Last Sunday my dad and I arrived in Manhattan. It was a whirlwind of activity as we took the taxi from La Guardia to our hotel on West 54th St. and Broadway. As we pulled up to our hotel at 1:30, I noticed the flashing lights on the right side of the road. And there, across the street from our hotel, was the one play I really wanted to see during our time there, “Cabaret” with Allan Cummings and Michelle Williams. While Dad checked us in, I scoped out the availability of last minute tickets. It was Michelle Williams’ last performance, and I knew they wouldn’t be cheap. But I landed in the student rush line and eventually made it to the box office. Just ten minutes before the 2:00 matinee, we were able to score two incredible tickets for one of the best productions I’ve ever seen. The timing couldn’t have been any better!
This introduction obviously has nothing to do with the title of this post. However, it lets you know where we were physically and emotionally as we thought about the easiest way to get dinner after the show. We were exhausted and hadn’t had a moment to stop and breathe. There was a Whole Foods just a few blocks away, and I thought that might be the best way to satisfy both of us since we didn’t know anything about what lay beyond our one block radius yet. Little did we know…
It may not appear that way as you look down the escalator with only the flowers in view, but trust me. The Columbus Circle Whole Foods really is hell on earth! Literally thousands of people are buzzing through the store with their carts, not afraid to knock anyone over who happens to be in their way. The escalator takes you directly to the food court, which is an array of fresh sushi, sandwiches, salads, pizza, a bakery, hot food bar, salad bar, dessert bar, and olive bar. Every kind of bar you can think of is squished into this small section of the store. And it’s busy all of the time!
This store is not disability friendly, I can assure you of that. Here’s Dad waiting in line with about 200 other people who are trying to gather their groceries for the week. There are 30 cashiers, and it still takes forever. I could never go here to shop because I wouldn’t be able to stand in line this long.
We noticed this was the case at stores that were closer to Times Square, where there was one cashier for a line of 30 people at Walgreen’s. What’s up with that? Like any place, you just have to know where to go. We learn through experience, right? Had Dad and I not experienced this completely insane environment, I never would’ve believed it. I’ve been in Whole Foods all over the country, but I’ve never seen anything like this. How can people who are in such a hurry all the time patronize a place where you have no choice but to wait in line for an hour to buy your groceries, even if it’s ten items or less?
We’ve all experienced trauma in one way or another throughout our lives. Many of us experience hellacious situations that we don’t feel like we can ever get out of, whether it be the job we go to every day, a family situation, or other life situations that clearly aren’t good for us. How long must we endure this kind of emotional and physical torture before we say enough is enough? For me, going on disability made me realize what is truly important in life. There is no reason for me to be unhappy day after day. I have a choice, and albeit risky, I can choose a different path. We all know the toll that stress takes on our bodies and all of the research that supports the negative effects stress has on our health. I truly believe my constant level of immense stress was a major cause of why I was diagnosed with cervical dystonia. No one can prove it, since so little research has been done on dystonia, but my diagnosis sure made me think twice about the amount of stress I will allow into my life from this point onward.
For Dad and I in New York City, we could choose to not return to Whole Foods again. And once we got a glimpse of the city in the daytime, we realized there was a health food market just two blocks away. New choices! Sometimes they appear to be so far away, but when we allow ourselves to take the time to look closely, chances are good that one is sitting right in front of us. Having someone else beside you to help you spot the alternatives you might miss on your own is important too.
Taking risks is not easy, and for me at this stage of my life, a lot of it comes down to money. Do I have money that will support me if I want to pursue one of my passions? What if I fail? And I find that as a single woman, more and more, it becomes more difficult to take these risks. If I had a partner in my life who gave me the support I really should be offering to myself, I feel like I’d be more motivated to take a chance on making new choices. Whatever your risks are that you are afraid to take on your journey, I wonder what the worse thing is that would happen if you failed. Then again, what would happen if you succeeded?
None of us deserve to live in purgatory, whether it be a physical place, a job, a relationship, emotional issues that remain with us…While we all know that mental illness and addictions cause the people who have these diseases to constantly struggle (which is putting it lightly), we aren’t going to explore that topic here since I wrote about it in a previous post, “2 Minute Discussions”. Dealing with any difficult issue is not easy. I know. My own experiences with loss, betrayal, abuse and being engaged to an alcoholic have been complicated, to say the least. I’m sure you have your own stories you are still trying to process so that you can let them go.
With my current health status, I live with the questions every day, as I’ve had to accept a life of pain and uncertainty about what my future will hold. Will I have health insurance in 2015? Will I ever be able to go back to work? When will I finally be approved for Social Security Disability? Will there ever be relief from the pain? Or will I finally meet the man of my dreams, who just happens to be financially stable enough for both of us? Now I’m not looking for someone I can be dependent on financially, but it sure would be a relief to not have to worry about finances while I’m forced to put my health needs first. Let’s be honest. It’d be nice for all of us to not to have to worry about finances, wouldn’t it?
When Dad and I stopped at the HBO Shop during our trip, I bought a mug that was so typical of Larry David in “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. It reads “Half Empty. Half Empty.” With my Cervical Dystonia, I could easily succumb to this motto and stop living my life. Stop doing the things that truly inspire me, ease my daily pain and make me happy. Traveling, learning and writing are my three main passions. I can’t imagine my life without them, since so much of my time is spent in excruciating pain. We have so little time in life, though. Why would we want to waste it on experiences that make us unhappy? Times and people that do not nourish us but deplete us? The purpose of life is to find peace, happiness and to live our lives in that way. For many of us, this is a new way of thinking.
We have always accepted that life was meant to be hard. That’s just not the case! Be who you want to be now! Don’t waste a single second more on something that sucks you dry. You deserve more. Once you realize this and start living your life anew, you will attract other people who live their lives in the same way. And that’s when you will ascend from the well in which you’ve been slowly dying to find that you are worthy of everything life has to offer. You are worthy! Just say it aloud until you feel it. You don’t need to prove it to anyone else because we should all be creating heaven on earth, from the time we’re born until the day our journey takes us elsewhere. But you do need to believe it about yourself. I know this can take a long time, but it’s well worth investing in yourself.
MY HOPES: I’m pretty sure you can figure out my hopes for this one on your own. When we are feeling down, there is always hope. It just might take us a while to figure out what that hope is. To learn to ask for help. To figure out what we can learn about ourselves in any situation so that we can become the grandest version of ourselves. Or as Larry David would not say, to see our glasses “Half full. Half full.” every day. What are the ingredients that make your glass half full? Whether you are living a life with a chronic illness or not, it’s essential to mix those ingredients into your life on a regular basis.