Life is like a video game

I love “Forrest Gump.” Great movie, great character. I’d love to agree with him about the entire life and chocolates thing, but it really depends on my attitude each morning.

Some days I wake up feeling like I can conquer the world and by the end of the day I feel I’ve eaten a box of the most delicious assorted chocolate truffles in the world.

Some days I wake up feeling like I can conquer the world only to feel that I’ve been duped into eating bad chocolate that leaves a waxy taste in my mouth.

Some days I just am not in the mood for chocolate. Okay. That’s not true, I always want chocolate, but some days I just “KNOW” that anything I bite into is going to taste rancid.

Anyway… as I was getting ready this morning and reflecting on my crazy rollercoaster of a ride over the past few years, I said thank you for all of the lessons I’ve learned. I’m learning to say thank you and appreciate the painful lessons because they have brought me to who and where I am. I’m a firm believer in the idea that you will continue to be presented with the same lesson over and over in different variations until you learn it. When you learn it and move on, you “earn” different lessons – some good and some bad. It’s truly a “moving up” kind of process. If we learn, we graduate on to the next lesson. Some lessons are hard, some aren’t so bad and some bring a huge sense of peace. We have no way of knowing what life is bringing next.

As I dried my hair, I played a few games of solitaire on my phone. Frankly, it’s not as fulfilling as using actual cards, but when all of the cards are in place and the system flips them all into their respective piles and the cards do a happy dance, it makes me smile. I say that with little embarrassment. Sometimes it’s the simple things that help you celebrate a victory – even if it is just placing cards where they should be – that bring the most heartfelt smiles.

As the cards were flying into their places, it hit me — when you put the critical pieces together, other parts can come together without direct help. It’s the entire concept of putting things in place in order to find serenity versus finding serenity in order for things to fall into place. Which comes first? You have to do the work on you internally before life will fall into place. Inner peace is the ultimate goal, not a clean house or an orderly pantry. Putting physical things where they belong may bring personal satisfaction for a moment, but until you have the peace within your soul, you’ll still be unfulfilled; you’ll still feel that you missed something.  You can’t win a game of solitaire unless you start with the base cards and build on those.

It’s the foundation we build that will determine our success when facing our next life challenge. That’s what is pretty cool about video games. You have to learn your lessons and win a level before you can move ahead. Your future success builds on your past learnings and effort. If you can’t move past a certain level, you need to keep repeating it, until you learn the strategy you need to; until you learn the lesson. You’ll never win the game unless your foundation is solid and you keep making an effort. You can’t jump ahead levels – you are where you are supposed to be and where you are based on your past efforts. The best part (in my opinion) is that with every level mastered, you see the fruits of your labor: you can watch the cards do a happy dance or see how you are moving up with the level counter. It’s tangible.

Unfortunately life isn’t that clean cut. We don’t always see the lessons we learn until we are faced with similar situations again and need to make a choice. When we see a different outcome, then we know we have learned that lesson and are moving on.

With all respect to Forrest, I’d prefer to know what kind of chocolates I’m biting into because chocolate is a sacred creation to me.  🙂
But, I can accept that I have no idea what the next level of this game of life is going to bring my way, but I am up for the challenge.

 

Him

well

Life had once been defined by linears and absolutes. Then she met him.

She had planned out her life down to the hour. She had achieved each of her goals. She had never made room for anyone so that she could stay on her track. The men she had dated were either on a similar track and had let her do her own thing. Or they just rode her coattails until one of them tired of it.

A quick stop at a convenience store on her way to a meeting brought them together.

Needing to pick up a drink and some breath mints, she stopped a block away from work. He was there in line behind her. When she dropped her keys on the floor, he picked them up and their eyes met. They both caught their breath, then smiled. She could barely choke out a quiet, “Thank you.” She turned quickly, shaking inside, and nearly ran out to her car. Trying to calm this unfamiliar reaction, she sat quickly in the driver’s seat. As he left the store, their eyes met again. She quickly flipped down the visor and pretended to check her makeup just to avert her eyes. She took a deep breath, composed herself, then backed her car out of the lot narrowly missing a collision with a delivery truck.

Moments later when she reached her office building, she was back in complete control and pushing the thoughts of him from her mind.

As she walked to the conference room, she began review the goals for the meeting. She placed herself at the head of the table, as always, pulled her laptop and the paperwork out of her briefcase, then closed her eyes and ran through the agenda in her head.

