Monday, February 21, 2011

How Can You Mend…?

…broken hearts…a fractured relationship…a breach of trust…a bad internet connection? These are a few of the things on my mind lately. I am hoping to share and perhaps get some feedback from my followers…open a discussion about the topics. Any suggestions, comments or questions are welcome.

A broken heart. I have told my story on previous postings, so I won't belabor those incidents again. But I will reiterate a few points. I felt like I was given another chance at life. I took stock of the people and situations that I allowed into my life and made some major decisions. Live life on my terms, live life healthier and stronger, pull in – not away, from those who I allowed to pressure or depend on me too much or too often. I have been very successful at these changes and continue to make progress. So when the anniversary of these events approached, I was excited. This was great. I made so many positive changes in a year. I feel much better about the decisions that I am making, the people that I spend time with and the appreciation that I have for life and the people in it.

On the morning of February 17, 2011, I woke up in such a funk! I have worked hard to understand that while this was a serious, life-altering event; I persevered, concentrated on the positive. I did not want to be a victim. It hit me like a ton of bricks. How lucky I am to be alive. I am a woman living with CAD; my heart will never be the same. Instead of feeling exuberant, I was scared and sad. It frightened me, the fear and the sadness. I spent some time over the next couple of days for me, reaffirming my plans, reminding myself that I am worthy of a good and positive life, that I deserve everything that I am working for and more. My heart is not broken; but mended. It's full of a lot of love to share.
A fractured relationship. Whether it's a romantic relationship or a friendship, fractures happen in the foundation. This is especially true for relationships that are long-term. It's a natural occurrence because of the weight of time and events that are carried by the relationship. People grow and change at different paces. Needs and wants become diversified and more complex. What happens when you try to communicate these changes to the other person? What happens when they try to communicate with you? What happens when you try to communicate these changes over and over again, but they fall on deaf ears? Are you really listening when they are communicating to you? I am most definitely looking for some information here, for the way people are.

It has come to my attention recently that actions really DO speak louder than words. Some fractures continue to become larger and larger over time. If nothing is done, the relationship crumbles. Is it possible to rebuild? I used to have more faith that it could be. Lately? Not so much. You can't heal a wound that needs stitches with a band-aid. You can't continue to put little patches on the foundation of a relationship and hope that they hold. Either you work, really work to repair what is broken or you let it go. Letting go seems like it should be easier. I can tell you from personal experience…it is not, but it's probably what is better in the long run.

A breach of trust. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone. There is not a person on this earth that doesn't make one every single day of their lives. They are simple or complex, you may not think of it as a mistake, but rest assured, someone else will. Sometimes, a mistake can be made and you aren't even aware that you made one. You crossed that imaginary line that we all know is there, the line of trust. There are those that cross that line purposefully, with determination and diligence, a kind of illicit thrill ride. There are those that cross hesitantly, cautious and afraid of getting caught. Where that line is located is the question. Each person has that line in different location. I know where I have drawn my line of trust and work hard not to cross it.

I have always thought of myself as a trustworthy person, there for those in my life who need me. I don't like to be judgmental or cruel. If I give you my word or make a promise, I will keep it, whenever humanly possible. I don't like truth-stretchers; I don't consider myself one. I don't want to be accusatory or be accused. I don't like when people say "You make me (fill in the blank!)" I can't make anyone do anything; I don't have that kind of power. No one can make me do anything either, I won't let them have that power. Either you trust me or you don't…that choice is up to you.

My bad internet connection. Well, another, very pleasant technician came out today and assured me that my internet will be as right as rain…we'll see.

A physically broken heart, a fractured relationship or a breach of trust. These are a few of the things that can cause an emotionally damaged or broken heart. The pain of this broken heart can be devastating, but not permanent. Work on what is important to you in your life. You can have good, strong relationships that include trust and caring, protected hearts. Be mindful of your health – physically and mentally, work on your relationships with others and be trustworthy…it will give you a heart…that's always filled…with love.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Form Over Substance...

