Saturday, July 22, 2017

WRITER'S BLOCK -- PART 3 -- FAMILY & FRIENDS

It hardly seems fair to "blame" family and friends for my dearth of writing time and energy lately.  They certainly aren't making unrealistic demands on my time.  In fact, far from it.  I'm happy to spend time with the people I love!  And I do.

We do Granny Nanny (and Papa) Care for our two-year-old granddaughter 2 days a week.  Throughout the school year I volunteered a morning a week in our seven-year-old granddaughter's classroom.  About once a week or so we host a family dinner at our house for our sons and their partners and the Grands.  Last month we all went on a Family Vacation together for 3 days at the beach.  We just completed a 3 night/4 day "sleepover" event with the Grands while their mommy and daddy had some away time together without kids.  We'll do it again in September, a week after also providing before and after sport camp care (and chauffeuring) for our seven-year-old granddaughter's first soccer/baseball/football experience.  We celebrate birthdays and holidays together.  We absolutely love that our family lives nears us and are so grateful that they want to be part of our lives and invite us to be part of theirs.

I feel equally blessed by my friendships.  I have spontaneous coffee dates aplenty; a standing breakfast with one friend weekly and with another a regular lunch date.  I travel with friends, celebrate birthdays, holidays, and retirements.  I sometimes host a "Girls Movie Night" at my house and recently a "Garden Yarning" event for knitting and crocheting blankets for refugee centers.  Hub and I stay in touch with old friends who've moved a bit further north with an every other month Happy Hour date and see other friends as well when the occasion arises.  Monthly, for the past 18 months, a group of twelve close friends gathers for a meal and a sharing circle in each other's homes.  Hub and I facilitate the discussion.  We are planning our next group weekend retreat in the fall.  We are so happy and blessed to have this abundance of fabulous people in our lives!

I try to keep space on my calendar for "open time" too.  I used to schedule every day, almost every minute.  I don't do that anymore.  I've learned to say "no" even to things that sound like fun, because I need my quiet, recharging time.

I have always marveled at the likes of J.K. Rowling and others who say they wrote "in their spare time":  after the kids were in bed, sitting in their cars, waiting at the doctor's office.  I just have never been able to really write on demand.  I'm practicing a bit now, though, with the yoga blog.  Since I do get paid for that I sometimes "make" myself come up with a topic and a blog post and it usually works out fine.

Perhaps a bit more discipline for this blog is called for.  I'm using the excuse that time, energy, and attention span due to a busy life are the culprits.  It could be my tendency to procrastinate and wait for vast expanses of time to access the muse and get an idea down in print.

Just writing these three posts about why I don't write has been instructive for me.  I see where my time and energy go and it's not always to a good place. (Hello, wallowing in political despair!)  July is nearly over and August soon upon us.  Maybe I'll make an August Resolution to embrace the Nike tag line:  JUST DO IT!

At least, that's the view from here...©

Photo Credit:  pixabay.com


Saturday, July 15, 2017

WRITER'S BLOCK - PART 2 - BODY & SOUL

Hub is a saint.  I'm sure there are times he wants to throttle me.  I am just the type of patient he didn't want to see in his exam room.  Lots of vague complaints, skeptical of medical-pharmaceutical complex, non-compliant about taking medications, a little lazy about sweets consumption and aerobic exercise, but totally reliant upon, and demanding of, the health care system to keep me healthy and vitally alive until 2057.  (I have decided to live to 106 with fully functioning mind and body until some night that year when I fall asleep and forget to wake up.  This will not happen during Seahawks season.)

I have not been writing so frequently lately and we've already covered my preoccupation with politics as one distraction.  Let's move on to hypochondria.  NO!  I am NOT a hypochondriac!  Every moment of ache and pain, queasy, "weird" sensation, headache, muscle ache, joint ache, heart palpitation, ear ringing, itchy patch, and blurred vision is REAL and is likely a precursor to something truly awful, and which will cause me tremendous suffering until that blessed moment of release into the endless purgatory of trying to pass a math test to get into Heaven.  (I know there must be a test.  I hope its spelling; pretty good at spelling.  But probably it's math.)

The thing is, there is nothing much wrong with me.  Physically I'm in good shape.  No chronic anythings.  Slightly elevated blood pressure; slightly high cholesterol.  I take low doses of drugs for those.  That's it.  But my overactive imagination that conjures up a litany of "what ifs" has been diagnosed and is pretty chronic -- "generalized anxiety disorder"with the subset "health anxiety" being the most predominant since some unexplained fainting episodes a few years ago, the memories of which still haunt me.

