Category Archives: Acceptance

Darkness

It’s not been a “holly jolly” kind of year.  In this season, the struggle to maintain without being overwhelmed can be particularly difficult.  Some of it is of course the darkness.  For those of us who live in more extreme latitudes the difference in the length of days between midsummer and midwinter is considerable.

North of the Arctic circle (or South for the Antarctic) We have the land of the midnight sun.  At the summer solstice the sun never sets.  That means at winter solstice it never rises.  Think about that for a minute.  A day where the sun doesn’t rise.  It’s kind of creepy.

Even a little bit of color helps

I will tell you truthfully that even here on the 45th parallel there are winter days when it’s so dark and overcast it feels as though there is no sun.  The snow helps.  It reflects what little light there is and bounces it so things seem brighter.  The holiday lights help.  They add not only brightness but a little color to the black and white photo landscape.

The darkness can also be emotional.  Birthdays during the season that get “lumped in” with everyone else’s celebrations can be great.  They can also build a lifetime of resentment.  A death during the season can bring people together.  It can also be a wound that gets reopened every year.  Being overwhelmed with Christmas Cheer, especially when that’s not part of your religion, can be an opportunity or an oppression.

Then there is the demand.  There is a huge demand on time, both socially and for many people, because of year end, on the job.  If you work in retail or in the food industry you can wave goodby to days off for awhile.  There is a demand on the pocketbook.  All that socializing costs, as do the expected gifts.  When the bills are already scary this time of year can be devastating.  Despite all the seasonal sales, somehow it seems that expenses still go up and up.

Even thinking about a fire seems like a lot of work.

I lean heavily on just do it.  Daily Practice becomes focused on small nitty gritty things.  Cleaning up the kitchen before I go to bed is not always easy, but better to do it than not.  Making my bed in the morning when I get up (even if I might want to go back) makes it less likely that I will go back.  Even paying the bills is better than the alternative.

So I put my head down and write the blog, clean the kitchen, make the bed.  I make the phone calls and appointments.  I meet the obligations and shop the sales with an eye on my budget.  I put in a few extra hours where I can hoping for some extra padding on the weekly income.  I wait in eager anticipation of the Solstice.  Because after the longest night each day has a little more light.

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Comfort

My Facebook feed is full of black and white “Day in the Life” photos. Here’s mine.

The temperatures are dropping and the wind is gusting.  The cold and damp are fitting for the season, they set the mood.  There are ghosts walking.

I am at that age where parents die in clusters.  This is the way of things, of course, but that doesn’t make it easy.  I worry about my own parents as they approach their “end years”.  I see that gradual decline isn’t so gradual any more.  It’s getting harder for them to keep up, to get by, to get things done.

This year in particular I find myself trying to offer comfort to friends whose loss simply can not be consoled.  Grief comes in waves, it takes its own time.  Those “stages” are neither sequential nor independent.  They can come in any order, repeatedly and sometimes all at once.  And I take those phone calls.  I listen.  I witness.  Sometimes that’s enough.

The symbol of death and renewal in Paganism is literally food and seed.

I’m looking for comfort too.  I want to escape in a good book.  I want a fire in the fireplace.  I want a pot of soup on the stove.  For my ancestors those things were just part of the days.  Now I can go to the grocery store and buy mirepoix, precut and measured.  (I didn’t, but I can.)  Bone broth is on the shelf in boxes because much of our meat is already removed from the bones.  Soup is no longer the ever present cauldron, but a can in the pantry.

Baking is part of that comfort factor as well.  A good bread, warm from the oven, and I can feel myself relax into the smell.  Pop-up biscuits from the refrigerator case do not elicit the same affect.

Bringing in plants meant repotting everything and trying to find space

There is no time for this kind of comfort in most of our lives.  We rush through our days, rush through our meals, rush through our grieving and just “get on”.  Perhaps the most important part of this season is to make a point and take some time.  In most of the U.S. we have an extra hour coming to us this coming Sunday.   How are you going to use it?

