Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Just Breathe


It was our second year in our new condo close by to every store imaginable. I enjoyed my routine and schedule. I'd wake up at around 7am, have coffee and breakfast with my wife, and then I would go into my office and finish up work up until around 2-3pm. After work, I drove one mile away to work out at the local gym. I had a personal trainer for quite a while, who took joy in seeing me in misery. She was great though -- she kicked my butt into high gear, helping me to not only lose weight, but to get stronger and have more stamina. I remember when my wife came to work out with me while I was training, she didn't realize it was a military type of training, where I was doing upside down sit ups with 8 lb medicine balls being thrown at me, or she'd catch me doing planks, push ups and other strenuous activities. When measuring time came, I remember how happy I was to finally meet my goals -- to finally achieve something I've always wanted to do. Even my friends who were body builders were so proud of my accomplishments (even though they killed me in quite a few push up contests.)  I was wearing sleeveless tops from time to time, which I never did because I hated my arms. On top of that, the four flights of stairs I had to climb up with groceries was also a huge workout! My mom would kid around and demanded an extra large dumbwaiter so she could visit me with Dad.

But not too long after, we found out Dad had cancer. I couldn't even absorb the word into my brain -- "cancer" -- it was impossible to say or think about. He started to go for radiation treatments with my mom, who went with him every single day for months. My sisters and I were all shocked that the big "C" hit our home. It wasn't supposed to hit our home. I think many people go through that phase of, "That kind of thing only hits other people." Well, here we were with quite the scare on our hands. Dad was the patriarch of our family. He was the glue that kept us together, kept mom together, kept us safe, kept us laughing... Slowly, his free-spirited nature diminished into an anxiety-ridden, hopeless soul -- at a loss for words -- which he never was. We tried to keep his spirits up telling him that he's going to win this. Whenever we said this, you could see the small amount of hope left, until the doctors would constantly tell him a different story.

My routine changed...a lot. After work, I went to the gym to work out by myself. I found myself out of breath -- I couldn't breathe. I got anxiety and sat down inside the locker room and cried. Nobody was there. The place was always empty during this time. So I went back home and poured myself a drink. And then another...and then another. I found myself drinking right after my work was done. 2 o'clock cocktails were getting too routine. Sitting at the bar with a couple of friends in the middle of the day was becoming a habit. It no longer included a vigorous workout or a trip to the store like I used to do. I self-medicated, until one night, I finally noticed how much I had consumed in one day, and then forced myself to go to AA for a 90 day clean out. I coped well, being sober and trying to help my parents the best I could. But things got worse, and so did my health. I put on a lot of weight, not even knowing I did because I really didn't care. That wasn't important at the time, so I thought.

And then my mom went through a health scare of her own. Mom got diagnosed with cancer. The video below shows the final day of her radiation treatment, which only turned out to be more radiation and much more chemo and operations.



After Dad's passing, (as bad as this may sound) -- we had a period of time -- a 'peaceful, calm, you-did-all-you-can-so-rest-now' kind of time. But it only got worse when I found out that my worst nightmare was about to come true. They diagnosed my mom with cancer, and well, that was it for me. Every single radiation and chemo treatment haunted me, reminding me of what Dad went through. There was even a glimmer of hope once her radiation treatment was over, as the video above shows how relieved she was to be on the road of recovery. But it didn't end there. Every surgery scared me with such fear, that I lost all knowledge on how to sleep again. I kept the drinking down to a minimum, because I needed to be alert and sober so that if I got a call in the middle of the night that mom needed to go to the hospital, I'd be up and ready with no problem. But I still drank and ate the wrong foods. Trying to make mom feel as comfortable as possible, I started cooking meals almost every night, making the house smell like "home" again -- a place where we all ate dinner together as a family. I wanted a sense of familiarity -- the kind that mom used to give to us. And in my effort in trying to help all I can, I lost a little bit of "me" along the way.

