I Wanna Get Better

This strange thing keeps happening. This clear salty liquid keeps filling up in my eyes and overflowing down my face. I’ll feel a little overwhelmed and then a sense of loss, like I’m mourning someone. The liquid is an endless spring. I imagine I’ll run out, but I don’t. I have to drink more just to supplement all that salt I’m losing! It’s pretty annoying. I’d like it to stop.

The truth is I become a fragile emotional feather when I’m sick without relief. Gradually, after day and night and day of unrelenting sickness, it just gets to you. It starts to feel like dying more than living. I know that’s a heavy statement, and I use the verb feel very specifically. I am very much alive. Although it does beg the question. At what point do we say someone is “dying?” When their suffering outweighs their relief? That’s another question another day. I am for whatever reason, very alive, although I feel very dead. But dead people don’t cry so I think I can rule that out.

The real reason it’s been so hard recently is that being sick is absolutely and utterly exhausting. It’s overwhelming. And you know what I fantasize about? Being one of the people in my life right now that gets to offer help and suggest improvements and do random kind things. I dream of just being an average person in the functioning world. If you are that person, in anyones life, treasure it. It’s truly a privilege to be able to give to others. I might not have understood that had I never gotten sick. I want to give instead of take take take all the time. I’m tired of relying on help from others and constantly showing gratitude or kissing ass because I’m often helpless, unreliable, or burdensome. I’m tired of being high maintenance. I’m tired of all the pills I take, that work about half the time. Sometimes my stomach turns at the thought of them. I’m tired of being a bad friend in terms of what I am able to offer. I’m tired of what I am made to consider my “social life.” I’m tired of calling in sick to doctor appointments. Of seeing one or two hours of sunlight on bad days. I’m tired of my nightmares and high anxiety dreams every night. You’d think such a weighed down life would find respite in the dreamworld, but nope!! I’m tired of being 29 and relying on my parents as much as I do. Tired of feeling like I have things to offer the world but am too sick and small to carry them out. I couldn’t even hold a part-time job right now. And I’d actually love to. I’m tired of the answer being that there is no answer–there is no cure. I’m tired of being tired. And I know that those I rely on get tired of it too. The effects of all this go beyond me.

I don’t believe in whining and complaining and lamenting about life. Going on that way doesn’t really move us forward. But at the same time, there is pain here, underneath the pain, and if I don’t let it out I fear it will grow and take over my already sick insides. So I have to release it. I thought maybe if I write about it, these episodes of fluid filling up my eyes and clouding my vision and streaming down my face will cease. In other words, I want to stop crying at dog food commercials.

I am someone who loves solitude, thrives off of it even. But lately it feels more like loneliness, which is the third cousin twice removed from solitude. It’s a bad feeling. The difference between the two is that one is chosen and the other feels like the forced, only option. It’s hard to swallow when you’re constantly canceling on plans. And what you’re doing instead of being with friends, is being sick and alone at home. That’s not a fun thing to go through all the time. It wears on you.

I also laugh and cry at myself because I still want to see new places and try new things, meet new people and kiss cute boys. It’s like my heart doesn’t know I’m sick. It never gives up on the idea of new adventures. And then I wonder who would want to date me that has read this blog? I sort of leave my bleeding heart in the words here, and it’s a lot. It probably looks heavy. It can be, like anyones life. I feel vulnerable sometimes knowing that people have read such personal things about me without actually knowing me at all, but it’s part of the project. I told myself I’d always be honest, including when it got ugly. And I feel like it’d be dishonorable to discontinue that just for the sake of vanity. Still though, I worry and wonder if I’m cutting myself off from potential personal relationships by laying it all out there for the world to chew up. I worry where my life will go and how in Gods name I will move forward from here when some days I can’t leave the bed. But our boy Tolle is right: all we have is the present moment. All anyone can do is here and now. And if the present moment has me weak and in bed, (like it does right now) I can’t judge it or myself. This is where I am. I am doing what I’m capable of. Some days are going to look like this:

Not tired of this yet.
Not tired of this part.

I see where I’ve gone wrong. I’ve been judging the circumstances of my life which are beyond my control. I’ve been equating my broken body with who I am and my past as the teller of what my whole life will look like. Neither are true. But my circular thoughts would say otherwise, and sometimes we have to observe ourselves beyond our thoughts and feelings–as they are often flat-out wrong. At the same time, this life is just painful and hard sometimes, and I guess it’s OK to type that out loud. Just like I will type out loud when things change and life is better. Everything is temporary.

I also know that goals never hurt anybody. And I plan to make some more specific ones and at least feel  like I am playing a part in my health and happiness. There are small things that I can do and/or avoid that can help. Well, that’s what my mom says, and she is usually right. She’s also planning to give up TV for Lent which sounds great to me. I have a few projects in mind in lieu of the crap we would’ve been watching. Creativity never hurt either. In fact, it’s often where we find relief we didn’t even know we needed.

Also, listen to this song. It’s called I Wanna Get Better by Bleachers and I know the title is almost annoyingly appropriate but it’s a really fun and happy jam. And you can’t have enough of those.

Health and Happiness and Sickness and Sadness :)

Advertisements

Some Posthumous Advice

A friend sent this to me recently and I really loved it.  There’s something relieving and freeing about it and I think we could all use a laugh. Read it, you’ll smile.

Written by Caitlin Moran,
Published in The Times of London

My Posthumous Advice For My Daughter

My daughter is about to turn 13 and I’ve been smoking a lot recently, and so – in the wee small hours, when my lungs feel like there’s a small mouse inside them, scratching to get out – I’ve thought about writing her one of those “Now I’m Dead, Here’s My Letter Of Advice For You To Consult As You Continue Your Now Motherless Life” letters. Here’s the first draft. Might tweak it a bit later. When I’ve had another fag.

“Dear Lizzie. Hello, it’s Mummy. I’m dead. Sorry about that. I hope the funeral was good – did Daddy play Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen when my coffin went into the cremator? I hope everyone sang along and did air guitar, as I stipulated. And wore the stick-on Freddie Mercury moustaches, as I ordered in the ‘My Funeral Plan’ document that’s been pinned on the fridge since 2008, when I had that extremely self-pitying cold.

“Look – here are a couple of things I’ve learnt on the way that you might find useful in the coming years. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start. Also, I’ve left you loads of life-insurance money – so go hog wild on eBay on those second-hand vintage dresses you like. You have always looked beautiful in them. You have always looked beautiful.

“The main thing is just to try to be nice. You already are – so lovely I burst, darling – and so I want you to hang on to that and never let it go. Keep slowly turning it up, like a dimmer switch, whenever you can. Just resolve to shine, constantly and steadily, like a warm lamp in the corner, and people will want to move towards you in order to feel happy, and to read things more clearly. You will be bright and constant in a world of dark and flux, and this will save you the anxiety of other, ultimately less satisfying things like ‘being cool’, ‘being more successful than everyone else’ and ‘being very thin’.

“Second, always remember that, nine times out of ten, you probably aren’t having a full-on nervous breakdown – you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit. You’d be amazed how easily and repeatedly you can confuse the two. Get a big biscuit tin.

“Three – always pick up worms off the pavement and put them on the grass. They’re having a bad day, and they’re good for… the earth or something (ask Daddy more about this; am a bit sketchy).

