New Voice

I sat in profound shock and disgust. I actually felt like Throwing Up or Diarrhea Planet, which are actually both bands I ran across on Spotify the other day. Perhaps it was a moment like this where they chose their band name. If so, I totally get it now and revoke all of the jokes I made at their expense.”I saw Diarrhea Planet in the women’s restroom at a local concert venue recently. While the bathroom experience was explosive for some, I felt good and Heart was amazing!” “Isn’t Throwing Up your favorite?”

I was in the middle of updating the single sheet of paper that explains a person and an entire career, my resume, when I discovered an email I wrote years ago. I had done a search on my computer for a company I worked for years ago and for some reason it pulled up this particular email. I reread again and again. I wrote this? It says it’s from me. Have I been hacked? I could not hear my voice in this email just some angry psycho. Had my voice changed that much? In a nutshell, the email was rejecting a request for a letter of recommendation for a former co-worker and friend. It was ruthless and mean-spirited, at least up to the last couple lines, “Despite my feelings, I wish you the best in your endeavors.” The most bizarre thing is I have absolutely no recollection of this instance. I had even consulted a friend on how to handle the recommendation request and got an “all clear!” for my response. Who was I? What planet was I on? Clearly I had been hacked… by fear. It was clearly a personal issue of mine that I let carry through to this email. I know I wasn’t in a great place and was trying to do a lot of healing from my former life but wow! It makes me want to apologize to anyone I have ever known. “Sorry for being an asshole! I didn’t understand the role of fear in my life, or how to apply forgiveness, triviality, peace, and compassion! I also hadn’t discovered the Four Agreements!”

Ironically, as I sat stagnantly staring at my terribly boring resume I got a text from a wonderful friend thanking me for being a great friend. Okay, Universe I hear you! I caught a glimpse of who I was, at least for that moment, and thankfully I have grown from that. My life is incomparable to then and I am entirely grateful. It’s taken a lot of- I’ll call it-experience to get where I am. Now, I just have to continue on my path of transformation or as the Toltecs called it, the Art of Transformation. I have to continue to ignore the parasite which feeds fear and inadequacy to live a life of freedom. My dream is right now so why waste it on trivial things or moments of weakness in the past? I’ve never liked my voice but, I believe that it has changed and it feels new. I think I like it! Don’t worry I won’t be putting out an album as the new formed band “Asshole.” I’m guessing that name is already taken anyway.

Video

“Wonderful”

This video is from the 2011 MFA Acoustic Session in the galleries of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. My Morning Jacket is one of my favorites! Their live performances are amazing but even more rad are the song lyrics. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying RA is wonderful… but life sure is. It’s important to keep things in perspective… and to daydream. I hope this gives you a spiritual boost!

Here are the lyrics:
“Wonderful (The Way I Feel)”

It matters to me
Took a long time to get here
If it would have been easy
I would not have cared

Like a tropical forest
Like a cop on the beat
When all is in order
You get lost in the heat

I feel so wonderful, wonderful, wonderful the way I feel
I feel so wonderful, wonderful, wonderful the way I feel

Doesn’t matter to me
I could take it or leave it
I could learn from way back when
And still live right now

With the sun on my shoulder
And the wind in my back
I will never grow older
At least not in my mind

I feel so wonderful, wonderful, wonderful the way I feel
I feel so wonderful, wonderful, wonderful the way I feel
So wonderful, wonderful the way I feel
I feel so wonderful, wonderful, wonderful the way I feel

I’m going where there ain’t no fear
I’m going where the spirit is near
I’m going where the living is easy
And the people are kind
A new state of mind

I’m going where there ain’t no police
I’m going where there ain’t no disease
I’m going where there ain’t no need
To escape from what is
Only spirits at ease

Happy National Dog Day!

Though I had to recover (for several days) after this blissful day at dog beach with my puppies, it was amazing and so worth it! In honor of National Dog Day, here are a few moments I was able to capture! 🙂

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I’ve got the beet!

I’ve just recently started to add beets to my juice and they’re beautiful, nutritional, and fantastic! If you haven’t already, give ’em a whirl! I currently juice: 1 pink lady apple, 1 large bunch celery, large broccoli stem, 1 carrot, 1/2 large or whole small beet, 6 kale stems, and 1/2 lime/lemon. Sometimes I add a zucchini too! Yum!