Me at the sleep study clinic. 
Eventually, I stopped sleeping, only maybe to have 3-4 hours per night, and sometimes, being up for 3 or more days. I had to go to sleep studies to only find that I was having myoclonic seizures due to anxiety and stress. I pushed a lot of my friends away, "too busy" to hang out, and I was too tired to go out. I dove into my work instead, trying to hold onto the one thing I knew how to do. I went into other areas of my work, which progressed into more projects and opportunities, but it never felt like enough. I was now living in this virtual world -- a virtual workplace -- a virtual social life.  A few other close family friends lost their battle with cancer. What was happening? I was too scared to make new friendships due to losing them to the big "C" -- I was terrified of the world at this point.

But something good did come of it all. I spent so much time working on my relationship with God, praying and meditating and solely relying on Him. And although I may not be the same person I was 7 years ago, I am so much better spiritually. But now I have to work on the rest of me, and I know it's going to be a challenging haul. I started watching my diet and walking more. Today, I'm cycling and trying to regain my strength back. The sleepless nights may screw with my schedule a bit, but all hope isn't gone. I still get anxiety from time to time, and I still suffer from depression, but I desperately need to help ME before I can help anybody else. If I don't take care of myself, there'll be nobody to take care of those who I love and cherish. Many caretakers lose their health due to neglect. I've done that over the past couple of years. I'm not looking to be a size 4 or trying to become some athlete or anything -- I just want a balanced life. That's all. I want to be there for my family and feel good each day. I haven't made "goals" because the only goal is just for today. When I focus on future goals, I seem to get frustrated on how long it's taking. So "just for today" I will make better health choices. Just for today, I will BE happy. Just for today, I will eat better. Just for today, I will move more. And just for today, I will PRAY more.

This has been a very hard article to write. I'm not making excuses on why I neglected my own health -- I'm opening up my eyes on why I should be a strong and able person for the ones I love the most. That's it in a nutshell.

Just breathe.

Any prayers would be appreciated for my mom. She's still going through chemo and we're expecting (not hoping) for a miracle! With God, all things are possible. I believe in prayer, and if you can send prayers or positive energy our way, I'd appreciate that more than anything! 

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Simplicity


The word simplicity is such a beautiful description regarding anything if you really think about it. Simplicity doesn't mean "easy" or implies that everything is just free-flowing goodness. Simplicity is when you don't need much in order to gain happiness and understanding. It's being grateful or what you have, not always grumbling for what you don't have. Simplicity means "just right" -- to be satisfied with all things that are good in your life. People seem to think you need to own a mansion and a yacht in order to obtain happiness. Take a peek into their lives and walk right into those closed doors and tell me what you see. In many cases, happiness is only short-lived, until they need something new...something better...to fill the void...to fill the pain.

Life is so much more than living in society's standards. I've always been simplistic. My wardrobe is pretty much classic, and usually, I'm not very dressed up because I work from home. I have never needed anything fancy, nor did I want anything spectacular. I was and am happy with my lot in life, where I am, who I am with, and most of all, my relationship with God. To truly know if you're content with yourself and if you have faith in God is to give up all possessions. My cousins did that years ago. They got rid of their homes and all possessions and joined a community. The description of the community explains it like this: "The group follows three basic tenets: 'leave, enter, become.' Before becoming a member, applicants must quit their job and give up all possessions, including houses, cars, and any cash in the bank. After being stripped of earthly possessions, they enter into a sacred covenant, similar to marriage, dedicating their lives to the entire community. Only then can they become a new person. The men adopt a new name and modify their appearance to resemble the Messiah, Yashua, the Hebrew term for the Savior."

How many of you could say that you could do something like this? And as simplistic as I am, I'm not sure if I would be willing to do this. I do have faith in God, and in no way am I materialistic -- but this is the extreme measures some people take to live a life without the complications of the world. I admire my relatives for doing something so amazing. I mean, some would call this a "cult" but more so, it's just a community of slipping out of today's society and living a life of....simplicity.

