Posted in Life in general, Living Life As I See Fit

Ending 2017 With Strength and Grace

This is the time of the year my editors are asking for holiday and New Year’s articles.  While it may be early for you and me to think about these things, these companies are doing what they are supposed to do, which is plan.  As I start writing my articles and start to close out yet another year of my life, I start to look back on how much growth I have accomplished in the last year, two years, five years and even ten years.

Chronic illness has changed my life more than I ever could have imagined. Some of that has been hard and some life altering, but I have managed to weather each and every storm with strength and humility – and that has taken a lot of work on my part.   I have evolved into a different person, especially compared to the one I was before chronic illness came into my life.

Flash back ten years ago when my health didn’t suck.  I was married with a nine-year-old and a newborn.  I wasn’t happy in that marriage and I eventually walked away.  Months prior to walking away, I had lost my younger brother to cancer and the pain of his loss lingered for years after.  My mom had a stroke months after my brother’s death and her health spiraled downward until we lost her last year. From the time of her stroke and onward while her health was deteriorating, I did everything in my power to take care of her with every setback.  Eventually, all her health issues and my brother’s death took their toll and we lost her two summers ago.   Her death was the biggest wakeup call of my life.

I had already been transforming as a person with chronic illness, as a single mother and single woman, someone’s daughter, someone’s sister and aunt and someone’s friend.  I had spent a lot of the past 15 years of my life taking care of others and after my mother’s death, I came to realize that all of it had taken its toll on me.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  It was my pleasure to take care of my mother and everyone else who needed me. But I forgot to take care of myself in the process. I stopped putting my needs first and asking for help when I needed it. I allowed people to take advantage of me and it was my own doing, I wanted acceptance and I thought putting everyone’s needs ahead of my own was the answer.

My mother’s death stopped me in my tracks.  My mother was gone, and I had put distance between myself and some family members – not because I was angry at them or because of something they had done.  I put that distance between us because my mother was the reason I allowed myself to put up with so much. I made choices because of my love for her and because I believed these were the things she wanted and expected of me.  Granted, I don’t know what my mother wanted or expected.  I did what I thought was expected of me and her loss sent every thought and expectation into a brick wall.  I was alone without her.  And I had to learn to live a life without her and without the influence of my family because I was so unhappy.   And it was NOT just grief.

I was the strong one in the family – that is what everyone told me for so long.  Because I was the “strong one,” I believed I had to bear all my burdens alone. And I did and guess what? No expected me to ask for help and they were used to me not asking.  But they all asked me for help and I helped – always.  I probably never will ask for help because well, I am supposed to be the strong one. But I did seek outside help after losing Mom and I found out that I don’t have to be the person every expects me to be and that I can be happy even if it means doing my own thing, living up to my own expectations and being the person I have always wanted to be.

I have always faced by life with strength and grace, never backing down and never letting anyone see my hurt and pain.  When I finally let my wall down, I realized that letting it down meant letting people in I could rely on, who would allow me to be the person I was destined to be, who would accept me as I truly am, and who would love me despite all the flaws I see in myself.   And I face the New Year, I am facing it without fear of judgment, or losing, or making the same mistakes as before.

I am finally living my life on my terms.  And if I keep my distance, it is not because I am angry at anyone, it is because my choices and life aren’t open for debate. The person I am today stopped trusting somewhere along the line and has simply chosen to find better ways to make sense of her life and cherish the important people in her life.   I love the people who have always been a part of my life, but if the last year has shown me anything, it is that I can be happier finding my own place in this world and looking to a life that continues to get better and brighter.


Posted in Life is too short, Living Life As I See Fit, long over due

My Struggle with Pleasing Others and What I Have Learned

Pleasing others brings a lot of anxiety to person’s life and impacts a person’s life significantly.  I know because I have been there – sometimes, I am still there.  Trying to please others forces one to sacrifice their own happiness.

I am not sure when I started basing my life’s choices around what I perceived others wanted from me but it is safe to say; I did it for too long.  As a result, people took advantage of me and I let them. I let them think it was okay to place heavy burdens on me, to take care of everyone but not myself, to consider their happiness over mine or to worry about how my choices affected them.  I made choices based on what others (especially family) would approve of and in the end, I suffered more than anyone else.

I let people take advantage of me because they always did.  I let them treat me badly because they always did. I let them place heavy responsibilities on me because they always did.  I made decisions in my life based on how it affected them because I always did.

I apologized for every thing; even when I knew it damn well wasn’t my fault. I did it to avoid disagreement or to make others happy. Or maybe, I thought my disagreement wasn’t important.  I swallowed my pride for too many reasons and let others be right even if they were hurting me.  Sometimes, I let people hurt me and then blame me even it clearly wasn’t my fault.  I never said “no,” because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone.

I held on to my own mistakes and I analyzed them over and over thinking about what I could have done differently or what other options there were.  I allowed myself to get hurt so others wouldn’t.   I was made to feel selfish when I tried to do or think about what was best for me.  I held on to relationships that weren’t fulfilling my life – again, in the name of pleasing others.  I needed approval and I didn’t always feel like I was enough – for others, for God, and even myself.

While I was always there for everyone, I was bearing my burdens alone. The people whose feelings I was concerned with or who I continually was there for were not there for me.  I stood alone and I continue to.  Mostly because I didn’t trust them because of how often/much they hurt me and how they took full advantage of me. Anytime they hurt me, they placed the blame on me so hence, you can see how I became a people pleaser – for so long and to my detriment.

You see a pattern here?

