guest of the week: robert collins

balance, Guest Blogger, inspiration, Kindness, life, Positive Thinking, recovery, slow down

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Anytime someone agrees to share their story with me I do a little happy dance. I love reading these excerpts as much as I love writing my own. I was especially delighted when Bobby agreed to open up and talk about a subject that is elusive to most people I know; Balance. Bobby and I went to the same high school, he was older than me and we hung out with different people, but if you went to Meyers High School, you knew who Bobby Collins was. His personality was larger than life. Fast forward some 12 odd years, and I was given the chance to get to know Bobby. I found out that his heart was just as large, if not larger than what I remember from school. Recovery brought us together, and it’s been a gift to watch him grow and flourish. Bobby was there for me when my mom passed away. He showed up at my house with flowers and his companionship. I will forever be grateful to the love and kindness that he spreads throughout this world.

A Delicate Balancing Act

Becoming overwhelmed seems like a natural and easily triggered state, for myself. Knowing how to say ‘no’, walk away, or even prioritize things in life can be a tricky practice. Yes, a practice. One in which at times I feel like I fail at, however, I know it is through failure and trials that comes growth and expertise. I like to think that in my “previous” life as an active alcoholic I was able to balance things, but the reality was – I knew how to do one thing correctly, drink, and drink in excess was the mission. When I found recovery and started to work on the inner workings of me I found a new freedom. One that lead me into a recovered state of mind, body and spirit. I assumed that with this serene state of being I would be able to balance life and life’s circumstances; boy was I wrong.

How do you find balance in your day-to-day activities and life? What do you do when your plate is too full? Is there truly enough time in the day to get everything accomplished? As a person in recovery I have at times a seemingly urge to strive to get everything done. To get where I think I am supposed to be in life if I didn’t have my “mishaps”. But then reality sets in and the lack of peace and unsteadiness comes about, and I remember, ‘Easy Does It’. I didn’t get here overnight and I’m in a marathon, not a sprint.

For me, it’s about learning how to balance and practice the art of balancing. I do this through easy and simple steps:

  1. I start my day by meditating and clearing my mind from any obstacles
  2. Write down a list of things that need to be accomplished-
    1. by writing a list it helps me visually understand what it is important
  3. Know when my plate is full and have the ability to say no
  4. When to walk away, ask for help or simply take a break

Life has the funny ability to provide each and every one of us many gifts, but awareness and self-awareness are indispensable and our biggest assets. It is always OK to pause and understand when something isn’t serving you a greater good or purpose to walk away. If we are not growing from it; how are we learning from it? If this task, person, thing or subject is keeping you off balance, it is your sole responsibility to be in tune with your inner peace and know how to say ‘No’. It owes no explanation and carries a complete sentence behind it.

Balancing life carries a fine line between peace and turmoil. One which provides an abundance of happiness and contentment and one that has a burden of destruction. Therefore, balancing life is a skill we must practice on a daily basis and requires discipline, structure and constant revisiting on all of our parts. Life is a journey and therefore we must remember to enjoy the ride.

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guest of the week: anonymous

Guest Blogger, Love, relationships

anonymous

I’m really excited to share my first anonymous guest post. Whenever I approach someone about featuring their story, I give them the option to share anonymously. Honestly, I feel that when we don’t reveal our true identity it’s easier to share our deepest, maybe darkest thoughts with the world. I remember making up aliases back in the day, sharing my words, protected by my anonymity.

I love what I’m about to share with you, someone baring their soul, being honest and real about their feelings. Making a promise that they will change their ways. This is what the guest spot really means to me, people being real and letting us into their lives, even if we don’t know their name.

“I’m bad at being loved – like really bad.  I have pushed away probably any person that has ever attempted to love me outside of my family.  But I hate being hurt, and that’s why I do it.  Sure, some things may be amazing and they may last for a long time, but what about when they end?  Because from my experience all good things come to an end, especially relationships.  So here I am at 25, realizing I’m in love with the world’s most perfect man and he’s not coming back.

