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I am compelled to write today, for I must think out loud…
Hard work is a blessing that I miss very deeply. Has it been 7 years since I lost my job? It is as if it has disappeared, and now is only a faint image on the side of a discarded old milk carton. “Missing: Julie’s job. Last seen in Westlake Village, California. January 2010”.
I long for the old days of the gift of being cursed with the early morning demands and slowing down in my car balancing my coffee cup in one hand, putting on lip gloss with my other hand as the yellow light looks down upon me with a condescending glance as it dares to turn red just above my head, out of reach.
Today, I quietly carry the burden of longing to have the mental and physical strength to work once more.  I dare not say this out loud because what I desire immensely, really, is to hear about a friend’s day at work and I do not want my truth to leave them with odd feelings of discomfort. “What are you doing? Tell me everything”, I say, as if they were on vacation in a beautiful countryside villa. “What was on the agenda? What did you wear? Who did you see? Where did you have lunch? What did you talk about with the other tourists?” Oh, to be a part of that rat race once more.
Not too long ago, I foolishly pushed my body beyond it’s limitations day after day while I ran in this undesirable race that I miss so terribly this morning. I miss it so much that my heart aches. Somehow, I managed to work for 11 additional years with this horrific illness until my body and my mind gave out and my job was taken away from me. (Twice. Two jobs.)
Chronic Lyme Disease and the co-infections are a tricky foe. I try to hang on tight to this horrific unfortunate roller coaster ride. Free falling. Exhausting. Frightening… I did manage to actually give an attempt to socialize a couple days ago at my neighborhood annual street party, but now I must continue to pay the price for using all of my precious energy. I did not pace myself well enough. Perhaps I still need that yellow street signal just above my head to tell me, “Caution – slow down Jules!”…
Today I have made the decision to accept that I am unable to count traffic lights as they turn from yellow to red on my way to work, instead, I choose to count the blessings that I can see from my bedroom window. 3 beautiful quail, a couple humming birds, another bird being outsmarted as it chases a crazy old moth zig-zagging about, white puffy clouds – and the changing shadows on the ground from the morning sunshine… Soon I will step outside just so I can say I got outside today. I know the familiar fragrance of my own back yard will fill my spirit with gratitude.
Perhaps I will call my son just to thank him (once more) for everything he does for me. No fun for my boy to have had a sick mama for half of his life. I find him to be the most compassionate, caring, funny young man that I know. In fact, if he wasn’t my son, I’d want him to be my friend, you know, I mean, if I met him at work, or something. My son and I both have gotten good at counting our own special brand of blessings and knowing just how lucky we truly are…
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One of my favorite posts! Written May 22, 2012: 

Sure it’s easy to miss something that’s been right under your nose.  People do it every day, right?  Hence the saying: “If it was a snake, it would have bit me!”  But, a park?  I missed a park?  You know – trees, green grass, picnic tables, kids laughing and playing, people power walking their dogs – a park.  Now, if this park was a snake, well, it would have to be a gigantic python I’d say! If this park was a python it would have snuck up behind me and given me a much-needed  humongous endless firm hug with the tight squeeze follow-up!  What the whaa?!   Yes – I’m admitting in front of God and everyone.  “My name is Julie and I did not know that I live next door to a park.”  Sum-mabeeotch, I live next door to a park.  Clearly I did not realize just how much I really do not have the energy to get out unless it is a short necessary errand.  Errands are my cardio.

So here’s what happened in my most excellent moment in too long of a time. (This moment has made my top ten most excellent moments in my hall of fame of my life.  Just saying.)   I had been inside a couple days – I lovingly refer to it as “resting”.  We’ve had quite a heat wave here in my part of the world and I was camped out and laid up on my couch with my water, books, heating pad, cell phone, laptop and my cat all within reach as I was looking out at my patio.  Watching the trees and the sky – dreaming up more of my many ideas, plans and some-days.   That’s when it hit me with a fabulous Bam – “I can slowly cruise in my car to conserve my energy while I check out all the plants and flowers in my complex that are surviving this heat.  And when I am able, I’ll buy the same kind of flowers.”  Brilliant.  (I did not inherit the “green-thumb” that both of my parents have.)   There I went, doin’ a gangster lean slow cruise in my dirty Honda.  I opened my sunroof and windows as I turned on my air-conditioning.  No music this time.  I was longing to hear sounds of life in session while I was outside enjoying my solo scenic tour of my complex – we have over 200 units.  As I was still checkin’ out all my condo neighbor’s spring flowers, a white iron gate that was surrounded by vines caught my eye.  Even though the white iron gate is on the opposite side of where I live – sheesh! – I’ve lived here 3 years – and this my first sighting?  Geeze – how sad is that?!