The one person in my life who I knew I could rely on no matter what is gone. I miss my mom in a way that words cannot express.  But I put up with so much from so many people because of my love for her. But she is gone and I can’t be the person I used to be or the person I thought she expected me to be. I can’t. I refuse. But for her, I forgive, but I am not forgetting or allowing myself to get hurt ever again.

It has taken a lot of soul searching and a whole lot of tears over the past year, and counseling over the past few years.  But I am learning it is okay to make myself happy, that I matter too, and it is okay to not care what others think of me or my choices, and that I can think of myself and not base my decisions on how it affect other people.

I used to think that getting away from people pleasing meant simply doing my own thing.  And I have done that – whatever I feel like doing, whenever I feel like doing it, and with no regard for how it affects others (except the people that actually matter).  But there is more to it than that.

The people pleasing habit doesn’t just disappear.  It nags at you. But you have learn to fight the feelings.  And trying to fight it makes you angry – at the world, at loved ones, at the very people who you tried to please and at yourself for allowing this and putting your needs on hold.

It has taken a lot of work and a lot of distance from people who don’t understand the burden they placed on me for so long to be okay with not making everyone happy and seek out my own happiness.  And they have hurt me. They just don’t get it or even see that. They blame me and I accept that because I cannot control how anyone feels. But I can’t continue to sacrifice myself in the name of acceptance.

I am learning to trust in myself, my faith, and in the Almighty as I learn to face my life on my own terms and that involves keeping my distance from certain people – people who for someone reason are yet to figure out, I need to lead a present and perhaps long journey on my own.  And I don’t know for how long. It is for however long it takes.

I am taking responsibility for what is mine, what I deserve and what makes me truly happy.  And for the first time in a long time, I am happy and I won’t apologize for that.  It takes a lot of courage to stop thinking we have to fix everyone else’s issues and prioritize ourselves.  And that is not selfishness.  It is strength.

I am learning to love myself – something I have was not able to do in the past.  I am learning to feel enough – for myself, for God and the people that truly matter – my kids.

Once upon a time, I didn’t have the ability to make my own choices, but I do now. I can and I will.  And I get that upsets people, leaves them behind and makes them worry about how it affects them. But it is not about them.  It is about me. For once – it is about me.  It never was before. But now it is.  I got too old to worry about how my choices affected everyone else. I am making my choices based on how they affect me.

Taking back control of my life is motivating. It has allowed me to genuinely love and care for the people that truly matter.  Healing is not 100% here, but I am getting there. And for now, it is enough.  But I am not looking back. I can’t and I am not sorry.   I am living my life as I see fit and holding true to the title of this blog.

Posted in Life in general, Life is too short, Living Life As I See Fit

Realize Your Worth and Potential and Don’t Look Back

I am always amazed at the strength of women who walk away from situations that aren’t good for them or make them unhappy.  Like so many, I have been there.

But there are women who stay. We cannot force them to leave.  We can only hope and pray they can see the infinite potential they have to find their own happiness.

I don’t stay. I walk away because I know my potential and self-worth.

The moment you realize your self-worth, it is amazing and priceless.

Anytime I have questioned my circumstances, I knew something had to change. Whether it is a job, a city, or people, even if it’s family.  I can’t stay in situations that hold me back or that are unfulfilling.

I have tried to wait for situations to get better. I have pretended to be happy. I have questioned whether I could leave.  But all these things were indicators that I should leave certain situations and relationships.

I was tired and defeated and resentful.  I had given my power to others and I was unhappy.   I sought help from professionals and friends on dealing with specific situations that caused me anxiety and the reasons and people for them.

I was tired of giving more than I had to give in to many of my relationships and feeling like I didn’t get enough back.

I wanted to smile and laugh again. I was tired of being sad all the time. The stress was overwhelming and the hurt was too much.

One day, the universe forced my hand.  It was time to move on and I found my strength.  I was the only one holding me back. I had to believe I was enough.  And yes, I was afraid of the aftermath. I still am, but I refuse to give control of my life and happiness to others.

I am no longer angry or resentful. I picked myself and found the courage to believe in myself.  I am strong and I will survive on my own terms and with the people I want in my life.

The person I was before was weak. She let others determine her happiness and self-worth.  She didn’t feel enough for herself, for God, for love and at most relationships in her life.

I wanted to live my life without fear and without the expectations of others. I wanted to feel joy and passion and for the first in my life, I am feeling just that. And it took leaving people behind that were holding me back.

Happiness found me because I choose be unconditionally happy and not allow people back in my life who expected me to live my life on their terms.

For all the amazing ladies out there, I hope you find the strength and the courage to live your life joyfully. I hope you can feel worthy and breathe freely and I hope you never look back. I hope you feel enough and loved.

Because happiness and freedom from others’ expectations is the best feeling the world and I have no intention of ever feeling differently again.

Posted in Chronic illnesses, Life in general, Living Life As I See Fit

I am Not Superwoman But I Got This!


Nope.  I am not.  I have no superpowers. No super speed or strength and I sure I can’t fly. I am not superhuman.

I am not Superwoman but yet, I am determined to be her.

I sometimes forget that I am only human and not capable of doing it all.  Maybe, once I did, but not anymore. I can’t spend a long day at work, come home to cook dinner, and then clean.  I can’t spend a Saturday shopping, cleaning, doing laundry and everything else in between.  Once upon a time, I could but I no longer can.

Why do I keep trying to convince myself I can? Why do I keep doing it? Why do I think I can?

Because I did. I used to.

And those feelings nag at and stay with me. I used to be able to carry 3 or 4 heavy cloth shopping bags and not even think about how heavy they were. Now, I am lucky I can carry one. But I used to carry 3 or 4! And if I could do it before, why can’t I anymore?

