Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Touching Ground

Tonight I watched a PBS documentary on the last flight of Amelia Earhart, whose plane vanished in her 1937 attempt to circumnavigate the globe by air. She ran low on gas while aiming for Howland Island, which lies in the Pacific between Australia and Hawaii.

Prior to this leg of their 27,000 mile trip, she had begun having some disputes with the navigator who accompanied her. She had occasionally overridden his decisions. Navigational maps of remote areas of the world were often inaccurate. Navigators of that time were told not to aim at the larger of two targets, but to fly between two targets. That way, they would see one on their right and one on their left, maximizing their chance of a safe landing. Her radio transmissions recorded her repeated attempts to find Howland Island, not mentioning the smaller island nearby. It would appear that she had once again taken navigation into her own hands.

I think I see one of life's lessons here. One can sharply define a life goal, continue attempting to reach it precisely and "crash land". Alternatively, one can choose a goal and move in that direction while not ignoring other chances for a successful landing.

Monday, September 13, 2004

What Ails Me

I originally intended to leave out medical diagnoses and details on this site, focusing instead on my mental and spiritual life. At this time I realize the omission is starting to feel a little like having a gorilla sitting in the living room, and no-one is mentioning it. So, here are some of the details.

1. Hyperkyphoscoliosis. I have spinal curvatures in both the upper and lower back. My upper curve is 90 degrees, where normal is 30. Below my waist, I have a side-to-side curve of 65 degrees, where there should be none. I have chronic low back pain and often quite severe upper back pain. This has also caused me to shrink from 4',11", the tallest I ever was, to 4',7". This is a progressive condition. I am not a candidate for surgery to correct this.

2. Osteoporosis, with quite a bit of bone loss. In my case, response to medications has been poor. I have to try my best to avoid falls and getting bumped into by others.

3. Tardive dyskinesia. This was a reaction to taking an antidpressant in the past. I have balance problems, involuntary movements, muscle spasticity and tremors. This will not improve, but it probably will not worsen. It makes coping with Nos. 1 and 2 more difficult.

4. Cardiac arrhythmia

5. Mild COPD.

I walk without assistance inside my home. Outside, I use a quad cane, a walker or a wheelchair. I have not had to fight with myself to use these. I focus on doing what I want to do, rather than the appliances I need. It's a part of my acceptance and staying in the present.

The specialists treating me are about the best in their fields.

I do not appreciate being pitied, but I am very appreciative of all the kind strangers who offer physical assistance when I'm out. I'm "okay" with asking for help when I need it. Most people want to help others, and in my mind, I'm giving them a chance for that little warm pulse of the heart.

Now you know more about the body that accompanies me on my path.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Labyrinth Meditation - (Cont.)

The following day, I went to the labyrinth at Hennepin Ave. UMC. It is set up in their Art Room, a very large, temperature-controlled area that contained many paintings I had seen before at The Walker Art Center. The labyrinth itself is patterned after the one at Chartres Cathedral, with eleven circuits. I was alone in the room. I composed myself and started in.

I found that my walker didn't make turns too well on the canvas, making it hard to "stay inside the lines". But I decided not to judge how I was doing it, because there is no one "right" way. I realized that I could trust the path, because it had been walked by so many before me in so many places. I can trust my own path, because it has integrity. In the center, I sat in my walker (it has a seat) and felt comfort in my soul. I can trust the "me of me" to complete my path in this body, which is much different than before.

On the way out I began to tire, but I kept to my pace, just trusting the path, staying away from wondering how much further I had to go and coming back to the present. Unexpectedly, I was at the entrance/exit. I sat for a few minutes to thank the Universal Mind. I signed the labyrinth journal, thanking the church for the experience and for having such an accessible building -- buttons to open doors, ramps, elevators, the works.

I plan to go back soon, perhaps when I have a question to ponder.

Both comments to yesterday's post were helpful. Thank you very much.

What I'm Discovering in Blogging

Of course it's addicting, but we all know that!

I'm finding that it's helping me focus both my writing and my thinking. First, I am trying to write with clarity, use an economy of words and review and refine what I've written before posting. Second, the thought of the upcoming post makes me more mentally alert to what I'm doing or thinking, so I will have content to use. Is this what I want to put "out there"?

This is a much different way than I write my offline journal, which is more emotional, free-flowing and uncritical.

