Monday, December 31, 2007

In Which I Finish The Last Book of 2007
Signifying Pain: Constructing and Healing the Self through Writing by Judith Hall is not a book I would lightly recommend although I think it is wonderful. Nevertheless it takes a certain kind of reader to enjoy a book that promotes Freudian psychology by using confessional poetry as a primary example of why writing can lead to healing. (If you don’t quite get the connection consider what a person does while lying on the psychiatrist’s couch and the comparison should be clear.) This is a book for academia. Literature and psychology majors will agree with nearly everything Harris proposes. I may not have bought into her hypotheses hook, line, and sinker. However, I found myself nodding in agreement and even remembering experiences of my own which agreed with what she is saying. Through the writings of Lowell, Plath, Sexton, Kenyon and others Harris shows how pain is a shared experience, one to which we can all relate on some level. Although the details may not be mutual, how we experience pain is very familiar. For instance, when writing about Carol Frost, Harris says: Although she was principally a formalist poet who avoided the first-person pronoun because she did want to indulge in the sentimentality of self-honoring, her illness causes her to move inward and to search for a model poem that successfully universalizes personal grief (4). Now many readers would find themselves yawning or even wanting to toss the book across the room with a statement like that. But there are those others, people like me, who practically melt when reading a sentence like that.

The capacity for being in a state of uncertainty about ego identity, and to sustain imaginative belief rather than reaching after reason or fact, was a Keatsian trademark that he made famous in his axiom about a poet’s gift for negative capability. Sympathetic identification as, for Keats, the vehicle for his migratory flights from imagination to reality and back again—a spinning dialect of the mind in constant interaction with itself (138).

I read things like this and I need a cigarette I am so satisfied and excited, either wanting to agree with or debate upon the finer points. While this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, Signifying Pain is a brilliant piece of literary research that makes the usually unappreciated importance of poetry and throws a rose colored spotlight on how very significant poetry and pain can be. Not practical, by any stretch of the imagination, this book is a solid argument for confessional writing in the form of poetry, journaling, etc. If you want to know why you should write and you love literature, read Keats and Plath with fearlessness, then this book will delight. If you are looking for a how-to rather than a reason why or you are not one to read poetry for pleasure, this book will likely frustrate more than enlighten.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

In Which I Am Still in Pain Rob says I probably should have stayed in bed all day on Christmas Eve instead of getting up and spending time with anyone beyond my bed. He's probably right. I am still stiff, still sore. I took something for the pain yesterday but it is probably too late. It hurts to breathe deeply which obviously compromises much of yoga and meditation. And tomorrow I begin my physical therapy. I hope that the pain doesn't prohibit my participating in what should heal me. I realize that my spending time with friends is important and I had fun catching up with everyone who showed up but I obviously have done so at too dear a cost. Tomorrow though . . . I am going to take my camera with me as I go about my day. This way I can perhaps learn how to take and download pictures. So expect a strange post on the first day of the new year. Something with a lot of poorly taken pictures as I try to share with you what a day in my life is like.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

In Which I Finish Another Book
I picked up Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life at the library on a whim. I read it chapter by chapter, at first plodding along with the usual spiritual language that one finds in these texts. Then I got not only into the rhythm of the text but into the teachings of it. I kept wishing, as I read, that I owned a copy of the book, that I could write in the margins, that I could explore the text more fully, more slowly, at my own pace.
I have decided to focus my spiritual studies and practice on Buddhism beginning with the new year. If I were to choose to stay with Buddhism after the six months, this book would be a must have for my collection. I would want to fully explore the text in the same manner as I had done with the Bible. There is so much food for thought in this book that I am unable to even share a favorite quote or section. To do so would border on copyright infringement because I would have too much to share and not know how I could possibly begin to pick and choose the best.
This book has been the most inspiring and potentially life changing of the many books I have read this year. I will definitely look for more books by the translator (Geshe Kelsang Gyatso) and I confess that I am now most inclined to read Pema Chodron's No Time to Lose as a complement to what I have just now finished reading. Then again, there is probably good reason for me to not choose that path but to instead read about another aspect of Buddhism.

Friday, December 28, 2007

In Which I Finish Another Book
I have accumulated a few books by Marianne Williamson and read a few of them with some pleasure. None of shook me to my core, caused me to really change anything in my heart or soul or thinking. I have given one book as a gift and given another away. And right now, as I type this, I cannot remember any deep lessons from anything she has written. Which is why it is no surprise for me to say that reading The Age of Miracles: Embracing the New Midlife was nice but hardly profound. I think a big part of it is my own fault; perhaps I should lower my expectations because lately a lot of these spiritual/inspirational books have left me feeling disappointed. I had hoped to read a lot about the changes that I, as a woman, would experience as I approach my own midlife. The insights Williamson shares are not life changing. At least not to me. I have a feeling that there are women who will read these pages and find themselves closing the book to pause. And this, in the end, is probably what I hope to find myself doing when I am reading books that are meant to explore spirituality in an inspirational manner—a moment of profound truth that makes me stop and need to pause before reading further. Saying that I did not do this does not suggest that the book is not good or even stimulating. But spirituality is like many things and perhaps I am somewhere else along the path. Either I am unready for the truths that are communicated between these pages or I am already further along the path and have built beyond these truths. I don’t know. I will say that there are some lovely sound bites throughout the book, quotes that are powerful and/or empowering. There are many popular authors who have cards on which there are inspirational quotes, including Williamson, and this book offers several quotes that would make good cards. In fact, often these quotes, when taken out of context, can be applied in more broadly drawn strokes. Rather than just being addressed to baby boomers about a period of our lives, there are quotes that can be applied to other times and situations in our lives. I plan on giving this book away. I also plan on reading the rest of Williamson’s books that I already own as part of my sifting out the clutter of books in my life and on my bookshelves. From The Age of Miracles: Embracing the New Midlife By Marianne Williamson
That we age, if we are lucky enough to do it, is a given. How we age is up to us (xx).
Finding out who we actually aren’t, we begin to understand at last who we actually are (29).
Every moment is an opportunity to exhale old energies and breathe in new life, to exhale fear and inhale love, to exhale littleness and inhale magnitude, to exhale grandiosity and inhale grandeur (45).
The only way I can know what I should be doing is if I focus on who I should be (47).
[N]othing that happened before this moment has any bearing on what’s possible now, except that what you learned from it can be fuel for a magnificent future (59). Our future isn’t determined by anything that happened 20 years ago, 30 years ago, or even 10 minutes ago. It’s determined by who we are and what we think, right here, right now, in this moment (60). You don’t have to be young to be fabulous (62). Unless you’re will to accept that you’re 100 percent responsible for your own experience, then you can’t call forth your best life (64). Forgiveness involves faith in a love that’s greater than hatred, and a willingness to see the light in someone’s soul when their personality has harbored darkness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that someone didn’t act horribly; it simply means that we choose not to focus on their guilt. In focusing on it, we make it real to us and in making it real to us, we make it real for us. The only way to deliver ourselves from vulnerability to other people’s behavior is by identifying with the part of them that lies beyond their bodies. We can look beyond others’ behavior to the innocence of their souls. In doing so, we not only free them from the weight of our condemnation, but we free ourselves as well (63). The path to happiness is not determined by whether or not we made mistakes in the past. What paves the way to happiness is whether or not we turn our mistakes into catalysts for personal growth and illumination (68-69). God will always have the final say. And His say will always be how very much that you are loved (69). What happened to you yesterday might not have been wonderful or even under your control. But who you become because of it, or in spite of it, is completely up to you (73). Quoting Emerson: Whenever you meet anyone, remember they are going through a great war (101). When you’re young, you hold tightly to love in the hopes that it will last forever. When you’re older you know you don’t need to hold on because it does last forever. People come and they sometimes go. But love remains, if it remains in you (101). Perhaps you were let down by a love of this world so you would learn at last to lean only on God (103). Too often we inquire about a situation, “How can I change this?” when we should be asking, “How can I dwell within this circumstance in the highest possible way?” (114) Love doesn’t lose its edge and become boring as you get older unless you do (129). As a student of A Course in Miracles, I certainly understand that in Reality, all that exists is love. But the planet we live on is not ultimate reality; it is a mass illusion, as powerful in its effects as is the truth. And here, in this collective illusion, what-is-not love still holds sway. The ego, according to A Course in Miracles, is suspicious at best and vicious at worst (147). Our problem isn’t that we don’t think love is an important thing, our problem is that we don’t think it’s the most important thing (154). In truth, war only creates victims. The people who are killed are victims and the people who are sent to do the killing are victims as well (170). Quoting “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” by Julia Ward Howe: As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free (177).

