Sunday, February 20, 2011

Winter Olympics Here I Come

I am deathly afraid of ice. I mean DEATHLY afraid. I think it has something to do with a little incident that occurred when I was about twelve years old. I was chasing someone (the details are fuzzy-most likely it was my younger brother) and I slipped on a large patch of ice on the kickball field, resulting not only in a fall, but a blow to the back of the head as well. Guess that is what I get for chasing someone!

Anyways, I survived with what was probably a mild concussion but we don’t have that documented anywhere as my mother, the nurse, believed in handling these matters on her own and since there was no vomiting or weird behavior involved, I was good to go in her eyes.

I digress. So because of this ice fear and the fact that I never learned to skate as a kid (ice or roller), I don’t know how to skate, which has been OK for me until this past winter. All of a sudden I decided I wanted to try ice skating again. I say again because I tried it once about 15 years ago and never made it past 5 minutes of gripping the side wall in terror and I hated it. Now I am dating someone who can skate and the more he talked about it, the more I thought it must feel really neat to glide on ice. It must be such a freeing feeling. That is, if I could even stand on the ice.

The thought of ice skating not only terrifies me, but poses some concerns since I have a three year history of significant arthritis and I figured I would be a goner if I fell, which of course is a given. I do have this thing about getting ticked off over limitations because of my ongoing health issues and didn't want to miss out on something just because of that. We had been talking about trying ice skating all winter and my joints have been in amazing shape the past week so I figured what the hell, here we go.

We went up to an open skate at UMASS Amherst and there were a LOT of people. I said a silent prayer to God, as I looked down at the rink from the ticket counter, that some fool wouldn’t barrel me over and put me in traction. My first challenge though was just getting the skates on because rental skates at a college rink…yeah, they aren’t made for people who may have any weakness in their fingers. Then I was worried I wouldn’t be able to stand up in them but lo and behold I did!

I stepped onto the ice and literally was about 30 seconds away from a full blown panic attack. My poor boyfriend, bless his soul, had yet to see me ever have one in the six months we have been together as I have only had a few in my entire life. But it passed. I listened to his voice and hung onto him and the side of the rink for dear life. I have to say, he should have been a teacher as he is incredibly patient and actually was teaching me how to skate rather than just letting me hold onto him…although I did that too, the entire time.

To me, the fear of being out on the ice is more than just falling and hurting myself, although that is quite high on the list. It’s about not feeling in control. What if I can’t stop? What if I crash into someone and cause severe bodily harm? I asked my boyfriend why most everyone on the ice seemed so in control and he replied that it’s not a matter of them looking like they are in control, it’s a matter of them looking comfortable. And that he said, takes time.

We made it around the rink several times, with breaks in between as my joints weren’t used to working that hard, plus I was sweating like a pig from all the tension in my body and had to mop myself up a bit. Luckily this was not a first date for him and I. I’m sure I looked like quite a spectacle on the ice but I didn’t care too much about that. We glided for a while with my boyfriend in front leading me and then I actually used my feet here and there to propel myself, while still hanging on to him for dear life. Each time we went around I got a little braver and by the time we decided I couldn’t do anymore (neither could he supporting my weight so much!), I was much less afraid. He thinks the next time we go, I’ll be able to be on the ice without holding anything/anyone. I think he is delusional.

As I thought about it on the way home I decided that really, learning to ice skate for me is not that much different than life in general. It’s scary. It’s risky. You can get hurt. You have to put trust in people. You can make a fool of yourself. You can fall down. Like life though, every time you fall down, you have to get up. You have to keep trying.

I had the BEST feeling when I left that ice rink this afternoon. I felt like I accomplished something that up to this point, I always said I “couldn’t” do. Even though I can’t let go of my boyfriend yet, I skated. I did it. Like so many times in my life, I faced my fears and once again found out that I am stronger and more capable than I thought possible.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Facebook hiatus

I have to go on a Facebook hiatus. I realized yesterday morning that in the previous twelve hours that I had checked Facebook several times, I was increasingly discontent with what I was reading all over this social giant that has really revolutionized how we connect with the world around us.