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Basking in Love

Thunderstorms have been kicking my ass… again. The sky is grey, the barometric pressure is low, the humidity is high, and we’re under a flash flood watch. I feel sick and like a 50 pounds of dog food are hanging from each of my wrists and ankles. I’m crunchy, clumsy, restless, and very uncomfortable. I want to understand why the weather changes do this. Not that it really matters. I already know without fail, that most widespread pain and illness identifies that a storm is brewing within the next couple days. AccuWeather is calling for stormy weather through Friday.

On these days it is important to call upon things that keep me from or at least minimize pity parties. Here are some things that are helping me today and may help if you’re in a similar place.

• Burning myself via a hot shower. My poor skin pays the price of the intense heat which my joints require. Scaly skin is beautiful, right?

• Music is my great healer and therefore Spotify is aiding in keeping a pity party at bay. I just discovered this fantastic band called Sivu thanks to My Old Kentucky Blog.

• Re-reading and journaling using the prompts in Chronic Resilience by Danea Horn. Have I mentioned this book yet? It’s super amazing and inspiring. Seriously, read it. I wrote Danea on Facebook to thank her and she wrote me back! Heart-warming and rad!

• Re-reading the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. My thoughts are just thoughts, fears just fears, and today is only today. I choose what to pay attention to and what to let fly by. I am more empowered than I feel.

• Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (even though he wouldn’t take a picture with me at a book reading, he’s still my favorite). He’s descriptive, endearing, offensive, hilarious, and dramatic. Perfection.

• Creativity- gently walking through my garden, reading HGTV magazines that my mom just passed on to me, watching HGTV, and brainstorming ideas for my portfolio and artwork. Oh yes, and Pinterest!

• Avoiding stressful and fearful thoughts and topics- they’re everywhere. I have to be aware and cautious so they won’t further eat my health.

• Eating healthy-
breakfast: typically oatmeal (though today was a gluten-free, sugar-free, and oil-free blueberry muffin courtesy of my awesome husband),
snack: green juice,
lunch: salad (romain, onions, peppers, mushrooms, sauerkraut, carrots, beets, avocado, tempeh, with a Dr. Fuhrman based cashew dressing)
snack: smoothie
dinner: a vegetable and rice/quinoa bowl.

• Chocolate peanut-butter smoothie (almond milk, frozen banana, peanut butter, and cold pressed Cacao powder).

• Writing this blog on my iPad. 🙂

On another note, our dishwasher died this weekend. I know it’s silly but it is devastating. It’s a financial and physical burden. After too much research we went with a Kenmore Elite (cadillac model). It is the easiest for me to open and has potential for no pre-washing. I cannot comprehend that! It’s also super quiet and pretty (well as pretty as a dishwasher can be from Sears). We’re even having it installed so it will be here 2 days sooner which is a pretty big deal for us and this nasty weather. Oh and they’re hauling away the broken one. Rad!

Living with RA has taught my husband and me that sometimes you have to do what’s going to make things a bit easier. It has also taught me to surround myself with things that make me love and feel loved- especially on the rough days. I’ve tried basking in sadness and anger and I can confidently say it made me annoyed with myself and ultimately made me feel worse. Not that I don’t wallow in sorrow sometimes, I do, but I really keep it limited because it is a choice.

Right now my thought is… Wow, that chocolate peanut butter smoothie rocked my world! 🙂 Yummmmmm!

Oxygen & Pulse

The machine arrived in a light blue elementary school pencil box with a pleasant delivery man who complimented our beautiful garden. The machine, a small electronic device with an attached long cord and finger clip, looked beat up and unsanitary. The delivery man explained that I could tape the clip on my finger if I felt that it may fall off during the night. The clip had disgusting sticky residue from the previous users. I wiped it down thoroughly with sanitizing wipes, crawled in bed, took my nightly meds, and hesitantly put the clip on my finger. It was still sticky. My husband and I watched the bright red lights project my oxygen and pulse levels. Oxygen 98 Pulse 78.