So, I do spend a lot of time fussing about this or that "symptom" and imagining the worst and bugging Hub to explain what it could be and what I should do. He used to take all this rather seriously and would conscienciously try to help.  Now he tells me to call my primary care provider.  He does triage me though, so my poor doc isn't inundated with Nervous-Nelly calls.  Hub listens to me while he's reading the paper and I'm sure he's concerned enough to rule out everything but those symptoms which might be truly alarming, but he also knows that most of what I complain about is normal body stuff that everyone has, they just don't carry on about it.  In fact I know people with real, potentially life-threatening conditions who seem to go about their lives with nary a care for the Grim Reaper.  I am amazed.  My anxiety keeps me stuck on the sofa, scrolling through Mayo Clinic and WebMD sites when I'm at my most distraught.  I am definitely NOT booking a flight to Madrid.  Lately I've been focusing on some out-of-the-blue joint and muscle pain and morning headaches.  Also memory loss.  Is constantly forgetting names (or getting them mixed up) normal?  How about sort of forgetting where I'm headed when I get to the bottom of the hill on my street and take the automatic right when I should have turned left?

And... what happens when we die anyway?  I have a vague notion of my spirit returning to the Source, or whatever, and I know a couple of people who are Mediums who report that they have contact with those who have taken a step into the Parallel Universe on 'the other side'.  (I should ask for the answers to the math test.)  I dunno.  But what I do know is that in spite of all my neuroses, I love my life.  I DO NOT WANT TO DIE!  I have written about dealing with depression and yes, I've had moments of Demon Depression trying to talk me into ending myself, but I always win that argument because I've learned that Demon is a big fat liar and I'm also so curious about the future.  I want to see what happens next, even when I'm at my very emotionally distraught worst.  What new tech innovations will there be?  Will there be Game of Thrones spin-offs?  Super Bowl repeats?  Impeachments?!?  I want to see my sons as old men, my grandchildren grow up and have children.  I want to get another cat someday and outlive it.  (I recently read an article by a woman who measures her life in terms of how many dogs she will be able to have before she dies.  She now figures her age at "half a dog"; that her dog's lifespan is likely double hers.  Now that's putting a point on it, huh?)

At my age, in spite of our absolute vow that it not be so when we were all younger, many conversations with friends revolve around physical ailments, terrible diagnoses, and fears of mental and physical decline.  It's impossible to deny, avoid, and put off.  These things are real and for my age cohort are often the answer to "what's new?" because dealing with all of it can be all-consuming. It seems everyone has had a joint replacement, a case of shingles, or an errant organ.  Everyone's waiting for test results.  A friend and I went visiting the other day to the homes of two other friends who we don't see frequently.  They are lovely, smart, funny, creative women.  We had a blast catching up.  Yet, in the course of that day they both independently brought up the idea of suicide as a totally valid and hoped for response to dementia or debilitating illness.  This is what we talk about over coffee and cake these days.  It's not depressing really, just weird to find myself at this stage where these conversations are not ironic, but deadly serious.

So, I think about my eventual decline and demise too.   I think about it too much.  I get nervous, frightened, terrified.  I spend a lot of time trying to stay strong, balanced, and flexible with yoga classes, strength training, treadmill walking.  I try to challenge my brain to grow new neurons by reading and doing "brain games".   I have enormous gratitude for the fact that  (I'm knocking on every piece of wood I can find right now) I'm, so far, healthy and able.  My anxieties are controlled by yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices (also time-consuming), and by shifting my thinking from negative to positive, when I remember to do it.  So, instead of assuming the worst, I'm working on assuming the best.  I will live with fully functioning faculties to the age of 106, then perhaps die the night after Hub and I cheer on the Seahawks as they bring home the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XCI.  Boom!

At least, that's the view from here...©

PHOTO CREDIT:  Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_aihumnoi'>aihumnoi / 123RF Stock Photo</a>


Thursday, July 13, 2017

WRITER'S BLOCK -- PART 1 -- POLITICS

I'm trying to figure out why I am avoiding writing.  Every once in a while I'll get an idea, then it flits away in a fit of procrastination.  I turn on the TV instead.  Or pick up my crochet project.  Or scroll through Facebook for the tenth time as I watch my newsfeed replenish itself.  Or flip my Kindle open.

