T(a)inted sands

When I was around 7 or 8 years old, I attended bible school at the church of some friends of the family.  One day, the craft activity was making those landscapes with colored sands in a jar.

Everyone said mine was the nicest one. As I was making my way out the stairwell of a side exit afterward, an older boy and his friend stopped me and commented on my sandscape.  One of them said he could show me something really cool. He said to shake the jar, which I did gently at first, instinctively cautious. Unfortunately, I was naive and gullible and shook harder at his urging.

The beautiful layers of colors were a uniform, ugly green. I remember being surprised at how thoroughly ruined it was. The other boys saw that on my face and laughed.

I’m sorry to tell such a sad story, but don’t feel bad. It was an important lesson that stuck with me. I was less naive after that. Maybe it kept me from something worse.

I used to feel like I was that jar of sand. Actually, anyone could be. We all start out pristine and beautiful. Then life shakes us up.

All the teasing and bullying and exclusion left psychological issues to work through, which I have. There were physical things as well that mixed up the colors.  I have less than half volume hearing in my right ear due to having a growth remove. It wasn’t a tumor. It had to do with chronic infections damaging the ear drum. I let the growth go for about two years after I knew about it, thinking my boss at the time was going to get health benefits for me, as he had talked about. I was also paralyzed into inaction and indecision by depression, so the time slipped by, though I did get it done with the help of medical assistance and private grant program.

Another thing was the surgery I had for a bowel obstruction and appendicitis.  My Crohn’s disease was never diagnosed before that. It should have been. Now I have to mix and drink a powder medication that keeps me from having severe diarrhea 24/7. I basically can’t live without it.

There’s also the loss of self image with the nasty scars from the incision and the colostomy.  Everyone said the incision scar would be a thin white line, but there’s an inch wide swath. I was only 28, then, and still in good shape.

All the undiagnosed, unrecognized problems and issues that I spoke of in yesterday’s post, took their toll as well. I remember feeling totally burned out after two years of community college and working maybe twenty hours a week, when I was in my early twenties. I didn’t know yet about the sleep apnea or Crohn’s disease, or even the bipolar depression. That’s a long story, but suffice it to say that I went through a period of personal growth and discovery after I graduated.

The important thing to take away here, is that, I’m still standing! With a God-given resilience and strength, I kept going and learning.

The colored grains of sand are still in there. And, unlike the literal ones, they can be made beautiful again. No one can take your inner beauty, your soul. So, I hope you can feel uplifted from all this. The last thing I want is to depress anyone.

Go live life to the fullest. Don’t worry about what was or what might have been. Discover what life has in store for you.

Things I learned from my cats

What matters most is how you see yourself. That’s the lesson in a nutshell.  I touched on this a little in my post titled, “A Better Day”.

I’m coming at the topic from a different angle, observing my cats.  My five year old cat, Smokey doesn’t know how big he is.  He’s a bit skittish and shy. He climbs up on my chest to cuddle.  (A lap isn’t good enough.) When he does that, I have to put down my laptop, or else he walks on the keyboard and, invariably, messes things up.  (For example, he once deactivated the keyboard. It took till the next day to figure out that you could still hit shift + enter to get it back, though it seemed like nothing on the keyboard was working. Another time, he turned the screen display 90°.  I didn’t even know you could do that.  I was able to go into the display menu and turn it back from portrait to landscape, though it remains a mystery how he did it with just the keyboard.)  Also, I can barely see the TV over him when he’s sitting on me.

Enter Rex the much smaller, younger little guy my brother and I adopted about a year ago.  Rex is a sweetheart and after about ten days, Smokey accepted him and they get along nicely now.  However, Rex is a little troublemaker at times, picking on the gentle giant, Smokey.  It’s only in play, but he gets a little carried away and makes his house mate squeal sometimes.  Then we have to separate them and scold Rex, sometimes even close him in a room for a while.  The thing is, Smokey could easily kick Rex’s ass.  He has learned to assert himself, and the problem has slowly gotten better.  So, I guess Smokey gets to a point where he’s had enough.

I share these feline antics as a way of relating my own experiences.  I was shy and timid in school, and socially awkward.  Add to that my rather small stature, and you’ve got an easy target for teasing.

Like Smokey, I didn’t realize how big I was.  Not physically, but intellectually, emotionally, and personality speaking. I was blessed with a brilliant mind, a bright and generous heart, and a lovable, witty, fun spirit.  None of this came out until young adulthood.  I started coming out of my shell somewhat the last two years of high school, but was still kind of a lost puppy.  (Awww)  It’s okay. It got better.

Today, I still come across as reserved, and social anxiety does hold me back until I get to know people better, but the shyness and the fear are gone.  Physical lack of energy is a problem at times too, with sleep apnea and Crohn’s disease, but caffeine helps.  ha ha

I don’t resent any of the teasing I took in school because it actually did help push me to change. I realized after getting my associate’s degree in my early 20’s that I had played right into the teasing, making it all to easy. (Not saying it was my own fault.  Just saying I could have changed things.) I was also very alone in my two years at community college, for all the same reasons.  I had no problems with the intellectual aspects at all, but yet was completely burned out at the end.  It made me start analyzing.  Why was it so hard? To quote John Donne, “No man is an island”. I needed a support system. How does one build something you’ve never known? Where to start….

An epiphany came one day at the mall.  Maybe some of you remember the mall store called Deck the Walls.  They sold art and photo prints and the like.  I saw a small matted picture of a kitten looking into a mirror.  The text read “What matters most is how you see yourself”.  Reflected in the mirror, is a lion.  It really struck home, so I took it home.  I mean, after I paid for it, of course. I still have it as a reminder.

It made me see more clearly than ever how one’s persona is perceived by others as a reflection of your own inner image.  Confidence, satisfaction, contentment, happiness.  All things I lacked, therefore did not project.  What I got back from others was a direct correlation to what I was carrying and exuding, or not.

I was just coming into my own in my late 20’s when I hit some health problems.  Getting to work became all-consuming and I eventually had to take a break from it.  Then, I didn’t get much social contact, but things are going much better now.  I sometimes feel like I end up being put in that old “box”, where he’s the shy, quiet guy.  Or, my anxiety makes me feel uncomfortable and pushes people away.  (Nobody likes to feel uncomfortable.) The good news is, I feel like I’m ready to Bust That Box! (I believe I found the topic of my next post.)

Til then, keep going and keep growing!