Thursday, July 31, 2014

Elements #6

Start noticing and living in the present. Right now is a miracle. Right now is the only moment guaranteed to you. Right now is life. So stop thinking about how great things will be in the future. Stop dwelling on what did or didn't happen in the past. Lear to be in the "here and now" and experience life as it's happening. Appreciate the world for the beauty that it holds, right now.
I find it interesting that I wrote something along these lines last week. This was before I read the prompt, before Anthony arrived, before I got sick again. I already know that each moment is truly a gift. And today, when I'm finally sitting down with this, I find it even more true.

I'm finding it a little difficult to focus on this post today, though. The replay of pneumonia has knocked me for a loop and the doubled antibiotics (azithromycin and cefuroxime axetil) and the inhaler make me feel as if I'm drunk for a while after each dose. Even so, I will write this out and hope that it all makes sense.

We all have periods during the day when we are doing something we don't want to do. Work, changing diapers, being stuck in traffic, paying the bills. So with the whole "live in the moment", how are we supposed to appreciate those things? I've been thinking about this quite a bit, especially as I think about the fact that this second round of illness puts me at a higher risk of things later. Somehow I need to let go of the worry for that future and just enjoy the present moment. But how?

I think this is something that each person has to decide. What do I do? Well, I'll admit that a lot of times the worry creeps in and lays a shadow over everything else. But I am lucky enough to be one of those people who sees glimpses of awesomeness in the small things. A butterfly flitting past, a great song on the radio, the way the clouds float across the sky. I'm not saying that this is the answer, but it helps. This week I've been mad because I'm sick while Anthony is here. But yesterday I realized that it was a mini-blessing because he has been able to get my prescriptions and bring a lighthearted element to the house. This is my moment to spend with him, even if it means that I'm sleeping in my room and he & Brianna are watching sitcoms in the living room.

Its not easy to keep yourself from looking toward the future, but too much of that will prevent you from seeing the smiles in the present. I'll continue to practice that.

Blessings, y'all!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mortality

I was once told that I don't understand what it's like to get older and know that your time on this planet is getting shorter and shorter. They told me about how they sometimes saw the future stretching out before them and how empty it seemed. And, that I couldn't understand that.

I think they were right. I don't, and probably never will, understand that. Not because I don't look toward the future and see myself living alone (which doesn't bother me as much as it "should"), but because I can't afford to look so far ahead when I'm struggling with the mortality of the moment. I know, all too clearly, that I might not make it to my "old age". I know that every single moment I spend with my children is something that I must cherish right now and not store up for someday memories. I know that each moment of my life is a gift that should be treasured (even the scary moments) and that I need to let go of them as soon as they happen so that I'm open to the next moment.

I wonder if my mom ever reached this point. If she ever looked at her medical reports and decided that it was time to stop waiting for the "right time" to do something and just get started. I think that she did. After all, she went to school to become a Physician's Assistant even knowing that there was a possibility that she might not finish the course. She did complete it with excellent grades and went on to get a job for nearly two years before her final surgery. Even that last decision... she knew that she would not likely make it through, but she chose the procedure anyway and died on the table. I honestly believe that she had very few, if any, regrets. I'm not sure I can say the same about myself at this moment.

I needed a nap today. I had been doing well, but I barely made it home before I had to lay down. At least I don't need them daily anymore. I hold the hope that things will keep getting better and that my strength will return. And maybe the future will be bright after all. Even so...

The house is quiet and dark and I sit here wondering if there is enough time. Will my wee little house be built? Will there be goats & rabbits to gather fiber from? Will there be grandchildren (although, I know this will happen whether I'm here or not... but will I meet them?) Will I see the Tor? Should I dream that big? Or should I find smaller dreams?

In this darkness, I'm just not sure. I will think more about it as the sun begins to rise. For now, I'll join the night on the front step and wait for the first bird to sing out.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Elements #10

Start creating your own happiness. If you are waiting for someone else to make you happy, you're missing out. Smile because you can. Choose happiness. Be the change you want to see in the world. Be happy with who you are now and let your positivity inspire your journey into tomorrow. Happiness is often found when and where you decide to seek it. If you look for happiness within the opportunities you have, you will eventually find it. But if you constantly look for something else, unfortunately, you'll find that, too.
 For a long time I did look for happiness in someone else. Rather, it was the relationship I was looking into. I kept thinking that we'd reach a point where things would smooth out and we'd be happier than before. I looked for ways to make more sales so that we could move forward with living together (making more sales isn't a bad thing at all, but because so much of the future of the relationship seemed to hinge on my success, it became more of a "job" than something I loved to do). It took me a very long time to realize what I was doing and how much of myself I was losing. When I ended the relationship, I actually felt that I was giving up most of my dreams and hopes.

