Live the Life You Love

A few years ago, I decided to take some time to myself and try and correct some of the situations in my life.  After a 3rd unsuccessful attempt at trying to take my own life, I decided that I didn’t want to live like that any more. Something had to change.  I spent 2 months in an inpatient psychiatric hospital and almost 2 years doing an outpatient DBT program.  It wouldn’t be fair for me to say that the program changed my life.  It changed everything.  It changed the way I see things, the way I express myself, the way I react to the way people express themselves.  It taught me to understand my emotions, to process things properly and effectively, and just made me an all around better person.  It made the way people interacted with me, especially my family.  It was the hardest work that I have ever done in my life.

When I came home from inpatient (back to my parents house by their request!), I was greeted by a beautiful card from my sister Raquel.  Next to the card was a box, and in that box was a bracelet.  The words, “Live the Life You Love” were engraved on it.  She wasn’t sure if I would like it much because she felt that it was too feminine for my taste.  And it was, but something about the message and the thought behind it made me love it.  I wore it almost every day for the next year, taking care not to snag it, or leave it anywhere, taking it off and putting it in a pouch while doing yard work or washing dishes.  It was a constant reminder to work hard so that I could do just that! Live the life I love.

While all of this was going on, I was also on another journey. Sobriety.  While in the rooms (kinda mandated but kinda not), and questioning every bad decision I had ever made because of my drug and alcohol use, I would look down and be reminded why I was there.  I needed to get it together.  I needed to keep pushing forward and learn from my mistakes.  That was a little over 5 years ago.  I may have gone back to some of my bad habits a few times, but I always remembered what the ultimate goal was.  For as long as I can remember, I wanted a happy life, with lots of love, understanding, friends that cared about me and that I cared about, support from my family.  As I started cleaning up my act, getting honest with others AND most importantly myself, as I confronted the things that were bothering me, as I surrounded myself with positive people and their infectious positive energy, I realized that I always had all the things that I wanted.  I was just too wrapped up in my own misery to realize it.

My sister didn’t realize that such a small, kind gesture would have such a profound impact on my life.  A sterling silver bracelet with 5 simple words on it, “Live the Life You Love” would effect me the way it did.  The constant reminder that life is what we make it.  Today, I love my life! I’m living it the best way I know how, doing my best to remember that people rely on me as much as I rely on them.  That I love hard and fervidly, and sometimes they wont love be back and that’s okay.  That I make mistakes and learn from them.  That I take responsibility for my actions.  That losing is no big deal, and that when you screw up, you fix as quickly as you can.  I say sorry when I’m wrong or hurt someone’s feelings, and that people won’t always say sorry when they do it to me.  I can’t complain about the life that I’ve created for myself.  I can’t really complain about anything! This week, as I was going through my hiking pack getting ready for an overnight hike to Mount Marcy with Marco, I found it inside it’s usual little pouch. I thought I had lost it months back and was devastated! But there it was, as awesome as ever.  It reminded me of all those little things that sometimes I forget.  And i realize, life is good, and I’m Living the Life I Love…


An Emotional Hot Trainwreck of a Mess…

And that’s just how I have been feeling!!!  I don’t know what is going on, but it feels like I am getting all of Callie’s pregnancy symptoms.  She feels great AMAZING, and I, on the other hand spend most of my days wishing we were together (we work opposite shifts and my days off are Friday and Saturday, so we get one day for “family day” per week), crying as I listen to music and catch up on my TV shows (Thanks A LOT “The Fosters”!), craving chocolate like it’s no ones business, and dealing with the soreness/tenderness of my breasts as I continue on my journey to try and establish a significant milk supply/flow to help sustain my twinfants. I’m basically feeling everything that Callie is feeling (with the exception of the actual babies, which she technically isn’t feeling yet, although this morning she sent me a text that she THINKS she might have felt one of them but it might just be that she was really hungry) even though I’m not pregnant.

As I was driving to work at 5am, I was listening to a CD that Marco made for our drive up to this past weekends hike. Ed Sheeran (with his amazing soothing voice and fantastically ginger hair) started playing a song that I had heard before but never really paid much attention to.  To make a long story short, it has to do with miscarriage and is incredibly touching and heartbreaking (Ed Sheeran – Small Bump).  When I tell you that I needed windshield wipers INSIDE my car, that is no exaggeration.  The waterworks were in full effect.  My first thought was , WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME?!?! I started to analyze why I have been feeling the way that I have, not just recently with the whole pregnancy, but for the better part of the past 2 years while simultaneously scrolling through FB.  I was reading a friends post about vulnerability and allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and then it hit me!