“Is 98 good?” I asked my husband.
“Yeah, it is,” he said with confidence.
“What’s the normal range?” I said surprised that he knew.
“I dunno,” he shrugged.
“Then how do you know 98 is good?” I said in a stressed tone.
“I don’t,” he said with a chuckle.

It’s going to be a long night. Oxygen 97 Pulse 74. I flipped the machine upside down to remove light pollution, struggled to be comfortable, and tried to focus on America’s Got Talent. My hands and fingers ached and the clip felt like 50 pounds. Why do my fingers have to hurt tonight? Sleeping has been a struggle as my ribs are seemingly still inflamed and this little device was adding to the challenge. Oxygen 97 Pulse 68.

I woke up abruptly to find the machine under my husband… and it was off! Ahhhhh! “Just turn it back on,” my husband coherently responded. He is rarely able to be coherent mid-sleep and it was 12am. Oxygen 94 Pulse 81. Ugh. At 6am I was over it. I’m done. It hurts. My finger felt swollen and all my fingers painful. I turned on the light found it looked a little flattened and maybe a bit swollen. As usual, it looked nothing like how it felt. A few minutes later a bump/blister appeared. What the heck?

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I rushed to show my husband, “Look at this! Why do I have this blister?” I always ask him to know everything. Poor guy. He didn’t know and Google didn’t either. Oh well. At least it’s over and my finger gets a break. It’s crazy how a little device could cause more pain! Items up next blood work and X-rays. Yay?

Maybe Someday

“Oh, it’s good to run into you! It’s been years since we have worked together. How have you been?”
Next insert any of the following:
“When are you two going to have a little one?”
“You’re overdo for a child aren’t you?”
“You two plan to have kids, right?”
“You two would have the cutest kid! When is that going to happen?”

These statements are seemingly harmless and even friendly in nature for many however let me try this scenario again ending with different questions.

“Oh, it’s good to run into you! It’s been years since we have worked together. How have you been?”
Next insert any of the following:
“What are your religious views?”
“How do you feel about Roe V. Wade?”
“What are your political views?”
“What do you think of Obamacare?”
“Gun laws?” “Trayvon Martin?”
“How’s your sex life?”

Most of these statements are deemed inappropriate for small talk with an acquaintance. These questions are presumptuous, inconsiderate, and typically do not occur in this circumstance. The answers would cause uneasiness or heavy debate. However, how is it different from asking about children?

Okay so responses are typically more polite. My typical response is a sheepish, “maybe someday.” But, if I were to give my honest answer it could cause discomfort and perhaps even debate.

I have thought of childbirth as: adding to the population that the Earth cannot handle, it would feel awful bringing a child into this environment full of cruelty and injustice, and it’s like a puppy-mill and adoption is the only thing that actually makes sense. Despite my feelings against childbirth, like many ideologies my opinion changed. I met my husband, became a teacher, and thought how awesome it would be to have a vegan baby (and family) to help create positive change in the world- storybook, I know. One of my husband’s first questions to my rheumatologist was, “is having a child possible?” and he replied, “let’s make her feeling better a priority.” Though a baby was never an official plan, it was devastating for both of us to no longer have the option to consider and make an official plan. And maybe we wouldn’t have chosen that life anyway. But there is just something stifling about the option vanishing. RA made me sick and changed everything. That’s not an easy thing to share with inquiring minds at Target.

My honest response today would be… It’s presumptuous and painful for you to bring up such a personal and sensitive subject however, here it goes. I love children however, it is not an option. I have rheumatoid disease. I will be on chemotherapy and other immune suppressants for the rest of my life. My medication literally says “do not take if you suspect or are pregnant or breastfeeding” because it is so strong it would kill a fetus. In order to get pregnant I have get off of chemo, revisit horrifying disability, and risk permanent damage to my body. Yes, some enter disease remission during pregnancy however an equal amount of people do not and remain on immune suppressants, prednisone, and pain medications to survive conceiving and pregnancy. Is that fair for me? How about the fetus? Prior to this diagnosis this was a choice and now is not.

Insert awkward pause.

Some would argue that it’ll work out someday because of medical advances.

Some would argue to just think positive.

Some argue it’s worth the pain.

Some argue some medications are safe during pregnancy.

Some would argue it is a selfish act to not have children.

