The longest goodbye?

flickering candle This week I am at a writer’s workshop and had all intentions of going all gung-ho on writing my book, but something has me so unsettled that I had to break free from the formality of writing my manuscript in order to tell you about it. It’s really weighing heavy on my mind, and I have found out in the course of becoming an author — as long as I purge whatever is bothering me through the use of words (which means I *am* still writing) I can get back to my regularly-scheduled programming.

I came across this poem today and, in light of recent news, I wanted to share it.

Saving You

The darkness takes him over,
the sickness pulls him in;
his eyes—a blown out candle,
I wish to go with him.

Sometimes I see a flicker—
a light that shone from them;
I hold him to me tightly,
before he’s gone again.” 
― Lang LeavLove & Misadventure

As sad as it is, isn’t it also so beautiful?

I am one of many people in this world who loves a veteran that is suffering from a traumatic brain injury and/or post traumatic stress. It changes them not only on cellular level, but on a deeper level that reaches into their soul. Some days we have good days and I get a glimpse of the man I met and married nearly 22 years ago. Other days I don’t recognize him at all. Some days he surprises me with words he’d long forgotten to speak. Other days he’s silent and lost in an abyss where words can never reach the places he needs them the most.

Right now I am going through a bit of a roller coaster. Dan has been going through some health challenges that have put him into a place where he is hard to reach. I received news from his doctor night before last about very alarming results in his recent lab work. While this isn’t new news, it’s news that was worse than the labs before it, and the labs before that. We knew he was struggling, but modern science has proven just how hard he’s struggling…

Without revealing all that is wrong and violating his privacy, I can summarize it in one sentence:

I feel like I am watching him die slowly

For the sake of sounding dramatic (which is definitely not my style) – this is exactly how I feel.

I’ve written in the past about Dan’s tendency to over-react (and dramatics are definitely not HIS style, either) at the mere thought of losing me, or his fear of what he would do if something terrible ever happened to me.

I get it. I really do. What would happen to him if something happened to me? To help with addressing those ‘what if’s’ in life, I took a step back from the chaos to put my attention where it is needed the most.

But I really hadn’t felt the fear of losing him …until now. THAT is why I am writing about it today. If I don’t, I feel like I may crack and shatter into a million pieces.

The story behind this story

I didn’t talk about it back when it happened, but I had a very pivotal moment last month. It solidified my realization of Dan’s true fears. On the surface it would be so insignificant — we’ve seen many presidents do it on TV, yet they drive on and continue running our country — but to me it was an imprint on my mind that came back to haunt me.

A visual I will never forget…

I was stepping off a small airplane onto the tarmac, and in a moment of not paying better attention, my foot slipped and I missed the last couple of steps. It was like you see in the movies…. s-l-o-wwwww  m-o-t-i-o-n. As I contorted my body to land as gracefully as I could, I connected my eyes to Dan’s face as he reached for me to catch me. He wasn’t fast enough. As each of my body parts connected to the cement beneath me, his face contorted into the most horrific look of fear I have EVER seen on his face.

He was truly horrified.

It was surreal in a way. For a moment I wondered if that was the same face he made while in combat and witnessing the things that changed him forever.

I can’t explain how his face shifted and how his eyes screamed in horror, but what I can tell you is this:

I was certain that what went through his mind was his realization that he couldn’t protect me. He couldn’t save me. He was watching the very person he relies on for every element of his life slipping away to a place where bad things happen.

I got up as gracefully as a middle-aged woman could and shrugged it off. I spent more time comforting him than he was trying to do for me.

When I got the news from his doctor, everything I knew about my world changed

As I reviewed the results of Dan’s labs and let the historical data set in, I think my face contorted in horror much like his did last month when I landed in a pile at the bottom of the airplane steps.

It became clear to me: I am not afraid to die. I am afraid if HE died.

So many questions and conversations ran through my mind…

What more could I have done to prevent this? I would never forgive myself if this is something preventable. Even if I am doing all I know how to do, what if I could have done more?

Then it sunk in…. This is a terminal illness when I really get down to it. Morbid? Yes. But it’s also our new reality.

Worst yet in the “Hey, let’s blame ourselves” department:

What if everything I have been doing I do to care for him is exactly what is killing him? What if the food he eats and the medications I make sure he takes are the reason why he’s going downhill?

And the biggest question of all…

What should I do?

The answer is, I really don’t know. But what I do know is this:

There is a difficult dynamic that goes on when a spouse becomes a caregiver. The roles change from lover to mother. I become the nag when I have to get on him about better choices in his health. For all intents and purposes (and in his defense) he’s not deliberately making bad choices. He just needs help with making better choices.

And that’s where the conflict sets in. I am guaranteed to step into the role of being his nagging mother.

I’d much rather work on being his lover, but that will probably have to wait for awhile.

Guys like my husband do NOT do well with change. Everything in their world is based on predictability, routines and habits.

In order to help him, I have to turn his whole world upside down. There will be no predictability. All his routines we worked so hard to create will now change. All his habits, the very thing that keeps him grounded, will also need to change. There will be significant consequences.

So I have to learn to let that go. It is what it is, so I might as well deal with it.

Backing up even further in this issue, let’s go to the things I can control and help him with…what he puts in his body.

Even if I can change his entire diet (which was already verified by multiple professionals that I was doing everything right) and find even better options for him to eat, we simply cannot afford to buy things like organic foods or lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

This brings me back to the guilt of not starting a garden sooner. I was too busy being busy, and I could really use a garden right now!

Again, it is what it is. I have to learn to let go of that and deal with it.

If we take him off any of the medications he’s currently on, there will be consequences. He’s FINALLY stable enough with his PTSD medications that he hasn’t had outbursts in quite awhile. I can deal with the isolation and anxiety, but controlling the outbursts were such a big win for him. If we change his medications in any way, something we’ve worked SO hard to get leveled over the years, we are back to square one. We are back to him having rages, outbursts, broken furniture and broken hearts.

So, now what do I do?

Am I realllly ready to let it go and deal with it?

Um. No.

But it’s all I’ve got left to do.

Dan is doing what I expected he will do. He’s in denial. This mimics the five stages of grief. He’s denying there is any problem because it’s so much easier to ignore it than to accept it.

The fifth and final stage is acceptance. I want to get to that place and help him get to that place too.

How can I, in the face of health issues that are life-shortening or life-threatening, skip to the acceptance stage? Or, better yet… prevent all of these stages from being needed and at least keep them at bay?

Our society is conditioned to assume we all plod along at a high level of function until we are suddenly struck down by a catastrophic event or illness. When that happens, everything will be over nice-and-clean. But that catastrophic event was a near-miss and he beat all odds. We spent years reaching his fullest potential in his recovery after his combat wounds.

It’s really hard for me to swallow that bitter pill that our best days very well may be behind us, and now we are entering a prolonged decline.

And sometimes the cure is often worse than the disease.

What is the difference between saving a life and prolonging dying?

Well, the truth in all of this depressing news and spiraled thinking is this:

I haven’t given up yet. He might, as he does from time to time, but I am going to keep doing what I’ve always done and never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up.

I will find a way.

I don’t want our children to worry more than their young lives have had to deal with already. They will need me more than ever to give that stability and peace of mind that got them through to this point in our lives.