“Four: choose your friends because you feel most like yourself around them, because the jokes are easy and you feel like you’re in your best outfit when you’re with them, even though you’re just in a T-shirt. Never love someone whom you think you need to mend – or who makes you feel like you should be mended. There are boys out there who look for shining girls; they will stand next to you and say quiet things in your ear that only you can hear and that will slowly drain the joy out of your heart. The books about vampires are true, baby. Drive a stake through their hearts and run away.

“Stay at peace with your body. While it’s healthy, never think of it as a problem or a failure. Pat your legs occasionally and thank them for being able to run. Put your hands on your belly and enjoy how soft and warm you are – marvel over the world turning over within, the brilliant meat clockwork, as I did when you were inside me and I dreamt of you every night.

“Whenever you can’t think of something to say in a conversation, ask people questions instead. Even if you’re next to a man who collects pre-Seventies screws and bolts, you will probably never have another opportunity to find out so much about pre-Seventies screws and bolts, and you never know when it will be useful.

“This segues into the next tip: life divides into AMAZING ENJOYABLE TIMES and APPALLING EXPERIENCES THAT WILL MAKE FUTURE AMAZING ANECDOTES. However awful, you can get through any experience if you imagine yourself, in the future, telling your friends about it as they scream, with increasing disbelief, ‘NO! NO!’ Even when Jesus was on the cross, I bet He was thinking, ‘When I rise in three days, the disciples aren’t going to believe this when I tell them about it.’

“Babyiest, see as many sunrises and sunsets as you can. Run across roads to smell fat roses. Always believe you can change the world – even if it’s only a tiny bit, because every tiny bit needed someone who changed it. Think of yourself as a silver rocket – use loud music as your fuel; books like maps and co-ordinates for how to get there. Host extravagantly, love constantly, dance in comfortable shoes, talk to Daddy and Nancy about me every day and never, ever start smoking. It’s like buying a fun baby dragon that will grow and eventually burn down your f***ing house.

“Love, Mummy.”

You can see the original post on Caitlin’s blog at Brouhaha

Thank you Giselle for the read! And congrats to my sister Amelie, who is a new mother today. It’s a good day.

Health Happiness Moms

What To Say When Someone Has Died.

It’s been one of those weeks. I realize the title of this post is a little dry, emotionless, business-like even. But I don’t mean it that way. It’s been something I’ve thought and written about before, and in the wake of tragedy the words have been busying my brain. (Hence me writing now, at 3:30 am)

A good friend of mine lost her love suddenly and tragically this week. I hardly knew him at all, but of course in the hazy aftermath of the realization that he’s gone, and the strong sadness I feel for my friend who lost him, we all can’t help that feeling that so often comes in death, sudden or not. He was too young. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Things like this happen to other people. Death is always a knock at someone else’s door. Rarely do we feel accepting when it knocks at our own. Or comes into our neighborhood anyway.

The worst of it is, there truly isn’t much to say in these situations. And as humans, as fixers and problem solvers, it leaves us all a little stumped. A little quiet. There are few words I can think to say to my friend who lost him. Accept to hold on. That we as friends will hold her hand through it. That it will be OK. But first it will be hard and trying and she already knows that. One day at a time I would tell her. Some days, one hour.

As having lost a dad to cancer–a slower death, and a step dad to heart attack- an abrupt and unforseen death, I can say that both are difficult in different ways. At least in cancer  you have time to prepare your affairs to some extent. I remember my father in his bathrobe, stick thin except for his swollen legs, on our back patio in the sun picking out music for his funeral. Laughing. Having a wonderful time. And that memory really sticks with me. It made me for once, unafraid of death. With my step-father it was different. No preparation, no time to really process it. He was here and then he wasn’t. Alive then in the ground. And what do you say to a mother who loses the second love of her life? How do you convince her there is design in all this? In the depth and solitude of grief, it’s hard to find reason in any of it. I know that feeling very well. And vague phrases about life and God and a reason for things, often fall flat. In the moment of pain, you just have to feel it and grieve it and keep on going. This is life after all. Peaks and valleys. And here I go with the vague phrases about our temporary existence. I’ll stop.

What I really want to say, is that I feel a real duty in being there for humankind when they lose someone they love. Mostly because I remember what helped and what didn’t in past times of tragedy. And also because there is no education in all this. No preparation in school for what to say and how to act when someone we know has died. And for anyone reading this, it may seem abundantly clear how lacking we are in this culture of behavior in death. There is, or maybe there should be etiquette in it. And so many lack it. I remember a family friend calling after we lost Roger. “What are you guys going to do?!?!” She pleaded to me on the phone. “And your sister is getting married next week!! In the same place your mother was married?! What will she do? Will your mother keep the house?!” I sat on the phone quiet, with tears running down my face. “I don’t know” is all I could say. And then, silence. Because I didn’t know. There was no way to know what to do next. Like I said, one day at a time. I just remember thinking that asking so many questions at that time wasn’t very helpful. In fact, it was the opposite. It’s not at all a time to start changing major life plans or rearranging things. Mourning is a process, and we have to be patient. The most helpful people in that time of crisis, were those who made small decisions for my mother, and didn’t bombard her with questions. A house in a time of grief is filled with flowers and food sent and relatives and friends. There are logistical things to take care of. There is damage control to do. And that’s what we all did for my mom, attempting not to bother her with details. I know this sounds perverted, but in some ways it can be a really beautiful time. It is when we truly acknowledge what it is to be human. We show our love without hesitation. We hold each other in tears and cry with them or let them cry on us. With this embrace we communicate that their pain is our pain too. In death we’re all the same.

I am a severe lover of animals and what they can teach human beings. (Far more than we give them credit for, I think) In grief I am reminded of elephants, one of the only other animals that are noted to grieve physically. They allow themselves to cry. They can be seen caressing the body after the animal has died, and different, distinct behavior can be observed of a matriarch even years after she loses a baby. Surviving elephants are known to stand together in their herd by the body of a fallen one in silence and stillness. Undoubtedly, they exude sorrow and seem to have some sort of formal grieving process, even beyond physical tears. Whenever I think of someone who will need help in their grief, I think of the elephants, standing by one another. They seem to convey to us, it’s not something to do alone.

.
.

I remember at the time of Rogers death, some of the most poignant times and helpful moments were those with no words at all. As each of my mothers four children and two step children made their way to our house, each hugged my mom, and both simply cried. I remember her weak voice, but her warm body when we hugged for a while. I live closest to home so I was the first kid to get there. Walking up our porch steps I thought “What will I say?” When we met eyes all she said was my name and then we hugged and cried together for what felt like a long time. But truly, that seemed the mose appropriate thing to do. The only thing to do. There were no words to say then. Helping someone grieve and truly being there for a fellow family member or friend is not so much a matter of having the right words to say but more a matter of simply being there. A warm body to embrace when the reality is too much. A literal shoulder to cry on. Someone who allows us our sadness.

For many people, the crying makes them uncomfortable, or the silence does. But crying is just a part of our grief and something we have to do. It’s a sign of us coming to terms with death. It will come out some way or another. We’re so quick to hush the griever and tell them its OK. But I think it’s acceptable to admit that things suck right now and the creator seems like an idiot and even crack jokes when the timing is right. I never cried or laughed so much as the week that Roger died. Which may sound morbid but it really wasn’t. Someone’s death brings on too the celebration of their life. It’s a time to tell stories and toast to their quarks and remember their beauty. Crying and laughter will ensue, sometimes in the same breath. And maybe even drunken debauchery. At any rate, I want to tell my friend, and anyone in the throes of grief, that it’s OK to cry and it’s OK to laugh and it’s OK to throw plates at the wall. Anything you feel is OK honestly, and you just need to do what feels right to you. There’s no right way to do it.