A simple bracelet and an amethyst from Brianna.
Soon, though, I came to realize that I was really happy with the freedom to create without someone else's approval. I found myself singing with a voice rusty from silence. Laughter startled me when it happened. And my smile felt unfamiliar. Even so, with the support of my kids and a few friends (who are seriously the most awesome people in the world), these things became commonplace.

Now, I smile at even small things, sing just about every day, and find laughter a familiar friend. Yes, there are still days that are filled with numbness, but they are coming further apart and with less intensity. And that's another reason to smile.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The mob...

I posted a link on Facebook yesterday of what I'd been reading while eating breakfast (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ochlocracy). A friend asked what led me to that article and I thought about the threads & trails I usually take when "strolling" through the internet. This particular one...

It started out as a rather amorphous thought about the way our society reacts to things. It seems that the one with the loudest voice gets the most notice, while those who speak softly (often with wisdom and respect) are brushed aside. Our society is in a steady and rapid decline in so many areas that I couldn't possibly list them right now.  I see pictures of people beside the American flag with "'Murica" typed on it an I want to cringe (I see that as extremely disrespectful to the history of our nation, the people who fought to make sure we stayed free, and those who are doing what they can to keep us safe... police, firefighters, soldiers, etc.). I was reading about the buses full of children and how a lot of people are coming out to picket, but who are they really angry with? The kids? Their parents want them to live away from the drugs & war mongers. The bus drivers? They are only doing their job. None of these picketers are thinking, they are only following the mob. That thought led to "Rome is the mob. Conjure magic for them and they'll be distracted. Take away their freedom and still they'll roar."

America has become the mob. Little by little, the simplest of freedoms are being taken away and America cheers about it because it's wrapped up in the illusion that we're (generic term) getting something better. The "news" is filled with fluff stories generated to raise the mob to a frenzy, but what exactly are they rising for? The smokestacks on their trucks? The perfect yoga pants? Our nation really has been in a rut for so long that these "rebellions" or "triumphs" seem like the coup of a lifetime. And yet...

Children are dying every moment, people are going through hell every moment, women are fighting for their lives every moment, men are dragged through the dirt every moment, but we're more concerned with what's going in in the lives of the celebrities and the scandals of the politicians than we will ever be in the lives of human beings who only need a little compassion.

That was what brought me to the article.

I don't have some wondrous words of wisdom to wrap this post up, and I need to get dressed and out the door, but I think it would be really great if people would stop and think about what they are really fighting about instead of following the loudest mob.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A little mad...

I got my first participation medal in the mail yesterday and shared pictures of it on Facebook. For the most part I got a lot of cheering and such, which was great. It took a lot out of me to accomplish those 3.92 miles and I felt pretty good about it. Recovery sucked (edema & fatigue for 4 days) but I got through it. I was really proud of myself and grateful to Brianna for helping me during that time.

And the medal? It's awesome! Heavy and colorful and, of course, it's a Harry Potter theme (if you're interested, check out the Hogwarts Running Club) which is a huge bonus. It's also a great way to raise money in the fight against cancer (through The Jimmy Fund). I'm already looking forward to the next one.

But then... I got a message from a person I will not name (but they got an earful from me already) about how stupid it was that I (and lots of others) got this medal for a Virtual Run. I was told that it wasn't really a run and that most people who participate in a 5k don't (and shouldn't) get a medal at all. I was more than a little pissed, but I walked away from the computer for a couple hours so that I could calm down. It worked... a little.

Here's the thing: I worked hard for those miles. I have had my body completely shut down on me more than once in the last couple of months (thankfully I make it safely home before it happens). I've been battling with extreme fatigue and heart issues for a while now. And I'm not the only one with a challenge. There are people who struggle each day to get out of bed (depression, illness, pain, and more), much less muster enough energy to walk/run 3 miles. There are people who are recovering from illness or surgeries and find it hard to walk from their door to their mailbox, much less a 5k. If they achieve something like this, wherever they are, then, yes, they deserve a cool looking medal to show to the world that they are taking steps to help themselves.