Impulsively, I parked my car in an open spot next to the white iron gate.  I walked over and gave it a pull and a yank.  It was locked! Hmmm.  Thinking.   Wait! do I have the key?  Looking at my key chain I noticed a gold key I’ve never used since it was given to me.  Well? Do I have the key or not? Yes I do!  (Who knew?!  I laughed out loud at myself.)  I felt like I had picked the winning key at a carnival that opened the lock to a secret hidden treasure chest.  As I slowly pushed open the gate and took only two steps in, I could not believe my eyes.  And what a treasure I had won indeed. Before me was a picture perfect beautiful park.  Did I walk on to a movie set and it was a fake back drop?  Seriously.  A park. I don’t think I’ve ever lived so close to a park in my whole life.  It only took me 3 years to see it!  And it was there all along – all this time – waiting for me when I was ready.

I quietly closed the gate behind me.  Is this a secret park? Once I stepped inside, I felt my new-found surroundings lift my sad and weary spirit.  The warm breeze blew the cobb webs off of me. I followed the trail as if I was Dorothy and it was the yellow brick road.  I looked down at my feet to double check.  Nope, no ruby slippers, just my good ol’ Skechers Shape-ups.  They seemed to work just as well for me though – Dorothy would be proud. A gust of warm wind transported my weary soul and body to a place where I felt no pain.  My heavy chains melted away from my arms and legs as if they had been made from ice – leaving the heat completely invisible to me. Unfamiliar freedom.  Quite different from the way I remembered freedom from long ago.  An abundance of gratitude filled freedom lifted my spirit with every step. I could hear the grass growing. I heard a leaf fall before it touched the ground right in front of me.  I turned around to take another look to see if the white gate was for real or only another mirage I found in my vivid imagination during my healing and isolation.  Keeping a slow pace I walked a little further.  “If I walk slowly for just 2 or 3 minutes, I’ll rest a while and be ok.”  Carefully.  Resting. U-turn at the little wooden bridge. “Proceed on!”  I happily said out loud just like my hero Meriwether Lewis.  And off I went!  Well, sort of anyway.  A couple of minutes later I was close to the white iron gate.  I sat down at a cement picnic table in the shade and I took the last sip of my water.  My poor body has been so toxic.  I was a little out of breath.  I’ve become weak from getting too thin.  Geeze was I sweating bullets!  It was rough, but I did it.  I’ll be back quite often, if only to rest and rejuvenate. But I had found my park – my sanctuary.  God’s perfect timing – not mine.

I ate my healthy “allergy-free safe food for me” dinner.  Drank more water.  Took another Epsom Salt bath.  Showered.  And then fell into my bed and slept 11 hours straight.  The next morning as I woke up, I said my prayers for my friends who are on my prayer list.  Praying makes me feel useful.  When I started to make my way down stairs, I felt like heavy chains had been put on my arms and legs.  With a deep breath, I drank my glass of my recommended “Medical Food” powder formula.  Still in my jammies, I went into my living room.  I laid down on my couch with my water, books, heating pad, cell phone, laptop and my cat all within reach as I looked out at my patio.  Watching the trees and the sky – dreaming up more of my many ideas, plans and some-days.   And I smiled to myself knowing I had the key all along.  Literally.

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Mind, body and spirit . . .

During the time that I had to stop drinking was when I started noticing the importance of the balance with my mind-body-spirit.  Then, the “body” part was obvious and easy. I loved to hop on my bike and ride down to the beach.  Cruising the strand on a cloudy weekday morning was my absolute fave because it was sure to be crowd free.  I let the feeling of the cool damp air cover my body.  Slowing down, but not yet stopping, I’d look out to the ocean, “aah my ocean, there you are, I see you now.”  No matter what level my spirit was resting on – as if it was on auto pilot – it would take off and suddenly be lifted to a higher brighter place.  There it was, the connection to the universe that I spent so much time longing for.

