Family Doesn’t Mean Everything

I have a friend who has some deep and painful issues with her family that we’ve been talking about quite a bit lately and it reminded me of all of the work I’ve done over the years to overcome some similar familial challenges. I won’t tell you her story because it isn’t mine to share, but I thought I would go into some of my story and some of what I shared with her from my experiences. 

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Not Quite 60

Tomorrow my mom would have been 60. She should be having a party to celebrate her milestone year, but she died from Alzheimer’s when she was 56. I stopped talking to her for the final time when she was 49. Even before that, for the four or five years prior, I didn’t hardly speak to her. Do I regret it, no. Do I wish things were different, yes.

I was just talking to a friend about vow renewals and big parties. She wants to do a party for her and her husband’s 50th birthday. It made me realize, that if I waited to celebrate a milestone birthday like 50 and if I follow in my mother’s medical path, I won’t really know who I am or who other people are at 50. I wouldn’t make it to the milestone age of 60.

So I am most likely going to celebrate 40. Why be so morbid? Because why wait? Why wait to celebrate some age down the road when I can celebrate an age that is just around the corner?

I know, I might out-live my mother by 10, 20, or even 40 years (God I hope not), but I don’t know for sure. I won’t know until that time comes.

So while I am still young and have my wits about me (most of the time), I am going to live in the moment and I am going to live for today and I am going to celebrate. I mean, I don’t know what will happen between now and turning 40. Hell, I might even start celebrating every five years. Why not?

My mother didn’t get the option to celebrate frequently. She also didn’t know how to take care of herself to help her live longer. While I don’t regret not talking to her in her final years, I don’t want to waste a day not living the life I have now.

Happy Birthday mom. If only things were different.

Alzheimer’s Gene

A few months ago I decided to finally take a risk and do the 23andMe health test to see if I have the APOE4 gene, the gene that is most referred to as being a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. Before I get into that, let me give you a little back story.

My maternal grandmother was diagnosed with dementia in her 70’s or 80’s, I don’t quite remember, I just knew it was “normal” timing. My mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in her late 40’s. She died at 56. It has been indicated that dementia and Alzheimer’s can be hereditary.

I used to worry about being like my mother and developing early onset Alzheimer’s. I was paranoid about leaving Eddie and our kids before I was 60. I didn’t want young children to see their mother with Alzheimer’s. It isn’t something that is easy to deal with. When kids became a thing that is no longer in our future, some of the anxiety lightened up. I didn’t think about it as often.

Then I found Genius Foods by Max Lugavere. His story resonated with me and the changes he made gave me new information on how to improve my life in the pursuit of delaying or preventing Alzheimer’s. I lost a lot of the fear I had. I started learning more and more. And I still have a lot to learn.

My new found comfort with having the potential knowledge of whether or not I have the gene gave me what I needed to order the test. And black Friday sales.

I spit in the tube and sent it in. I actually started getting excited to know. It was going to give me direction on my thoughts. It was going to change nothing and everything.

I received the results and they show that I have one variant of the APOE4 gene. Only one variant. That barely increases my chances and I’m comfortable with that knowledge. Shortly after I received my test results, I found a podcast by Max Lugavere that gave me even more information that I needed. On the Genius Life podcast episode 80, Max interviewed Dr. Richard Isaacson from Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian.

One in four people carry the APOE4 gene. That makes a lot of people squeamish and for once I can say I am not one of those people. In a new review paper in the Journal of the Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease, Dr. Isaacson along with a couple others, discussed how using the APOE4 gene can help personalize or guide risk-reduction care for Alzheimer’s disease.

The things that Dr. Isaacson talked about that resonated with me the most are about smoking and physical activity. Smoking seems to press fast-forward towards Alzheimer’s disease. Also, those who are sedentary have higher amyloid levels. I don’t want to get into any of the medical facts because I will not regurgitate them very well, but these two things are things that I can speak to. 

You see, my mother smoked for many, many years. So did her mother. And my mother was not very active. She didn’t take care of herself. I know, these are just two factors in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. But, these are two factors that I think, yes my opinion, can change the trajectory of my risk.