No, I do not buy special running socks or spend a lot of money on shoes & clothing. No, I won't pay a huge entrance fee to run with a group of people I don't know. And no, I don't go farther than 4 miles on any given day at this point. But that doesn't make what I do any less important than your 13 or 26 miles.And my mere 100-pound bench press will never compare to yours, but it felt good to know that I did it, just the same.

If you sneer at someone who accomplishes something that they are proud of, take a moment and ask yourself if that's really the best way to be. You don't know the other person's story. Just because they look healthy (for the most part) doesn't mean that they aren't struggling with something you can't see (unless you have sonogram vision, you can't see my mitral valve and the "funny" little thing it does with each heartbeat). Just because they don't have the latest gear and the newest water bottle, doesn't mean that the activities they do are worthless. So, before you set your fingers to the keyboard or open your mouth, take a moment and tell yourself to shut up and think. We're all on our own journey and comparing mine to yours is pointless.


To those who are proud of the achievements they have: Rock on! Be proud of what you do! Don't take crap from anyone! You are a fabulous person and no one can take that away from you.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Elements #9

Start enjoying the things you already have. The problem with many of us is that we think we'll be happy when we reach a certain level in life - a level we see others operating at - your boss with her corner office, that friend of a friend who owns a mansion on the beach, etc.. unfortunately, it takes a while before you get there, and when you get there you'll likely have a new destination in mind. You'll end up spending your whole life working toward something new without ever stopping to enjoy the things you have now. So take a quiet moment every morning when you first wake to appreciate where you are and what you already have.

I have been doing something very much like this each morning. I'll step outside with my bag & coffee and I'll take a look around me. Whether it's my garden, the sleeping child (well, young woman now) inside, my increasing good health, or simply the quiet morning, I will stop for just a moment on my doorstep and remind myself of the good things I have right now.

Granted, I still long for the simple homestead with my goats and alpacas, the garden and the hens, and the fresh coffee with my breakfast, but I still enjoy the time I have right at this moment. There are no promises of what might happen when I reach this point or that moment. Instead, it is just me and my own gratitude for each shining moment.

On the same coin, there are days when it's so very hard to get out of bed and function more than on autopilot. Anyone who has dealt with any form of depression will understand what I'm talking about. These are the moments when it's very hard to keep the feelings of gratitude in the forefront of your mind. During those times (these times), I try to list the things I am enjoying... the heat pump that is keeping us cool, the food in the refrigerator, the fabulous children I've had the pleasure of raising, and the friends who reach out to me when I have been silent for a while.

I wish you all a peaceful heart.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Dreams of long ago...

Last night there was a lovely storm filled with thunder shaking the house and rain pounding itself against the roof. I slept with the windows wide open and a contented smile on my face as I drifted off to dreams. When I woke the remnants of a song played in my mind and stayed with me throughout the day. "It's Now or Never" by John Schneider. Yes, you read that right. I was nine years old when that was playing on the radio. It was the last summer we were in Luray, Tennessee and I remember sitting on the back stairs and thinking that it was kind of cool that Bo Duke could also sing. Well, the guy who played Bo... I did know the difference between actors and their characters. (A side note: I didn't hear Elvis's version until I was married to Bruce.)

Gazing ball
I don't recall the dream, but a lot of feelings and thoughts have been running through my mind. Mostly along the lines of how happy we were in Tennessee. The little farmstead of ours was a bit of heaven to me and I know it was to my mother as well. There was a feeling of peace there that I didn't experience in any other place we lived. Fresh goat's milk each morning, eggs from our growing flock of hens, vegetables from our garden in the back, and various foods that we traded with our neighbors. Even the scary parts, like the water moccasins and the copperheads didn't really tarnish that time in my life. Sometimes I think that's where I'm trying to return to during my meditations. The huge oak tree that I spent countless hours beside, reading and dreaming, running around with Maggie (our baby goat), picking dandelions to "cook" in my pretend pots & pans, watching the ants crawl along in their single-file paths around the roots. I remember running with my mom to the back yard to help gather the laundry off the line before the rains hit then sitting on the front porch reveling in the sound of the thunder (we could only play in the rain after the lightning had passed). I can remember laying my my bed and listening to the windows rattle when the storms would come at night.

