Thursday, May 22, 2014

On NOT feeling beautiful....

"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it."-Confucius

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched-they must be felt with the heart."-Helen Keller

"The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years."-Audrey Hepburn

Beauty. The definition varies from person to person. The places, people and things that we find beautiful vary greatly from person to person. So, why does there seem to be such an obsession with what is beautiful? Women in particular fall into this trap most easily. So many of us link our self worth to how beautiful we are perceived to be by others.

I am guilty of this myself. There are very few times in my life that I have felt beautiful. My family tried to bolster my self esteem. They tried to help me realize that there was something beautiful about me. But, I couldn't or maybe wouldn't see it. I let the opinions and perceptions of others drive how I felt about myself. I let the taunting and whispers of my peers bore into my heart and soul. Sometimes I tried to "fit in", only to be mocked and sneered at for my efforts. Most of the time I didn't try- I still felt the sting of their comments but I tried to act like I didn't care. And so I never really felt accepted and beautiful.

Even when I fell in love with my husband and had my children. Even after all the times they have told me I am beautiful. I never let myself believe it could be true that anyone would see me that way.

So how do I change my perspective? How do I look past all of my perceived flaws and focus on the things that are positive? I don't really know. I want to. I want to be a confident person. I want to feel better about myself. I want to believe the people who tell me I am beautiful. I just don't know how to accomplish this feat.

Sometimes I think: If I just lose weight- I will feel beautiful. If I had better hair- I will feel beautiful. If I dressed fashionably- I will feel beautiful. Then I realize, all of that may make me more attractive to others but is it "true beauty"? Or is it just a mask presented to the world in order to try and "fit in".

So, will I ever really feel beautiful? I don't know. History tells me that I will always struggle with the way I see myself. I can only hope that somehow the beauty I want others to see will shine through in more important ways. I hope that people will see beauty in the family I have raised. In the marriage I am so proud to be a part of. In the things I try to do for others. In the art I enjoy creating.

And maybe someday I will feel really beautiful.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye."-Miss Piggy, The Muppets.

Monday, April 21, 2014

I'm an artist... in my own mind....

Okay... so I'm not a "real" artist. It's not like I am toiling away to create something every day. Nor do I rely on my art to make a living. And believe me, there is some art out there that I just don't get. I know art is in the eye of the beholder but, sometimes I look at art pieces and think I must need glasses. I don't always see it.

I'm not sure how my art would be catergorized. I assume it would be considered more commercial. Something that's geared more towards the masses. Whatever it is... it makes me happy.

Well, most of the time anyway. As I have mentioned before, I am my own worst critic. So I tend to pick apart my work pretty harshly. I often throw away projects because I just don't feel like it's working. But in general the act of creating an art project feeds my soul and lifts my spirits in a way few things do. It helps me escape the negative and even helps me when I need to work through something.

So, I may be the only one who ever really enjoys the art I create. But, that's okay. It makes me happy. And we all need something that makes us happy.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Angels don't always have wings.

The last few years have been challenging to say the least. We have endured the deaths of several family members, some we were prepared for and some that caught us by complete surprise. We lost all 3 of our beloved dogs during this time. We lost jobs and the significant portion of our income. We dealt with medical issues, depression and recovery. At times it was almost too much and we struggled with the desire to just give up.

But, even though times were tough we managed to survive.

A big part of that survival was because of the "angels" we had backing us up. While I do believe we had angels watching over us from on high... I also know that many of our angels didn't sport wings. Most of our angels came in the disguise of regular people. Our family and our friends.

Each and every angel brought something special into our lives. They offered support when we needed it. That support came in many forms and every single form was important. Every little bit kept us going and raised our spirits.

And so we made it through. And I want to be sure and thank everyone of our "Angels". Thank you for listening to us when we needed it. Thank you for keeping us in your prayers. Thank you for never giving up and encouraging us. Thank you for giving what and when you could in order to ease our burdens. We LOVE and APPRECIATE you all!!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

On becoming my own personal cheerleader...

For reasons unknown the idea that I need to become my own personal cheerleader is stuck in my head today.

God knows, I am not naturally inclined to "toot my own horn" or even acknowledge my own accomplishments. As a matter of fact, I tend to do quite the opposite and down play what I have done. I don't take compliments well. I am my own worst critic.

But, today I started to wonder why I can't take just a moment and be proud of myself. I know it's possible to be proud of an accomplishment without sounding conceited. I have many family members and friends who have that confidence in themselves and I never feel that they are bragging or trying to belittle anyone else by doing so.

So, why not try to be proud of myself once and a while? What's wrong with that?

So today, for just a minute I am going to focus on one thing I have done that I am very proud of. That thing is this:

Yes, that is my high school diploma. What's the big deal you might ask? Pretty much everyone goes to school and gets one, it's not that hard.

But for me this was a hard won accomplishment. You might notice that the diploma is dated 2008. Yep, 2008. Yes, I was 39 years old when I earned it. 21 years from the time I should have graduated with my senior class.

Why did it take me so long? I don't have a great answer. I didn't technically "drop out" of high school. I went all 4 years. I just didn't go to every class, all the time. So I didn't earn the credits I needed to walk the stage with my peers.

High school was a tough time in my life. I had no clue at the time but, this was when the first symptoms of my Bipolar disorder began to manifest. My self esteem was in the dumps. I was not a happy person. Because of this school was not a priority. I railed against the system. Complained that it was all worthless information that I would never really use. So if I hated a class or a teacher, I just didn't attend. My report cards from high school are a portrait of inconsistency. If you look at the grades and attendance you will see I got A's & B's in the classes I enjoyed (and that even included more then just "fun" classes- I aced History courses every year for example!). Attendance reflects the same thing, if I liked a class I attended regularly. If not, well... the attendance is just sad!!

