947 lives

I sat down to write a blog about something that happened yesterday.  I clicked on a different URL than I usual, and it took me to the “reader” side instead of the “writer” side of the portal.  There, I was invited to join 947 people who follow this little blog.  947.  That’s nearly 1,000.  It’s a pretty big number.

I know that some of those “follows” are people hoping that I will “follow” them back – and they’ve never read a word.  Other people may read a post when I link to it on Facebook or LinkedIn or twitter, but not “follow.”

I don’t know what I may have written that has helped someone else.  How would the world change if each of us could reach 947 people and give them some love, some hope or simply make them feel as if whatever emotion they are experiencing is normal – that they will get through it.

Some of these 947 people have reached this page because I tried and failed to run a half marathon at Walt Disney World (the FIRST time) and they, too, wanted to know what happened if the balloon ladies pass you (click here to find out).  That post has by far the most views.

Speaking of views, as of the writing of this little article, my posts have been viewsd 6,456 times.  It’s not a big, big number, but that number is larger than the number of people who I have interacted with in real life since 2014, when I found the courage to begin writing on the internet.

I’m reminded of the first time that I ran the 10K race at the Cleveland Rite-Aid marathon weekend.  As I crossed the finish line, a woman asked my name and said, “you’re the woman who lost all that weight, aren’t you?”  The connection I shared with her at that moment were more special than the shiny medal I received for finishing.

Another time, I wrote about finding painted rocks at the beach, and how happy they made me, and the woman who let them in secret saw me running and became my friend.

My third grade teacher has read my words and continued to make me feel as loved and supported as she did 43 years ago.

Years ago, I had a small circle of friend online with whom I shared poetry.  My profile said, “I am an artist.  I paint pictures with words.”

When I logged onto this site, I was given 947 gifts in an instant.

Write on.

love,

~Be~

 

 

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It’s a Small, Small World.

My husband and I took our 17-year-old son to Walt Disney World at Christmas time this year. We toured Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios together the first day. My husband decided to enjoy some relaxation while our son and I went to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center the second day. My son’s name is Matt. We rode several rides and watched several attractions together. I wanted to ride “It’s a Small World” – and he didn’t. We waited together through about half of the 45 minute queue, and when he made it abundantly clear that he would rather be eating lint, I allowed him to exit the wait when we came upon a gate that would allow him to escape.

I waited another 30 minutes alone, surrounded by people, and watched their interactions. The park was terribly crowded. It was still early in the day, so children weren’t having full on meltdowns yet, but it was lunchtime, and there were plenty of hungry little people. I started to feel a little sorry for myself, waiting all alone, and then I realized that I don’t need to make my son miserable to have a fabulous time.

I came to love that ride because my mother loved it. I came to love it more this year, riding alone, because it brought a plethora of beautiful colors and a whirlwind of motion into what had become a dark night of the soul- my journey of grief after Mom’s death in November.

I sat next to someone else’s child. He saw tears streaming down my face and said, “don’t cry.” I smiled and laughed through my tears and said back, “they’re happy tears.” I’m not sure that they were until that moment, but at the moment I made the claim of happiness, I was determined to be in love with that moment – and I was.

Winter in Ohio can be a hard time to create happiness – at least for me. The ground is covered with dirty snow or thick ice. The trees are barren. The birds are somewhere warm for the winter. It’s dark by the time I leave my windowless office to cook dinner, and the dining table looks out over the deck that is covered in dead leaves instead of containers overflowing with flowers in a hundred different hues.

My world got a lot smaller when Mom died. I lost the person I phoned when I needed to talk about what was bothering me. I lost my frequent destination for my Tuesday “day off.” My world got “small.” I wrote about losing her daily for a short while, until someone I don’t even know in “real life” said something that I decided made me feel like reading my words was a burden to other people. I stopped writing, and my world became still smaller.

I came to the realization a little over a week ago that my world had become too small – too dark. I set out to change it. A friend shared social media invitations to a class teaching African dance. I signed up, even though I knew that when I arrived, I wouldn’t know a single soul. I did something so far outside of my comfort zone – dancing – in public – in stretchy fabrics. I didn’t hide when, later in the evening, my friend showed up and started filming and sharing “live.” Just by being there, my world got a little bigger.