First of all, this isn’t a blog bashing Facebook. I think it is an incredible tool that has tremendous benefits. I love it. I probably love it a little too much which is one of the biggest reasons for my little hiatus (if I last!) I don’t find that checking Facebook frequently keeps me from getting necessary things done during my day, but it has started to interfere with how much time I spend doing other leisure activities such as reading and writing. And I know myself, quite well. I know that if I get an urge to do something like check my Facebook page in between household chores or first thing upon waking up in the morning, that is probably not the healthiest thing in the world.

OK, but back to the good things. Facebook has reconnected me with friends that I have lost touch with over the years. It has made new connections for me, some of which have turned into treasured friendships. Since leaving work to go on a medical disability a little over two years ago, Facebook has provided me with a social network that has proved invaluable to me. Everyone on my friend’s list is someone I know in person (with two or three exceptions) and many times I have been unable to get out and socialize with these people due to health reasons. Facebook has provided me with a tool to be able to do that from the comfort of my bed or couch…a sanity saver at times!

So, what is the problem then? What is it about Facebook that is currently driving me crazy? The following things are what drive me crazy and I am going to warn you, the reader: the issues listed below are based not only on my experiences, but on experiences told to me by other people and/or events I have witnessed on other people’s Facebook pages. Don’t try to figure out if I am talking about…you will drive yourself crazy and more likely than not, you will be wrong!

1. Don’t send important messages through “inbox” that require a timed response. Don’t assume that someone is checking Facebook every hour or so, even if you know they usually do! We have regular e-mail, cell phones, texting, etc. Hell, it is 2011 and we still have home phones too (most of us anyways). Use them!

2. Some things should just stay private. I have been guilty of this (along with probably every other Facebook infraction mentioned in this blog), but it might be more than helpful to think twice before you hit the “comment” button. Your Facebook wall is yours and you have a right to put whatever you want on it, but use some common sense.

3. If someone on your friends list is just plain annoying the hell out of you (and you don’t feel comfortable “defriending” them) either with their incessant ranting about their adorable puppy (ahem…lol) or their 9,000 photos of the same thing while on vacation, chose the option to hide them in your newsfeed.

4. Consider boundaries with those on your friend’s list. If you are going to comment on every single word uttered by someone else, you should be relatively close to that person; although to be honest that could be annoying too! I know that communicating with someone on their wall can be a way to strengthen interpersonal relationships but don’t be someone who acts like they want to be your best friend online and then ignores you when you try to talk to them in person. Superficial relationships are an easy trap to fall into online and true relationships require more effort in person.

5. In the same vein, don’t be a Facebook stalker. Even if you are just bored or seeking to make new friends, it is very disconcerting to see that someone is taking inventory of your photos from months/years ago or following/commenting your every move. Enough said about that one.

So in all reality, my little break from Facebook will last probably all of two days if I (and the rest of the world) am lucky but hopefully I can make it longer than that. Just since coming off the Facebook bandwagon 24 hours ago, in between things I have “had” to do, I have already had a lengthy phone chat with a friend, finished a book, and taken a hike with my dog. I will admit, I definitely have an urge to check and see what people are up to in Facebook-land, but if I REALLY want to know, I can just well….pick up the phone and ask them…

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Hallmark Holiday

"I don't understand why Cupid was chosen to represent Valentine's Day. When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short, chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon." ~Author Unknown

OK, Valentine’s Day is just a terrible holiday. I am not sure exactly when I began to feel so strongly about this fact but I do. My personal feelings mostly revolve around the fact that it is a commercial holiday aimed at draining our wallets and making us question our worthiness depending on whether we have an actual “valentine” or not.

