Every year I do some kind of an annual reflection. Hold onto your britches! Here goes!
It’s been a particularly difficult and grueling year for us. In many ways I’ve learned so much, and my soul has expanded beyond my imagination! Just wanted to take a couple minutes and reflect with ya’ll on some of the highlights. Things I’ve learned. Things I’ve observed. This is not in any particular order of importance, but more stream of consciousness and how it came down.
This year, I learned a lot about taking emotional and creative risk. These two areas have brought me a lot of joy and paid off in huge spiritual dividends. As a result, I’ve connected with a whole new host of friends and fed my soul. There’s something about writing about a life event, sharing photos and artwork that connects us as human beings. That brings us into greater harmony one with another. It’s really kinda scary to go “out there”, to bare all, as it were. But once you find the right, fertile soil to plant your soul-seed, things start to POP!! POP POP!! All. Over. The Place.
Another thing I’ve learned a little bit more about, I hope, is the art of listening. I’m a type A personality, so this can be quite daunting for me. I come from a looooong, storied line of jabber-jawwed gabbers. It just runs in the family. But thanks to Sheila and my friend Kris, I’ve been able to slow down, hush my racing (not racy!!) thoughts and mouth some. Consequently, the active listening part has spiked up a wee notch. It’ drives me crazy sometimes, but on the flip side of the coin, it’s been a lot of fun and warms my heart. Have to kinda fight the impulse to be in defensive mode preparing answers in your head and strategizing how to win an argument, as opposed to being in the moment with the one you’re with, having a meaningful and authentic exchange of ideas. Learning those two are worlds apart and can make or break relationships in general. When a couple people tell me within a short period of time they think I have the attention span of a five-year-old, my intuition kinda kicks into emergency mode: BWoooUUP, BWoooUUP! May I have your attention please!! You, there! Lissy! Now hear this! LOL. And it sends me into a free-falling nose dive of introspection and reflection. When this was first brought to my attention, I thought, man! It takes guts to be that direct and honest with someone, and those are the kinda friends and people I want to have in my life. The very ones that will dare to ask me the hard questions. Very hard questions. The ones who will dare to challenge my thoughts and help me shed light on another perspective or angle on things that can open up a whole new world for me. Me, short attention span?! NEVAH hahahah!! Actually, the whole thing kinda rocked me, but in a good way, cuz nobody had really told me in as many words that I was all over the place. This soul work stuff isn’t for the faint of heart, that’s for sure!
Another AMP’ed up bonus of me shooooshing, is that my ability to hear and understand lyrics to songs has had an explosive and profoundly beautiful impact on my life. It’s like I’m finally starting to make the connection between the melody and the lyrics. Like hearing the lyrics for the first time ever in my life. Sounds crazy, I know, but for most of my life I’ve generally focused my attention on the melody, but there’s soooull, soooull much more!! Music is a glorious thing, isn’t it?! Just glorious!
Suppose I should interject at this point, the other reason it’s been easier to devote attention to lyrics is I’ve been forcing myself to slow down. I get so impatient sometimes and have GRRRrrrr moments, because I have absolutely no patience to sit still and work out the details of things, but that’s where it’s at! It’s all in the details! I find this to be especially true when I’m doing detailed doodles and artwork. With my Multiple Sclerosis, my hands tremor a lot, too, so when I chill out and relax when I’m drawing, things go a lot smoother, and I go straight into that happy, happy place of creative bliss. I floooooooowwww…. It’s all connected, you know? This year I spent a lot of time doodling and feeding my craving for drawing and sketch work. When you start working on the edges and the details of things, you have no other choice but to slow down, focus your attention, and breathe as you put the strokes down on the paper. Kind of a huuuuge AHA!! moment for me! It’s provided a wonderful outlet for my passion for creative writing and other areas of self-expression as well.
Going with my stream of consciousness, I’m totally freakin’ LOL right now! I feel myself running long, and the little voices in my head are telling me “You talk too much. You talk too fast.” Ha ha! So true!! I am working on brevity. Honest, I really am!! Cutting myself some slack here, ok? Something about crisp and concise language that makes it even more potent. Reading it out loud when you edit is a total mind blower, and there’s a huuuge “ick” factor that goes with it. Makes it better, though, in the end….
The year has been a major disappointment health wise, and my Multiple Sclerosis has caused many setbacks and frustrations. I have my moments and my pity parties, but – hey – don’t we all? But somehow, I find a way to pick myself back up off the floor, face it, and move on. This process is made so much easier by all of you, family and friends. I tried applying for Social Security Disability and was denied the first time around. Now I’m making a second attempt. Hopefully things will get better. I tried to apply for prescription assistance with COPAXONE, and that was a NO-GO and huge bummer! But still, I keep pressing on. It really makes me so mad that I don’t have medical benefits, and here in the United States, the system is not made for the people that need it the most. It’s one of my soapbox issues. I try not to let it niggle at me, but sometimes it does. Anyone who has medical benefits should count it the greatest blessing! Here in the States it’s only for the employed in the rich. Anyone else can pretty much kiss it goodbye. Enough said. My cynical moment…..
