A Wise Old Soul

Conversation with Yaya this morning:

me: Hey, I like your outfit this morning. You look confident.

Yaya: What does “confident” mean?

me: It means you feel good about yourself.

Yaya: I ALWAYS feel good about myself, you don’t have to tell me.

What followed was a very inspiring, but matter of fact explanation from my beautiful, old soul of a girl about how you can only make yourself feel good about yourself, no one else can do it for you. You can’t try to make anyone else feel good about themselves because it won’t work, they can’t be unless they can do it themselves. When I asked her where she learned that, she said “No body told me, I just know, because it’s true.”

And, like so many other times in her life when she has stunned me with her simple wisdom, I just stepped back and felt lucky.

The same, only different

Holy crap, it’s been a while.

How the heck are you?

Me? Oh, good, good. Great summer. 12 hours sleep a night and restful days with the girl, family and cottage life agreed with me. Focused on forgetting about the fall and going back to work and just enjoying what I’m really hoping will be my one summer off for a long while. It wasn’t without occasional pitfalls, but generally, I just felt lucky.

Fall, meh. One year off work in September. A few more specialist appointments which confirm that there is no real magic bullet I’ve been missing. That one, “Well duh- no wonder you can’t stay awake!” appointment that sheds a light onto the cobwebbed corner of my body that’s been chugging along but finally stalled under the strain.

Physical activity has been particularly challenging and I have maybe 1 or two hours in me tops before I shut down. I try to make them count, but it means once again the house is a challenge. Awesome put in a full day of housework this past weekend while I sat on the couch unable to move much after a busy week. House still looks like a cyclone hit it. Our neighbours have a Wizard of Oz theme going on for Halloween tomorrow. I might offer up our house as Dorothy’s black and white witch killer.

Still, in all this I haven’t yet fallen into my typical fall depression. A little off balance, but so much better than previous years. Working on getting my sewing machine set up in the attic so that when the mood/energy hits I can do a few minutes of fun-ing. Enjoying my kids as much as I can. Smudge has been under stress from school, but there is finally a solid plan on that front so I’m hopeful he’ll be in much better shape in a few weeks. Yaya is ECSTATIC to have him joining her at her school and can hardly stop buzzing. (Truly grateful to my step-baby mama for always appreciating the value of Smudge and Yaya’s relationship and while there were many other reasons, the fact that he’s in our local school not hers is a huge blessing.)

This weekend, Yaya has a sleepover with her cousins while Awesome and I head to our friends’ party out of town. I have a bed at a nearby location so that when the festivities continue past my bedtime I can fall asleep peacefully without being a wet blanket. It’s going to be heavenly. Heavenly. Awesome is just my favourite to spend a day with. I don’t think I can tell him enough how much I value and adore him so it’s nice to be able to give him some of my “up” time I generally have to save for errands or the kids.

So that’s the state of the world. I’ve missed writing but haven’t known what to say. Hopefully that improves a little.

Happy Halloweening!

Princess Aggie

Getting in the picture

I’ve tried, seriously, I have. I have not one, but two entries entitled “Creative Block” sitting in my draft entries list. I keep thinking about writing but have somehow not been feeling it.

I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that I’ve relapsed a fair bit. March and some of April felt good physically. Mentally, not so much, but it was fun to be able to participate more fully in family life again. Awesome and I even decided to go on a short getaway last month to focus on the whole love and marriage thing and because it was almost the same price as a trip to a little resort Algonquin, we decided on a Monday to leave for Cuba less than 48 hours later. So, good.

Now it’s Saturday at noon. I’m still in bed, I’ve folded some laundry so I’m not as bad as, say, 6 months ago, but still can’t see getting organized enough (i.e. dressed) to go downstairs. I’ve slept or rested in bed most of every day this week and have been trashed by the time the kids go to bed.

Discouraging, but I’m working very hard at seeing the progress over the past few months, not the ebbs and flows week by week. Last Friday there was a death in my husband’s family and I managed to be mostly functional until Monday evening after visitations and the funeral when I collapsed, threw a temper tantrum and fell asleep at 8:30 with Yaya most tenderly telling me that she (most uncharacteristically) didn’t need me to sit with her while she fell asleep and I should go to my own bed to get some rest. Three months ago, I don’t know if I could do that.

