Ever-Changing Reflection

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding... It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility.
~ Kahlil Gibran

Monday, November 28, 2011

#21DJC: I'm going back in time, like Huey Lewis and the News...

This is a catch-up journal entry, but one that I was very excited about. Hindsight is always 20/20, they say, and I really try to live in the present and stay out of the past. However, I do believe it is often worthwhile to reflect on some key decisions you made in the past and what you learned to gain some insight into the present and how you would like to act in the future. That said...

Image credit: Personal Excellence blog

If you are to travel back in time to three years ago, what advice would you give yourself? How old were you three years ago? What was happening at that time? What would you say to yourself and why?

Let's start with the easy facts. Three years ago was November 2008, and I was 27. This was before I started this blog, so we cannot go back to this time in Nifer Musings history to see where I was and what I was thinking. No, you're just going to have to take my word on all of this. My life was radically different.

I was slaving away at the same job I had been doing for two and a half years, and I dreaded going into work every day. I loved my teammates, but all the drama surrounding me and what I did was ridiculous. I was looking for a way out professionally and felt pretty discouraged. The light at the end of the tunnel was my freelance gig, which I still maintain today.

The one awesome thing about my job was the amount of vacation I received. I had just returned from a week-long cruise in Bermuda with my boyfriend, best friend and her husband. We had a great time, despite the ship not living up to our expectations.

Overall I was happy. I was dating the man I had loved for years (and still am!), I had enough freedom and plenty of cash due to living at home. Life was pretty good.

Ok, there was another dark spot: my father was sick and on dialysis for kidney disease, which I have wrote about on this blog. He was getting progressively worse, and his deteriorating health strained all of our relationships.

If I could go back and have a cup of coffee with 27-year-old me, I would tell her to slow down and relax. Back then, I was very anxious for the next thing -- getting a better job, making more money, progressing my relationship, moving out of my parents' house. All of that came, and will come, in time. Perhaps it all came too quickly because I was pushing too hard for it. There is a time, a season and a reason. Respect that.

I would advise myself to be patient with my parents since they were going through an awful time, facing challenges no one should have to face. I would let myself know that things would get better soon; Dad would not be sick forever, and once he started feeling better, he would be happier and easier to get along with.

Be grateful for what you have and where you are right now; this is the easy time when you don't have the world on your shoulders, you aren't particularly challenged professionally or emotionally or financially, and you are free to travel and have a little bit of 20-something fun. Enjoy that. Live it up. Don't take it for granted. Someday you will miss the things you are cursing now.

See? Those are all lessons that I can apply now, as well as I could have applied them three years ago. In fact, we could all apply them now, I am sure.

So, what would you tell yourself if you could travel back three years? Where and who were you then?

Monday, November 21, 2011

#21DJC: The Dark Side of Me

Image credit: weheartit
What is the most painful thing you have ever experienced to date? What happened and why was it painful to you?

Several incidents ran across my mind when I read today's journal challenge question: break-ups, surgeries, lost friendships, accidents, childhood teasing... but none of those match my battle with depression.

I found the above image, and I thought it was a good visual of what living with depression -- or at least my depression -- feels like. The vast emptiness swallows you so that you view the world through a dim, dulled lens. The pain is sharp at times, aching but constant at others, and it permeates everything... even those drips of happy moments you catch. Depression claims you, and over time, you lose who you were, who you are, and you just become sadness and exhaustion. Oh, the exhaustion is overwhelming. I remember just being so tired with life -- with my life in particular. I was truly lost. Nothing excited me, nothing stirred the passion inside me. I just hurt. All. The. Time.

I faced two periods of deep, serious depression, both of which followed romantic break-ups but also times of intense change in my life. I think the combination of losing someone I cared about, questioning my self-worth and attempting to find my way on new ground was the recipe for the perfect storm.

The first came during my freshman year of college, and lasted through my sophomore, and maybe even the  beginning of my junior year. I was away from home, in a big city, by myself. Unlike some of my friends, I didn't have fellow high school classmates at my selected university, and that university had a starkly different culture than the warm, comfortable high school I left. I had a strong vision for my education and future career, but that was about all I had. I didn't make friends easily because I didn't know who I was and I wasn't will to trust. I didn't even trust myself, that I made the right choice for me at the time. Eventually, I made friends -- people who understood me -- and I realized my high school friendships weren't going anywhere. I learned to lean on my support system and on myself. I started to appreciate where I was and open myself to new people and experiences -- although not as much as I now wish I did. The depression faded.

