Finding My Happy Place

“I’d just love to get my hands in some dirt”

Those were the words my beloved Gramma would say so often to me when she was living in Arizona. She was born in Vermont and lived here until 13 years before her death. The love my Grandfather and she shared for gardening was passed down to me. The long Vermont winters, filled with cold and darkness, make the awakening of Spring that much more rewarding.

In my youth I took no interest in the art of gardening. I recall once planting a (just one) beet seed in gravel, watered it and when nothing occurred, I moved on.  Working the earth took place in every household I knew as a kid, I inevitably learned and apparently filed away some of what I observed. My first attempt was met with many challenges, finding the right plot of land, tilling and re-tilling, picking stone after stone. I tried this and that and a dozen years later, know exactly what I find best to grow for our needs.

The art of it all came to me long after the labor. For many years  it was a chore, a duty. We had the land, we had  to use it. Period.

Fast forward several years and a couple moves later to when we owned our own land and I began having garden visions.  My first garden at our new home was a whimsical garden. Painted sap buckets in a variety of colors held annual flowers and cherry tomatoes. A small patch of sweet corn provided hours of hiding for my then 3 and 7 year olds. We had raised rows for string beans, peas, and tomatoes. We had hills for the many varieties of squash we decided to try. My rows were S curves, some rows went this way, some went that way. Our little garden flourished. Our harvest was abundant, yet our skill set needed improvement.

We experimented for the next several years with different layouts, moving tomatoes from here to there, eliminating corn (the yield too small for the space consumed), learned that we could do 2 plantings of greens and beans and on an on. We love improving upon our own creations so we decided to instill our own watering supply, relying upon Mother Nature for such. My husband created a gravity fed system using the little stream on our property. This not only serves as our watering source for the garden, but fills our swimming pool each spring.

We have had years when we solely did container gardens, and others where we implemented the full earthen bed. We tried raised beds, which were abundant and grew to new heights, yet also came with the daily task of removing garter snakes by the dozen (literally) from the crevices where the logs met one another. Not good for an individual such as myself with a significant, yet ridiculous fear for the harmless creatures. I became frightened to even enter my bountiful garden that year, for fear of those sneaky serpents. I would send my strapping husband out daily to remove and inspect before I could enter the vicinity. The scars of that summer still stamped in my memory.

I’ve battled the beetles, the slugs, the blight, the drought and the saturation of very wet seasons. Year by year what began as a chore became a release of endorphins. A therapeutic undertaking, an essential piece to our annual summer plans.

Then came the year we decided to forego the garden. I decided to do my annual flowers, and of course there were my perennials I would be able to tend to and enjoy. This would do for the season. We felt the extra time would be beneficial and the break from the work, an earned respite.  Although I did enjoy respite from many back aches, I missed getting my hands in that dirt. Just as Gramma said so many years before, I now knew what there was to miss.

We have a greenhouse now which we built using solely recycled materials. We still use our gravity feed for watering, only now we have graduated to a soaker-hose system.  We start our plants from seed and savor the literal fruits of our labor. The little girl who planted a beet seed so long ago finally found out what the fuss was all about.

Chasing Chubby

DISCLAIMER: I in NO way think that a “skinny bitch” is actually a bitch. You (if you are thin and don’t try to be) are called a bitch because you know not the struggle of the scale, the battle of the bulge, the combat of the chunky. We don’t hate you, we merely are not able to comprehend you, therefore we give you a name. It’s more an honor than a slur. We’re jealous. Period.

I have been blessed with the struggle of weight since I was nearly 12 years old. I was teased for being bigger before that age, but looking back at photos (trust me, I’ve scoured looking for that fat girl of 10 years old) I wasn’t an overweight child.  I was not only average, I was taller than all the boys. Although I was bigger than the other girls, I was thin, healthy, normal. I believed that I was chubby before I even was! Isn’t that an indicator of the influence others have on our self-image? My father, God rest his soul, would often say to me when I was eating: “Be careful or that will slip down behind you where you can’t see it”, oh thanks, I hadn’t considered that before! I never was angry or hurt by his comment, as Dad was a member of the chubby club too. A lifer, at that.

I thank God for being given the gift of fat. Yes, you read that correctly. I am delighted to know that because of my extra pounds, I easily have empathy for others. I don’t judge people based on size, social status, faith or profession. I learned early in life to appreciate kindness wherever it came from, albeit not quite early enough (shout out to those I bullied to feel stronger as a kid, I’m so sorry!).

