Ok, I think it’s about time we pushed the “Anger Management” post down, what to you think?  I’ve been looking at my site for the past couple of weeks, and that post glares back at me as though to say “You’re not a Freakin’ Angry Person, why did you leave me entitled ‘Anger Management blah blah blah'”. 

And the answer is “Er..  cause I haven’t re-read you and I have no idea what you say?”

So here’s a filler to make up for the fact that I’m too lazy to read the “Anger Management…” post to figure out what the proper title should be for it.

It’s been weeks since I’ve written anything.  My fixation on my hives has been consuming, whiny, and well, not very creative or interesting.  Yesterday I told my chiropractor about them, and she said, “why don’t you try pricking them with a needle and putting vitamin E in them?”  So that’s what I’m doing.  Or rather John is doing to me, and in the past day they’ve felt better.  So maybe now I can move my life past them.   And that starts with my poor blog, that has been plagued with my goings on and on about them.

I’ve been searching for an appropriate spot for writing fodder — talking to different volunteer organizations and thinking through various venue possibilities for interesting and wonderful people and such.  Yesterday my chiropractor told me about an Earth Day event at a town close to where I live, sponsored by a nonprofit art organization Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts.  I sent email to them asking about volunteer opportunities and I received a reply by someone named Morwen Two Feathers.  I blinked at the signature on that email Is that a joke, or some sort of online World of Warcraft toon?   I did a google on the name, and sure enough it seems to be a valid real life name.  How interesting is that?  This Morwen Two Feathers will be my first writing fodder from this organization.  Either she will be a corporate stiff, in which case she will give me a chuckle, or she will be some sort of artistic flamboyant madwoman, wearing feathers and wild-colored clothes, maybe with a shimmery, gossamer shawl flung over her shoulders.  Yes, I’m fully aware that there’s a stereotype in there somewhere.

So, I will be a volunteer at the Earth Day celebration this Saturday. I can’t wait to meet Morwen Two Feathers with all of her color and flamboyance (I’m thinking).  Maybe she’ll be like the character on Peanuts who walks around with the dustcloud around him, except for her it will be virtual particles of paint flying around her head as she walks around doing whatever it is artistic, creative people do. Maybe, I hope, some of her paint and wonderfulness will fly onto me. Will she be a HE, I wonder?

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This morning was my third visit to my shrink.  What a cool person she is.  She’s very to-the-point, very professional.  As I talk, she looks at me and scribbles into her notepad.  It’s quite disconcerting, watching her watch me.  All the time her hand scrawls madly across the page, back and forth, as though it’s pet of some sort, lying on her lap and coloring in its coloring book while it waits for us to be done with our session.  I’ll say something and watch from the corner of my eye to see if she increases or decreases her scribble rate.  It’s unpredictable when she will find something of interest.  I’ll say something that I think is rather racy and will notice that she doesn’t write a thing.  And then I’ll say something rather innocuous and the beast will begin its coloring again.

Today we mainly talked about my itching, and whether life truly does exist after itching.  That question has been at the forefront of my thoughts lately.  Having slept on a sleeping bag and camping pad for the past few nights, I think I’m coming to the conclusion that the problem has not been bed bugs after all.  My mother claims to have had bed bugs when she was a little girl, living out in the boonies on the big island of Hawaii, no doubt in some shack with 10 other children and not much for parents.  I definitely don’t live in the boonies, and Mom says that bed bugs are visible creatures, not invisible.  So my current strategy is to stay in the sleeping bag even though I no longer believe it’s bed bugs, and cut out the 15 various vitamin and herbal things I take every day.  Maybe I’m allergic to something I’m ingesting.

It’s been quite an experience, watching the bumps appearing on my body, waking up in the middle of the night “GAAAK!!!  I’m scratching, DON’T SCRATCH!!”, and jerking my hand away from whatever insidious evil bump it’s been absent-mindedly scratching at while I’m dreaming away.

So….  my blog is consumed with my itching talk as well as my shrink sessions.

