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Archive for the ‘fear’ Category

I have spent the better part of the last 2 years thinking that I am now permanently damaged goods. Besides the constant sense of bitterness and the fragile state of my already-heavily-damaged ego, I have questioned if these experiences have made me unfit for future human relationships. Forget about the male-female romantic type of relationships (of which I fear I am permanently unfit) but even just the simple human interactions. What happens if I am too screwed up to ever have a normal friendship again??

If you had asked me 10 years ago where I envisioned my life would be at this juncture, you can bet your sweet bippy that it never would have occurred to me that I would be more lost than I was at 18 – rootless and struggling with my faith, my self-esteem, and my future – I thought I had outgrown these sorts of emotions. So now I feel that I am too messed up, too crazy, too jaded, too broken – damaged goods.

So last night, in spending some time with my nearly-perfect friend (who will be known here only as “The B”) I discovered that I am not alone in the feeling of being ‘damaged.’ “The B”  is tall, gorgeous, outgoing, funny, intelligent and charismatic – and yet feels that she isn’t good enough. We actually spent quite a bit of the evening arguing over who is crazier, more angry, and/or more flawed. How is that a woman who is almost the perfect ideal of a female in current American society share the same sense of inadequacy that I have? “The B” is the kind of woman that I want to be when I grow up – how can SHE feel that she’s as crazy as I am?!

Is it a woman thing? Are we, as females, programmed to feel inadequate in some way at all times in our lives? I don’t think that’s exclusively the answer – although I DO believe that females specialize in feeling insecure and flawed. But I know many men who suffer from some of the same feelings that we have, especially the men who have been through shattering divorces or other life-altering events. These men are normal, everyday guys who have managed (just like “The B” and I) to get out of bed and face each new day. So, no, I don’t think it’s just ‘a woman thing’ – I actually think it’s more widespread than that.

My evening with “The B” has helped me to realize something very important – we are ALL damaged goods! There is not a single person, no matter how good it looks like they may have it in life, that is truly content with who they are. Maybe it’s trauma (emotional or physical) that has damaged someone, maybe it’s simply born in them – but we ALL feel that we have flaws. I am so glad to have company in the Damaged Goods area of the department store of life! Does it make me a bad person to rejoice in the company I keep?? I have truly wonderful friends that have helped me to realize that they too struggle with the damages in their lives – and if they can survive, so can I!

So, to”The B” I send the assurance that we are both crazier than hell, totally screwed up, and yet totally lovable!! And we are not alone – there are a lot of us that are Damaged Goods – and we should stand proud!

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Those two words have never applied to me, EVER. Hi, my name is Becky, and I am hopelessly out of touch with the way my body is supposed to work in any coordinated movement.

When you are the fat kid growing up, the choices for showcasing whatever god-given body skills you have are slim. My mother enrolled me in the requisite “little girl” dance classes – and even I have to admit how ridiculous that was! The ballet tights and tutu must have made me look like the hippos in Fantasia – those fashions were not invented for chubby little girls. And yet I actually truly loved dancing. From the graceful and ordered movements of ballet to the all-out noisemaking in tap class, I really liked dancing. But, when you reach those dreaded pre-teenage years and realize that you don’t look good in that spandex, you give up the love of the activity in some twisted sense of self-preservation and damaged ego. When all the little girls around you are tiny and petite and graceful – and you are everything BUT – you decide that maybe you should find a new hobby, maybe knitting or reading or underwater basketweaving. Anything that didn’t require spandex and coordination…

I was never athletic either. I tried softball for a few years when I was 11 or 12 but I never tore up the field with any outstanding skill. Despite a lifetime love of baseball (instilled in me by my dad, the walking baseball encyclopedia, and my brother, the consummate Yankee fan) and the wish that I could play, I was often stuck in right field for the safety of all parties involved. I was too self-conscious to hit, I was too fat to run, I was too scared to field a ball. Yep, Derek Jeter I wasn’t!

So, now having a brief background into my non-athletic past, I hope you will now allow me a moment of utter pride in the smallest of victories- I actually am trying a team sport again! After 20+ years of being too self-conscious about my weight, my body style and my general lack of coordination, I am actually leaping into a new game – vintage baseball. More to follow on this great sport (!) but I just had to share my joy right now! I actually got out on a field with a bunch of very athletic and very coordinated guys and tried something *gasp* athletic with them! What am I thinking?!