The following weekend, instead of sitting inside the house and doing the same old thing, I got my husband into the car and drove to the “Great Big Home and Garden Show.” We don’t have any home improvement projects on the agenda for this year, but I wanted to see the gardens. They didn’t disappoint. There were tulips and daffodils and hyacinths – a riot of color. There were trees in bud, and although I was in a giant building, I could almost feel myself outside beside a running brook in one of my favorite parks. Almost. I felt my world expand a little more.

When I moved to my present home nearly two decades ago, I never built a new network of close friends.  While I don’t mean to minimize the importance of the male friends and mentors in my life, I’ve reached an age where I’m looking to build my connection with other women.

I don’t go out and “do” things with women. Now that I have become a “woman of a particular age,” –  now that I am the involuntary matriarch – I see clearly how important that network of strong, wise women is to have. Only by reaching out and by sharing our joy and sorrow can we truly live a full life.

This is the “year of yes,” to quote Shonda Rimes. This is the year that I will grow my world by doing things that I don’t usually do – by saying yes to new experiences and learning new things. It is a small, small world – but it doesn’t have to be.

Dear “Mom” – Why are you in Havana and who is Terry?

I have had the same email address since just after Google introduced gmail. It’s my first initial and last name @ gmail.com. Pretty simple.  Other people evidently employ the same simplistic strategy, but fail miserably somewhere in the execution.

I get lots of email intended for other people.  Brianna, Bernice, Brian, Brittany, Blake and Barath receive a lot of mail in my inbox. Those emails, I suppose, make sense if they really do share my last name.  I also receive email for Sherkeydra, though.  She’s applying for student loans, and my email address makes no sense at all for her name.

Brittany orders a lot of stuff from Alibaba.com.   Bernice is having problems paying her phone bill. Brian gets a payment from Wells Fargo every Thursday night, and Blake is looking for a roommate.

Brianna’s family is a real hoot.  They travel a lot and seem to have a sense of humor.  Her mom and dad (Terry) are in Cuba right now.

When I began receiving all of these emails for strangers, at first I responded to let the sender know that they had sent the email to the wrong address.  I received a very nice email from one of Brittany’s high school teachers a year or two ago.  I also had a heartwarming exchange with a woman who was trying to reach one of these strangers to participate with a group who was taking food to a family whose loved one was in her final days.  She reached the wrong person, but I surely would have taken a casserole if we lived in the same state.

Another time I began receiving a lot of email from someone’s dad.  I responded to let him know that his messages were reaching the wrong person.  He didn’t believe me.  He asked what I was doing.  I answered honestly – I was looking for a nursing home who could take my father.  Since he believed I was his daughter, he didn’t take kindly to that one.  I replied with a photo of my tear-stained face next to the headline of that day’s newspaper. I never heard from him again.  Most often my replies are usually ignored.

I tried to get AT&T to stop sending me Bernice’s messages, but after 20 minutes on hold, I gave up on that cause.  Now, when I receive messages for the other “Bs,” I just hit delete.

I receive vacation pictures, invitations to Thanksgiving dinner, and emails showing me the newest listings in Bel Air, MD.

The weirdest misdirected email that I received advised me that the “subject” had left the “perimeter.”  When I clicked on the link provided, I got the feeling that I was venturing into super-spy territory, and I wondered whose car was being tracked.

Terry and his wife have, previously, been advised that I am not Brianna, but they don’t believe me.  Brianna’s sister has already replied. Her brother was copied, too.  Mom and dad must wonder why Brianna never replies.

I talked to my own dear mother a few minutes ago. I know she’s not really in Cuba.  Brianna’s mom enjoyed seeing Hemingway’s apartment and like Mojitos.  She had a scary experience in a decrepit building where she followed a shady guy to the 3rd floor because he had a “good deal” to show her.  I’m happy Brianna’s parents lived to tell THAT tale.  I’ll pray for their safety.

I’m assuming that the other people who use my email address primarily give it out as a “spam” address.  If only I had their true email addresses, I could forward their emails from Mom, Dad and the crazy stalker person who has set a perimeter.  I don’t, though, so I’m torn about whether or not to wish “Mom” and Terry a safe voyage from the daughter they never knew they had.

Life is strange sometimes.