I want them to know that I am going to do everything in my power to keep their father in their lives for as long as God will give him. Until then, there is certainly one thing I CAN do…

I have chosen to improve the life we have

This may come in the form of putting things at the top of my list of things to do that were previously buried a lot further down. I am going to make and preserve memories. I am going to take what we have left together and make it the best damn life I know how to create. I can’t let my life be driven by all the what-if’s we’ve had to process. Instead, I am going to ask myself a different kind of ‘what if” and do it like this:

What if I shut off the phone for a month and let the world disappear while I took my family to places that made us happy?

What if I did things that are sure to make him happy, thus making all of us happy, and soaked it up instead of rushing to the next thing?

What if we let go of the past and started focusing on the future, even if the future isn’t guaranteed?

What if everything I do really is good enough, and I go on to release myself of the emotional baggage …and accept the fact I can’t save him no matter how hard I try?

What if I put that energy into something more meaningful instead and just lived our damn life already?

What if I didn’t look at this as the longest goodbye and just embraced it as our new season of finally getting around to living?

Yeah, I like that so much better.

I woke up this morning and out of nowhere Dan started singing “You are my Sunshine” to me. I can’t tell you how much I miss hearing his incredible voice breaking out into a song. That was one of the reasons I feel in love with him. He would sing to me, for me, and sometimes even about me. It helps that he’s also an incredibly talented singer, though he’ll argue with you if you tell him so.

I joined him in the melody, and before you knew it, we were singing it together.

I held onto that image in my head and pushed all the other images aside.

This is going to take a lot of practice. You see, Dan is not the only one that relies on predictability, routines and habits. I have to upend my entire world too.

I intend to do everything I can. I refuse to see it as a glimpse of the man I married that will eventually flicker and go out like a candle in the wind. I see him singing to me today as one of the many memories I plan to preserve forever and ever. Even if it’s the last time he does it, all that matters is that he did it that one last time.

We never know if our moments are a ‘one last time’, so let’s spend all of them as if they are.

And like the poem at the beginning of my post said:

I am going to hold him tightly, before he’s gone again.


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Metamorphosis

@TorreyLisa shares her metamorphosis in getting to the next stage of living her life intentionally Have you ever been on the precipice of something big in your life but you just couldn’t put your finger on what it was? Like, you knew that your life was going to change (or needed to change) and that it was just beyond your reach and hiding behind a veil that was clouding your vision? You can feel it, but that’s about it. Sometimes you can feel it deep in your bones and sometimes you don’t even know why.

Yeah, that’s been me for the last few months. And I think I just lifted the veil enough to talk about it.

I’ve really been struggling over the last few months to find clarity in my life. I knew I was over-the-top happy about how some things in my life, but I also knew that I was unhappy about other things – and those things kept sucking me down. I was letting it dilute my waves of happy. Years of stress and living inside a scarcity mindset was taking a toll on me. I was basically spiraling downward in that regard and I knew I had to put my feet firmly on the brakes. I decided I was tired of letting that aspect of my life have any control over the good things. I recognized feelings reminiscent of the worst times of my life creeping in. It wasn’t that I was forgetting about the good stuff… but more like I was really tired of the bad stuff. So I did what I have learned to do over the years: I initiated an emergency tactical pause in my life.

But I also did something new to me: Even though I struggled with the feelings, I recognized them for what they were and leaned into the discomfort. I ordered a shit-ton of self help books and started spending less time helping others with their problems and started focusing solely on my own.

That was the hardest shift of all. All I know is helping others. I’ve been doing it all my life. My parents always said I was the one who brought the strays home. (not that any of you are strays… it’s just the best way I can describe how I’ve always looked out for the little guys and put the needs of others high on my list of priorities.)

So one day (Sorry, but I can’t exactly tell you when that day was) I woke up and realized that the universe started conspiring FOR me instead of against me in small and unexpected ways. And then one day…BOOM! Big things started to happen and I wasn’t exactly sure why.  And then one day I woke up and said… “holy schneikies! What just happened to me?”

I didn’t know where to start when it came to writing about it. I wanted to write, but I couldn’t quantify what what happening inside me. It was like I needed to allow myself the time to curl up on a cocoon and emerge in this new version of me before I could spread my wings and show you how I was learning how to fly.

And today is the first day I feel like I can even talk about it.

I think I figured out why. I can’t prove it. I can’t really even explain it. But this is my best guess:

Instead of questioning what I wanted or needed in my life, and instead of second-guessing if I was the right person to have, do or need such things – and second-guessing my abilities to reach all the goals I set for myself — I put it all out to the universe and released it.

Then an amazing thing happened: the universe found a way to loop it all back to me.

I’ll write in more detail in upcoming posts about things I can now pinpoint that worked, but for now I will summarize:

I started putting more time into self reflection (not easy for someone who cannot sit still) and dabbled in more self care doing things like meditation. My eye twitch isn’t completely gone, but it’s no longer constantly annoying me. I can feel the effects of this transition over the last few months that allowed me to start finding answers deep inside me to questions I didn’t even know I had.

Call it whatever you want: A midlife crisis. A breakdown. A breakthrough. Losing my mind. Luck.

Whatever it is, I’ll take it.

I decided I am going to call it my “metamorphosis” and let it go at that.

 


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What are your friendships built on?

friendship

Photo credit: foto4quote.com

I love this quote from C.S. Lewis:

“Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one!”

Friendships are commonly built on being able to relate to each other. My friendships involve encouragement, laughter, commiserating together on difficult days, and bouncing ideas off of each other.

I’ve been incredibly blessed to have some of the most wonderful friends a woman could ask for. Many of them I have never met in person! I’ve lost a few along the way, too. They fell to the wayside because we either grew apart because we could no longer relate, or I could see it was a one-way street and not a give-and-take relationship. Instead of mourning that loss of what the friendship once was, or feeling bad for being taken advantage of, I remind myself that that loss  just made room for better friendships to come into my life.

There are some moments in our lives that can change a friendship forever. The best moments are the ones where we find out about each other, or find out more about each other.

Don’t hide from the world because you are afraid to get hurt. You are losing out on a chance to form friendships or relationships that can last forever.

God will weed your garden and help you make room for those who deserve and earn your friendship. I promise.

Most of all, remember this: One of the best friendships you can ever have is with yourself. Some people will stab you in your back. Some people will lie. Others will leave you feeling alone when you can’t afford to be. Those are the days you need to be your own best friend.

A strange thing happened when I started writing on this blog. People I’ve never met — who were scattered to the four winds — came out of hiding to say, “I thought I was alone, and now I realize I am not.”

And that made me feel less alone too.

We have to stick together, and I am so grateful for each of you who are in my life. Even if it is a quick comment on my blog or on social media, I value each of the connections that come with sharing my story. In turn, I get to learn yours too.

What are your friendships built on? Have you made room for more meaningful relationships along the way?


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Dear outsiders looking in: Don’t let the appearance of normal days fool you

A relatively new blogger on the caregiver scene wrote a fantastic post about her feeling a need to explain or apologize whenever her wounded warrior has a good day. He’s able to participate in the family on these days. He’s able to get out of the house on these days. They feel like they have to justify monies spent on a family dinner. Worst of all, it opens up their exposure to insensitive comments about how ‘lucky’ they must be to not have to work or how fortunate she is to stay home as a caregiver on a full-time basis.

I could relate to every single thing she discussed. I am betting there are many more who can relate too. Can you?