So many of my happiest memories are wrapped up in that house on the hill. I know that I'd not feel the same if I returned there, and so, I might never look up the old address and see if the house is still standing. Even so, the thought occurs more than not.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Silence

I sit here tonight (this morning) and think about the various silences I've experienced through the years. The early morning when the world seems to still be sleeping and the birds are just beginning to sing their melodies. The late night when everyone has already gone to bed and you are locking up the house at the end of a long day. The forest in the middle of winter. The stillness between each breath of the baby laying beside you. The gut-wrenching moment when you realize the car really hit you and you can't hear your toddler from the back seat. That emptiness of the soul when you believe you are alone in the world. The held breath before you blow out the candles with your wish clearly blazing in your mind. All of these and so many more.

But tonight... I think about a silence that I've never experienced before. That of an empty house. I don't mean when the kids are both at their friend's house for the weekend (although there was a whole summer that I experienced that one), I mean the stillness of a house where you are the only one living there. Where you know that every day you will walk through the door and you'll be the only human who actually resides there. I am looking forward to this new bit of my journey, and dreading it all the while.

I don't know what will happen when Brianna has taken flight and moved on with her adult life. I don't know if I will cry or mope about or what. I do know that I hope I see it all as a wonder-filled opportunity to learn even more about my Self.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Elements #8

Start being more polite to yourself. If you had a friend who spoke to you in the same way that you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow that person to be your friend? The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others. You must love who you are or no one else will.
Interestingly enough, I found that I was repeating things that had been said to me through the years:
- An A- isn't good enough for your grades.
- You should do something different with your hair.
- Your politics aren't based on facts.
- You are too emotional.
- You aren't enough for me.

The list goes on, of course, but until you are able to shut out those comments, you will be haunted by them. And so, you begin to say them to yourself but instead of using "you" the statements are riddled with "I". And that's where the damage really begins. Because you really internalize the thoughts and harshness, they become part of who you are.

Taken at night while walking with Brianna.
Here is something that I've been learning and I'd like you to try it - when you think about some part of your life that isn't quite up to par, ask yourself if that is the truth or just a rehashed version of someone else's truth. Do I really base my politics on what I hear from the media or do I research it myself and find out as many facts as I can? Am I really too emotional or am I actually more in touch with my emotions? Am I really not enough for anyone or just the person who said it?

Evaluate all the voices in your head. Listen to them and banish the ones that are toxic. When you catch yourself demurring or allowing yourself to be diminished, think about why. Ask yourself if your are living Truth or someone's expectations.

Blessed be.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Surprised, yet not...

Yesterday afternoon Brianna & I walked into a recruiting office. I am still not certain of all my feelings about this. I know the risks (including the risks that only the women deal with) and I know the benefits. I know that she will come out of boot camp changed in ways that cannot be described. And I know that the core of her will always be the same. I know that I will lay awake many nights fearing for her emotional status. I know that I will cry some days with no apparent reason. And I know that I will be so very proud of all that she does.

She had to do a flexed arm hang while we were there. The minimum for women was 15 seconds. She did 20. She answered all the questions with honesty and thoughtfulness. She knows (as much as any potential Marine knows) what she's getting herself into.

Me? I know what I'm getting into. After all, I went through something similar a few years ago. The excitement and worry while she's a poolee, the fear that something will delay her entry, the tears I will cry when I get that call that she's arrived at Parris Island... I know about all of this.

And now? Now I will continue my summer as we had planned. Movies, relaxing, going out to dinner occasionally, our 5k walks every few days, cherishing the moments and storing them up for future smiles.

And yet... my daughter just made a decision that is the kind of decision an adult makes. She's been doing this a lot lately. Choosing the form of birth control that is right for her after reading all the side effects of them all; choosing to push herself a bit to graduate high school earlier; ending a relationship that was sapping away her Self; and so many other things that I can look at and say, "A grown-up person made that decision, not a child."

Regardless of what happens over the next nine months (six months until school is done, another 3 months in boot camp), I am so very proud of Brianna. And I continue to be proud of Anthony for his choices. I am truly blessed with awesome kids.