Thursday, December 27, 2007

In Which It Still Hurts to Laugh

I am not exaggerating when I say that I laughed so much my ribs are hurting. We played Cranium WOW and there was so much laughter that I was hurting at the time. I knew that yesterday I would wake up still sore from how much we had all laughed but two days later I am still sore. Sheesh!

It was a lovely day. The children and I woke up later than usual. Rei was already making coffee and the two of us got the food and such set up just as Joe and Marc stumbled into the kitchen. We unwrapped our gifts and then broke up again. Rei settled down to watch her dvds. I made my bed and then lay down to rest a bit. The boys were hanging out in the great room and eventually took a nap.

Then the first of a stream of guests arrived. Thomas showed up and we were all hanging out a bit. Mostly I was lying down but Thomas did come in and talk with me a bit. Then Matt arrived and there was another layer of socialization happening. Thomas left but was soon replaced by my friend Rossana. It was pretty late in the afternoon at this point and I should have taken a nap but I didn’t. I forced myself to stay up and ended up making myself rather sick. Of course, this didn’t stop me from getting up hours later to play Cranium with the children. Rob came home just as we were getting ready to play.

We were up until 2am so needless to say yesterday I was in bed all day long. No need to cook because we still have much food left over from the buffet. I didn’t even take a shower. Not that I’ve done any sweating or work or anything to merit my getting stinky but showers are nice. I was just too dizzy to deal with one.

Today is another story, however. Ribs aching, I am going to do my morning yoga, spend some time writing quietly in my journal, then I definitely want to do some housework before jumping onto my bike and burning off some of the calories I shouldn’t have consumed on xmas day. Later I will collapse in my bed with a book or two or three but for now I need to get busy being busy with my day.

Aries Horoscope for week of December 27, 2007

When the Red Hot Chili Peppers released their fifth album Blood Sugar Sex Magick in 1991, it blasted them into rock stardom. They stopped performing at intimate nightclubs and appeared exclusively at large arenas. They won a Grammy, had a hit song at the top of the charts, and sold millions of records. Guitarist John Frusciante
freaked out at the success. As an indie artist intensely loyal to the underground sensibility, he was embarrassed to be in a band that had mainstream popularity. In the middle of the Chili Peppers' tour, he quit. You may very well have to deal with a comparable development in 2008, Aries. Will you opt to remain low-profile, as Frusciante did, or will you answer the invitation to get more professional?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

In Which I Am Still Seeking My Christmas Spirit

I wish you all a very happy holiday!

Monday, December 24, 2007

In Which It's Christmas Eve

I woke up in pain, stiff from the baking, shopping, and wrapping of the weekend. A headache is pounding its way through my body and then it hits--a stabbing shooting pain through my leg and up into my abdomen and through my hips. Ahhhh . . . not only is it that time of year but apparently it's also that time of month. Someone just shoot me. It is not yet 9am. I've already made breakfast for Rob and sent him on his way to KY. I plan on putting the first Harry Potter movie on in the background, building up to our traditional Christmas Eve movie which this year is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. And I have a house of chaos I now need to organize in time for tomorrow.

This has not been an easy holiday for me. The worst was a few years ago and last year came in pretty close as a second place bad. This year is close to bumping last year into third. But the holiday isn't here yet and I can do what I need to get done while still making tomorrow magical. The truth is, I should stay in bed today. I feel the vertigo and will push myself into greater sickness if I do too much. Perhaps when Marc gets back from his errand I can get him to help me with some of the housework. In the meantime, I think I will update this post throughout the day. Perhaps after every movie I'll take the time to say what I have and have not done. But first, food for me would be nice. It's cold. I want oatmeal, something warm in my tummy. Instead, cold cereal so I can use up the skim milk before it goes bad.

Later Ugh. Cramps. Ugh ugh ugh. Marc has gone to fetch his siblings and I am about to settle down to another round of gift wrapping. I cleared off the kitchen table for this purpose to hopefully reduce the strain on my already aching back. However, perspective being what it is I have been reminded that things are not as difficult as I had thought. A virtual friend of mine has recently suffered the loss of her home. I mean, literally within the last few hours everything she owned, including her home based business, was burnt to the ground. She and her children survived and while there is reason to rest and rejoice in this knowledge the truth is that her new year will be more of a "new beginning" than most of us will have to face in our entire lifetimes.

Later Still I had to scramble to get all of the gifts wrapped and ready because there was a slight snafu in scheduling due to Rei's schedule being changed which meant that everyone would be back home earlier than I had originally anticipated. The domino effect of this is that I completely forgot to first grab something for my pain and instead of stopping to take something I continued wrapping relentlessly. In other words, ow ow ow ow ow!

I am off to now put Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban into the hellivision and take something for the pain. I wish I could lie down for a bit but I foolishly did two loads of laundry which now need to be sorted and folded. Three guesses where the pile of clean clothes is currently falling over in despair, waiting to be neatened and put away . . . *sigh*

And all the more later The children and pizza have arrived. We have already eaten and Marc's laundry is in the dryer while Joe's is in the washer. The house is peculiarly quiet. I am about to put Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire into the dvd player but I am in desperate need of a nap. Methinks I shall fall asleep before the movie even begins to get exciting. Thankfully, I have been able to lie down and rest which is more than I had expected to do at this point. Able? More like did in spite of myself. I had things to do . . . I mean I have things to do but my body had other expectations and made its demands.

Later and later The children are off to look at houses that are decorated for the holidays. This is a family tradition, something we usually do together but because riding in a car makes my vertigo . . . Well, I am home and I'll take a shower while they are out having fun. Then when they return we will all have a cup of hot chocolate before settling down to watch the fifth Harry Potter movie. I am still not feeling the holiday spirit. Perhaps later . . .

Friday, December 21, 2007

In Which I Was a Sandal But Have Moved Onto Something Sexier

Okay. So there is really nothing to say unless you want to hear all about my baking adventures as I bake cookies for our holidays.

A while ago I had found this rather expensive sandal which is called: Satia

Today I found something far better. A pair of satiny sexy pajamas called Satia.

I would love to own these. I truly would but for now I can settle for knowing that there is something sexy out there with my name on it.

Aries Horoscope for week of December 20, 2007

"Ambition is a bad excuse for not having enough good sense to be lazy," my ex-girlfriend Arlene used to say. She claimed to be a Zen master whose duty it was to deprogram me out of my absurd striving to make something of myself. She believed the key to enlightenment was to do nothing as much as possible. "You're egotistically attached to your identity as a poet," she'd yell into my room as I toiled over my writing. "Come out here and show me you have the spiritual guts to sit in front of the TV and lose your grandiose self in a meaningless game show." While I did eventually emerge from our relationship with an appreciation for the value of emptiness, it was not ultimately my destiny to downplay ambition. On the contrary! Which is why I'm
here to exhort you, Aries, to treat your desires as sacred rocket fuel -- in 2008, more than ever. In the coming months, in accordance with your astrological omens, I will intensify my efforts to supercharge your ambition.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

In Which I Finish a Book of Poetry

I read Judith Harris' The Bad Secret in part because the author was one of the speakers at the conference and I was hoping to attend. However, I was not strong/healthy enough to attend. Still, I'm glad I read this slender volume of poems. The cover image is evocative of the mood the poems within convey--bare, stark, reflective. Each poem's image seems to either build from a previous one or leap away from any of the other poems and yet the overall emotion remains. These poems are haunting and conflicted. Childhood memories at times delightful and vicious, like a Grimm's fairy tale, are shared side by side with later revelations. If in her book Signifying Pain Harris has taken the time to show how others have used writing to help define and heal their own pyschic pain, in these poems a reader can see how Harris herself has done this by looking first at the cause and then forgiving the effect. What could have been a collection full of anger and self-righteousness becomes, instead, an honest exploration of how forgiveness and grace can grow out of these reflections.

Middle Age

Just thinking of you,
can coax my flesh alive again,
as if that leaf could shiver air . . .

I have no body,
What has earth to do with this?
I tense with pleasure,
like the black feelers kicking
inside the meadow lily’s pinkest inner dome . . .

