PATIENCE AND FAITH

This holiday time of the year is filled with good cheer, greetings, gift buying, and anticipation.  We scurry around seeking just the right present for the people we care about.  Seasonal songs ring out from malls and stores, and we are generally supposed to be happy.

But so far, December has been a difficult month for me medically.  I am not really in the spirit of the special days, but am trying to not let my troubles ruin otherwise joyful times.

For several months, I have experienced shortness of breath and assumed the symptom would disappear without intervention.  No such luck.  On too many walks and stair climbing, I found myself gasping for air and somewhat panicky.  Relatively healthy throughout my life, this new problem was disturbing.

After putting it off for several weeks, I finally made an appointment with a Pulmonologist who specializes in lung problems.  Fortunately, a friend recommended the office staffed by Johns Hopkins physicians.  I have previously written about my first experience with this doctor, so will spare you a repeat of the unsettling experience.

Well, I had the recommended tests, and the results definitely showed a problem.  I was hoping for better news on the follow-up visit, but it was not forthcoming.  Now my future includes an appointment with a cardiologist and a heart scan.  A more drastic procedure also looms as a probable necessity.  And I may have to use oxygen on a daily basis.

How to get through the otherwise merry days when I am scared and disappointed?  Well, I need to have faith that I will be capable of handling the future appointments and procedures.  Courage becomes a necessity and I cannot just wither away in self-pity.  Many people struggle and deal well with physical limitations, and I now join their ranks.  Why should I escape the bumps on the road of life?

I am doing what I can to be happy.  I ordered and received an owl(I collect them)necklace which I wear on a daily basis.  And J C Penny advertised grey winter boots at a reasonable price, so I treated myself to them too.

I am not suggesting nor recommending that we buy ourselves out of despair, only that we do what gives us pleasure in areas we can control.  Think of the serenity prayer and control what we can and accept what we cannot.

Sharing my experiences and future possibilities seems to make them less scary.  Thanks for listening.

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KINDNESS

Today I watched the funeral of President George H W Bush, and was touched by the proceedings.  Hardly the right person to critique the event-I don’t think I voted for him and am horribly deficient in history- I took away the message of the importance of kindness and unconditional love in his life, and in our own.

This morning, I was annoyed by the petty inconvenience of my printer not working and let that problem propel me into a bad mood.  What arrogance to see myself as so important that my life should run smoothly.  President Bush 41’s life was littered with both tragedy and triumph and so it is on a lesser scale for most of us.

When I went grocery shopping at the local Giant, I decided to be nice to people despite my annoyance at the minor technical glitch.  My dear daughter often reminds me that when interacting another person, we have no idea what is happening in their lives.  Is a child ill or did a family member lose a job or are finances strained?  I try to remember her words.

A beloved woman in my life told me to never confuse kindness with weakness and she was right.  President Bush was strong in his World War II experiences and in losing a beloved daughter and also re-election. But he was still kind, and so can we be.

As far as unconditional love goes, for me it is the only kind.  I don’t need my offspring to perform superior deeds and accrue awards and accolades.  I love them as they are, including being flawed, human beings as am I.  My departed mother lived a life where she exemplified unconditional love, and I blossomed under her warmth and acceptance.

So, this morning, my kindness at the Giant brought me the reward of reciprocal thoughtfulness as staff and customers alike treated me so well. My mood lightened and I felt grateful that I had overcome my too-frequent preoccupation with my own minor issues, and was capable of caring about others.  When I returned home, I even fixed the printer-not a major technological feat.

I hesitate to bring up the politics of today, as I see December 5, 2018 as a day of remembrance and not the time for comparisons or criticisms.  We never know whose kindness may be exactly what we need at any given moment.

I remember the day my daughter left home for college decades ago, and I was sad and distracted.  As I was not paying attention to my driving, I hit another car not hard enough to cause injury but just sufficient to result in minor car body damage.  The other driver instead of being angry at me just asked if I was OK.  Those were just the words i needed to hear that day.  Kindness can save our and other people’s lives.

So, President Bush, rest in peace, and let the message of kindness not die with you.

WORST DAY, BEST NIGHT

Yesterday, I had one doctor’s appointment for a problem that has been bothering me for months.  Hardly life-threatening, the condition has interfered with my daily activity and I was weary of dealing with it. Thus, the scheduled appointment.

First detour was my going to the wrong building, and having to navigate my way to the correct address without being late.  I was already in a bad mood, having slept very little the night before, and apprehensive about meeting with a new physician.