I didn’t have an answer for the woman on the phone with so many questions before. I couldn’t have known that a year later my mother would fall in love with the brother of my dads best friend and that even a tragic story like this would have its own happy ending. And maybe that was one of the biggest things Rogers death showed me; it was an end, but not the end. The story would go on. And that’s what I want my friend and anyone in the depths of despair to know. The only adage that gave me hope was remembering that This too shall pass. And it did.

Health, Happiness, Grief.

The Story You Tell Yourself

It is sunrise again in California and I am reflecting on the last few months of my life. I just dropped my mom off at the airport to fly home to tend to other business. Newsflash, she has a life outside of nursing Mary back to health! I’m really lucky she was able to come. She did an incredible job as most Dr. Moms do alongside my sister and I am much more functional than when she arrived a few weeks ago. I can climb the stairs easy peasy this week–that is something new.

I feel a lot more at ease since she arrived and helped me to process some pretty heavy thoughts I was having. For one thing, I kind of thought I was dying, because I’d never felt that bad before and I imagine death must feel like something close to that. It’s pretty unsettling feeling like you can’t walk or hold a brush to your head or take a shower. Forget climbing stairs, I was scoring my days on whether I could walk to the bathroom or not. Since then my strength has slowly inched its way back. I still do very little physically throughout the day as to not overdo it, but I can feel some energy where there was none before, and for that I am really grateful. I’ve been drinking protein shakes from the naturopath doctor three times a day along with 12 other supplements alongside my normal pill cocktail. I’ve been drinking Chinese tea from Dr. Xu that tastes like ground up birds nest and getting acupuncture twice a week. My B12 was low so I even learned how to give myself a shot…in the butt. It’s impressive. But anyway, it’s helping. All of it, I think, is working in different ways and putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.

I notice that every day has it challenges. Mine has different uncertainties and struggles. Will I be strong enough to climb the stairs, will I get to shower, will Monty and me save the world?! And the truth is I just don’t know. None of us do. There is no certainty about what will or won’t happen tomorrow. There is just here and now. And I notice that when I examine my life with clear hindsight and an open-minded eye, I see that it’s not bad. Like at all. It’s actually kind of enjoyable! I’ve gotten to spend time with my sister and brother-in-law that I never would have had otherwise. I’m lucky to have a mom who was able to fly out at the drop of a hat and give me some much-needed help. I get to read and write as I please. (Even though it’s mostly from bed.) I get to spend ample time with my favorite person, Monty, and I get to put my very little energy towards something positive–writing, humor, optimism, and good news. There are a lot of outcomes of this seemingly crappy situation that are not themselves crappy. They’re more like great. And that always gives pause for reflection. But trust me, it’s easy to go the other direction. The slightest tip of the scale and I could see things very differently. Darker. And I have those days sometimes. I could say it isn’t fair. I could say this isn’t the life I wanted or signed up for. I could look at all the healthy people with their functional lives and long for that to be mine. But, like Iyanla Vanzant says, that’s a life path that doesn’t belong to me. So it’s important to let it go. As long as I try to get back something that was never mine, I will suffer. As long as I tell myself a sad story, I’ll pay.

What’s your story morning glory?

We tend to think we know best for ourselves. And many times that’s true. But the problem with the human experience is that we are stuck in the mental limitations of space and time, so it’s hard for us to see our lives in the context of eternity. But that’s the truth of existence. We’re just a small part of something much larger, and we aren’t meant to see all of it at one time. I think we’re meant to just hold on and enjoy the ride, and when it’s a shit show, like my life the past year, you hold on tighter. You pull in people to help. You acknowledge there is something bigger than you, and focus your energy on balance. On acceptance. On inner peace.

The thing is, you can’t just tell yourself a happy story about your life and you’ll be happy. You have to believe the story you tell yourself. For some reason it’s like we’re conditioned to believe the sad story more than the happy one. And through the dark times especially, it’s not as easy to find the pretty things, but they are so valuable when you take time to find them. That’s why acceptance is so important. Once I stopped focusing on the happy life I would have once I got better, and instead focused on how to be happy with the life I have now, I found much more success. And it takes work. I have to remind myself everyday of the things that I am lucky for, and most of the time it’s a no-brainer. It’s family. But it’s easy to forget. To slip up. To fall into the humdrum of life and feel like you’re not where you’re supposed to be. And maybe you’re not. But most of the time, life just requires us to be present where we are.  We already have everything we need, we just have to be aware of it. In The Untethered Soul, Singer wrote that “Life is surrounding you with people and situations that stimulate growth.”So before you judge your life and your hardships, try to acknowledge that this is what you need in order to become whole. In order to become who you are– the best possible version of yourself. It sucks sometimes. It’s hard. Don’t I know it. But if in the end it forced you to grow and become awesome and happy, well then, it’s worth it isn’t it? Maybe it isn’t such a sad story after all.

I’m learning I have to be careful about the story I tell myself. Because if it’s a happy one, that will be my life. But if it’s a sad one, that will be my life, too.

Health, Happiness, Stories.

A Call For Positivity.

Good morning world, it’s been a little while. It’s 4 am in California and I have to say I’m OK feeling wide awake despite the indecent hour. I feel like I’ve been in a sedated state, in and out of consciousness for the last week–more out than in– and it feels good to finally feel alert enough to touch base with myself again. I have never been this sick before, at least not for this long. It’s beginning to make my other sick days feel more like mere child’s play. They’re nearly laughable when I think of them now.

I move when I can, which isn’t very often. It’s difficult to do basic things for myself these days and it sucks to have to ask, but that’s where I am, so I’m trying to make peace with it. Walking is really difficult and the weakness gets overwhelming. It sort of feels like trying to walk underwater–like someone smothered all of my joints in honey. Anyway, being stationary for such a long period of time isn’t super fun (for me or for Monty) and sometimes the mental housekeeping can be harder than the physical. It’d be nice to lose myself in the distraction of anything physical…tennis, shopping, drinking with friends, a road trip or camping! But it’s all out of the question, so I am left to my consciousness and the quiet of days as the world around me spins on without pause. I know it’s vital that I stay positive; that I don’t succumb to the fear and despair lingering between wakefulness and sleep, and that I surrender to where my life has me for now, and that I remain precisely clear about the difference between that and giving up. I am always going to pursue the healthiest routes and happiest choices, but I also need to just exist where I am- which right now, is immobilized in my sisters apartment. When I try to move around I am worse the next day, so it’s bed rest for me. Not much of a choice anymore.

The good news is, I have help. My sister has been doctor for a while now, while my brother-in-law insists on eating when I don’t want to. My mom flew in on Thursday so now the help has help and I am lucky for all of it. And Monty too of course. He’s a mental help to us all, and when things get sad or heavy somehow he finds a way to make us all laugh.  I think he’s anxious for me to be back on two feet but he’s patient as always. He’s taken to my sister and brother-in-law, like he knows they’re the ones with the energy. They’re the ones who will throw him the ball. So he plays fetch with them and my mom and when he comes back in he trots straight over to whatever piece of furniture I am using as a bed and curls up next to me; content until the next time he needs to go out. He is a constant reminder to be in the present moment. That is something that dogs just get and humans mostly miss.