Meditation on the season

 

Autumn

At the apple store (no the real apple store).

I love this time of year.  I like the cooler weather.  I like wearing sweaters.  I like the light and the colors in the leaves.  Fall harvest has me making soups and baking.

I struggle at this time of year.  I have serious mold and dust allergies that always gets worse until we have a good hard freeze.  The temperature swings (I live in Minnesota.  It can be 35F one day and 80F the next) are tough to navigate.  I cherish the sunshine and dread the days getting noticeably shorter.

There is so much to do at this time of year.  I need to bring in the plants and repot.  I need to get ready for Halloween (both trick or treat and the Sabbat).  I need to swap my closet and bedding over to the winter wear.  All I want to do is curl up in a blanket with a good book and a warm beverage, or maybe take an outing to the movies.

We saw Victoria and Abdul. Orion appreciated the Urdu. He did not translate for me.

There’s also the food issue.  My body wants to eat more.  I’m not hungry, as the post-bariatric pouch won’t allow that.  It’s not even head hungry.  It’s more like hunger in the bones.  My genetics expect a winter and have kicked into survival mode.  I can tell I’m not getting enough protein, even though my diet hasn’t really changed.  It’s another push and pull.

This year it seems I’m especially aware of the paradox of the season.  As I struggle with balance in my own life I become more alert to the push and pull around me.  I recognize that I can allow any of these things to buffet and batter me, throwing me off course.  I can also simply acknowledge them and let them wash over me.  There is a peace in simply appreciating the variety of moods the season brings.

I live in bounty

So I do small things.  I get apples and squashes for baking and decorating.  I tidy the house.  I pick up a few things in the yard as I walk by.  I’m playing the grasshopper, not the ant.  I’m not ready for winter.  I am simply trying to be present in each day.

 

Balance

I’ve said many times that this notion we have of balance is active and not a point of stasis.  But sometimes balance is easy, once you get the hang of it, like riding a bike.  Other times it’s like crossing a rope bridge on a windy day with a big pack.

This season my experience of balance has been a lot more like the latter example.  I’m off, the world is off, my home is off, it’s just crazy.   I suspect I took advantage of the little surgery I had to just check out for a bit.  Unfortunately that has made getting back on track even more difficult.

post surgery, just a little correction on the bariatric. The equivalent of an appendectomy without the infection.

On the good side are my kids, my work and a lot of unexpected support.  On the rough side is money, time, and overall despondency.  I’m frustrated with people who are fixed minded about an issue that they clearly don’t actually understand.  I’m frustrated with the vile, demeaning attitudes that people have decided are okay to unleash.  I’m frustrated with the notion that being polite and having good judgement are somehow not positive attributes.

Then we do something like attend the Kaposia Gala.  This is Orion’s day program and work placement group.  I see Ramsey county, being the second county in the country to pass legislation allowing them to directly employ people with disabilities.  I see a group of people encouraging young performers who have to work a little harder for clear speech or to get through a piece of music.  I sit at a table with people in all manner of dress knowing that they all “dressed up” for the occasion, that what they have on is the best that they have.

We were all dressed up. Orion got several compliments.

When I speak with the disabled community, or those with chronic illnesses, I recognize that we share an understanding outside of “normal” experience.  When I spend time talking with members at Gilda’s Club there is an inherent desire to make that most out of what we have.  When I find the small things that make me smile I remember how important those small things can be.

So I struggle to stand in my own truth and not be blown over by the winds of the world.  I shift and adjust and accommodate and work to hang on to the notion that things can be better.  I go back to daily practices of gratitude and just take a moment to recognize all the privilege I have in my life.  I may be swaying pretty heavily, but at least I’ve got a bridge.

Before the Gala we had a lovely late afternoon walk on the campus in fall. Trying to remember to enjoy the days.

