Monday, August 18, 2014

Does It Matter What You Call It?

I knew I was going to leave roller derby the day I got injured. The moment I was injured, in fact. I recall quite clearly, stopping on the track (which is a no no), holding my hands to what I thought was my broken nose and having a feeling of finality wash over me, a voice that said "All done". I probably could have walked off the track at that exact moment and been satisfied. But that wouldn't be fair to my teammates or to myself. I  put over two years of my life into this sport, literal blood, sweat and tears. I can't just quit, right?  I've spent the last few weeks recovering and thinking about a potential future with derby, but I came to the conclusion that there isn't one for me.

Taken just seconds before the hit that caused my concussion

Friends have asked me how I made the decision but I didn't make a decision as much as it simply became clear to me. This is a time for transition for me. I've gotten a message from The Universe that I need to slow down and re-evaluate my priorities.

But just because the conclusion was clear cut for me didn't mean it was easy to follow through. I went to my life coach for guidance, "I know what I need to do, I just don't know how to go about doing it". I wrote about it, meditated about it and talked about it with my loved ones. I packed away all my gear and derby clothes, just to see what it felt like.

I'm not quitting, I'm retiring. I keep telling myself that, but does it make a difference? I turned to my dictionary for clarification:
          Quit: to stop doing something, to give up, to resign from, to stop trying, to go away from
          Retire: to give up one's work, to remove from a position or office, to go where it is quieter, to retreat from battle

Well, all of those sound accurate to me! Why is there such a negative connotation with quitting? I battled in that sport for two years and now I'm done. Sure there are women who play for a lot longer but I've known many who played for a shorter amount of time. That doesn't make any of us wrong.

I'm four weeks out from my concussion and I'm still not back to my old self. I'm driving and working and (knock on wood) this past weekend was my first one in a month that didn't include me getting injured or terribly ill. I even worked out on the elliptical yesterday for 15 minutes straight! I'm definitely making progress. But my memory sucks and I have a headache at some point every day. Externally I look like I've healed but I still don't feel like myself. I feel slow and foggy which is the opposite of me at my best. It's frustrating and depressing. But when I push myself (like trying to paint the living room or help my sister in law move), I get sick and I backslide three steps.

The words of wisdom from my life coach were: surrender to what is. I like the sound of that-very Zen. But how do I actually do that? I'm still figuring it out. For now it means eliminating as many distractions and obligations as possible and the biggest one was roller derby. I can't commit to calling my mom every Monday or showing up someplace at a specific time. I'm trying to change my thinking from "This isn't me" to "This is me now". I'm trying to read, rest, watch movies and just be who I am right now. Hopefully I won't be this me forever and I think I'll appreciate that I was kind to myself during this phase.

I always have faith that everything will work out. Sometimes it's just tough getting through that middle part. But for now this middle part is all I've got.

Resting on the couch with my dogs

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

I'm Trying!

It has recently occurred to me what a peculiar phrase "Get Well" is. I'd never given it much thought until these past couple of weeks while I've been recovering from a roller derby injury, but when I think about it, it seems more of a command than an endearment.

A couple weekends ago, I whacked my face hard during a game (and then not realizing I had a concussion, I made some poor choices for activities and beverage consumption immediately following the incident) and I'm currently dealing with Post Concussion Syndrome. I've been reading everything I can on the subject of concussions (because that's what I do when I'm upset about something-I read about it-I'm a nerd like that) and while it makes me feel better to know that everything I'm experiencing is to be expected with this type of injury, it's frustrating to know that there's nothing I can do but rest and wait for my brain to heal.

