Friday, November 27, 2009

Cloudy with a chance of altered reality

Suddenly, I was caught in a downpour of twisted perception...





















...and a sudden gust of skewed perspective blew me away.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Un-turkey day



May all beings have happiness and its causes.
May all beings be free from suffering and its causes.
May all beings never be separated from the happiness which is free from suffering.
May all beings abide in equanimity, free from both attachment and detachment.

Namaste'.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day ~ Climate Change

Today, October 15, is officially "Blog Action Day", and the topic is "Climate Change".

I don't have a lot to say on the subject. That's not to say I don't feel strongly about it, but I've never written in-depth about it. Why? Where do I start? With those drilling for oil and blowing the tops off of mountains to obtain coal? With factories ignoring loosely-regulated and loophole-ridden tomes of governmental laws?

I think I'll start closer to home than those faceless names, companies, corporations, governments, etc. In fact, let's start at home. What if everyday people stopped buying new things they didn't need? Things they could either do without or could buy in a resale establishment (thrift shops, yard sales, etc.)? What if they stopped driving huge SUVs the half-mile to the store for a gallon of milk that comes from an unknown dairy, salad ingredients from Chile, and a pound of hamburger that was raised on a factory farm 1,500 miles away? What if they consistently used reusable bags to carry home these goods? What if they made a conscious effort not only to reuse things as many times as possible, but possibly repurpose them once these things outlive their natural life?

Our lives are uber convenient due to the torrent of products we buy as a suggestion, subtle or otherwise, of corporate ads by which we're bombarded. You've bought many of the products being pushed...how long did your happy factor last? Are you reminded of it every time you use that brand new gadget (iPhone with the Happiness app installed excluded)? How many times have we all heard ourselves utter, "It's the simple things that matter."? If we know this, then why are our lives so complicated and cluttered...why are we in debt and envious of those who have more than we do? Why do we feel the need to replace items before they're well and truly obsolete, and why do we behave as sheep, buying into these ad campaigns? What happened to making do because it was the logical thing to do? When did it become okay to be so wasteful? And let's not forget careless! When you buy these new pretty-pretties, where do the old ones go? Do you think about what happens to them after the garbage truck has swallowed and crunched them beyond recognition?

Anyone can write a post with suggestions on how to reduce their carbon footprint. My blog post, ultimately, is just to ask you the hard question, instead. What are you willing to give up for the health of the planet? This applies only to those who believe there is a climate change...I continue to be flabbergasted by those who say it's a made-up phenomenon; that our actions really don't have the consequences claimed by "eco-liberals". Or worse, that these consequences are so far away in the grand scheme of things that it's okay to continue on our path for now. Hogwash.

Climate change? It's all around. Polar bears clinging to vestiges of icebergs who will soon die from drowning because they're too weak to swim to the next iceberg that is too far away. Extreme weather. The disappearance of glaciers. More and more children who suffer from asthma and other environmental health issues. Where will it end?

It won't. Not unless we end it. Ask yourself the hard questions, then look for the right answers. The easy way is rarely the best way...and it often keeps us from the path that offers the roses that we're supposed to stop and smell along the way. Better smell 'em now...they may not grow tomorrow.

There...one "Blog Action Day" post, one minute before midnight. I may edit it later. I may not. Namaste'.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A couple of lessons about gratitude from me and my pal, Rumi

I have thrombophlebitis in my arm, which is a very painful, inflamed, swollen blood vein. It's plainly visible by looking at it; the skin is red and blue and purple, and raised, and to touch the skin, it feels as if there's a tiny bungee cord under there, taut and rubbery. And hot. And so painful that even visualizing touching it makes it hurt. Okay, enough with the symptoms, because it sounds pathetic and whiny, and I've had my pity party already and moved on.

Sometimes caused as a result of clotting, sometimes of injuries (not unlike the injuries I sustained on Monday by putting my heavy bicycle on the bus and falling over it whilst loading it into and unloading it from the estranger's van). I would estimate this to to be the fifth time I've had phlebitis in this same place alone, not to mention many single-phlebitis incidents (plebe-itis? *groan*) in a few other spots.

