Sunday, August 26, 2012

A New Chapter

A child is born, a surgery approaches, ah life, what an amazing ride. I recently attended my granddaughter being brought into this world, her life and my daughter's seemed at times to walk a fine line between life and death. Blood pressure readings frighteningly high, exhaustion, forceps, and doctors struggling to pull this tiny girl into our world, and yet, somehow I contained my fears and anxieties and kept my daughter calm through the chaos and was rewarded with the witnessing of a tiny new being taking her very first gasp of air, a miracle. It wasn't until it was all over that I nearly fainted with relief and the overwhelming pain in my back that I had been refusing to acknowledge for an entire day and night. Who knew that birthing a baby was such scary hard work for the birthing coaches. But it made me realize that when we really need to step up and be incredible, when the moment comes and we have no choice other than to act with courage and grace and rise to the occasion, that somehow from the depths of our souls comes a strength that enables us to be stronger and more courageous than we ever thought imaginable. I know that I was not alone and that the spirit and love of those women that came before me were there in the room holding me up so that I could give my daughter my all. And now, my upcoming surgery, hah, a piece of cake, a walk in the park. I know that I can do this and that I will not be alone in that room, life, what an amazing ride.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Now... that time caught in a moment, held in a breath somewhere between what was just inhaled and the next exhale. Past, present and future nearly colliding yet forever apart. This concept of time and how we let it determine out fate has just recently been brought to the forefront of my attention. While I have been forced to wait on the future, recent events have reminded me that there is more to life than sitting and waiting for things to happen. Just a few days ago, was it Wednesday of Thursday?, a simple phone call and .... "Hi mom, I think I might be in labor." You see, my daughter lives in Denver, Colorado and is having our first grandchild but I live in California. So suddenly I was thrust into a whirlwind of emotions, decisions and activity. I jumped on a plane as soon as I could and was met at their house with another whirlwind of emotions, decisions and activity. But it turned out to be a false alarm and once again we were back to waiting on the future. At least I am a lot more relaxed being in the same city.

I can't tell you how many times I have heard or read that you are supposed to live your life in the present, and that you should let go of the past and not focus on tomorrow. But I believe that wisdom has some faults and it has been my two daughters that have really brought this to my attention. They are helping me come to the conclusion that like most things there needs to be some sort of balance between the three aspects of time. Here I am with one daughter whose every waking moment is concentrated on the future and is ensnared with the frustrations of waiting for her real labor to start, of waiting to hold her baby in her arms, of waiting to know that everything will go all right, waiting, waiting and more waiting. So each day my energy has gone into reminding her of the joys of this moment and all that she has now. This job was further reinforced this morning. While reading this quote from Pearl S. Buck seemed to ring true, she said,"Everyday, life has a power of its own and it is important to pay attention to it.". Yet I am finding it challenging to convince a nine month pregnant lady who is very uncomfortable to appreciate the present. Oh, I do remember being in her exact shoes and I find it is so much easier for me to enjoy every moment of being here, getting to see her pregnant, touching her moving belly and everything about this amazing experience, then it is for her. But I am relishing the challenge of trying to keep her relaxed and grateful for now.

My younger daughter at the same time is going through the opposite experience in that she is trying to live a little less in the now. She has always had a remarkable grace and beauty in the way that she moves through life just living for now. I was beginning to believe that this was the correct way to approach life. She had an amazing childhood and did not dwell on the past and instead of being too concerned with tomorrow she was busy with just dealing with things as they came up. Recently she was made to be aware that this only works if you have absolutely nothing to lose. As she has gotten older she has built up a business, has acquired a business partner, and well, a reputation to maintain. Her life has become intertwined with others and she realized that she has a responsibility to protect them as well as herself.

The more I think about this it seems critical to have an awareness and a plan for the direction you want to take your life. It isn't just about having plans that give us hope and things to look forward to but also to have plans for other important aspects. What do you want to eat today so you will be healthy tomorrow, what about an exercise schedule,  shopping, relationships, reputations and so many more. In some ways it was hard for me to see my daughter have to so radically change her approach to life but to be a part of this culture, this society, there comes a time to clip your own wings and become responsible for your own future. Seeing her transition into an adult has reminded me that it is important to strive for a balance. Take forward your past in a way that celebrates where you came from and how it has fashioned and shaped who you are today. Good and bad it is these past experiences that give us our wisdom and strength to become the unique and incredible individuals that we are today. Look to your future in a way that maintains or improves upon your strengths so you can be the person your heart desires you to be or to maintain the person that you have worked so hard to become. At the same time it is just as critical to appreciate today. For many this may be the most challenging. Our society teaches us from the day we are born to desire more, more things, more money, more stuff, more, and more. But taking the effort to develop gratitude for what you already have and an appreciation for the ones you love and an awareness of the joy of being alive in this place, this time, this moment, this now is incredible. This sense of gratitude can fill you with awe, love and inspiration. I find it amazing that this last year despite living with constant pain which has forced me to reduce my world in order to cope, has caused an incredible expansion of my awareness. It has forced me to see what is most important in life and have a greater appreciation of that life.

