How has age hit me?

 

The social media world is covered with the ‘How hard did age hit you challenge?’ and I have to be honest it is neat to see people way back when Facebook really became big next to a snapshot of the present. Some people have looked younger today than 10 years ago and others look far older than 10 years ago. It makes me think, what did they do differently? I also think the filters were nonexistent only 10 years ago- so you were forced to look your age… in fact filters are a product of all of this sharing on social media and the desire to have things look perfect. I remember back when my first pictures were loaded from our digital camera, taking many moments to upload multiple pictures for family and friends to see. I don’t think my brain could have imagined how far technology has come today- it took me years to come to terms with digital pictures, they were so intangible- fast forward 10 years and it is all different.

I was curious to see my profile picture from 10 years back so I dove right in. Man 10 years is a long time, and a moment all together. Isn’t it funny how time works, speedy slow? I guess it isn’t a surprise, I remind myself the while you are living in something or through something it is sslllooowww feeling, but in retrospect it was only a moment in your history. I am not discrediting those moments; however, those moments can alter the rest of your life here on Earth, but when you can stand back and look at the time it ticked by at the same speed time always ticks by at.

Looking at all of these pictures and reflecting really got my brain a thinking… I guess it jostled some of my cobwebs and made me dig a little. I saw a lot of people loving their today snapshots more than their past, others wishing they could relive that youth and wrinkles time and some others who didn’t want to acknowledge the older version because she hadn’t been through what the ‘now snapshot’ had. Each different post made me think broader… and try to gather my own self in this. Where did I lie? Was I the kind of person who wished for the softer, wrink-less version of me??? Did I prefer this 2019 version of me? Do I hate the parts between, do I wish I could change any of it???

I came to this conclusion.

It all comes back to my belief that “Age is a privilege not gifted to all”.  I love 2008 ‘me’, 2019 ‘me’ and every bit of ‘me’ between and before. I have yet to meet future ‘me’, but I imagine I will love her as well. I cannot be ‘me’ without every.single.little.and.big.thing in all of my history. I think back to 2008 me…

She was naïve and soft. She had yet to be broken, to be so hurt that she couldn’t stand up. 2008 me had no idea, and I mean no idea, that a marriage contract meant nothing to some… that a person you love so much could get into a car and drive to another woman. She didn’t know any of that. She didn’t know how to love herself, how to walk into a room and own it. 2008 Erin thought she was stupid and worthless… that her value was small because her work felt small and focused on feeding, napping, teaching, cleaning and building little people. She didn’t know she was strong and determined, she had been told that she was fat and her vocabulary was that of a 3-year-old. She was scared of money and being alone. 2008 me lived like trust and respect were things we just gave. She was scared of different and lived in her little bubble of safety. In 2008 she was blissfully unaware that her firstborn daughter would be diagnosed with cancer, and would die. She had no idea the extent of pain and loss that the world had in store for her. She had less wrinkles and better hair… she even wore sunscreen. She attended weddings like it was her social scene, right along with her then husband. 2008 Erin talked about her future, her girls proms, weddings… middle school, grandbabies and sunsets on Lake Ontario with her forever faithful husband…

Part of me thought… Erin, what if I could tell her, what if I could warn her? What if it doesn’t have to hurt so much… what if I could prevent those days of not being able to stand up? What if I could prepare for the missing of Madeline? What if, what if… but what if doesn’t work. She/I needed to be that naïve girl with low self-esteem. She/I needed to think my value was based on my vocabulary and weight… I needed to think I was just doing dumb work feeding and wiping and teaching my kids… I needed to struggle and hurt. I had to be all of those versions of myself, to get to this version. I often wonder what the 46-year-old version of me will be like… she better be amazing and strong and solid… and I freakin’ hope she has written a book and traveled the world.

Who am I today?

Where did these 10 years get me? The thing is that is all how you look at it… one could look at my life, and maybe many do, like I have a pretty sucky set of cards… my daughter was diagnosed with cancer, she died, my husband had many affairs and complicated situations arose from those, and we are divorced… sounds pretty crappy right?

