Last weekend I traveled to Chicago, to meet friends I have never met, but have known for years, accept a challenge I never believed I could meet, and live to write about, and to just spend some time elsewhere. Somewhere, out of the drama and sadness that my life has been for the last 6 years. I threw the negativity out the window, somewhere in Indiana. I love to drive, so I drove. I love to meet and talk to people, even if it’s just for a few seconds. I like to think that’s all it takes to make an impact on someone. A kind word, a compassionate hug, a shared tear. So I was going to meet these people I had been friends with, virtually, for the first time. The friends I met, have been my friends from a distance, for a long time, some of them. I met some on Catster, ( http://www.catster.com/) back when it was the social media outlet for cat lovers and before Facebook was even a twinkle in Zuckerberg’s, daddy’s eye. We all met there, and on Facebook, and on FDMB (https://www.facebook.com/groups/felinediabetes/) too, where we shared our love and knowledge with people who were new to the diabetic cat world. We had these connections, and they grew, and its is the most amazing and wonderful experience to have met them, in person.
The whole weekend was about walking, talking and connecting. Not just to them, but to the person I was before I lost my world, and my deep self. I was a dynamic speaker, a brave and fearless advocate for the rescue cause. I believed in myself and that what I was doing, was my calling in life. I still feel that way, but when it all fell so terribly apart, I lost that dynamic energy, and the fear set in and took hold of the courage I had. I have lost a lot of very significant things and people in my life, and loss is something I know a lot about. People have take, take, taken from me and I let, let, let them, to the point that I, at some point completely lost me. It wasn’t really a choice, It just happened.
I had no idea who I am. Or who I was. Me was gone. Truly.
I hate the saying “life is about choices” as if there is some magical ball I can look into and it will let me know the man I am about to marry will someday be an alcoholic and a cheater and cost me everything, from my home to my animals, and finally cost me myself. I am pretty sure being raped and pregnant wasn’t a choice either. I want that damn ball, so I can get the lottery numbers from it. I despise the smugness with which people use it, on people who have been dropped to the ground by the uncontrollable circumstances in their life. It makes me want to be violent, so they can see how little, choices actually have to do with life, for some of us. I hate the way people make that statement, all confident that their life will never have that kind of circumstance. I despise it most, because I don’t know anyone who has not had the rug jerked out from under them at least once in their lifetime. I can’t tolerate smug. Humility is a hard lesson. Kindness is lacking, and compassion disappears with that one statement.
But I digress. Sorry.
This weekend was an awakening in me. I accepted this challenge on a few different levels, one was to raise funds to promote the AVON 39, which is the good part of AVON in my eyes. They use their brand name for a good purpose.
You can find out more about it here… ( http://www.avon39.org/about/ )
Not that others don’t, I just chose AVON because it represented a challenge on a lot of different levels. Thanks to all the people who donated to my walk, I met that challenge. No one does this alone. It made me a part of a team, a bigger picture, not alone.
It was also a challenge for me to step outside that comfort zone of doing nothing, and into the zone of doing Something! Becoming a part of the solution, again. All of the trash piles and losses took that part of me and added it to the pile. The trash pile of losses.
You have to understand the things I lost, that were me, to understand what I found on that walk.
*Myself, the person I was.
*My passion for the promotion of good.
*My deep confidence that I could make good choices. Because after all, “life is about choices”.
*The abandon I used to feel when speaking to people. There was a caution, an indifference there.
*The knowledge that I could do anything I set my mind to do. It disappeared when I realized I could not save a marriage, that really never existed. Commitment in a marriage takes 2. I made that mistake twice.
*Most significant though, in the loss of myself, was the loss of belonging somewhere. I fit nowhere. I was alone, and because as you all know by now, “life is about your choices” and “you cant focus on the past” and you need to “pull yourself up by the boot straps” ( imagine the most sarcastic person you know, saying those things, angrily), I stayed alone. Isolated.
The rest of the “things” I lost, the house, the job, the useless liar I married, the “best” friend, paled in comparison to the loss of my beloved rescue and the animals still caught in it. That was what really destroyed parts of me I could not link to. I still cannot talk about that without losing my composure. I cant even write about it, without tears. It was truly my dream come true to be a part of the solution, on some small, bandaidy, level. To make a difference, a real tangible difference in 2 lives, not just in the saving of the animals, but to bring together those animals, with the people who wanted them, who would love and cherish them and never toss them aside like so much trash. Those smiles on those faces, mostly the kids, were the single most joyful part of rescue. The chance meetings at the adoption events were my social outlet.
Losing my dream, seeing the hurt and confusion and fear in my animal’s’ eyes crushed my entire spirit. Literally.
