The Power of Positivity

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I trudged into my local coffee shop this morning for the first time in a while. The barista was wiping down tables in her flower-patterned leggings and flannel top (a look I could never pull off yet she nails it), “Hey, stranger,” she says to me, “how have you been?” I flash a big grin and reply, “I’ve been fantastic!”

I’m not fantastic. Far from it, in fact. I’m scared and stressed and so very tired. It feels like life has taken a special interest in tearing me down these last few years. However, I recently decided that I’m not going to project my circumstances onto others. Being grumpy to the clerk ringing up my groceries or honking at the person in front of me for not driving to my liking isn’t going to do a damn thing to change my situation. I’m going to be pleasant and strive to be a blessing to others whenever possible.

My hope is that by outwardly portraying positivity, it will begin to manifest in my life on a personal level. According to this Psychology Today article, the simple act of smiling actually relieves stress and makes you more attractive (I’ll take all the help I can get in the looks department). If smiling has so many positive impacts, imagine what can happen if you face each day determined to be positive?

Here’s my plan for “Project Positivity”:

  • Every morning, I’m going to resist sleeping it. My goal is to wake up each day with purpose. This includes having a healthy breakfast, meditating and reflecting on my blessings.
  • Throughout The Day I’m going to smile dammit! I’m also going to practice patience and extend kindness whenever possible. I recognize that there are plenty of people who would love to have my problems because theirs are so much worse. Putting my life into perspective is going to be key to getting through each day while I figure out my next chapter.
  • I’m going to fill my time with quality people. I really do have amazing friends and family who build me up and I’m going to let them. There is nothing wrong with self-care and letting people who love you be a source of comfort is a great thing when you’re feeling down.
  • At the end of each day, I’m going to focus on what went right that day instead of dwell on what could have been better. Tomorrow is a new day with new opportunities. Looking ahead is a hell of a lot more productive than looking back.

I’m not expecting all of my problems to disappear just because I’m high-fiving strangers when I want to be punching a wall. I am, however, hoping to cope with my circumstances better and look forward to a brighter future. Wish me luck!

If you have any tips on how to stay positive through the dark times, feel free to share. I’ll take all the help I can get.

Today, I made lemonade.

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My day started off pretty crappy. I was headed to work only to find that my car wouldn’t start. Not even a little bit. I’ve been needing an oil change but money has been tight which has made easy for me to keep putting it off. The absolute worse scenarios started running through my mind. I was convinced that my procrastination has done irreparable damage or, at the very least, enough damage to cost a small fortune to fix.

I called my mom crying and began the 1/2 mile hike to the nearest train station aggravated that my day wasn’t going as planned.  It was blistering hot and I’d have to make a transfer. Why does everything have to happen to me! (OK. I’m being a bit dramatic, I know.)  By the time I got on my first train I had composed myself and accepted my fate. When I sat down there was a folded up piece of paper on the seat next to me. It didn’t seem to belong to anyone so I picked it up. Inside was a picture drawn by a child with the caption that read “Me and my suster we play outside with my frend.” It made me smile.

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There were two women across from me with a little boy. It seemed to be his first time on the train and he was amazed by everything he saw from his window. I began to think that having to take the train wasn’t so bad.

On the second train I began a lengthy conversation with the older gentleman next to me. He was headed to work and while we started off with casual banter about the weather, things became more meaningful. He told me about how his dad was killed in Vietnam when he was a kid and his mother had to take on the role of both parents. She passed away in October at the age of 83 and it has been hard of him. Unfortunately, I can now relate to the pain of losing a parent and we both agreed that no age is ideal to lose someone so special. I loved making such a connection with this stranger and wished him  a great day as I departed.

Aside from my pleasant conversation with a stranger, I saw a young man who give his seat up to an older lady and the couple sitting next to me were radiating love as they held hands and laughed at each other’s jokes. I was beginning to wonder why I didn’t take the train more often. For me, It was a great reminder of the humanity that still exists in a country that seems to be moving away from its founding values.

On the train platform I noticed an elderly women who didn’t speak much english trying to get directions from the conductor. They both seemed frustrated so I offered to help so that the train could get moving. The lady showed me a screenshot on her phone of a nearby Senior Center. I put the address into my Google Maps and walked her to the front door. She was so grateful to have someone go the extra mile and I was happy to make her day just a little bit easier.

I used to take the train every day in college but quit when it was no longer my most convenient option. However, my day was so enriched by the happenstance that I encountered. I learned a lesson today and think I’ll be taking public transportation more often.

Depression, It’s A Thing

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I wasn’t sure how to title this post. I was going to put “I’ve Had Depression” but upon further reflection I wonder if past tense is the correct verbiage. Do I HAVE depression? Does it ever fully go away? I feel fine today but know all too well that may not be the case tomorrow.

Let me first begin by explaining that I’ve never been formally diagnosed with depression. For some reason, making myself vulnerable through writing seems much more bearable than talking to a doctor about how I feel. The thought of trying to explain the sporadic despair and hopelessness that is my world to someone with a clipboard just isn’t an option.

