Tuesday, July 13, 2021

From Whence Comes Gratitude

 

Hello All. 

Today, I want to share with you two quotations I recently discovered. They pretty well sum up my attitude toward life as I’m headed down the home stretch toward the finish line and what lies beyond. But before the quotations, I want to share with you the experience that has led me to an understanding and appreciation of these quotations. 

 

Since Meniere’s Disease entered my life in early 2006, I’ve never been able to plan for the morrow. One day goes well: no imbalance, foggy brain, stuttering when speaking, migraine-like headache, or vertigo/dizziness/lightheadedness. 

 

The next day, Meniere’s forces me to “go with the flow,” to experience one or more of the symptoms.

 

The following day, depending on the severity of the previous day’s symptoms, I’m depleted and can do little but listen to books on CDs.

 

This pattern can repeat itself week after week, especially during spring and fall. . . . OR . . . There can be a string of carefree days stretching into a week or so. Everything depends on the precipitous fall or rise of barometric pressure. (Climate change seems to have exacerbated the symptoms. I conclude this because the last two years have been more difficult than any since 2006 when the daily experience of “acute rotational vertigo” made life terrifying.)

 

Since 2006, Meniere’s has put boundaries around my days, yet I’ve grown accustomed to its presence in my life. While I’d never want to relive that initial year, I am grateful for the disease. 

 

Why?

 

Because from it, I’ve learned the following: (1) I have control only over how I respond to life’s vicissitudes. (2) Gratitude for all that is and has been and will be banishes discontent and brings peace. (3) Living in the sacredness of each moment leads to an awareness of just how blessed my life is. (4) I live with Meniere’s and everyone  I meet is living with some sorrow, problem, or fear, that is stressing and changing her or his life. This awareness makes me more generous in my thoughts about others. 

 

Given what I just shared, you will understand why the following two quotations speak to me and sum up what Meniere’s has taught me.



The first quotation is by Maya Angelou, who wrote I Know Why the Caged Bird Sing when she was forty. Here’s something she said later that reflects the lessons I’ve learned from Meniere’s:

If you must look back, do so forgivingly.

If you will look forward, do so prayerfully.

But the wisest course would be to be present in the present gratefully. 

Because of a foggy mind, I’ve shortened the quote to the following, which is easier for me to remember. “In thinking about the past, be forgiving. In thinking about the future, be hopeful. In thinking about the present, be present and be grateful.” 


The second quotation I want to share with you is from Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish philosopher who lived during the last century BCE and the first century CE. All those years ago, he said: “Be kind, for everyone we meet is engaged in a great battle.” 

Meniere’s has taught me to stand as if before the burning bush that Moses encountered and kneel down before the humanity of others—even those whose actions befuddle and confuse me. All of us—all of us—are simply fellow sojourners here on Earth. We never know truly the life that others have and are experiencing. So, yes, kindness. I’m working on this as Meniere’s and Philo ask me to see with new eyes the pain and fear of others. 

Peace.

Pictures from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Good News to Share with You

 


Hello All, nothing much has been happening here in the Ready household. 
Step inside and you’ll discover no philosophical conversations nor discussions 
of academic books that branch the dendrites.


No. Nothing like that. BUT . . . I can share with you some welcomed news about my vision. 

Way back on December 9, 2015, I had my three-month, routine appointment with a local ophthalmologist. He measured the pressure in my eyes. Abruptly, he drew back from his perusal, obviously alarmed. My pressure? Left eye 54/right eye 59.  

(The pressure that’s considered acceptable is 15-20. When the pressure reaches 21, most patients begin to use drops.)

He immediately called a specialist whose reputation drew patients from a five-state area. Yes, she’d fit me in. I just had to get there. 

“You can’t drive,” he said. “At any moment, you could be blind.” He called one of my friends. She came immediately and drove me to the specialist, an hour away, across the state line. 