We grew up playing soccer together and he was always the shy guy, the quiet nerdy one that found it extremely difficult to strike up a conversation.  And I was always the one in the middle of a conversation – usually the one to start it no matter who it was with.  It wasn’t until high school that Matthew actually told me how he felt about me, and I kind of just laughed it off; I wasn’t interested in a shy soccer player with great grades and a future ahead of him.  Fast forward several years and we still FaceTime and talk regularly, and he’s still telling me that he’s praying for me to be his wife.  He’s still asking God to place me in his life because he loves me – LIKE WHAT?!  What kind of crazy man is this??

Eventually Matt left for medical school and our conversations have become less frequent and less in depth.  I know he’s busy and he’s doing really great things – I’m still his cheerleader when he needs to be reminded why he’s doing what he’s doing.  But I’m also his biggest fan and I want him to know that every single day of his life.  We were talking the other night and I made a joke about our wedding day and he said “You’ll find the right guy but it won’t be me.” And in that moment I was crushed…I pushed a little more to find out why he would say that as I held back the tears, and he told me that he had laid his heart on the line so many times to only be pushed away.  Because that’s what I do, I push you away the moment I know you care.

I’m sure he was right; I’ll find a wonderful man one day.  And I know he will find an amazingly kind and bright person to spend his life with.  But his words hit me like a brick wall and stopped me in my tracks.  I finally realized that I’m bad at being loved and accepting that people may want to be around me, so this is where I stop.  I will stop being so cold and I’ll stop pushing people away because they may end up being the most valuable person in my life.  This is me turning into a more caring and open person – may it lead to something better and brighter.”

Photo cred: http://www.jessicaremus.com/anonymous/

 

guest of the week: amanda zitzelman

brain aneurysm, friendship, gratitude, Guest Blogger, happiness, inspiration, Kindness, Positive Thinking, survivor

 

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This week’s guest blogger is a woman that I worked with last year, a woman that I admire. Her strength, courage and perseverance is inspiring. Earlier this year Amanda suffered a brain aneurysm, and she survived. Below you’ll read her encouraging words and hear her story of this life changing event. She shares her struggles but also shares what she’s done to turn this experience into a positive one. We chatted the other week for almost 2 hours and sometime in the future her and I are planning on starting a podcast! She inspires me everyday. She also started a GoFundMe page that she talks about in this post.  I’ve included the link at the end of her story. Thank you Amanda for taking the time to write this post, it means so much.

“I’m so excited to have the opportunity to write this post. I want to thank Sarah from the bottom of my heart for giving me a chance to share on her blog.

“Life is all about how you handle Plan B.” – Unknown

I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this post. How do I want to share my story? What details, if any, do I provide? I wrote a draft with the timeline and details of what happened. But details can be boring and it’s easy to get bogged down in them. Then I wrote a draft that had condensed details and a brief timeline. What happened and the timeline IS important but doesn’t necessarily add value to this post.

In the beginning of May my brain exploded, or in other words, a brain aneurysm ruptured. Let me frame this for you: 50% of all ruptures result in death and of those who survive 66% have some type of disability. Post-rupture I was out on FMLA. Much of my first month home was spent sleeping, napping, or just resting. A brain injury recovery can take many years and even then survivors are never quite the same.

I said it before and I will continue to say it – I am blessed. I survived and I don’t have any physical deficits. My cognitive and motor skills are in tact. Yes, I get neurofatigue. Yes, I get worn out much easier than I used to. Yes, I get headaches.

It is an odd thing to have come that close to death. One of the things I see a lot in my survivor groups are people who are grieving their old life. I sympathize with them and understand. However, my life is not wildly different than it was pre-rupture. I don’t ever say this to rub it in someone’s face about how well I am doing. I share it because I (now) know statistics were against me. But even for how well I am doing I am still a stroke survivor. I am still a ruptured brain aneurysm survivor.

One of my biggest struggles has been balancing “I’m fine” with “I went through this huge life changing event.” I never want to use it as an excuse but I don’t want to downplay what I went through. I’ve been struggling with what I refer to as survivor’s guilt. I’m so thankful things turned out so well for me but I sometimes feel bad that not everyone who survived is doing so well. I try not to get hung up on this too much because so much of it has to do with where the rupture occurred, timing, proper diagnosis, age, overall health, etc.

