Traveling While Disabled (TWD)

My husband and I love to travel. In fact, one of the very first things that attracted me to him was what he featured on his online profile. On it, he explained that he loved to experience and better appreciate different cultures. Being Haitian and moving to the United States at fifteen years old, he was hungry to understand how others live, and to witness all of the beauty that the world had to offer. While I’m certainly not from Haiti, I, too, share that yearning to appreciate how others live; to witness the wonders of the world!

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Once we started dating, we traveled everywhere! We did road trips from Southwest Texas to Orlando, Florida; from Del Rio, Texas, to Las Vegas, Nevada. Over the last four years, we’ve spent time together in Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas, Texas; in Orlando, Saint Augustine, Delray Beach, Boca Raton, Miami, and Key West, Florida; we time at the Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam, Salem, Massachusetts, New Orleans and Baton Rogue, Louisana, New York and Boston (among other destinations).

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Then that damn tumor regrew, and with that, everything changed. We were actually in the middle of a reggae cruise to Jamaica when the first symptoms hit in December of 2015. I doubled over in pain while we watched a famed reggae singer perform, and Yvens helped me make my way back to our room.

In the three years since, my ability to travel without severe repercussions has plummeted.

Last year, Yvens and I spent the week in Florida in order to spend Christmas with my stepson, Eli, as well as the rest of Yvens’ family. Unfortunately, by the end of it, I had to be wheeled through the Orlando International Airport in order to make it to my gate. That week, I’d also had to miss spending time with the family so that I could rest up back at the hotel (and once, on his parents’ couch). Sadly, Eli knows (at seven years old) that his stepmom gets tired easily and can’t really walk or do much for too long.

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Worse still, once I got home from that trip, I had a severe bout of some sort of virus or infection that I’d managed to pick up from someone in the general traveling public. It laid me up for well over a week.

The chronic fatigue and immense pain certainly was putting a damper on our travel plans.

Then the amazing Dr. Petra Klinge of Rhode Island Hospital figured out that that evil tumor remnant had grown a tail, and a glimmer of hope started to spark. Maybe I could get some of my mobility back, or at least some relief from the constant pain and fatigue!

Alas, none of that happened. Yes, Dr. Klinge did an excellent job on the neurosurgery this past March. She managed to remove almost all of the tumor (save for the part that had managed to grow through my spinal cord). But my neurological deficits remain the same, and they are prone to get worse over time.

So what to do? I mean, it’s hard enough to travel with diabetes. Tack on the neurological disorder, and we’re in business!

So when my mom surprised me with a birthday cruise from Bali, Indonesia, to Sydney, Australia, a mix of absolute joy and absurd fear came over me. How could I manage all of the traveling and excursions with my current physical state?? As it was, Yvens and I had decided to cut back on even short trips that could lay me up for weeks to follow. How in the world was I going to manage a cruise on the other side of the world???!?

Imagine trying to keep your insulin refrigerated on a fifteen hour flight from Boston to Hong Kong! Never mind a four hour layover, and then another five hours on the flight to Bali. Thanks to the good people at Burger King, I was able to get a shit ton of ice to keep the cool packs a bit cool during the flights. That being said, it was absolute torture on my back, legs, and feet, even with the assistance of a back brace and an inflatable donut to sit on.

Well, I’m more than halfway through the cruise at this point, and while I can’t say that it’s been easy, it sure has been memorable! I’ve decided that while I may have to take my diseases and degenerative disorders lying down (small pun intended), and be in debilitating pain regardless of whatever I do, I’m still going to make some beautiful memories along the way!

Thankfully, the cruise we’re on is through Viking Cruises, which tailors its travels towards the elderly and infirm population. There are no children allowed as guests, and the atmosphere is very calming and serene. There’s lots of classical music and art aboard, as well as a book exchange throughout the common areas of the ship.

Take a walk to the main dining hall, and you’ll see a wide variety of canes, walkers, motorized scooters, and back braces (almost all of which are already in my artillery). Speak with almost any of the other guests, and you’ll find that a large number of them have had at least a few surgeries and/or grave diagnoses in their recent past.

