It’s January 2 as I write this. I’ve come to terms with never making New Year’s resolutions anymore because I always break them. Usually within 24 hours. But when the ball drops here in the busiest hub of the city I’ve called home for the past 18 years, there is somewhat of a renewal and refreshment of my mental state. A new beginning with true intentions always gives me hope. And hope, even if temporary or short-lived, is never a bad thing.
The title of this blog post begs the question, “When and how did Jenny lose her groove?” As I look back on my life these past few years, I recognize that I lost part of it when my youngest son, Kenzi, was fighting for his life from the moment he took his first breath. I, too, was fighting for his life, as well as my own because without him, my world as I’d known it would have ended. For those of you who are new here, Kenzi was born with one obstructed “functioning” kidney. At 10 days old, the doctors informed us that he was in renal failure. We had two choices: 1) surgery that would allow him to begin peritoneal dialysis to bridge him to a transplant but that came with a laundry list of risks and complications, or 2) “keep him comfortable” and allow him to die...because some might think the alternative of what we were about to put him through was far too painful for all involved, especially Kenzi. But I’ve never been one to give up, and no son of mine would be, either. Through a series of medical interventions (eight surgeries to be exact) by the world’s best surgeons and an act of God (I’m not joking about that), he came home with us after spending the first 80 days of his life in the NICU. And although he is now doing extremely well, my anxiety over his health will never vacate my body and mind.
During a conversation with a friend a few weeks ago, I mentioned that odds don’t mean anything to me. No one can explain how or why Kenzi’s kidneys developed, or failed to develop, as they did. When I asked his surgeon about his success rate with the surgery he was about to perform on Kenzi, he replied, “I don’t have one. I’ve never performed this surgery on a baby his age and size because I’ve never had to. We usually have a choice and have another functioning kidney to rely on. But we don’t have a choice.” When I asked the NICU doctors and specialists--all of them, not just one--how or why this happened to Kenzi, no one had an answer. “Bad luck,” replied one of them. A microarray (an examination of his DNA…sort of like an amniocentesis but on a living person) provided no answers. So the odds of this happening are one in a [pick a really big number.]
In 2012, my mother was a victim in the Washington Navy Yard mass shooting where a gunman killed 12 of her friends and colleagues while she crouched under a desk listening to gun shots and the rantings of a mad man, praying that her own life would be spared. My mom survived because a colleague of hers exited the elevator, screamed when she saw the gunman in action, which caused him to change direction and move toward her. Although the number of mass shootings is still too many and far too frequent of an occurrence, the odds of being a victim in one are still rather low. So no, I don’t care about odds. And the fact that my life has been changed by circumstances and events for which the odds were very low has caused a lot of my anxiety. Anxiety steals your groove.
Fast forward to almost two years after Kenzi’s birth when another set of circumstances and events nearly took my life. Not literally, but my heart was broken and my perspective forever changed. Had it not been for Kai and Kenzi, I may have curled up into a ball and remained there for an indefinite period of time. For over two years, I have been fighting my way back, despite how things appear to those who know me and see me on a regular basis.
My guess, which isn’t really a guess at all but rather a known reality, is that so many people live each day as I have and do. With a smile to the world. Crying when we think no one can hear us. Wishing there was some way to wave a magic wand, to turn back the clock and somehow rewrite our fate. To somehow get back that “groove” that defined our spirit before life’s unexpected happened to us. Fortunately for me, I have two kids who I love more than anything or anyone in my entire world. So I didn’t and I don’t have a choice. I have to go on, and I have to be better for them because they didn’t choose to be here. That was my doing, and as their mother, I owe them all of me. Not some half-ass version.
For two years and counting, I’ve been fighting through it all. Before I get to “how Jenny got her groove back,” allow me to clarify two things. First, I don’t actually have my groove back yet. But my friend Steve Jordan, who has been an inspiration to me since we met over 25 years ago, believes, “You have to believe it before you can achieve it.” Speak your intentions aloud and tell yourself you’re there, even if you’re not. It’s the change in mindset and reminding yourself of your intentions that will ensure you actually make it. And second, did any of you ever see the movie “The Wedding Planner?” If so, do you remember the line, “Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t wed, plan.”??? Well, that’s sort of my state. While I know all of the following to be true, it’s still a work in progress. But then again, so am I. So are you.
As we begin a new year, I am mindful of the effort required to make my life what I want it to be. What I deserve. What my kids deserve. How do I get to a state where I’m truly happy and fulfilled and able to manage life’s inevitable disappointments in stride? What do I need to remember and practice to ensure that my journey in life, and that of my kids, is filled with as much joy as possible? I’ll try to keep it brief, as I know we all have 7,435,983 things to do as we kick off 2019. And if you’ve lost your groove, my hope is that this may help along your journey, as well.
1. Allow yourself to grieve. I’m beginning with this because I don’t think anyone can move forward after a loss, disappointment, or tragedy without proper time to grieve. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how to grieve because it’s different for every person and every circumstance. And I can’t tell you how long to grieve because it’s a process and also different for each individual. But what I do know is that if you don’t allow yourself to grieve at all, you’ll be stuck in one place forever. We must recognize our loss and our pain as real and significant because our feelings are real and significant. Many people associate the word “grief” with the death of a loved one. But one can grieve for many reasons—a dream not realized, the loss of a relationship, the realization that a person isn’t who you thought they were or wanted them to be, the loss of a job, and the list goes on. But loss leaves a hole and emptiness, and failing to grieve makes what was lost seem insignificant. We can’t heal and grow without acknowledging our loss and finding a place for it—to visit it at an appropriate and chosen time. Notice I didn’t say “get over it.”