So, for the last few years I have been in this limbo of nothingness. No friends I could physically link to, no social life, no home that wasn’t someone elses’ space, no privacy to grieve, in essence, just nowhere safe. All I had was Facebook, and family functions as a social outlet. I was lonely, tired, fat and worthless, to myself anyway. I have a job, it pays the bills, but not enough to live on my own. I have people I associate with there, but I am not part of their outside of work, groups. I am old. And alone, except for family. I love my family, but it’s not enough.
Somewhere, somehow I connected with this group of dynamic women, mostly on Facebook, that all have their own stories, who also have the same love of cats that I have, and who also have a purpose. They are all part of a Facebook page and movement, called “Sugar Rub” (https://www.facebook.com/Sugar-Rub-587437321283860/?fref=ts) with a common, passionate, purpose. To raise awareness among pet owners of all kinds, that “PETS GET BREAST CANCER TOO!” Jeanette Cereske started this movement after the loss of her beautiful Sugar, to feline mammary cancer. We came together to raise awareness on a 39.3 mile walk, for AVON to raise funds for humans, and also to share our message to check your pets monthly, every time you check yourself. We walked a marathon and a half, in Chicago, sharing that message with anyone who would listen. So many people came to Jeanette with her Sugar sign and asked about it. We all carried many reasons for walking, but for all of us, we carried two in particular. Justice for Joey, and Sugar Rub. We had those two heart purposes, with us all the way.
Surprisingly to me, very few people I spoke to realized that their pet could get breast cancer too! I was shocked, really.
Jeanette, Tomi, Laura who is a breast cancer Previvor ((bilateral mastectomy after BRCA 2+ diagnosis), Sue Lyn, Jeff, Andrea, Julia, and I WALKED 39.3 miles, over 2 days, and raised awareness about pets and breast cancer. The world’s best crew, Missy, Lori and Angie, Barry and Heather and John were our personal cheerleaders and kept us safe and fed. But it was SO much more than that. It was connection with friends, I had only known from a distance, and virtually for a lot of years. We have shared and laughed and cried with each other through the losses of our beloved cats, through the Pet Cancer support page
( https://www.facebook.com/groups/1382110318689049/) that Jeanette also started. Some of us were friends, long before Facebook, on Catster, which is where MY link to all of these wonderful women started. We also met some of the members of that group and connected with them as well.
It was AMAZING!!! Chicago is amazing, the artwork, the architecture and the public transportation all rock! We walked 7+ miles all around Chi-town the day before we walked a marathon. We got to know one another, and we laughed a lot! And we cried too. I spent a lot of time crying. My friends brought me a box, made from love, in Princeton’s memory. Inside it, are cards I have not read yet, a soft, beautiful memento, hand made with love by one of the members of our group, and the most beautiful necklace, also made in their shared love of Princeton, and ME! I cried. A LOT!
For those of you who don’t know Princeton, he was my kitty I lost to lymphoma, 2 weeks before the walk. I felt very alone after his loss. He was my constant reminder that life is fragile, be kind to it. Having the weight of being alone lifted, was like no other feeling I can describe. If you know me, you know I tried a thousand ways and times to talk myself out of this trip. It’s been my MO for the last few years, and it comes with the worthlessness territory, and is very common among survivors of some of the things I have been through, in my life. Trash piles, piled up and fermented into a brew of believing I was worthless, and could do nothing. SO not true, but it was what I was left with, believing it without knowing I was believing it. Worthlessness is an insidious monster, that permeates life’s trash piles.
Walking 39.3 miles, connecting with confident, beautiful, passionate, women cures that. Connecting with friends, in person, was a gift beyond description. I just cannot explain it, you just have to feel it to understand what that does to a person with zero self esteem. And having them BELIEVE you, CAN walk 39 miles, with them, as a team. We built each other up, laughed, cried, talked and walked! We spread the word about people’s pets, and we connected. Most of all we connected, or I connected, to their group. I was a part of them, I fit, I found a place to belong. It doesn’t matter that they are from all over the country, from Maryland to San Francisco, it doesn’t matter, we all met in Chicago and the connection was profound and words cannot describe how beautiful it was to me.
So, if you went to the AVON 39 page, and checked it out,
you will see the link to that statement: CRUSHED IT!
I CRUSHED that worthlessness, CRUSHED that trash pile, and purged that part of it, from my life. Now, if I can just keep that feeling of positive energy, and healing and use that momentum to move me forward, I will have my purpose back! I CRUSHED so much more than those 39.3 miles. And I invited positive, powerful, purposeful energy and women back into my life. You don’t undo the trash piles, but you can climb them and walk past them.
You can CRUSH them!
THAT’S a choice!