Thursday, August 20, 2015

An Inspirational Trip to Kroger

Hello, Beloved Reader …

Yesterday, I had two incredibly eye-opening experiences, both in the local Kroger where I went to pick up a script.  You see, I was swimming in mucus and my doctor was kind enough to call in a script for me, saving me a trip to the office.   

As I was standing in the pharmacy line, the young lady in front of me was picking up a script for her young son.  The Pharmacy Tech rung up the prescription and immediately voided it out, assuming there was an error.  She called the pharmacist over to review the order and said very quietly (I think she was hoping the customer wouldn’t hear her) 
            “There’s an issue with the bar code, it’s ringing up $475”.  

             The customer calmly responded with “Yes, I know.  It’s the cheapest one I can get, and we 
             don’t have a choice.  If he doesn’t have it, he’ll die.”   

She paid almost $500 for her son’s prescription and as she was leaving, I felt the need to talk to her.  

I explained to her that I didn’t want to intrude, but simply provide a suggestion.  I didn’t ask what the script was, nor did I ask her about her son’s illness; honestly, it’s none of my business.  I simply suggested that she contact the manufacturer of the prescription and explain to them that her insurance doesn’t appropriately cover the cost, and it’s creating a financial burden for her and her family.  She welled up, eyes shining with tears she was trying desperately to hold back.  

            “I hadn’t even considered that, is that possible?”

“Yes, I’ve told more than one person to try it; the worst that can happen is they say they can’t assist. Most times they can at least help you with some discount coupons, especially for life saving medications.”

“I’m going to call them as soon as I get home, we’re living on beans and rice right now, simply because once the bills are paid, most of the extra money goes to the prescription. It breaks my heart when he asks for something as simple as potato chips and I have to tell him no”

She gave me a hug and said “Even if nothing comes from it, I thank you.  Thank you for caring enough about a complete stranger to share this information.”  

We finished our quick conversation, and went our separate ways.  I couldn’t help but think about this wonderful woman and her sick little boy.  How she’s scraping enough money together each month to make sure he lives, and how she can’t even give him a simple treat.  It broke my heart and made me thankful for a daughter who’s biggest concern is strep throat, and even more thankful for LLS for providing me with the care I need to survive.  I know not everyone is that lucky. 

As I was walking away from the pharmacy, an elderly gentleman stopped me.
               “Excuse me miss.  Who do you know from Vietnam?”

I was a little confused, as I was still thinking of the young mother, and he pointed to the back of my leg. As odd as it sounds, sometimes I forget that others actually LOOK at my tattoos.   For those of you who may not know, I have a Navy Seabee and the Vietnam ribbon the back of my calf.   I took a deep breath, smiled and responded “My Dad”.  It being the anniversary of his death, I really wasn’t up for a big discussion with a stranger about him. 

The gentleman reached forward and took my face in his hands.  He looked me straight in the eye and said “I don’t know if anyone has ever told you this, but your Dad is a hero.  Please thank him for his service for me.”  And he hugged me. 

I smiled and hugged him back and thanked him for his lovely words.  I then high tailed it to the restroom so he wouldn’t see me crying. I didn’t want him to think he’d upset me.  

That a total stranger would say such wonderful things about my dad was amazing.  It's a nice change of pace from the usual "if you weren't in Vietnam, you shouldn't have the tattoo" reaction I usually get.  

I pulled myself together and continued my small amount of shopping.  As I was walking towards the register, I saw the young mother buying the few things she was able to get with the funds left after her son’s medication.  I grabbed a few cans of Pringles and headed to the check-out; hoping I could catch her before she left the parking lot. 

I found her at her car, and handed her the bag containing the Pringles. 

              “What is this?”
              “My gift to you for your son”
               “But … but why?”

   “Because I can.  And because I know what you all are going through.  You’re not alone in    
    your battle.  Go give your son his chips and enjoy your afternoon.”  

   “I don’t know what to say.”

   “You don’t have to say anything, just promise me to hug him extra today.”
   “He won’t stop hugging me if I give him these!” 

Another  quick hug, and I was into my car driving home.  So, one small outing to a store, and my whole day was put into a perspective I would have never imagined.

Remember, when you’re trapped in your own world, worried about everything, look around.  Reach out to a stranger and change their day for the better.   It’s up to us to make this a world worth living in.  