Amidst ‘my people,’ I feel a little less guilty about my need to modify the cruise experience. I’ve already missed some of the excursions due to exhaustion, needed my cane more than I care to admit, and needed the availability of a yoga mat or two to do some deep stretches after the back pain became much too unbearable. It’s actually been nice to commiserate with the similarly disabled guests! They understand what it’s like to try and mask your pain; to feel weak or that you’re putting someone out if you ask for assistance.

Hell, I almost feel like a burden to our cabin steward, who is eager to clean our room at least twice a day. I feel like telling him: “I promise, you’re doing an amazing job, and more than most, I understand completely what it’s like to expect perfection from yourself in everything that you do. That being said, there’s no way in hell I can leave my bed today, so you’re just going to have to respect the “Do No Disturb” sign on the door for what it is, and try again tomorrow!” But alas…

So I might not be the easiest guest on the ship…I definitely appreciate the experience more than most! While most of the other guests are busy enjoying their retirement years, I’m just trying to suck as much out of life and this world as I can while I’m physically able to enjoy and experience it!

And therein lies the beauty and the curse of being disabled–you are well aware of the brevity of life, for better and for worse. While there’s a lot of anger, resentment, and fear mixed in there with appreciation, perspective, and awareness, I do feel fortunate that I’m making these memories now, while I still can.

I certainly have to pay for them later/during, but to me, it’s worth the extra physical pain and exhaustion in order to feel like I’ve really lived.

Traveling while disabled (TWD) certainly sucks. Trying to find room for my cane in the overhead compartment; trying to keep the ice in my bag from leaking onto the floor of the aircraft; having to stand up and stretch in front of other passengers at very frequent intervals; trying not to cry from the excruciating pain; looking crude and rude as I try and lie down on two-to-three seats at the gate that are without armrests so that I can give my back and legs some much-needed relief. It’s all rather humiliating and attention-causing, but you have to learn to live with it if you’re going to make it through the travel experience.

You just have to prepare. You have to be ready for TSA and Customs to question the amount of pills in your possession, as well as your insulin pump, cartridges of insulin, and pump supplies.

You get ready for the pat-downs and sequestration to separate areas of the airport. For certain countries, letters from your doctor(s) are needed, in which they explain how you’re disabled and just what you need for safe travels.

You have to be ready to hold the security line up as you remove your back brace, place your cane into the scanner, and explain that the device in your pocket is just an insulin pump. Get ready for TSA to ask you to rub the pump with both hands, then have them take samples from both of your hands to ensure that there are no explosive substances on the device or your hands. Be prepared for another agent to withhold your carry-ons from you in order to figure out what the hell those insulin vials and cool-packs really are.

TWD is tricky business. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart or the timid of spirit. You need to be okay with strongly requesting/demanding that each hotel room/ship cabin has, at the very least, a mini-fridge. Ideally, you want to request a fridge-freezer combination so that you can freeze your cool packs for the return trip while you refrigerate your insulin.

For pump users, you have to be prepared that if you swim in the enticing waters, you’re going to get your infusion sets waterlogged. If you don’t have extra to replace them, you’re going to be in trouble!

TWD sure ain’t easy, but I am oh, so thankful to be living in modern times. Besides the fact that I’d be long dead from the diabeetus and all its evil attacks on my various body parts, there are now so many different medical aids and inventions that make TWD a bit less painful on your body.

As an example, I met a woman on the cruise while we were docked somewhere on the Great Barrier Reef. She had a motorized scooter/wheelchair that she bought in order to travel, since she faces pretty severe rheumatoid arthritis. With just the touch of a button on her remote, the device folds into itself until it’s the size of a piece of carry-on luggage! Ingenius! Like one of those fancy prams you see all of the inexplicably rich couples in almost every movie nowadays! Anyway, I’ll certainly be looking into that scooter if I want to continue TWD, as I’m sure the need for it is in my very near future.