But back to my shrink.  The last time I talked with her, I mentioned how I start screaming at John when I get into these irrational fits of anger and how I make up a bunch of things to accuse him of just to make him feel belittled.  She said “well, just something to think about…  sometimes people do things like that because they know deep down that they’re wrong, but they NEED to win the argument, so they pull out non-issues or unrelated issues for the sole purpose of adding fuel to their side of the argument to guarantee that they will win. I’m not saying that you do that, I’m just saying, it’s something to think about.”

I went home and thought about it.  She was so right on the mark on that one.  That’s a revelation to me.  Maybe it’s not to everyone else in the world.  I’d never been able to figure out that one.  Why I pull out all manner of untrue accusations and resentments and throw them at John has been a behavior of mine that I’ve never really understood.   Like my shrink words it, it’s a “call to arms”.  The battle inside me has begun.  I’m mad, goddamned mad, fuckin’ pissed off to the max.  About what?  Well, usually about… well, stupid shit.  Like when I told John I wanted to have the weekend to work on my writing homework, and we ended up having an unavoidable social engagement.  I lost my precious writing time and I lost control over something that I had reserved for myself and planned on having for myself.  I was so inexplicably furious, that I was on the brink of exploding before I decided to come into my office and do my tai chi — which turned out to be amazingly successful at dissipating my anger.  Nevertheless, I couldn’t explain why my first and natural inclination was to stand in front of John and just let loose with the screaming about everything under the sun.

A couple of weekends ago something happened that put me in the exact same position.  I lost control over something where I discovered plans were getting made around me, without my knowledge.  I felt left out, pissed off, generally ready for a tantrum.  I told myself “ok, just focus on the thing that you’re pissed off about, don’t start bringing the entire universe into the picture.  If you want to be pissed off and furious, fine.  Just keep remembering to keep the subject of your anger confined to just this situation.”  I couldn’t believe how the very act of keeping my mind focused on just the thing I was angry about and not letting it go all over creation kept my anger under control.  I could have made the entire day really a nasty, unpleasant, hurtful, stressful one for both me and John.  But in the end, it turned out to be a stressful day for other reasons — reasons I’m happy to report that had nothing whatsoever to do with me.  I can look back on the whole experience and laugh at the ridiculousness of how I started off feeling like I was being left out, and it turns out a bunch of people were out of the loop that day.

Life is just one amazing perspective revelation after another.  We all think things revolve around us.  People are scheming just to piss us off.  We’re intentionally being left out of the loop.    I need to remember that probably 100% of the time that’s just not the case at all.

Bed Bugs!

April 11, 2008

Itchy, itchy, itchy, itchy, itchy…..  if you were to ask me how I was today, I’d say “itchy”.  If you were to have asked me that a week ago, I’d have said “itchy”!  How can something so relatively minor as a constant, nagging itchiness so consume a life?

So…  I have this all-over itching.  Itchy mosquito-bite-like bumps all over my body.  I’ve begun to have a spiritual relationship with my itchy bumps.  One day I swore I would not take my sleeping pill any more, thinking that maybe that was causing the itching.  The week after a course of mind-bending prescription cortisone cream and prednisone, I swore off doctors.  What was life like before itching?  I can’t remember.  What will life be like after itching?  Will I blossom into a spectacular, incredible writer?  Will my right brain pop out of my head crying, “I’m free!!!”?

Last night at midnight I crawled into bed.  John was just dozing off.  I turned over onto my right side, like I always do, tucked my right hand under my pillow, and hugged my body pillow, right leg underneath, and left leg and left arm on top.   “Wha……??  Goddammit, that’s it!”  I jumped out of bed.

John opened his eyes, orange earplugs sticking out of his ears, and blinked at me.

“Look!  get up, look!” I screamed going around to his side of the bed and turning on his light.  I pointed to every single itchy bump on my body, turning around and making sure he caught sight of everything, top to bottom.  “Look at my bumps!  Look at the pattern!  The right side of my body has about 10 times more bumps than the left side.  See that?  Those over there on my arm?  my back?  That’s the side that I sleep on.  We must have some sort of bugs on the bed biting me.”

John grunted his acknowledgement with polite interest and mumbled “we should fumigate”.  He turned over and went back to sleep, apparently confident that this revelation had nothing to do with him and his side of the bed.