It came raging back after college graduation. Again, I had just broken up with my boyfriend at the time, and I was not where I always thought I would be. I wasn't working in my field. I wasn't even writing. I was discouraged and defeated. Again, I didn't know who I was, and I didn't trust myself. I didn't trust myself to make the right choices, to know the right path, to accomplish my goals and dreams, to be successful. It was self-sabotage at its worst. I recognized this demon within, and I reached out for help. I clued friends into what was going on, and I even asked my doctor to recommend a psychologist, whom I never called. I didn't have the courage. DON'T LET THAT BE YOU. I eventually recovered and bounced back, but the process could have been faster, easier, more comfortable and ultimately more enlightening with professional help. I believe that by not seeking professional help, I left myself open to be struck a third time.

I missed out on so much because of my depression. Two formative years -- after high school and college graduation -- that are supposed to be about self-discovery, trial and error, beginnings, growth, and acceptance were fraught with nothing but pain, sadness, isolation, self-hate, fear and loss. I do not have any regrets in my life except for this one: that I let depression take over and steal those years from me. Whenever I feel myself slipping, I remember that, and I refuse to let those feelings and that dark side of my mind take any more from me.

I am by no means a mental health expert, and I do not recommend my path to anyone. Know that I am sharing this as part of my journaling experience, and if a side effect of that is someone is helped, I am grateful. If you, or someone you care about, is suffering from depression, I urge you to talk about it with whomever you feel comfortable. No one should have to face this demon alone.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

#21DJC: What does love mean to you?

Image credit: Personal Excellence blog
What does love mean to you? What words or phrases would you use to describe love? How do you identify if you are feeling the emotion of love, or something else? What does the word 'love' mean to you?

Love means...

  • light
  • freedom
  • unselfishness
  • warmth
  • caring
  • sensitivity
  • thoughtfulness
  • gratefulness
  • forgiveness
  • hugs and kisses
  • knowledge
  • understanding
  • listening
  • giving
  • acceptance
  • worth
  • respect
  • affection
  • time
  • sharing
  • common interest
  • happiness
I thought a little free association might help with answering this huge question. Throughout my life so far, I have had many different definitions and understandings of love: parental, sibling, friend, romantic, unconditional, divine... and each stage has been different and more intense. I ask myself this question periodically, but now, it seems like you can't really define love; it is like trying to define God, and some will say God is love. I certainly believe that love is divine, and when we love, we reflect the divine in ourselves. I believe that God wholly encompasses love, and nothing else. Therefore, love -- regardless of who it's for or with -- is incredibly personal and spiritual, while being completely universal.

How do I know when I feel love? Well, it's two things. First, I am unselfish; I feel the need to give to whomever I feel love towards. I want to share... everything... Second, I feel whole when I am loved and when I am loving. Love completes us -- not that a person completes us, but the act of loving and accepting love completes us. When either of these is not present, it's not love. When both of these conditions are present, I know there is love, and I am whole and happy.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Friday Blanks Break

Gah! I got off track with my journal challenge again and forgot to write yesterday! Lately, the days have just been getting away from me, and I have a hard time fitting everything in. I've also been a lot less organized than I usually am. Anyone else experiencing this?

I hope to post my journal entry for today a bit later, but for now, how about some fill-in-the-blanks courtesy of Lauren?

Image credit: Lauren
 1. A nervous habit I have is playing with my Claddaugh ring. When I'm nervous, I'll twist it around my finger and pull it on and off. Someone called me out on it once, and it was a bit embarrassing!

2. Something that makes me sad is this news story I heard at the beginning of the week about some people using a rabbit as a hockey puck. The poor thing was so beaten. I hate animal cruelty -- even roadkill.

3. Today I am thankful for awesome plans tonight! With this cold and sinus infection, I haven't done anything fun that I've enjoyed in two weeks, and I have had to cancel a bunch of plans.

4. My favorite room in my house is the master bedroom. It's all beach themed and shades of blue -- my favorite color. It's so soothing and relaxing.

5. I can't stand messiness, which I just read a great blog post about. I'm a bit OCD, and it drives Jed nuts.

6. If I had an extra $100 to spend on whatever I wanted today, I would treat myself to a few extra drinks tonight and maybe a sassy pair of new shoes to wear.

7. The last person I hung out with was Jed, all week long.

What do you have going on this weekend? Whatever it is, I hope you enjoy and get a well-deserved rest!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

#21DJC: I get by with a little help from my friends...

Oh ain't it the truth, and 'friends' is an all-inclusive term for me. I have friends in the traditional sense, but I also include my boyfriend and family as friends -- well, in some cases anyway.

