Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Best Laid Plans . . .

Just last week I posted the routine to which I was going to commit myself for the remainder of this year. Several of you left comments in which you encouraged me—gently—to be more realistic and not ask too much of myself.
         How wise you are. Already my three-pronged plan has become too ambitious. In less than five weeks, I’ll celebrate my 78th birthday. And the truth is that I no longer have the energy and resilience I once took for granted.
         Moreover, I deal daily with two physical problems that leave me tired much of the time. Today, I’ll share with you the ramifications of one of them—Ménière’s Disease. Next Thursday I hope to explain the impact of Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma.
         I experienced my first episode of Acute Rotational Vertigo in 2002. Nothing occurred again until 2006 when my Ménière’s became, according to the specialist, progressive and intractable.
         I spent the next eighteen months experiencing ARV episodes—with the walls, ceiling, and floor rotating around me. Nausea and vomiting accompanied each episode. I couldn’t walk without falling and so I crawled from room to room.

         These episodes usually began with me suddenly pitching forward: down the steps, in the rock garden, out of bed, against windowpanes and the sharp corners of tables, toward the pot of boiling spaghetti. The pitch forward, prelude to the episode, came without warning.
         The episodes were of varying length. The longest for me was twenty-four hours. Because of Ménière’s, I couldn’t drive. Read. Watch television. Work at the computer.
         An operation in 2007 made those ARV episodes mostly a thing of the past. However, two weeks ago I experienced ten hours of simple vertigo. Not acute rotational. Just simple. And yet it had me crawling from bed to bathroom to kitchen. Mostly I kept my head on the pillow. Why? Because a boulder had lodged within my skull cavity. When I raised that heaviness off the pillow, I felt as if my head were going to tumble off my shoulders.

         But that occurrence was, I hope, simply a fluke because neither ARV nor simple vertigo happens often anymore. I do have days in which I deal with about five variations of vertigo in ascending order: tentativeness, imbalance, light-headedness, dizziness, wooziness. When I have one of those days, I do little.
         The more problematic side effect of Meniere’s is its headache. In intensity it’s like a migraine, but without light sensitivity. Precipitous barometric changes often trigger these headaches, which can last many hours. They leave me exhausted, as do vertigo episodes and wooziness. I sleep long hours after experiencing them.

         Unfortunately, I live in an area known as “Tornado Alley,” which brings with it many barometric changes. So I have headaches often. In fact, I’ve had a headache everyday for the last sixteen days. During that time, desperate to assure myself that I could get something written this year and find an agent, I wrote last week’s posting. I think that’s called “whistling in the dark”!!!

         But yesterday I read the following words written by the Buddhist monk Pema Chödrön: “Take the whole teatime just to drink your tea.” That line encourages me to live in the present and be within whatever I am experiencing. It encourages me to let go of control.
         Surely, planning schedules for the future is a form of control and yet Ménière’s has tried to teach me again and again that I have control only over the way I respond to life. As you must know by now, I’m a slow learner. Still, I may finally be slogging along the road to reality. I feel myself ready to embrace what one of you suggested: “going with the flow.”
         These are not new words to me. Other friends throughout my life have made the same suggestion. And I try. I do so try. Maybe that’s the result of the asthma with which I was born. Always there is within me a desire to achieve. To leave a mark on life.
         So here’s to going with the flow. I’ll drink—a cup of tea—to that!  
PS: If you’d like to know more about Ménière’s, click here. I experienced the four classic symptoms that are listed midway down the article.

Photographs from Wikipedia.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Commitment to Myself . . . Please Hold Me to It!

Hello All, on this overcast day here in western Missouri where the cold is always a “wet” cold that creeps into the bones. Those of you who are regular readers of this blog know that since May 2011 it’s been my on-line memoir. Beyond these memoir stories, however, I also try to write other genres.
         Right now I have completed a novel—The Reluctant Spy, which takes place in first-century Palestine; a slim gift book—The Gift of Nine Lives, an illustrated fantasy for cat lovers; and a second gift book—Angelic Psalms, an illustrated book of lyrical verse for our troubles times.

         In addition, I have completed a first-draft for a novel about four ex-nuns; a partial for a novel that takes place in Bronze-Age Greece; and another gift book that is halfway completed. Much of this writing dates back years as I have a strong tendency to begin something, work steadily on it, then get bored with it, and put it aside for later.
         As I’ve worked on these various manuscripts, friends have encouraged me to try to get a memoir published. They believe it has the best chance of getting agent representation and publication. You may wonder why publication is important to me. Why isn’t simply writing enough?
         I believe that each of us is an artist in some way: some of us bake artisan’s bread; other listen with such sensitivity that they bring peace to our troubled waters; some of us dance or sing, compose music or create beauty in our gardens; some of us enjoy the stories, anecdotes, and jokes of others so that friends feel welcomed in our midst; some of us are great storytellers.

         And as artists we all seek an audience: someone to eat the bread; to dance through life with us; to wear the sweaters we knit; to enjoy the potato soup; to gaze upon the watercolor; to listen to the song that we can’t resist singing.

         You see what I mean. I think of myself as an artist whose way of connecting with others is through writing. I’m not saying that I’m a good writer or even that I have anything to say that others might want to spend time reading. What I am saying is that my deepest heartwish is to communicate and it’s through the telling of stories that I can do that.
         Thus, blogging has been a gift to me. I have been able to share stories with you and you have responded with interest and support. And in the past three years, I have indeed come home to myself—the name of this blog—in that I have embraced my whole life. Your comments have helped with that as your words have often put into perspective some aspect of my life with which I’ve struggled. Thank you now and ever for all the help you’ve given me. You have read my stories with nonjudgmental sensitivity.
         You’d think that being read with such understanding by all of you should be—I’ve never liked the word should by the way—enough for me. But it isn’t. I want to be published. I want my stories to be read beyond the Internet. For an artist, life is about connection. Our art—be it gardening or baking, writing or listening, photographing or painting—wants to connect with others. For me, this is evidence of the Oneness I find in all creation.

         And so I am devoting this year to three aspects of writing: 1) following your blogs; 2) finding an agent to represent my work; and 3) completing the convent memoir.
         All of you know the time that’s involved with following blogs. What you may not know is that the second goal requires a lot of research beyond the writing of query letters. (I’ve written about this before on my Sunday writing blog.) The third goal requires that I establish a daily routine of writing in order to complete a finished memoir by Thanksgiving—the deadline I’ve set for myself.
         To do that, I’m going to set aside two to three hours each day for writing new convent stories and weaving them together with the ones that have already appeared on this blog.
         While I’m doing that, I will continue posting, but I won’t be adding to the convent stories I began last August. Instead, I’ll return to my pre-convent and post-convent years and share with you additional stories about those times.

         I’ve been dealing with health problems recently that have stymied my efforts to follow blogs, seek agent representation, and write. With my somewhat obsessive behavior, I fell into the trap I have fallen into before. That is, I’ve let myself think it’s all or nothing. If I can’t do these three things each day, then I do nothing. And so nothing’s been getting done.
         But I’m taking a renewed lease on life.
·      I’m going to make every effort to visit each of your blogs once a week. Your words keep me grounded.
·      I’ll send out an agent query whenever I have twenty to thirty extra minutes to get that query ready.
·      And I’ll set realistic goals for myself each week so as to move forward in completing a first and then a final draft of the convent memoir.
I know that all of you wish me success with my three goals. All of us are artists; all of us have goals. Let us then support one another as we find and fashion our heartwishes. Peace.

All the photographs except that of Eliza are from Wikipedia.