Sunday, July 23, 2017

Resilience. My best friend.

Resilience has been a rejuvenating concept for me in recent months. When I think of resilience I think of flexibility.  Life with MS has thrown many unexpected situations into my world.  Resilience is that solid framework I build coping mechanisms upon. Being resilient allows rom for the flexibility to modulate response.

Resilience means seeing a way through difficulty, not insisting on having a specific outcome. And while I believe that even the most difficult circumstances have positive elements, I am not encouraging resilience if, emotionally, I depend on all outcomes being positive.

Resilience has kept humankind on the planet.  Despite humanity's proclivity for self-destruction, humans continue to survive.  Need I say that I hope this trend continues given that the ability to self destruct has become so readily available.

But on a more personal level, I know I must be resilient in the simple act of living day-to-day.  I never know how I may start the day when I wake up in the morning. What tools will I need from my survival kit?  And if the bottom starts to fall out, what can I do to redeem the day?  How do I manage to take care of my needs in the moment?

MS is a fickle companion. Some days it ignores me and other days it demands my full attention.  But resilience is like a best friend with no other agenda than to keep me afloat. I try to find victories in the simple things. Playing with the cat. Watching baseball (okay, no guaranteed victories there). Popcorn and a movie. Pausing to watch the sunrise.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunday morning, obviously

Of every other day of the week, Sunday should really smell like bacon and coffee.  Really.  About a year ago, I let go of my frantic grasping of vegetarian eating with the startling realization that even adherence to that noble gastric discipline takes lives.  This morning I stand quietly in my kitchen peeling the wrapping off a package of sulfate free strips of impending deliciousness.  And with my fill of breakfast I sit down to satiate my next appetite at the keyboard. Right now, it is time to write; now, since it has been a while. I will play some piano later on.

Back to Sunday morning and the past 5 years of living alone, this has been my day to accumulate my stuff from the week and attempt to write something that I will like reading afterwards.  The book of short essays that masquerades as a memoir is ready enough for me to make a call to an editor or two.  I almost think it would be easier not to stop writing it than to say it is “ready” because I know it will morph into something else once a more astute eye looks at it. 

So obviously, Sunday mornings will need to become Monday mornings and spill over into Tuesday and Wednesday.  Thursday has always been my favorite day of the week so I don’t want to exclude it.  Fridays I should go shopping and out to lunch or catch up with friends over good Mexican food.  Now that the inevitable has transpired I will potentially have Sunday mornings all week, sans bacon but always with coffee.  You see, my corporate gig is over, at my choosing, with some encouragement pointed towards my bank account.

All the mornings spent getting dressed for work, standing in my closet thinking, wishing, hoping, “If I get a package....” are now history.  Surreal as the day the last of my five kids packed up, took her sweet dog and moved out of the house, the package actually arrived, the eagle landed in an email.  I am ready to fly. 

With all of the joy that I feel in the closure of a fruitful 19 years with the same company, I am burdened with the realization that many other employees were not given a choice to leave.  We knew.  We waited to hear.  Some would be taking their last walk to the exits and we knew the day was coming, but for me, this foreknowledge did not dampen the shock. 

It is not the change that was shocking.  Granted, passing by cubicles with random items left behind by employees that had been let go was a downer.  Change is constant.  Even my dad, by whom one could set a watch, changed over the years and not just by aging.  What I find more disturbing is how far the human response will go to obtain a desired object.  Grasping for a desired outcome, or goal is not a bad thing unless it becomes necessary to trample others in the process. 

To be fair, a certain element of grasping is at the heart of any for-profit business venture.  Grasping in some degree is likely at the heart of just about anything initiated by a living being.  The animal kingdom is a food chain and I inhabit a link somewhere in it.  I can feel bad about that if I care to think about it much but without it would I have been born?  There is something to the whole survival of the fittest, circle of life thing, but road kill is just gross.

This might be a bit too long for a blog post.  I feel a new essay coming on.  I’ll make some more coffee, but that’s enough bacon for today.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Notes at 2:00 AM (Got Sleep?)

Drug induced sleep means I wake up in 5 hours.  I need to ask my doctor what I am supposed to be getting out of taking a muscle relaxer for spasticity.  I don’t know which is worse, being unable to fall asleep because of spasticity or taking the medication, not sleeping soundly and waking up with spasticity anyway.

Once I am awake and my brain can tell I am paying attention, whatever is really bothering me gets air time.  This particular morning work decisions are moderating the conversation.

I work for a great company that does really well by its employees.  As a single mother of five, my children and I survived their growing up years primarily on my income.  I have had great benefits and career opportunity.  Although I have not “achieved” in ways that bring accolades and notoriety, starting out as an administrative assistant and becoming an IT professional is not such a shabby accomplishment.  This will be my 19th year with the company.

I would like to wind down a bit as I head into the home stretch towards retirement.  I would love to work a shorter week.  The financial impact of doing that would reduce my ability to save aggressively these last couple of years.  The longer I can work full time the better off I will be later but lately it has become more challenging to make it through the week.  By Friday I am wiped out physically and cognitively.  

So anyway, what am I going to do right now about being awake?  Read?  Maybe I should get up and go downstairs.  Or not.  Hungry.  No eating, too early.  No backlit screens.  Book.  Sleep will come.    

two days later....

Why am I awake again at this hour?  I cannot blame it on the muscle relaxer this time.  What was the first thing I became aware of as consciousness returned?  My left foot jumping about under the covers.  Pain.  Muscle twinges in random places.  Why am I hungry?  I ate a late dinner.  At 8:00 PM I finished off two small chicken thighs and some steamed cauliflower.  Maybe I need a drink of water.  

