Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Year Of Conscious Living’


karmaAs I sat moaning in the chair I figured it was karma that took me down, that “what comes around goes around” thing that threatens people with payback for behaving unbecomingly.

Id recently boasted to a sick friend that I never get sick.  Then whammo the hammer fell.  Sick?  Me?  It had been years!  But there was no mistaking the progressive worsening of my breathing, a deep guttural cough that ripped apart my ribs and sternum and my foggy head that wouldn’t allow me to concentrate to read or enjoy anything on TV.  I couldn’t even sit still for long before breaking into coughing spasms.  And lying down to sleep? Forget about that; I couldn’t even fall asleep at night let alone catch a few daytime zzzzs.  Maybe the steroid was the culprit that pumped me with too much energy to relax and doze off.  Between that pill, the steroid nose spray and the doxycycline I was supposed to feel better in a couple of days.  So much for the doctor’s promise.  Instead I got worse and the upper respiratory distress went deeper and turned into bronchitis that called for a stronger antibiotic.

justicescales.jpegFor the last two weeks of April I wondered if I’d ever feel like me again.  Was I destined to fight for breath, cough my ribs apart and sound like a croaking frog when I tried to talk?  Would I ever fall asleep again?  While I wandered around the house and yard feeling sorry for myself and caught an hour or so of TV at night before retiring to my bed to sit the night away — I realized the following ….

  1. Breathing is not over-rated.  That silly comment has always been my stand by retort to my husband each time he reminded me that 5 cats and 1 dog are enough animals for 1 household.  That his asthma, though controlled and manageable, is not a pleasant experience in the pollen capitol of the country here in E. TN.  He’s used to not breathing easily.  I’m not.  And this experience is enough to make me consider relocating to a better ventilated part of the country.
  2. I’ve always taken my good health for granted.  Now in my late 50s it’s rare for me to be under the weather.  I’ve had a couple of health scares in my life, but just a couple.  OK, maybe a few and when they occur they’re doozies.  I don’t tend to get something simple, instead it’s things with weird symptoms, one series of which prompted a trip to the Mayo Clinic to discover it was cat scratch fever.  And then there was a surreal episode of transient global amnesia which lasted probably 12 hours when my short-term memory took a vacation, leaving me no idea what day it was or what any of my calendar notations meant.  Doctors still don’t know what caused it or whether it will ever happen again.
  3. My discipline comes from outside.  Who knew that my habit of snacking in the evenings in front of the TV was easily controlled by the dictates of an antibiotic that required an empty stomach for a final night-time dose.  Never mind that I’ve been trying to stop that pesky snacking for years.  Now, suddenly, because I wasn’t allowed to, I didn’t.  What’s wrong with my personal self-discipline?!
  4. I’m a bad patient.  Because I’m so rarely sick (notice I didn’t say never?) I don’t do sick well, especially if I can’t do something productive with time in the house.  Can’t read, watch TV, don’t want to eat or cook and can’t even sleep.  Yech.  Just wandering around and moaning was my activity of choice, that and feeling sorry for myself.  When I’m well I subscribe to the Buddhist notion that suffering can be avoided by accepting that life is filled with peaks and valleys and there will always be bad times as part of the human condition.  But somehow when I was sick, I chose to suffer.   At least I was able to observe that, right?
  5. Bug bites can be bad.  Who knew?  Working in the garden is fraught with potential disaster – fire ants, spiders, ticks, bee stings are all conspiring to make yard beautification dangerous.  A couple of years ago a thorn prick on my arm turned into a staph infection, again requiring antibiotics.  This year something jabbed my thigh and caused an allergic reaction.  I still don’t know what got me, though we’ve pretty much ruled out most things, leaving a spider bite as the highest probability.

AprilShell1So I’ve certainly lived April and the beautiful, calming curves of the conch shell signifying another month lived belies the turmoil in my life this month.  I suppose they can’t all be good.  And I have come out the other end, well again.  For that I’m extremely grateful.  On to May …

How was your April?

