Sunday, April 24, 2016

Today's good

This is what my eyes look like after a long night:

I had been up many times, in the bathroom, not in the bathroom, thinking about loss, and what happens if, and what happens if not, and why isn't the treatment working, and when can I REALLY go back to work, and S just committed to a college, and G is learning how to drive, and E will be going to high school in the fall, and did I forget to do the dishes last night, and how many times have I asked my kids to put their stuff away, and how will they learn to put their stuff away if I can't I put my stuff away, and what will I do if my brace isn't fixed by Monday, and why is the dog breathing that heavy, and how many rolls of toilet paper did we go through this month...

It was a long night.

Now the sun is shining brightly, and the sky is blue, and I spent some time talking and listening with my son, and ate a yummy lunch.  And all the thoughts and worries from the long night have passed.   Will they come back tonight?  Probably.  But the heavy thoughts are not as prevalent as they once were.

Creating positive experiences, recognizing the good, and making note of them have really helped alleviate the anxiety that comes at night.  It began with my friend teaching me how to be positive. Beyond the month of November when the masses tend to focus on the things they are thankful for, this friend does it all year long.  She does them as an affirmation of what is good in her life.  I remember reading about her thankfulness and wondering, is she a positive person because she is thankful for the little things, or thankful for the little things because she is a positive person. Egg/Chicken.  Didn't really matter.  I needed that type of affirmation in my life.

So I began posting what I was thankful for on social media, which was my way of putting the positive out into the universe.  (Granted I also posted other things, probably some that were not so positive, but I am human after all)  And then that egg/chicken thing began to happen to me.  I was having trouble keeping track of which was coming first.  Did I always notice the way the trees bent over the roadway to make a natural bridge, or was I just noticing it because I was focusing on the good things in my life?  Was the cashier at the supermarket always friendly, or was he being more friendly because I was kinder to him?

December 2015 came upon us.  I was out of work a lot, in the bathroom a lot more, and just feeling very run down.  I knew I was having a terrible flare of my ulcerative colitis and I tried to fight through it.  January I went out on disability, and my husband lost one of his jobs.  Soon after I spent a week in the hospital.  The mood in our home was less than positive.  We were all feeling less than thankful.  I was trying desperately to hold onto the good, and see the good, and reflect on the good, but it was getting more difficult everyday.  I needed a way to bring "today's good" into our home, to change our mojo.  So this is what I did:
This was our "today's good" board on the very first day.  I started it with "blue skies and bright sunshine", and immediately my son mocked me.  I didn't care.  I really felt that way.  It had been cloudy and rainy and just generally miserable outside for days - a true metaphor for what was happening inside our home - and the weather outside was life changing!  And soon everyone in the house began to add to it.  And to top it all off, our last entry of that day was "this chalkboard", an addition made by my slightly cynical son. My heart was so full of happiness and hope, that maybe this little board was going to give us the boost that we all needed so desperately.

We don't write on it every day.  And there are some days that we don't erase it.  I think about erasing it, but then I don't - I want to hold onto those goods just a little bit longer.  There are no rules.  I can if I want.  And it isn't magic.  There are days when we are grumpy and scared, and feeling lost.
However, I know having the board and making note of what is good in our lives is one way I can get over the hump and alleviate some of the anxiety.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Loss and Gain

