Friday, August 22, 2014

Weekly Quotes Part 29

May I be safe.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I live with ease.  (134)

Ideally, we want to get all three components of metta practice working together:  words, feelings, and images.  (145)

At some point, the phrases will become empty or robotic.  Any object of attention is like that:  it loses its charge after sufficient repetition.  That doesn’t necessarily mean the words should be changed.  Instead, stay close to the wishing side of the practice rather than the feeling side.  Your core motivation is the energetic center of the practice.  Remind yourself why you’re meditating:  to be happy and free from suffering.  (146)

Be patient.  It’s not uncommon to spend the first 2 to 3 years of metta practice just learning to love yourself.  (149)

Love is a double-edged sword; it cuts away the pain in the present, but it also slices into the pain of the past!  (150)

Misquoting Jesus by Bart D Ehrman

To be sure, of all the hundreds of thousands of textual changes found among our manuscripts, most of them are completely insignificant, immaterial, of no real importance for anything other than showing that scribes could not spell or keep focused any better than the rest of us.  It would be wrong, however, to say—as people sometimes do—that the changes in our text have no real bearing on what the text mean or on the theological conclusion that one draws from them.  (207-208)

If texts could speak for themselves, then everyone honestly and openly reading a text would agree on what the text says.  But interpretations of texts abound, and people in fact do not agree on what the texts mean.  (216)

Letting people in is largely a matter of not expending the energy to keep them out.

Effortless posture is not holding my body in position, but being in position where I am not holding.

No one thing
is more profound
than anything else

and counting every sound
and seeing every stone
and letting in the wind
               and not having to be somebody

[T]he anti-Semitism that build the Nazi death camps was a direct inheritance from medieval Christianity.  (42) 

Auschwitz, the Soviet gulags, and the killing fields of Cambodia are not examples of what happens to people when they become too reasonable.  To the contrary, these horrors testify to the dangers of political and racial dogmatism. . . .  The problem with religion—as with Nazism, Stalinism, or any other totalitarian mythology—is the problem of dogma itself.  I know of no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too desirous of evidence in support of their core beliefs.  (42-43)

Even if atheism led straight to moral chaos, this would not suggest that the doctrine of Christianity is true.  (46)

Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious. In fact, “atheism is a term that should not even exist.  No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist.”  (51)

Once you stop swaddling the reality of the world’s suffering in religious fantasies, you will feel in your bones just how precious life is—and indeed, how unfortunate it is that millions of human beings suffer the most harrowing abridgements of their happiness for no good reason at all.  (54)

The Art of Storytelling by John D Walsh

If you aren’t willing to tell stories poorly, you won’t tell them at all.  (139)

You have too much to offer to allow the attention of your audience to wander from what you are saying.  (154)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Happy 32nd to My Daughter

Somewhere along the way, my little girl, who used to love her birthday, turned into a woman who doesn’t.  I could go into the reasons I think she feels this way but the truth is it’s all conjecture.  If she has found a way to put her ambivalence into words, she has never expressed them to me.

That doesn’t change how I feel about her birthday, that for me this is a special, even a precious, day.  I haven’t said anything to her about my knee.  I don’t mean I haven’t told her what I found out yesterday.  I mean:  I haven’t told her anything.  I figured this Saturday she would come over with everyone else and we would all celebrate her birthday.  I’d tell her what’s going one and, by then, I’d even have more answers.

But then her brother couldn’t be here.  He went to a wedding last weekend and can’t take two weekend days off at his job.  Not back-to-back anyway. 

Then Rob got offered a gig to work at a venue he’s been itching to do.  And with MRI bills and such, he couldn’t really afford to turn down a gig. 

We figured we’d ask Matt if he could help out and we’d pay for his gas.  But Matt’s a teacher and, anyone who teaches knows, weekends are not free time.  He has papers to grade and such.

Which left us with Erin generously offering to drop Joe off at work and pick Shira up, bring her here, and then, when it was time to pick Joe up from work, they would take Shira home. 

Only Shira is super busy, getting ready for the end of con season, working on commissions, and she can’t really afford to spend all day Saturday here.  She was hoping to drop by for a few hours, have some pizza, some cake, open gifts, give kisses and hugs goodbye and be done with it.  Remember, she doesn’t like her birthday, so celebrating it is an arduous task.