Advertisements

Read Full Post »


JanShell1This month’s shell is pristine enough to be sold in a beach souvenir shop instead of where I found it, lying among other scattered shell fragments on a beach somewhere in Florida.  Shelling is a favorite past-time for tourists in Florida, for locals too I think.  It’s what I seem to do when walking the beach with my eyes glued to the sand to avoid stepping on sharp things.  I can’t help but pick up pretty shells to later put in one of the decorative bowls in my house.

FullBowlShellsThis one came from a specific bowl that I filled with 12 shells, each one signifying one month of life.  My intention is to stay aware of each month so I can appreciate the relationship of time and my life.  With this one gone, there are eight months left to this particular year.  When looked at that way, it becomes rather glaring that my days of life continue to tick away.  My how a year goes by quickly.  And what do I do with that time?

 January, was occupied by friends, mostly, and if not being with them then thinking about them.  Maybe that’s because of the underlying thread of death and dying that confronted me this month.  Of course there was my ongoing hospice work, but also a very dear man I know dropped dead suddenly, and a different very important friend is facing health challenges that threaten her longevity.  During times of losing someone or potentially losing someone the importance of relationships take center stage.  Or rather, threatening times make you realize how important relationships really are.  When facing death people don’t wish they’d worked harder or longer hours.  They tend to lament the amount of time spent with people they love.  So I’m taking time with good friends while I still live in blissful ignorance of my eventual demise.

Marilyn&MeFor starters there was Marilyn, a friend who dates back to early childhood.  Was I five when we first played together?  She lived two houses down from us and her family was my second family.  I showed up every Christmas morning, as early as my mother would allow, sometimes in my pjs to catch everyone opening their presents.  There was always one for me and later I’d asked if I could stay for dinner.  Never knew about proper etiquette back then.  Actually, I practically lived at Marilyn’s house – spent several school day afternoons each week there, summer vacations at the beach with her family (mine never took vacations), family picnics, many family dinners and countless overnights whispering the nights away together.  Her house was my escape hatch when family wars in mine became overbearing.  Now Marilyn says we’re better than sisters.  I have to agree, and it started … 50 years ago?  Oy vey!

rainbow01Marilyn is facing a serious health challenge now; it might be the fight of her life – for her life.  She lives in Florida and though I’m in Tennessee the distance is not keeping us from our necessary friendship.  She needs me and I need her; I’ve always needed her.  And we’ll get through this together, one way or another.  The first week of this month was spent at her house just when we received her mind numbing diagnosis.  Serendipity?

And then I came home to a text message from a former colleague and friend with the news about Jerry, how his wife discovered him the next morning and surmised he died in his sleep.  59 years old.  Friends, family and colleagues were stupefied by the news.  Say what?  Really?  How the hell … ?  And now Facebook is littered with photos of him and memories galore.  His wife, shell shocked.  And yet – what a way to go, huh?  One day you’re here living your life – and he lived his with gusto – and the next day it’s all over.  No pain, no suffering, no dreadful diagnosis that makes you evaluate your life.  If I got to choose, I’d make sure I enjoyed the living while the living was good – then checked out, Jerry’s way.

Well I do get to choose – at least the first half of the equation.  I do have the power to enjoy my life, love my friends and family and live with no regrets.  And so far – I’m right on target…

best_friends_sketch_by_0ouo0-d45uu73Which brings me to Judie.  She and I worked together many years ago in Pittsburgh during our radio days.  She was a reporter I was a producer and we were tight friends.  35 years later we still are – though we’ve lived separately in a few different cities since then.  Still do – she in California, me in Tennessee.  But when we catch up it’s as though our last conversation was yesterday.  Thanks to Facebook we stay in touch and just had one of our catch up phone calls the other day.  We talked about needing to get together soon and play because … you just never know, now do you?

I have a couple very dear friends here at home that I haven’t seen in a while – they moved recently and have become caught  up in their lives like I have in mine.  But that’s not a good excuse especially since we now live five minutes apart.

OK then – February will bring time together with them.

What have you done with your life in January?

Read Full Post »


DecemberShell1December’s shell looks like it could have been plucked from Lido Beach on Longboat Key, FL where I spent my last days of December.  Riddled with pin-sized holes, this shell was in its early stages of becoming one with the sandy beach but on a different piece of Florida’s coast, probably Venice where I visited a couple of winters ago.  Beaches are where I get my best thinking done while staring into the rushing waves of the ocean and breathing its salty air.  I love walking a beach; it’s usually where I become most aware of how wonderful my life is and how fortunate I am.

