IT’S BEEN A LIFETIME

The heart is the most important muscle there is, but it does more than just pump blood.

It creates memories.

“Muscle memory” is when a movement is done repeatedly over time and your muscle creates a sort of memory for that movement which allows you to do it without really thinking about it too much; like riding a bike, or typing on a keyboard.

Emotions are born in the brain . . . but they live in the heart.

That’s why it swells and overflows when we feel joy. And that’s why a “broken heart” physically hurts when we lose or miss someone.

It all happens there. Some would argue the accuracy of this, but it would fall on deaf ears. I know my heart and what it holds.

And today it is aching.

I thought I knew what love was.

Until I had a child.

And everything changed.

I fell in love with my son the moment I knew of him.

Our life together began with his first hello . . . a small flutter from within; and with every passing month, I talked to him and he responded with little poked messages of acknowledgement, as we secretly conversed in our own Morse code; with me talking and him tap, tap, tapping in reply.

Until the tapping stopped.

And it was all over.

The dream ended; the gift withdrawn.

And I was left with nothing but empty arms and a broken heart.

When you lose a baby, you lose a lifetime.

In my case, I also lost a lifeSTYLE, because I couldn’t have another child.

And the trouble is my heart already started loving him.

My heart memorized every single moment of him. Every movement, and every hope and dream; his first steps and his first bike ride, when he learned to drive and when he went off to college. My heart remembers the sound of him calling out, “Mom!” as he returned home from school; and the way his dark hair fell across his forehead when he was asleep. I remember when he fell in love with my daughter-in-law and they had my first grandbaby; and how I marveled at my blessings and the opportunity to relive it all again.

Oh, yes, I fell in love with him.

And my heart remembers the life we were supposed to have.

The one I had imagined.

Our beautiful babies aren’t supposed to die; but mine did . . . on the day he was born.

He was in an incubator . . . and then he wasn’t.

Then he was in my arms.

Then I was allowed to hold him.

And in those few moments . . . we lived our lifetime together.

Those powerful few moments have sustained me for 30 years.

I’m not burdened by the weight of grief every single day anymore.

I’ve learned how to live with the reality; you get used to feeling the pain, I guess. I actually embrace it at times. And memories of my son are kind of like breathing for me – I don’t consciously think about breathing, but I do it . . . all the time.

Needless to say, 2014 has been a “numbers” kind of year for me.

Six years without a cigarette, 5 years without an egg, a piece of fish, or a steak, and 4 years without a script for pain meds; I turned 55 years old, my son, Michael, would’ve been 30, and this is the year my matrimony is “a wash” – 12 years married, now 12 years divorced.

I’m not sure what it all means. But I’ve never been good with numbers, so I’ll leave it to the experts.

As for today, I am thoughtful.

I am grieving the loss of my son on his 30th birthday, I am sad for what will never be, and I wonder what motivates me to rise each day.

But I do. And I will.

And I will continue to grab the little bits of joy I happen upon, and I will embrace them. I will work hard to be good and to be kind. And to be better than I am.

Because I have a son. And I want him to be proud.

And just in case there is a heaven.

Categories: Grief/Healing, Holidays/Birthdays | Tags: , , , , , , | 17 Comments

MY BIRTHDAY PARTY

Hi Friends!

I just turned 55 years old and had a fabulous party at Kensington Metropolitan Park in Milford, Michigan with my human bestie, Pat Petroline, and many of my wildlife and barnyard friends. I enjoyed the photographs so much that I compiled them into a video slideshow featuring all the images from the day, set to the song, “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.

I just love it and I hope you do too.

All my best to you, friends.

Sweet dreams.

 

Categories: Animals, Holidays/Birthdays, Nature, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

REMAINS OF THE DAY

As an actor, I had to pretend, imitate, hide, steal, keep secrets, and even transcend. I created believable characters and delivered Oscar-worthy performances.

Ooops, wait a minute . . . did I say, “Actor”?

I meant, “Addict”.

“As an ADDICT I’ve learned to pretend, imitate, hide . . . “.

Although, after 40 years of addiction I’ve become quite the actor. I was so good that when I stopped acting, there was no one left. There was no one remaining. I’d lost the central character . . . me.

