Living a Life with Purpose

With my hands in the air I announce, I’m done. I give in. I surrender.

I had an epiphany last week and it was both utterly amazing and out of this world emotional. I’ve spent my days painting, drawing, studying, reading, writing, planning, and searching. The days go by rapidly and I am overwhelmingly engaged. I search more than I do anything. I wrack my brain until it’s bruised and sore to think. I laugh, smile, frown, and tears stream down my face pouring out an array of emotions. I feel on the verge of insanity but remain sane (I think). Over the years I have successfully ignored the whispers that have tried to give me the answer I needed and then the brick wall came tumbling down. I’ve struggled to understand and haven’t known exactly how to proceed. It still hurts and I continually stumble over the bricks. Since the wall fell the question that has tugged at me is, what is my purpose? Last week the answer came rushing to me and I blushed in my own presence. It has been staring me in the face all this time. All of my life it has been right here in front of me.

I was born feeling that life is both extraordinary and fragile. As a child I spent much of my time with critters both small and big and felt amazed by them all. I also felt the devastation of the untimely deaths of the smallest creatures to those that somehow ended my dinner plate. That spider that was smashed on the floor had one chance and it was taken in an instant based on irrational fear. That beef dinner was actually once a cow, with friends and family, and it ended for a meal. Just like that life is over, forever. I do my best to never be the cause of the end of any creatures life because we all have this in common- we only have this one chance in this life. Over the the years I have tried to teach people compassion toward all creatures. I have taught using tears, sadness, anger, screaming, frustration, empathy, sympathy, and finally surrender.

When I was 10, I cried when a friend had smashed a spider on a wall near her bedroom. With its small fragile corpse still imbedded in the wall she announced to me in laughter that Charlotte was dead. At twenty years old, after intentionally arriving after folks ingested the tortured dead turkey on Thanksgiving, I sobbed when the mother of my ex called me into a room and then declared with an abhorrent snicker, “Here’s a spider! Try to save this one!” and proceeded to smash it before me. Now I’m in my thirties and while my brother-in-law was visiting a couple years ago, he felt compelled to proclaim that he squished a bug in a vegan home on Facebook. What is with people? I always thought I was weak because millions of moments like this are etched into my soul permanently. Like an elephant, I never forget. I have often thought that I am too sensitive to exist on this planet with people who don’t see the beauty of life other than their own (sometimes not even that). I’ve felt shredded by people who are outright cruel in their seemingly personal attacks. These experiences were profound and should have lead me to my greatest purpose. But instead they have tormented me and in turn I have dialed away from my greatest passion to avoid stress, pain, and suffering.

Part of my epiphany is that these actions (from millions of instances), from those I know and do not know, are NOT personal. These actions belong to those individuals and are only a reflection of them, not me. I am not weak unless I choose to take these moments personal. My purpose to bring light to the beauty of all life. I’ve always felt connected to every living creature from microscopic and gigantic, yes even to people who can be unbearably cruel. It’s time I surrender to who I am, make a commitment, and work toward feeling complete. It is too painful to live any other way.

Like so many, I’m a huge fan of Oprah. I recently watched her Master Class and she expressed this beautiful thought that is in perfect alignment with where I am today…

“When you’ve worked as hard and done as much and strived and tried and given and plead and bargained and hoped… surrender.
When you have done all that you can do and there’s nothing left for you to do… give it up.
Give it up to something that is greater than yourself… then let it become part of the flow.”

I unknowingly surrendered and it’s feeling rad.

Did you know that a Humane Educator is a real thing? Ah-maze-ing!

What is your purpose?

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The Voices in My Head

I’m sitting at a table in a grassy area amongst other creative folks. The grass makes my feet itch through my open toed shoes but, it’s no bother. The sun is bright and warm but the air is crisp like a cool raspberry tea on a summer afternoon. My artwork is presented on lightweight easels for people to view and buy. My business cards lay nearby ready to be scooped up. The presence of others and their artwork is inspiring and the helps me to build fresh ideas of my own. Then a quiet voice declares, “You’re not good enough to do this. I mean, what are you thinking? This is just a another one of those daydreams.” The voice sounds familiar. Perhaps even my voice but, not as others hear it.

I’ve always been my worst enemy that unconsciously listens to the voice that sabotages all of the great dreams in my life. However, my 30’s have brought wisdom to help me understand that these quiet voices, that seek to make me feel inferior, are not unique to me. Even Oprah hears these crushing whispers. Whoa. Though it’s one of those “of course” hit yourself upside the head moments, it still boggles my mind. Recently, I discovered a fabulous designer and teacher named Debbie Millman. She created a fabulous podcast, Design Matters (there’s that pun again), where she interviews extremely successful artists/designers AND it’s not full of ego or arrogance like you’d assume. In fact every episode that I have listened to, thus far, the designer/artist speaks about their feelings of inadequacy. I remember one designer hesitantly admitting that they had done several great things but, who’s to say it could be done again tomorrow. I stumbled upon a different podcast which featured Debbie as the interviewee. She was asked how she built such a successful career for herself and her honest answer, “therapy.” She went on to credit her therapist for everything good in her life. Whoa.

