Motivation: Chapter 2

“Every day of our lives we are on the verge of making those slight changes that would make all the difference.” – Mignon McLaughlin

Well, doesn’t that just sound encouraging and lovely? Sure does. It’s a great reminder that everything you’re doing ultimately makes a difference in your life. What a day!

Cool, but you know what else is lovely? Seeing results like NOW. This difference everyone speaks of, I want to see it happen in the amount of time that I want, in the way that I want, where I want, etc etc. And when that doesn’t happen, I get discouraged. Am I right? I’m kind of right.

We have this idea in our heads of how our life should go and we strive to make it turn out a certain way. Doing all of the “right” things to ensure that we achieve our goal. Remember the board game Life? You get to pick your house, your career, and your salary. Everyone wanted the Victorian house and to be a doctor making that wicked high $100k. Until you ended up with the literal split level house, as a salesperson, with a $20k salary.

Sure, this might seem like a crappy deal, but honestly, you really only just started the game and at least you have a house, a job, and a paycheck. Whenever I find myself thinking that everything is going wrong and my life sucks and karma is kicking me while I’m down, I sit down and think (or write it down if you’re into that) about all the good things that have happened to me.

Think of everything that has been good to you. Things like getting that last good spot in the parking lot, the bartender giving you a free drink, going out to dinner with friends you rarely get to see, not thinking about that ex for a few hours instead of minutes, putting away laundry and finally find that missing favorite top of yours and oh wow, you can wear it for the plans you have tonight.

I sometimes forget to recognize all the good because I get tunnel vision and focus on one particular occurrence that I’m waiting to happen. We all do it! We all make goals for ourselves that we want to reach. That’s a good, healthy thing! Until you start to lose sight of everything else around you. Then it’s time to step back and give your noggin a hard reset.

The past few months have been a huge lesson to me personally in this area. I had such bad tunnel vision that it started to affect me physically and mentally, as well as emotionally. When I realized that, I had to take a hard look at what was going on around me. I realized that my life may not be Victorian houses and six figure salaries, but you know what it is? F*cking awesome. It’s not perfect, in fact, most days it feels like it’s a hot damn mess. But when I just stop and focus on me that’s when things start to improve. I’m no longer living my life, making decisions, or doing things that I hope might contribute to a particular outcome I’m looking to see happen. I’m doing them for me.

I’m just spinning the wheel and moving my little yellow car along the path and enjoying whatever comes at me. I’m not paying attention to the other players and their cars. I’m not feeling left out or “behind” when I see cars filled with kids or a happy couple. I’m enjoying my time and the fact that I can play whatever music I want in my car. I can sing as loudly as I want and not feel self conscious. I can stop whenever I want to stop or keep on driving. It’s not lonely, it’s freeing. It’s exhilarating and it’s something I’ve recently come to truly enjoy. That slight change, that adjustment of perspective, and that acknowledgment that things may not be what I thought they’d be is what I needed. A step back to appreciate what I have, how far I have come, and what I have overcome to get here.

It doesn’t sound like much. It’s like, “Bex, you have a great life! You have this and that and done this and been through that. How can you think otherwise? What do you mean you have anxiety? What do you have to be depressed about?! You’re doing great!” Yeah, okay, thank you for that. I’m aware. However, when you’re sucked into the tunnel and you’re squinting your eyes on that itty bitty spot of light ahead of you, you don’t care about anything else. Not until you realize that your eyes are watering from not blinking and your head hurts from squinting at the spot of light for so long because you’re afraid that if you look away, that light will be gone completely and you’ll never find it again.

I call bullsh*t! Blink your eyes, look away, lay down and think about what you’re doing to yourself…. or myself, since I did this crap recently. I found that I work better with blinders on, not in some dank, dark, creepy tunnel. Blinders shield me from all the other bullsh*t in the world, but it doesn’t leave me in the dark with just ONE way out. We all need blinders on at some point, if we want to truly grow and evolve and become a better person. Focusing on yourself isn’t selfish, it’s self fulfilling. It becomes selfish when that’s all you start to do and you no longer empathize or think about anyone else at all or only do things if you can get something out of it at some point.