One day I had a friend ask me if I wanted more out of my life. She was under the impression that my life may have been too boring, because I work from home, cook at home, but the one thing is, I enjoy my home. "Well, maybe you should get out more," she said. But the thing is, I cook better, make better drinks, have a yard the size of a park with a beautiful view, and I'm quite content with the work I do. If I do go out, I either go out for dinner with my wife or to a friend's or relative's house to hang out. My kind of outing would be just going to the park to walk my dog or perhaps, buying some groceries so I can cook for the family. I don't have to be in a bar every weekend to prove that "I'm living a good life" -- in fact -- it's the total opposite in my opinion. If you're living in a bar, you have to ask yourself, why. I lived that life once, and it was a very lonely place, even if there were tons of people around me.  My favorite kind of evening is when I cook a nice dinner for my wife and we act silly and laugh for the rest of the evening. I'm so glad I picked my best friend as my long time companion.

My office.
To be perfectly honest with you, I wouldn't want to live anyone else's life but mine. I don't want the hassle of having children, making sure their schools are safe or going crazy because I can't even slip away for two seconds without hearing, "Ma, ma, ma, mommy, mommy, mommy, mama, mama, mama." No. It's just not for me. I want to be able to enjoy my work, to enjoy my life with my family and to have a quality of life, not a quantity of "things" in life. I used to think I needed to have all of these things in life, until one day I reached my limit at work and passed out right on the desk in my office. I was carried out by the ambulance for stress related chest pains. I was saving up for all the "nice things" that society deemed important. But honestly, that never mattered to me. What mattered to me more were people judging me due to their version of "lack" in my life.

When you care about what other people think of you, your life is totally ruined. And what I mean by that is, your primary focus is not only satisfying your life goals and obtainment of things and materialistic possessions, but it's for satisfying the judgment of people. When you live for others, you never live for yourself. You're never truly happy because it'll never be "good enough" for them. And that's just a sad fact of life.

And whether or not you have kids, isn't it a shame that some people need to compete with their own child? "Oh my child made it into the honor roll and applying for Harvard." Doesn't that get old? I see it all the time on Facebook with parents trying to 'one up' the other parents on their kids' achievements. It's almost as if they're bragging because they have no life of their own. They start living vicariously through the eyes of their children. Many parents go through this and it's actually quite normal. But some go through an obsessive phase where it can get a little nutty.

So, I'm just 'here' minding my own business and enjoying what I do for a living. What people may say about me or what they feel I "should" do in life is actually none of my business. If they feel like taking time out of their day to focus on my business, then let them waste time. Time is precious and every second should be enjoyed on the present moment. Many can say that they practice that, but I have yet to see someone who truly lives by this.

I once met up with an old friend for dinner and drinks nearby to catch up. Her husband agreed to watch their three younger kids at home so she could have a "girl's night out" and catch her breath so to speak. I'll never forget what she said to me sipping on her second martini. She looked at me and said, "Deb, you're going to think I'm a horrible person, but I know you'll understand..." I was kind of nervous about what she was about to tell me. She said, "I totally wish I didn't have my kids. It's not like I don't love them! I do!!! It's just that I miss my old life when it was just me and my husband. I never have time to myself and I can't take all of the screaming, fighting and midnight hospital visits because one of them came down with whatever bug was spreading around in the schools. I'm so tired! I want my old life back!"


I was in shock because she looked so happy! I didn't know what to say to her. And then she looked at me and said, "I envy you for your choices," and then laughed and said in jest, "I should've went for a woman!" We both chuckled and we left it at that. I reassured her that God blessed her with her beautiful children. She was just overwhelmed, as any mother would be. Sometimes, somebody else's life may seem like the perfect life, when it's actually the total opposite. We all have struggles, whether it seems like we're doing too much or maybe too little -- we are all living beings trying to do our best with what we have.

A second occurrence of someone opening up to me was very sad. I will never say names, but a very close person in my life --- her husband called me crying. He said he couldn't take it anymore. He didn't have time to himself. Again, stated that he loved his family but wished he had his life back. I suggested he go and get a massage or just sit in the tub with some calming music, but he said it was impossible. He said he felt like he was going to have a heart attack -- that's how stressed out he was.

And a few months later, he had a heart attack.

