Choose To Be Happy – A Personal Experience

Ten years ago I was in a car accident. I was a passenger and it was out of my control. I ended up with broken and shattered bones, a life-long scar, and some emotional struggles that come maybe once every few months.

A little less than a month ago I was in another car accident. I was sandwiched between two other cars. I was the driver of my vehicle, but was not at fault. I walked away with a concussion, a few bruises, and a burn. Although this accident was less serious physically, the emotional toll it has taken on my mind has far surpassed the first.

I have lost all faith in other drivers. When on the road, I live in a constant state of fear, tension, and paranoia. I have to constantly remind myself that no one wants to get into or cause an accident. I am constantly checking my rearview mirror to see if the person behind me has left enough distance between us. When I’m coming to a stop, I brake gently and long before I need to just to make sure the person behind me knows “hey, there’s going to be a stop ahead”. I leave more room between myself and the car in front of me but still find myself slowing down to give even more room.

When the car behind me is following too closely for comfort my heart starts to pound. My entire body unconsciously tenses. My fist clenches. My breath catches until they back off. Even at speeds of 25 MPH I find myself fearing for my life. I have to remind myself to relax. I have to remind myself that “I am safe. I am centered. I am grounded”. I try to focus on 5 things I can see, 4 things I can touch, 3 things I can hear, 2 things I can smell, and 1 thing I can taste.

After a lot of thought and analysis, I’ve figured out why this most recent accident affected me more than the first. It all falls down to control. I didn’t have control in either accident, but the first was preventable. The first happened because a driver ran through a stop sign. That can easily be avoided. I can control how I handle stop signs. For ten years I have made a full stop at every single stop sign. For ten years I have watched any cars at or approaching the intersection for any sign that they won’t adhere to the rules of the road. In ten years I have had no problems at stop signs.

This most recent accident was caused by the driver behind me not paying attention. He didn’t brake. He didn’t slow. I saw him in my rearview mirror. It’s amazing how many things can go through your mind in a matter of 1-2 seconds. “This is really happening. I’m going to be in another accident. He isn’t stopping. Oh God! He isn’t stopping!” How do you stop something like that from happening? How do you prevent it? How do you tell the driver behind you “Hey! Pay attention! We’re all suddenly stopped up here!”

I keep quite a bit of distance between the car in front of me and my own, but I’m always reminded that that distance won’t stop the person behind me from hitting me. It only stops me from being pushed into the car in front of me. I can never control the person behind me. I can’t keep him or her from hitting me, I can only have faith that they will be paying attention.

How do you learn to trust strangers again? How do you learn to put your faith back in people when day after day you see people swerving over lines, speeding, passing in no passing zones, blowing through stop signs? How am I supposed to let go of this fear when people keep reinforcing it?

I find myself sitting at a local diner during lunch. I’m relaxed, enjoying my favorite food. Suddenly, without warning, I have a vision of a car crashing through the window and slamming into me. I’m sitting at a red light. Humming along to my favorite song when I see the car behind me coming up too fast for comfort. Suddenly I’m hit with a flashback. I see a silver bumper. I see white air bags. I see smoke and smell sulfur. I’m driving on the highway. My cruise is set to exactly the speed limit (who would have known this speed demon could be tamed) and I’m enjoying the sunshine. The car that’s passing me inches to side and nearly crosses the line. My mind is now filled with images of my car spinning out, of blood, of choas. 

My ears ring. My heart pounds. My chest tenses. My grasp on the wheel tightens. My eyes grow wide. No car crashes through the diner window. The car stops in time. The car passes me without incident. I let out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. I tell my body to loosen up. My ears slowly stop ringing. My heart finally slows to its normal rate. 

How do I stop this paranoia and fear? How do I make people understand I have no control over it? I feel like I’m not me. I feel like someone else is inside my head. I feel crazy. Why does the choice to be happy have to be so hard?