This particular weekend I was in town to attend a close friend’s daughter’s wedding.  This friend has been in my life for decades – as a suite-mate in college and then together as young professionals Marianne&Me2sharing an apartment to begin our early adult lives away from the safety of a college dorm.  We’ve stayed in touch since with some years offering more sporadic attention than others.  Sharing this special celebration with her and her family marked the end of December and another month lived.  It was the perfect way to kiss the month goodbye.

My month opened in NYC with my husband to attend Broadway shows, one of our greatest joys in life.  Sitting close to the stage and being swept up in its theatrics makes my heart swell to almost bursting levels.  We try to get there once a year, usually during Thanksgiving week when we head north to visit family. cropped-once-program-cover_sm.png All we do is feast on theater, taking in as much as we can in just 4 days.  We’re stuffed by the time we head for home and happy for the gorging.  Now that my life is no longer consumed by work I have the great luxury of nurturing my loves.

SunGlowIt’s dizzying to recognize how much and how little can be accomplished within a 24 hour period.  Is accomplishment, though, a valid gauge of a day’s value?  I could give a laundry list of much that happened this month between the two trips – challenges that plagued me, friends I spent time with, movies I saw, stories and books I’ve read or am reading, sorrows and joys I’ve experienced and current events that have angered me.  They all indicate hours and days within a month that I’ll never get back.  So they have been lived and experienced.  In some cases though, time was spent mindlessly and when I became aware it was a week later with minimal recollection of what happened.  Maybe it’s simply the mundaneness of life that should be considered special.

My driving work years were consumed by pop culture and current events for entertainment development.  Time was devoured by my jobs and I invested no effort in developing a personal life and other areas of interest.  Those years were thrilling, stimulating and exhausting and while caught up in that whirlwind it was unfathomable that there could be any other kind of life that could offer as much personal reward.

beach3Walking the beach and recognizing the joy it conjured made me realize how rich life can actually be and how broad its potential.  Instead of this life’s chapter concentrating on growing “the next big thing” why not allow it to nurture all the things I love, the elements I forfeited during those laser focus years.  Over the past three years that list has grown quite robust:  books, theater, music, hikes, mountains, beaches, biking, friends, family, animals, volunteer work, discussion groups, movies, food, woods, travel.  To engage in life doesn’t mean I have to accomplish something, it could mean relishing the magic of being human and all that entails.

What a wonderful opening thought for 2013.  Though December can be a heavy, dark month I feel lighter with that thought.  Happy New Year to me.  And to you!

It’s the forest through the trees.

 

Read Full Post »


Nov.Shell1Another month lived and another beautiful shell taken from the bowl of a YEAR OF CONSCIOUS LIVING.  Its earthy colors and rippled exterior offer metaphor for life’s daily changes with its peaks and valleys of experiences.

It’s now mid December and I’m forcing myself to make this entry.  That sort of sums up how untuned in I’ve been this month. Days fly by before I recognize that I’m supposed to be paying attention.  And then I realize how often I just exist without making note of the daily hours.  As November started ticking down to its close I’ve wondered how I’ll journal its happenings.

XmasMantleSure, I did a lot and could include a roster of activities.  This is a busy month for everybody as most hustle to get ready for Thanksgiving and start the burden of Christmas shopping.   And “burden” is the operative word especially since everyone buys what they want all year and I have no ideas for anything special.

This month was very much about doing and very little about being and observing.  Plus, as a non sequitur, I’ve been eating a lot – which is apropos for the season.  (Looking forward to January when I can stop allowing myself to be enticed.  Talk about anticipating my life away!)

It does happen, though, when the passage of time takes center stage and I tune into more than five decades of life now behind me.

