My Trainers

I changed gyms and paid for one-on-one hours with a trainer.  I got Jodi.  She’s 25 (sigh) and kind.  She challenges me, but she listens when I describe how my body works.

I’ve written before about having rheumatoid arthritis (click on Rheumatoid Arthritis in the cloud of words down below on the right).  Life can be a challenge some days.

So can an 18-month-old granddaughter.  Someone asked me yesterday if she’s walking.  I said, “No, she runs.”  She’s not chubby anymore, but she is solid.  And sometimes squirmy.

So Jodi helps me strengthen my upper body and core.  And we do cardio stuff.  Ever try an elliptical machine?  I am awed by people who do it for a long time.  An hour?? My goal is to move beyond 5 minutes.

Humility and a sense of humor go to the gym with me.  (There’s a fine line between humor and self-denigration.)  I am grateful for all my body can do.  Jodi pushes me past stopping just because I want to.

I led a writing group at a drop-in center for people who are HIV-positive yesterday.  The prompt was a quote from an article by Nancy Copeland-Payton in Presence (the journal of Spiritual Directors International.)

It’s a roller coaster.  I didn’t buy a ticket, never wanted a ride…the illness will keep recurring and I will die of it.

Who am I…?  I’m no longer the person who used to be in control, who had energy to take care of tasks and other people.  Rather, I’m the one who needs care.  I’m the one who is vulnerable.  This is not an identity I choose.  Buried inside are losses that need to be cried out.  This is a long mourning process.

I finally let go of my control and let myself be vulnerable and cared for by others.  When I learn to receive their care with profound gratitude, I receive the greatest gift.  I realize how much I am loved.  It’s extraordinary.  This love lets me be even more vulnerable.

While we wrote I played a Kenny G CD (they like soft jazz).  As we finished, we listened to the music and rested.

I wrote a whiny page about not liking roller coasters and not wanting to be vulnerable.  They wrote and shared about God’s love and how their disease saved them from drugs and a wasted life and changed them for the better.  I didn’t want to share mine.

The last song we listened to (not planned by me) was Louis Armstrong singing “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  They sang along and smiled when it ended.

Amazing grace, again.

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“Always do your best,” they said.

I read this chapter-title in a book this morning:

Perfectionism–>Procrastination–>Paralysis

I ate lunch downtown with a friend today. When I got home, I moved my laptop to my office to write.  I spent the next hour checking email, catching up on the other blogs I read, and trying to figure out if I’ve already written about procrastination.  I don’t think so.

I have lists of things I want to do. Where and how to start is the easy part. At least 7 “How To Organize” books sit in random bookcases in my house.  I’ve read them all.  I even have one called Making Room for God, Clearing Out the Clutter.  It lives in the pile of books beside my bed, I think.

I know about purging and sorting and donating and “when did you last wear/use this?”.  I pulled clothes off hangers and out of drawers.    Should I take them to Goodwill, Salvation Army, the Disabled Vietnam Vets’ thrift store or the halfway house for moms with addictions?  What’s the best thing to do?  They’re still on the floor of a closet in my bedroom.

Perfectionism–>Procrastination–>Paralysis

I explored The Container Store in Raleigh for the 1st time in April.  Oh. My. Goodness.  I drooled over the elfa (“Everything Can Be Organized”) Storage System.  It can be custom-designed for closets, pantries, drawers, and offices.  I bought a few (cheap, not elfa) boxes and containers for my office shelves and drawers.  What’s the best way to use them?  Some (not all) are still in the bag behind the closet door.

Perfectionism–>Procrastination–>Paralysis

My husband has very little patience with people who put things off.  That’s not his way.  One way he deals with stress is to reorganize the garage.  He used to do the same thing to his office.  He retired 2 years ago.

Now it’s my kitchen.  I organized my kitchen 20 years ago.  Cooking tools always lived in the same place and I didn’t have to think much to cook.  Now, like a stupid cartoon, we fight over where my casseroles and pot lids are and whether I ever actually use loaf pans (“I might”, I say.)  Random items completely vanish.  I am not in control.