So there’s that.

Mostly what inspired me to write though was this most amazing essay I just found from the Huffington Post by Allison Tate from last year. You may have read it already, but if not, holy crap- it has changed my perspective a whole hell-uva-lot.

Mom Stays In the Picture

As much as I’ve always tried to live by a love what the Universe gave you, body-image wise, I’ve struggled more recently. In some prior years I felt better or more confident about it than others, but overall I was pretty determined not to let my self-image get in the way of me living my life. Save a weird phase in high school where I declared somewhat arbitrarily that I didn’t want to have my photo taken, I tried to live how I’d want any person to live. Find your style no matter what your body looks like and be proud.

I had my daughter, put on a ton of weight and then lost a bunch more while I was nursing and biking a ton to train for The Ride to Conquer Cancer. I was the lightest I’d been since I was 14. Wasn’t sure how to dress and felt awkwardly thin but then I went on some meds (I assume that might have been it anyways) and swung in the opposite direction. I’m now the heaviest I’ve ever been by a margin and I doubt that will change much any time soon.

Now the challenge has been to try to own it. Whatever I can be doing for my health, I’m trying so now I have to really try to feel comfortable and confident. But I don’t. My body feels unfamiliar after 6 years of fluctuation.I look at photos from the past few years and I cringe. Days where I felt pretty good, looking back on photos I feel ugly and large. I go shopping and really don’t know where to begin finding clothes that feel “me” and that I feel attractive in. It’s been hard because one of the things I’m most proud of in my daughter is her confidence in her style and appearance. I’d like to think at least some of that is my influence, but then again, how could it be when I hate so many of our family photos because of how I look?

It has nothing to do with how I actually look, but more on internalizing my overall intrinsic worth. It really isn’t much different for me than feeling worthless as a wife and mother because of the amount of dishes piling up in the sink or the number of times we’ve eaten out because I haven’t had the energy to put together a meal before everyone comes home in the evening. Feeling forgiveness and love for myself is tough because I haven’t yet internalized one of my core beliefs, that everyone is intrinsically valuable and worthy of good things, love and beauty. I can be convinced of it in others, but not myself.

So my new goal is to Get In the Picture and try to see myself through my children’s eyes. To take lots of photos and see the moment, not the body and try bit by bit to regain a sense of confidence that will sustain and nourish me no matter what my size.

Seriously, read the essay.

Enjoy your weekend!
Princess Aggie

Where be I now…

So now we’ve firmly established that I was not abducted by aliens, I guess the next thing is how I’m doing.

The good news is that I am starting to feel better than a couple of months ago. I’m still in a fog and sleeping a bunch, but when I’m on, I’m more “on” than I’ve been in a while. In the past month post-Florida, I’ve made meals.

I should clarify, I hate cooking. I’m not sure it’s the actual cooking that I hate, so much as its the mess that comes along with it, and the time it takes that I tend to resent. When you’ve got limited energy in life, things that quickly need to be done over again are pretty much the least rewarding activities ever (à la folding laundry). I’d rather clean the toilets because at least I can look at them for a couple of days admiring that I got SOMETHING accomplished in my week. Not that I clean toilets that often either, but…

Anyhow, as I’ve started to have a bit more oomph, I discovered that I love produce shopping at Costco. The decision making is easy. The amounts are predetermined by the packaging. Reasonably priced. It’s made it easy to shop once a week, quickly, have enough of the right stuff and know it will last.

So with groceries far more under control, I’ve taken to cooking at least twice a week. Doesn’t seem like much, but believe me, it is. Veggies and chicken with peanut sauce, spaghetti, meatloaf with roast potatoes, salad. I haven’t cooked this much in a long time. It actually feels good. Who knew? The dishes might not get done until, ahem, later, but at least Awesome can focus on the kids and relaxing a bit when he gets home rather than putting together something last minute.

