Tuesday, March 04, 2014
(I may have stolen that title from someone...possibly Alexander McCall Smith.)
Sometimes, I think, we need to set aside all the striving for self-improvement, just for a moment. I realized the other day that it had been ages since I read something that wasn't trying to fix me in one way or another, weeks since I watched something on Netflix that wasn't a TED talk, and months since I hadn't guilted myself into eating a balanced diet or exercising properly. Even as I write this, my inbox is receiving mail from Martha Beck. And it gets wearying.
So today, despite all my shiny plans to attend to important tasks, eat only fresh and preferably raw meals and finish the latest book promising to cure me of some character flaw, I decided that -10ºF - in March, no less - was a good enough reason for a Day Off.
I haven't gone off the rails entirely. My lunch of na'an (a whole one, not a half) with a basket of fresh grape tomatoes sliced on top and covered with three (three!) slices of provolone - then baked for 10 minutes at 375º - still fits into my meal plan if I skip the potato with dinner. And I acknowledged my eBay sales, even though I won't get them mailed until tomorrow.
But instead of berating myself for not working on this or that, cleaning up the other thing, I decided to spend the afternoon on the sofa with my four-legged friends (I have a kitten purring in the crook of my elbow as I write this) and read a cozy mystery - no graphic violence for me, thanks - and *gasp* maybe even indulge in a nap later. Possibly a cocktail before dinner (which remains a healthy portion of chicken breast and a whole lot of carrots), because I'm just so tired of being Good all the time.
The hard part isn't the doing - I've gotten bad behavior down to a science over the years - the hard part is allowing myself to enjoy this afternoon, guilt-free. Like a lot of us, I think I tend to "misbehave" while la-la-laing loudly enough to prevent me noticing what I'm doing.
But if we can be mindful and in-the-moment while doing all the positive things for ourselves, surely we can be mindful of the other times as well, those times when we just want to indulge in a teeny bit of, well, self-indulgence: fiction, for example, or a carb-heavy lunch.
Tomorrow is soon enough for all the righteous activities - the two hour exercising, the filling out of forms, the visiting of government offices, the eating of green vegetables. Just for today, I want to simply "be" and "enjoy." Maybe some day I'll be evolved enough to combine those two states; I'm sure I have a book here somewhere that will explain the process to me. But just for this one cold, snowy afternoon - early spring, really, rather than the winter it so looks like - I'm going to lay that all down.
(Yes, those are my other constant companions in the photo - the Mac and the ever-present stack of newspapers. I could have Photoshopped them out, but you may as well know me for who I really am.)
Monday, March 03, 2014
Nothing puts you in your place like a good Oprah quiz.
The link to 20 Things Everyone Should Be Able to Handle by Age 40 (or something along those lines) was in my inbox, and having just spent two hours filling out employment stuff online, I figured what the heck. I'm pretty evolved, reasonably capable - this ought to boost the battered ego a little.
Not so fast, my over-estimating little friend.
I'm actually only accomplished at THREE of Oprah's twenty things (and one of those is how to select a decent wine to go with dinner.)
Back to Life's drawing board, I guess.
If you're brave enough to see how you do, here's the link:
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
"I will persist until I succeed. I will never consider defeat and I will remove from my vocabulary such words and phrases as quit, cannot, unable, impossible, out of the question, improbable, failure, unworkable, hopeless, and retreat; for they are the words of fools. I will avoid despair but if this disease of the mind should infect me then I will work on in despair. I will toil and endure. I will ignore the obstacles at my feet and keep mine eyes on the goals above my head, for I know that where dry desert ends, green grass grows." Og Mandino
Friday, February 21, 2014
Brief history, for those lucky enough to have missed the play-by-play: first my daughters grew up and moved out. I know this is the natural order of things, but I expressly remember telling them that they were not to be older than 3 and 5. Then I lost my mother, my husband, a house and my money (which we were supposed to retire on) in the space of about four years, and I just quit. Quit trying, quit living, quit believing it would ever be any different. And for three years, it wasn't. I'd have brief peeks of hopefulness, like sun through clouds, but then one way or another, one reason or another, the clouds would roll in again.
I've struggled with chronic, sometimes severe, depression since I was a teenager (we'll take that topic up another time), but grief is different. Palpably different. Depression is a low moan, an undertow; grief is wave after wave of screaming. But unlike the depression - of my experience, anyway - grief does subside if you're patient. It has its own timetable.
But since meanwhile I'd quit, things didn't get any better. Slowly the house - 4500 sq feet of other people's furniture, a bunch of geriatric pets, and yours truly - began to deteriorate. No income whatsoever. The sixty (!) pounds I'd gained grew roots. I made a couple attempts at regrouping, but it was always something, you know? No car, too far to travel, too hard. I told myself that I was trying, but what I was really doing was spinning my wheels furiously, fooling myself and others by the spray of turf that I was actually trying to get out of the pit.