Everybody has a story

I’ve never attended a twelve-step meeting, but I’m familiar with the one day at a time concept.  I have often used it, or variations (one semester at a time, one month at a time…you get the idea) to deal with difficult or stressful events.  I got through law school 16 weeks at a time.  I told myself that I could do anything for 16 weeks, and having resolved to do so, I finished on schedule.

I started making some big changes in my life in March.  There was no plan.  I was afraid that I was going to die.  I had a couple of scary medical events.  I was hypertensive, morbidly obese, and full of excuses.  With a thyroid disorder, a busted up leg, severe arthritis, COPD and likely close to type II diabetes, I was a mess and convinced that my sedentary lifestyle and obesity were beyond my control.

One day in February I was in a meeting in my conference room and the room began to get black around the edges while a ringing in my ears got louder and louder.  I didn’t pass out.  The event passed and I lived in far that it might repeat itself. Soon thereafter, I was walking through the grocery store with my husband when I broke into a cold sweat.  I could feel my heart beating, and I couldn’t wait to get back home to crawl into bed and see if I lived until morning.

This pattern repeated itself a few times over the course of a few weeks.  I did not seek medical attention because I was convinced that my physician would scold me about my weight.  I had a gym membership that had been unused for at least 9 months.  Several times I got dressed for the gym only to have a panic attack on the way there and scream at my husband until he drove me back home.  I was convinced people would stare.  I was convinced people would laugh.  I was convinced that people would find me disgusting – and tell me so.

One day, I hit rock bottom.  My health was scaring me.  I was short-tempered, my family was bewildered, and I was depressed.  I went to the doctor.  He added a prescription for an anti-depressant to my list of meds and told me I needed to lose weight.  I said I would (like I had each time I saw him over the many years before), and scheduled my follow up visit.

The next day, I decided it was time to “get busy living, or get busy dying.”  I dusted off the treadmill (we won’t talk about the thickness of the dust layer) and took a step.  I don’t remember how long it took me, but I walked a mile that first day.  I went back the next day and tried jogging a little bit.  I was thrilled when I was able to “sprint” 2.5 mph for 30 seconds.  Day after day, I went back to the treadmill, and was amazed at the difference those 20, 30 or 40 minutes made in my attitude.

I began to share those little successes with my facebook friends.  I found a iPhone app that tracked my runs.  My feet starting hurting, and I asked my facebook friends to help me pick out a pair of running shoes.  I received scores of comments and suggestions from runners and walkers who are scattered all over the country.  Boosted by their well wishes, and filled with a sense that this time would be different, I entered a running store and plunked down $120 for my first pair of running shoes.  On that day I posted a photo of my new kicks and decided “I am a runner.”

Having found the confidence to walk into a store for athletes without being met with scorn or laughter, I resolved to try the gym again.  Armed with my new shoes, I made it through the door and through a circuit without anyone laughing, pointing, or (to my knowledge) posting a picture of my backside to their flickr account.

I have a hugely supportive circle of family and friends.  They have “liked” and commented on my runs (which makes my phone cheer), they have put up with me posting photos of myself in spandex, shining with sweat and holding up a medal.  I began posting for accountability’s sake, and along the way I have received many messages telling me to keep posting because I have inspired my friends to make changes in their own lives.

As I share my story, those friends keep telling me to write a book.  I love the idea, but didn’t know where to begin. I finally know where the book is coming from. I am a survivor.  I am a fighter.  I am a listener.  I am changing my life one day at a time, one step at a time, and one mile at a time.

My name is Betty.  This is my story.  It’s still being played out.  I want to help you become the person you were meant to be.  I can’t tell you how to do it, but I can tell you how I’m going about it, and perhaps you will find inspiration to do the same.

Every story has to have a beginning.  You may see parts of mine in flashback, but for now, we’ll start here: “Once upon a time there was an unhappy woman who was scared of life.  She was sick, and tired, and didn’t know where to turn.  This is the story of how she took her life back.”

Serendipity – God’s appointments

I wanted to write this post yesterday, but I was having a “first world problem.”  I am writing this on a brand new (to me) computer that my oldest son configured for me right before he left the house without giving me the password.  He knows most of my “usual” passwords, and I thought I had tried them all.  I texted him, and I called him, and after no answer, I gave up and I enjoyed my evening.  This morning when he told me the actual password, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t tried it.  It was so obvious (knowing me).