The downed sun kisses bark;
and the buds keep coursing through bloodstreams
of the upper boughs,
too early and too late for spring.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

In Which I Actually Finish and Enjoy (!!!) a New York Times Bestseller
Frankly, Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert had several strikes against it. For one, it is a #1 New York Times Bestseller. My experience with best-sellers is not the best and I could offer a list of incredibly disappointing books which have left me wondering why trees are dying for literature. Then there was the Oprah Winfrey endorsement. Although I can’t say that I have disliked her choices I can say that many of her choices have been emotionally draining and not the most uplifting. Or maybe I haven’t quite caught onto the whole Oprah phenomenon and, after a year of being home nearly every day when her show is on without managing to watch an entire episode, this may speak more about me than her or her choice in books. Finally, why on earth would I want to read a book about a woman who gets to live in Italy (where I would love to visit let alone live!), then moved to an ashram in India to study meditation (do I really need to explain the allure of this one?), and finally ended up in Indonesia trying to merge the two extremes of the passion and indulgences of Italy with the spiritual discipline and austerity of India. But then Saila recommended it. I didn’t jump immediately to start reading it. Then Ann recommended it, strongly. Now my ears were perked because I know how these things go and when I am supposed to read a book, I am really left no choice. Still, it took a third recommendation from someone I barely know to make me bite the bullet and buy the book. The book itself is divided into three sections. Eat, pray, love. Italy, India, Indonesia. Pleasure, devotion, balance. After a divorce Gilbert’s life is falling apart and she is inspired to undertake this year long pilgrimage to discover herself, her purpose, and she writes about her experiences (with amusing parenthetical asides) with easy yet powerful candor. Eat/Italy/Pleasure Is it any wonder that I enjoyed this part? Food. Architecture. Food. Beautiful men and women. Food. Language. More Food. Living in Rome Gilbert visits other cities and explores various restaurants. And she gains weight. Of course! But then she explains that she had lost so much weight before leaving for Italy, due to the emotional upheaval of going through her divorce, that she probably needed to gain some weight and . . . How she manages to not make the reader hate her is remarkable! Pray/India/Devotion A quick visit home to America for the holidays and she is off to India just in time for the new year. She goes to the ashram of her guru, a nameless spiritual leader with whom Gilbert had already been studying before she arrived. (Gilbert intentionally never gives the name of her guru to avoid possibly inspiring readers to follow an inappropriate spiritual path or giving her guru an unwelcome celebrity status.) Although I loved reading about Italy, this section resonated more deeply for me than did the former. Love/Indonesia/Balance I was fully prepared to love this section most, feeling the progression of my pleasure moving forward but this part of the book was ultimately the most tedious for me. I didn’t really care about the people Gilbert met and I wasn’t sure that what she experienced was either inspiring or necessarily inspired. (Part of the problem probably lies in the fact that I mistakenly read a blurb in the back of the book about her next book in which you learn something that is a spoiler of sorts. In other words, you know how this part of the book is going to end. In further words, don’t read the blurbs in the back of the book!!!) She says herself that the way her book is ending is almost too neat. Had I read it in a novel, I would have accused the author of being lazy, of not knowing how to end things so she decided to tie it all up in a bow. However, this is a memoir and sometimes life does this to you—sort of lets things all fall into a pace and rhythm where, surprise!, it all feels so nice and neat. And this book, although it seems in some ways a little contrived and convenient, still manages to be interesting, informative, and amusing. A delightful year-in-the-life memoir. (BTW, I’ve since read reviews that claim that this book was/is inspirational and life changing and . . . well, I may have missed all that. It was a fun book to read but I don’t feel changed or significantly inspired by it.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

In Which The Reading Group (and I) Finished Another Book
The reading group to which I belong chose Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg and I was excited and a little anxious because once again I was visiting a book I enjoyed. I didn’t want to be disappointed and the thought that I might not appreciate the book the second time around was very much on my mind. I’ve been down this path before, written about rereading books and being horribly disenchanted. Surprise! I still love this book! I love everything about it. Every page. Every detail. Every character. Okay. Maybe not every character because not every character is meant to be loved. But still . . . what a charming and delightful book. (As I type this it hits me—I want to give this book to . . . someone. So I get up and move the book from my pile near my bed to where I have books piled for giving away. Different piles for different people.) Anyway, I reread this book with great pleasure and then I did something I had not done before; I looked up a psalm which was mentioned in the book, a favorite of one of the characters. I had expected it to be a psalm about God’s love and compassion. Instead, it was a psalm about judgment, about being weighed and measured, about being sinful and needing to be cleansed. The novel made me sigh in the peace of how loving people can be and then this psalm brought tears of grief to my eyes. So I was delighted, pleased, happy to have read the book again. I should not have gone any more deeply because I tapped into disappointment. I immediately backed away but the damage was somehow done. And so, I share below a psalm I like. (There are others but this could get tedious.)

Psalm 61 1 Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. 2 From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 3 For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. 4 I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. Selah 5 For you have heard my vows, O God; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name. 6 Increase the days of the king's life, his years for many generations. 7 May he be enthroned in God's presence forever; appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him. 8 Then will I ever sing praise to your name and fulfill my vows day after day.

I think Psalm 133 would have been a more obvious choice than Psalm 90. It does almost make me wish I were still a college student who had the time and resources to sit with a book and really pick it apart to see what and why and how it ticked.
If you have seen the movie and want to read the book you will not be disappointed. If you have seen the movie and liked it but don't necessarily feel drawn to read the book, although you are missing out on some delightful nuances and details, you probably can spend your time doing something else. Personally, I'm glad I read the book more than once.

Monday, December 17, 2007

In Which We Now Have The Internet Again And I Finish A Young Adult Novel
It was gone.
Now it's back.
I borrowed Beast by Donna Jo Napoli from the public library because I not only enjoy reading young adult novels but because this is a version of one of my favorite fairy tales—Beauty and the Beast. I had seen Cocteau’s lavish and surreal movie as a child. I had shuddered when I learned that Disney was making an animated movie of the fairy tale only to be delighted by the results. And I have read other versions, including Francesca Lia Block’s The Rose and The Beast. In other words, I wanted to love this book and could have loved this book easily. And yet, I did not. I had to think about it and I realized that this book was missing the one essential ingredient for any good fairy tale—magic. Napoli does a nice job of giving the Prince cum Beast a history. Prince Orasmyn lives in Persia and is Islamic by faith. These details flavor the first part of the novel but still left me feeling unsatisfied. When the Prince is cursed and turned into a lion the gradual decline from human to beast is explored but not with any depth. This would have been a perfect opportunity for the writer to poetically show the change, using language to spotlight for the reader what is happening within this young man. And for someone who supposedly adores roses, his descriptions of the varieties is banal, plebian, and lacks any real passionate observation. If as a beast he cannot see the many hues he can still differentiate the aromas, number the petals, the textures between the various blooms. The opportunity to bring beauty into the prose was not evident. If this were not a story based on a fairy tale, I would have not begrudged this novel the absence of verbal magic, poetic transcendence, the elevation through prose into mystical experience. These are the elements I assume I will find in a fairy tale and a book or movie based on a fairy tale. A for effort but I will not recommend this book to anyone but the die hard Beauty and the Beast fans who merely have to be able to say that they have indeed read anything and everything they could. Otherwise, I would say pass, even if you are someone who love this particular fairy tale. In fact, perhaps especially if you love it and do not care to read anything and everything! Or those who do not care about the inspirational fairy tale.
However, I might have used parts of this book if I were in a class where I were teaching The Aeneid only because the Roman version of the the Trojan War figures slightly in part of the tale.
(I am reminded of a scene in Harold and Maude where Maude is showing Harold a field of daisies, praising the uniqueness of each flower. Here is the quote taken from
Maude: I should like to change into a sunflower most of all. They're so tall and simple. What flower would you like to be? Harold: I don't know. One of these, maybe. Maude: Why do you say that? Harold: Because they're all alike. Maude: Oooh, but they're *not*. Look. See, some are smaller, some are fatter, some grow to the left, some to the right, some even have lost some petals. All *kinds* of observable differences. You see, Harold, I feel that much of the world's sorrow comes from people who are *this*, [she points to a daisy] Maude: yet allow themselves be treated as *that*. [she gestures to a field of daisies]
I still feel Napoli's Beast who so loves roses should have known how to recognize each one as beautiful and would know how to treat each rose as this rather than that and it is unfortunate that Napoli didn't have the passion to write his passion to its fullest potential.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

In Which You (Meaning I) Learn Something New Every Day Before the vertigo hit, I knew so little about aneurysms and multiple sclerosis. Now I know more about both. And until I was mis-diagnosed with cervical spondylosis I had never even heard of it. Now we have a new term to explore: Conversion Disorder.
Formerly known as 'hysteria', the disorder has arguably been known for millenia, though it came to greatest prominence at the end of the 19th century, when the neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, and psychiatrists Pierre Janet and Sigmund Freud made it the focus of their study. The term 'conversion' has its origins in Freud's doctrine that emotional stress was repressed and 'converted' into physical symptoms.
Is it any wonder I am more Jungian than Freudian in my understanding of the human psyche? I really don't know what more to say about this and after reading the article I have no desire to even think about it. Marc put up his Christmas tree and Rudolph is out. He did not come out last year so it is good to have him back where he belongs, lit nose and all. Our polar bear is out on the lawn. I had hoped to buy some lights for the bushes but it is hard to coordinate these things. Only ten more days? How did Christmas sneak up on me like this? I am not ready for the holiday. Far from it. Very far from being ready.

