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Emaho

I was reflecting on my recent blog, and a critical voice kicked in saying, “Who wants to hear how good your life is? Happy people don’t read blogs, Besides, we read blogs to get something.” I couldn’t find a single benefit to be gained from that particular post.

Was my inner critic right? Perhaps, perhaps not.

The perhaps part harkens back to remembering when I was miserable. Twenty years of severe clinical depression and associated mental illness was an ordeal beyond anything I’ve ever endured. Living with hepatitis C for the twenty years following were also hard. I dealt with painful stuff for most of my life, and I survived because of the hope I borrowed from others. A blog about someone’s joy would not have helped me when I was in my darkest hours. Misery does like company.

However, perhaps it’s good to write something joyful from time to time. What good is the insight from misery if I don’t also have happiness? It’s like a stained-glass window. Sometimes the picture in the glass looks brilliant, sometimes dull. The glass remains the same; it’s just the outlook that has changed.

Recently I learned a new word–emaho. It’s a Buddhist word meaning the exclamation of wonder and amazement. Emaho describes my life right now, especially sweet because of the pain that I’ve endured.

I don’t know if my inner critic was correct or not, but I certainly can’t begrudge myself a bit of joy. So, I let the words stand. If nothing else, they illustrate the impermanent nature of things.

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Healthy Play

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

If you have noticed that I haven’t posted anything to my blog for awhile, I hope this hasn’t caused any concern. In fact, the reason for my blog absence is that I am having fun—and a lot of it. I’ve been taking weight lifting classes, learning yoga, and going for long hikes. I bought a kayak, which has been a joy to play with. In short, I have been engaged in healthy play.

Another new activity is that I have been cooking more of the meals in the house. My meat-loving amateur chef-husband has agreed to eat vegetarian, so the least I can do is contribute to the cooking. Although he is willing to grill tofu, it seems that I might benefit from honing my culinary skills.

I’ve also been meditating more.  In short, I have become insufferably healthy and happy.  I feel younger than ever. So much so, that I find myself singing a line from Bob Dylan’s My Back Pages, “Ah, but I was so much older then I’m younger than that now.”

So, if you don’t hear from me for awhile, it is because I am out getting younger. What are you doing to get younger or healthier?

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Identity Crisis

Image by Ravi Shahi from Pixabay

Motivational speakers sometimes (wrongly) say that the Chinese character for crisis includes the element of opportunity along with danger. Although this appears to be a misinterpretation, I have found that opportunity does often come after a crisis.

I am not in crisis, but I am having a lot of fun shedding my identity. For years, my work gave me purpose. Hepatitis C defined who I was. My R.N. license defined me. Now, I don’t have a regular job. Who am I?

Actually, I don’t really need definition, other than being a person of integrity and compassion. What I mean by that is that I don’t feel attached to any labels. However, if I am going to maintain a website, what is it’s purpose and focus? So far, it seems to be a place to ramble.

I’ve done quite a bit of rambling this week. I turned 66 and decided to try 66 new things this year. I feel curious, adventurous and wild. Nothing is holding me back, other than a 66-year-old body. So, no cartwheels or bungee jumping in my future. However, burpees, planks, long hikes, kayaking and eating oysters are all within reach. I’ve already tried meditating under an oak tree in my yard and went to a film festival. I’ve gone dancing, discovered a new hike, tried two new classes at the gym, and read poetry by poets I’m not familiar with. Today I am going to make risotto for the first time. Learning how to hula hoop is definitely on my list.

As for this website, I think the shape is something that we will do together. On my home page, I wrote that I want to explore the following:

  • What does it mean to be healthy?
  • Can we be in illness, pain, and grief and still be healthy?
  • What are ways we can embrace health, especially when we feel uninspired, lonely, unwell, and out of ideas?
  • Can we talk about death?
  • What are our choices around death?
  • What is fear, and how do we live with it?
  • Are there secrets to life?
  • How do we age well?
  • Can we change, especially when we are older?
  • What does it mean to be fully alive?

