Change, Confidence, Learning

Redefinition Revisited: #sorrynotsorry

Someone very close to me asked, in retort of a public apology, why I felt the need for said apology.

I said something about, not being able to give my all relationships, and that I felt it wasn’t fair to other people, which, in turn, made me “feel bad” (i.e. sorry and guilty).

She, then, asked, “Isn’t that for those ‘other people’ to decide?”

That got me thinking . . .

Recently, I realized, . . . she’s totally right. It’s presumptuous for me to assume potential friends, lovers, what have you, would NOT “be able to handle” change in me.

I typed, only a few months ago, “Getting to know me takes effort because I’m never satisfied and always evolving.” (https://mariahrosesramblings.wordpress.com/2015/10/26/an-apology/, An Apology . . . , October 26th, 2015.

It’s not that “I’m never satisfied.” It’s that I’ll always strive for MORE. I’ll  “always evolv[e]” because I’ll always be looking for ways to improve myself. It’s, by no means, not because I’m “not good enough,” but because I thrive with change and get excited at new prospects.

However, I’ve always feared change. I’m afraid of a lot of things.

My “apology” was selfish. I was trying to protect MYSELF. That’s what’s not fair.

I think it took me, actually, failing hard at something to realize that (in a word: school).

One day, I was having a conversation about “perfection.” I WAS a self-proclaimed perfectionist (still working on that but that’s another story).

Anyway, the person I was conversing with asked, “How many mistakes have you made?”

I replied, “Actually, not many.”

Then, he listed off the many, huge mistakes he’s made to get to where he is. Behind success, lurk past failures.

There’s no shame in making mistakes. It’s part of the learning process. “Shame” is, only, a FEELING bred from doubt of the self.

“Nobody’s perfect. Everyone has flaws.” (https://mariahrosesramblings.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/understanding-is-reached-only-after-confrontation/, Understanding Is Reached Only after Confrontation, January 19th, 2015.) They are part of what it means to be human.

Again, mistakes are an inevitable part of the process of adaptation.

Once I get over that initial sense of impending doom and that need for “perfection,” I am in love with that change. It becomes natural.

Therefore, I need not be afraid or filled with self-doubt.

People are drawn to me so one of the other things that I’ve thought about is, “What makes me a ‘good friend?’ What am I physically, emotionally, or spiritually able to do now to show people that I care?” (https://mariahrosesramblings.wordpress.com/2015/06/03/redefinition/, Redefinition, June 3rd, 2015.)

Punishing myself by making MYSELF feel guilty never proved to ANYONE how much “I care.” The only thing that does is make me unnecessarily feel like shit.

I don’t have to explain myself to anyone and nobody owes me an explanation either. And I don’t have to take what people do choose to share with me as gospel.

At the same time, I need to be honest with MYSELF about what I feel. Trust in others begins with trust within myself.

Now, I know that being a good listener, with integrity, honesty, loyalty, conviction, tact (most of the time), and respect, is GOOD ENOUGH.

I am trustworthy.

I can say what I mean, and mean what I say, but that doesn’t mean, who I’m saying it to, will truly understand, much less, believe it’s the truth. And it’s not that I’m not trustworthy. Again, I am trustworthy.

In fact, it has little to do with me. When you’ve been through the ringer, it’s hard to know who’s on the level. I’m just as skeptical as the next person. However, I know how to suss out red flags and warning signs pretty skillfully. I can become less skeptical, sooner.

My point is: these things take time. How much time, depends on the individual situation. Patience is key. Relationships don’t blossom overnight.

I am a good friend.

I need to stop comparing myself to others, including my-past-self. Each individual is different no matter how similar they seem. Comparison leads to madness. Live and let live, and do the best you can.

“The best you can, is good enough.” ~ Radiohead

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Art, Change, Learning

BREAK the Cypher

I spent my New Year’s Eve, going through my artwork from high school up through college; some after too. The idea was to refresh my memory as to what influenced me at different stages in life; what motivated and moved me. I wanted to ramble about art and not leave anything out. I still plan on doing that but I came across something I forgot about. Something along similar lines but not what I was looking for.

I forgot I used to use writing as an outlet. I remember, I took a creative writing class but I didn’t know I ever wrote anything relevant or that I attempted to share.

In my hoarding, I found three issues of “Galerie,” a yearly student-run publication, put out by my high school. I was on the staff for two years. I had, at least, one visual piece, as well as one piece of writing, in each issue I found.

