Life!

  (By Corey Rotella, CNA Extraordinaire)   

 Life is complex. Dynamic. Messy.  Filled with the depth that comes only from human experience.  It cannot be defined in bumper stickers or Facebook memes.  Our scars bear witness to our struggles. Our pain can inform our choices without defining them. Our joy can heal our wounds without erasing them.  Our failures are our greatest teachers if we keep moving forward despite them.  Spare me a paint by numbers life, designed to be safe, easy, the best possible outcome with the least effort. Spare me a life designed for the delicate.  I’d much rather have the depth and experience and freedom from a life that requires effort. Sweat. And sometimes tears.  A life that is vast, filled with humor and pathos and human connections and real moments of clarity, in which I see glimpses of the truth. 

        This. THIS is life, with all its bumps and uncertainty and days with teeth. With its joys and connections and hope and love and depth. This is what lies beneath the facade of the daily “normal” and the drumbeat of imagined fear. 

       For a long time, I didn’t think I was worthy or capable of embracing life. I thought my difficulties and pain were the sum and substance of who I was as a person and I hid. In my head. In books. In self-loathing. In the bottle. I squeezed my eyes closed and pretended not to see as the world kept spinning around the sun. 

    I had to come to a crossroads. I had to make a choice to try something different. I had to take that leap of faith, open my eyes and trust that by taking small steps forward in my dark, I would eventually find the light. 

     Nothing, and I mean NOTHING about my journey has played out the way I once thought it would. Where I once believed I’d suddenly have all the answers I need to be who I should be, I now accept that I learn as I go and there is no one way that I “should be”. Where I once believed it was important for me to have my eyes fixed on a destination, I now know that it’s more important to keep putting one foot in front of the other and to do my best in each moment. Where I once wished for normalcy, I now value authenticity. Where I once wanted the pain to end, I now value its ability to strengthen, teach, and motivate me provided I face my troubles head on. My life challenges me every day, but it also enriches me. It was by learning to accept life on its own terms that I began to find my place in this world and become an active participant in my own existence. 

Corey Anne Rotella co-authored the book CNA Edge: Reflections from year one along with Bob Goddard and Hannah Hedges. It’s collection of essays from their blog CNA Edge: A Voice from the trenches of Long Term Care

Sometimes the World has Teeth

(By Corey Rotella, CNA Extraordinaire) 

 I’m out of stuff to clean. Dishes done. Bathroom’s done. I even scrubbed the tub. I hate cleaning. There is little scope for imagination in it. Still, in times of great stress, I find the lack of whimsy in cleaning a toilet to be oddly calming.

        Chair a meeting, lunch with friends, paint a picture, volunteer at the behavioral health center, discuss politics in depth and clean. All things I know how to do. All roles with which I am comfortable, despite my afore mentioned dislike towards housework. I need today to be filled with familiar, safe tasks that I feel confident I could accomplish, because today, the world has teeth.

      Everything seems uncertain. My fears come out to dance, twisting and dipping as they whisper and taunt me with all the ways I fall short, all the ways I don’t fit and my broken pieces have sharp edges that cut and poke and nag at my inner wellbeing as I struggle to break free from self-absorbed fear.

      The world has teeth today. My humor is darker than normal and my wit unintentionally cuts another as I grapple with my own insecurities by holding onto my favorite defense mechanism. Great. Now I can add guilt to the mix.

      The world has teeth today.

I’m feeling all the feelings and am not comfortable in my own skin. My life feels unfamiliar and I don’t know where I fit. Doubt is driving the train and I feel open and afraid. I feel vulnerable and lacking and question everything.

       The world has teeth today, but I have learned to handle such moments. I take a deep breath, accept that my feelings aren’t facts. They pass, as do all things. So, I clean and say a little prayer to whoever runs this gig to guide my feet and heal my heart and direct me where to go. Now, I’m not a particularly religious woman but prayer centers my mind and I keep taking the simple actions and in doing so I find peace.

       The world had teeth today, but once again I made it through. And as I lay my head down and review it in my mind, I realize that it was filled with friends and love and productivity. It was my fear and perception that made it into an avalanche of overwhelming emotion. 

     Some days, the world has teeth. Some days, I am my own worst enemy and allow fear to snowball. That’s ok. I’m not a perfect person. As long as I know that those days pass. When I acknowledge my feelings on the tough days, and allow them to teach and guide me rather than rule my behavior and reactions, I grow as a person. I did every task I set out to do, despite my feelings. It is by surviving and learning from the days when the world has teeth that I’ve become who I am and today I don’t flinch from my reflection.

Corey Anne Rotella co-authored the book CNA Edge: Reflections from year one along with Bob Goddard and Hannah Hedges. It’s collection of essays from their blog CNA Edge: A Voice from the trenches of Long Term Care