2. Forgiveness. My wise and dear friend Jaime once said to me that forgiveness can be extremely therapeutic. I’ll say two things about forgiveness. The first is that forgiving oneself is probably the most difficult kind of forgiveness. I find that I’ll forgive others in a fraction of the time as I’ll let myself off the hook. But in situations where we blame ourselves, we need to step outside of our bodies and pretend we’re looking at a friend in the same situation. Give yourself that same level of empathy and understanding. Admit that you are human, that you do the best you can with the information and resources that you have at the time, and you aren’t always going to get it right. Some mistakes are life-changing. And some you may never “get over.” To quote C.S. Lewis, “You can’t go back and change the beginning. But you can start where you are and change the ending.” Second, I don’t think we have to forgive everyone. In order to forgive someone, my belief is that they have to ask for forgiveness and express true remorse. And if they don’t, file them under the “I did my best with them, I got hurt anyway, I need to accept them for who and what they are, and I will no longer put energy toward them.”
3. See a therapist. A good one. This may sound like a very New York thing to say because the joke is that everyone in New York City has a therapist. But gaining perspective is key when you’ve lost your groove. While it’s great to talk to friends, they’re biased. And sometimes they want to see you feel better so badly that they may tell you what you want to hear instead of what you really need to hear in order to move forward.
4. Don’t compare your inside to someone else’s outside. People walk around every day putting on a happy face, putting on a show. I should know. You have no idea what is going on inside another’s heart and mind. What they show you is your truth about them. But what you feel, your fears and insecurities, is what you believe about yourself. Don’t go thinking that everyone else in the world is perfect, is 100% confident in what they’re doing, that they seem to have it all figured out, and that you’re the only one who isn’t acing this thing called life. Social media can make a monster out of the best of us. Trust me, most aren’t posting photos of and talking about their worst moments, failures, and insecurities, but I promise you, everyone has them. Nothing can be more of a motivation-killer and joy thief than comparing yourself to what the rest of the world looks like in pictures.
5. Listen to the believers. Ignore the haters. Surround yourself with those who see the best in you and those who bring out the best in you. Take a break from those who doubt you and remind you of every possible way you can fail.
6. Be true to yourself. Be honest about what motivates you. Think about what truly brings you joy. Real joy. And live that. As much as you can. Don’t spend your life doing what others expect of you or what someone has told you is “the right thing to do.” Only your own heart can tell you that.
7. Do something outside of your comfort zone. Set a goal to succeed at something you’ve never done before. Nothing says, “I’m the bomb” and boosts confidence like achieving the unachievable. As a simple example, I’m not a technologically-savvy person. Some people just have techie in their DNA. When I decided to start a blog, I had a vision for a website but no budget to hire someone to build it for me. So I taught myself, and I did it. Sometimes we just need a reminder that we’ve still got it.
8. Recognize people and situations for who and what they are. Simply put, not everyone and everything will be as you wish. There are some things and people you can’t change. In order to grow and find happiness, sometimes you have to just let it be. If you’ve done everything in your power to improve a situation and it just isn’t working, let go, either physically or mentally and emotionally if you aren’t able to completely walk away. Walking away shouldn’t be viewed as failure. Rather it should be viewed as internal growth once you’ve recognized and accepted that some things remain out of your control. And continuing to put effort toward that is a sure-fire way to rob yourself of your groove.
9. Set goals, even small ones, and celebrate small wins. As my grandmother used to say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Recognizing victories, however small, can do wonders for your confidence.
10. Take care of yourself, inside and out. Eat well. Exercise. What you put into your body affects your energy level and your mood. Exercise relieves stress and releases endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in your body, similar to that of morphine. And take a shower, get dressed, and put on makeup for Pete’s sake! Fake it until you make it. If you look in the mirror and at least like what you see on the surface, you’ll feel more alive and more confident. There’s a reason we get a new suit and a haircut before a job interview—it’s not just about impressing our prospective employer—it’s about feeling confident.
11. Remember that life is not a zero-sum game. Someone else doesn’t have to lose in order for you to win. This probably isn’t something that we need to remind ourselves of a lot. But there are situations in which we feel wronged by someone or a situation, and it would be easy to believe we’d feel better if justice was somehow served. That sort of negative energy isn’t energy well spent, and it won’t really improve your situation in the long run. You might get a temporary boost of “thank God for karma,” but that will be very short-lived.
12. And finally, recognize the efforts of others, even if they aren’t perfect. When you’re not feeling 100%, it’s easy to recognize the imperfections of others and to feel like nothing that anyone does is good enough. Sometimes people in our lives truly give it their all in an attempt to help us, and sometimes it’s not exactly what we want or need. But there is beauty and appreciation to be found in their efforts and repair attempts, and I think that’s something worth celebrating.
“Groove is in the heart.” -Deee-Lite … if you don’t believe anything I have to say. :-)