We choose our own paths in life, and sometimes, we end up with a situation (a life choice) that we sometimes regret. There seems to be a stigma with living an "unconventional life." When your entire focus is on work work work, kids kids kids, tasks tasks tasks, then when do you have time to communicate with God? When do you have time to meditate and just BREATHE? There is a level of idolization {putting things before God} when it comes to putting too much on your plate to get from point A. to point B. When you give up God to get to your point B., you're also possibly choosing a way of life that isn't in God's will. Even if your marriage and family is blessed by God, your actions and 'going ons', especially your heart may not be in the right place. The people you've judged for either being gay, divorced, childless, or living a 'mediocre' life may have the better path to not only overall wellness, but eternal wellness.

There's another level of judgment that seems to get mixed up with "righteous judgement" -- and that's when those who think they're "better equipped" spiritually than you. They tear people apart because they don't approve of the way somebody else is living. This is a very dangerous territory, because most of the time, these people are just seething with anger, jealousy and/or resentment for whatever is brewing (or not brewing) in their own lives. When somebody gives you their undivided attention with ill will, this is not "righteous judgment" -- this is just an evil natured person who wants you to suffer in some way. Even if you say, "Oh they're going to find themselves in ruins soon," -- that only implies that it's your wish for them to fail or to be in "ruins." That is not God-like at all! Wishing bad karma on other people comes back to haunt you tenfold. It's a law. Jesus never tore down people who He thought were making poor choices. He spent time with them and lifted up their spirits. He didn't wish ill will on them, nor did he call them hurtful things. If you're being bullied by a 'so-called-Christian' -- this is not a Christian at all. It's a devil's spawn. It's pure evil. Protect yourself from them, because it's usually from someone who is not mentally well. Mental illness used to be confused with spiritual possession -- still is to this day. There's a fine line when it comes to dealing with someone with crazy manic episodes, and those who are demonically possessed. They actually believe they're doing the right thing, when actually, they have no clue they're wishing harm on another person's life.

But I digress... "Simplicity."  The meaning itself invokes a feeling of a lack of complications with anything in life. It doesn't mean to just quit and to not deal with problems and issues, but not to participate in the drama of unnecessary anger, resentment, unforgiveness, or hatred.

So don't worry about what I'm doing. Worry about why you're worried about what I'm doing.

And that's all you need to say. Nothing more, nothing less. Simplicity.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Things I Have Learned About "Friends" as an Adult

They say that if you don't like something about yourself or about your situation, then change it. Sometimes, it's easier said than done, and other times, it's just a matter of whose opinion is affecting your thought process. I can give you several examples. I love coffee, but I have insomnia. The logical answer would be to quit my caffeine intake, but it makes me happy in the morning (or afternoon if I went to bed at 5am.) Mainstream and medical opinion is "you should lose weight." Sounds healthy, right? My inside numbers: 110/70 bp, 210 cholesterol (not too shabby) and hormone levels, thyroid gland, every other organ in perfect shape. I run up and down the stairs 100 times a day, can lift fairly heavy things and still have my breath. Not too bad for 43 years old. I have no issue with my 'lumps & bumps' but sometimes other people do. So is that my problem or their problem? If I feel comfortable being "me" and being happy regardless if I'm a size 2 or a size 20 -- then it shouldn't make a difference to anyone. "It'll catch up with you," -- well so can any disease. Skinny people have heart attacks, cancer, diabetes, you name it -- what makes you think just because someone is overweight that they are more prone to catch a disease of any nature? It's funny, because I eat quite well. I usually stick to whole food -- foods that are from main sources and not boxed or canned goods. My downfall is my insomnia, which makes it difficult to not have a snack at night. But my snacks aren't ice cream or potato chips -- they're usually leftover veggies or salads from dinner or a cup of bone broth. If you ask me to give up my wine, you're asking me to give up my sanity. So there's that.

But why do people feel the need to change us?