I called to make a doctor's appointment; the fact that I had the embolism in April and am not currently being treated with coumadin because my doctor insisted I see a rheumatologist, a gastroenterologist, and a pulmonolgist before he would continue to treat me with blood-thinners would be cause to see me sooner, I would think, but so far, so good. I understand where he's coming from...I know he would probably feel partially responsible if something beside a clot gets me. But he doesn't seem to understand that I will sign whatever I have to sign to keep him free of liability, completely and of my own free will, because I don't want to be treated for all the other stuff...treated to death. I vowed to treat the clots, but I will not fall down another rabbit hole, chasing empty promises and experiments that have only served to make my body more tired or fighting yet another symptom caused by a medication. I know what mild medications I need. If this doctor won't treat me respecting my wishes, I'll make an appointment to the only other doctor, who practices inb the same building and whom I haven't seen. My doctor plans to retire in the very near future, so this would be inevitable if my doctor doesn't have a replacement. And this could very much be "Cicely, Alaska" as easily as it couldn't be "Mayberry, RFD". We have some quirky residents, and I've experienced an energy in the air that you might expect to watch on "Northern Exposure". And I am practically in Canada, which is almost in Alaska and I can see Russia from there. [pardon me while I get a mint for my fingers; they have a bad taste in their mouth after typing that].

Give me my bicycle and get out of my way or ride along with me. I may not go far, but in the shape I'm in, it doesn't take much to get an aerobic workout, and I have fun watching the moment go by...go by...go by. Eating healthy, being active, having a positive attitude, and making the changes to better the quality of my life...these things will do more to improve my health than the majority of medications prescribed. Add to the mix m
meditation (of all types) and taking natural, trusted, proven remedies for what ails ya whenever possible; the quality of life improves. And it's like discovering Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance all over again; the search for Quality, what exactly is it, and why do we want it so damn badly? Are we chasing something better than what we can even experience outside of this moment, perfect in its abundancy no matter where we are or what economic class we're in? What anchors are we dragging, what decisions are we avoiding, what things, real or imagined, are pulling us from our prospective paths? Compassion enables us to forgive, even if the benefactors are unaware. "The voice inside your head that always tells the truth" (thank you, Late Night with TV's Craig Ferguson for that term; I hope you're reading) tells us that it doesn't matter...things can only matter if we let them. Learning this has bought me time more than once. Indeed, the things I've learned have even reversed some of the effects of the past. Mikki and I were talking about burning karma during his recent visit; I assume I was owning and resolving my past so fully as to negate any further karma I would receive as a result of doing who-knows-what, who-knows-when...but sometimes, you are connected to people who know who and when...and why...just as easily as you see the same in them. That's a mad rush. And that, along with the thing or person or experience that gave me such a gift, are things to which I am eternally grateful, even if they don't last. Perhaps especially because they don't last.

There is no angel so sublime, He whispered. Who can be granted for one moment what is granted you forever. And I hung my head, astounded. ~Rumi


Be grateful for what you've got and take better care of it because you may need it some day. ~Tee

Monday, September 28, 2009

Undressing (get your heads out of the gutter)

No blog today, but instead, a poem by Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet. He, along with Hafiz, never fails to inspire me; his words ring true and I often see them precisely when I need to. I have learned this lesson, but I have loved ones...friends and family alike, who have yet to know this truth. I hope that Rumi's words will light their path as brightly as they have mine. Namaste'.

Undressing

Learn the alchemy true human beings know; the moment you accept what troubles you've been given, the door will open.

Welcome difficulty as a familiar comrade. Joke with torment brought by the Friend.

Sorrows are the rags of old clothes and jackets that serve to cover, then are taken off. That undressing, and the naked body underneath, is the sweetness that comes after grief.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Why I am a vegetarian

I posted a rather icky picture on Facebook last night. My bicycle ride earlier took me to a cornfield next to the eagle tree (see my earlier posts about bald eagles) where I happened to find a little, dead mouse, not so much decomposed as half-missing by being eaten. By wasps. I'm sure other creatures have had their feast, as well. I was first taken aback by the rather horrid image of it all, especially because I am very drawn to rodents and have had many as pets. Unfortunately, my allergies to them over the years have grown to the point where keeping them is impossible. In any case, I saw a photo opportunity that young boys will find "Coooool!", curmudgeons will think, "Good riddance!" and the squeamish won't even look at a second time after glancing and squealing, "Ewwwwww!"

My sadness for this wee thing very quickly turned to blessings for its little life, sending it whatever energy its consciousness needed in case it was hanging around, confused. You know, his soul, his energy. Not his wasp-ravaged body. And I took pictures, because I saw the beauty in this mouse's body offering sustenance to who-knows how many other creatures. I saw it as a very compassionate, Buddhist thing to do, whatever that means. I'm not a Buddhist, but I dig the philosophy on a subatomic level. Seriously. It's all quantum, but that's another blog for another time. And one of these days, I'm going to owe my humble group of readers an an awful lot of posts; I keep mentioning that there are important tangents to my stories.