Some would also argue that it’s all part God’s plan for my husband and me.
While driving in a car with a pregnant woman, a woman who took fertility medications (who later gave birth to twins), another woman expressed her strong feelings that “Infertility or inability to have children is purposeful by God. It’s his way of telling people that they would not produce a healthy child that would bring good.” It didn’t make me feel better that she was unaware of everyone’s circumstances except the obviously pregnant woman.

Like political or religious views- it’s not a simple question, answer, or a simple decision. It is also definitely not appropriate with acquaintances or strangers. What about people who do not want children, do not like children, cannot have children, people who have underdeveloped organs, miscarriages, fears relating to childbirth or relationship/marriage changes.

Perhaps if a stork actually delivered a perfectly healthy child in a soft plush blanket to doorsteps one cool spring morning in a underpopulated world free of injustice and cruelty these questions could be endearing. But as adults we know the complications involved and should know better to mind our p’s and q’s. The alternative is to answer honestly so that perhaps later the questioner hears a thought rather than an out loud question. Maybe someday.

Test Anxiety

12:30am. I sat up dripping with sweat in bed, looked around, and felt scared and confused. I was out of breath and my heart seemed to be thumping out of my chest like a Bugs Bunny cartoon. With my face tingling and my tongue partially numb I leapt from bed to the restroom seeking to resume normalcy. What the hell is happening to me? Before washing my hands and face I turned on the bright light and stared at myself. Am I okay? My face feels swollen but it merely looks hot and sweaty but otherwise normal. Was I seeing clearly? My heart continued to race and I fled back to bed. I quietly propped up myself and grabbed my iPhone and my dear friend Google. Anxiety attack? Heart attack? What is this? I was scared. My husband was sleeping ever so peacefully when I roused him. I’m scared. I feel weird. Can you look and talk to me and see if I am acting normal? Is my face swollen? Help me. We talked, decided against the ER, and an hour later I was laughing at my husband’s bad jokes and ready to resume sleep. I was frightened but surprisingly went back to sleep with little issue.

Since, sleeping has been rough. For awhile I was scared of a reoccurrence of my above episode. My husband would peacefully enter his uninterrupted slumber while my eyes remained bright and brain active and in fear. Thank goodness for HBO on demand! After a few “normal” nights my fear dissipated and I felt I had recovered. Whew! But then I woke within the hour of 2am with chest pain and feeling short of breath several times for multiple days… ahem weeks. Google directed me to WebMd and the Mayo Clinic which led me to having panic disorder, sleep apnea, heart, or lung problem. Rad!

Weeks later on a Friday at 8am my iPhone reminded me I had an appointment with my GP doctor on Monday. What is this appointment for? I didn’t have blood work order and had no idea of the purpose. Did he want to hear my adventures with RA? I decided I would cancel. I survived that weekend of ugh sleep and that Monday after not receiving a reminder call for my appointment I decided to call and cancel. Your appointment is next Monday the receptionist explained. I badly wanted to utter, can you cancel that appointment? But I didn’t. Instead I apologized for my confusion and thanked the woman. After I was frustrated I didn’t cancel. That was the whole point of the call! Damn! Intuitively I reacted that my appointment could not have been better timed.

A few days prior I got a strange feeling I was short methotrexate pills. My husband counts out my 8 pills for me every week so I never have a clear visual inside of the bottle. I shook my head at myself and cursed my worrying as I walked to the medicine cabinet. I struggled to open the RAer proofed lid, danced with success when I did it, and behold found only 7 pills left! What?! This is crazy. How did I know?

I bought a new journal recently to accompany this awesome book I’m reading called Chronic Resilience by Danea Horn (you should totally read it too). Fast forward to today. I filled the first page and a quarter with my symptoms and sleep issues that I planned to recite to my doctor at today’s appointment. I dripped with sweat and was loaded with anxiety as I waited in the office. I wiped the sweat and my husband told me jokes to ease my tension. I told my doctor I nearly canceled and dreaded the visit as the shocking diagnosis of RA hits me like a freight train when I enter his office. He chuckled. I sat sweating more.