I dubbed yesterday “self-care Saturday.”  The planned activities centered around taking care of myself. I planned time in my “zen den” drinking a pot of tea (check).  I planned coffee time with my dear husband (check). I planned a workout at the gym (check), I planned a haircut (nope) and the big daddy… I planned a 5-mile run.

It was far too beautiful to run indoors on the treadmill.  The high school stadium was in use all day and all evening, so that was out of the question.  I decided to run through the beautiful neighborhoods in my quaint home town.  Although I have lived here for 15 years, there is so much that I haven’t seen because I am a creature of habit.

I ran to my office where my husband was mowing the lawn and re-hydrated.  I ran through all of the roads in the Lagoons, and ran along the beach where my shoes promptly filled with sand.  I found a conveniently-located bench and removed my shoes to shake out the sand, sat to enjoy the view, and decided to run a neighborhood I had never explored.  I didn’t mean to spend 1.5 miles there, but I did, and after another run across the sand (and another stop at another bench to shake out the sand and enjoy the waves), I headed back for my office for more water (and a bag of jelly belly sport beans) and headed toward home.

Knowing I was later than I was expected home already, I called my husband and let him know where I was and what route I was taking home.  I’m not sure why I did that, because I usually like to plan my route on the fly depending on how I am feeling.  On my way back, I briefly thought about taking Exchange Street instead of Douglas Street like I had planned.  I kept running past Exchange, and as I turned South onto Decatur, a car pulled up to the stop sign, and the driver called out, “Excuse me, is your name Betty?”

I turned and answered “yes,” and proceeded to have a conversation with the driver, who knew me from this blog.  She’s a darling woman who has touched so many lives herself, and I was blessed with the opportunity to meet her face to face because I explored a new neighborhood, added 1.5 miles to my route, and followed the route I told my husband I would follow home.  Now that we have met, I hope to hear more of her story.

I was walking (jogging) on a cloud the next leg of the journey.  As I passed by the high school, I was flagged down by another person (this one on foot).  She said, “I have seen you all over town today, and I just have to meet you.”  She was looking for the 6th grade football game (it turns out she was in the wrong place for it).  We had a wonderful conversation for 5-10 minutes.  She told me about some of the obstacles she has had to overcome and I shared some of my story.  When we parted ways, I felt that I had made yet another new friend.

I reached home and my husband was hard at work cutting up a huge tree limb (actually bigger than many trees) that fell down a short while back.  I decided to blog about my experience, but it was not to be, so I spent some more time in my “fortress of peace,” my “zen den,” and fell asleep with a smile on my face.

I awoke to the sound of a high school marching band (the Festival of Bands was starting just a block away), and went out to tell dear husband that he didn’t have to cut the whole tree up in one day.  I persuaded him to join me in the hot tub to listen to the bands, and I told him about the wonderful day that I had, the chance meetings, the new friends, and the experience of serendipity that made it all so special.  If I had to define serendipity, I would deem it “a happy coincidence.”  When my life is moving in the right direction, though, it seems these happy coincidences happen with such frequency that they don’t seem coincidental at all.  I often end up learning valuable lessons from the people I meet when serendipity takes over.

In order for these meetings to happen, I had to deviate from my planned 5 mile run and run 7 miles.  I had to get sand in my shoes (twice) and take time to enjoy the beautiful beach (twice).  I had to run the direction that I had told my husband I would run instead of turning a block earlier like I decided I wanted to.

As I concluded the paragraph above, I received a beautiful message on Facebook from the woman I met on Douglas Street.  It seems that she would not normally have been there at that time, either.  She, too,  remarked on the serendipity of the moment.  She shared that a friend of hers calls these moments “God’s appointments.”  I think she is right. We were destined to meet, and I look forward to getting to know her.   Had I known the password to this machine and blogged this yesterday when I intended to, I would have done so without the benefit of knowing how truly serendipitous my meeting was yesterday.

This blog started out as a way to “just write what [I] know” because I truly enjoy writing.  The fact that even one other person has found it a blessing makes me truly grateful for the ability to write.  I’m off, now, to a local festival where I hope I will have the opportunity to listen when I am led, and to keep more of God’s appointments.  Serendipity is the word for today.

photo (5)

I just want you to like me

 

Some time in the 90s, I read a book called “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway” by Susan Jeffers.  I’ve been meaning to go back and re-read it, because I found it very enlightening at the time, but now I don’t remember much of what it said.  I do, however, remember her talking about how very much of what we do is motivated by our desire for  people to like us.

