Keep On Keeping On

 

I’m discovering adult life. It’s strange it took me until I was 36 to figure this out. I’m admittedly a little slow and live much of life in hopes and maybe’s and awake dreaming. The unfortunate side effect of this is that reality takes a little while to land, it has to circle a few times.

I think, we all come to a point where we realize that all this hardship and struggle is a part of life and if we want to get better at ‘adulting’, we have to face it head on and with undaunted courage, even if we cry a bit along the way.

So hang in there with me as I vomit up all my “bad”. I promise there’s a “Light at The End of The Tunnel” as Shel Silverstein put it.

For me, growing up/adulting,  meant leaving friends behind. Some, I realized, weren’t my friends at all, which was a hard place to come to. I put too much stock into good time friends and relationships that had long since died on the vine.

My husband and I sold/gave our half of our business to our business partner, who had been a good friend at one point. Like so many partnerships, it tore our friendship apart. It was 4 years of trying to make something work. Sometimes, no matter how hard you work to make something unify or come together, it just doesn’t. That’s it, it doesn’t. I have never been divorced but this was as close as I want to get to that.

During all this, my dad died. He was….holding so much for all of us and none of us knew how sick he felt. You don’t get to say goodbye sometimes, and when my dad died I couldn’t remember the last conversation we had. But I did have a saved voicemail from him when he and my mom had made an impromptu visit to the V.A. in Iowa City. He was tired and you could hear his exhaustion in the call, he assured me he was fine. The voicemail was from 2 months before he died. It broke my heart to hear it again but it was a weird unexpected life line to him, until the bastards at Verizon erased it when they updated their voicemail system. Hashtag #Insensitiveassholes.

Also in the last 4 years, my daughter had a total spinal fusion from her shoulders to her hips. I found myself having to comfort my daughter and assure her that things would be fine, when I had no experience with surgery at all. I’m terrified of it in fact. What do you say to your child when they are facing something that you can’t even relate to? You say the same thing you would say even if you had gone through it… You say “It’s going to be okay”. Because what else is there? We were fortunate to get hooked up with the Shriners Children’s Hospital in Chicago. I can’t say enough, they were and continue to be amazing.

The light at the end of the tunnel is coming, I promise….but first….

I was diagnosed with the invisible disease that makes me tired, cloudy headed and physically hurts for no damn good reason. Most days I function well and then there are days like the past week where I feel like I’m unable to pull myself up. Everything feels like an effort including washing my hair. I feel 80 and I’m not even 40. What the hell genetics?? Hashtag #wtf.

Finally ( aren’t you glad?), we moved from Illinois in July to St. Louis with the intent to open up shop there. Through a series of crazy and unexpected events, we didn’t. We instead moved home to New Orleans in September. Now we are working for other people, still with the goal to own our own place again in the (hopefully) near future.

So what’s the point here Maggie? There isn’t one. Only to say, we all go through shit. Sometimes mine stinks more than yours and other times yours wreaks and out stinks us all. The world isn’t out to get us. Things just happen, not for a reason, the universe just unfolds as it does and we the tiny humans are here to experience all the ups, downs, sideways.  Hashtag #Yayus.

So, back to the Light at the end of the tunnel….

I’m reminded of an old T-shirt I saw once as a kid that read, “What light? I’m still looking for the tunnel”. Hashtag #Cheesypizza.

It often feels heavy when life seems to beat you about your head and body. However, In all the ‘bad’, there is good. For me this has meant that I have learned a lot about myself. Some not so great things that I am working to change, and also I found some confidence that was hiding out, just waiting to be noticed. I didn’t have to pay for my daughters surgery, which was a miracle in itself. Through my dad dying, I realized how much I took for granted. I’d like to say that I don’t miss a moment to be here for all my peeps, but that’s not true. Sometimes I’m not, but I am more aware and working once again to improve. I’ve learned to take things slow and choose my friends wisely. I learned through my failed partnership, what I should do differently the next time we open up shop. I learned just how strong a person can be in the face of uncertainty, my daughter showed me that, and it gives me courage. Even though St. Louis didn’t work out it gave us the opportunity to hang out with some of our best friends and get to know some other folks better. It also was apart of the path the led us home. Currently, I am  learning that nothing ever happens in the time frame you want it to, may as well enjoy whatever ride you’re on now.

