The quilt and soundtrack of life

We all have memories, and different things activate the engrams, or memory traces stored in specific brain cells in our hippocampus which allow us to remember the past.  I remember mine in two vivid ways……I call them my quilt and my soundtrack.  The quilt is knit from the memory of the clothes that were worn at those moments, and the soundtrack is the music playing in the background.  Smells also invoke memories, especially comfort foods and family recipes, but for me, the visual and aural are strongest.  

My quilt is a patchwork which includes the gray sweatshirt the cold one wore on our first date, the black top with sequins I wore the night I risked more than I should have, the jeans that ripped the night I was assaulted, the jeans and shirt I donated after the date I pretended did not happen, the dresses I wore to high school, and two college graduations, the wedding dress, the dress my baby girl wore to my 2005 college graduation and many more.  The quilt is for me, ingrained.  I remember events by the clothes people wore, not just what I wore.  I remember my ex-boyfriend’s favorite shirts, the pajamas my daughter did not want to grow out of, my son’s Finding Nemo swim trunks he wore to Island Park, and the bikini my daughter wore to the same.  When I see those clothes, they invoke the smells, sounds, feelings I had when we wore them.  Sometimes I cannot continue to wear the clothes because the memory is too intense and painful, and it’s like wearing the quilt of my life; Goodwill is the happy recipient of my memories, and I pass them on hoping that they bring someone else new, improved engrams.

The soundtrack is unavoidable though.  UGH.  The songs on the radio….so sad right?  Adele.  The Cure.  Journey.  311.  Melissa Etheridge.  Pink.  When I hear them, sometimes I am in such a happy place I can just smile wistfully at the remembrance, but other times, when I’m not in a good space emotionally, it can tear me all the way down to tears. We all know that Adele is borderline suicide music anyway, all about the codependency I fight against and the pain of loving someone too much.  Music I think, is a universal trigger, and some words make us just wish we weren’t in our skin at that moment, that we could change the station or run away from it.  I know there are times I cannot change the station and I have to sit or stand there and listen to a song that I don’t want to hear; at that point I try to disconnect myself from the memory.  Scientists say that we can use our executive function in the frontal cortex to actively suppress memories, so obviously the ones we remember by song, happy and sad, are ones our mind wants to remember.  

My daughter was shocked at the extensive nature of my quilt and soundtrack, the detail with which I can remember songs, clothing and the when and where they intersected.  Is it the poet in me?  Am I an unknowing artist of memories, with vivid movie-like playback of my life in my mind?  Is everyone secretly like me, but they don’t voice their descriptions because they lack the words or desire to put the pieces together?  What I know is that I appreciate this ability more than I growl at it, because I have such fantastic recall of the best moments of my life and I hope that I can carry them with me forever.  Image

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Friendship, love, always and forever, and never

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Friendship and love……there are acquaintances, the people who fill your life in numbers who by the nature of human connectivity you care about, but who haven’t really touched your life. Then there are friends, those you love and care about, whose lives are intertwined with your own, maybe at work, maybe after work. Then your best friends, your sisters and brothers by other mothers, the ones you cannot imagine your life without. Of all people I know there isn’t one person for everyone….tons of people come in and out of our lives on a romantic level. I just think some people are more in search of finding the one to stick with, the one who won’t give up on them, the one who will be there in good times and bad. I prefer to rely on friends and family for constancy, and not wrap my life around romance as I have in the past. It doesn’t mean I won’t eventually love someone again, but I’m incredibly happy just sharing my passion and joie de vie without any plan of permanent attachment, no confinement, no boundaries to say what I can and cannot do with my life.

My spirit is finally free, I’m finally happy and feeling fulfilled as a solo human, albeit sharing my time with fun and interesting people. I cannot imagine saying “love me forever?” to anyone ever again, like I did when I was so desperately needy, so in need of external validation. I can only imagine if someone asked me “Love me forever?” I would have to reply something like…”No one can promise that. I can only promise to love you here and now. Tomorrow is beyond our locus of control.”

I’m a PITA, I know. There’s probably nothing worse than wanting someone who wants to be wanted and wants back but won’t take it any further. Someone who gives so much except her heart and soul. Pieces of my heart and soul are engaged in my romantic friendships, but I keep most of my love and soul intact for myself. I think where I am today is so much healthier than where I was, so I have no desire to change. I’m in a terribly unselfish place where I’m giving all of myself to my students and my kids and I don’t want to have to give myself elsewhere; not because I don’t have the capacity, but because I need to be selfish somewhere and create my own emotional balance.