Here is the original post, which I would like to address here with my own opinion and experience of the issue:

I feel like I need to apologize

Specifically, I want to quote the following from her blog…

“It isn’t just the motorcycle that makes me feel like I need to explain and apologize when we act normal. If we take the kids to dinner or go to a movie I feel like I have to (take an extra mortgage out on the house to take 6 people and) explain to everyone that it has been a very good day for the hubbyman and we were able to get out of the house, but this doesn’t happen all the time. I think I know why I feel this way. I, like many other caregivers and disabled veterans, have been the recipient of the dreaded “oh it must be nice to get paid to stay home” remark. I have also heard, “he doesn’t look disabled” too many times to count.  I have also been told by other wives of disabled vet’s “I wish we could live off his disability” and “Why can’t I can’t paid to stay home? Why are YOU so lucky?” These statements in any form or version make me want to lose my shit and bug the fark (see momma I didn’t say the “F” word! hahaha) out on whoever was DUMB enough to say it! I think it irritates me so much because I can’t think of a single polite way to respond. What I want to say is something to the effect of “You are too stupid to keep sucking air. Get out of my face!” or something sarcastic like, “Oh yes, because the hubbyman is SOOOOO lucky to have fallen 27 feet and broken his back in six places at the age of 27. I wish everyone could have been that lucky!””

And this…

“What I usually do is remember to breath, smile, and say politely, “Not every wound is visible, but I agree that the country needs to do better about taking care of it’s wounded warriors.” or “We budget every dime we get. It’s not easy to manage a family of 7 on disability and caregiver pay. The hubbyman would LOVE to be able to work, but he simply isn’t able to.” Let’s be honest, the hubbyman is a man like any other. He has struggled (and STILL struggles) with the fact that he cannot physically or mentally get up and go out and work to bring home enough to support our family.”

Lastly, and probably most importantly…

“PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY don’t ask my hubbyman how he got hurt or if he has killed people. Don’t ask those questions of any combat veteran! It sets the veteran off and puts us wives into a tailspin because it can cause our veteran’s PTSD to flair up. Flashbacks are a bitch (sorry momma I couldn’t say it any other way) and they can happen to if our veterans start talking about and reliving their war stories. If the veteran wants you to know those kinds of details he will tell you (or give his wife permission to talk about it on her blog…ya know, whatever the case may be).”

In my world, it happens almost every day

steak dinner Like I said, I could relate to her post on many levels. I’ve written about elements of these issues before but it has been awhile since I’ve mentioned it. Just last week I hesitated to post a picture on Facebook of a fabulous steak dinner that my husband and I were enjoying at a restaurant while we were out of town. I wanted to explain and re-emphasize (which I think I actually did to some degree in my comments) that we don’t eat out for multiple reasons: We can’t afford it unless it’s a rare occasion, and this was a rare (and special) occasion. We live in such a remote area that dining out is a major event just to DRIVE far enough to get to a restaurant. I cook every night regardless of how tired I am because there is no drive through or pizza delivery. And, in the case of this specific dinner splurge, it was on special.

Why do I even feel like I have to explain?

Well, I’ll tell you why. Just like the above-blogger said, we get insensitive comments from others who assume too much. I was even stalked by an online group who said that my husband was ‘stealing their hard-earned tax dollars”! They went absolutely bat-shit crazy when they later found out (through their continued stalking) that my husband’s student loans were forgiven due to his disability, and I was teaching others how to apply for the same benefit too.

I know I need to work on my need to justify the good days, the good moments, the good times, but it’s hard to do when people who don’t even know you feel like they know more about how your life should be lived than you do. It’s a guilt complex, in part, but it’s also a pre-emptive need to ward off attacks that we know will eventually come. At the very least, insensitive comments that pop up when you least expect it.

There are only two days a week that my husband leaves the house, and those are the days he goes bowling. We chose to regularly go bowling because it also serves as physical therapy for him. PT is hard to acquire through regular VA channels so this is our ‘outside the box’ approach to his ongoing need for treatment. It forces him to get out of the house. It forces him to work on his depth perception (because he only has one eye). It forces him to remain upright and balanced. It improves his self esteem. It took years, actually, for him to get comfortable enough to trust all the people who are with us on those days. He’s still on guard in this environment, but the support of our team mates has resulted in this success for him. I am truly thankful for our community for their supportive part in this journey.

However, even with our amazing community support, there will always be that ONE person who assumes that if he is able to walk and talk or throw a bowling ball, he has no right to a handicap parking space. Or, perhaps it’s another person who assumes he functions at this level 24/7. Just the other day we had a conflict. Our son was advocating for the bowling alley management to turn the TV’s to a benign channel like the Weather Channel so that my husband would not be exposed to news about the Boston bombings. Management insisted the news remain on for the rest of the customers. You can imagine how helpless our son must have felt in not being able to minimize his Dad’s exposure. We just do the best we can with what we have and navigate through this difficult world as best we can.

What I am trying to say and share here is this:

If you are a caregiver like me and the blogger quoted above, I believe we NEED to continue talking about these struggles. We also need to celebrate the good days and not feel guilty about it when they happen. We need to share those stolen moments more than we tend to do.

For those who are not in our shoes, please keep reading our stories. Take a few minutes of your day and try to understand the world we live in. We don’t necessarily expect you to understand it on every level, but on the most basic levels. It makes my heart sing when I get comments on this blog from readers who say things like “Wow, I didn’t realize or look at it this way. Thank you for opening my eyes!”

In order for us to remain sane in a crazy world, we need to celebrate the good days. We need to splurge once every few months and do something ‘normal’ for a change. We don’t sit around doing nothing all day. We work our asses off, and if one night of no cooking and no dishes bothers you that much then the problem isn’t with me…it’s with you.

Sound off! Do you fall into the trap of feeling like you have to explain or apologize for your good days? Are you on the outside looking in and now see things just a little bit differently by reading our stories? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Please consider sharing this post elsewhere to continue the discussion. Thank you!

 


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“There is no prosthesis for the brain” – {featuring Lisa K from Texas}

brainTorrey’s Note: This post was authored by my dear friend and fellow veteran caregiver, Lisa Krohnke. I was really impressed with the message that she shared on her Facebook page that I asked for her permission to reprint it on my blog. In this piece she articulates so well a deeper message that people need to hear. Take a few moments to read through. You’ll get a glimpse of many layers of the lives we live. I hope you can appreciate it as much as I did!

There is no prosthesis for the brain

I’m really not a fan of whining about my ailments on FB (although I have been known to a time or two LOL) because I realize there is always someone way worse off than me. But I am kind of going to tonight but I promise I have a point.

I have many friends who are either wounded warriors with PTSD and TBI or their caregivers (including my husband). Most of them have physical injuries as well; injuries like amputations, burns, degenerative joint disease, lung disease etc. All of them have been told by some one at some time to just “get over it”. Just focus on being positive and you can learn to walk again. Just focus on being positive and your burn scars won’t bother you as much. Just focus on being positive and you can do physical therapy to restore your mobility etc. etc. etc.

This advice is not given to be mean or degrading although it is given with a certain ignorance to what its like to have an injury to the brain. One friend has been branded “lazy” by some fellow amputees who do not suffer from severe PTSD as he does. They can’t understand why they can work, they can attend retreats and they can socialize with other amputees when he can not. They have decided he just isn’t trying hard enough. Yet he does try hard. He tries extremely hard. Just to find the emotional strength to face another day. And he is not lazy. In fact, he deployed multiple times to combat and was awarded medal after medal for his heroic service. One of the men who has treated him the worst lost a limb at the beginning of his first combat tour. Not that that makes it easy but he is not dealing with PTSD or TBI so it does make it easier.