I am so grateful to those guys – this is just my small way of saying thank you to them – for putting up with me. The first practice I sucked big time – and the second week was only marginally better. The guys are being very tolerant of my general lack of skill and are being very understanding as I learn the body mechanics needed to play. Sadly, I am paying the price for hiding my body and not developing any athletic grace for the first 30 years of my life. Or, rather, I should say that my poor teammates are paying the price. But I am working hard to improve – I even now have my own private batting/throwing coach (bless my wonderful coworker and friend Jen) – and practice every day to try to improve. For love of the game, I am trying, dammit!!

But, meanwhile, I am just tickled to death that I have tried something new, something that required almost every ounce of courage I own.  This was a HUGE step for me and, without the confidence I have pieced back together as I have shed some of these pounds, I would never have been able in the past to be brave enough for this. While I lack (and probably always will) a natural sense of grace or athleticism, I have something even better – HEART!

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My good friend and coworker, Mandy, is leaving us tomorrow, off to spend 5 years in vet school in New Zealand. I am so happy for her – what a phenomenal opportunity – but I am also going to miss her terribly. She was the only other one of my coworkers that voluntarily worked the Sunday shift with me; she is a ray of sunshine when I walk into work; and I learned a lot from her on how to deal with feisty animals, worried owners, and errant toenails.

Her departure (along with my friend Steve’s recently) has gotten me to thinking – what am I staying here for? Why don’t I just go?

Truckin’, like the do-dah man / Once told me “You’ve got to play your hand” / Sometimes your cards ain’t worth a dime / If you don’t lay’em down.

I took a long drive around the county last week, to test the emotional waters to see if I would miss this area. While I do admit that it is a beautiful place with lots of history and interesting little spots, I also had to face the ghosts of a lot of painful memories and shared moments. There was almost no road I could turn onto that didn’t hold a shadow of some part of the last 10 years – and so many of them reminded me of things that I had lost. Not just my husband but some good friends, some interesting jobs, and yes even some parts of my self. I think that in some ways in might be better to just get away from those shadows that are haunting me, to leave and start fresh somewhere else.

Busted, down on Bourbon Street / Set up, like a bowlin’ pin / Knocked down, it get’s to wearin’ thin / They just won’t let you be, oh no.

But then, in the same breath, I realized that I would truly miss some of the people that have made this part of my life journey so enjoyable. I have a wonderful group of friends that watches out for me, cares for me, and treats me right. I have a fire department pseudo-family that is there for support when I need it (and frustration when I don’t) – just like a real family. These people are the treasures that I have found in Maryland – and I’m not sure I can leave them. How will I watch my godkids grow up? How will I keep the connection to my fire department brothers and sisters? How will my circle of friends stay intact if I’m somewhere else? How will I feel if I have no roots again?

You’re sick of hangin’ around and you’d like to travel / Get tired of travelin’ and you want to settle down.

I am, in total honesty, lured by the thought of just running away from my problems. A new area with new people offers me the temptation of forgetting. Maybe I can escape those unpleasant memories if I just have a new location? Forget for a minute that the psychological and emotional damage of the last 10 years (both self-imposed and inflicted by others) will travel with me, like some really ugly Louis Vuitton baggage. Forget for a minute that it is damn hard to start over in a new place where you don’t know anyone and are trying to get used to a new job, a new home, and a new locale. Forget for a moment that there are days that I’m not sure I have the energy or courage to get out of bed, let alone move halfway across the country. The lure of a NEW PLACE beckons me like a kid to a candy store.

I guess they can’t revoke your soul for tryin’ / Get out of the door and light out and look all around.

A NEW PLACE where no one knows anything about my personal life, where the sordid details of my marriage weren’t ground in the gossip grist mill for everyone’s enjoyment. Where I can live in a home that doesn’t mock me with its memories. Where I can go out to dinner with a man and no one gives a hoot – let alone have passed it on down the gossip chain with amusing little embellishments. Where I can live anonymously without worry that my ex will recognize my car in a parking lot and cause damage to it or me. Where I am just a nameless face in the crowd and not worried about running into any of my former in-laws. Where no one will remember that I used to be fat or married. Ahhh, the lure of that mythical NEW PLACE.

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me / Other times I can barely see / Lately it occurres to me / What a long, strange trip it’s been.

Mandy is lucky – she isn’t running from anything. She doesn’t leave behind the bitter and sad memories that I do; she gets a fresh start without all the emotional baggage. Granted, that is mostly due to the fact that she has been smart enough NOT to get married. But, regardless, she isn’t running away from the past – she’s running to an exciting new future. She is truly off on a new adventure – and she better realize I’m going to come visit her Down Under! Good luck, Mandy, and safe and happy travels!

Truckin’, up to Buffalo / Been thinkin’, you got to mellow slow / Takes time, you pick a place to go / and just keep truckin’ on.

