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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Loss, Love

Empathy in Heartache 

I haven’t been writing because I’m in school and that’s taking all of my time and energy but I still have things I need to get out.

I have many projects started but I won’t feel content posting them until I feel they’re finished.

This morning I’ve decided to post something short because, like clockwork, I’m always up around 4:30am. It doesn’t matter what I do the day before or when I “plan” on getting up the morning after.

I work a lot of things out in my sleep.

I avoid typing about romantic love because I haven’t got a clue but I felt compelled to share my thoughts this morning (albeit, vaguely).

Here it goes:

“I awoke with empathy.

I feel your pain.

Heartache is a special kind of hurt.

Suffering from a broken heart, leaves us feeling lost and like a piece of us is missing.

I hate it but it makes us who we are and let’s us figure out what we want and how to be better people.

It’s gonna be alright.

That little piece will never be completely filled but it’ll get better; more microscopic, easier to manage.

Don’t ignore it.

Feel it.

Learn,

Adapt,

Evolve.”

Above Pictured: “Bleeding Heart.” Acrylic paint on canvas. Circa 2008. (Right-handed, Pre-stroke.)

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Adapt, Balance, Change

Redefinition

I’ve become, quite recently, truly (in the plainest of terms) grateful for my stroke.

The reason being, it’s given me a real chance to redefine myself, and what I think is pivotal to my well-being. I have the time to actually become the person I want to be.

That is a gift. No more coveting. The world is my oyster. The sky’s the limit. Yes, because of my new-found, so-called “handicaps,” I’m supposedly limited to what I “can do.” But, not really. I have the mental capacity and resources to navigate around obstacles. It takes longer, but what are we in a hurry for anyway? Think about it.

When I had that significant change at the blink of an eye, I spent the following year, working my ass off, trying to regain what I’d “lost;” hoping everything would be as it were. I wanted my life back.

Once that year went by in my stroke recovery, I was devastated. I thought I’d be so much further than I was. I went through the stages of grief, mourning my past-self. I was in a very dark place, feeling very disheartened. After months of debilitating depression, I finally came terms with how different my life had become and will always be. I tried and am trying, to find what will makes me content in the moment, while continuing moving forward, especially in recovery. I’m trying to find self-worth.

With being labeled as disabled, I believed for a time, that I no longer had anything to offer anyone. Pre-stroke, I used my trade (tattooing) to show people I cared, to make money, and to travel. I gave newlyweds, birthday girls/guys, etc., tattoos as gifts. I made trades for things I wanted/needed. I could afford to visit peers/friends or offer rides places because I was always working.

Since the stroke, I’ve had to rethink my Love Languages (see www.mariahrosesramblings.wordpress.com, Support and Forgiveness, January 23rd, 2015.). What makes me a “good friend?” What am I physically, emotionally, or spiritually able to do now to show people that I care?

I have no money. I can’t, legitimately, drive. I can’t tattoo.

What CAN I do?!

I’m so grateful for the support I’ve received. Without it, I couldn’t have survived the first year of recovery. Not only did people visit me, but there were numerous benefits on my behalf. There was a place, online, where people could donate. All this started happening before I could even begin to fathom what was going on. No joke, in October 2013, I was out-of-it for nearly 3 weeks, but, without knowing it, I was being taken care of. Words cannot describe how much that means to me. With that support I was able to get through that first year financially and emotionally. I had a roof over my head, rides wherever I needed to go, kind words and encouragement, etc.

My mother helped get services in place: Medicaid, Disability, the Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver, etc. She gave me what I needed to be able to figure out what I want. In one word: my mama gave me “SECURITY.”

Medicaid helps me maintain my health and keep my doctors and therapists in cahoots. We’re a team. I love it.

Social Security Disability Insurance gives me money every month, which I use to pay bills.

The TBI Waiver provides me with, basically, loopholes with insurance, and services through an agency of my initial choosing. That said organization, first and foremost, hooked me up with a service coordinator (SC) and a councilor. My councilor has been with me since the beginning. I got lucky with her. Unfortunately, I had to go through 4 or so service coordinators in a year, and threaten to go through another agency, in order to reach the SC I have now. But, such is life, and we’re sure making up for lost time now!

