What a Difference A(nother) Year Makes


I realize I could start by apologizing for not writing but who would I be apologizing to? Myself? Maybe? But then I would remind myself that this year has been one of no apologies, and no excuses.

Three years ago, my husband of eleven years was telling me that he had an affair, that he didn’t love me and that he didn’t care to reconcile or even consider our marriage. Two years ago, I was counting every single day -still trying to accept what had happened. One year ago, the stress of all that I had gone through for so long took its toll on me physically and I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.   August 1 will come again and like cobwebs, his last words still cling to me. Even though M has been gone for almost 3 years, I still feel tangled in his lies. I make no apologies for feeling this way. I own my own inadequacies, I also embrace them. I have been able to move on and move forward and I have new dates that hold special memories for me now.

Over the past year, I have spent more money than I should admit to on concert tickets. After M left, one of the first things I did was go to see Ed Sheeran in concert. In Atlanta. Alone. And it hasn’t stopped since. Just this past year I’ve seen Matisyahu, The Steel Wheels, The Swinging Medallions, Mercy Me, The Air Force’s Airmen of Note, Apollo’s Fire, The Sensational Sounds of Motown w/ Mr. Motown himself, New Kids on the Block – even got to touch Joey McIntyre (squeal), Paula Abdul, Boys II Men, and before the year is over, I’ll see Crowder, Ed Sheeran, see Jonathon Byrd perform at a local coffee shop  and spend Christmas with the Oak Ridge Boys.

I helped pick our city’s best taco. I rode in an Uber that had eyelashes over its headlights. I took time off to attend our local TEDx talks. I enrolled in a leadership course at work, which opened my eyes to my own failings but also to strengths I didn’t realize I possessed. I took computer design courses and I’m embracing my newly created job position.

I still, unapologetically, get monthly massages, regular pedicures, manicures, acupuncture, and reflexology treatments. I remind my co-workers and anyone else that will listen, that self-care is too often neglected and that we all need to be kinder to ourselves. I, the most unlikely person for this task, led a team of 10 for six weeks on a fitness/wellness challenge where we placed #20 out of over 200 teams. I have maintained my plant-based nutrition program with just a couple of days where I could have made better choices, and did so the next time around. I’ve lost 65 pounds, which means that shopping for clothes has been more fun and I’ve got a closet full of new clothes. I met with the neurologist for my twelve month check-up and his comment to me was “If I didn’t know you had MS, I wouldn’t have any clue now” and he is starting to come around to my desire to manage my symptoms with nutrition and self-care even suggesting I look into the new research involving biotin. I went through my storage unit, yes, “the” storage unit. I opened every box and tossed, donated, sold, and sorted everything left from a life that was no longer. And I survived, much better than I expected I would, and it feels good. I still go to “Mental Yoga” and again, I tell everyone I know that we all need professional help sometimes.

I’ve been “published.” A local art council accepted a poem I had written not long after M had passed, and they hung it on the wall for the public to see –I was raw, and exposed, and liberated all at the same time. I joined a newly formed poetry group and am serving as their inaugural president.  I started taking ballroom dance lessons after telling myself that if I’m going to start dating again, I need to know how to dance like a lady and not be “dropping it like it’s hot” anymore. I’ve got to leave a little something for my future husband to look forward to. Yup, that’s a new one too. I’ve decided that there is still so much more within me, so much more love I can share and I do want to get married again. I’m not going to lie; dating is different than when I was last out there. But I know what I bring to the table, I’m not afraid to be by myself and if a guy can keep up with all that I’ve got going on, I hope he introduces himself.

I’ve also attended too many memorials and funerals and have said goodbye to friends who left this earth way too soon. And I’ve said goodbye to a couple of friendships. Life isn’t fair, period.

But I will rise up each morning because although life isn’t fair, the fight within me is far from gone. I’ve learned that to heal your body, you have to heal your mind, and to heal your mind, you have to heal your spirit, and to heal your spirit, you need Jesus.  Just because M is gone doesn’t mean he’s not “here.” I accept that he will always be a part of my life, even if it’s just a momentary look back every August 1.

And I know without a doubt that one thing is for certain. I now live in the present, embracing life for what it is at this very second, because I want to live as if this isn’t just a moment, but rather a memory.

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Side A


In 2014 I had a much different story to tell, a story that is now a part of my life, but no longer my life. I struggled with the thought of continuing my story under goblueblog and it just didn’t feel right.