So, make that small change. Blink. Step back. Refocus. You know what you’ll see? A world of opportunities ahead of you. Start small and you’ll see a large difference in how things begin to unfold. Don’t worry about certain milestones you think you need to meet at a certain point. Get in that metaphorical car of yours and just enjoy the drive. Your life just started, make it great.

You’re not alone. I believe in you.

Xx

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Change: Chapter 1

CHANGE before you have to.” Jack Welch

The first day of fall has come and gone and I feel no shame in being that person to capitalize on the timing of fall and the changes that come with it. You know, the leaves are changing colors and falling away, make room for new crap in your life, yada yada yada. But I’m noticing that the only change people seem to really be embracing these days are the return of pumpkin spice lattes and Halloween decorations/costumes. Is it really change if we know it’s coming every year?

PSL bath

I’ve done a lot of thinking lately on change and wonder if people are even capable of change. I’ll admit that I’m still not very sure if they can. Then I ask myself: Have I changed? Do I want to change? What would I change?  All of these go through my mind in the span of about ten seconds. Now I’ve got the rest of the day to torture my brain with the answers to these questions.

Have I changed? Some days I think I’m the same that I have always been – sensitive, emotional, hyper, bookish, hotheaded, etc. And other days I look in the mirror and think, “New girl, who dis?” I feel as if life is giving me a huge lesson in this recently and I’m doing my best to take notes because I want to pass. The test? YOU being the absolute best version of yourself while maintaining your self-respect, boundaries, and self-love. All of these terms I’m using have been introduced to me recently through a life-changing blogger I found when I was at a really low point in my life (If you make it to the end, I’ll link her blog there). I was at a place, internally, where my head and my heart weren’t getting along.

How rude

Scuse me, fellas, I have enough going on without you two butting heads. Let’s get it together, shall we? Thank you. However, I think it was necessary for this low to happen, for my heart to hurt and my head to pound, to feel utterly alone even when I have an amazing support system behind me wearing face paint, waving foam fingers around, and their chests painted with “BEX!” How else can we appreciate change, let alone embrace it and accept that it needs to happen, if we don’t look inward?

Sure, to the outside eye, I got it going on. I am blessed in so many aspects of my life, it floors me at times if I stop and think about it. Never have I thought that I would be where I am at today and I am so grateful and appreciative of the life I’ve been given and the way I’m choosing to live it. But I think that as humans, we owe it to ourselves to constantly be aware of new growth and to learn when to shed what is no longer useful to us. Like trees shedding their leaves in the fall. Fall is my absolute favorite season for the colors alone, but I think I’m more drawn to it because I view it as an opportunity for change within me, too. No need to wait for New Years to make goals for yourself.

Leaves go through a beautiful process before they shed. The colors they change into are so vibrant and seem to be more full of life in that moment even though they’ll soon get crunchy and fall away. Then the tree is left bare, without its colorful, vibrant leaves; it stands tall and strong, but exposed. It doesn’t change what it is at its core, uh, trunk, it embraces the change that is happening to it.

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I think using the Whomping Willow from Harry Potter is the perfect visualization here. Look at that tree, the leaves just dropped right off and what did it do? Did a little shake and relaxed. It let go of what was no longer useful to it and didn’t lose its identity in the process. It’s still a tree, it’s still standing tall and proud. It’s merely making room for new leaves, but it takes time. It has to get through the rest of fall and all of freezing winter before spring comes around and it can bloom again.

In a world where everything is instantaneous (I’m literally waiting for UberEATS to bring me food because I cannot be bothered to cook. That’s also because I couldn’t be bothered to grocery shop. Oh well!), it’s so easy to think all things will come right when we want them. If the past few months have taught me anything, it’s that time is a wicked yet beautiful witch. She seduces us with the ability to bring us food, cars, dates, cleaning supplies, literally anything you want. Then curses you when you’re feeling the most vulnerable, low, exposed. As if you’re a raw and exposed nerve and she’s taking her long nails and scraping them down you slowly while she cackles and tells you that what you’re going through… can’t be fixed instantly.

Ursula

The painful realization, and eventual acceptance, of that is when it comes to the things that matter most, the universe knows you’re going to need time. Time to adjust, time to get it right, time to learn, time to… you got it, change.