 

Kitchen Update

I can almost get all my tea into one basket

It’s been years (well, a year and a half anyway) since my kitchen cupboards started falling off the walls.  I’ve looked at bank loans, city loans, housing support, county programs, Habitat for Humanity and in the end gotten nowhere.

My regular readers might have an inkling of how much time I spend in the kitchen.  I enjoy cooking.  A lot. I’ve been making do without my serving dishes, casserole collection, my Tajine and other specialty cookware, and about 1/2 of my already limited counter space.  (All those machines that were in the cupboard are on the counter.)

This under cupboard used to be filled with bakeware. I think there’s still room for the electric tea kettle.

This week I’ve finally found a friend who’s willing to step in and see what he can do.  It may get much worse before it gets better.  In fact, I’m sure this week it will.

This is not a kitchen re-model.  The overhead cupboards are coming down before they fall down all the way.  Then we’ll see.  Either they will go back up more securely attached or they will go away.   I might have a better idea of why they came down in the first place.

If the overhead cupboards go away I’ll still need to figure out something to do in the kitchen.   I can’t afford new cupboards (and they wouldn’t match).  I might be able to put in some open shelving.  That would be serviceable, but still a bit down the road.

In the meantime I’m trying to pack away what’s left in my kitchen.  Can Orion and I really get by with 2 plates, 2 bowls, 4 cups and no cream pitcher?  Do I pack it all and pull out paper plates and frozen dinners?  What do I do with the jar of lentils, the jar of pasta, the jar of black beans, the can of coffee and the olive oil?  Can I really survive without access to my spices?

Honestly, I’ve already pared down by better than half. This is the bare minimum!

I sound like an ad for a mystery series.  “Stay tuned and find out!”

 

Eclipse


I tripped a breaker, the one that powers my refrigerator, last Thursday.  I couldn’t get it reset.  My internet connection has been out, or at the very best intermittent, all weekend.  I’m not even sure this blog will go out!

I know I will be “off the grid” for much of the week, and definitely over the coming weekend.  I know I won’t post a blog next Monday.  It seems like I’m getting “messages” to unplug.

Historically, events like today’s eclipse were seen as signs and portents.  Even in cultures (and there were more of them than you might think) that could predict these events they carried weight and meaning.  Our country is braced for today’s eclipse.  Fed Ex has a note on their site anticipating delivery delays due to this astronomical event.

When the calendar shifted into the new century, we were braced for a huge computer crash.  There were “signs” everywhere.  Nothing seemed to happen.  Still, the world changed even as it went on.  People stopped believing in the “dramatic predictions” of the science community.

Again we sit in anticipation.  It may seem as though nothing happens.  The world will go on, and the world will change in ways even the best prophets could not predict.  There is some division if this “portent” is of collapse or renewal.  I suspect that ultimately that’s up to us.

Contentment

Minnie would be more content if I’d leave her alone during nap-time

I think a lot about what it means to me to be happy, to be content, and to be satisfied.  I don’t spend a lot of time appreciating my successes or taking in the feeling of a job well done.  I suppose I could do some psychological speculation about why that is, why I don’t “allow” myself to enjoy success.  What it comes down to is I’m always looking for the next thing.

My daughter, Karina, has been very verbal about bringing all of this to my attention over the years.  She doesn’t appreciate it when she struggles to make me happy, or to meet an expectation only to get “Now that that is out of the way……….”  Her, “Hey!  Wait just one minute.” has forced me many times to stop and honestly acknowledge her efforts.  This is why I really need a gratitude practice.

Orion and I at the movies. I still need practice at the selfie.

This weekend was a simple, easy, uneventful weekend.  Orion and I did a few things.   We saw the new Spiderman movie.  He got a haircut and his beard trimmed.  We kept an eye on Minnie (Karina’s dog).  I puttered a bit in the kitchen.  There was a conference call for event planning committee and the beginnings of organizing things to bring.  I stayed up late and finished a couple of books.  I slept in until I was ready to get up.

