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The Thanksgiving List

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Last year I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, yesterday the Dr. told me I also have fibromyalgia — I’m loathe to believe it and hope maybe it is Diet Cokes of which – though I quit a while back I still drink two a day. They are really destructive to the system.  I never thought I would have to quit Diet cokes as well as alcohol. Ah, well, no pity party.

However, it is hard – I’m tired and pushed down enough. I did get breast cancer 3 years ago and had a lumpectomy, but I was totally fatigued for a year plus after the operation – I thought it was part of my “grieving” process from the other stuff (too long to get into for those that don’t know — but lots of ambiguous loss that pushed my body and mind to the limits) I was still drinking at the beginning of it and had been for 4 years after my relapse from almost 4 years of sobriety. Point is my immune system is done with me — it’s so used to working overtime to heal from alcohol, previous use of cigs (I quit), and massive, unrelenting Stress & Trauma that it can’t shut down.

Every time I’ve gone back to school in the last couple of years I’ve had to withdraw. I’ve learned to knit well, but in the last few months I haven’t been able to do that very much.

I’m walking at the Zoo, I’m taking supplements which have helped immensely and have changed my diet radically, but I started a medication for the RA a few days ago which is making me very sick.

It’s you know – hard! I want to give up, but I know I can’t –

I’ve tried going to the RA and Fibro forums but those are worst case scenario’s – I’m not sure where to go next.  I just wish my body wasn’t screwing with me right now. I’ve made where I live doable, I’ve been grateful for the small gifts and graces brought my way.

I make a Thanksgiving menu/list every year, well the last few years since the move; I added a grateful reminder in the margin – I started the second year and wrote [about me and my family]: “2nd year mobile home, we’re better   a little  in a good way” –

The third year: “Gram is gone. Family is good   the year has been Rocky But we feel good enough to complain about it. : ) I knit!”

This year I wrote so much I’ve decided to add an extra page next year.

Healing, growing, developing our personalities, trusting ourselves in life, through recovery is a process – it doesn’t happen in a couple months. Tragedies still strike, changes still happen that we are unprepared for, – maybe thats not true. Through the work of recovery we find tools to manage, to have courage – – our hearts – our souls are so resilient, we’ve just got to give them half a chance.  Sometimes we aren’t perfect,  but people either know us and our true hearts or they don’t – and then you just put it behind you.

I realize this is kind of a mixed message. I’m low, but not; in pain, but grateful; a little fearful, but hopeful.

Finding my gratitude, being mindful, doing breath work, reading the bible (or other inspirational material) — walking often in nature — these things fill the well, expand a heart that wants to contract and pull in.

Oh, and one bit of happy news as well – I’ve been accepted into the Caring Ministries at the Church and after some training I will be able to help in the grieving center, and hospice volunteer training is next.

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Renaissance Women

Simonetta-by-Boticelli-Renaissance-Woman-216x300It seems there are the dreams of old, the teenager ones of “who we want to be when we grow up” – then the college try at something that seems a little more doable shelving the “other” dream. Then the marriage and kids arrive and new priorities with them. But also, I’ve come to understand that though what I learned  may no longer hold my interest, there are new and exciting activities to pursue – and all that experience contributes – I can also see a common thread that help me choose my direction. And I can see through experience how to let go of what doesn’t work.

How many of you are Renaissance woman? We study and learn through our 20’s, 30’s and 40’s (and beyond). Some stuff sticks forever – others were year to two year learning experiences. But they counted! They’re part of who we are! Remembering who I am past being mother and recovered alcoholic is really important to me.

As long as we keep learning, keep giving, keeping smiling, keep investigating our purpose may not always be clear, but we are fully engaged in life.

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Closed Doors

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I’ll write another post about them opening, but for now I want to notice the click, the squeak, the hinge bend, slowly, quickly, slamming, gently, softly shutting doors.

I was searching for something to write and looked up to a movie my husband was watching; I don’t know what it was, but briefly on screen was a white door with a black knocker; the front of an old suburban home. There was no one on screen, and the door, only partially open softly clicked shut. It struck a chord for some reason. The finality of a goodbye.

I gather many doors close through the years – many, many; maybe a million times. How many times have you shut a door in a lifetime? Shutting a door is always a transition small or large. It signifies the end of something, and too, the beginning. End getting kids ready to school, begin getting them there.  Walk out on fight with partner. Walk out permanently. Struggle to close a door behind you carrying luggage for a trip. Lots of car doors closing.  Bedroom doors and bathroom doors; bathroom doors are full of emotion;  hiding embarrassed sickness or cleansing life’s dirt, maybe the only refuge for the day. Neighbors doors, friends doors, not so good of friend doors, screen doors that always seem to swing too quickly behind you, sliding doors that don’t slide on their tracks, patio doors to the outside; to the inside, apartment doors.  Leaving someone who is in trouble; closing the door behind with only the words you said, the hugs you gave left to comfort them. Closing the door on my son’s dorm room; the sudden bereftness. Remembering quietly closing the door when he was small and napping, small and sick, small and exhausted from the fair. Closing the door to the vacation home by the sea for the last time. Did I ever pay attention to a door unless it was the last time.  I can still feel the handles, see the carved outlines and know forever the worn weight of “last time” doors.

I wonder how many doors can I picture from the time I was a little girl, time before time if I took the time. I don’t really remember a door until I was five or so – the door I was busting to get into to. It was a locked duplex, we lived upstairs, the little dog was biting my heels, and I wasn’t supposed to cross the street where the little dog chased me from. It was a double edged sword, but fear won out, regardless of the possible chastisement help was needed.

I closed a car door on my finger once. That was a trip and a half. I had to shut the door further before I could unlock it and free my finger.

There’s figurative doors that shut that I’ve either pounded on to get back in until I got my way, or walked away dejectedly to try another day, or leave behind all together. Maybe thinking about doors we have closed or have been closed on us is a way to affirm the life we have chosen.

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It seems without knowing it I stumbled on to a healing technique: Knitting. A google search brought me to two articles: http://www.knitonthenet.com/issue4/features/therapeuticknitting/ 

and 

http://www.naturalsuburbia.com/2013/01/guest-post-why-knitting-is-good-for-us-by-melisa-neilsen.html .

I don’t want to poach on what they have already said but a statement said by the latter stood out to me: “with each knitting session I could  almost feel my brain stitching itself back together.” Wow. YES!

 

Last August I began to knit. I had some needles and yarn from a fruitless, years ago knitting exploration. It just so happens it involved 5 DPN’s (double pointed needles) to knit a four-sided tarot bag for my son. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I just knit – fearlessly. I didn’t care about the mistakes or if it was perfect. I was just knitting for me. You learn to rip back sooner than later to fix glaring mistakes. ImageThere is a life lesson there. 

 

I didn’t know I would fall in love with color and texture, Image with the beauty of yarns and the differences in needles – and oh my, there are so many, and to my surprise can turn into a very expensive habit. You save like the dickens for that set of interchangeable needles that you love so much, for that yarn that you just have to try. I fell hard for the rhythm of building one stitch upon another. I didn’t know it was healing my mind. 

 

There is a concentration involved in learning anything new, but knitting different projects begins that concentration anew every time. It’s a built in Mindfulness tool. For one who could never meditate Knitting was the solution. Oh, but it is not all perfect in paradise.  Knitting can also be frustrating.

 

I learned that knitting brought forth a colorful array of swear words on occasion, and recently on a particularly hard knitting pattern, after thousands of stitches, I buried the unfinished knitting project deep in my knitting box. And I wasn’t particularly gracious about it!

 

I’ve made friendships with others across the world through knitting. The common thread (ha) seems to tie us together and to our lives. We laugh at the antics of cats that have found and terrorized our knitting balls, at children running through the house tangled in yarn and of a satisfaction of friends and family enjoying the fruits of our labor. 

 

I fond solution to still my mind, to give it time to breathe. Knitting has distracted me from the chronic pain of RA and has got me through many a tuff day. I’ve learned a new language: ptbl, k2tog, ssk, among many all put together in a pattern by a designer who fell in love too. With the Internet now it’s possible for anyone to learn to knit. I will include a couple of sites at the end of this post. 

 

As with any relationship or any artistic endeavor there are ups and downs. Exciting fruitful times and fallow periods. In knitting circles there are very definite opinions about needles, and even those with  a wee bit of a superiority complex, those that are perfectionist, but mostly it’s a kind hearted forgiving crowd, many that give advice and nurture the newbie along. You find groups that watch television shows while knitting – surprisingly a lot of sci-fi fans. Two groups I like are the “Downton Abby” crowd and the “Once Upon a Time” fans. We dig for the patterns worn on these shows. And are excited when another finishes a project. 

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Knitting is a great Patience instructor. There is nothing like casting on your new knitting project, but one row does not a project make. You have to finish what you start. Another lesson learned. KAL’s (knit alongs) are great for keeping one going when a project gets to that middle part and finishing seems a long way off. Knitting begets patience at the doctors office, or anywhere else I have to wait. Suddenly I’m not looking at the clock or wondering what the hell is taking so long. I just knit, happy with the yarn gliding in and out of my fingers, needles warm in my hands watching the pattern do it’s magic. 

 

http://www.knittinghelp.com

http://www.techknitting.blogspot.com

http://verypink.com

http://www.purlbee.com

 

http://www.yarn.com

http://www.theloopyewe.com

http://www.eatsleepknit.com

http://www.knitpicks.com

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I wanted to check in and say hello, to tell you that though it seems like nothing is going on in my life – I think much as changed. After terrifying and tragic events they say:”what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Well, my body made a stab at death with a breast cancer diagnosis. It was more of a warning: take better care of yourself. It was a small cancer semi-easly taken out by a lumpectomy. Rheumatoid Arthritis has told me the intense prolonged stress compromised my immune system permanently.  So, it didn’t kill me – but it sure effed with my life – sort of. 😉

Do you know what MadelineTosh yarn is? Neither did I. It’s a beautiful, hand-dyed, soft yarn. It slips like butter through your fingers when you knit with it. This is a small and simple pleasure. It requires authenticity about who I am, who I want to be. Yes, others lives can look exciting, perhaps fuller – but do they have mine? My kids (oh, goodness, my beautiful, awesome sons)? Do they have slow nights watering the outdoor plants with a husband, enjoying the daily visit of the hummingbird at dusk while we play just s simple game of cribbage and listening to Pandora – sometimes a CCR station, sometimes a Coldplay, sometimes my new favorite: Florence+TheMachine? That’s my life. That’s what makes me content. I’m not chasing after dreams anymore. I’m living life on life’s terms. I can’t speak to anyone else. I don’t know them. Though I do know too many women are driven by other women’s achievements and lifestyles. Pretensions give the ego a boost. Inside fear will do that. Strip that away and you have the rawness of you.

I stopped the plethora of self-help books, I stopped the self-flagellation of getting to the gym, I stopped feeling guilty for eating. I stopped. When I finally brought my head up and looked around I saw life different. It was like x-ray vision. Everyone’s faults were glaringly obvious. I knew on some level it was my own faults be reflected back. So, large because after all was stripped away I had only myself to face, to befriend. Those faults would be my my first lessons, the Grace that was so freely given during crisis was hidden, lost. Every fiber of my being was screaming ‘no’ to life. I did not want it anymore. I hated what happened to me and hatred as a way multiplying quickly. My hatred & envy, contempt & cynicism took over. Some would say the Devil. I would say when you are full of resentment and ego it is a dance with the devil: and it darkens your soul has nothing else can.

Loss and grief don’t just bring out the best in you, they have contemporaries that one wants to deny – after all reading all the books of other survivors one must be a stoic, a positive force for change. I didn’t know that after the purging a mirror would be held up; and though the first thing I would see was the best of me, the worst of me was there too and the full force of those awful demons would confuse me for 2 years.

I used to be a borderline atheist – some say crisis makes you believe what you need to to survive. Maybe. Maybe your world gets so small that you finally see what has been there all along. You see the neters, the lights, the millions of sub-atomic particles that wave through your body every milli-second. You feel Grace in a big way. You know something besides coincidence as happened – and you doubt you’ll ever be able to explain it to anyone; but you know undeniably, forever there is something besides you there.

Crisis opens you up, it tears you apart and rebuilds. The destruction is complete and utter. The darkness long and unimaginable. The light small and slow to come. And for awhile there is not even Hope to hang onto. Waves of lowness that take your breath away and leave you feeling more lonely that you ever thought possible. Sometimes you pray, sometimes you damn God, sometimes there is nothing. The ‘Grace’ is even when you have given up, your body doesn’t. Strength grows despite yourself; unconsciously.

I’m no longer raw and wounded (well, maybe still a little on the latter) – But by saying “yes” to life again tells me I have started to deal with those demons, those shadows. It urns out they won’t be exorcised. Turns out they can’t be ignored or shamed or stomped out; turns out I have to love them despite my judgement that they are wicked – that some how they make me “a bad person”.

So, 3 years, 3 months later I’m consciously choosing to say “yes” to life again. And with no rules from the past to guide or obstruct me anymore, I honestly don’t know what that means – but somehow I think it has to do with peace of heart.

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There it is, I’ve decided to take on the wee beginnings of what will be a lifetime of experimenting and negotiating with my body.  I’m in pain, right now, pretty much all over; hands, feet, ankles, upper neck/spine. It’s not debilitating, but fairly substantial. I’m a newbie in RA circles, otherwise know as RAbies. The doctor is just throwing narcotics and a prescription anti-inflammatory my way to get me through until it gets worse. That was interesting to hear.  I didn’t respond well to the steroids – I’m bi-polar too, which makes medicating me difficult and while I’m throwing out labels I’ll mention briefly I’m a recovered/recovering (trust me in the alcoholic community wording that can cause huge arguments – so I split the difference) alcoholic. So, I use the narcotics sparingly – just enough to take the edge off. They don’t work after a certain point anyway unless you want to walk around with a cloudy brain.

I’m currently studying Nutrition at a Holistic school and finishing/starting (depending on your point of view) a Biology degree at the University. Trying to make sure my credentials sound important enough there to back up my statement: I know nothing. I want to learn more anyhow. I’ve had issue’s with my health that I’ve thus far been able to ignore for a long time. The migraines from childhood, hives, achilles, breast cancer (lumpectomy) and the depression mania cycles  — all of which I didn’t really acknowledge until the last 10 years. Age – it has a way of making one become aware of pain, yet at the same time there is a resilience for the long haul, and an understanding past the stubbornness of when it’s time to get this looked at.

I’m in the stage of “research” – just slightly past denial.  Listen, after you have researched exhaustively everything on alcoholism and bi-polar I just said WTF to the RA and shelved it. Then I ate as clean as I could. I’d already thrown out white flour, wheat, sugar, fast food, and the like. And, eventually my diet cokes and cigarettes. (1 diet coke can and 7 cigs) – Though not the diet coke and the medium layered butter (actually 10/40 oil) popcorn at the movie theater.  Not yet on that one. Added  walking, swimming, fish oil, flax and berries to the diet. But with RA you pretty much can’t eat anything. Besides the usual culprits I can’t eat corn or nightshades – that includes the tomato and the potato. And it turns out shellfish is out as well.  (I’ve never been a big meat eater, anyway) No peanuts, (no biggie) but whole grains are out except rice and quinoa, most legumes except adzuki  – Vegan cookbooks are almost worthless, so are the gluten free ones. Try googling, wheat-free, soy-free, corn free, tomato free, potato free eating? I’m sorry, woman can’t live by steamed veggies alone!

I’m in the early stages and hits the internal organs and the complications are numerous. I think I’ve had it a long time, it just made it’s self visible in the form of fatigue after the lumpectomy. And then an infection seemed to turn on the digestive pain and then suddenly it seemed it felt like someone took a sledgehammer to my hands. Turns out my body as been fighting a great battle and I didn’t help it for a few years there.

Now I know better. I don’t have insurance – when I looked into it I had already been diagnosed with bi-polar so, pre-existing condition. I actually had to leave the country after the breast cancer diagnosis for the lumpectomy in order to afford surgery.

The thing is this is not a subject I want to blog about except in passing. I’m not qualified to give advice or even speak to what RA is besides it’s an auto-immune chronic disease – not just, “my joints ache.” I’ll read other blogs about it and if I find something helpful that someone reading here might find useful I’ll share the link.

I do know that RA flares can cause fatigue or pain or both. Somedays my hands are swollen and so hot/inflammed I need to run them under cold water. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason even if I’ve eaten like a saint. Sometimes it might come out in tone of writing -BUT  We’ve all got something we are trying to keep balanced in life, to keep light, to make it easier for our loved ones to be around us and god, not complain! Maybe a gripe or two. I spied two books that might either make me a better patient or run for the hills.   “How to be Sick: A Buddhist-Insprired Guide for the Chronically Ill” — See, sick and ill in the same sentence – and chronically! Such a bright and shiny invitation to accept you are really screwed! And the other is “You Don’t LOOK Sick!: Living Well With Invisible Chronic Illness.” A tad better.

But, I am extremely hopeful about my path to Naturopath. Between the alcoholism and learning how to deal with it ortho-molecularly (vitamins, Dr.Linus Pauling) and finding ways to help ameliorate the bi-polar without meds at first and then learning how to combine medications, exercise and vitamins and which ones had contraindications — not that any of that was streamlined or done perfectly. It was a raw process .  The important thing in life is to have direction and purpose and this is just another learning tool in the arsenal.

Like my new favorite animated film The Croods exclaim every morning: Still Alive!!

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A Parents Job

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“A parents job, from the time a child is born is not to screw it up.”

Don’t shame, or guilt them. They are who they are at birth. They have a personality, including flaws – just like you. Don’t try to beat it out of them, just teach them how to deal with the discovery of who they are. I mean whats the one thing we are constantly buying self-improvement books for? How to deal with who we are. Usually done by trying to change, affirm, muscle build, diet, recover our way out of our own shame and guilt and lack. The stuff we usually try to blame on our parents.

I mean my mother won’t get any awards and because of that I’m a better mother. There you go, but I still did and do stuff that is genetic. My dad always talked about when he would be dead, and his grandfathers death and the do and don’ts of death. I never thought much of it as a ‘thing’ to bring up with the therapist. I just noticed in fact that I do it too – and that it scares my sons, all this prep for death stuff. I realize now I never liked it, ever. I worshipped my dad so I didn’t think that was a ‘bad’ thing (that tendency to black and white the world makes the in-between hard to distinguish). So, I told my sons I was sorry, and about their grandfather and decided to stop. They feel better, I feel better – and though it is now probably part of something deeper inside of them and I probably screwed up there, they are also men of their own, dealing with their own shit, of my making, their making, life’s making and they have to stumble through like the rest of us.

All I could do in the early years to make that easier was and is to love them unconditionally for whoever they were. I watched layers of personality develop and just tried to steer them into being able to deal with all of their emotions – without telling them not to have them, or to have different ones. They didn’t need to be fixed; they were perfect already.  I guess most of us don’t get that about ourselves, hence the big search.

And the other thing, “get off your ass and get involved”. Not in soccer practice, but stop shouting across the house, or living room or whatever instead of stopping what you are doing which in my generation usually meant in front of the TV or cooking, yours is probably in front of a computer or that extension glued to your hand, and GO talk to them. They need you, lots and lots of you and your face – and that means your face exercising a little bit of self-control – you know that stuff you are trying to teach them!

Okay, done with kid lecture. You’re a kid too, you know. You never really grew up Peter Pan or Arrietty. You’re loved, somehow, somewhere we aren’t alone and we are loved.

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