Choose To Be Happy

My mother always taught me that happiness is a choice. This was mostly brought up when I was mad about something and being a grump. She would tell me that I need to choose to be happy even if things aren’t going the way I want them to. She was absolutely right. Being happy is about attitude and how you react to things that are out of your control. 

What she never told me is how I would have to make that choice over and over in the same day. How I would have to struggle to push away invasive and unwanted memories. That once I had made the choice in the morning to “be happy” today, I would be presented over and over with an overwhelming push to tell “be happy” to go fuck itself.

When you have no control over traumatic experiences in your life, choosing to be happy is very hard. It’s not about the co-worker who is irritating or the stranger who bumps you in the supermarket. It’s not about the weather changing from gorgeous blue skies to blackened clouds and pouring rain. It’s not really a matter of fighting outside sources of fear, frustration, and anger. Instead it’s about fighting your own mind.

You lay in bed trying to think only of positive things (like your niece’s smile when you try to get her to say your name or the sweet thing your spouse said to you earlier) so that you can maybe go one night without nightmares. While you think of these sweet memories, the ugly ones creep in like water falling through a crack in the ceiling. First just a drop comes through so you brush it off, but slowly as the pressure builds and the ceiling weakens, the water comes slamming through and now you have to fight to dry the room again.

I choose to be happy. I start out every morning vocally saying the words “Today is a day of happiness and peace”. I literally say out loud that I’m going to have a good day. The morning may go well. Hell, I may make it all the way to the end of the work day without needing to make the choice to be happy a second time. Then there’s a trigger. One small moment, something almost undetectable, and I’m faced with a decision; do I try to push through the memories and fears and choose to be happy or allow myself to be swallowed up by them?

Making that decision multiple times a day is daunting. It’s exhausting. Sometimes I feel I have no choice but to be lost in the flashbacks. When that feeling sinks in, it takes every bit of strength I have to find the happiness again. It takes my entire focus, my entire mind and soul to remember that there are good things in my life and I have nothing to fear. 

I’m honestly not even sure I’m doing the struggle justice. I know there are people out there who understand the point I’m trying to make, but if you’ve never experienced it…I’m not sure how to help you understand it. Sometimes it doesn’t even make sense to my own brain.

Maybe it’ll help to explain my experience. To keep my posts a reasonable length, I’ll post that separately and insert a link here once it’s done.

She’s Never Called Me Mom

She is my daughter, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve changed her diapers and taught her how to use the potty, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve cooked her breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but she’s never called me Mom.
She’s fallen asleep in my arms, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve wiped her tears and calmed her fears, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve picked out her outfits and helped her put them on, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve listened to her stories and laughed at her corny jokes, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve kept her secrets, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve sacrificed time with friends to be with her instead, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve cleaned up after her and wiped food crumbs from her face, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve brushed her hair and teeth, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve buckled her in and tied her shoes, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve zipped up her jacket and spread sunscreen on her skin, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve caused good of giggles, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve given her hugs and kisses and snuggles on the couch, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve given her baths and helped her put on her PJs, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve watched her shows and learned the names of her friends, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve attended open houses and school concerts, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve thought about her every day, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve thrown birthday parties and sleepovers, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve picked out gifts and placed bows on special wrapping, but she’s never call me Mom.
I’ve baked blue cakes and lit candles, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve tucked her into bed and kissed her goodnight, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve taught her to love herself, but she’s never called me Mom.
I’ve loved her with every ounce of love I have to give, but she’s never called me Mom.
She is my daughter, but she’s never called me Mom.

This is the struggle I believe many stepmothers go through. We love a child that is not our own and give them our all and do it without expectation of a return. I don’t need my stepdaughter to call me Mom, but I used the wording as a demonstration of the thanklessness that the job of stepmom can be.