Back to my original questions. Have I changed? Do I want to change? What would I change? Can people change? Yes, I have changed. I’ve always said that I would hate to look back in five years and find that I haven’t changed. That I’m still the exact same as I was five, ten, fifteen years ago. Think about it, if we don’t change and remain the same, our friends, family, coworkers, girlfriends/boyfriends… they’ll outgrow us. They’ll change and grow and leave us here… stagnant. What pain is more bearable? The temporary pain that comes with changing or the permanent pain that comes with remaining the same and watching the world change around you? It may seem better to stay the same, where everything is familiar, but is it actually familiar if everything around you moves on?

Do I want to change? I think we can all conclude together that YES I want to change. I still fight against the pain that comes with change at times. It’s difficult not to fight it. We get so comfortable in a certain way of life, even if we know it’s not always in our best interests. But this is where all my new lessons of self-respect, boundaries, and self-love come into play. Which brings me to…

What would I change? Right now, I’m trying to change how hard I am on myself and how much responsibility and blame I take on my shoulders that is not necessary. I’m trying to change how much pressure I put on myself to be at a certain point, feel a certain way, be over a certain event by a certain time/date. The whole point of this post is that change, when we truly want to change, is going to take time. That means unlearning things we’ve been learning for years and trying to learn all new ways. I always thought I had self-respect and boundaries, but it turns out that if I did, they were built out of Lincoln logs that would get continually kicked down. Now, I’m trying to build my self-respect, boundaries, and self-love out of Legos. Legos interlock and stick together, but can be taken apart when I want to make room for new changes and growth. Sometimes though, we step on a stray Lego and we are convinced it’s the most painful thing ever, we can’t focus on anything but the pain in our foot.

Lego step

But you know what happens after that? The pain goes away and we continue building and eventually we forget that we ever stepped on it. That’s how growing and changing will feel at times. Like the most painful thing you’ve ever experienced, but once you do, it’s more rewarding than it is painful.

Can people change? I’d like to think that if I can change and embrace it and go through the necessary pain and acceptance of it, then anyone can. Whether or not they see when it’s time to change is a whole other discussion. There are some people who just won’t change like emotionally unavailable people, narcissists, sociopaths, etc. As much as we have all had one of the above in our life and probably cared deeply for them and loved them, they will continue to be just who they have always been. Someone who lacks empathy, self-respect, boundaries and self-love. Let them build with Lincoln logs. Let you be a tree that stands tall and strong through change.

What are your thoughts on change? Do you think you’ve changed?

Whatever you’re going through in life, know that you are loved, supported, and you are not alone.

Xx

P.S. That blogger I mentioned earlier? Find it here. Natasha has incredible insight on self-respect, boundaries, self-love, etc. With her words, she helped me through my most recent changes and for that, I owe her a huge thank you. Go give her some love, too, and while you’re at it, give yourself love.

20 Years Strong!

***Hello, beautiful people, just beware that this is going to be a long post. I’ve got 20 years to catch you up on. Also, please be warned that there may be some graphic or disturbing photos ahead. You can stop reading or scroll past them. Do you, boo.***

This is going to be difficult for me. I have made one “big” speech about this before, but that is all. Outside of talking to my friends or individuals about what I’m about to share or the occasional social media post, I really haven’t delved deep into this. I hope you have your floaties, kids, this is about to get deep.

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Baby Bex, Age 5

Look at me! I’m seriously so cute. What about that is not adorable? The sneakers, the scrunched up socks, the oversized t-shirt and toothy smile. I’m the epitome of youth and innocence and as soon as this picture was taken I probably ran off to terrorize my two other sisters. As the middle child, I wasn’t so much the peacekeeper they stereotype the middle to be, so much as this bundle of energy that occasionally exploded. I was rambunctious and happy. I feel like early on I always knew that I was different from my sisters. I wasn’t built like them even when I was younger and I certainly didn’t (and still don’t) look like them. My poor dad has four daughters – not a son in sight. I like to describe myself as the Winnie-the-pooh sister. Everyone I know will say, “Oh, you were not!” and that might be true, but it still holds a somewhat accurate description. I was taller, yes, but…. let’s say… huskier. Not chubby, but I could definitely hold my own.