I choose to see it the way that it really has rolled out… my daughter was diagnosed with cancer and died- my marriage dissolved and divorce has left me free… free from so many things. I hate that Madeline died, that has altered every second of my forever from that moment around 3am on February 8, 2012. I can’t ever be the mom of 3 Earthlings again… my story changed. I wish it didn’t but I do the best with what I have. Most days I get up and workout and drink coffee and do my job and raise my girls… alongside missing her. My marriage dissolved into a co-parenting situation that mostly is just fine. It was harder in the beginning, but we got better at it. It helps that I have worked so hard at maintaining healthy boundaries for me and my girls- firmly reminding myself of those boundaries. I became better at communicating with my words and emotions, defining my needs and keeping myself around positive people. I no longer just let people into my world… trust and respect are earned not given. It has been a rollercoaster, but it is my rollercoaster. I own it. I own the twists and turns, the broken and the healed… I own the confidence and weakness… I own it all. I own every second of these years- 2019, 2008 and long before…

A lot has changed… a lot has stayed the same… there are more wrinkles, more tears, more pain, more loss, more joy, more building, more accomplishments, more boundaries and lessons. I still have my Jeep Commander, my red kitchen, my lack of love for the Musto Mountain of Laundry and my love for coffee in the am and good red wine in the pm. I wouldn’t change a thing… not even the ugly parts. I love and own my 10 years that passed in a moment. I am grateful the privilege of aging has been gifted to me, I plan to use it well.

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Stay Afraid, do it anyway

Always be a little afraid, a little scared… a little nervous. Nervous rides right next to excited, that ball in your stomach that tells you that you are a little uncomfortable. Get uncomfortable. Be excited. Jump into something new, something challenging- with that piece of uncertainty of not knowing if you can do it. Prove yourself wrong, that little piece of your ‘self’ that tries to stay safe and simple and home.

I love that feeling, that little ball in my stomach that reminds me I am alive and in charge of my choices. I can easily get rid of that little ball, and just say no or decide not to try something. I know this. I try hard to stand on the edge of whatever I am used to and jump into something new… it could be as simple as going to a group workout class or jumping in a pool without my nose plugged. When we live safely we get used to saying no, or not trying something new. I always have reasons to say ‘no’ to an experience, dish or challenge; we all do. I get in a place where I choose to sit and binge watch Netflix instead of saying yes to an adventure; we all do. We are in charge of our choices…

I love that scary feeling right before I go up to speak, my little ball of fear in my stomach. It is shouting all the things that could go wrong- I could trip walking up, I could forget all that I wanted to say, I might fill all my silences with ‘umm’. The best part of that ball of fear, is standing there and doing it. Walking on that ledge and jumping right in, then when I get back to shore, I can see I did it. I did my job, that ball of fear is now mine forever. I love being a little scared and nervous, it keeps me mindful of life.

Divorce helped me understand the importance of all of this. In those first weeks after understanding it was over, I made an agreement inside of my ‘self’- to say yes. I made an agreement to try new things and not say no- to not get comfortable and safe. I wondered how many amazing things I said ‘no’ to, how many experiences or moments I missed choosing to put that ball of fear away. It was easier than arguing or doing the scary thing and having it picked apart for ‘umms’ or mess ups. I reminded my ‘self’ that I get to choose and I get to be excited and nervous and own my fear. I challenged my ‘self’ to travel alone, try foods I always hated, say yes to impulses and jump right into my fear. I started to love that little ball of fear, that nervousness that rides right next to excitement. Divorce was the perfect place to begin building Me better…

I tell my girls to get scared- never stop getting a little scared. Listen to your little ball of fear and try it. I remind them that everything has a cost, not a money cost but a life ‘cost’. It doesn’t ‘cost’ much to stay inside your home and binge watch Netflix, you are pretty safe and secure. The ‘cost’ of going somewhere in a car is more than the ‘cost’ of staying home- but think of all the places you can go. The ‘cost’ of riding a motorcycle is more than the ‘cost’ of riding in a car- but that feeling of open road and wind is addictive. The ‘cost’ of flying in a helicopter is higher than sitting on our couch- but the world is so lovely from that vantage point. We all must chose what we are willing to experience and how much we are willing to ‘spend’. Life isn’t about staying on your couch binge watching Netflix… you need to step on a plane to see the Eiffel Tower, you need to hike to the top of the waterfalls to feel them. Think of all that could go wrong with the plane, the cars, a motorcycle… an accident, a fall, a poisonous snake… all the things to be scared of. Think of what could go right… a beautiful experience AND owning your fear, a speaking engagement AND owning my fear.

I love how nerves ride right next to excitement, and often you don’t have one without the other. I love how embracing that little ball of fear helps build us to be more brave and stronger- more in charge of our choices. I want to be in charge of my life- my choices. I want to be a little scared and excited- to be spontaneous and uncertain. I want to embrace that ball of fear and love it for all it gives me- courage, bravery, experiences, failure, love, adventure and maybe sometimes a new tattoo…

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Fixable Hot Mess…

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I have no excuses, I only have a million of them. I am too busy. I am too tired. I don’t want to go get my laptop. I can just watch one more show. I need to check things off my never-ending to-do list. Once I get the lawn mowed and the back yard done I will write. I might as well get the house clean too… and the garage. I will set aside time this weekend, after travelling.

Like I said I have no real excuses, no real reasons to not write, I just keep putting if off. I know I have avoidance syndrome, I jokingly call it fear of commitment. I usually laugh and follow it up with marriage jokes and BAM! I avoided the task and paved my escape route with humor. It’s a gift, or maybe a bad habit. I have had plenty of serious and funny things to write and think out… but here I am making myself do the job I love to do most… making my ‘self’ stop avoiding.

Who knows why I am avoiding, I am sure it would all come to the surface in a couple hours with my counsellor. I figured I should just get writing and stop avoiding. Today I tackled a task I have avoided like the plague- I am resurfacing my claw foot tub. I followed all the directions and even set up proper ventilation. It feels really good to have it done and ready for my dad to hook up plumbing. I didn’t even pass out from fumes. It feels pretty good to do a task that I have long put off, that I have avoided and kind of dreaded. It is done. Maybe it is one of those things hanging above my head that makes me not write lately. Who knows…

I miss the clarity that writing brings my brain and soul. I need to start sifting and creating times to seek that clarity and order. I have so many things to say… so man candid moments and lessons… pieces of this crazy life to jot down and share and organize. I look back at this year and I realize I didn’t do the work… the work to reach what I dream about. I just avoided and pushed it away… I filled my time with work and stress and Netflix. I need to redirect. I know what I want in this life, well as much as I can control. I want to share, speak- faith and lessons, laughs and tears. I want to meet a million people and take pieces of their energy and feel that forever. I want to write a book, a dream I have had since 3rd grade. I want to stand in women’s groups, grief groups, church groups and audiences and share the hot mess that God created to be my story- how much I love this blessed hot mess. I want to share the funny pieces of this life along the painful- we can’t feel one without the other. Joy rides next to pain…

That is my dream… I need to refocus and catch that Erin, my ‘self’ again. I need to fill my time with builders and laughers, workers and creators. I need more of that in my life… I need to stop avoiding and start building me again. I am sure it will feel even better than refinishing a claw foot tub that has waited 6 years… a fixable hot mess that is now shiny and porcelain again (well epoxy porcelain)…

I better start working on my ‘self’… this fixable hot mess.

Like a cheetah, lovely.

ameliaToday was Amelia’s last field day… next year she is off to Middle School. Damn time, just keeps chugging along. I guess I keep forgetting that it does that. Every day I look at her and I see her older and more capable, more responsible, more independent. Every once in a while, she looks at me and I see those pudgy cheeks and huge dimples- those bright blue eyes… that little giggle she had. It is hard to believe so many years have passed since she was new to this world…

Today’s events were different than years past, today was more like a track meet. The 5th graders trained for the events they chose to compete in. Amelia has been itching to do more track since she did an early morning running program last fall. She found something she really enjoys, and I love watching her while she runs.

The morning started with all of the kids on the bleachers in their classroom color shirts chatting and hanging until the moment they have waited weeks and beyond for. As Amelia headed over to her station I told her- try your best butthead and give it ALL of it, don’t save any, give it all. I actually prayed that my girl would win, I wanted her to feel that rush and the confidence along with it. To revel in doing something strong all.by.herself. I could not make her run faster; her teacher could not demand she run fast… it was all her.

