Just When I Was Ready to Tear My Hair Out, This Happened…

Yesterday was an epic bad day. I work part time from home, and remote in via my home computer. Let’s just say that there were some “issues” that made it next to impossible to do my job. Frustrated, I decided that I would vacuum the house and then wash the kitchen floor, two chores I heartily hate. But as I was already in a bad mood, I figured, how bad could it be?

Turns out I was wrong. The vacuuming was done with my usual bad grace and swearing, and then I picked up my handy dandy Swiffer Wet Jet–and the bottle of cleanser was empty. I muttered about “people who don’t replace things,” stomped down the stairs and found that the Crankee Yankee had bought a new bottle (damn, do I appreciate that man!).

As I opened the back of the Swiffer to replace the bottle, the battery compartment flopped open and vomited out its four AA batteries–turns out they were DOA anyway. After swearing some more, I went back downstairs and found AAA batteries, D batteries, C batteries and even those hard-to-find 9V batteries–but no AAs. So I called the Crankee Yankee and asked him to pick some up.

I also decided to call my doctor to see if my surgical appointment had been made yet for my lumpectomy (see my two posts, “A Surprise” and “A Surprise, Part 2″ for more information), and of course, no one knew anything about it. I finally tracked down the right person and they said they would call me back (which remains to be seen).

Honestly, when you get a cancer diagnosis, even a stage zero one like mine, you get rattled easily and find it hard to focus because your brain keeps on screaming “I have cancer! I have CANCER!” It would be pretty helpful if, after a consult, someone would say, ‘I know that you are going to forget a lot of what I’m telling you, or who to call for details. Therefore, I am giving you this card with a number to call. You will get a person on the other end who knows all about you and your situation, and can actually answer your questions.’ But of course, that’s not how things work.

Hot, sweaty, frustrated and mad at just about the entire world, I threw myself into my favorite chair and turned on the TV. As I sat there and stewed about how unfair the world was and why was everything turning to crap on me today, a miracle happened.

Our one female cat, Nala, who has been skittery, nervous and prone to biting and swatting all the years we’ve had her (she came to us with fear issues and she actually is better now), suddenly jumped up into my lap. Now she does this with the Crankee Yankee, whom she prefers, but never with me. There she was, warm and comfy, settled into my arms and with her little head nestled against my cheek, purring away.

Well, that was my sign that everything was going to be ok, and that I didn’t have to keep on tilting at windmills that day. Some days are simply harder than others, and relentlessly pushing and shoving doesn’t get answers any sooner. These are the days to lie back, and let it all roll over on you. You will survive, you will get answers, and, if you’re lucky, your one scaredy-cat will climb up in your arms to comfort you.

The Great Good of Getting Older

When I look back at all the mistakes, wasted time, and downright dumb things I have done in my life, I wonder what the heck I was thinking of to be so foolish. It’s taken me years to stop dwelling on these things; my mantra for that is “that was then, and I am not that person any more.” So much of my foolishness was that I was young and didn’t realize the ‘down the road’ effect these things would have on me and others. But that’s part of being young.

There were times when I took unbelievably stupid risks with my life and my health. I have been more lucky than I might have–it’s taken me years to get the message that perhaps I was directed from serious harm because I have a purpose in being here. Oh, I doubt I will write The Great American Novel and be acclaimed by millions. I probably will not save children from a burning building, nor will I dive off a bridge to save someone’s life (I hate heights). Most likely I won’t develop a cure for cancer (how could I? I’m too busy writing!), or initiate world peace on my own.

I am one of those people who does microscopic good when I can. If I know that someone is suffering, has lost someone, is in pain, etc., I send them love and healing energy as well as prayer. I do this with the intention of initiating comfort, calm and healing; where intention goes, energy follows.

We’ve all heard that a butterfly, lazily fluttering its wings in one part of the world, can potentially cause a tsunami in another part of the world, if the conditions are right. If that’s true, than why can’t a simple prayer or thought, sent with good intent and love to another, be its own instrument of peace?

The older I get, the more I see how much time I have wasted in being angry, argumentative, ornery, stubborn, or, as we say in my family, downright *pisserdly. Why waste energy in feeling bad or combative over something as trivial as someone cutting us off in traffic? (Although I will still fall for it if I’m in the right mood.) As I get older, I realize that I don’t like feeling riled up or angry as much as I used to; this is why I can only stand about 5-10 minutes of the news. While I do want to know what’s going on, I don’t want to get all cranked up over something over which I can do nothing.

