I.M.POSSIBLE
A New Phase

Here I am, back to my ignored blog. I’ve missed writing but as I got healthier, life got busier. Thats a good thing, but I’ve never been a consistent journalist. When I was younger, I always attempted to write in a diary or journal but it always faded out. As proof of that, I have a journal that my mom gave me for my birthday in 1999. It’s not even half used. I now use it to write my to-do lists. I’m a list person and a planner - thats how I use pretty journals!

Anyway, as I said, life got busy and this blogging thing went by the wayside. But I now find myself with some downtime again and would like to pick it back up. This summer I was back to my job as a college math tutor. Tutoring was a job I got accidentally but I ended up really loving it. Now that I’m not tutoring anymore, I feel like I am not using my brain as much. I miss that and am hoping starting to blog again fills the creative, brain challenging void.

So where am I now, you ask? My fiancé and I are two months settled into our very first home together. Granted we don’t own it,  but we are pretty close with the landlords (my parents) and have creative license on the decorating, home improvement, etc. Yes, at 28, I find myself setting up home with a significant other. It has been so much fun and a surprisingly easy transition. I love living with Mike (I think he’s a keeper ;) ) and we have started on a great routine. After a year of a long distance relationship with a surprise engagement in there, then a summer of 3 moves and studying for the Bar, it feels so awesome to be in one place and really start our lives. We find ourselves in a new area, not knowing too many people but being 2 miles from the beach brings quick solace. We have put time, money and love into the condo, feel comfortable there and are happy to call it home. I am so excited to enter this new phase of life - one where I actually feel like an adult - and I wouldn’t want to be entering this phase with anyone but Mike!

Hopefully I’ll be a bit more disciplined and you’ll hear more from me soon. Till then…:)

Fear, Gratitude, and Choices

I spent the majority of my high school years home sick. I hated it, and though I recovered to live a normal life, I was usually plagued with nagging health issues. Most of the time that never stopped me, but in the back of my head I was always afraid high school would happen again. And then it did.

When I became quite ill about a year ago and things did not rectify quickly, I was living my worst fear. Illness was again controlling my life. I had days that were really difficult. Days when I did not want to get out of bed. Days where anxiety was overbearing; I worried I would never feel better, that I could not handle the situation.

I was reminded every day I woke up of what was going on: the blurred vision when I opened my eyes was hard to ignore. I was struggling with the situation when one of my health care professionals told me that I needed to make a choice. When I woke up and things were blurry, I needed to CHOOSE not to ignore it but to “step over” it and into my day. It was hearing that simple sentence, that simple decision, that helped me start to have better days and accept the current situation. 

Fear can be paralyzing. We’ve all seen it happen to many people, for many reasons, in many different ways. Fear can control your life. And as John Meyer says “Fear is a friend who’s misunderstood.” Fear can make you forget the good things in your life, those moments to be grateful. It was when I made the choice to “step over” into my day and focus on an attitude of gratitude that I was able to survive. Some days are just downright bad and crummy. Everyone has them. Some days the only thing to be grateful for is that the sun was shining, or we are still breathing on rainy days! But after taking time to examine things I realized that there is ALWAYS at least ONE thing to be grateful for. On my really bad days, I tried to focus on the love surrounding me. With so much support from friends and family there was no way I could ever give in. For the love and support many showed me (usually at the moments I needed it the most) I am forever grateful.

Days are not as difficult at the moment. There are “bad” ones thrown in and some days a few tears even sneak out. But when I focus on the many blessings to be grateful for, it’s not so terrible. I guess I’ve lived my worst fear, and am surviving. If I have a relapse, I know a simple step over will help. It is truly about state of mind.

I choose gratitude over fear - well, at least most days I’m able! ;)

This is a joke, right?

Today was a good day. So good, in fact, that the endorphins must be flowing because I can’t sleep. Perfect time to blog, right?! I have been gone from the blogosphere for far too long! I hope this is the beginning of some consistent blogging for me again.

