Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Aunt Rosie

These words were read Thanksgiving weekend at the funeral of Aunt Rosemarie. She led a nicely packed life, filled with more challenges than seems fair, if you are one of those that wonders occasionally, like I do, about the distribution of worldly ease and comfort.   Not once did I see any less than gratitude and joy for the life she was given, as it was.  I am always in awe of people like her, who truly live the meaning of faith and have this amazing ability to see all of life as a great gift, no matter the circumstances they find themselves in.  They live in joy, no matter what. I strive to be like that, but I fear I’m not even close to the goalpost. I simply have to thank God for exposing me to people like her who walk In pure trust, an example for people like me who have good intentions, but sometimes can’t find our way to that portal of acceptance; let alone understanding. She understood.  

She understood this lifetime is just a classroom, a place to hone the gifts of the spirit.  

She understood raising a handicapped daughter taught her many holy things, how to serve others, how to be patient, and love as God loves, unconditionally. 

She understood life would be a lot easier if she lived it with humor.  

She made me laugh.  She was the older auntie I always hoped would be at family gatherings because of her witty outlook. With all the curve balls life tossed her way, she still stepped up to the plate and made the decision to have fun playing the game.  A few years ago at the annual family Trivial Pursuit game, she could barely walk, crippled with arthritis and an assortment of other ailments.  She navigated the room in her seated walker, smiling, cracking jokes.  Her lively wit lightened up even the serious, brilliant boys who often happened to win this battle of the sexes.  The nimble banter combined with her dancing eyes, was contagious, even to the most scholarly competitors.  She seemed always to be both happy and grateful to be alive another day to enjoy the moments and her family. That was how I saw her.   Her outlook simply drew you in.

I was inducted into this extended  family through a back door, in my late thirties, because I married her nephew.   To her, I was family, even after her nephew; my husband, passed away.  Blood has never been thicker than water in my life experience. I’ve had many “surrogates” throughout its course who taught me, belonging has nothing to do with shared DNA. To be able to welcome others unconditionally into your life and heart is a by-product of knowing God well.  She knew God through and through. This gift of belonging and acceptance into his precious family, has been my husband’s greatest legacy to me. 

Long after he passed away she still sent birthday cards, encouraged me, and prayed for me.  Best of all  she invited me to find humor in the midst of hardship and misfortune. In May, when I had my hip replacement surgery, she called my voice mail to wish me well, starting off with a corny joke and her great laugh. She ended it with words of encouragement and promises of prayers for a good outcome.  With her, you just knew, the words, “I will pray for you,” weren’t empty promises.  If she was going to pray for me, I was in very good hands.  She had an intimate relationship and very notable connections.  Those suspicions were verified at her funeral Mass.  Her daughter read Aunt Rosie’s favorite verses from an unknown writer. 

God spoke.  She listened and learned.  She gave up the pain, saw her beautiful handicapped daughter as perfect, certainly had plenty of opportunity to practice patience, and learned to appreciate her blessings. When she suffered, she leaned on Him, and she practiced her faith. Her spirit grew and through it, she taught others what was important. She enjoyed life - as it was, how it was.   She knew the keys to our happiness are in our own hands.  God has given us all we need for an abundant life. Life is a classroom, honing our qualities in His image. 

I am grateful to Aunt Rosemarie for her example of loving others as God does.  I will carry her wisdom, laughter, and loving heart with me until we meet again.  I think I will probably greet her with:

Hey, did you hear the one about the orthopedic surgeon who tried to replace me?

Friday, July 31, 2015

New Hip. Hooray!

(By request this blog post from my now defunct blog - Mostly Zen- is being re-run)

I’m a bionic woman!  2015 opened the door to some really big changes in my life. My research, diligence, and prayers  to find funding, health insurance, and a quality physician throughout the Fall and Winter of 2014, paid off.  The clouds parted, the angels sang and in May of this year I acquired a shiny metal hip joint.  Yay!  While this past five week recovery process has been a physical (and dear Lord) emotional roller coaster ride, it’s also hauled in a few more lessons I apparently needed to know in order to earn extra credits towards my Mostly Zen status. Even writing this, I feel my heart flutter with a tinge of excitement at a pain-free and bright future of new paths and exploration on my sexy new metal leg. 

