Tag Archives: chronic illness

The Roses of Our Lives

I know an animal sanctuary where love still wins, where love is always present. It lies in the heart of a family farm nestled deep in a Florida forest.

Here, the life-death continuum is celebrated moment by moment.

And in this moment, I mark the death of feline EmmaRose (ER), a tiny, gray-blue dilute whose top weight was 5.5 pounds. The last I knew, her weight dropped to just over 4 pounds.

At some point in her life she had been declawed but she was a lioness, nonetheless. Even in her waning days, she did not hesitate to attack a cat that was at least double her size.

EmmaRose decided the dimensions of her life.  I don’t think she ever found a dog too large to love but she would not abide a cat. ER grew up with a beagle named Cooper; she would remain a dog lover all her life.

EmmaRose did not begin or end her life with me–we had but six short years—we lived together until eight months ago. We were both chronically ill but my limited physical mobility meant I could no longer meet her care needs.

Maybe a day went by when I did not think of ER but that seems unlikely. We shared a two-room apartment, which was just right for us. After she left, it felt too large. Still does.

This is not a moment of regret. Sometimes, doing the right thing really is the right thing. Maybe it depends on how much it hurts. For me, there are no qualifications for knowing what is right except how my gut feels.

But this I do know: little ER spent the last eight months of her life receiving the love and care that every sentient being should know as death nears.  It was what I could no longer give her.

From the moment she arrived at the animal sanctuary, I not only knew how she was doing but two very thoughtful little girls sent me drawings to show how the rest of her life would be. And that’s how it was.

I received videos and pictures of her interacting with the girls and their toddler brother. It wasn’t all Disney, of course, but ER did enjoy some movie evenings snuggled up with a comforter.

And when it came time for ER to die, the children were with her. EmmaRose went to sleep in the arms of a little girl who loved her. These children, perhaps better than most, understand how precious life is and that it does not last but love does.

We are all star dust. The same energy flows through everything and everyone. No exceptions. We come into the world on it and that’s how we leave. Headed for home.

Until then, there are the roses in our lives, the many colors and kinds of love.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

 

The Daily Wood and Water

I put down my worry in exchange for wood and water. I know the load of worry–a bigger burden–than any wood I chop or water or I carry.

There were decades in my life when worry was constant. I am not ungrateful for those years. They showed me so many faces of worry.

Now, whether it is with a breath or a silent sweeping away with a word, I have no energy for worry.

Mine is for the wood and water of my day. There seems to be an increase in my daily energy level–even on the low days–an energy beyond the required activities of any day.

I guard it as if it were gold, which is not to say I hoard or worry whether there will be a bit of extra for tomorrow. It is for now.

Today, I sit at a table and a desktop computer to write this post. In my five and a half years of blogging, I was not able to sit at a table to write. Then, an adjustable bed and laptop were the energy of the day. Now, there is a bit more.

I did not own a table until a week and a half ago. For years, I did not have use of one. More than not, I lived in an adjustable bed. I may again.

But in this now, I have a table, a place to write. There remains wood to chop, water to carry without worry.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

 

Walking Around Holes

This continues to be a week of discovery for me. So many new streets to walk, not without pitfalls, as it turns out.

Chapter One

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

(Portia Nelson, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery)

There are five stanzas–chapters–in Nelson’s poem. The hole does get deeper but it takes less than forever to find a way out.

Finally, the repetition—doing the same thing over and over and getting the same results— becomes apparent. She walks around the hole. The final stanza or chapter is a single line, “I walk down another street.”

With new holes to discover, no doubt. 🙂 Similarly, I have walked such streets but less so, now.

Walking requires focus and without it, I fall in a hole every time. When I focus, I find a way around. As well, it does not take me as long to realize that certain streets were never a way for me. Never.

I don’t feel denied for there are so many streets I’ve yet to travel. It is mine to keep my life lens open.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

 

Sometimes, There Is No Translation

Some time ago, I wrote that the #DailyDose—of energy–does not necessarily mean a daily post. It is the vibration of chronic illness that determines whether writing happens or not. I aim to meet the daily rhythm of the energy; that is the heart of Aim for Even.

For nearly two weeks, there has been no writing but there has been meditation and yoga. As well, a limited social media presence. The fluidity of chronic illness floats on the gift of time—always—yet this recent flare-up of autoimmune and spinal cord disease was unlike the others.

The severity of it surprised me but at the same time intrigued. Some days it was as if time seemed stilled. On other days, it was as if there was no time at all. The days passed that fast.

Alan Watts tells an anecdote about translating Zen stories into English. The Zen master sees no need for it because Zen can be found in any book be it “the Bible, Alice in Wonderland, or even the dictionary.”

In other words, “the sound of rain needs no translation” (Alan Watts).