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When I was a kid, my older brother went off to college in Washington, DC, a far cry from the small town where we had grown up in upstate New York. My parents, being the educational types that they were, insisted that while we were down visiting him on Parents’ Weekend, Easter, etc. that we tour the city and discover the history of our nation’s capital. But this was a big, scary, urban environment for my sheltered 12-year old self! Once, when trying to cross busy Connecticut Avenue, my brother (now the experienced urban dweller) gave me this sage piece of wisdom about crossing the street: “Don’t make eye contact, they won’t hurt you.” I’m not sure WHY this psychology works like it does – but he was most assuredly right. Not once did my sorry teenage self get splattered by a cab in DC and, in the years since and with the travelling I have done at home and abroad, the eye contact avoidance has prevented me from ever getting hit in the street.

Sadly, I came to a startling realization this week – I think I took my brother’s advice a little too much to heart. I rarely make eye contact with anyone anymore – at all, in any situation, PERIOD. Somewhere along the line, apparently I twisted my brother’s words to avoid all eye contact in order to prevent getting hurt. In a painful flash of self-awareness (when questioned on what color a friend’s eyes are), I realized that I just don’t look people in the eye ever. I never intended to transfer the street-crossing wisdom into my relations with all human beings – I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

I’m not sure if I have always had this problem… I would like to think that, at some point in my past, I was bold and confident enough to look people in the eye and share myself with them. I would hate to think that I have always been this much of a milquetoast. But, in all reality, I am guessing that I have always been like this – afraid to establish a connection, subconsciously putting myself in the submissive role. In the world of dogs, eye contact is how they establish dominance in a pack – the ones that stand straight and can face down enemies are the top of the pecking order, the ones that bow down and look down are low in the pack. I have been, without realizing it, announcing my submissiveness to the world with every conversation. No wonder I was easily tagged by a self-confident, aggressive, bully of a husband – he knew, by my eyes, that I would never be able to stand up to him.

So now that I have realized that I have been keeping myself aloof from others by denying that eye contact – and meekly placing myself in the submissive position – I vow that I will change that. I don’t want to keep myself distant from other human beings any more; I am no longer the weak, fearful person I used to be! I want to create those human connections, those important relationships, by looking people in the eye, sharing who I am with them. Yes, I do understand that this will also allow them to see my vulnerabilities, opening myself up to getting hit by those proverbial cars in the street, but I think it will also help me to develop a stronger connection to others and to myself…

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There are very few times any more that I truly miss being married. Let’s face it – I didn’t have the ideal marital situation. Neither of us was really in it with the right expectations and its a part of my history that I usually try to put aside, to forget as best I can. Yet there are times when, like brief flashes of lightning that jolt my world and cause an almost physical pain, that I realize what I am missing. I feel, more and more as time passes, that I have past my expiration date, that I had my one chance to be married and I screwed it up. And that makes me really sad. Not sad for the man that I lost (because, let’s face it, he has definitely turned into an A-1 dillweed!) but sad for the fact that I may never have a marriage, that lifelong connection to a loved one, again.

I was raised in a home with 2 happily married parents – an oddity even in my growing up years. More and more of my friends’ parents divorced as I got older and, by the time I was in high school, I began to realize how special a lasting marriage truly is. My mom and dad are partners in ever sense of the word. I’m sure they suffer through the rough times and the typical spousal frustrations of any marriage – but they have stuck together for over 40 years. If one forgets something, the other will remember – if one falls down, the other one picks them up and helps them keep going – if one has a tough time, the other one is there to hold their hand and promise to support them. I envy them their marriage, their partnership, their team.

There was a movie on tv today that I hadn’t seen in years – “Shall We Dance?” – with Richard Gere and J-Lo. This movie, which centers around a man frustrated with his humdrum life and looking for something to challenge him, has one of the best definitions of marriage I think I’ve ever heard:

”We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness’.”

It’s funny, I liked this quote so much that I had it printed in our bulletins for our wedding way back in the day. We all know that I love my quotes – been stealing other peoples’ wisdom for years – and I really liked this one from the moment I heard it. Back then, I was so naively optimistic about being married and being in love. Now this quote seems to ring with a certain irony.

I’ve lost my witness, the only person that could testify to my life, so now I wonder if that was it for me, my one chance. I know that I have friends and family that love me – but they all have their own spouses and children whose lives need witnessing. Who will be a witness to my life, to love me unconditionally through good days and bad? Who will help me pass the time on this planet, into old age and into the grave? Why has God chosen for me to go through life without a partner? Who will be the witness to my life…?