Because that was before chronic illness and pain dominated my life.


Posted in Life is too short, Living Life As I See Fit, Motherhood, single mom

Letter to the Single Mom on Keeping It Together…You Don’t Have To

Dear Single Mom:

Most of us didn’t choose to be single moms but it happened.  Either because someone walked away, broke vows, and/or physically harmed us.  No matter how we got here, we never dreamed of being single moms when we were little girls.

I didn’t choose this.  I envisioned marrying the right person and staying happily married forever. But I ended up doing it alone and often muddling along trying to figure it out.

Like so many of you, I have found myself at my breaking point at times so I am not going to tell you have to enjoy every minute of this chaos. You don’t have to and it is not for me to tell you it could get easier, but sometimes, it does, and sometimes, it doesn’t.  I am not even going to tell you to hold it together because I already know you can.  I also know there are times when you can’t.

You put on a happy face even when feels like you have nothing left to give.  Guess what! You are allowed to crumble. You are allowed to cry. You are allowed to curse.  And you are even allowed to scream.  Not all the time, but sometimes, and just for a little while.

You are allowed to be stressed about making the rent on time, especially after that unexpected car repair bill or the month when the daycare bill is higher because school is out of session.  You are allowed to feel sad when all you want is a break from the world.  You are allowed to feel like you need a break from your kids – the very kids you love more than your own life.

The truth is moms – whether we are single moms or not –all fall apart sometimes.  Even when we try our best not to.   There are times when no matter how much we are trying to hold it together, it seems we are falling harder.  So, we have to let go.  We have to feel pain and fear and let go of expectations.

When your teenager is driving you insane for no reason at all. When your seven year old is throwing a fit because his father didn’t show.  When your family or friends are mad because you can’t spend time with them due to working two jobs. When your job needs you and you don’t have childcare for your sick child.  It is okay to fall apart.

Stop telling yourself you will push through, that you have to be stronger, that you shouldn’t cry, that you are not trying hard enough, or that you somehow are required to make it work.   Stop demanding such high expectations of yourself.  You are only human.  Sometimes, everything is a mess and you are trapped in a place you can’t escape and there is not a damn thing you can do about it.

Sometimes, you handle stress by smoking or drinking an extra glass of wine.   Other times, you handle stress in ways that don’t make sense to anyone but you.  It is okay.

I have been there and I get it.  Sometimes, I can’t seem to get a minute, an hour, a day, or even a week that is going right. Everything seems so impossible.  Today is one of those days for me. My mind is full and my heart is empty.

Ladies, motherhood is not for the weak and all the things that go with it, come in waves and sometimes, those waves crash harder than you ever expected.  And single motherhood – that is a whole new level of intensity.  You are alone to bear the burden of the battered shore.   So, go ahead, crumble, fall apart and feel your pain.  You will still be there in tact when the storm is over – I promise you that.

You don’t have to hold on to that pain or hide it.  Allow yourself to fall as far as you can even if it is the bottom of a f*cking bottomless pit.  Sometimes, we get so tied down doing everything for everyone and considering everyone’s feelings that we forget we are human.  We forget we are allowed to feel things and fall apart because we are trying to hold everyone else up. Meanwhile, no one is holding us up.

The thing about single mothers is that we have learned to stand successfully on our own two feet but so often, we stand alone.  But having to be Mom and Dad to our kids doesn’t mean we have to be perfect.  We are allowed to cry, break, crumble or wish we were anywhere but here.  It is okay to fall and fail and learn from our mistakes.  Because if we don’t do just that, we can’t move forward.

There is light at the end of the tunnel and the longer you do this, it gets easier to deal with the stress and frustration.  And there are still good moments even while you are struggling to find your footing.

My living room floor is often impossible to find because of all the toys that often inhabit it.  I have stepped on Legos and I found myself uttering four letter words. I have been awoken from deep sleep by a crying child and I have been thrown up on and pooped on.  And I have been told by a teenager that I know nothing or that he hates me.  But I keep going and when I can’t keep going, I break down.

There is clothes in my closet that I’d like to fit me again but that probably won’t happen because my hips are proof I gave life to my children.  And I can’t let that worry consume me when I am trying to raise my boys right and while I am trying to make ends meet.  In my home, there is yelling, fighting, crying and losing it all before 8 am.  I have cleaned up drawings off the walls of my modest home and I have done it hyped up one at least on pot of coffee – and with creamer that isn’t even fat-free.

My bed is soft and comfortable but it isn’t mine alone. I often wake up to a foot in my face – or in my back or my neck.  There is curiosity the minute we walk in the front door and rebellion more often than I want to believe. Exhaustion is my normal but it is also a reminder of all the gifts in of my life.

There are often smudged windows and stray socks and shoes no one can find. New clothes and shoes, haircuts, and loose teeth are a reminder they are healthy and continue to grow.  It is disbelief and pride all in one.

I am overwhelmed and unhinged especially between the dandelions I receive and the mud on my kitchen floor.  My life is tiring and complex but it is where it is supposed to be.  And the meltdowns are plenty and allowed.

I know it is okay to let the rain fall and allow the storm to pass.  Sometimes, you just have to crash and burn so you can rise from the flames.  You will come out better, stronger and more appreciative of your loved ones.

To every single mother trying to keep it together, you don’t always have to.