ReunionTake, for instance, my 40th year high school reunion.  40th YEAR!  Conveniently scheduled around Thanksgiving, about 140 of us (and some spouses, not mine) met up at a hometown country club and danced the night away. But much of the time was spent marveling over the 40 years that had passed and how much living took place in that time…marriages, divorces, children, grandchildren, travel, career choices, progress and set backs, health and deaths.  Multiply that list by 140 people and recognize how, at this time and place, we are touching each other’s lives once again and remembering the roles we played with each other as teenagers.  In all likelihood there won’t be another 40 years to reminisce about.  Now that’s a rude awakening!

911Memorial1And then there’s the 911 Memorial.  Talk about being abruptly awakened!  The truth about life is that one-minute you’re here and the next you’re not.  Imagine the mundane morning that greeted each of the fallen victims.  Life is always unpredictable and often tragic.  There’s another reason to be aware of each day and appreciate it.

Juxtaposed against that was Broadway, my favorite place to be.  As a kid my only dream was to star in Broadway musicals where I could sing and dance my heart out.  After many childhood cast rejections (a cruel reality in my life) I finally decided to find other dreams.  But the fire I feel while experiencing the best that American theater offers is still as strong today as ever.  And BroadwayCurtainI have to sit really close so I can be swept into the world created by a multitude of artists.  I live and breathe with the performers on stage.  And once in town, we gorge on theater, fitting in as many shows and plays as we can in just a few days.  This year it was 5 in 4 days.  Yay!  (I reviewed them on this blog site so check them out!)

It blew my mind that it had been two years since our last stage orgy and I can’t tell you what I’d done in those two years.  And I realize I won’t get that time back.  But I can say that experiencing theater is when I feel most alive, provided I’m within the first 10 rows.   The exhilaration and thrill of live theater brings me to tears, and I’m driven to scream out after a particularly moving song or dance number – when the emotion oozes out of the performer and wrings him dry.  Attend ONCE to experience that transformation during Steve Kazee’s or Cristin Milioti’s numbers.  Wow! 

And touch Chad Kimball’s soul in MEMPHIS during his gut stirring rendition of “Memphis Lives In Me.”

In re-living parts of November on paper I am aware of the fleeting moments of life, articulated well by Silas House in his New York Times piece The Art of Being Still.  A writer, he was given a piece of advice that drives his daily life:  “discover something new every day.”  Thank you for that.  It’s always possible to do.

Read Full Post »


As I substituted my Capri pants and tank tops for long jeans and sweaters, I realized that October is a month about transitions, especially here in East Tennessee where we’re most fortunate to experience four distinct seasons.  Fall here is exquisite and lasts longer than the hiccup it takes for our northern neighbors to go from hot to cold.  Here the leaves tease us before bursting forth in splendor.  The days surprise us with their fickleness between hot and warm before adding cool into the mix of “guess what you’re getting today?”  And now that it’s my job to pay attention to what this month offered my life, I’ve realized how this season created transitions of all kinds that define the rhythm of life.  October means I take one more shell out of my bowl of 12 that bids farewell to another month of my life.  Amazing how they’re flying by.  The older I get the faster they fly.  Hmmm, didn’t my  mother always tell me that?

Let’s start with the colors because our landscape of forested mountains and meandering rivers invite tourists from around the country to leaf peep with us.  I often marveled to my hiking partner, Jo, that “we live here!”  After calling ETN home for 16 years I’m still breath taken by the kind of scenery most people vacation to see.

Autumn in the Smoky Mountain National Park should be considered among the natural wonders of the world.  Each Thursday in October Jo and I drove an hour to reach a trailhead for our 7 plus mile hike.  The most talented landscapers in the world would be challenged to match the natural magnificence we experienced each week.

The streams, wildflowers, forest and waterfalls offered the kinds of pictures that inspire great painters.  It’s awe inspiring to recognize that no human put this landscape together, other than to clear out debris blocking trails.  In fact, cascading falls are so impressive that a tourist was rumored to ask a ranger when the water gets turned off.  Surely something so impressive couldn’t have just appeared!

Paying attention put me in touch with the awe-inspiring power of nature and the recognition that we are of it too.  Like the natural landscape, humans go through changes when we allow our bodies to dance with the season.  So do animals.