This event did not disappoint. It was like 15 seconds of adrenaline. I know I want my daughter to be proud of others for winning, a high five and a smile. I want her to want to win, but be okay when she doesn’t.  I want her to remember it is a little deal and if she wants a win badly to keep working and trying. I really wanted to see her win today- for her. I wanted her to succeed in something that involved anyone else, that was just hers. I wanted her to feel proud of herself and confident that she is one strong lovely.

I saw it in her face. She wanted it. I am grateful for the polarized sunglasses on my face… there are perks to having super sensitive blue eyes. She wanted that win, she pushed with her all. It was perfect. She was so proud. She got 1st. I have seen her struggle so many times to find her place, to find where she belongs… and today I saw a piece of her I rarely see. She was confident and proud, in the right ways. I felt proud to be her mom today… I always am, but today I own a 1st place 50M Dash winner chick. Her dimples were the brightest light…

She finished and came running up to me and her other family. She was so happy. Amelia posed for pictures with her ribbon and she just smiled… I was holding it together, just barely. I was thankful for those sunglasses…

… Then Amelia’s Grandfather said “You ran fast like a cheetah.” She did. Madeline loved running. She would just run circles with her friend in Kindergarten. She was my biggest fan when I ran. She would run and jump in the leaves saying ‘Mommy I can run faster than a cheetah’… those words threw me into the hard. She did. She ran so fast, with a look of determination. She ran like a cheetah… like Madeline liked to run.

All of the sudden I started to think of how this is my first 5th grade field day, but it shouldn’t be. I should have known the good spots to sit and where I could see Amelia best. This should not have been my first 5th grade field day. I realized that I was missing my 1st cheetah, Madeline. I saw how big those kids had gotten, and how tall some were. I thought about what Madeline would look like cheering her sister on. I also thought of what Madeline looked like, today, cheering her sister on.

I bet Madeline was super proud of her lil’ cheetah, her Meme. I bet Mads was right there, helping to fuel her determination. I bet Madeline was glad to hear her Grandpa describe Amelia’s event that way. I was. I hurt, but I was so glad he said what I thought.

I miss my cheetah. I love my runner, my Meme. I love my lil’ baseball chick, my Lucy. I miss my Madeline… she was my arrow. I miss that Amelia has to be the grown up, mature sister. Death sucks. Like is hard. Wins are amazing. Loss is necessary. Running is good for the soul, and a piece of her soul. It is a piece of my Amelia’s soul.

So… a 50M win might be a little deal to some, it is a big deal to us. It is a builder. It is a moment of connection. It is determination and commitment I have never seen in my girl. It is a big deal here at the Musto Estate.

Thank you God for the answer, for the cheetahs. I love them all… I miss my lovely.  Help me build up my Meme to be strong, kind and fast…

Working on my ‘self’…

Why is it that reading a ‘self help’ book makes being the best me sound so simplified? As I read the words I highlight and think ‘that makes sense’… ‘I know this’. Sometimes I can even hear myself helping others through challenges and saying just.those.things. The book is full of knowledge I already own, but I don’t use those skills well, apparently.

I have so many experiences and lessons to draw from, words from amazing therapists, faith and guidance from The Big Guy… what is holding my ‘self’ from doing life better? I mean I tell my ‘self’ today we will rock this gig- or if we fail ‘let’s just start tomorrow’… but me and my ‘self’ can’t get our shit together lately. It’s like one is always beating the other up, sabotaging the promise to eat better with baseball field fries or being too tired to do a workout…

I know that I am better and stronger and happier when I work out. I know that I feel better when my days have enough water and eat lots of veggies. I know that my brain is cleaner when I write regularly and read lots. I know that my soul is more whole when I make time for God and truth and love. I know all of this…

But here I am…

I am reading and reminding my ‘self’ that I am a badass… and that I need to get a handle on this amazing life God gifted me. I need to remind my brain and words to work on my ‘self’… and get my ‘self’ to a better, more confident, more badass, lovelier, more amazing job of being my ‘self’.