Through the TBI Waiver, my service coordinator was able to get me funding with TBI Housing. Now that I have my own apartment, I have food stamps as well. They definitely lesson the financial burden. I’m, also, going through ACCES-VR (formerly Vesid) to make myself more “employable.” Namely, they’re helping me with driving lessons and going back to school; stuff like that. I figure, even if or when I start tattooing again, I could adjust my schedule accordingly. I’m not worried about it in the least.

So, on paper, things are going quite well.

There are some hiccups in regard to my health but I’m working on those too. I have to remember that I’m NOT a typical young woman anymore. The best I can to do is to take care of myself. Believe it or not . . . the alternative . . . THAT would be selfish. When I slip up on the things I need (or need NOT) to do, not only do I suffer, but the people who care about me suffer, as well (maybe even more-so).

That mentality has changed a lot of things for me. I used to think that giving all my energy toward other people mattered. I set myself lowest on the totem pole. I put other people’s needs and happiness before my own, because I thought that if the people around me were happy, I’d be happy too. I didn’t want to make waves. I wanted everyone to “like me.” I kept silent and sweet. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” right? Not necessarily. I now realize, you can be pleasant without sacrificing your self-respect.

Throughout my stroke recovery, I’ve been working hard at, not only my abilities and health, but my character too. Like I typed, previously, “I have the time to actually become the person I want to be.” How cool is that?!

So, I ask myself:

1.) What DO I THINK makes a solid human being?

Integrity. “Word is bond” (Wu Tang Clan, c.1993.). I like that phrase. It embodies everything I want to accomplish. I look at it as encompassing honesty, loyalty, following a certain moral code, strength in the face of adversity, etc.

2.) What qualities do I find in people I respect and admire?

I don’t believe in accepting hand-outs. I believe in working for what you’re given. I have to keep in mind, the services I use now, are in place because I NEED them. You’re not taking advantage if you’re in need. 

I respect conviction. Even if I don’t agree, I admire people who sick to their guns but allow room for discussion; debate, even. 

I lost a lot with my stroke but it’s okay because, in turn, I grew a backbone. I learned to say, “No.” Now and again, I try to keep up with the Joneses, but more often than not, if I need to sit a round or two out, I do. I’m still working on that. 

3.) What qualities do I find in the people I truly love unconditionally?

I appreciate when people are honest, while treating me as a peer. “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.” (Judge Judy, 1997.) And, patronization or babying does’t do anyone, any good.

I would do anything in my power for the people I care about. That’s not a lot right now. Still, the people I love, don’t expect much but still make me feel special and held in high regard. 

4.) Would I date me?

Nah, brah. However, I’m starting to like myself and exhibiting more self-respect than ever. I’m getting there.

5.) After all is said and done, what do I think’s most important?

Integrity. Honesty. Loyalty. Strength in the face of adversity. Hard work. Conviction. Respect.

All these things matter to me, but NOT at my personal expense. Some overlap. Some contradict. But, it’s all about finding a balance. Allowing some vulnerability without victimization, pride without conceit. Finding self-love without selfishness. Knowing when to fight and when to walk away. Exhibiting discipline without obsession. Etc. Etc. Etc.

. . . : Make way for “Mariah 2.0” : . . .

Ask yourself versions of these questions and see where you end up.

Fine-tune yourself.

Above Photo by James Via

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Adapt, Rebuild, Regroup

NEVER FOLD

It’s been over a month since I last blogged. I needed a break. I needed to process, to reflect on, what I was typing about.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month so I thought it’s as good a time as any to resume writing again. I’m not gonna lie, having a brain injury sucks but it’s eye-opening too, whether your ready for the swift kick in the ass or not.

I’m reminded of a quote from a film where the main character describes the afterlife, or purgatory: “Everything’s the same [as life] here, just a little worse.” (Zia/Patrick Fugit, Wristcutters: A Love Story, 2006.) 

Life went on (business as usual) for most people, after I survived a major stroke, whereas my life, I felt, at the time, all-of-a-sudden . . . stopped. Having a traumatic brain injury, sometimes, feels like my purgatory. When things are good, I’m on cloud nine. When they seem bleak, I feel like I’ve never felt so low.

“. . . When [things are] good,

[They are] very, very good.

But when [they are] bad, [they are] horrid.”

(The Little Girl With A Curl, “The Real Mother Goose,” 1916.)