After posting the image, I received a private message from one of my friends. I've decided to post it here to explain why I'm a vegetarian.

Good day to you! I want to ask you a question about vegetarianism, in relation to your picture of the wasps feeding on the dead mouse. I don't criticize your choice not to eat meat. But how do you reconcile your view of the mouse as 'serving' while the wasps feed on its flesh? Is it the fact that the mouse was not raised expressly for slaughter, but instead ended up where it did through a natural chain of events? I'm curious.

I think it is a powerful picture, in that it shows a side of nature that more squeamish folks would like to pretend don't exist. It's not beautiful as in "oh what a pretty sunset", but it shows the essence of one of life's many cycles, and how life feeds on life. There's lots of people who don't get that aspect.

What's funny is that those squeamish folks hold what I call the "Disney" view of nature: All the animals live in harmony, talking squirrels, cuddly runnybabbits, etc. But then Disney goes and makes "The Lion King" in which Mufasa explains to Simba that the gazelles eat the grass, the lions eat the gazelles, and when they die, they eventually come back as grass and feed the gazelles. Kind of simplified, but there it is in a nutshell.

Like I said, I'm just curious what your take on it was. Thanks for getting my brain stimulated first thing in the morning. Well, that and the coffee I just poured down my throat. That, too.

This was my reply.

I have choices; I can sprout my beans and eat them. I can grow my own food. I can take my money and go to the store and buy food. If I really *had* to, I could beg for food (or the money to buy it) on the streets. Or, I could buy a hamburger, but because there are so many other foods that don't involve the cessation of life before its natural course played out, I choose not to eat meat. I don't believe that raising meat on a factory farm is a natural course, and even the act of raising the animals can cause more harm than good to the entire planet.

My ways of acquiring sustenance are numerous and diverse because my intellect is more evolved than that of the wasps or the mouse or Mufasa. I choose not to be a part of that particular circle of life, although I do hope that, if there's anything left of me to feed on after I'm cremated and scattered, that I can serve that purpose.

And yes, the mouse was not raised expressly as food...to be mistreated (or even treated well) and led blindly through a life that will end at the hands of someone who isn't even thinking about what its life may have meant or could have been. The animal that killed the mouse probably wasn't able to make that choice. I say probably because, if the mouse was killed as sport alone, there will be a different karma for the one doing the slaying than if the mouse had been killed because the predator was hungry...and/or had hungry baby mouths to fill at home. I can think above that and find ways to feed my body without harming a life, something my truth tells me is not right for me.

This does not mean I condemn those who choose to eat meat. It's not my place to do so, so if you want some of the smoked Boston Butt [the estranger] is serving today after smoking it all day yesterday at his place, be there for dinner. He eats late. Very late. You might actually have time to get there while there's some left. As with everything else, our current choices are very, very different. His don't fit me, but they're right for him. I can only be responsible for what I do, and that includes being sure I don't make the rules and laws regarding what is and isn't right for anyone else. You can visit my place for dessert or a proper cuppa afterward. ;)

Only a small percentage of my Facebook friends know how attached I am to meeses, so I'm sure you can probably imagine how difficult it was for me to take those pics. I can see exactly in them what I described in the caption, but what I didn't say is that I still feel sadness for the fear, panic, and pain the mouse may have experienced before it died, no matter whether it died by teeth or disease or being stomped on by something much bigger. But, I know that this is the way things go; to find beauty in such a scene yesterday *was* a powerfully moving experience. There is a Buddhist teaching that has students dwell on real human corpses in various degrees of decomposition. I really never "got" that until yesterday. I don't wholly understand it, but I got a glimpse into how valuable it is to see both sides of the coin, the dark and the light, what happens right after our bodies stop being a living thing. Being sad for the body is a human trait, though I also believe it also belongs to some animals who authentically mourn the death or absence of a loved one. I certainly don't want to be responsible for the death of a creature with such sentience, and I don't believe any of us can make the call as to which animals or even which species have that "knowing".

I hope this helps. It's refreshing when people will ask me these questions rather than tell me that there is absolutely NO freakin' way that there's any difference between the wasps eating that mouse and having Boston Butt for dinner. I feel the difference, and that is enough. Thank you for taking the time to ask, Jason. Namaste'.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Calling all readers! Calling all readers!

I would like to know the answer to a question to which, if you choose, you must be honest. Perhaps not brutally so, as I am a sensitive soul...

