March 28, 2008

At exactly this time every year in New England there is a resounding “Mememememememe…!” across the Commonwealth.  People everywhere are holding their index fingers in their ears.  This is the only time that you’ll see complete agreement across peoples and communities everywhere.  It’s a time of solidarity.

“I can’t take it any longer, enough of winter! I’m not listening.  No more, no more, no more, memememememememe , I’M NOT LISTENING!  Mememememememe….!”

And then, in typical New England style, it snows, once again.


I went for a walk after dinner tonight to test my back, and happily discovered I’m back to normal.  Back is still free and released.  The waves of euphoria are gone though.  It never ceases to amaze me at how doctors seem so casual to prescribe such noxious drugs.  The prednisone must have triggered some nirvana center in my brain.  I googled it, and don’t see evidence of this side effect anywhere.   It was quite a life-changing feeling, this rush of bliss I felt up my back.  I wonder if the prednisone completely removed my back pain, and with the removal of the back pain came the euphoria — or maybe that feeling of total happiness rushing up my spine is still there, hidden behind the lingering side effects of weaning my body off of the drugs.  I’m anxious to see what happens as the days go on.

My posts make me seem like a bipolar.  When I was single I used to hang out with artist types.  The more psychotic the better, I so admired their creativity.  I decided somewhere along the line that if you weren’t psychotic how on earth could you be creative?  I don’t know exactly what I’m expecting out of my creative self.  I hope it’s not being bipolar, god.  I hope I can be an artist and also be at peace and happy.


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.

Delancey Place

March 21, 2008

I just received this link in my daily word email and had to pass it along.  The site is called Delancey Place.  It is a daily non-fiction book exerpt or quote.  The first two entries I read blew me away, so I had to share the site.

 I must have gone over 100 different plot possibilities in my head over the last week for this fourth composition homework assignment.  A couple of times I was so consumed with my own brilliance I screamed for John to “Put down ‘that cooking’/’your exercising’/’your work’ and come here right away and read this!”  and murmured to myself, “I’m soooo clever, heehee.”  I’d giggle, tickled pink with myself….  only to have John come over, read it and scrunch up his nose in a “huh?” fashion.  “…..  okkkeeeyyy….  and this has to do with the homework how….?”

So…..  for inquiring minds, here’s the final result — my assignment in two parts, 250 words each.  For anyone who makes it all the way through, I hope you enjoy.  I’ll call it…. oh, how about…  Exerpts from The First Thanksgiving — The Real Story

Assignment Part One:   The first 250 words needs to be a scene just after Thanksgiving dinner, complete with the dirty dishes.

The cacophony and hustle and bustle of the feast is over.  Through the dusk, at the far end of a large field, a group of about fifty adults and children can be seen at play.

In the center of the field three long pine tables with benches on each side surround a fire in a U shape.  The opening of the U faces a house which is out of sight about 50 yards into the woods on the left.  Hot mulled wine in a kettle over the fire infuses a group of about fifteen Pilgrim and Indian men with warmth and hilarity as they lounge on pine benches facing the fire. 

An Indian woman stands by the nearest table with a colorful woven shawl wrapped around her stooped shoulders.  The few strands of thin white hair on her head stick out behind her as though being energized with static electricity.  Her wrinkled, leathery face wears a smile of satisfaction. At her feet is a medium-sized black and white dog that is devouring something, his tail high in the air.  A thin strand of drool hangs from the open mouth of a snoring comatose figure whose face lies on the tabletop facing the old woman.  Balanced on the side of the head is a black and brown pilgrim’s hat.

A small group of Pilgrim women, some carrying dirty dishes, stands at the forest edge on the left.  They stare wide-eyed at the old woman and dog, pointing.

Part Two: The first 250 words of a story involving the scene in part One — an excerpt which will pull the reader in and guide the reader into the body of the piece

“You want us to spend the next three days traveling just for a lousy dinner with a bunch of pale faces?” The tone in Abequa’s voice tells Inetus that his request is not going to go smoothly. “What about your mother? Who’s going to take care of her for the week that we’re gone? You know that no one in the tribe will agree to watch her after the last fiasco when we went away.”