In the end, TWD is all about managing your expectations and perspectives. If you’re TWD, get ready for more than a few hiccups. As long as you’re ready for them, they’re not so bothersome. And do your best to see through the pain and limitations. Try, instead, to focus on the amazing sights, smells, tastes, and sounds that come with visiting somewhere new.

Appreciate that even while TWD, you’re able to experience the amazing grace that this world exhibits. Be thankful for advances in medicine and medical devices. Hell, using the insulin pump is unquestionably easier than carrying a cooler with insulin, as well as a bunch of sterile syringes in order to go anywhere!

I’m thankful to be able to TWD. Sure, it’s not what Yvens nor I envisioned for our lives. We’re almost certainly not going to be able to reach all of our desired destinations. But if you’re disabled and still able to travel, I encourage you to do so! You’ll make memories that will carry you through the painful days. It’s more than worth it to boost your spirit!

My love and best to each and every one of you!

Safe travels, and Happy Holidays!

–Kate

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To read more about my journey adjusting to and accepting my disabilities, keep an eye out for my upcoming memoir, From National Champion To Physically Disabled Activist: My Lifelong Struggles With A Diseased Body, And The Lessons It Has Taught Me Along The Way.

If you like what you’ve read, feel free to subscribe to this blog. You can also follow me via Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google+ or Twitter.

Happy Ten Year Anniversary, Rhode Island Bar License!

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Wow, look at that baby-faced newbie attorney!! Today marks ten years of being a member of the Rhode Island State Bar, and I have to say, it makes me pretty nostalgic!

I can’t believe how much has changed over the last few years, and I’m heartbroken to think that I’ll probably never practice law again.

That being said, I’m still so immensely proud of my journey, and I’m so thankful that I got to be part of the criminal defense and civil rights communities, even if it was just for a short while. My heart will always be with both of these causes.

In my first five years of being a Rhode Island attorney, I was able to own, operate and grow a corporation; argue several cases before the Rhode Island Supreme Court; testify numerous times before the Rhode Island Legislature; serve on a Rhode Island Senate Study Commission; be a board member of the ACLU of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers (RIACDL), and the National ACLU Board; be selected for five straight years as a “Rising Star” in Rhode Island criminal defense and appeals; and, most importantly, help (or at least try to help) probably hundreds of people in desperate need of legal assistance.

I can’t begin to count the number of hours I put into my legal career, but I know for certain that it’s paid off immeasurably. The legal profession (and more specifically, criminal defense) gave me LIFE, and I’m so proud of my colleagues and mentors for the unending power and courage they continue to display in their fight towards justice and equality! I’ll always be with you on the frontlines in spirit!

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To read more about my journey into and through the legal profession, keep an eye out for my upcoming memoir, From National Champion To Physically Disabled Activist: My Lifelong Struggles With A Diseased Body, And The Lessons It Has Taught Me Along The Way.

If you like what you’ve read, feel free to subscribe to this blog. You can also follow me via Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google+ or Twitter.

The Kavanaugh Hearings: Views from a Former Sex Crimes Defense Attorney

By: Katherine Itacy, Esq.

Dated: September 28, 2018

For those of you who don’t know, I used to make my living defending those suspected of, charged with, and/or convicted of a wide array of sex offenses. I represented these (mostly) men sometimes from the moment an allegation is made until the appeal is done and the sex offender classification level is imposed and challenged. On several occasions, I’ve even been around when additional allegations were made against them.

Unless you’re my friend on social media, you may not realize that, as a defense attorney, I almost never made public judgments regarding anyone accused of or charged with any crime—especially if no criminal charges were ever brought. In my opinion, unless I was able to review the alleged evidence and listen to and observe the testimony and demeanor of any and all witnesses, I don’t believe that I have enough information to make a “judgment” as to a person’s guilt or innocence. I’m also well aware as to how a false allegation impacts a person and their family for the rest of their lives.