I'm sure there's a way to add an anonymous poll on here, but since I don't see one and am not presently inclined to go looking for code with which to tinker...(damn OCD; the spelling and grammar will be impeccable while the punctuation shows the creative license because I try to address my readers as if I were speaking; my punctuation reflects that). Now, how's that for OCD? < /stream of consciousness>

Back to my question. Would you be comfortable answering a question about me? I realize that I probably come across as a real Moonbeam or Earth Mother, as some would call me, a real hippie. Others might say I'm a whack job and think that, truly, there must be something wrong with me. The way I see myself, or at least my perception of myself, is a free spirit, liberated and semi-enlightened, happy because, even if I can't explain the answers, I know the answers.

Please tell me...what is your perception of me? Off the wall crazy? Stoned off my arse (a real possibility when the ischemia is screamia-ing), Connected to All in the most groovy way? Way past ripe for the funny farmer's market? Hey, I just made that up as I was typing it. Pretty clever, eh? Now that's multitasking. However comma, I digress. Be honest, but remember, I have a tender heart soul consciousness. How do you percieve me? I would ask how you see me, but that's another kettle of fish-shaped crackers (I'm a vegetarian) for another time. If you don't feel you know me well enough to have an opinion, read back through several posts...watch the videos. If that's not me, I don't know who else could possibly be having this much fun. Base your answer on that.

This post brought to you courtesy of the accidental students I encountered this evening and experienced a divine connection as a result. A Bodhisattva (in any belief [I do not mean religion]) must first learn to teach before she can teach to learn. Namaste'.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Choose to be happy

Just a little stream-of-consciousness video inspired by the gratitude for a cheap yard sale find and the illumination it gave me. Have a blissful day.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Burning Man or bust...

I don't know why it hasn't occurred to me until just now...just an hour or so ago...that I need to go to Burning Man. I mean, I really want to go. I dig it. I get the burning of the false self, the falling away of ego. I've been there, and strive to stay there. I do an admirable job, I think. Certainly enough to know that happiness is a choice, and that by making decisions based on what my compassion says is the best outcome for all, I continue to walk towards that happiness. I know that the only steps that amount to anything are the ones I take right now; I'd best be awake and aware and present enough in the moment to make them count. Like everything, they're only as permanent as a footprint on a windy Nevada playa in August/September.

They have community bicycles. And I can bring my own bean sprouts and live on them for pennies. How many thumbs up can we give that? :)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Today, I shall ride.

It's time to get this blog back to bicycles. Today, I shall ride. There are wild blackberries to pick, if my timing is accurate; I can pick some now and freeze them until my parents are able to make a visit; my papa loves wild blackberries. I have a geocache to check on. But mostly, my soul has been clamoring to take a ride, begging my body to rest only just enough to have the energy to pedal fast enough to blow my "Life is Good" cap right off of my head.

My health hasn't been what it should be lately, and finding the energy to ride isn't always easy. However comma...I find that, when I break past that fatigue the ego is telling me is insurmountable, and get on my bicycle, while I'm not overcoming the issues, I'm temporarily putting them on the shelf, allowing my spirit to be free to enjoy the moment of wind rushing by.

I subscribe to a lot of sites dedicated to cycling. While most of these focus on speed and sport, I ride for different reasons (I did not follow the Tour de France). For the awakened experience, first and foremost. I see so much more riding 10-15 miles per hour than I do in a speeding vehicle encasing me and obscuring my view. And let's face it, there are some spectacular views here. I have learned to live my daily life in the same manner as I see the world from my bicycle; unrushed, present, blissful, and full of possibilities. And my body appreciates the gentle workout. Without the repeated impact of compromised leg bones meeting the ground, my gams don't argue with me [much] and when they do, I don't listen. Not while I'm on my bicycle. I'm too busy adjusting my attitude and sending blessings to the cows and eagles and bugs I pass.


Today, I shall ride. Namaste'.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

All I want for Christmas...

"It is not by appearances that you are fettered but by craving." ~Tilopa, instructing his student, Naropa (both are historic figures in Buddhist texts)

There was a time when, because of my appearance, I was quite reluctant to go out in public; even confrontation with someone friendly was enough to make me want to cover my mouth and leave without saying a word. Not because of anything they'd said or done, mind you, but because my teeth are a mess. They always have been, but because I've been to SO many dentists to [attempt to] fix the problems that started when I was a wee young thing, I'm mortally terrified of dentists and I'm done going. Unless it's a dire emergency, like the time I had to dig out a permanent filling by myself with a needle after the dentist completed work on a tooth. It was either that or find a gun and a bullet. Luckily, I got the filling out, the pressure was released, and I never went back to that dentist (but I never got my $750 back, either). I do not have success with anyone in any dental office. I know they can smell my fear; it's hard to miss when it's a thick, heavy fog of pokey tools, atrocious odors, and sounds of mechanical devices so torturous that I can't even begin to describe them (and my stomach is churning, just typing this).

Because I've spent thousands of dollars on teeth I no longer have (pulled weeks after a root canal because it didn't take, etc.), I'm not comfortable with my appearance. And who would be? What are two top features others notice first about people? What do they find attractive? Their eyes and their smile. I'm often told I have nice eyes...is this because people are too embarrassed for me to comment to the negative on my mouth? "Dude...what happened to your teeth? Meth?" I don't think I look the meth addict, but I do know they often have very bad teeth, as well. Mayhaps it would be better if someone were to be that direct. At least then, I'd have the opportunity to explain that, through no action or fault of my own or any other, my teeth are mine to accept. Whether or not anyone else can isn't and shouldn't be of any concern to me.

So, what do my teeth (or the lack thereof; I can't wear dentures) have to do with Tilopa's lesson? In the past, because I didn't look "acceptable" by having a nice, shiny, straight, white smile like the majority, I was ashamed to meet anyone. I craved this appearance so badly, thinking it just wasn't fair for so many others to have it when I never would. I'm a 46-year-old woman, and I've never once in my life worn lipstick because I don't want to draw attention to my mouth, where my teeth live. In the past, I didn't go out of my way to meet and talk with new people. I wanted so badly to look differently, but because I didn't, I let it affect my life. I hermited myself away, with precious little contact with anyone but my immediate family and one friend. My craving for a better appearance kept me hidden, not my appearance itself.

One of the first lessons I learned in Buddhism (I'm teaching myself since I'm not close to a dharma hall; a text here, a video there, etc.) is acceptance. Acceptance is liberation. Acceptance of situations you can't change. Things you can't have. Stuff you don't want. Things you're afraid of. To be able to accept those facts (except, it seems, dentists) and be happy...or at least content and unruffled about it...well, that was life-altering in a quite surprising and fortuitous way. For example, I have pain in my bones from too many surgeries and in my organs from more surgeries and a disease that has not been kind to them. Accepting that once, over two years ago, didn't make it a magic cure-all, however. Acceptance must happen repeatedly, in every moment. I take a step, I notice the pain, I accept it as being something I can't change, release any attachment to it, and move on to the next step. I look in the mirror, don't like what I see, then acknowledge that this is my lot in life, with no bias or contempt (and surprisingly, sometimes with compassion and love) to affect my reflection. My appearance isn't pleasant, I know this, but I'm not my appearance any more than I am my unsteady gait. Because I no longer crave better leg bones or healthy teeth, my life has a lot more room for bliss. And joy. And talking with people. Making friends. And riding a bicycle. Even singing karaoke with a friend in front of a much larger crowd in which I'm usually much less comfortable, with people taking pictures, no less.

The craving for a pretty appearance used to keep me from making friends or talking to strangers. The fact that I can go out now with the same appearance as before and talk to people is a taste of freedom. It's like my report card, grading my progress on how far down my chosen path I've come. Sure, it would be nice, I imagine, to have a winning smile, but I believe my happy spirit is a more than adequate trade.

Another Buddhist lesson I learned early on is that our bodies are merely our vehicles. I drive a lemon. I'm okay with that...are you?

"There's a common misunderstanding that the best way to live is to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable." ~Pema Chodron

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Feeling of Words

Like most establishments, Goodwill Thrift Stores play music over its loudspeakers to keep its shoppers happy and boppin' down the aisles, looking for vintage textiles, retro styles, and ankle weights and garden sprinklers (okay, maybe that last one is just me). My estranged husband and I were there browsing (you can't go in a place like that and not look at a bit of everything). We were both enjoying the music (and indeed, he was whistling along, something I can't do) but long after it had been played, we still couldn't remember who sang, "Take on Me". The only thing that kept coming back to me was "Wham!" but I knew that was wrong, even if it "felt" right.

I liken this phenomenon, this feeling of words that are similar in meaning or action, to synesthesia, which is "a neurologically based phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway", according to Wikipedia. Some synesthites taste various flavors when hearing certain sounds. Others see words as having different colors and shapes. I can't always describe the almost physical sensation I get when something like this happens (it happens a lot) but I use the "ability" for lots of things. To visualize in my mind the size or weight of something...some words just weigh heavier and look bigger than others. Or appear more bold or dainty. I can often also recall words that won't come to me because a particular letter will stand out; if I'm with someone and we're both in this predicament (like trying to remember who sang "Take on Me"), I'll let them know clues I'm getting. "I see a prominent R", because I will, almost as sure as if it had stepped forward from a line-up, put its knuckles on its hips, puffed out its chest and announced, "I am Here." And often, the word will put itself together that way until I can see it and exclaim, "a-ha!", as I did when I called my estranged husband this morning. No, really..."a-ha" is the name of the band who sand the song "Take on Me". If I say "Wham!" and "a-ha" even now, I get the strong sense of the short burst of power behind it more than I do the word, which is what I was experiencing yesterday.

Photobucket've told people for years that I'm wired funny. Add this phenomenon to the physical body of someone who is a supertaster, someone who refuses to let most foods mix because the flavors (or colors, textures, etc.) simply aren't compatible. Sweet AND sour together? *retch* And when you offer me your "little bit spicy" hotsauce, don't be surprised when I turn it down as the fire-starter that it is for me. When everything I experience is rolled into a ball and displayed, it amounts to creating a fairly flaky individual, eccentric, exact in her tastes and dislikes, with a goofy, exuberant enthusiasm for her pet causes. Because I am compelled not only by words, but by the sensations these words present, I'm more likely to see the deeper meaning in things. Music just might be bigger to me...at least certain types. I hear the most blissful piece of music ever performed, in my opinion, "Oraanu Pi" by E.S. Posthumus, and see and feel and can almost touch the flights of fancy, glimmers of light and flashes of glitter, swimming around and dive-bombing me. This is just an peek into my world, how I see the living of life...my reality will vary so differently than yours that, by now, you're probably shaking your head and thinking, "What a fruitcake".

Is synesthesia present in everyone, but laten in most, unfortunately? I say unfortunately because once I embraced and decided to actually see these bouncing letters, beams of dancing, colored lights, and weighted words, my life bloomed like a tropical garden, full and lush and alive with scent, movement, color, light...Life. Ya know, I don't think five or six senses are enough. Grow your own if you can. I did.

Is it just a coincidence that "Take on Me" brings a character caught in a 2D world to life in our dimension? Eh...I'm not going to make the connection. Just shut up and enjoy the videos.

Ah Ha - Take On Me




And, for future reference, will you guys please remember that, when my time comes, I want my ashes to be scattered somewhere around Mt. Baker while "Oraanu Pi" is playing. Loudly. And blissfully. Namaste'.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

You're So Vein

I have several blog sites all over the interwebal universe. A post here, one there, and then they all would sit in cyberspace, gathering cosmic dust, waiting for me to come back and attack the keys of my computer in my erratic yet zippy hunt-and-peck method. This is the one...the blog with which I'll continue recounting my life experiences. And, geeminy, have there have been plenty of experiences since last I posted. In February. Where does the time go?

Let's start with a post about the crappy stuff and get it out of the way. You know...like getting the bad news first so the good news is even better. And then I'll be able to post later on the more positive, happy things going on around me after I get this out of my system.

The award for Major Suckiness goes to the pulmonary embolism that landed me in the hospital very recently. Just when you think things are stable and that you own your health, WHAM! And I ignored the silly thing. For three days, I had the most awful stitch-like pain on inhaling even a tiny breath. We've all had them...temporary "catches" of something inside us around our air bags (lungs) that break free quickly. Except this wasn't going away. I would lie in my bed at night and try to get comfortable, try to find a position in which I could lie where I could just breathe. You simply can't appreciate a single, deep, cleansing breath...like the ones you use in meditation (you can imagine how that went) until you can't take one. And I'd panic. And cry. I was all alone (by choice), except for my cat who did everything in her power to comfort me, bless her. I'd think about calling someone to chat with, to try and distract my mind from the vice around my lung, but who wants their phone to ring at three o'clock in the morning? Eventually, I'd find I could curl up tightly and kind of rock myself to sleep for an hour or so. And I'd get up and try to live my life normally, accepting that I had this pain and trying to let it go. Trouble is, it wouldn't let go of me.

Ya see, I had this feeling that I was having an allergic reaction to a new medication my doctor prescribed for migraines and when it wasn't helping, he doubled the dose. When I began having the pain, I googled this "wonder drug", and sure enough...it contains a small amount of sulfa. I attributed the pain to what isn't a real allergic reaction to sulfa, but a severe and serious side effect that literally burns my muscles and makes them contract involuntarily. It knocked me out of commission once for six months. I figured that, because I stopped taking it, the pain would eventually decrease.

