The Purge

Comedian George Carlin had this skit where he comically postulates about the very human and very American condition of collecting stuff. It’s one of my favorites. According to Carlin, we are in a constant state of collecting stuff. For the whole transcript– which is hilarious, I might add– you can go here:

I’m no different than those Carlin criticizes. I have quite the accumulation of stuff: stuff I have from my childhood, stuff I’ve collected in my career, stuff that I don’t know where it came from, all kinds of stuff.

My stuff was suffocating me.

My house is fairly small, and yet I managed to pack it full of stuff, so much that I anticipated the floor joists breaking and perhaps the siding falling off the outside of the house.

But here’s the thing: I don’t need all that stuff. I suppose most of us don’t need all the stuff we cram into our homes, yet we all seem to keep accumulating more and more stuff.

During the last two weeks of summer vacation, I purged the shit out of my house. Every room fell victim to a ruthless inventory. My closet was first. If it didn’t fit or I hadn’t worn it in over a year, it went into the Goodwill pile. For kitchen and other household items, if I hadn’t used it in a year or it was worn out, it got tossed. If an item didn’t serve me, it got tossed. If it was an item that I hadn’t used in a long time, yet was inexpensive enough that I could re-purchase it if I regretted shedding it, tossed.

And then there was the memorabilia. I made some tough decisions there and decided that at the end of the day, the memory of those “events” was all that mattered. They would be forever etched in my head, regardless of any insignificant momento that might’ve been attached to it. So some of that stuff got tossed too.

And for a number of years, I’d saved a bunch of journals and letters that I’d written to Jeff when we were struggling in our marriage. What was I hanging onto them for?!? To remember that painful past? Why?!? That hardly seems useful. But I thought that maybe I could learn something from some of them so as to not make the same mistakes that I’d made in the past. My letters, my own words, caused me some shame and also some enlightenment. There were some things I wrote that I thought “what a bitch!” of myself. Other things, I thought, “I will never do THAT again!” And then I refused to dwell. I read them once, processed what I’d read, vowed to never repeat my mistakes, and then threw them in the garbage. Why hold on to that pain from my past?!? So I let it go.

I don’t consider myself to be a tree hugger or a hippy or a spiritualist or any one particular sort of “weirdo” by societal standards, but I do believe in positive and negative energies. I believe that much of my stuff– the stuff I no longer used, was worn out, no longer served me, it was a reminder of a painful past– was negative energy that I was allowing in my home. And I fully believe that in order to bring more positive into my life, I must release the negative.

So I sent some unused furniture to a local charity. I stuffed my GMC Terrain full of stuff I no longer use. My negative energies that I’d stored in my house for years will likely become positive energies in someone else’s home. Someone out there needs my stuff that I no longer need.  It can serve someone else. It will have value for someone else.

A loaded Terrain, moments before being driven off to the local Goodwill.

And the other stuff that nobody needs? It’s going to the landfill. Probably still not the best place,”earth-wise”, but the right place. For me.

two giant garbage bins filled to the rim, 15-20 garbage bags, and other assirted junk awaits refuse removal.

I can breathe more easily now. I sleep better. The walls in my house don’t feel like they’re caving in on me anymore. I feel like I’m more open to positive experiences in my life. Coz its not “stuff” that brings me joy. It’s the people in my life and the way I share my life with them that brings me joy. I’m ready for more of that. So very ready. Bring it!


"Rush" is a Dirty Four-Lettered Word

Why is it that when I’m trying to get somewhere via car, I’m always stuck behind some person that clearly does not know how to drive?  The speed limit could be 35 and this person will be traveling at the speed of a snail, making 35 mph seem as though it would be warp speed!  And naturally, there is never a passing lane when stuck behind such said person.  There is no way out.  I’m forced to stay behind, cursing and yelling (to myself, apparently, because I’m pretty sure the alleged guilty party cannot hear me) along the way as we travel at this “dumb ass mother fucker who doesn’t know how to drive would you please get the fuck out of the way you stupid fuck?!?”