These extremes are like a roller-coaster of emotions every day. A year and a half later, I still have trouble not feeling like a burden to those who even WANT to help me. Yeah, I can’t get around as well as I used to, but, then, I think of those who are less fortunate than me. I feel like I have no right complain. I don’t have migraines or suffer from chronic pain. I get frustrated at only having the used of one hand/arm and get embarrassed because of my limp and speech impediment but I still have my wits about me. My memory loss could be a lot worse. When I get tired or lack energy, in general, I, sometimes, can’t help but feel betrayed by my body. I have a lot of resources and people who look out for me and, sometimes, I feel remorse for those in similar situations who have less that me. I’m told all that’s called, “survivor’s guilt.” (http://virginiatech.healthandperformancesolutions.net/Anniversary%20Articles/Survivor%20Guilt%20What%20Long-term%20Survivors%20Don’t%20Talk%20About.pdf, The Brain Tumor Society, 2001-2008.)

“It’s a cycle.

You’re miserable.

Then motivated.

Then bored.

Then lost.

And then miserable again.

I think I’m looking less than a year for recovery at this point.

I think it’ll go by fast.

I hope so.

I hope to look back on this year as just a hiccup in my life; to look at it as something that made me stronger and move on.”

(Facebook: Mariah Rose, January 1st, 2014)

When I realized I was coming up to the one-year anniversary of my stroke, it dawned on me that things were more serious than I thought. I was nowhere near back to my “old self.” I had tried to convince myself and others, that “I” was in this body somewhere, I just needed a chance to recover and I’d be good as new.

The truth is I have changed. However, you know what they say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” (Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, 1808-1890.) The more I beat myself up and the more I chose to be stubborn, the more I felt guilty and like I wasn’t doing enough. I’ve always been my own worst enemy.

I tried to ease my guilt and depression by having a, sort of, party for my “Brainniversary” that turned into a fundraiser.

“I, Mariah Rose, had a stroke, almost, a year ago. Without the love and support from my friends, family, and people I’ve met along the way (even people I don’t know), I don’t know where I’d be.

“To celebrate my ‘Brainniversary,’ which is on October 5th, I’m hosting an event at  Monty’s Krown to raise funding for the Happiness House Foundation in honor of the support I’ve received.

“When choosing an organization to donate to, I looked at places that are local, not-for-profit, and that I’m not affiliated with or will work with directly in the future.

“Happiness House Foundation ‘raise[s] and generate[s] funds that will promote, support and augment the continuation of long-term services . . . for people with disabilities’ of all ages, including adults who have sustained Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) like I have. The adult programs are located in Canandaigua, NY. They, also, have children’s programs there and in Geneva.”

It was an all-around success. WE raised $2700. Not bad for small-time. The high from giving and being surrounded by so much love was incomparable but, unfortunately, didn’t last long.

I’ve found that most emotions are fleeting. If you dwell on negative ones, it’s easy to spiral downward . . . so easy.

I don’t remember when, exactly, I decided to take charge of what I could and start asking questions that I was afraid to know the real answers to: the ROOT of who I really am. It hurts but I’d rather live life the hard way than to live it oblivious or naive. More importantly, I’m learning how to be content living in the now, while still working on attainable goals. That means defining what happiness is for me (because it’s all relative) and adapting my life to suit that definition. It’s all about learning about my “new self” and sticking to my guns.

It can be confusing because the line is a bit burry between my “true nature” and my new brain-injured self. I’ve been analyzing my multiple selves (past, present, brain-injured, etc.) and asking, “Would I have reacted this way before?” I keep finding (I think) that my instincts are similar, just exaggerated.

Some things I can blame on being “strokey.” Some things, I know for a fact, are just the way I am. I choose to take ownership of my blessings and curses and manage them in the way I can, doing my best. I’ve been dealt some shit hands in my life but the trick is to play those cards. NEVER FOLD. Sometimes, you lose big but you have to play to WIN.

I’ve been given a second chance. Yeah, I still grieve over the shoulda, coulda, wouldas, (I’m human after all) but through past-life experiences I can regroup and manage with support.

Now, I see my Brainniversary as my “new birthday” because it was the “death” of my past-self. When I realized what had happened to me on October 5th, 2013, it was surreal. I, even, went through the grieving process; totally textbook-like.