This feels like a very powerful potential duo.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Labyrinth Meditation

"If you would only recognize that life is hard, things would be so much easier for you." -- Louis D. Brandeis

A couple of weeks ago, I experienced my first labyrinth meditation. I had intended to walk the outdoor grass labyrinth at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul. I had asked a neighbor, Judith, to go with me on the spur of the moment. She enjoys new spiritual experiences and is a person okay with spontaneous invitations. I had never seen this beautiful campus before. Flowers and trees were everywhere. As it happened, I couldn't navigate the uneven ground of the labyrinth with my walker and do anything mentally except worry about where to place my feet next. Judith did walk it, while I sat reading the labyrinth journal. It was in a plastic bin under the bench adjacent to the labyrinth. Some folks have had some pretty profound experiences there. Judith came back saying that something had happened in her mind and soul.
After I returned home, I found the website for The Labyrinth Society. It not only provides a good deal of information about the history of labyrinths and suggestions for meditative walks, but also has a labyrinth locator. There are 51 in Minnesota, mostly on private property and outside. I did discover that Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in downtown Minneapolis puts up a canvas labyrinth every Thursday from 3 to 9 p.m. (I'll continue this entry tomorrow, as it may get too long here.)


In Memoriam, 9/11/2001

The lost are still lost, and human hatred for each other continues to grow stronger.

Friday, September 10, 2004

The Red Hat Society Phenomenon

As a Red Hatter, I've come to understand some reasons why red hats are proliferating everywhere.

First, a little history. RHS was started in 1998, by one woman giving her friend a red hat for her 50th birthday. This comes from the comic poem, which begins, "When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple, with a red hat which doesn't go and doesn't suit me". Pretty soon, chapters were being organized. It has spread around the globe, and it appears it will remain a cultural landmark.

The chapters have no purpose, other than social. The only rule is you have to be over 50, wear a red had and purple clothes. There is a vast pool of women to recruit from, as the first baby boomers turned 50 in 1996. As always, we are the figurative rabbit going through the python, affecting society in all aspects as we pass the lifespan benchmarks.

Personally, there is a very real sense of empowerment in venturing out with friends who are obviously feeling good about being mature women. We laugh, joke, get a little bawdy and eat good food. Most people smile at us, and there are always conversations with others. "My Mom's a Red Hatter in Cincinnati." "Where can I find a chapter?" And, more rarely, "What's with the red hats?" (Most everyone knows by now.) My own chapeau is bright red, with a wide brim and red feathers fluffing out from the crown. My favorite purple shirt proclaims "Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History". For me, this is a reminder that this fragile frame contains the same wild woman from the 60's who did civil rights and anti-war protests, as well as other delights of the 60's.

When a younger woman said to me, "I'm looking forward to 50", I knew we are starting to rewrite the stereotypes.

Older women have been long devalued in our culture, largely ignored and left to creep around the walls of life. No longer! We're here and we're RED! Give us a hand!


Passing the blogging on

I spent some time this afternoon with a new friend of mine, getting her set up with her own blogspot site. I felt somewhat of an evangelist. She had the same reaction as I did. "Wow, all this is out there! And I never knew!"

Thursday, September 09, 2004

From Macro to Micro and Back

"What lies before us
and what lies behind us
are small matters
compared to what lies within us.
And when we bring
what is within us
out into the world,
miracles happen.
- Henry David Thoreau

I had pool therapy today at Courage Center here in Golden Valley. It is a place of encouragement, as the "I can" atmosphere is almost palpable. I mentioned to the therapist that I'm really thirsty after every pool session. She said that heavy chlorination can get under your skin, leach out some other chemicals and stimulate thirst. So that's the cause!

Jumping around here....

A kitchen tip I discovered

I think a lot of people, like me, are always a little startled by the yeasty explosion made when opening a tube of Pillsbury's refrigerated biscuits. I always jump. But I found out that, if you remove the outer paper strip, then just let the tube remain on the baking sheet, the warmth of the room will pop it open on its own in about 3 minutes. So, you can be somewhere not too close, and it won't be so loud.

Fall must be here

My cat, Jenny, is now demanding to be covered up when napping, sending forth loud meows from my bed. She is also back to sleeping on the vent on my PC monitor -- I know that's not good for the PC, but cats DO rule.

On to world history and reality

My No. 1 brother and myself talk every day...it's good for both of us. The day before last, we started talking about the varying nations that have dominated the world and imposed their will on other nations. I won't try to get them in order, but look at the Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, and winding down to Spain, France and England. America was not even a noted power in the world until about 1900 and did not gain dominance until the Second World War. Dominance has shifted from one nation to another more and more rapidly throughout history. We discussed that China is a likely prospect for the next behemoth. I wonder how many Americans realize that their days as "top dog" are numbered? Perhaps this would modify our bullying stance in the world.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Getting Started

I was only introduced to the blogging world a couple of weeks ago. Somehow the idea of putting parts of myself into the indefinite "out there" is appealing. These are some themes which I expect will crop up again and again:

Trying to live a mindful life, staying in the moment

Coping with my medical conditions, pain and mobility problems through radical acceptance

Old friends

New adventures, both mental and physical

Occasional rantings and ravings of a very liberal Democrat (and proud of it!)

New ideas for easy meals and kitchen tips

Excursions with my Red Hat Society chapter

My "mission" of supporting Caringbridge children online

Inserts of material from sites on meditation and Buddhism

Next time, I'll start in earnest.

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