, Mary, I have two drinks because Kelly knows the bartender. And the bartender says we make her happy. See, happiness breeds more happiness. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fight Song

And all those things I didn't say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm alright song
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

-Rachel Platten, Fight Song

I have this habit of listening to the same songs over and over. I fill up a play list with my favorite songs of the moment. I listen, until even I can’t bear to hear the same songs on repeat one more time. Currently, one of the songs on my repetitive play list of favorites is, Fight Song, by Rachel Platten. Every time I hear this song, I can’t help but stop whatever I am doing and sing at the top of my lungs. I also will stop when Watch Me comes on and do my own version of the Whip/Nae Nae, using my arms for the Stanky Legg and Break Your Legs part. I am extremely grateful I only live with a dog most of the time. 

A few days ago, my friend was here with me. He constructed a few fantastic improvements to my home, planted a tree, and, naturally, I turned on my fantastic play list to help with morale. Well, to be perfectly truthful, I turned on the same play list several times...all in one day. Anyway, as he was sawing wood for a little ramp so I could finally get out to my deck, he asked, very nicely, if I had any other songs because he heard Fight Song just one too many times that day. And because I live alone and really have grown accustomed to having things my own way, I just added a few more songs to my famous play list; instead of deleting any of them

Later that night, this friend and I prepared a quick dinner together. While we were heating up leftover Garlic Potato soup and steaming an artichoke, we also talked about some pretty hard stuff. Stuff like my situation and circumstances and where I am now and where I was when I was first paralyzed. One simple statement led to the next, and as I do, I started hysterically and unreasonably crying. And because my friend is so sweet, he immediately sat on the floor and pulled my chair over to him forcing me to stop what I was doing and look right at him and just cry and talk through the tears. But, I wasn’t able to talk. I kept crying and crying and trying to talk. Not even wiping my nose with the rough paper towels could stop me. 

And for the record, I have no idea what he said or what I said that actually triggered the tears and hysterics. The words and uncontrollable emotion just poured out of me. However, what I do remember is that I started listing the methods and avenues and moments of strength I seized over the last fifteen years. I told him I was so alone and kept fighting anyway. I told him I was so sick and kept fighting anyway. I told him I wanted to give up every single day and kept fighting anyway. I shared the time I went to a doctor who told me I was better off dead and instead of leaving the office defeated, I continued to fight for a doctor who would keep me alive. I cried and listed my moments of strength, not my moments of weakness.

And when this crying fit was over, I realized, for the first time, I listed my strengths and only my strengths. I wrote my very own Fight Song. Maybe it is because I hear the song over and over in my house as I fold laundry or do the dishes or clean the bathroom. I don’t know. All I know, is out of no where, I chose to see all of the times I showed up for me, instead of all of the times I failed me

After I calmed down and we finally ate dinner and I went to bed, I fell asleep strong. I knew I still had weakness to overcome; weakness that may never go away. But, I wrote my Fight Song. I proved I was alright song

What if we all wrote a Fight Song. I don’t mean in a corny way; I mean in a real way. What if we all wrote down the moments we were brave and strong and scared and did it anyway. What if we just focused on this part of ourselves, the strong part, instead of all of the times we fell or disappointed or ran from something out of fear and shame. Just what if. We all have a Fight Song in us. We all have a take back my life song and we are all sending big waves into motion. It doesn’t matter our story or our weight class. We all showed up for a fight and chose to be strong. I suggest we focus on that part of ourselves a little bit more. So when the nay sayer part of us shows up, the part that feels she has fallen just one to many times to recover, we can sing our own Fight Song and belt it out and the top of our lungs. And, the best part is, we have the freedom to play our song on repeat as many times as we’s our song.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Window Boxes

About ten days ago, we built three of these window boxes. By we, I mean a really, really old friend and I. And by we built, I mean, he built them and I styled them. I went to the nursery, all on my own, picked out the plants, and directed the, nice and helpful, nursery man to load them into the trunk. Oh, and I did measure some boards even though numbers aren’t really my thing. But, my friend, he did most of the work. As my friend worked and I delivered coffee and water, he made sure to remind me he was diligent in honoring my request - show the knots and cracks and most weathered and uneven parts of the boards.

After a day of carpentry and planting and drink bringing and lunch making, we finally finished. I wheeled all the way out to the sidewalk and looked at these beautiful window boxes and started to cry. I didn’t cry because I was so tired from measuring and math, nor did I continue to cry because I am such a sap and things like window boxes make me sob. No, I cried because these once discarded and weathered pallet boards were, now, stunning window boxes that would make Joanna Gaines proud. 

These tears recalled so many hard years when I wasn’t sure who I was or what I was doing. So many hard years when I struggled to believe I was still the same person in this broken body. So many years when I thought the only way to power through this new challenge was to assume I was a bad person before and needed a jolt in order to become a new and good person. But, this way of thinking, this idea that we were once bad and need to see a tragedy as a gift is just wrong. Just so wrong.

Bad things happen to good people all of the time. And I am not saying I was the pillar of a good person. But, I was a real person. A twenty-one year old person with all kinds of knots and flaws and cracks. I don’t need to twist and turn my accident into some magical change of life; it just happened. Accidents and losses and tragedies are just part of the human experience. The good thing, though, is - this human experience - celebrates all of these crashes and burns. The human experience teaches us we are most beautiful when we are pieced back together and aren’t afraid to show off our knots and cracks and bruises and scars. 

We are all weathered. We are all pieced back together again. We are all beautiful. And if you water us, we will grow. Just like these plants in these window boxes - we will grow out of the garbaged and the forgotten, weathered wood. We will grow.