I’m really afraid he will go to my office next.

iPhone–>PANIC!

If you have an upcoming appointment with me, please call or email and tell me when it is!

I really messed up.  I tried to sync my iPhone calendar and iCal on my Mac computer (I apologize if this is gibberish to you) and lost (!!!) a bunch of events that had been on both calendars. But not everything (??).  I’ve done it successfully before and I swear I did nothing different.

I feel sick and my head hurts. I went to the Apple store with my phone and my computer.  “The Genius” (that’s what the help desk people are called) didn’t fix my problem.  I’m shocked, actually.  I wonder how hard he tried.

I read in my iPhone for Dummies book. I consulted “Help” for iPhone and iCal.  I prayed.  I took slow, deep breaths.  I said many of the words that we don’t say around Adaline.  (She’s not here.)

I don’t know what to do next.  Maybe I’ll go try another Genius.  One who has a very-much-loved mother who gets confused and upset with her phone and computer.  Usually my gray hair and dopey sense of humor get the attention of young people.  Not this time.

I think I’ll go back to carrying a paper calendar with a black cover from Staples.  (Go ahead and be smug if you’ve always used a paper calendar.)  I know how that works.  I can use my phone/computer as backup for the old-fashioned calendar.

Any suggestions about how to fix my calendars?  Please help me…


Published in: on July 5, 2011 at 6:35 pm  Comments (4)  
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No, You Can’t!

Remember what 15 felt like?

Can I...?”  “No, you can’t.”

I want to…”  “No you can’t.”

May I please…?”  “No.”

“Why not??”

I feel like that.  It’s my body saying “No, you can’t.”  And inside I’m screaming “Why not??”.

My rheumatoid arthritis flared up all week.  It was mid-90’s hot.  And humid.  I wanted to drive 4 hours to a weekend retreat for people who are HIV-positive from all over the southeast.  Only the dining room is air-conditioned at the rustic retreat center and the paths between buildings are uneven and unpaved.

“I can’t,” I told the director of the day center where I volunteer.  “I can do hot or pain, but not both.”

I’ve read several books lately about our bodies and our spirituality.  I see layers of metaphors in my decision to take care of myself.

I allowed myself to be sad for a day or so.  Limitations frustrate me.  And I realize some of the changes in my body can’t be fixed or reversed.  My granddaughter, at 15 months, can almost outrun me.  More metaphors.

I’m not what I thought I’d be at this point in my life.  (Is anyone?)  So I pray for willingness and acceptance.  And the continuing ability to laugh!

Not My Table, Hon

 The most helpful thing I grasped while waitressing was that some tables were my responsibility and some were not.  A waitress gets overwhelmed if she has too many tables, and no one gets good service.

In my life, I have certain things to take care of: my children, my relationships, my work, one or two causes, and myself.

That’s it.  Other things are not my table.

I would go nuts if I tried to take care of everyone, if I tried to make everybody do the right thing.

If I went through my life without ever learning to say, “Sorry that’s not my table, Hon,” I would burn out and be no good to anybody.

I need to have a surly waitress inside myself that I can call on when it seems everybody in the world is waving an empty coffee cup in my direction.

My Inner Waitress looks over at them, keeping her six plates balanced and her feet moving, and says,

“Sorry, Hon, not my table.”

(That story is by Susan Shaw and quoted in a book I’m reading, The Power of Pause by Terry Hershey.)

My friends and I talk about the necessity of “letting go”.  I know about “detaching with love” and “you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself”.  I get all that.

But at some point I learned:

focusing on my needs is selfish,

if I could just make sure everyone else was okay, then I’d be okay,

and caretaking is noble.

I like having an Inner Waitress.  I am given a set number of tables to serve.  If they don’t fill up, I stop and rest.  If they’re full of messy teenagers, cranky babies, or slightly rude businessmen preoccupied with their phones, then I keep putting one foot in front of the other and do the next right thing.  Hopefully with some grace and a smile.

It’s simple.  God’s the boss.  I’m the server.