I am now blogging at www.behindtheglass.blog … where I plan to build upon the life that was created out of the chaos of losing my husband on so many levels. It feels like forever ago but in reality its only been 2 years, 4 months, 28 days… and yes, I do still think about time, it’s just not as all-consuming as it once was. 

Welcome to “Side A” of my life (I wonder how many will understand that reference?!) where it’s not about starting over, but starting again.

 

Closing the Door


Yesterday’s a closing door, you don’t live there anymore.  Danny Gokey, Tell Your Heart To Beat Again

This song isn’t new but it is new to me and I wonder if I heard this song two years ago if I really would have heard it. Two years ago I remember comments that M made and his confusing actions. I remember asking the questions and questioning the behavior but it’s just a recollection of a conversation that occurred.  And I realized I don’t live “there” anymore but where exactly is “here.”

I used to read blogs and hear tales of infidelity – stories of how the betrayer was always so remourseful, so sorry, so willing to do whatever it took to make it right.  I wondered what it was that made M so determined that he didn’t want to save our marriage or why he apathetic to the whole situation. I remember telling M that I wished he hated me because then there would be some sort of emotion. But as I have said before M wanted nothing to do with me or in reconciling our marriage.

As selfish as it sounds – and I know it sounds selfish – I have to admit that there is a part of me that is glad that the door is closed and locked and the key doesn’t exist. I feel as if I got out, got lucky, got real closure…and I’m thankful. Thankful enough to say that statement out loud and to even write it. What I do need to remember is that in my storage unit is a tote full of ten years worth of photos, a china cabinet which was our first joint furniture purchase and a huge wall sized world map that for some reason was one of the first things I was glad to get back into my possession after M passed. Maybe I don’t have closure as much as I am benefitting from outta sight, outta mind. My “here” (aka today) might still be “there” (aka yesterday)…. I’m not sure.

But I could get caught up in a life that was shattered (mine) and/or a life that was lost (M) or I can let every heartbreak and every scar be a picture that reminds you Who has carried you this far ’cause love sees farther than you ever could, in this moment heaven’s working everything for your good.

New Normal?


Today is the best I have felt in awhile. It’s one of those realizations where you don’t know how bad you were feeling until you start to feel good kind of realization.  When asked how I was doing, I simply said, “today is a good day.”  I actually worked six hours today and was not too tired at the end of the day and for once I didn’t need to take a nap after taking a shower.  Interestingly enough, the fatigue has been a fun symptom – one minute I am alert and ready to go, the next I can fall asleep at a moment’s notice.

I am still a little scared. What will my next bout of symtoms look like? I can easily see myself being dismissive of them. What is that fine line of recognizing its just a bit of a twinge or knowing that its the start of another episode?  Additionally, I am a leo, who also happens to be a high achiever. High achievers need to be measured and my measuring stick is my job. I identify with it, I love being part of the backbone, the consistency…what happens when I don’t feel like I can be that?  In the midst of my recent craziness, I was still checking and responding to emails – even if it meant typing with one finger and closing one eye in order to see the screen. I didn’t want to be seen as not pulling my weight. I shake my head now thinking about how I even paired an infusion appointment with a delivery to our mailhouse so our organization stayed on track and no one had to go out of their way– who does that? Me, apparently.

Alot of people have been shocked by the initial diagnosis…none more than me…but even with all the conflicting information out there, it seems like one consistent thing to keep the symptoms at bay is good nutrition. There are several things recommended to avoid. Of specific mention are white sugar, refined flours and saturated fats–(sigh)– the best desserts are made with all of those! Earlier this year, I starting to eat “cleaner” so some of it isn’t that much of a change for me but realizing that every bite means I am either feeding the disease or fighting it gives me a bit of a new perspective. I try not to think of all the days that lie ahead but rather just focus on the one that is in front of me. 

Tomorrow I have a video conference call with our former Arizona nutritionist. M met her during one of his physical therapy appointments and she used to come to our house. The reality for us was that trying to save money where we could meant taking advantage of a program at our local food bank. While we would come home with a lot of food most of it was bakery items, canned meats, sugary drinks, and lots of pasta noodles. If you were to look in our pantry at the time, you would have found plenty of refined flour products, lots of sugar, and plenty of things highly processed…but things that were just pennies on the dollar. We once told her during a home visit that eating healthy was expensive and she remarked, “do you know how expensive a heart attack is?” Ha! Be it known that I have never used that excuse again.   