Try riding a bike to the post office or grocery store. I did. I lived my life and did my thing and still went to watch the eagles down the road. I ignored the pain that refused to go away until...well...I just couldn't ignore it anymore. I asked my wonderful blessing of a neighbor if she would be willing to take me to the emergency room. Luckily, I didn't have to wait long to be treated. Once I informed the intake person that I'd had a PE in the past, it wasn't long before I was on a gurney hooked up to an IV. Ahhh...sweet relief of morphine and valium rushing through my veins, finally giving me a break from the panic and pain of not being able to get that deep breath. Then came all those tests: EKG, Doppler ultrasound, X-Rays, MRIs. Then came the diagnosis...yep, it was an embolism. I started to cry. I have tried so hard for so long to stay out of this medical loop. One doctor sending me to another, and then to another, and before I know it, I'm following all these directions and taking all these pills, and just getting lost in all of it. I broke that cycle when I left South Carolina and began my metamorphosis.

No, I don't believe I'm immortal or invincible. I realize that my health is still sorely compromised by lupus and the ravages it's inflicted on my organs and circulatory system. But I learned not to let it turn me into...a patient, a sick woman, a fragile, frail being. That's not who I am! For a very long time, though, it was. And that's why this hit me so hard. It took me completely by surprise at a time in my life when I was enjoying another metamorphosis separate from my own, the arrival of spring after a very long and difficult winter, physically and financially, that just went on and on and on. Now the rhodies are blooming, the cherry blossoms are showering their petals everywhere, and bees are already finding those apple blossoms and doing their map dance to show their fellow bees where a plethora of pollen can be found. The smell of lilacs is in the air, everywhere. The snow is retreating from the not-so-distant hills; the trees, having shrugged off the winter, are twirling in the shadow and light that you can't see when the snow blankets those hills. I was ramping up to ride my bike for miles and miles so I could accomplish my goal of being able to ride 20 miles in a day by the end of the summer. And now, I'm "allowed" to ride short distances as long as I don't exert myself.

Believe it or not, Little Miss Pollyanna Me even sees the blessing here. For years, I've been on and off (mostly off) coumadin, a blood thinner used in rat poison (they die of internal bleeding...how sad is that?). I've been on doses so high that it required me to wear a MedicAlert bracelet to announce to one and all that I'm a clotty little bugger. This was a true wake-up call, with bells and whistles and gongs telling me that, damn it, I KNOW I have things to do. I finally know who I am and I'm learning what life is truly all about, and I'm gonna blow it if I don't continue to take rat poison for the rest of my life. Okay, I get it. I surrender. Ooh...since I'm in the Stream-of-Consciousness zone, I can say that, when I typed those words, "I surrender", I got a giddy little goosebumply feeling. I give in. I accept. And then I go on. I gather myself up and try to play catch up to where I felt I was supposed to be by now. However, I know it's going to take a little while to get there. The Something has spoken, telling me to slow down, that perhaps I was going just a little faster than I should.
And once again, I'll have a collection of medicine bottles of various doses of pretty little colored pills lined up on a shelf. I concede to having blood drawn two or three times a week because the vitamin K in the bean sprouts and broccoli I consume in mass quantities alters the efficacy and daily dosage of the coumadin. Being a vegetarian creates all kinds of additional problems for those with clotting disorders. My doctor asked me while I was in the hospital, "How devoted to your being a vegetarian are you?" My neighbor bought me a spider catcher so I can catch those creepy little monsters that scare the begeebers out of me and let them go outside of my flat, my space. I have no right to take a life deliberately, with intention, whether by smacking a fly on the wall or eating a hamburger. All life is sacred. And in that vein (pun intended), not taking my medication is akin to taking my own life slowly. Or suddenly. The clots are still there, though a bit smaller. If I'd waited one more day to be seen, to start treatment to reduce the size of the clots damaging my lung and leg, and possibly veins in other places, I wouldn't be here to type this stream-of-consciousness tome. I suppose I could have just written, "I haven't posted in a while. I had a blood clot in my lung that scared me into taking medicine so I can continue riding my bike and enjoying the beauty of this world and typing long blog posts."

Nah. That's not my style.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

An Experiment in Reality

I was sitting in a very old chair that has traveled with me all over the world (I plan to write a post about it soon), feeling grateful for its ever-present presence in my life. And then I realized I was in a sunbeam. And then I noticed the dust specks whirling about. Already blissed out by an experience of abundance and peace after sitting in meditation, I picked up my camera and began to ramble stream-of-consciously about the nature of our reality. It's all about perception; how do we choose to view our life, and what do we wish to see?