Another thing that I’ve contemplated on and thought about a lot is friendship. Some people find it too painful to be my friend, because of my Multiple Sclerosis. My disease scares them. They don’t know what to say. They’re afraid they’re going to say the one thing that’s gonna snuff that hot ember in my soul, and break me, make the pain of my dis-ease more acute. I get that. Cuz I feel that way in situations, too. It’s kind of a paradox. I most definitely think it’s more difficult for those around me to manage it than for me. It makes me sad, the fact that I’ve lost people whom I counted as friends, because of things I have no control over. People don’t realize sometimes, that they don’t even have to say a word. Sometimes just sitting quietly can sooth a soul and make such a difference. And saying “MS” isn’t going to wreck me or break me in half. It just is what it is. I so totally get the fear factor, though, but I want to tell you my truth. The flip side of the coin is that new friends have literally poured into my life by way of this wonderful virtual connection we share and made it even more special.
What I have learned is: there are friends, and there are acquaintances. I’m starting to see the difference. Some folks just want to have tangential contact with you. Some are too busy to make the emotional investment in standing by you through the good, the bad and the ugly. To me there’s a happy balance between the two. Meaning, a friend indeed will be with you as much as they reasonably can through the good times and the bad. They would give you the shirt off their back, and you could call them at four o’clock in the morning and they would take the call without hesitation or come to you at any hour, 24/7 if you had a serious emergency and you needed them. I can count those people in my life on one hand. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to surround myself with loving, positive, fun, and intelligent people who have a zest and passion for life. Since I’ve devoted more attention to that this year, I’ve found I’m much happier and feel more fulfilled. There’s nothing like being around positive people! It’s just so good for everything, and we make good, good, good, good vibrations!!
At this point, I just want to throw in, that I’ve been more exposed to Buddhist teachings this year, and they really resonate for me. The practices are logical and make total sense to me. There’s nomenclature I can identify with, if that makes any sense at all. There’s balance. The concepts have helped me in my meditations, but they’ve also helped me in how I look at both my inner and outer worlds. It’s like I have this brand new, fully loaded, tool box with practical tools for living. When I crank the tools, I’m learning how to look on people with more compassion and love. Buddhism has helped me slow down and look at my own actions. To see what I can do to be more compassionate towards others. Once again, this is not easy for me cuz I have to have a case of the shoooooshies first. And that sitting quietly thingy is so hard for me to do. Gradually….verrrry gradually, I’m learning to quiet my mind and face some of the awkward-looking-at-self silences of life. For this part of my journey, I really want to thank my dear friend, Mark Wollard.
The other thing that I’ve had to really come to grips with this year is caregiving. In life, we undergo many role reversals. Sometimes we’re the student, sometimes the student. Sometimes we’re the child, sometimes the parent. That can be really confusing. Both my father and mother have been gravely ill at times over this last year. Cumulatively, I’ve spent more time in the ER in the last couple years than I have in my whole lifetime put together. There’ve been moments when I thought I would lose both Daddy and Momma. We’ve had some very close calls. As their caregiver and healthcare surrogate, I’m doing things and experiencing things that I never thought I would or could do. Sitting with my dad at a point in time when I thought he was on his deathbed, all alone was a most transforming experience, but also one of the most painful I’ve ever endured. Thankfully he is still with us. It’s soooul hard letting go of your parents as they advance in years. It’s especially difficult when dementia is involved. That part of them that thinks and processes, that cognitive part of them deteriorates. So what you do is, you try to enjoy every moment as if it’s your last, and you reminisce a lot. You learn to honor and respect the life choices of those you love. I just want to speak to honoring the choices for just a moment. It’s such a struggle, as you go into the process of making funeral arrangements, discussing end-of-life issues, but you can come to terms with it. It’s not an easy thing to agree to carrying out your family’s end-of-life wishes, their right to life, the right to decline food or medicine, or a do not resuscitate order. But it is doable. It is possible. You have to face yourself, you have to discuss things that are not at all pretty, that are very frightening at times, but nevertheless necessary. I know I’m not the same person I was a year ago, and I’m thankful for every single thing that’s come to me from it all. Something our elders can teach us so much of is their wisdom and how to live life to the max with lots of humor, dignity, poise and quiet grace. My parents are leaving us such a legacy of tradition, culture, music, art and literature! That’s what I call “forever stuff”. You CAN take it with you!!
Ok, folks! Peace Out