I am going to be very honest and say that emotionally I’ve been kind of a wreck. I’m not a huge crier but for some reason when I fall into these weak, dizzy crashes, tears just roll down my face. I don’t even necessarily feel sad when it happens. It’s like this strange cause and effect I don’t feel I can control. So, I let the tears come. I try not to harp long on any negative thoughts or fearful worries; they are not only useless, but detrimental at this point if I give them too much pause. My mom told me “You can’t afford the privilege of a negative thought right now,” so I try to stay away from them. If they come, I let them, and then I let them leave. I am beginning to learn the art of detachment. Or I’m getting a crash course in it. I don’t know that I have another choice, and I must say I’m getting pretty good! I’m writing about this because I know that so many people have felt what I am feeling now, and many of them have not had support systems behind them. I want anyone to know who’s sick or troubled and reading this that it’s OK to want to punch the wall, scream really loud, curse the car door and earth, the universe, or God. I have done all of these things in darker moments, and sometimes a good scream or cry is necessary. It’s OK. Sometimes if I’m too tired to yell, I just flip off the sky. As if the clouds brought me to this point. It’s like the most passive aggressive protest I can demonstrate, but since my arms down to my fingers are weak, I don’t leave it up there very long, which usually leads to cursing. Haha. But what I also know is that anger and screaming and crying and cursing…it just doesn’t get me anywhere in the right direction. It doesn’t move me along. It’s really easy to be mad at a situation; to be pissed off or sad or claim unfairness. But where that gets you is stuck further in the predicament you were already in, just now you’re a miserable person in a shitty situation. It’s just plain more interesting to be a happy person in a shitty situation. Try it! When people ask how I am I say “Terrible! And it’s the best day of my life!”

My goal now is to stay as happy and positive as I can, which so far has been extremely hard. But I’m going to keep at it. I’m letting negative thoughts come and go and I follow them up with something better. Something true. I constantly remind myself of what I have; love, a family that gives a shit, good doctors, good friends, and the best dog in the world.  A few examples; my friend Kaitlin aka Matt Damon texts me our inside jokes throughout the day, often consisting of lines from Billy Madison, Orange County, or philosophical thoughts on the Golden Girls. Sometimes a one word text can make me laugh, and that feels like a step in the right direction. My brother Nick sends me interesting and positive reading material or funny pictures of the baby. My Stupid Friend Jess sends me her favorite facebook statuses of the day, which are always terrible. And hilarious. My mom and sister let me cry when I need to but are always encouraging, reminding me of the truth, and that is so necessary at times like these. And me, I’m kind of just hanging on. I don’t really feel like I’m driving the car to my life right now, but, I can at least control the music. Is this metaphor too much? Anyway, instead of playing like, Coldplay and Radiohead, I’m trying to play happier and motivating things. The Black Keys, Vampire Weekend, The Rolling Stones, and Ke$sha. Come on, that Tic Toc song can make anyone dance. We’re out of the metaphor now, I actually like listening to that song.

So, that’s where I am. It’s a really rough time, but I know it isn’t forever. And I know the answer to it all is not in anger or sadness or self pity, even though these reactions and dispositions are often the easier, default choices. It’s funny how conditioned humans are to respond this way to stress in life–and how absolutely worthless it remains. You’d think after 2000 years of civilization we’d have gotten it by now. Even the dogs get it! Anyway, as I sit immobilized, a heat pack on my muscles and the smell of BenGay circulating in the air, I’m beginning to retrain myself. My body is crazy weak, so I’m going to work on a stronger mind. I know that every situation is an opportunity to grow, and I guess it comes down to whether you want the experience to leave you larger or smaller than you were before. My hope, of course, is to walk away wiser and stronger. And while it’s the harder path to take, I know it’s not impossible, and so many others have endured far worse and done just fine. In the meantime, I gotta stay positive. So send me funny stuff! Among the 25 pills, laughter is still my best and favorite medicine.

Health, Happiness, Hanging On.

A Shit Show.

I don’t know of any other way to describe the past week except as a shit show. And maybe that points to how juvenile I am, but I honestly can’t think of a more sophisticated word. If you read my last post, you can see that I was in a bit of a bad way last week. I crashed really hard last Monday and was feeling pretty deadly. We did the normal protocol and quadrupled my hyrdrocortisone and I mostly stayed lying on the couch or in bed, researching the little amount of money spent on this illness and writing somewhat of an angry blog about it. I don’t usually like to succumb to moments of mental negativity like that. I think anger has its reasons for existing, but I have always wanted this to be a place of optimism, humor, and hope. So I hope I didn’t put too bitter a taste into the community here. I also need to remember that more research than ever is being done, and while we do have a ways to go, we’ve already come along ways. I’m not going anywhere, and no matter how far agencies like the NIH and CDC take the research, the goal is always to be as happy as possible, with whatever you got. The other goal of this blog is to promote awareness, and so maybe my little moment of anger can help do that in the long run. I think the best thing it did was inspire many of you to comment or email with your stories. Many people say it helps them to read this blog, and the truth is, it is just as helpful for me to hear from you. It’s easy to get so lost in your own story that you only see yourself in the world. The truth is no matter how poignantly real it can feel sometimes, we aren’t alone in this, and that’s maybe the most important thing to remember.

On Sunday morning I had started to bounce back from my week-long crash. I thought. Part of the “Shit Show” of last week was that on Monday, our kitchen flooded due to a leak in the wall. It was going to involve some major reconstruction (basically knocking out every wall in the kitchen) but they assured us it would only take a week. My sister thoughts were that we should move apartments. She’s all too familiar with how long a “week” takes in contractor time. But the idea of even packing my bags in a suitcase felt devastating to me, and luckily my brother-in-law was in no mood either to up and move overnight. So we decided to stay. But a few days later as I was walking through the hall, water seeped up through the carpet onto my feet. Never really a good sign. The workers came back and found the leak had begun to flood the master bed and bath and the front closet. By Friday morning, I was still pretty crashed and somehow there were 5 workers in the kitchen beginning demolition and making a shit ton of noise. The noise permeated my dreams but I stayed sleeping. If you can call it that. Keegan came in my room a few times asking if I wanted to go to his parents house to sleep, but the idea of getting in a car and going felt like too much. I said no, rolled over, and went back to exhaustive sleep. The demolition went on.

By the afternoon Keegan and his friend were moving the big stuff out to an apartment across the street. I packed in the laziest sick person way possible. I honestly didn’t have a lot of stuff, but what I did have I threw in two boxes Keegan gave me, and left all my clothes on hangers. Keegan and his friend moved my bed first and the couch so that I could literally go from my bed in the current apartment to my bed in next one. As they moved it on the first load, I laid on the floor in my empty room with Monty and fell asleep staring at the ceiling. I watched Keegan and his friend carry heavy things and sweat and noted how interesting faces look when you’re looking at them upside down. Here are some pictures of me during the move.

Day 1. 
Day 2.

As you can see I’m a big help. Anyway in two days, Amelie and Keegan had everything packed, moved and unpacked, and I laid there watching life walk back and forth carrying boxes over my head. It was a new perspective though and I’m always down for new perspectives. My favorite line from the whole moving experience came from my sister as she was unpacking in her new bathroom and I was laying on the couch counting ceiling popcorn. “Our fucking toilet is leaking!!!!!!” This was after three cabinets fell completely off of their hinges in the kitchen and the sink pipes leaked underneath when you turned the water on. When it leaks, it pours. If I could consume alcohol, I would have played a drinking game called “Drink Every Time Something Breaks” and had a gay old time. Instead I slept or played DJ for Amelie and Keegan while they packed and unpacked–which mostly consisted of me playing Carlae Rae Jenson’s “Call Me Maybe” on repeat. God that song is good.