The other day, someone suggested that I should have just settled with being "roommates" with my wife. The question was, "Why did you have to marry her? Why couldn't you have just lived together?" Well, I guess we could've done that, but like any other couple after 14 years of dating, you'd wanna ask WHY they didn't tie the knot. (Am I way off on this?) But it wasn't a matter of commitment they were asking about, it was a matter of them believing that being in a gay relationship is just wrong.  The same goes for someone who suggested that I should renounce my faith in Christianity (stop calling myself a Christian) if I'm going to continue living in a homosexual "lifestyle." They were basically telling me to reject God, which is the worst thing you can do in the Christian faith. To reject God is one of the biggest sins you could ever commit -- it's blasphemy. So they're suggesting that I commit a much larger sin, with no salvation available. This person also thought that I was a "false prophet," and that I was steering people down a very dangerous road. The thing is, even if I was a "false prophet," wouldn't they trust God enough to guide them His way. We are chosen by God. I was told to "Stop talking about your relationship and calling your girlfriend your wife. You're shoving your sexuality down our throats."

So what do I call Madelene? And when I say, "Oh, let me ask Madelene," to a complete stranger, they're going to ask, "Oh, who's that?" So then, do I like and say she's my roommate, and just stuff myself back into the back of that cluttered closet? Or can I do what every married PERSON does and call them my spouse, wife or husband? It's like a woman talking to a real estate broker, and she says, "Oh this apartment sounds great, let me just ask my husband first," and then the real estate broker says, "STOP PUTTING YOUR SEXUALITY IN MY FACE!" It's the same thing. So just by this person suggesting that I stop "putting my sexuality in other people's faces" suggests that SHE is very uncomfortable with anyone who is gay or lesbian. I didn't talk about my "wild lesbian sex" I had two nights ago -- I said "wife" to refer to Madelene. Most of this stems from severely sexually repressed people who are so overwhelmed by their "lack of" that they need to make other people feel uncomfortable in their own skin. Another thing I've noticed is that these people are usually religious and determined to "fix" everybody who isn't broken. It actually says a lot about their insecurities with their own faith in God. If they were confident in their walk with their god -- they wouldn't feel the need to correct other people. They would trust God enough to handle the situation. And if anyone thinks another person is sinning, then pray for them and leave it in God's hands.

But still, they try to change us.


Either you're not praying the right way, or you're not praying to the right God and you're not behaving the way God wants you to. The judgment and criticism of those who are fellow sinners seep into our minds making us think, "Hey, I'm not worthy of God's love." And so, that person ends up being "agnostic" and just believing that there is a higher power. I know that I know that I know that there is a God who I speak to. He hears me, He answers my prayers, and when He doesn't answer my prayers, he gives me something even better. There is absolutely zero proof of someone else's spiritual walk being better than another. There is no "right or wrong" road to travel on -- it's all about our own personal journey. Once you step into the area of believing that someone else's journey is going to be their downfall, then that tells me that you don't trust God at all. For instance, if God sees that one of his children love Him with all of their heart, He's not going to let them stumble. As it says in the scriptures, He will guide them along the right pathway.

Other people's opinions...

When you're a public figure online (maybe not famous) but out there for everyone to see your life unfold, whether through a blog or live streaming, you are a "public figure" in a sense. People seem to get a gist of who you are, and sometimes, they feel they know you 100% after watching just a few live streams, or if they had read a few of your articles. What many people don't realize is, those who are in the public eye are not showing you 100% of their lives. I know that I never show 100% of my life. If anything at all, you get to see probably 30% of what I'm all about. I write and live stream about my faith and I also do discussions and cooking shows over on Periscope. I had a viewer say to me that she knows that I am not in love with my wife and how I should remove myself from the relationship (she refuses to call it a marriage.) I was kind of taken aback and asked why. (Who wouldn't ask why...) And she felt that it didn't seem right for me. Mind you, this person has never met me nor has she seen my offscreen life. But it goes to show you how imaginative some people can be while viewing other people who are pretty much public with their lives, or at least a portion of their lives. She doesn't get to see us cuddling at night while we fall asleep, or how we have hours and hours of conversations over coffee and breakfast on Sunday mornings. She doesn't see how we're there for one another when we fall ill or we need emotional support. Offscreen, we can be found at our favorite restaurant laughing and talking, having a great time, like two best friends do when they're out. She doesn't get to see the long walks in the park with our dog or the many rides into another town on our day off. She doesn't get to see how we connect with our family and bring them together for BBQs and outings. She only sees me cooking or having an online live stream discussion about relationships, religion and topics regarding the LGBT community. Even if you are friends with someone through the interwebs, it is not enough to judge them by.

