Saturday, November 22, 2014

A lotta hype... a whole lotta no big deal....

It really wasn't that big a deal after all. My life is no worse, and it certainly isn't any better.
The self imposed dread and hype were all for nothing.

I turned 50 sitting a Russian vodka bar with Paul. I can't think of anyone more appropriate with whom to mark the milestone than someone who has known me since grade three.  We've had our ups and downs, jointly and separately, but there we were, sitting at the bar wondering how we arrived here so quickly.

When I woke up the next morning, there were no marching bands, nobody treated me any differently, and I just got on with my day. I didn't feel any different, physically. I'm not sure why the big 5-0 is made out to be such a big deal when in reality, the "second half of our lives" begins, for most of us, after 40.

But 50 is such a freaking big number! Seniors discounts are just around the corner, and I'm not even sure what I want to be when I grow up yet!

Of course, I wouldn't be writing this if there wasn't an "A-Ha" moment attached to it. I realized that I have no clue why I needed a milestone to decide who and what I want to be and take control of my life. There have been disappointments, and I have failed, in so many ways, myself and the people closest to me. I realize, after spending a lot of time pondering, a few truths which will, if I am smart enough not to let this moment pass, help me take control of and shape my own destiny and the legacy I leave to my children:

1. I cannot count on any other person for my happiness. I will find that within myself, and all the people in my life who bring me love, comfort and happiness are a big bonus.

2. I can no longer make excuses for today's failures by blaming them on the circumstances of the past. I can't move forward while obsessing over everything is see in the rear view mirror. The past needs to stay where it is. I can learn from it, but I need to leave it there because those are some pretty heavy bags to carry.

3. What other people think of me is none of my business. I read that one somewhere so I cannot take credit for it. But, oh, what truth! As long as I am being the best person I can be, I need to not care what anyone else thinks. This is my journey.

4. I will no longer emulate the Greek god Tantalus. There is absolutely nothing stopping me from achieving that which I long for, except myself. It is time to grow up and realize that no one gets ahead riding the "poor me" train.

I'll finish with a quote from my favourite book of all time, "Oh the Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss:
"'re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So..get on your way!"

I'm fastening my seat belt.....

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A View From the Other Side of Popular Opinion

Q: When does a stigma become insignificant?
A: When it is associated with wealth, affluence and power.

Where does that leave the rest of us?

Over the past few years "mental health" issues have become the topic of many public awareness campaigns.  In and of itself this is a good thing. Canadian celebrities and media personalities such as Clara Hughes and Seamus O'Regan certainly do succeed in helping "average people" realize that mental illness does not discriminate based on affluence, education or achievements. And while I'm at it, kudos to Bell Canada for taking up the cause.

I have no intention of  speaking ill against any one's efforts to do good.

I just don't think it is enough, and I can't quite put my finger on the missing link.

Sure we've come along way from the institutionalization of people who have "gone mad" by throwing them in a large facility with largely untrained attendants where physical abuse and unspeakable experiments took place, but we have a long way to go still.

The recent death of Robin Williams by his own hand once again has the whole world talking. That he was kind, generous, sensitive and masked his illness very well is a given, for the purposes of this short dissertation. The point is, this tragedy will eventually fade into "oh yeah, remember when Robin Williams died" and the mental illness part of the conversation will also become but a distant memory.

Until the next one. At some point another prominent person will lose the battle and we'll all talk again and we'll all remember "Oh yeah, that happened to Robin Williams too." And once a year the "Let's Talk" campaign will highlight the issue for yet another few moments in the continuum.

The reality is that most of us who battle depression and other forms of mental illness do not feel empowered to "come out". There is a class system in play here and I challenge anyone to prove me wrong. When Clara Hughes talks about her battles with debilitating depression, we all cheer at how she has overcome and managed to be an Olympic champion in spite of mental illness - as we well should. I admire her spirit, determination and her victories, and I aspire on a smaller scale to achieve the same.