Horses at the Rescue started growing their winter coats.  Their turnout shifts changed from staying in to escape the daytime heat to going outside and loving up the chill.  Horses become quite playful when temperatures drop below 50 as though their sleeping pills wore off, freeing them to kick up their hooves in glee!

My 11-year old dog Pogo came alive too.  He had a resurgence of energy on his morning walks, running up and down hillsides as though his joints no longer ached.  Nine years ago he was the canine version of the Energizer Bunny, running all day only to finally collapse into sleep.  Crisp fall mornings allowed me to experience this joyful pup again.

I also found that my interest in heading to a favorite greenway with my bike seemed to wane, even on the warm days.  Instead, my walks grew longer and my yoga classes more frequent.  Beverages changed from ice water to hot decaf, and for lunch, soup replaced a sandwich.  I traded my sandals for shoes and socks and pulled my jackets out of their hiding places for those chilly mornings.

Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners have long recognized body changes with the seasons.  So do yoga practitioners.  I’ve found that by paying attention, I’ve felt those transitions too.

What did October bring you?

Read Full Post »


Madison rolled on her back, legs splayed wide, teasing me to rub her belly.  That’s not something she usually does; she has to know we’re alone and not in danger of intrusion from her brothers and sisters.  We enjoyed our quiet 20 minutes together while she wrapped the nook of her paw around my wrist and wriggled under my tickles.  I thought she’d choke on her purrs while she wrestled my hand in sheer uninhibited pleasure.

She’s the newest addition to our four-legged family, joining us several months ago when our fostering morphed into full-time adoption.  We’ve fallen madly in love and every time she’s near I’m awed by her startling beauty and sweet temperament.  She’s a blue point Persian, my first pedigree animal and she’s nothing like the snooty elitist I imagined she’d be.  She’s just a cat that wants to be loved, groomed, fed and sheltered and reciprocates with warm affection and devotion.

In fact I find all of our animals to be appreciative of our family.  They’re all rescues of various backgrounds with unique stories of how they came to be ours.  At this writing we have 5 cats and a dog, Pogo, the first canine in my life.  Their energies are completely different from each other and so is their interaction with us.

My tickling session with Madison happened while I was collapsed on my bed after a vigorous morning at the barn.  Each Tuesday I volunteer at Horse Haven of Tennessee, an equine rescue that rehabilitates those horses that suffered abuse and neglect.  They come in starving and distrusting people and they leave hundreds of pounds heavier and ready to be ridden.  As a life long animal lover and an aspiring horse owner I choke with emotion at the difference we make in their lives.  And they know it and appreciate.

This morning, like most Tuesday mornings in September, I loved on Toby.  He’s a Tennessee Walking Horse who’s become the latest object of my horse ownership fantasy.  He’s steadily gaining weight, muscle filling in the gaps between his protruding bones.  Because I’ve been grooming him we’re forming a friendship that eventually I’ll have to break when he’s well enough to have a new home.

As I reflect on this month I realize how prominent a role animals and nature play in my life. I need both for my soul to thrive.  That’s always been true and now that I lead a self-directed life I seem to drift deeper in that direction.

Mornings are occupied with walks through my wooded neighborhood with Pogo.  His nose works overtime picking up scents of the most recent critter that’s crossed our path.  When I’m quiet and tuned in, I notice an active wildlife community.  We have box turtles, squirrels, hawks, blue heron, snakes, deer, gofers, chipmunks, fish and insects of all shapes and sizes.  The animals we occasionally see are coyote and fox.  People go to zoos to see the animals we live among.  I’ve come to realize I love the woods and if offered a choice to live near the ocean or the woods I’d choose the latter.  Everything about me calms down when I’m surrounded by wilderness.

That’s why I’ve finally decided to hike trails in the Smoky Mountains, a National Park within an hour’s drive from my house.  This month I bought a trail book and each week I grabbed a neighbor to tackle 7 – 8 mile trails rated moderate in difficulty.  They take 4 – 5 hours to complete and the scenery along the way can be breathtaking.  We pass by rock-strewn streams and rivers, gushing waterfalls, caves, wildflowers, trees of many species and nothing but mountainsides and valleys everywhere we go.   The hike, combined with the scenery clears my head, opens my heart and makes me appreciate everything about my life.  This is where I live!  I don’t have to take vacations to visit here like most everyone we pass on the trails.  The beauty of nature is unsurpassed.