My views on this even surprise me as I tend to be a glass half-full/embrace happiness as much as possible type of person. I’m a romantic. I’m emotional. But to me, the problem with Valentine’s Day is that it sends a message that love has to be romantic. How many commercials on TV do you see with a woman celebrating a loving friendship with a female friend? Or a son expressing his love for his mother? I know, I know, you can find cards for this type of thing in the Hallmark section such as “To My Parents on Valentine’s Day” but the reality is, that isn’t what the intended purpose of Valentine’s Day is in our society today. Maybe part of my issue with the day is that it is telling me this is the day I should be expressing my love for my partner when in actuality, I try (and most of the time succeed!) in doing that every single day.

So on February 14th, you fall into one of two traps: the single person who is left figuring out if they should spend the holiday in a bottle of scotch or a pint of ice cream. Or you could be the person in a relationship trying to make sure that you don’t screw up. All of a sudden, the decision between roses, candy, and jewelry becomes overwhelming on this one day of the year. More often than not, it becomes a challenge to live up to the expectations.

This initially presented quite a dilemma to me this year because I am in love, real love. Like the kind that makes every day a joyous experience and more often than not, makes me wonder how I got through the last 39 years without him. All of a sudden, this year, it became ever MORE important to bypass Valentine’s Day because as dorky as this sounds, it felt like it would take something away from every other day of the year, which are just as much like Valentine’s Day should be as February 14th pretends to be.

He makes me chicken soup when I am sick. He sends e-mails from work in the middle of the day. He surprises me with mystery dates. He holds my hand at funerals. He listens to me rant and rave (even about Valentine’s Day!). He encourages my dreams. He knows when to hold me. He knows when to give me space. Even though he wanted to and knew I would go along with it, he volunteered to not celebrate Valentine’s Day; knowing how strongly I feel about it. I know that many people can celebrate Valentine’s Day and still show their love for each other at other times during the year but for me, not making a big deal out of February 14th means that February 15th (and even September 15th) will be something to look just as forward to….

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Finding Home

Where we love is home,
Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

I sat quietly on the throw rug in the living room by myself. Within five minutes everyone else had exited my apartment (even the dog) and I was alone. I cried. A month of planning and packing and I was almost there. I was moving to my boyfriend’s home.

I have always had difficulty with change, even good change, but that being said I have gotten much better at it over the past few years. I wasn’t crying because I was sad though; this move was something I wanted more than anything. I was crying because change of any sort (even good change) is scary and risky. I was crying because I had nowhere at that moment that was “home” to me.

I have come to realize over the years that having a comfortable and safe place to call home is an integral part of who I am. Although I like to go out and experience the world, I am very much a homebody at heart. I am a woman who will forgo new clothes, shoes, jewelry, etc. in order to have more money available to make my home one that makes me feel at peace whether it be with candles, books, curtains, etc. It is the security blanket of my life. It is partly why I have probably enjoyed living alone at times in my life.

I had a strong sense of security and safety at this home I was leaving and I knew it would take a while to gain that in a new one, especially since I was moving into someone else’s home. To me, that is the most difficult kind of transition to make. It is one thing to move into an empty house that you can either make it your own or make it into something with the person you are moving there with. It is a whole different story to move into someone else’s space. I am fortunate because my boyfriend is very flexible about this type of thing but still, it feels awkward to move around someone else’s things and memories to make room for yours.

However, as the past three days have flown by, I have come to find things in this new place that make it feel like home. A fire in the fireplace. The sound of the train going by (I know this would drive some people crazy but I love it). The way the sunlight comes into the dining room in the morning.

But ultimately, I have found the most important thing in this new place that makes it feel like home. My dear love. He is the reason after all that I undertook this big change. He represents everything that is home to me. The feeling of security and contentment is not just about the walls, the furniture, or the belongings. It is about how I feel when I come home to him. It is about how I feel when he comes home to me. It is about how I feel waking up next to him every morning. His love for me is what makes these walls that surround me my home. And really, at the end of the day, he is my home.