It’s said that addicts have to hit rock bottom before they can begin recovery. Trouble is, I didn’t recognize rock bottom even when I slammed into it.

I thought it would BE like in the movies; when the alcoholic wakes up face down in a ditch, with no memory of how she got there.

I never embraced a ditch, but I did pass out face-down in a bowl of Fruit Loops once.

And I thought it would LOOK like in the movies; like the crack addict with sores and discolored teeth who eventually blows up her house while brewing chemicals.

Although I never had sores or blew up the house; I did lose a lot of teeth, and I did set the sofa on fire by falling asleep with a cigarette in my hand.

The tragedy is that I never saw the similarities between them and me.

As a result, I co-failed in marriage, spent a lifetime in a foggy buzz, and lost most of my memories. I was constantly using drugs, pursuing them, or desperately trying to hide my addiction to them.

My addiction was accessible, convenient, socially acceptable, and kind of legal. And it only required two things: my willingness and a reliable drug dealer.

And I had both.

I was lost and floundering, and he was greedy and available. So together we entered into a relationship in which neither of us acted or looked the part.

We never spoke in drug code on the phone, or met in a dark alley in the hood, or in the bowels of inner Detroit. And my dealer wasn’t paranoid, dressed in Goth black, or covered in tats and piercings; and his pants did NOT hang below his butt.

Nope. He was confident and clean-cut.

And he wore white.

My dealer was my doctor.

And my addiction was to prescription drugs.

*

I took my first pain pill when I was fifteen years old and suffering with a migraine.

Three things happened:

  • I felt the buzz of codeine.
  • My addiction switch was flipped on.
  • I lied about feeling relief because I already wanted more.

It was that quick and easy.

Over the next 40 years, I lived on a daily cocktail of medications prescribed for pain, muscle tension, anxiety, sleep, depression, and seizures.

And because of the migraines, finding a dealer doctor was easy.

As with all professions, there are good doctors and bad ones. The good ones won’t prescribe pain meds if they aren’t truly warranted. They will work with you to reduce pain and eliminate or control the cause of it.

And the bad ones won’t. They won’t take the time. But they will take a quick moment to write a script and take your money.

I don’t blame my doctor for my addiction, but I will say:

“I couldn’t have done it without him”.

Now, four years later, I take full responsibility for my health, behavior, and life. I volunteer my history of addiction to my doctors because once I do, there is no turning back. And every time I own it, I’m a little proud; because I’m reclaiming myself.

I don’t oppose mainstream medicine or the legitimate use of prescription drugs. Pharmaceuticals save lives, manage diseases and disorders, and relieve pain. If I could tolerate an effective bipolar medication, I would take it in a minute. And if I was having surgery, I would take pain medication during my recovery.

But my pills ceased to be for pain and morphed into a crutch and a habit.

There was always a reason to take one; if I was insecure, upset, depressed, or even just bored. And I was not discriminating about what I ingested. I quickly discarded the inconvenience of discrimination, along with my dignity, judgment, and self-confidence.

As long as I felt . . . better. Or numb.

I didn’t know about bipolar disorder and self-medicating, or about masking and delaying grief, and I didn’t know about addictive personalities or that it can be genetic and run in families.

I couldn’t be an addict . . . because my drugs were prescribed.

“These are needed”, they said.

And I was hurting and without tools to cope with the pain of life or death . . . so I pretended to believe them.

And I took a pill.

And another.

And another.

EVERY SINGLE DAY, for years.

I don’t know what spurred me, but I slowly weaned myself from one medication at a time until, eventually, I stopped taking all ten medications (Do this under the supervision of your doctor!).

Today, I still take pills. The ones I need; for thyroid and migraine (a migraine med, NOT a pain med), and Xanax for sleep or extreme anxiety.

I’ve been clean now for four years.

Boy, what a different world.

It’s all brand new. And I’m doing everything for the first time.

Now, without any fog to act as a buffer, I’m living in a world FULL of people with issues. It’s difficult, as I’m still finding and developing tools for coping and interacting with them.