I’d like to share a piece I passed off as “fiction” in my senior year. Bare with my eighteen-year-old self, as I’ve had 12 years to fine-tune my “voice,” grammar, vocabulary, etc.

“She looks into the mirror stares into the face of a person longing for change. She is a girl of eighteen with dark hair and blue eyes. She has a pale complexion and her lips are rosy pink. As she looks into her own eyes, she is distracted by the leaves outside the window, rustling as the wind whistles through them. They remind her of how restless she is. She has been a part of a twelve-year routine that she has wanted to end for so long. The end is so near but so far away. She covets a new beginning. She can’t wait to start over. She wants to cut ties with all those surrounding her. They are all so boring because they are all the same. She wants to be with people have goals. She wants to be with people who are like her. She’s different. She likes being different but she’s so lonely. She’ll be glad to go. She won’t cry when she does. She’ll smile. She will be sad to leave some people because even the important ones in her life right now might not feel that she is important enough to stay in touch with. She knows, however, that the people who care about her most will always be there.

“She hopes that some of those people will support her when she begins a new life for herself. She is so afraid of what the future has in store for her but she welcomes it with open arms. She will rise to any challenge that faces her and conquer it so that she may do what she wants to do and become what she wants to become. She’s not sure what she wants to do or become, but she’ll know when the time is right. What she does know is that she wants to succeed. She know that she is capable of accomplishing anything that her heart desires. She is intelligent and interested in so many things.

“Some people might not believe this, though. When she tries to speak about what she is feeling, she sounds stupid and ditzy (for lack of better words). She knows what she wants to say but struggles to get it out. Her cheeks become flushed and she stutters. When she finds the perfect words to say, she often forgets them before they escape her mouth. She fidgets and slumps. She has horrible posture. She’s not confident in herself and in order to counter her nervousness around people, she talks and talks. Actually, she babbles. She realizes she does it but she needs to feel less nervous somehow. The only way she can truly express herself, though, is on paper. The only way she can say what she wants to say without interruption is on paper. She wishes she had more time for her paper, whether it be lined or Strathmore. She wishes she had more time but she’s tired. When she thinks she can finally rest, there is something else to be done. She relishes the thought of a world where money is no object and time is on her side. If she could, she would spend all of her time utilizing that paper. She is sick of work and school and anything else that gets in the way of her and herself. She wants everything to be finished. She wants to be settled in a house with the perfect job. She wants to be in love. She wants to have time.

“In the middle of her thought she blinks and realizes that she has been staring into those blues eyes for quite some time now. She has been caught in her own gaze for what seemed like an eternity. She rubs her face with her hands and sighs. She looks her own face over a few timed and asks herself those age-old questions, “Who am I? What is going to become of me?” We’ll see.”

Again, I wrote that when I was a senior in high school. Sure, I want to pick it apart and edit it but the nature of the content would be similar. Instead, I’ll take this opportunity to man-up, because the character I was describing was, clearly, 110% ME. I was trying to express myself while attempting to be, somewhat, cryptic. Some of my favorite authors (namely Chuck Palahniuk and Tom Robbins) “taught” me to use my sense of humor and not be constrained to the “rules” in writing. I cling to them because I’ve found that, like my influences in art and music, I respond and relate the creative people who aren’t afraid to let their personalities shine through in their work.

I’m going to address each of my relevant fears and points, and turn this depressing, albeit optimistic, piece, into a lesson.

When I first wrote that passage, I was a naive, gullible virgin, who had never ventured outside of Rochester, NY with anyone except her immediate family. I’d never been in love and was completely lost and lonely.

I’ve been through a lot in my life. Some of it was my own doing. Other times, I didn’t know any better. Sometimes, it was just a matter of timing and/or placement. Whatever happened (or happens), I’ve always try to learn and grow from it; evolve.

I’m neurotic and methodical, which can be blessings or curses. I think EVERYTHING through. When I say, “I don’t care.” It’s not because I’m indecisive. It’s because I, genuinely, don’t care because the outcome won’t have that much bearing on the bigger picture.

Honestly, I’m not sure how much I want to share about my past but I will say, my stroke is the single-most difficult thing I’ve had to deal with in my entire life. However, I’m doing just fine a year later because of all I’ve experienced up to this point.

A cliche I use once in awhile is, “If I knew then what I know now . . .” Listen, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s kind of a joke to me. It’s one of those *wink wink, nudge nudge* types of things.