I find myself encouraging others all.the.time to self-talk. In the event of something very big or scary or emotional telling your ‘self’ that you have a job to do, you need to just do your job and try not to think of failing or worst-case scenario right then. Do your job. Go in there and do your job, you can reflect on it later. I know this works, I have done it so many times. I could never speak in public, it used to scare me. I would be so anxious and nervous that my stomach would be off and I would miss enjoying the moment. I would judge myself after and be angry that I couldn’t do it… then I realized that I could do it. I just told myself ‘do your job, you have no choice but to do this job’. It took away the cop outs and the much of the stress. ‘Doing my job’ has reaped a world of sharing and connecting people. That ‘job’ has allowed me to share what I have learned and experienced in grief, love, divorce and life in general.

It is so much harder to remind myself to do that, lately. It’s like I am out of the habit of self-care and support. I don’t think I meant to get to this messy place, but here I am. I am in the land of self-help books and reading the inspirational quotes in my cupboards. I am searching for the one’s that will make sense right now, the ones that will help build better pathways in my brain. Like I said before I know how to do this… it is just finding that self-balance I have been missing. So… self-help books it is, at least one about how I am a BADASS. Who doesn’t need to be reminded that they are a BADASS???

Life is hard. It is infinitely more difficult than I ever expected but is beautiful and joyful and gentle and terrible and funny and broken… it is all of that. I could never have foreseen my life being here, yet I wouldn’t have my life any other way. I wish I had three girls to raise and build- but I am forever lacking one. I am happily divorced but miss having more people at the dinner table. I live far away from my home, but I love the home I have made here. Nothing is how I imagined it to be… maybe I am a product of being in this spot right now- this messy place.

I restarted the book I started a while back- maybe now is the time to read it. Now is when I need the BADASS building and reminding… I am even highlighting and rereading. I am devoted to being a BADASS, that has a grasp on growing and building up this life. I was reading tonight and felt compelled to write and keep bringing you all along on this freakin’ messy journey, my BADASS journey.

Send pointers, advice, comments, reviews if you have read the book, etc. I love my Climbing Up The Polka Dot Clan…

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Write always and anyway…

What if I am supposed to just write anyway, to write even when I don’t feel like it? What if just doing it is part of the process, part of the growth, part of the becoming? Lately I my brain seems jumbled, like when you finish laundry and that pile of socks is left… and if you live in my house there are most likely missing, mismatched and stranger’s socks. If you can imagine my jumbled-up brain might be more jumbled than most… given the state of the socks in this house.

I miss when my brain was clearer, my writing came easier, my words would just flow. I would have a silly thought, or important point and BOOM my fingers took to the keyboard and the story my brain needed to tell just appeared on the screen. It has been a bit since my thoughts flew to my fingers and formed the story that my mind thought. I quite miss it… but maybe this is part of it. Who knows, maybe these times of jumbled and messy, will be part of the becoming I need to keep doing.

Today at school I took my break and kind of hid away and looked at Facebook. When it was time to be back to work a behavior escalated, I said “I’ll get it, my breaks pretty much done and I was just looking at Facebook”. I made a comment about having nothing better to do than looking at Facebook on break anyway, my friend asked why I didn’t read. I said I hadn’t brought a book in a while, and I thought to myself I should do that. We were then walking down to the far away wing to support the kiddo who needed it, and she said ‘or you could write’… and I was reminded that I don’t have it right now. I am too… jumbled or messy or something. Writing didn’t just come to me right now…

I thought about it a lot as the day progressed, I am sure she didn’t mean for it to be something I would reflect on for the day. I am sure she meant to give me quick reminders of things I like to do to get into my less jumbled space. It got me thinking though…

I spend too much time just looking at things, watching time go by. I of all people should know that time is expensive and I spending too much of it watching and not doing. I tried to look inside the jumbled mess that lives inside my brain, I didn’t get too far. I definitely saw that sock pile, it is just itching to get put away and sorted… even with the missing, mismatched and stranger’s socks. What if… I am supposed to stop looking and watching or telling myself I don’t know what to write and just do it… just write until I sort this sock pile.

I need to just trust the brain to finger to screen connection, and just do it. Sometimes I may only have a trip to the grocery store to write about- but maybe the task is the write it and share it, in my own way, so I can sort it all. I feel like writing will help get that jumbled brain back to healthy and not-so-messy, let’s be honest it won’t be sparkly and full of folded, color sorted laundry in neat piles, I know myself pretty well.