“She’s coming with us…”

“You’ve got to be kidding! Oh great,” Abequa throws her hands out, “I can just see it now.” She draws up her leather jacket and hunches her shoulders. “How do you Pilgrim women keep your hair up like that?” she says in a shaky false soprano voice, peering at Inetus’ head in mock fascination and poking at it with her finger.

Inetus grunts, frowning, and swats her off, taking a small jump away.

She shuffles after him and continues. “…and your dresses. Why do they have that weird upside-down bowl shape?” She inspects an invisible skirt on him and pretends to lift it and look under. “We’re never going to hear the end of this one,” she says, shaking her head as she straightens up and adjusts her jacket back on her shoulders. She picks up a bag and heads towards the teepee entrance.

“What are you doing with Fido’s doggy boots?” he asks.

“I’m taking my dog.”

“They said no dogs.”

“I’m not going anywhere without my dog.”

I’ve been pulling my hair out with work problems as well as trying to come up with ideas for my composition class homework, which is due this Sunday.  The first 250 words needs to describe the scene after a Thanksgiving dinner — dirty dishes, etc.  The second 250 words needs to be either the beginning, or a full story somehow involving that scene.  Every single free second I’ve had, I’ve been dwelling on this story and what I’m going to write.

Last night after my shower I sat down to do some stream-of-consciousness writing on the first part, the scene.  I wrote about the smells of food, how the sun had just gone down and the lights were just getting turned on in the house, how the house was cold, and food and dirty dishes everywhere, including some gravy running down the cabinet onto the floor where a dog is lapping it up.  I wrote about the mixture of food, candles, and mulled wine in the air, the sounds of a football game and chatter in the next room.  I wrote about the window above the sink with small, fist-sized glass figurines on top of peeling white paint on the sill.  I wrote about the dull yellow linoleum, curled up in the corner, with years of caked food etched into the surface.

I wrote about a young doe, unseen, passing in front of the window, stepping lightly in the snow and pausing to reflect on the middle-aged brunette standing in front of the sink, her hair tied up in a ponytail with a runaway strand dangling down the middle of her forehead into her eyes.  She picks up each dish and spends a good minute or two, cleaning the top and then turning it over and cleaning the bottom, and then holding it under hot water, moving it back and forth so as not to leave even a hint of detergent.

I went on and on like this, and I’m still left with nothing really — no story, no real substance or texture.

Dunno….  this is where the rubber meets the pavement.  After all, if I can’t get through 500 words of creative thought, is this really where I’m supposed to spend the rest of my life?

Master Ou

March 8, 2008

I had a profound experience the other day that I think has changed my life.

I’ve been taking a tai-chi class for the past month or so.  One of my chiropractors (they are a husband/wife business) suggested doing tai-chi for my back, so I found and signed up for an adult ed class.  That was about a month ago, so we’ve had about 4 or 5 classes.

My tai-chi teacher talks about energies that move through your body.  I once asked her if the energies she talks about are real physical energies, or some sort of mumbo-jumbo touchy-feely new-age sort of spiritual energies.  She said that they were real, measurable energies.  I keep looking for these feelings of energy and think that I feel hints of it, but have never really felt anything truly distinct.

A couple of weeks ago, my tai-chi instructor sent out email that there was a special healer, Master Wen Wei Ou coming, and that anyone who was interested could sign up to meet with this healer for a 15-minute session.  I don’t have anything in particular to heal, so I wasn’t terribly interested, but still thought eh, what the heck, why not.  So I signed up.

My healing session was last Thursday in my teacher’s acupuncture office.  I waited in a room with about 4 other people who were sitting around chatting in very hushed voices.  The room was filled with the aroma of oranges.  There was a large bowl of about 30 orange on a side table, and a small refrigerator with some bottles of water on top.  It was a tiny room, about the size of a small bathroom.

I was nervous.  Which one of my many ailments should I talk to him about?  Nothing was significantly worth mentioning.  The cost of the treatment was $60 for a session.  What would I talk about that would optimize my 15 minutes?  I debated it all day with myself.  I asked my teacher before class and also in the waiting room, “What should I tell him?  should I talk about specific problems?  general stuff?  mental?  physical?  What should I say so I can focus him and not spread him too thin?”