I don't know if it is truly possible to keep the past, present and future in a perfect balance. Perhaps there will always be a time when we need to be more focused on one or the other as we grow and mature and journey. But I do believe that we shouldn't linger in any one of them too long or be too focused on trying to keep them in perfect balance but rather continuously paying attention and striving for a sense of harmony whatever the configuration. Then, we may just find a sense of wholeness in the moment between the inhales and the exhales, between the past and the future, in this marvelous now.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Waiting Some More

There's waiting and then there's waiting, and the difference can really be quite profound. Right now I am in the throws of waiting for several things to happen within the next month or so, some exciting, some stressful, others good, or challenging, and some well....a bit of everything actually. But what I have discovered here lately is that when you are waiting for something serious to happen, the other shoe to drop so to speak, it sure helps if you are also waiting for something that excites or delights you. It just seems to help make everything a little more tolerable. Who doesn't like a little sugar with their medicine? After my last doctor's visit I found out that my back rotation has gotten worse since last year and that I now have bone on bone and nerves being pinched, and ouch. So I will be having my second back surgery. I have to say that I am a little excited, but I also have to admit that I am not a very good patient, so there is a lot of anxiety and stress too. What makes this tolerable is that I am also waiting on some good things. My first grandchild is to be born any day now, I have a wedding to attend coming up soon, and I have  been working with a labrador breeder to get a new therapy puppy. I think you get the picture when I say there is waiting and then there is waiting. 

To be realistic, living with chronic pain on a daily basis creates a very fragile existence that requires constant diligence to manage. I wish I could wave a magic wand and give each of you a personal manager whose sole job would be to see that you always have a variety of things to look forward to, but alas I can't. At the very least though I can encourage you to make plans so that you always have something positive in the works. Believe me, I know how hard this can be when you don't feel so hot, especially when you are in the midst of waiting for something that is either scary or challenging. I was there just recently, feeling overwhelmed, anxious and out of control because I was forced to put my life on hold and wait once again. That awful kind of waiting. But you know, simply by expanding my horizon, by mixing in a little positive waiting has made it tolerable. I have good things in my life now that I am looking forward to as well, but I think that the main difference is that because of this balance I have regained my sense of hope, just a little. And you know I am finding that even a little touch of hope is pretty magical. The waiting game suddenly doesn't seem so bad with a little sugar sprinkled into the mix. 

Maybe I do have a magic wand to wave over all of you after all. Try and make some plans and have things to look forward to, the "good" kind of waiting. Think of it as another part of your prescription for your health. A little hocus pocus.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


It’s out of my hands, my fate, my life, my entire future sits in waiting. The waiting game, it seems, has been all that I am capable of doing lately and in less than two hours I learn what the Doctors most recent findings are. Friday I was once again scanned and x-rayed and even injected with dye into my spinal cord, something I am grateful I did not know about beforehand, and more or less treated as a broken object, no longer human. So here I am waiting again, excited and terrified all in one, not wanting to go forward but knowing that to stay where I am surely means the worst for I can’t endure this punishment any longer. It is interesting that I chose the word “punishment” as if I did something bad to deserve this fate, but that’s what it feels like. It has slowly gotten so bad that my life is in suspension now, hardly a life at all. Waiting to go to the doctors, waiting to find out about more surgery, but really waiting to resume living again. All or nothing, wish me luck.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Just A Garden And A Really Bad Back

I am constantly reminded that in addition to the inevitability of death and taxes there is one more element of life that we cannot avoid, and that is change. As human beings there is a natural desire to have consistency in our lives, to have things remain steady, unchanging, and stable. This belief is probably responsible for more suffering in the world than anything else. Why, because it sets us up for failure. As hard as we try we will never be able to have complete control over all of the aspects of every day living. I have been reminded of this so much lately that it literally has made me ill. First my pain therapy dog just dropped dead, then there is the incredibly challenging family issues dealing with an ailing father, and now my darling daughter’s close friend was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident this week. It finally became too much and I had to be treated for stomach problems and chest pain. An afternoon getting my heart checked at the emergency room after getting a negative EKG reading was the icing on the cake, as they say. It was then that I knew something had to change and I knew that the biggest obstacle I was facing was myself. I thought that I had become pretty proficient at accepting life’s little bumps and curves in the road - I guess I needed a refresher course.