By Sunday we still didn’t have cable which meant we WERE WITHOUT OUR SUNDAY FOOTBALL and my sister was WITHOUT THE RED ZONE ON ESPN which meant she COULDN”T TRACK HER FANTASY TEAMS ON A PLAY BY PLAY BASIS which was a problem, you can imagine. So we went to a bar with 4,000 TV’s and I felt sad as I watched the Saints lose in overtime and was the only Saints fan in the joint. I still yelled ‘Who Dat’ if ever so quietly. Unfortunately my body felt like it was slowly slipping away from me. An hour later when sitting upright felt near impossible and I felt a migraine coming on, I went home and fell straight asleep. Whatever momentum I had felt that morning was long gone and when I woke up a few hours later I had the migraine of the century, which lasted until yesterday. I didn’t fall asleep until 4 on Monday morning and when I woke up, I was more weak than I’d ever felt. I took Monty outside, but with this new apartment comes a flight of steps to get to ground level. I hate those steps, and I cursed every last one as I climbed them one by one, the way old people do. I threw the ball for Monty a few times, then apologized to him for being a human wasteland and came back inside. I set up camp on the couch and wondered what had happened to my limbs over night. It was like the cement fairy came over night and filled my whole body up. Thanks cement fairy!!

Yesterday morning I didn’t think I felt any worse until I tried to get out of bed. It was really hard to move. Nearly impossible to walk. I didn’t feel like I could make a fist. I wasn’t sad but I kept breaking down in tears, I think because I was scared. This felt different; worse than it’s felt before and I was nervous this time I might actually croak. Usually I just curse the illness, roll back over and go to sleep. Anyway, going to the ER is always a last-case scenario but after talking to Dr. Emils (one of my best friends in her last year of med school), my mom and my sister, we decided it was the best option. At least we could eliminate the possibility of eminent death since I had been getting worse over the week and the iv fluid and steroid would help with the weakness and get the migraine to go down. So Amelie left work early, helped me up the stairs and I cried as I said goodbye to Monty because I really didn’t want to leave him and I was also scared I’d get bad news at the hospital. It was the first time I found myself praying they wouldn’t find anything, because usually I’m looking for an answer. This time I just wanted the normal “We don’t know exactly what’s wrong, but here’s something for your discomfort.” Luckily, that’s what I got. As well as kind nurses and doctors and basically no wait time. A whole other world compared to the New Orleans hospital last January.

Hospital gowns, like mullets, are business in the front and party in the back. 

So, that brings us to the present. The good news is I’m not dying. I only feel like I’m dying. Haha. But, that I can handle. For some reason I woke up with swollen joints this morning, so it’s just another reason to take it slow. It’s also a creative challenge to see how many fun things I can do from the supine position. I don’t know what this crash is about, but it’s just going to take some waiting out. The best part through all of it is I realized just how much I didn’t want my sometimes shitty life to be over. I had been pretty down the last week being sick. I felt myself saying “Owell” as a speeding car raced past Monty and me on our walk and I entertained the thought of it taking me out. It was just my dark sense of humor of course, but now I say “No way JOSE!” to that car, and I live to see another day. Even if from the couch. Sorry for the length of this one. Like I said, it’s been a shit show of a week

 

Health, Happiness, Shit Shows.

 

 

Is Happiness a Choice? A Book That Challenged All My Notions, and Won.

I think my favorite present to both give and receive is a book. And not an e-book, not a kindle or a tablet thingamajiggy. A real, tangible book with pages to flip through and words that you underline and notes in the margin that you come back to later. There is something necessarily palpable about a book for me. Maybe I just really like turning pages, but I don’t think I’ll ever make the switch to electronic literature. I know it costs us trees, but I kind of feel like a tree would be happy to be a book. If only trees could talk. OK, anyway, I received a book from my mom for my birthday, and I’ve been lost in it for the last 4 days. I kept telling myself I needed to write, but my urge to read was stronger. I had to finish it before I could do anything else. I think it may be one of the most important books I’ve read as of yet.

.

“The Untethered Soul” is written by Michael Singer and I’d never heard of it or him until I began reading. The book is 181 pages but is densely written and covers everything from consciousness to identity to happiness to God to death to Christianity to the Tao. I really don’t know how he combined all of these topics so succinctly and covered them with such perfect simplicity, but he did, and it all made perfect sense. Every word. Sometimes I’d read a paragraph over and over, not because I didn’t understand, but because it felt so good to read the words. It was like light would suddenly pour in the room, and with each page (each TANGIBLE page) I felt more clarity, maybe even more happiness. At least more awareness of it. There is such a wide variety of topics he covers and methods associated with them, but he ties them all together seamlessly to teach one huge and vital lesson; to know yourself, and to find bliss. It will be difficult to summarize the whole thing up on just one page..this may need to be a two parter. So I’ll just cover a few topics that really captured me.To begin with, you can’t fix the world. You can’t fix other people, and you shouldn’t try. But you can become the purist and most open version of your Self, and that is your gift to the world. You will be the most successful and biggest help to humanity by knowing yourself truly, and waking up–becoming conscious. So long as you are unconscious, reacting to external factors, hiding behind fears and anxieties, letting that voice in your head dictate important matters, you cannot be of help to the world. You are stuck in your mind, and so you can’t go any further or higher up than that. Not until you wake up.

Like Tolle, Singer writes pretty extensively about how to answer the question “Who am I?” …a question I constantly ponder but feel my answer always comes up short. I am Mary Gelpi. Well no, that’s a label given to me by my parents. Take it away and I’m still here. Who am I? Who is the Self? It was more poignant and enlightening to hear him explain who we are not. Some we’ve been over before. Ready? You are not your thoughts. You are not your emotions. You are not the things that happened to you. You are not a gender role. You’re not even your personality. And here’s the big one: You are not that voice in your head. In fact the journey to discovering your self (which is who you are) involves the attempt to eliminate that voice. In other words: telling it to SHUT. UP. And in the meantime if you can’t get it to, DON’T LISTEN TO IT. For the love of GOD don’t listen to it. Think how many times that voice in your head has been wrong…a lot. But we continue to reach out to it for advice and guidance as though it were an intelligent shrink. It’s not, it’s noise. Just so we’re clear, I’m not talking about voices plural in your head. That’s another disorder altogether and we don’t have time for it. I’m talking about the voice in your head that is constantly chattering. If you stop reading this right now and look around the room, just wait a few seconds and listen. It will begin talking. About anything. Stupid things. Funny things. Memories. To -Do lists. It’s noise. It’s a lot of noise that isn’t really propelling you in any direction on your mission. This attempt was among the original purposes of things like meditation and yoga. It wasn’t to pray or to exercise–it was to find inner stillness, the center. The center is where “You” reside. Behind the chatter, judgments, and noise is your soul or spirit, or whatever you’re comfortable calling it. It’s quiet there. It’s the part that doesn’t die. It’s the center of your consciousness, or what Zukav called The Seat of the Soul. (Also, another awesome book) So this is how the book begins; with the search for the self and a map of where to go to find it. Once you’re able to pull back the curtains on all the things that don’t define you, you begin to feel and hear the real you. Your higher self. Perhaps he puts it most accurately with this definition: the simple awareness of being aware. Or..You are not the thinking mid; you are aware of the thinking mind. 