Friday, December 14, 2007

In Which I Am Being Intentionally Cryptic 1. I was a little hurt by your choice. And disappointed. Or maybe that's just sour grapes. 2. Congratulations. You sound so much more yourself than I've ever heard you. 3. If you had asked I would have told you everything you did to push things and make them go the way they did. I'm sorry you're hurt. I wish you had asked. 4. It was fun talking to you. I'm glad I'm not alone. 5. I am really beginning to think you're a bitch and wondering why I bother. 6. You scare me and sometimes talking to you exhausts me. 7. I guess now that you are happy you don't need to talk to me anymore. It would be nice if you were as eager to share your joy with me as you are to share your misery. 8. It's been 3.5 weeks. What is your problem? 9. Thanks for proving to me that you are an ass. I had hoped for better and I hope your wife never learns what I know. 10. What you heard in my voice I wasn't feeling. You confuse me with your ignorance. 11. I miss you most of all, Scarecrow. I really do. Aries Horoscope for week of December 13, 2007 "Everything absolute belongs to pathology. Joyous distrust is a sign of health." So proclaimed Friedrich Nietzsche. Note well that he used the adjective "joyous" to describe distrust, not "cynical" or "grumbling" or "sour." The key to remaining vital and strong while questioning every so-called absolute is to cultivate a cheerful, buoyant mood as you do it. That's one of your top assignments in the coming weeks, Aries: Practice joyous distrust.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

In Which I Finish Reading a Book I read Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s The Invitation because I enjoyed the poem so very much. I was a little worried that the book wouldn’t live up to the prose poem but soon found myself nodding as I was reading The same was true as I read the sequel, The Dance. I don’t like the poem for this book as much as I do for the previous one but the content is still strong. Oriah’s spirituality is different from my own. She speaks of shamans and other Native American teachings which are the foundation of her faith. She also shares her personal stories about her marriage, about her being a parent, and more. These details of her faith and her life are not the same as my own. Her divorce was more amicable, so much so that she and her ex live close by so that their sons can easily spend time with both parents. I can’t even say whether my ex is alive or dead. I have never been drawn to Native American teachings, in spite of my recent totemic dream, and she is obviously very much immersed in this spiritual path. And yet I am able to say with all confidence that I was nodding throughout the time. If I had to describe my personal life philosophies, I would simply point to Oriah’s books. Below are some of the quotes I collected from the book. Also, although the chapters conclude with guided meditations some of them are written meditations, journaling exercises to help reinforce the ideas presented in the chapters. (Although, I definitely would prefer to have the guided meditations available as recordings and not just via the audio book version.) The question is not why are we so infrequently the people we really want to be. The question is why do we so infrequently want to be the people we really are (7). At some point it occurred to me that pushing the edge for some of us was not about doing more or trying harder or going further or faster but about doing less, trying easier (75). The elders . . . do not understand how you expect to be able to talk with each other if you cannot be quiet together and listen to the earth. If people cannot hear the earth, how can they expect to hear one another? (118) This is what home is—not only the place you remember but the place that remembers you, even if you have never been there before (121). I want to say, “I don’t want to change the world anymore. I just want to learn how to love the world.” (139) It is not what we do but how we do whatever we are doing that makes a difference (140). I tell love stories because I want to learn how to love well (151). [New Age philosophies] deny the reality of our separation, claiming that it is only an illusion of time and space. But I live here, in time and space (157). I think our task—and this is sometimes very difficult—is to live with all that is hard in our lives without being able to know why it happens and still find a way to fully choose life, every day (169).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

In Which I Write Some Quickies

1) I finished a not very good book and because I don't think it was very good I'm not going to spend any energy writing a review. Suffice it to say that I am not fond of fluffy writing (although I am clearly guilty of it) whether it is aimed at adults or adolescents.

2) With that said, this is the first in a series of six books and I really have to commend the author, Natalie Standiford, for coming up with something that was obviously marketable if not personally palatable.

3) I created a poll in my facebook where the votes for what I should study next have been slowly coming in and the winner is . . . drumroll please . . . Buddhism. I am still not sure what I will focus on but I am not resisting the outcome so I wouldn't be surprised if I were to announce that Buddhism is the final winner.

4) I have not written much about America's Next Top Model mostly because I relapsed and was not in the mood to watch the show. I would wake up the next day not even sure who was voted off most of the time and I figure I couldn't write intelligently about it if I couldn't remember it. However, spoilers alert below the banner so don't read below the banner!

5) Yesterday we picked up Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which will be this year's Christmas Eve movie. We usually go to the theater for a movie but, because of my vertigo, it is just easier to stay home and watch a new dvd this year. I'm excited as are the children.

6) The conference for which I created the wellbeing blog is this Saturday and I will not be able to attend. This is hugely disappointing. I had hoped to at least see John Fox if not meet him. As it turns out, I won't be there and all I can do is hope that next year I can attend and participate more fully.

Spoilers: I was able to pay attention well enough to know that my two girls, Lisa and Heather, were both voted off and I never did get to see another lapdance. Also, the bitch of the bunch was voted off (finally!). The thing is, even when these girls seem "bitchy" they are just young, very young, and so they come off, thanks to editing and youth, much worse than I believe they are in real life.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In Which I Need a Reboot You know how when your computer was old and you tried to do too much, open too many windows, etc., inevitably your computer would first slow down and then lock up? Too many mixed signals hitting the motherboard at once and STOP! That's me. Yesterday I found out I do not have cervical spondylosis. Yesterday I finally saw the doctors I've been asking my other doctors to refer me to since April. Yesterday I found out one of the tests I took back in March clearly showed something. Yesterday I found out that with six weeks of proper treatment, I will be fine. I am so angry, frustrated, confused, and whatever else that I cannot name right now that I simply cannot think/say anything about anything. I should be happy, relieved, grateful that I will be back to normal by Valentine's Day. And I am. Very. Underneath, however, is a simmering demand to know why, WTF, and what I can do to get some answers. I go in for more tests next week. Then two weeks later I will begin the physical therapy meant to help me with my vertigo. In a nutshell, I am having to reteach my brain how to think. Like a victim in a car accident who loses their ability to speak and has to teach a different part of the brain to process language because the old part has been damaged. It's viral. The physical therapy I will start doing I will have to do to some degree for the rest of my life. At first, aggressively and often. Eventually occasionally but always and forever. For now things are the same, unchanged. But by this time two months from now, things will be very different.