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What Would Laz Do?

What  Would Laz Do?

My wonderful readers: Please keep in mind that I’m writing this blog in remembrance of my wonderful friend Geremy “Lazarus de Legio - LAZ ” Havanec; who was taken from this life way too early and most unexpectedly.  I realize not everyone knew him (as hard as that is to believe); but we can all learn from him. 

This past week has been one of the most difficult I’ve ever been through; and I know I’m not alone.  We had to accept the fact that a beloved friend had died. We had to see him in a coffin; looking nothing like the full of life, joyful, amazing person he was.  I had to see my daughter and “son” so heartbroken they could barely breathe, let alone voice their pain.  We have witnessed countless tears, swollen eyes and hugs of support.  We sat through services, stood through eulogies, and said our final goodbyes. 

The amount of people who loved Geremy is countless, and he touched each and every one of our lives in a positive manner.  He was always there for us, to lend advice (even if it wasn’t what we wanted to hear), provide a hug, trouble shoot technical issues and open his home to a bunch of crazy haunters who wanted nothing more than to  just  be around each other (and himself, of course). 

So, now that all the services are over we find ourselves in a strange place: what now?  How do we move on without our friend?  The answers are wrapped up in these four letters:  WWLD?   What would Laz do?   He was never without a meaningful word or logical explanation for anything.  He would look at the situation, find the good in it and explain to us how we can use that to our benefit. 

Love Everyone

If anyone were to say “Laz didn’t like me”... I’d straight up tell them they were a liar.  Laz loved everyone… regardless of who they were, what they did, or any mistakes they may have made.  He hugged my mom the first time he met her, and asked about her constantly after the passing of my dad.  He treated everyone he met as a trusted and loved friend, and he meant it. 

WWLD:  Live by loving everyone.  Stop judging one another and simply love them.  We should be greeting everyone with a warm smile and helpful attitude.  None of us were afraid to ask Laz for help; so to honor him we should be more focused on trying to help others instead of kicking them while they are down. You know he wouldn’t want it any other way.  

Bury the Hatchet

And gracious…don’t leave the handle sticking out!  I’m pretty sure at one point or another we’ve all irritated Laz.  One of the most amazing things about him is that he never held that against any of us.  He still loved us, and he still helped us. No matter how many times we pissed him off .   Laz didn’t hold a grudge; he didn’t bring up past indiscretions or mistakes.  He moved forward and fostered a positive relationship with everyone in his life.

WWLD: Forgive and move on.  Why do we insist on hating each other?  Why do have to remember “she did this to me”  “he said this to me”?   Why don’t we just forgive and continue to be civil towards one another?   Now, don’t get me wrong here, I’m NOT advising you to say in a caustic or toxic friendship or relationship.  Just the opposite, actually.  I know for a fact that Laz has told many of us – myself included - (probably more than once) that a particular friendship or relationship wasn’t healthy and that stepping away is the best thing for everyone involved.  He’d also remind us that just because we can’t be as close to someone as we were doesn’t mean we have to be mean toward them, spread rumors, or be spiteful.  We forgive, we continue to love, and we move on.   

Get to the Doctor and get a yearly physical

The one conversation I had over and over this past week was “Laz wasn’t even sick.  He was a picture of health”.  Unfortunately, we know now, that wasn’t true.  Laz was having symptoms of his illness for a long while, but ignored them and didn’t go to the doctor to be checked out.   And we all found out too late.

WWLD:  GO GET A PHYSICAL!!  Get one every year. Do the preventative care (mammograms, colonoscopies, prostate exams, etc.) and maintenance needed to stay healthy and alive. I don’t care if it’s time consuming, or uncomfortable, or you don’t want to.  Do it anyway.  Life is already too short; please don’t make it shorter by avoiding the doctor and refusing to do what it takes to make sure you’re here. 

Explore every side

We’ve all heard the phrase “there’s more than one side to a story”. One of Laz’s true strengths was his willingness to explore every avenue of a situation; whether it was a political issue, an argument between friends, or even the reasons why the latest Sci Fi movie failed so spectacularly.   Laz didn’t jump to conclusions, listen to rumor, or engage in a debate without the knowledge he needed (to win, of course!).