Now, which ones are my tables?

We Share This Universe

Our awesome responsibility to ourselves, to our children, and to the future is to create ourselves in the image of goodness, because the future depends on the nobility of our imaginings.
Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

The world we live in depends on the responsible contributions each of us makes.

And this world is just as good as are the many talents we commit ourselves to developing and offering.

None of us is without obligation to offer our best to our family, friends, or strangers, if our hope is to live in a good world.

The world can only be as good as each of us makes it.

Individually and collectively our power to mold the outer circumstances of our lives is profound.

Our personal responses to one another and our reactions to events that touch us combine with the actions of others to create a changed environment that affects us.

No action, no thought goes unnoticed, unfelt, in this interdependent system of humanity.

We share this universe.

We are the force behind all that the universe offers.

Whether I acknowledge the depth of my contribution is irrelevant.

It is still profound and making an impact every moment and eternally.

 

from the book: The Promise of a New Day

by Karen Casey and Martha Vanceburg

 


Published in: on March 11, 2011 at 11:55 am  Comments (2)  
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My Inner Two-Year-Old

Adaline is one now.  Her world is just fine unless she is hungry or tired.  Then someone takes care of her. No one expects her to be self-sufficient.  What does she have to be snotty about?  The one-year-old is usually quite content.

In a year, she will be 2.  Things will be different then, I think.

Disability came as a surprise for me after my knee replacement surgery a year ago.  I expected to hurt and hobble.  I didn’t know I would need help with everything, including going to the bathroom and bathing (which Mike insisted I do daily so my incision didn’t get infected).  I appreciate my husband’s patient and loving care through those weeks.

I wasn’t always gracious.  My inner two-year-old raged and cried and temper-tantrumed more than a few times.

I couldn’t put on a pair of pants by myself because my knee wouldn’t bend.

“Let me help.”  “I do it.”

I had to use a walker to get to the bathroom and then I had trouble standing up.

“Let me help.”  “I do it.”

I couldn’t stand up long enough to fix anything to eat.

“Let me help.”  “I do it.”

I will be sympathetic when Adaline says “I do it“, even if she can’t.

My knee is functioning well.  I am grateful daily for what I am able to do on my own.

I can take my own showers and go to the bathroom alone and even put on my pants easily.  Maybe one day that won’t be the case.  I do wonder if I should have long-term-care insurance.

Today, just for today, I did what I wanted.  My inner two-year-old is very grateful.

Broken Body, Healing Spirit

Have you seen the commercial for a rheumatoid arthritis drug that talks about the life you have and the life you want to live?  It is shrewd marketing.  Inject this powerful drug and you can do anything.

The hidden cost of chronic illness, because pain and fatigue are invisible, is that I pretend to be living the life I want to live rather than being honest about the life I am living.  As Mary C. Earle writes in her book, Broken Body, Healing Spirit, there are sometimes two people living inside me and one is a liar.

What fear or perceived defect do you hide from the world?

Have you had the flu or bad allergies and gone to work anyway?  Do you have back pain?  Grief?  Migraines?  Fatigue?  Paralyzing anxiety?  Fear of what others will think?  Are you in recovery from addiction?  Or unsettled by the signs and symptoms of getting older?

Substitute your secret for “illness” as you read this quote from Broken Body, Healing Spirit (italics mine):

…a body that has been overwhelmed by illness is also a body where life dwells.  Disruptive, distressing, and acutely confusing, illness calls us to a deepening awareness of the wonder of the body, an awareness that we did not bring ourselves into being, and that it is through our embodied life that we encounter the presence of God…

Through illness, the embodied nature of our lives grabs our attention, and forces us to befriend the very flesh we thought betrayed us.  The body that we had taken for granted turns out to be a rich and varied text, full of layers of meaning and symbol.

Always, it comes back to powerlessness vs. control.  And I most want to control what I fear.  Until I have faith and trust, I will be afraid.  And I will miss a lot of fun stuff.