Back a few postings ago; I talked about “420 Characters.” I decided to start blogging because I didn’t want any restrictions to my writing. I wanted to be able to have the words flow as I felt them, no matter how little or how much. I didn’t want to be “kitschy” or blog just to blog. I wanted to share information, start discussions, open my mind and the minds of subscribers/readers to the world of possibilities that are out there and attainable. I wanted to capture an audience of intelligent, caring people. So far, it’s working out great!
There have been a lot of changes that I have made in my life, some little, some large, that have made me the person that I am today. I have a voice and sometimes, people like to listen. I like to listen to, that’s why I encourage everyone to subscribe and to comment away…I’m interested in what you have to say.
I started out with the topics that I did to address the many questions I received during my Facebook “virtual” event. I was able to answer a lot of the questions I was asked. I was also able to share the things that I have learned, especially during the last year of my life.
In the future, there will be mini-novels. There will be short stories. There will be things that will make you laugh and some that might make you cry. There will be writings that I hope will stir emotion, start a thought process, make you happy, sad, mad, whatever. I will try not to be boring or trendy, just real. Writings that will make you feel…something…what a concept…with love.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Be True To Yourself...

It’s very important, being true to yourself. It’s also not an easy thing to do. It takes time; it’s not something that you can make a snap decision about. It takes forethought; you need to really examine the happenings and the people in your life. It will help you formulate solid, realistic plans. It takes self-awareness; honesty is the best policy. Especially when it comes to being honest about who you are and who you want to be.
The Time Factor…it’s a luxury today to have “spare” time. I don’t know many people who have or utilize spare time. It seems like all of my days were jam packed with each and every moment filled and accounted for. If I got invited to 5 different things, I made an appearance at all 5. I couldn’t say no or that I had other plans, I just made it fit. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I was up every day at the crack of dawn, collapsing in bed, with a little luck, by midnight. My mind would be filled with what I did, what I had to do, what I was going to do and how I was going to fit it all in. Extremely stressful, but I didn’t give a lot of thought about me. I didn’t have any quiet time, to plan or process the things I wanted to.
That has been a major change, things are different now. I actually try to spend a little time every day thinking about myself. What I want to do or not do. It’s up to me. I spend some time mapping out my thoughts and feelings so that they best serve me and my well-being. I still have a full, fun life, but I don’t feel like I am running away from something by keeping so busy. I don’t feel like I have to stay busy to not think or feel. I don’t believe this is selfish either, but self-preserving. I appreciate everyone and everything in my life a little more. I don’t feel rushed or nearly as anxious. I like myself and the people that I allow to be part of my life.
The Forethought…We all work.  Full time or part time employment, going to school, family caretaker, volunteer, whatever you do to fill your day, it’s all work. It keeps us busy; our days and nights occupied. The last things you need are toxic relationships with people or situations bogging you down. It’s important to take stock of the activities that you participate in. If you or your kids are involved in so many things that you don’t have any down time, it can be very unhealthy, physically and mentally. If you find yourself in a situation where you are constantly called upon to “help” those who have resources or family to assist them, you don’t have to be the helper all of the time. It’s ok to let yourself off the hook, especially when you take stock of the person or the situation and realize that this doesn’t work best for ME. If you don’t take some time to do an inventory of these types of things in your life, it can keep you spinning like a hamster in a wheel.
Take time to plan some things that will have a positive, enriching effect on your life. Stuff that just makes you feel good.  Reading, movies, listening to music, a ride in the car, time with friends, laundry, napping, hanging out – doing nothing, anything that gives you a chance for you. Now, I’m not advocating dumping everyone and everything in your life or stop supporting friends or family members, not at all. I am suggesting that you eliminate some of the stresses that affect you and add some activities that are just for you. You can create and maintain a positive balance that will serve you and those around you well.
Self-Awareness…This can be tricky. There is a tendency to “label” ourselves. Hyper, depressed, overwhelmed, stressed, fine, crabby, any number of descriptors that explain away what is really going on. There are some tough choices that need to be made and we resist against the thought and decision process. I’m not sure why this happens. Maybe it’s because we don’t give ourselves value. I don’t mean our value to others; I mean our value to ourselves and the quality of our life. I don’t like the idea that it took a life-altering event to force me to examine myself and the life I was living. I thought I was fine, that I just needed to be more positive, to snap out of it. I was giving myself constant “pep talks” that aggravated and frustrated me. What was wrong with me? I was in a black mood most of the time. Smiling on the outside, but hating everything on the inside. I was trying to be supportive of those around me. I wasn’t paying attention to the thoughts and feelings that were raging inside of me.
Then, I stopped, well, I wasn’t given much of a choice, but I stopped. What was I doing? I am not going to be any good to anyone if I’m not good to myself. Am I happy living this life that I have? What can I do to make it better? Am I realizing and enjoying all the dreams and plans that I would like to? Am I spending time with the people that offer a positive enrichment to my life? These were hard questions to answer, but after I did, I realized that it is possible to live my life, really, truly live. I appreciate those who are in my life much more. I work hard every day to take care of me and my well-being. That’s what makes me able to give those who need me the best possible effort that I can.
Time, forethought and self-awareness. Three things that can only help you improve you and your life. Just some ideas that will open your mind and heart to the possibilities that are endless and available to you. It takes a leap of faith and a will to live that is inside all of us. Take a chance…pay attention to you…those who love and care about you will be glad you did…positive reinforcement…with love.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Simple Changes...