Bike riding offers a similar pleasure.  Because I ride on greenways I can usually avoid traffic and allow my breathing rhythm to be influenced by the peddling.  When the distraction of cars is eliminated the bike pace becomes amplified and the world slows down or speeds up accordingly.  I see people playing in parks, walking engrossed in conversation and fellow cyclers – many of us going nowhere fast, just out to enjoy the fresh air, scenery and exercise.

As I reflect on how I spent September one thing that stands prominent is a daily realization that I’ll never get to live this month in this year again.  Kiss September, 2012 goodbye.  Perhaps this is what the exercise is really about.  That and recognizing how much living I’ve actually done.

Achievement stands out, or lack thereof.  More recurring than any other thought was whether I’d do something substantive with my days, something worth writing about and sharing.  My inclination is to share my thoughts, to turn this adventure into a writing exercise as a way to engage creatively.  So many people I know have creative outlets like painting, music, dance, jewelry making, sewing, cooking.  None of those things turn me on.  Though I may want to feel inspired by such activities, I’m not.  I used to be juiced by making television shows about those subjects and others but not so much anymore.

What is achievement about, anyway?  Does it require payment for time spent and efforts recognized?  More on that in my next “September, lived” post.

Any thoughts?

Read Full Post »


Every Wednesday I head to my patient’s house for a few hours, though I spend very little time with her.  She’s bedridden and has been uncommunicative for many years, living our her last days with Alzheimer’s Disease.  Her husband sees to her every need while she receives hospice care.  He’s home day in and day out, leaving only when someone sits vigil in his stead.  That’s where I enter, to give him necessary time away.  There’s a lot to learn about living when spending time with the dying and with those who are charged with their assistance. What I’ve learned has certainly enhanced my appreciation for life and good health.

Frankly I’ve always marveled at how my life has unfolded over the years, starting with a rocky childhood and evolving into a stimulating career for 30 years, which allowed me to travel, meet intriguing people and do impactful work.  Three years ago I left my job and decided to stop working for a while, which might last for the rest of my life.  Who knows?  I do know that I’ve been using this newly created time for personal growth – spiritually, experientially and creatively.

The key is to pay attention along the way: notice the serendipity and how one experience, book or person begets another.   Dr. Lee Lipsenthal says to “enjoy every sandwich” in his book with the same title.  Make everything in life meaningful as though it was your last experience alive.  It’s an intriguing concept, one that dying people take to heart with each final day that ticks away.

I recently adapted a challenge posed in my discussion group.   The charge is to calculate the number of years I have left to live – using family history and lifestyle as consideration points.  Multiply that by months and gather that many stones in a bowl.  At the end of each month, remove a stone for the month that no longer remains and evaluate how I’ve spent that month.  Powerful stuff.  While I’m not prepared to commit to that exercise for the rest of my life, I am intrigued to try it for a year.

My bowl will be filled with 12 shells I’ve collected from my travels.  Each month I’ll pull one out and glue it to a frame that will surround a collage of photos, each one representing something important from that month.  In essence, it will be a scrapbook from a year of my life.

These pages will be filled with musings from those experiences.  My areas of concentration will include the very things that fill my life …

Healthy eating – I spent 16 months losing the 45 extra pounds on my small frame.  It’s a challenge to keep them off.

Exercise – usually in the form of walking, biking and hiking – where I’ve been, with whom and the adventures along the way.

Hospice work – experiences with my current patient and spouse or the next one – and the accompanying, inevitable deaths.

Animals – my five cats and dog as well as the rescue horses that I help to rehabilitate from abuse and neglect.  There’s always much to learn from animals when you listen and pay attention.

Relationships – with my husband, family and others with whom I’m involved, or met.

Adventures – however that’s defined.  It could be trips in our RV or by car.  Maybe it’s something else; time will tell.

The point is to live each month consciously while my life ticks away.  I’m curious to see how it unfolds and whether I can actually stay tuned in.

Ready, set … go.  September lived, coming up.  You’re welcomed to play along!

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: