Showing posts with label Attachment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Attachment. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Summer Day

My sunflowers!

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
~ Mary Oliver

“So, what do you do?”

I’ve never really liked that question. Even in my “un-sick” years, this question has always carried a sort of responsibility that made me uncomfortable. Even in those years when I loved what I was doing, when I was at “the top of my game”, when asked this question I felt the need to make the answer sound good. I had my spiel. What I did was a bit complicated to explain, so my sales pitch carried with it just the right amount of verbiage to make it understandable, yet sound like I had arrived. I always envied those who could get it over with in three words. “I’m a doctor.” “I’m the President.” I’m fairly certain my own personal baggage in regards to feeling not educated enough played a pretty strong role in my career quantephobia, but I do believe it’s a question that makes even a brain surgeon a bit edgy. It feels like a “set-up” question. We all have our preconceived notions (albeit more a reflection of our media sources than actual reality!) about the various professions. So there arises in us something in between a defensive guarding and the upholding of ego. For me, as I look back now, I think it was a little bit of both.

Why do we ask this question? And why do we ask it so quickly? If I think to what my conversations are like with people I have just been introduced to, I would say that it gets asked within the first five minutes, almost without fail. If we are truly trying to get to know someone, is asking them what they do for a living really one of the top questions? It makes me feel like I’m in the beginning stages of Milton Bradley’s Guess Who. Have kids, don’t have kids? Have a house, don’t have a house? Went to college, didn’t go to college? Married, not married? And the questions continue until we tuck one another tightly into convenient roles in our minds. Okay, it’s not always that bad. And I don’t mean to sound cynical, but just think about it for a bit. Why do we do what we do? Why do we ask what we ask? Why do we think what we think? It’s good to stop and “think about the thinker” sometimes. Like Socrates says, “the unexamined life is not worth living”. Why?

When I woke up this morning, for whatever reason, I felt extremely unsatisfied. This happens sometimes. What am I doing with my life? I’ve gotten much better at not letting this little demon have a voice in my head, but there are just those days. I think we all have them, but for the chronically ill, disabled, it’s a haunting question mixed with a heavy dose of grief and guilt. It sneaks into my mind when I least expect it. Especially when I’m tired or more sick than usual. And especially during the winter when I am more home bound. Its companions - judgement and comparison - usually tag along. Actually, when I think about it, they arrive first, quietly through the back door.

Gratitude is much friendlier visitor! 
I don’t think that this is what it’s all about. Life, I mean. When Mary Oliver asks, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”, I don’t think she’s asking what our career choice is. I really don’t. I think it’s bigger than that. I think it’s much less tangible than that. I think it has far more to do with the size of our hearts than with the size of our bank accounts or the houses we live in. Discontentment is a relentless debt collector. As long as we continue to borrow our self esteem from others (or other things), discontentment will keep knocking at our door.

I had another lovely conversation with my health psychologist at the U of MN last week. I’ve been seeing her for the past four years and I have yet to walk out of her office without having become a stronger women for it. We were talking about our desire as human beings to find solid ground. We love security. The problem being that security is only an illusion, and that the key is being able to love the shakiness of it all. To learn to live with un-solid ground, for in fact, nothing stays the same. The essence of life itself being change. That got me thinking about my need for answers. Answers are the solid ground we hope to find. Whether it be in regards to ourselves or in regards to others. Answers give us the illusion of control. Can you see the problem here? The minute we think we own something, it’s loss creates a tremendous amount of suffering for us! From something as insignificant as “I finally spent a lot of money on sunglasses and now they’re gone!’ to “I thought I knew who you were and now you’re gone!”