My depression is interesting because anyone who knows me knows that I am an extrovert times 100. I’m happy and funny and all those things that no one would ever associate with depression. That’s that thing, everyone wears it differently. I’d like to think I wear mine well.

I’m going to try to explain my experience as best I can with the hope that  either someone reads this and finds hope or someone reads this and reaches out to a friend, family member and/or acquaintance.

Here it goes.

Sometimes I feel empty and alone. Sometimes I feel anxious. Sometimes I feel really tired. Sometimes I feel all of those things simultaneously.

Other times, I feel perfectly fine for days and even months. There is no rhyme or reason with depression.

I’m getting better at knowing that with every fall a rise is just around the corner. That wasn’t always the case.

There was one period in my life where I truly felt like I couldn’t continue. I felt like I was dying and my body just wasn’t catching up. It was inevitable and I wondered how much longer would I have to suffer before I’d finally be allowed to escape. If it would just happen already then maybe I’d find peace. I had a plan and wrote a note. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t manic. I wasn’t anything.

I can say two things that were completely true during that time (and this is what I want people to understand) 1) I honestly felt like suicide was a viable solution 2) I was not myself

I can’t fully explain what I mean when I say that I was not myself but I’ll try; I did not recognize myself. My body and mind felt foreign as if they were being inhabited by someone (or something) else. I felt disposable. I felt as if I were a dark spot on everyone’s otherwise bright and sunny lives. I envisioned a storm cloud walking into every room with me.

Please understand that everyone experiences depression differently. This is my story but there are so many more out there to be told.

What kept me from ending my life? Reasons. I had very tangible reasons; watching my nieces and nephews grow up, sparing my parents the pain of losing a child. If those reasons had not been then there’s a very good chance I wouldn’t be here today.

That’s not to say that people who commit suicide didn’t have those same reasons, people that they loved dearly. I don’t doubt that for a second. There were many times when my reasons seemed far away, just beyond my reach. Those times were dangerous for me. I’m fortunate to have escaped the talons of depression during those times. Again, no rhyme or reason.

I was watching something on TV awhile back about suicide.  I can’t remember if it was a documentary or news show like 20/20 or Dateline but it mentioned a study that revealed that something like 90% of people who attempted suicide and failed were happy that they survived. They were happy for the second chance.

That statistic touched me because it meant that they were happy to not have taken away their option of life. That’s what suicide is, it’s taking away the option for things to get better.

I don’t judge anyone who takes their own life. I’m sad that they lost their battle with a very powerful sickness. A sickness that manifests turmoil so gut-wrenching that you’ll never understand without experiencing it firsthand. No one who struggles with depression is immune to its wiles.

I take steps to manage my depression. I see a therapist regularly and take medication. Both are helpful but it took me years to reach this point. There are still tough times but I now know that it will pass.

I say all of this to encourage you to be kind. Offer encouragement. Reach out to old friends. Don’t judge the actions of others if you don’t understand what’s driving them. Depression is a bitch.

If you’re experiencing depression ask for help. Talk to someone. Don’t take away your options. Even though they seem few and far between one is just around the bend. Trust me please.

Disclaimer: This isn’t my most eloquent work but this topic is tricky to convey to others. Depression can feel like a jumbled mess of emotions and while I tried to not have that come through in my writing I may not have succeeded.

 

 

 

I Am Not An Underdog

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I am not an underdog. Statistically, perhaps I should be. I was born to a poor 16-year-old girl and 19-year-old boy. We lived in motels and projects and rundown homes. At times, we relied on food stamps and donations to get by and boiled water for hot baths. We were looked at with pity and even disgust. There were whispers that we were worthless, that my siblings and I would be a product of our environment.

Our destiny was written by for us by others. My sister and I were to be teenage mothers, just as our mom was, struggling to rare the next generation of scourge; my brothers – unfortunate misfits. These aren’t exaggerations. We heard the satisfactory way these predictions were made. Us failing demonstrated the world order. It just made good sense.

But here’s the thing; we were never underdogs. I was never an underdog. I was raised to believe that I was a bad ass no one better ever mess with. Not because my mom or dad would swoop in to save me but because I was strong and powerful and could handle it.

Both my mom and dad gave me traits to not only survive this world but to thrive in it. Humble swagger, that’s what I have. I’m confident and compassionate. Empathy hits me so hard that it physically hurts at times. I hold my head up even as I’m being knocked down because I know I’m getting back up.

am a product of my environment. An environment of unconditional love, and perseverance. An environment that embraced being unique and different and interesting. An environment that took every roadblock and knocked it out of the fucking park.

These are the things that I’m holding on to as I struggle with my dad’s death. He is in me and that makes me fierce. Man, that makes me fierce.  His words echo in my head telling me to keep moving. I don’t have a choice. His standards were too high.

My dad never offered to fix a situation for me although I knew he would if I needed it. He cheered me on as I tackled it, telling me that I could do it. At the end he’d say, “I never doubted you for a second.”

Once, I was on the train in Atlanta and two men began fighting. After a punch was thrown one of the men got off at the next stop. The man that stayed on the train, held the door open and attempted to provoke the other back on.