I think that “people pleasing” falls somewhere on a spectrum between “I don’t care what you think,” and “I will just die if you don’t agree with me.”  I’ve spent most of the past 40 years on somewhere on the latter end of the scale.

I’m my own worst critic.  To be honest, when I receive a friend request, or when someone says something really nice about me on my facebook wall, I still sometimes wonder if they made a mistake.  As a result, I don’t let too many people know too much about what I consider to be the “real” me.

I’m really shy.  People don’t believe me, because I can talk to anyone.  Talking is not the hard part – reaching out is the kicker.  As a result, I don’t go many places or do much of anything, because I wait to be invited to do something by someone else.  Last week I took a step outside of my comfort zone.  I emailed two people who I knew primarily through my involvement in an organization that I recently left.  I invited them to have lunch or coffee with me because I liked both of them a lot and I’ve been feeling kind of socially isolated without my club meetings to attend.  One accepted and one did not.

I had a lovely lunch with the one who accepted.  I shared some things about me that she didn’t know before, and I learned some things about her, too.  I hope she had as fantastic a time as I did, but I have to admit that I’ve spent more than one anxious moment wondering if she’ll still like me now that she knows some of the private me instead of just the public me.

I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering,

Will they still like me if they know I’ve been divorced?
What will they think if they know that I suffer from anxiety?
Will they think I’m weak if I say I just can’t do it?
If I post this, will they think I’m just looking for attention?

This list could go on and on.

I’m on a journey to wellness which involves losing a very substantial amount of weight.  For years, I cropped my profile pictures so that people couldn’t see the “fat parts.”  When “friends” from other social media platforms found me on Facebook, where I had full-length pictures posted, several told me they had no idea I was a heavy person.

I’ve put off meeting people who played an important role in my life because I was afraid of how they would perceive me if they knew how fat I was.   I’ve agonized over wardrobe choices because I was afraid of wearing the wrong thing.  I had two full-blown anxiety attacks trying to get myself into the gym this spring to finally do something about my weight because I was afraid of what people would think of my king-sized self and potentially say something unkind (or think something unkind, look at me sideways, etc.)

I’ve censored my opinions on many timely issues on social media because I have friends on both side of the fence.

If I tell you how I feel about “X,” you may not be my friend.

I’m no longer as driven by the little voice that tells me I’m not good enough.  When it makes an appearance I remind myself that a friendship based on a character I decide to play isn’t really a friendship.  I haven’t been giving people enough credit.  Worse than that, I haven’t been giving myself enough credit, either.  I’m pretty cool.  I really am worth getting to know a little better.

 

 

 

just write what you know: taking that first step.

I’ve lived in my town for 15 years now.  In that time, I’ve been mighty busy raising a family, going to school, and working at or running three businesses.  Down deep, I’m a pretty private person.  I’ve tried a lot of things.  I’ve succeeded at some of them, and I’ve failed miserably at others.  I’ve kept most of that to myself.

I don’t know why I don’t share more.  Part of me thinks nobody else would be interested.  Part of me thinks that other people will just think I’m trying to get attention.  I’m always surprised when I write something and 40, 50, or 100 people “like” it and/or comment.   Maybe it *is* interesting.  Maybe it *is* okay if other pay attention.  Maybe, just maybe, someone will find help, or hope, or strength, or joy in something I share.  

I’m going to just start writing what i know.  I know something about a lot of topics.  As a “jack of all trades,” these are a few of my areas of knowledge, for better or worse:

Family:  Marriage, divorce, raising a family, blending a family, losing family

Health:  celiac disease, morbid obesity, weight gain, weight loss, learning to exercise

Spirituality:  faith, loss of faith, searching for truth, 

Mental health:  psychology, psychobabbe, depression, anxiety, loss, learning to love myself

Cooking:  gluten free, casein free cooking

Misc:  laughter, spreading kindness

Currently, this blog has no one direction.  As it progresses, I may find a path for it to follow.  For now, though, I will just write what I know.