I am just going to have to make myself pause and remember that I am the only one responsible for me and normal will no longer be normal.

Same Book, New Chapter


Well, as I’ve said before, we all have a story. My book just got a new chapter and I will start from the beginning. Pack a lunch because this is going to be a long one.

On May 18th, I realized I lost my sense of taste and smell – it was gone- literally gone. I thought maybe it was because I had eaten some rancid nuts the night before. My co-worker thought as much, I thought as much, my parents thought as much. I also noticed that the whole left side of my body felt numb. I could feel pressure but I couldn’t really distinguish a rough or soft touch. I consulted Dr. Google but I really didn’t match anything because I didn’t fit any of the symptoms – the loss of taste could be an allergic reaction, and I didn’t have a pins and needles sensation.  My boss & coworker encouraged me to call my real doctor which I did and they were pretty casual about it so I was casual about it and had an appointment with Dr. R for the following Thursday.

I went to work the next week and noticed that my writing was a bit off — just not as fluid but couldn’t really pinpoint anything except it seemed “off” and my eyes just didn’t seem to want to work together. When I saw the physician’s assistant that Thursday, she asked me all the normal questions related to stroke and determined that I didn’t have a stroke and not really knowing what to do she checked with the doctor who wanted me to get an brain MRI. So I made my appointment for the following Wednesday.

I had planned on taking the Friday before the holiday off so that I would get a four-day weekend. Each day of that 4-day weekend, my vision got worse. I started becoming dizzy, unstable, and started seeing double. I put medical tape over one eye to keep the double vision to a minimum. I was a site to see trying to walk the hallway – bouncing off the walls!

On the Tuesday after the holiday, I returned to work – mind you, it is a crazy busy time for my desk and there were things that had to be done. But when I got to work, I started to cry — I shouldn’t have driven, I was having a hard time seeing, my body was numb, I still had no taste and consequently no appetite, and a new symptom–my right (dominant) hand was having a hard time using the mouse – critical to my work load.  My boss kindly “asked me to go home” and we had a not-so-fun conversation. I later learned that she had talked to my co-worker and the big boss and wanted a note from a doctor that I was OK to return to work. Plain and simple, she was really worried about me. She encouraged me to go to see Dr.R sooner but my MRI was the next day and he wouldn’t know anything until the results were returned to him 48 hours later and I was scheduled to see him on Monday anyways… so again, I was following his lead- very casual. I had already planned on switching doctors anyway and in the meantime was scheduled for a new patient visit with Dr. H the second week of June.

So I went to my MRI appointment and then thought since Dr. R won’t give me a work release because I really didn’t emphasize the trouble with my eyes, I would go see Dr. C, my ophthalmologist. They got me right in on Thursday and after checking my vision and sharing that I had a fourth-nerve palsy said to me “I’m going to fax Dr. R a note right away and he may want to see you sooner or send you to a neurologist. He will have this note in an hour”.  I have to admit that was the first time I got a bit nervous. No one had considered it that urgent previously. I still didn’t get my work release!

I invited my boss to my follow up appointment with Dr. R the following Monday so that she could make sure I was OK to return to work even if I had to be driven everywhere and was wearing a fancy adhesive eye patch (ahoy matey!). Dr. R was again casual not having even looked at the MRI results or even aware that Dr. C had faxed a note on the Thursday  prior. As he read the notes of the MRI he started mentioning things like “lesion, right lobe, swelling, demyelinating disease, MS, palsy, Lyme disease.  He asked me which neurologist I would like to see (as if I know of a neurologist?!) and my mom, boss & I agreed we had heard of the doctor on Baxter Street. They were going to fax over the paperwork to them and that neurologist’s office would call me to schedule and appointment the following Friday – a week later. *For the record, I called them not hearing back and noticed that I was actually scheduled with Dr. E at a completely different neurologist office and they didn’t have anything from Dr. R’s office so I called Dr. R’s office, asked that the referral be resent and when Dr. E’s office called they only had the 21st open, so I took that date. I share this only because this is really where I start to see God’s hand in play. 