I feel like I’ve been fighting so much lately.  I was fighting to get a job at the doctor’s office and now I’m back to fighting to find a job.  I’ve been in pain and fighting my way through weeks of physical therapy.  I’ve been fighting to not surrender to despair and seek ways that I can empower myself. 

And now I have to fight to get my loved ones together so we can share a celebration together?  Sheesh! 

Ahhhhh . . . but I shall not be defeated.  No way!  Rob and I threw our hands up in the air and surrendered.  I wrapped gifts while he made the batter.  He went out to run some quick errands while I made pudding and took a shower.   I dressed and we put the cake together. 

Nothing is going to stop me from showing someone I love how much I love them.  Nothing!  Not even the rain!!!

We packed up the things—gifts and cake—and we headed off to see my one and only darling daughter.  And yes, yes, yes, I am supposed to be taking it easy and not walking around outside the house because the ground is uneven and all but it wasn’t looking like Saturday was going to happen and, even if it did and could, it looked like I would have to go out anyway.  At least this way Rob would be with me to keep me from being too careless. 

We first took her to Mellow Mushroom but they are having a special and it was super crowded and noisy.  The wait to be seated was an hour.  There was just no way we were going to wait that long, not with my knee being painful and all.  So we headed to Blue Moon pizza.  What a brilliant idea.  Less noisy.  Less crowded.  And equally yummy.  Shira opened her gifts there and I had my first mojito.  It was good.  Sweet.  I can see why it’s so popular. 

After we ate an entire large pizza between the three of us, we headed back to Shira’s.  We left most of the cake with her, taking out a single slice. But it was a really big slice.  There won’t be any pictures of the cake, however, because it was a mess.  Easily the worst looking cake Rob and I have ever made.  But to be honest, I tasted it as I went along.  The butter pecan with apricot cake itself was delicious.  The flavor of the two fillings (vanilla pudding and apricot preserves) were delicious.  And then the vanilla frosting was delicious.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to make the apricot roses I had hoped to make, using dried apricots.  Oh well.  Even perfectly pretty apricot roses would not have made this cake look like anything but a mess. 
Messy it may have been but it is delicious.  Downright decadent. 

All in all, given how impromptu the whole evening was and how we had to shift gears from one place to another, we had a really good time with lots of laughter and love and even a few hugs.  Thirty-two amazing years.  I didn’t expect that she would continue to dazzle me as much as she did the first time the nurses put her into my arms.   

Someday I'll try to make sense of that.

In the meantime, I'll just let myself be dazzled.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My Physical Therapist Is So Awesome (I Could Cry)

This is where I go for my physical therapy.

I won’t see the orthopedist for a couple of days (Thursday, to be precise) but I saw the physical therapist today and, when she heard that I’d had the MRI done (yesterday) she called over and asked them to fax over the results.
Now, if you’ve never had an MRI, here is how it goes.  You get shoved into a very noisy machine and for 30 minutes they take images and more images.  You have to lie perfectly still the entire time.  Depending on your condition, this is more or less easy to do.  When all is said and done, the technician tells you nothing.  A radiologist needs to look at the images before you will be told anything.  And usually the radiologist sends the results to your referring physician/specialist so you have to wait for an appointment to be told what the radiologist saw. 

When you’ve been in pain, limping and losing sleep, for nearly 8 weeks, you want answers sooner rather than later. 

Well, I have my answers now and it’s not good but knowledge is power.

First, we knew I had some osteoarthritis.  She said it’s severe.  I have severe osteoarthritis.  My knee, according to her, looks like I was a long distance jumper or regularly do parkour and plyometrics.  As we know, my exercise routine consists of mostly walking and yoga.  But I’m “lucky” in that I have the joints of an athlete and, although I am only in my 50s, I have severe deterioration in my knees.  (So far the focus has been on my left knee because that’s the one that’s exacerbated at this time.  But the implication is that the damage is bilateral and I’m a test or two away from confirming this.)

This is what a normal knee
looks like. 
Second, I have torn meniscus.  This is what is actually causing the swelling.  Well, that and I have something else.  Anyway, the degenerative meniscus tear is being exacerbated by the osteoarthritis so something has to be done to make room for my knee to heal.  The meniscus tear and swelling go hand-in-hand so as the one is repaired the other will go away.

Third, there is a cyst.  This is not unusual and they typically go away on their own once the swelling goes down.  However, I have had not one, not two, not three, not even four, but five growths removed—cysts, lymph nodes, and benign tumors.  When it comes to things like cysts, my body doesn’t do anything typical and I can fully expect that this growth will have to be removed at some point.