I'm a bit blissed now, pharmaceutically-free, but wanted to share this insight of my life with my friends and family. Regardless of the situation, I'm finding that I can still find peace, even if it currently presents itself in intermittent showers. Or little flecks of dust. Namaste'.

video

p.s. Please pardon the mess; my flat usually isn't so crowded and cluttered, but I recently received a delivery of things that I love dearly, which contributes to my feeling of gratitude for all that is. My flat is small enough that it requires some creative arrangement which is, at the moment, a bit difficult for reasons I won't go into right now. It might be a story for another time...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

...and the rains came

And came, and came, and kept coming, on top of previous, substantial snowfalls. All that water has to go somewhere...or not. Long story short, on January 8, 2009, my flat was a virtual island, surrounded by water as deep as my knees in places. I feel extremely thankful that the water didn't inundate my apartment building, but it was close; the floor got cold because of the water in the crawl space beneath the floors.This is a panoramic view of one of the streets next to my apartment;the one that runs the other direction was just as bad.

No, one wasn't at risk of drowning or being swept away by the current if one left the building, but it was still a damage-causing nuisance. When a driver would pilot their vehicle through, they either did so with caution and trepidation, often deciding against it and backing out, or they would drive through at breakneck speed, creating not only fantails but also a "wake" that would lap against houses, creating even more damage. I asked that the city close the affected roads to not only potentially save the autos that dared to drive through the knee-deep water, but to prevent any more damage from being inflicted on the houses that were already greatly compromised by the rising waters. The city took a very lackadaisical stance and did nothing save place a single sign. And, oh, the irony...especially when this sign went floating away after a wake was created by a truck out for a joy ride through the flooding.

This was my first experience with flooding, and while I personally didn't lose property, the sense of approaching dread was overwhelming as the waters rose. I can't even begin to imagine how it must feel to have to toss a lifetime of sentimental belongings. There were residences in town that were forced to do just that; sump pumps failed and sandbagging just wasn't adequate in battling the rising waters of nearby creeks, streams, and rivers.

video

Because my blog is primarily about my experiences of riding my bicycle and the things I see while doing so, I'd be remiss in posting this video. I needed a few groceries and so, the only practical way to remedy this was to ride my bicycle through the deep water. I don't own a pair of boots and was reluctant to possibly ruin my beloved Tevas; I donned my thrift shop Nike all-terrain sandals (great in the water), rolled up my pants legs and rode through frigid, "take your breath away" water that had been chilled by copious amounts of snow.

Still, the waters did add a whole new dimension to things, especially at night. It was almost like living in a houseboat...or, at the very least, like having lakefront property. Those affected by the flooding (specifically two areas harder hit than the rest of town, including where I live) were fortunate not to lose power, which meant that the lights at night created an almost magical scene when their echoes reflected in the water. Close enough to the winter holidays, many residents still had their Christmas lights up. One neighbor turned them on, which created a surreal scene which was embellished further by the presence of a shining star above the abode which was reflected in the water. A sight to behold, still I can't help but think that the homeowner was happy to see the waters recede.

And they did, even if it took some time. A week later, I rode my bicycle to the outlying areas and snapped photos of trumpeter swans swimming in what are normally cornfields. Unfortunately, I also saw a literal pile of dead calves, perhaps drowned in the flooding, apparently pending disposal. Tears were shed for the loss of their young lives. I was disheartened to see that they were in plain view of passing school buses. Perhaps this was one of those "necessary" lessons learned by children raised on farms, but it made me very sad to see them just discarded like so much wet carpet or ruined drywall piled in a yard.While I consider this another experience to add to my rich life, I can honestly say that I hope never to experience a flood this closely again. While I count my blessings that it wasn't any worse, my compassion is great for those who have lost their belongings (or worse, the lives of their loved ones and/or entire homes) in a flood. It's amazing to me how easily Mother Nature reminds us that, regardless of humankind's best efforts to prove that this earth belongs to them, there are far greater forces at work than man will ever be capable of replicating.

Monday, January 5, 2009

In January, it's so nice while slipping on the sliding ice...

Bonus points for identifying the source of the title of this entry. Just a bit of what I've been up against lately...





I apologize if I'm difficult to understand in either video, but it was cold out there, and I'd been out for a while; I was trying to avoid shivering and chattering teeth. Oh, how lovely is a nice, hot cuppa after coming in from a ride in the snow and ice! As I type, the snow continues to fall, but I think it's supposed to turn to rain with slightly warmer temperatures. Oh, won't that be fun in which to ride a bicycle.