I tattooed over my knees, “No regrets. No worries.” I do worry a-lot-a-bit but I’m forever trying not to. Life is a lot of trail and error. Sometimes, you get second chances. Sometimes, it’s one and done. Sometimes, people hurt you. Sometimes, you hurt others. I’m sincerely sorry for the people I’ve hurt. But, at the same time, I don’t regret getting hurt because it’s made me who I am. You have to think about each situation individually because, even if you’re experiencing deja vu, no one is exactly the same. If you don’t think things through, when you can, you’ll never grow and the results will send you around that same vicious cycle.

That’s why I’m analyzing my priorities from 12 years ago; because I want to see how I’ve grown and see what’s no longer important and what I still need to work on.

Here it goes!

I’ve always been restless. I’ve realized that I’ll always be restless. I can’t sit still for too long. I love, love, love traveling. Just a change of scenery for even a day satiates my nomadic tendencies, if only for a little while. I’ve found, if I don’t change things up a little bit, every once in awhile, I get stir-crazy.

A friend shared a quote by Robert Holden. It states, “Beware of Destination Addiction . . . a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.” I understand where Holden is coming but part of the reason I’m forever restless, is because I’ll never be satisfied. Another friend and I were talking the struggle with being an artist. You’re your own worst critic and mortal enemy. For artist like us, nothing we create is ever “good enough.” If we created THE perfect piece, we’d implode and there wouldn’t be anything left for us to achieve; nothing to work toward. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Yes, I need to choose goals that are reachable but I’ll never stop trying to do better; to BE better. That mindset has gotten me through my recovery so far. I’m not striving for absolute happiness. I’m trying to be content, moment to moment. Like MOST HUMANS ON THIS PLANET, I have good days and bad days. You just need to seize the days you can. If you have a bad one, dust yourself off, and try again.

“You pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick friends’ nose.” Well, I “pick[ed] . . . friends” who would let me “pick [their] nose[s],” as it were. But, seriously, I have so much love surrounding me . . . I’m so grateful. It’s been hard to let people go who hurt me and there’s a lot of disappointment involved in that but the feeling passes, eventually, and the love and support of those ones who stick around, fill up those voids. I still get lonely from time to time but I think it’s another part of the human condition.

I’m not afraid of the future anymore. I still maintain, “[I] will rise to any challenge that faces [me] and conquer it . . . [I want] to succeed. [I] know that [I’m] capable of accomplishing anything that [my] heart desires. [I am] intelligent and interested in so many things.” And I, once again, have so much support that it doesn’t matter if I talk slow or stammer. People wait to hear what I have to say. Also, I’m just as forgetful as I ever was, if not more-so. I’m working on using my resources and tools to make things easier, memory-wise (See “Memory Lost, Memory Found, Repeat.” mariahrosesramblings.wordpress.com).

I still get nervous but I’m working on that too but my “babbling” and “fidgeting” has become part of my awkward charm. People who don’t appreciate it . . . well, ya know.

I’m still working on time-management. I’ll probably never get it right but I’ll always keep trying.

I’ve changed my mind about “settling in a house.” I don’t EVER want to be tied down. There’s no such thing as the perfect job, although tattooing comes wicked close, for me.

As far as love goes, there are no rules and it’s painful. With romantic love, comes stress, sex, insecurity, tests of trust, etc. I’ll probably never figure out that whole mess but what I do know is that I can’t worry about that right now anyway. I have too much on my plate. I feel that in order to truly be with someone, you BOTH have to be content with yourselves.

With that, I suggest making a list of what makes you content and if you’re not one thing . . . start.

My List:

My own space

Travel

Working out

Doing research

Reading

Writing

Yoga

Decompression time

Being creative

Feeling healthy

Being around people I love, who love me back

Mariah Rose’s Ramblings: youarenotalone138@gmail.com

E-mail me if you want to comment on my “ramblings” but aren’t comfortable doing it publicly. I’d ask you not to abuse this gesture. I WILL NOT respond to inappropriate inquiries and I WILL NOT give out my phone number.

This e-mail address is meant to help people, survivors and caregivers, alike.

I’m not a medical provider. I’m not a therapist of any kind. I’m just a survivor whose willing to share.

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Learning, Memory, Stroke

Memory Lost, Memory Found, Repeat

Memory is a funny thing.

Most people I encounter with brain injuries, have sustained some form of memory loss which got me thinking.