You know who the kindest people are? Those that have struggled. Poor people, old people, those labeled as nerds, freaks or otherwise. The ones that have experienced torment, judgment and have been blackballed due to no fault of their own.  I am a member of that elite group.  It was through this membership that  I fundamentally learned the importance of offering a smile to strangers, especially those with a sadness in their eyes. If not for my struggle with the bulge, I could never have recognized the faces as easily as I do.
I’ve been called many names as a result of my heft, mostly in high school. The most memorable yet scarring of which has to be Goodyear, as in the blimp. Now I know this name was not warranted by my size in school. Throughout my entire high school career I never went bigger than a size 14. Goodyear. Really? Although I must admit, the originality was off the charts. I could have been called Thunder Thighs or a cow or many other boring, overused names. Thanks go to my tormenters for keeping it spicy.

I have been known as the chubby sister, a big boned girl (which a physician was kind enough to shoot down and inform me I am actually small framed-Awesome), the hefty one, big, heavy, heavy-set and any other adjectives associated with being overweight. I am heavier than some, lighter than others. I do not see myself as obese, although P!nk and I both seem to fall into this category.

I think know that being the heavy one in some ways gave me thicker skin. Quite early in life I was able to put on a tough front and became a tyrant to in order to thwart any subsequent bullying.  For the most part, it worked. The flip side of my tough exterior was the disturbance my image as a tough-girl had on my education and home life. I was an obstinate child.  I learned how to stifle my emotions publically to ensure no one ever knew that they caused me pain. At home I was an emotional, out-of-control, defiant kid. Amongst my peers I appeared indifferent, strong, and in control.  I made damn sure no one could see how I truly felt about anything. I see that this was an entirely thwarted effort on my part, as I developed some serious anxieties related to my self-image.

Cut to adulthood-

I had 2 children by the age of 25. I recall once receiving an anonymous letter that was a full-page Sunday edition, newspaper “fat ad”. Someone actually wanted to hurt me enough that they took the time to cut it out, find my mailing address and send to me. I was astonished and bewildered and clearly very hurt. I was a new mom, I wasn’t some morbidly obese individual in danger of losing my life to obesity. This is the life of the heavy girl. Some time later I decided to try shedding the protective layers I’d been carrying. I found a diet I liked, decided to become active and lost about 80 pounds in just over 8 months. I was thin, young and sexy. I began to get noticed and found the attention humiliating. Yes, humiliating. People I’d known since childhood suddenly found me interesting and this only made me want to punch them in the face. Where was this support when I actually needed it? Why was I only now worthy as a thin person? I learned another lesson here, people can be so very shallow and appearances clearly do matter.

There were many personal victories for me as a new found skinny bitch. I had energy for my young kids and indulged in fashion in ways I’d only dreamt of before. I enjoyed moving and found exercise to be a release for me. I wore a two piece bathing suit publically.  I became obsessed with eating in new and “healthy” ways. I was however, definitely a bit obnoxious in my quest for thin. I recall one family cookout in particular where we were all eating and I heard myself repeatedly announcing how many Weight Watcher points were in this, or that. I was becoming that person. I wanted to tell myself to shut up and eat some chips. I felt bad for putting my new obsession on my family, but yet said nothing to the effect. I was a skinny bitch and that now bothered me.

It took about six years to do, but I found the weight I had lost, and a little extra just for kicks. I had started a new job, a desk job. This led to lack of daily movement, which led to excuses in my head which led to pounds on my ass. Slowly yet surely my weight climbed the ladder to obesity and here I am! I am back to where I once was over 10 years ago, this time no scale is needed, it’s all about the clothes. I flip and flop with a 20 pound flex, at times I’ve lost even more. Stress is a great diet, although not one I recommend!

At this point I’ve learned that no one has the power to make me feel anything about my weight. That lies solely on me. I control this. The weight, the feelings of inadequacy due to my weight, and the happiness I lack when I’m feeling too heavy, are all mine. I don’t need judgement from anyone else, I am my own worst critic. I took the power away from others long ago. No one can make me feel less than because I weigh more. I feel so grateful that my husband has never (thin or heavy) made me feel anything less than beautiful. He sees me, the me I’ve always been, the me I had hoped to reveal to the world when I initially peeled away the pounds. He has never judged me, tried to hinder my weight loss, or implied that I should diet. He loves me, and because of him I know I’m good enough, no matter my size.

