A long time ago (19 years) to be exact, I left the area I grew up in to follow my dreams of getting a job in the travel industry. Sixteen years ago, my father died very unexpected from cancer. A year later, my mom died in a car accident. The following year, my grandma died. The year after that, I got that “pink slip” that I had lost my job at MCI when they merged with WorldCom. Funny thing about all of that, now that I can look back (with perfect vision). By far those were the most insufferable times I believe anyone can go through. The death of a loved one, is tremendous. For me to have lost both of mine within a year, the grief overwhelmed me.
There is something that is keeping me awake tonite and not enabling me to sleep peacefully. So I find myself downstairs, in the dark, thinking of all the turns in the road that lead me to exactly where I sit now. Over the years, I have often said “it seems so odd that I had to lose both of my parents, in order to find myself”. If you knew me at all during that time of my life, you can attest to the fact that I was absolutely MISERABLE. I couldn’t find anyone who really understood what I was going through. People would try to console me, but their words went on deaf ears. Every thing I did, made me sad because I couldn’t share it with the two people who brought me into the world.
When I graduated with honors from college (a two year degree, that took me 17 to get … laugh with me on that one, will ya??), I would have given anything to have heard either of my parents say the words “I am so proud of you”. Nothing made much sense. I made choices and lived a lifestyle to just try to make the pain stop. I can honestly say there are a few years there, where I just don’t remember much. I never thought I would get over the pain of losing my dad. He was my rock. But at least I was there, and at least I got to tell him goodbye. But with my mom, I was never afforded that luxury (if you want to call it that).
My counselor at the time was magnificent in the way she brought me out of the sadness. She gave me homework (I am someone who learns better if I have to perform the action, rather than being told about it). Please know that I have an amazing group of friends (most of which have never met one another), and two great sisters, a niece & a nephew, all who I love dearly … but I still felt incredibly alone. I went through a LONG phase of feeling like I just didn’t fit in anywhere. And I was too afraid to allow ANYONE to get to close to me, for the fear they would die, disappear, or abandon me.
Some of my choices may not have made sense at the time. But there are two codes of ethics I live by. One is integrity (being honest to the core), and the other is to live without regrets. The counselor knew about this, and told me that I needed to find something, absolutely anything that no one could take away from me. Something that could weather time, distance, and anything another human could give me (because there would be times when an individual would die, or life would change and some people would not be a part of my day to day life – it was a reality she taught me to accept). It had to be something that I could rely on, to regain HOPE.
What I chose, was the sunrise, and the sunset. Because no human can ever take those away from me. Every day the sun will rise, and every night the sun will set. And there will always be a new day. I found hope in knowing that just maybe I wouldn’t hurt so badly the next day. And after that, I got a new assignment. This one wasn’t quite so easy. Every day, I had to look into my own eyes, and say out loud something that I liked about myself. Then I had to repeat whatever it was three times. At first it was my hair (I always loved my hair). But I wasn’t so thrilled about my outer appearance at the time, and my insides were really a mess. She lived with the hair being me topic for a while.
The next assignment was that I had to do one thing every single day, simply for myself. If you know ANYTHING about me, you know I am a giver. I’ve often said “you can give me a blood transfusion, but you will never be able to take the humanitarian out of me”. From the time I was a small child, I knew I was put on this earth to make a difference. Recently when I was packing, I came across some of my college papers and journals from when I was younger. The reason I wanted a job in the travel industry, was so I could help those people who didn’t have the means to help themselves. It was as though I knew, as I do now, my purpose was not my own. It was something much bigger. So it was a very difficult lesson for me to learn how to give of myself before giving to others. Even though I still to this day do something little every day (whether it be a bike ride, a walk, take pictures, or even a nice, hot bath) … I continued to battle with believing I was ‘worthy’.
Somehow through the maze of life, and all the challenges I have overcome (remember, I am the cat with nine lives) mentally, physically, and emotionally … my other constant has always been my faith. But I walked around as though I was being judged by God. Because I allowed other people to dictate to me who God was and what He represented. When I lived in Atlanta, I found my “home church”, NorthStar. It is there that my ears finally were cleared out enough to LISTEN. I had a HUGE epiphany several years back. You see, there is absolutely NOTHING anyone can do to make God stop loving me. Any mistakes I had made in the past were washed clean. Anything that was wrong with me (in my mind) that would keep me from Heaven, Jesus already took care of it. You see, I, plain flat GOT IT. And since that day, life has been soooo much easier in some ways … and much more difficult in others.