Ultimately, what we are exploring is about life and death. These two concepts inhabit the same cell; you can’t have one without the other.

So, come along with me as open the door to wonder. As we travel together, tell me what you discover.

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Rewiring

Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay

On July 31, 2019, I ended a chapter of my life. I devoted more than 20 years to working with people who had hepatitis C. About half of that time was as a nurse at Stanford Medical Center; all of it was as a writer and outspoken advocate for those affected by a virus that kills more people annually in the United States than all 60 reportable infectious diseases combined.  It was hard to let go, but there are wonderful people doing great things in the hepatitis field; it is a good time to move on.

One might say that I am retiring from hep C work, and that would be accurate. However, I am not retiring from meaningful work. I prefer to use Dr. Ruth’s term ‘rewiring.’ (Dr. Ruth is a famous sex therapist known for her radio show, Sexually Speaking,)

Rewiring means that I am redirecting my energy and time towards other passions, passions that have been there a long time. What are these passions? There’s the rub; there are many, and at my age, I don’t have time to follow them all.

Writing tops the list. Exploring issues around health, aging and death make excellent subject matters. All of this rests on living a life of intention. For me, this means meaningful relationships, living simply and mindfully, giving rather than taking, and spreading as much love as I can.

The particulars will unfold as I explore this process of rewiring. As I do, I would love to hear from you. What are you learning from life? What is working, what isn’t? What is your vision for yourself?  As Mary Oliver wrote in her poem The Summer Day, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

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Illness can suck us dry, but we can replenish. Today’s blog is dedicated to restoring one’s purpose. Let’s begin with a quote by Norman Cousins, “Never deny a diagnosis, but do deny the negative verdict that may go with it.”

Norman Cousins was an amazing man. He was diagnosed with two life-threatening illnesses and in both cases used humor along with medical treatment to heal himself. He later went on to help shape the way we look at illness, showing us that illness need not rob us of being fully alive.

In my own life, I find that the key to health is freedom from fear. Being sick is one of the scariest things in the world; being fearless in the face of illness is a huge challenge. Many people before me have done this, inspiring me to rise above my fear and to live in the reality of illness without the pain of fear.

How do I do this? It is a practice. Support, good information, choosing a trustworthy medical team and trusting their advice are part of it. Meditation, stress-reduction, exercise, good sleep, a healthy diet and lots of fun also help to keep me fit and out of fear.

Also, I figure fear isn’t going to improve my health, so why not just skip it.

Another thing I do is try to change the current reality. Serving the greater good helps me feel fully alive. In this case, the greater good is participating n the elimination of viral hepatitis. We can do this. After you are rested, see what you can do to help someone else. The more you do, the more your purpose, and the energy to achieve it, will be evident. Ironically, it is the act of fulfilling my purpose that keeps me healthy.

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I have two risk factors for melanoma and other skin cancers; I am fair and I got many sunburns as a kid. As a result, I get regular skin checks.

During a recent exam, my dermatologist asked about a particular spot on my arm. I thought it was a bug bite from a recent hike. She asked, “How long have you had that?” About a week,” I replied. “It just popped up.” She said she didn’t like the look of it and wanted to do a shave biopsy. She said, “It may not be anything, but I get nervous over things that just pop up.”

Well, if she wanted to be nervous about it, that was her problem. In the meantime, I realized that I didn’t want to go down the panic road. It would take a week or more to get the results. It didn’t make any sense to worry over something that could turn out to be nothing. Besides, worry would not change the outcome, and it would feel awful. So, I took the calm road.

The biopsy was negative for cancer. She didn’t tell me what it was, other than not cancer. I’m thinking it was a bug bite. I am so happy that I didn’t take the worry road over this. What a waste that would have been over a perfectly lovely summer week.

What do you do when you are at the intersection of calm and worry? If you take the worry route, perhaps it is time to take the road less traveled. Or as Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

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