The next thing to work on is the whole pacing-thing. I seem to have two modes- on and off. On is reserved for having to be out and about, driving, modest visiting and keeping my cool with the kids. Off is most of the other time. I have fallen into pushing myself until I can barely stand and the resting until the last possible moment before I have to be active again. Routine is non-existent and the energy not really regular enough to turn into something more. My goal of getting back to work will in part depend on being able to be on at regular intervals and for stretches that I can depend on. That’s where I aim next. Not sure how, but it’s a goal. So long as I don’t get side-swiped by a virus again like last week where I slept for about three days straight before actually getting sick (for the first time in years, yay! I’ll explain that one another time) I should hopefully keep moving in the right direction.

At some point I’ll have to figure out the cooking AND the cleaning…

Not sure if this post makes sense today. Struggling with the whole having-a-cohesive-point thing.

Peace out,
Princess Aggie

Reincarnation

Ahhh, sweet, sweet reincarnation.

So to start off where have I been?

Long story.

When I was turned down for disability insurance back in February, things were pretty shitty. It was difficult facing the reality of what it would take to have to prove my disability and feeling (rightly or wrongly) that I was not being believed. It was daunting to figure out where to go from there. It was overwhelming to know how crappy I felt on a daily basis and know that I was unable to contribute to the financial well being of my family, but knowing that we could only tread water for so long.

So Awesome and I went to see a personal injury lawyer to try to appeal my claim. I cannot tell you just how uncomfortable that was and how awful I felt that day. I cried in all sorts of unseemly ways and poor Awesome once again stepped in as my rock. The lawyer agreed to take on my case on three conditions. One was to take down the blog, another was to remove my Facebook profile.

The blog, apparently, showed that I was too functional and lucid for the insurance company’s liking- particularly if I would be sick for longer than the initial 2 year period and had to prove that I was unable to work in any industry or job. Despite the fact that I can sleep the days away which might in itself disqualify me from gainful employment, I have learned to deal with this my whole life. Things suck, but I’ve always had to plough through and not go crazy when I’m tired. It’s my way. The Facebook profile needed to be taken down because anything on there could be used and twisted to the insurance company’s benefit- from “Likes” to comments. If I’m able to browse, I’m able to do some sort of job. Apparently they are good at finding even the most secure of profiles, which doesn’t seem to far fetched. Despite that I believe very strongly that nothing on either could be used to prove anything but the extent of my fatigue, I understood where he was coming from.

So I bawled about the state of my life and, feeling cornered and basically optionless, I took down both. I felt cut off from contact with such a huge part of my support network. Having most of my friends still in Toronto while I was rarely driving out of town, they were ways of staying in the loop on people’s lives, keeping people updated on what was happening with me without the exhausting individual conversations and correspondence and feeling connected in general to the social world when I sometimes barely left the house.

I tried to convince myself that I was doing it because I had nothing to lose. The lawyer only got paid if the claim was successful and told me my only job was to try and get better. We lost nothing if we lost the appeal. Except for condition number three. “Don’t let them photograph you grocery shopping or taking out the garbage.” Uhm, come again? Yes, that meant of course that they would likely have me followed by a private investigator. On one hand it made perfect sense and seemed even reasonable. If I were potentially having to dole out that much money for up to 30 years (I can’t even imagine that I’ll be off for more than a year), I’d want to do everything I could to ensure it wasn’t a hoax too. I get it. On the other hand, it meant I lived with the constant paranoia of being watched. Our main floor is all windows, all close to the street. Would they be watching me in my house? If we were low on food and the energy struck, did that mean I couldn’t even pick up a couple of things for fear they would think the bags I was carrying would demonstrate that I was physically capable? My feet were at that point in constant pain, did I have to walk to make it clear that I was uncomfortable when I did manage to go out to show I wasn’t lying? It sounds crazy, but with everything I had read and was told, didn’t seem far fetched at the time. My worry was not that I was being dishonest, it was that they would try to parade my 4 o’clock trip out to obliterate the fact that I’d slept until 2:30 that day.

This fortunately or not was happening just the week before we were to go on a long ago planned trip to Florida to stay with my in laws. There were supplies to be packed, clothes to be laundered, basic housework to be done so that the house wasn’t a petri-dish by the time we got back. When I wasn’t sleeping or half unconscious on the couch in a daze, I had to be getting ready. The entire time I was going about my week though I was constantly looking for the car following me or the person hiding to take photos of me. I was paranoid that even though I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it through the journey to Florida, that the sheer act of making it through the airport with kids and carry-on would somehow be immortalized and used to show that I was somehow fine enough pick up a regular job again.