Ah, but the mind. Not so easy. Think. Think. Think. Where’s the answer?  How do I calm my sober mind?! I never knew what anxiety was till I quit drinking! And so many resentments! I allowed them to hang on to me like a sucker-fish hitching a free ride on the side of a whale. Thank God for a little time – a little sober time is helpful as I seek the fine balance in my life.

Alas, things are a little different for me today.  No longer living at the beach. No more bike riding. Unemployment.  Standing by for disability. A city that does not yet quite feel like home. Chronic pain. Fatigue. It is what it is. . .

This morning I wake up after a long painful restless un-sleep. I see the early sun peering in through my east facing windows – my tummy makes sounds like a squeaky door in a haunted house.  Geeze.  That can’t be good.  My mind has started the morning from a place of empty darkness.

Disconnected.  Disappointed.

Here we go again – pain tightening its grip on me with each slow step of the body.  I let out a big sigh full of extreme sadness.  The sudden ringing of my cell phone interrupts my focus on my rusty joints.  Not being fit mentally to put two sentences together – I have no choice but to let it go to voice mail.  I can not think logically.  I can not move gracefully.  My spirit needs to answer the phone.  My brain is full of fog, like a spider web hanging inches above a swamp.

As I stand at the top of my stairs I am still – and as if I’m watching an old home movie – I look down and see all of the things I need to do:

Time to get a move on with my day!  Carefully, painfully I move my arms to hold on to the railing on either side, my hands, stiff, swollen and hurting, looking like they belong on a mannequin in a store window on Main Street.  Perhaps it is too soon to try to go downstairs – however – old habits are hard to break.  I am a manager who needs to grab a cup of coffee, shower, and go open the shop…  One step down. Step together.

I am a single mom who needs to drop her son off at school on the way to work… Two steps down. Step together.

I am a surfer girl who needs to paddle out and play in the ocean… Three steps down. Step together.

Agony pulsating through my body in such a way that it feels I might break. I wait for my body to follow the directions of my brain.  Agonizing endless stabbing pains run down my right arm ending with stabs so real that I look at my hand expecting to see blood.  The pain debilitating from the stabbing.  Seems so odd to me that there is no blood.

I force myself to focus on what is in front of me.  Ever so carefully – one more step together.

With another slight move forward, silently my foot slips out from under me – I land on my ass and my lower back hits the stairs as I awkwardly slide and bump down to the bottom.  I am alone yet I feel embarrassed, mortified, stunned, defeated.

I do not cry.  In fact, I hear nothing. The morning is quite still. The sun, bright.  Grace, my cat, is squinting her sleepy eyes as she starts to do her graceful stretches, like she thinks she is a yoga teacher this morning. As she walks past me she softly rubs along my pain ridden legs as she heads towards the kitchen – where her food and water bowls are.

By this time I’ve pulled myself up as I continue my incredible journey.  I try my best to put the weight of my steps on the out side of my feet where the pains are not quite as horrific.  Once more I forgot to put my thick socks and tennies on. (Now there’s a nice look, jammies and tennies.)  Finally, I lean to the right and make my way to the cozy kitchen.  This time I land my rear-end safely on the cushy bar stool that I had put there in case I need to sit while I’m in the kitchen.

I look down and I’m surprised to see Grace sitting next to her empty bowl.  She is silent.  Big round green eyes looking sweetly and patiently at me.  With a slight tilt of her head, the chubby furry cat waits for me.  She does not impatiently beg for her morning food.  She doesn’t mind.  Is she waiting?  Does she have faith in me?  A cat that does not scream a “meow!” or two at me?  She is in the present moment. Slowly, carefully, I feed her as the sound of her beautiful and extremely loud purr fills the silent morning. The cool cat is fed. My first victory of the day.