I hope she understands she has my entire heart. I don’t want to replace her mother in any way, she needs her mother. I just want to be a second set of arms to run to. I want her to always know she has my love no matter what happens in life. No matter where she goes or who she becomes, she will have my heart forever.

In The Night

Night holds no comfort for me.

She holds no solice from the torments of the day.

She taunts me.

She haunts me.

She sneaks into my dreams.

Her spiny black fingers creep into the corners of my mind.

The corners that are reserved for rest.

They clutch at my tranquility and rip it from my mind.

Her wicked thoughts replace the sweetness of my dreams.

Violence and terror.

Fear and horror.

Loathing, hatred, war, suffering.

These are those things which she leaves behind.

Where once peaceful light filled my nights,

Now thick blackness invades.

I can’t escape.

I can’t run.

I can’t hide.

I can’t stay awake.

My eyes and body betray me.

They give in to her sultry whispers.

Her promises of warmth and comfort.

My mind slips into that sardonic grasp.

I’m lost.

I’m broken.

She has me.

She won’t let go.

At my most vulnerable,

In the night.

Pros & Cons of An Analytical Mind

Having an analytical & restless mind can be a good thing and a bad thing.

Pros:

  • You are good at problem solving.
  • You enjoy any type of puzzle.
  • You remember events and conversations because they play over and over in your head.
  • You can find the best in a situation.
  • You’re never bored because you observe things that need done.
  • You know within a matter of minutes what type of personality someone has.

Cons:

  • You remember events and conversations because they play over and over in your head.
  • You can find the worst in a situation.
  • Because you always see stuff that needs done, you become overwhelmed easily.
  • You read into things too often and see things that aren’t there.
  • You stay conscious during tramatic events because your brain knows you couldn’t handle not knowing what happened.
  • You have a hard time falling asleep at night.
  • You over-analyze meaningless conversations.
  • You try to figure out what people are thinking about you.
  • You want it all to stop.

I just want the images to go away. I want to stop seeing them. I want to stop seeing the face that is so red it matches his hair. I want to stop seeing her gray face and hearing her moan. I want to stop hearing the sound of metal on metal. I want to stop feeling the sharp pain in my hip. I want to stop hearing the pain in his voice as he says those three simple words; I’m so sorry.

I want to forget the sound of the airbag exploding in my face. I want to forget the panic of not being able to find my phone to call my husband. I want to forget the terror that filled my heart when I saw the car in my rearview mirror. I want to forget how helpless I felt. I want to forget how hard it was to breathe; how hard it still is. I want to forget the ringing in my ears, the blood in my nose, the cut inside my lip, the burn on my arm, the bruise on my chest.

It only took seconds but so much went through my head as I stopped and looked in the rearview. I knew it was coming before I even looked. I could already hear the sound. I could already feel the jar. Seeing that car in my rearview was just confirmation. My worst fear was happening. I kept telling myself I was ok. I keep repeating that I walked away. But I also keep hearing that sound. I keep feeling that fear. I keep feeling the panic of not being able to breathe. I feel crazy. 

Sure, my car got towed. I walked away, however, with what most would consider minor injuries. I keep telling myself it’s not like the first accident where I had a hospital stay. I walked into the ER. I walked out of the ER. I am sore as hell, but I’m walking. And yet, I can’t think about it for too long without breaking down. I try distractions to keep my mind busy. I try so hard to avoid the thoughts, but they come anyway.

Every move reminds me of what happened. Every time my arm rubs against something, I remember the details. When the bruise on my leg rests against something hard, I’m taken back. Every breath I take reminds me of the jolt my body felt. When I wake up with my head throbbing, I hear the ringing in my ears. I see the white airbag. I smell the sulfur. I feel the rough fabric of the curtain airbags. I feel my hands shaking so much I can barely hold the phone to talk to my husband, can barely write my statement. Tears pool in my eyes and blur my view. My head pounds all day.