I’m not saying that the key to life is to live so unaffected that we become numb. Quite the opposite! I just think that we are missing the boat if we think the answers are what bring us happiness. Think of all the great scientists and inventors throughout time. What inspired them? Think of all the great painters standing in front of blank canvases. It was the questions of what could be that moved that first stroke, that mixed that first color, that began that first journey. These days of unknowing, these spaces we desperately want to fill with something, can be beautiful, beautiful days. Don’t think for one second  that they are moments stuck in time. All things change. This moment you and I are in is moving us somewhere. The manner in which we move with it will greatly impact the direction we go. Rilke could not say it any more gracefully,
Towards all that is unsolved in your heart
Be patient
Try to love the questions
Do not seek the answers
which cannot be given
you would not be able to live them
Live everything
Live the questions now
you will then gradually,
without noticing it,
Live into the answers
Some distant day.
             ~Rilke

I think that when asked, “What is it that you do?”, I’m going to work at making my response a verb instead of a noun. I suppose, to get it over with, I’ll still have to say something like, “I’m currently disabled”, because, well, I currently am. But this disability has given me a tremendous opportunity. The opportunity to slow down, to learn every day how to “let go” and how to live beautifully on shaky ground.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?


Today I opened my door and walked out...


Green surrounded me.

Bee-ing okay with things just as they are. 

Thankful for another sunrise.

Laughing at the volunteer maple tree in my flower garden.

Enjoying the unconditional love of my four legged friend. 

Peace,



Monday, November 26, 2012

When The Pain Is Yours

                                                                                                                                                                                       Oliver

I don't like going to the vet...I never have. Today was no different.

This is Oliver. Oliver showed up on our deck sometime in September, or maybe it was August, I'm not really sure. It was sometime near the end of the summer because we were already trying to come to some decision as to what to do with her if she was still "hanging around" when the weather turned cold. She never left.

Yes, Oliver is a she. We found this out a little over two weeks ago when we had to take her to the vet. We had somehow gracefully slid into the understanding that she was here to stay. And now she was sick. Or so it seemed. Excessive drinking and salivating led us to suspect she had some sort of kidney issue. Two hundred and fifty dollars later we were assured she was just a thirsty, salivating, perfectly healthy two year old female cat.  I had exceeded my pet budget for the month, so booster shots and spaying would come later.

I have to admit, this was not a real popular idea with myself nor my husband. Two dogs and a cat already seem overly sufficient. Adding another pet, that will most likely be with us for the next 13 years, was not the direction we wanted to be heading pet-wise. But it's a difficult spot to be in. You don't euthanize an animal that just seems sick. So you figure out the most inexpensive way to find out what might be wrong and go from there. Getting the "all okay" meant bringing the cat back home. I think it was at that point that I let Oliver into my heart.

Two weeks passed and mental adjustments had been made by all. Oliver was officially part of the Johnson/Buresh clan. Which truly was not much of an inconvenience to our daily activities because Oliver prefers to be outside. Out of 24 hours, I would guess that Oliver maybe spends 4 of those indoors. The rest are spent stalking and hunting the various mice and birds that frequent our bird feeders and surrounding woods. A real hunter, she's quite the antithesis to our Jeni, who prefers longs naps in the sun and full bowls of Indoor Formula Cat Chow.

The middle of last week, after spending a full day out and about, Oliver came in holding her front leg up. Unable to put any pressure on it, she hobbled to her usual spot in the spare bedroom and stayed in for the night. Three days later both legs on one side were not working properly. Four days later she walked in a completely arched back position and meowed in pain as she moved. This weekend she could barely crawl to her food. The progression, heart breaking to watch.

Our appointment was for 8:30, the first appointment of the day, the one you get when you call at 7:01 am.  If I could have figured out anything else to be doing on this beautiful morning I would have. Just getting her into the crate brought me to tears. I had already told the girls that we could not afford any more medical testing. That this is a stray cat and our budget only goes so far. That she might not come home with me... Tough talk last night, but now it's just me and Oliver and my heart is breaking. She has the absolute most beautiful green eyes you could ever imagine and at that moment they were pleading with me to leave her alone. Trusting me.

The vet was very good. The sign in the exam room where we sat read "Every pet deserves a good vet, and we HAVE good vets". Yes, they do. He lifted the top of the crate off so Oliver would not have to be moved.   Ever so carefully he examined her as I held her head in my hands, stroking her face and eyes. In my heart I hoped it comforted her, calmed her. I could feel her body quiver with fear, but she never moved. This once active, inquisitive cat now lay motionless looking directly into my eyes.