Perhaps the hardest area of change to accept graciously is that of loss. Loss is something that has a habit of sneaking up on us and quite literally derailing us. Whether it is the loss of a loved one or the loss of things that come with chronic pain or other tragic events, are we ever prepared enough? My daughter is currently taking Hospice training, something that I did several years ago, and so I have been reminded of the valuable life lessons the course had taught me about loss. As we age or begin having daily chronic pain, we suffer most from the sense of loss of who we were, and how we once lived. It is very much a process of giving up the very things we cherished most as we lose more and more control over everything. It really is a frightening and difficult process. But there are things that we can do that help ease this process.

I think the first is a shift in how we view our own circumstances. Life really is a journey, a beautiful flowing journey that we can influence with our choices but can never completely control. There are always going to be unexpected events that will surprise us. Accepting that fact makes it a little easier. A good visualization for this would be to see your life as a little boat on a river. Sure you can use your oars to paddle upriver and make the going harder, but if you let the current carry you along it will be a lot easier.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Crazy Horrible Wonderful Life

My husband came home today during his lunch break, and we headed out to run some errands. As soon as we got on the freeway we could see the reds lights flashing and whirling and the many, many emergency vehicles over on the right hand shoulder. A terrible accident…..a brief glance, a lone car upside down, broken and smashed, I quickly looked away before I saw more than I could deal with. We were immediately both thrown back in time to similar remembered events. His, driving the same route to work every workday and suddenly seeing, on a regular sort of day, a car in the middle of the intersection, a towel draped over the driver’s head and an arm still casually yet hauntingly resting on the edge of the window. Mine, from just two weeks ago, throwing the ball as I did every morning for my beautiful dog. I turned away saying that was enough and heard him thump down on the ground. I turned, watched him struggle a couple of times to breathe, reached down to take his ball out of his mouth hoping it would help and then, he was gone. Just like that. One minute he was here running and playing and the next simply gone, in a single moment.

I am not trying to be morbid here, I am just trying to say that yes life can be painful, challenging and incredibly hard but it is so glorious as well. This reminder today is in memory of my dog Willy. An amazing, three and a half year old dog that helped me navigate my crazy and painful life. He made me better on so many levels that I can’t even begin to touch upon. But he also showed me how precious life is and not to take it for granted despite the hardships. So today I enjoyed the feel of the sun on my skin and the time I had to have a simple yet pleasant lunch with my best friend, my hubby, and yes my back hurts like hell but it is worth every minute when we take the time to appreciate, when we use the tragedy of life to renew our awareness of the splendor of living this glorious life before it vanishes in a single moment.

In loving memory of my sweet boy, Willy who reminds us all with his short short life, to love unconditionally, live each day fully, savor everything and go out with a ball in your mouth.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Whisper Me Softly Part II

It takes a lot to fight off this enemy of depression as his presence is unwavering. I know though, from experience, that the first step is to manage the pain level. Since early this summer my pain had continued to increase and it was hurting on the opposite side than normal. But hating to go to the doctors I kept hoping that it would eventually ease up if I behaved myself and took it easy for a while. This unfortunately only made things worse as my inactivity led to muscle spasms, more inactivity and the depression began to really threaten. I love to be active, productive, and creative as well as contribute monetarily to our household but of course all of these things were put on hold and so my frustration level increased daily. I usually try to remain positive but this was relentless and I became more and more exhausted. So here I was in my Doctor’s waiting room hoping that she could help me turn this around. Finally my name was called.

All I can say is that I was shocked. My Doctor has always supported me in getting proper medication for pain relief as I have needed it over the years, but something horrendous is going on with our doctors. They are now in fear of losing their license to practice medicine because of a few high profile drug abusers such as Michael Jackson and Anna Nicole Smith. I can’t begin to convey what this means to the thousands of people suffering from chronic pain and being denied drugs because of a few drug seekers. Oh I did walk away with a prescription for pain that day but what a joke. I was allowed one pain pill per day for thirty days, an absolute slap in the face and I was treated very oddly. I think to cover the guilt that the doctor was feeling she treated me as if she was trying to protect me from getting addicted, addicted? You have got to be kidding me, but there was nothing I could do and I was so numb from shock that I left with the little that I received. But my foe was very pleased as he was now winning the battle.