Which brings me to my whining.

In December I had a sinus infection that became septic and spread to my knee. Last night I had an incredible run (well walk/run for me) with my son Mike. It was not long (only 30 minutes) and like I said I walked a lot. It was the first real attempt at a run for me since the infection. This morning I woke up with a knee swollen to at least two times its normal size. But Mike needed to be taken an hour away for his STARR test and I needed to run some errands in town so I did what the army wife that I will always be has always done – I sucked it up and did what needed to be done.

It wasn’t until my knee gave out from under me this evening that I actually accepted something is wrong. So I did what any good Google doctor would do and I googled my symptoms. I promise I am not a hypochondriac but I could not find a thing that this could be that didn’t mean I will probably never run again. At the very least it will be a long road back and even then running again is unlikely.

So I did the natural thing. I held a pity party for myself. I cried and cried and in between catching breaths I sniffled that I will never be able to run with my son again. When I was tired of crying I hopped on one leg into the kitchen, grabbed a bag of cookies, and proceeded to scarf down half the bag.

After about two hours of this I finally decided it was time for the pity party to end. I did what most of us would do. I brushed the cookie crumbs off of my give-up-on-life pants and proceeded to google ways around my fate. I looked into alternative medicine, I ordered books on my kindle about healing the body using the mind, I downloaded physical therapy videos, and I researched every orthopedic surgeon that takes tricare in a 100 mile radius and checked their rep (no way I’m going back to the quack I saw when this all started).

Now before anyone gets upset I DO realize my situation does not compare with an amputation or other war injury, but that’s not my point. My point is that thinking about life without running, and possibly without walking in a few years is devastating to me. But I am able to use a positive attitude to pick myself up and find ways to adapt. How do I do that? The same way we all do it- I use my brain.

But what does the person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder use to “get over it” when they have a physical injury? What does the person with a Traumatic Brain Injury use to “get over it” when they have a physical injury? For that matter what do they use to “get over” their brain injury?

There is no prosthesis for the brain :-/

The end :-)

(written by Lisa Krohnke and reprinted with permission)

 


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If you are having a bad day, read this…

Having a bad day? Read this.

For best results, use as directed.

Wash, rinse and repeat.

For internal use only.

feed-brand-enjoy

Today was just a bad day. That’s all… just a really bad day.

You are not alone.

You are not worthless.

You have value.

No one is out to get you.

You are strong.

Believe it.

It was just a very bad day. Nothing more, nothing less.

You are not fat.

You are not ugly.

You are not lazy.

It doesn’t matter what anyone else is working on. You are doing just fine.

In fact, most people could not walk a mile in your shoes.

Own it.

Bad days don’t define you.

Your husband will not leave you.

Your children will not be scarred for life because you yelled at them.

Your mother will get over it.

Your friends will still be there. The good ones, that is.

In fact, your relationships will become stronger with time.

You are doing just fine.

Bad days rattle all of us. You aren’t the only one that has them.

Work on what you are working on.

What you are working on is good enough.

No one is keeping track but you.

In the scheme of things, it doesn’t matter if you ate the whole tray of brownies.

Tomorrow is your do-over. Today was just a blip on your radar screen.

You will feel better tomorrow.

Bad days give us perspective. It was just a bad day.

As with everything in the world that God gave us, we have phases.

The sun and the moon, tides, seasons and weather.

It’s all just a phase.

The sun will rise, the waters will calm, and the storms will clear again.

Just give it time. It will pass.

Hope springs eternal.

This, too, shall pass.

Start where you stand.

Start by saying NO.

It is quite alright to say NO.

Don’t feel guilty. It’s energy you can spend elsewhere.

Just move on.

Really! Do it! Just move on!

Give your bad day an eviction notice.

I know.

You don’t get enough sleep.

You don’t get enough exercise.

You don’t get enough fresh air and sunshine.

It’s not fair. I know.

It’s going to be alright.

It was just a bad day.

Do this: Take a small sip from a stream of calmness.

It runs deep.

It feeds into a river of purpose and promise.

That is where you find yourself.

Just you. No one else.

That’s all you need to worry about in this moment.

Today was just a bad day, and tomorrow will be better.

I promise.

 

If you are having a bad day, maybe these posts will continue to help you:

Join me in the Extreme Do-Over Experiment

Create your own DIY Pampering Kit

How do I get to a place called “Anywhere but here”?

Top 10 Tips I learned to do for when the going gets tough

How (and why) I ditched the toxicity in my life and how you can too

If you want more, be sure to visit the sidebar of my blog and click on any of the topics in my tag cloud!

 


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Book update – progress report for 2/25/2013

I know I sound like a broken record, as the theme this week is “I have a lot on my plate” {including 200+ emails that need to be dealt with tomorrow (and through the week)}, but I am happy to report I am finally making some progress for my (our) book*.

It occurred to me that I really never give public updates about my progress. Since I work best by making myself accountable to others, I think I am going to share updates periodically to keep me on track. I hope you’ll follow me as I go through this journey.

Maybe you are writing your own book and want to see how I am doing it so you can do it too? Maybe you just want to see the gestation period play out and witness the birth? Who knows… even if no one reads these updates, it still holds my feet to the fire and helps me continue with the progress.

*(I say my book, since it is up to me to write it, but it’s really our story.)

ProgressReport

Where I’ve been so far in the development

The book starts and stops as life speeds up or slows down. I wrote the first draft of Chapter 1 last year. After much thought and restructuring of my chapters, I came to the conclusion it needs to be completely revamped. This is what writers coin as “killing your darlings” — by cutting major segments out of a book or rearranging them entirely. It’s not easy to do. Trust me.

I struggled with how to proceed after that. I went to two Writer’s Guild workshops in New York City and won a scholarship to the Twin Compass Writer’s Workshop over the summer. I got some wonderful and constructive feedback from my peers and mentors. As a new writer, I felt more equipped to move forward, but in the course of this I discovered an underlying problem. Part of why it was taking me so long to get this thing started was twofold:

  1. Since this book is memoir based, it naturally relies on memory. When you have a man as a main character who suffers from memory loss, it becomes complicated. Plus when you consider the fact the memories he does have are those he works hard to forget, it becomes a dicey situation. Just asking a basic question about his memories could trigger a negative emotional response by accident. I have spent years trying to build up and protect his mental health and didn’t want to be the one to tear it down again. Now imagine how protective I am in asking the actual hard questions…
  2. Most of the paperwork that would be used to compile the story was tucked away in boxes and scattered to the four winds of my life. I not only had to unearth these items, but I had to process the emotional response that came with each memory I uncovered.

Think of this entire process like this: You are on a treasure hunt. You have a general idea of what you can expect to find, but until you dig it out of the depths of where it is buried (figuratively and literally) you just won’t know what you will get. It could be a good find (treasure) or it could be a ticking time bomb in your memory bank.

Where I am at this moment

Preparation:

After a week-long marathon sorting of my barn this past summer, I believe I have condensed most of my paper collateral. I estimate about a dozen boxes still need to be sorted, piece by piece, and that may take another couple of months to fully process and organize.

Since it’s about 3am as I write this, I am not going to dig through my bookshelf and Kindle to give a full list (that’s for a future post), but let’s just say I have read a ton of books about the publishing process and how it works from start to finish. I’ve poured over examples of book proposals and made a short list of agents that I hope to query soon. I researched story mechanics enough to understand plot points, character arcs, the importance of fatal flaws, and so on. It’s not good enough in my mind just to start writing in a linear fashion. It has to have structure and balance, go through the best of hands, and matter in the end.