It was at that point that I lost it. Apologizing for my tears, I just kept saying, "I'm sorry, I'm really sick and I think for some reason this is especially difficult for me." He was a sweet man, a little unsure as to what to do with me, he simply nodded and said, "It's okay." It took everything in me not to fall to pieces in that exam room. As I sit here and type these words, I'm still not really sure of all that fills this painful space. If I could pick some words out of thin air they might be helplessness, frustration, sadness, anger, fear...a most intense longing for things to be different. Why can't some things just be different.  

In a few weeks my daughter Anna is going to have major surgery to repair a birth defect that only now, at the age of 19, has made itself evident. She will have her jaw broken in multiple locations, upper and lower, with extensive work on her temporomandibular joint and chin. We have been planning for this surgery, which was suppose to happen in August, for over a year now. I have the most intense longing for things to be different. Why can't some things just be different. 

My bedroom window
I sat down to write this piece instead of doing my usual Cyber Monday shopping because I had to. When I put my fingers to the keyboard I had absolutely no idea what I was going to write about. I just knew that the only way to find out was to begin. As I looked up out of my window two bald eagles flew between my window and the pines in my yard. Beautiful, crisp white heads, wings spread, one right in front of the other. Eagles have always been important in my life, representing balance, intuition and spirituality - their presence bringing assurance that the divine is present. A validation of the path I am on, the direction I am going.

A reminder of the Holy.   A reminder to let go.

Oliver came back home with me today. We are fairly certain that something is wrong with her spine. Neurologically, things look good, yet she is in a significant amount of pain and is unable to move because of it. Everything else checks out okay. As to what is wrong with her spine, we don't really know. I have enough pain and anti-inflammation medication to get us through three days. If she doesn't improve by then, well, I'm not sure what we can do next. I'm not really sure about a lot of things in this life. But this I do know - that it can be really painful at times. And that the biggest of lessons can come from the smallest of creatures. And that life is precious. All life. And we can talk big about things, like "not spending money on an animal" and "I know what I'd do" and "If it were my cat I'd take it out back and..." But when it's your life, or your heart, or your health, or your kids, or your pets...well, that big talk gets pretty small when the pain is yours.


I decided to go check on Oliver one last time in order to give you the most current update. I got down on all fours to crawl quietly to the spot between the table and the patio doors where she lay in order to take a picture. This is what I saw in that very moment. She lifted her head and gave me the most peaceful look, almost a smile if you look closely enough. As if to say, things will be okay...just as they are.

Peace,







Thursday, December 8, 2011

New Diagnosis...A Matter of Perspective

Life's A Comic Strip

You know, sometimes that's just the way it is! We've all been there. I remember when I totaled the very first new car I had ever owned. Long story, but in the midst of a July move, I inadvertently left a deep freezer worth of poultry and beef in the back seat of my new Saturn...for a week. Needless to say, there was nothing that could be done. The insurance company said, and I quote, "We have to handle this just like a dead body." Gross.
But what I remember most is how many people said to me, gosh, you got another new car out of the deal! Yes, I guess I did. But in the end it added about $5000 onto my loan since the previous car depreciated the minute I drove it off the lot. Not really what I had originally  intended! I would have much rather kept my old new car.

It is a matter of perspective, I guess. In the end, everything is. How I choose to look at something, the story I choose to tell myself, is exactly that. A story.