Lastly, for anyone unaware, I am a staunch advocate for women’s rights, equity among all genders, and the civil rights of every human being on this planet. Despite my ethical obligations to my clients that I zealously advocate on their behalf and defend them to the best of my abilities, I never advocated for the commission of sex offenses; nor have I ever encouraged or engaged in victim blaming. 

And I was and remain immensely proud of all of the individuals who came forward during the #MeToo movement with their own experiences with sexual harassment and/or assault. As a feminist and a cisgendered woman, I am intimately aware of the unwanted sexual advances of some cisgendered men. I also understand the shame, embarrassment, and/or fear that many assault victims/attempted assault victims feel when considering whether or not to come forward with their experiences.

In the instance of child victims, I also understand the concept of delayed reporting—that many are threatened with violence to themselves or their families if they tell anyone, or are bribed or induced into silence. Some are too young to realize what’s just happened to them until many years later.

Now, with all of those caveats out of the way, I’d like to take a moment to comment on The Kavanaugh hearings. Or, I should say, the public’s reaction to The Kavanaugh hearings.

I’ve seen Tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts regarding Dr. Ford, Judge Kavanaugh, and the Senate Judiciary hearings taking place on the Hill. I have to say that I was quite disturbed and disappointed as to just how many chose to believe the allegations lodged against the judge, husband, father, and coach, well before Dr. Ford was even sworn under oath. They were absolutely convinced that Judge Kavanaugh was a predatory monster who must be kept off of the Court. Some even cited to Anita Hill’s testimony almost thirty years ago, suggesting that she was the “foremother” of Dr. Ford’s testimony.

Of course, I am all for supporting victims. I am all for exposing the truth regarding any dishonest, unethical, or immoral behaviors or traits of a potential United States Supreme Court Justice. These appointments are for life, and the Court decides the constitutionality of some of the most life-changing, freedom-suppressing, and/or civil rights-depriving laws imposed by cities, states, and the federal government. A lot is at stake when a case is brought before the nine members of the Court, so their fitness for the Court is, of course, of the utmost importance to ascertain.

Being a bleeding-heart liberal, I am not stoked that this President has had the opportunity to impact the laws of our land for decades to come by filling some of the Court’s seats. But I am also, in the deepest recesses of my heart, still a defense attorney. I believe in our Constitution; in the (still-rather-broken-and-unjust) Criminal Justice System, at least its ideal state; in the Rules of Evidence, the presumption of innocence, and the right to confront one’s accusers.

Now, I’m well aware that these hearings are not subjected to the same standard of proof as a criminal case. 

But I am appalled by the fact that the American public has taken to the streets (and especially social media) to destroy this man and his family’s reputation and way of life before the allegations even made their way into the light.

I am announcing that I disbelieve Dr. Ford? No. Am I stating that I believe Judge Kavanaugh is innocent of any and all allegations lodged against him? No. I do not believe that I have sufficient facts to come to either of those conclusions.

I’m just so concerned and alarmed by the fact that so many others seem to believe that they had the ability to pass judgment, just by the mere fact that an allegation was made!

Now, in many of these cases, it boils down to the words of the accuser and the accused. Most times, there is no forensic evidence. Many times, there are no witnesses. Often times, especially with delayed reporting, there is no way for the accused to provide an alibi. Unless the allegations are specific as to a time, date, and location, it’s hard to prove you weren’t there. Factors like drugs or alcohol, fuzzy memories, and the perceived or misperceived intentions of both/all parties can convolute things.

But the public opinions surrounding these allegations seem to come from more of a place of “we must believe and support the accuser and destroy and shame the accused” than any evidentiary standard that I’m comfortable living with. I’ve seen the devastation that comes from false accusations, especially when they’re of a sexual nature. The man, even if accused of assaulting someone their own age, is suddenly seen as a sexual predator to all. He suddenly is no longer fit to be around women or children (male or female children, by the way, despite the research that shows that most pedophiles have a specific age and gender preference for their intended victims). He can no longer go to his children’s school or sporting events, never mind coach any of their sports teams.