Another single mom just trying

Posted in Life is too short, Living Life As I See Fit, Motherhood

As Real As I Can Be


My 40th birthday is coming up here real soon, about a month and a half away. The older I get, the more I see my life is something to be celebrated.  I triumphed through some of the most difficult circumstances and looking back, I am choosing not to have regrets.  I have tried to be a good mother, daughter, sibling and friend.  I have tried to be someone’s wife twice.  I have tried my best, and sometimes, my best wasn’t enough. And I accept that.

I am thankful that I am an imperfect woman.  I am not trying to be someone I am not. Not anymore. I am learning that I have to be real and I do that by being as real as I can be. I am who I am and I can’t change my experiences.  I can only look to the future and continue to do the best I can.

I am in an imperfect woman and I embrace that. I used to think that my imperfections were a bad thing, but the older I get the more I realize that it is okay to imperfect.  Being imperfect means I try harder every single day to be a better version of myself.  And I continue to be a work in progress.

I am a mother, legal assistant, patient advocate, freelance writer and frustrated novelist. I am other things to other people but these are the things I am to myself.  I am a mother first and my kids are my world.  I wish I could have more kids or that my life had turned out different but it didn’t and I am learning to be okay with that.

There is no Prince Charming in my life because I don’t believe in princes and fairy tales. If there is a weird prince out there for me, he’s probably as confused as I am.  He is probably not going to ride in on his white horse because he’s probably stuck in a tree somewhere and I’ll have to rescue him when I least expect it. But that is fine because I am perfectly imperfect and he is in the same predicament.

Often I say I am tired of being in the business of saving people but I do it time and time again and there will always be someone to rescue.   Because that is how I am hardwired.  I am a sucker for people who need help.   And chances are, I will save Prince Imperfect from that tree without fire department assistance.

I don’t feel like I need rescuing but I wish someone would save me from spilling my coffee all over the living room carpet.  I do it more than once a week and I am constantly cleaning up my own mess.  Although, secretly I wish a shirtless Channing Tatum would clean the carpet for me while I put my feet up or take a nap.  Actually, he might as well wear a shirt.

I love to laugh and be silly and I have one heck of a wicked and crazy sense of humor.  I am straightforward person who has to bite her tongue because if I don’t, I piss a lot of people off. I don’t always trust and with good reason, and it takes a lot to trust for me.  So, if I ever trust you, please know how hard that is.  I am faithful and loyal and I continue to be even when I have been hurt, and I definitely keep secrets even for people who haven’t kept mine.

I am the person who leaves money in the parking meter for the next person, or puts money when I see someone’s parking meter is going low.  I am the person who stops to help when no one else does.  I try to be a good person in every aspect of my life but it isn’t always easy, considering life has forced me to wary.  But this me, as real as can be.

People think I hold grudges but I don’t. I walk away to protect myself from getting hurt again.  I burn bridges so I don’t cross them again.  I don’t look back.  When I have looked back, it has only cost me to get hurt again.  The older I get the less I choose to wear my heart on my sleeve.  I used to but it forced me to let people in who I wanted to believe wouldn’t hurt me.  I am learning that if people can only fool you twice; after that, you are a willing participant.

I see myself as nerdy.  I don’t wear glasses anymore.  It’s been contacts for the last two years but I am still a big ol’ geek.  I love reading and writing and visiting museums and places of history.  I love nature and all nature has to offer.  Fall is my favorite season and I keep telling people I am going to move some place warm but I know I will never leave Ohio.

I am not a morning person and I am usually grouchy until I have had my coffee.  I am grouchy when I am tired and when I am hungry.  I am driven and I work hard, but sometimes, I forget to stop and smell the roses, and I really wish someone would remind me to. I pride myself on how strong I am, but secretly, I wish someone else would take the lead.  I worry a lot and sometimes for no reason at all. But that is who I am, and I am as real as can be.

I have faith and I believe in God. God reminds me every day that everything is possible even when it seems impossible. I struggle with my faith and I worry that I am not enough for God and my faith.  I am learning that this one has a lot more to do with my experiences than anything else, and I am trying to be better and to let go of the past, and focus on the present and future.

I cry at the drop of a hat, even watching commercials on TV.  I stay away from the news, but when I don’t, there better be a full box of Kleenex nearby.   And because I am geeky, I watch science fiction shows and no matter how gruesome the Walking Dead is, I don’t miss an episode.  I love anything to do with the supernatural, zombies, werewolves, and especially vampires.  Sometimes, I wonder if some people are actually real life vampires.  Specific people, actually.  Yea, I have a wild imagination.

After a long, tiring day, sometimes, I just want to sit down and do nothing.  I think I am an awful cook and sometimes, I burn dinner, but sometimes I don’t.  Secretly, I am great cook, but I don’t have a lot of time on my hands so I tell people I can’t cook. Don’t tell anyone but I dream about being Rachel Ray. Sometimes, I am too tired to load the dishwasher but then I wake up in the middle of the night, and remember there is a sink full of dishes, and then, I get up to load the dishwasher.

I am notorious for second guessing myself and I wish there was someone to help me to stop.   But this is me, real and imperfect at the same time.  I will never be able to balance my check and I think that the banking industry has some conspiracy against those of us who lack basic accounting capabilities. I know it is not true but it makes me feel better to think it is.

I don’t always feel good enough for or that give enough in my relationships.  Mostly, I just want to be reminded that I am enough.  I am not perfect but I am as real as they come.  And here I am, embarking on the big 4-0.  Let’s see what 40 has in store for me.

Posted in Living Life As I See Fit

Does it ever get easier?