WWLD:  Get all the facts.  Stop listening to, and perpetuating, rumors.  Stop talking about each other behind backs and start talking TO each other.  Resolve your issues, hug, and love.   When you engage in a situation with someone, approach it with logic, knowledge and compassion.   And above all else, remember this.  Violence is never the answer.   

There are never the right words to say goodbye to someone you love… so :

“BYE EVERYONE” … Rest well, Laz, we will always love you. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Escaping the Comfort Zone

The Comfort Zone.   It’s technically defined as: a place or situation where one feels safe or at ease; and we all have one.  I hadn’t realized until very recently how much I lived in my little comfort zone.  It’s a place I created due to some serious pre-conditioning by my ex-husband (and yes, I’ll share this information with you in a bit).   But alas, it is incredibly important to realize that you can’t evolve, improve, and grow as a person until you LEAVE the comfort zone.  And kittens, that scares the living-dead daylights out of me. 
 There are quite a few aspects of my life that I live in my comfort zone; I suppose you could call them habits.  They are actions (or in most cases, lack of actions) that I take to protect myself from a response that likely won’t occur.   You see, dearest reader, I was taught (and I use that term in a very abstract manner) that certain actions would cause my now ex-husband to lose his cool and in turn, take his frustrations out on me.  Showing ANY kind of weakness or emotion was one of those things.  As was arguing (technically it wasn’t arguing, it was me making a suggestion that wasn’t what he was thinking) over where to go for dinner. Or wanting to watch the game.  Or not watch the game.  The list unfortunately goes on and on and on.   The main issue I’m having now is realizing and understanding that the things I like and want are NOT bad, and the people in my life will NOT respond in the same fashion if I voice my opinion, ask for something, or simply not agree with everything they say. 
I’ve honed these little habits over the years, to the point that if I already know someone isn’t interested in something (like sports, my particular choice of music, a specific genre of movie, etc.) I won’t even suggest what I want to do as an option.  In my head, I think to myself “you know they don’t like it… what makes you think it’s acceptable to ask for it?”   I know what you’re thinking: “it’s a give and take situation, in a healthy relationship you’ll each do things the other wants to do.”   And, logically, I realize that truth; but there’s this trigger in my brain that goes off.  And that trigger tells me that if I ask for what I want, I will pay for it in some fashion.  
I have two major comfort zones that I’m currently trying to escape.  The first, we talked about above - the refusal to ask for something I want (no matter how badly I want it); especially when I know that someone may not particularly want to participate.  
The second ties rather nicely into the first issue.  It’s “reminding” someone of something I want to do.   In my broken little mind (shush, I like the term) if I mention it more than once, it becomes “nagging” and will end up badly. Again, this is directly related my previous relationship and how he would react when I said something more than once (regardless the timing.  It could actually be months later).  ‘Yes, I remember, now shut up about it already” is one of the kinder ways he’s responded.  So, I mention something once, and let it go.  This is particularly difficult in my current situation because I don’t have my own means of transportation.  If I need or want to do something, go somewhere, etc., I either have to rely on someone else to take me (have I mentioned that I have the world’s most amazing cousin???) or borrow a car (two shout-outs to Vicki . .I’d be nowhere – literally – without you).   I absolutely don’t expect other people to remember all the things I want to do, places I want to go, things I want to buy, etc.   On the flip side, I can’t seem to bring myself to mention it again out of fear of what might happen. 
So that’s where I am right now; facing a door to the OTHER SIDE of the comfort zone.  Looking for the key to unlock it, and the courage to walk through.  
There’s a lot of Fear here
We call it a comfort zone for a reason…we feel safe here.  We know what’s going on, what to expect, and how things will happen.  When we step through that door into the unknown… it’s downright frightening.   Fear of the unknown is what holds us back the most, regardless of what we’re chasing.  
The key is when you trust and care for the people in your life, then you know that regardless of what you ask for, how often you say something, or even if you disagree with something they say nothing terrible is going to happen. Sure we’ll have disagreements or even arguments with the people we love.   That’s shouldn’t stop us from speaking up; even if we are afraid.  We can find our safe zones in a lot of different places, and usually it’s with the right people. 
