Tuesday, February 28, 2012

8 months

Today is the 8 month mark in this journey and I am happily spending the day with friends in Terrace.

What to write about today? Well, I am home now and having a really great visit. I arrived with much anxiety about how things would go and yes, found myself slipping back into familiar habits just briefly. That experience scared me a lot. I thought catastrophic thoughts of “I'll never be able to exist in the world away from the bubble of treatment” and “I was too hopeful, this is going to be a disaster”. Those weren't the worst of the experience as I can identify them for what they are – absolute manifestations of my fears and anxiety – the worst part was the creeping in of feelings of hopelessness to a degree I haven't experienced in a long time. I doubted myself so strongly, I negated any progress I had made and wondered if it had all been an act that I didn't even notice I had been putting on. I slipped into a very dark mental place especially at night and had to seek out mental reasons to get up the next morning.

I didn't talk about it but now that I have overcome it I wonder if I should have. I realized that I was reacting and worried that if I expressed what I was thinking that others would react in a way that wouldn't actually help me move forward. If I had been someone on the outside I would have been scared for me and likely done everything in my power to protect the person that was me. Instead, I conjured up the strength I know that I have, I refused to give up yet again and I committed to not only getting through this but being successful. It worked! I pushed myself back onto the waggon of wellness and threw myself into the unknown (the unknown being the experience of taking care of myself in my old environment). It took quite the effort to resolve to be differently than ever before but as soon as I started implementing the changes I know are real and refused to entertain the doubts that were snaking in, I drifted gently back into myself and improvement was immediate.

What helped very much was seeing my doctor the day I arrived in Terrace. I wish I had a picture of his face when he saw me. The following day we went together to visit the staff at the hospital – I think he nearly burst with pride. The shock value was incredible. It's just me, I love shocking people but up until now, it has more often than not been a negative shock: how thin I have gotten how quickly; how deeply I hurt myself; and little things like how many condiments I would use or how many meds I was on and still awake. This time, WOW. I would say 70% of the nurses had to do double and triple takes before they recognized me and their faces lit up with smiles I had never seen. Many just stood and stared with their mouths open. And I heard so much of how proud they were of me. All these reactions really bolstered my pride in myself and my desire to be successful. My GP is remarkably intuitive and our conversations are on a much more equal level now. I still see him as a guide but without the control I surrendered to him previously. Now, much is up for discussion and my input is as valuable as his. I am no longer the scared, angry, and scrappy little fawn I was before.

I was walking on clouds for the rest of that day and any intrusive negative thoughts dissipated. I have changed and it's real and I am not going to shrink back to that little thing that needed to be carried ever again.

I am becoming quickly aware of where others are at as I interact with them. I no longer doubt my thoughts and impressions and I am readily implementing compassion towards others. This is helping me stay patient and continue appreciating them for them and the relationships we have.

A major realization I've had is that there are a lot of people who really care about me and are invested in me on various levels. I worried that coming back would prove what I thought I knew: that people didn't care, that they would have an “it's about time” attitude towards me, that they wouldn't understand just how amazing the fact that I am not only alive but living really is. How wrong was I! There are more people coming to me, smiling with me, feeling proud of me, and wanting to know really how I am. I feel sad (for lack of a more articulate word) that I didn't realize this before. I denied so many people the opportunity to care about me. I pushed them away with the idea that they couldn't possibly really care about what happened with me and what I was going through. I chose to see solely the frustration that manifested on some occasions rather than the ever present compassion and caring. Now that I know what is real – that people care, that I am important to them, that I make a difference – I can hold onto that with a vice-like grip and allow myself the connectedness that I've always desired but been so afraid of. There is no need for fear now.

I was very reluctant to return to Portugal after I realized that I could be okay back here at home. I wanted to stay and just move on and jump into my life. I want(ed) to practice my new ways within the context that will be my reality when I am officially done the program. I argued that this is where I will need to strengthen my skills rather than in the bubble wrapped-environment of the villa and the program. I want to push myself to be okay here where everything isn't handed to me on a silver platter. I was gently reminded of what I already know: I have the rest of my life for that practice and this is not a process that needs to be rushed. I am making remarkable changes at quite a rate, that is a fact but I don't need to make this process more difficult than it already is; I don't need to force things, I can take my time and make this solid. As it turns out, I have quite a wait here while I apply for my visa to return to the EU. So, what was going to be a very short trip, has been extended to about 5 weeks. This is great for me because I can look at it as the beginning of my transition. I am being successful, I am strong, I am solid in my progress and I have 5 weeks to practice it. Then, I will return to the counsellors and the staff in Portugal and I will process it, I will learn, and I will be ready to come back to Canada and try again. It's all very exciting!