  • Denial, numbness, and shock: I think, at first, people around me, where more upset that I had a stroke, than I was. I didn’t grasp (as mentioned previously) how serious it was.
  • Bargaining: I still catch myself wondering what I could have done differently to prevent it from ever happening but my logical side squashes that sort of thinking because it’s of no use thinking about what could have been. It’s over. The worst part is over.
  • Depression: “I want you to think about something. I was going places. I was traveling. I was networking. I spent years honing a craft. I spent seven years working up to something only to have it taken away from me in one fell swoop. I’m okay, considering, and I promise you I’ll get back to it but I hope that you never have to know what that feels like.” (Facebook: Mariah Rose, February 5th, 2014.)

“I think I only share about 50% of the emotional roller-coaster I go through on a day-to-day basis and I’m going to keep it        that way. Sometimes, I’m sick of appearing to keep it together.” (Facebook: Mariah Rose, March 16, 2014.)

  • Anger: “I hate, hate, hate when people don’t know that I had a stroke, like, 8 months ago? I catches me off guard as much as it catches them off guard, ya know? So, feel free to throw out as much gossip as you see fit and I’ll cross bridges when I come to them because I have the balls to say something to your face if I feel so inclined.” (Facebook: Mariah Rose, May 8th, 2014.)

“Sometimes, I want to chop my right arm off with a machete.” (Facebook: Mariah Rose, May 23rd, 2014.)

“Don’t waste your energy on pity for me. I don’t want it.

“I’m not sharing my experience with you because I want you to feel sorry for me. I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again, I’m doing this because if I’m forthright with everything I’m going through, I won’t have to repeat myself as much and venting is, I think, better for my recovery than shutting down.

“And another thing, I had brain surgery, less than, a year ago. I’m not okay but I’m trying the best I can to get there. I’m not at the top of my game but I’m climbing steadily upwards.

“I’m trying.

“If you can’t handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen and get the fuck out of my way.”

(Facebook: Mariah Rose, June 13th, 2014.)

  • Acceptance: Adapt. Rebuild. I have the ability, resources, and know-how to modify what I’m discontented with myself about. That’s pretty cool. Most people don’t experience that opportunity. As unlucky as I’ve been, I’m quite lucky too. (Coping with Grief, http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-coping-with-grief)

Although I feel like I’m coming out the other side and the roller-coaster rides are less severe, I still go through that cycle. Just three or four days ago, I journaled, simply, “I have abandonment issues. Now, leave me alone.” But, like I was saying, “most emotions are fleeting,” especially the negative ones. Just getting how I’m feeling out, instead of bottling it up or ignoring it like I used to, is cathartic. Acknowledging feelings is the way to go. It’s like ripping off a bandaid.

Looking at what makes me content moment-to-moment, again, I realize that I’m almost there.

  • Decompression time: My mental state, I’ve realized, lately, depends on this so it’s become a priority.
  • My own space: I started staying in my own apartment about a week and a half ago. It is so liberating. It was available February 1st but I was so nervous about it! It felt like when I left home for the first time for college and that didn’t go so well. That was 12 years ago. After a month of procrastination and pep-talks from my mom, head-shrinker, friends, etc. I was like, “Why didn’t I do this sooner!” . . . because baby steps.
  • Working out: My gym is only a mile away from my apartment and I treated myself to a new yoga mat for floor exercises and stretching.
  • Yoga
  • Feeling healthy (staying active, getting enough sleep, eating healthily, etc.)
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Doing research
  • Being creative
  • Travel: I’ll plan a trip soon, methinks, now that my apartment is more like home.
  • Being around people I love, who love me back (First addressed in  mariahrosesramblings.wordpress.com, BREAK the Cypher, January 5th, 2015.)

I’ve, also, been busy sharing through social media. I want to share my recovery, people who I find inspirational, and quotes that provide hope.

Some people who have brain injuries or are chronically ill or are their own worst enemy, stuff like that, feel alone in their struggles.

YOU are not alone. I am not alone. WE ARE NOT ALONE.

By putting words and adding hindsight to photos I’ve posted through my recovery, and sharing what’s helped me throughout it, I’m further coping with my guilt, grief, and depression. I know if just person is positively affected by what I post, the world will be that much more of a better place.

Facebook: You ARE NOT Alone: Recovery

Instagram: youarenotalone138

Twitter: yernotalone138

Tumblr: youarenotalone138

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.