I’ve spent my days dreaming up my new tomorrow attempting to pay no heed to the hisses that chase me. They can make me feel outnumbered if I listen too closely! Author Steven Pressfield calls it Resistance in his recent book The War of Art, which I am currently reading. The trick is to hear the whispers but instead of embracing them as the truth allowing them to pass by like high speed train. It’s genius and if I can manage it my dreams will likely flourish. I’m the one who stands in my way.

Having severe RA onset and getting fired at once has intensified the voices that make me feel subordinate, especially when I’m having a bad day- with pain and/or fatigue. I think issues of allowing inferiority to win was even evident in my doc’s office last week when I didn’t speak up. I should have said, what the hell are you on doc? Being quiet and fearful doesn’t suit me and in fact, those qualities are not even me. I just have to let them pass by. Fortunately I have many therapists, they’re made up of family, friends, and authors and they to help me to learn to hush the fears with their wisdom an support. One day at a time.

Fibromyalgia? Really?

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are turning yellow and crisp, berries and greens taste better, and I have to reintroduce closed toe shoes into my life. I have only worn them once and I am reminded that we’re not friends, whatsoever.

But if you ask my rheumatologist my RA is under control and I’m doing well! I have no swelling and I am swell! It’s like a dream! It’s dreamlike all right, as in it’s not reality. I scheduled an appointment to see him to tell him the last couple months have been awful and I’m having more bad days than good. I was nervous about my appointment, as I often am, because I have no idea what will be next. Enbrel was a hunch but, there are other drugs too and ultimately it’s my insurance who calls the shots. I love puns. There was also a thought that he would want me to be on Humira a full year to see its full effects. Methotrexate would remain my companion, of course.

I had to have an earlier appointment than originally scheduled because doc had a meeting come up. My appointment moved from 10am to 7:45am. Yuck. To my surprise, when I arrived there were five other patients there already. I was looking forward to his office being completely empty. Silly me for thinking that was a possibility. Though the office was bustling, the appointment was quick and I think I was there for about 30 minutes… total! It has to be a world record. I should really contact Guinness.

One of the reasons I always thought doc was amazing is because he seemed to be able to feel swelling in my fingers that was not visible or physically detectable. Four pills of methotrexate- he still felt swelling. Six- the same. Eight- it improved. Add Humira- I’m doing fantastic! I am healed! The odd thing for me is I rarely have swelling and it’s hard for me to see and it’s my friggin’ body. Upon my severe onset, I had NO swelling (though my fingers locked up and were agonizing enough to not be able to wash/dress) and even my blood results only showed only a couple points over normal inflammation levels. He told me, back then, my nearly normal inflammation levels and nearly normal RA Factor could be an indication that I didn’t have RA. I have never been to an appointment with him when I detected any swelling but doc is the pro, right? A magic man.

He came in plopped down in front of his tablet asked me what was going on. I told him it didn’t seem the Humira was helping anymore. I didn’t feel it kick in or ware off. I had new symptoms, like ribcage pain and it made it difficult to wear a bra. “Only your ribcage hurts?” he asked. “No, all of my normal joints plus my ribs.” He didn’t say anything. He felt my hands, as he always does and said my hands felt great and that they medications were clearly doing their job. “But, I have never had swelling,” I whimpered. “It’s time to start thinking you could have something on top of RA,” he said while staring at his tablet with conviction and continued, “Ribcage pain is not typical for RA and could be pain related to something else. You don’t have any swelling which indicates your RA treatments are working. I’d like you to try a treatment for Fibromyalgia either Lyrica or Gabapentin. If it helps, then we know it’s Fibromyalgia and if not, we’ll have to keep investigating,” he said with ease and continued, “I’m going to send off a prescription for Gabapentin now and I want you to start taking it tonight.”

I saw him for less than 10 minutes, he didn’t gather much information (other than ribcage pain), and I was out the door to be a test dummy with a new medication. I was infuriated upon exiting and burst into tears. I’ve read about fibromyalgia and from what I have read diagnosis isn’t as simple as take this and if it helps you have it. What about tender points? What about talking to me to see what symptoms I have? How the hell does he actually know it’s not RA? And that the medications are working? Do my fingers have a way of communicating with doc that I cannot see/hear? I call bullshit. I’ve never had real swelling!!!!!

I am seeking a second opinion because after reading all morning, all night, and all morning again fibromyalgia seems to be over diagnosed. If I have it, fine. If not, I’m not interested in being over medicated to make docs job easier. I’m interested in having a doctor who listens and doesn’t gage my RA purely on swelling- all of a sudden (P.S. My hands were slightly swollen last night, of course). He used to ask me how I felt because that was the most important indicator. What happened to that?

Has anyone else experienced this? I’d love your input!

Now onto the hunt for another rheumatologist…