Execution:

I bought the Scrivener program a few months ago and have started inputting the major elements of the story into the program. Basically, I have the skeleton of my outline started.

In the meantime, I’ve come to the conclusion that as I have a memory of the past I simply can’t stop what I am doing to write about it in any details, let alone at length. So, to solve this problem I bought some index cards and put them in key places of my house (and in my purse) with pens nearby. Now when I have a flash of a memory that I think would be pertinent to the story, I grab an index card and jot down the basics of that memory. I can write about it in more detail later, and this way nothing is lost after I remember it. It also allows me to sort and rearrange them as needed based on the timeline (and subsequent story elements) I am working with.

Next up:

I realized that a lot of this book will require Dan’s input… no matter what. I decided to write my ‘interview’ questions down in advance in a notebook. I am working on starting a compilation of questions this week. Once I get enough of them down, I’ll take it to the next step. The goal is to go over my questions as his days allow; meaning, I’ll start small and build up from there as he tolerates the process. If he is having a hard day, I won’t ask anything. If he is having a good day I can start asking some of the benign questions. If he tolerates that well, I can move on (and prepare myself for the outcome) of the harder questions.

That’s all for now. I don’t know if anyone can appreciate just how much goes into writing a book of substance or quality. I am probably over-thinking this process, but this is how I am doing it. Maybe this year I’ll actually get it finished!

Then again, I tend to be an optimist. :)


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About that meltdown I had on Facebook the other day…

Photo credit: Gizmodo.com via  (AP Photo/AIR PHOTO SERVICE, File) MANDATORY CREDIT

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In my last post I talked about the two things I do each day to help maintain my sanity. Well, not too long after I published it, I was facing a meltdown of epic proportions that ended up as a public display — a rant that could only be described as me on the verge of hysterics. Even though I had my “two things” done for the day… I still snapped. This makes me a bit of an asshole that no one wants to invite to pool parties because I turned into somewhat of a hypocrite within a matter of 48 hours. I admit it probably would have been worse had I not done my two things, but it still happened.

It wasn’t one of my finest moments, let me tell you, and part of me felt really bad about it. I felt like I was making people feel guilty for having their own needs and not thinking about mine. A couple of people left my page entirely, which could be directly related or just a coincidence. As much as I vowed to speak my truth and live it, I even debated deleting it because there may be unintended consequences of laying it all out the way I did.

I decided not to delete it, but use it as a learning opportunity for not only myself but for you as well.

Since it happened I’ve put a lot of thought into WHY I snapped and I came to the conclusion that nothing I was doing could have prevented it, but there are things I CAN do from now on to help keep it from happening again.

At the rate I was going in my everyday life, it was only a matter of time before I was bound to snap. Let me explain why…

Let’s do a little review:

Here is a copy of the mini-meltdown. I will then explain the reasons and circumstances behind it that brought it on.

I don’t mean to offend anyone, and I truly appreciate everyone who cares, but I have to share something and you need to try to understand…Just like anyone else, my day can turn on a dime. One minute everything is copacetic and the next minute all hell breaks loose through no fault of my own.

 My stress barometer hit the red line today with new news that I need to mitigate. No one is dying or anything like that, so it’s just a matter of logistics on my part to sort out and put MY family first with our individual and collective needs.

So here is what YOU need to really understand and not get offended over in the process:

I am not answering the phone, door, PM’s or emails. I have an assistant to manage many of these things for a reason. If you really need me, email her at media@torreyshannon.com, but remember that your emails COST ME in order to pay her to take care of them, so please make sure it is important. I consider each and every person who contacts me as important, make NO mistake, but I have given of myself for free for so many years and make NO MONEY to do any of it. I bear the burden of many, so me asking you to bear a burden to just give me a few days to focus on no one but me and my family is all I ask.

 AND for those that get pissy and start gossiping because I got creative with my grocery budget to pay for that kind of help (an assistant) a few hours each month, you can kiss my butt, quite honestly. If you have nothing better to do than to criticize me for needing one or paying for one, you may need to reassess your own priorities and get busy enough with matters of real importance to need one of your own.

I told myself that I wouldn’t post status updates that say I am going offline any more, as it just makes people PM me twice as much trying to ‘catch’ me before I sign off, but this time I am sharing this because you have GOT to understand I am human and need to manage emergencies more than you realize. Please…I love you…but give me a day or two without adding more demands that can wait. Even messages asking “How can I help?” or “what’s is wrong?” turn into explaining everything or thanking you for your concern is time I need to be spending working on the actual issues.

I will be reaching out to certain people in the next few days to either talk about what is going on to get ideas I need, or to outright ask for help. If I am not reaching out to you, responding to your own requests for help, please don’t get offended. Also, if you see me online to zone my brain out on FB to chillax, it doesn’t always mean I am bored or have free time. Just because I am on FB does not mean I am at anyone’s beck and call. I have a LOT of things in my pipeline I am working on as it is. If I take 5 minutes to find something funny online, it’s me trying to keep my friggin’ sanity.

Thank you. Again, I love you all and will be back when I can.

 

Here’s the deal… my frustration stemmed from a few categories of my life that became a source of contention for me. I spent the last few days reflecting on these sources of frustration and sorted through a lot of guilt for feeling the way I did. What originally was a fountain of joy in my life became a cesspool of disappointment later on. For instance:
  • I do a LOT for others. I LOVE helping people and am driven to do it because I know what it is like not to have anyone to turn to. I know what it is like to not know where to start. I don’t want others to suffer the ways we did, and if I can use my knowledge that I have obtained over the course of many years and many relationships that I’ve invested and built over time, I’ll gladly share it.

You don’t get a reputation for being an expert in caregiver or veteran issues by accident. I’ve worked HARD to become a reputable source of information and resources, so it’s natural that people will come to me for help. I rarely talk about the things I have going on in my advocacy pipeline, so here is a quick glimpse of just SOME of the things I am involved in:

  • I’ve been honored to be selected as one of the 20 inaugural Caregiver Fellows working with the Senator Elizabeth Dole Foundation.
  • I’ve been honored to serve on the Department of Colorado American Legion’s VA&R Committee for the past two years.
  • I’ve been on countless segments on national news or in international publications.
  • I just wrapped up filming for a documentary with another in the works.
  • I have a 24-hour news source flying out here soon to do another segment/interview about veteran and caregiver issues.
  • I’ve worked silently with programs to help them get funding, develop initiatives, served on panels at national conferences and have top-level executives contacting me for my help, connections, input and advice.
  • I answer dozens and dozens of questions EACH DAY through personal messages via social media, emails, phone calls, via this blog or other electronic means. In doing so, I make connections between veterans and caregivers to organizations that have a huge impact on their lives. In many cases, and I mean many, I give more help through these connections than we’ve ever received for ourselves. People have free homes, free cars, thousands of dollars in financial assistance, free vacations, no-cost house repairs or in-home services, etc. just for reaching out to me as their starting point in the process.
  • I am part of a big initiative by a national veteran nonprofit to publish a ‘how-to’ manual for veterans, caregivers and their families. Out of all the collaborators in this project, big names that I am not at liberty to discuss quite yet, I identified that I was likely the only person not attached to a major organization or held a title of any kind, all of which are fueled by funding, volunteers, staff or other resources. I identified that I am just little old me and do a pretty good job on my own.