…really do work the best. If you attempt to make several major changes in your life, your brain, body and heart say, “Whoa, what the heck is going on here?” and tend to go into a defensive mode. Here are some simple changes to my life that I have adopted and seem to be working for me…they help me stay in survival mode…
Free your mind and the rest will follow…this was one of the most difficult things for me to do. Worry and anxiety were constant companions. I would pass out from exhaustion at night, sleep for about 4-5 hours and BING…wide awake, mind racing. Learn some mindful thinking…relaxation and breathing exercises really do work. If you “GOOGLE” these topics, you will find helpful information.
Get more sleep…Even if it’s just an extra 15 minutes a day, your body and soul will appreciate it. If you use the snooze button, STOP. Set the alarm for the latest time you need to get up that is appropriate to start your day. Sleep as long as you can. It’s a natural healing tool that you should utilize more often. I make a conscious effort to go to bed at the same time and get as much sleep as I can. It makes all the difference in the world.
Avoid fast food…In our hectic lives, fast food seems to be an easy solution. We are running late, busy, so we drive through somewhere for ourselves and our families. If at all possible, limit those visits to the drive through. If you do go, try to make better choices OR get what you want and really enjoy it. I have to tell you…there are times when I think, “God, I really have a taste for (fill in the blank!)” I have stopped and picked up what I thought I wanted and after a few bites, realized, this isn’t as good as I thought. It was a habit for me…one that has been pretty easy to break.
Quit smoking…I started smoking at 16, quit when I was 20, started again after 17 years (yes, I said 17 years,) smoked on and off for 4 years and quit for good 7 years ago…I know it’s hard, but the thought of picking up a cigarette really grosses me out…yuck. When I watch my friends who smoke? I am very sad, that smoke is traveling through their lovely veins, choking out the oxygen. It is a very hard habit to break, but I would ask anyone who smokes, to please, please try to stop.
Limit your alcohol intake…There were times in my life where I was a self-medicator. Jose Cuervo was a GOOD friend of mine. Now, that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy a good margarita, a cold beer or a glass of lovely wine, I just don’t enjoy them on a daily basis. If you find that you need to have a drink every day, there is a problem.
Get some exercise…yes, yes, I know…this is problematic…when you come home from work…who wants to exercise? You’ve had a tough day, you’re tired, exercise? No way! You would be surprised how much a 20 minute walk will energize you. How much a class like Jazzercise or Zumba empowers you and helps your heart and soul.
Eat less of “real” things instead of eliminating or substituting them…Butter, salt, sugar, mayonnaise, whatever …it’s better to eat a little of the natural things than load up on chemicals and preservatives.
Cut it in half…When I go out to dinner, most times, when my meal comes, I ask for a “to go” box right away. I cut my meal in half; put it in the box and out of sight. I move the rest around on my plate and eat more slowly. Enjoy your meal; I find that I am full and have an extra lunch/dinner for another time.
See more movies, listen to more music…Both of these activities are therapeutic. They can relax you; inspire memories, ideas, and conversations. Two venues that I love very much and partake often.
Spend time with your friends…good conversations…a few laughs…maybe a few tears…sharing stories…talking about your life…it’s better than any therapy session you can pay for. Make sure that when you share, you listen too…it’s important to hear those in your life.
Avoid toxic people/relationships…there are those folks in my life that are not good for me. People that I worry about or feel like I have to “help.” People like this will not be supportive of the changes you are making, they will say that they are, but actions speak louder than words. I am not a co-dependent or enabler any longer. It is very liberating. For me. Not for those I was “helping.”
That’s about it for me…not hard things to do…even if you pick one thing and implement it today, it’s a start. Taking care of yourself doesn’t make you a selfish person. It makes you a survivor…you are needed here among the living…take good care of YOU…with love.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Changing Direction...

