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Archive for September, 2013

Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start. (Nido Qubein)

 At 4:00 in the morning I watch the clock move to 4:01 with the help of my vanity mirror. It reads backward, of course. But backward seems to fit how I feel. I am awake because my knees throb. However, there is nothing wrong with them. My legs are reasonably strong for a person with such short levers.

My back is creating the chaos. Sure, I’ve known since at least middle age that this no-need-to-duck-for-low-hanging-branches frame is slightly off balance. My right shoulder is closer to my right ear than the left shoulder is to the left. I guess the back got tired of the disharmony and said I’ve had enough. Then it forced my knees and lower legs to pick up the slack. In less flippant terms, x-rays show that I have lumbar stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal in the lumbar spine. I make a tent under the blanket with my legs and relax. That eases the pain—somewhat.

I am in no way unique. Many people experience this back condition. All an individual needs to do is live to middle age and beyond. My physical therapist said I am fortunate that I don’t have excessive fat around my middle. That adds additional pressure on the back.

I gave her one of those embarrassed, no-teeth-showing smiles. I can definitely pinch-an-inch, if not more where a belt would be if I had a fashion-model figure.

Unfortunately, due to a blood-clotting disorder I can’t take the standard non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. I’d give my kingdom for some ibuprofen—if I had a kingdom.

If-only leads nowhere, however.

As the numbers on the clock move into 5:00 I think about all the survivors I know: folk who have beat cancer, stroke, and unbelievable abuse issues. They are blessings. The trick is to focus on the inspiration, and not compare struggles. Who accomplished more? Does it matter?

I do a few core-strength exercises in bed: the old tried-and-true pelvic tilt, a slow and easy sway of both bent knees from side to side while pressing my lower back into the mattress. All moves focus on the upper and lower abdomen. A stronger core takes the pressure off of the narrowed area of the spine.

The clock tells me it is after 5:30, which looks like a 0, followed by a backward 3 and a 2. It isn’t too early to get up now and begin the day. And somehow, miraculously, I’m okay to do just that.

Not every message in life makes sense—seen directly or mirrored through the wisdom of someone else. Sometimes I just have to do what I can, with the information available and a positive outlook.

Peace to all wherever you may be along your journeys.

 beauty of the broken

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Life begins where your comfort zone ends. (Karen White, author, “Sea Change”)

My desktop background reflects where I am on my life’s journey in an odd sort of way. I change the picture frequently—just because I can. It displays family memories, a season, a humorous notion, or an uplifting thought or scene. For a few hours I decided it would be fun to rebel against responsibility, so I let Donald Duck stand behind all my icons. He claimed that he wasn’t cut out for adulthood.

I knew when I gave him center stage he wouldn’t be there for long, and eventually chose a sign that fit the moment better: PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE FEARS. It made me smile, yet expressed truth at the same time.

Now, as I talk on the phone to my nephew, Alan, I want to pretend to be Donald Duck and let someone else do the work. Alan is my tech support. I am trying to renew my virus protection on my laptop and it has FAILED. It lets me know in bold, bright, horrifying color. Alan is calm. He is a genius nerd who knows his stuff. I imagine my world locked inside these 0’s and 1’s, swallowed by a monster virus.

“Okay, simultaneously hit Control and J,” Alan says. “That will bring up your recent downloads.”

And it does—the first time. That download doesn’t complete either. My throat is as dry as desert rock on a-120 degree day. My laptop has other plans. it seems to be saying, I’m loading down, sister. taking a nap instead.

I catch sight of my desktop pic and sigh. Won’t feed the fear, but I could use a glass of water.

My nephew remains on the phone. He leads me to safe directions. I see the promised land and read a most precious word: INSTALLED.

Halleluiah! I have passed through dangerous land without being hijacked, robbed, or killed.

“Thank you,” I say, feeling as if I just gave a miracle worker a twenty-five-cent tip.

“Well, if computers worked all the time, we tech-savvy people wouldn’t have anything to do,” he answers.

He’s right, but that doesn’t diminish my gratitude one megabyte.

pic from the Optimism Revolution

don't feed fears Optimism Revolution

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Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans. (John Lennon)

Canceling our vacation plans seemed so strange I didn’t unpack for at least twenty-four hours. We expected to travel to the west coast. However, a family emergency demanded that we stay here, one of those no-brainer situations. Anyone who can spell the word emergency—and many who can’t—understand how that happens. It’s called reality. Insert any situation here. Little imagination required. Our emergency looks like it will be resolved, possibly even erased. Don’t know. That answer is left to the unknown future.

After the shock lifted, time appeared, hours of it. Sure I expected to make friends with a sequoia. That may happen eventually. Instead I tackled a manuscript that had felt like stirring congealed concrete. I finished a major edit.

Next I faced a physical issue I’ve been avoiding. I love parks and the outdoors. A three-to-five mile walk in a nature preserve equals love. I can think like a poet, examine the lines of trees, and follow the flight of a bird from a branch into the clouds. Within the past few months that experience has meant a big pain in the knees. Arthritis? Probably. That Art-form has visited many, many folk. And he doesn’t leave after a casual hint or two. He fights until bone rubs against bone. I have one finger in that condition. The rest of my body isn’t that far gone. It isn’t ready to plod through mountains, hills, and glens either. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up, however. Mr. Arthritis absorbs the couch potato.

My doctor referred me to a specialist. This ten-day space, the time to think, led me to accept vulnerability. I decided to live in the as-it-is present. Of course visions of the past show up as I recognize my awkward, uneven, old-lady gait. I recall my mother as she grasped the handrail and ascended the stairs one at a time.

