Present Tense

My Year of Living Honestly

I’m not much of a rear-view mirror gal, but I think it’s healthy at the end of the year to sit quietly and allow the last 365 days to settle around you like a nice, fluffy layer of snow or a scratchy, irritating barbed wire fence.  If we figure out the theme of the year just lived, maybe it can teach us something for 2013.

2012 was a good year for me; for us, in our little nuclear family of husband, wife and two dogs.  2012 was my year of living honestly. I haven’t had a whole lot of those since I grew up.  I’ve had years of lying to myself or deluding myself or self-medicating myself or just flat-out, not paying attention.  I’ve even had a few where I was deliriously happy.  But, completely honest?  Not so much.

This was the year that I challenged many of my long-held ‘core beliefs’ about politics.  The year I stopped drinking the Kool-Aid and started looking for the truth that underlies all of the spin and manipulation of the two political parties.  It was shocking, painful, humiliating and in the end, freeing.  The realization that you don’t have to be ‘right’; that you don’t have to fight to the death for your side.  Pure liberation.

2012 was the year that I realized that my radio persona had bled so much into my personal life that I had lost track of ‘me’.  What’s funny and entertaining  4 hours a day on a morning radio show, isn’t quite so charming the other 20 hours.  That the professional necessity of always having to have something to say about everything is fake and tedious.  That real life dictates that one listen, learn and absorb, rather than spew.

This was also the year that I admitted that family is important and that I miss mine; terribly.  I ran out the door at 19 and never looked back.  I couldn’t wait to be on my own and proximity to my family was not a priority…at all.  Now, it is.

In May, I spontaneously bought a 10 acre farm in northern Michigan, even though I live and work in Colorado.  Once I caught my breath, I had to figure out why I jumped in.  I’m financially conservative and measured when it comes to buying something as simple as a new coffee maker and yet, I bought a second home 1600 miles away from the first one, in a weekend.

That was me speaking up.  The me that has always wanted to live near the water; the me that misses family and ‘home’.  The me that has been buried under my ego and money and career aspirations for many years.  The me that is truly, me.

So, here we go.  Every day is another chance, but there is something about starting a brand new year.  It’s like when you were a kid in elementary school and your teacher gave you a nice, clean sheet of paper and a box of crayons.  You almost didn’t want to spoil that clean sheet, but alas, nothing is created if the sheet is left clean.

What will 2013 be for you?  You don’t have to decide ahead of time.  I didn’t one year ago.  In fact, just take the first step on the path and that could be as simple as vowing to open up to the newness of a new sheet of clean, unspoiled paper.  Get out your crayons……

December 30, 2012 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Broken people…

I’ve never wanted to kill another human being.  Never thought about it, never toyed with it.  In fact, I’m the type of person who rather than kill a bug or a spider,  will catch it and take it  outside.  You’re probably like me.  You get angry or frustrated with other people; you’ve even made jokes about rounding up all of the ‘stupid’ people, but we’d never actually act.

I’ve never wanted to harm another person, but I did want to kill myself.  I’m an alcoholic.  I have been since I was a teenager and although I don’t know a lot about mental illness, I do know about addiction and I suspect that there are a lot of parallels.

I’ve been on and off the wagon several times as an adult and each time I fell off, I landed in a deeper hole of addiction and several years ago, in the grip of this addiction, I thought the only way out was death.  The pain I was causing to me and to my husband and family was too much to bear; all I could focus on was the next drink and the guilt of succumbing to that day after day.  I had stopped drinking before and so intellectually, I knew that I was capable, but physically and emotionally, I was too hooked to grasp that.  So, I thought about dying.  It seemed rational at the time.

As we struggle today with the horrible slaughter of so many innocent souls in Connecticut, we keep asking ‘why’?  Why would someone do this, how could someone do this, what happened to this person to make them do this?  I don’t know and I am as paralyzed with grief as you are, but I’m going to admit something that you’re not supposed to say.  I have a twinge of empathy for the obviously broken young man who did this.

I talk about my experience because unless you’ve experienced the total loss of control that can happen to any one of us, it’s hard to realize the root problem that we face.  It’s too simplistic to blame guns.  We need to look a little deeper and have a frank and open national conversation about the issues that we must address as a society.