 

Before leaving his office, I was told that within five hours I would be completely blind unless the specialist could help me.  Now it was I who was stunned.

Two hours later, Dr. Meg (not her real name) worked her magic with a series of thin, thin, thin needles. She got the pressure into the mid-forties and scheduled an operation for each eye the following week. 

Since then, I’ve had two or three more operations on both eyes—all to save the optic nerves. Dr. Meg explained that these were “severely damaged” by the initial high pressure. She’s now worked with me for nearly six years to keep further damage from happening. Or, more accurately, to slow its progress. 

That’s background.

 Here’s the most recent news: 

In March, laser surgery on my left eye failed; the rising pressure did not decrease. 

Then on May 13, Dr. Meg did a lengthy (1 ¼ hour) surgery on that eye because the pressure had gone up to 26—which could further damage my optic nerve.

During the operation, Dr. Meg inserted a new base and a new stent deep down at the side of my nose. She then sutured several layers of tissue to close it up. At each of my subsequent four visits, she checked my left-eye pressure to determine if the stent was working. It wasn’t; the pressure kept going up.

Then yesterday, GOOD NEWS! The pressure was down to 6. The stent had opened up. It worked! 

And yet, an ominous tone was sounded. If the pressure gets too low, possibly to 0, vision may cease. My vision test revealed the truth of this: I could not read any of the letters—no matter how big—with my left eye.

So, 6 is too low. The magic numbers for me—with my vision concerns and my damaged optic nerves—is between 8 and 10.

The pressure in my right eye has hovered between 9 and 11 for three years now. Excellent.

Now, we need to get the left eye pressure to that normality.

So . . . instead of putting three Glaucoma drops a day in my left eye—which I’ve done now for five years—I’m to put only one. ONE! Wow!

Also, I’m to use lubricants less often.

For five years I’ve put drops in my eyes 10x a day. During March, April, May, and into June of this year, I put drops in 19x a day: glaucoma meds, lubricants, inflammation meds, anti-biotics. 

Now, wonder of wonders, I am down to doing this only 7x a day.  Oh, joy in the morning.

Peace. 

 

PS: I don’t know how to turn the “No Comments” sign on. I know you are all cheering for me. So please feel free not to comment! Take care. Be gracious to yourself. And please excuse typos. 

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Crocodiles Will Arrive Later

 

Today the mind is taking a wee rest and can't recall when I begin to read Kathy McCoy's blog: sometime in 2011 or 12 or maybe even 2013. She had probably left an intriguing comment on someone else’s blog. Perhaps that comment led me to her blog: Dr. Kathy McCoy: Living Fully in Midlife and Beyond. 

 

I was on the far side of “midlife” and into “beyond,” so the title intrigued me. Her postings did that also. Each was filled with workable suggestions for how to handle tricky situations. She seasoned these suggestions with a gentle humor and an understanding of the human condition. It was clear that she had extensive experience in counseling and knew whereof she spoke! 

 

I quickly felt a rapport with Kathy. The blurb about her on Amazon noted that she was a psychotherapist who’d won awards for more than one of the many books she’d written. She’d also been published in Family Circle, Mademoiselle, The Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, and several other leading magazines. 

 

Moreover—and those of you who know me will appreciate this—she and her  husband live in Arizona with four cats: Gus, Maggie, SweetPea and Hamish. Ah, my kind of gal!


When her book Purr Therapy: What Timmy & Marina Taught Me About Life, Love and Loss was published, I immediately read it and left a review on Amazon. In it, I said that while the cats with whom I’d lived had often purred me into a welcomed perspective, none of them had ever done what Timmy & Marina—Kathy’s two therapy cats—had done for her patients. They were truly amazing. 

After reading that book, I so hoped she’d write a memoir.

 

And she has: The Crocodiles Will Arrive Later.


 

Reading this memoir could have depressed me for the “crocodiles” of the title are the violent mood swings her father experienced as had his mother before him. The crocodiles devoured his treasure trove of good will, intellect, and humor. His three children quaked in terror, fearful that he might kill them, as he threatened to do almost daily.  

