Conversations with my father, part 1

I had a really great talk with my father today that brought up some interesting thoughts. After speaking with him I was left with a feeling of appreciation for the relationship we have and inspiration for today’s post. So here it is!

I have always been a daddy’s girl, but what is wonderful is the way my relationship with my father has evolved over the years. We were always very close, I was a bit of a tomboy and wanted to go fishing and camping with him all the time. My mother and my sister were always very similar, very organized, logical people. My father and I were the goofballs of the family. So we spent a lot of time together, but I wouldn’t say we ever really talked. We would hang out in the same space, happily playing together at whatever, but there were never really any sort of discussions of any depth that I can remember. The heart to heart talks were always with my mother, even though we didn’t always see eye to eye, she was the one who dealt with all the emotional stuff, the one I could go crying to and she would know what to do and say. My dad was never that way, though I never felt less close to him because of it. That was just his way, and I always appreciated it for what it was. But something changed very recently, and it has affected his relationship with me and I believe his relationship with the world in general. It has strengthened my own beliefs about life as well, has made me feel like I am on the right track to leading a fulfilled, happy life.

Some recent background: About a month or so ago at his regular doctor’s visit my father found out he had had a heart attack at some point in the last year. This led to tests and in the end a pacemaker to be put in. All is well, he is up and about like normal, even better, actually. He has lost weight and is exercising, being much more careful of his health. But emotionally it has taken a toll on him. This scare made him evaluate his life, actually look internally and take stock of things, which I doubt he had done for forty years, if ever. And what has seemed to happen is his emotional barriers were destroyed, instead of holding back all emotion and really, all discussion, he is finally letting go and connecting with himself and those around him in a very real, sincere way. It’s an amazing thing to witness, this epiphany in action. He was always easy going but now there is this openness to him. He engages people in conversation, and the conversations are wonderful, deep, insightful, and friendly. He is sincere and open and feels free to experience his emotions instead of bottling them up and putting them away as most men of his generation were raised to do. And this extends to everything, he is more empathetic which affects how he interacts with those around him, whether family, friends, or even random acquaintances. He was always a great storyteller but now he is an active listener as well, and it makes every conversation with him that much more enjoyable.

Personally, this has been an amazing change. The father I always adored and respected is now a very close friend as well. He has become someone to whom I can talk about anything, and I feel at ease, welcomed, appreciated. The best part is that he feels the same about me, we both appreciate this new dynamic so much. He will call just to chat now, and every time we end up having fantastic, long conversations about anything and everything and I hang up feeling more positive and motivated than before.

Today he told me about some conversations he had had with strangers recently that had really been enjoyable and we talked about how easy it is to become cynical when you look at a whole group of people, but how incredibly easy it is to feel optimistic when you focus on just one person at a time. Everyone has their stories, their struggles, their experiences. Everyone is interesting if you take the time to listen to them. We tend to get so wrapped up in all this information that is thrown at us at every moment from a million different sources. But all it does is make us lose sight of the micro. The personal interactions that can be simple but beautiful and uplifting. Because the macro is just too much sometimes, it’s too scary, too mean, too ugly. We can’t save the entire world, so either we ignore the problems or get depressed about them. But a simple interaction with a stranger can produce ripples that affect so much more than we realize. I’m not saying it will fix everything, but it definitely won’t hurt anything. We need to be reminded of others’ humanity constantly or we tend to get narcissistic and lose all empathy. I believe that is what has happened with people like the Koch brothers, or the Walton family. They have lost sight of individual people and so it is easier to allow the greed to take over and step on whoever gets in the way. There is no empathy, no realization that what they are doing is hurting so many, because they are not interacting with the people who are affected. They are isolated from the rest of humanity and because of their wealth and power they are able to take advantage however they like with no repercussions.

Now, I realize that some simple human interaction is not going to make the Koch brothers’ hearts grow like the Grinch, and I have no way of forcing that effect. But I believe that if everyone makes an effort to actually engage someone every day, they will find themselves enriched immeasurably. One conversation with someone random can make all the difference, you can learn something from everyone, and any exchange has the potential to leave you both smiling and in a better mood, which will help carry you both through the day. It makes it easier to believe that most people are in fact decent at heart. Or should I say, most individuals. People in groups can still be assholes.


Being thankful in a world that sometimes sucks

Lately every day it seems like we’re bombarded with horrible news. I fiercely believe in living happily but that doesn’t mean being unaffected or in denial about the world around you. At times I will talk about my opinions regarding controversial topics. I hope to share how my politics are an extension of my character and lifestyle, and I realize that not everyone who reads this blog will agree with me. That’s okay, we don’t all have to agree, but being able to have an open, calm outlet to discuss these things is very important. We can’t fix things if we don’t address them, and there are definitely a lot of things that need fixing.