The world has unpleasant things to say about people like me. Society wants to judge me for my refusal to choose between long-term relationship and celibacy. I’m safe. I’m careful. I’m loving and I’m generous. But I’m keeping my heart and soul to myself and I’m happy where I am…..still learning about myself, my needs, and adjusting to my new career and the emotional toll it takes on me. My time is devoted to the kids I gave birth to and the other ten close to my heart. Training is still my next priority after those two things, and leaves little left for anyone or anything else.

So what is the never? There is no never. I cannot put a boundary on any of this anymore than I want to be caged, confined or bound myself. Love could come along and slap me silly and make me reconsider everything I just wrote, make me laugh out loud at my silly attempts at protecting myself from real deep feelings. But I can say today, as I sit home with strep and my wonderful children, one of whom is also sick, that this is all I can handle and all I am looking for. The eternal romantic always in search of the one is in search no more. I have thirteen people who need my love – me, A, M and my 10 classroom children. And they love me back….just as I am today.

Deliriously tired, happy and humbled

I’ve become the worst friend lately…..no time to breathe or give.  Teaching, doctors appointments for my crushed finger, lesson plans, common core alignment, and IEPs have consumed me.  But codependency?  A memory at the moment.  Why?  A multi-factored response I suppose.  I reached a student……and I don’t have to wonder if it’s real because well, he’s not a giver.  He doesn’t just give affection or pretend to work and do well.  At first, he couldn’t be patient enough to wait for me to help him, so he became angry and destroyed things.  Now he comes in for a half-day and sits at his desk to work.  He used to say NO.  No.  No.  Now he says yes.  And then I was able to get “Yes, please (my rule!!!)”.  He says thank you.  He smiles.  He works.  He eats.  He’s fairly patient when I cannot get to him right away.  He’s an honest reporter. He even hugs me.

So what  does that have to do with codependency?  Well, my life was about trying to love too much, needing too much.  My job requires so much love.  I love them all day and when the day is done, I’m exhausted.  I have to decompress before I get my own kids, the ones I gave birth to.  So I don’t have as much love to give, and I certainly don’t need love or attention in my life; my students give me love and attention all day.  Ms. H, Ms. H, Ms. H.  Am I cured?  Nah……but certainly I’ve found a career path where I can put all my love and need to help others, to give something I was never given as a child to them.  I plan to use all this love flowing back and forth to teach them to read, the one skill they need most of all. I’m humbled because teaching them to read is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but also the best. Every single sign of progress makes me smile, makes me feel great about my day.

Teaching hasn’t just humbled me, it has changed me. Each day I feel a little different. I learned two years ago that one person cannot make you whole, that you must find that within yourself. But what about nine people? I’ve always said teachers were my daily touchstone as a child, a necessary safe place to give love and not be hurt in return. And now that I can give that same love, I do feel much more whole. My purpose, my reason for being seems clear at this point in my life journey. I am mother to two I gave birth to, and school mom to nine more. So much love, given and returned, I feel like I’m home. I found a quote that ends this entry perfectly…….

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Crisis of confidence

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Melody Beattie says to feel the feeling and release it in order to cope with uncomfortable or painful emotions when you are a recovering codependent. Anytime I feel the rising panic, fear, doubt, pain, loss, grief, I try to follow this rule. I believe, today, I am suffering from a crisis of confidence. I am at the launching point for my new career and I have made great personal strides in my emotional health. I am poised for success and my hard work is paying off in 2013. So what is driving my crisis? Fear of the unknown is the unifying principle; unknown in career, in professional peers, impact on training which somewhat defines my existence in all of my roles in life–motherhood, finance professional, licensed teacher, runner, swimmer, friend, cousin, niece…..how will this leap change me? What will the impact on my identity be? I am not just changing jobs, I am altering the course of my life, and I think some fear is normal, it certainly isn’t paralyzing me, but I am uncomfortable nonetheless.

I am at times painfully self-aware, and other times when running on impulse, I lose that filter. Today I am in slow motion, very aware of every nuance, every light change, every moment. I am grieving the impending loss; disconnecting from the family of coworkers that has supported and walked life with me for over six years. If I were to analyze my job changes over the years, I would say it is the pattern of a child who did not come from a stable home environment; I changed companies and even careers to avoid permanent attachments. If I look at it from an intellectual perspective, I was simply bored and seeking new challenges and new life experiences. There is likely truth in both analyses. I know that as a teacher of students with exceptional learning needs, the opportunities for new experiences and growth are virtually endless; I can work in different schools, different assignments, different populations, different subjects. The field is always evolving the rules are always changing and I enjoy that; it does not intimidate or frighten me. I intend to pursue more licenses and additional degrees; I am nowhere near “finished” and ready to settle. I was ecstatic but today I think my old demons of doubt are haunting me, perhaps because I’ve been trained to doubt myself, or perhaps because I am experiencing sensory overload.