I can consider myself a graduate in the lesson of living life with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia/chronic illness.  I don’t consider myself an esteemed alumnus yet. I will leave that to those of you five or more years ahead of me in this chronic illness journey.   Because of my work as an advocate for arthritis and fibromyalgia, people have this notion that I am somewhat of an expert on living life with RA and fibromyalgia.  While I am honored that people see me that way, I only see myself as a learner among learners. Sometimes, I see myself as a teacher and I am far cry from being an expert.

Having a vast knowledge about my conditions and living with chronic illness and pain altogether, people often ask me to answer one very important question for them: Does it get easier? The fact is this question hits an emotional nerve for me. Not an angry nerve- just one that hits me like a dart in my heart.  As far as I am concerned, it doesn’t.  I am not saying that nothing about living with chronic illness gets easier.  What I am saying is that it is learning process that is ongoing.  Just because you pass one test doesn’t mean the course is over. It just means that one particular lesson is over.

Chronic illness is a lifelong battle and generally that battle includes chronic pain.  As more time passes, you learn to better deal with it but one flare-up can send you in the same place you were when you were first diagnosed.  Often times, your inability to be strong has to do with other things happening in your life.  If you are unusually stressed, for example, you may not handle a flare-up in the best way possible or the same applies if you are going through something life changing.  You just learn to make the best of a bad situation.

I think that a lot of us don’t realize the road that lies ahead whether that be in the beginning, after a setback or after a long period of remission.  It takes a lot of a lot of time to understand the extent of the affect that chronic illness has on your life and just when you think you have figured it out, you are thrown a curveball. Setbacks leave you to believe that it does not get easier.

I always say that being chronically ill is like being on a rollercoaster.  You can be full of life one moment and the next, you are drained emotionally and physically.  Your illness will take turns that are both unpredictable and unexpected and that in itself is scary and exhausting. There is so much that you are accountable for when you are chronically ill – things such as finding a treatment plan, maintaining open and direct communication with your medical providers, just trying to live your life and working to maintain relationships (both personal and professional).

As you know, being sick is demanding. It also shows how brave a person is and can be.  Living with chronic illness allows you to be the best you that you can possibly be. You are brave because you surpass your limitations and the things that you have no control of that have become a daily part of your life. The decisions you make are how you prove your bravery. You have learned daily to meet the challenges that life has thrown at you and perhaps that is the only answer to the question of whether it gets easier.

We do not necessarily look at ourselves as brave or even confident but there is a lot we gained since being diagnosed. We learned a lot about ourselves in term of our competencies and our abilities. Often times, without chronic illness being a factor, we would not have found out these things about ourselves. We have learned kindness and empathy, we have learned strength and determination, and we have learned what it truly means to overcome.

So, does it get easier? In a way, it does. No one knows the journey that you are on better than you.  No one knows the challenges you have been dealt and how you have overcome. No one knows this better than you do. Recognizing and celebrating your strength and bravery makes living with chronic illness so much easier. Even when there are setbacks, you will know that they are only temporary and with each experience, it does in fact get easier.

Posted in Living Life As I See Fit

I am not in remission

But I wish I was.  Rheumatoid Arthritis and the quest for remission, in my opinion, is like trying to locate the holy grail or it is like an exclusive country club. I have read all the information about remission and I have digested it like I would a religious script.   Research indicates that each of us with RA has a chance at remission.  I think I got there and missed it.  I figure – When we are there, we will know we are there.  It is like the Supreme Court trying to define porn.  Justice Stewart, in 1964, said: “I will know it when I see it.” 

No more than 15 minutes of stiffness in the morning and no swollen joints for at least three months – that is remission.  Okay, well I will know it when I see it.  It is too good to be true but I plan on getting there or at least close to that.  I am still dealing with that Eustachian Tube Dysfunction issue from last month because of my weak immune system and I am hoping that I can avoid having to get an ear tube put in.  Let’s not talk about my luck and that decongestants and nasal spray are the only treatment.  I think I have more sinus infections than my entire family put together.   

They say that early treatment and combination treatment increase the chances of rheumatoid arthritis remission. Remission is also possible in those who have had the disease for a long time.  Early treatment within two years of the onset of symptoms puts a person at a 50 percent chance of achieving remission.   Mild disease activity and negative blood markers such as the rheumatoid factor increase your chances.  It has also been reported that RA patients have moderate disease activity compared to ten years ago because of the use of TNF inhibitors such as Humira and Enbrel. 

Apparently, I fall into that category of potential for remission but I am not in remission.  I suppose I will know it when I see it.  There is question that I have been thrown a lot of curve balls in recent months.  In addition, winter has also been harsh and the fluctuations in the weather, they are an arthritis sufferer’s worst nightmare.   

My life is changed drastically in the past few months and while I am scared, I am happy.   I am starting a new job and my marital status has changed to “separated.”  I don’t know where that puts me but I am hoping for remission.  My master’s degree will be complete come summer and with my new job, the sky’s the limit.  My marriage – I don’t know but time will tell. 

Right now, I know that I have achieved a lot and I know that I have come a long way from being a newly diagnosed RA patient.  When I was first diagnosed, I was scared of my diagnosis and the future. Now, I am optimistic and hopeful.   I advocate for arthritis and for fibromyalgia and who wants a negative advocate?  I am hopeful and optimistic about remission and my plan is to get there or close enough.   

I am a different person than I was before my brother became ill and passed away.  I am a much different person than I was at the onset of my RA and fibro diagnoses and I am a different person than I was before RA and Fibro.  I have learned to love myself despite my flaws and despite my conditions.  I have learned that I need to stop being this perfectionist because there is no such thing.  I am human and I laugh, cry, and bleed like everyone else.   