Having the variant of the APOE4 gene shows me that I am at a higher risk than most people. That’s okay, because we are in an age of information that I can find and use to change how I live my life. I’ve already made changes. I get up and move. I try to not be sedentary for hardly any time. I don’t smoke. I did a little in high school, but not very much and I haven’t in years. I even try not to be around cigarette smoke. I have made nutritional changes, and continue to.

Finding out that I have a variant of the APOE4 gene is not a death sentence for me. It really isn’t a death sentence for anybody. It is merely knowledge that we can use to change our current habits for the better. It is knowledge that can help us to take better care of ourselves.

Have you ever wondered if you have the Alzheimer’s gene? Are you fearful of Alzheimer’s? Let’s get the conversation started in the comments.

Here are the links for the sources I mentioned above.

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/905599

https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1016/j.jalz.2019.08.198

https://www.maxlugavere.com/podcast/richard-isaacson-80

Won’t You Regret…

…pushing your parents out of your life?

Yes. No. Maybe. Probably not.

I know so many people who have wonderful relationships with their parents, or at least one of their parents. I know people who wish they knew their parents. I know people who have bit the bullet and tolerate relationships with their parents. I know people who, like me, have chosen to not associate with their parents at all.

I made this choice early on. I cut my mother off after I wasn’t required to use her taxes for my student aid. Even after I moved out of her house at 17, I rarely talked to her or saw her. I cut my mother off in my mid-twenties when I could finally get it across to my grandmother that I didn’t want to see my father.

My mother died almost three years ago from early-onset Alzheimer’s. It brought up a lot of emotions that I wasn’t prepared to handle at the time. It absolutely brought up regrets.

But her death also brought a lot of clarity to my life and my decisions. I am where I am today because I protected my peace and did what I needed to for my own sanity. I truly believe that if I hadn’t cut either out of my life, I would be on a completely different path in life.

So no, no I do not regret cutting either of them out of my life.

I absolutely wish I had those relationships. There are many times that I mourn the loss of those relationships knowing that it was my decision. I even tried to fabricate a relationship with my mother-in-law to replace my mother. It was a cry for love and attention and it didn’t go well. At least not in my opinion or for me. I am not sure her view of it. It wasn’t until I realized what I had been doing and stopped that I feel like my relationship with my mother-in-law got even better.

I won’t ever have the type of relationship with a blood-parent or parental figure that I want. I know that my view of that relationship has been highly skewed by movies and my childhood. Either way, I still don’t regret not allowing either parent in my life.

I don’t regret it now and I doubt I ever will.

Powerful and Capable

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Giving yourself credit isn’t easy. At least, for me, it’s not. I always had the impression that if I were to give myself credit for anything, I would be conceited and stuck up and too into myself. It wasn’t acceptable in my mind. What was acceptable, was brushing off any accomplishment like it was no big deal to me. Not making a big deal about anything and everything was the way I lived my life.

So I would get extremely uncomfortable when someone would praise me. Like, I wanted to hide and make it stop kind of uncomfortable. I wanted people to be proud of me, but I was uncomfortable hearing it. I wanted people to know that I am a badass employee, but I didn’t want to vocalize it. I wanted people to know that I give and I give and I give, but I didn’t want to tell them.

I couldn’t even muster up being proud of myself or saying I did well at something. It was way easier to bitch about when I failed or did something wrong that when I crushed that certification or helped that friend.

I didn’t want the spotlight. The spotlight was uncomfortable.

I was holding myself back. I was making myself small. I was diminishing everything about me before I would allow myself to be proud of anything I did.

It wasn’t working. I was holding myself back from greatness. I was holding myself back from my future.

Slowly I am starting to give myself credit. Slowly I am starting to brag about my accomplishments. I have so much more ahead of me in my life that I can accomplish if I just start giving myself credit for my past accomplishments and my current endeavors.

I graduated from college with my Bachelor in Business Administration – Big deal, so many people do that. Yeah, they do. I am the only one out of my immediate family to do so. I chose school rather than fulfilling my mother’s desire of: “just wait until after you get your diploma to get pregnant.”

I graduated from college with my Master in Business Administration – Big deal, so many people do that. Yeah, they do. But I did it while being at the height of my drinking and party days, moving states, changing jobs, and oh by the way, that wasn’t even in my cards when I was growing up.