All these resources 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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Adapt, Overcome

“Understanding Is Reached Only after Confrontation”

I’ve been struggling with depression my whole life. Every time I think I’ve shaken it, it creeps back up again. I’ve tried to get a handle on it any way I can.

I was, first, diagnosed with it, about, 7 or 9 years ago. You see, I’ve been seeing my head-shrinker, off and on, for close to ten years. Without divulging too much information, something happened to me, at that time, that I couldn’t deal with on my own. She’s a psychotherapist, which in layman’s terms means she’s a councilor. When I found her, I just wanted someone to talk to. I was ashamed that I needed professional help but didn’t want to talk about my feelings with just anyone. I needed an unbiased ear that I could talk to, objectively.

When I had my stroke, in October of my 28th year, I, among other things, lost my ability for communicating, what I call, “abstract thought,” for a time. Slowly, getting it back, for me, meant facing all I was previously denying because I WILL NEVER TAKE IT FOR GRANTED AGAIN. There was no guarantee people would even be able to understand me, verbally, again. At one point I was convinced I’d be stuck in my own head, with little outlet, forever.

Let me explain further. This may get convoluted because my cognition is still a bit off but, as I mentioned in my ramblings previously, working it out, via text, is helping me “unlock” things, even as I type.

They say, “Hindsight is 20/20.” I’ve been trying to figure out the meaning of “life, the universe, and everything,” since I-can’t-remember when. I’ve, unintentionally, hurt so many people along the way and I was like, “Why you mad, bro?”

I understand now.

I’ve been living according to my dual nature. I don’t, by any means, have a split-personality disorder or anything like that but I’m, constantly, at odds with my emotional self and my logical side. I’m, constantly, battling with my id and super ego. I’m my own worst enemy. I suppose that’s true with most people but it’s hard when your center of gravity is off and you know it, but you sense that everything you do to combat that feeling, is approached . . . just . . . wrong. For the first time, in my life, I’m trying to find a balance and find peace within myself.

So, I’ve been REALLY analyzing myself. One thing Kevin Smith taught me at a young age was that, “Understanding is reached only after confrontation.” That phrase always stuck with me. It’s tough when you want attention but to be left alone. You love supporting your friends but hate crowds. You want to move forward but fear change. You hold onto grudges, while letting other things slide. Understanding and patient with some things, yet like, “WTF?!” with others. Angry, yet apathetic. Codependent, yet independent. Empathic, not sympathetic. Et-fucking-cetera.

I realized, recently, that, in trying to be unlike the people who’ve done me wrong in life, I was doing the opposite, so much so, that I was doing just as much damage. I was so unaware and in such denial. How could I not have known?! I became, through the years, so hellbent on protecting other people that I was only deceiving myself, thereby, doing what was adverse to my intentions and leaving myself even more vulnerable. I knew something was off within me but I couldn’t pinpoint what it was.

One of my pet peeves is when people break promises. In trying to only make promises I can keep, I appear indecisive or uninterested.

I hate being patronized or lied to. So, I’m either too truthful or say nothing at all, depending on the person or situation.

In past months, I’ve dug deep and have been thinking about what got me here; to this point in my life. I’ve realized that what I’ve suppressed and tried to move on from, is at the root of my passion, drive, self-destruction, anxieties, dreams, nightmares, maternal nature, my insatiable appetite, my desire to be loved and never left . . .

Before my stroke, I didn’t have time to think about all those things. I made sure of it. If I wasn’t working, I was traveling or partying. I was running on empty, and I didn’t care because I was trying to make other people happy.

There’s nothing wrong with living life by the Golden Rule but I was doing it at my own expense. Now, my body won’t allow it. I was running around like a chicken with my head lopped off, before. Now, I can’t even imagine having the energy to do a fraction of the things I used to do, day-by-day. Oh well.

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to become the person I always knew I was capable of becoming. I BELIEVE I’ll do great things.

When I first had the stroke, I thought it broke me. I was emotionally back where I was ten years ago. Just . . . lost and in a dark place. But, I’ve learned so much throughout that time, that I’ll be back on my feet soon. I know I will. My bouts with depression, I feel like, will always be an issue but, they’re getting more manageable as time goes on.

I think part of ANY recovery is asking YOURSELF the hard questions and being honest with YOURSELF, before anything, about the answers. Only then, can you start to rebuild and IT’S NEVER TOO LATE! Nobody’s perfect. Everyone has flaws. It’s human nature.