Image credit: Google Images
Today's journal challenge topic is: Who do you enjoy spending time with?

The answer is a bit obvious here, folks, I enjoy spending time with people I consider friends. But, let's get more specific -- perhaps a top 10 list is in order... well, in no particular order.

10. My boyfriend. While I don't always enjoy time spent in the daily grind with each, I can say that I truly enjoy spending time with Jed. I love doing new and different things with him. He's the ultimate travel buddy. I love watching him discover the world, and I love that I can be myself, always, around him. I love the sound of our mutual laughter and conversation.

9. My dog, Morris. How can you not include your pet on this list? My dog just brings me simple joy. Whether I am playing with him, snuggling with him or just watching him sleep from across the room, he makes me smile. He reminds me that life doesn't have to be so complicated all the time.

8. Yelpers. Wow, what a fun, diverse, united, interesting group of people they are. I haven't met a Yelper yet that I didn't like, and I'm meeting new Yelp friends all the time (if you haven't jumped head first into your local Yelp community, get on it). This collective stretches me, challenges me and pulls me out of my comfort zone; it's incredible that a group of people with only a website and a city in common get along so well and become such fast friends.

7. My sister. Ok, so we have spent the better part of our lives as mortal enemies, but something shifted over the last five years or so, and now, sister time is fun time. Usually. There is an inexplicable sisterly bond that makes time spent together like time spent with your clone. We come from exactly the same place. We don't have to explain what we mean. Sometimes a look or an act says everything. We share enough in common to have fun together, but also have just the right amount of separate interests to keep the relationship interesting.

6. "The group." There's some overlap here, as "the group" consists of three couples: Jed and I, best friend and hubby, and JB and girlfriend. These are my closest friends in the world. We get together every other week (and have been for, like, eight years) to eat dinner and catch up on our lives. These are the people I call when I'm looking for something to do. These are the people I go on vacation with. They have all been there for me in their own way, and they always support me.

5. The band. When I want to dance, this is who I look for, and they are usually playing somewhere good. One of these guys is a close friend of mine, and I totally enjoy the one-on-one time we get to spend together because this is the person I talk to about dreams -- he's living his, and I think it's inspiring. They bring out a little bit of my alter ego, and it is always a good time.

4. My dad. Oh yes, I am a Daddy's Girl. I share several traits with my father, from physical to personality, and for that I'm proud. Dad and I can chat about everything from TV shows and cooking techniques to what I'm going to do with my life. He looks out for me, and he is the number one person I go to for practical advice.

3. Auntie. She's the cool aunt. The one without kids of her own that adopts her nieces and nephews. The one who got me into golfing and skiing. The one young enough to be my friend but old enough to have been my babysitter. We share books and weekend trips. She's always interested in talking about what I have been up to and where I have been.

2. Mom. For the simple reason that she is my mother and knows me like no one else -- even when I haven't even told her about everything. Mom just knows. When I am sad or confused or upset or scared or happy, she is the person I want to be around. I may not tell her what is causing what I'm feeling, but just her being there resolves almost anything. Mom is home.

1. My best friend. I never spend enough time with this girl. I have never grown tired of spending time with her in the 16 years I've known her; I've never needed a break. I love her to pieces. Whether we are out and about, sharing a meal, tanning on the beach, or just sitting on a couch, time spent together is always time enjoyed immensely. How she sees me is how I most love to see myself, and it is probably my truest self. She never judges, always listens. She cares. And, perhaps the best part of all is that it is entirely mutual.

There are several people that I definitely could have added to this list -- so if you're reading, and you weren't mentioned, it doesn't mean anything, I promise. It is interesting to note that in all of these relationships, during all of the times I have spent with these people, there is one thread that runs through. That thread is comfort. Nothing is forced or feigned in these relationships. Conversation comes easily and naturally, and when it doesn't come at all, that is perfectly fine. Through all of these relationships I can find myself.

And that is the mark of a true friend.

Worthwhile exercise: Who do you enjoy spending time with, and why?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

#21DJC: A little competition is healthy.

Apologies I have not been keeping up with my journal entries for #21DJC. Last week I developed a horrible sinus infection, so I have been spending all of my free time sleeping or chilling in front of the TV. Each day I have been feeling a little bit better, so I'm back to catch up on these prompts, starting with today's. I'll continue with each day's prompts and schedule the previous prompts as posts when I can.

Photo credit: Personal Excellence blog

Today's topic is: What drives you?