The following Tuesday was my appointment with Dr. H. As I had discovered just a few days prior, she was married to Dr. E!  She took one look at my new patient paperwork, asked a few questions and then promptly said to me, “You need to see Dr. E sooner rather that later,” and she called Dr. E’s office and got me an appointment for the next day! Oh, hello Jesus.

On Wednesday… now a full month of little to no taste, minimal feeling on the left side of my body, double vision and tremors in my right hand, I finally saw a neurologist. He showed me the video of my brain and two lesions on the right side which were causing my left side problems and lack of taste issues. He said the right side problems were a “leak-through” problem of the right side lesions and it could just have easily affected my mobility or speech. He sent me out with a stack of paperwork about 1/4 of an inch–saying that he wanted to rule out MS and lymphoma. Lymphoma! That wasn’t even on my radar — it was the first time I cried – and I tear up now feeling those emotions again. He wanted an urgent MRI of my spine to see if there were more lesions present and an urgent request for lumbar puncture.  The past two weeks have been a whirlwind. I have been paying people to poke me with needles – whether it be blood, contrast for the MRI of my spinal cord, or the lumbar puncture.

I received a voice mail from the nurse –good news! The nurse doesn’t call with bad news–that’s the doctor’s job. Turns out my Vitamin B test came back low and I just needed to take a B-Complex with B1 and B12. I was thrilled to hear this. The eye doctor could also fit me for a prism lens which would help that fourth-nerve palsy. She said the doctor would be in touch as the rest of the tests came back. And at 4:30 that same day, I got a call from Dr. E directly. Two of my labs came back abnormal -two that were prime indicators of MS, two letters that have changed my world the past couple of days. He said that based on those initial tests & his experience, he recommended I get in immediately for three days of an infusion drip of a strong steroid to see if we could lesson the symptoms — but the anticipated long-term prognosis remained — multiple sclerosis.

So yesterday, today and tomorrow I sit in an infusion room getting my drip. I have a port in my wrist so that they have only had to prick me once. On the plus side I have a cool looking Michael Jackson medical gauze glove! But my eye-sight has improved, my hand tremors have stopped, my feeling and taste are back. The doctor is waiting for a few more cultures to come back but so far all arrows lead to MS. I’m not the typical candidate but then again who is? Like cancer, it doesn’t discriminate and what I can do now is manage they symptoms and try to control my body from destroying itself. The doctor, based on my labs, does not feel its infectious, viral, or bacterial. Mine is likely the result of an auto-immune attack. 

To those who would say that I don’t deserve this, I would say I agree but here it is- the start of my new chapter and while it caught me by surprise it didn’t catch my God off-guard. He is still the same God yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And He is still a God of healing and miracles.

Brain lesions pic courtesy of Lucyand3cats.blogspot.com

The Fourth D


Its been almost a year, yes a year, since my last post. The release I felt in writing that post has carried me far and then on some level not far enough. I still think about M. Only now, I’m content with the memory. Admittedly, sometimes it lingers a bit longer than I want it to, but when it’s gone, I dont feel so hollow.

In my last post I spoke about my three D’s and how I was waiting for the 4th one… Deliverence. I’m still holding out for that but God did give me a fourth “D”.

After a very emotionaly charged weekend which included copious amounts of frozen pizza and cookies, I sat on my bed and in the stillness of the night said aloud, God, I would like a boyfriend and a dog. Boy, if that statement doesn’t show my state of mind– clearly I wanted companionship. HA!

The next morning, after said binge weekend, I decided that I needed to swear off solid food and decided to get a smoothie. As I was walking out of the smoothie shop, there was a little puppy running loose in the parking lot. I distinctly remember saying to myself, “aww, look at that little puppy.” Next thing I see is the puppy running towards the main street. I paused for a second certain that someone was chasing it but nope, nothing. So I said, in an effort to divert its path towards the street, Hey buddy, hey buddy. The puppy ran directly to me, jumped INTO my car, went to the back seat and fell asleep. I remember standing there with my smoothie in my hand expecting someone to come running after it. Nothing. I was in shock. All I knew was that I needed to get to work and what was I supposed to do with a puppy? I was wearing a belt that day, something I do once every 10 years, so I fashioned my belt into a leash and took the puppy to a vet to see if she was microchipped. Nope. I posted notices in the neighborhood, notified animal control. Nothing. After three days, I decided that I could not keep a puppy – I was barely keeping myself – so I surrendered her to animal control. No one picked her. The Humane Society took her in (phew, she wasn’t going to be euthanized) but still no one claimed or choose this sweet puppy. And each day, I watched the Humane Society’s facebook page and went to adoption events that they held and still no one choose her. Each night my heart felt more and more conviction – was this MY dog? Did God actually give me a dog? Finally I couldn’t take it, I submitted my application, paid the fee and brought home my sweet Khaleesi/Cassie/Sydney/Bellatrix and finally the name that she actually accepted and suited her, Maggie May.