Reviewing the week, thinking about what I was going to write in my blog, I realized that this was contentment.  Not too much, not too little, but a just right weekend.  Then I realized that part of the reason I could feel that contentment (rather than pressure, or resentment, or disappointment, or exhaustion) was because I had the previous weekend off.

I went into this week well rested.  I’m feeling good.  I have a list of things “to do” but feel like I’m making progress and not overwhelmed.  I had a good balance of things I wanted to do and things I needed to do.  And the things I needed to do I appreciated being able to do.

Post hair-cut Orion is very pleased about “looking sharp”

This coming week I’m gearing up for a whirlwind.  The event, Earth Conclave, is on the schedule.  I know I won’t get a blog in next Monday (maybe Tuesday).  I’m excited and nervous and hoping I have left myself enough time to put what I’ll need together.

But…. I don’t have to pack up Orion for the weekend.  That’s taken care of with the new schedule.  I don’t have to worry about not being able to get through.  I have a health reserve going in.  I may be on the committee, but it’s not “my show”.  I’m not cooking,  I’m not “in charge” of anything.  I’ve volunteered to facilitate a few things on the schedule, but I know this group (and my skill set) and it won’t be difficult.

This is where gratitude is easy for me.  I haven’t always been able to do these things, or do them without too much effort.  I am very grateful to have the opportunity, and the support, to be able to do them again.

 

Theory

Testing the theory: things will look better after taking a break

We seem to live in a world where “Fake news” is thrown around to discredit something someone doesn’t “like”.  I see all too often that belief seems to count as much or more than science or facts.   “Theory” is an inflammatory word.   I suspect that’s because there are a lot of people who “believe” they understand what it means and don’t want to be told they are mistaken.

It doesn’t help that the word has a specific usage in scientific lingo and a much broader usage in the English language.  When someone says, “In theory….” it’s clear there is speculation involved.  There is not a great confidence between what is “supposed” to happen and what seems “likely” to happen.  When a scientist talks about, “The theory….” it pretty much means that in all the time that theory has existed it’s been the best explanation of all the facts available and that so far nothing has come up to contradict it.

When we talk about education theory or theory in a philosophical setting what we’re really doing is talking about belief.  We really want something to be true so we create a theory and then test it in practice.  But people being people, we don’t want to change our beliefs, so when things don’t work we change the parameters of the test.   No wonder everyone is confused.

In science when a fact shows up that disproves the theory, the theory gets changed so that it explains ALL the facts.  It’s a very different mindset.

So, although I’m still taking tests and they still come back “normal” there are some theories.

Testing Karina’s theory: you need a little more sass

I have speculated, for much of my life, that the place my back goes out puts stress on the nerves that impact my digestion.  The converse also applies, when my digestion is aggravated it “stresses” my back.  I’ve seen this happen time and again and when I can break that feedback loop things do seem to improve.  I think it’s the explanation that best fits the facts as I see them.

My chiropractor is on board with this theory.  He did an x-ray series and can point to places where it’s likely there is some stress on the nerves.  Unfortunately, in order to be “clinical” the nerves have to be pretty much pinched off, which thankfully they are not.  The radiologist makes some remarks about odd curves and twists but concludes basically “normal” (I’m sure there’s a for a woman of my age in there somewhere.)  We’re hoping a chiropractic radiologist will be a little more specific and can talk insurance into paying for more frequent adjustments.

Likewise the other tests come back “normal” but when the bariatric PA looks at them she sees potential for issues.  So I’ll take another test and then the entire bariatric group will put their heads together and see if indeed the PA’s observations explain the problem.  If her theory holds then they will decide if there is anything they might recommend doing about it.

It may be that I just had a bad turn of what has been a chronic problem and that treatment is to do what I’ve been doing all along.  I might have some bad spells and may need a little more intense intervention – pain meds, more frequent adjustments, possibly another round of physical therapy – to get through those acute moments.

That certainly sounds a lot better than the other possibilities that have been floating around in my head!   Thank you all for your concern and good wishes.