While it is not always the best driver, competition does drive me. I have always loved striving for the top -- amongst my peers as well as against myself. Lately, the competition with myself has become more important to me. Constantly improving. Increasing my strengths and skills. Developing my abilities. While my passions and interests constantly evolve and change, this desire to push to be better remains.

I am also a collector, not so much of things, but of knowledge and experience. I love to learn and read, which is evident in my to-read book list, the piles of magazines around the house and my Google Reader. I am constantly reading and absorbing new information. I also enjoy traveling and exploring new parts of my community. As an avid Yelper, I love trying new businesses and posting reviews. I challenge myself at work to learn new parts of the business and get involved in different projects.

All of this contributes to transforming myself into the best version possible, which I think is one of the reasons we are here. As Celes wrote, in reflection of the self-love posts yesterday, we are all on a journey to become better, and that journey has no end. It is the journey that matters -- what pushes us and the choices we make along the way.

What drives you? In life, at work, in your relationships...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

#21DJC: What is your ideal diet?

My ideal diet would be perfectly balanced and include the freshest, local meats, fish, fruits and vegetables. I'm also going to throw in that I would like to have a personal chef who would prepare every meal for me and ensure I am getting all of the nutrients I need daily. I struggle to come up with consistently healthy meals on a daily basis; I get lazy quite a bit, which is why I love going out to eat.

Where I am usually reasonably active. I would eat five to six times a day: three meals and two or three snacks when I need them. I love hot breakfasts, and I hardly ever have time to make one. So, at least three times a week, I'd want a hot breakfast with eggs, French toast, pancakes, or something along those lines. It would also be awesome to have fresh fruit with breakfast daily -- that is one of my favorite parts of going on a cruise, the fresh fruit.

While I love hot breakfasts, I usually prefer cold lunches on the smaller side. Gourmet sandwiches and salads would be my rule.

Dinners are all about variety. I love trying new foods and flavor combinations, so dinner is the time to go wild with food. I want it all: meat, fish, pasta, vegetarian, pulling from different places around the world. Make my mouth water during dinner.

For snacks, I usually have one mid-afternoon between lunch and dinner. And, although it's not the best for me, I am a dessert girl. Whip me up something sweet for after dinner.

What is your ideal diet? Are you eating it now?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Around the world in... however long it takes.

If you are to do something for free for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I'm assuming this question means free of compensation and free of cost -- at least that is how I am interpreting it. The true question is: What is your real passion? What is priceless to you?

So, assuming I am independently wealthy and have no need to make money nor spend money, I would travel, around the world, to every continent and every country. Then I would go back and visit my favorites again. I'd start with every state in the United States, then I'd tackle all of North America. I would make my way South to Central and South America before hopping over to the South Pacific and Australia. I'd trek through Asia and the Middle East, down through Africa and back up through Europe.

While I'm exploring, I will write about what I find and how I feel about it; I will photograph the beautiful and the ugly I see. I would love to share it with the people I love.

I want to see everything this world has to offer, taste food around the globe, hear different languages and meet different people. I want to learn about different cultures and history and religion. And somewhere along the way, I hope I finally discover who I am and where I belong.

I know I don't have to take an around-the-world trip to find myself, but I am the type of person who needs to know all of the options available to me before making a choice. I am the kind of person who agonizes over not being able to try everything, and that paralyzes me in my decisions, making me always second guess what is right for me. Therefore, if i were free to do something for the rest of my life, I would explore all of my options and find the option that fits me best.

What would you do?

Monday, November 7, 2011

#21DJC: If I had a million dollars...

I'm participating in a journaling challenge over the next three weeks, and I wanted to share my entries here. This should be interesting, and I really hope to stick with the daily writing schedule. If you'd like to sign up, click the link above. Celes has some really interesting questions (I've participated in her challenges before), and she really tries to build a good community.

With that little introduction, let's get on with the first entry, shall we?

Image credit: Google Images
What would you do if you have one million dollars?

I have actually put a lot of thought into this question over the years because I'd love to be independently wealthy and never have to worry about money again. I also suffer from an overactive imagination.

The first thing I would do is pay off my parents' mortgage, so they wouldn't have to worry about the house. I would also give them money to create their dream kitchen and fix up the bathrooms.

Next, I would automatically put 30% into savings... for a rainy day, for vacations, for my children's education.

Then I would build boyfriend's and my dream house somewhere and sell our house now. Finally, I'd buy a new car -- the one I really want -- pay off my studient loans and other debt, and go on a relaxing two-week vacation in Hawaii.

I'm pretty sure that would account for all of it. Now that I actually budget it out, could I have two million?
What would you do with one million dollars?