Monday, December 10, 2007

In Which I Am About to Turn a Corner Today I see my new doctor with my new diagnosis in hand. Odds are this is just the beginning of a new round of tests, questions, and hopefully answers. And new treatments, now that I have cervical spondylosis I'll have to begin seeing rheumotologist or something along those lines. This is just one change that I am facing, obviously, but it may be the determining one, the largest one, the one that either ends this vertigo experience or resigns me to it. Either way today marks that turning point. More often the turning points in our lives are less obvious. We meet someone and don't know that they will be a kindred spirit friend beyond today and tomorrow. We pick up a random book and read never realizing that this book will be the catalyst to changing our careers or even your spiritual path. So many turning points happen without our knowing until years later. Others are clear. We become engaged, pregnant, go to college, graduate. Turning points. Today begins a new turning point for me regarding my health. My health which has compromised my life, my career, my well-being. Today. A new beginning.
Aries Horoscope for week of December 6, 2007 This would be an excellent time for you to visit terminally ill patients in a hospice or go on a tour of a maximum security prison. To take maximum advantage of the current cosmic opportunities, you might also travel to the Slum Theme Park in Americus, Georgia, where Habitat for Humanity has built replicas of the leaky-roofed, earthen-floored, bug-infested huts that so many millions of the world's poor call home. In other words, Aries, I recommend that you give yourself firsthand exposure to people whose problems are much more demanding than yours. To do so at this juncture in your life's journey would provide a helpful shock that would inspire you to conquer the personal challenge you find most daunting.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

In Which I Am On A Roll and Finish Yet Another Book
After rereading with much disappointment The Chronicles of Narnia, I came to Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quartet with some hesitancy. Not that I had ever read all of the books. The first, A Wrinkle in Time, was published when I was born. The second was printed eleven years later and eleven years after that the fourth book was released. I prefer not to read books that are a part of a series until the series is actually finished being written and published. I’ve been burned in the past with waiting endlessly for the next book’s release. Worse, I’ve read the first of a series which, because of poor sales, was never published in its entirety! I reread A Wrinkle in Time. I had read it as a young girl and never read any of the sequels. I had thought about it. Perhaps I had even intended to do so. But other books (like Harry Potter) got in my way. And given my discouraged response to Lewis’ books I was thrilled to finish rereading it knowing I had also enjoyed it. Huge relief. Still, I resisted reading the second book. Now not because I thought revisiting an old friend would be a let down but because I had really enjoyed the first book and didn’t want any disappointment whatsoever. I am not disappointed in A Wind in the Door although the story was not as compelling to me as the previous book’s was. Nevertheless, I was immersed and interested enough to read through the book quickly. I love how L’Engle weaves her spiritual beliefs into her story. She does it, in my opinion, better than Lewis ever could or would. Perhaps mostly because that is her intention. I don’t think Lewis ever meant his Narnia or Space books to be anything but heavy handed allegory. L’Engle, however, infuses her story with imagery and teaching that is clearly Christian but would not offend most non-Christian readers. (However, let me point out that they have offended Christian readers who have attempted to have these books banned because they feel she is promoting non-Christian values.) What struck me most about this book was not the story so much as its context. I had read a book by L’Engle a long time ago in which she writes about her own name and naming. I wish I could find the book, refer to it, but I can’t and I read what I am about to share over 10 years ago so I am probably not going to be accurate. If I remember correctly, I read about L’Engle’s childhood in A Stone for a Pillow. In it she describes being raised in an orphanage where she was raised without a name. At some point she herself chose a name and became Madeleine. She explained that the power of having a name, of being able to define yourself by a name, was very important. Her name identified her. And in this second book of The Time Quartet the importance of naming things plays a significant role. As I was reading through the book I kept thinking about this remembered story of L’Engle’s own childhood, guessing that this experience from her past helped ground the novel in meaning for her on a deeper level than perhaps most readers. What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Or, as Anne of Green Gables says, "I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage." But I digress. I have in front of me the four books bound in a single volume. I approached reading it with caution, with trepidation. I did not want my childhood delight in the first book to be spoiled. It wasn’t. I did not want to be disappointed by the second book. I’m not. And now, rather than being cautious, I am eagerly anticipating the next book, to see what happens to the family and how L’Engle will continue flavoring her stories with her spirituality in such a manner that I have no choice but to savor every word. I’ll surely be updating with a review in the next week or two.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

In Which I Finish Another Book
At a time when I am feeling betrayed by my body, when I am frustrated with how it is not healing and now has something new to deal with, I needed to look at the idea of acceptance more fully. Naturally, I was drawn to read Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance. It is a nice book full of lovely quotes and stories. Her experiences, both personal and professional, add a layer of relevance to what she is teaching. I did find some interesting quotes but mostly I found myself zipping through. When I was reading a lot of Christian books, I would often put them into two categories—milk and meat. Some books were inspirational but never very deep. There was insight but not a great deal of enlightenment. These were the milk books, the teachings meant more for the younger Christian. Then there were the meat books, the ones that were so dense with truth that no matter how short the teaching was it was heavy, rich, and profound. While I occasionally read the milk books, I loved the meaty ones, the ones that made me stop and question, argue, debate. I still prefer a book that will make me look to my beliefs with some questioning, that will push me beyond my comfort zone while holding my hand and reassuring me that I can always fall back if I need to. This book kept me safely within my comfort zone. I did not feel compelled to grow or dig, to look or turn away. Instead, I read and enjoyed. Maybe I even appreciated what I was reading. But I never felt any awe or anything even touching awareness. Instead, I felt as though I were going through familiar territory. That is not to say that this is not a good book. On the contrary. It is good. I suppose I was hoping for great. However, let me commend this book for something I keep saying should be made available with all books like this. So many times I will read a book and each chapter will have a lovely guided meditation. All well and good but it is hard to meditate with paragraphs of visualization that you need to read to fully immerse yourself in the meditation itself. Brach has cds available with the meditations! Too bad I didn’t buy the book with the cds. Too bad I didn’t even know that was an option at the time. But hooray! Finally someone with a little sense realized that this is a good idea. And they are available through Sounds True which always produces high quality material. Thank you thank you thank you!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

In Which I Finish a Book on Tarot
I suppose that I don’t take tarot as seriously as some. If I needed proof of this, P D Ouspensky’s The Symbolism of the Tarot: Philosophy of Occultism in Pictures and Numbers would be all the evidence I need. A slender book, the author explores the esoteric symbolism of each of the major arcana, pairing them up according to some symbolic significance of an Egyptian temple. So that The Magician is paired with The Fool (I/0) and The High Priestess with The World (II/XXI) etc. Each card has a meditation in which the author describes first what is seen in the card, interpreting the symbolism, and occasionally explaining what a voice (the voice of God presumably) says about the meaning of the card. I found most of Ouspensky’s interpretations to disagree with my own understanding of what I see and perhaps that made it difficult for me to appreciate what I was reading. For example, when describing the dog on The Fool, Ouspensky writes “a wild lynx with glowing eyes sprang upon him from behind a rock and buried her teeth in his flesh” (28). This is so far removed from what I see that I can’t even fully address it. Where I see a playful dog happily following its master, tail and ears up, leaping joyously, the author sees a fearsome animal attacking. And that is how the entire book went for me. There were few interpretations with which I agreed and usually the symbolism was either conservative or so far removed from the visual that I learned nothing of interest. I’m only glad I bought this on a bargain table and can now freely remove it from my book collection.