Wanting, longing, to sit on my couch, I made my way to the living room.   Carefully, I stretched out on the couch. A much better landing this time. Heaven.  A piece of the mind and body starting to move towards their connection. . .

And what was waiting for me? The beautiful flowers that my dear childhood friend gave me the day before. The aura of the love behind this gift engulfed my defeated spirit.  An overwhelming sence of acceptance covered me in an instant.  I felt my spirit now moving towards the mind and body. . . Somehow, everything was just the way it was supposed to be.  I was brought back to the moment.  My moment. My connection of mind, body, and spirit.

Perhaps I’ll just take my very own special “sick day” today.  My job today, just as it has been for the past couple years, is to regain my health.  Yep, I’m calling in sick today. I give myself permission to move slow, rest on the couch and focus on the beautiful flowers with the cute black and purple vase that sit in my cozy little home.  The flowers that were given to me by my dear childhood friend.  They were given with the beloved intention of love and hope.  And without love and hope, I have nothing.

dd flowers

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Yes. I can do this again. Doctors are my friend.  Me and my doctor are one.  I can do this.  I will regain my vibrant health.  Go Julie Go!  I will learn how to manage this horrific pain.  I hear someone tell me to be patient with the process.  Ok, I will be patient with the process.  Oh, sure, no problem.

As I walk out of my doctor’s office I take a quick detour to the ladies room.  I step into one of the bathroom stalls and what do I freakin’ see?  A happy face sticker looking right at me that says, “STAR PATIENT”.  What?! Some ungrateful little kid gets a kudos from her doctor and she does away with it and recklessly tosses it on the bathroom wall?  Where’s mine, man?!  Where’s my STAR PATIENT sticker?! . . .  Nope, I’m just not feeling it today.  There could be a possibility that I’m hoping my way into some kind of a twisted denial.  My positive belief has continued to endlessly say out loud for the last couple of years, “Oh!  I should be able to get up and go by then,  I’ll be there.”  Alas, still I am not quite able to get up and go.  As much as I tell myself I can do this!  As huge as my efforts and willingness may be – by the time I am only half way put together – my energy is gone – all gone.  

Perhaps it is a good thing to be able to put the name Fibromyalgia to my quirky hypersensitivity and chronic pain.  But now I am learning to do many things differently.  I swear, I want to learn.  I promise, I remain teachable.  But what the whaa??  These are not my clothes in my closet, too big. This is not my body, too weak.  This is not my humor, too dark.  These are not my feet, too tender!  The tags in my jeans and clothes might as well be invisible snapping spiders.  “Cut ’em off!”  I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if Rod Serling himself walked into my bedroom while I was searching for the bees that are stinging me up and down my legs as he  announced, with cigarette in hand, “You’ve just entered. . .  “The Twilight Zone”.   Swear to gawd I hear that music from the T.V. show all the time. 

As I stand by for medical financial assistance for another month.  And as I stand by for about 3 months for disability assistance.   As I keep on doing the best I can with these health challenges, I do know I am blessed with a big distraction that holds steadfast and true every hour of every day. Yep, Grace, my rescue cat.  The truth is, she rescues me right back everyday.  Pretty cool – because that’s the way God planned it.  Perhaps I do receive my “Star Patient” kudos – just never suspected it would be in the form of a black furry angel named Grace.  I mean, how was I supposed to know?

Slow and steady is a good thing too I’d say . . .

A little sunshine goes a long way. . .

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Has it really been two years of learning and writing in this blogging world?!  Thank you – every one of you from different places in the world – for stopping by, visiting, and writing such kind, up lifting and honest comments.  I spend the majority of my time at home, so please know your visits carry me far.  This has been an interesting two years for me – from unemployment to health challenges.  But this too shall pass!  I am grateful.  I am sober. (thank you God. Thank you sober brothers and sisters.)  I am on my intended path.  I know in my heart that it is meant to be.  I never would have learned so many priceless lessons any other way.  I am a lucky one.  Thank you friends!  Thanks Mom!  Thank you Dad!  And thank you Son – I am so proud of you and your many accomplishments at such a young age.  You’ve always had a wise soul.  Our family is small, but we are mighty.