Shortly after the above picture was taken my world turned upside down. Not to be dramatic or anything, but it was true. Okay, there is a little drama, but that’s what makes this so good! My older sister, Kylie, who was 7 at the time, and I were hanging out outside at our dance studio’s yard. The studio was situated on this estate and had two buildings, the dance studio and the owner’s house and a hill you could sled ride down. We were waiting to get all dolled up to get pictures taken in our dance costumes and we were killing time outside. When we turned around at one point we saw the owner’s dogs, two Rottweilers named Zeus and Scar.

We never had a dog growing up, just a cat, so we weren’t entirely familiar with dog protocol and when you’re 5 and 7, anything above a freakin’ chihuahua looks huge. Imagine how we felt when their backs came to our middles. I could be exaggerating but that’s what I remember. I don’t remember a lot of this coming up, so I’m going off of memory and flashbacks and photos I’ve seen. However, I remember being terrified of these huge things and remembering that they just looked vicious. (This is NOT an attack on anyone who loves Rottweilers, this is my completely biased opinion. Duh. Get over yourself.) So, we did what any scared little girl would do – we ran. Picture Winnie-the-Pooh trying to run away from bees… that was me. I was uncoordinated and not fast and wasn’t really sure what I was doing. I know that one went after me and one went after Kylie. They thought we were playing with them and while they were normally calmer when apart, when together the two kind of fed off each other’s energy. They quickly got aggressive and I can’t remember if I fell or if one just caught up to me, but what happened after changed my life.

Thankfully Kylie made it inside the house safe and sound. Seriously, whatever I tell you after this, just know that if it weren’t for Kylie, things would have gone way worse. She was my guardian angel that day. I wasn’t so lucky, however. To the dogs, I was a toy; something that reacted when they bit and clawed and tossed me around… until I got boring. Only when I fell silent did they let go of me. Also, Kylie knew something was wrong when I didn’t come in with her. She hunted down the owner and they came out to try to find me. All I can remember is looking up and swearing that who I was seeing was in this long gown and she was talking to me so calmly and telling me it was going to be okay. I told my mom this and she said that it just wasn’t possible and that it was my personal guardian angel watching over me.

When they brought me inside, I was just a mess, but I was alive and that’s what was important. I was obviously in shock and not sure what was going on. It was first reported that I was a 9 year old boy that got hurt. They finally got word to my parents and they rushed over. The extent of my injuries is still something I can’t believe I sustained. My head had the most of the serious injuries and so did my neck. They were dogs and so they played like dogs. Deep gashes in my neck resulted in my carotid artery sticking out and my scalp peeled back. Bites and scratches were everywhere else and my right ear was just dangling on my shoulder. My dad tells me that he would just continuously tell me to squeeze his thumb. My mom tells me that I was trying to sit up because I had to go and look pretty for my pictures and I was going to be late. I guess I was saying I had a headache. I can’t remember much, but I do remember being put into the helicopter so I could get flown to the hospital and that a blonde paramedic was telling me that my mom couldn’t come with me because of the weight issue. Apparently that upset me so I started crying and saying that my mom wasn’t fat and that she could come with me! Don’t take me away from my momma, people!

My first surgery was hours long and I ended up being so swollen and unrecognizable that my mom thought I was a little boy when she saw me and walked right by my room! Thanks, Mom! I swear, though, my look is so versatile because I still looked so cute! LOOK AT THIS.

The cheeks, the chin strap of the bandage, the slitted eyes… UGH, I’m overwhelmed by how cute I am. I had a very long road ahead of me. My scalp was a disaster and it was affecting the rest of me. They thought that they could salvage the skin on my head by doing treatments in a hyperbaric chamber, but it didn’t stick. Next step: skin graft. They took the skin from my buttocks and used it for my head. Now, the only insult that I will ever say “Yeah, you’re right” to is being called a butthead. I am technically a butthead. Somewhere in there they also removed my left lat muscle from my back and had to temporarily use it for my head. For what? No idea, but I just know that I no longer have it and it’s the perfect excuse to never be able to do a pull up.