I talked briefly about my issues. He was concerned they were drug side effects. When I spoke of my rib pain he appeared baffled about RA effecting more than small joints. Oh boy. After getting through part of my list he recommended a full blood work up, chest X-ray, referral to an ophthalmologist, and a referral for an in home sleep apnea test. His biggest concerns related to side effects of medications while my biggest concerns are the disease. Ether way the tests are good. I only forgot to ask about two things- why pain medications suck and what I can do and why I hiccup so frequently.

I came home thinking sleep apnea? Really? I’m thin, don’t snore, and don’t have any of the symptoms. Or do I? Check out RA Warrior’s article. RA warrior is a wealth of knowledge.

Other random thing I learned today in my research… ganglion cysts are related to RA! I had one as a kid (maybe 10 years old) for years and it came back for a year (I had a blast scaring my students with it… telling them is was an unhealed broken wrist ::insert evil laugh::) and went away just before my severe onset. Crazy! The journey with RA always seems to connect dots while simultaneously surprising (or startling) from around the corner. It challenges me more than I knew possible but, somehow has made me a better person. Though I sweat, a lot, I don’t sweat the little things. RA has a way of showing significance and helping prioritize. It has also helped me to listen to my intuition. I’m not a hypochondriac… this is all the real deal. I’ll keep you posted with the findings from my new tests. I always hated tests.

Inhale Light, Exhale Darkness

Aging is incomprehensibly beautiful when your eyes are bright. Stagnant days, weeks, months, years, and decades are unforgiving and vanish fast and ferociously. As a child I appreciated life in all forms. I spent a lot of time alone and outdoors frolicking outside in a mountainy area. I watched, fully amazed, as spiders built their webs, ants carry objects 300 times their size, and thistles grow from spiky bushes to having gorgeous blue flowers. I carried spiders and stinker bugs from the inside out. With tears streaming down my face, I buried the remains of lives taken by my rescued cats. With my sun-bleached sandy blonde hair flowing, I drove my low-rider tricycle up and down our long driveway at a million miles an hour scaring the hell out of my parents and our horses who lived near the end of the driveway. I enjoyed the air. I enjoyed everything in life.

Though I was energetic and upbeat externally as I grew into adulthood I grew bitter, more fearful, and gained a general distain for the world. From cruelty to animals to tragic illnesses and death of loved ones, everything I saw in life was cruel and awful. I was in a relationship that matched my attitude of distain and until I awoke it was completely masked. When my eyes caught light, I saw everything for exactly what it was. I didn’t realize it happened but, when it happened my lifestyle no longer fit and neither did the person in my life. It all came to an end and my life resumed with full awareness and appreciation of life. I met my husband, we bought a home, and everything seemed to align like a storybook.

It happened again. Life became stagnant and darkness flooded my joy. If anyone had asked me and I’m sure they did, I was happy and living the “American dream.” I had a husband, home, and worked a million hours at a thankless job. Very American! It was easy to see from my home’s curb that something was missing. Weeds grew like a jungle around my home and our car rarely sat in the comfort of its nice garage. I also was known as “the sick one” at my job and everyone told me I worked too hard too much. Too. Too. Too. I didn’t agree though I caught glimpses and began to feel critical of my “too” constant surroundings.

Then RA came full fledge and told my body it too was done. But I didn’t stop until I had no other choice. I couldn’t dress myself, wash myself, and could hardly wipe myself. Oh yeah, then my husband and I got fired. My health and livelihood were gone seemingly all at once. What I have left are THE MOST important things- my family (animals included) and my home. My eyes grew bright again and life is beautiful. However, it can be stagnant if I allow it and the dreary cloud hovers and covers again raining misery and fear.

Age has taught me to see darkness coming which allows me to wash it away with awareness. Chronic pain and illness can make life feel stagnant and did for a period of time. I sat, slept, wept, and revisited bitterness and distain. Rewind. Repeat. Then one day I got up stiff and sore and felt light beaming out of my pores. I got an overwhelming sense of what the hell am I doing? I started gardening and being more active despite the pain and fatigue. I may not be the same physically but, I am proud of how far I have come.

Yesterday the cloud drifted back as I suddenly felt a hopelessly unemployed funk. I see it. Inhale. I’m going to wash it away as I could miss something truly rad if I don’t pay attention. My senses are on high alert. I enjoy the air. I enjoy life. But, what if… Exhale.