“When you contemplate the nature of Self, you are meditating. That is why meditation is the highest state. It is the return to the root of your being, the simple awareness of being aware. Once you become conscious of the consciousness itself, you attain a totally different state. You are now aware of who you are. You have become an awakened being. It’s really just the most natural thing in the world. Here I am. Here I always was. It’s like you have been on the couch watching TV, but you were so totally immersed in the show that you forgot where you were. Someone shook you, and now you’re back to the awareness that you’re sitting on the couch watching TV. Nothing else changed. You simply stopped projecting your sense of self onto that particular object of consciousness. You woke up. That is spirituality. That is the nature of Self. That is who you are.”

 There was one chapter that I re-read a few times, because it really challenged my notion of happiness. It asked this question, which I find myself constantly asking: Is happiness a choice? I have always believed that we are susceptible to our circumstances, therefore happiness isn’t really a choice because we aren’t in control. We can’t help it when bad things happen. But Singer absolutely disagreed with that, and I’m pretty sure he beat me. Just because we aren’t in total control doesn’t mean our happiness isn’t in our hands. If our happiness isn’t up to us, who is it up to? Other people? Circumstance? Conditions? No wonder we’re not happy! You can’t rely on anything or anyone else to cause your experience of happiness. It is entirely up to you. If you make the commitment to be happy, it is to be unconditionally happy. But, that means acceptance of the present. That means erasing your version of what you think your life needs to look like in order for you to be happy. That’s something a lot of people don’t want to give up.

I know what you’re thinking: What if my family dies in a plane crash? What if a bird shits on my head on the way to work? I can’t help that! Of course there will be challenging events in your life, you already know that or may have already experienced them. It doesn’t mean you don’t grieve appropriately and process the hard times. But it also doesn’t mean that you stop, that you can’t be happy again and continue to live a  beautiful life. (Just ask my mom, she was widowed twice, but has once again found happiness.) That’s part of the commitment. You have to accept what happens in the present, deal with it accordingly, and release. Keep going. There’s no hanging on to the past allowed. It will never change by you clinging. There’s no cringing about tomorrow allowed either. You’ll deal with tomorrow when tomorrow comes. And think about it. Does you reacting and getting upset and yelling change the fact that a bird shit on your head? No, it doesn’t. Clearly our reactions are not only silly, they’re unintelligent. They serve no purpose. They’re just noise.

Your definitions of desirable and undesirable, good and bad, all come about because you have defined how things need to be in order for you to be okay. We all know we’re doing this, but nobody questions it. We think we’re supposed to figure out how life should be, and then make it that way. Only someone who looks deeper, and questions why we need the events of life to be a particular way, will question this assumption. How did we come up with the notion that life is not okay just the way it is, or that it won’t be okay the way it will be? Who said that the way life naturally unfolds is not all right?

This is still a challenging notion for me to process, but I know it’s right. This is not to say that making unconditional happiness your mission is easy–it isn’t. It’s probably the hardest work you’ll do. But I’ve decided to take this mission on. I certainly have the time, don’t I? Maybe we all do. But we fill it up with a lot of stuff. A lot of Kardashians and O’Reilly Factor and arguments and anger and work and chaos and noise. I think it’s time to slow down. Time to go IN, not out, and find that little nook where our soul is, and try to please it. What more important work could there be? Chopra says that this is a recreational universe and that we were meant to have fun here. We weren’t meant to suffer! So I think it’s time to play. Today is August 22nd. It’s my dad’s death day. Death birthday? I wonder if they celebrate the day you die in Heaven the way we celebrate birthdays here. Anyway, my dad was one of the happiest people I knew, and that’s what everyone else had to say about him–How positive and kind he was. This book reminded me of him and his constant disposition of joy, happiness, and love. I’m going to start my work toward consciousness and inner peace with him in mind and this book as a guide, or at least a solid starting place. I highly recommend The Untethered Soul if you’ve been searching for a deeper purpose or listening for a higher calling and need a little help getting started. This is a really good road map to begin with.

My favorite line from the book: It is actually possible to never have another problem for the rest of your life. 

Health, Happiness, and Real, Tangible Books.

*My favorite underlined phrases from the book. :)

What it means to live spiritually is to not participate in this struggle. It means that the events that happen in the moment belong to the moment. They don’t belong to you.

The only way to inner freedom is through the one that watches the self. 

It’s bad enough that your happiness is conditional upon your own behavior. When you start making it conditional upon other people’s behavior, you’re in serious trouble. 

It is not life’s events that are causing problems or stress. It is your resistance to life’s events that are causing problems or stress. 

If you want to understand stress, begin by realizing that you carry around with you your own set of preconceived notions of how things should be. 

Imagine if you used relationships to get to know other people, rather than to satisfy what is blocked inside of you. 

When a person is dealing with their own fears, anxieties, and desires, how much energy is left for dealing with what’s actually happening?

The truth is, everything will be okay as soon as you are okay with everything. And that’s the only time everything will be okay. 

If I Was a Horse, They’d Shoot Me

Maybe that title is a little extreme, but sometimes when I’m counting out my pills in the morning and filling up my coffee mug for the third time, I wonder about my existence. Not in the depressing suicidal way, but more in terms of how such a weak physical specimen as myself has made it this far, it being survival of the fittest and all. I’m far from fit, but I guess I am surviving. But when I see people on facebook climbing mountains and shit I think crap, I can’t even stand the thought of standing in line without needing to faint. What am I doing here?! Then I get off facebook because I’m really starting to believe it is the demise of human beings. I think I’ll post that thought on facebook.

After visiting with the doc in Miami and changing around a few doses of things, we agreed upon my next round of treatment; which is two anti-biotics for the next two years. Woo! Yeah! Apparently, all my liminess isn’t gone, and the 6 month run on those overly priced horse pills didn’t do the trick. SO. Round two. To be honest, I’m fine with this decision. I mean, my pill bag has just enough room for two more bottles, so I’m cool with it spatially. I could look at it and be like waahhh two years of more pills. Or I could look at it as; In two years from now I presume I’ll be alive anyway, so would I like to be full or free of lyme disease? It’s my patriotic duty to choose freedom. And anti-biotics. So here’s to more pills! We’re waiting on the blood work still to finalize decisions but it’s looking like I’m in it for the long haul. Which is fine because, you know, I have the time.

So I’ve been reading A New Earth and it’s really awesome even though I’ve read it before. I think it’s one of those books you could continue to read your whole life and never fall short of gaining incredible meaning. The only other book that has done that for me is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I love that book.

Aaah Childhood.

So anyway there’s this part in A New Earth where Tolle is talking about human evolution. It reminded me of my first day of my college anthropology class. The teacher brought up evolution and began to talk about the timeline for the semester and then started to give his personal viewpoint on evolution so the class would have a clear direction. Then he asked if there were any questions and a student raised his hand and asked “But if evolution exists, then why have humans stopped evolving?” The teacher smiled big and shouted “Great Question and THANK YOU for asking!” (This was his enthusiastic response to any question a student decided to ask during class.) Then he put his hands together under his chin and answered with “That’s the good news. We haven’t!” He went on to explain that evolution are adapted changes made over a long period of time, and that if we compared modern humans with our counterparts 10,000 years ago, there would be numerous differences. I at least know that in terms of communication even in the last ten years there have been an incredible amount of changes that will forever change the ways humans interact with one another. I’d love to show a caveman Facebook.

Wait why don’t I just actually poke her?