Now, once again—I am not stating that I disbelieve Dr. Ford. I am just scared about where we, as a country, go from here. I want allegations of sexual harassment and assault to be able to come to the light without any fear of reprisal or revenge or shame brought upon the victim. 

But are we really comfortable with trying a person in the court of public opinion?? By way of distorted rumors and emotionally charged Tweets from those without any personal knowledge of the alleged events or regarding those supposedly involved?? Are you really okay with this? Would you be okay if you, your sibling, or your parent were subjected to the same standards we’ve resorted to?

I’m not suggesting that we disbelieve or dishonor or disrespect anyone. But the very thought of someone committing a sex crime (or attempting to commit a sex crime) has resulted in such collective disgust in this country that the person is believed guilty, essentially unable to prove him- or herself innocent. It’s hard enough to prove a negative without having any presumption of innocence afforded to you in the first place.

And this type of allegation never goes away for the accused, even if he is ultimately found not guilty. The allegation and all that accompanies it forever follows this person and his family around. It will impact the person’s ability to get or maintain a job; their ability to participate in community events; to socialize with others; to maintain familial and friendly relationships. 

When I started practicing law just about ten years ago now, I was deeply concerned about the emotionally charged policy and rule-making that surrounds alleged sex crimes. Often times, it ignores facts, logic, and rational thinking in favor of being overly cautious and protective of potential victims. Sadly, as I’ve stated publicly and in Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, often times, creating laws or policies based upon emotion and these overly cautious instincts lead to unintended consequences that make society and potential victims less safe, not more safe.

Now…I don’t know what to think. I don’t know where we go from here, when we’re instantaneously passing judgment before hearing any of the alleged evidence or allowing the alleged perpetrator the opportunity to respond.

I’m not criticizing Dr. Ford. I’m criticizing the rest of us. Those who were so quick to choose sides, whether it was on the basis of gender, political affiliation, or the mere subject matter of the allegation. Those who may or may not have used Dr. Ford’s letter and allegation as a political ploy; a weapon to use, if and when decided necessary. 

I’m afraid for the rule of law. I’m afraid for us, as a civilized society. I’m afraid that we’re so politically polarized that we’re now willing to throw away our standards and our rule of law in exchange for political gains. And potentially destroy lives in the process.

Where do we go from here? Please—I’d love to know, although I’m terrified of the answer.

 

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Listen to the Extended Version of Episode 2, Female Business Owners, with special guest, Angie, of Angelina Rose Photography! — Hear Me Roar – Podcast with Kate Itacy

It’s here, folks! Click below to start listening to the extended, extra-special mega episode of the “Hear Me Roar” podcast, “Female Business Owners: The Benefits, Pitfalls and Struggles Women Face When Running Their Own Business”! The episode features the podcast’s very first guest, Angie Bonin, of Angelina Rose Photography! Kate had an amazing time chatting with Angie about […]

via Listen to the Extended Version of Episode 2, Female Business Owners, with special guest, Angie, of Angelina Rose Photography! — Hear Me Roar – Podcast with Kate Itacy

Check Out Our Bonus Episode on Chronic Pain!

Hear Me Roar - Podcast with Kate Itacy

Welcome back to all those who patronized “Hammer Time with Nikki and Kate,” and welcome to all of our new “Hear Me Roar” listeners!

After PT this morning, Kate decided to record a bonus episode of the new podcast, focusing on the issue of chronic pain.

This mini-episode focuses on how those with chronic pain have to make a conscious, daily effort to not only cope with their pain, but to not allow their struggles to affect their relationships with others in their life.

Kate spoke with a fellow chronic pain patient while at physical therapy, and afterwards, remembered how much she’d been looking forward to finding a chronic support group to attend in Rhode Island.