Time is valuable in so many ways. It can save a life in a medical emergency (such as it did in mine). It is a currency that you cannot get back. How you spend it matters. Who you spend it with matters. What you do with the time you are given matters. What is unique about time is everyone chooses to spend their time differently but time all spends the same. Once it is gone you can’t get it back.

This is something I have been thinking about a lot the past several months. I had a lot of time on my hands being out on FMLA. Some of it was spent doing schoolwork as I did not drop my last class for my master’s degree. As I mentioned a lot of time was spent sleeping, napping, and resting when I first got home. Eventually, I stopped sleeping as much but still was on restrictions so couldn’t do much. Towards the end of my FMLA I started crocheting again. I thought if I was going to be sitting around I should at least do something productive.

I started a GoFundMe to raise money so I could make blankets for brain aneurysm survivors. I have made three so far that I have given away in one of my survivor groups. This gave me something to do and give back to a group that gave me so much in the days after my rupture. It also gave me something to do with my time.

I really understood the value of my time and how I wanted to spend it. We often work to make ends meet (unless you happen to be born into a wealthy family). But we were not made or meant to work to live. There are so many more things that are much more important. Don’t get me wrong – I definitely have to work or my bills aren’t getting paid.

Pre-rupture I was working through lunches and if it was particularly busy I would be there until 6pm sometimes even 7pm. No more. I made the decision that when I went back I was not working through lunches and I would be leaving at 5pm. And I have pretty well stuck to that. There was one day when I was there until about 5:45pm and one day I worked through lunch but that is it. In both cases there was an extenuating circumstance.

Doing this has brought me less stress and even some peace. We need to find a work/life harmony. This can be difficult but it is vital. It is in our non-work life activities that we do things we enjoy and love. These are the things that bring us joy and help us to weather the stresses of our work life. Our time here is incredibly short. This gift of life can be taken from us at any moment.

Find joy in the little things. Find peace in the quiet moments of your day. When we do this we start to find our mind shifting. It doesn’t mean that life becomes perfect but we start to attract the good things. Positive thoughts become the norm. It is easier to find the good in a situation that is otherwise difficult.

Whatever we fill our minds with will spill out in the forms of our emotions and actions. If a mind is filled with negativity or hate it will spill out. On the flipside a mind filled with love and positivity it will spill out.

Life will never be perfect. Might as well buckle in and enjoy the ride with all it’s twists and turns.”

Blankets 4 Brain Aneurysm Survivors

 

 

guest of the week: jen williams

Guest Blogger, loss, Love

JenWilliams

This week I am featuring my co-worker and friend, Jen Williams. She is a truly talented writer, she sent over a short novel that she wrote years back about her grandmother passing away. She is great at describing situations, I really felt like I was there going through this experience with her. I challenged her to shorten the story for this post and she rose to the occasion. This is a story about loss, love, grief, acceptance, awareness and much more, in only a few short paragraphs. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us Jen.

“You know, I’ve always been good at accepting death. It was never something that scared me. Plenty of people in my life passed away when I was quite young (both my grandfathers, great aunts/uncles and even my own uncle) I was a person of faith so I believed those people went to heaven and we’re happier. However, when I was 16, I really knew what it meant to lose someone. To make a long story short (which literally it’s a long story. I wrote a short novel about it if you’d like to read the WHOLE thing let me know) I didn’t just lose my grandmother, I lost a place at the table. A friend when no one else was there. A comic relief. A voice, though quiet, spoke volumes.