That was nine months ago and I’ve never looked back. I shamelessly love on her, kiss her nose and rub her belly on demand. I buy her toys and treats not because I have to but because how can I not? I laugh at her antics and constantly say to myself, I can’t believe its only been 9 months, she feels like she has been a part of my life forever. And for her birthday I am throwing her a birthday party at her favorite doggie day camp, complete with treat bags for the other dogs and pizza for the staff.

When I tell the story I say that I went back to the smoothie shop the next day in hopes of seeing that glorious man who would become my boyfriend, but alas no such luck. And when I get to the part of how I rescued MM, I have to pause and say, no, I think she rescued me.

 

 

Lost and Found


I write all the time…. in my head. Be it 2:30 in the morning, 7:30 in the shower, or 10:30 at break time, I am constantly telling my story – to myself. I almost wish I had a mini tape recorder that I could speak into so that when I did sit down to write a blog entry, I would remember all the brilliant things I wrote in my mind.

But I suppose to “hear” them out loud would make it all so real and part of me still doesn’t believe that it is real. It’s been almost 8 months since D-day…. The first of my D-days… I have three—Discovery day, divorce day and death day. I told my therapist I’m holding out for #4: Deliverance.

I spent the end of February in Austin. I wasn’t quite sure that I wanted to be there but didn’t have a choice. Work was still work and I needed to be a part of this conference so I accepted that it was going to be me and 1200 of my “closest” friends for the next four days. It was also the first time I’ve been to be in a group of folks where the focus was not over a common personal bond such as divorce or death. I dreaded getting those personal questions…. Are you married, do you have children, and tell me about yourself.  

For months, I have struggled with who I am, who I was, and worse, who I had become all through what I believed was no fault of my own. It was easier for me to believe and to say that I was widowed, even though M & I were legally divorced by the time he took his life. But for whatever reason, it was just more soothing to my soul to identify myself as a widow.

So when asked, are you married? I would respond (probably with a sad look in my eyes) that my husband had died. After the obligatory look of sympathy I would get follow up questions such as did you have any children? which was always a painful trigger for me even when we were married. But the fact remained that my answer wasn’t the truth and each time I said it, it would bother me more and more. M wasn’t my husband anymore and I was lying, not only to others but to myself. Each time it would simply remind me that all I was doing was perpetuating the life of lies that had started so many months ago.  Needless to say, I built up Austin to be a battlefield of triggers that I expected to have to navigate.

Through a very funny set of events the morning that I left, I had a breakthrough. I wasn’t in a group setting led by a counselor, or in my one on one with my therapist or even in a prayer meeting surrounded by my church family,  it was me – dealing with a situation that I had neither prepared for nor expected. In this situation, I felt that I needed to explain why something was happening the way it was and without thinking my response was “I lost my husband last year and that’s why etc…” The ladies behind the counter accepted what I said and they didn’t look at me with anticipation of any further information. I smiled to myself the rest of the morning. I had found my proper response, I lost my husband.  It was honest, it was simple and it was all that was needed.

I had to say it just one more time in Austin when asked if I was married and it yielded the same response. Nothing—no anticipation of follow up information expected to be shared. It was oh, I’m sorry and then onto the next topic.

I lost my husband – so simple and truthful and yet only part of the truth. I lost myself too last year. I lost the person that I thought I was, the person I thought I would be till death, not divorce, do me part. However, in my loss there was a lot found. I found depression, I found anger, i found grief, I found confusion, I found lies, I found myself receiving advice—good and bad and unsolicited, I found myself searching—constantly searching. But it didn’t occur to me to find myself.

I have come to realize that I don’t have to identify myself as any “one” thing. I am not either divorced OR widowed. And I don’t have to be defined by what happened last year. I can be defined by how I choose to define myself. I am a kind person, a beautiful soul within a beautiful body, loved and forgiven by an awesome God.

Hello, my name is Z and I have found that I’m happy to be me.