My husband has a big, yellow BMW motorcycle.  He rode it cross-country and back, alone.  He wants me to ride with him.  Once, I said yes; we rode around the neighborhood on quiet residential streets with no real traffic.   I trust my husband.  I know he would never deliberately hurt me.  All I could see from that rear perch was my body shattered into painful pieces.

New experiences are fun and invigorating for me–teaching a class, being in Paris alone for 5 days, going on a week-long silent retreat.  For Mike, riding the motorcycle is a form of meditation.  For me, it is like white-water rafting or parachuting.

I’ve lived with chronic illness for over 20 years.  Rarely have I said “I can’t”.  I can usually find adaptations and compromises that let me do most anything.  I want to be the free spirit that sees a lovely day and says “Let’s ride!”

I think it could be a prayer–“Your will, not mine be done.”

Gratitude

My friend, Lisa, asked me to write about gratitude for her blog. (Here’s the link: Lisa’s Cheap Therapy Blog. ) Please check out her website–Cheap Therapy–she makes really cool cards and posters and then gives away a good chunk of any money she makes.
Here’s what I wrote for her blog:

The Gratitude List comes up a lot at 12-step meetings in November. Enough to make me groan sometimes.

Listing the good stuff is easy:

1. my granddaughter laughing and flying in her swing

2. being a cancer survivor

3. a perfect fall day—sunshine, slight breeze, 68 degrees with low humidity, colorful leaves

4. lunch out with a group of smart, laughing women friends

5. a quiet awareness of God’s presence surrounding and protecting me.

What about the hard stuff, though?

1. Illness–mine or a loved one’s

2. Pain–physical and/or emotional

3. Powerlessness–my inability to make it all okay for other people

4. Letting go–not enabling and letting others learn from the consequences of their choices

I rage at God sometimes about the hard stuff. My spirit aches as I watch my adult children struggle with life’s challenges. I ask WHY?

Then I surrender. Trying to change or control people and situations takes too much energy. Because it is impossible.

So I learn:

1. to lean on God

2. to trust that those I love also have a God who loves them

3. to resist my urge to isolate and instead share my hurts and griefs and struggles.

When I was learning to throw pots on a pottery wheel, my hands could only make lopsided bowls. They were goofy-looking. My teacher explained that the beauty of handmade pottery lies in the imperfections that make each piece unique.

So it is with us, I think. We are the clay and God is the potter. It is our imperfections and cracks that make us real. That’s where God’s light gets through to our hearts and where love and compassion flow out from us to others.

Joy and beauty are in the good stuff. Gifts are in the hard stuff.

And so I am grateful.

Sledgehammer Therapy

My husband destroyed an expensive new Cuisinart coffee maker with a built-in bean-grinder.

He used a sledgehammer.

In the driveway.

(He said I could write about it.)

Afterward, he said he felt great–better than he’d felt in weeks.  No wonder he says counseling is a waste of time.  Sledgehammers work much faster.

I had several options for responding.  I could have gotten really angry.  I could have been scared.  I could have laughed.  I chose to say very little and keep on with my day.  I knew something else was bothering him, although the fancy, complicated coffee maker didn’t work right.  (I suggested operator error…once.)

I know my husband.  We’ve been married 36 years.  I am not afraid of him.  He is a gentle, caring man who only wants to love his family and protect us from any distress.  Nobody gets to do that.  And it frustrates him.

I’ve learned to look at HALT ( Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) when life is making me crazy. 

Hungry?  I am rarely hungry, but sometimes I don’t choose healthy foods.  That doesn’t help me cope.

Angry?  I usually stuff anger, so it’s important for me to dig around a bit in my feelings.  For my husband, anger sometimes masks other feelings like fear and sadness.

Lonely?  I need a lot of alone time, so I don’t get lonely much.  I turn this question upside down and ask, have I been around people too much?

Tired?  I need a lot of sleep.  I’m at my best after 8-9 hours.  (That means I don’t get much accomplished after dinner.)

I’m kind of jealous of my husband’s sledge hammer episode.  He got rid of a lot of intense feelings, I think.

Anyone need to borrow the sledgehammer?