As the team began entering the room, she quickly opened her eyes. She stood to greet her colleagues and clients as they filed past her. Last to join the group was her boss who was deep in conversation with someone she couldn’t see. Then, he entered the room – the man from store. Her boss turned to introduce them and fortunately missed the glance they exchanged.

Throughout her presentation, she found herself stumbling over her words and struggling to keep her train of thought. She was never at a loss for words. She always controlled her every reaction – it was critical to her success. Yet, she could feel his eyes locked on her and couldn’t focus.

After the meeting, she tried to busy herself gathering her papers, but she couldn’t avoid him. He waited patiently until they were alone in the room, then slowly walked over. He shook her hand and requested her business card, meeting her eyes with a smile.

Countless business calls and emails later, she agreed to meet him for dinner. She felt her walls cracking around her and confusion filled her thoughts.

The evening of their dinner, she was unsure of how to handle herself. He had made all of the plans for dinner, all she had to do was show up . She hated giving up control, but something about him made her feel comfortable trusting in him.

Pulling up to the restaurant, she noticed the home next door painted a bright yellow over the stucco. Flowers filled the yard and a white picket fence framed the walkway. She got out of her car and stood, staring, longer than she’d realized, sensing a change within herself. The perfect condo she owned, the controlled life she lived was missing something. She felt a desire to be colorful, to break out of this precisely planned existence. Closing her eyes, she let herself feel the sun caressing her face. She breathed in deeply and felt herself smile as the faint scent of wildflowers filled her lungs.

She felt a hand at the small of her back and turned slowly, yet quickly meeting his eyes. Her heart jumped and the smile in her soul made her face glow. She knew she could achieve anything, including a vibrant life and white picket fence, by his side.

 

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Written as a submission for yeahwrite.me‘s Speakeasy #151 challenge.

Photo by Czintos Ödön.

If you like what you’ve read, please vote for me and 2 more favorites at the Speakeasy on Thursday.

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Rediscovering the girl inside of me

I was the girl who would yell at the television while cheering on my favorite football teams.

I was the girl who would break into song just because I felt like it.

I was the girl with huge dreams of travelling the world.

I was the girl who bought beautiful old glassware to plan for the holiday parties and get-togethers I’d host.

I was the girl who dreamt of a happy family with vacations where we’d bicycle through towns by a shoreline.

I was the girl who believed in hard work and dedication to making family a safe haven where love and calm acceptance were the norm.

Somehow, I let that girl fade away and I became a hardened, cynical woman who was so determined to keep the unpleasant aspects of me hidden that I’ve developed an anxiety disorder. I was so determined to have at least the image of having it all that I lost my vision, my dreams, myself. I believed that I needed to hold everything together; to maintain my grip on all that I touched so that things wouldn’t fall apart.

Everything fell apart anyway. I became someone I barely recognized. I was terribly unhappy and working incredibly hard to maintain a façade. A façade that I cling to in order to keep myself from drowning in my own sea of broken dreams. I had decided that if I can’t have what I want, that I’ll make the best of what I have as wave of disappointment after wave of disappointment crashed over my head.

I stopped setting goals because every goal I aimed for, I allowed to be missed for one reason or another. I can easily blame the people around me, but it was me. I let myself down because I compromised who I am. I wanted a family and a beautiful house, but at what cost?

When I suffered daily physical ailments and realized that I was behaving more like a wayward teen than a 40+ woman, I allowed myself to realize that the cost of my façade had become too high.

And I broke out of the cage I had put myself in to begin the journey to reclaim my voice.

Month after month, I took steps to find that girl I once was. The one with love in her heart, a song in her throat and happiness in her future.

I have missed her.

While I still struggle – often – I see her more and more often. She shows up in an expected smile finding humor when the kids are arguing. She glows when I look at a project I’ve completed. She jumps for joy when I accomplish something I didn’t think I could do. Her eyes sparkle when I dream. She is so proud when I set goals and achieve them. And she sings along with me in the car even when my voice is hoarse and offkey.

I dream of the day when she and I are again one, smiling and laughing together as we share the wisdom I’ve gained with the innocence she offers.

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If only

If only I could adequately express the gratitude I feel for you and your spirit.

If you only understood how you’ve touched my life and changed me in ways I can’t explain.