Small Steps
There is no way stepping out of your comfort zone is going to happen overnight. It’s a long, sometimes painful, process of very small steps.  We can’t just jump into the deep end of the pool, without knowing how to swim, and expect to survive.   As enticing as that sounds (and as much as I expect that out of myself) it’s simply not realistic. 
So, we have to take small, stable steps.  Create a series of small goals that will ultimately result in leaving the Comfort Zone behind and stepping into a new future of adventure and peace.  I know it sounds cheesy and unattainable, but it’s so very true. Reaching small goals (and being able to say “Yes, I accomplished that!”) is what helps us move forward.  These accomplishments give us the drive and courage to keep going.   Personally, I’m a list person (those of you who know me know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.  There’s a written list for everything).   When I do something, I cross it off the list; that way I can visually see my progress and those accomplishments are what keep me going. 
A quick word about goals (whether they are small or large and regardless of what they are for).  Make them SMART.  Specific.  Measureable.  Attainable.  Realistic.  Time-driven.   There’s a WHOLE blog that needs to go around that concept... but for now, just keep those things in mind.  Otherwise your goals are just random dreams with no plan. 
So take some time out (especially from the things you are doing to avoid getting out of your comfort zone) and set your small goals.   You can even set your large goal, and work backwards into the smaller ones.  Whatever works for you.  Just keep moving forward and reach out for support when you need it. 
Oh…no.  Not Communication.   This is likely the most daunting of tasks for most of us; even under the best of circumstances.  Talking to others about what’s going on in our heads and with our emotions can be scary; especially when we don’t know how they are going to respond.   However difficult, communication is essential to ensuring you get the love and support you need to step out, and stay out, of your comfort zone. 
Take the time to talk to a trusted friend, relative, or loved one; and be prepared.  It’s going to be a deep conversation.  In concept (I say this, because it’s not as easy as I make it sound…even for me) you need to explain WHERE your comfort zone is, why you’re there, and why it’s important for you to move out and forward.  You can likely expect some really strong emotions during this conversation and potentially some tears.  This is not a bad thing.  Just let it happen and talk it out.  The loved ones in your life will want to understand and help you; but you have to let them.   
Trust is a tough word, because we’ve all been in a place where our trust was misplaced and it hurt.  Things were held against us, someone shared our information with someone else, we were made fun or – or worse – were told what we are feeling/doing/experiencing is wrong.  It sucks and it causes damage and makes it harder and harder to trust someone.  Even ourselves. Trust is essential to growing as a person; so strap in, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.  
Trust your loved ones not to hold things against you.  Trust YOURSELF.  Trust that talking about things, working through them and being uncomfortable at times will work.  When all else fails, take a step back about it. 
Nope, this is not a typo; I put communication on here twice.  There are two different sets of communication that should be happening for you.   The first is that initial conversation with your friends/loved ones regarding finding your way out of the comfort zone. 
The next level is even MORE communication.   This particular self-improvement process is different than many of the others ones we’ve discussed because in a lot of cases, it effects other people.  You already know my story, so you can see how it would impact the people in my life.  As I continue to work through my current issues, I’ve been told (several times) “you just need to talk to me about it.”   I’m trying (it’s HARD, dang it) and it’s helping.  Communication is they key (heck, it’s the key to a lot of things) to getting you outside of your comfort zone; because with the right people, that communication is going to take you further than anything else.  When you have the right people in your life and they understand what you’re going through, they help.  They don’t make it worse, they don’t hold it against you, and they certainly don’t make fun of you.   In fact, they may actually give you some good advice, they will let you cry (or they will cry with you) and they will make you smile. 
Eventually, dear reader, you will find yourself walking out of the comfort zone.  You’ll find yourself growing, learning, and being happier with life.   So, take a deep breath, approach that door, and get started on the lock.  Trust me, it’ll be worth the work.
 And above all, be kind to yourself and others. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Times Change, and So Should We