In my recent flare-up, I found an energy I never knew existed. I discovered it when my fatigue kept me all but bedridden for a few days. All I could do was focus on the moment I had, and what else is the meditative state?

It was as if I became an observer–a witness–rather than a participant in my chronic illness. It was not some kind of out of body experience but just the opposite. I have never been more aware of being in my body because I was not participating in the drama of my mind.

I am not cured but I am changed. I have heard the sound of rain. In fact, one morning as I began meditating, it did rain.

I practice mindfulness meditation with my eyes open and focused on the breath. In that moment, I was the rain, sitting “in the seat of self” witnessing what it is to be alive. It is more than enough, so much more.

In the book, The Untethered Soul, Michael A. Singer showed me how to deal with the drama of my mind as my body works so hard to win the war within. Here, winning is adapting, accepting change. It is not a competition.

As an observer, rather than a participant in my ego’s drama, my body has an easier time of doing what it does best—adapting. My symptoms continue but I remain distant from the drama.

I am the witness watching. And that is making all the difference.

Be serene in the oneness of things and

erroneous views will

disappear by themselves.

(Seng-Ts’an).

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

Forever But Not Forever

Monica de la Torre says, “The sky’s changeups are reminders that this will not drag on forever.” I never thought of the sky as an ongoing image of impermanence but, of course, it is. All I need to do is look up.

It’s rather like binge watching The Man in the High Castle or The Handmaid’s Tale. It takes me out of me to other times similar but not the same. Each story is its own ending.

So, forever but not forever.

In this moment, I am awash in autoimmune disease. Why not look to the sky? An in-the-moment reminder that no thing and no moment ever stays keeps me focused not on what swirls inside me but on what whirls above.

It is worth the walk outside just to watch the world in the sky go by.

Forever but not forever.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

The Energy of Being

Wednesdays are my week’s fulcrum. It is the day after my dose of a weekly medication. My body is weaker on Wednesdays.

Sometimes, the pivot point settles quickly but no two weeks are the same. No point holding onto the unique. It won’t repeat.

A low energy Wednesday might mean a higher level on a Thursday or a Friday, possibly even a Saturday but not a run of three. The energy may remain low or drop even lower.

My physical energy level helps me read the signals my body is sending. Cells are in die off, and the body adjusts, a bit of respite from the immune system’s constant attack. It has been a long time since there was any actual truce but at times I glimpse a glimmer.

Medication may be my immediate response but it is not the only one.

Michael A. Singer taught me about the “seat of self—the flow of energy from the depths of my being.”  Call it Chi, Shakti, or even spirit.

For me, it’s the energy of being.

To sit in the seat of myself is to know pure awareness. It is as constant as my body’s signals but beyond the battle. Here, peace is available no matter the war.

Consciousness is the highest word you’ll ever utter.

There is nothing higher or deeper than consciousness…

It is pure awareness.

(Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul).\

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.

No Expectations, Just Experience

Maybe I always believed in “bursting the boundaries.” After 40 years of chronic illness, it seems so. This kind of “resistance” to medical expectations takes a certain amount of naïveté, and I don’t mind admitting that.

It also means staying in the moment, regardless of the experience it offers–no expectations, just experience. And sometimes, I burst a boundary, like today.

I have been released from the care of my orthopedic surgeon who could not be more pleased with my progress. The fracture of my right femur is healing “beautifully” and growing new bone. The hip-joint replacement was pronounced “perfect.”

Medical expectations had been low.

I knew today’s x-ray results would be fine because of how my right hip and femur feel. And the x-rays supported my body’s signals. X-ray is such a wonderful way to look within the body to its structure.

I was reminded of the fusion of bone that is taking place in my neck, even more bone growth. That was not the expectation, either.

As someone with chronic autoimmune disease, I’m not the best candidate for healing, especially with medications like prednisone and methotrexate. Medical skepticism is not unwarranted.

I don’t ignore expectation but it does not occupy my time.

My focus is on what I eat and how I live, in particular my daily practice of meditation and yoga. I stay open to my body’s signals; they are my purpose. Healing will or will not occur.

It is a matter of feeding my body nutrient dense food no matter how I am feeling. In fact, the worse I feel, the more critical nutrition is. A single moment might be one of physical pain, frustration, hopelessness, fear, and fatigue—and it might last days—eating is fuel, food is energy.

Hope drifts in and out of moments. I let it go. I remain present for my pain, intertwining medication with yoga, working with the meditative state in my day-to-day. I meet my energy and even out its fluctuations.

What is the point in yearning for what my body cannot offer? Why not work with what it can? After all, “life always bursts the boundaries of formulas” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry).

So it seems, so it seems.

Aim for Even posts offer equanimity a dose at a time. No day or dose is ever the same, even if the aim is. You may read about the origins of Aim for Even here or on this site’s About page.