Enough

(By Corey Rotella, CNA Extraordinaire)

    Enough. I have been hurting. That is okay. I’ve been taking on the emotions from other people’s decisions. That is not okay. I’ve been angry. That’s okay. I’ve been isolating. That is not okay. And how dare no one see through my forced optimism and shaky gratitude into the aching pain and fear that sits right beneath. How dare no one push through my thin claim that I’m hanging in there and see that my walls are crashing around me. How DARE he?! How DARE they?! How DARE…I.

     Enough. Because the truth is I am in a storm right now. Raging and crying and railing on the inside and I don’t like people to see me this way; this uncertain and vulnerable. I don’t like this feeling of not knowing the true from the false. Not having any answers. My most unbendable anchors from within have been shaken and my heart, which fuels every part of my life has been broken and yet the world keeps spinning. Business as usual. And here I am searching for myself among the wreckage. Who is this woman in the mirror with haunted eyes and an inability to smile? Who is this woman who once swore she would never again allow such pain into her heart? Who is this woman who just doesn’t want to care about anything anymore. This can’t be me. I will not allow this to be me.

     Enough. I let myself be on autopilot for a little while. Wash your face. Brush your teeth. Go to a meeting. Go to work. Wash. rinse. Repeat. The world feels grey. That doesn’t matter. I feel weighted down. That doesn’t matter either. It will pass and the future can bring what it will. For the moment, I force myself to stay in the present. 

     Enough. I am a writer. I am an artist. I am a caregiver. I am an advocate. I am a woman in recovery and I am a survivor. My life has been threaded with magic and whimsy, even if I can’t exactly feel it right now. I am capable of great love, humor and passion, even if I feel consumed by it at times. I am a worthy human being. Nothing can rob me of that. I am bigger than my problems. I am more than the sum total of my character defects and laying this all out there to the world for anyone else who may be struggling reminds me that I can be brave. It is the best way I know to rebel against despair. Because to hell with you, defeatism. To hell with you, self pity. You can’t have me. Not today.

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

Changing the Things I Can

(By Corey Rotella, CNA Extraordinaire)

     I think the greatest lesson, the one that has served me the most is that life will never adapt to me. Life does not bend and twist itself to fit into my whims and desires and little plans. It’s just never worked that way. Years of futilely pounding my head against the wall and then resenting the headache has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that my life does not belong in a box; not even one of my own design.

      It is not the sort of lesson that I get to learn once and move on either. No, it seems I have to learn and re-learn it all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. I can be willful and stubborn, obstinately refusing to move. I bury my head in the sand like a good little ostrich and pretend everything is okay. I try to force pieces into the puzzle because I think I know how the big picture is supposed to look or in an honest attempt to help another I manufacture all sorts of misplaced “solutions”, as if I have all the answers to all the questions because I am so very smart. Good intentions are sometimes ego driven.

      My level of pain is directly related to my level of willingness to just let go and truth be told, there are times when I am not so willing. It is then that I become the master of my own misery. Misery is a funny thing. Despair, resentments, fear…all awful ways to feel and yet the familiarity of it brings the warped sense of comfort derived from not having to make decisions; not having to make healthy changes; not having to be accountable. The hell I know is better than the hell I don’t sort of thinking that keeps one sick, psychically crippled, emotionally stunted and easily manipulated by the inner demons we all carry within. Sometimes I chase those ghosts but never for any length of time. Today, I have far too much to lose.

      It took me a long time to learn that “the hell we don’t know” is rarely a hell at all. It can be uncomfortable. It involves me doing things I don’t want to do, feeling emotions that I don’t want to feel and facing fears I don’t want to face but I have found that 100% of the time if I walk through it, my life becomes enriched, I become empowered and I learn and grow as a person. 

       Life does not adapt to me. In order to live authentically and happily, I must adapt to life. I must let go of what I think it should look like. I must let go of my expectations of what things should be which in hindsight always fall so short of what actually manifests. I have to consciously make the decision on a day by day basis to get out of my own way. 

      Here’s the interesting thing: when I climb down out of my head and realize that the only, the ONLY events over which I have any control are my own behaviors and choices, it frees me from the prison I created with its bars of self-doubt, self-destruction and over-thinking and allows me to make the choices necessary to become an active participant in my own life. In giving up my fight to control my circumstances, I gain my freedom. In giving up the fears and thoughts of the worst of me, I begin to get to know the best of me. In letting go of the reins that control life, I gain the ability to control myself.

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