Anyway, when I have days as good as today (happy, comfortable, pain-free) I am surprised (and relieved) to have made it this far! Honestly. That sounds really silly, but when I take a moment to think about all the pain and discomfort I’ve lived through I don’t know how I did it. The past 10 months have been quite uncomfortable, but here I am, still plugging away.

In January, I headed back to my “second” home in Florida. I was going to take a few months to get stronger and healthier and then return north for treatment for multiple sclerosis. Well, about a week after arriving, I came down with an upper respiratory infection that because of my depleted immune system found it’s way to my digestive tract. I thought to myself and pretty sure I said to my mom “This is a joke, right?” I soon found myself more uncomfortable than usual and was eventually admitted to the hospital for a few days. Thank God for my mother, who flew down immediately and literally kept me alive and subsequently nursed me back to health. Once back home I was so weak and slow to recover, I felt that I had hit rock bottom. I could not take anymore. It seemed like it would never get better. Ever. But it did. And today is an example.

Today I walked 1.6 miles. That is farther than I’ve walked in quite awhile. My legs may be shakey and feeling the mileage, but I did it and I don’t feel terrible. Today I drove myself around town. My vision had improved immensely since becoming blurry last June and I could not be happier to see anything (trees, cars, people, buildings) on my ride. Today was a good day.

I realize that I am no exception. Lots of people experience horrific pain and discomfort of many kinds in their life. I feel for my 26 years (almost 27) I have experienced a lot. But I’m stronger for it. And though in the moment it may seem that it will never get better, it does, it just takes time.

However, Murphy’s law does in fact exist. When it rains, it will in fact pour. And in moments of pure frustration I will not hestitate to ask “This is a joke, right???!!!” But I’ll keep on plugging. This too shall pass.

Jack and Jill(A Daddy’s Girl)

It’s almost Valentine’s day. And although I don’t have a boyfriend, I do have a forever Valentine. Honestly, I wish every girl was as lucky as I am. My father has been my Valentine since the day I was born. I like to think he looked at my bright blue eyes and from that moment I had him wrapped around my finger. I am the younger of two children and my father’s only daughter; he spoiled me enough to know that I am special and what I deserve(and am worthy of) but not too much that I would be a spoiled brat. He made sure to put me in my place when I needed to be. I appreciate him more than he will ever know and more than I can ever express. I have so many fond memories with my father, some that make me laugh, others that bring tears to my eyes.

I don’t know if my father will ever read this. Although he was very encouraging when I told him I wanted to start a blog, he doesn’t “follow” me. He was one of the people who I asked advice on starting a blog and I emailed him the note I wrote for Facebook. I kid you not, he responded, “This was a great start to a blog eventhough it was a year ago. You write very well and very inspirationally. It has been an amazing journey. I think you should put more stuff in there about your father.” Well, careful what you say, Dad!

My father is one of a kind. He most definitely is a unique individual. I love him more than I can say in a blog. But there are a few things that stand out. I moved out of my parents’ house and 1,000 miles away five years ago. Every Valentine’s Day and every birthday, one dozen roses arrive on my doorstep. Without fail. From Dad. (He usually tries to send orange, my favorite, and the company messes up every time and now it’s kind of a joke.) If I ever call my father upset about something he calms my anxieties. He is so even-keeled and always knows what to say to make me feel better. It is in fact true what that sign in the ice cream shop in It’s A Wonderful Life says: Dad knows best. And, yes, his name is Jack and mine is Jill.

Jack and Jill - the perfect pair

I love you, Daddy.

Anger

Being in a warmer climate the past two plus weeks has been wonderful. When the sun is shining and you don’t have to put on layers of clothing to run errands, you are a bit more motivated. I’ve been grocery shopping for myself and running other errands that I wasn’t when I was in Jersey. The activity is definitely helping me get my endurance up and continue on my recovery. There is a flip side to this however. This weather is perfect for running. I would give anything to go for a run right now. It’s just not possible. I don’t have the energy or stamina for that type of activity and it makes me so ANGRY.