It’s not like the other accident; I know that. It just takes me back. Why did this happen? Why did the vehicle have to be a Jeep? Why did it have to be within a mile from home? Why do there have to be similarities? Am I being overdramatic? Am I analyzing this too closely? Why won’t my brain shut up?

Then comes what scares me even more. I’m repeating myself. I’m forgetting things. I’m writing the same thing twice on the same piece of paper. I’m writing the wrong dates and not just a day or two off, but months off. When I meant to write 7/31, I wrote 12/31 without a second thought. 

I’m frustrated. I’m hurting. I’m tired. I’m sore. I’m scared. For the first time in my life I’m scared to drive. For the first time in my life I’m scared to go back to work. I don’t want to write the wrong thing or repeat myself. I don’t want to forget who I’m supposed to call or what kind of help they need.

How do I heal? What do I do? I feel so confused and lost. Why do I wake up with those images in my mind? Why do they repeat over and over? Why do I have to hear the sound over and over? What do I do? How do I find my way again?

Nieces and Nephews

Their smiles are brighter than the sun.

Their hugs are warmer than the hottest day of summer.

The sound of your name on their lips for the first time is as beautiful as a symphony.

Their giggle fills the air like fog on a cool morning.

The drawing they give you is more precious than gems.

Their eyes shine when they see you coming up the drive.

Their flat out run to your arms can bring a smile to your face no matter the day you’ve had.

They take you back to being a kid yourself.

They bring out your inner goofball.

They confide in you like you’re their best friend.

They share their secrets and dreams.

They fill your heart with so much love you feel there’s no room for any other emotion.

They are the light of the moon on the darkest of nights.

They are the children you didn’t give birth to.

They are the friends you never knew you needed.

They are the sweetness that dissolves the bitter.

They are nieces and nephews.

My nieces and nephews bring so much joy to my life. Growing up I always wanted kids of my own. Then slowly, the older I got, my mind began to change. The path my life was headed down didn’t really have room for kids. I became a stepmom and that began to fill my need for children of my own. Why have a child of my own when I have such a beautiful, loving, and intelligent stepdaughter that I consider my own? 

Then came more nieces and nephews, my decision to go to school, my decision to try to make a living writing, and my realization that I like my freedom to go where I want, when I want without the need to find a babysitter. Now I’ve completely made up my mind to not have a child of my own. 

That being said, I can’t even begin to describe how much I love my nieces, nephews, and daughter. They make me laugh. They make me shake my head. They make me want to scream. They frustrate me. They bring out the best in me. When I hear my nephew tell me to hug the neighbor kids because “you give hugs and they need hugs too”, my heart practically explodes. When my daughter gives me a drawing with a bubble of words describing me and in the middle is “never hurts”, it brings peace to my soul. When my niece tells me that she feels  most comfortable talking to me about the tough situations in her life, I feel proud. If these are the things that come to mind when they think of me, then that’s all that matters.

I pour all the love I have on these children that are not my own and am rewarded with more than I could have ever asked. They may be part of the family, but they are so much more to me. They are the reason I am comfortable not having children of my own. They bring me so much joy and love that my mommy heart is full to the brim.

If You Knew

If you knew how much I love you, you would never doubt

If you knew how much I love you, you would never feel fear

If you knew how much I love you, you would never ask why

If you knew how much I love you, you would understand

You would understand that no one in this world compares to you

You would understand no one in this world can take your place

You would understand you are my best friend

You would understand you are my reason

You would understand you have my heart

You have my heart like no one has ever had it before

You have my heart like the flowers have petals

You have my heart like the Earth has a core

You have my heart like I never knew was possible

I never knew it was possible to love this much

I never knew it was possible to be this happy

I never knew it was possible to feel what I feel

What I feel is love

What I feel is support

What I feel is encouragement

What I feel is safe

What I feel is a love like no other

A love that beats within my soul

A love that moves through my being

A love that resonates in my mind

A love that echos through my heart

If you only knew how much I love you

Author Promotion – Support Your Local Authors!