People were scared. An old lady trembled in her seat and people were huddled together at one end of the train car. I got angry and stood nose to nose with the man, looking him in the eye. “If he gets back on this train I’m going to help him kick your ass,” I said,” Get off or let the doors close but you’re not finishing your fight on this train.” He let the door close and sat down, apologizing.

I called my dad later that day and recounted the story. “He didn’t know who he was messing with,” was his response.

Another time, while I was in Switzerland,  a man passing by touched me between the legs, chuckling to his friends. I turned around and kneed him so hard in the groin that he was struggling to breathe as I walked away. “That’s what he gets for fucking with my baby girl,” my dad said later.

He had this confidence in me that made me feel exceptional and even invincible. Both of the aforementioned stories could have turned out much differently and maybe one day one will but I don’t shrink and I don’t run. I am my dad’s daughter.

I’ve never been an underdog. Not for a second.

Bird 1963-2017

My dad could have lived to be 200 and it’d be too soon. He gave me my sense of humor, zeal for life and all around swagger.

Here is his obituary in full.

dadfingerRonald Ashley Zoerner Sr., better known as Bird to his family and friends, passed away on December 26, 2017 at the age of 54. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on September 14, 1963. His family is briefly summed up as follows: He is the biological child of Albinus Zoerner II and Nellie Arnold and is survived by his siblings Michael Zoerner, Tonya Chatman, Albinus Zoerner III and Andrew Zoerner. He also has half and step-siblings; Iva Buchanan, Chris Wilson, Barbara-Jean Gray, Jenny Box and Mary Rush.

His proudest role in life was as a father to Ashley Zoerner, Misty Fitts (husband, Keenan Fitts), Ronald Zoerner Jr. and Frank Zoerner, as well as a Paw-Paw to Javen, Rome, Payden, Jace, Bryson, Alivia and Liam.

He was divorced from Suzette Flores but both will tell you that they remained the best of friends until the end. Suzette’s current (and hopefully last) husband, Jesse Flores, couldn’t help but also fall for Bird’s charming personality and they developed a strong friendship, which resulted in labeling each other “husband-in-law”. Bird also considered his ex-wife’s step-daughter, Jessica Flores, as his very own. Long story short, he had a wonderful, quirky, unconventional family and wouldn’t have had it any other way.

In retirement, Bird lived his perfect life. Everything he owned fit in a backpack and he traveled via plane, train or automobile, splitting his time between his kids. In fact, the joke was always that when he left this earth the only thing his kids would have to divvy up would be his awesome T-shirt collection and maybe a bag of weed.

He was extraordinary. He wasn’t a conventional father and for that, his kids will forever be grateful. He was whatever they needed him to be at any given moment: a babysitter, handyman, confidant, cook, motivational speaker and always a friend.

Bird lived how he wanted and didn’t care what anyone else thought. He always said, “If it makes you happy and isn’t hurting anyone else, do it.” If you loved him, then there’s a good chance he loved you back. If you didn’t, he’d shrug you off seemingly without a second thought

He was laid back and didn’t see the point of being any other way. He figured that everything turns out the way it’s supposed to. “Don’t stress. Things always work out in the end,” he’d say.

He was a hard worker as a sheet rock finisher and his handiwork can be found in homes and businesses across the Mississippi Gulf Coast, New Orleans, Louisiana, Florida and beyond. Each of his kids grew up working beside him on job sites. He taught his kids to take pride in their work and the benefit of doing it right the first time. He was proud that anyone of his kids could texture a ceiling, spot nails, fix a patch and paint an entire house with ease.

He loved Popeyes Fried Chicken, Barq’s Rootbeer, Hubig’s Pies, Yuengling Lager, and if you ever offered him anything other than Blue Plate Mayo, he’d lose a little respect for you. He hated pickles and didn’t understand what all of the fuss was with sushi.

It’s tough to sum up anyone’s life in a few paragraphs but even more so with someone who had such a big personality and spirit. Bird was what most would call “a character,” and for many, there will forever be a void with him gone.

Bird wasn’t much for formalities, so close friends and family will be celebrating his life at Suzette’s home on Saturday December 30, 2017. There will be lots of tears and laughter. A few middle fingers will be tossed up in jest and many beers raised to a great man who is gone far too soon.

 

 

I’ve Got The Post Trip Blues

 

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Me living it up in Ireland.

Cue the guitar cause I’ve got the blues.

I’m home after two wonderful weeks in Ireland and I’m a little bummed. This is normal, right?

When you’re planning a trip the anticipation is overwhelming. Anything is possible. Oh, the things you’ll do and see!

When you’re on the trip you’re blown away. Each day is packed with excitement. New places, new people, the food, the buildings; everything is magical.

And then it’s all over.

Sure, you have your memories but you also have spoiled milk and dirty laundry. You’re playing catch-up and fighting fatigue. You spend the first few days thinking about what time it is where you were and what you’d be doing if you were there now.

I’ve very fortunate to have been to so many awesome places and am sure that another adventure is right around the corner. Until then, excuse me while I load the washing machine……