Sometimes, I miss the warm fuzzy fogginess of codeine. Things seemed easier. Nothing really touched me. When I felt things, it was dreamlike.

But I’m awake now.

And that means I’m seeing all of life’s beauty for the first time. But I’m also feeling my bipolar disorder; acutely. And my grief. And now, living an inactive, disabled life has become much less tolerable. It was easier when I didn’t care.

But getting clean makes you care. It also makes you restless and uncertain of your next step.

Yes, I’m awake now. And I have a small window of opportunity to try to live an entire lifetime . . . again, the right way.

Why am I sharing all of this?

Because America is suffering from an epidemic of addiction.

Prescription drug addiction is the #1 addiction in the USA today   (NOT marijuana, alcohol, or heroin). There’s an estimated 20,000 prescription drug-related deaths annually.

SO WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

  • START AT HOME by setting an example. Watch your child’s behavior. Be diligent. Keep all medications inaccessible or you will become your child’s drug source should they become curious or depressed.
  • BUCK UP. Feel life. It’s okay to be sad or experience pain sometimes. When physical or mental pain persists or interferes with your quality of life, THEN it’s time to visit your doctor.
  • STOP SHARING your pills. Your friends may become addicted or have a bad reaction. You might be well-intentioned, but that’s not the way to help.
  • BE WILLING TO DO THE WORK OF LIVING healthier. Whether that entails diet, exercise, quitting smoking, stress management, or physical/psychiatric therapy. Seek natural and alternative therapies.
  • DON’T SELF-DIAGNOSE. You’re not a doctor and your friends aren’t either. And however educated, they don’t know your medical history; online information is ambiguous at best, and every patient is different. Consult a doctor.
  • OVER-PRESCRIBING DOCTORS WILL QUICKLY OFFER YOU PAIN MEDS. It doesn’t mean you have to take them. You can “just say no”. If pain meds are needed, remember that they’re not a long-term solution.
  • RECOGNIZE your addictive personality or family history.
  • BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR LIFE. Dr. Random doesn’t care if you live zoned-out and in a stupor. Protect and contribute to your quality of life.

This is 2014 and there’s a new addiction in our country.

It’s lured us with its legality and promises of a quick fix for whatever ails us. With the pop of a pill, we don’t have to feel even remotely uncomfortable ever.

But is that what we want?

And is that the legacy we leave our children?

I spent 40 years spinning my wheels and going nowhere. I wasted a lifetime.

Don’t you.

Rewrite the script to your life story. If you don’t know how, find someone who does and ask for help. There are plenty of us around.

I was nearly 50 years old when I stopped hiding from the pain of life and took my first baby step towards change. And then I took another. And another. I shed the dealer. And the addict. And I stopped playing the victim.

And when the fog cleared, I looked around. I thought that there was no one left. But I was wrong.

I’m directing my own movie now. And at the end of the day, there IS someone left.

Me.

I remain.

And that’s a start.

Categories: Addiction, Inspiration/Motivation | Tags: , , , | 38 Comments

Baxter Turns TWO!

Today is Baxter’s 2nd birthday and he’s a very happy boy.

First, we went for a drive.

BAXTER SMILING IN CAR

Then he opened his Birthday cards.

BAX CARD BDAYhis

For his special activity he’s chosen a themed movie marathon on television . . .

BAX ON LAPtv

. . . obviously, Sci-Fi.

bax w foil hatbday

It’s hard to believe I’ve had him for only two years……feels like a hundred! haha.

Here is the blog I wrote after first bringing him home. He was 6 weeks old and weighed 1.5 pounds. http://wp.me/p2ckKM-5W.

Happy birthday, Bax! Momma loves you!

Categories: Animals, Holidays/Birthdays, Humor | Tags: , , , , , | 14 Comments

PURE MICHIGAN MAGIC – Look Closely

Here is my first narrated, 2.30 minute slideshow featuring my voice (eeek!), some beautiful music, and my favorite wintery Michigan photographs.

Please take a moment and share with me. Thank you!

http://youtu.be/DZy-Jd6bBLU.

xoJulia

Categories: Downriver/Detroit, Michigan, Inspiration/Motivation, Nature, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

ANOTHER YEAR

Things I’ve realized this past year:

For every personal issue that I address and overcome, three new things replace it.