I got married before considering having children – Big deal, that’s the normal way of life. It might be, but for my upbringing, it wasn’t. My mother didn’t graduate high school and had my older sister young. My older sister got pregnant right after high school. An aunt got pregnant right around finishing high school (if I recall correctly). My other sister got pregnant before she got married.

I keep climbing with my professional career – Big deal, you aren’t the only one. No, I am not. But I am me and I could choose to stay in a lower-paying, unfulfilling job, or I can choose to keep finding something new that fuels my passion while also allowing me to have a life and be paid well.

I passed my PMP on my first attempt – That test was fucking hard. You take it, tell me it was easy.

I have so much more to be proud of. I quit drinking. I have found personal development and personal growth and have changed my life. We bought a house. We are remodeling our home. I’m working on starting two businesses. I bought my dream vehicle. I am finding more and more of my own passions and I am going for them.

I can and will climb parts of a corporate ladder and I will continue to find more fulfilling jobs. I am going to be offered a position, maybe two, in less than two weeks of being laid off from a job I enjoyed. I am powerful and I am capable. I can do anything I want. And I’ll do it.

How did I change my mindset? By changing my thoughts. Anytime I shied away from being celebrated, I’ve started to lean in. Anytime I would normally knock down praise, I leaned into it. Anytime something bad happened, I leaned into the positive side of the situation. I changed how I reacted.

I’m not where I want to be yet and where I want to get to may come off as conceited, but I don’t care. I am powerful and I am capable and it is about fucking time I start giving myself credit.

Stupid

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While reading an e-book from Andrea Owen in her Kick Your Gremlin’s Ass coaching, I came across this quote. It hit me hard. You see, this is me.

I am completely and utterly afraid of looking stupid. In front of anyone. Everyone. Just me.

Yes, just me. I am absolutely my worst critic.

I know why I have this fear. It isn’t some secret. It stems from my childhood. My parents weren’t stupid, but in each of their own ways, they weren’t that smart either. They stayed in the life of blaming everyone else for what they didn’t know and how their life ended up.

Simple things from my childhood have come up since I left on my own that make me feel utterly stupid because it is what I was told or the impression I was given by my parents. For instance, my mom would get out of the shower and say that a “spitter” has joined her. For most of my life, I thought she meant a spitting spider. It wasn’t until I started hearing others say they found a spider in the shower that I started getting curious. My mother was just saying spider in a different way.

Except, to me, it wasn’t just different. It was absolutely childish and stupid of her to say. So I never wanted to be that stupid. I try my damndest to say every word correctly. I do not want to mispronounce or change the way a word is said because I don’t want to look or sound stupid.

I won’t ask for help in stores. I won’t admit if I don’t know something. I won’t admit if I don’t know how to do something. I do not want to look stupid.

I refuse to be considered stupid.

I mean, it hurts with everything I am to look stupid. I get the worst gut wrenching feeling if I think someone might think I’m stupid or acting stupid. I mean, I can’t even let myself be silly because I don’t want to look stupid.

And then the lightbulb went off when I saw this quote.

Who’s definition of stupid am I afraid of?

Who truly might think I’m stupid? This, this right here is why I’ve let myself be trapped in my fear of looking stupid.

But if I stay hidden behind this fear, I’m not going to live my best life. I am not going to be the happy person I want to be. I cannot work on everything else that I struggle with and not work on this fear.

I have no answers of how I’m going to work on this specific fear. I have no insight to share of the steps to take to overcome it. But I can share what steps I’m taking within just a couple hours of reading this quote that will be a step in changing my life.

I’m writing this post. I’m admitting my fear. Putting it out there.

I’m printing this quote and putting it up by my makeup station to read every morning.

I am going to challenge myself so my inner critic can tell me that I look stupid, and then I’m going to work through that.

I’m going to enlist my husband in helping me.

I will start to ask for help in stores.

I will allow people to help me.

I don’t know why it took so long for a quote to illuminate this lightbulb, but I’m going to embrace that it has finally happened. I am going to work through the gut wrenching pain and anxiety.

I am going to take back my life and live it the best that I can.

I am going to face the fear of looking stupid head on.