Do your best. If you’re having trouble, regroup. “Dust yourself off and try again.”

The name of the game is, “Adaption.”

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Art, Identity, Tattoos

Identity

I am Mariah Rose and I chose as my identity to be a tattoo artist.

What this meant for me was my clients always came first. Many of my life’s decisions came with that in mind or, at least, anticipating my future clients’ needs.

I think my first life altering decisions in regard to tattooing was leaving my fiancé and making a conscious effort not to bear children. I knew that tattooing would take all of my gumption because I’ve never wanted anything more in my life. I knew my fiancé would make a wonderful father someday and I didn’t know when I would be ready to be a mother and that wasn’t fair to him. When I chose to do something I put all of my eggs in one basket. Motherhood is no joke to me and tattooing isn’t either. So, for the first time, I chose tattooing.

The second decision was when I chose not to be full-time at my job. I turned down a promotion to assistant store manager to focus on what I needed to succeed in tattooing.

What I did do was finish school. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up when I started college in 2003. I started tattooing in 2006. I graduated from Monroe Community College with a degree in Visual Communications, in other words advertising, that year, ‘06. I graduated from SUNY Geneseo in 2008 with a degree in Art History with concentrations on painting and drawing. Why did I bother, you ask? To cover my bases. Not only did I learn some valuable skills but I laid the groundwork for a career in case tattooing didn’t work out. In my studies, I learned to use Photoshop which created shortcuts with design. The art history provided the knowledge to seek out references. My drawing and painting classes helped my technique.

Anything I do or see I try to learn from. Whether it be a class, experiences, a lover, or an enemy. This way, I’ll always be evolving, forever changing.

So, I spent from 2006 on, learning to tattoo; taking little pieces from everywhere I worked and who I worked with. I learned the basics from a few people during my apprenticeship. Then, the floodgates opened. I attribute being able to pack in solid black into a piece and discovering the perfect colors for a harvest moon to one person. I’m grateful that another person took my machine out of my hand and showed me that it’s okay to go deeper. It was specific lessons like those and trial and error that kept me on my toes in the beginning. Then, I began honing my craft and making it my own; all the while, learning, growing and evolving.

Technique isn’t the only thing I’ve taken from tattooing. I’ve also had to learn lessons the hard way. Those who know me well, know that I’m gullible and too quick to trust people. Tattooing gave me a harsh dose of reality real quick and, as with everything, I adapted. For instance, I learned not to work for “free” because I can easily be taken advantage of. There are the people who do it on purpose and you might not even see it coming until it’s too late. And then, there are the people who don’t realize they’re doing it. Maybe you both catch on and correct it. Maybe you don’t. The point is, it’s up to me to lay some ground rules. Sometimes, they don’t need to be spoken and, sometimes, they need to be spelled out. It’s also up to me to have the tact to know the difference.

Another lesson is: don’t shit where you eat. That’s one that’s universal, though.

Tattooing is very drama filled if you aren’t careful. Some of the best advice I’ve gotten is: ‘’Concentrate on your art. The rest will follow.” It’s easy to get wrapped up in what everyone else is doing. I’m still guilty of placating to everyone around me but it’s about finding a balance.

One of the things I’ve found with tattooing is I’m exposed to people from all walks of life. Now I’m no stranger to soccer moms, bikers, Marines, nurses, reformed drug addicts, pizza delivery dudes, and everyone in between. I know alcoholics, narcissists, sociopaths, models, and just your average Joes. And you know what? I love it. Not only do I learn something from the tattooers I work with but I learn something from every person who sits in my chair. I’ve become a student of the world. I’ve always said, if I feel like there’s nothing left to learn I should quit while I’m ahead.

Did I mention, I love my job? Not in so many words but I do. I love being able to make people happy. I love being able to memorialize a person or event and trying out new colors or techniques. I love being able to pick someone’s brain that I admire. I love to travel and the atmosphere at conventions. I love being in my own space and surrounded by my knick-knacks and my books and putting a piece of myself in everything I do. My clients can see that, and are so grateful because I’m grateful too. I’m grateful for everything.

I always said I would stop tattooing if I physically couldn’t do it anymore; like if I got arthritis or something. Imagine my surprise when I had a stroke at 28 years young.

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