I don’t know if I have enough time or energy left to become the person I always dreamt I’d be.

My expectations cause most of my pain.

There’s a difference between being kind and being a people pleaser. I’m both. And I don’t like the latter.

The man who will befriend me, accept me, celebrate me, and comfort me, probably doesn’t exist and I will most likely spend the rest of my life alone.

I need to let go of the dream for a better life, but wonder how I will face each day without that hope.

Old, childless Aunties are left to the wayside.

It’s hard to be humorous while my heart is breaking.

Good customer service is becoming the exception.

Common sense is not common.

With the blast of new technology and social media, we now communicate instantly and ineffectively with millions, and rarely talk honestly with the person right next to us.

Somewhere along the line, “Please” and “Thank you” were replaced by, “I gotta go pee” and “My bad”. We are advancing into a new form of ignorance that is less than charming.

Nature and nonhuman creatures have nourished and saved me this year.

The instincts of motherhood, the potency of a hot flash, or the intensity of grief, could power a city.

New body ailments crop up out of nowhere every couple of months. Apparently, I can no longer raise my arms above my head without getting a cramp in my ribcage. Makes for an interesting chest x-ray. And mammogram.

Grosse Ile has a secret mafia consisting of a well-organized, well-established gang of gray-hairs called the Grosse Ile Garden Club. Although we’ve never met, word has it that I’ve stepped on a few well-manicured toes by competing with their annual fundraising calendar. I also hear that although they will not break your legs, they may kick you in the shin. Or pull your hair. Haha.

I didn’t have my annual “curative date” this year – the one that cures me of my relationship-envy for a while. Last year’s was with an online man who was the most physically unattractive person I’ve ever met. I know that I’m an overweight, under average looking old woman, but this guy was reminiscent of an animated version of one of Rocky’s Siberian boxing opponents, and although I was stunned at first, I’m nothing if not gracious, and surprisingly, he had swagger, so we proceeded to have a good dinner and a few laughs. At the end of the night he gifted me an open-mouthed slobbery face-kiss. I waited until he left to wipe away his drool with my sleeve. Funny thing is, I actually considered seeing him again, but he never called. Haha. Joke’s on me.

My 15 pound Pomeranian and equally girth-y cat, Allie, have trained me and now rule my residence.

My last lover probably thought himself God-like with all the noise I made. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the moment we commenced, I got a cramp in my ribcage, my calf, my toes, and my back.

The last time I went to my closet, I could only find one dress that still fit, and I had to Fabreeze it because it smelled musty. And the bright red patent leather heels that I keep on my dresser as a reminder of my girly girl? Still unworn, but regularly dusted. An optimist? Hardly. Maybe a die-hard.

I love quickly. And I can’t live a guarded life. I guess it’s just not my way. I’m sure I could learn, but I’d rather take the hits than become cold and bitter. Upside? My recovery time is improving.

It is a testament to my restraint and some version of good mental health that I haven’t punched someone in the throat.

I will probably continue my New Year’s Eve tradition of watching, “The Twilight Zone” marathon on the Sci-Fi channel, but I will fall asleep long before midnight.

So much has happened this year. New friends. Reconnections. Endings. Too many hurt feelings, lost loved ones, turmoil. Too much spinning my wheels in place. I’m exhausted. Maybe people go out and drink on New Year’s Eve because they know they’re getting ready to start it all over again in January. Ugh.

Last year’s mantra of, “Just breathe”, has been replaced with, “All righty then . . .”

I once wrote about how I wanted to be remembered after my passing; the things I hoped that people would say; my generosity, kindness, honesty. That was over a year ago, though it seems like a lifetime, and boy have I changed. No words need to be written, there is nothing to video tape, or read from paper at a podium, no collages need to be made, and no one needs to sing for me, as I once wished. I know that there have been two times in my life when I sat bedside while someone died. Because of me, they were not alone. And I think they died easier. If that’s the best I do in this life, then that’s okay. I will say, though, it would also be nice if someone laughs when they think of me, and no one spits when they hear my name; or maybe the spitting is okay too . . . at the very least I would’ve riled someone. Haha.