Anyway, back to the book. Soo Tolle is talking about humans and how we’ve evolved and that one of the biggest fundamental differences between human beings and the rest of the animal world is that we are conscious of our consciousness. This kind of awareness is what drives the fundamental questions like “Who Am I?” and “What Is My Purpose Here?” Although these are the kinds of questions that can be terrifying or seemingly impossible to answer, they are what make us uniquely human and for that they should be celebrated! And pursued, too. What he also says is that “The next step in human evolution (enlightenment) is not inevitable, but for the first time in the history of our planet, it can be a conscious choice.” Cool dude!

Along those same lines, I watched a lecture that Deepak Chopra gave a few days ago, and much of what he spoke about correlated with this very concept. (Synchronicity, Yeah!) He talked about the mind, the body, and the soul, but he began by expounding on the intelligence of our human bodies independent of our human minds. For example, our bodies are made up of 100 trillion cells, which is more than all the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. Each cell is performing roughly 100,000 activities every second and every cell instantly knows what the other cells are doing and correlates its activities respectively. This is how we are capable of thinking, talking, digesting food, playing piano, killing germs and removing toxins all at the same time. “This is the inner intelligence inside of you that mirrors the wisdom of the Universe,” he says. It was cool to hear him speak about this because so many times I’ve laid in bed with my hand on my heart, listening and feeling my heartbeat and thinking “Who’s making it beat?” I guess the answer wasn’t a who, but a what. Or a who-what.

Then he broke down human intelligence into four levels. He said that the highest form of human intelligence is State of Being. He describes this as the ability to observe yourself without judging yourself. The Second highest form is Feeling- our ability to feel compassion, joy, empathy. The 3rd highest form is Reflective Thinking- Who Am I? What Do I want? What will my contribution be? What inspires me? And the 4th highest form is Doing- the ability to create happiness. He also provided a pretty simple but profound definition of the soul- the space between your thoughts. Think about it.

Anyway seeing as how sometimes I’m a worthless physical specimen that doesn’t “do” a whole lot, I liked how doing was last on the list. :) But it was his last thought that was most reassuring to me, since it had been a very sick week and I was feeling a lot like a horse needing to be shot. “The next state of evolution is consciousness. It will be survival of the wisest, not the fittest.”

Health, Happiness, Horses.

Greetings From Bed on Hard Knocks Island

I’m writing today from a very foggy place. I have to concentrate really hard when I consider what day it is, what the date is, and when someone asks me questions it takes an unwarranted amount of time to answer. This is my 3rd day in bed, and as much as I thought today would be better since I literally slept until 6 pm yesterday and fell back asleep at 9 pm for the night– I’m still not feeling much more alive. Luckily, my mom and I are still holding down the fort on rich people island. One of the worst parts of being in a full-blown crash is how isolated it feels. Luckily at this residence, my room has huge windows and an amazing view, so while I was only awake 3 hours yesterday, at least I had nice things to look at.

Not Too Shabby a View

I know to an outsider this seems ridiculous. And I’m sure there are people out there thinking “You’re simply sleeping TOO MUCH, and that’s why you’re so tired!!!” If I had a nickel…. It’s very hard to explain what my body feels like amidst a crash, and this one is one of the worst I’ve had in a long time. I think it was Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit and longtime CFS sufferer who said “Calling it ‘tired’ is like calling the atomic bomb a firecracker.” The only reason I got out of bed yesterday was to go to the bathroom and to take medicine. My mom tried to wake me up a few times and get me moving, but the thought of being upright nauseated me. Finally at 6, she made me drink a huge class of orange juice and eat toast and eggs so my body wouldn’t be running on empty. While I ate we watched a show on the science channel about the science of memory, dreams, and what makes us who we are, which was pretty mind-blowing. But by 9 I had fallen asleep again. I remember really really wanting to brush my teeth last night but standing that long just wasn’t going to happen, so I skipped.

Beyond the ridiculous fatigue are other symptoms that have been difficult to find relief to. I’ve had a non-specific pain radiating throughout my body, kind of like my bones are aching, that did not respond to pain killers. I’ve had a headache for a few days that is not a migraine but won’t go away does not respond to regular meds. Today at least the pain has let up and the headache has improved, but that heavy, wet-blanket fatigue hasn’t gone anywhere yet. When I woke up around 9 this morning, I sat up slowly in bed just to have my heart race and beat loud in my ears followed by a dash of dizziness to seal the deal. Good morning! God loves you!

The last symptom I’ll share, because we’re having so much fun here, is one of the most bizarre. I have this extreme sensitivity to sound that at times turns me into a crazy person. When I first became sick at age 9 this was one of my first and most jarring symptoms. Things like a hair-dryer, vacuum, or even the neighbors lawnmower were suddenly somehow painful, almost unbearable. I am noticing now that when my symptoms get bad, this sensitivity becomes heightened. It isn’t just loud noises either. For instance if someone leaves the laundry room door open with the washer or dryer running, I basically can’t relax or think straight until it’s closed. If someone is playing the radio in the car and there is static in the background, I feel like my head is about to explode until we switch the station. And it usually happens in the middle of someone telling a story that the sound of static becomes so overwhelming it’s all that I can hear, often causing me erupt in an erratic verbal explosion like “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CAN SOMEONE TURN OFF THE FREAKING RADIO?! I FEEL LIKE I’M ON CRAZY PILLS!!!!” And then everyone looks at me like I’m on crazy pills. But in my brain, the sound is the equivalent to nails on a chalkboard. I’ve found that many people with CFS have at least one of their senses which is painfully heightened. For my mom it’s her sense of smell; one whiff of the wrong perfume and she can get an instant migraine. Don’t we sound like a bucket of fun!? We are. :)

On day 3 in bed, I was mulling over the last week in my head, trying to piece together the puzzle of what-in-God’s-name happened to land me in bed this long feeling like I was hit by a cement truck and then rolled over by it once or twice. There are a few possibilities and I’m pretty sure it was a combination of all of them which created the perfect storm, but one in particular: I pushed myself for too long. Since my family is rarely all together in the same city, I hate to miss out on anything when we are. My brothers are two of my favorite people–they’re a lot of fun. They’re also two of the most hyper people I’ve been around. They were very go, go, go while they were here, and since I love to be around them, I tried to go, go, go with them everywhere they went until I die die died. It’s the same lesson I’ve had to learn before that I will continue to learn until I get it right; I have to limit myself. No one will do it for me, mostly because no one else has to pay the price of overdoing it, only I do. And I’ve overdone it so many times you’d think I’d have it down by now, but I don’t. I have to learn to say no. It does mean missing out on some things that I’d like to partake in, but the alternative is missing out on 3 days of life, and you never get those back. The doctor calls this being proactive vs. reactive. If you can sustain yourself by limiting things and paying attention to your body, you can pretty effectively avoid crashes and super-sick days. There were a couple of days last week I didn’t feel great but made the decision to go to the beach anyway, or go fishing anyway, and those anyways ended up being pretty detrimental.

Just so we’re clear, I don’t write posts like these to be depressing. I’m not doing it to complain or fish for pity. It was my goal from the start to try my best and paint an accurate picture of what life with this illness looks like. And sadly, some days or weeks, it just sucks. No getting around it. At the same time, I remind myself this won’t last. I study the things that got me here, and I thank God I have family (mostly Dr. Mom) to see me through the really tough parts. I wonder a lot how anyone would survive this illness alone, and I honestly don’t think it’s possible. Everyone I talk to in the waiting room at the specialists office has one primary thing in common; they have one person to whom they owe their life. A spouse, a parent, brother or sister, child or friend. CFS isn’t terminal. You don’t die from the symptoms. But I really can’t imagine where I’d be if I didn’t have the help of so many people in the past. Sleeping under a bridge somewhere. Keyword: sleeping.