A few weeks ago I went to an author event at a local library. Although I haven’t had the chance to read their books yet, I feel the need to highlight them. These authors were very nice and offered me advice and talked to me about their own experiences. I have each of their books on my wish list and will be buying them over time. School is making it hard to read anything for pleasure, but each of these authors has something to offer and I’m making it my goal to read through each book within a year.

 

1. Jocelyn Dabney.

Jocelyn’s book Nana Bea and Me is a story about the love between a granddaughter and her grandmother. Jocelyn is a retired librarian and a member of The National Association of Black Storytellers among others. When I met her, she was very open about her writing and about her publishing process. The more I read about her online, the more surprised I am by how much I’m discovering. Not only is she the author of such a loving story, but she has conducted workshops and has accomplished quite a bit in her life. She was so down to earth and such a pleasure to meet.

 

2. Todd Cole.

Todd is a teacher and uses his job to encourage children to believe in themselves. His book, You are a Masterpiece, follows a young boy who discovers what it means to gain satisfaction in your own work and the inner peace of accomplishment. He doesn’t have a webpage as of yet, but I really enjoyed hearing his story of what it took to get published. I also could tell from our short time talking that he really does have a passion for teaching children to be happy with themselves and not rely on grand gestures to confirm their worth. He works to teach his students to appreciate themselves as they are.

 

3. Bob Whited.

Bob served in the Navy for 4 years and saw a lot during that time. He wrote Navy Grass to put his interesting stories on paper. I appreciated learning a little bit about his time in the service. Of course he couldn’t reveal too much or that would ruin the book ;-). The following link gives more information about Mr. Whited and his book. Robert Whited’s New Book “Navy Grass” is a Tell-All Memoir that Chronicles One Man’s Experience of Enlistment in the U.S. Navy During the Turbulent Early 1960’s.

 

4. M.E. Rich.

M.E. was really sweet. I could tell within a minute of talking to her how much helping children means to her. She works with children regularly on finding what makes them unique and even has a yoga class for kids. Freckles the Fabulous Fish is not only an excellent book for teaching children to find their inner strength and what makes them special, but some of the proceeds go to Juvenile Arthritis. It also includes illustrations from children at a local rehabilitation center; sweet drawings of each child’s interpretation of Freckles. Books can only be purchased at Three Sheep Gallery. Click here to read an article detailing more about Freckles and M.E. Rich.

As a bonus, M.E. sent home a couple hearts (that double as fish) and a baggie of decorations so that a special child in my life could make their own Freckles. Here are a couple pictures of two Freckles that my own nephews made:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Jackson Horvat.

Jackson is only 17 years old, but has already published two books in his series. His father was with him at the event and explained that Jackson has been writing stories since he learned to write. He was very energetic and showed passion for his writing. It was really encouraging to see someone so young chasing his dream and accomplishing so much! His series falls into the sci-fi category. So far he has published The Vortex Entrance and The Healer Enchantment which tell of a young man who discovers he has powers and is on a search for his mom.

 

6. Hugh G. Earnhart

The first thing I feel a need to mention about this author is that, along with two children’s books, he has published two recipe books; one of which is dedicated entirely to hot dogs! Hot dogs! Growing up on a solid diet of hot dogs, mac ‘n cheese, and PB&J, I was thrilled to see so many ways to cook a hot dog. Him and his wife were really sweet. He originally wrote The Forgotten Pumpkin for his grandkids. He was inspired by a single pumpkin in the back of a pumpkin patch that sat alone for a long time, no one venturing to pick it. He was convinced to turn it into a series by sending “The Forest Gang” to Washington, D.C. in A Day in D.C. with the Forest Friends.

 

7. David Kohut and Kathy Palumbo

Standing in the Presence of Greatness is David’s story put to text with Kathy’s help. Kathy had to leave so I only met her long enough to be introduced and shake her hand. I spoke with David for a bit longer and learned about the book they had written together. He spoke very highly of Kathy which impressed me because, even while talking about his book, he didn’t put much emphasis on himself. Their book is a sort of self-help book for turning bad situations into opportunities and seeing the greatness within yourself.