Anyway, I arrived at the right place, somewhat shaken, and met with the doctor who said she was unsure about the cause of my distress.  I questioned her as much as she queried me.  The outcome was that I would need some tests to determine the exact nature of the problem.  She suggested I have them the same day.

That conclusion turned an ordinary day into a maze of office complexes and more medical personnel and the ensuing tests.  I will spare you the details of these examinations, but must add that my mood was worsening and my distress increasing.

And I was hungry.  Fortunately, I had brought an energy bar with me, maybe sensing that my time away from home would interfere with lunch.  It did and noon approached.  So, I consumed the protein bar and experienced a temporary lift.  A homebody by nature, being out of the house for a long(for me) time only added to my anxiety.

So, finally by 3 PM, after almost five hours since I had set out Monday morning, I headed home and was happy to return to nothing worse than a bill from Target.  I was starved by then and downed a few more high-protein snacks as I was too tired to make any real food.  Would the experience have been better if I had not been alone?  I think so, but lacking a husband, or any relatives nearby, I am destined to go it alone.

I was too tired to talk to anybody on the phone, even to seek sympathy and reassurance.  So, I changed clothes into my comfy nightgown and plopped on to the sofa.  My TV viewing was limited to the sadness of the endless George H W Bush parting.  No help there in elevating my mood.  But at least I was still alive.

Slipping into an early sleep, I had a wonderful dream.  In my deep somnolence, I saw my self at a ranch out west as a cowgirl, riding horses, roughing it and generally having a wonderful time.  I was transported from the stress of my day to the delight of my night.  Thank you, G-d for rewarding my efforts with the prize of this happy dream.

On the previous night, I had slept poorly, perhaps anticipating the medical maze which awaited the following day.  But, last night my eyes stayed shut for seven hours through my travels to a desired destination.

Today, I feel better.  What a difference a night makes.

UNDER DRESSED AND OUTER SPACE

Reveling in a post-treadmill endorphin high, and feeling decidedly ungrinchy, I decided to venture out to my usual destination-Barnes & Noble.  I planned on tolerating the presence and voices of other patrons and hoped for the best.

Now, I am far from a fashionista and obviously lack a model’s physique and have no illusions that I look great.  But,  I usually don a nice sweater and leggings or jeans for my morning outing.  At least I want to look presentable.

But, I hate tight clothes-jeans and leggings included-so today I treated myself to wearing sweats, and that made all the difference.  I was so happy in my loose pants and NASA sweatshirt, and my elastic waistband had plenty of room to expand and accommodate the  big cookie that I consume.  I fantasized that people were looking at my NASA clothing and assumed I worked for the agency.  I am full of fantasies.

I grew up with the space program and remember my father waking me up in the pre dawn hours one morning in the 1950’s to see Sputnik.  I have been hooked ever since.

When I grew up, I traveled to the Kennedy Space Center in Cocoa Beach, Florida to watch rockets launch from this location.  I saw Spirit and Opportunity lift off for Mars, but never managed to time my trips well enough to view a manned shuttle launch.  My interest in travel to outer space continues despite recent administrations’ evisceration of NASA.

We watched too many accidents of teachers lost in space and astronauts who burned on the launch pad.  But in 2003, when the final Columbia mission crashed in Texas, I wanted to know more.  So, I flew to Houston, drove to Clear Lake(where the astronauts train), and Johnson Space Center.

Strolling around the facility, I spotted an official and being assertive when necessary, asked him about the most recent shuttle disaster.  He was unmoved, and just referred to it as “the event.”  So, I walked and drove around the area, and located a makeshift memorial honoring the lost astronauts, and this photo appeared in the Baltimore Sun.

But when I returned home and wrote an article on my experience, I was met with unexpected resistance.  I titled the piece, “Failure is not an Option,” NASA’s slogan, and submitted it to the paper.  For some unknown reason, I used my initials as my byline, and the editors bought the article.

However, in ensuing correspondence, the editor referred to me as Mr.  Not content to be viewed as a man, I explained that I was female.  They killed the piece and I lacked any recourse.

So, it goes.  I am still happy here and now in my sweats.

BECOMING A GRINCH

I am afraid I am turning into the kind of person I criticize when I see these characteristics in others.  I become easily irritated, and less able to tolerate other people.  I didn’t steal Christmas like the Grinch in movies, but my joy has become somewhat distant, and my ability to deal with life’s everyday annoyances has decreased.  And all my jeans are too tight.