I’m going to be very honest and say that following this first paragraph, I had a totally different blog, but have decided not to post it. I’ve wanted to post about anger for awhile now, but I felt what I had written was almost too personal to put out there for the world. It felt great getting it out! But I would still like to express my feelings, just in a, shall I say…calmer way.

I’m sure all of you can relate to the “Why?” moments in life. That is where I am at right now. I keep searching for answers that aren’t there. A lot of my anger is from the fact that I cannot do what I want and that all of my previous hard work and patience seems to have been for naught. I’m in the process of learning how normal and healthy anger is and how instead of ignoring and burying the anger, to express it and use it as motivation and even draw energy from it. It is hard for me. I am a very positive and happy person and anger and sadness feel so uncomfortable. But I know fighting those feelings can make it even worse. So if I need a day to cry, I will give myself just that. But let me tell you, being kind and patient with myself is very difficult!

I realize that this point of the disease is probably the hardest. It is so new. It is all-consuming. But I will get to the point where I can manage it and I can find a new normal, I know that. Anger will give way to acceptance. Until then, I will do my best to use this overwhelming anger as a springboard to move forward. I can also promise that as soon as I can run, I will pound the pavement and get some anger out!!

Blog about Blogs

I have to admit that I was quite ignorant to the blogosphere until recently. I’ve never been a blog reader. Read some here and there, but never followed anyone. I knew a few of my friends had blogs. One friend moved to China, and I made sure to follow her blog so I would know what was going on in her life and how her experience in a whole new world was going. Other friends, I made fun of. What was the point?! (And not to name names, but some of them just aren’t good…) But now I totally get it. A blog is not about anyone else. It’s strictly about you. It helps to get things out.

When I started thinking about starting my own blog, I researched it. I was surprised by how many of my friends(more than I was aware of) had their own blogs and were avid blog readers. You literally can find a blog about anything. And to me, that is a very cool thing.

I am enjoying blogging so far. I will do it as long as I am still enjoying it. I am a very goal oriented person so it’s nice at this time for me to have a project. For me, it is very therapeutic. Seeing what I’m going through in black and white helps it to not be this huge thing. It almost simplifies it. This blog is a catharsis for me.

I want my blog to play out the way I try to live my life - very honest with integrity and dignity and of course lots of laughs. If anyone actually reads my blog, I would like it to either inspire them or make them laugh. I am not going to share too much information which I think some bloggers do. But I also am not going to gloss over this diagnosis. If one person who is going through a similar situation reads this and they see the emotions I feel and realize, it’s all normal, then it is worth it.

Like I said, I am writing this for myself, but surprisingly I have gotten a huge response from others. I appreciate all the kind words many of you have said and the encouragement to continue this. Some people have asked how to comment or get in touch with me. If you would like, you can email me at JillGriff@aol.com. I am terrible at responding to emails, so I may not always answer, but I would love hearing from you if you so desire!

Blog on!

Return

The temperature was perfect, the sun was shining brighter by the minute. We were driving down 95S and I saw the sign for the I-4W exit. I was so excited, more than I had been about something in awhile. I did my excited squeal that I do. My mom and I looked at each other.

"Did the past four months actually happen?"

It couldn’t be a more perfect day to make a return. I had not been to my home in Orlando, Florida in over four months. On one hand it felt like yesterday. On the other, it felt like forever. It was four months filled with painful medical testing, physical discomfort, heartbreak and disbelief. It felt like I had been having a nightmare and now I was finally awake. But it was in fact reality, is my new reality.

Walking in to my apartment was a huge triumph for me. I didn’t know when or if I would ever be back there. It smelled like home. Felt comfortable. I am so happy being back in Orlando. I didn’t know what to expect, but so far, so good. I’m looking forward to seeing more of my friends and getting back into life here.