 

I hope you get a chance to check out their books and websites.  If you’ve already ready their work, let me know in the comments. Thanks for taking the time to support locally known authors! If you have authors near you that you would like me to know about, send me a link to their page and I’ll make sure to check them out!

As I like to make sure my information is correct – If you are one of the authors listed and see I have incorrect information listed, please Contact Me and I will update it!

The Small Things

When people say it’s the small things that matter, I don’t think they’re wrong. The big picture matters to an extent, but when you really think about it, without the little things, there would be no big picture. 

When you think of your childhood it’s usually in bits and pieces. You don’t remember every single minute. You remember that day at the park. You remember that rainy day when you had to stay inside. Maybe you think of that one time your parent beat you so bad it was hard to move. Maybe you think about that night when he or she tucked you into bed and made you giggle before kissing you goodnight. Whatever the memories that come to mind, they are bits and pieces that, when put together, make up the picture of how you feel about your childhood.

When you picture people of your past, do you remember them in their entirety or do you remember the specifics; A warm smile, calloused hands, dark eyes, a gruff voice? The memories are usually the parts of them that affected you the most. It’s the details and how they made you feel that shape your memory of them.

When you think of the places you’ve been, every single detail is not defined. When you think of that unusual building from ten years ago you don’t remember everything. You remember the details you chose to focus on. You remember the details that left an impression.

I like macro photography because it focuses on the tiny details that people tend to overlook. Everyone gets so caught up in the bouquet that they forget to study the petals. Take a moment to stop and think about someone from your past that you were fond of. Don’t think about their person as a whole, but focus in on something small, something that makes you smile.

For me it’s something as small as the shake of his hand while playing cards. It’s her soft, plump, and wrinkled cheek against mine. It’s the energetic smile that reaches his eyes more than his mouth. It’s the feel of her hair in my hands for the last time.

The small things in life are beautiful. They are the pieces that make us what we are. They are the cornerstone of our memories; whether we realize it or not.

A last note on this: it can help when writing characters. Adding small details (maybe even based on people in your life) can make them come more alive for the reader. I’ve found that when I’m reading a book and the author includes a small detail about their character, the character sticks in my mind more.

Tap Tap Tap

He sits at his desk tapping the pen against the wood. His eyes are glazed, looking through his computer screen. The rhythmic tap, tap, tap of his pen is echoing in his mind. Somewhere in the distance a copier hums to life and spits out warm pages.

He’s thinking about nothing, about everything. He’s thinking about what it was like to be a kid, free and unbound. He’s thinking about what it’s like to be an adult, chained and captive. Tap, tap, tap. He hears metal against metal instead of plastic against wood. The clank of a hammer as it slams onto the link of a chain.

His kids would be getting off the bus soon. His wife would be arranging them at the table for “homework hour”. She’d prep dinner as their tired faces look over pencil and paper. Steak was on tonight’s menu. Tendorized by his wife’s  vicious pounding. Tap. Tap. Tap.

When did his life get so boring, so predictable? Get up, work, eat dinner, watch TV, sleep, repeat. Mix in the occasional obligatory barbeque and you’ve got his life in a glass case. He can hear the fingernail tapping against the viewing glass as some giant spectator chuckles at his dull life. Tap. Tap. Tap.

There’s a phone ringing. Are we all just robots, going through the motions? We do what’s expected of us. How many can really say they’ve lived outside the box? How many, at death’s door can say they’ve done everything they ever wanted? As the coffin is nailed shut, how many can say they have no regrets? Tap. Tap. Tap.

He realizes the phone ringing is his. The spell is broken. The tapping stops. The office sounds return.

“Copper’s Paper Products. Marketing your brand one page at a time, Trent speaking.”