So, this anniversary is the best yet. Who knows what 9 months will hold for me!

Much love to all those suffering. Please hold onto the knowledge that there is hope and the possibilities – though impossible to see in the midst of the darkness – exist to an amazing degree for everyone.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Way to Be!

I haven't been feeling very inspired in the past few days.  I've had a strong desire to write but couldn't figure out what about.  But here we go...

Last night my anxiety came to a bit of a head. I felt suddenly like I've been acting braver about my trip home than I'm actually feeling. It's exciting, yes, but I started thinking “What if I'm not ready?” There is such a possibility of losing all the ground that I've made in a very short time and that scares the pants off of me. I don't ever want to go through this process again. A big challenge with this concept is explaining to the people in my life that, yes, I've been gone for 8 months, yes, I look a lot better and I really do feel alive and so very different, but yes, there is a lot more work for me to do and I'm not There yet.

I've found myself looking forward to my return to Portugal after my trip and towards the changes that will happen in my care. Moving out of the villa and becoming more independent and officially an outpatient is very exciting but even this upcoming time away where I don't have sessions with my counsellors is anxiety provoking and I know that maintaining the frequency of my sessions even as an outpatient is what is going to carry me through when I return.

I've come so far in so many ways and I see it. The fact that I can admit to being scared is progress, that I can evaluate the degree of impulsivity in my plans and if it's a good impulsive or a negative impulsive – is also progress. Behaviour-wise, I really don't feel that I have a problem anymore. I enjoy eating, I eat a large variety of food, I respond to the cues I have and even when they are absent I treat my body to what I know it needs so in that respect, I am ready. I know that hurting myself is actually never the answer and when that old demon rears its ugly head, I need to stay alert and aware of what more is going on under the surface.. What I am finding most challenging, and rightly so, is developing a way of being that will work for me and work in the world.

For example, I'm trying hard to examine and reduce my expectations of others. Just in general. I'm trying very hard to meet people where they are at and accept them for that and delight in them as who they really are all the while honouring myself. I know that my way of being is not necessarily common to the greater population of the world and although I will seek out those who share the same values and appreciate and respect the essence of me, there are the people in the world who are inevitably not going to understand. I found this passage yesterday and although it can be taken quite literally and as it directly applies to manners, I feel that it can be related to much of the way of being I desire:

"So far as we habituate ourselves to courtesy and good-breeding because we shall stand better with the world if we are polite than if we are rude, we are cultivating a merely external habit, which we shall be likely to throw off as often as we think it safe to go without it, as we should an uncomfortably fitting dress; and out manners do not belong to our Character any more than our coats belong to our persons. This is the transient side of manners. If, on the contrary, if we are polite from an inward conviction that politeness is one of the forms of love to the neighbour, and because we believe that in being polite we are performing a duty that our neighbour has a right to claim from us, and because politeness is a trait that we love for its own inherent beauty, our manners belong to the substance of out Character, --they are not its garment, but its skin; and this is the permanent side of manners. Such manners will be ours in death, and afterwards, no less than in life."
(The Elements of Character by Mary G. Chandler – bold font add by me for emphasis)

This has helped me understand how I can reduce expectations of others. I have understood for a long time that not everyone in the world shares my manners and my desire for proper etiquette. I have seen that here in the people from all over the world that have come to Portugal and in observing the way they are with the native people and how they react to the country has been very interesting.

Regardless, the above passage describes exactly what I feel about manners – that it is less of an expectation or so much of a social nicety, and more of a way of being for me that honours the degree of respect I choose to give others. It is a simple extension of love which is a core value of mine. I will continue to extend myself in this fashion not only because as in the first part of the passage, it enables me to exist better with the world, but because of the deeper meaning of manners.

So, how does this relate to the rest of me? There are times when I get frustrated when people don't share the same level of respect for each other or themselves. I know that life can be so much simpler than it is for people if they accept the connectedness of the world and seek it out. I am working hard on eliminating my expectations of people and assuming that they will spring from the same premise as I do and it is hard work. Unless, I see what I value as a part of me that I choose to extend and absolutely do not need reciprocated.