Still, I am not the type to simply role over and give up and so I tried my best with what I had. I knew that I had to do something that made me feel somewhat productive again so I decided to teach myself how to knit. For me, the best way to ignore pain is by learning something new that requires complete concentration and the knitting was a perfect distraction from my imprisonment in this broken body. We also took a trip to Denver to see our daughter and son-in-law and I was enveloped with the love of my family. The best medicine there is in the world.

I also knew that I somehow had to get active again so one day I pushed the pain aside and went for a walk. It was a beautiful day and I slowly plugged away and ended up going three miles with my buddy Willy joyfully leading the way. That night though, both of my legs went into a painful spasm. I was in terrible pain this time so back to the doctor office once again. This time I was finally given a few more pain pills and sent off to get x-rays. After a few days I got the results that I was not looking for, on top of all the things going on with my spine I now have degenerated discs below my fusions and rod. It was nice to know why I was having a new source of pain but not exactly the news that I wanted to hear. The good news is though that some people respond well to physical therapy and so I will start in a couple of days.

How is the depression? It is there next to me constantly and some days are worse than others but I am happy to be taking some form of action. My youngest daughter told me something the other day that has really helped me quite a lot. She lives a very hectic life lately and she said that the way she handles things when life gets complicated is to not look at the whole thing but to just focus on the task in front of you and just keep going. So I am trying to take her wise advise and not look at the big mess that I am currently in but just take it as it comes, plodding along. And so I am going to go wash the dishes in the sink from last nights dinner and look forward to watching the Giants play tonight in the world series, yeaaaa, while I knit away. Anyone need a scarf? Just keep going and maybe, just maybe it will be enough to keep my foe away.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Whisper Me Softly

Graceful Agony is holding their 2nd Blog Carnival and the subject this time is Depression.
I have dealt with depression before and know this clever ancient foe too well. Just thinking about writing this post has brought him nearer than I care to be, but I wanted to share my experience with this evil and bring it to the light so that others may recognize his charming ways before it is too late and get help. Although this has been a difficult task for me, if it helps just one person out there it will have been well worth the effort.

Whisper Me Softly

He stalks me daily, closing in, somewhere near now, there, just over my left shoulder. I can hear his whispered murmurings calling me home. I can feel his warm, moist breath upon my neck, gentle and seductive with its sweet intoxicating scent. I try to gather my last remaining pieces of myself to fight against his prowess but I am growing weaker as he gathers strength. I know that I must keep him away but he plays to my weaknesses like a dealer with an addict. He sings my favorite songs, he recites my favorite poems, and tells my favorite stories for he knows me oh so well. He paints my favorite picture with me far, far away from my current struggles, from my growing frustrations, from my despair. He cleverly plies his skill and neatly spins the truth. “Just one short dance around the floor”, he begs. But I know his deceit for I have danced this dance with him before. He knows that if he can get me in his arms that I will not be able to resist, for he will wrap himself around my sorrows and comfort me with his promises of relief. He knows he has this power over me, to take me once again, so he quietly waits, there, just over my left shoulder.

But this time I try to resist his charms. This time I know that my longed for “escape” comes with the price of ceasing to exist. Along with losing all my troubles I will also lose myself. Still he waits knowing that these last months have been extra painful and each day I grow weaker spinning further and further out of control, spiraling ever downward. It doesn’t take much for this to happen, as it is a delicate balance to keep my back just so. I should have seen this coming sooner, but I don’t like to be reminded. I should have called the Doctor right away but I am stubborn and I convinced myself that I could handle the pain, that I was strong enough to recover on my own. But then the insomnia began and it has a way of wearing me further down, robbing me of my logic. So I ignored the warning signs and now I wonder if it is too late for I feel him there behind me, closer now, just over my left shoulder.

And so I sit in the waiting room of my Doctor's office hoping she will give me what I need in time to resist his charming ways. I wait and wait and try to wait some more....but I feel the beat of the music begin to play and I turn to see his smiling face, and there, his reaching hand, his sweet sweet voice enticing me,"May I please? Just one short dance?".