“…every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.” – From the movie, “Vanilla Sky”.

I wish you all the best in the New Year.

xoJulia

SHOES ZOOMD ME

Categories: Grief/Healing, Holidays/Birthdays, Humor | Tags: , , , , | 19 Comments

SHOVELING SNOW

On a cold and rainy Sunday morning, and feeling restless, I drive to the park to shoot some photographs. Most times, I try to capture certain images, but usually find that nature has other plans. She can’t be controlled or predicted, but she’s always generous.

Today I hope to photograph the birds, and although they are teasing me with their joyful songs, they are shy and hiding.

But I am gifted other images in their stead:

“View through the Railing of a Bridge”.

great PAGOTA SHORE THRU BRIDGE

.

“Fragile Life”. So precious, tentative, and beautifully vulnerable.

GREAT BERRIES SNOW

.

“Tender Heart”.  The grey is pretty, but also serves to amplify the brightness and warmth of the sun.

greatRAIN DROP ON BRANCH

.

As I’m leaving, something washes over me, overtaking me like a craving or a hunger pain, or nausea, or vertigo. It is Sadness. Acute. Profound. Demanding. It consumes me, pulsates through me, leaves me breathless, and finally rests on my chest.

I drive home, crying.

Christmas week comes and I am quiet. I will not be that person who schedules her grieving for the holidays. I will not be that person who is determined to dwell on everyone who isn’t here. I will not fault those who are blessed with family and festivities. I will stay home and be still. And I will give my grief the space that it needs for just this time. And not one inch more.

The day after Christmas, I awake restless and lonely. And although it’s unpopular to admit such frailty, today it’s filling more of me. I feel the largeness of my emptiness. Who would think that absence could take up so much room?

I cannot sit on the sofa and suffer. I must do something, so I drive to my parent’s house for snow shoveling therapy.

I shovel my parent’s corner lot.

And their Police Officer-next-door-neighbor’s lot.

And the house next to his.

And the one after that.

And the one after that.

I am proof that a cranky, grieving, obsessive, manically driven 54 year old woman can shovel an entire city block of snow by taking it one cement-sidewalk-square at a time.

As I smoothly push forward, I keep catching on the uneven parts of the cement. I am finding those spots where the sidewalk is cracked and lifted and I have jammed my shovel into them, jarring my momentum and hurting myself, as all of my force is unexpectedly and abruptly halted.

It gets me thinking about how we all expect life to be easier.

And how we are surprised when bad things happen. We feel betrayed when our bodies fail us or become diseased; we are dismayed when economies crash, unemployment flourishes, and daily life is a struggle; and we are overwhelmed and grief stricken when someone dies.

I think that life is like this stubborn, long-ass city sidewalk that I’m shoveling. Every couple of squares, some cement will rise up and stop us right in our tracks. We trip over it, we jam our shovels into it, and we cuss at it, wanting it to be smooth.

But we should expect things to be difficult, and inconsistent, and even tragic, and anything else . . . everything joyous, beautiful, or easy . . .  is a gift.

Once we accept that our journey will never be an easy one, it’s just a matter of learning to adjust and maneuver.

I am not performing good deeds today. I am thinking firstly of myself and working off this twisted emptiness. And although I enjoy knowing that someone will be surprised, it is a secondary, happy consequence.  Later though, I will remember and wonder if anyone is curious about who has favored them with this act. Or maybe they will mistakenly think better of their other neighbors for gifting them this labor of love? I hope so.

The best deeds are the ones you can’t be thanked for.

I complete my task, feeling calmer, and go home and put on my sweats and my grungy old greyish-white CVS bathrobe, and pour a cup of coffee.

Now, as I sit here writing, the muscles in my back begin to tighten . . . really, like . . . A LOT. I half-chuckle and open the blinds to let the light in.

It has begun to snow.

*****************************************************************************************************************************************************************

“The Woman, The Warrior.”