Monday, December 03, 2007

In Which I Finish A Book

It is said that there are three things one does not discuss in polite company: sex, religion, and politics. If this is true then Anne Lamott, in her book Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith, is delightfully impolite. If you want to know where she stands on various subjects, sit back and enjoy the ride because she is going to tell you. You’ll know whether or not she is pro-life or pro-choice, her feelings about President Bush and the war in Iraq, but mostly you’ll learn about Lamott herself. This book may be about everything and anything but in the end it is about one woman and her relationships. Her relationships with others. Her relationships with her community. Her relationship with her God. And most significantly her relationship with herself. Lamott, best known for Bird by Bird, writes in a manner that is self-deprecating and sometimes brutal. However, her tone is so gentle and often sardonic and instead of feeling battered by someone’s narcissistic need to rape themselves on the page the reader walks away feeling an intimacy with her. Lamott manages to strip herself naked and still feel her blush more than your own. Because of this, the reader not only feels gentle towards her but also towards him/herself. Such a delicate balance is rare to find in essay collections. On the day that I determined to no longer clutter my life with shelves and shelves of books, a package from my mother arrived in which there was this copy of Lamott’s book. I had to laugh at my mother’s coincidentally sadistic timing. When I was two thirds through the book I called her to say I was reading it and loving it. She said that she had enjoyed it very much too because Lamott writes the way my mother speaks. I had to laugh again because it is very true. I found myself chuckling over the way Lamott would say something because it did sound familiar and funny to me. So perhaps I am biased. I may not be able to read Lamott’s writing objectively because it is so much like how my mother and I think and speak. I have set the book aside to give to one of two friends—a sort of first come first served basis of reducing my book clutter. Nice try on my mother’s part, her attempt at thwarting my plans about which she knew nothing! But she’s not winning this time. Now I just need to read the other books she sent to me . . . and the nearly 2000 others if I hope to get my collection down to a manageable size. The following is copied from Questions for Anne Lamott This is your third book on faith. How has your perspective changed since you wrote your first one? Lamott: I wrote my first book on faith when Bill Clinton was president, and I was in a much better mood. I wrote Plan B during the run-up to war in Iraq, and the ensuing catastrophe, so I was very angry, but trying to reconcile that pain and hostility to Jesus's insistence that we are made of love, to love, and be loved, to forgive and be forgiven. Some days went better than others. Also, my son Sam was in his early teens, and that was a LOT easier than when he turned 16 and 17, his ages when I was writing the pieces in Grace (Eventually). In general, I think Grace (Eventually) is a less angry book. I like how I'm aging, except that my back hurts more often, my knees crack like twigs when I squat, and my memory fails more frequently, in more public and therefore humiliating ways. But I think I complain less. As my best friend said when she was dying, and I was obsessing about my butt, "You just don't have that kind of time." What does grace mean for you? How can we better communicate it to each other? Lamott: Grace is that extra bit of help when you think you are really doomed; also, not coincidentally, when you have finally run out of good ideas on how to proceed, and on how better to control the people or circumstances that are frustrating or defeating you. I experience Grace as a cool ribbon of fresh air when I feel spiritually claustrophobic. Sometimes I experience it as water-wings, something holding me up when I am afraid that I'm going down, or the tide is carrying me away. I know that Grace meets us whereever we are, but does not leave us where it found us. Sometimes it is so small--a couple of seconds relief here, several extra inches there. I wish it were big and obvious, like sky-writing. Oh, well. Grace is not something I DO, or can chase down; but it is something I can receive, when I stop trying to be in charge. We communicate grace to one another by holding space for people when they are hurt or terrified, instead of trying to fix them, or manage their emotions for them. We offer ourselves as silent companionship, or gentle listening when someone feels very alone. We get people glasses of water when they are thirsty. Many of the essays in Grace (Eventually) first appeared in Salon, the online magazine, and that's the way that many readers first found you. How do you see the Internet changing the way people read and write? Lamott: The Internet makes everything so immediate and spontaneous, which I totally love--UNLESS it has to do with the immediacy of people's negative response to me. Several of the Salon pieces in Grace--for instance, the story about the horrible fight with my son, and the piece about turning the other cheek while being ripped off by The Carpet Guy--generated a couple hundred letters, many of them extremely hostile. Perhaps "spewy" would be a better description. I also sometimes get knee-jerk responses to my mentions of Jesus in my Salon pieces that seem to lump me in the same tradition as Jerry Falwell. But for the most part, I love the populism and egalitarian nature of the Internet: everyone counts the same. What stories do people tell you, when they've read your books or know you are a writer? Lamott: People tell me how relieved they are that I try to tell the truth about how hard it can be to be a mother, or a daughter, or an American in these times. They tell me stories about how awful their own teenagers can be, or how awful they themselves behaved towards their kids or parents; how hard it was to finally be able to adore their mothers, or to forgive their fathers. They tell me their sobriety dates. They whisper to me that they are Christians, too. Also, they ask if I am able to read their manuscripts, and the name of my agent, and my e-mail address. They ask if we are going to survive the current political difficulties--and I promise them we are. They ask how old my son is now--17 and a half--and how he is doing, which is fantastically, after some of the hard months I wrote about in Grace. lessons do you think you can pass on to others: to your readers, to your son? What lessons does it seem like people have to learn for themselves? Lamott: All I have to offer is my own truth, my own experience, strength and hope. I can pass on the tool of a God Box, and how for 20 years I have been putting tiny notes in mine and promising God I will keep my sticky fingers off the controls until I hear God's wisdom: sometimes I get an answer because the phone rings, or the mail comes, but at any rate, during every single terrible problem and tragedy, I have been given enough guidance and stamina and even humor to bear up, and be transformed, for the good. I always tell Sam that if you want to make God laugh, tell Her your plans. I tell Sam that if he listens to his best thinking, he will suffer: and to listen to his heart instead, to listen in the silence, and to seek wise counsel. You've written nearly a dozen books (including an incredibly popular guide to writing): does writing get any easier? Does it get harder? Lamott: In a very important way, writing gets easier, because I've been doing it full time now for thirty-plus years, and just as you would get better and better if you practiced your scales on a piano, I've gotten better, and can try harder and harder pieces. But writing is always hard. It does not come naturally to me at all. I sit down at the same time every day, which lets my subconscious realize it's time to get to work. I give myself very short assignments, and let myself write really terrible first drafts. But I grapple with the exact same problems every writer does, which is having equal proportions of self-loathing and grandiosity. I sort of live by the Nike ads: Just Do It. So I sit down. I show up. I do it by pre-arrangement with myself, because I know I'll feel sad and terrible if I shirk on that days writing. I do it as a debt of honor, to myself, and to whatever it is that has given me this gift of being able to tell stories, and to make people laugh. Laughter is carbonated holiness. Other people's good writing is medicine for me, and I hope mine is too, for my readers.

Friday, November 30, 2007

In Which I Don't Have To Have Surgery and Other Interesting News So the lump in my neck will not require surgery. It isn't even going to need a needle biopsy. As it turns out, I have arthritis in my neck. Specifially cervical spondylosis. Degenerative, which is not good but it is good to have something (a lump) and a diagnosis. Unlike my vertigo which remains undiagnosed and uncured. I asked, "Could there be a connection between my vertigo and having a degenerative form of arthritis in my neck?" She admitted that nothing was jumping out at her so I came home, called my family and friends with the news about the lump not being even potentially cancerous. Then I googled arthritis and vertigo. What did I find?

Vertigo may be caused by damage to nerves in the neck. If these nerves are damaged, the brain has difficulty monitoring the relative position of the neck and trunk. This type of vertigo is called cervical vertigo. Whiplash injuries, blunt injuries to the top of the head, or severe arthritis in the neck (cervical spondylosis) may cause cervical vertigo.

There is more and you can read all about vertigo here. Still, all these months (a year now) I've been hearing vestibular vertigo. All of the testing showed nothing wrong with my ears and still it is looked at as vestibular. Not once did I hear about cervical vertigo. Probably because I hadn't been in an accident recently which, from what I can tell, is a more common reason for cervical vertigo than say arthritis in the neck! Would have been nice if someone had tested me for arthritis a lot sooner. In the meantime, I will be going to Emory to see if they can get me the help I need to be cured. In the meantime, my doctor is recommending that I start having massages for my neck and she is curious to see what the people there will say. Leave it to me to come down with something that would require my getting a massage. No wonder I keep saying my life is good even though I am not 100% healthy!


I found the following information about cervical spondylosis in the Merck website and wanted to put it here for further clarification of what I am dealing with.

Cervical Spondylosis Cervical spondylosis is a disorder in which the disks and vertebrae in the neck degenerate, putting pressure on the spinal cord in the neck.

Cervical spondylosis usually affects middle-aged and older people. With aging, the bone of the spine overgrows and narrows the spinal canal in the neck. As a result, the spinal cord or the spinal nerve roots (the part of spinal nerves located next to the cord (see Biology of the Nervous System:Spinal Cord) are compressed, causing dysfunction.


Symptoms may reflect compression of the spinal cord, the spinal nerve roots, or both. If the spinal cord is compressed, a change in walking is usually the first sign. Leg movements may become jerky (spastic), and walking becomes unsteady. The neck may be painful. If the spinal nerve roots are compressed, weakness in one or both arms may develop, and the muscles may waste away. The neck is likely to be painful. Nerve root compression may be accompanied by or progress to spinal cord compression.

Diagnosis and Treatment

When doctors suspect cervical spondylosis, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or myelography with computed tomography (CT) is performed. MRI provides slightly more information, but myelography with CT may be more available. These procedures show where the spinal canal is narrowed, how compressed it is, and which spinal nerve roots may be affected. MRI has generally replaced x-rays of the neck.

Without treatment, spinal cord dysfunction due to cervical spondylosis sometimes lessens or stabilizes, but it may progress. Initially, a soft neck collar, neck traction, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (see Pain: Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), and muscle relaxants such as cyclobenzaprine may provide relief. However, when the disorder progresses or when MRI shows severe compression or collapsed or displaced vertebrae, surgery is usually needed. As a rule, surgery does not reverse changes that have already occurred, because the pathways in the spinal cord become permanently damaged unless the disorder is treated very early.