Part of me doesn’t want to ‘brag’ about these things, but I do admit I am proud of myself for all my hard work and dedication to serve people outside of our own selves. I do it all for free. I do it for a greater good, not just for fame or glory, let alone for any real recognition. The flip side of this issues is this: It becomes a double-edged sword because it also brings the following pitfalls:

  • Because I do it for free, people don’t put any monetary or intrinsic value in my time or my knowledge. Even after writing out my Rules of Engagement, people tend to overstep their boundaries with me. Not everyone (especially the list of examples above) does this. It’s just a select few that poison the waters surrounding my islands of reasonable expectations. Like the meltdown above, I can be harsh or insistent about my boundaries on what I can or can’t do, will or won’t do, and it goes in one ear and right out the other with some people.
  • When you become a public figure, you attract people who would love nothing more than to shoot you down, undermine your authority or otherwise sabotage anything and everything you work for or represent. As one friend put it “When you soar like an eagle, you attract hunters.”
I’ve struggled to find a balance through all this. I identified about a year ago that helping each and every person by holding their hand leaves me open for being taken advantage of, or enabling the very people I am helping into a habit of not helping themselves. Some questions I receive could be answered with a simple Google search. I try to remember that not everyone has a built-in quest for knowledge or have problem solving skills like I do, so I remain patient and help them.

However, I resented those who treated me like their own personal secretary, or viewed me as having nothing better to do than to help them with minor issues. The real insult is when, after only a few hours since a question is presented to me, the person waiting for the answer to a problem THEY created is “Don’t you even care?”

That makes me lose my ever-lovin’ mind, y’all.

The fact is, I have no one to blame but myself for the predicament I was in. I have branded myself by reputation as the go-to person to fix nearly every problem that is presented before me and have ALLOWED people to walk all over me in the process, despite setting boundaries. Helping others like I do is not a problem until the demand far exceeds the time I have in a day to get it all done, and if/when *I* have needs, it’s difficult to establish a line in the sand that says “Give me a minute…I am working on my own stuff right now.” It’s a bigger problem when people feel ENTITLED to my time and connections, like I owe it to them in the first place.

At the same time, I’ve been relatively silent on a topic that needs to be discussed. This topic is about the underbelly of the wounded warrior community, which has earned an entire post of its own (and once I have a chance to brace myself for the criticism it will surely bring, I’ll compose it and publish). Since this post is already getting long, let’s just say I become more and more aware of the who’s who in the wounded warrior community that would do anything to step on your neck to make themselves stand a little taller. It especially comes from those who overtly use the word “God” in their everyday vernacular, and it downright pisses me off.

I touch on struggles we deal with in our everyday lives from time to time, but I don’t go out of my way to share them all. Why? Because there are many worse off than us. I know that and it drives me even harder to help all of them in some way.

But I still have problems.

I especially have problems when you lay them all out on one place and stop to realize realize I single-handedly deal with them simultaneously and every single day.

For instance, I shared an example of a typical day in this post. I talk in circles sometimes because there is just so much going on in my muddled mind. The entire foundation of this blog is to give my own life as an example that no one is perfect, nor should they strive to be. I talk on Facebook in segments about the goings on in our life: The good, the bad and the ugly. But to be clear I think people need to see the bigger picture that I see — all laid out in one place to fully absorb and appreciate the chaos of our life. I think I need to be more clear about what I am contending with right now (on top of the hard work to help others outlined above) that you may not even know about or have considered, so you can understand the WHY behind the meltdown I had:

  • After months of fighting the Goliath of the Department of Defense, among cutbacks and unfair circumstances, our son was honorably discharged from the Army this past week against his will and despite his great service record. He and his wife are expecting their first baby (and our first grandbaby) in a few short months. This means they are now homeless (and coming to live with us as a result), jobless, and without healthcare for their unborn child and the mother who carries her. How could this happen? Part of it is due to cutbacks and loopholes the Army is using to cut the numbers of troops on their payroll, but the other part is the saddest of all… it is due to incorrect medical records from when he was 13 years old that put him in a category of needing mental health services while his father was traumatically injured in combat. It’s like he’s being punished for being a child of a wounded warrior. My fight was huge, as was his, and it will continue despite the loss of a career he truly wanted for the rest of his life. I am just sad that out of all the people I advocate for, my son’s outcome was not the outcome I worked so hard to get.
  • Because of the above, I am swarmed with a newly-revived and seething hatred for the Army, the very institution we dedicated our lives to over multiple generations. I become angry at the unfairness of my son’s circumstances. I become angry at how my own husband was tossed out like a piece of trash, never getting a retirement ceremony or anything to say “thank you for your service and sacrifice”. Which brings me to the next issue I am dealing with…
  • I am still fighting a bill from the Department of Defense in the amount of over $7,000 for Dan’s “free” final move. Even though he is repaying this amount (which I can prove is illegal to even collect the way it all came down) we are getting daily calls from the DoD appointed collection agency, who refuses to comply with the most basic elements of federal and state consumer protection laws. I either have to fight this fight on my own, or pay an attorney to fight it for us.
  • Our middle son has had health issues to the degree of needing specialty care by a neurologist, who has put him through MRI’s, CT scans, EEG’s and medication changes with trial and error results. As such, he is missing a great deal of school, struggling with the residual depression that comes with it, and may very well need to be homeschooled to avoid failing his first year of high school. The amount of pressure on me to resolve this issue is profound.
  • My parents are now in a nursing home, and due to the dysfunction of the structure of our family, I am put between a rock and a hard place to manage their end-of-days. I worked hard to let go of the anger and angst I had regarding my family’s role in the toxicity of our days after Dan’s injury, so opening this in-your-face wound with the demands that are expected of me is truly a struggle. I can’t bear to hear my mother beg for me to come visit, when the reality is I can’t just up and leave like everyone thinks.
  • Dan’s health is not where it needs to be. Neither is mine. I have to chase down doctors, departments at the VA, case managers, etc. to make sure they are doing their job. Then those providers change faster than we can be seen, which brings us right back to square one every time I get traction on an issue.
  • I am overdue on getting the children’s braces adjusted, as they both need teeth extracted before we go to the next stage in their dental care. I can’t pull that kind of money out of my ass right now.
  • I am still needing to fight the unfair situation with our cell provider, Verizon. It looks like the only way to deal with it is through arbitration, which means I have to arm myself as my own attorney to see this through. I just don’t have the time to proceed, or the energy. I may just have to walk away from this one, and that sucks even more.
  • I need to pursue some VA benefits for Dan to help improve his quality of life. Once again, it’s a fight and process that I know in advance will be exhausting once everything is said and done, and may take a few years just to see the benefits.
  • Our dog, Miko, is the best line of defense for Dan’s PTSD, but she is aging. We spent quite a bit on vet bills last month due to health complications she was having, and this month new symptoms have rendered her unable to get up on the bed or in the truck to go for rides…her favorite part of the day. She will be 8 this year, and I am having to come to terms that she won’t live forever and losing her down the road will be a catastrophe for our family.

I could give you more, but I’ll stop there before I depress the hell out of you and trigger a panic attack for me. Let’s move on to the next level of this equation — the things I want to be doing, but can’t do right now or am struggling to get done:

  • My 101 in 1001 list
  • Getting our book written
  • Finding a reliable source of income to offset the above needs
  • Having more time to enjoy my family and everyone in it

Can you see the recipe for a meltdown yet?