The light at the end of the tunnel here, is the experiences themselves and what you do with them. Hashtag #easiersaidthandone. True, true. I’m no sage. I’m not wise, at best I’m learning to fall gracefully and land at on my ass and not my face. Landing on my feet will come in time. My encouragement to anyone going through their own personal Vietnam, keep going, find the little things, mark your progress as a person, not your financial value, the latter could change at the drop of a hat and has nothing to do with who you are.

#Keepgoing. or as AC/DC put it, Ride ON.

 

 

Choice Is King – My New Years Post 2017

 

It’s a New Year. I wonder how many articles, blogs or puff pieces have started with those four words. It is true none the less and here we are fatter, thinner, richer, poorer, wiser or as the real case may be, dumber. What ever little New Years resolution we did or did not live up to, we have arrived at the beginning of one fresh, unspoiled, hopeful year and left that begging, harsh no good tramp of 2016 in our dust. This year will be the BEST. YEAR. EVER!

At least that’s our plans.

But as Judith Vorst helped Alexander discover in his ‘terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day”, life has a way of taking all your plans, looking at us dead in the eye as if to say, ” Oh THIS is your plan? Ha! You stupid, stupid girl (or preferred identity )…”. Then she crumples up all our plans and does a hat dance on top of our hard thought out goals. And life can do a pretty good hat dance too, she’s quite agile.

What are we left with as we stare longingly down at all our dreams laying broken on the ground? Our choices.

As good old Albus Dumbledore said to Harry in The Chamber of Secrets, “It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.” This statement seems contrite and very “easy for you to say” in the face of an uncertain future, joblessness, death of a friend, depression or anything that is less than a perfect life. We as humans have come to expect that nothing bad should happen. This is the future dammit! Long past are the days of famine and misfortune. We have dentists, doctors and take out Chinese food! We demand that life gives us the best and that we rise to the top like cream.

Dr. Seuss put it best in Oh The Places You’ll Go! A book that at any chance I get, I buy and give to small children, teenagers and adults alike. It is the best self help and life guidance you will ever get. He writes (excuse the long excerpt):

“You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.
I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.”

We live in an alternate reality called Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or even this here blog. We judge ourselves and our lives and how it should all be sailing by the people online. It doesn’t stop there, commercials and life styles of the rich and famous reinforce these thoughts. We are so surrounded by all of these perfect pictures of how life is supposed to go ( at least in our heads) that when we are thrown a curve ball or bite down on a lemon, we crumble.

Back to that Choice bit. We have a decision to make when life fails to live up to our expectations. We can shake our fists in the air, blaming the economy, the boss, the wife, the president, the parents, etc and so forth, No matter whose fault it is, if any is to be assigned, in the end it’s our fault if we choose to lay down and just grumble. Our other choice is to pull up our big girl panties and get on with it. That doesn’t mean we can’t grieve or get angry. It means to choose each day how much you are going to let a situation or failed resolve to affect the rest of your day. How much power will you give it? Some days will be harder, you will fail and that’s okay. You can start again the next day or even the next hour. The right choice isn’t always the easy ( or the most attractive, lucrative or fun)one.

I write these words to encourage anyone who is still reading  this and also to encourage myself. Like many of you, it’s been a hell of a year. I don’t think 2017 will be a magic elixir that will make 2016 seem worth it. I do believe that if I set my will and work hard towards my goals and choose each day what I’m going to give power to and how I will react, that my days will be better and I will be better for it, not just better but happier. Happiness isn’t a feeling, like love, it is a chosen path.

What ever your resolve this year, get thinner, establish a better routine, not eat so many muffins (me), if shit blows up, just remember to choose where to point that fan.

Be happier this year folks.

Social Media and Who I Want You to Think I Am.

We all do it. We take that picture, look at it, delete it, take another and even another before we finally decide it is post-worthy. What is Post Worthy? It is the ideal picture, the one that shows us laughing carelessly and having a great time. It’s the one that shows us in love. It’s the one that portrays us as the ideal parent as we roll in the fall leaves smiling. This is what I want you to see. The ideal. The perfect. The lie.

Here’s a shocker: We all want the world to see us as perfect. We want to see how many ‘likes’ on facebook we can get for our nonchalant selfie that we want you to think we didn’t take ourselves but we did, because we are hella good at editing (sorta). I stopped trying to take selfies. Number one, every time I did, I either looked pissed off or my eyes looked wonky. Number two, who has time to take twenty photos of themselves? After three and still not getting the look I want, I start to feel dumb. What am I, a 13 year old girl again?! I am 35 years old, that’s too damn old to be doing the same things my teenage daughter does in the bathroom mirror (for 45 minutes no less!).