Unfortunately, Kate’s search for such a group earlier this year yielded zero results, so it got her thinking–should she create one herself? Would others benefit from sharing their personal struggles either dealing with chronic…

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Stay tuned, dear listeners! — Hear Me Roar – Podcast with Kate Itacy

As you all know, the podcast has changed over from “Hammer Time with Nikki and Kate” to the “Hear Me Roar Podcast with Kate Itacy.” The goal of “Hear Me Roar” is to entertain, enrich and empower! Kate will continue to discuss issues that affect us all, but affect the female gender perhaps just a little […]

via Stay tuned, dear listeners! — Hear Me Roar – Podcast with Kate Itacy

COMING SOON: OUR FIRST GUEST ON THE PODCAST, ANGIE BONIN, JOINS KATE FOR EPISODE 7, “FEMALE BUSINESS OWNERS: THE BENEFITS, PITFALLS, AND STRUGGLES WOMEN FACE WHEN RUNNING THEIR OWN BUSINESS” — Hammer Time with Nikki and Kate

Dated: September 6, 2018 Next week, we’ll be recording and uploading our seventh episode, “Female Business Owners: The Benefits, Pitfalls and Struggles Women Face When Running Their Own Business.” The episode will feature our podcast’s very first guest, Angie Bonin, of Angelina Rose Photography! Kate’s been a huge pan of Angie’s photography since Angie first […]

via COMING SOON: OUR FIRST GUEST ON THE PODCAST, ANGIE BONIN, JOINS KATE FOR EPISODE 7, “FEMALE BUSINESS OWNERS: THE BENEFITS, PITFALLS, AND STRUGGLES WOMEN FACE WHEN RUNNING THEIR OWN BUSINESS” — Hammer Time with Nikki and Kate

Happy Silver Anniversary, Notorious RBG!

By: Katherine Itacy, Esq.

Dated: August 14, 2018

Last Friday marked 25 years on the Supreme Court for the Notorious RBG!! Happy Silver Anniversary, Justice Ginsburg!

Well before #NotoriousRBG became a thing, I was a huge Ruth Bader Ginsburg fan.

Not only is she an 85-year-old badass, who is almost certainly more physically fit than I am, but she’s a legal pioneer of all sorts!

In 1956, she was one of only nine women enrolled in Harvard Law School. She was one of only two women on the prestigious Harvard Law Review in 1957, and, after transferring to Columbia Law School in order to stay with her husband (who’d just graduated from Harvard Law and gotten a job in New York), she again made Law Review. A year later, she tied for first in her law school class! 

In 1963, she was the second woman ever to teach at Rutgers School of Law full-time. Nine years later, she became the very first woman to obtain tenure as a law professor at Cornell. That same year, she co-founded the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. In 1993, she became the second female Supreme Court Justice ever (following Sandra Day O’Connor’s nomination in 1981). And for well over a decade, she has been writing fierce, poignant, woke dissents in opinions issued by the now mostly conservative Supreme Court.

She has such an IDGAF attitude, but in such a dignified, informed, intelligent way. A kindred spirit of mine, to be sure! She’s who I aspire to be. She was a ride-or-die for her beloved husband, and was able to handle being a newlywed, a new mommy and a female law student in the predominantly male-attended Harvard Law School, all at the same time! And while serving on the Court with mostly men, she’s managed to stay sharp, poignant and unrelenting, despite the fact that she endured and overcame two different types of cancer!

She also approached her efforts towards gender equity by being incredibly strategic. Justice Ginsburg took the approach of trying to make small, incremental changes, so that the country could catch up with the idea of gender equity/equality before larger legal opinions/proclamations were issued.

But just because Justice Ginsburg took a “slow and steady wins the race” approach doesn’t mean she’s a pushover or has given up on her end goal. One of her most famous (and badass) quotes was in response to the question “When will there be enough women on the Supreme Court?” Her response? When there are nine” (i.e., when all of the justices are female!).

I’m such a fangirl, I have a RBG tank top, two pins (one with her face and her famous collar, and the other, a pin of the Supreme Court building, with “When there are nine” displayed across it). I also devoured the book, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and watched one of the first screenings of her documentary, “RBG.”