We did have a wonderful trip. My in-laws aside from being lovely people who raised a wonderful son are generous, fun and kind-hearted. The kiddies were set up on inflatable beds in their room while awesome and I got to enjoy a bit more sleep in the mornings. Awesome and the folk-in-laws would often take the kids for a morning adventure while I slept even more. The beautiful, white sand beach was steps away and the complex had two pools. Even though the weather was downright chilly a few of the days, we fit in all sorts of adventures including an orange grove festival, scavenger hunt, sunset drumming circle, Yaya’s 5th birthday extravaganza and yes, Awesome and I went on our annual outlet mall shopping expedition. I was never far from a seat the entire time and didn’t do any heavy lifting but as the week went on the darnedest thing happened. I started to feel human again. Whether it was the ocean air, the barefoot “grounding” my sleep doc recommended, the sunshine or just being away with some of my favorite people in life, the last day there I was able to spend 2 1/2 hours in the pool guarding the kids while they learned to (barely avoid drowning) swim independently and still have enough energy to pack, head to the airport and do airplane kid duty when Awesome was seated across the plane from us.

When I got back, I decided in short order that the paranoia was not worth it. I wasn’t sleeping worrying about my good days being anything other than a good thing. It was March break the week after we got back and I would have to function for the girl and I wanted her to know that it was happy, special time to me. Awesome and I, with the support of my wonderful folks, decided to call off the lawyer having done an economic cost-benefit analysis and knowing it could be a very long time before we saw any financial benefit from the insurance company even if it were successful.

I was feeling quite optimistic about possibly returning to work or at least easing back in after my miraculous improvement in Florida but after a week and a half I was pretty out of it and generally exhausted again. Premature planning, maybe, but still nice to even get a glimpse of a normal life again. The 8 ft snow fort on the neighbours’ front lawn has melted away and my mothers crocuses are starting to peek through the soil- here’s to hoping that the spring brings health anew. I know it’s not as simple as all that because it the big crash started in the summer, but here’s to hoping that it helps!

In the meantime, I’ve been taking my time in restarting the blog. I bought the domain name and set up the site a few weeks ago but haven’t felt the urge to write until now. Because I had to delete the old site entirely, I’m not able to load up all 42 previous entries, but was hoping to pick a few to create a background archive. If you think of any of my old entries you think I should include in that, let me know in the comments below.

In love and gratitude,
Princess Aggie

Another day in Anxietyville

Needless to say, the week has started with a whole lot of worry about the impending insurance appeal. I have zero ability to deal with it now as I go into fight or flight at the first sign of any conflict. Apparently it’s a chemical thing- hopefully that explains the chest-tightening and the overwhelming desire to dissolve into tears at the drop of a hat. Where I normally can see rationally and strategically and go into planning mode, I now only see a muddle of factors that swim around my head avoiding all attempts to weigh, make sense of or organize them. A label maker is normally one of my favourite gadgets, but the mounds of paper I’m collecting don’t seem to want to find any systematic filing and resist any sense of order. In prior lives I’ve made piles of paper chaos turn into beautiful cabinets of chronological and alphabetic tranquility so it’s unsettling to feel so lost.

The good news is that Yaya has been wonderful and caring and engaged, Awesome still manages to make me feel human and calm for beautiful moments, even as he’s pulling double household and parenting duty while I’m asleep or resting upstairs and we have a short, hot family holiday heading our way that was planned long before any of this started (next challenge, packing and being able to make it through the trip there somehow).

I’m falling apart, but am working on using some of the techniques I learned from the psychologist back in November to attempt to not fall so out of touch that I can’t see how lucky I am. I’m losing myself in this illness, but am reminded of who I can be by the reflection in the eyes of those who love and care about me. I have no idea who I am any more and feel unrecognizable to myself but am clinging onto the hope of others that this too shall pass.

Trying not to feel overly dramatic, but I don’t think it’s working.

Oh well. One foot in front of the other. Go.

Princess Aggie