A little background history. Mom and Dad divorced when I was 4 years old. Mom moved back to live with her parents, bringing me and my little brother along. My grandparents provided for our family, helping my mom out with my brother and me. They made sure that we had all of our needs and quite a few of our wants. I appreciate the foundation that I was given, even with its many ups and downs.

I was double promoted from 1st to 3rd grade, changed schools going into 4th. For a 5’8”, 200 pound, 8 year old, that was not the shining time of my life. But I got through it. I had girlfriends who lived close to me and some that I went to school with. I did OK. My teenage years were spent hanging out with my friends, doing things that teenagers shouldn’t be doing, but we all watched out for each other. I couldn’t wait to graduate from high school, get a job and get on with my life.

Married at 19, a mother at 20, life was going well. It was my goal to do a little better than my parents did. To work a little harder and to make sure that my kids thrived and were encouraged to realize their dreams. I wanted to keep moving forward. When my daughter was in the 1st grade, we tried to have another child; it wasn’t happening. We tried for 8 years and then I thought, “Well, I’m just going to be a parent of one child. When she is off to college, I’ll be 38 years old, I can travel, and I can do anything I want!” Just when I had given up…surprise! I was pregnant with my son. I will tell you that we all didn’t know how much we missed him until he came into our lives.

During this time, I thought that I was in control of the direction of my life. I was steering the course so that everything would turn out right, or at least what right was in my mind. I was on a specific journey, a directed path. HA! I was mistaken.
I lost my best friend to cancer when I was 36 years old. That was a major curve ball in my life. She was always there, then, poof, she’s gone. I lost my mind a little, started with panic attacks, anxiety, scared all the time. I was able to get through that period of my life, but I miss her every day.

When I turned 40, I was irritated all the time. Frustrated with my job, my family, my friends, just everything. I went to bed crabby, I woke up crabby. Bitching and moaning, ALL the time. I am amazed that anyone wanted to be around me. I was just black, black, black, but my sense of humor saved me. That and I’m blessed with friends who truly love me and are able to tolerate me, even when I am a bitch.

The economy tanked, stress level is rising, aggravation on my plate every day. Some days spent crying my eyeballs out. Other days just so mean, well, again, I’m amazed that anyone talked to me. I went to work, took care of my kids, just going through the motions. Everything was a problem and I couldn’t get a handle on any of it.

Then fate, a higher power, karma, whatever it was, took over and I experienced my “event.”  It’s not that I want to be identified by it, but it truly was a life-changing moment for me. It changed the direction of my life. I don’t want to walk around in a black mood all the time. I don’t want to cry about things that I can’t help. I don’t want to be co-dependent or an enabler any longer. If I am going to have one year or a hundred years left to live, I want to have a life, not just go through the motions anymore.

Living life optimistically…it’s not easy, but it’s better.  Some of the people who love me are a little worried. They don’t like the “new” Jude. I’m not a new Jude, I’m the same Jude, but heading in a different direction. One that will help me enjoy the life I am fortunate enough to be living, really living. It doesn’t matter what happens to change the course of your life. Actually nothing has to “happen,” it’s a choice. It’s a choice for YOU. It’s time to examine who you are and what you are doing. Decide which way you want to live, but live without regrets. I’m not saying that I am “Ms. Sally Sunshine” everyday, but I am someone who likes to see the glass half full, instead of working so hard just to keep something in it. Change direction; make a choice…with love.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A little thing...