She didn’t complain about how much each step hurt. Now, I appreciate the difficulty of those movements. She had knee replacements during earlier days of the surgery. She didn’t waste time complaining about her lot in life. Not much point to it. I pray that I can follow her example.

In the meantime beauty exists everywhere: in a sunburst, laughter, a recent uplifting conversation with my brother, Bill, and sister-in-law, Lisa. It appears in words and songs, in encouragement, and in the gift of simply being.

Jay and I will probably make plans for another vacation—some other time. Chances are we’ll actually make it through security and all the way to our destination. I create chaos without at least a little structure. But, for now, my husband and I have been repeating John Lennon’s words frequently. Yep, life is happening all around us, and I feel blessed to be in the midst of it.

enjoying scenery on a detour

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The best way to live is by not knowing what will happen to you at the end of the day. (Donald Barthelme)

I’m making good time on my way home from an errand—or at least I think I am—when several fire engines, smoke, and a local news team block the road. Fortunately a recreational facility is close by with a driveway large enough for a reasonable exit. I have no idea what happened. Perhaps the six o’clock news will provide a clue. I’m grateful that help is present and there is another route home. It means backtracking and extra driving time, but it sure beats up-in-flames.

A few hours ago I had a sense of caution. I needed to control it before it broke out into full-blown panic. I had passed up a road I knew well. A sense of foreboding followed. I didn’t know why. Something troublesome felt imminent. I drove with excessive caution. Strange, but after seeing the roadblock, the flashing lights on the fire trucks, and the chaos in the street, I felt in control. Concerned, definitely. But I was okay, for no understandable reason. Sure, I could pray for the folk involved. But this was not the time for me to get in the way. My ’97 Toyota isn’t equipped to put out a fire.

Life offers strange twists and turns. Yet this much I know, worry is a circular road that doesn’t go anywhere.

By the way, I’m taking a short hiatus from this blog, but I’m coming back before the end of the month. Happy journeys to all.

driving

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A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life. (William Arthur Ward) 

While we are having coffee one younger woman in a group of friends mentions that she had a dream about me. I helped her get somewhere.

One man who has known me for a long time laughs. My poor sense of direction is well-known, and he makes a point of it. I can’t deny it. Turn me around twice; I can’t tell which way is up.

“We were walking,” the young woman says.

“Well, that’s different.” My friend grins and pretends to make left and right moves almost simultaneously.

Actually, I’ve been known to get turned around in a shopping mall, but I would rather discuss moments of discovery instead of loss.

Later, as our small group disperses for the day, the young woman looks over her shoulder and calls back, “Thanks for helping me find the bathroom in my dream.”

I smile in the car as I drive home. Apparently my influence had nothing to do with philosophy, wisdom, the answer to an eternal question, or even the missing ingredient in a recipe. However, it did focus upon a basic need. And the story gave me a laugh—another important part of life.

Sure, I would like to play a major role in other people’s lives, but when I think about it, that sounds like a pretty huge burden to bear. Besides, sometimes even talk that would appear innocent can hurt. “That’s my husband,” I told a woman in the Y pool one day. “We’ve been married for 42 years.” I would gladly have retrieved and swallowed those words if I had known she lost her husband after nine short years of marriage.

There have been times when I have met folk I once knew well and they don’t remember anything about me. Then I speak with someone I scarcely knew years ago and they recall intimate details. Life doesn’t always make sense. I’m not sure it is supposed to. I do know that there is a complicated maze to get from here to there, even for the most fundamental needs.

I am grateful for my dreaming friend. Actually she has shared some significant moments of discovery that I treasure.

Peace, laughter, and joy to all along the way.

laughter words to inspire the soul

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I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing. (Agatha Christie)

Rounding I-465, entering I-74 and heading for home, trouble begins. No umpire strikes us out. An act of nature interferes. When my husband and I left St. Louis the temperature registered in the car at 99—before noon. There was enough humidity in the air to boil an egg. Now that handy-dandy gauge on the dashboard of my husband’s car indicates dramatic change: 88, 84, 78…70. Deep, dark clouds hover. A rainbow appears to the left, but to the right the darkness promises action. I pray for gentle rain at least for the next hour and a half. That’s all the time we need to reach home base. However, the blackness swells.

Breathe, Ter, Breathe!

The first lightning, almost a straight line, appears ahead, along the center of the highway. Not a pleasant omen. Within two minutes the electricity has spread. Then hail falls along with enough rain to be a waterfall. Visibility almost nil. Jay turns on his warning lights. Fortunately the car in front of us does also. I can no longer see the color of the vehicle. It was dark blue or black. Now it appears white, like the sky. Two loud splashes alongside us let us know drivers in the left lane don’t seem to be alarmed. They travel as if this day were blue, cloudless, and traffic-free. All we can do is inch ahead, hope the hail doesn’t grow larger, other drivers don’t pull anything crazy, and the storm ends.

I think about our visit with Jay’s aging mother and hope I left kindness behind. Somehow, I suspect we will make it through, but no one ever knows for sure—even on a day that appears perfect. The sun is present; it will return, I tell myself. Then I imagine calmness in my husband and pray it touches him. After all, he is fighting this battle. I am only present within it.

I wonder if one of those daring drivers decides to pull in front of us—and hits our car and not open highway, would my thoughts turn to times when I missed opportunities to do good, or said unhelpful words? Don’t know. Just speculating. And I’m grateful when that chance doesn’t happen.

We live someplace in time, under the rainbow, through the storm, among possibilities. I wonder what today holds.

pic from Positive Thoughts page

rainbow lights through trees positive thoughts

 

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