I’m sitting here with my Dunkin Donuts coffee and donut hole.  What a treat, to take the day off and be sitting here with too-sweet, too-creamy, yummy coffee, a donut hole, and a beautiful vase of tulips!  The world is at my feet Shazaaaaa!!!!

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the concept of “healing”, and what it’s all about.  I’ve been browsing through a book I have called The 12 Stages of Healing by Donald Epstein, founder of the Network Chiropractic principles that my chiropractor uses.

Today I had my 2-month chiropractic progress report, and she found that my head, which was 2 1/4″ out of alignment with my spine, had moved back to 1″.  All of the other parameters in my neck, shoulders, and spine, were improved by various degress.

I’m fairly certain these improvements are not because of just the chiropractic work.  I think everything that I’ve been doing with the tai chi, qigong, Alexander, meditation, writing, etc. have all contributed.  I can sense the changes happening to me are deep, and that’s why I’ve been thinking and wondering about this concept of “healing”.

When I look back on my past, I can see that over the course of my life, I’ve been broken and then “healed” so many times: spiritually, physically, mentally.  It’s been a sort of cycle that I’ve gone through time and time again.  Something breaks, I go find something/someone to help, I finally find some sort of miracle “cure” or spiritual leader, become overly-elated and religions about the person/thing/concept, drift away for some reason, and the cycle starts again.

I were to diagram life, is that what it would look like:  a series of peaks and valleys where, perhaps some peaks are larger than others and some valleys lower than others, and then, hopefully as we get older, the average peak increases and the average valley decreases, and then at some point in life, we end up with a fairly steady series of gradually undulating peaks and valleys around some steady state that’s relatively high?

If you could diagram life like that, then what sorts of things would trigger that gradual rise to some relatively steady state?  Wealth and power?  Peace?  A sense of purpose and fulfillment? Love?  Being loved?  Giving love?

What sorts of things would cause that picture to not happen?  Stress maybe?  Death definitely.  Disease and illness, probably.

Wait a Day

April 2, 2008

They say if you don’t like the weather in New England wait a day.  Same goes for life, actually.  We humans have a strange sensation of time.  I remember as a child going through a learning process where, if something was going to happen next year, it was insignificant;  because next year was so far into the future, it may never come.  Or I’d be dead.  Or someone else would be dead.  Or the world would have come to an end.  Anything could happen in a year.   Time was like a fuzzy concept that I couldn’t really grasp.

I’m thinking about time today, because just a week ago I was wondering how I was going to make it through the next day.  Stopping the course of prednisone I was on for my hives so consumed me with some sort of physical withdrawal depression and dizziness.  I even, momentarily, entertained the thought of suicide, and then decided to try to sleep on it first.

This past Monday I broke down and called my dermatologist and explained about the hives coming back.  He told me to add Zyrtec to the Alavert that I’m already taking.  I did a google on Zyrtec, and read a lot of reviews about it causing nasty symptoms like depression, that last thing that I want to have to tackle right now.  Still, I decided to try it.  First day, I felt paranoid and depressed (no doubt because I expected to).  I wondered if I’d have to live the rest of my life feeling depressed and sleepy.   Second day I felt a bit better.

Today is the third day on Zyrtec, and I don’t feel quite so bad.  And the itchiness is beginning to feel tolerable.  There’s one spot that might actually be disappearing (Yes, when you have hives, every single spot becomes a project whose status is monitored on a minute by minute basis throughout the day.  If only work projects would get this sort of attention).  I feel that I have a life today.

God, I’m so glad I didn’t kill myself last Wednesday when I thought about it.  All I had to do was wait a day :).

Why do some people feel compelled to search for the meaning of life while others are perfectly content to accept life as it is?  Is it all connected with happy childhoods?

I’ve been asking myself this all morning.  I’m continually poking and prodding myself and the world around me, I can never leave things alone, just like my hives which are spreading across my body and face, now that I’m off of the prednisone.  Before last week, they got to the point where I spent the entire day agonizing over the itch, imagining worms crawling all over my body, tiny maggots squirming in every bump.  I poked and rubbed my bumps to see which ones were getting larger and which ones, if any, were getting smaller.