I hope to lose some of me again soon, and this time I hope my maturity allows that I will maintain without self-sabotage. I will continue to outwardly show no feeling and have decided that I’m okay with that. The world doesn’t need to know my heart or see my weaknesses. I will continue to smile and show courtesy to others and hope for the same in return. And lastly, to all the big girls out there: Embrace your sensual selves, have the cake if you want to and know that you deserve just as much as the next skinny bitch.

 

 

Caught and Released

Have you ever felt trapped in your own existence? Paralyzed by your own intellect? They say when you know better you do better, but what if you don’t? What if you know better and still you stay true to the darkness. Prisoner to the obscurity of your mind.

I have lived nearly 40 years and only in the last year did I take the time to discover my crippling anxieties. The revelation of my own anxiety came to me after a near break-down brought on by my own actions.  I spoke of my disbelief towards anxiety for years, told those suffering that I just didn’t get it. Denial? At it’s finest.

Only now am I discovering that anxiety creeps into every facet of my life. Not only in my adult self, but I can recognize its presence existed in my youth. How is it that this quandary eluded my consciousness for so long? Simple. I allowed it. I allowed it to fester and flourish without worry of its inevitable rupture, hurling my realities into oblivion.

In the last year I have seen the murky depths of depression and anxiety. They gripped me and I succumbed to their clutches. I cared not for the love that was offered me, the patience displayed by loved ones. I wallowed and lingered in sadness, despair and fear. Even though I was fully responsible for ending up where was at that point I still couldn’t accept or voice aloud the disappointment I felt in myself. I believe this is what awakened my anxieties and allowed them the fuel to develop into the colossal villain they became.

I couldn’t leave my home, couldn’t breathe without a paper bag to decelerate my breaths. I found myself checking and re checking my bag as I left the house or office. Did I turn everything off? I over-analyzed conversations on the daily. Did I say something wrong? Did I talk too much? Not enough? I broke out in hives, my vision blurred.  I was destroying my family one moment at a time. I couldn’t see the selfishness they saw, couldn’t take any form of criticism, couldn’t see any good in the world. All I saw was dark. All I felt was shame, the depths of which knew no end. No end at all.

My antidepressants at this time decided to send me on a roller-coaster thrill ride. They stopped working which thrust me into a premature withdrawal. There was dizziness, loss of appetite, a feeling of numbness, bouts of sobbing that lasted for days, weeks. I was losing will to survive, succumbing to my own demise. My instincts gripped my psyche and instructed to detach. I was no longer capable of reason, I was believing all hope had disappeared. My purpose had been removed from my life.

I looked for God, and to be completely honest, believed Him to have forsaken me. I was completely rejecting the idea that I was responsible for my own free will. Where I was standing at that point in time was a direct result of choices I had made, choices only I was responsible for. God had not forsaken me, He just couldn’t help me until I was ready to help myself.

Without support I wouldn’t be writing this today. I don’t believe I wouldn’t be here, just that I wouldn’t have the secure footing I feel I am attaining now. Anxiety is with me, always has been I now realize and knowing is controlling for me. I am unable of preventing the attacks entirely, but now I can see them for what they are. I am beginning the tedious work of self-acceptance and allowing myself to forgive my past mistakes. Everyday I try to be an improved version of myself and some days, I fail this miserably. Some days I am angry for no apparent reason, some days I succumb to my tears.

We are, all of us, flawed individuals. We have all experienced, to some extent, indiscretions and lapse of good judgement. In this we are all alike. The same and altogether contrasting at the same time. Where one errs, another flourishes and where one is weak, another is stable. Those of us that are broken often recognize that healing must come forth from within.

I’m ascending from the bottom and have only up to travel. I’ve seen the bedrock of my soul and wish to never return. I must make conscious efforts daily to be kind, patient and humble. I own my faults, recognize my deceptions and have sought forgiveness from those I’ve mistreated. I cannot undo my wrongdoings, they are my reminders of a past I left behind. I can only move forward, however slowly and greet my future with a renewed hope of acceptance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Accepting Time

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I have taken some time away. Time away from family, my sisters, my realities. I needed to detach in order to find some normal again.