Shortly after I had my meltdown on FB, my friend and fellow caregiver, Uncle Sam’s Mistress, wrote on her own blog about her own struggles:
Some days I felt fractured, emotionally pulled away from my own mind and body and just so tired of it all. Other days, I wonder how I don’t keep from smacking someone. I began to start resenting a ton of things, anger seeped through my pores and I just wanted to walk away from it all and never look back. I think all of us have felt this way at one point or many other times in this life. I worried that I was facing a mid-life crisis, early menopause, or hell, I even considered possession. (Sorry Horror Fans, I am completely demon free) I just could not for the life of me get my shit together. I needed a break.

 

That’s a BINGO!

So, here’s the deal… I put a lot of thought into the overall situation and how I can fix it. I started with this post on Facebook:

I’ve put a lot of thought in over the last few days on how I can prevent myself from becoming frustrated to a point of breaking or snapping. As much work as I’ve put into giving myself permission for self care, finding balance, picking my battles wisely, setting boundaries, etc. the fact is we are all susceptible to overwhelm and frustration of things out of our control. Just a ‘normal’ life can dish that out to you like a Jenga game on steroids, where one missing piece of our life can make the entire stack fall down. But when you add in things like being a caregiver or an advocate, this compounds the situation immensely. Case in point: Just in the course of writing this single paragraph, I was pulled away no less than six times for the needs of others. I guess the point of sharing this is that we all have a lot on our plate, some more than others, and we need to be tolerant of each other in our unique situations. But the most important thing we can do is be tolerant of our own selves and be kind to our inner needs during our must frustrating times. Today, as you flitter about your normal days, try to think about those that don’t have any sense of ‘normal’ any more. And for those in the thick of it, remember to be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to slow down and take care of you.

This is where I stand, and what I am doing to make sure my needs (and the needs of my family) are met:

  1. I stand by my original post meltdown, though in a softer and kinder way. You may not be able to reach me for more than just a few days. I may carry this on for a few months in order to really catch up. This does not make me a bad friend. It means you get an opportunity to be a better friend during my time of need.
  2. I will pursue income-producing activities to cover the unmet financial needs of our family.
  3. I will compose a list of every resource I know of and post it here on my blog so others can take the initiative to fix their own problems. This way I can link to the resources page and those in need can get to work on helping themselves.
  4. I am going to stop dwelling in the past and worrying about the future. Deadlines will no longer be part of my life. I will live in the NOW and just remind myself that my best is all I need to give at any given moment. This also means I will build in more time for self care, thus leading to more rejuvenation and energy to get more work done in the end.
  5. I will continue to be thankful for God, who weeds my garden silently.

If you got to the end of this post, I want to thank you immensely. Your time is valuable and I know you could be anywhere else but here. It’s people like you, to be honest, that really fuel my fire to keep on writing, sharing, learning and growing. You have more value to me than you may ever realize, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.


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Writing a book is harder (and more exciting) than I realized

dont be afraid to fail I am sitting at my computer right now, jazzed up to work on my book, fighting off the incoming demands that will pull me away from my mission. My head is swarming with reflective moments, thinking about how this whole process has turned into a perfect storm.

Last year around this time I was laser focused on getting the book in the hands of a publisher. Some way, some how, I was going to make it happen. Up until that point it was just a dream with no plan of action. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I only knew I needed to do it.

That was about the time I looked around me at all the chaos in my life and said to myself, “Who are you trying to kid? You don’t even have time to pee, let alone launch a major project like this!”

I converted my ambition to write the book into ambition to set the environment in which to write a book. I started working on ME first. There is a huge emotional process that a writer like me has to go through. I had to be emotionally ready to purge the most intimate portions of my life in a non-fiction book and let my words out for the world to see. Add to that, I was certain to rock the boat of my own husband’s well being by bringing up the past and making him remember things he’s worked hard to forget.

I had to steel myself first. I started working on my mindset. I started giving myself permission to slow down, despite the incredible urge to speed up. I let perfection go. I started mapping out a plan of action for anything and everything that could potentially stand in the way. Some things I couldn’t change, but the one thing I could change for the better was ME.

Here we are, a year later, and I am at a place that I feel I can proceed. In fact, I am eager and excited about the journey that lays before me. I can’t sleep because I am busy mapping out my book outline in my head. I wake up and say to myself, “Today I am going to make more progress.”

And progress, my friends, is what it is all about.

I am still just as scared to write this book as I was a year ago. Will anyone read it? Will they like it? Will it serve the intended purpose of helping others and bridge the gaps I see between civilians and the wounded warrior community? What kind of outcry will I get? The good kind, or the bad?

The difference is this: I am scared but doing it anyway.

One thing is for sure, I’ve realized how hard it is to write a book. I see not-so-shiny people shuffling out mediocre works that serve no other purpose than to promote their own selves. Yet, for some reason, I still hold myself to a much higher standard. Maybe that’s why it has turned into a harder process than I imagined. I want this to be my Magnum Opus in my life, right behind celebrating my strong marriage and the going above and beyond the call of duty regarding the welfare of my children.

So, as I sit here and write in another format entirely, I want to say that I’ve learned a lot over the past year. I am more excited than I ever was before. I am more driven than I ever was before.

And I am more ready than I will ever be.

Thank you to each and every reader and friend that has followed me on this journey. I hope you will continue to read, listen, support and sympathize as I go through this process. Without you, I would not be where I am today….

….writing….

….and exactly where I wanted and needed to be.


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What is worse? Failing, or never trying?

Photo credit: drzx2 via Photobucket

Photo credit: drzx2 via Photobucket

I hope that you all will join me as I take on this challenge. Every Friday for 50 weeks will be devoted to answering one of the 50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind. Since this is a blog hop, you can add your link each week to my post so that you can connect with other bloggers and challenge yourself to answer the questions as well.

Never done a blog hop? No problem! It’s really easy and really fun. If you are not familiar with what a blog hop is, this is a great explanation by another blogger: How to Blog Hop. Just see the cute little froggy at the bottom of this post to add your link too!

These questions have no right or wrong answers.

Because sometimes asking the right questions is the answer.

Week two’s question:

  • Which is worse, failing or never trying?

My answer:

Hands down, it’s worse to never try.

If there is one guaranteed way to assure failure, it’s to never try something in the first place. At least if you try, you may find there is a chance you won’t fail in the first place!

I’ll be the first one to tell you that I have an innate fear of failure. I have failed so many times in my life that I can attest to the fact the sting of failure lasts and the memory hardly ever fades. I hate failing, through and through.

BUT…I have also matured enough over time to realize that in each instance, there was a learning lesson to take away in the process. I learned things like what I could have done to prevent the failure, what I can do the next time to guarantee a better success. Sometimes I learn something about my own self in the process. Failing will always teach you something.

Failing leads to experience, and experience leads to success.

Thomas Edison admitted that he made more mistakes and failed in many aspects of his life than most others when it came to an invention. However, he says that his successes are due to trying and not giving up.

What are your thoughts? Weigh in via the comments section below, or if you are a blogger, feel free to answer this via your own blog and join the link-up!

Add your Blog Hop link to the Free Your Mind Friday topic here!