This is where it gets more tricky. I find myself feeling a bit winded at times when I have extended an inherent-to-me courtesy to another and when the situation is reversed, the other person doesn't respond similarly. This was often bringing me down and leaving me wondering about the goodness of people in general so I chose to start working towards lowering my expectations and appreciating what is in me that I feel makes the world a better place for me and for others and it has helped. This is a double edged sword for me, however, because I have difficulty knowing where the line should be drawn between not having expectations but ensuring that I receive the respect I deserve.

I don't have the answer for this yet. This is my current quest: to find a way of being that I feel good about, that honours the core of Julia but does not compromise my well-being and continues to ensure that my needs are met.

I suppose that this trip home will teach me a lot. I will leave with a better understanding of where I'm really at with myself and the world. I will likely discover who I want to continue to hold close to me. I find myself anticipating my return to Portugal and imagine the sigh of relief I will experience as I fall back into the safety net of love and support that is here and work through the experience of being home. That indicates to me how careful I need to be to avoid stretching myself too thin. I have some simple ideas on how to prevent this: get enough sleep; consider my boundaries and make sure I establish them in my surroundings shortly after my arrival; stay connected with the people here that have brought me this far; and commit to staying aware of how I really am doing, understanding that I cannot be strong all the time and that I am going to experience some painful moments while away that I can and will not only survive but can learn from.


On another note, I have also been thinking about how, in many moments, I find myself feeling so overwhelmed and thinking “I just cannot do this. This is not working. I cannot get through this.” The old concept of not being dealt more than you can handle frustrates me in those moments. I can feel so overwhelmed and really, really unable to deal with my situation but here's the thing: looking back, there were many times where life seemed impossible to me and I really did want to give up and right into my core felt unable to carry on, but! Here I am!!! I made it, I weathered every situation from the past and survived. Thus, although that idea – that knowing – that I can handle anything that is put on me in the moment does not often help me get through the present, it really is the truth. I can get through, I will not be given anything more than I can handle and over time, less and less will things feel so overwhelming and impossible.

Here's to a gentle end to all your weeks. Thanks for being my sounding board.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


This concept is a fundamental part of my being that really has enabled me to live.

I am thankful *nearly* everyday for the mind that I have been blessed with.  I'm not sure if it has been trained and taught how to be or if my way of being and thinking is inherent.  I must tip my hat to my parents for allowing me to develop in the fashion that I have and nurture the values I have to create an internal atmosphere that really does work for me.

I had a chat yesterday during a session about resentment.  I made the point that I have never needed someone to tell me that resentment and grudge holding causes suffering.  Resentment hurts the beholder much more that the person it is held against.  I figured that out at a young age and chose to eliminate it from my consciousness.  I wondered how I could explain how I let go again and again of hurt and truly look back on life with rose coloured glasses.  This is what I've come up with:

I think what played the biggest role in this is forgiveness.  I used to buy into the phrase "Forgive and forget" but now I understand it very differently.  To forgive IS to forget in my mind so I've adopted the concept of "Forgive for good".  There need not be two steps in the process:  the first being forgiveness and the second being the effort to forget and let go.  If one has truly forgiven, they have let go.  In my mind, this is the only way to be.  It's not so much the words of I Forgive You - though nice to hear as a person asking for forgiveness - that matter.  Anyone can say that but the healing needs to come from within the person who was hurt.  When you truly forgive, you heal.

Until very recently, I forgave pretty blindly.  I knew that it would hurt me if I help onto things so I had to figure out a way to stop from drowning under ther people's words and actions.  I held onto an almost childlike mind when it came to being hurt - perhaps it was more Alzheimer's-like!  I would feel hurt in the moment and if I found myself revisting that pain, I would work towards fogiving that person.  I would often wonder why they had hurt me the way they did but knowing that I would often never receive an explaination, I had to discover a way to expel any harbouring of grief that I was doing.  Now, I am in a different place.  The fundamental idea has not changed - my focus is still to create an internal world with the least suffering possible which is selfish in the best way.