I am not superwoman and I am tired of trying to be superwoman.  I am also tired of those who expect me to be superwoman. Trying to be super means my body is stressed and my chances of remission are greatly reduced and I want remission more than anything. As a result, I have done away with factors and people in my life that don’t understand how much stress that I am in.  I am sad that my health suffered as a result but I am optimistic and hopeful for a second chance at remission.  My RA is a lot better than it was a couple years ago so I know that there is potential.

Posted in Life is too short, Living Life As I See Fit

Life Happens to You While You Are Busy Making Other Plans

The title of this post is a John Lennon quote and it has described my life for a quite sometime.  I am always making plans and my plans always change.  I manage to swerve when life throws me curves and I dodge curveballs but it does mean that I don’t get hit once in awhile.  I just know that even my best laid plans can fail and I have to learn to accept that and deal with the cards I have been dealt with.

That was Then

A little over four years ago, I had been planning on taking my law school entrance exam so that I could go to law school.  I had also just started a new job after moving back to my hometown and getting married.   After making arrangements to take the preparation course, I found out I was pregnant so I decided that law school would be put on hold until the baby was at least two years old.  I also decided that after the baby was about six months, I could take my law school entrance exam and then look into law schools that I would be able to start in a year or so.  I had it all planned out.

A few days after the birth of my son, I awoke up to the inability to walk.  My entire body felt swelled and at the time, I assumed it was some kind of post-postpartum infection that antibiotics would cure.  The day that my doctor uttered the words, “rheumatoid arthritis,” I knew that my plans changed and this time the change wasn’t good.  My diagnosis left me to wonder who I was now that RA had invaded my life, a life that involved running many different directions. That was three years ago.   A few months later, fibromyalgia came into my life and I wondered at that point how much worse it would get.

I don’t know when my awakening came but at some point, I realized that I had to accept these new changes in my life and start making lifestyle changes to deal with many new challenges.  To me, this was a loss and I recognized that regardless of how stressed and depressed I was feeling, I had to move forward.  RA and fibro – they brought shock and anger to my busy life and they sent me to a screeching halt.   Once I accepted that they were here to stay, I found away to live with them.  I had to accept them, I had to be positive and I had to make new plans.

My new plans involved making more time myself and my kids, changing my educational pursuits, and taking on a different type of advocacy work to help me to feel like I was making a difference.  I stopped worrying about all the time I used to make for others and learning to prioritize my home and my kids.  I decided law school was out of the question and instead focused on my master’s in legal studies.  I also, rather than doing volunteer work that required my physical attendance, started advocating online for arthritis and fibromyalgia.  What I learned as my life changed was that my plans didn’t have to change, the timing and the path did.

This is Now

This past November, my entire family was thrown a big nasty curveball and it was something we could have never anticipated.  A month later we lost my 31 year old brother to a rare form of stomach cancer caused by asbestos exposure.  We had no answers, just questions and many that remain unanswered months later.  My brother’s illness and death is something that I have not really come to terms with yet in particular because of the cancer that killed him.  I have had many people contacting me to talk about my family’s story or to guest blog about asbestos related cancers and I am not there yet.  I have also thought about advocating for families dealing with what my family went through and I am not there yet either.  I am not sure if I will ever be.  Grieving is a process that takes many months and even years to deal with.  It took me nearly 15 years to stop missing my dad and only to lose my brother when I finally stopped grieving for Dad.  Sometimes, I look at my brother’s picture and I see his sweet smile and it makes me feel safe when I feel most insecure.  I was his big sis and when we were growing up, I protected him, and I wanted to protect him when he was sick and dying, and I hated that I couldn’t.  All I can do now is to hold on to his memory and live my life as he would want me to.   He was the kind of person who was content with what life handed him and in his memory, I can learn to be content with life hands me.

Shortly after my brother’s passing, I was thrown another curveball that I had to deal with it regardless of how weak I was feeling.  This curveball was one that was long overdue and it sent me to a screeching halt while my brother’s death was still new.  I also moved to a new place and was offered a new job.  All this change in my life all at once and I don’t know how to respond.  I asked a couple important people in my life for advice and they both told to take it has a blessing.   Both told me that while I may not realize it now, everything is falling into place and that is going to get better for me.  I hope so especially since I gave my notice to my current job today.  This new job is more in line with my career goals and objectives and it is a very welcome change. I am not complaining but I am being a party pooper while everyone is congratulating me.  I think I am mostly worried about RA and fibro being a damper.  Otherwise, I am very happy for this opportunity and if I did not have a nasty sinus headache, I would be much happier.

I am scared.  I am nervous and I am worried about this change but I am leaning to God to help me get through all these things so that I can just look at them as stepping stones on this journey I call my life.  I know change involves a lot of control over my responses rather than control over those situations since I can’t really have that.  I worry about how much has been thrust into my life all at once but I have also noticed that change is generally thrown at me in this fashion.  I think it is God’s way of saying, “You get to take it all in at once because I know that you are capable.”   I consider that a compliment.

I assume that the two most recent events in my life are positive and if not, I must choose a positive attitude.  Embracing change forces us to get to work on whatever has come our way and resisting it only creates further problems.  The irony of making a choose to embrace change, whether good or bad, means that we are changed as a result, and all these other little things after my brother’s death, they are hills compared to the change that his loss brought to my life.  His loss and dealing with it is like climbing Mount Everest.

