Coping, disability, Family, growing up, Life, Loss, Love, Motivation

Figure 8

Now, I know everyone has his or her place they go to get away, to find some peace and quiet, and to have just a little time to be away from everyone and everything. It may be a big cozy chair in the corner of a room where the sun shines in with a good book in your hands, a park bench that is off the beaten path, a little coffee shop on the corner, in your car driving through the country with the top down, riding a bike through those beautiful tree tunnels that make you feel like there is a completely different world waiting for you at the other end, going to the batting cages until you have used every last available quarter you can find in a 20 mile radius, floating on kayak at dusk when the water is like glass, sitting in the sand letting all your senses take in everything that the ocean can give, or laying in a hammock while the breeze rocks you to sleep. These all were my getaways before the wheelchair. My spot now… my momentary timeout from life is rolling down the road in big figure 8 around this beautiful lake that I call home. On a day when I need a little extra time, when things are weighing on my mind, or I want to escape and listen to a few more songs and my charge on the chair is still on green, I buzz right by our driveway and go twice. Everyone around here knows this as my “roll,” and I have met so many people over the years just by waving and saying hello. As long as the sun is shining and the weather permits, it is a daily event for me. I make sure my seatbelt is secure, I hook my mirror up so I do not have any surprises sneaking up behind me, I put my chair up to rabbit speed, the headphones go on, and the music goes up. The sun, the wind, the water, and the music relax me and somehow ignite my creativity all at the same time. It is on my rolls where I come up with the best ideas for writing, and it is also my place where I try to let go of worries, cry over the loss of people I love, smile at random memories that my music brings back to life, vent my frustrations, talk to my little brother whose presence I feel every moment I am by that water, sing my heart out along with the music flowing in my ears, and cope with things that I do not like to speak of. I have had a few people ask me if I get bored of rolling and seeing the same sights every day, and the first time I responded to that I remember exactly what I said….. “It is so pretty here, and I see a different kind of pretty every day.” Every day I roll around the lakes, no matter what kind of day I have had, I can honestly say that I see at least one thing that makes me stop and just look. Today was no different, and it was a day where I had all sorts of thoughts bouncing off of each other while I navigated my figure 8. This is what my roll stirred up…

I once heard the saying, “If you are lucky enough to live on a lake, then you are lucky enough.” As I sit here on the dock and look out at the water as the sun is going down I really do know how lucky I am. For many of you that know me, you know that my permanent home is now on the lake, and a beautiful lake at that. Now, if I had to make this change five or so years ago, I know I would not have appreciated it as much as I do now. I would not have been ready to leave my friends, leave my home and everything that was familiar to me, leave the faster pace of life. Now that I’m in my “northern” 30s my mindset is completely different, and I have realized how much can change over just a few years. I know what has brought this change in me; it is a combination of things…

First is that I fell in love. A strong love. An honest love. I could feel my priorities in life completely shift when love showed up like it did… unexpected but at the perfect time. The lakes allowed me to be closer to that love, and that love washed away any doubts that were lingering about moving away from what was familiar to me. Love is a powerful thing and it made me feel safe. The second is pretty simple… I grew up. I have developed amazing friendships that have an unspoken mutual understanding that being an adult is not for sissies and life sometimes can keep us apart for a significant amount of time, but we truly cherish every moment that we now have together. Yes, I miss them every day, but at this age I have been blessed with such a solid foundation of true friends… friends that are constant no matter what life deals out. Third, I enjoy the slower pace of life here, and every single time I say it I shake my head and smile, because I hear my 70 year old neighbor say the same exact thing. I love the little bar on the corner where “everyone knows your name,” knowing that I can look up at night and see so many stars that are not faded by the lights of a busy city, having friends visit so they can relax, living near a one stop light town that still celebrates its settlement days with a beer tent and live music, cooking dessert over a campfire, and losing track of time with friends out on the water. The last significant piece to all of this is my little brother. He continues to teach me things about life, even after he passed away a little over two years ago. This lake is his final resting place, and the feeling of being close to him makes me feel more at home than anything else. It has brought a new calmness to this beautiful body of water that I wake up to every morning. It is a calm that I did not feel before, but it is real and I know Eric would want that for me… he would want that for all of us.

I have come to realize that it is the people, the love, your frame of mind, it is life, it is loss, and it is the experiences… however large or small that make a house your home, and each spot where we land is like a stepping stone through life. The stone I am on right now is a good one and the view is not too shabby. So, for right now I’m going to keep rolling my figure 8, and waving at people that I have yet to meet, and singing along with my music, and writing about my life… and always trying to find that “different kind of pretty” every single day.