Who hasn't heard "The answer is in you"?  I used to get so angry with that because NO, the answer is not in me, this is about someone else.  Well, it really is within me!  I am learning to discover people's intention, to evaluate where they are coming from and what could possibly be driving them towards hurtful behaviour towards me.  I don't need them to tell me and provide that needed explanation because I really can understand from the outside if I step back and look carefully at them and the situation.  When I understand, I can move past and I can access undesrtanding from inside me.  There is not always an answer and I sometimes find myself confused and truly wondering "Why?" - that's when protecting the child in my mind comes into play.  I can access her when I can't understand and explain away a situation and have her look at any situation with no platform to judge from, discover what really works for her, and continue to let go.

Imagine this:  You are a child is playing with a friend or sibling.  You have limited toys between you but things are going along just fine with you guardian's constant reminder to "share".  After a while, your comrad grabs a toy from you and takes it as her own or shows you how it's "supposed" to be played with.  At first you might be hurt and frustrated and angry and even maybe take the toy back from her, turn your back and play privately.  Then you realize that it was a lot more fun when you were playing together because every other day you play with this toy alone.  So, you turn around and somewhere in you choose to fogive your playmate and engage with her again, meeting her on her level.  The child that is you maybe can't understand why she was being so selfish, why she didn't just ask to play with the toy you were using?  Why couldn't she find another one of the toys available as they are all quite fun? However, she might not even realize she was wrong (no, I can really undesrtand this - perhaps in her home she has not been enabled to get what she needs with kindness, maybe she has to be aggressive to protect her needs and wants - but I could not reach this understanding as a, say, seven year old).  Maybe an apology is not forthcoming but it is causing you more suffering to be selfish, to harbour that resentment, to feel mistreated and be hurt by her actions.  So you change how you are and what you do with the situation to make it work for you and, thus, take what is pleasant away from the experience.  That is the child I refer to.

By enabling that forgiveness, one creates positive memories.  That playtime that could have become a memory of hurt and frustration was deposited in memory as one of fun. 

What I suppose I am learning now is that that child can forgive for good but does not need to compromise herself.  Perhaps in the past, I would have done this through hurting myself or denying myself.  I would have turned back to the aggressive friend and given her all my toys to play with and had none for myself because that would at least prevent further hurt or challenges but that doesn't need to occur anymore.  I know that I need toys for me to play with and I will hold onto that need and allow myself that need because it works for me and it works for them.  I might also consider avoiding the situation again but not out of fear or anger and resentment and certainly without blame, just through an effort to take care of me.

Forgive for good doesn't mean naiivity.  It is a complete act but somewhere, perhaps involuntarily, there is a little flag put up but not one that is detrimental or causes suffering and avoidance.  Also, it is not a flag I keep in my consciousness.  I trust myself to be guided by the subconscious that is there to help me avoid pain and suffering and that I will natually make many efforts to protect myself.

Forgiveness feels good.  Letting go is liberating but that doesn't mean that I need to seek out opportunites to experience these things!  They are just ways of being that I know I have, that work for me, and enable me to create a present that will become a past that I can look back on more fondly.  It doesn't disenable learning or make hurtful actions okay, but it makes me okay despite it all.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Triggers and Recovery

Those have to be two of the most overused words in the land of eating disorder lingo.  I can't stand either of them personally but they do fill a certain niche in expression when it comes to eating disorders.

My understanding of the words was in regard largely to behaviours.  If someone talks about how much they weigh or how many calories they ate or showed off their emaciated body it might cause a fellow sufferer to react and act out in further self-negating behaviours.  Thus begins the competition factor in eating disoders.  I race to see who can die the fastest it seems and a way to rate who is better are being unworthy.  I still don't understand triggers in that way.  I have always said that "I'm my worst trigger" because I have never been particularly influenced by other people's behaviours.  The sick aspect of my disorder was always very personal.  I get physically ill at higher weights than others; my labs were often less volatile; my behvaiours were 100% my own hell and I'm not convinced that they could have gotten any worse but it wasn't because someone else was doing it. 

Now, it's different.  I'm not at the end of this journey and I still have alarming thoughts at times (most recently an experience of a drive to starve myself into oblivion that seemingly came out of nowhere) and I have to examine what is behind the thoughts.  What am I really reacting to?  I am not affected here by other patients and the contact I do have with other eating disordered patients is limited and supportive so where did this particular thought come from?