Here’s another shocker: Not everyone who posts how in love they are with their significant other is really feeling that way, it’s another ruse. I’m not saying there aren’t those who do, whose love will stand the test of time, but I am saying I have seen more people post some really romantic, I’m talking Shakespeare shit, only to see in a few weeks that their love ended in a flame of Pabst Blue Ribbon, Jaeger Bombs and some ho named Jessica, and the lady of love scorned is “going to beat her face in the next time she sees her so she best watch it!”

Social Media is more about presenting this Identity of who you want to be, or who you want people to think you are, to the world. Having real, deep friendships, ones that last longer than a couple years and don’t involve back stabbing, are becoming a thing of the past. In my opinion, we are all too involved in trying to look a certain way or present ourselves as a tough guy, to take time to let the wall down and really get to know one another. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and even WordPress provide a certain anonymity. You can be whatever, a yoga posing hippy, a pierced and tattooed rebel, a baby wearing and crunchy mamma or just a good old fashioned asshole. There’s no shame in being any of these things, if that’s who you really are, even if your an asshole, at least you’re genuine..

So, who do I want you to think I am? I don’t know. I will tell you who I am though. I am married to a wonderful man, that being said, we haven’t had a perfect marriage, there have been lots of ups and downs. Times where we wanted to kill one another and times of complete adoration. Am I happily married? Abso-fuckin-lootly. Has it been easy? No. But things worth the time seldom are.

I am also a mom, I became one at age 21. I had no idea what I was doing then and I seldom know now. I thought I would be a natural mom, I wasn’t. Turns out I am pretty bad at this job, but I do love my children fiercely and I know the world is a better place with them in it. Am I getting this parenting thing wrong? YES. Am I doing some shit right? YES. Again, it’s hard and I am not always that good mom you see rolling in the leaves with her kids, in fact, I don’t roll. Especially not in leaves.

I have tattoos and piercings. I am not tough. Not at all. Nor am I trying to be tough, I don’t have anything to prove. I am a nerd most of the time. I am a mystery novel lovin’ lady, but my favorite books are children’s books. I love my British t.v. mysteries, country folk rock and stoner rock equally. I love archeology and I get way too excited when lost items under the sea are found. I do cuss too often but that’s a bad habit that I am trying to break, apparently it’s not going to happen in this blog. Maybe the next one. Sorry Grandma (she is the toughest woman I know, she reads my blogs and hates the cursing but she loves me ).

I have been a good person and a horrible person of equal measure, and if you had to really scale it out, I bet horrible would win.

My point is that the infatuation I see on social media with being perfect is out of hand and it is only encouraged through television, magazines and other media forms. But the worst encourager of this distorted view of beautiful or ideal, is us. We only perpetuate it by falling in line and posting 10,000 selfies or hippy quote that makes us feel good momentarily. Who cares what the world thinks, if you have faith in yourself and at least one good friend(not the one that makes excuses for you, the one who helps you grow), you have won. Faith in yourself is so important. It gets you through when no one else can help you.  I admit my confidence in myself is fickle, some days I have it, others not at all. I have to work at it. It’s not magic. The temptation to post something consciously or subconsciously for the prospect of people ‘liking’ it, is real. I am a victim of it’s game. And, I will always lose, because just like a good drug or alcohol, in the morning I am still left with me.

My challenge to myself and to others out there (if anyone reads this) is take time to be yourself, whatever and whoever that is. Posting pictures in and of itself isn’t bad but if it’s filling some void where confidence should be, maybe invest in you for a while. It’s hard work but it pays off.

So, Who do I want you to think I am? In the words of Rhett Butler, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Hopefully you don’t either.

Life is Grande or Get Yo Shit Together!

I have become that person. That lady with the invisible disease. Hello Auto Immune Disease, my name is Maggie and it’s nice, well not nice per say, but it’s notable to meet you.

My “Invisible disease” (because there’s no hard evidence as of yet, aside from my symptoms), is either Chronic Fatigue or Fibromyalgia. According to the neurologist, it could be early signs of something bigger that “we’ll just have to wait and see about”.  I’m a sitting duck and until then, we are just going to treat it as one of the two mentioned above and hope it’s right.