“Don’t worry about it.  Tell him whatever you want,” she answered both times.

“What should I expect?”

“Don’t expect anything.  He’s nice.  Don’t worry.”

I waited in the waiting room with mild jitters.  A tall, thin Asian man stepped out of a room and out of the crowd of 4 people looked directly at me and gestured me over.  I pointed at myself and cocked my head, eyebrows raised in a “moi?” sort of gesture.  He nodded.  (Speaking of cocks, one of my dogs is masturbating in front of me as I write this. why do male dogs have to do such disgusting things?  Must he do this in my office?  Back to the story…)

I follow the tall thin Asian into a small room.  A middle-aged Asian man sits in a metal folding chair in the center of the room facing the door.  He is Master Ou. He holds his hand out towards an empty metal folding chair which faces him, about 2 feet away.  “Sit down” the tall thin one tells me.  I’ll call him Bert, for want of a better name.

Bert proceeds to sit in a chair to the side, facing the Master Ou and me.  It turns out Bert is the translator.  Master Ou speaks to Bert.  “He asks how your health is,” Bert says to me.

“Ok,” I say.  Bleh, after worrying about it all day, this is what ends up popping out of my mouth.

“Ok” doesn’t need translation.  The Master Ou chuckles.  “Ok” he says back to me, smiling.  He has a few wrinkles on his cheeks and short hair.  He wears a light blue short-sleeved button-down shirt and a pair of what look like tan Dockers pants.  He doesn’t look like a revered healer, he looks like some Hawaiian native, about to step out for 18 holes.  I expected an ancient Chinese man with a braided pony tail wearing a monk’s robe.

“Just sit back and relax” Bert tells me.  I sit back in my chair.  Master Ou moves to the front edge of his chair with each leg out to the side, leans towards me, and begins waving his hands.

“WHAM, KABOOM! KERBLOWEE!”  Each wave of his hands sends seismic tidal waves of electricity through my body that I’ve never ever ever in my entire life felt before.

“HOLY GODDAMN BEJEZUS-FUCKING-BATSHIT!!” I want to jump out of my chair and scream.  The energy is like zillions of infinitessimally tiny beings entering my body and rushing through my torso, filling it and circling, creating a humongous swirling ball of energy in one huge stream.  Every cell in my body is being hit with tiny lightning bolts.

My intellect tells me, Relax.  Don’t tense up or you’ll stop the waves.  As I sit there, the outside of me is in meditation position — sitting relaxed, eyes slightly open, keeping my mind clear of chatter.  The inside of me is smashed against a wall — pinned, suspended, being held up with just this constant, rushing tidal wave of energy.  He’s not even touching me.

I resist the intense urge to collapse onto the floor in one weeping heap.

After fifteen minutes of this, where I’m thinking don’t stop, oh please don’t stop, not yet… he stops.  He says something in Chinese.   “He says your left brain and your left bladder are tired,” Bert tells me.

I’ve been overworked, stressed out, freaking out at John…  that diagnosis was right on the mark.  “Should I seek treatment for my tired bladder?”

He speaks to Master Ou and turns back to me, “he says no need to do anything about the bladder.  If something significant happens, then you can seek treatment, but for now, it’s mild.  No need to do anything.”

“Will my making my left brain less tired help my bladder?”

“He says yes, that may help.”

“How can I make my left brain less tired?”

“He asks if you are going to his workshop next Sunday.  He’s teaching something that may help you.”

“Yes, I will go to his workshop then.”  I stand up and bow to Master Ou and then to Bert.  I’m overwhelmed with a sense of deference towards Master Ou.  He nods to me.

“I will see you next Sunday then,” I tell him.

“Yes,” he says to me, directly this time.

I leave, and my teacher is in the waiting room.

“How was it?” she asks me.

“It was….  wow.”  No words can do justice to the experience.