So, beloved reader, we meet again.   I know what you’re saying (I can hear it all the way over here) it’s about time!  Hey, a girl gets busy once in a while.   Alright, so technically my absence hasn’t been ALL about my being busy.  The fact of the matter is, I ebb and flow when it comes to blogging.  Sometimes I have a LOT to say; other times not so much.   At least I don’t have anything helpful to say.   Either way, here I am with something a bit more personal than usual to discuss.
So, a bit of a catch up from the last blog entry (in November).  You remember the one about Opportunity Whispering?  Well, that opportunity turned my life upside down in a really good way.  That opportunity; which I nearly missed (thank goodness I started feeling better and pushed my way through the anti-social issues) turned into a new relationship I wasn’t expecting, and with which I couldn’t be more pleased.  Granted, we’re still in the beginning phases, but I find myself smiling at random times and generally a bit more at ease with life.  This is a good thing. 

In all honesty, this is the first stable, healthy relationship I’ve been in since I left my now ex-husband; so it’s been YEARS.  It’s a bit more complicated since we are Very Far Away from each other, but that’s just reality sometimes.  When Opportunity shows up with a gift, you don’t ask it to change just because it doesn’t fit your ideal.  You accept it, make the most of it, and wait for it to take you to new and wonderful places.  

It was during this opportunity that I realized a few significant things about myself.  So now I’m trying to find my way through these issues and come out the other side a more adjusted person.   Now, my friend is your chance to run; it gets a bit more personal from here. 

You Never Know Your Damage
As you know, I do a lot of self-reflection, actualization and improvement.  I’m a true believer that you’ll never live to your potential if you don’t continuously strive to improve yourself.  Strange, how I thought it would be as easy as that.  Sit in my self-reflection, find my issues and work on them.  Apparently; that’s not the way it works!  Who knew?!  

Sometimes, you don’t realize the extent of your damage until you find yourself in a particular situation.  The realizations (at least for me) come in the form of a flash-back and expecting the existing situation to go the same way.  Then getting very, VERY angry at myself for expecting such terrible behavior out of someone I know wouldn’t do such a thing.  I realized that I’ve spent a lot of time working on my issues resulting from my sexual assault, but not nearly enough time working on the damage my abusive marriage caused.   It’s a terrible cycle that I have recognized and now, it’s time to work on it. 

Punishment and Blame
Self-punishment is bad kids.  Don’t do it, trust me I’m an expert.   In all seriousness, I have a bad habit of blaming myself for my perceived short-comings and I realize that’s directly due to my ex-husband’s influence.  When I don’t live up to my own expectations, or I’m not able to do something I think I should be able to do, I get angry.  Not with the situation, not with others; with myself.  I berate myself, think terrible things, and determine I have failed.  Trust me, you don’t want to hear the things that go through my head at the time.
I’ve learned that the blame lies in my past, and not with the people currently in my life.  So I don’t take my issues out on the people in my life, though they are exposed to my issues from time to time.  Sharing and pushing through these experiences is still new to me, and it’s more difficult than I was expecting. 

Moving Forward   
So, here’s where I am.  In this place where I’m dealing with some things that I never knew I didn’t have a handle on (wow…that sentence sucks – don’t judge me too harshly).  It’s certainly a challenge for me, and one I’m approaching as cautiously as possible. 

As many of you may know, I don’t cry easily (although there are some that will disagree with that statement).  I’m even more particular regarding in front of whom I cry or to whom I show any type of vulnerability.  It’s just part of who I became when I was ‘taught’ (maybe "conditioned" is the right word?) that vulnerability and emotion were unacceptable traits in a partner.  However, I realized something very interesting (with the help of a friend earlier in the weekend).  When I’m feeling particularly vulnerable, compassion sends me right over the edge.  Odd, I know…but apparently I’m not used to someone being kind to me when I’m upset. 
You know, one of my previous blog entries was about always wanting someone to let me have these emotions (refer to “Fantasies” .. especially paragraph 4.  5 March 2013).  Apparently what I was asking for in that particular blog 2 years ago is cathartic and actually helps you heal.  Hmm.. maybe it’ll happen. 

Personal Challenge
I have set a couple of personal challenges for myself, and I urge you to try them as well.  We all have a past; and each of us has something in that past that has had a negative impact on us.   I am challenging myself to face this past, learn from it, and find ways to lessen its effect on me.  I’m learning that being vulnerable with the right person is a good thing.  I’m learning that it’s OK not to be perfect, the constant rock, or to actually HAVE and show emotions.  I’m a work in progress, but that’s how I know I’m doing things correctly. 

I challenge you to do the same thing.  As difficult and painful as it may be to face, inspect your past, learn from it, and find your own way to eliminate it’s negative impact on your life.  Move forward, love others, be NICE, and accept compassion from others.