For years after high school I didn't let the fact that I failed to graduate bother me. It just didn't think it mattered and I didn't think it made a huge impact on my life.

Then one day - something changed.

Maybe it was the fact that my kids were in High School and Middle School at that time. That they were both working towards the goal of graduating. That I felt like a hypocrite when I lectured them about their grades and stressed to them how important it was to get through school.

Suddenly,the fact that I did not have a high school diploma started to weigh on my heart and mind. I felt incomplete. So, I resolved to do something about it. And I started looking into programs that would help me reach that goal.

I could have gone the GED route. I could have studied, taken the tests and finished that way but, for me... it just didn't feel right. While earning your GED is a big accomplishment, I needed more. I wanted the diploma.

So, I found a program that would let me do just that. The courses I had finished in High School were considered but, I had a lot to make up and an incredible amount of work to do.

In some ways it was easier. Easier in the sense that I was motivated to do it. I was resolved to make it through. But, in many ways it was much harder. I mean come on- it had been 20 years since I had opened a school book. Math, English, Essays. Some days I didn't think I would make it. Some days I wanted to just throw up my hands and say forget it. I don't need it. But, I didn't. My family knew I was working towards this goal. I wanted to make them proud AND I wanted to make myself proud. I wanted this.

And so I did it. It took over a years worth of hard work. But, I DID IT! The day my diploma arrived in the mail was one of the proudest days in my life because, I had finally accomplished my goal.

Yes, it would have been easier to just go to class as a teenager, do my work and finish like everyone else. But, maybe I needed to do it this way. I am who I am today because of the choices I made all those years ago. And at least for this moment I am proud of that person. I am cheering that accomplishment and celebrating who I am. Without reservation.

Today, I am my own personal cheerleader!!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mixed nuts and Chocolate.

I live in a tin of "mixed nuts". No matter how much I'd like to spend my days enjoying nothing but "boxes of chocolate", it's just not realistic.

Life Is Tough.

Sometimes, it feels like everything is going wrong. Sometimes it breaks you down and makes you want to give it all up.

But, you know what... that's okay.

Because if everything was easy would we ever step outside our comfort zone and try to make things better? How would we learn patience? Would we be as appreciative of the good things we enjoy? Or would we become complacent? Would we take our lives and our loved ones for granted?

My tin of "mixed nuts" has been over-flowing in the past few years. We have endured the loss of several loved ones. We have struggled with health issues. We have lost jobs and income. We have given up the majority of the luxuries we once enjoyed.

And even though all of these losses have weighed heavily on our hearts. We are still blessed with a lot of "chocolate".

We have an over abundance of loved ones still left in this world. Our Children. My Dad. Our Sisters. Our Brothers. Our Nieces and Nephews. Our Cousins. Our Friends.

These are the pieces of "chocolate" that fill our box to overflowing. These are the things that make life a little sweeter.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

It's not an excuse... it's an explanation.

I am often told that I am "closed off" and too quiet. That I don't let people know what I am thinking and/or feeling. That I exasperate people because I don't answer questions freely.

Why am I this way?

Well, for the most part I figure no one needs to hear - nor would most people understand what goes on in my head. And why would they want to hear it? I am a tangle of anxieties and fears. Some, I know, are truly irrational but they exist nonetheless.

Sometimes I just don't want to be told that I should "get over it", that other people have it worse, that I just need to be on medication or that it's "all in my head".

While I do appreciate that most people are trying to supportive, platitudes don't really help me. I don't feel these things because I want to. I don't want to be sad and miserable. I don't want to feel out of control. I did not choose to be Bipolar. No one would choose to feel this way everyday.

I would love to be an upbeat and happy person all the time. I would love to smile and sing and laugh every day. And yes, some days I can be that way. But, it's not always easy. Sometimes I am just masking the pain I really feel.

So, please forgive me if I am difficult. I don't want to be combative ( Okay, I confess....maybe sometimes I do... but, it's not ALL the time. ) I am trying to be a good person. It's just a little harder when you don't always have control over your emotions.

And I promise you... I am not using my diagnosis as an excuse to be this way.

I am my own worst critic. I beat myself up more then anyone else could. I struggle and I fall and I pick myself up the best I can. I worry constantly that one day everyone will have had enough. That I will be left alone.

And that scares me more then anything.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

He is my better half.

This is my husband. This picture sums up his personality perfectly. He IS my "better half".

The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms defines "better half" as follows:

better half

1. Also, better part. The larger amount or majority of something.

Some people don't like the term better half. Some people believe it belittles a partners position in a relationship. I don't look at it that way. I use the term "better half" as a tribute to my husband.

I truly believe that my husband is my other half and my better half. My husband pushes me to be a better person. He is my very own personal cheerleader. He is also my kindest critic. I would not and could not be the person I want to be, if he wasn't here to support me.

Being the partner of someone who has Bipolar disorder is not easy. Life can be chaotic. The day to day can be so inconsistent.

My husband rides that Bipolar roller coaster ride alongside me. And he handles it much better then I do. Sometimes he is better at it then others. But, overall he is the positive driving force that keeps me going.

Even more amazing then that... He. Loves. Me. No. Matter. What.

He loves me when I am so depressed that I can barely function. He loves me when I am wound up and antsy and hard to deal with. He listens to my anxieties and tries to understand. He does his best and his best is more then I can ask for.

So yes, my husband is definitely my better half. Because he is there to support me. He holds me up when I feel ready to fall. He keeps me centered and makes me feel loved.

I can't imagine living my life without him. Because he IS half of me... My Better Half.