Tests

I am a good test taker.  I always have been.  Unfortunately that makes things a little difficult when it comes to the medical community.

I know something is wrong.  I’ve known something is wrong for several months.  My tests all look good.  It can’t possibly be a big deal right?

There is a great deal of evidence that women present differently than the male based “standard” in a lot of conditions.  There is a great deal of evidence that women are dismissed when they report symptoms.  Historically I have found that my instincts are probably more reliable than a few tests:

I told my mother I had a tummy ache.  She said it was because I’d eaten too much (chocolate).  I said I couldn’t get up.  She said I shouldn’t stay home from school.  24 hours later my appendix burst on the operating table.

I had a surgeon ask me flat out if I was sure he should take out my gall bladder.  After all I was pregnant and the tests were not definitively bad.  After the surgery he said my gall bladder looked like a green raspberry it was so full of pencil point sized stones.  Yes, it needed to come out.

I had a GI specialist do a CT scan.  All the other doctors and nurses were whispering colon cancer under their breaths.  Late that evening he came in and told me not to worry.  It couldn’t be cancer.  It was probably crones disease.  How can you possibly take away a diagnosis like that unless you’re sure?  He was sure, based on the tests, and he was wrong.

I had persistant bleeding, a little anemia.  It’s that whole peri-menopause thing the doctors told me.  The anemia wasn’t that bad – take some iron.  Talk to a gyn about an ablation, you could force menopause that way.  The gyn did a biopsy (as standard procedure) but everything looked good. It did force menopause.  I had endometrial cancer and a hysterectomy.

I’ve had high blood pressure that didn’t respond to blood pressure meds.   That’s because the rise in blood pressure was indicating pain (which I and really bad at reporting).  I’ve had blood clots with both cancers, and it’s a good thing because treating those blood clots is the only thing that got the cancers diagnosed.  It’s not like I haven’t gone off the rails on tests, just not in predictive or indicative ways.

So for the last two weeks I’ve been taking tests.  They all look great.  That’s supposed to be good news.  But I know something is wrong.  My experience tells me the harder it is to find what is actually causing the problem, the harder it’s going to be to address it.  Still more tests.  Still more to come………

Have a Good Day

The end of a good day

I’ve been listening to some of my friends talk about the notion of acknowledging “Today was a good day”.   It’s something that one of them noticed in a series about living in Alaska.  People, who are essentially living on the edge of subsistence, finish up their day with that little affirmation, “Today was a good day.”

We speculated about whether this is an Alaska thing.  I suggested it might just be something that shifts when you’re living on the edge.  I equated it to the Native American “Today is a good day to die.”

My friends are using this affirmation to see if it shifts their world view.  They think it does.  It changes the way they approach their days.  It started me thinking about what makes a day a good day.

A day sailing is a good day

I’ve certainly had days where if I managed to get dressed or showered that was a good day.  I’ve had days where just being alive at the end of the day meant it was a good day.  I’ve had days where I’ve gotten all kinds of things accomplished be a good day.  I’ve had days where I’ve been of service be a good day.

It’s interesting to me that there isn’t any kind of personal standard for a good day.  I like that.  I like that there is room for a good day no matter what kind of shape I might be in.  I like that I can have a good day just taking care of me as well as having a good day helping out someone else.

Captain Beth ( WIMNsail.net ) pulling out of the Marina – sharing in someone else’s passion is always a good day

In thinking about a good day there is something that does stand out for me.  A good day is active rather than passive.  I don’t mean that there needs to be a lot of activity.  I can have a good day curled up reading.  But there is a big difference between choosing to spend the day reading and sitting down for a break and having the day disappear.

There’s something about a good day that requires attention being paid to the day.  A good day demands engagement at some level.  Perhaps that is the change my friends are observing.  By using the affirmation they find themselves paying more attention to their days.  Being more appreciative, living in gratitude for each day, is certainly a positive life change.

Maybe I’ll give this good day thing a try.

On or in the water sounds like a good day to me.

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