Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Looking closer I realized it wasn't the only one. I discovered two more before we got to the cashier and I was thankfully distracted from further exploration.
This is not a big deal. Truly. And yet, it is. Why are black hairs suddenly sprouting out in plain sight?
Oh god, I just found another one.
And yet, hairs on my head are turning shades of grey. I've even spotted a couple of stray eyebrow hairs far lighter than they've ever been.
Can't my body color coordinate?
Although, would I choose all dark or all light? That's a tough one.
And while I'm talking hair I have to mention, why does there have to be more? Not to gross anyone out but my toes are sprouting slightly. I've got a fine coating on my knuckles too. My arms seem fuzzier than ever.
I'm thinking about carrying a tweezer with me at all times going forward. But I'm pretty sure I'd be fighting a losing battle.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Friday, June 25, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
There’s an old adage: “laughter is the best medicine.” No, it won’t cure a cold or fix a broken bone, but there’s something to say about letting go in a moment, no matter how nervous or nauseous or achy you feel, and letting yourself get swept up in anything from a raunchy joke or a witty riddle to something silly in between. I learned that important lesson from my father. My dad is the king of puns. Actually, let me clarify that a bit by saying he is the king of questionably amusing word play. Whenever the opportunity presents itself for a quick rejoinder or a snappy comeback, you can see a look of fierce concentration on his face as he works out the details to his latest vocabulary concoction. Conversation halts for a moment or two as we all wait for the inevitable, and invariably we groan, as his comebacks are masterpieces of cheese. He always looks so proud of his latest accomplishment, often repeating it more than once to make sure everyone heard him, as we visibly cringe, which makes him chuckle harder than he did at first telling. I’ve wracked my brain to list a few, but they’re generally so light and fluffy that within moments they’ve evaporated without a trace. And as if his pun play wasn’t enough, Dad always has a relevant joke to toss out. This past Jewish New Year’s dinner, he showed up with a folder filled with pages of one-liners he found online, just in case there was a lull in conversation. As he ran down the list, his eyes lit up with delight at eliciting any sort of even slightly amused response. Of course my dad isn’t different from many relatives who use family dinners as their comedic stomping ground. What sets him apart, however, is that he’s constantly looking for the humor in things, despite what he does all day. My dad is an oncologist, a cancer specialist. His days are filled with chemotherapy and painkillers, delivering hard-to-hear news to patients, helping them through their last months and days with grace and empathy. And a good laugh or two.
When I was growing up, I remember hearing Dad’s car pull into the driveway after I got home from school, and running to the front door to ask how his day was. He would fill me in on patients he’d seen, how they were feeling, if they were getting better. Or worse. He’d tell me if
they’d gone into remission or if they’d gone into the hospital. I remember hearing about one patient who asked him to keep her alive until her daughter’s wedding, another until her grandson’s bar mitzvah. We’d talk about patients who wanted to make it through the holidays so
their families wouldn’t be plunged into mourning at a usually happy time. Through weekly visits, lengthy chemotherapy treatments, and hospital stays, my dad became a friend, a confidant, a therapist to his patients. He worked with some for months, some for years. I never could understand how he seemed to handle so well the pain of sharing bad news, and then watching people he cared about deteriorate.
Looking back I realize that perhaps my dad was so well suited to his job because he came from a broken home back when divorce was shameful. I could feel his pain when he told me how he would spend weekends taking two subways, alone, to visit his own father, too embarrassed to tell anyone where he was going. Neither of his parents remarried and he didn’t have siblings. He lived with his mother and grandfather, who rarely spoke to each other. His childhood was filled with silence and solitude. In spite of his emotionally bereft family life, or perhaps because of it, he was able to develop empathetic bonds with his patients. Relating to his own family often remained difficult for him, as if by the end of his workday he was completely empty. He would regularly disappear into his study to spend hours alone, listening to classical music and dealing, in his own way, with the sadness that surrounded him from both the past and the present.
What’s truly inspirational about my dad is that somehow he found grace in that sadness. He explained to me once that when people have a finite amount of time left they often face the future with a heightened sense of appreciation and gratitude for what they have left. Being able
to help them gave him purpose and he often used humor to bring them back into the moment. He taught me that laughter is a remarkable way to be present. What my father was doing was helping his patients find moments of Zen (although he’d adamantly refuse to call it that). Being
fully present gave them a little break from the enormity of what they were dealing with. Years ago, a friend of my husband’s was in the hospital with cancer that had been in remission since he was a child. But it was back and his prospects were now bleak. When we got to his room, it was filled to capacity -- I think the staff knew time was limited so they let everyone stay. Rich was in bed, barely talking, surrounded by whispering friends and relatives. I started chatting away, as I do in stressful situations, telling him about a book I had recently written: a collection of silly, embarrassing, and laugh-out-loud funny vomit stories. At that point the room was silent when Rich said he had a story for me and shared a hilarious tale of college buddies (many of whom were near his bed), a case of beer, and a car air conditioner that spewed out fetid fumes every time it was turned on after that night. Rich’s eyes were sparkling and the tension in the room evaporated as everyone cracked up. The door opened and his mom walked in, looking worried, having heard all the noise out in the hallway. In that moment though, we had been transformed from anxious well-wishers back to college friends reminiscing about old times. Humor brought us together and made us forget the pain and sadness for a little while.
When I find myself in stressful situations, humor is my default coping mechanism. I find that laughing relieves anxiety, breaks tension, and effectively distracts unhappy children. It takes the edge off the pain of being in a different homeroom than a best friend. A baseball team loss becomes less tragic. An endless wait in an airport goes by faster. While I’m the world’s worst joke teller, I specialize in sharing embarrassing personal stories. Recounting how I broke my own finger in a step class, or the time I unwittingly had my hair chopped into a boy cut, can force a grin. Asking for help recounting a silly scene from a movie works. Sometimes I even resort to a quick tickle, knowing that once a smile breaks through, I’ve got a chance to help someone find a little joy and be in the moment.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
I've also crashed lower than I ever have before, have doubted myself, have questioned just about everything in my life.
Yup, it's been quite a year.
46 is a blank slate. I have no projects in the works, no idea what's next, nothing in the future I'm thrilled about or dreading.
I'm here. I'm working on stillness, on gratitude, on being open. On not knowing, not planning, letting go of expectations, a sense of entitlement.
On seeing the good in situations. Being more understanding and supportive. Rediscovering patience.
Of accepting where I am instead of regretting where I'm not.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
So, as I walked along the now ripped up Washington Square Park it hit me: it's not them. Nope, it's not them. People I look to for guidance, meaning, advice, people who are my teachers aren't the answer. If I'm not accepting the lessons they're here to share with me, I'm not learning. Their presence in my life becomes more of a crutch, a comfort, something I'm comfortable with.
That's not a bad thing. Comfort and familiarity are important. But if I'm always looking to the outside for an answer, where's my growth?
Looking inside is almost impossible
for me. I think it's not easy for many people to take responsibility for their thoughts and actions, reactions and how they are in this world. It's easier to blame situations, other people, to drink or exercise like mad, to avoid true introspection and what needs to change.
My familiar escapes don't work anymore and I think that's what this emotional crisis was about. I wanted someone to save me, to make it better, to undo the changes. I wanted to dive into somethig and ge lost there so I wouldn't have to deal.
But, I have to deal.
This journey can be so painful. On the one had it sucks. But on the other I'm grateful that I'm still questioning, growing, changing.
I'll be 46 in 3 days and I still feel like I'm the start of something new.
I'm grateful. And looking forward (with trepidation) to being my own teacher.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
Sometimes we can get so tightly wrapped up in our own worlds, our own heads, our own stories, we cut off the outside world. Not on purpose. Not really. But it gets hard to let anyone in.
(I’m speaking for myself here although I doubt I’m alone in this).
Maybe it’s the fear of other people knowing I can’t handle everything. That I get scared. Terrified. Incapacitated at times.
And sometimes—this might sound strange—I can’t even let me help myself. I know I can breathe through things. I can meditate. Do yoga. Get involved in a project. Listen to music. Call a friend. Find a shoulder to lean on. Ask for help. But when I’m frozen tightly in that one spot, I can’t get past the dread that everything will shatter into millions of pieces.
Last night I woke up countless times. My ears have been filled with fluid for a couple of days and sleeping hasn’t been easy, especially with the memory of a burst eardrum resurfacing with every slosh (my left eardrum perforated two times in less than a year). Plus, I had taken mucinex before bed and was outrageously thirsty which led to copious amounts of pee. At one point, around 3 or so, I woke up happy. More than happy: gleeful. Literally almost giggling out loud. It was bizarre. Freaky really. I’ve woken up grumpy, cranky, put upon, annoyed, over-tired, anxious, nervous, still trapped in one of my cruise ship/hometown nightmares about not being able to get to where I’m going, but never this. I was so damn happy I had to consciously calm myself down.
And I realized being happy scares the shit out of me. Being so in the moment that I lose track of that voice, that commentator, that negative force spinning stories of doom and woe, is terrifying.
But this tiny feeling has been growing the past couple of days. Everything is ok. In fact, in spite of the doom and gloom attitude that’s my default mode, everything is fine. Even if there’s stuff to deal with, crises to handle, cranky kids to contend with, work disasters to manage, anxiety struggling to take control again I don’t have to wallow in it. I can float through and know, so down deep inside I rarely let myself go there, that I’ll be ok in the end, even if moments get really rough.
I can’t do everything, not all the time. Perhaps, in admitting both to myself and to other people that I need support, nurturing, help, I won’t have to hit rock bottom first. And in letting go of the straightjacket control I keep on myself, my heart will start to heal.
There are glimmers it’s doing just that.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Monday, June 7, 2010
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Friday, June 4, 2010
Thursday, June 3, 2010
I'm starting to feel more myself - motivated, enthusiastic, positive. But today I'm shaky. Anxious. Not in an about to have a panic attack sort of way but more a too much caffeine buzz.
I hate this feeling.
I'm also fighting sluggishness which makes it that much worse.
I couldn't sleep last night. I'm so convinced everything is revolving around meds but the air conditioning was on and it was both too cold and clammy at the same time. Plus, my period started this morning so I've been teetering on the edge of a headache for days.
As usual, I have too much to do but nothing creatively amazing to dig deep into. I'm accomplishing, which is good, but it's all low level creativity, which can be stifling.
I want to know everything will be ok. Not that that's different from any other point in my life, but I've never done anything like this before.
I wish I could just be in the moment and drift along in this but I'm a need to know person and not having all the answers or explanations is hard. Will I gain weight? Will the anxiety calm? Will my body still feel like my body? Will I stop asking so many questions?
That last one made me smile. I am who I am and nothing can change that.