And then again, no relationships is ever perfect.

And that's a beautiful thing. People will judge you according to how "bad" your relationship may seem because you two either had an argument or like us, had separated for a short time. Things like this happen in any relationship. When I think about the mind of a live stream viewer or a reader of mine, I think about what goes through their head while reading it all. Are they getting the full gist of what I mean and say, or are they coming to their own conclusions due to their own past experiences, which is very likely. I find it ironic how most people who are single and much older than I am who have a "say" in what my relationship and marriage should "be like." I always wonder why they're single....but it usually doesn't last for very long. I usually understand why.  Unhappy people hope to find other unhappy people to relate to, as well as that old saying goes, hurt people hurt. If you're not unhappy and having a few bumps in the road, they'll wanna see you drive through the sinkhole of life instead. They like to see the struggle because they thrive off of other people's misery. It is a sickness, because it makes them feel better about their own lives. And many people (even myself) can hold some of those traits. Have you ever watched COPS and thought, "Wow, I'm pretty damn lucky...?"  It's kind of like that, but on a larger and much closer scale since they know you personally, or so they think they do.

Be careful who you let inside your small circle. There are many people out to hurt you if they can't have you. The psychological damage that brings them to try and destroy your peace and joy is astounding. They'll do anything and everything to make you think that you're crazy. It's not only disturbing, but it's also very narcissistic. It's usually a "me me me" agenda, and they'll stop at nothing once they see you struggling somehow, some way, in some form. Have you ever thought about your life as a young man or woman and remember all of the many friends you had? And then you kind of take a look at your adult life, and you're lucky if you have at least 3-4 close friends who you can trust? I believe that come from learning how other people are, and how they can hurt you due to their own selfish motives. There are people in my life today, who I have "ghosted" on because they have used me, either financially, or to use me as a B&B getaway. Some used me as their own personal therapeutic sounding board. After some time, the therapy sessions wear thin on someone who is only playing the role of "the ear" to bend. There has to be a happy medium if you plan to unload on your friend. I'm always there for my friends when they need to talk, but there are some who truly take advantage of other people's good nature. I always pray to God to show me somebody's true intentions and He never lets me down.

Have you been ghosted by someone?
{Ghosting: When a friend or a person of interest has suddenly disappeared without a reason why.}

It's not always your fault. But ask yourself, "Did I come on too strong? Did I make awkward advances? Have I completely unloaded my emotional baggage onto this person too soon? Have I used this person for personal gain or for financial help? Am I always negative?" 

Speaking about negative people -- remember that if you are around somebody who is negative, that'll definitely rub off on you. I don't mean someone who needs a friend because she's going through a divorce -- but someone who never, and refuses to see the glass half full. You can't convince them no matter what and they'll even look at your life as an example of a "bad situation" when in fact, you're quite happy in your little messy life as most of us are. I'm not saying someone has to be all happy-go-lucky in order to hang out with me, but there's a fine line between friendship and therapy sessions. Know when to release the baggage.

Oh, one more thing. Another thing I get from many narcissistic people is that "this message if for them." Wrong. This message is from my own past experience with many who have tried to make my life a living hell by all of their judgments regarding what I do, how I do it and keeping me accountable for every single word that comes out of my mouth. I'm only human, and can only take so much before I come up to the surface and tell my story, as I always do. As much as people would like to think that my life is pretty much an open book -- there are many chapters that are marked "private."  And just because I give you a few inches of my life online, does not mean you're seeing the full yard of my daily living. I think it's safe to say that I can speak for a lot of people here. Just keep in mind that people are trying to share as much as they can sincerely, and once you hurt them or judge them harshly, they will flee far far away, or as the kiddies say, "they'll ghost."

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!