I never really had any aspiration to be a Supreme Court Justice, but this woman, as a human being, a civil rights activist and a legal mastermind, embodies all that I wish to be. And four years ago, when I was sworn in to the Supreme Court Bar, a mere ten feet or so away from Justice Ginsburg, my heart swelled. Even though I’ll never argue a case before her, the induction somehow made me just a bit closer to my idol!

Thankfully, it’s rumored that she wants to stay on the Court until she’s 90, which will hopefully be in the middle of a more sane, rational, learned and progressive Leader of the Free World’s first presidential term. If wishes make it so, please, please hang in there, RBG! At least until 45 is out and a more inclusive, diverse, respectful, hard-working, humble, well-intentioned and well-informed government is firmly in place! We need you! Like never before!

If you haven’t read Notorious RBG or seen “RBG” yet, please do so, immediately! Whether you’re male, female or gender non-conforming; whether you’re in the legal profession or not; and whatever your political leaning is, you will be inspired by this incredible woman. Hell, she was BFFs with now-deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The love for this woman is universal, and transcends all. So go forth and bow before The Notorious RBG. We’re all better off for her efforts and for her existence.

Happy Anniversary, Justice Ginsburg!! Here’s to you and your ever-lasting vitality!

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If you have any thoughts or insights on this post, you can let me know by leaving a comment below, or reaching out to me via Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google+ or Twitter. Feedback and thoughtful, respectful comments are always encouraged!

Spring Cleaning Your Relationships

By: Katherine Itacy, Esq.

Dated: July 22, 2018

Okay, so it’s a little late in the year to be referencing “spring cleaning,” but hear me out.

Ever taken a look at your closet and realized that you’re probably never going to fit into those old jeans from your “skinny”/“skinnier” days? That the shirt that looked amazing on you in the store’s dressing room has never looked quite flattering enough on you when you’ve tried it on at home? How about taking a good look at your favorite jacket and realizing that it’s just too worn out to be worn out in public ever again? 

No?

What about noticing the dust that’s gathered on that fitness equipment in the garage or basement? You know, the one you saw on that really intriguing infomercial, but have never managed to actually use more than once or twice since you’ve had it in your home?

Unless you’ve been featured on an episode of Hoarders, then you’ve most likely had the urge to purge. Who doesn’t feel better once they’ve gotten rid of things from their life that are no longer of any use to them? Even of things that were once a part of their daily lives, but are now sitting on the proverbial or actual shelf, collecting dust?

Personally, I know that I always feel better once I’ve done some spring cleaning in my life. Whenever my personal space starts to feel a bit cluttered, or my closet gets a bit too full to make room for another hanger or two (I know – First World problems, right?!), it always makes me feel a bit claustrophobic. But once I’ve scoured through my belongings and gotten rid of things that I no longer use, wear or enjoy having in my home, it always makes me feel tidier, more relaxed and even excited about welcoming new things into my home in the future.

I’ve recently realized that this spring cleaning/pruning concept can, is, and must also regularly be applied in terms of outdated, transformed and/or unflattering personal relationships in one’s life.

If I’ve learned anything from reflecting upon my life choices, relationship choices and deteriorating health while writing my book, it’s that life’s far too short and too meaningful to waste any precious time or energy on draining, unhealthy or lopsided relationships. You know the ones I’m talking about — the ones in which you spend countless hours listening to their drama, but can never get them on the phone when you need a listening ear; the ones in which it’s all about what you can give to them, knowing that you’ll never be able to expect or hope for the same in return; the ones in which you make all the effort trying to maintain the relationship, invite them to places, see how they’re doing, et cetera, until it starts to feel like you’re a thirsty and desperate unrequited love interest who’s being ghosted.

I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that in my current state of health, I have only a limited amount of energy on any given day to expend on a wide variety of things: doctors’ appointments, physical therapy, editing my book, maintaining my personal relationships, et cetera. On any given day, if I choose to overextend myself, I know that I’ll have to pay for it over the next several days, usually with a helluva lot of pain and a lot of time passed out in bed.