For the better part of my life, I was very guarded, as I’m sure many of us are.  I grew up in a family where everything was great, and don’t you dare say otherwise.  “Don’t you dare cry, or I’ll give you something to cry about” kind of home.  Don’t get me wrong, I had the best time growing up.  In retrospect I had the best childhood that anyone could have asked for.  I lived with my loving, accepting, tolerant and encouraging parents who drove us to all of our soccer, field hockey, basketball, softball games and swimming, karate, and attended every concert or musical that we were in.  I have 4 incredible siblings that I would die for.  We are all very close in age (I’m 31, sis-almost 29, bro-27, sis-26, bro-25 as of yesterday) and spent lots of time in cramped spaces, like 8 hour road trips to Niagara Falls.  I wasn’t allowed to go ANYWHERE unless all the ducklings were right behind me.  To this day, family dinners on Sunday at my parents are a non-negotiable, and I love that about my family.  We all live within 10-15 minutes of each other with the exception of my youngest brother who lives in Brooklyn, but him and his boyfriend visit all the time and probably spend the most time at my parents of all 5 of us (Yup! My handsome and hilarious younger brother is gay too and has been with his partner for almost 3 years).  If I’m to speak candidly, (and why wouldn’t I?) sadness was just one of those emotions that got pushed away.  “What are you sad about? Look at how great your life is!” Although this was probably said to teach us to appreciate everything we have and think, “Hey! It could be worse!”, for someone as emotional and sensitive as me, it was pretty difficult to deal with.

I learned very early on to bottle up my emotions.  To cry only in the shower where no one could see me.  To wait until my sisters had fallen asleep so that then, and only then, I could grab my pillow and scream into it until I couldn’t scream anymore.  To take out my aggression and express my anger on the playing field.  To become these characters in the school plays and musicals and in some ways live vicariously through them, even if it was fictional and temporary.  All I really wanted was for my mom to kiss me and my dad to hug me when I was sad or mad (they did plenty of it all the other times, believe me – my family is incredibly affectionate), but they rarely did, and even then it was awkward and uncomfortable.  So being sad or angry was just not something we did well with.

Being or allowing myself to be vulnerable was out of the question. It would mean that I could be hurt, and the hurt would lead to sorrow, and sorrow would lead me into this abyss of darkness, despair, and depression.  For a long time, I lived my life devoid of anything that would lead to the risk or possibility of getting hurt.  For the better part of 16-26, I was just a mess.  Drinking, drugging, cutting class, obsessed with my relationships and my inability to let them go, and not allowing anything to effect me emotionally.  A lot of people even went there, and called me ” A cold-hearted bitch”.  It’s fine because I totally owned it.  I might have even been proud of it! I didn’t give a crap about anything. You’re mom died? Sorry! People die everyday.  You’re dog died? He’s a freaking dog! You lost your job? What the hell am I supposed to do about that? (I didn’t really feel like this, I swear it, but I wasn’t sure how I was really supposed to feel or express any of it) I was so numb that on 3 separate occasions I tried to take my own life (19, 21, 26).  At 26, I decided I didn’t want to feel that way anymore. Another failed 4 year relationship and I was done.  I committed myself to an inpatient hospital where I spent 2 months of my life doing Intense therapy, DBT, and acknowledging that my way of coping was not effective at all.  After that, I moved back in with my parents (who after the birth of my niece have become emotional wrecks themselves and have NO ISSUES WHATSOEVER showing us tears of joy, relief, sadness, anger and every other emotion you can possibly think of).  My mom visited me in the hospital every day, brought me dinner every night, asked how I was feeling, and listened.  Really listened.  They actually said, I HAD to move back home and that they weren’t taking no for an answer. I have no way to repay them for what they have done for me.  They helped me enroll in a full day outpatient DBT program which my dad drove me to M-F and picked me and asked me what I learned about myself every night at dinner. That gesture in itself was therapeutic.

One of the most important things I learned was to embrace being vulnerable. “Open myself up to these things? What the hell for?!?” But the more I practiced, the more I realized that for every possible little bit of sadness that I let in, I was also letting in possible joy.  Even when there was sadness, I had all these amazing feelings of happiness to override that.  That feeling sad wasn’t that bad! You feel it, recognize it, and move on.  I could actually feel things and come out the other side a better person.  Like, really feel them, and feel them with people and for people, and have an appropriate response.  What I realized the most about allowing myself to be vulnerable was that it actually felt like I was living.  I wasn’t simply going through the motions.  I was truly knee deep in life.  All these things were coming at me from every direction (my aunt who is my second mother getting diagnosed with beast cancer, a huge fall out between a ton of my family members, trying to start a new relationship after nearly 2 years of selfishly working on myself, losing a great paying unionized job as a carpenter in NYC because of my time in psychiatric care, moving from the NYC where I had been for nearly 10 years back home to the suburbs which I had outgrown) and I dealt with them.  And I wasn’t the worse for wear. Who woulda thought! I was alive and feeling, and that was okay with me.  Better than okay!  It was amazing!  So now, after having analyzed this, I see that my pseudo-pregnancy symptoms are just me living and feeling and accepting.  Of course I feel sad when I hear the terrible news about someone losing their precious baby, or when pets leave us, or even when something as simple as a rain storm ruins our one family fun day that we had been looking forward to.  How could I not!?! So even though they are sad tears, they are still happy tears for me.  My kids will always know hugs and kisses and validation of their feelings.  They will see their Mamá cry, breakdown, pick up the pieces, pray, laugh, dance, and love.  A Mamá with a big ole’ vulnerable heart.  Mi corazón estará abierto para ustedes…<3

My amazing family...

My amazing family…

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