I’m still learning about the different shapes memory loss can take. I’ll probably always be encountering diverse cases, however similar they may appear to be on the surface.

I’ve said, all throughout my stroke recovery, that I implore people not to take anything for granted. What we see as simple day to day functions to things we’ve learned through life experience, could be taken away at any moment. A lot of things that are lost have to do with memory.

For instance, it takes muscle coordination to talk or even swallow. Most stroke victims have to learn to swallow again because they simply forgot how. This ailment is called “apraxia.” The strength of the muscles is there but the brain can’t remember how to perform the task; which order the muscles need to move in. That’s why you see people with brain injuries with feeding tubes. With speech therapy there is always hope that people can relearn how to coordinate that movement.

I had one of my speech therapists teach me how to snort again. I thought, “Ya know, before I had this stroke, whenever I thought something was too hilarious, I couldn’t help but snort while laughing my ass off. I want to be able to do THAT again.”

Then, there’s learning to talk, again, in general. In this way, muscle memory is, both, a blessing and a curse. For example, I, to this day, have trouble with interchanging the words Saebo and sable. Saebo makes tools for the hand post-stroke, such as a splint to keep my right hand from “clawing” up and, a device that I call my, Robocop arm. I call that contraption my “Saebo.” It uses springs to get my hand to open up. The exercise is to grab a Nerf ball, place it in a basket, and the Saebo assists the hand in opening again . . . over and over. It strengthens the hand muscles and the idea is for the repetitive motion of opening and closing the hand, to build up muscle memory over the recommended use, which is a minimum of an hour and a half a day.

When I was first introduced to the Saebo in occupational therapy, I still had far to go in speech (I still do). I was trying to think a way to remember what this device was called. A color I frequently would use, pre-stroke, in tattooing was Eternal Ink’s “Sable”. It’s a lovely medium brown. So, even though I know the difference between the two words, my mouth wants to say one or the other, and since I’m thinking about both words at the same time, sometimes, the wrong one slips out. That happens with “like” and “love” for me, a lot, too.

Another deficit I acquired through my stroke is called “aphasia.” When I’m writing, I have to read aloud what I’m trying to say because, if I don’t, I’ll not include key words that are essential to sentence structure. I forget how to spell even the simplest of words, also.

Every time I write something, it unlocks something I “knew,” pre-stroke. When I’m editing my ramblings, I try not to repeat myself so much, so I’m trying to come up with synonyms or different phrases that I know exist but, maybe, I don’t remember them, exactly. I look those things up, if I need to, then, after I use them, file them away, so to speak.

I’ve taken to not being shy when I don’t understand what someone is saying or messaging and, if I’m trying to express myself, I’ll straight up ask, “Am I making sense?” That cuts out a lot of possible confusion.

Most of the people I’ve encountered throughout my recovery who have sustained brain injuries have short-term memory issues. Since I realized this I’ve tried to pay close attention to the way my memory has been affected, in general, and the memories of those around me, brain injured or not.

One thing is abundantly clear: the more you have to remember, the more you’ll have chances to forget something. I’ve tried to take control over that. I know that if I had a stroke any earlier in life, I wouldn’t have so many resources at my disposal. My iPhone has become my lifeline. I can edit my Google Calendar from anywhere and set reminders for doctor appointments or events. I have daily alarms to remember to take my meds twice a day. I use the Notes app to type in lists or thoughts. I use Google Maps, the RTS app, and the Greyhound, Amtrak, and MapMyWalk apps for travel and to know where I am at all times. I play games to further my neurological development.

I’ve always made a correlation between the senses and memory. Certain smells, songs, quotes, photographs, movies, textures, meals, etc. can conjure up whole messes of emotions or instances that we’ve long-since forgotten about.

Sometimes, we “remember” things the way we WANT to remember them. Sometimes, we block things, we don’t want to think about. Sometimes, we forget things that didn’t seem important at the time but turn out to be the missing puzzle piece to a fragmented thought we’re having.

I’m writing about memory because I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what got me to this point in my life. I’ve been evaluating . . . hell, EVERYTHING; how I’ve been treated, how I’ve reacted, what I’ve suppressed, when I felt the most lost, etc. I’ve opened the floodgates to memories I forgot about and things I consciously pushed down because I thought needed to get past them to get over them. It fucking hurts. But, I’m learning about who I am, really. I’m grateful for the opportunity to make that happen.

 

. . . to be continued . . .

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