What if the becoming is less about the product and more about the process… and the vulnerability of sharing my mess? What if to find that semblance of organized starts when I do what I know how to do, even when I feel like I can’t? Damn, this is deeper than I meant it to be. I hate when that happens…

So I guess this is me, telling you all, that I am going to write it out and you can go though this seemingly endless sock pile sorting life journey with me. Come along on this experience from just being me, to becoming me…

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PS In case I haven’t told you all lately thank you for the words and support and silent hugs when I get really vulnerable that I feel naked. I am honored and grateful you are all climbing up this polka dot tree with me ❤

Just do better…

A new year, a new you… or maybe this you looks a hell of a lot like the lady who rang in the New Year. I have successfully written 2017 on far too many forms, notes and incident reports. I am a creature of habit… it will happen though, 2017 will disappear from my present notes and such soon, just in time for February. I know this year my hope for myself is to see myself better… to see improvement in my body, mind and soul. Sounds simple… we shall see.

My hope is to see the me that ends this year in a better light than I see the me that ended 2017. I don’t care to be skinnier- but I long to feel stronger. I don’t really need to be richer- but I hope to be more established and flexible with my time and income. I don’t long to be the best mom ever- but I strive to be more in the moment and less addicted to screens. I don’t need to run another marathon- but I will be a more determined version of me, a little more like that marathoner. I don’t plan to have future plans- but I am thinking that I will be more focused on a plan for the future (as much as He allows). Last but not at all least… I need to rekindle my connection to The Big Guy. I know Him, I love Him… but I feel like this 2018 me needs to find the road home to His comfort.

This past year brought a lot of hard stuff for me, so much that I procrastinated writing this because I didn’t want to go all ‘Negative Nancy’. I don’t even care that I turned 35, I think that is pretty cool- age is a privilege denied to many. After months and years of battling and ignoring a bum hip- I used to just joke that I must be a pure-bred lab, because I definitely have hip dysplasia… I found out through the grace of an MRI and great Doctor that I have pretty advanced hip arthritis and some lovely and cool bone cysts. I finally knew why I would be walking and my right hip would just not work. I was hoping for the simple answer to the scan- like we’ll operate, fix it and you’ll be good in 6 weeks. Instead we talked about management, in time treatments and a future bionic hip. I honestly slumped after that doctor’s appointment. It was not the news I hoped for…

But when is life exactly what you hope for…

After a really rough allergy season I developed asthma, and had some smallish asthma attacks. It was not.so.fun and has inflamed all of the upper respiratory issues I could have this winter. BOOM.

Everything I learned about being strong and getting strong was hard and high intensity… long runs, HIIT workouts, plyometrics… all the good stuff. All the stuff that inflames and hurts my body now, especially being heavier. This year I am just trying to be better, to make habits out of the new different way that I need to work out and get my eating habits back to the good ones. I want to just move forward and not be mad at my backward. That is my 2018 goal- to be better. I want to be better to this Erin and that Erin… I need to give her some props. She looks a lot like this 2018 Erin, and she made it through 2017. One more year of missing, one more year of moving forward. One more year of sorting and building better. One more year of getting to be almost 36- a gift that not everyone gets. I want to remind myself often in 2018- time is a gift, a gift not granted to all.

What if 2018 is laden with difficulties and challenges? I will work to do better and stay connected to what is important… so maybe I will have the scaffolding to handle it better. 2018 might look a lot like 2017 or 16… I might look like I do right now on December 31, 2018 and it will be good… I will love me more for being better. I will work to repeat to myself the ‘better’ that I am working for and the ‘better’ that I become. I have got this… I made it this far…

I keep coming back to this letter, this letter of a 27 year old woman. She spoke with perspective so many lack… her time was ending- not by choice. She had amazing perspective on what matters… and I think if I just try to do better I will be doing well with my time. If you haven’t read- DO. Holly loved life, but knew what she wished she did more of some pretty simple things. So… maybe your 2018 should be doable and livable… just do better.

http://people.com/human-interest/dying-australian-woman-leaves-note-goes-viral/

Just do better, it feels doable, you know?

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