And I will sometimes tailgate.

So I have aggressive driving issues.

But at least I can admit it.  And that is the first step toward healing, right?!?!

But beyond that tendency to be aggressive, I can’t help but also wonder…

Why am I in such a hurry?
What’s the rush?
Why am I in such a hurry to get from point A to point B?

I guess when you lose someone, you gain an appreciation for living life to the fullest and you learn to appreciate living “in the now”, in the moment.  And you realize that there is no time to waste.  That the time for action is, in fact, “NOW.”  Being behind a slow driver “prevents” me from doing the thing that I want to do NOW.

So this is a double-edged sword.  Because living in the “now” is also a breeding ground for having a lack of patience. And I already lacked that before Jeff died.  Now, it’s even worse.

Dana Linn Bailey

I see evidence of this in my list-making that I talked about last week. When I fail to accomplish all of those listed items, I feel as though I failed myself as well as the day; that I didn’t use my time as wisely as I could have.  I feel badly that I might have to put off some items until the next day.  I stress out that I didn’t get it all done.  I see evidence of that sense of hurriedness and lack of patience in my endeavors in bodybuilding.  I want to look like  Dana Linn Bailey today.  Forget the fact that first of all, she’s inches shorter than I am; that she’s worked on her body for years compared to only the three years that I’ve been involved in this sport; that she is a professional bodybuilder. Somewhere along the line, I lose sight of all of that and just get caught up in not being satisfied with the journey.

And I hate that word– “journey.”  You hear it everywhere.  This is your journey.  Appreciate the journey.  The journey is yours to travel.  Look, Journey was an 80s pop band, one that’s gained recent recognition through shows like Laguna Beach and Glee.  And I liked Journey.  Even have a bunch of their songs on my iPod.

So maybe it’s not so much a “journey” as it is just living one’s life and enjoying the successes and setbacks that lead to eventual growth and opportunity.  It’s quite the juxtaposition, to have learned from grief to “live in the moment,” but then to be in constant search of “the answer” or the satisfaction of scratching items off a list or “the final product.”

But here’s the thing…

There is no “answer.”

What does scratching items off a list really do for oneself anyway?  It’s just some scribbling on a note card of things that I’ve deemed to be so exceptionally relevant and important.

And moreover, the “final product” only exists when you die.  What lies in graveyards across the country and the world are a bunch of “final products.”

And I’m not done yet.  There is no final answer.  The list will never be fully accomplished.  And I am certainly no final product.  And I reckon that neither are you.

Life is a process, a series of trial and error, drafts and revisions…

So what’s your hurry?

Slow down.

Who cares if everything on the list of things to do is not accomplished?  Tomorrow is another day. And if it’s not, still– who cares?  Is everything on that list really time-sensitive?  Or is it just a ridiculous constraint that you place upon yourself?

Pay attention to the trials, the errors.  Don’t shut them down.  Don’t ignore them or brush them under the rug.  Face them– head on!  And as crazy as it might sound, embrace the setbacks as much as you embrace the successes.  Be kind to yourself.  Be patient with yourself.  And also with that slow-ass driver in front of you.

You’ll get to where you need to be. You will get done what needs to get done.  You are not a failure.  You– and your life–  are a work- in- progress.

A beautiful, unique, and wonderful work- in-progress.


Help Wanted!

Ever since Jeff died, I have become a list-maker.  I make lists for what I need to pick up at Walmart, what needs bought at the grocery store, reminders of people and businesses I need to call, and more importantly, lists of things I need to do.  I have found that I’m more forgetful than I used to be, and the lists help in keeping me on track. It’s not unusual to find three or four lists sitting on the kitchen counter, reminding me of the six million things I “need” to get done.

But my lists frustrate me.

Because I can’t seem to get it all done.