 

Given that title and its implications, you can see why the book could depress. And yet. (It’s these “and yets” in our life stories that so fascinate and captivate me.) And yet. And yet, Kathy grew up to be a woman of great good sense—a sense of the deep-down desire we all have for wholeness.

 

She fashioned a career, married, made friends. Laughed. Fell and got back up again. Mourned and embraced the next day with renewed expectation. Importantly, as the memoir recounts so vividly and tenderly, she came as an adult to the gift of realization.

 

What was that realization? 

 

That beyond the mood swings, the threats, the slow disintegration of her father’s personality she daily witnessed as a child, teenager, and young adult, there was love. A love threaded with her father’s fear that she, too, would know crocodiles. A love that tried to find ways to protect her.

 

Kathy’s memoir is filled with light, love, and laughter. As the songwriter Leonard Cohen sang, “There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.” Because of her great honesty, the cracks—the crocodiles—in Kathy McCoy’s life reward the reader with the realization that out of painful experiences can come an understanding that leads to forgiveness. Her father’s crocodiles ultimately gave Kathy the tools she needed to not only survive, but to thrive.

 

Peace. 

Postscript: I've previewed this several times and keep having problems with white lines. Not sure why and can't fix it. So please ignore all formatting problems! Thanks. Peace. 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Joy Amidst the Journey


Not sure whether my internal action motor is in good repair or not. What I mean by that is this: Again, and yet again, I’ve vowed to myself that I would begin to post something on this blog every other week. I keep making that commitment to myself—and sometimes to you—yet, somehow the motor sputters, then conks out. No posting for weeks, sometimes months, once two years. 

So today, I begin again with no guarantee of when the next post will be, just an update of what’s been happening in the life of Elisa, the 38-year-old woman whom I met through blogging and who has become the daughter/granddaughter I never had. 

Since November, when the specialists at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake diagnosed her rare stage 4 melanoma cancer, she’s had a great deal of radiation. Two weeks ago, she drove to Utah from her home in Idaho to have another brain scan. Then, great news! Her two brain tumors were gone. They’d vamoosed! Cause for deep and lasting rejoicing. 



However, this past Thursday, when she returned to Huntsman for her every-three-week-immunotherapy-infusion, the pre-infusion tests brought less joyous news. That is, the medication, which is supposed to attack and kill the cancer cells in her neck, spine, and hip, had attacked her liver. She now has stage 3 liver failure. 

In November, the doctors told Elisa she might live 2 years. Then when immunotherapy began, they said that if she responded well to the particular infusion med they were using, she might live 10 years and, possibly, experience remission.

 Obviously, that med doesn’t work for her. There will be no further infusions for at least two months. She drove herself home yesterday afternoon, after staying two nights in the hospital. Drove, not knowing if the infusions will begin again and, if they do, what med will be used and how effective it might be. 

That is, she drove not knowing, but trusting, as she has trusted throughout, that all shall be well. In an earlier posting, I shared with you my belief that the essence of Elisa is joy. At the deep center of herself where she is truly One in Oneness, she is always—no matter what happens—joyous. 

Her “million-dollar smile” reflects that joy. It’s the reason, I think, many of the people she meets do not recognize that she is ill. She doesn’t look ill, nor act ill. She keeps laughing with her children, her husband, her parents and in-laws, her friends. She keeps making memories with them.

 I’ve said before, and I say again, she inspires me as I deal with my piddling ills. On days when  self-pity begins to tip-toe into my psyche and I, although aware of its sneaky ways, let it enter the corridors of my mind and heart, I think of Elisa and try to embrace the joy she’s shared with me. 

That doesn’t always work, I admit. Sometimes, I do my Irish keening because of vision concerns and also the Meniere’s symptoms that have been so persistent with the weather pattern of the past weeks here in Missouri.

