“Nowadays, people are so jeezled up. If they took some chamomile tea and spent more time rocking on the porch in the evening listening to the liquid song of the hermit thrush, they might enjoy life more.”
I had had enough of this lying around today. After a nap (!!), I decided I was going to bake a cake. SO, as I set up, I also brought in my laptop to listen to a lecture or talk as is my custom when I cook. Cramming fingers be darned!!
I came to this particular TedxSan Francisco Talk by Louie Schwarzberg. It really was a moment that made me stop everything and pause. Went to the laptop and rewound what I just heard. It was so profound, yet so simple. For me, for that moment, it is perfect. It reminded me of being more mindful of what is around me – the beautiful changing sky, the cycle of life happening every second in the garden and nature that surrounds us, the ever-changing emotions of people and our own reactions to them.
“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy.” - C. Joy Bell
I urge you to spend 18 minutes to listen to this amazing video and allow gratitude to provoke you into change. Carpe Diem!
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. . . . In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.” – Henry David Thoreau
There are moments that happen in life when one is forced, compelled and arm-twisted into doing something so intrinsically against their nature. The Divine makes it so, I believe now, to perpetuate in us a sense of grounding, of centeredness, of peace. You are made to simplify things, not complicate it. I recently thought that though I learnt a lot from Martha Stewart as a new foreign bride on these shores on how to do things, I am leaning towards placing some blame on this great burden of “doing” so much on her. Why should it be so complicated? Simplify and live! I love that the Latin word for it has ‘care’ in it. Because simplifying your life, as I have very difficultly learnt, means to to really care.
This being the Lenten season, and this being a year that began for me with so many challenges and pain, these past months have forced me not just into bed rest but also, mind rest. I am the perpetual worrywart, the have-to-get-it-done-even-if-I-die-for-it-tomorrow woman. I already feel second rate for being a stay at home, non-outside career woman. I beat myself up for the slightest mistakes, assuming how large that mistake looms in the eyes of others on the outside looking back at me. I learnt about being vulnerable and it being okay when I heard Dr. Brene Brown’s TED talk about vulnerability and shame a couple of years ago. Although I thought I ‘got it’, I actually only got some of it. I suppose it is why life is called a journey. You make plans, you buy tickets, you pack your bags, you fly, you get to train stations late or miss a connection or you get stuck next to a stinky open-mouth snorer on a 14 hour flight. Or you meet a life long friend when she helps you lug your heavy ass bag into the RER train in Charles de Gaulle airport. Have a couple who fell in love after being single for 50 years and hear their stories around your dinner table after meeting them at a random breakfast joint downtown Seattle. Journey. Will the road you choose be an open or closed path? That is what my journey is about right now.
The year 2012 ended like the story of the dragons in the Game of Thrones where they all died out and all that remains is a myth. I sometimes look back at it and wonder if some of the things that happened actually did or did I conjure it up like some skillful, hallucinated soothsayer. There was so much beauty in that year, so many laughs and reunions, truths unveiled, love among a brother and sister rekindled and restored; walking the labyrinth in the Chartres Cathedral; morning coffees with my Papa’s best friend retelling old stories and giving me insight to the first man I ever loved. Then the flip side. Friends who bailed on me in baffling, heart-wrenching ways; travel plans run amok; legal issues regarding my parents estate and my mother’s strange ways; new lumps forming from the Dercum’s Disease and the mind-numbing pain that came with it; getting yet another diagnosis, this time that I have mastocytosis which explained a lot of symptoms I was experiencing but scared my wits to bits anyways. And somewhere between then and the end of the year, I gave up.
I gave up trying. I gave up wanting to try. I saw no more purpose in believing or my reason for existing. I felt I have had enough of my share of crap and crappiness. Sod the world and the people in it who could not give me a glance of compassion or a word of encouragement. I was done with the selfishness of others towards those who suffer but try to put on a brave face. The arrogance of holding back a kind word so desperately needed by a yearning ear. No one around me seemed to be open to the idea of being open. Open to be real. Open to be authentic. Tell me how you really feel. Open to me being real with them. Yet, I am supposed to be open, courageously be vulnerable in the face of such apathy? Sod, sod and sod it. As Yann Martel said, “When you’ve suffered a great deal in life, each additional pain is both unbearable and trifling.”