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‘Tis the season for candles – scented delights to buy for grandma in the stores, twinkling electric bulbs beckoning from the windows, advent tapers lit every Sunday in church. It’s a time for candles and celebrations of family, friendship, and faith.

I am reminded, every time that I look at a candle, of a song I was taught a long time ago that reminded us all that “it is better to light just one little candle than to stumble in the dark…if everyone lit just one little candle what a bright world this would be.”

This is the time of year that always has made me want to make the world a better place – lighting my proverbial candle and shining bright.

For those of you who don’t know, my world fell apart a while back and I am having real trouble shining bright during the holidays.  I’ve watched my illusions shatter, my dreams get shredded, and my life derail. How then can a person find any hope or peace in this wonderful time of year? It would be so easy to get bogged down in the depression andthe fear and the bitterness – but I choose instead to light a new candle and shine bright and NOT curse the darkness!

The day that my separation papers were signed, I made an appointment for a new tattoo. And for the art, I chose a celtic cross (for my heritage) with a maltese cross inset (for my firefighting family) and the following words: “What is to give light must endure the burning.” This quote is from Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning.

Almost everyone who has seen the tattoo gives me a blank stare or a puzzled look when they read the quote. I’m sure it seems strange for a firefighter to advocate the burning of anything. However, the reason I chose this quote is to remind myself that, in order to shine bright, I must get through bad moments and ended relationships. I have to survive the shattering in order to rebuild on my foundation.

I firmly believe that God has a plan for me and that He has not abandoned me. I have to believe that, to have faith in that simple fact or else I will no longer have any hope for the future. I will try to rest in God’s arms for a while to allow myself to heal, to hope, and to trust.

So this Christmas season, I am going to relight my candle and move on with my life. I don’t know what lies ahead for me – it’s so hard to be alone at this time of year. But I will not let the darkness defeat me; I will survive the burning and shine forth!

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Last year, the first Christmas I had spent as a non-married person, was a rough time for me. For the first time ever, I understood why the suicide rate climbs and depression medications sell as fast as Nintendo systems during the holidays. I needed something to cheer me up and remind me why I have always LOVED the holiday season! So I started a series of Facebook notes intended only to improve my own Christmas spirit – but it ended up being fairly popular with my friends (at least the ones that were willing to read my own self-indulgent ponderings). I liked that series so much that I have tweaked it a bit and am blogging it again this year. Hope you all enjoy!

It is a tradition in my family that I go home to western New York for my family Christmas. I have not missed a holiday on South Street ever in my life and, as of now, I don’t plan to. I had thought that, when I have children of my own, I might have to change the tradition – but we all know now that’s a very unlikely event and hence the tradition remains intact. I will go HOME this year for Christmas as always before.

I think it was easy for me, while I was in college, to make the trek for the holidays. Classes had ended, exams had been stressful, and I needed some good old-fashioned home cooking (oh, and the laundry machines were free at home). When I moved to Maryland, I thought it might be difficult and expensive to make that trip home – but it didn’t prove to be. If anything, I loved dragging my husband back to the snow-draped wonder of my hometown. I was thrilled to share our family traditions with a man who seemed to have none. And, to give credit where credit is due, my husband was very good about going – considering that he hated cold, was indifferent to the holidays, and really was overwhelmed by my loving family – he was a good sport about going every year.

And even now, knowing how much of a mess I have made of my life and how I have failed at all of the goals I set for myself so long ago, I still can’t wait to see the twinkling lights and candles aglow in the windows of my childhood home. I have trouble facing the disappointment I feel for the life I lost – and the heartbreaking loneliness – but someone those childhood ornaments on the tree and cookies in the oven will heal my soul. I am truly lucky to have somewhere like that to go!

I challenge all of my friends and family to look around at their homes this season and cherish what you have. Not only the roof over your heads and the warm blankets on your beds, not just the glittering Christmas tree and wrapped packages – I want you all to examine and appreciate your families, the people that share your lives!

Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives one of the definitions for “home” as a familiar or usual setting, a congenial environment. And, while the material trappings of the holidays do make our home comfortable and congenial, it is the people who live with us that make our homes.

You can’t really appreciate how special and wonderful and important a warm and happy home is until you no longer have one. Until you are lonely or uncomfortable or sad or distressed in your house, you will never be able to fully embrace how special a warm, loving environment can be.

I can tell you, here and now, how awful it is to be alone during the holidays, to have nothing happy left in your house to create a home. So I want my dear friends to be sure to enjoy THEIR happy homes for me this year! I will live through you and treasure your families as though they are my own. And I will be content in the knowledge that the people I love most have VERY happy homes!

Meanwhile, New York,  here I come…bring on the snow…

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