Before the Blog

**Note - I originally wrote this in 2010.  A lot has changed since then, but this was the magic moment that brought about those changes, that helped lead me to where I am now.  It was so important to me that I thought it deserved its own easily accessible page here. 

Life has always had its share of ups and downs … pretty much, it’s like that for everyone.  Sometimes, though, it seems like one person is getting several people’s share of downs … and that’s how it was for me.  Don’t get me wrong – I know others have it far worse than I do, and I know that my biggest ups (my husband and my mom, who are also my two best friends) are far greater than many others have.  Still, there are times when life just doesn’t seem fair.  I’ll try to give the short version (which I admit is still probably going to be pretty long), and get to the point.
Over the past few years, I’ve been dealing with a number of medical issues.  I’m in physical pain 24/7, and dozens of doctors, tests, drugs, and procedures have been completely unhelpful.  The good news is that they’ve ruled out all the big hitters – it’s not cancer, MS, seizure, stroke, etc. – and it’s not degenerative or fatal.  A huge sigh of relief … except that two years later I’m still in pain 24/7 with no explanation or actual physical relief.
On the professional side of things, I work non-profit … which really means that I’m working my butt off (so why does it keep growing?) while someone in a big fancy mansion – I mean “office” – profits from my hard work.  Currently, I work about 60-70 hours per week, though I only get paid for 35.  And it’s still not enough to give my clients (individuals with intellectual & developmental disabilities) the supports that they need and deserve.  A few months ago I took over some new sites; with this change, my workload skyrocketed while the quality and quantity of my staff plummeted (with a few exceptions – if you’re reading this, you know who you are!).  My guys now need more support than ever, and I do not have the means to provide it.
At home (the basement apartment we could barely afford to begin with), things just haven’t been the same since our landlord – who had become more friend/family to us than many others we’ve known for much longer – passed away a few months back.  Now, whenever we’re home, we either hear the dog howling for hours on end, or on the rare occasion that the landlady is around, we hear her and her new boyfriend making music together … very loud music.  I won’t even get into the repairs that haven’t been done or the number of times this winter that we’ve gone without heat or hot water.
There’ve been a few other big blows over a very short period, and we’re still dealing with them: About two days before our landlord/friend passed away, we were in the midst of trying to make arrangements for my father-in-law (who had become my Dad, especially since I have no real relationship with my biological father anymore) to be discharged from the hospital and admitted into hospice.  Our “brother-from-another-mother,” who had been helping to oversee Dad’s care at the hospital for the past two years, got a call that his mother was in the hospital, in critical condition.  He immediately contacted the airline to fly down to see her, but she was gone before he reached the airport.  We made our own arrangements to go down for the funeral, then got the news about our landlord’s sudden death.  We had to miss his funeral if we were going to make it to hers (both were on the same day, about 600 miles apart).  When we got back home, we went straight to the hospice to see Dad … we all needed that.  About a week later (on Bro-Fro-Ano-Mo’s birthday, no less), Dad passed too.  None of us are really ok with that yet.  Soon, BFAM lost his apartment (which was in Dad’s name), and couldn’t afford to get a new one right away, as he’d spent all his money, savings, and credit to pay for his mother’s funeral.  Luckily, we had a comfy couch in our living room that’s almost big enough for our six-foot-tall brother to sleep on comfortably.  Despite all this, ultimately, we manage.  We find a way to do the best we can with what we’ve got, find the silver lining, yada yada yada … until something else hits.
The latest hit came just a few days ago.  As I mentioned, work had been getting harder and harder, so I asked my boss for a meeting.  I explained the situation, and gave suggestions for how we could make things work.  I was rewarded for my hard work and dedication with two options:
1.      Deal with it.
2.      Take a demotion.
There would be no help, no support, no change, no understanding … not even time to think about it, really (he wanted my answer by the next day).  I was devastated.  I would have to go to a job I didn’t want with a pay cut that I couldn’t afford, and the rumor mill would destroy the reputation I’d built over the last several years at the agency.  I cried to my mom on the way home, picked up my husband, and cried to him on the way to my treatments (which I now go for 3x/week at a new place that
actually helps me!).  Then I wiped away my tears, put on my happy face, and went into the doctor’s office.
            When I walk in the door of my treatment center, I always feel better: the cozy environment leads both staff and patients to become friendly, and we all genuinely care about each other.  This day was no different.  I sat on the couch next to one of my favorite patients, and she relayed concerns about an issue she was dealing with.  I shared my similar experience, and offered my advice.  Later, we met again in the physical therapy room, and her words lifted me more than she will ever know.
            When we started talking again from our tables across the curtain, she said “Kerry, you have such a strong survivor spirit.  You have been through so much, but it seems like no matter what happens to you, you always come out strong, and with another story to tell.”  At first I simply thanked her, and wished I didn’t have so many stories.  By then our physical therapist joined in, and both talked about the strength they see in me, and my positive attitude.  This developed into a meeting of the Mutual Admiration Society, as we three all fawned over each other.  We joked that between the three of us, we probably had enough stories to write a book … and then talked about what the book would be.  Strength, overcoming obstacles, perseverance, survival … we had gone through so much ourselves, and seen so much more through our varied life paths … and those paths brought us all together.  If we could lift each other’s spirits, if we could help each other, if we could inspire each other to keep going when things got rough, then why not really do it?  Why not write a book to help others?  The more we thought about it, the more we knew it was something we had to do.
            That night, my new friend’s words echoed in my head.  I was a survivor.  I could get through anything.  I would be ok.  Better than that, actually.  I did some research, made some calls, and took charge of changing my career path.  I am the one who will decide my future, no one else.  There are so many things I want to do, so many things I know I can do … and I will.  I have a strong survivor spirit … and you can too

So ... thanks for joining me.  I hope you won't be disappointed.  If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If you don't ... well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!