Growing up, adolescence, life

A Letter to 16-Year-Old Me….

When I was in high school, I thought someone in their 30s sounded so old. Now, here I am, 35-years-old… but I do not feel so old. What I do feel is confidence. It is a little ironic that I am rolling around in this wheelchair, but I feel more confident and I feel like I have found more purpose compared to when I was walking on two feet. I love being in my 30s. I know what I want, I know my true friends, I understand the meaning of family, and I do not feel bad about going to bed at 8 o’clock on a Friday night. One of the many things that I wish was possible is that my 35-year-old self could write a letter to my 16-year-old self. You know….. A, “I wish I knew then, what I know now” kind of letter. It would not be a long letter, because I remember me at 16. I was constantly on the go, and I would not take the time to sit down and read a five page letter, front and back, from my future long winded self….

What I really want to tell 16-year-old Annie is to trust quality over quantity. Yes, I remember hearing the term, but at 16 I thought the more friends I had, the better life would be. It is a competition that all teenagers experience. As a teenager, you put on so many different masks in order to fit in, but all of those masks are just hiding what is real. It’s exhausting.

So, here is the letter. It is overdue for my 16-year-old self, but maybe you can pass it along to someone you know….

Dear 16-year-old ______________,

That small group of people that would call you out if you tried being someone other than yourself, that small group of people that loves and supports you despite your beautiful flaws, that small group of people that builds you up and respects and celebrates your accomplishments, and that small group of people that comes into your life and truly sticks by your side… Those are the people you wrap your arms around. That is the type of quality you need in your life, because your “crew” are the ones that are gonna stick around when things get messy, and I’m sorry but things are going to get messy sometimes. No amount of preparation can stop certain difficult or frustrating things from happening, so the best thing you can do is to keep pushing forward and learning from your experiences.

Quality… keep it in the back of your mind for every decision you make. Unfortunately, your heart will be broken… more than once and for different reasons. Trust me, you are going to be fine. If the person you love breaks your heart but is of high quality, you will heal. Through all of the hurt you will take something away from that heartbreak that will change you. Let your heart heal before you open up again. It will, and you will know when the time is right.

Throughout life people will frustrate you… disappoint you… and just flat out piss you off. So, trust your gut. Whether it is telling you to turn right when you want to turn left… whether it is telling you to make a complete U-turn… or it may be telling you to say hi to a beautiful stranger. Trust yourself. Trust that little voice in your head. Trust that churning feeling in the pit of your stomach. You will develop this skill over the years, and even at 35-years-old you will have moments of doubt, because sometimes the right decision is the hardest decision to make.

Stay true to your beliefs, and your morals, and who you truly are. This is not always going to be easy, and at times there will be people who look down on you based on your beliefs, but in the end you will have more respect for yourself. Sometimes people will talk, sometimes people will stare, and sometimes people will just not understand, but that is not your problem. Life is too short to try to make everyone happy.

Always make time for yourself. Sometimes, one of the scariest places to be is by yourself with your own thoughts and fears. When you learn to love yourself, it will reflect upon all the other relationships in your life. You will learn to embrace your time alone, and you will learn to find peace with your own thoughts. Believe me when I say this, some of your best ideas and answers to whatever is testing you will come to you during the times where it is just you, the music in your ears, and the sun on your face.

Now, to end this letter I will give you a few more bits of advice:

~ Do not ever underestimate the power of a smile and a simple hello.

~ Do not judge others, because you do not know the battles they have fought or may still be fighting.

~ Always set two morning alarms.

~ Being polite will always make a lasting impression, but so will being rude.

~ Sometimes the best way to get your thoughts out is by using a pen and paper.

~ Mom and Dad really do know what they are talking about.

~ Choose the people who choose you.

~ Always keep $20 hidden in your car for an emergency, and a Ricker’s pop is not considered an emergency.

~ Peer pressure is a thing. It will always be a thing.

~ Moderation is important.

~ There are two times when music lyrics make more sense… when you are in love, and when your heart is broken.

~ Always send thank you cards.

~ If you are going to plan for anything, plan for the unexpected.

~ Perfect is boring.

~ You are allowed to have a bad day, moments of frustration, and make mistakes… you are human.

~ It is completely ok to be picky… especially about relationships, shoes, and pizza.

Last but not least… When you reach your 30s, please try to hold on to a few things you had when you were 16. Hold on to your innocence, the warmth and excitement you feel on Christmas morning, your love of life, your competitive edge, and your smile. Do not let anyone ever steal that smile. You are going to make it… Trust me.


The Future You