My leg issues were undiagnosed for the longest time because I rarely go to a doctor for anything other than extreme emergencies. Examples of extreme emergency: A burst fallopian tube or a face full of shingles.  A few years ago, I attributed the increasing ache in my right buttock and an inability to stand up without pain, as just part of this aging process, too many Spin classes, and carrying the weight of the world on my solitary shoulders for way too many years. In March of 2014 a rogue gallbladder needed to be removed and the delusional optimist in me thought maybe the pain in my diseased organ and the pain in my butt were somehow related.  After all, from a spiritual, holistic perspective, isn't it all  connected?  That line of thinking was hopeful but I now know it was the direct result of some pretty awesome pain medication post gall bladder surgery.  Nothing hurt. For about six weeks.  

The awareness I needed to see a neurologist or an orthopedic doctor came when I stepped out of my car, balancing a brand new oversize George Foreman Grill from my cousin; it was her contribution to my eat healthy plan to help stop the rapidly increasing number on the scales. Not only did I have this horrific pain, I had packed away two clothing sizes (I couldn't bear to get rid of them)  as I packed on enough pounds to drive me into a serious depression. By now, my Planet Fitness usage was merely a pipe dream and a drain on my checking account. A doctor wrote me a prescription to halt my membership for six months without monetary penalties.   Giving up my beloved exercise and gym was not an effective cure. My mind and my body slid into a lethargic spiral.   I was convinced, as a result of my daily incessant Web MD, and Internet diagnostician practice, that I had Multiple Sclerosis. So, naturally,  I started with a neurologist, who upon trying to bend my leg like a chicken wing brought forth animal sounds that I didn't know could come from a human being.  Puzzled, he  X-rayed my right hip.  An immediate review and his proclamation of advanced, bone on bone hip arthritis, as well as a referral to someone who might be able to really help me, sparked a small hope for relief. The sports medicine doctor while witty, compassionate, and wise didn't really tell me what I wanted to hear. As with most things in my life, I was in search of the quick, easy, fix. It wasn't that simple.  It wouldn't reverse itself.  Any treatment would be palliative at best. Total hip replacement was the only cure. I wasn't ready.  Nor was my pocketbook.   A temporary fix in the form of a prescription for anti-inflammatory medication and a nightly dose of Tramadol helped me pretend it might go away.  And, I prayed.  The effectiveness of the prescriptions lasted about as long as the blush of a new relationship. I was ready for a new lover within months  and  I'd heard cortisone shots were the answer.  The injection hurt so good - within minutes I could feel relief settling into my arthritic joint. This love affair lasted just long enough for me to mop floors and clean tubs that I couldn't move to do on my own for a few months.  I socialized, went to basketball games, drove all over town, pain free.  For 3 1/2 weeks. 

Life and mobility spiraled down from there.  Work was impossible, driving was dangerous and difficult and I was sending stock prices soaring on over the counter pain relievers. I had a dilemma.  I needed surgery and I had no job and no insurance.  With no income, I qualified for Medicaid, if, I would allow the government to take any assets that I had worked for years to accumulate.  I couldn't buy insurance through the Marketplace because I had no income.  Caught, clearly between the rock and hard place of need and bureaucracy,  I meditated, I researched, and I prayed for answers. Friends prayed for healing for me.  One insightful friend said she prayed for complete healing for me, however, she didn't define how that should happen. She let that be up to God how it would play out in my life. I thought to myself, that really was letting go.  I stopped praying for money, insurance, Prince Charming, a new hip, and humbly asked that He heal my life so that I may do His will. Sometimes we need to just get quiet enough to hear the stirring of divine direction and trust what we are asked to do.  Lying in bed one morning, something drove me to the social security website. Disappointed, I read that I was still too young to take early retirement. Something guided me to call their offices and talk to a representative.  The voice on the other end was empathetic and helpful.  Her first questions to me were, "Are you a widow and have you ever remarried?"  Two weeks later, my first survivor's benefit check was deposited in my checking account.   Heaven joined forces to continue to take care of me - God and my husband.  Oh, me of little faith.   I was able to purchase insurance off of the Marketplace because I now had an income.  