The past four months did actually happen. They were unforgettable though I would love to forget them. But they were four months that built strength, character, courage and determination. Not bad for a nightmare.

Jersey Girl in Orlando

Five years ago today I started my life in Orlando. I was 21 and did not know a soul in Orlando. Looking back, I can not believe I did that, but it was the best decision I ever made. I left Jersey because I knew if I stayed I would feel “stuck” forever. I’ll never forget the moment I shut my apartment door behind my parents. I had never lived anywhere but their house and here I was in a strange city in my very own apartment. I had no idea what to do. So I cried! Honestly, it was a tough transition. It was hard getting lost everywhere I went and being 1,000 miles away from my family. I have to say, I think the hardest part was not knowing how to pump my own gas. The first time I tried to fill my tank I had to ask someone for help and he looked at me like I had two heads! But slowly and surely, I created a wonderful life for myself in O-town. This life that I created has been brought to my attention recently having been removed from it. I didn’t realize how many people cared for me or would miss me when I left.

At 26, not being where I thought I would be in my life, sometimes I feel like I have accomplished nothing. It is those moments when I need to remind myself of what I’ve done in the past five years. I have earned two degrees, an Associate of Science in Natural Health and an Associate of Arts in Biology. I got my massage license. I raised thousands of dollars for various charities. I ran a marathon. But most importantly I made a decision that made me a stronger woman. I took a risk and left my comfort zone and learned that I can do anything.

I think people should always be doing something outside of their comfort zone. That is when you are challenged and grow as a person. For me, leaving the Jersey Shore was a huge thing. I literally had to start over in a new place and it has been amazing. Does it take time to feel like you really belong somewhere? Yes, absolutely. But the people I have met along the way and the experiences that I have lived are invaluable. I was talking to an acquaintance recently and he said he could never move somewhere he didn’t know someone. I felt sorry for him. I think everyone should do that at some point in their life. Being in a new place allows you to open your heart and your mind, meet all sorts of different people, and learn who you are or want to be.

Today I am grateful for all the friends I have made in the past five years in Orlando. Every person I have met has taught me a lesson(some more difficult than others!). I’m glad I took a chance and moved at the age of 21. I never thought I would love Orlando enough that I would be excited to go back. I don’t know how much longer I’ll stay there, or where I’ll settle in the future, but I know now that wherever I go I can independently create a wonderful life for myself. That is a great gift I have discovered within myself.

Backpack

Yesterday was a bad day. As any of you who has ever so much as had a cold knows, when you don’t feel well physically, it’s hard to feel well mentally. Well yesterday was one of the days when my physical discomfort was quite overwhelming and boy was I CRANKY!!!

A recent decision to visit Florida, my supposed-to-be home, had me thinking a lot about where I am. When I left Orlando in September, I was going to be gone a month and a half at the most! Here we are four months later and things are harder than I could have ever imagined. One of the things that I am having the hardest time accepting is the fact that for yet another semester, I will not be attending the University of Central Florida. I graduated in May from Valencia Community College with a 3.94 GPA and earned a partial scholarship to attend UCF. I was so excited. And for anyone who knows me, I am quite the prepared person, so textbooks and parking sticker had already been ordered. I even had my backpack ready to go. Calculator, pens, pencils, erasers, whiteout, brand new binder, umbrella for rainy days and water bottle to stay hydrated were packed…still are. And that is exactly what was bothering me. When I get back to my apartment, the packed backpack will still be sitting on the floor in the corner near my laundry room. Taunting me.

Its not the actual backpack that upsets me of course. Its a Vera Bradley backpack and a very cute one at that. But it is what the backpack represents. The backpack reminds me of good health, of the plans I had, of what could have/should have been. I was all set: two more years in Orlando, get my bachelor degree, go to PA school in either North Carolina or California where I would become a physician’s assistant, get married, buy a house and have two children. Simple, right?!