"Rest your brain",  said the doctors and the handouts on Traumatic Brain Injuries. How in the hell do I do that? I wondered. I still haven't figured it out. Okay, no TV or video games or music, no loud noise or bright lights. Minimal stimulation, I get that. But I tried lying alone in a quiet room, and I think my brain rested for about ten seconds, until it started spiraling out of control thinking about what I did to get into this situation and will I ever get better or will I ever play derby again and if I don't then what about this and what about that?  I reached for my book on the nightstand to distract myself from my thoughts. The doctor said I could do anything that didn't aggravate my symptoms and I tentatively checked in with my body after a few minutes of reading to discover that I felt fairly calm so I kept reading. I read four books in a week, much to the dismay of my boyfriend, with whom I have a friendly competition each year to see who reads the most books (See? Nerds). "That was number thirty", I announced smugly one evening as I slapped closed a hard cover novel. "That's not fair", he pouted, but my raised eyebrows must have let him know it was probably a more than fair trade.

"Get better soon" say my teammates and my friends when they post on my Facebook wall and my mom on the cheerful card she mailed me. I know their well wishes are genuine and I truly appreciate knowing I'm being thought of but I just want to scream I CAN'T GET BETTER RIGHT NOW SO STOP SAYING THAT!

What else do I expect them to say? I don't know. There's not much else to say to someone who gave themselves a serious injury playing a contact sport. And it's not like it's their fault I'm frustrated. But there's only so many times I can hear "I hope you're healing up quick" without feeling like I'm somehow doing something wrong. I'm not healing quick and there's nothing I can do about it. All the literature says symptoms can last "weeks to months" and some may never go away completely. That's overwhelming.

For the first ten days, I could barely move. I lived in a constant state of motion sickness. I was physically and mentally slow. I couldn't work or drive. Then last week, at about 14 days in, I started to feel my personality peeking through the fog. I wrote in my journal, I sent some funny Tweets. Oh, what a relief!

All my pets in bed with me on a recent sick day. 

Just when I started to be able to leave the house with minimal side effects, I got food poisoning. That set me back about three steps in my recovery. Talk about frustrating. My mother asked "Well, what did you eat that would have caused that?" insinuating that once again my less than stellar decision making brought about my misfortune.

I do realize that I am fortunate in my situation. My injury could have been much worse. Initially I thought my nose was broken but it wasn't, thank goodness. I am extremely grateful for my family, friends and teammates who have checked in on me, sent flowers, driven me to and from doctors appointments and cooked me meals, among other acts of kindness.

Get Well flowers from my team mates
Outwardly I appear to be in decent shape. I've returned to work, I've started driving short distances and my headache is no longer constant, but I still don't feel like myself and that's the worst part. I worry that I never will, but thankfully I know that this anxiety is also common in concussion patients. The fact that I have the capacity to work on this post is solid proof that I'm returning to myself.

The subject of roller derby hangs over me like a dark cloud. I know that's cliche but it's the best I can do right now! My doctors, my family, my co-workers, they all want to know if I plan return to the sport. The only people who aren't asking me this are my team mates and I think it's because they understand the need for a break and reassessment after an injury. When it comes to big issues, I'm a decisive person. I like to know what's going to happen and when. Am I going to play again or not? Yes or no, make a decision and move on. Right now, that's impossible for me. Roller derby is a part of my identity. There's a part of me that can't imagine my life without it. However, as much as I love playing derby there are other things I love more like reading, writing and my work as a veterinary technician. If I were to injure myself to the point where I couldn't recover to do these other things, well, I can't even think about that.

This series of events has been a clear message to me from The Universe that I need to slow down an bit and take some things off my plate for a while. I need a lot of sleep, I can't multi-task, I can't drink alcohol. Those aren't necessarily bad things. Once my new helmet arrives that I ordered from Amazon, I'll be able to start riding my bike to work again! In the mean time, you'll find me lying down reading a book!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Be Careful What You Wish For

I've been absent from the blogosphere for a while, which is frustrating because I've actually been doing a ton of writing.

A while back, I clicked on an obviously targeted Facebook ad stating that a news site was looking for writers. One of my biggest hang ups as a writer is that because I've never gotten paid to write I've had a hard time considering myself a "real" writer (whatever that means). So I jumped at the chance to apply for a paid position. It was a fairly involved application process and long story short I'm about half way through an internship that only one out of every ten applicants gets accepted for and I'm getting paid to write. The ironic thing is it turns out I'm not enjoying it much.