We chat for a bit, and she tells me, “If you keep practicing your tai-chi, you will begin to feel what you felt today.  He didn’t transfer that energy to you, he just enabled you to activate what was already inside of you.  Do your tai-chi slowly — much slower than we do in class.  We only do it quickly because of the time constraints.  When you practice at home, do it much more slowly, and see if you can begin to feel this energy.”

That was two days ago.  Since then, I’ve done my tai-chi practice much more slowly.  I’m beginning to feel the “energy” that she speaks of.  Even in my meditating I feel a difference.  I’m more often reaching meditation states where I don’t want to move, I don’t want to end the meditation practice because I find myself in such a state of harmony.  Maybe these lingering effects are temporary.  Maybe tomorrow they’ll be gone, who knows.

I always disliked the phrase “cancer makes you a better person” because cancer just simply sucks beans, no ifs-ands-or-buts.  When you’re going through treatments it’s damned hard to associate anything positive with the experience, and to hear someone else saying that phrase is demoralizing.  It feels like it’s devaluing your suffering.  Still, today, seven years after my cancer treatments, I can’t deny that my cancer has made me a better person.  Cancer made me suspend my beliefs towards everything in the world that I knew to be true; made me more open to any possibility; made me much less sure of the existence of one absolute truth, one absolute RIGHT explanation to the meaning of life and how it works.  If it weren’t for my cancer, I never would have started meditating;  I never would have become interested in holistic things; I never would have gone to these chiropractors; and I never would have considered doing tai-chi.  I never would have met Master Ou.

Master Ou took a virtual sledgehammer to my head and bashed my skull in.  “Feel that?  THAT is what the energy feels like.”  The word “healer” is a misnomer.  He’s not a healer, he’s a demonstrator.  He has the ability to SHOW people the energy that’s within them.  Today the world seems to have more vivid colors, more texture and more softness than I can ever remember.  I have my cancer, Master Ou, and everyone in between to thank.

Last weekend I had two sets of homework to do:  my last homework assignment for my grammar class and second homework for my composition class.  The composition class homework was a 250-word book review, and the final grammar homework was a 1000-word story and a quiz.

I decided to do the 250-word review on the book I was reading, The Marble Kite by David Daniel.  By Wednesday I was only 2/3 of the way through the book, however.  By Friday night I had finished the book but was completely unprepared to review it.  I needed to re-read it and get more of the details of the story in my head.  So, I woke up Saturday morning with: an entire book to re-read, a 250-word book review to write, a 1000-word story for grammar class, and a grammar quiz to do by the end of the weekend.  I was absolutely hysterical.

I stormed into the bedroom where poor John was napping and started screaming at him, jerking him awake from his slumber.  I accused him of every fault in the book, starting with never paying the bills and never fixing things in the house.  I pulled out all stops, I was so stressed out — accusations, criticisms, every belittlement I could think of.  I just wanted to hurt hurt hurt him, I felt so agitated with the pressure.

John did what he always does when I start screaming at him.  He patiently let me scream to my heart’s content.  When I was done dumping my verbal abuse on him in every below-the-belt way I could think of, I was able to finally get to what was really bothering me — I had too much homework and too little time to do it in.  It was only after doing that to John that I could settle down and get to work (after profusely apologizing, of course).  What a psycho I am.  How I ended up with someone as well-adjusted as John is a mystery — god knows I don’t deserve him.

It took the entire weekend to re-read the book, work it through my brain, and write the review.  By Sunday evening I hadn’t even started on the grammar quiz and the 1000-word story.  I was so exhausted, I told myself I’d wake up early Monday, do them at work and then turn them in late.  I went to work Monday and immediately had two fires thrown on my plate, so I never had a chance to work on the grammar homework.  As of tonight, I still haven’t done my final grammar quiz or 1000-word story, and I don’t think I will.  I just simply don’t have it in me to push myself to try to get them done any more.

After everything I went through (and put John through), the book review turned out to be a mere 7 sentences.  I emailed the review to the author who liked it, and my teacher who loved it, so I feel tremendously satisfied and proud of myself.  Still, I can’t help but wonder, if it takes this much agony to write 7 sentences, how on earth am I going to be a writer without eventually killing my husband?