Last full review/revision February 2003

Thursday, November 29, 2007

In Which the Year is Coming to a Close and It is Time to Choose Last year Saila and I agreed to explore a single spirituality for six months. I believe that our time is already past when we should have finished what we were doing and moved onto the next but time is relative and I am still reading John of the Cross so I am not eager to leave Catholicism behind just yet. This is also not the best time to try to start something new. However, now is a good time to look at my option and make a commitment to one course of studies for the following six months. I have several options, all of which have merits and appeal. Some more than others. Buddhism mostly because I have accumulated so many books on Buddhism and recently grocked what a koan is. I have also noticed that a lot of the writers I admire, as it turns out, are Buddhist. Also, Rob has noticed that when I meditate it helps me cope better with my vertigo. I could easily approach Buddhism by taking my books and making a pile, working/reading my way through them, taking notes, as I have done with Catholicism. Yoga, specifically Tantric Yoga. Usually I approach my spirituality from an intellectual direction. Tantric Yoga is all about experience rather than intellect. Given that I am feeling very disconnected from my body because of the vertigo, exploring a spirituality that emphasizes this mind-body-spirit connection would be especially interesting. Again, Rob has noticed that when I do my yoga practices my vertigo is lessened. Choosing this path would stretch me both physically and spiritually. A Course in Miracles offers a merging of both worlds. Intellectual stimulation (through the writings of the Text and Manual) and experiential stimulation (through the workbook). It would be especially interesting to do this on the heels of rereading some of the Bible, remembering the traditional Christian teachings in light of newer interpretations. Also, the teachings about the body might be a blessing for me at this time and going into the new year. There are other paths I hope to explore--Islam and Mormonism both are of interest. But these are not as imperative as the previous three. Those feel like the right choices and now I have to feel my way into narrowing the three down to The One. Six months of commitment and if I wish to continue after those six months I shall. For now, I have a few weeks of journaling and meditating and thinking to do and I will make a choice before the end of 2007.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

In Which I "Celebrate" Having Vertigo for One Full Year! Ahhh . . . who knew I would ever reach this moment, the day when I would be able to say that I have had vertigo for a full year? Not I, surely. A year ago I assumed I would wake up tomorrow and feel better. A year ago I still had hope that I would be cured tomorrow. Three hundred sixty and four tomorrows later it is hard to still have hope. I tried to write something spiritually deep in which I explore the many blessings I have experienced through having vertigo. A year later it is hard to still believe that any doctor will get to the bottom of why . . . Why I was unable to sit in meditation today and had to lie down. Why I have nights of "insomnia" because the bed feels like it is constantly moving. Why I still can't move my head or my body quickly because I will fall. One year of waiting and hope fades. That's a fact. And there are blessings in this. Truly. I am more aware, more conscious about what I choose to do each and every day. I move with more mindfulness. I fill my life with silence, not activity. C S Lewis says "You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." I have a body but it is not my body. My body was New York fast and loved to dance. My body bounced and bounded from point A to point B with a fury. My body was afraid of heights but loved to rock climb. My body defied gravity and age and reason. The body I have today doesn't make sense to me. It feels things that are not real. The floor is not swaying. The chair is not being pulled out from under me. The mattress on which I lie is not a magic carpet ride. No matter what my body feels it does not feel the truth. The body I have today is heavier than it was a year ago but my skin is still soft. The body I have today is not as flexible as before but still loves to do yoga. The body I have today can no longer balance but can be pushed as ever before. I get tired sometimes of people asking me how I am because I know they really mean, "How is your body today?" My body is the same. But my soul . . . My soul has taught my body to find the blessings. Live mindfully as we move through our day. Choose consciously what will best fulfill our intentions. Believe and hope but also accept that tomorrow truly may never come. Yes, I resent my loss of independence and I still hope that tomorrow will come. Until then I do the only thing I can do--live today as best I can. This is different from one day to the next. Today I cannot sit in meditation so I lie down to meditate instead. Tomorrow I may be able to sit at my computer and write for three hours. Today I spent most of my time in bed, reading. Tomorrow I may not even be able to focus on the page without feeling nauseous. I don't know what tomorrow will bring me. How am I? Today, I am fine. Today, I am learning. I am not my body; neither are you. And today I "celebrated" my first anniversary of having vertigo.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

In Which I Really Don't Have A Lot to Say Because I've Been Busy Relapsing
I'm scared.

Friday, November 23, 2007

In Which the More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same Flashback a moment to September. I met with a writing group and we all agreed to meet once a month. We were at a location and we met on the 3rd Saturday so I just assumed that once a month meant we would meet at the same location on the 3rd Saturday of the month and that is how it was going. Until October when a week before our meeting another meeting was held with other members of the larger umbrella group under which our smaller writing group had originally met. Same location but because they were meeting to discuss NaNoWriMo and our smaller group was meeting one week later I didn't go. Big mistake. The bigger group dis-banded our smaller group, divided it into two other groups. And didn't bother to email me about it. A lot of emailing back and forth and eventually I was merged into one of the two groups. But they were meeting on a day when I already had plans. I couldn't go. They tried to rearrange things but I said to please not do that on my account. Fair enough. They met without me on the third Saturday of November (the 17th) and in the process moved the location. Uh oh. I talked to Rob and said, "Can we on the third Saturday get me here instead of there?" The old location was more convenient based solely on this--I live at point A and the original location was point C with the studio where Rob needed to be being point B. A semi-straight but definitely convenient location for both of us. So we were still in the "Can we do this without over complicating his life/schedule on Saturdays?" when I got an email announcing that they are meeting on December 1. ??? Okay. Let's look at this objectively. I joined a group in September and Change # 1 the group gets reorganized without anyone telling me what is happening. Then Change #2 the location is changed. Rob and I are still trying to determine if that will work for him when Change #3 hits and now the time of month is changed. The problem is that I have completely lost confidence in the group. There are so many changes happening from one month to the next and it is so very difficult for Rob and I to coordinate things what with his schedule and my physical condition. Also, there is another group that meets on the first Saturday of the month (not a writing group) that I have wanted to participate in. So far I haven't been able to do so because they keep meeting in the evening, which is hard for me because even on a good day by the evening my vertigo wants me to stay home if not get back in bed altogether. There's still the writing group that meets every other Tuesday. I haven't been able to go since the first meeting. And with the umbrella group, I also have a writing group that meets every second Saturday of the month at the Borders on Cobb Pkwy. We met for the first time in October at a Starbucks but the venue was not as convenient as we had hoped. Borders was chosen as a better option and we met there in November and will meet again in December. On the second Saturday of the month, every month. And the location was the only thing that changed. Not the day of the week or time of day or time of month. I don't know. Maybe in my old age I like things to be simple but I do know that too many changes is simply too confusing for me.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

In Which I Am Thankful

It is occasionally remarked that I have remained upbeat and positive in spite of my vertigo/situation. Listen, if I had a choice, I'd pick something different. "What? Vertigo? Hmmm . . . you know, I think I'll swap in the vertigo for a full head of grey and white hair. How about that? Not enough? Okay. Give me a few wrinkles around the eyes. Deal? Deal!"

Okay. So I don't have a choice. I have what I have.

I also have a turkey waiting to be put into the oven and family coming over for a feast. I am thankful. Thankful for my wonderful children and Rob who all fill my life with fun and frustration, laughter and love. I am thankful for my mother who scared me out of her kitchen but taught me to love the alchemy of cooking. I am thankful for knowing that my loved ones are aware of my love, are living in a world that is complicated and contradictory but are safe in the knowing that somewhere out there is at least one person who deeply loves them.

This year we will have all the usual. I am up and already preparing things. Marc will return with his siblings. Rob will finish up whatever it is he has happening at the studio. We will be gathered together to be reminded of the love we all share and then return to our lives a little more stuffed than we were when we got up this morning.

I hope you all can say the same!