Like addiction, mental illness interferes with your ability to function as a normal human.  It robs you of the ability to think rationally; it makes you incredibly selfish and obviously can result in violence.  The general consensus is that an act like this can’t be perpetrated by one of our fellow ‘humans’.  We viscerally realize that an act like this can only be committed by a monster.  We can’t wrap our brains around how anyone could gun down innocent children.

As I said, I have very little experience with mental illness, but we’ve seen it too many times in recent history.  These type of mass shootings are typically perpetrated by someone who has a history of mental illness, but is not given the proper treatment.  Substance abuse is rampant in our country; legal and illegal drugs are common and in the case of alcohol, embraced and endorsed.  We need to change and recognize that this is what’s driving these violent acts.

As someone who has felt the grip of addiction and how it can make you loathe yourself for your ‘weakness’ and inability to function like other ‘normal’ humans, I can see how mental illness can take over a person’s humanity.  It can make you lie, steal, drive drunk, treat other people horribly and it can make you violent.

Like mental illness, our culture generally judges addicts as ‘weak’.  There is a stigma that we need to get past.  Families are afraid to seek help in both instances because it somehow reflects badly on them.  People tend to not want to admit weakness or that someone in their family is broken.  There are more of us than we would like to admit.  People who’s lives, emotions and mental health is spiraling to a very dark place.  As a nation, we can no longer ignore it and hope for the best.  It’s too dangerous and painful.

Addiction and mental illness are both treatable and need to be acknowledged and recognized.  We need to get past the stigma and begin to accept that unless we are proactive and loving in helping each other, these types of acts will continue and sadly, grow.  We need resources for people who are suffering and who have family members who are suffering.  Stop judging and start helping.  Our lives may depend on it.

December 15, 2012 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , | 21 Comments

Let’s run away…..

running awayI was standing in the bathroom the other day drying my hair, when an idea hit me.  I’ve had some of my greatest epiphanies and revelations in the bathroom.  Doing something mindless allows my brain to wander down unbeaten paths.  I was thinking about a time years ago when I was between jobs. My husband and I packed up the car and headed west.

We had no real plan or agenda in mind;  just a general idea that we wanted to explore Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, so we grabbed the dogs and a few maps and wandered for about 3 weeks.  It was freeing and fun and undisciplined and as I mused about it the lightening bolt struck:  I want to run away from home.

There are so many things in life that can suck you dry.  Jobs, kids, marriage, parents, finances, health issues;  you’re not quite sure who you are or what you want.  It’s not a sign of weakness to admit this; it’s human.  It’s a sign that you’re about to grow.

Sometimes we need to walk away; to step back and break the monotony of ‘this is how we do things’.  We get up at the same time, drive to work at the same time, sit at our same desk, eat our same lunch, rush to meet our family obligations, plunk down in front of the tv/computer, fall into bed. And so it goes.

In the academic world sabbaticals are accepted and encouraged.  It could be a month or a couple of years, but your job is there when you get back.  What a fabulous perk, eh?  I have a great job, but I crave some time away;  away from the screwy morning radio hours; away from having to always have a perspective or an opinion; away from having to talk, talk, talk.

A sabbatical gives us a chance to check back in with ourselves. A chance to leave behind the rigid, soul-sucking routines that much of our lives can become.  A chance to re-connect with what feeds our soul or excise what doesn’t.  A chance to recharge the batteries of our passion and reassess our strengths and weaknesses.

I know it seems like pure fantasy; who can really just walk away from work to screw around and ‘find themselves’?  Not many of us and that’s a shame.  Imagine how much more productive we would be?  Nothing clears the mind and creates focus like getting away from the stuff that drives us crazy.  You can have the best job in the world, but there are times that you just want to walk away and regain some perspective on the rest of your life.  It’s nearly impossible to do that with deadlines, obligations, meetings, budgets or ratings banging at the back of your head.

So, let’s be practical.  Most of us can’t march into the boss’s office and announce that we’d like to take a couple of months off to recharge and come back as a more committed, valuable employee.  But, a girl can dream, eh?  Maybe it’s as minor as shuffling our routine, adding a walk at lunch time, changing our diet, committing to a good book in lieu of TV, spending more time with friends, saying no to an extra (and overwhelming) task.

Back to my earlier sabbatical years ago that inspired this post.  I left a great job and explored other opportunities for a year or two and then recommitted myself to my radio career and achieved greater success than I ever imagined.  Without that break, that time away to reassess, it never would have happened.  It was a big risk that paid great rewards.  Lesson learned.

December 4, 2012 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , | 9 Comments

   

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