I know this sounds hyper-paranoid and I also know I’m not the only person who has dealt with all of this, my own mother had Chronic Fatigue,  my Mother-in-law has MS, a friend of mine has Fibromyalgia. This brings comfort, not that I’m happy they have these auto immune disorders but it helps knowing there are others out there. That being said it still feels very lonely. I feel tired, angry, sad, frustrated and dare I say the D word? Depressed.

It’s been a hard few years, so depression happens. I hate bringing up the negative but there’s no way to polish a turd. truthfully, the last three years have been filled with broken relationships, death of loved ones, medical issues and just plain old life thrown in the mix. Now, this. So where do you go when seemingly all hell breaks loose?

If I look long and hard enough at Instagram or Facebook, I’ll find any number of uplifting quotes designed to make me feel better about my situation. I don’t even have to look long and hard, actually if I just scroll down a few pictures, I’ll find one. And Oh Shit, I think I posted the last one, but there’s a kitten in the picture too so maybe you’ll forgive me.  These little quotes draped over animal cuteness often say things like : “When you want to give up, push harder, success is around the corner” , this one has a turtle walking through mud, or alternately featuring an albino tiger, ” You are unique and you are the only you there is, don’t be afraid to be different”. I can appreciate these and the reason they are posted, I myself have definitely posted some that I thought had something great to say. But in the end, they are just words. Words have the power to wax elegant and it makes us feel all gushy inside, essentially they can butter us up emotionally. In the end, without any real action, without any physical push, these inspirational quotes remain empty, saccharine and powerless. Essentially posted quotes are the strippers of the internet, they make ya feel good but you go home empty handed and longing.

I want reality. My dad used to say, “Don’t spit on me and then tell me it’s raining”.  Tell me the truth of the situation, I don’t care if it’s dressed up with flowers and butterflies, just tell me what’s really happening. And I think that’s the frustrating part. No one seems to really know 100 percent what’s going on with me medically. On top of this, there’s no blood work that can prove it. Not knowing and just following a formula that you hope works, is a bit unsettling.  So how do I stay positive AND truthful about my situation?

I know only what helps me and I’ll be honest, as of late, most days aren’t good days. But what I have started to find help in, is meditation. I get up before anyone else is awake. No matter how glued to the sheets my body feels, I peel myself from it and walk to the dining room where my yoga mat is. I do yoga and pilates and then I focus my day and my mind. It’s not a cure all for sure and sometimes it’s easier on some days than others. Some days it changes my attitude  and I walk in grace and awe at all the beauty around me. Other days, I stomp around and yell at “whoever left their damned cup sitting on the chair, come pick it up for the last time!” So, it’s not magic.

The other thing I am practicing is telling my mind ‘no’. When I get so inside my own head, I become very selfish and self loathing. I get angry at my husband or kids for not ‘getting it’. My world becomes small and I started pointing fingers at all the people and things that aren’t ‘right’. It’s a high horse to come up off of. But telling myself no and looking at the facts of this thing, keeps me better in tune with the reality of life right now. My husband ‘gets it’ and is trying to help , my kids are kids and honestly shouldn’t be concerned or worried about any of this, the docs well, despite what I think, I do love my General doc and I do trust that she is being a good advocate for my health. This invisible disease is just the luck of the draw. It’s not God’s will, it’s just life baby.

No one way works for everyone, just like all of life, we find our paths, the one that our hearts beat in rhythm to, and then follow it. Some folks find solace in group therapy, or just online groups. Some read all they can on something to gain a better understanding. Still others invest in their faith and religion. There are many roads to peace and happiness. Mine involves a bit of meditation, faith, reading, attitude adjustment and reminding myself I’m not the only person out there dealing with something that seems to eclipse the good things in their life. I am surrounding myself with positive people, cutting out the negative ones and enjoying weekend nights with my kids, my husband and my mom.

Life really is good , that’s not to say shit doesn’t get sideways on me, it does a lot.  But as Agatha Christie said , ” I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”

To be alive is a grand thing. So, with Chronic Fatigue/Fibromyalgia Fog beginning to take over and not being sure how to tie this all together neatly, I say, go out and be bigger than your situation, be more than you think you are and stop reading this garbage and actually do something.

To Be More Than I Think I Am.

 

Just who am I anyways?