In such a moment, the day eventually came when I snapped. I lost it. I was losing it but just did not understand or recognise it as such. For some odd reason, I wrote a poem and two dear friends caught on something was not right. They contacted Brett and thankfully, he got back in time. Long story short, I am now on some new medications that will help me through this time. It pained me to have to succumb to this. Me, the defiantly joyful on, now on anti-depressants. Oh, the irony! But, it was necessary and much needed. With all that was going on not just emotionally, but especially physically, I needed help. The endocrinologist said I was going through a ‘slow’ crisis with my Addison’s Disease which shuts the body down and you are extremely fatigued, cognitively impaired and prone to passing out. Forced to shut down. Retreat my child, The Divine says. Rest. Give it up. Surrender. I got this.
It has taken me weeks of this new routine to finally calm my mind at night that I can actually sleep without waking up to use the bathroom and make a mental list of things to do in the morning, for instance. Or be okay that I have a bunch of baby gifts to hand out or mail to friends who had babies six months ago! Or mail out thank you cards… or this or that… I have come to accept that they will understand and not judge. And if they do, then, so what. It’s on them, not me! I have to take care of me. Self care. Not because of selfishness, but because God created me wonderfully and creatively and I need to honour His work. And I also have come to understand and accept that just because I have something to say to someone, it does not mean they are ready to hear or accept it. And that is okay too. I am learning balance. Slowly. But surely. Step by step. I know I will goof up here and there but I shall ask God and others for forgiveness, forgive myself and move on.
I have slowly found joy again in the creative process. The paints and brushes are out. I’ve already made a sketch in the Matisse moleskin Ms. Ellen gave me for my birthday When my hands tremble too much from the mastocytosis or Dercum’s and I can’t hold a paint brush or type a word, I refuse to feel like a invalid anymore but just go rest or look out into the new spring garden outside my window. The brightness of the bobbing heads of the violet, yellow and maroon pansies make me smile each and every time. Simple joy. And we got a new little Bengal cat!! Jaspurr is filling our hearts with so much joy and laughter. The innocent love of a little creature is so precious and I know he will be such a healing component to my life from now on. I want to cultivate being grateful and practice seeing the light of joy even in the darkest of hours. And when I need help, I will be humble to ask for it. As Sugata Mitra said, “But the perfect tools aren’t going to help us if we can’t face each other and give and receive fearlessly, but, more important, to ask without shame.”
In the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition, tomorrow is the Sunday of Forgiveness during Lent. I do not know if I can make it to church tomorrow. I will try. ‘On the evening of the Sunday of Forgiveness the Church conducts the first service of Great Lent, the Vespers of Forgiveness, a service that directs us further on the path of repentance and helps us to acknowledge our need for forgiveness from God and to seek forgiveness from our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is the first time that the Lenten prayer of St. Ephraim accompanied by prostrations is read. At the end of the service all the faithful approach the priest and one another asking for mutual forgiveness.’ (taken from SimplyOrthodox ).
I end by asking each of you, my friends, my brothers and sisters, to forgive me, word and/or deed, that I may have offended you by this past years. Bear it not against me. May peace and love rule between our souls and may the Light of Heaven shine upon each of our paths as we journey on.
(photo credit: pictureperfectforyou)
A shell of a former self
hollow, brittle, full of shame.
A self who does not remember
what it is like to be what she is
or supposed to be.
What if what she is has turned to be
a falsehood, a lie, or maybe
a false truth that she strongly held onto?
Innards twist in angst
Were all thought an illusion?
Were opinions asked
when answered, a trick
of the questioner?
Maybe truth does not, in fact,
set you free
but a tool to bind you up
in chains of doubt, misery and fear?
Were all ‘heavenly’ voices a sham
Passionate, earnest seeking
of that which is right
were all in fact facades.
Because you see,
it too is Lie’s tool to fool.