I was truly heartbroken when I had to defer from UCF in August. And it was equally as upsetting when I had to defer again this December. I had worked SO hard to get to achieve that goal and when I finally saw it within reach, it was pulled away from me. At this point, I don’t know if I want to go back to school. I’m not discounting that that could still be my path, but I’m not so sure it is anymore. I am such a huge believer that things happen for a reason and at any given point in your life, you are exactly where you are meant to be. But, now what? I know everyone’s future is uncertain, but right now, mine feels overwhelmingly uncertain. What will be next? Will I finally figure it out?

Today is a better day than yesterday. I’m not as uncomfortable and I was strong enough mentally to choose to ignore symptoms I’m experiencing. A few things happened that made me think perhaps it will in fact all fall into place and work out. I didn’t focus on the bad stuff today, and when you are able to get your focus away from the bad stuff, life isn’t so bad. 

My mom offered to go into my apartment before me and hide the backpack. I love her for that and laughed. I want to confront the backpack. I want to curse at it for having a $94 parking sticker on my car that will never be used and an $80+ nutrition textbook that I couldn’t return. (That money would be nice right now for some medical bills!) So when I step foot into my apartment having been away for four months, I will in fact confront the backpack and then hide it away myself.

Damn you, backpack.

Recommended Re-Read

Before I get into the heart of this blog, I need to share a fun tradition anecdote. Every Christmas Eve, without fail, my father begins his Christmas shopping. Yep, that’s right, the day before Christmas. He has done this for as long as I can remember and it is now a tradition. Well this year was no exception. AND, we all know what Dad will get for us every year - books. My father is a man who doesn’t know a little about a lot of things, he knows A LOT about a lot of things. Though he’s not an avid reader of books these days, he is always reading something, be it a newspaper or online articles. I have to say, I think I have inherited his thirst for knowledge seeing as I love to research things and LOVE reading. Mom, my brother and I always laugh because at times Dad’s choice of books is questionable. We are afraid to mention any interests around Christmas because Dad will most likely buy a book about it. One fond memory was the book bought for my brother and me about juggling…we never looked at it…

Some years I make a request for the book he will buy me. Last year I requested the book Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand which is also a wonderful read. This year, I made an unusual request but Dad came through! I requested the book The Little Engine That Could and I received the beautiful edition pictured above. The reason I requested this book was because at the moment I see myself as that little engine. I am trying to climb a mountain and it is NOT easy. I figured reading this book every day would give me encouragement and motivation. Surprisingly, I have gotten more out of this book than I imagined.

Lessons I learned from reading The Little Engine That Could at age 26:

1. Advice on dating: clearly when you are 5, you are not concerned with dating, but this book gives great dating advice! Rejection is a part of life. True story. The toys were rejected by three engines before Little Blue Engine came along. It didn’t work out because clearly the first three were not the right ones. Keep looking.

2. Never underestimate your value: This point is shown in two ways. Most obviously, the Little Blue Engine did not recognize her worth. She thought of herself as less then and had never been over the mountain. But because she was willing to help, the children on the other side of the mountain were going to have a good night. You can make more of a difference than you know. Also, the toys and food knew how important they were to the children. If you recognize that you make people smile and matter to your loved ones, your purpose in this world is clear.

3. Hope is a powerful thing: Since I was 15, my favorite word has been hope. I have the Chinese symbol for hope tattooed on my back. Sometimes hope is the only thing you can hold on to. The toys never gave up hope that an engine to help them would come along (especially the clown, the eternal optimist). Always hold on to hope and help give someone hope today.

4. Persevere: As cliche as it may be, if you believe it, you can achieve it! The Little Blue Engine is the epitome of perseverance. We all face mountains in our lives but we can all make it to the top. Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.

I think I can, I think I can, I know I can, I WILL.

*(Dad also bought me a book about how to use the iPhone 4s. Seriously, Dad?! But thats another blog…)