In the light of friendship, I’d like to share the Gelpi’s rendition of one of my all time favorite songs from one of my all time favorite shows: Thank You for Being a Friend, from the Golden Girls. Luckily my brother Doug can basically play any song you ask him to on the piano, so he did me a solid. My voice is terrible so I apologize in advance, but hey, it was fun. This is dedicated to Emily and Kaitlin aka Matt Damon.

Health, Happiness, Crash and Burns

How To Forgive.

The topic of forgiveness has been making its way into many conversations I’ve been having among friends and family lately. It’s also shown up in my books and things I’ve been watching, and I don’t take signs lightly. I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness and also about resentment. These are incredibly strong feelings to hold on to. Whether you know it or not, your willingness to forgive has more to do with you than anyone who has wronged you. The concept is simple; forgive those who have wronged you and free yourself, or stay angry and chain yourself to the past. I can tell you from personal experience that the latter makes life incredibly heavy and mostly uphill. The premise of this idea of forgiveness is one you don’t hear often but as I’ve been confronting this new definition, makes an incredible amount of sense to me albeit at odds with our typical definition in the realm of apologies. Ready? It is this: It is not our job to judge other human beings. Maybe you feel one or both of your parents did a less than adequate job raising you. Maybe you were wronged by a romantic partner or betrayed by a friend. Don’t you think it’s interesting that the wrongdoing could have happened something like 10 years ago, and yet you still feel the pain, hurt or anger as though the wound were made yesterday? This is the ego hanging on for dear life. The ego wants to see the person who wronged you suffer. They want to see them ‘pay’ for their crime. But as many people will tell you, or what you may have experienced yourself, is vengeance is often so exhausting that when you see your perpetrator pay for his crime, you often don’t feel any better. That is because your higher self doesn’t like to see fellow human beings suffer. Your ego does.

What I’ve gathered from recent material, is that forgiveness granted to others is a gift you give yourself. It does not exonerate what the other person did. It does not excuse them from their wrongdoing and it is not a symbol of weakness on your part. It is quite the opposite. If someone has wronged you, they will have to face those demons, the consequences of their actions, on their own. And you have to trust that they will eventually have to confront their behavior. It’s how energy and karma work. But whether you forgive them or not does not determine whether they will have to come face to face with their wrongdoing. It is impossible that they won’t. This is good news for us. This means we don’t have to hold on to what was done to us, we don’t have to take on the task of seeing perpetrators pay, and we don’t even have to wait for them to apologize in order to forgive them. The universe and karma will take care of these things for us. It is only our job to work towards consciousness and becoming a whole human being. And you can become neither of these things if your clawing away at a crime done unto you whether it be yesterday or 10 years ago. The resentment will infect all parts of your life, because it is such a negatively charged emotion, besides draining your positive energy and keeping you halfway in the past. It is impossible to become conscious and live fully in the present if you have one foot in your childhood wagging your finger at your dad. Here is the most relieving and powerful definition of resentment that I heard recently; “Having resentment for someone is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.” Nelson Mandela said that. And I think it’s safe to say that guy has good reason to hang onto resentment, and yet he let it all go. So can we.

So, of course, this is all easier said than done. How do we let go of the past? For one thing, look at the anger or hurt that you are hanging onto. Where is it coming from? First you need to ‘bring it to light’ as they say. Chances are you’re holding onto pain and haven’t even fully acknowledged it. But it’s there. Maybe you are drinking it away, smoking it away, sexing it away, manipulating it away, or betting it away. But once you stop, (try stillness, that is when many answers arise) you will feel those inner parts that are hurting. The next thing to remember is that by letting go of the pain, forgiving what was done to you, you are not excusing wrongdoing. You are freeing yourself. You are feeling the hurt of what was done, maybe even one last time, and then releasing it. You’re saying that you aren’t going to live with the pain, anger, hurt, sadness, exhaustion or judgement anymore. (Keep in mind, the person who needs forgiving may even be yourself.) I know that the word surrender seems to have a weak stigma attached to it, but it is the opposite. Surrender is the brave acceptance of what is and also of what was. Whether you accept the things that have happened in your life or not, the truth remains the same. Your anger at the past won’t change it, so it is time to let it go.

I’ve thought heavily the last few days of what sort of pain I’ve been carrying around with me. After a year and four months, I feel like I have forgiven whoever or whatever I was mad at that I am sick. In fact, I turned that emotion around into gratitude. Of course, I wouldn’t have chosen this. But since when do I know what’s best for me in the context of eternity? I don’t. But intelligent divinity does, and I’ve finally begun to trust that. Last night I tapped into a moment that my deceased step-dad and I shared on New Years Eve one night. He had been in a terrible mood for three days. He would stomp around the house angrily, slam cabinet doors, sigh heavily at small things. Finally he blew up. It was over this: a dryer sheet. There was a dryer sheet on the floor of our laundry room, and it put him over the edge. He reacted, threw his hands in the air, yelled something about respect and consideration and grew red and heated in the face. It was an obvious overreaction and clear to my mom and I that he was dealing with the hurt of something else. How could a dryer sheet make someone so mad? Those things smell awesome! My mom stayed very calm and told him his behavior wasn’t acceptable, and the two of us left for a few hours and allowed him to get his head straight. When we returned, the two of them spoke in our office for a few hours, and I got ready to celebrate the New Year. When I walked into the kitchen, Roger called me into the office where he and my mom were sitting. He was weeping. He told me “I can’t be who your dad was. And I’m sorry.” I remember holding his hand and saying “I don’t need you to be my dad. I just need you to be you.” We looked at each other and for the first time in a long while, I felt that we really saw each other. Each for exactly who the other one was, not who we wished them to be. It was a freeing moment. I learned then the power of forgiveness, and have since (over 8 years ago) tried to constantly look past the external reactions of people, and into what is real. People don’t act in poor ways for no reason. They just don’t.

I’ll leave you with one last quote about forgiveness. It was said by Iyanla Vanzant, a spiritual teacher and author. (Life Class anyone?) Here it is:

Until you heal the wounds of your past, you will continue to bleed. You can bandage the bleeding with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with work, with cigarettes, with sex, but eventually, it will all ooze through and stain your life. You must find the strength to open the wounds, stick your hands inside, pull out the core of the pain that is holding you in your past, the memories, and make peace with them.”

Pretty powerful no? Since I am trying to break the pattern of holding onto pain, or holding onto judgement for others behavior, I find that having a replacement reaction makes it easier. (Sort of like supplementing a cigarette with a cup of tea.) Whenever I feel that judgment stir in me, I take out my gratitude journal, and find something about the person or situation which I find…crappy…to be grateful for. Maybe someone wronging you taught you how to have self worth, how to tell the truth, how to listen, how to set boundaries. There are any number of things. I just know that the people in your life that have caused you pain were not just sent here to mess with you. The universe is not a random kid playing games. Like Nepo says, It is our job to make sense out of pain; there is a lesson in everything. It’s not easy. It’s hard as shit. But the reward of compassion is far greater than the result of resentment. The time has come to free myself this way. I hope you’ll do the same.

Health, Happiness, Freedom.