However, now I was dealing with trying to recover the use of my left arm and the doctors were saying that they highly doubted I would have full use of it ever again. The above photo shows that I could only lift my arm that high. I wouldn’t be able to lift it past my shoulder. Then my skin graft was a giant scab that itched like crazy. They would have to cut away the dead skin and I would have to start fresh a lot. I would go to bed with socks taped on my hands so I didn’t itch it, but I was determined sometimes and I would dig at it until I was bleeding. I had stitches and staples and I was uncomfortable and everything was out of my control.

I was five years old. I wanted to be with my sisters playing outside and running around like the rest of the kids my age. Instead, I was in a hospital going from surgery to surgery, being told I couldn’t sleep this way or that, I had to take this medicine and then go to therapy, on and on and on. My parents tell me that I handled it pretty well. Not perfectly, mind you, but pretty well. They are the best people in the entire world and I am absolutely blessed to have gone through it all with them. My mom would hunt down green Jell-O for me at 2 in the morning and my dad would be the absolute best at just being strong and there for me.

The doctors decided that the best route would be skin expanders for my head. The skin graft worked, but I was left without nerve endings where they put the graft. And since it was such a large area, it also left me without being able to grow my own hair. I say they should have used a man’s butt to skin graft because I know for a fact that those things are hairy AF. Alas, they decided that the skin expanders would be my best bet to minimize the area that was grafted and maximize the area that would be able to grow my own hair.

These pictures aren’t pretty, I know. Feel free to not dwell. But just look at how little I had to work with and how amazing the doctors were and all that they did. The expanders look uncomfortable, but they weren’t. They were these small balloons that they would gradually increase with saline until they stretched it as far as they could. We did this a few times until they couldn’t stretch it anymore or they’d risk tearing the skin.

BOOM! Check out the one above on the left compared to the right. I mean, you can’t deny that it looks SO much better. I started with practically just bangs and the doctors managed to give me hope that I could look normal… somewhat. At this point, I proved the doctors wrong and regained 100% use of my left arm, stopped picking at my scabby booty, and was well on my way to getting better. I still had a long way to go, though. As great as these expanders were for me overall, it took a toll on me emotionally, mentally, and physically. I tended to get angry and lash out easily and frequently. I couldn’t dance for the longest time and every time I wanted to go play, it was with my mother warning “Be careful of your head, Boo!” I felt like the ugly duckling for a long time as I got older. I was now the girl who was always wearing hats because I didn’t like showing off the scars. I was sitting out in gym because I couldn’t participate, although it meant I got to read so I didn’t hate that so much. Wearing a swimsuit was embarrassing because my scars and skin graft were angry looking and purple.

However, I didn’t often let it get me down. Did I have my moments? Oh, hell yeah, I still do! But I’m alive and I’m grateful for that alone. My parents and sisters were so awesome at making me feel like I wasn’t some breakable doll who got special treatment. I was grounded and punished when I was naughty and I fought with my sisters and ran around and did everything that I possibly could and even got back into dance.

This experience is sad and it hurt so many people and despite the physical scars, it left us all with a lot of emotional ones, too. Yet, this experience ended up being as good as we could possibly make it. I know that it made us all stronger, not just me. My parents had to see me like that and I hate that it happened. Worse than that, my sisters had to see me like that. I never wish that on anyone. I may not be able to be an olympic swimmer or do a pull up on my own, but I’m healthy and alive and everything I’ve been through has made me a stronger person. I feel like we all have the one thing that truly tests our strength in life and mine just came super early.

What bothers me the most is seeing or hearing anyone moan or complain or try to cover up some imperfection or scar. Scars can be such a beautiful thing if you let them. They tell a story about your life and what you made it through. I’m still self conscious about my scars, but I embrace them so much more now than I did before. There is a lot more to my story than just this, but it’s “just this” that I’m celebrating today. 40 surgeries, 20 years, three sisters, two parents, and one me. That’s quite a lot to be thankful for!  Twenty years ago to this day I was hurt. Twenty years ago I almost died. Twenty years ago I survived.

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2015 at Kylie’s wedding