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Top 10 Tips I Learned To Do For When the Going Gets Tough

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I know things COULD be worse, but oftentimes we just have a sense of overwhelm that puts us in a tailspin. Can you relate? quote-diary-find-happiness-in-a-simplest-things

Things have been pretty tough lately at the Shannon household. I’ve had a twitchy eye since the first week of November that just won’t go away. I am stressing about some major issues going on in our life, which is likely why it won’t spontaneously resolve on its own. I’ve tried everything to make it stop: supplements, naps to get more sleep, reducing caffeine…everything. Nothing short of shifting my stress will have any real impact, so that’s what I am trying to do.

But first, let’s talk about some of that stress…

My time has been consumed more and more with helping others in crises of their own, feeling helpless to help in some of these cases.  I am wishing I could go back to school, but realize there is no humanly possible way I can add that to my plate right now. My kitchen is still in a half-gutted condition following a flooding incident last year, simply because I don’t have the time to manage that issue or funds to cover the deductible or replacement of our appliances (which is not covered by insurance). I am looking at my ever-growing to-do list and thinking it will be the year 2020 before I can possibly catch up.

If that wasn’t enough, our dog got very ill and had to be taken to the vet on an emergency basis. I had to rush to my children’s school in my pajamas for another kind of emergency, thus humiliating myself in the process. I had a major issue trying to do a simple act of carpet cleaning, resulting in being up all night trying to get too many suds out of my carpet. I accidentally broke lane 8 at the local bowling alley, inconveniencing the entire community of league bowlers in the process. Dan has been having more disturbing dreams, thus increasing the agitation level of the entire home. Our son is having some major health issues that require multiple specialty tests with no real answers to how we fix it from here. Because he is missing so much school, he will have to have some serious intervention to help him succeed. We may have to consider homeschooling him, which adds more time commitments from me and expenses we don’t have funding for.

I am missing deadlines and having more added to my plate, and I am completely and utterly overwhelmed.

I am short on funds, short on time, short on patience, short on sleep….just short in every way.

However, among all this, I’ve found some saving graces that have helped me get through it all.

I’ve posted snippets via my Facebook page for some of these topics, but this week was an amazing week on many levels. I’d like to share a few highlights with you:

  • We found out our first grandbaby, due in May, will be a GIRL!
  • I have been struggling with finding the ending to our book. In order to write a novel, you have to know where it will end before you can realistically begin. I found the perfect ending for our book, a serendipitous moment brought the answer to me, and now I feel like I can move full speed ahead on the production of the book.
  • Last year, after sending many veterans in need their way over a long period of time, the Quality of Life Foundation stepped in for a need of our own. It was a need that I had researched and kept running into road blocks over and over again. I asked them where else I could look to address the need, and they offered to take the issue off my hands and work on it themselves. Six months later, on Friday to be exact, the Healthy Back company donated a medically necessary bed to help Dan with his multiple physical issues such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, regurgitation/aspiration of vomit while sleeping (thus choking profusely), scoliosis of his back, degenerative disc and joint disease of his spine and limbs, neuropathy and a few other issues. Between those issues and his constant PTSD flare-ups, neither of us were getting much sleep, and that just exacerbates the issues even further. Not only was the bed donated to help him improve his sleep and overall quality of life, but the delivery of this bed was donated by JL Transport based out of Denver Colorado. The owner if JL Transport is a veteran and also the founder of the veteran nonprofit Wounded Warriors Impacting Neighbors. Multiple organizations banded together to make this happen, and we are truly thankful for this incredible gesture of thanks that came our way for Dan’s sake.
  • Out of nowhere, a person from our past reached out to us. Come to find out, this person found us after researching information on brain injuries and found an interview Dan had done via GQ Magazine. The reason for this research? She now has a brain injury. Not only did we reconnect, but we came full circle in crossing paths again.
  • For the first time in three years since moving to our home in Colorado, we had guests in our home. Some people don’t realize just how much of a milestone this is, but to us it means we had developed trusting relationships within our community with people who ‘get it’ when it comes to my husband’s PTSD. Dan had hives the night before, then had the shakes as soon as everyone arrived, but he muscled through it all (with pre-planned exit strategies to escape to the barn when it became too much to bear) and even spent some of the time with all of us during this gathering. I am so amazingly proud of him for taking this big leap of faith and so grateful for the people who surrounded us that day with their understanding and support.
  • I’ve taken time to reconnect with multiple friends that I’ve lost touch with over time. I can’t tell you how nice it is to pick up the phone and call someone and find your conversation picks up right where you left off, as if no time had passed in between.
  • Home Depot delivered some new replacement appliances (courtesy of Operation Homefront) to help us move in the right direction to resolving our kitchen flood issue. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have properly working basic appliances for a change, which makes my overall life easier.
  • A Congressional inquiry I am involved in took a major twist and turn thanks to a 5,000-word letter that was composed into the wee hours of the morning. The letter worked, much to my surprise.
  • I managed to get some major overhaul cleaning and sorting done, which lifts my spirit when I walk into a clean and organized space.
  • A caregiver friend of mine was in a crisis of her own, and with my help she was able to get everything resolved quickly AND get help she didn’t even expect.
  • We just wrapped up filming of a documentary that will potentially create more positive changes and impact others who need help. On top of that, we were contacted by a major news outlet about doing an in-depth story that will also bring awareness and help to those in need.

Even if none of the above items never happened, I’ve learned to find happiness in the simplest of things. Here are some examples of the things I focus on when the going gets tough:

  1. I remind myself I have a wonderful husband whom I love and cherish, and as long as I can continue to be of support to him, this makes me happy.
  2. I stay focused on the fact we have three wonderful children that I can take pride in knowing I am doing the very best as a mother to help them succeed.
  3. I give thanks for what is around us: We have therapeutic outlets like great friends, loving therapy animals and a community that supports us.
  4. I remind myself I have the ability to make a difference, whether in simple or grand gestures.
  5. I take heart in the fact that small things turn into bigger things, for good or for bad. I just have to choose which one I want to focus on! A carpet cleaning fiasco turned into a sense of accomplishment and sanctuary once all was said and done.
  6. I stop to remember that I get 24 hours in a day, just like everyone else in this world. I have the power to choose how it is spent. I’ve learned it’s okay to take a tactical pause when I need to.
  7. I give myself permission to be imperfect: I can still dream, think deeply and plan goals for my future. While many things may take until the year 2020 to accomplish, I have the power and ability to set smaller goals along the way.
  8. I’ve learned it’s okay to ask for help. There is no shame in saying to others that you have needs. I know there are people out there willing and able to help, and just knowing they are there brings a sense of security if I ever need it.
  9. Sometimes things come when we least expect it. I just have to have faith that it will come when the time is right.
  10. I repeat this mantra as many times as I need to: Hard work does pay off eventually.

You see, despite all the hardships and struggles, I am learning to handle what comes my way. I still have a ways to go, but I am getting where I need to be. In the last year I have dedicated myself in developing and carrying out the Extreme Do-Over Experiment. The first thing I had to learn was my mindset is what dictates the level and duration of my success, regardless of what is thrown on my plate.

It was nice to have many things finally come together for a change. I just have to remember to find happiness in the simplest of things and The Universe will take care of the rest.

I hope that sharing my top 10 tips will help you during your difficult times, and you’ll soon have reason to celebrate the successes that are sure to come eventually.

Sound off! What are your favorite ways to get through hard times? I’d love to hear your suggestions, comments and experiences in the comments section below!
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Please scroll down and leave a comment - I love to hear your thoughts!
You can also join me on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook for sneak peeks and updates.
Dan loves Audible.com - try it free!
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