Wednesday, August 24, 2011

{Annmarie investigating the function of the epiglottis on the internet.}

My six-year-old is stubborn and inquisitive. She constantly bombards me with questions and doesn't stop until she gets a satisfying answer. When I'm feeling less patient, I tell her the answer to Life the Universe and Everything is forty-two and send her out to play.

But the questions persist.

I realize part of that is her age and part of it is imbedded in her DNA. When I was six (and twelve and twenty-eight) I wanted to know everything. My mother got so weary of the constant inquisition she bought me a set of world book encyclopedias. I read them cover to cover, earmarked my favorite parts and read them again. I even tried to pack the entire set off with me to college but they fell apart.

I've never outgrown that need for knowledge and doubt my daughter will either. I still want to know everything about everything. So I understand her deep hunger. She doesn't just want to know. She needs to know and can't be satisfied until she has an answer.

Lately, her obsession is human physiology. She want's to know how every system in the body works. Here are a few examples of her recent questions:

"Where's the esophogus and what does it do?"
"Do my kidney's only process drinks or soup too?"
"If my liver is a giant filter what happens to all the bad stuff it separates?"

Thank you Professor Gardner for forced memorization. Had you not forced me to peer inside a human cadaver my sophomore year in college I would have never been able to tell my daughter that the liver is basically a giant coffee filter.

Google helps with the answers I don't remember but it's just not the same as those old encyclopedias. There's just something powerful about holding the answer in your fingertips. We recently purchased a DK How it works book on the human body. It's the size of a coffee table. You should see Annmarie pack it around.

Anyway, while my little one was mulling through Circulation and Digestion. I'd been asking a few questions myself.

One of my physicians suggested cutting things out of my life to help me recover. So I'd been asking myself what can go. I love so many things. Right now I can't do them all. So I'd been trying to do a little selective amputation. What do I give up? Teaching? Writing? Cooking? Yoga?

They all bring me joy. So how do I choose which one to let go?

I'd been wrestling with this subject for a while and didn't feel like I was getting a satisfactory answer. In walked Annmarie with that giant book of the human body under her arm. I could see a question burning in her brain and I was so, so tempted to give her my standard Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy answer but she looked deeply troubled. I dropped onto my knees, so I could look her in the eye, and asked. "How can I help you my dear?"

She wrapped her fingers firmly around the book's binding. "There are so many parts of the body. And they all do important things, but which one is the MOST Important?"

I sat on my feet and pondered the question. Was it the heart? Brain? Lungs? Kidneys?

"They're all important?" I said. "You can't live without any of them. If you take one system away the whole body suffers."

I understand this concept because ONE SYSTEM in my body is out of order and it's impacting ALL of them. Each system of the body supports the others. They are all unique and important.

Well, isn't cutting pieces of my life away akin to cutting out organs? Yes, there are foreign cancers that invade and must be removed to preserve the whole. And sometimes there needs to be surgical adjustments to help organs better function. But how can I choose to eliminate entire parts of myself? They are all parts of my whole.

I don't think my physician meant for me to cut out parts of my life that nourish me. I think he meant that I cut out things that erode, cancerous burdens that seem urgent but are ultimately not important. Like the laundry! Or the ringing telephone! But instead I have tried to amputate parts of myself.

I gave up writing because I thought it was an all or nothing deal. Then I did the same thing with teaching. I've compartmentalized my life, cutting it into segments to make myself well. But these amputations have negatively impacted my health.

Writing pumps my heart and teaching fills my lungs. Gardening, yoga, music, and painting all serve a function. I cannot live my life without them. They are all necessary parts of my whole.

Monday, August 22, 2011

{Down but not out.}

Dear Blog,

Life is not easy. And lately I've been a little testy. You see I had the opportunity to talk to an amazing woman who has had health issues similar to my own. She is a gorgeous wife, mother of eight and grandmother to dozens. She has an amazing attitude and carries herself with spunk and sparkle. As we talked I flooded her with questions which spilled so fast I don't know how she grabbed any of them. But she caught hold of one I've been desperate to have answered.

"What can I do to feel better?"

 She smiled softly and said, "Take care of yourself. Carve out time just for you."

I got a little weepy at the simplicity of that statement and added it to my healing list: Eat bushels of fruits and vegetables, consume my daily allowance of fiber, exercise daily--even if it's just a little light yoga or a ten minute walk. Don't drink alcohol, soft drinks or smoke cigarettes. Cut out all processed sugars. Open myself to guided meditation, eastern medicine and purified water. And live with a rock solid positive attitude, chew on platitudes with breakfast.

But before I could fully process "me time" into my daily regime she added,

"But I can't say you will every fully recover. There will always be physical struggles."

If she hadn't revealed this statement with such kindness I would have thought she kicked me in the stomach. Because I've believed/hoped/prayed a healthy diet and attitude are enough to shrink a tumor and heal a soul. And that snippet of truth is one bitter pill to swallow.

I'd thought I'd been handling things really well. In truth? I've been mired in denial. Things aren't that much better. I have seen improvement. But damn it. I'm only 37, I'm not ready to feel so old. And I am MAD! I'm so angry I want to throw dishes at the walls. I DON'T WANT TO HAVE PHYSICAL STRUGGLES! Sometimes there's so much anger inside me the worlds not big enough to contain my epic tantrum!

But . . .

I really like my dishes and don't want to repaint the walls. And I live with the most patient man in the world. Who tells me it's alright to be angry. Which sort of takes the hissy wind out of my sails. Then I cry and he holds my hand, even though I am sure he wants to throw a couple dishes himself.

He leaves me alone and I pray which lately is really not much more than the muttered word help. Then the tears subside and I find peace and I pray for others like me, who might be hurt, angry and scared. Because the greatest lesson I've learned this summer is that prayers are more powerful when they are performed on the behalf of someone else. I've witnessed miracles for others. And I've received some too. Maybe I will always have physical struggles, maybe I won't. But I know my good days are a gift from a prayer performed by another. And I'm grateful. Thank you. I'm praying for you too.



Friday, August 5, 2011

                                                                                                                                                                         {copyright Jason Stevens}

I believe happiness is a choice. We may not always be able to change our circumstances but we have total control over how we react to it. Sometimes it's easy to let life's ups and downs dictate how we feel. Similar to how easy it is to let the weather affect our mood. I can't control the weather. But I can control my mood.

I can't always control how my body feels. But I can control how I choose to deal with it. I can choose to feel sorry for myself and wish things were how they used to be or I can focus on how I manage today.

Recently,  I let myself have a grand pity party. There were big sloppy tears, teeth gnashing, more tears. All I wanted was to go back to how things used to be. I wanted my old life back and I knew there is no going back. No matter how this chapter in my life ends, life will never be exactly like it was before. I've grown too much, I've learned too much to see my life through an old lens.

There is no going back. I can only move forward, accept the things I cannot change and create my own internal weather.