So now what?

She said that, depending on the orthopedist’s approach to this diagnosis, I’ll be having an arthroscopy which takes 4-8 weeks to heal and will include more physical therapy, etc.  If he’s conservative, he’ll just drain the swelling to take some of the pressure off and give me an injection to help with the pain.  You know, kinda like what I expected/hoped the doctor would do last week.  Whatever the doctor may or may not want to immediately do, this is what I have on my immediate horizon.
1) I will get the injection and whatever procedure needs to be done to reduce the swelling short of an actual surgery because I don’t have time to heal from a surgery at this time.
2) I will likely wear a knee brace or something to help support my knee while I continue doing the physical therapy exercises I have been doing.  (My doctor did not call in a prescription for more, probably because she wants to see what the orthopedist has to say.)
3) I will schedule an arthroscopic procedure for some time in October.   Then 4-8 weeks of healing to follow and hopefully the doctor (whichever one) will refer me to the same physical therapist because she’s awesome!
4) Rob will bring my walker down from the attic because my physical therapist thinks it’s a good idea for me to get it ready.
I haven’t needed my walker since 2008.  I guess that streak is over.

So I am sad.  Very sad.  Here and now, sad.  And on Thursday I’ll talk with the orthopedist about my options, and, together, we’ll  put a plan of action into place.  And someday in my not-too-distant-future, I’ll be having knee replacement surgery because, yes, that is how severe the arthritis is even though I’m only 52-years-old. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Weekly Update: It's Been a Weighty Week

The exam room at
my new doctor's office.
This week there seems to have been a collective sadness that permeated so much and yet there are good things rippling throughout as well.  In the midst of the larger events in the Gaza Strip and Ferguson, Missouri, and the “smaller” events of suicide (Robin Williams) and death (Lauren Bacall), there is evidence of determination on my daughter’s part (preparing to quit a dead end job for brighter horizons), celebration in my son’s life (his wife’s high school friend marrying a high school sweetheart), and acceptance in my other son’s life (also moving away from a job with an eye to fulfilling more creative and scholarly goals).

Rob loves Burger King
but I don't.  I ordered
a mushroom Swiss with
no mayo.
Do you see any Swiss?  No
Do you see any mayo?  Yes
Double fail.
I want to point out the good things because my petty bad things are so small in comparison to the more global Things.  I gained 3 more pounds this week.  (1.4kg)  This puts me at nearly 15.5 lbs above my goal for the year.  And what am I supposed to do about it? 

I saw the physical therapist Tuesday and she wrote a letter for me to give to my new doctor (new insurance = new doctor) saying she thinks I need to have an MRI.  I don’t know if it is typical or not but, after three weeks of physical therapy, the exercises are either the same (the ones that didn’t really hurt still do not hurt and some that hurt still hurt as much as they ever did) or worse (while still others hurt even more than they did when I started all of this).  I am still using a cane.  I am still losing sleep because my knee wakes me up several times a night.

I may start taking a selfie every day
I'm stuck in bed.
Me with no makeup.
Don't look too long.
You may go blind.
I was looking forward to seeing the doctor on Thursday, optimistic that she would suggest something for the pain, give me a cortisone shot, or prescribe something new (or even just renew my prescription).  Instead, she referred me to an orthopedist (good) and ordered the MRI (good) and a mammogram (good) and a PAP smear (???) and offered nothing to relieve my pain or reduce the swelling.  Intellectually I understand—she wants to see what the MRI reveals before moving forward with a treatment plan.  But when you’re in pain, it’s hard to just maintain the status quo until there are more answers.  And I’ve been dealing with this since the end of June so I am more than ready for answers and solutions and something that will actually work!

Book review coming.
So no answers.  No relief.  But at least the promise that maybe one or the other or both are coming my way.  In the meantime, I have been studying Italian (Io sono una donna.  Io leggo il libro.  Grazie.)  and reading some books that aren’t really doing it for me.  I think I need to read something lighter.   Not that I haven’t been enjoying what I’m reading.  In fact, I loved the novel I just finished.  But some of the characters were suicidal, depressed, and it was hard to read as things unraveled on the media.  Which is why, maybe I should try to find something a little less intense to read.  Something light and fun.  

Maybe something by Kafka . . . ?  No.  Wait.  That wouldn’t work, would it?  I really need to work on this.