Fingers pointed to the crowd
in judgment because of my
selfish want, no, need to be righteous.
How could have I gone wrong?
Where did I go wrong?
Did I not seek truth?
Was I not called to stand in the gap
for the voiceless?
Did I not love? Love till I could no more
give? Love till I was empty?
Did I not pour my soul out to you, give you parts of me
hidden from the light of the world?
A hollow shell
cannot hold nor contain passion or love,
only resentment and hatred.
Hence, evil is what swirls
within that hollow shell,
billowing its noxious fumes
till all that is worth living
for is eroded into debris.
And when evil speaks
from a hollow shell,
the falsehood rings
louder than the ear
can bear to hear,
clanging, banging, destroying.
More than a normal heart can manage to endure.
This Voice of one’s own
had once seemed clear, precise;
but now archaic, muffled,
One’s voice of truth has turned
into a banshee’s scream of lies churned
from a cauldron unrecognizable
Even to oneself
lit from below with the firewood of
malice, jadedness and plain ol’ don’t give
a flying f*ck.
A pit to wallow in the muck of disgust.
And – this – feeble heart
“The shell must break before the bird can fly.”
— Alfred Lord Tennyson
(This post was written back in 2010 and it still resonates with me. Today, I am thankful that in the past year, although there are new medical challenges, the same grace and mercy have brought me to a wonderfully caring endocrinologist, Dr. Karen Herbst in San Diego, who specialises solely in this hard to diagnose illness called lipedema/Dercum’s Disease and is the foremost researcher in the USA for the said disease! I am thankful that this year I am seeing some of the ‘old spark’, as my kindly neighbour, Jeannette said to me the other day, came back, albeit slowly
I am thankful for the goodness that allowed me to visit so many friends around the world, reconnect, bond and realise what true friendship is all about. And I am thankful for family, for friends who are more like family than some family.. y’all know what I’m talkin’ ’bout now, don’t be playin’ me!
But most of all, I am grateful for the Hand of Heaven which never lets go, come what be and for that exquisite experience in Chartres, France – to walk the labyrinth in the cathedral and never have pain in my right knee since. And, of course, how can I leave out that one platinum blondie I happen to meet at the Charles de Gaulle airport train station and found out over the course of a month, we are what the Irish call, ‘anam cara’- Soul friend. I’ve been so blessed this year that the episodes of excruciating pain and depression pale in comparison. The Light of Love truly drives out the darkness!! And laughter, is really, truly, most awesomely, the best medicine! Especially, when it is shared with your spouse!
I wish all of you the most contemplative, sincerely authentic season of thankfulness and gratitude for all the good in our lives. Be blessed, my friends! Happy, blessed Thanksgivng)
(first posted November 2010)
Yesterday I began what I hope to be the start of a new tradition. I began a countdown to Thanksgiving. Christmas has the Advent calender but no one really does a calender countdown to Thanksgiving. Wherever you are in this world, there is a reason for a Thanksgiving Day. There are always enough reasons to give thanks for today, right now in the present.
I hope to push away the negatives of what life realistically throws at me with the positives abundant around me, if only I am still enough, silent enough to recognise them. I have found myself mired in such a sad, depressive bog lately. Sometimes I know why I am so sad, sometimes I just don’t understand it. It began last year, probably even before that, as I really cannot recall. Which was yet another thing that caused the depression. This feeling of I know this, but I just cannot seem to fully recapture it. So there is no full knowledge. Quite annoying for someone like me who has been likened to a hound dog when it comes to getting to the bottom of something with full explanations of the whats, the whys and the hows. The simplest, tiniest thing could set me off, bawling my eyes out. Every thought seemed oppressive, heavy with should-haves, the guilt unbearable.
Last Sunday, knowing how much I love a drive around town, Brett took me to breakfast and then, we drove around running errands. As we did, we noticed the little sunbreaks every now and then. I said to him as we passed Magnolia over the Ballard Bridge that I absolutely loved how it looked right at that moment. The houses, the hill itself were cocooned in heavy mist. It seemed other worldly. It was beautiful. We drove down the streets by Seattle Pacific University and there were some trees which had their red, orange and yellow leaves still on them while most of the pavement below was carpeted by fallen leaves. It was beautiful.