While I was in cardiac rehab last year, one of the nurses who was in charge approached me and asked if I would be interested in joining a support group for women living with heart disease. She needed someone to check it out because she was impressed by this particular organization at a convention that she attended. She was interested in the possibility of starting a group at our hospital and wanted some feedback on the meeting. She introduced me to WomenHeart.

I went to the first meeting and was immediately welcomed and felt very comfortable. Comfortable, but uncertain…a little scared…I am generally a suspicious cynic. Did I really want to hear about what happened to this room full of women? Furthermore, would they really be interested in what happened to me, a total stranger in their midst? It turns out that I did and so did they. You get a perspective of your experience coupled with genuine compassion and understanding. All of my close friends and family were very supportive and encouraging after my “event.” But, none of them really “got” it. These ladies did.

Their purpose is to offer support and to “get the word out.” Sharing your story with just one woman might save a life. I had the privilege of attending a symposium on heart health for women that was sponsored by WomenHeart in September, 2010. The speakers were all types of female doctors who were concerned about women taking good care of themselves, with emphasis on their hearts. The symposium was both interesting and informative. In exchange for the opportunity to attend, I was to “pay it forward,” five hours of volunteer time to WomenHeart.

They offer a lot of venues to donate the time, especially during the month of February, which is Heart Health Month. I thought I would go to our February meeting and figure out how to give of my time, to help spread the word.

On January 14, 2011, I decided to post a “virtual” event on Facebook. I know that FB has been used as a venue to promote awareness for multiple causes, why not good heart health for women? I composed a list of ten points and “invited” 141 female FB friends and family. I encouraged them to send it on to their female friends and family…and so on. I was thinking that this would be a good way to spread the word and use some of the five hours.

As of this posting, my “virtual” event invitation has reached 6,815,363! I thought that it might grow a bit, but I had no idea that it would move this fast or get this big. Women are posting wonderful thoughts on the event wall. The number of personal messages I have received is amazing…the compassion…the love…it has humbled me and filled my mended heart with pride.

Friday, February 4, 2011 is National Wear Red Day…Please consider wearing red to show your support and raise heart health awareness for both women and men…A little thing…a suggestion for support…opening your heart to new ideas…spreading the word to protect each other…the power of love…is awesome…take good care of YOU…always…with love.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Trust Your Instincts...

On February 17, 2010, I experienced a cardiac “event.” I had been complaining to my physician for 18 months about shortness of breath, tightness in the chest and not getting good rest. Because I have suffered from panic/anxiety disorder since 1998, my doctor assured me that it was just my anxiety. In her defense, my blood pressure was controlled, EKG normal, stress level in my life – very, very high.
I was unhappy hearing that answer for so long and the symptoms seemed to be getting worse. I insisted that my doctor schedule me for a stress test, which she did, but under protest. She told me that she was sending me so that I could see, once and for all, that this was all stress. No problem, right? Wrong! The test was scheduled for 2/17/10 at 7:30 am.
I have always been a plus size girl, but the treadmill didn’t scare me.  I was able to walk on it for 9 minutes at a pretty fast pace, which reassured me, made me think, “Maybe, she’s right. Maybe this is all in my head?” I live about ½ an hour from the hospital where the test was conducted. By the time I made it home, my doctor was on the phone – I needed to immediately see a cardiologist. The test results were NOT good.
Three arteries blocked – two more than 90%. While I lived under a lot of stress, who doesn’t?  I was grateful that I didn’t have a heart attack. There is a reason that I was allowed to live and not drop dead. I had stents placed in the two arteries that were so blocked. My cardiologist believes that the third is treatable with diet, medication and exercise. I am working hard every day to make sure that happens.
Now, about those instincts. Those little voices that we tend to ignore or push aside because we are too busy or preoccupied. It’s time to pay attention to them. I knew, in my gut and in my heart, that something was wrong. If I am really honest with myself, I wanted to hear that this was just my anxiety. I did not want to know that there might be a real problem. It had to get to a point where I was afraid enough to start paying attention. Not anymore.
This “event” was my wake up call. Listen to your inner voice. Follow your instincts. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Listen to your heart and your head. You need to look out for YOU. Take good care of yourself…with love.