An early orange sunrise, warmed the May morning and portended a bright outcome as my daughter drove me to the hospital.  Any nervousness was at a minimum. Surgery felt like the reward at the end of long, solitary, trek through the wilds, complete with bruises and banged up knees from navigating so many obstacles and a feeble leg which collapsed on occassion.  I was exhilarated, but exhausted as a few hours later I went under the scalpel, hammer and saw.  I knew the tools of the trade because the Internet surgeon in me unabashedly watched an entire hip replacement a few weeks before.   I went into the operating room at 8:00 in the morning and was finished by 9:00.  At 10:30 a.m. I was in a room, and up and walking with a walker by afternoon.  By 8:00 that evening, I was on my way home to my own bed.  I fondly refer to my surgery as my drive-through hip replacement.  I knew when I stepped onto my surgical leg hours later, that very same day, all arthritis pain gone, no matter what I had to do to restore my strength and heal completely, I was willing to do it.  I was getting my life back and it was all wrapped up in a big red ribbon, bought with the prayers of friends and family, and the love of a heavenly Father and deceased husband. 

It's easy to be so flip and positive five weeks out as a big part of the healing has taken place. However, it's been, as most major life events are, enlightening. It's been the long haul.  I've learned so much about myself and surprisingly others. Trying times tend to strip away pretense and reveal people's true nature. Including our own.  What's left is honesty and essence of who we are; our values, character, and even our weaknesses -  stripped of fancy words and little white lies.  You find out who your true friends are and where your treasures lie in the isolation, fear and loneliness of a long recovery process.   Being incapacitated and alone, not being able to check your own mail, put out your trash, bend to pick something up, cut your own toenails, or drive for so many weeks snatches away your independence and makes you very vulnerable.  For self-sufficient warriors like me, that's difficult.  It takes a lot of courage to ask. And, it takes even more courage, when you do ask, and you are rejected to not take it personally. The old tapes of abandonment started playing loudly in the stillness of my solitude.  

However, I found in the solitude, stripped of everything, it was up to me to turn down that volume and lean into the faith that I had everything I needed for the care and nurturing of me.  I have learned how to navigate boredom and loneliness.  I understand the true meaning of self-care, and slathered on healthy doses of self-love.  Surprisingly, this time, I really didn't forget the one constant Source of help and support is right beside me - as close as my breath, just one prayer away.  That's the best it gets when push comes to shove. That's all we got and all we can ever count fully on - ourselves and God.  My strong new hip and even stronger faith, will carry me down my yellow brick road, no ruby slippers needed. I had the power all along.  Some blessings come disguised as challenges.  No experience is wasted.  I will always, on my very best and wisest day be the student and just Mostly Zen. Partially  there, hoping to arrive someday, yet content in knowing, I am at least on the path.   I am well on my way to 2015's intention - RENEW.  

Charge!  And, even that's now possible - on my brand new leg. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Word of the Year 2015 - RENEW

Renew:  To make fresh or strong again; to make a promise or vow; to begin with force or enthusiasm; Make like new. 

I need a makeover.  I’m a little frustrated. No, honestly, I’m pissed.  Here’s why.

I’ve spent the last five years or so, on a “strip it all down to the naked truth” emotional, spiritual, and psychological exploration. A kind of interrogation into the what, why, and how of my life.  It’s been tough and it’s been a long haul.  I may have seen results sooner but  I had to do this in my spare time in between work, worry, and a minimal amount of emotional support. Everyone else had their own lives, their own families, their own spouses, I thought.  I spent the first few years trying to make sense of my ugly orphan child syndrome and got a real clear picture of why I had this overriding fear of abandonment. I had been.  Often.  Why would my precious God take away the unconditional love and healing arms of the presence of a mom, dads and a spouse. Way too soon.  Those were significant people who were supposed to be constants.  Some heavy hits over the past few decades.  My journey inward wasn't luxurious.  There were no retreats, spa days, or life exploration summits.  From Maslow’s perspective in the Hierarchy of Needs, I had to work my way up from the bottom of the triangle.  Food and shelter were paramount and safety, well, I wasn't sure where that would be from day to day. Always  the eternal optimist, (eventually) I now recognize  change may not have happened if I’d been privy to the easier, softer way; me all wrapped in a swaddling blanket of creature comforts and love, real or imagined.  Climbing up the hierarchy to reach the hallowed esteem and self-actualization quadrants may have taken me a little longer than perhaps the average human soul,  but it truly has been one of the greatest gifts of my life.  