So these days, at nearly 64 years old (where does the time go? I swear I was only 10 yesterday!), I feel more and more that my purpose for being here at this time is to be kind, to be comforting, and simply to listen. I’m finally getting to where I can concentrate better on listening rather than impatiently waiting for the other person to shut up already so that I can spill my self-perceived pearls of wisdom. I may never reach my goal of being able to always listen first and talk later. But I realize now that my goal is to write more, listen more and talk less. I’m going to be working on that for a long time!

There are many people on this earth who are and will be doing great things to benefit all people. Some will be remembered for years for their good work and how their work changed the world. There are also many people on this earth who are just up to no good, and will try to destroy all that is good and beautiful. And then there are, as my late mother-in-law, Hazel, used to say, a “gracious plenty” who are on this earth simply to be kind and to help keep back the darkness.

That’s finally what I’ve come to believe that getting older is for–to help keep the lights on.

*Our collective word that encompasses being angry, having to have one’s own way, and being argumentative, stubborn, pig-headed, ornery, etc.

“Tomorrow-land” – A Personal Review

The Crankee Yankee and I went to see “Tomorrow-land” yesterday, starring George Clooney. Since we only go out to movies once in a blue moon, it’s always an adventure, especially when deciding what we want to see.

Of course, what we REALLY want is for each of us to go see the movie of our choice, then meet up afterwards. But as yesterday was our anniversary, the Crankee Yankee graciously gave up his choice of seeing the new “Mad Max” movie so that we could see “Tomorrow-land” together. Honestly, the clips I’d seen on TV just captivated me, so I really did want to see it. (My thanks, as always, to the Crankee Yankee’s generosity.)

Now when we were kids, movies were pretty straight forward: there was a newsreel, then a cartoon or two, and then the movie. Bing, bam, boom–that was it. You usually spent about .15 cents on a small bag of popcorn and a candy bar, and the movie itself was at most .50. You were in and out in under an hour and a half (the exception being “Gone With the Wind.” That sucker took hours!).

But these days, you watch nearly 30 minutes of movie trivia, ads, pleas for donations, and several clips from several movies. By the time that your inner kid is screaming “SHOW THE MOVIE ALREADY!” the real movie begins. Oh, and snacks, even modest ones like the Crankee Yankee and I had, one medium drink and small bag of popcorn; will cost more than your ticket. These days movie-going is an investment.

But back to the movie. In a few words, it was magical, breath-taking, illuminating, and had great special effects. Without spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t seen it, the premise is about how dreams can fuel new realities. It was perilously close to the current world pessimism in which we seem to be embroiled–it seems that most people have given up on peace, working together for a greater good, and striving to make life better for us all; a world community, if you will. This is how things stand in the beginning of the movie. One of the more memorable lines was something to the effect of how easy it is to succumb to inaction, despair, ennui, pessimism and hopelessness. How much harder it is to say, ‘no, wait a minute–we can change things here!‘ and then try to make that positive change happen.

Now if you feel I’m getting too hippy-dippy here, too bad. No matter how bad things get, I still have hope for this world and for this country. You may not like this movie yourself, but as for us old farts–we loved it. I walked out of it feeling hopeful, happy, and wonderfully inspired. Movies tend to have this effect on me–especially if it’s as hopeful as Tomorrow-land was.

But then, I’m the kind of person who sobs during the National Anthem, and especially at the sight of those few remaining glorious service men and women, now fragile with age, standing at attention on Veterans Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day.

And on this Memorial Day, I thank all who have served and all who still serve so diligently to keep our freedoms and way of life alive. God bless each and every one of them.

Back to the movie, I hope you see it and enjoy as much as I did, and that the message inspires you as it did for me.

 

To the Crankee Yankee on Our 13th Anniversary

I’d follow you to Russia, I’d follow you to France

I’d follow you through wind and rain only wearing my pink underpants–

My love is true,

And between me and you–

The thirteen years that we’ve spent wed

Are far better than a TemperPedic bed–

Or a dedicated cleaning lady

To clean up all our corners shady–

Or a new truck that’s good on gas

Or a silver set of demitasse–

Or trips to Spain and London and Peru,

They’d mean nothing if I couldn’t be with you.

Diamonds, rubies, emeralds and pearls–

Mere trinkets compared to those eyes of yours.