I think the thing is, I might be just a tad bit overwhelmed and don't know where to start.  There are three major issues in my life that take up most of my brain, body, and heart energy these days.  None are tidily summed up in a pithy blog post, which makes me feel like a crappy writer because daily I read the essays of others who can so articulately and entertainingly state the rambling half-formed thoughts in my own head.

So, here goes.   Maybe just starting will loosen the writing logjam.

Let's start with politics:  I've avoided writing about the clusterf*%k (See?  You can't tell what I really said in my mind, can you?) that is the American political system and our disabled government these days.  It is impossible to recount the horrors, because they have all run together.  Most of us don't even remember the daily outrages.  When I hear about something that happened last winter, last month, or even last week, I go, "Oh yeah...I forgot about that one!"   Or it seems so naive to believe that was anything to huff about given what has happened since.

We have a shit show of a president. (I'm actually enjoying reclaiming my swearing habit from my youth, but I only use it to expound on politics because it just seems so descriptive and cathartic and appropriate to having absolutely no respect for them, as they have demonstrated they have none for us -- the American public.)   He has appointed an unqualified, self-serving Cabinet of Wall Streeters and religious conservatives, and "alt-right" racists to dismantle the institutions of government.  He attacks our free media daily, calling their reporting "fake news" and characterizes our free press as the "enemy of the people".  He attends meetings with historical allies and disses them.  He withdrew the US from the Paris Climate Accords.  He cuddles up to authoritarian leaders as kindred spirits.  He's a compulsive liar and an unrepentant sexist.   Then there's the whole Russia connection and his collusion with them to influence the 2016 election -- now outed by his own eldest son who admitted meeting with a Russian attorney who offered to provide dirt on Hillary last June.  They are trying to squirm out of it, but there are (ironically!) emails that confirm the whole thing.

And still the Republicans are circling the partisan wagons and showing no inclination to admit their president has obstructed justice, colluded with an enemy in a cyber attack on our government and political system, daily violates the emoluments clause of the Constitution and is in general just a creep.  (Today he's in France, where he met the First Lady of France with the comment, "You're in great physical shape!  Beautiful!")  The R's are too busy ramming through a repeal and replace health care bill (drafted in secret) that will decimate Medicaid, throw 22 million people off health insurance, severely weakens protections for people with pre-existing conditions and which lines the pockets of the most wealthy in the US with tax cuts.  Business as usual; treason ignored.

This craziness all started last summer around convention time, then got horrifyingly real on November 8th, then has just gone batshit crazy since January 20th.  It feels like a lifetime of awful.  This, for me,  has never been just about a difference of political party or policy.  It's about the character of the man, of those who voted for him, and of what this country has become in the wake of an unprecedented, unmitigated political disaster.  I don't recognize my country anymore, and it scares me.

On the upside -- part of the populace at least has "woke", to use the term of the day.  (Being "woke" means that one sees with complete awareness that the status quo must be overhauled, and is part of a cultural push to challenge norms and systemic injustices).   This awareness has ushered in an activism the likes of which has not been seen in decades.  New thought leaders are rising up, people are filling Congressional offices and Town Halls, voices are being heard.  It still feels anemic to me at times, but we in the "resistance" are assured that our voices are making a difference.  God, I hope so.

I've got my representatives on speed dial and am incredibly grateful to live in the "blue bubble" of a Democratic stronghold with Senators and Congresspeople who actually represent my values and views.  I have reached out to Republicans who have shown even modest moves in the right direction, encouraging them.  I call, send emails, write letters to the editor.  I post on Facebook to the dismay of some and the appreciation of others.  (Whenever I say I'll step back, I'm encouraged by many to keep on.  I'm happy to provide that voice, encouragement, and information to those who want it.  To those who don't, scroll on by.)  I go to meetings, rallies, marches, and local candidates forums.  I post yard signs.  I wear message T-shirts.  I contribute a bunch of money.  I watch probably way too much daily political commentary on TV.  I also read opinions and editorials in newspapers on social media, and in blogs.  I watch hearings and Congressional committee meetings on CSPAN.

I envy those who can turn it all off.  I really do.  But I am absolutely convinced that an informed electorate is even more necessary to save our Republic now than in recent memory.  The changes happening to us are startling, the normalization of that which is NOT NORMAL is stunning.  I hope all the various investigations lead to justice.  (House and Senate Investigations, Special Prosecutor Independent Investigation, Lawsuit in Federal Courts).  My greatest fear is that they'll get away with it -- the destruction of all that is good and right.