Please click on the following link for my very 1st post that I wrote exactly 2 years ago.  I appreciated reading all of your comments again. (I still need ’em!)  Interesting, I started out writing my blog with the intention of sharing recovery from alcoholism – but that is just the beginning – because there is much more to quitting drinking than quitting drinking.    My Worst Day is Now My Best Day

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I used to count the months that I’ve been unemployed.  Now all I know is that it’s been over two years. 

. . . Once more, I had been inside my home a few days feeling crummy, both physically and emotionally.  Some weeks are like that, some are not.  Literally – finally pushed myself out my front door to walk to my mailbox in my condo complex.  Foggy brained, I was thinking it had been a few days since I checked my mail.   So many months I haven’t felt well.  Along the way on my determined journey to the mail boxes, I saw my neighbor walking her dog.  Her arms looked strong and tan as her dog pulled on her with his excitement of the smells of the great out doors.  We chit chatted, “still unemployed” I heard her say.  “Don’t know how much longer I can keep this up,” she added.   Only us unemployed know what it feels like to be unemployed for a long time during this time with the economy.  “See ya later!” she said as she and her dog took off with long quick purposeful strides.  As I finally approached my mail box, another neighbor was checking his mail as well.

He took one look at me and said, “you’ve really lost some weight.”

“I’ve mentioned to you I’ve been quite under the weather.”  I felt uncomfortable with his comment.

“But that was some time ago wasn’t it?” 

I had no words for his reply.  Too tired.

Slowly, I picked up my mail and closed the box.  As I turned to walk back to my home I suddenly felt, angry, frustrated, tired and sad.  And a new emotion joined in – envy – envious of my neighbor with her strong arms.  I felt frail, weary and isolated. 

This has been a long learning process for me.  Every day an important lesson.  The best thing for me to do is to never give up on striving to regain my health every moment of every hour.  I must keep it simple.  I know many people live with chronic pain.  I know I am not alone – yet I live an isolated life as I attempt to regain my health as I look for employment on-line and send out my resume.  Plus I am starting the footwork to apply for S.S. Disability.  I’d rather get a full life back.  But I must accept where I am at the same time. 

Due to my many food allergies, eating the right foods so I can heal has become another life lesson – one so I may survive.  Get my life back.  Be me again.  The damage to my gut because I carry 2 copies of the gene for an allergy to gluten can feel unbearable at times.  . . . So much so that I asked a friend to take me to the hospital a couple days ago.  I had been in nonstop agony.   I kick into survival mode – hard to think.  . . .When she pulled up in front of the hospital doors, I did not want to go in!  But I did anyway –  I could barely get my self out of her car.  She had to go but she prayed for me – I felt it fill me up immediately.  God is so powerful. . . By the time I got to an E.R. bed a couple of hours had passed and I was on my side curled in a ball from the pain.  Have I ever been in the hospital by my self before?  This is too much.  I tried to focus on the activity around me in the E.R.  I kept thinking about my father.  He is too far away to sit with me.  I noticed a handsome young man was being wheeled in on a stretcher, no shirt, lots of tattoos, a couple of cops walking behind him . . .   Something was administered for my pain.  A few long tests.  Quite a few hours – till the middle of the night.  Think I was there 8 or 10 hours or so. . .

Another young man on another stretcher passes in front of me, more cops walking behind him.  “I wonder what he did wrong?”  I thought to myself.  He was so young and in trouble.

And that was it.  How easily I can forget.  I am a recovering alcoholic.  Health challenges, unemployment, isolation.  The answer is simple – as long as I don’t drink  I won’t make things worse for myself!  And, I have NOT made anything worse for myself.  I’m hanging in there – sometimes I cry and sometimes I am able to laugh – but as long as I don’t make any foolish decisions and keep it simple I will get through this time.  This too shall pass for me and so many others in my same situation.  Chronic health challenges?  Unemployed?  That’s nothing.  As long as I stay sober, then that’s something.  I will pat myself on the back.  I will continue to be a tough Prairie Girl – I will not become homeless.  Hey, but if I do become homeless, I know how to build a pretty nice fire, my father taught me how when I was a kid.

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When I can’t get to sleep at night once more –

I’ve learned that counting blessings

is better than counting sheep. . .

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