SHOES ZOOMD ME  ME BOOTS ICEa

Categories: Bipolar/Depression, Grief/Healing, Holidays/Birthdays, Photography | Tags: , , , , | 14 Comments

I STOLE FROM YOU

I stole from you. Way back then.  I was an addict and a thief. I’m not making excuses; it’s who I turned into. It was wrong. I was wrong. And then I lied about it. I was supposed to be your friend.  So I’m owning it now. It’s all part of walking in this clear new world of mine. I have to close the door on my past in the right way. So I’m saying it now, ‘I am so sorry that I did that to you’.”

I had wanted to say those words for over 20 years, and in just one single humiliating and emotional moment, they are humbly spoken and graciously accepted.

I feel a weight lift off my chest . . . as another part of me is set free.

FLYING IN MIST

Categories: Mental Health, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

A CALENDAR YEAR

2011 was my year of letting go. Of grief, blame, toxicity, bad habits, excuses, and my secrets.

2012 was my year of discomfort. Getting out, making friends, and learning to be social without my usual crutches to help me. I was not only viewing life through clear eyes, I was participating in it. I left my comfort zone and started to experience all of life; the good, the bad, and the not so lovely.

2013 has been my year of preparation.

For what?

I’m not really sure.

For change, I suppose.

I’m preparing for change. And TO change.

I just need things to be different.

So I’ve been focusing on my craft and my passions, and chipping away at my projects, all with the belief that something will lead to something – will lead to something. And that if I continue to do this . . . to learn, to improve, and to try to do good with an honest heart, it will lead me to the next thing.

I dont know where I’m going.

But I don’t need to.

I know the direction. And it’s NOT north, south, east, or west.

It is, “Forward”.

Forward is . . . one step . . . in front of . . . where I am right now.

I don’t have to have all the answers. But I do have to put one foot in front of the other and take a step.

The rest comes.

We will find each other.

***

I took a baby step recently and self-published my first calendar, “2014 A Year of Pictures”, which features images of my hometown of Grosse Ile, Michigan and is available for purchase now.

1COVER

The cost is $15.00, (with 10% of the profits donated to the Grosse Ile Animal Shelter).

It can be purchased :

Here is my hometown of Grosse Ile as captured in “A Year of Pictures. It is my first calendar; but surely not my last. I’m already thinking about the photographs I’ll take for next year’s. I thank you for your support & for your friendship.

It means everything.

2JAN 3FEB 4MAR 5APR 6MAY 7JUN 8JUL 9AUG 10SEPT 11OCT 12NOV 13DEC

Categories: Downriver/Detroit, Michigan, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

MOMMA TOLD ME THERE’D BE DAYS LIKE THIS

Today is one of those days that inspire a head-shake and an exasperated, “Really?

The morning begins with a shower where I shampoo my body and body-wash my hair.

SHAMPOO BODY WASH

And the afternoon brings ten fumbling, frustrating minutes of trying to make a sandwich only to discover that the Pita bread won’t open because it doesn’t open! Are you kidding me?

 PITA NO POCKET

And moments later, when I take the first bite of my real Pita pocket sandwich, the bottom splits open and everything spills out and goes plonk on the plate.

And finally, some news from my doctor.

Apparently, I am not the only one who gets annoyed with people, my body does too! And some of my organs are protesting. (Bastards).

My heart’s hammering, migraine’s pulsating, bladder’s faking infection and my gall bladder (where is that anyway?) is feigning stones; but, wait . . .

O.M.G., did I just wee-wee on my socks?”

FACE YIKES

Nope. That unnatural flush of warmth is hot flashes . . . IN MY FEET!

All of your test results are “unremarkable” the doctor says, “You’re fine, but you need to work on the stress.”

Really?

That’s just marvelous.

Resigned to staying home, I walk to the sofa, dumfounded and defeated, in my jammies and my over-sized athletic socks . . .

IN JAMMIES

. . . and step right into cat barf.

But it’s not even noon yet!” I whine.

Now, before this polka dotted, hot-flashing old gal can relax, I’ve got to take my funky-ass hair and itchy skin, and go air out my feet. And my socks. And clean up the leaky non-Pita pita mess. And the gaggy cat stuff I just smooshed into the carpet.

There’s no doubt, it’s one of those days alright. Haha.

What’s my calmative mantra again?

Oh yeah . . . “Just breathe”.

Categories: Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

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