You see, my junior year of high school was not easy. I had a bad relationship with a boy my grandmother told me wasn’t worth my presence. I struggled in school due to my personal life. My parents just struggled in general with work and money and raising a family while taking care of a sick parent. It was a hard October. To paint a better picture for you, my grandmother came to live with my family when I was 9. Throughout the years she was a caretaker for us. A good bit of my teens my mother worked at night and my father worked in the day and played video games all night. My grandmother was the one who made sure my brother and I were taken care of. She made sure that when we were out of line she’d become Grambo (like gramma and Rambo. Get it??) However, the beginning of senior year my grandmother, who was never healthy to begin with, became even more ill. Now at this point, she had already lost a toe due to neglecting diabetes. Well, she had the flu to begin with but while at the hospital learned she had gangrene from a cut on her foot from when she was cutting her toenails. Now, this kind of thing always irritated me because she seemed to always be sick and never took care of herself and here she is possibly losing a whole leg. I felt that she was always causing my parents extra work to take care of her and now we may have to remodel the house again for her to be in a wheelchair. Well a month went by and everything fell apart, literally. Our refrigerator broke as well as our furnace. I spent time in the emergency room. My boyfriend broke up with me. And my grandmother couldn’t fight her infection any longer and she passed away after telling the nurses she was ready and to stop treatment.

Her funeral came and went and it started to hit me. I felt so guilty. Why was I ever upset by who she was? Yes my parents had to do a lot for her and spend a lot of time with her. But why was I jealous of the attention she got? She needed it. I was selfish. I didn’t realize how much I’d miss her at the dinner table giving us updates on the weather (even when they were wrong) or repeating something someone JUST SAID because she wasn’t all there all the time. My house felt empty, cold. Her room just a hollow shell of the moments that were now memories. Christmas won’t be the same without her there. To think, just six months before that, we threw her a surprise party for her 70th which I’m so glad now we did.

Here I am now, almost 10 years later to the day, writing about her. Do I still feel guilty? Not as much as I did. I was a bratty teenager who had a dose of reality. However, I do still miss her. I no longer live in my parents house but when I go there I think of her. Her room was an addition that was torn down and we don’t have the same kitchen table but the memories remain. We talk very fondly of her and we talk about her often. The only thing I honestly regret, is I wish I would’ve listened to her more about not being with that boy in high school and not having some of the friends I did. She worried about me. I feel I still ended up okay in the end. I just wish she was able to see me now. I graduated college, married a great man and own my own home. I just wish she could see that I’m doing okay. But like I said, I do believe in heaven, so I think she knows I am.

I still love you gramma Betty Jean.
Your Jenny Penny”

guest of the week

gratitude, Guest Blogger, Kindness, Love, Positive Thinking

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I went to my dear friend Annie with an idea for a blog. This idea. Positive Aggressive. She was 110% on-board and supported and cheered me on. I went to her because I value her opinion and I knew that she would give me honest feedback. Not only did she give me that, but she gave me an amazing idea. Guest bloggers. I am the type of person that is interested in anyone’s story. I love to hear about people’s lives, it fascinates me. Yesterday at work I practically hounded this woman who was born and raised in Fiji to tell me about her experience and her family. It was quite incredible. So naturally I approached Annie to be my first guest writer and I couldn’t have chosen better. She is a talented writer and a passionate human being. I loved reading what she had to share and I know you will too! And no, I did not pay her to say these kind things about me. Annie really is the kind of soul that sees the best in everybody and has a huge, loving heart.

Hi y’all!

I’m Annie, a dreamer/doer/lover of all things broken and beautiful. When my sweet friend Sarah asked me to contribute something to her new (and fabulous, if I do say so myself) blog I was honored. I wasn’t sure what I’d write about, so I thought I’d leave it up to the power of prayer and meditation.

I had a crazy work week, which is a constant and re-occurring theme in my life. So,on this lovely fall Saturday, my plan includes a guilt-free relaxing morning on the couch (with no bra or pants on, mind you) with edible cookie dough and season five of Grey’s Anatomy. And in the middle of a Christina and Meredith dance off moment,my “prayer and meditation” paid off: I had my topic.