If only you could do this intentionally or plan to inspire the way that you do, you’d be unstoppable.

If you only knew how your story, your soul, your essence unleashed something within me. Something that can never be hidden again.

If only in someone else I could provide a fragment of the blessings you gave to me, I’d consider my life complete.

If you only knew how beautiful you are, you’d never doubt yourself again.

 

 

Singing the praises of self-awareness and angels in disguise

I came across a writing prompt this morning to write poetry about something that affects you deeply. I’m not in the poetry writing mood, but the first thing that popped into my head was… Alcohol. Liquor. Libations.

As I’m learning more about myself, I’m realizing that alcohol is a very touchy subject for me. I’ve been through my phase of drinking too much in college and learning what my limits are. I went through drinking often with my now ex-husband, but realized that I didn’t like who I was becoming.

I’m beginning to understand that so much of my frustration during my marriage was due to all of my emotional baggage from growing up in a family where alcohol was an issue. I hated that my father drank and never kept his promises – partly because he didn’t remember them. I hurt from my mom telling me from a young age that my father started drinking too much when I was born. (She neglected to explain the part where his lost a few friends in Vietnam and a couple others due to murders around that time.) So many complicated emotions that I partially waded through during my 20s. I caused more issues because I truly believed that if my father loved me and my brother enough that he would stop.

Now that I’m in my 40s I’m realizing that I drank around others who drank partly to cover the smell. I have a strong negative reaction to the smell of alcohol on another person. I feel tension in my core. I began to realize in my 30s that I would pull away from my husband when he smelled of beer or liquor. It set something off in me that I could not explain to myself, let alone anyone else. If I drank with him, I was okay because the smell was coming from me also. But, when he continued to drink regularly, I couldn’t handle it. I became angry, agitated, frustrated, fearful. Again, I fell into the thought of – if he loved me enough, he’d quit. And, apparently, I was not lovable enough because he didn’t/wouldn’t/couldn’t.

With a year’s distance between me and my failed marriage, I’m seeing my patterns more clearly. I dated one man who drank often. Great guy, but I’d tense every time he mentioned being at a bar with his friends or that he had passed out at his sister’s. I dated another who rarely drank and I loved that there was no pressure, no smell (although he was an addict in his own way and was addicted to caffeine-filled energy-supplements). Then I met a man who completely changed my life.

Although we are no longer dating, I will be eternally thankful for an inspiring man I’ll call Ryan. After a DUI conviction, Ryan changed his life by becoming sober for the last 1-1/2 years. I’ve never met anyone like him (in a romantic sense) and he showed me what attending support groups such as AA can do. The change he made in his life – while extremely tough – has been inspiring for me. It opened my eyes to an entirely new world of responsibility, making changes and recognizing flaws, experiences, old hurts, memories that can be completely detrimental to today.

In the brief last month since I’ve started attending a support group and read literature every single night, I’ve recognized things about myself that I had buried deep in the recess of my mind. Many of these things were coming to the surface for me to finally acknowledge. They’d been manifesting themselves in self-destructive ways more than ever.

I have found a group (or several) where I feel comfortable and am surrounded by people who understand. It’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced. I’m not alone. I’m not isolated with my baggage. And, now I know that I can work through all of this and be the best me I’ve ever been.

Angels show up in our lives in ways we least expect and in forms we didn’t imagine. My angel brought me self-awareness and has put me on a wonderful (albeit often painful) path to recognizing thoughts that hurt in order to work toward healing and recovery. He renewed my faith in the future and showed me a path to follow.

I know it will take much more time to not feel a knot in my stomach every time I smell beer on someone’s breath, but I need to learn how to have a healthy relationship with alcohol. Alcohol is part of the American culture and I need to relearn how to live feeling okay about it. It’s time.

Transformations

A very dear friend of mine posted this on her Facebook wall and I have to give her credit for this gem. (Thank you Tracey!)

Transformation without work and pain, without suffering, without a sense of loss is just an illusion of true change.

As we grow older, we experience moments that change our perspective, make us look at things just a little differently – whether it’s reinforcing our current thoughts or providing a new viewpoint. This past nearly 16 months (since my ex-husband moved out) has been full of pain, transformation and lessons. Looking back, it’s really only a few months of my life, but it has certainly has seemed endless.