Aries Horoscope for week of November 22, 2007

When life gets weird, should you take refuge in decorum and tradition? Should you intensify your commitment to the humdrum? Is it wise to dress more conservatively, act more dignified, and smile more automatically? I say no. When the daily rhythm veers off track into unexpected detours, I say it's prime time to gleefully depart from The Way Things Have Always Been Done. In fact, I advise you to cultivate your rebellious questions and celebrate the unusual impulses that bubble up. They will help you harvest the epiphanies that life's weirdness is tempting you to pursue.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In Which I Write About Movies and Controversy and Religion Beliefnet had a list of the Ten Most Controversial Religious Movies so I thought I'd go ahead and write about the list. I know, not very exciting. Sorry. I was sick in bed all day yesterday and, trust me, unless you think reading about my having diarrhea is exciting, this is far more entertaining than anything I could say about yesterday. 10. The Exorcist When this movie came out I was only about 9 or 10 years old and I begged my mother to let me see it. She wouldn’t but she did let me read the book. I read it more than once. I even bought a book that had still shots (in black and white) from the movie along with the script. Horrifying! Eventually I saw the movie as a teenager while babysitting for a family who had cable television. I was alone. The special effects, music, etc. were definitely creepy but maybe seeing it on the small screen was not enough to scare me or maybe I just focused on the theme of the book more than the average movie go-er would have and I was more interested in the priest’s personal spiritual struggle than the gross special effects. When the movie was re-released with its added scenes I was disappointed that these scenes had been removed mostly because they furthered the development of the novel’s theme, including the bizarre image of Regan skittering down the stairs like an insect. (This deleted moment, btw, was/is perhaps the most frightening of them all!) 9. Dogma Alanis Morissette as a flower child, cartwheel turning, god? Not just any god but The God of The Bible? I was perhaps predestined to like this movie. This was only my second Kevin Smith movie, believe it or not, and is still a close second as my favorite. I can see why it is controversial. What I don’t see is why religious people don’t have a better sense of humor. Also, I just like movies about falls from grace and redemption. 8. Battlefield Earth I honestly didn’t know that this movie was supposed to be a type of creation myth linked with the Christian Science belief system. I thought that the movie was simply based on one of L. Ron Hubbard’s many science fiction novels. It is tempting to watch this tediously dull movie one more time just to get the full meaning of the story’s background. However, I watched it when I was first struck down with vertigo and although I managed to not fall asleep I just kept thinking that it was all so ridiculously ponderous. I wonder of Hubbard’s novels are as tedious to read? 7. The Birth of a Nation Never saw it. Never will. I remember watching D W Griffith’s movie about the crucifixion, The King of Kings. Both the silent and sound versions. I preferred the silent one, believe it or not, probably because of all the eye-fluttering, broad gesticulation, and scenery chewing. After I learned about The Birth of a Nation I had a hard time watching (with any pleasure) his movie The Ten Commandments. I suppose the problem is not that such a movie was made but that there are people still around who truly believe that the KKK can be heroic and solve our nation’s problems if only the Jews and Blacks would stop controlling the media. *sigh* (And if you read into this last sentence any implication that I agree with the KKK's teachings then please stop reading my blog.) 6. Stigmata I still have not seen and truly want to see this movie. When it first came out I was very curious about it and remained so even as the controversy developed. Usually controversy causes me to lose interest but the idea of an atheist being given the gift of stigmata is so intriguing to me that I still wish I could catch this on television. Unfortunately it was not so popular as to ever be aired except at ungodly hours or, perhaps, on cable which I do not have. I know one day I'll break down and get Netflix but I have not yet finished watching the dvds I already have at home and so . . . 5. The DaVinci Code Another one in which I have absolutely no interest. I wasn’t interested in the book. I am even less interested in the movie, although it would take me less time to sit through the movie than it would the book so I suppose if I were forced at gunpoint to do one or the other, I could be forced to watch the movie. But I would still resent it. 4. Water I had never heard about this movie, nor the controversy surrounding its production, until I read this list. After reading about it, I would be very interested in seeing this film about Indian widows forced into prostitution. Sad and historically accurate. 3. The Passion of Christ When this movie was released there was an outcry from the Jewish community. I remember that. I remember not knowing if I wanted to see it or not and ultimately decided to wait until it came out on dvd. Then I still chose not to see it but for very personal reasons. I have gone to many sermons in which the preacher/minister/whoever teaches some lesson or other. I have also gone to some services where it seems the sole purpose is to get people emotionally stirred up to confess their sins, give money, etc. effectively turning a spiritual matter into psychological and/or emotional manipulation. That is what this movie is to me . . . a means of manipulation. The times I have seen someone truly teach are rare, precious, and too few. 2. Submission I had never even heard of this film until reading through the list. Probably because it is a ten minute documentary. Nor had I heard about one of the directors being murdered. I do not wish to see it mostly because I am aware of many of the abuses women suffer under any fundamentalist religion. That this one focuses on Islam is fine. Too bad the documentary was not expanded to include other spiritual path’s patriarchal condoning of “submission” as an excuse for abuse. 1. The Last Temptation of Christ Oy do I remember the controversy around this one! I still don’t get it but it reinforces how easily swayed people are when you tickle their emotions rather than approach them with reason. This was as movie that was based on a novel and yet I heard teacher after teacher accuse this movie of attacking Christianity. Assuming that the story of Christ is 100% accurate, the book was merely a novelization with added details and hypothetical situations. Christians didn’t cry out against the bastardization of The Ten Commandments and yet there is Moses being tempted by a married woman, something that is never described in the Bible, and yet nobody even blinks at that. You know why so many people take other novels like The DaVinci Code so seriously? Because so many Christians seem threatened at the very idea that Christ could be tempted to have sex. Forget that the Bible says he was tempted in every way. But then I forget, this is not about intellectual stimulation but psychological and emotional manipulation. Oh yeah . . . I never saw that #1 most controversial movie either. Sorry. Got on a soap box and got distracted. These controversies are so pointless.

Monday, November 19, 2007

In Which I am Feeling . . . Meh I have written a post for my wellbeing blog and that is all I care to blog about today. I am so far behind on my nanowrimo but it is still only week three and I could still manage to catch up. I am also still numb with Dayquil and all my body wants to do is lie down. I should do some exercising on my recumbant bike but it is hard for me to motivate myself to do so. I think if I were not trying to live through a head cold, if I did not have to fight with the constant vertigo, it would be much easier to soldier through. As it is, I want to lay down my arms and raise a white flag of surrender.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

In Which I Finish a Novel I Enjoyed My reading group picked Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters to be our next book of choice and I was thrilled. I had a copy and wanted to read it. Besides, the cover is delightful and I had heard good things about the BBC production of the book. It is a good book. I enjoyed it. Was it outstanding? No. I prefer Winterson's style to Waters' by far. I also found the story to be tediously predictable. Not that when I opened it I knew exactly how it would end but I could have predicted whether it would have a happy/tragic/ambivalent ending or not from the beginning. And at the end of each chapter I was pretty sure that I would know what would happen next. Each new character introduced I would guess what their role in the book would be and I was correct each and every time. Odds are, had I not been reading it for a reading group, I'd not have finished it. That I finished it because of the writing group is an irony . . . because I ended up not going. Mostly due to a lot of miscommunication and even more disappointment. I was told by the group leader that the book will make you blush. When I said I don't blush easily she rectified her warning with "Well, it made me blush." It did not make me blush. *sigh* Oh well. Maybe next time!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

In Which I Am Still Living Inside This Damn Cold Yesterday I managed to read two whole chapters in a book. Ooooh. Ahhhh. I have also learned that both Dayquil and Nyquil may cause dizziness which is, as we all know, ridiculously redundant. One of the problems with vertigo is that it does make it hard to read, harder to write, and that takes away two of the activities in my life that I love the most. And sleep. And eating. Because we already know how the vertigo makes sleeping a challenge and it is hard to want to eat when you are feeling nauseous from being dizzy. I am very frustrated with America's Next Top Model and it's ability to completely bore me this season. They have done two things that I also found discomfiting. The thing is, when I start to feel this way about a show it is usually because I am going to stop watching it. At this point, I can say with confidence that this will be my last season. It takes less time to read the snarky summaries of the programs on Television Without Pity so I may as well save myself the trouble of watching the show after this season's finale. But I still have hope that Lisa will do one more lap dance and Heather will say something really geeky for me. So far both have disappointed me tremendously but not nearly as much as Tara and her panel of judges. So this is just me, frustrated with my having a head cold, having vertigo, and having gotten sucked into another season of a show that used to amuse me but does so no longer. *sigh*
Aries Horoscope for week of November 15, 2007 I love it when you forget all your troubles and get lost in thoughts about your friends' problems. I love it when you place your entire focus on the eat steaming from your cup of coffee or on the sun reflecting on a puddle or on the mysterious expression gracing the face of a stranger. In fact I love it whenever you prove how much you love being here on earth by taking your attention off yourself, and giving it to everything else. The coming week will be a perfect time to specialize in this consummate art.