So in terms of what I’m willing to spend this finite amount of time and energy on, unhealthy, outdated and/or unnecessarily dramatic or draining relationships don’t even make the cut anymore. The physical consequences I endure from the emotional toll that these relationships take on me just isn’t worth it anymore; no matter how much of a people-pleaser/pushover I’ve come to realize that I am.

Nope. I have no intention of spending whatever time I have left on this earth involved in toxic or unhealthy relationships, and as hard as it’s been for me, I’ve spent the last five-to-ten years trying to weed out a sadly large number of fake and/or manipulative and/or mean-spirited people from my world, and to cultivate the loving, meaningful, fulfilling relationships I have with my true “family” and friends. I use “family” in quotations because I am of the firm belief that as an adult, you can and should cultivate your own family; not just from those with whom you share blood or genetics or marital connections, but from those who are supportive, loving, and really know you.

In my humble opinion, as soon as we’re emotionally ready, I think we all need to take time (on at least a semi-regular basis) to reflect upon the relationships in our lives. Are they healthy? Are they respectful? Are they loving? Are they meaningful? Or are they one-sided, manipulative, abusive, disrespectful, hurtful or even inconsistent? 

Take some time to think about your personal boundaries. Do you stand up for yourself? For those that you love? 

Are you doing your best to meaningfully contribute to the relationships that you do value and want to keep?

Do you respect and love yourself as much as you respect and love your family and friends? 

We all need to ask ourselves these questions on a semi-regular basis, just as we semi-regularly “spring clean” our belongings. 

If you consider the time that you spend on any given relationship in a given week, month or year, you might realize that a friendship has managed to go dormant. Now, that could be for a number of reasons: it could be that that person has found a new group of friends that they have more in common with; it could be that they no longer value your friendship as highly as they once used to; it could be that you’ve both gotten so busy at work, with your significant others or with family members that it’s just been a while.

Relationships can and will change. People change; their priorities and values change. Those who used to put the time in to contribute to your relationship may no longer do so. 

But there’s no need to vilify someone just because they’re no longer in your life as often as before, or in the same capacity as before. I think we can all agree that one’s priorities can change a lot after marriage, divorce, children and/or burgeoning careers. Some people may need to take some time for themselves, to get themselves together or even focus on the more urgent needs of others in their own lives. Give them the space they need, and you may be able to reestablish your relationship with them later on in life.

The thing is, same as there are different reasons for getting rid of personal items in your home, there are a multitude of reasons for severing ties with people from your life.

And if you end these relationships after meaningful reflection, honest introspection and the best of intentions, then I think that you’ll find that your life is just a little bit tidier; that it’s at least a little less stressful or drama-filled, and that you may even become excited at the prospect of welcoming new relationships into your life in the future.

As long as we approach each relationship with honest intentions, an open heart and a forgiving spirit, it’s probably best to let go of the relationships that fail or fade away or are no longer having a positive impact upon our lives.

Focus on loving, respecting and appreciating the wonderful people in your life. You’ll be too busy maintaining and enjoying these relationships to spend much time worrying about why the others have ended. I can’t promise that it’ll be easy, but I can safely say it’ll be worth it!

Happy spring cleaning, everyone!

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Here’s a photo depicting one of my most meaningful, loving, supportive relationships; it’s of me and my very best friend in the world, Nikki:

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If you have any thoughts or insights on this post, you can let me know by leaving a comment below, or reaching out to me via Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google+ or Twitter. Feedback and thoughtful, respectful comments are always encouraged!

Check out Episode 6 of our Podcast, “Division of Labor and Responsibilities in Relationships” — Hammer Time with Nikki and Kate

Welcome back, dear listeners! And welcome back to Nikki, who has returned from her hiatus to rejoin Kate in our podcast, “Hammer Time with Nikki and Kate”! Today’s episode focuses on how couples divide up the household, financial and/or parenting responsibilities, and what emotions/expectations may bubble up from that division. We talk about how single […]

via Check out Episode 6 of our Podcast, “Division of Labor and Responsibilities in Relationships” — Hammer Time with Nikki and Kate