All of this change is challenging my inner security in particular because I am making this change alone and I am not ready to talk about why.  I do have others in my life that I can lean on through this including my mother, my older sister, and my friends.   I am not alone and I know that because I recently found that out.  For a long time, and even with RA and fibro, I let others lean on me, and until I needed my friends and family to lean on, I didn’t realize how much support I had all along.  So, thanks John Lennon for the reminder, “Life Happens to You While You Are Busy Making Other Plans,” and it certainly has.  I also changed the header of my blog to reflect my life and the changes that I have recently come across.  It is my way of saying, “bring it on.”

I am preparing a book review for Karen Ager’s book, Enemy Within.  It should be up Friday.  It is Karen’s autobiography about life with rheumatoid arthritis and it is a rather extraordinary story. You will like it, I promise.

Posted in Life in general, Life is too short, Living Life As I See Fit

Personal Growth and Happiness

Personal growth is the most important thing for any individual to do before they can move forward with their lives.  It comes when we realize that our goals and our priorities have changed and when they have an adverse effect on inner selves and attitudes.  As humans, we are fortunate to have natural strengths and, while not always fortunate, we have natural weaknesses as well.  It is part of our inherent personal make-up and it determines how we succeed and why we fail.

In recent months, I have seen a different side of me and what has important to me to has changed because of recent events in my life.  I have learned that I am the only person that can determine my successes and my failures.  Some of that is inherent in my personality and some in my actions.  For a long time, I was hung up on what success meant to others in my life without being fully aware of what was important to me.  While it is normal to feel that way for any of us, my recent losses have forced me to see what is truly important versus what I has learned to believe is important.

We have influences (whether they are people, events, or other influencing factors) in our lives that determine basic values even when our values are different to start with.  I have spent way too much time and effort trying to meet somebody else’s (this someday else is something metaphorical rather than a real person) idea of success all while ignoring the little messages from own psyche, I have become exhausted and unhappy.   However, I have also had plenty of time to think and reflect upon my life in recent weeks and I realize that there is a lot I need to do to find personal success, to put my mind at ease and to actually be happy.

I am not sure when I realized that I was unhappy but my brother’s death was a rude awakening.  I have learned the hard way that happiness is choice that only I can make.   It is also something I have to create for myself and in order to do that, I have to look within myself to find that. Finding happiness is a personal responsibility and it has taken me a really long time to realize that.

And this is what I have realized:

  • No one hurts us; we hurt ourselves.  Moreover, we have to be hurt by others to realize our own mistakes and faults and to see that those things are just life’s lessons.
  • We all face challenges and difficulties that we have to work though or around but our courage, patience and our strength are the sources of our happiness and not the circumstance.
  • Sorrow and pain are part of life and neither is anything new because it is something that people deal with at various points of their lives.  Regardless of the trial we have been handed, we need to be adult enough to move forward and take responsibility for our lives to get through whatever it is we need to get through in order to move on.
  • It is important never to give up and acknowledge that sometimes, our best laid plans have to change in order to be happy.   If something is not working out the way we need it to, then we need to change the course we are on to make it happen rather than make the choice to be unhappy.
  • Pretending to be happy is a mistake as is forcing yourself to be happy.  We all need to find some emotional balance in our lives and that involves taking a look at our lives and our circumstances.  We should also look inside ourselves to ask why we are not happy, what things are hindering our happiness, and what it is we can do to actually be happy.
  • Often, one of the most common reasons we are not happy is because we refuse to leave the past behind.  I think that I have spent too much looking in the past that I have forgotten about the present.  I need to do what makes me happy today rather than what made me unhappy yesterday or what I think I will make me happy tomorrow.
  • It is important to trust God and trust yourself. I have put my trust in God and I have learned that through him I can trust myself.
  • Happiness can only come if I am willing to believe in it. I am making it a goal to be happy and to appreciate all the blessings in my life.    I am starting to see how I need to be aware of myself and my inner self, my motives, my values, my decisions and even my responses and reactions.

My personal growth journey is about making a choice to be happy.  I am willing to be the best that I can be at any and every given moment.  I am choosing to be happy.  I still have along way on the journey I am currently on but I am getting there and a month from now, you will see a different side of me.  I also will discuss what choices I have made to get there.

Posted in blessings, Life is too short, Living Life As I See Fit, Tough Choices

Personal Self Maintenance is Part of Change

What if you could go back in time and change things you did or did not do? Would you undo things or decisions or even relationships? Do you think that you would have been happier, satisfied, and at peace if you had made different choices?   These are questions I have pondered upon in the recent weeks.  I think human nature is always to never really be satisfied and we constantly ask “what if?”  Mistakes we make have a tendency to lead us down different routes in our lives.  Sometimes, there is a downfall to those mistakes and sometimes there is an upside.  When it comes to the downfalls, all we can is make the best out of a current situation or work to somehow change it.

I am not the same person I was before my brother’s illness and death.  Actually, none of my siblings are nor is my mother.  I have looked at two important aspects of my life that I need to change that I am working towards: my relationship with my family and my relationship with God.  I did not have a relationship with my brother prior to his getting sick and that eats away at my soul.  I have learned that life is too short and that we need to hold the ones we love close because we never know when they can be taken away from us.  We should make memories with those we love and remind them often how much they mean to us.

My siblings and my mom have a better relationship with God than I do and that relationship helps help get through everyday now that my brother is gone.  For me, my relationship God is still a work in progress.  I am getting there and lately, I have been handed obstacle over obstacle and I have sought guidance and patience from God daily.  God’s guidance and support isn’t always easy to figure out but it is always there with us every step of the way with us as we venture.