I realise I cannot allow for the noise around me to drown out what is good in my life. And by taking time to withdraw into contemplative silence, the good crystlliases. I have much to be thankful for. I began my countdown yesterday on my Facebook page by being thankful for the unstoppable grace and the ever flowing mercy of God. Because how can I not? My very life, my very breath; every step I can take, be it with or without pain; the ability to still appreciate the ‘funny’ while in immeasurable sadness and be able to laugh; the fact that through medications, I am still able to function and although I abhor it, know that the occasional high doses and days of rest prior are what enable me to recapture the social butterfly I once was, even for one night. His grace and mercy propel me to wake up wanting to live for the new day, make my coffee and connect with someone and be sane. Mercy makes the adrenaline flow and grace allows me to focus as much as I can during conversations with friends. Mercy allows me to go to the grocery once a week while grace holds me up with enough wherewithal to have a grocery list!
If not for His grace and mercy, I would not have made it to my father’s funeral last December. I would not have survived the countless Addisonian crises over the years. There is no reason other than grace and mercy that I escaped catching the H1N1 virus while we were in Malaysia during the height of the epidemic, going in and out of the medical center where Papa was hospitalised. If not for grace and mercy, I would not have been able to walk as much as I did and endure the long haul flight to and back from Malaysia to settle Mummy back into her house in June. And it is nothing but God’s grace and mercy which brought Brett to me eleven years ago.
Today, nine days before Thanksgiving, I give thanks for my Brett. Not mincing words, he is God’s grace and mercy in action, personified. When all seems dim and hopeless, I look at his face, reflecting pure love, unquestioning, non-judgmental. He is my sounding board, my rock and my anchor, grounding me to what is real, what is true and what is meaningful. There are evenings when he literally becomes my legs as he helps me walk the distance between bed and bathroom. There are times when he literally is my safety net as he catches me when I black out and fall onto the floor.
Again last Sunday, on our little outing, Brett and I sat in a cafe and shared the reading of an article in the Pacific Northwest magazine of the Seattle Times. It chronicled the near tragic journey of a new friend of ours, Catherine Reynolds. Brett and I teared up and sobbed at the same points, oblivious to other cafe patrons. See, while I had been warned about the possibility of a brain aneurysm occurring anytime, Catherine actually had a brain aneurysm and went through brain surgery. We bonded almost immediately because we both understood what brain fog was like, what depression feels like etc. And we share the gift of having awesome husbands who stand by us through thick and thin (literally as we gain and loose weight due to steroids/medications). The kind of husbands who love you even when you talk gibberish during your brain fog and pass out, only to wake up saying “fried chicken”!!
Cath wrote me Sunday night saying “Take care & hug your man. Having a partner who loves you through it all is SO important.” How true! I tell my closest friends, and now the world, that without Brett, I would have either died or been severely disabled a long time ago. Our shared moments these past eleven years are a potpourri of moments – of laughter, tears of pain; giggles, sobs of frustration. And moments where he took my breath away. Not by giving me diamonds or gold, but by the unprompted action of carrying my ill father down the steps to the car, feeding and bathing him and holding his hand to steady him while Papa walked in India, in Malaysia and in Seattle. I think Papa knew a good thing when he saw it. Whenever Brett was around, Papa wouldn’t want to hold on to anyone else!
At our wedding in Malaysia, the biblical quote we used was “He has made all things beautiful in His time” (Ecc 3:11). God certainly has proven this in our lives. We may not have all the trappings of the world, but we have something more valuable than gold. What use is a mansion if the walls cannot sing of the joy of its inhabitants? What use a fancy mantel and fireplace if the house does not exude the warmth of love? What use is a fancy car if your partner cannot carry you when you fall? The Lord has blessed us with each other and a love so wonderful. Indeed, Brett’s banner over me is love!! (Song of Solomon 2:4) and for this Brett of mine, I am most thankful!
To read Catherine’s story: (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/pacificnw/2013339571_pacificpcatherine14.html?cmpid=2628