My father left this earth suddenly,  completely unexpectedly and tragically two and a half months ago. I am thirty-nine years old, I still feel as though I am far too young to bury my Dad. I haven’t been able to listen to a lot of music, or watch certain shows. I have to turn my mind off at least fifteen times a day to stifle the tears that want to reach my cheeks. I have been angry, confused, bitter, and I have visited denial as often as weekly. I forget. For the most brief of moments, I actually forget that he’s gone. Then, like a punch to the gut, it comes rushing back like a freight train and hits me. Hits me hard. I can’t talk about him without tears yet, I can barely write about him without tears. I watch the dates on the calendar pass knowing that each day is one day further from the last time I spoke to him. One day further from his last breath.

Time is supposed to be healing, not a reminder of distance and pain endured. Right? Wrong. Time doesn’t heal. Time just passes, days become weeks, weeks turn into years. Eventually it will hurt less, the sting will dull and time will once again be a source of help not hindrance.

I want to share funny stories, little things that remind me of happy times and the life he lived as opposed to the life he left. Doing so is far more difficult than I could have ever anticipated. Time. In time I know this will come to me, I am confidant that eventually sharing the life he lived will be an honor to me and not a source of heartache.

I’ve read about the first year following a significant loss being brutal. I have friends and family members that I’ve watched go through the loss of a parent or spouse and I feel just terrible that I didn’t realize the difficulty that each day brought to them. The pain in their heart, the sadness filling their soul.

How tragic is it that only through death are we able to sometimes see the significance one has in our lives? We muddle through each day not responding to a text, not taking a phone call because we’re busy, preoccupied or just not in the mood. Death waits for no one. It gives no warning, no explanation, no reasoning. It takes what it wants, when it wants it and certainly doesn’t care about your busy life, your petty concerns or your moods. Death shows up when you’re least expecting it. It challenges your every fiber, encapsulates your existence and shows you what you have to lose.

Then life, it’s right there. Staring at you, taunting you, showing you that you must be present. Life waits for no one. You must either choose to engage, to show up or to let it slip by and miss all the wonders it has to offer.

I was ready for a moment to allow life to let me go, to let me release from its clutches and allow me to drift to the darkness of my own private misery. My Dad would hate that I feel this way, he would tell me to pick myself up, dust myself off, put my shoulders back, stand tall and get out there and live. My Dad lived. Every moment of his life, he lived. He made his own rule book and devised his own plays. He loved, he hated, he forgave, he engaged. He wouldn’t want to see me allow his death to sculpt my future.

I am now beginning to accept the mistakes I made, even beginning to say them aloud for myself to hear. I can feel myself coming up for air, cresting the surface of my life and deciding to participate. I am making myself a promise to find happiness in something each day, to see the beauty in the world around me, to be present in life.

Because a wise man once told me; today is the first day of the rest of my life.

A Grateful Heart, A Grateful Life

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We as humans struggle. We find the daily monotony of life to be overwhelming and humbling, sometimes in the same moment. We can forget to be kind, forget to take time for the ones we love, even forgetting to care for ourselves. We all too often neglect our own thoughts while rushing from here to there.

Some mornings I awaken with a renewed view on the world. On the life I lead. I look out the window at the cold, snowy morning and notice the glint of fresh snow on the trees, the fog lifting from the valley floor as to welcome the dawn. I may notice the mist rising from the river and the birds taking flight.

Other mornings I forget. I forget to notice, to awaken my senses and acknowledge the beauty surrounding me. There are mornings when I wake and forget to take that time. I rush through, I neglect to pace myself and appreciate this life and the beauty surrounding me. I will snap at my son for using all the hot water, roll my eyes at my husband for being in my way and wish to just be left alone.

If not for my moments of frustration and weakness would I recognize the moments of bliss? I believe not. I believe we all have the same moments, perhaps demonstrated differently, but still nonetheless, the same.

I am a work in progress. I am a sinful, wretched human. I try each day to remember to be kind, offer a smile to a stranger and to greet the world with peace. I fail daily. Some days my failures outweigh my successes and other days I feel as though I have conquered all.

The one fact that remains on a daily basis is that I am blessed to be given the opportunity to try again. To dust myself off, forgive myself of my indiscretions and move forward. I choose to remind myself that I have goals. I have ambitions yet to attain. I am not the person I want to be, but I’m not the person I once was either. I have made progresses and at times I have regressed. Still, I continue.

So today as I look out across the vast, snow-covered pastures and see the sun shimmering it’s light over the crowns of the Green Mountains I call home, I will remind myself to take it in. Find a moment to be grateful and remember that I have a purpose on this earth and an opportunity to make this day anything I choose.

 

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