I have a tendency to list project after project.  And my expectation is that I get all of those projects done on the day I’ve enlisted their accomplishment.  On today’s list, I was to finish painting my bedroom, prep food, walk Bella, and clean the whole house.

I didn’t get any of it done.

I started the painting, but ran out of daylight and couldn’t finish it up because I couldn’t see.  I ended up re-arranging my entire living room, so I only got that room cleaned up today.  Poor Bella got shunned and I made food as I went along today rather than prepping out a few days’ worth.

I can’t do it all.

I need help.

This– the concept of needing help– became painfully obvious at my last competition and then also when I was trying to cross off “mow the grass” from a recent list.

My friend Amy competed with me at the Pittsburgh show.  Amy has a coach, someone who provides her with a training routine, a diet, help with posing, and other helpful advice.  She’d purchased a spray tan the day of the show and also had her hair and makeup done by someone else.

As I applied coat after coat of tan (I didn’t get a spray tan; I used this stuff that you essentially “paint” your body with), painstakingly applied “glamour” makeup, and fooled around with my hair until I thought it was “stage perfect,” I watched what Amy was doing.

She was practicing her posing.

She was concentrating on what really mattered about that show– posing.

And I had to pay closer attention to just getting ready to be on the stage.  Posing, for me, was something I couldn’t take the luxury of doing because I had to do all the other stuff.

In that moment, of watching her perfect her routine, I was envious.  Envious that she had all that help.  I’d wished that I’d had that kind of help too.

Even in preparing for that show, I did my own training, my own diet, my own posing work, my own creation of a routine.  I did it all.  By myself.

No wonder I was so fucking exhausted.

I didn’t even realize it while I was doing it; I just did it.  I was living a Nike mantra.

And then there are the tasks of running a household:  cleaning it, maintaining it, repairing it.  I’ve done it all.  I’ve learned how to thaw pipes, learned how to hang a new shower head, painted, landscaped.  I’ve continued to maintain my house finances.  I mow the grass.  I clean the bathroom and the kitchen as well as the other rooms.  I clean out the litter boxes.  Pick up the dog crap.  Installed all of the AC window units.  I do the laundry.  The list goes on and on and on…I’ve done ALL of it.

The “someone” I referenced in last week’s post has the ability to have the more mundane tasks in his life taken care of by others that he’s hired.  I had a really hard time wrapping my head around that because I couldn’t understand why you would spend money on things that you could likely do yourself.  If you are capable of running a vacuum, you can clean your own house.  If you know how to operate a lawn mower, you can mow your own yard.

He explained that he’d had a similar problem with having things “done” for him when he was first in the corporate world.  All of these people wanted to do things for him, take care of things for him.  It was uncomfortable at first, he told me.  He resisted.  Until someone pointed out to him that he should allow for those people to do those things because it then frees you up to accomplish goals in other areas in which you are most talented.  So he could concentrate on doing CEO things because other people were taking care of other things that he didn’t have time to do because he was busy being good at being a CEO.

And that’s when the lightbulb went off.

It’s okay to need help.  It’s okay to ask for it, too.  It’s okay to allow others to do things for you.  Doing so frees you up to accomplish goals in other areas in which you are most talented.

Yesterday, I started a new prep for a competition on September 7.  I hired a trainer.  She has provided me with a new training routine as well as a diet.  I don’t have to figure it out by myself this time.

I need the help.  So I asked for it.

And in the past, mowing the grass was something I really enjoyed doing.  Now, it’s just another task I need to cross of my seemingly endless list.  So I hired some “grass guys” to take care of my yard.

I need the help.  So I asked for it.

It is humbling to do so; to admit that I cannot do it all.

I cannot do it all.

Getting Back on the Proverbial "Horse"

I’ve been thinking about this blog all day long…

Truthfully, I’ve been thinking about it for much longer than that….I’ve been thinking about it ever since I stopped posting to it.  It just so happens that today, I really got the writing itch. I’ve got things to say, and it’s time to start saying them again– for the sake of my sanity, for the sake of my continued growth.

It’s been a month since I’d stopped blogging.  And I’d stopped for several reasons.  One was that some of the things I was writing were being misinterpreted by some loved ones and it was causing them further grief and anguish. Another reason was that so many things–good and bad– were happening in my life, and I didn’t know how to write about them.  I had severe writer’s block.  I probably needed the time off.

But this post is my re-entry.  I’ve written about my grief, and I’ve shared my pain.  And so many of you have responded to that grief and have helped me as I heal.  I am grateful for that.  So very grateful.  But I wish to share my triumphs, my celebrations too.  I have fought– so very hard– to not allow being a “widow” be the thing that defines my very existence.  It is only a part of my story.  A very painful part of my story.  But just a part.  It is one that I continue to embrace, do not ignore, do not push under the rug.  But it cannot be the thing that affects every decision I make in this new life.  And so it will not.

Here’s what I’ve been up to in the past month…

I cried when I walked off stage.

I made it to the competition stage!  It was an exceptionally stressful peak week.  Some things had fallen apart in  my personal life and that caused an enormous amount of unwanted stress.  Stress during peak week is the equivalent of holding a gun to your head and pulling the trigger, which is to say, it’s not good.  As a result, I hit the stage with a body that was great by “normal” standards, but holding water and too soft according to bodybuilding standards.  Nevertheless, I pursued.  The day was long, hard, and not without tears– many tears.  But I’d made it.  Even brought home a trophy.  But more importantly– I succeeded because I’d made it to that stage.  I saw it through.

A week later, I vacationed in California.  This was the first vacation that I’d taken in over ten years!  It was also my first airplane trip.  Yes, that’s right– this old girl had never been on an airplane.  Including connecting flights, I’ve now been on four!  Best part about flying– take-off.  I LOVE the speed!  I giggled, like a little girl, on all four take-offs coz the speed was breathtaking!  Imagine if an airplane could be like a convertible and you could feel the wind zip through your hair while speeding up for take-off.  How awesome would THAT be?!?!  (remember– with a convertible, the roof goes back up; I’d expect the roof of the aircraft to go back up as we would rise further and further into the sky.  DUH!!! LOL!)

The beautiful skyline that is Santa Monica.
Off in the distance– the famous Santa Monica Pier.

I saw LA, Santa Monica, Venice, Malibu, Hollywood, and San Diego.  The West Coast is the most stunning place I’ve ever been.  I was surrounded by God’s great beauty.  A drive to Malibu featured some of California’s most awesome terrain, as the highway from Santa Monica leading into Malibu featured the Pacific Ocean to my left and an assortment of hilly mountains with million dollar homes nestled within them to my right.

Rodeo Drive–
the most intimidating place on Earth!

And while in California, for the first time in seven months, I felt “normal.”  There was no stress.  There was nothing to think about.  All I had to do was just live, live in the moment, and be grateful for my environment as well as my company.

Which brings me to the next most relevant “development” in my life– “my company.” I met someone.  And he is kind and gentle and understanding and he “gets me.”  And perhaps, more importantly, I am happy.  I think I deserve that.

There is no timeline for grief.  There is only one person’s journey.  There is only one way that is “right” for the person on that journey.  I am learning to accept that, without apologizing for who I am becoming or explaining what I am doing.  I cannot live anyone else’s grief journey; that is solely the responsibility of the person experiencing that grief.  This blog is about my story.  It always has been.  And that should not change; it will not change; and I make no apology for that either.

I am coming into a new normal.  This doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten.  It doesn’t mean I’m “fixed.”  But I am learning a lot about who I was, who I am, and who I want to become.  And I am so happy that one day, several months ago, I chose life.  Against all odds, I chose to get out of bed and to make something of my life.

After all, isn’t that what we’re all here for anyway?