I’ve been my own worst Gestapo, holding myself accountable and not letting me slink away from my defects, OR, (probably most important in my case)  down play my attributes.  I really haven’t made the climb on my own.  I have to give credit where credit is due.  There have been a few therapists, special spiritual guides, as well as a few challenging souls that have helped me unravel the truth of me.   I knew I had to do that in order not to continue waking up to eternal Ground Hog Days. You know what I mean.  When you scratch your head in disbelief because you are with the same man, different face; or tolerating the same abuse in a different setting and wondering how you got there, again.  There have been a few mid-terms tossed in and the final exam was a real dilly.  However, I discovered, what we don’t know, we can’t change. Another important lesson: What we don’t know, we can hardly beat ourselves up over. As Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better.”  That has been a huge blessing because no one slips the boxing gloves on to pound on me better than me. Forgiven.   I also learned, it’s not  that you can’t go back; you really shouldn’t. I've learned to treasure the love that is already present in my life and focus my attention on those angels. All of these discoveries have finally freed my life of guilt, shame, remorse, comparison, self-pity, martyrdom and replaced those demons with empowerment, peace, honesty, grace, belonging, and acceptance.  Surrender isn’t the same as giving up.   I KNOW THIS NOW!  Most days. 

So, here I sit with a silly smile of peace and contentment on my face.  Taking charge of my own life and its outcome; EXCEPT, this physical vessel holding all that acceptance, grace and the goodies of light and love, HAS GONE TO HELL IN A HAND BASKET!  I am fully aware, these fruits of the spirit, the result of so much hard work, will be just a fond memory if the vessel is all battered and dysfunctional and physical pain is a constant companion.  

So, here we go 2015.  This is the year to renew.  

Dear lovely, worn out body.

I am renewing a vow to you to care for you as if you were my own precious grandchild. You and I are worthy of going to a doctor when we need to. We are also worthy of getting that which needs repaired, fixed.  We’re worthy of taking the time to cook delicious healthy food and eating what’s wholesome.  Not fast and cheap, sleazy rendezvouses shoveling it in by the kitchen sink.   I commit to you back to back nights of restful sleep and I promise to remove you from any negative influences which threaten to attack your immune system and serenity.  When you are back on track, feeling pain free, nourished, and stronger, I cross my heart, because I know I will die, if I don’t take you out to play, often!  We’ll move and stretch and dance in the day.  I promise to continue my quest of learning about you and what makes you keep ticking smoothly as well as the things you need to not just function, but flourish.   Then, I plan to introduce you to your new spirit filled heart and maybe the two of you can hook up for rest of your life.  I anticipate a true match made in heaven. 

I can’t think of a better way to spend a brand new year of our life.  I look forward, with patience and love until we are reunited again.  This one time, it’s a blessing to go back.  Back to the oneness God wants for us, body, mind, soul.  Renewed: Beginning again with force and enthusiasm.  

Your Mostly Zen Heart and Soul

While I’m waiting for these two to be reunited, just so I don’t forget what I learned earning my degree in Knowing and Loving Me,  I am committed to sharing my new, Mostly Zen head, on a (fairly) regular basis. It will reinforce what I now know, keep me humble in an empowering way.

Mostly Zen.  I like that.  Totally Zen or achieving Nirvana, well, I know me.  I would be so bored.  We’ll save that for the afterlife.   

Here's to a Renewal. Here's to Mostly Zen.