I've always been patriotic, but even more so now.  It's time for Liberals to reclaim the flag; to stop being called weak because we are compassionate; to stop apologizing for being rational and intelligent.  I am reading a book about Washington's Farewell Letter.  His warnings to future generations about threats to the infant Republic in his time is exactly what is happening now.  Some say it is overstating and dramatizing the situation to say our Republic is at risk.  If it was just an aberrant president, I might agree....but it's the Republicans who are defending and embracing him and it's the citizens who voted for him, and who continue to cheer him on or who sit passively by ignoring all the noise and believing the lie that outstanding investigative reporting is "fake news", that make the threat all too real.

This is already a long post and I've only scratched the surface of what is happening and my feelings about it.  See?  Overwhelm.  Bottom Line:  RESIST!

At least, that's the view from here...©

Monday, July 10, 2017

REMEMBRANCE

My mom died nine years ago this morning.

It was a day just like this bright and sunny July 10th.  I had been sitting vigil at the hospital for 12 hours each day since July 5 when she had a massive stroke; I had spent the night that first night, not thinking she would live until morning.  She did, although she never regained consciousness in the next 5 days.

Still, I was there, talking to her, stroking her arms, brushing her hair, holding her hand, laying my head on the pillow next to hers.  I brought in family photos for the windowsill and placed the flowers on her bedside table.  Hub was with me most of the time.  Our oldest son came home from his college town to see her; our younger son, home on summer break, held down the fort at the house, stopping in periodically at the hospital.  I called the rest of the far-flung family and held the phone to her ear as they talked to her; I didn't hear their words but I assume they expressed their love and appreciation for her.  Was she aware of any of that?  I don't know...

On the morning she died, I got off the elevator with my Starbucks mocha and had a big smile on my face as I prepared to greet the nurse coming toward me. I had gotten to know the nursing staff, the custodial staff, the Hospice workers.  All were gentle, caring, respectful, friendly, compassionate people.  This morning, though, the nurse came came to me with a look that could only mean one thing...she enveloped me in her arms and said, "She passed about a half hour ago."  I was not shocked, but I burst into tears.  I was sad and relieved.  Her 5 years of a subtle, then precipitous decline into dementia and physical weakness were over.  She did not want to "linger" and she really didn't.  Her stroke came on suddenly and then she was gone.

The Hospice harpist happened to be on the floor...she had learned of my mom's death just before I arrived.  She waited there for me and we entered mom's room together.  She played while I sat at my mom's bedside, weeping.  Truly she was an Angel in that moment.  I will never forget the sense of awe and peace her music elicited as I spent the final moments I'd ever have in my mother's presence.

I'm not sure why I needed to recount all that here, for others to see and read.  But as with any other post in this blog, my hope is that by sharing my life, I'm touching that of another.  There is reassurance in knowing that the human experience is shared.  We are not alone.

I miss my mom every single day.  Sometimes I feel her close by...like right next to me!  But other times, like today, she is only a memory.  I am honoring her in my heart today, with recollections of her love, her hugs, the firm grip of her hand on mine that last time I sat with her before her stroke, her smile, her laugh, her holding my babies, her amazing talents in undertaking almost any job, from hammers to hair cuts, from baking to painting (walls and landscape canvases!), her pride for her family, her stoic determination, her introverted need for quiet, for her tidy and organized home and the flowers in her garden.

After the arrangements were made for her cremation, there was little else to do until planning for her memorial service began.  We'd decided to hold it a month later, in Illinois, her home before she'd moved to Washington in 1996 to live near me.  So we packed a couple of bags and left town.  I needed a change of scenery, to breathe, to grieve, to heal.  We have a little place in North Idaho.  So we went.  And that is where I write from today.  It's all flooding back, even the trip to Idaho.

Here's what I know:  Unless there is crazy pathology or abuse in family relationships, you will find that in spite of any differences, disagreements, or arguments; in spite of petty squabbles, misunderstandings, or simply 'putting up with' the weirdnesses of various family members....you will miss them when they are gone.  Make peace with those you love every day, forgive the annoyances,  and celebrate the good in each other.  It's lonely to be the last one standing in your original family.  I am that.  And some days, I just want them all back, with all the flaws and flailings we all brought to the mix.  Me included.

At least, that's the view from here...©