Here is a quick intro to some of my core beliefs/stances on current issues:
The situation in this country is dire, and I stand very firmly with those people protesting the decision in Ferguson as well as those striking for the right to a living wage. I believe very strongly that corporations are not people and money does not belong in politics. I also believe that, unfortunately, it’s a dangerous and difficult country for certain people, mainly those people that are considered minorities. Which is ridiculous, considering we outnumber the supposed majority. (For those of you who don’t know me, though I look “white” I am actually latina, thus the use of we). I believe this country has amazing potential, it has this beautiful dream, but it seems to be self destructing right now. It’s pretty simple really, as a nation we are wealthy enough that no one should go hungry, homeless, or without medical care. If you work 40 hours a week you should be paid enough to live on. It is a matter of raising one another up so we all stand taller. That means no matter what sex, race, or sexual orientation, we take care of each other. We’re all human.

On to the good stuff

10733965_10205229659810892_6830196014085988086_nSo now that you have a bit of background I’d like to focus on the good stuff, the happy, lucky life I’ve recently been given. As I mentioned, my husband and I just moved to Hawaii, an absolute dream come true for both of us. It is possibly the only place we can imagine loving more than Long Beach, and, upon arrival, it won our hearts. Not to mention my body. The climate is perfect, I am able to be more active again, and the average pain level has dropped quite a bit. When I was living in Chicago I was generally at least at a seven on a one to ten scale of pain. When I moved to California, (on one of my extremely intense and seemingly random urges), it dropped to about a five. Between the climate change, the amazing job and the new love I was in heaven! It was the best I had felt since being diagnosed. Then came South Carolina, which pushed it back up to six or seven, mainly because with the smell, (we lived in a swamp), and the bugs that bit me unmercifully, I didn’t leave the house much. We were also living in an area where no one walked anywhere, there was nothing in walking distance and no crosswalks or bike lanes or anything nearby to make use of. Since we only had one car I just became a hermit, focused more inward and so the pain increased. Physically and mentally it was just not a good place for me. So, when we received orders to Hawaii you can imagine my reaction. It was like being given a second chance to get myself back together, back on track. I had been on the right path in Long Beach but I followed my heart away from it, knowing that it wouldn’t be going anywhere. I’ve always believed that once I found the right person the place and the job wouldn’t matter, places you can always go back to and there are always other jobs. And even as awful as I think South Carolina is, my husband is definitely worth a couple years in a crappy place. Especially when you look at where we are now!

I have always loved moving, there is something so therapeutic about purging all your unnecessary items and starting over somewhere new. It’s stressful but it’s beautiful, it’s a clean slate and an opportunity to restart and renew your enthusiasm for life. By moving to paradise I knew I was getting the ultimate opportunity, to rebuild what has become of my life with fibro. I don’t want to be a hermit anymore, I don’t want to be overweight and in pain all the time. Already I’m down to about a three or four on the pain scale on average. I have bad days that spike it up higher, but with all the activity here lately that’s no surprise. Overall, my baseline here is much lower, which allows me to continue the activity and work towards losing weight and feeling more healthy physically.

It’s incredible how it’s all connected, fibro has forced me to be more aware of my body’s rhythms and cycles. As I’m able to be more active it makes me more legitimately tired so I’m able to sleep soundly most nights. I’m less lethargic and foggy throughout the day, which is an amazing change. The fog that fibro puts you in is awful, it’s like living at a slower speed than the rest of the world. You’re slow to react, slow to think, nearly incoherent at times. What I found to be the scariest part was that when I’m in that fog I have no idea how bad it is. When we finally got me on a medication that worked I saw exactly how slowly my brain had been reacting. I went through brain exercises, before and during the medication and the results were astounding. Simple math problems, especially when timed, were nearly impossible without the meds. And I had no clue until we tested this, I thought I was operating maybe not at my full potential but near it. I thought fibro only affected my body, not my brain. So to find that easy logic puzzles or math problems made me stumble was disconcerting. Disconcerting and depressing. Thankfully the meds cleared that fog away for the most part. On days that the pain is higher my brain clearly functions slower, but nowhere near as bad as before the medication.

Now, with this combination of medication, activity, and sun it seems like maybe I can really start over, be almost like a normal person again. Putting myself in this situation, in this place with this person, is the best thing I have ever done for myself. Physically, emotionally, mentally I have been able to grow and adapt an outlook on everything that is much healthier, not to mention less stressful. Over time, you’d think that keeping up this endless positivity would get draining, but the opposite has happened, I find it is just in my nature now, it is my response to everything. And the more positive I am, the more positive things keep happening to me, and so I am happier and so the cycle keeps building. I don’t shy away from the bad things either, it’s not being in a state of denial, but rather a state of acceptance of both the good and bad in the world. I do get down sometimes, frustrated, hurt, etc. But, as cheesy as it sounds, it really is learning to accept the things we cannot change and changing the things we can. It took a while for that to really hit home for me, but now that it has I finally feel at peace with myself and my situation.