April 2018

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ad libbing

Last week, as I wrote my blog, I wrote about how frustrating working in the ableist world is. I was feeling insecure about my hope of helping others with life-changing health conditions by becoming a therapist for others with serious health issues. I was tired of how long it takes me to get places, tired of taking a class on the DSM-5, a book whose paradigm (that we need to identify abnormal people, give them a label and make them normal) pisses me off, and I was tired of being tired. Many of you wrote encouraging words. Many thanks.

I thought about not writing about my frustrations, but I want to be real with you, and the truth is that sometimes living with these disabilities and with my awareness of my own mortality gets to me and brings me down. I want to be real with you.

This week life feels better. For one thing, my last class of the quarter is tonight, and I've already turned in the final paper. More importantly, though, my attention has shifted somewhat, and my mind is calmer. 

A month ago, I stopped taking a medication designed to prevent migraines. Though it was effective in prevention, it also contributed significantly to my fatigue, so I had decided to experiment with not taking it. Later, I learned in a conversation with my father--in a by-the-way moment--that this medication had originally been developed as an anti-anxiety med. Knowing that I'd stopped taking an anti-anxiety med helped me be more aware of what's going on with me. I’d quit a support I didn’t know I had, and I was feeling the loss.

This week, in addressing this anxiety, I've recommitted to yoga, meditation, and vigorous exercise at the YMCA. (Just the mention of those letters makes you want to sing and wave your arms in odd formations, doesn't it?) Though I have done yoga almost every day for over twenty years, I had gotten busy and tired and had slipped on the habit. Meditation is a newer commitment, one since I took a meditation class in the fall, so it was easy to convince myself that I didn't need it. And going to the gym didn't seem necessary since I was wearing myself out in other ways. 

I'm back to all three, and I think this class ending will be good, too.

Before my truancy from meditation, I sat quietly in the mornings after yoga, trying to focus on my breathing and on a word like "Rest" or "Heal." I've decided that to maintain that focus for now is too hard because for now my mind's too busy (like a former student with ADHD told me once, "My mind's like a squirrel.") 

I've been following guided meditations from, which is in Carlsbad, California, according to the somewhat stereotypical airy meditator's voice "the sweet spot of the universe." I keep returning to the meditation on giving up control. 

David G., who narrates these airy meditations, makes some statement about ad libbing your life and in another meditation asks, "What are you really afraid of?" I mushed the two together, and have written this question on our white board: "Are you afraid of ad libbing your life?"

Since my tumors, I think I've been learning the same things over and over (like Annie Dillard in An American Childhood.) The only choice is to ad lib life. This is my human adventure. As the Indigo Girls sing, "Nobody gets a lifetime rehearsal. As specks of dust, we're universal."

My new friend David G. reminded me, too, of Rumi's poem, "The Guest House": 

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

My neighbors Sayre and Andrew gave me this poem for my 50th birthday, so it has been with my all along, hiding in my memory’s shadows and in the pages of my 50th birthday poetry book. It and David G. remind me of what I already know: breathe and laugh; listen to others’ songs and write my own (but don’t sing them: that’s for the lifetime when I inherit my mother’s voice); know that I am okay and that all of life is grace.


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