The vertigo has been back the last several days.  It makes me feel queasy and as if I am about to fall over.  A proprioception issue?  I have been quite clumsy this week.  Banging up my hands.  Dropping things at the grocery store twice the same trip.  Luckily the one that fell to the floor was a plastic bottle.

It has been raining all night.  The sound of the water running through the gutters and tapping softly on the roof is like music.  Soothing.  Peaceful.  There are moments of beauty and spaces of gratitude in most everything.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Just Keep Swimming

How to finish the book.  It seems close to being done sometimes.  My fatigue in the evening drains me of incentive.  Weekends are my only respite since I have a day job to sustain throughout the week.  I must keep trying.  

Annie Dillard claims a book often takes years to complete.  I know there are themes everywhere, enough for more than one good story.

Writing comes from my core being which, with fragments of childhood persona lingering, is constantly changing year after year.  Reading the draft after a lengthy absence reflects evidence of the shifts in perspective that time can bring.  I wonder if painters feel the same way.  Does a painting remain a work that is satisfactory years later?  

Does the writer become the voice that endures, or is it the story that lives?  Would Maya Angelou look back at her early work and wince?  Before her death she had written so many wonderful stories that seemed to simply need telling.  It wasn’t necessary to add any moralizations or philosophical insights.  Each story told itself.

Whatever else I do, being creative satisfies a deep longing to bring a version of truth into being.  Whether or not another living being reads anything I write, although that is desirable, doesn’t really matter.  I will write anyway and trust that if I just keep swimming the next moments will be there.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

What's A Writer To Do?

Happy New Year!  I’ve been writing a book.  A memoir, if you’re asking me what sort of book it is.  Someone once told me that everyone has at least one story to tell but I believe that within the one story there are hundreds or maybe thousands of stories.  That is encouraging to me.  There is no lack of material.  The familiar places you and I visit have seen us clearly.

I don’t know what the vast majority of readers want to read these days.  The initial offering of reading material online is typically short and usually provocative.  When I look through the popular reading lists, it seems there is a vast world of literature and book publishing out there.  I wonder where I might fit in with all that or if I would want to.

When I was still in high school, I had wanted to become a journalist but as I began to look around at the media, I was discouraged.  There seemed to be so much hype necessary for stories to be heard and I was not, I am still not, a hype kind of person.  I do like the short essay or column form and columnists do not need to tow the line of sensationalism.  It helps to have some notoriety in the social-sphere, particularly if you have a cause or a philosophy to promote.  I might have a few of these I can pull out of hiding.

I share my writing in blog form and even submit an essay here or there.  What is important to me is that my voice is authentic.  I am happy to always be finding my voice, because I know the living of years brings change.  I would want a reader to “hear” me as my words are read.

Whether or not I finish the bigger work of a memoir, I have come to be completely in love with the part of me that writes.  I will always create with words.  This has been my outlet since I was a little girl.  It didn’t matter then if anyone read what I wrote.  Now it matters more.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dear Terrorist

I woke up this morning thinking of you, so I thought I would drop you a line.  I write to you not knowing who you are or where you are so how to reach you is unclear.

I imagine you are young.  I am a grandmother.  I hope this is not a deterrent to you hearing me out.  I will try to keep it brief.  Maybe you are busy, or hiding.

I know you were small once and that you have parents.  Maybe you have siblings and a grandmother like me.  It is not easy growing up and I know this because I had to grow up like you.  In a lot of ways I am still growing up.

If you are thinking that we have nothing in common, I would have to disagree.  We have everything in common that really matters.  We both have hearts that beat, we breath in and out, we seek joy, feel love, live life, desire much, experience pain, endure loneliness, and cling to hope to name just a few.  We are only human, you and I.

Which is why I am writing to you, wherever you are.  Before you take the next step into whatever terrorist thing you are planning, could you think, really think, about our common humanity?

If we sat down together in my house with whoever your youngest family member might be, my grandkids, your mom and maybe some family photos, a pot of tea or some good coffee, we could talk, about everything.  We could take turns listening.  We might be surprised to find we have a few things we could laugh about together.  Maybe you would change your mind about the suicide vest. 

We are all only human you know.  And really, what is left behind after so many die?  If you die we will be forced to go on without you.  Your dreams and hopes and ability to become great here on earth will be forgotten.  I wonder if that is what you really want?

The Common Denominator

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Startling and unconscionable.  When I think about all that has occurred in the past two days, the uncertainty of day-to-day existence is flagrantly empty of any hint of guarantees.  Which is why my dear friends, the moments we live are so very, very precious.

Wherever I am at this moment, is what unfolds for me to live.  What I want, above all else, more than long life, fame or wealth is to arrive at the end of my life with the certainty that I had in fact lived it.  And how not to come to think that years have been wasted, that I should have done better, that I was a failure, is to begin at this very instant to live with an open heart.  

There are no guarantees of anything except the inevitabilities of the human life span.  Entitlement is perhaps just a myth.  What is certain is the way I chose to live out the moments at hand.  That’s it.  That is enough.  All of the suffering in the world can be quenched.  If it is possible for one of us, I believe it is possible for all.  

Always I am looking forward
Where is my hope?
What choice do I have?

Asking questions about the past
Why was I so blind?
Where was my protector?

Anxiously waking to the sunrise
How will I survive another day?
What if all is lost?

Guarantees are written regardless of the pain
Can I rejoice amongst the deep and silent?
Is there a place free of suffering?

Love must flourish 
Here is our hope
Here is our vision
Here is our joy
Here we must be