The week of Thanksgiving I finally met up with my rheumatologist. It's been a tough couple of months and I was pretty eager to find out what was/IS going on with my crazy overactive immune system. I managed to get down to about 2mg on the prednisone taper regimen when all autoimmune hell broke loose. Basically, what that means for me is this. Think about when you get sick. Your body has a response to that illness - be it virus or bacteria. It is that response that actually makes you feel sick. For example, if the membranes of your nose or throat become inflamed by toxins, your immune response is to sneeze. If  your lungs become infected, there is a stimulation of sensory nerves in the lining of the respiratory passages that create the reflex to cough, thereby expelling and clearing the lungs of those toxins. When viruses or bacteria find there way into your body, your body may respond by initiating a fever. This complex process (which can be quite painful and dangerous if out of control) raises your bodies temperature in order to create an environment in which the virus or bacteria cannot survive. Without the fever, the body would not be able to overcome these toxins. And the same is true for vomiting and diarrhea. Both responses eventually rid either the upper or lower GI tract of toxins that have taken up unwanted residence there. The immune system is an amazingly elaborate and complicated system, recognizing invaders, putting up barriers to prevent those invaders from attacking  vital organs and eventually destroying the ones that do manage to "get through"! It's wonderful...when it works.

In autoimmunity, the immune system's ability to recognize what's foreign and what's part of your own body breaks down in some way. Thinking that cells or tissues or organs are foreign invaders, the immune system moves into action to be rid the body of these invaders. So in a very small nutshell, what this means is that the body of someone with autoimmune disease is constantly in response to what it thinks is toxic. For someone like me, with multiple autoimmune diseases, my body is attacking multiple systems and organs thinking that they are foreign. That's why, quite often my response to the question, "How do you feel?" is answered with, "I feel like I have the flu...all the time." My body is in constant attack mode. If left unchecked (this is where all those nasty drugs come in) then eventually my body would succeed at wiping out things like my pancreas, my liver, my kidneys, my nervous system, my skin, my hair.... the list goes on.  Up until two weeks ago, my primary diagnosis were Lupus, Sjogren's and RA. I have now added Ankylosing Spondylitis to my list, which accounts for the increased pain and stiffness in my spine.

So, why tell you all of this? A couple of reasons. One, the more sick I am, the more people want to know what exactly is wrong with me. It's a hard question to answer sometimes. Quite often I just don't have the energy to explain. Or, as is sometimes the case, people don't really want to know the answer. Not because of a lack of care or concern, but more just because the simple asking is out of politeness and not so much out of a want to know...at least right then and there. I get that. And seriously, I have no problem with it. In most situations, the lack of really wanting to know pretty much matches my lack of wanting to explain! (I hope that makes sense). I'm totally cool with being polite!

Two, I want you to know how I'm managing with this new diagnosis. And this is it...
I'm good.
I really am good.

This is the deal. Am I sick of being sick sometimes? You bet!! But That's where the story stops. This illness, this disease is not me. I do not wonder what evil force is out there working desperately against me. I do not wonder what causes pain and suffering in this body or in this world, nor do I sit and wonder why things happen to me or if I  will eventually find the end of my coping rope! It just is what it is. Period. Attaching "good" or "bad" to a situation is my doing, and has nothing to do with the actual situation. I thought having to pay $5000 for a second new car was a "bad" situation. But what if that first new car had a malfunctioning wire that would have eventually led to it spontaneously exploding while I was driving. Would I then tell myself, "Wow, good thing I had to get rid of that car!" Well, was it a good thing or a bad thing? Neither!

The Venerable Ajan Chah says this,
If your house is flooded or burnt to the ground, whatever the threat to it, let it concern only the house. If there's a flood, don't let it flood your mind. If there's a fire, don't let it burn your heart. Let it be merely the house, that which is outside of you, that is flooded or burned. Now is the time to allow the mind to let go of attachments.
So when you ask me, "How are you?", if I don't tell you I feel like I have the flu, most likely you will hear me say something like this, "I'm good!" I'm good despite my diseases, not because of them. I'm good because when I look out my window I see the most beautiful row of pine trees covered in new fallen snow. I'm good because when I sit out on my deck I feel the healing warmth of the winter sun on my face. I'm good because I am surrounded by a loving family, an amazing husband and the caring hands and hearts of so many friends. I'm good because every single thing I need, I have within me, this very moment. And no fire, no flood, no disease can ever take that away.

I have so much to be thankful for.

Peace,