When Joe Average can't get out of bed because the world is closing in around him, and, too ashamed to ask for help, he misses yet another day of work to pound  back a bottle of his poison of choice, no one cheers and waves flags when he finally gets back to work and manages to do his job with mere competence.

Intending no disrespect to those of a higher profile who have found the courage to make public their personal demons,  I would submit that there is a huge disconnect between them and us.

Why does a woman who take anti-depressant medication in order to function in the regular world still feel compelled to admit, with embarrassment, "ummmm, oh yeah, those are... ummm my happy pills".

People with a physical ailment can count on leagues of supporters to provide comfort, cooked meals, rides to the hospital and other manifestation of human kindness. When someone we know battles mental illness, we don't know what to say.

When the day finally arrives that Joe or Mary Average can publicly share his or her battle with depression without enduring sideways glances, subtle (and sometimes not) discrimination and awkward avoidance of the topic, I'll know we've arrived.

But please; long after we stop hearing on the news that "on this day X years ago Robin Williams died at his own hand after a long battle with depression", let's keep the conversation going until the stigma of mental illness stops those who are struggling feel empowered to find the help they need.

As for me, I'm merely a whisper away from proving that what is sometimes referred to as "The F*** Off Fifties" is indeed not a myth. I'm fortunate enough to have stopped caring, for the most part, what people think of me.

Grinning and full of hope and mischief as I sign off for today....

Monday, July 28, 2014

Beyond 40-something-Planning for the Fabulous Fifties

I am facing the fact that in three short months the tag line under this blog must change. And what a big change it is. Getting my head around no longer being 40-something is huge. Add to that the fact that I'm hoping to replace suburban with urban and you can imagine that there is a lot going on right now.

I'm curious about the psychology of change, and why it often ends up being connected to a milestone, such as a major birthday. Food for thought and likely the topic of a future post....

Today, I feel like crap and it is finally time to change that. Every time I undertake some grand exercise endeavour and "diet", it ends up failing. It is taking me years to figure out why, no matter what I do, I still end up overweight, unhealthy and as a result unhappy with my inability to get it together and stick with something. Living with chronic illness is no excuse. If anything, having Lupus means it is even more important to eat and live healthy. Of course, I have also come to realize that my inactivity due to the motorcycle accident back in April is now becoming a crutch - an excuse.  Even thought the injuries which I am still working on healing will limit my activity for a little longer, it doesn't mean that I can't do anything! Pity party over!

Inspired by my friend of quite a few years Janice Farmer (who is the hottest 40-someting I've ever met), I am going to begin effecting changes, one at a time, slowly, in order to begin a new life of health and wellness. I was following on Facebook how Janice gave up chocolate, as part of a larger goal to begin living a sugar free lifestyle. I was curious because that 3pm craving for a coffee and something sweet on the side has become a habit, and one that doesn't end up making me feel good. I'm tired of feeling bloated and weighed down.  I'm tired of carrying my weight in the middle and looking at those body type charts and being compared to an apple. I don't even like apples!

Now, this is not something I woke up and decided frivolously today. Over the past few weeks I have been reading about vegan, raw, sugar, gluten, caffeine and all kinds of things. Gluten free is a given since my diagnosis of celiac disease a few years back. But all of the other changes are overwhelming, and I also realized that trying to take on everything at once ensures that failure is all but certain.

In attempting to make one change at a time, I am also reading about how long it takes to enforce a new habit, or be rid of an old one.  I found a cool blog which I think will be helpful. So change number one is sugar. No chocolate bars for me. I'll start with that and see how it goes. I'll also start reading labels for all of the other foods I purchase. As I slowly begin to eliminate sugar from my diet it will be interesting to see how I feel. I am hoping it will be positive and that this one small improvement will inspire me to find another habit to change.

This blog will not only become the narration of my journey to health, it will also act as an accountability mechanism and enlist the help of some cheerleader. If you were sent this link by e-mail, it means that I hope you will be one of my cheerleaders. If you stumbled upon it, you are welcome to join in too.

Of course, my other random rantings about politics and life will not disappear, but  I hope you will follow this journey with me. You can encourage me, and maybe I can encourage you too!