I think there are various answers but what struck me most was writing to a friend how I wanted to 'control absolutely everything that goes into me and choose that to be nothing'.  I had had quite an emotionally trying week with rather devastating experiences relating to friends and I had said to one of my counsellors 'This sure hurts a lot more now than it did when I was sick and numb.  I wouldn't change it for the world but it's really hard.  It's really like being awake now.'  As I walked through the situations with my friends I couldn't stop how deeply I felt their pain.  It was like having someone open fire on me and me there without a shield of any sort.  I guess that's where I am in this process...getting there but still extremely vulnerable.  Thus caused my reaction of 'I want to starve.  I want nothing to affect me.'  That's not true, I just want to know what to DO with it.  How do I feel and not collapse under the feelings?  How can I not react?  This is unnecessary human suffering and I am human and this is just not right!  Well, true.  I am human and this suffering really hurts them and so it hurts me.  I cannot stop it, I cannot change it much, I cannot save anyone except myself, and I won't get anyone anywhere if I resort to self-negating behaviours in an effort to stop feeling.  So, I work through those truths and start to carry on.

BUT....I still had the thought that maybe I actually want to starve.  Maybe it has nothing to do with feelings and I just want my eating disorder?  So I approach my therapy with a bit of an attitude of 'This is just the way it is for me, I really am hopeless' and I sat and argued FOR the ED for about half an hour.  The purpose this ended up filling for me was confirming what I already knew inside of me.  That I don't want that, that that makes no sense, that it serves no one, and that I need more.  I let the counsellor fight for my life for that half hour.  I gave it to her.  I let my mouth express the negative thoughts I was having and those of hopelessness and desperation and anger and she fed back to me what I knew in my head.  This created a bigger wall against the ED because I knew it and she confirmed it from the outside.  The next day, the thoughts had passed.  It has never resolved that quickly.  Usually there are residual thoughts for days and days and I just have to wait for them to pass.  I can only hope that this progress sticks and that future struggles will just become less and less.

This leads to my understanding of recovery.  I don't like that word either...I like the word wellness.  'Healthy' contained too many conotations for my in the not so distant past.  The concept of recovery as it is familiarily known still fits with what I hope to achieve through treatment.  To me though, wellness embodies a lot more than typically expected of 'recovery'.  What I want is a complete lack of symptoms.  I don't want to struggle with any behaviours and I would prefer to live life without the thoughts.  I know it is possible because of how far I've come already - from obsessing 24/7 about food, weight, behvaiours, body image, etc. to having a day here and there where the thoughts or urges pop up.  I still have a way to go in this emotional process so I know that those classic ED thoughts and symptoms will also come along.  It might mean stuggling for many years with occasional thoughts and urges but being able to see them for that they are 'red flags' of something more important going on.  It would be easier to just give into the thoughts and urges and engage in what has seemed to be effective in taking me to a safer place, a more numb and protected place...but in the long run, I know that it will snowball and that at the end of the day I have two options:  treatment again or death.  Neither of those are desireable in the least, so I choose life.  I choose to fight and work through the thoughts and confirm the truth that validates me as a worthy human being.  And in the future, not as distant as it seems, I will be fully 'recovered'.  Healed.  Whole.

Another random tidbit that I experienced today in speaking with my conusellor abotu body image.  I talked about being worried that I will scare the new client because she will worry that she will get as heavy as me and I wanted my counsellor to tell her that it is my fault that I'm this heavy.  I chose to weight restore to this point because I was tired of fighting what was natural for my body but no one here forced it on me.  I didn't have weight goals each week or even a target weight.  I had a promise to maintain a low weight and I did that until being small was not worth the restrictions in my life.  Anyway, my counsellor said to me, "Well, I see you as long and lean and athletic.  You don't have curves, you can wear any sort of clothing you like.  You're slim and lovely and I hope you see it....that's a compliment you know."  I actually got a bit upset and spurted out with, "I know it's a compliment and I do know all that about myself but I don't ever want to take comfort in someone telling me I'm small ever again!"  It was a really neat experience!  I don't want to be held down anymore.  I want to be me through and through.  I want to embody how big and strong my soul is and I'm getting there (that doesn't mean I'm gaining anymore weight!  I just want to represent that I know that I have a voice, I have worth, I am allowed to take up space, I have a presence...that cannot be done as a skeleton).