Good news is, I am not resorting to any unhealthy addictions to deal with these emotions. I am facing them head on. I am hugging my coworkers and telling them how I feel here and now, not wasting precious time keeping all of these sharable feelings to myself. I think, and hope, these emotions are a normal part of this transition as I continue down the life path that was indicated for me. I fought for this, I put every bit of myself into the process of becoming an educator, and it is my time to put theory to practice, to have my own students, to truly make a difference. I know where I am headed, in a general sense, I know where I will be teaching, and I know what the expectations are, and I know I am on the right path. The crisis of confidence is passing as quickly as it came, because I have no time for doubt; I must continue down this path, wherever it may go.

Clean slate, codependency….who cares, I just want to run!

clean-slateI’m working on giving myself a clean slate for the choices I’ve made that I don’t feel great about. I have to forgive myself in order to feel whole, clean, valued. I’m in recovery from codependency which sounds so silly, but it’s a serious problem. It means I love too much, that I look for my mate to fill a void that my childhood created. And trust me, I’m so over that, I don’t want to dwell on it anymore, I wish I could just wave a wand over it. Fact is, when I run, I feel whole, I feel clean, I feel fun, and young (do you hear the LoveSong references?). I decided some time ago that LoveSong is really about codependency, and I maintain that. When I feel those urges to cling to another person, or even my kids to give my existence purpose, I try to channel it to fitness instead, because my children need me to be whole all by myself.

Today, I ran, and I focused totally on my breathing, keeping it rhythmic and controlled, which is a huge challenge, the way my asthma works. I’m always labored, even when I talk for a long time. I don’t even remember what I thought about since it was only a 2 mile run. When runs are sucky, I will daydream about anything to distract myself, or I will try to solve my problems. For me, running is both a group and a solo activity, and I love both. When I feel overwhelmed by life, yes, I want to run from it, but mostly I just want to run until my head is clear and my heart is light.

AGR (Asthma Girl Runner) AKA Kerniec (it’s Kernie C, but people like to call me “kerniac” which is funny, since I am a bit of a maniac).

Reflections on love, life solo, girl on fire

He was poised so high on that pedestal, and she could not see him for what he really was; just a man.  His values were all that she wanted and all she wished she was………all she tried, in vain, to live up to.  Fact is, the person he met was just fine the way she was; she did not need to change herself to be good enough, valuable enough, worthy of anyone’s love.  Unfortunately, she did not believe in herself……she had been through so much in life, and she had spent one year trying to figure out who she was, what she wanted, how she was supposed to take her life in a better direction.  She found and lost love over and over again, each loss resulting in a diminished sense of self-worth.  She sought someone to make her whole; she did not know how to be alone, she felt as if she were only part of a person when she wasn’t in love or being loved.  He was the one she finally made a full connection with, one who asked her to walk side by side with him, sharing in good times and bad.  He asked for her full love, trust, devotion and understanding.  She was so happy to meet someone who also did not feel whole when unattached, a swan looking for his life mate.  In her relationship immaturity, she misstook this for kismet, fate, the true love match.  Poor girl, she was so entrenched in codependency, she could not see truth, facts, mismatch.  She was so in love, so wrapped in the ecstacy of a physical and emotional connection to another heart and soul.  Six months after the year together was over, done, torn apart by the truth, the reality, the communication breakdown, the slow destruction of the magic, she was still under its spell.  Her best friend said, he’s JUST a man……….and it wasn’t all that……but she was still crying, still sad.  She was still trapped in a bubble with the beautiful man on a pedestal, still sad, still unreachable; she put up boundaries and obstacles, but despite all her sharp edges, part of her wanted so desperately to end the pain, to move on, she let another human touch her, really touch her emotions, and the healing finally began.  She finally began to move on.  Now she could process the last three years of her life, all of the loves in her past, and put the beautiful one in perspective; he was the deepest love in this phase of her life, but he wasn’t the only, and he wasn’t the last.  He was, just a man. Keeping in mind that she met the first love of her life when she was just a girl and she loved him for almost two decades, she is still growing, she may not be ready to meet “the one” yet.  She cannot force it, she can’t work “hard” and make it fit when she’s a star trying to fit in a triangle, she must allow life to happen naturally.  She is so much more than she allowed herself to be when she tried to live up to someone else’s expectations, needs, desires.  She is a girl on fire, she is a girl blazing her own path, finally solo, finally embracing her strength and power as an individual.