I was ready to end my marriage. I was ready to start a new life. I saw others who had easily slid into happy relationships. I saw that for myself. I saw peace. I envisioned happiness. And, I need to say – it’s been a shit storm. Financial issues, heartache, heartbreak, balancing my “issues” with being a parent (and not succeeding at either). Almost losing my house. Coming two weeks short of being unemployed. Car issues, appliance breakdowns. Dog running away continually (but he eventually comes home). Crazy parents. Illness. No insurance. One daughter almost losing her foot. Another daughter having brain surgery. Loneliness. Being lost and not knowing who I am. And more that will make my head explode if I have to think about it again.

Whew.

But I’ve made it through. And I am definitely transformed. I’m not the same person I was 16 months ago. I’m not necessarily hugely better, but I’m definitely more understanding. I’m stronger. I’m quieter and more reflective. I’m more of a skeptic, but in a good way. My heart was too open, too eager. I needed to reel myself in.

As I was going through all of my issues, I know I annoyed my friends. I had a falling out with one, but we’re rebuilding. I got so deep in my own muck, I couldn’t pull myself out. I was terribly overwhelmed. I still am. But, it’s getting better.

One of the last things I wanted to hear, but heard continuously, was that although my moments are/were painful, I’m clearing my life of what isn’t good for me and preparing myself for happiness that I’ve never known. I’m still waiting for the sky to part and angels to sing.

BUT…

I will admit that

  • with each of the 3 brief relationships I had this past year each one was closer to what I’m looking for.
  • when I fell apart huge changes occurred within me and I’m in better physical shape than I’ve been in in at least 7 years.
  • I know better now what I want in life, what isn’t acceptable and what I am capable of.
  • I do believe that I hit the deepest rock bottom I’ve ever hit, so the only way to go is up.
  • I feel different. I’ve rediscovered things that made me peaceful in the past. I wouldn’t have found them again if I hadn’t hurt.
  • I am setting goals again in order to have things to look forward to. I had forgotten how to set goals and make things happen.

I’m sure I could go on and on, but what I’m getting at here is that I’ve been sitting on that post from my friend for months. It hit me then and hits home even more now that my mind is clearer. Yes, great things can happen without any horrid lead up. BUT, in order for TRUE, LASTING changes to occur in your life, you have to let go, move on and work at change. Life wasn’t meant to be easy (and it would be boring if it was all sunny skies), but it definitely contains more happiness than we can even imagine. We need to hit bottom sometimes in order to re-evaluate what is important and make the necessary changes in order to reach our potential and live the life we have always dreamt of. Things DO get better even if you don’t realize it. Wait for the smoke to clear, then reflect and see where you’ve been. I guarantee that all of those terribly painful moments taught you something and changed you in some way. And that’s not a bad thing.

 

Haunted

I’m haunted by thoughts of you
They appear at the oddest of times
A random word from a friend
A commercial on TV
While sitting at my desk at work.
I can’t seem to shake these memories
No matter what I try.
I know there is no hope for a future
together.
But thoughts continue to haunt me.
They appear out of the blue and send a chill
into my heart.
The bittersweet reflections of you in my life
are too much.
I wonder if I still have something to learn
From our moments together.
There must be a reason that you still enter my mind.
It’s not typical
or even okay.
So much time has passed
and there is still such a strong connection.
I pray that the lesson becomes clear
So I can end this chapter of my life.
I no longer want to be haunted
by your memory.

3 Words – 12/11 – The End

 

She’s seen the decline in affection during the past few weeks, but nothing prepared her for this.
Her eyes followed him as he picked up his bag and headed to the door.
Without even look back at her, he turned the doorknob, opened the door and walked out.
Not a glance, a word nor a touch marked the end.
Tears streamed down her face and she felt her breath catch in her throat as she slid down the wall that had been supporting her.

 

(Write incorporating 3 words – decline, eyes, follow)

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3 Words – 12/12 – Smokey Thoughts

Her worries circled around her
like smoke from a fire.
She couldn’t make them dissipate.
The boundaries she
had set for herself were breached now
and she couldn’t seem
to find her way back to the safe,
warm place in her mind.
She sat on the couch pulling the
blanket tightly around her, closed
her eyes and dreamt of
a future with clear, peaceful skies.

 

(Write incorporating 3 words – worry, smoke, boundaries)

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