I am strong but unfortunately, I made the choice to be strong while everyone around me was falling apart.  For some reason, I believed that someone had to hold everyone together through my brother’s illness and when and after he passed.  I should have fallen apart like everyone else and I didn’t.  In recent weeks, I have found out the effect that not going through the emotions has had on me.   It has been hard and I am pulling though like I always do.  I am just trying to figure who I am now and it is hard when I am being handed one obstacle after the next.  Is this that who I am?  A person who handles and endures regardless of the obstacle?  Is that the lesson – I don’t even know?

The time that I am currently taking is my personal maintenance time.   I am taking this time to overcome a variety of things and I am trying to move on without bitter feelings.   I know that no matter what I do I always wish that I handled things differently just like I am beating myself up about my brother’s illness, his death and the relationship I didn’t have with him until he became ill.  I visit his grave often and I tell him about these feelings and because I knew the kind of person he was, I know he understood that I was busy living my hectic life.  He would never fault me for that if he were still alive.

It is not just that I am grieving – it’s more.  When it comes to my feelings, I am an open book and not many people know how to express themselves like I do but when it comes to my past, I have a lot of secrets that no one in my life knows.  However, in recent weeks, I am getting reminders of a past that I have tried to suppress and forget for so long. Basically, bits and pieces of my past are coming out. I have been through a lot and I have tried for so long to hide what I have been through.  However, I figure the truth can only set me free and the past has more to do with what I have been through rather than what I have done. The actions of others who are throwing obstacles in front of me are reminders of a past I have tried to keep hidden.   I don’t want to play the blame game as to how to things came out because I know that I am better than that.  All I know is I have to overcome these obstacles regardless of how weak I am feeling right now.  Besides, they are just obstacles and obstacles are made for overcoming.

My past is in the past and I have control of today.  I have control of my happiness and my own destiny.  I can’t go back to yesterday and I can’t let yesterday hold me hostage. I know that I can’t go back and change the past and I wouldn’t even if I could.  My past made me strong but it also taught me not to trust.   Life is hard but the past is part of the past.  The future will be worse if I don’t let go of certain obstacles current and past in my life.  I have to learn from my mistakes and move on.

I am working on my personal maintenance in terms of the overall person I want to be.   Let’s look at it this way.  If your car is not running, you stop driving it and take it in for service.  If you air conditioner is not working well, you turn it off and clean the filters.  Nothing in life works without maintenance, repair and update.  We have to do these things to improve something and to extend its life.  Life is like that too and we need to look at ourselves and figure out where we are, where we want to be, what we can do to change about ourselves, and recommit to our values and morals.  Without personal self maintenance, we can get overwhelmed, burned and off track.

Everyday I am striving to be better and right now, I am dealing with many obstacles including some remaining aspects of my brother’s estate, my career, helping my mom and my younger brother (while they also helping me, of course), and my own personal responsibilities.   While all of this is overwhelming, I am looking at myself in a different light.  I am a different person than I was a few months ago and I am trying to find out who I am while I am going through these things.  With RA and Fibro came in my life nearly three years ago, I changed and now, I am changing again, and it never gets easier.  Change is always scary, isn’t it?

It may be a week or two before you see another post but it will come.  I have a lot happening right now and I am taking things one step at a time.  In addition to all these things, I am focusing on my personal self maintenance because I know it is just part of the change that is now apart of my life now and the change that about to come.  I am evolving and growing because life’s lessons will do that to you.


Posted in 2011, Living Life As I See Fit

A Thought for 2011: Living Life As I See Fit

I changed the name of my blog because I thought it was time. When I started my blog originally and  at Blogger, I had not yet been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia and then one day I was and theme of my blog became about RA and FMS rather than just simply about me.   That was over two and half years ago.  So much has changed in my life since my diagnoses and while sometimes I wish I could turn back time to my pre-RA and pre-FMS days, I like the person I have evolved into.  I am still an overachiever and a go-getter and regardless of how stressful it can be, change is hard.  I am strong-willed and realistic and while I wish, I took more time to play and less time focusing on success, again, change is hard.  I know all these things are what make me unique and I also know that there is more to me than just RA and FMS.  Granted, I have changed since my diagnoses but I do not think I have changed enough.  

 Recent events in my life have taught me how human I am.  I am not super nor am I invincible.  I laugh and I cry just like the next person.  Being a deep thinker, I often ponder upon things that matter very little to others and sometimes, I find that I can be difficult to deal with at least from the mindset of others.  It is hard being a person who thinks analytically and logically and I am different from those who think and decide with their hearts. Taking the stiff upper lip approach or even leaving my feelings out of the decision making process does nothing but make me feel like a zombie.

 My mom’s neighbor recently told me about her thirteen-year-old son is intelligent beyond his years.  She said that while she loves how smart and mature he is, she wonders if being that smart is lonely.  I told her that it was and the best that she could do for him was offer him opportunities to express himself.  I remember how lonely being a smart kid was when I was growing up but my parents did give me the freedom to express myself though reading and writing and it helped.   Sometimes, I hate that I take things more seriously than others do or that I think so logically that I am almost emotionless and other times, I just accept who I am.  However, I do understand that I spent a lot of time focusing on success and dwelling on failure.  Because of that, I know that I need to find a happy medium. 

I have several resolutions and the first of those is to live life as I see fit.  (I will discuss the others in an upcoming post.)  In focusing on living life as I see fit, I am going to laugh a little more and cry a little less.  I am going to spend less time working and more time having fun because there is more to me the tough cover I carry around.  I am human and I need to start acting human.  A dear friend of time told me to stop with the stiff upper lip approach and allow myself to fall apart.  Even when I am grieving, I am way too tough andI really don’t have to be.   

So 2011, here I come- living life as I see fit because I know there is more to me than just rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.