I thought I’d write about friends: beautiful, loving, compassionate, soul connecting friends and the gratitude I feel when I speak their names. The friends that give you warm and fuzzy feelings when they cross your mind, even after days, months or years since you’ve seen or spoken to them last. Thoughts of my sweet friend Sarah have those effects on me. I knew from the moment I met her that I’d met a woman who would serve a greater purpose in my life. Sarah and I share a pain that only some young adults feel: the pain of losing a parent too young. It’s the club that no one wants to be in, but once you’re in you feel thankful to be among like-minded company. There is large, gaping hole in my soul that aches when I have thoughts of the sweet father who passed six years ago, this part of my soul understands the part of Sarah’s soul that aches, too. We exchange empathy for one another in such a way that God’s fingerprints can only explain. We have a common bond, a connection that only those who have similar experiences can understand. I wonder if you get it, too? I’m sorry if you, as our reader, are a member of our club. But if you are, please know you are not alone and your pain is our pain, too.

Throughout my life, I have been given the privilege to live and love in many different parts of our country. I can list off hundreds of humans that I’ve crossed paths with that have left footprints on my soul. Let me tell you about a few: There’s Amber, we met in Florida in 2009. She is “my person.” I haven’t actually spoken to her in about six months. But, every time our busy lives allow for us to connect, we re-ignite our flame. She’s a wife, a mom of two and a friend who lives by spiritual principles, connecting to other women around her, changing lives. We are both in the business of passionately serving God’s kids. When we first met, at particularly low spots in our own lives, our internal desperation allowed for us to form a bond that holds tight through the years and the miles between us. She’s also apart of the club, another side that reflects our level connectivity. I am eternally grateful that the powers of our universe brought us together almost ten years ago. Amber and I pick up exactly where we left off. She is one of my soul sisters.

And Brent in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he regularly posts to social media about his father who suffers from the end stages of Alzheimer’s disease. I met Brent at random while attending a philanthropic gathering in August of 2015. When he and I hug, we embrace each other with one of those super tight and meaningful hugs; the good inside of me always has the ability to recognize the good inside of him. We formed an unbreakable bond in our first exchange and I am grateful to the Gods for his presence in my life. Now, when I read his words, I physically feel the love in my heart and the admiration I have for him. I often pray that his pain is softened and I believe that some days he can hear my prayers. I believe that when I speak Brent’s name, God nudges him and he smiles for a reason he may not be able to explain. I wonder sometimes how two people can be so connected internally but yet exist so far apart physically.

And my timeless firecracker, Emma. Emma is my BFF. We met in ninth grade where we fought over a boy in Mr. Langan’s first period history class. Out of all of the people I’ve met in my life, Emma is one that I know I’ll never get rid of. They say if you have a friendship that lasts more than twenty years, it’s likely to remain. I find peace knowing that I get to have Emma until the end of time. Her friendship is like coming home, it’s familiar and comfortable and natural. And, although she lives in Las Vegas and we only see each other once a year, we talk almost every day and she consistently proves to me that she knows me better than I know myself. I suppose that’s what two decades of love and tolerance can do to two people. She’s a mom to two beautiful children, a girlfriend to an amazing man, a daughter, a sister and a Green Bay Packers fan. My confidante. NHFL. Do you have a friend who means so much to you, in such a unique way that there aren’t really words to describe your feelings? That’s how I feel about my Emma.

I hope you find solace in reading about my friends. My people. My loves. And, I hope you find yourself thinking of yours, too. I hope you appreciate the people who bring joy to your life. I hope you feel gratitude in your heart for your people. To shift gears slightly, I want to mention how heavily of a believer I am in the power behind gratitude in action. Gratitude, just like love, should not only be felt but also enacted. Both words, when used correctly, can turn into beautiful actions. When I think of someone I love, or someone who’s presence in my life has meaning, I tell them. There have been many times over the months that I haven’t seen my friend Sarah that I randomly message her to let her know her worth in my life.

My suggestion to you is this: tell people you love them. It is impossible to overuse the words “I love you.” If you feel it, say it! My life has changed with every smile I’ve encountered, every hug I’ve felt and with every exchange of the language of our hearts. Pick up your phone, send the message. Dial the number you’ve been meaning to dial. Meet people, embrace your experiences and exchange love. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Fall in love with people. Find similarities instead of differences. Everything you do, do it with love.

Let Love Rule.

Annie, xo