Throughout my youth, Mom used to say whenever I grumbled about my life:  “Dolores, you find what you look for. If you look for good you will find it, and if you look for bad, you will surely find that also.” 

That seems to be Elisa’s philosophy of life. Somehow, she has the inspiring ability to embrace all the possibilities of her life. She is, I tell you, one of the great gifts of my existence. 

Peace. 

PS: Elisa posts on Facebook. She also posts on her blog: https://ecwrites.blogspot.com

 


Monday, March 15, 2021

Becoming Instruments of Peace


My brain has always been like a pinball machine—ideas bouncing from one pole of interest to another with irradiating lights announcing delight, joy, curiosity, knowledge, fact, possibility, gift, rosiness, success . . .  OR . . . worry, fear, concern, trepidation, desperation, disaster, mistake, failure, flaw—the 180° differences embedded in my psyche, personality, and philosophy! 

That pinball machine of a brain has led me to embrace many changes in life and to find peace and serenity as I’ve surrendered my need to always be in control or to be right or to be the ultimate judge and arbiter not only of my own choices and life, but also of the choices of others.

Pinballing has led, I believe, to my accepting differences while looking for ways to act in a way that will bring to others and to myself a quality of mercy that surpasses all understanding. Mine included. 

Of course, none of us can journey through life without the occasional failure to embrace a recognized universal good. We make mistakes; we fail in our commitments. We talk the talk, but don’t always walk the walk. 

That is to say, we are humans with human flaws and failings. But we can always recommit ourselves to serving human kind in the least obtrusive and destructive way. We can hold on to an empathy grounded in the truth that undergirds every major spiritual tradition: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 

That is, in accepting ourselves with all our foibles and flaws, our darkness and our light, we pledge, we vow, we commit to accepting others. We may not accept their actions. In fact, we may find their actions reprehensible. Just as our actions may be reprehensible at times. But we accept that at the deep center of themselves, they are driven by some emotion that makes what they do seem right to them. 

We may not understand that emotion—what it is: fear, greed, pride, lust for power, antipathy, jealousy, envy, whatever. But we can try to begin to understand our own feelings . . . and those of others. We can try to search out and understand the experiences that prompt the actions of others.

Then we can try to create through our thoughts and actions a world that responds to the experiences that led to seemingly destructive actions—whether in ourselves or others.

Is there some perfect world of emotion? Some perfect world where are can live without fear? Some perfect world where power is seen as a source of doing good for all humans? 

I don’t know. I’m at the end of this posting, and I admit to not being smart enough to know how we can fill up the cup of others with life-giving waters as they . . . and possibly, we . . . wander through the desert of our own needs. 

If I were more philosophical or more well read or a deeper thinker or a more abstract thinker . . . if I were wiser . . . if, if, if. Then, perhaps, I could find the words that would be like a rain shower, washing all of us clean of our own arrogance, presumptiveness, pride, self-righteousness, or whatever it is that holds us back from being wholly human. From being holy humans, whose lives bless those of others.




So, I ask you, what is it that we can do to help all of us become, as Francis of Assisi said, “an instrument of peace.” That is, what actions will help us become the life-giving humans we are called to be. Called perhaps by the God in whom many believe. Or, called by our own inners selves that have known the thirst for wholeness. 

What is your response to the needs of our world today and to the great divide between so many of us? To the chasm that exists today in our culture? 

 

·      Francis of Assisi wrote a well-known prayer on how we can be instruments of peace. Click here if you’d like to read his words.

·      The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization I wholeheartedly support with monetary contributions when I can, succinctly says: “Fight hate; teach tolerance; seek justice.”

 

I wish you peace, pressed down and overflowing today and all days. 

 

PS: For those of you who would like to learn more about what’s happening with Elisa as she lives with cancer, here’s her blog URL. On it you will find her postings since 2011. The cancer postings go back to November 1, 2020.

 

Illustrations from Wikipedia.