All in all, another few days of cascading change and it really is wonderful.  I had reached a bit of a standstill so I gave myself a bit of a push here and there in my behaviours and thoughts and have really benefitted from it.

Portugese lessons tomorrow.  I'm relaly not practicing as much as I should be.  But it's fun to learn.


What I don't miss

I have a lot to write about and I try and keep these posts generally focussed on one topic.  The title of this...well, could have me writing for days but I specifically want to talk about my experience with the admission of a new client yesterday.

She is young, just barely 16.  It makes me happy that she is here now and not 12 years from now like I am.  That's not 'woe is me', it's simply relief that one person won't have to endure this for 1/2 their life before getting help that works.

I met her yesterday in the hospital as we all have to be admitted to hosptial and ensured to be stable before coming to the villa.  She was this little grey skinned thing with huge brown eyes that were (and still are) so full of fear.  She is softly spoken with a very gentle smile that does not grace her face often or easily which is sad.  I find myself seeing in her what everyone here must have seen in me when i arrived - the happy ending that is coming for her.   I can now see it for all of my friends stuggling.  I no longer live in a constant fear of losing those who are so close to me because I know that it is possible to survive and to really live a life after anorexia/bulimia and if people can just be enabled to hold on until they find the help that will work for them, then there really is such amazing possibilities for everyone.

Anyway, focus.  I looked at her and remember many of my first days of treatment at various places.  I was always so scared with racing thoughts of being the 'fattest' one in the program and/or not being able to do what I need to.  I didn't trust a soul and believed that no onw could possibly understand.  I held onto my behaviours like nobody's business and wanted people to catch me and tell me I could stop but they didn't.  I often 'outsmarted' the staff and would have to 'tell' on myself and end up being punished and laden with restrictions and blame so often I just wouldn't say anything.  Even here, on 1:1 24h care I got away with stuff but what was I really getting away with?  I'm really that good at killing myself...go me!  Not.  It takes so much strength to say 'I'm really struggling, can you help me' and that is always our individual responsibility but is sure is nice when it doesn't need to be said and someone is right there, almost assuming the worst but always supporting the best and always, always there without judgement.

I remember proclaiming after every admission to hospital or program that that was my last time enduring refeeding...and then a few weeks later I would be back doing the same thing.  Bearing the edema and anxiety.  The discomfort and fullness and pain and holding my breath as I wait for lab test results.  Arguing with anyone who would listen that the portions of my meals were wrong, the formula in the bag different, wrong, too much, etc.  And definitely not able to see the point of enduring such a seemingly impossible time when I knew deep down that it would only happen again.

Coming here, I have been told that it was quite evident that I was the skeptic.  I was basically daring the staff here to try to help me.  I thought, 'Who do you think you are thinking that you can save me after everyone else has failed?  I'm too far gone.' and at the same time, placing everythign that was me in their hands and blindly following guidelines that made no sense to me and just accepting that I was in another program, had to follow the rules, had to just get through until I fooled them also and they let me out and back to mny dark, dark world.

Boy did I prove myself differently.  Of course, it took a complete surrender to this place and these people to make it work.  I promised to give it my all and even when I couldn't to let the staff give their all to me and pull me through.  I hope this new girl can do the same.  It is impossible as a new admission to see the possibility.  Even months into the process it seems never ending, it's too painful, it's still impossible.  But then, the clouds break and the light starts streaming in.  It's like my team has been above the clouds all along and telling me that the sun exists but what did I have to go on to really believe that?  Nothing.  It was about blindly accepting that they knew waht they were talking about and that they had seen it with their own eyes.  And they were right.

I guess I have a bit of anxiety with the new clients...that they will give up when it gets really painful and I know that with the people that arrive here, that eqautes with a loss of their lives.  I firmly believe that this is the last stop for most of us.  Maybe some will leave early and carry on in and out of institutions but I think the majority would die.  I hope she can hold on.  And I'm excited for yet another person to have arrived her alive and be able to be enabled to live.

Hmm...this took a different spin than the intention I set out with.  I"m not sure what the next topic will be.

In other general news:  I'm unofficially 'off care'.  Yes, 6 months of 24h 1:1 care and I have been weaned off quickly and am now, respsonible for myself.  I took myself to watch the sunset last night to celebrate and it was beautiful.  Life is really getting exciting.

Less than two weeks until my sister arrives back on the continent!  YAY!!!!!