This morning, on my frequent visit to Barnes & Noble, I selected a table and prepared to enjoy my big cookie and half-decaf coffee.  But too nearby, a mother and her young child were talking and having fun and I switched tables.  Will I become a recluse, able only to tolerate myself?  Where’s my holiday spirit?  I must have misplaced it.  Where can I look to find it?

Riding the Amtrak train home from a wonderful Thanksgiving, I chose a seat that turned out to be a bad choice.  In front of me, a youngish family was having a great time.  The baby was howling, the parents talking on their phones, and two eight-year-old little girls were playing the game of ‘rock, paper, scissors’ for the duration of the trip.  All the other seats were taken and I was stuck-a captive.

At one time, not so long ago, I would have viewed the group as wonderful, with little ones just being little ones.  No more for me.  I saw them as intrusions to my peace on the train ride which I usually enjoy.  I don’t know why I didn’t select the quiet car for the trip, as I had on the way to our Thanksgiving.  Whatever the reason, my decision backfired on me.

I can only hope that my ability to tolerate discomfort returns, and I become the amiable woman I used to be.  Never the life of the party, previously I could enjoy myself in less-than-perfect surroundings.  Home is the safest place for me now.  I put on my warm, loose, snugly clothes, sans bra, and get comfortable in my familiar condo.

Am I just growing old and grumpy, suffering from post-Thanksgiving letdown, or turning into a grinch(a word not found in my old dictionary?)  I sure hope my lousy disposition passes soon.

So, please understand if we should meet, I may not be as friendly as usual, or better yet I learn to accept my irritability and move beyond it.

SPEAKING UP

This morning, I attended our condo’s weekly social hour for coffee and goodies.  After walking to the clubhouse, bundled up against the cold wind, I was looking forward to chatting with some neighbors.  I was not prepared to be rebuked.

I arrived slightly early, and started arranging the tables and chairs to suit the expected gathering.  Just when I congratulated myself on being helpful, a lady said I was not putting the right tables in the right places.  I said, “what difference does it make. the results are the same?”  She blurted out that I was wrong, and that her ideas made more sense.

Well, I became furious.  I am tired of not responding when I feel stepped on and weary of always being nice and considering the feelings of others before those of my own.  So, I told her my way worked just as well and she stayed silent, and continued to configure the room to her liking.  I was prepared for a nice hour, but I was already in a bad mood.

Fortunately, some less combative neighbors showed up and we shared our Thanksgiving stories and talked peacefully.  No combative words were spoken.  I even avoided eating the cookies the nasty neighbor baked.  I already had a bad taste in my mouth.

I am learning that as an adult, I no longer have to act like a compliant child.  I have found my voice, but still keep my distance from negative people.  I don’t want to have to fight to be right.  I am a little upset, but feel justified in my displeasure.

I don’t have to be friends with all of my neighbors, and I have experienced some less-than-pleasant interactions with this one woman before.  I am pretty sure she doesn’t read my blogs, and I sure hope she doesn’t find out about this one.

Publicly sharing my writing is risky, but telling the truth is not.

UNCOMMON SCENTS

I just received the two candles that I ordered online and they don’t smell like I thought they would.  They were promised to give the aroma of cinnamon, but no such luck.  I love the smell of the pine cones for sale this time of the year.  They do have the scent of cinnamon, but, alas that doesn’t last.

I asked Google how to keep the smell alive and they provided me with instructions involving cinnamon oil and baking the pine cones.  I tried it and that technique helped a little.  I guess nothing lasts indefinitely.

Back to the new candles.  I can’t determine what aroma they emit, but I have to remember that when ordering items online, there is no guarantee of quality.  Too lazy to send them back.

I enjoy lighting candles on a daily basis.  My favorite is vanilla cupcake.  Hardly a baker myself, I can enjoy their pleasant, cozy scent.    I attended a spiritual/writing workshop in Northern California several years ago, and the leader suggested that we light a candle as the sun set in the evening.  Since it currently sets in the late afternoon, the darkness needs to be minimized by lighting a candle.  I guess we must make our own light.

The phrase, “Better to light a candle than curse the darkness” is often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, but documentation that she ever uttered those words is lacking.  I like the words regardless of who spoke them.

As we approach the early-occurring Hanukkah  holiday this year we are reminded to light candles in commemoration of the oil lasting in the ancient synagogue.   One of the only Jewish rituals I observe, lighting the candles for eight nights connects me to my heritage.  No scent is necessary to make them special.

This morning I shopped at Target to buy the yearly supply and fill the menorah as the special days draw closer.  I will still light my aroma-filled lumieres, and enjoy their smell, but the eight nights of Hanukkah make the whole process more meaningful.