Your hand holds mine through thin and thick

And all those times that you’ve been quick

To love me, despite my many flaws

(Even when I show my teeth and claws!)

You’re my rock, my hero and my friend

You’re the love that never ends–

You make me laugh and give me hope

Even when I feel I’m on the ropes–

There’s no one else with whom I’d rather be

Then thee; my love, my light–than thee.

 

 

 

 

My Take on Reiki

I am a Level II Reiki practitioner, which means I have been trained by my excellent instructor, Marilynn Carter (Reiki Master and Teacher) in the first two levels of Reiki. I won’t go into the important (and interesting ) history of Reiki; I’m afraid that I won’t do it justice. Suffice to say that my training has changed me and made me not only a practitioner, but a lifelong student.

Simply put, Reiki is a method of treating bodily disorders and restoring spiritual balance in which a practitioner places the palms of the hands on a part of the body so that healing energy will flow in that area. There is no disrobing and no touching if the recipient doesn’t want to be touched; it can be done over, not necessarily on; the body areas. Any disease or pain we have is the result of blocked energy that for some reason isn’t flowing as well as it should. Reiki allows the movement of energy through the entire system and can help relieve pain or discomfort.

NOTE: Reiki is not a substitute for medicine. Reiki is energy work.

My own experience with Reiki has been enlightening and illuminating. Reiki has helped me greatly, and I am happy to be able to help others when I work on them.

Reiki practitioners are different; each one knows the general patterns to follow, but they may do it differently. For example, some practitioners prefer to keep quiet during sessions. In my sessions, I can’t seem to shut up. When I close my eyes and put my hands over a part of the body, I can see colors in my mind: red or purple or burgundy mean pain, blue means the area needs attention, grass green means healing, pea green or a sickly yellow means serious sickness, black denotes an emptiness, pink means new healing and comfort, and white and/or gold is God light and healing. Seeing these things, I tell my client what I see and what it means.

Since the Crankee Yankee is my main client, I will tell you what I could ‘see’ after he had radiation therapy for prostate cancer last year. He had been diagnosed about 10 years ago with prostate cancer, and had his prostate removed. Everything went perfectly and he had his PSA checked each year afterward. All was well until last year when his PSA began rising again. It was discovered that there was one lone cancer cell that somehow had been left over from the surgery. Radiation was advised, and he had an 8 week course of it. Following that, his next couple of PSA tests were less than zero.

However, the doctors wanted a scan done to see if everything was clear. The night before he had it, he asked me to check to see what I could see. What I saw was this: a clear grass green area with a small black hole in the middle. My immediate thought was, ‘it’s gone–the cancer cell is gone.’ The scan confirmed it; he was cancer-free.

This color thing is not unique to me; many other practitioners see colors as well. Some hear things, feel things, and so on. One of the great benefits of Reiki is how relaxing it is; it can literally take you out of yourself, calm your mind, and ease discomfort in the body.

Many people do not believe in the healing power of Reiki, and that’s fine. It isn’t for everyone, and if I were to work on someone who wasn’t comfortable about it (but I certainly would hope they would say something about it!), that energy would simply go straight to the earth. But as a practitioner, I absolutely love the fact that I can help someone else feel better. I talk during my sessions, and I speak of what I see and feel. Often I will ask up front what is bothering the person, what pain are they having, and so on. Knowing this, I will work more on those areas.

My hope is that by telling you what I know and experience from Reiki, that it might take some of the mystery and/or apprehension out of the equation for you. I find Reiki to be as important and as relaxing and rejuvenating as massage or meditation.

If you decide to try a Reiki session, keep your mind open, ask questions and simply enjoy the experience.

Try Some Self-Compassion

I found this gem, “Self-Compassion,” in the Kindness Blog (and endless source of inspiration) by Leo Babauta. It really struck a chord for me, and I hope it will for you as well.

“When we’re frustrated with others, or feeling bad about ourselves, we often turn toward habit that comfort us, such as distractions, food, shopping, smoking, drugs/alcohol, etc.

These don’t often work, because they tend to make us feel worse in the long run. We become unhappier, more stressed, and then need to seek comfort in these things again … and the cycle continues. These are sometimes the only ways we know of comforting ourselves! I know this because for a long time I always turned to all of the above for comfort when I was feeling stressed or bad about myself. It made me very unhealthy and it took a long time to change my patterns. Today I’d like to suggest a method of self-compassion that I’ve been learning, that has worked wonders.

