Tuesday, 30 December 2008

contemplating the life of a resolution . . .

Yep, I'm a sucker for them.

I do like to review the past year and contemplate what kind of positive changes I need to institute in my day to day life as I baby-step my own path toward optimal living.

Even if the resolution doesn't stay with me throughout the entire year, I find it a good practice of introspection-- much like writing here invites me to explore issues that I might not quite articulate in my head or find time to ponder.

In my head it can look more like: thought, thought, damn I'm a wimp for not handling ______ better, thought, blah, thought, oh yeah I need to remember to breathe, thought, thought, blah, thought . . . ad nauseam.

In other words when my feet are spinning and I'm rushing to work or helping others with their goal setting or most recent dilemma, or herding children, my inner cognitions aren't necessarily the most centered or goal oriented. In fact, during much of the busy time my goal for those thoughts is stopping them rather than exploring them so they do not take energy from their other matters at hand.

Therein lies the gift of scheduled contemplation. Whether it be reviewing the past year and thinking of goals for the next, or journalling, or blogging, or having a heartfelt conversation with a soul mate-- that committed time to evaluate and plan about "life" as we know it and as we want it is a productive gift. And also an opportunity to contemplate discarding what hasn't been working the past year. So, yep, I like that once a year I actually take a few days to ponder possibilities for change.

This year I'm scheming a plan to totally psych my inner psyche out. What if I commit to getting at least 15 minutes of exercise a day and challenge myself to keep the streak the entire year? I've exercised every day for 6 weeks one time; it was doable. The psych out, I would hope, would be that once I have done 15 minutes-- nine times out of ten I will continue further. I can't remember ever planning to exercise only 15 minutes.

So there you have it, with 2 days left to ponder . . . I may have a simple one but I think it would prove a challenge and I really think it would feel close to finishing- a-marathon-exhilaration if I could do it.

And for the record, I'm usually very vague-- I'll have a healthier diet, I'll exercise more, I'll spend more time meditating. I'm willing to experiment and see if the concrete may be more effective for me.

I think. . . two days to decide.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

and there we have it . . .

It is post Christmas and while everyone's holiday beliefs, practices and cultural foundation is different, there does seem to be a common theme of being ever hopeful of magical times during this season.

WARNING: Don't read any further if you are expecting an uplifting holiday message.

It is a well known fact that this time of the year can be extremely difficult for some people-- people that feel isolated, that have had more than their share of loss, people going through difficult times or depression . . .

This Christmas I felt like a I was living the movie "It's a Wonderful Life." Not that part about it being a wonderful life, but the part where you are shown how easily life around you can be totally different--in a very negative way-- or that your life can change for the worse in a matter of a minute.

Part of the responsibility for my glimpse into this netherworld has to do with the fact that I do work in a helping capacity in the medical field, so I hear stories. Lots of stories. But they are not fiction. They are real life.

I saw one of the sweetest people I've met recently the week before Christmas. "Did you see it in the paper? He died last week." The tears streamed down her face as she smiled and said, "I'll be all right." I knew her husband had been ill, but I didn't realize he was that ill. We talked about her grief AND relief for the end of his suffering. I knew she would be all right. But the empathy, which is what drives people like me into a field of work I do sometimes hits very hard. As I imagined the loss of her life partner and the holiday gathering where they would further experience his absence, I felt her pain.

The same day, I ran into another of the sweetest people ever. "It's been a bit of a stressful time. We just found out yesterday that my husband has prostate cancer; we find out how bad it is tomorrow." She stated that when the nurse called to tell them the bad news she said, "I keep telling the doctor to stop ordering these tests around the holidays. I can't bear giving families bad news at this time of the year." Her response: "We are hoping that we can view it as a gift-- that it was found early." This woman is in her 50's and her husband is the youngest 70 year old you would ever see. I enjoyed listening to their biking stories; they are avid bikers and exercisers. Her eyes glistened as she talked about how they were being so conscious of living a healthy lifestyle so they could increase the years they would be together-- discussions my husband and I have about our life . . . Once again the empathy tugged.

One of my husband's dear nurse's husband had a sudden onset of some rare neurological symptoms that put him in ICU-- unresponsive and on a ventilator exactly 2 weeks before Christmas day. She has been living in the ICU because he seems more calm when she is there. He had just recently retired and they had just moved into their home that they built for this phase of their lives-- a place where they could be in the country enjoying the land and their well deserved less hectic lives together. These plans have been altered. The doctors are not sure about his recovery at all. It was proving difficult to wean him off the vent and his responses were limited. Her future, as she envisioned it, is forever changed.

This Monday morning I ran into my husband in the parking garage at the hospital as we were both coming in to work; he had an earlier meeting at another location and had been paged. A patient that was very special to him-- he regularly brought us pheasant that he hunted-- had just been found dead in his driveway. "This is tragic," he said. That's horrible I told him. And then I shared my horrible news of the day. As I was walking out the door my brother had called. A classmate from grade and high school had just committed suicide. He was having some legal difficulty, was separated from his second wife-- the mother of their twins and had four children from a previous marriage. My 86 year old mother is very close to his mother and was devastated trying to comfort her friend through what she has always said would be the most awful thing: to lose a child before you die. The small town's Christmas surely felt different to everyone this year. What will Christmas mean to his children for the rest of their lives???

That same Monday I picked our four year old up from school and his cheeks were beet red. It was a long work day so it was almost 6:00 when I got him. He was burning up so I took him directly to Prompt Care where we spent the next 90 minutes. Thankfully we took him then and got him started on some antibiotics because his condition deteriorated rather quickly. I slept with him for the next two nights. Or shall I say he slept with me. In his delirious sleep he nightmared, kicked and thrashed. He half slept. I watched him.

The next day, this past Tuesday, I found out that a sweet, sweet man that was in the play The Laramie Project with us was found dead in his apartment after not showing to work. He was 54. He didn't have much family and from the looks of his obituary in the paper there may not be a service. Man, I wish I would have seen him at some point just to say hi. Now he's gone.

We finally got to Christmas eve with a house full of nine kids. The two sleep deprived parents became crabby and fussy and didn't communicate very respectfully with each other over some misunderstandings. We were creating our own version of the nightmare before Christmas. Getting up at 2:30 a.m. to distribute gifts added one more sleep deprived night to the bank and we were up to the beckoning of children, painted on the delirious smile and got through Christmas day.

Finally, I thought-- the youngest slept in his bed and did okay last night and seems to be out of the woods. Finally I will get that much needed night's rest.

At 2:30 a.m. there was a knock on the door. My fourteen year old informs me that he couldn't make it from his loft bed to the bathroom and has puked all over his bedroom floor. Being the gagging at the sight of puke-incompetent parent that I am and wishing hope upon hope that he wasn't REALLY sick and it was a one time event I gave him the paper towels, garbage bags and spray disinfectant and explained to him what to do. I don't think he saw my fingers crossed behind my back.

He was back soon informing me that cleaning up the puke had made him puke more. A concept I totally related to as I gagged my way through cleaning up the mess. That cleaning process was so massive I had to do it in stages: initial cleaning, baking soda sitting on it for hours, vacuum up, another soap and water clean, disinfecting . . . (hey, I know this is way too much information-- you should have been living it!) He has JUST risen from his almost 36 hour sleep with minimal doses of ice chips and ginger ale. The kid was SICK.

And here I am on December 27th. I think our kids actually had a pretty good time for Christmas. And besides the couple of glimpses of tears running down my face, I think I was pretty good at hiding just how much all of this misery and sadness around us-- as well as our own sleep deprivation-- had affected me.

The bad news: there were even more sad stories but continuing this post in that vein was just getting morose. The good news: last night was the first night in I-don't-know-how-long I got a normal night's sleep.

So my message? While many of you reading this may have experienced all kinds of magic going on around you-- millions of others were experiencing the most tragic pain of their lives, accented by the fact that it was the holiday season-- a time for cheer and memories and wonder.

Let's light a candle for the troubled and the dying and the dead.

Let's live a life that realizes it could all change drastically in one moment.

Let's get a good nights' sleep every night we can . . . (I know, the profundity astounds . . .)

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Oh Balance. . . where are you . . . (singing)

Tis the season.

Yesterday while driving around town I noticed just how un-holiday it looked. There are still leaves gathering around.

And I also noticed that the holiday schedule of commitment after commitment is upon us and it STILL doesn't feel very holiday like.

Thanks, in part, to Oprah-- after perusing January's edition of her magazine yesterday-- I do believe I know the cause of my skewed vision of this season: lack of balance.

Oprah comments on, ahem, where did those 40 lbs come from that she had lost a few years ago?

While I'm not obsessed with Oprah (my dear husband bought me a subscription just to have a night time read around when I am not into a book), I totally related to her dilemma. She realized that, once again, she let herself slip low on the priority totem pole.

How many of us do that? We have the best intentions of keeping up with our personal practice that we know helps us feel more balanced, more centered, more "zen-like" and just when you are breathing a sigh of relief, "whew, so glad I'll not have to go back to that chaotic way of life again," there you are perched atop the ferris wheel of stress-full living.

Consider giving yourself the gift of a regular check-in to make sure you are keeping yourself in the balance where you function best.

I know I have one, uno, 1, act that if I can just do it consistently-- the rest of my practice (exercising, writing, meditative practice) falls in place: sufficient sleep.

As a gift to myself, I hereby will give myself the gift of resting my body sufficiently. I will strive to be in bed by 9:30 and to sleep by 10:30. My body needs the rest.

In my wildest dreams as a teenager, would I have ever thought that the BEST holiday gift ever could be a curfew?

What is that one gift you can give yourself that you know would make everything else fall into place a little better for you? Maybe the first gift to yourself is pausing long enough to answer that question.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, 1 December 2008

One holiday down . . .

I hope this finds you all in a post holiday state of bliss.

I, on the other hand, ahem, am exhausted.

We had a relatively small and intimate and lovely Thanksgiving day and meal. Then Friday we took a whirlwind trip to Chicago to see my friend Anna's solo show (check out her new song if you want some inspiration!). Stephen, Atticus and I spent the night with her and her husband and their four year old and we were up at 6:00 the next morning to hit the road home.

Tomorrow I hit the road and travel 2 hours south to pick up my mom to come spend the week with us. She turns 86 on Friday and my son Luke turns 18 on the ninth.

Mom is still going to strong. She exercises and works in her yard, but she is getting a bit less reluctant to make solo road trips venturing too far from home. It's been a long time since she's come for a long sleep over and I look forward to having her here.

I'm having my family here on the 7th for holiday/birthday celebrations; it will be 15-20ish people.

Then my hubby and I are heading off to St. Louis for a few nights of R+R. Books. No laundry. No taxiing. No schedules. No have to's

That following weekend Luke and I will travel to Chicago for his audition and interview for Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Then the immediate Monday, the 15th, I host our holiday book club gathering.

And thereby goes the circle of life and living and doing and the reminder to, yes, sneak in the R + R freely and guiltlessly when able . . .

Or forever hold my peace.

Yes, I've run twice this past week and it felt great. Especially when I was finished.

The above picture is motivation for dreams and doing. It is a smidge of the amazingly beautiful, yet challenging ride we did in Cape Town, South Africa that spawned the most consistent exercising I have ever done and hope to continue throughout my long life.