Because the site is geared towards trending news, that what everything I've been writing (about 5 pieces a week) is about. It's not something I've ever had any training in or interest in doing. The cool thing is it turns out I'm not bad at it so I'm putting out articles each week and getting clicks. The down side is I feel my creativity is squashed and I'm dying to write something that reflects my personality and opinions.

Between my job at the veterinary clinic, my roller derby team and my personal life, I often struggle to find uninterrupted time to write. Now the majority of the time I have for that is spent doing these articles. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for the opportunity! I'm also proud of myself for trying something new and recognizing that it's not a match for me. There was a time in my life where I wouldn't have tried at all or I would have signed on and felt unable to change my mind for fear it would reflect poorly on me as a person.

I'm going to finish the internship because I take my commitments seriously and it's been a positive experience. I've learned a lot and gone outside my comfort zone, which is exciting and fairly new for me.

It's also been beneficial to me because it's reinforced what my passion truly is, which is writing personal essays and sharing my experiences.

My posts may continue to be sparse over the next couple of weeks but hopefully after that I can turn my attention back to doing what I love for no pay!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

One Trip Around The Sun

This past Saturday marked the one year anniversary of the day I lost my sweet dog Ritz. The month of May had been plodding along under a gray cloud as the date drew nearer. I kept thinking One year ago today, I had no idea what was going to happen. One year ago today he was with me and things were fine. 

A few months back, when I realized I would have a roller derby bout on May 24th, my first reaction was that I didn't want to play on that day. I thought I'd be too sad, too distracted, too whatever to be able to focus and enjoy myself. As the event got closer, though, I realized there wasn't anything else that would be better for me than playing that day.

May 22nd was the date that Ritz was suddenly ill and had emergency surgery. On that date this year, I was incredibly sad. And the next day. And then next morning, when I woke up on the 24th knowing that a year ago my life changed so drastically, I knew I needed to do something to acknowledge what I was feeling so I could move forward into my busy day. FaceBook can be a strange beast sometimes but I like to use it to put things out into The Universe for myself. I wrote this brief post and added this photo of him:
                  One year ago today I lost my best buddy. Not a day has gone by that I haven't thought about him. His passing was a catalyst for some very big, necessary changes in my life and I believe that was his final gift to me. Today, I am truly grateful to have a roller derby bout to turn my focus and energy to. The number of people who are going to watch me play and support me makes my heart sing. I could not have made it through this year without the love from my friends, family and teammates. This is a beautiful day!

Sharing that released the majority of my sadness. I knew my friends would acknowledge what I was feeling and send me loving vibes! This first year without Ritz (after almost eight years with him) was difficult but it was a transformative time for me. I lost my companion, I left my job and I learned that I am capable of much more than I had been giving myself credit for. I had experiences and met people that I would have missed out on had I stayed at that old work place, feeling my soul be crushed every moment I was there. I look back on it now and I truly can't believe I tolerated it as long as I did. 

Next, I took my dogs for a nice long walk and listened to Dave Matthews Band, to find my center. Then I went to play some roller derby! My journey with this sport is its own story, which I'll tell some other day. For now I'll just say that to be playing in a home bout took a huge amount of hard work and perseverance on my part, both physical and emotional. Joining my team has been one of the best things I've done for myself and definitely the most challenging. I play with an incredible group of women and together we work extremely hard to put the events together. To stand on that floor with them, all painted up in my uniform, and seeing my friends and family in the cheering crowd fills my heart with so much joy and pride. I have friends that traveled over 90 miles to watch me play. One of the clients from my previous job was there along with my new boss and co-workers, people I'd met through my temp jobs and my life coaching. Having all these people who love and support me, who want to come watch me play a sport that I love and train hard for is overwhelming. I couldn't have made it through this last year without this support system and it's an awesome feeling to know I created this for myself by making decisions that serve me well. 

One year is a long time, yet it isn't. I can't say I'm less sad about Ritz than I was prior to this anniversary but it is different now. My life coach says there's something to be said for making one trip around the sun when it comes to grief. I think it takes all those little "firsts" to come together and bring some closure, to make the loss less surreal. It's almost as if I've finally proved to myself that I can survive without Ritz, because there was certainly a point in my life a few years ago where I wondered if I could. Right now I'm look forward to this coming summer, to enjoying it with my puppy who is nearing his first birthday. I refer to last summer as The Summer of Sadness and one of my dear friends gracefully pointed out that perhaps we all need a season of sadness occasionally to be able to appreciate the ones that are joyful. I think she's right.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Message From The Universe

A few months ago I was working a temp job, cleaning a house with a crew of three other gals (it was a big house, 8000 sq ft!). I heard a blood curdling scream come from the level beneath me and bolted to the top of the stairs to shout down and see if everyone was okay. After a second, but less terrifying scream, I trotted down the stairs fearing she had fallen or otherwise injured herself. I got to the doorway of a guest room and found my co-worker in obvious distress. When I asked if she was okay, her response was muffled by her hands covering her mouth but no, she was not okay. Our supervisor was further into the room looking around, and I heard a rattling sound coming from a corner of the room. The cause of all this ruckus was a tiny brown field mouse, stuck to a glue trap and scrambling desperately to get away from all the commotion. Since I was the only one in the house with any experience dealing with animals, my supervisor turned to me for a solution. It was simple although not necessarily kind, "Call the property manager and he can come kill it." It was uncomfortable to watch him struggle and I stood there debating in my head if I had the guts to break his neck but the answer was a resounding no. However my opinion that the rodent was in need of a swift death was not appreciated. "You're a vet tech", my supervisor pleaded. "You have to help me save him." The idea was ridiculous to me. My brain was running a ticker tape of thoughts as to why I should not save the poor thing: mice can carry disease, who knows how long he'd been stuck on that trap, surely he was near death anyway... but my attempts at reasoning were ignored as I watched the woman pick the trap up and carry it away, and I figured I should at least make sure no one was hurt in this process.

I couldn't believe it, but a quick Google search on my iPhone (How did we ever survive before this technology?) revealed animals can be removed from these traps simply by applying cooking oil. We placed the trap inside a box we found and I sprayed the critter's legs and glue coated abdomen with PAM spray. I kept thinking I cannot believe I'm doing this! but miraculously, after a few minutes the mouse was freeing himself from the adhesive. I'll admit it felt good, to have helped him, even though I still thought it was a bizarre thing to be doing. I stood watching him for a few minutes, and I had this perfectly clear thought of The Universe is telling me I'm supposed to be helping animals. When my co-workers came to check on things and saw the mouse was off the trap, they cheered! Then they insisted on giving him pieces of cinnamon roll and fruit, which he was eager to devour and soon he was looking like a normal, be it greasy, mouse again. One of the girls put him in a smaller box and took him home with her that evening to release in the fields behind her house.

As we rode home in the company van that afternoon, my supervisor credited me with saving the creature's life and thanked me many times. Even though I thought the whole thing was risky, I did it anyway because she felt so strongly that the little life should be spared.

Later that evening, I relayed the story to my boyfriend. He was surprised by the strong desire to save the mouse but not so much by my role in it. He was also proud to hear I'd educated everyone on rabies virus and hantavirus in the process! I told him about my feeling that The Universe was letting me know it was time to think about going back to veterinary medicine. I'd sworn it off last year, after losing my dog and quitting a job that was crushing my soul every day. I thought I was done with the field for good, or at least a long time, but I'd recently started to realize I missed it. Although the temp jobs were a welcome change of pace, I felt a bit lost without using the veterinary skills I'd honed over the last 15+ years working in clinics. I wasn't exactly sure what I was ready for but I figured something would present itself when the time was right.

The very next day I took my dogs to get vaccinations. I'd been to see this veterinarian several times, most recently taking the puppy in for his series of injections and neuter. Each time, she'd asked me if I was ready to return to the veterinary field and each time I replied that I wasn't quite yet but would let her know if I ever was. It's funny, I'd never met her before I started taking my dogs to her clinic, after I'd quit my full time job, so I was always baffled by her willingness to give me a job. I guess she could sense something about me that told her I'd be a good fit there. So on this particular day in early March when she entered the exam room, her hands were in a prayer position and she asked with a smile "Are you ready yet?". I smiled in response and said "Actually, I think I am".

I went in for an interview two days later. I spent the morning before hand making lists of all the reasons I was hesitant to return to life as a veterinary technician and all the reasons I wanted to. I made sure I was clear with the doctor during my interview as to what I was looking for in a job, mainly that I use my skills and have my hands on animals all day and then go home. I'm not looking for a management role or a ton of responsibility. When she gave me a tour of the clinic, I knew I wanted to work there. It has nothing to do with the facility itself, or any of the equipment or anything like that. It was the smells and the sounds of a busy animal hospital. It was the medical terminology the doctor used when she explained to me the case of the kitty meowing in a cage in the treatment area. I had missed those things and they're all a part of who I am.

I started the job three days later and it's been over two months since then. I haven't worked in a clinic in a strictly technician role (no management role) for seven years. When I swore off veterinary medicine last year, I had forgotten that and I forgot how much I love it. It's definitely not always easy or fun but it's so damn rewarding.

This week marks a year since I quit my job last spring. I never would have imagined I'd be working at a clinic again, let alone one that is less than a mile from my house and only working 20 hours a week. Sometimes I can't believe I had to go through everything I did to realize there was a way to do this job and be happy! There's a saying that goes something like "life is what happens when you're making other plans". I never used to understand that because I'm a planner! I like to know what's going to happen, be prepared for it and then have it happen exactly as I imagined. I'm not sure why it took me til my mid thirties to figure out that planning usually doesn't work that way. I guess it took something happening that I never planned for, the death of my dog, to make me realize that I have got to start going with the freaking flow or I am always going to be anxious and miserable! The changes I've made of the past year, and this job in particular, are steps in the right direction.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The End of One Road is the Beginning of Another

April kept me busy with The A to Z Challenge so I didn't have time to write about the other things that were happening in my life. At the end of March, I wrote this post about my car being backed into and the experience of being kind to the driver. I'm a superstitious gal, so as I wrote that post I wondered if I was jinxing myself. I'd almost written about my fondness for my car on multiple other occasions but I'd always changed my mind for that very reason! So perhaps it was a self fulfilling prophecy that led to the demise of my beloved car, shortly after I wrote that post. Although it all happened quickly, it was more of a quick end to an ongoing issue.

When I took my car to be repaired after being backed into, it prompted me to address some concerns I'd had for a while about the way the car was running. You know the sort, an odd noise that you ignore because it's only occasional or maybe there's a funny smell when the heater is running but you can't tell for sure. I left my car in capable hands with a list for the mechanic to address all the potential issues. When he finally called me the next afternoon, his voice was gentle as he delivered the news that my faithful auto was perhaps at the end of it's road with me. He gave me my options and told me to take as long as I needed to decide. Yes, I'll admit I cried tears of sadness for that car. The mechanic seemed to understand there was more going on here than financial concerns. He kindly told me he's never seen a Ford Focus with this many miles and it was obvious the car had been well cared for. He said many people view these types of cars as "a throw away car" (I gasped!) that they use until it won't go anymore and then get a new one. I was certainly not throwing my car away! But the thought of continuing to drive it until it left me stranded didn't sit well either. It had never left me stranded in all of our 13 years together. I had hoped we'd make it to 200,000 miles but we fell just a little short.

My step-dad does mechanic work so naturally I sought his advice when trying to make my decision. Even at our ages, he still doesn't respond well to my tears so he offered an exasperated "It's just a car!", in an attempt to make me feel better about moving on. His heart was in the right place, but it didn't help. Coming less than a year after the passing of my 8 year old dog, losing this car was a bit of a double whammy. That little blue car had carried the two of us across the country together, to our new life in Montana and on many other adventures. As gross as it sounds, I imagine some of his hair was still in there and it brought me some comfort to know a part of him was still riding around in the car, which he loved to do. There was a cigarette burn on the back seat, caused by a friend who has since passed away. Every time I noticed it, I though of him. That was tough to part with. The day before I was to get rid of the car, I went through it and removed all my belongings, then I sat in it and cried. I'm not ashamed to admit that!

Sure, getting a new car is fun. Who doesn't like an upgrade? I've gotten a 2008 Volkswagon Rabbit. When it came up during my online search of local dealerships, I knew it was meant to be mine. My very first car, when I was 16, was a 1981 Rabbit so I have a bit of a soft spot for them. When I got older, I regretted trading it in during a phase of snobbiness in my later teen years. I feel a sense of having come full circle, driving another Rabbit. This one a zippy little car, much sleeker and fancier than my first one, but it still feels like me.

I've had the new car for about six weeks now and I'm finally starting to remember to look for a black car in parking lots and not the old blue one. I'll admit there's been a huge sense of relief in our household now that I drive a newer vehicle and I'm not worried about pending repair bills. I try not to think about my old car, imagining it sitting in a lot someplace was almost painful at first. As I approach the one year anniversary of Ritz's passing, I am seeing how many ways my life has changed and this is just one of them. It's a reminder that nothing lasts forever and that I'm constantly evolving into a new version of myself. I'll never forget my pooch, or my friend or my adventures in that car and even though they're not right in front of me anymore they're still a part of me.

Last glimpse in the dealership lot
My new buddy

Monday, May 5, 2014

A to Z Afterthoughts/Honorable Mentions

The list I worked from for this project
I fully intended to have this post up on May 1st but I didn't get it done in time and to be honest, I've enjoyed having a few days without any blogging obligations. I spent almost six months working on these posts, off and on, so it feels strange to not have to do any more! Over all, I'm pleased with how they turned out. I got a lot of feedback, mostly from people I already know, and I can tell my friends enjoyed reading about my favorite songs and learning some of the stories behind who I am. I'm disappointed I didn't get more comments from new readers, through the A to Z Challenge. I was hoping my personal stories would resonate with more people and initiate discussion.

For almost every song I wrote about, I Tweeted my blog link to the artist. I was hoping at least a couple would read their posts. My theory behind that is that if someone were moved enough by something I wrote to blog about it, I would love to know that. The only response I got was that Liz Phair favorited my post about her song, but that's pretty awesome!

If you know me well, you know how connected I feel to Dave Matthews Band so you may have noticed that only one of their songs made my list. A friend asked me if I made a conscious decision not to include many of their songs and the answer is yes. When I initially made my A to Z list, I went through the alphabet and jotted down songs that came to mind for each letter. When I was finished, some letters had one or two songs and some had five or six, but each letter had at least one song by Dave Matthews Band or Better Than Ezra! They are my two favorite bands and I feel a strong connection to them both. I decided not to include many songs by either band mostly because there is a lot of music that came before them in my life, that shaped who I am and led me to their music. Also because people who know me already know how I feel about those bands and I wanted to add some variety and share stories about me that others probably didn't know.

Because it was difficult to narrow my list to just 27 songs, I feel the need to recognize some of the ones that almost made the list. There are some songs that deserve mentioning just because they are plain awesome. The opening cords to Sweet Child O'Mine get me fired up every time. The same goes with Pour Some Sugar On Me, it will rock forever.  So What by Pink got me through a tough break up by reminding me of how awesome I am. 32 Flavors by Alana Davis is runner up for Theme Song for my life  (yes, I know it's a Ani DiFranco cover but I like it better!).  During my pre-teen years I would sing You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling into curling irons with my friend Loni, who is now a professional musician. I could go on and on...My point is there is an endless supply of amazing music in the world and I hope I was able to introduce you to some new songs and make you smile in the process!