Try this “self-compassion method” now if you’re feeling stressed, frustrated, in pain, disappointed, angry, anxious, worried, or depressed:

  1. Notice. Take a moment to turn inward and notice your pain in this moment. Now notice where it is in your body, and how it feels. Describe the pain to yourself in physical terms, in terms of quality, in terms of color or shape or motion.
  2. Accept. Now tell yourself that it’s OK to have this pain. It’s perfectly OK to feel bad about yourself, to feel bad about your body, to feel frustrated with someone else. Let yourself feel the pain.
  3. Comfort. Now treat this pain with compassion, like you would with a friend who is suffering, or your child who is in pain. Be gentle with it, kind to it, like a suffering child. Comfort it. How would you comfort your friend whose parent just died?
  4. Smile. Finally, try wishing your pain well, wish it happiness. Give it love. Smile at your pain in compassion.

This method takes a lot of practice, for sure. I’m still learning it myself, and I don’t claim to be an expert at self-compassion. But I’ve found it to be truly amazing, because we very rarely do this for ourselves. We’re good at being kind to others when they’re having a difficult time, perhaps, but not always with ourselves.

And it can be transformative. If you practice compassion with your pain, it becomes less of a burden. You realize that it’s temporary, you feel less bad about being frustrated. And you feel loved–by yourself.”

I am working on this very method myself right now. As I come closer to a surgical date for my lumpectomy, I realize that my bursts of anger, tears, frustration and distractions are all part of the process. I find myself feeling helpless more often than not; worried about how this will change my life, how this will affect my husband, my work, and so on.

It’s time for some self-compassion, and I’ll bet you could use it, too. I tell you what–I promise to try those four steps myself. I’d love it if you joined me.

 

Shaming Kids or Saving Their Lives?

When I was growing up, parents were parents and not friends (if you’re lucky, the friend part comes later). Parents saw to it that they raised adults, not perpetual children. We children of that time, learned our manners, our habits, our values, our responsibilities from our parents. There were definite consequences for misbehavior–the rules were consistent and when we got out of line, we were punished appropriately. I’m not talking spanking or being locked in a dark closet–I mean sensible, reasonable, ‘did you learn anything?’ type of punishment.

This seems to have gone out of favor these days. Parents who act like our parents did are constantly accused of being too mean, too bullying, too restrictive, and so on.

Personally, I applaud the following two mothers who refused to let their children get in trouble; Ms. Graham of Baltimore, MD, and Val Starks, Denver, CO mom, as outlined in the following quotes:

“In the video Ms. Graham is seen repeatedly hitting her child. The initial blows appear to be part of her effort to physically drag her son away from the [Baltimore, MD] rioting, which is certainly understandable…..Graham should be praised for being a caring parent with pure intentions. If more parents dragged their teens away from violence, the world would be a much more peaceful place.

A Denver mother’s (Val Starks) video on Facebook is going viral after she shamed her 13-year-old daughter [on Facebook] for posting racy pictures and saying she was 19 years old. “You’re 13,” the mother says to the girl. “So why does your Facebook page say that you are 19?!”

I’m sure that that young girl was embarrassed nearly to death by that, but I see a mom who would rather embarrass her child than have to identify her raped and brutalized body in a morgue.

We know that our brains do not fully develop until age 24; up til then, we can make some pretty stupid decisions. It is our parents who keep vigilant to keep us safe and who remember to be parents, not best friends. A child may have many friends, but only one set of parents.

When I was in grade school, there was a candy store right across the street; a huge temptation to us all. We were strictly told not to leave school property to go there or anywhere else. One day a girl not only went over there, but she stole candy. The owner reported her to her parents and to the principal. The principal took her by the hand, told her to keep her other hand open, displaying the candy she’d taken.

He walked her to each and every classroom, opened the door and explained that this is what a thief looked like. Harsh? By the standards of that time, it was right and just punishment. This was the ’50s, and parents raised adults, not entitled babies. If the child did something they knew was wrong, there was punishment–swift and effective. I don’t know if that girl ever stole again, but after seeing that I decided I would never steal anything, ever.

Maybe the next time a riot breaks out in Baltimore, that boy won’t be part of it, remembering how his mother literally slapped some sense into him. Perhaps that young girl will some day get over her embarrassment and anger at her mother, but live a long life.

God bless the parents who actually parent!