Sadly, when I got close to God, it seemed like I was being attacked by satan or evil forces (boy, they sure do come wrapped in sheeps clothing sometimes!) and life just seemed HARD. Or at least that is what I thought. In 2001, Sept 11th occurred (I will write about that another time). I had been a flight attendant (yes, I got that dream job FINALLY, in 1998) for just three years. I was in New York at the time, and that single day has literally transformed me as an individual (again, I will write more about that soon, I Promise). But in 2002, my best friend since I was a teenager, Julie, was killed in a car accident in June. If I ever knew pain in the past, it was multiplied by ten when Julie died. She had three children, who I have known their entire lives. I love them like they are my own family. But my heart still aches to have a best friend again. If I ever do, I will marry him.
After Julie died, I had to find a new way of living. I can honestly say that my job is really lonely at times. We spend alot of time with passengers on planes, but often there is rarely time for a lengthy conversation. My friends live all over the world, and I am blessed that I have “close friends”. Mysisters, niece, nephew and their families have each lived their own lives, and we get along in different ways that I do with my closest friends. Basically, I know I will never have another friend like Julie. How could I? No one else can share certain situations (like the death of a parent(s), her marriage, her kids, my job, our life challenges at those ages). But aside from the legacy of Julie’s beautiful children (who are all grown up now), she taught me how to be the best friend I could possibly be. And in losing her, and getting right with my faith … I learned how to be my own best friend.
And that is something I can look in the mirror and be really thankful about. You see, now I can look directly into my eyes, and know I have become a person who has strength, honor, courage, and determination. I always fight for the underdog … because I lived a great portion of my life feeling like I didn’t belong. Like I was a misfit. In order to overcome that negativity, I had to learn about God’s perfect love for me. That was the turning point.
Now, I didn’t plan to sit here and type a note about religion. What I wanted to share with you was my personal journey to something amazing. For those of you who don’t know, I have been overwhelmed with a medical condition that has prevented me from working the past 5 months. I absolutely love my job. There is nothing else I want to do in my life (except be paid to be a volunteer and save the world .. haha), except fly the friendly skies … making a difference for my passengers and crew. But I simply cannot do it right now.
There have been days, weeks, months, where I could barely get out of bed or off a couch. I’ve been in and out of the hospital several times, and seen more doctors than I can possibly count. Right now, my diagnosis is “too much spinal fluid & a Psuedo Tumor Cerebri”. The pressure on my head makes me feel like my brain is going to explode inside my skull at times. The ringing in my ears goes from a hissing noise to the highest pitch anyone can possibly imagine. From day one, I have said “I feel like there is an elephant on my head”. So a dear friend named it “Throb”. Just to bring levity to the situation.
"Throb" on my head ... lol
I’ve had to make life altering decisions because of my current condition. In the past three weeks, I have packed up my place in Kentucky, put most stuff into storage, driven over 5,000 miles with a truck towing my car and then driving the truck that I borrowed back to Kentucky. A dear friend from way back, asked me to rent a room from her. Thursday was the first night I was here with her, where her two boys were home as well. They are 8 and 12. She joked earlier about “did you realize you were moving into Romper Room”? Still makes me laugh. I went from having my own place for the past 10 years, to having a bedroom.
Oddly enough, I spent 19 years wandering the countryside trying to find a place where I fit in. When in reality, all I had to do was to search my own heart, ask myself some very difficult questions, and pray for answers. It took me months to figure out where the best place would be for me to move. And where did I end up? Right where I left when I went in search of that dream career … back in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. It is a place where I can smell the trees, drink water from the tap (I know, that is unheard of in most parts of the world!), and smile … because from the very first day, I felt like I belonged. And it is truly the greatest feeling in the world.
So although I grew up here, I feel like I am starting over. It’s a fresh start … and it has had many challenges to get here. (that is another story in itself, too!). But my hope is I will have time to get settled, and simply REST. Because that is going to heal me more than any medication a doctor can prescribe. That, and knowing I have a tremendous support system here, in the Seattle area. If you want to get together, just say the word. I will even pay you to knock “Throb” off my head, once and for all.
If you have made it to this point in my blog, I am impressed that I have held your attention for this long. Thank you for being a part of my lifes journey … and helping me through yet another incredibly challenging time in my life. I’ve been stripped of my finances, my personal belongings, and had people kick me when I was down … but you know what? YOU are my blessings … and this medical stuff? I truly see it as part of God’s master plan. After all, He got me to come full circle … except this time, I am here, and I know what the world has to offer. Better yet, I know that He WILL use me further to change the world, and all of “this” is happening for a far greater purpose than any of us humans can possibly imagine.
May my excitement of being back in the Emerald City, and my story touch you in some way … because above all else, I just want you to know, you are NEVER alone … you are valued and appreciated just as you are … and there is HOPE. I promise (and I never make promises I cannot keep!!).
“The Sky Angel”
Bringing HOPE to South Africa, April 2011