Sure, some good things happened - I published one and a quarter books and learned that I'm not cut out to work at the Quik-y Mart. I lost a bunch of pounds (then, in a full-on backslide, gained back 2/3 of them.) And I decided that I'm too old and busted up to work at a soul-sucking job just for the income. Seriously. I did my time. Other people have lives they enjoy - why couldn't I? I'd sell my farm if I had to.
Turns out, I did have to - at least a portion of it. And I acquired some wonderful Amish neighbors and a whole new outlook about letting go of the things you think you have to have.
Now I'm also getting rid of a ton of Things that I thought i had to keep. Not the weird stuff, or the sentimental stuff, or the stuff I might use some day (4500 sq ft, remember?) but the things that others might want - my husband's boots and coats, $2000 worth of teapots, and my own clothing, with which I could dress four separate personalities in five different sizes - and the things that are unarguably Trash.
Granted, it's a work in progress, but once I began to let go of my preconceived ideas about who I was and what I needed, what I wanted to do vs what I thought I wanted or what others told me I wanted, the iceberg began to break up a bit. I quit having insomnia and just became "differently timed", which, turns out, makes me ideal for caring for elderly people who need 24/7 help. My new 24 hour clock is a convenience rather than a hindrance. I realized that I live in one of the top antique/collectible/flea market places in the country, and there's nothing I love more than old Stuff, so I'm converting one of the barns to a store where, next summer, I can sell a bunch of old stuff and artsy stuff, my own and my neighbors'. I signed up for the Winter 5% Challenge, and it looks like I'm going to be successful, because I'll readily do for others what I wouldn't do for myself (like I said, work in progress.)
Three days ago, five years to the day that I moved back to take care of my mother, I woke up feeling...normal. I didn't have to mentally run down the list of Who's Alive and Who Isn't, think which batch of doctors, lawyers or Indian chiefs had to be dealt with. I stretched, not because I was supposed to but because i needed stretching. I have no idea where I've been, but I seem to be back, and in one piece, to boot.
I think sometimes we need to make something tangible, some testimony to progress that we can see and hold. Therefore, I present to you, the crocheted Sherlock:
THIS ISN'T MY DESIGN (Oh, don't I wish!) - I found Sherlock out on the Interwebs, solving crimes.
Enjoy the Sherlock. Enjoy your life and all the tiny bits that make it up.
Friday, February 14, 2014
This is the view out the window of my studio onto the deck. Now that I have a metal roof off of which the snow slides quite readily, I always check for an overhanging avalanche before I go out. However, it looks like I'm not going to be using that door any time soon anyway - that's about up to my rib cage.
Valerie, the 28 year old daughter of a friend, was complaining of shortness of breath and chest pains, so, as she hadn't been feeling quite right for a while, they took her to the emergency room. She promptly turned blue, fell out of the wheelchair and her heart stopped.
Several crash carts, a Med-Evac and 50 miles later, she was in Syracuse's teaching hospital where they determined that her problem was she'd had the H1N1 flu and was having an auto-immune reaction to it.
Normally flu kills the very old and the very young. The thing about the so-called swine flu is that it kills healthy young people like Valerie. We old people were exposed in the 1950s and for some reason the very young people's immune systems don't react this way. But for hale and hearty 20-somethings, the immune system goes to work killing off the invaders as always, only all of the invaders aren't killed properly. Imagine a castle being overrun by Huns - instead of killing all the Huns and saving the castle, the King decides that the best course of action is to blow the castle to kingdom come. This is sort of the way Valerie's immune system reacted: it tried to destroy the entire castle.
The main problem is that the body can't get enough oxygen. Luckily, they were able to get her sufficiently stabilized so that when The Big Machine arrived from Rochester, she could have it attached at neck and groin and essentially have her blood circulated and oxygenated for her. She and The Machine then returned to Rochester, where a special team of two persons keep watch over The Machine 24 hours a day.
It was very touch and go the first night, but things are guardedly better now, and if all goes well, she'll be off the machine in a month, need another month in the hospital, then a month in rehab and then be perfectly fine. Her husband and her three small children will be delighted to have her back. And the rest of us can now draw a deep breath ourselves.
Scary (and scientifically fascinating) but it looks like she may be out of the woods. We hope.
Happy Valentine's Day to all my Spark Friends. I wanted to send each of you a Spark Valentine, but had my hands full with the above situation - still, please consider yourselves given a special Goodie from me with best wishes and lots of love. Don't eat too much candy! (or if you're going to, at least wait til tomorrow when it's half price!)
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