On Friday I decided that this has to come to an end.  I decided not to call the doctor and get more, probably different, more powerful, and just as useless, drugs for the problem.  I cranked up the meditating, stopped the ambien that I’ve been using for months for sleep, and went to Whole Foods for healthy foods and vitamins.

Now, I see that the bumps are spreading, but I’m no longer viewing them as worms crawling all over my body.  I need to move past this and get on with my life.  Now I’m viewing every poison-ivy-like-itchy bump as a harmless annoyance that I’m not going to let get the best of me.  Thus the intense meditating, tai chi, chanting of my buddhist mantra, etc.

But back to the topic of my post.  Just like the hives, why do I poke and prod at my life and why am I continually trying to find myself?

How I ended up with John for a husband I have no idea.  He’s not like me at all in this regard.  He never asks “what is life really all about?” he just lives it from day to day, happily.  He’s like my dogs.  He has an innate dharma.  I can never seem to find the one true meaning of life, it’s a daily quesion that continually accompanies me wherever I go.  I need an explanation for everything, I need context, I need understanding.  I need to write about everything, work it out, psychoanalyze it.

What’s with me?

Crashing

March 27, 2008

I crashed badly last night.  I didn’t realize it, but for the past week I’ve been on a prescription cream and a prednisone pill for an insect bite allergic reaction.  Both courses of treatment ended on Monday, and Tuesday and yesterday my back pain began to come back with a vengeance.

Last night I went home and found myself consumed with a feeling of hopelessness, a feeling of depression that I couldn’t shake.  I crawled into bed and closed my eyes, my head spinning, for a couple of hours.  I had a feeling that all of the euphoria that I’d been feeling for the past couple of weeks was artificial, caused by the drugs.  It felt like someone had shown me Heaven and then taken it away in a cruel joke, and that feeling filled me with grief.  I told myself to just close my eyes and ride through it, concentrate on getting through the night and then see what tomorrow brings when tomorrow arrives.

I woke up this morning, my body itching all over (after all that I still have the itching), but at least my head wasn’t spinning.  I spent an hour doing my qigong and meditating.  I tried to make sense of the last couple of weeks.

I’m still trying to make sense of them.  As I walked from the car into my building at work, I noticed the waves of euphoria are gone.   I didn’t feel bad.  I felt at peace about everything, thanks to the meditating.  Maybe I can use that taste of Heaven that I was given as motivation to continue to nurture my right brain and my creative self, and to trust that my “chi”– the healing energy inside my body — will cure my itching and my back.

My Shrink

March 25, 2008

I went to see a shrink this morning.  I thought about cancelling it, because I had this cathartic and euphoric release last week where it has been feeling like all of the stress of my entire life has been spilling out onto the ground and leaving me free to move and think as I’ve never done before.

I told John last night that if this had happened in a church or a religion, I would have found a new religion.  Yesterday as I was lying on the table getting my Network Chiropractic treatment done, I found myself floating off into a field of wildflowers with all of the people in the room.  We became children, running free and playing.  I was so moved by the experience that I had to force myself to pull out of it, as I found myself about to break out in tears, it was such a feeling of happiness as I don’t think I’ve ever felt.

 So… my life is transforming before my eyes, thanks to…  something.  Meditation? Network Chiropractic? Tai chi?  qigong? Alexander technique?  My writing? The spirits of the universe?

Whatever is happening, I’ve been given a wonderful vision of this life where I can experience living every day without that type A, left-brained, temper tantrum-prone, stressed out creature.

Anyway, so, I decided to keep my shrink appointment in spite of this epiphany, since I have 8 free shrink visits through a work program.

She was an older woman, about in her 50’s fairly nondescript looking.  On the surface I would have predicted she’d have turned out to be a mediocre therapist.  Looks are so deceiving as I discover time and time again in life.  She was wonderful.

The tact and finesse she showed totally threw me for a loop.  I began talking about mundane things and before I knew it, I was reliving my childhood.  She became someone who “got it”, who understood the confusions and losses that I felt.