Recently, I have been challenging myself with this thought, it is coupled with the question, ” and what will I leave behind ? ” Oh sure, I know basically who I am, my likes, my dislikes, my goals, etc. With the death of my dad and my grandmother in the past 6 months, I have found myself going deeper. Their lives and their legacy have guided me to question my own life. Am I doing enough? What will I leave behind when I’m gone?

It has always been of great importance to me, that I leave behind something physical, something to prove without any doubt that I, Magdalene Belle, not only took breath but walked and loved. Movie stars have film and reviews, authors have books, chef’s have the legacy of amazing food that resonates from generation to the next, what will I leave? Is it a control factor? A way for my to TRY and control how much death takes away? Yes, undoubtedly it is. After all I am a bit of a control freak, which has been one of the greatest factors in my dealing with my father’s death. It was unexpected, my grandfather (my dad’s dad) lived well into his 80’s, so surely my dad would do the same. He was, unstoppable and bigger than life. Somewhere in my mind I planned for him to live forever. Then, he went and did the unexpected, something outside of my control and way outside of my comfort zone, He had the audacity to die on me, my mother, my brothers, his sister and certainly not least of them, his own mother. My mind that had formulated how this life would go, suddenly could not compute and I still find myself shaking my head and saying quietly to myself, “It doesn’t make any sense and this wasn’t supposed to happen this way.” Again, admission of how controlling I am and an example of how little control I actually have. So yes, my desire to leave a physical mark, is a way for me to try and control the uncontrollable.

However, over the past almost 7 months but specifically the last few weeks, I have been examining both my father’s and my Grandmother’s lives. They were as opposite as could be and in truth I am not so sure they cared for one another, but they had two things in common; one was a deep love for my mother and the other was this, they both were more than they thought they were.

I have spoken before about how my dad didn’t see how his life truly affected those around him, he didn’t see the beautiful qualities in himself that those around him saw so clearly. My Grandmother was much the same way. Both faced terrible times and mental scars that they would carry their entire life and never fully heal from. Though they had these things in their past, they still somehow chose to fight and move forward. And they were successful. No, they never made lots of money or became famous. There is no written record of theirs lives, save some journals and the oral stories we will pass down. They did leave however, an indelible mark on the lives around them. People worked harder for knowing them. People were more loving for knowing them, more understanding. I know they are my family and of course there is a partiality in me, but they truly touched the lives around them, I saw it in their life and I was reminded again of it in their death.They left behind something more precious than a book, they left a library of knowledge and love that I can learn from and pass on to my children, who will hopefully in turn, if I am successful, pass on again to their children and the people they meet.

So what do I want to leave behind? I wrote this the other night and after re-reading it, I think I am satisfied, for now, on this list:

‘To be more than I am. To leave a lasting impression on those around me,to leave behind a light that will continue to shine long after I am gone. To find a balance, to love and not judge too harshly. To again, find a balance and not focus on the fame or vanity of leaving an impression, but to focus on the impression itself, what kind will it be? To know my worth but not be arrogant. To love people, to be kind and thoughtful. To be a person of peace, to be a person of healing. To seek the face of God. To be a person of unity and not of division. To be me wholly and unapologetically with humility and love.’

To be more than I think I am.

The Journey

I’m not as centered as I seem.
And I’m not who I’ve been.
Somewhere deep there is a girl,
Trying to reinvent her world.

Tomorrow is a new day
And every step seems out of the way.
But forward I’ll go beyond my sight
Looking for the path that is right.

I do not hope, for hope begs,
I’ll stand with faith on my last leg.
The future unknowing, I’ll leap quite blind.
Beyond the sadness that is mine.

So the day next, when I wake
I’ll disregard what’s at stake,
I’ll fly off this cliff with such delight
Embracing my search for what’s right.

Into the darkness I’ll search through,
Your hand with mine, and mine with you.
Together we’ll tackle a foreign land,
With thoughtful reverence for times hand.

The Bat, The Girl, The Rock

And the bat devoured her entirely, except her fingers, which he found too boney and her breasts, which he found too fatty.
The bat was death. He stalked her by the night of her soul; The times her guard was down and she thought only of the mediocre, when she was tired and her mind was overwhelmed, when her feet ached from the walk. When finally she sat upon that rock, the rodent fell upon her.
Her thought faded from memory, her feet ceased to ache, she felt only nothingness.
And in that split second of consciousness and death, she wished she had kept walking.

Heratio! I die! Heratio!

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