This week my community, part of my soul family, experienced great loss.  Dr. Mayer, who was our superintendent but also our friend, our leader, and our mentor, died in a tragic accident.  We feel sorrow, and disbelief, and tremendous gratitude to have known him at all.
Dr. Mayer and I did not practice the same religion.  I am Jewish, and he follows the teachings of Christ.  However that never seemed to matter, because Dr. Mayer believed that everyone's story was worthy.
The morning of his memorial service, I was setting up my home for the first Passover Seder.  As I placed the tablecloth on my table, I was brought back to a time a few years ago when I bumped into Dr. Mayer in the halls of my school just a few days before Passover.  As he greeted me with a smile and a hug, he asked what I would be doing for Passover this year.  I told him that we were having Seder at our home as usual but before I could do anything I would have to go purchase a new tablecloth, as ours had a big wine stain on it from the previous year.  Dr. Mayer asked why I would do that, as the wine stain was a reminder of the good times that we had.  I thought about that, probably laughed it off, and went on my way.
The tablecloth still holds that wine stain, and I never replaced it.  I often thought about replacing the tablecloth, but something about what Dr. Mayer said to me rang true.  Just because something is a little worn, or a little stained doesn't mean it loses its worth, but rather the opposite.  That wine stain is a reminder of the times I have had with my family and the love we share around our holiday table. This Passover the tablecloth holds the memories of my family helping me with the Seder, my oldest daughter finally committing to the college of her choice, laughing and loving, making new friends, and watching my sons and nephews turn from boys into young men.  And now it also holds the reminder of my friendship with a good man, a man whose lessons I will hold dear to my heart.

Monday, April 18, 2016

My UC truth

At 5:14 the other morning I was in the bathroom for the third time that night.  I was crying on the toilet.  Sitting on the toilet in pain and crying.  I was crying not really about the pain, or the blood, or the diarrhea, but rather the situation.  Because here I was again sitting on the toilet at 5ish in the morning.  It was enough already.  I had enough.  I just wanted this to be over and done and feeling better.  I want to be able to go to the zoo, or sit at the beach.  I want to be able to go to my son's baseball games without knowing if there is a bathroom open at that time.  I want to be able to get in the car AFTER I eat a meal and not have to starve myself throughout the day until I get to my destination.  I want normalcy.

And then, I was done.  Not just done going to the bathroom.  But done with feeling bad for myself.

That is my cycle.  I go through it every few days.  I think positively and post things on Facebook that make me believe (and others believe) that I am this positive person.  And I am. Positivity breeds positivity.  I read my books, find my quotes, talk to my friends, watch Ellen (because there is no one more positive than Ellen!).  Those feelings are real.  I believe that "every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day" and in "today's goods".  I really do believe those things.  In fact I read recently that thinking positive is actually good for the immune system, and lord knows my immune system can use some good.  But then I hit a wall...

The wall usually comes as I am trying to go to sleep at night, knowing that I will be up many times, as I sit listening to my husband breathing next to me, and feel the dog pushed up against my legs.  Or it comes at 5ish in the morning.  When I am in the bathroom for the third time that night.  Listening to the birds wake up and call each other in the neighborhood.  I can not be positive anymore.  It is then I cry.  But the crying is cathartic.  It is a true release of all the negative feelings that have been pent up inside of my for the past few days.  And it feels good and right.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


Over the weekend I had the opportunity to travel with my oldest daughter and my husband to visit the college that my daughter will most likely attend in the fall.  It is a sprawling, beautiful campus and though I made the best of the situation, I was unable to do a walking tour of the campus. I went into the campus center to get myself a diet coke from the vending machine, and bumped into another mother I had seen around the campus that day.  She asked if I was about to go on the tour, and I casually said no, pointed to my brace (Phoebe), the walking is too much for me right now. She said, oh, are you disabled? I said no, just temporarily out of the walking tour business.  We smiled together and she went off.
After getting my diet coke, I sat outside in the sunshine and thought, am I disabled?  I am on disability and unable to work right now.  I have to wear Phoebe to get around.  There are some days I find it difficult to leave the house because I am in the bathroom a lot.
Is being disabled a bad thing?  Should I even be using the word disabled?  Maybe I am differently abled?
I am able to cook for my family.  I am able to love my kids.  I am able to love my husband.  I am able to be over the top appreciative of the love and support my family, friends, and community are showing me.  I am able to do PT in order to make myself stronger.  I am able to go to Penn for my treatments that I pray will make me better. I am able to love on my dogs.  I am able to occasionally go places with my friends.  I am able to help my kids with big decisions and little ones.
So I am able.  Some days I am more able than others, but isn't everyone like that?  
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