I need to continue to go to her, I realize, for my writing if for no other reason.  I don’t want to spend my life writing AROUND my childhood — holding back where it hurts to go.  I want to take that childhood and those feelings and experiences and embrace them as part of my expression.  Until I can flush out all of those thoughts and experiences, though, I won’t have them to use in my toolkit, so there’s a practical reason why it makes sense to go to this person for a while.  Next appointment is next Wednesday morning…

This is my latest homework.  It restricted to 500-750 words, and the requirement was that every paragraph needed to stay on topic as defined by the topic sentence, and paragraphs needed to be connected through transitions.  Not sure if I accomplished this.  There’s a lot more to what I wanted to write, but I had to strip it so that I could remain within the guidelines.  If I continue with the story, I’ll rework it and try to formalize it as a publishable article. 

Two years ago a chronic back pain that has plagued me for most of my adult life pushed itself to the forefront of my existence. After a series of physical and emotional illnesses, the back pain heightened to the point where I was unable to do anything upright without crushing and stabbing pain. This left me unable to work and plummeting towards a life of certain debilitation.

By the time my back pain came to a head, I was taking ten pills a day — pills for various diseases, pills to fight side effects from those pills, and pills to treat the interactions between the two. In spite of these pills, new health problems seemed to appear every month.

I used to think that doctors and modern medicine were the be-all and end-all of medicine. In fact, no less than six different doctors that I saw could put all of my diseases and symptoms together to help me figure out why my health was sliding downhill, and what it all had to do with the flaring up of my back pain.

Out of desperation, I began to seek holistic treatments. I sought every treatment in the book, all at once: acupuncture, reiki, massage, Alexander technique lessons, and chiropractic treatments. Every day I studied the Internet, read books and met with therapists. I began a special diet that helped build the health of my body ecology through probiotics and foods that decreased the acid level in my body. Through this diet and the holistic treatments, I weaned myself off of every single medication that I was taking. I found a physical therapist that specialized in back rehabilitation. Eventually I was able to strengthen my back sufficiently and bring my health back to the level where I could go back to work. That was a year ago.

Over the next eight months I continued to seek solutions to the chronic back pain which had become tolerable, but still was undeniably present on a daily basis.

Out of the blue, within a month of each other, two friends gave me two paths to follow that would lead to a breakthrough in my chronic back pain. The first friend suggested that I do something I’d been talking about for a long time, pursue my writing. The second friend gave me a coupon for a special chiropractic practice that, instead of “cracking” your back, used gentle touch on certain points of your body.

I began my journeys down both of these paths. I began writing and exercising the creative side of myself. For the first time in my life, my right brain began to take a step forward and my left brain, which had dominated me for most of my life, a step back.

I used my chiropractic coupon, and began to get regular chiropractic treatments. My chiropractor suggested tai chi to help my spine, and so I signed up for tai chi classes. Through the tai chi classes, I learned a healing form called qigong.

This week I had a profound breakthrough in my chronic back pain. My back “released” itself, and for the first time, I’ve been able to feel pain-free freedom and euphoria through my lower back when I walk. I sometimes attribute this final breakthrough to the healing qigong, but every single step I’ve made along the way on this journey of recovery has contributed to bringing me to this place of life and well-being.

Life can be filled with peaks that seem impossible. I know. I’ve been there with this back problem. The key to climbing those peaks is to keep yourself focused on just the very next step that you need to get closer. Allow yourself to trust that the universe will support you in this endeavor. Leave yourself open to any and every possibility, no matter how crazy or improbable it seems. Don’t let despair, frustration and loneliness tell you to give up. Because, as I’ve learned so poignantly through this experience, yes, life truly is worth living.

Who are We?

March 23, 2008

Jill Bolte Taylor is a brain scientist.  When she was 37 years old, she had a massive stroke in her left brain. Stroke of Insight: Jill Bolte Taylor on TED.com is a deeply profound recounting of her experience and what she learned about life. She gives perspective to thoughts and feelings that most of us define as reality. I don’t want to ever forget what she’s said here.