Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Life Goals

I haven't articulated my overarching life goals in a long time - in fact, I don't know if I've ever done so with real intentionality. Intentionality, to me, means having mini-steps in place to help reach those goals. The mini-steps don't have to be the only steps, but some steps need to be firmly in place, if for no other reason than to check in on how one is doing.
In the past, most of my goals have been either vague or professional - 'Be the best that I can be' or 'Increase the number of people who report to me' (not really THAT bad, but close enough). If I want to commit to some big life goals, i guess I need to do some serious thinking. Of course, I want to be healthy, happy, part of a loving family, contribute something to the world, but what am I actually willing to do to reach those goals? They are such obvious, basic goals that it's hard to imagine not having them. But why are those things so hard to reach sometimes?  Why are there millions of dollars spent on 'happiness' research, millions of books distributed world-wide on how to be happy, millions of people searching for the elusive happiness? I don't know. I've read lots of the theories, actually buy into some of them, but no really concrete answer exists. And, of course, Happiness itself is an ever-changing concept, influenced by context and culture. Seligman has moved on from the search for 'authentic happiness' to the search and definition of 'flow.'
But back to me. What can I actually, physically do to increase my own personal happiness and what are the impediments to my doing so? Can I just write or type 'be nicer to others' or 'consciously feel gratitude every day' and then do it? Will that be enough? What if I can say the gratitude piece but not feel it tingle in my heart and soul. Does it still work? And can saying it enough transform the words into actual feelings? Guess there is no way to know other than to just try.
But I need something more tangible, smaller, if you will, something that resonates with the personal me. Don't get me wrong - I like, even love, happiness. But that is too large a life goal for me, and I suspect there are far too many steps to getting there for me to take. Something else. But I don't know what it is right now. So I am back to the beginning of this blog - no, I haven't articulated my overarching life goals. Some soul searching needed.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorialize

Monday, Memorial Day. Back in the day, we'd make family trips to cemeteries, dropping off potted geraniums at the appropriate markers. Both sides of the family we'd visit, whether in Rocky Hill, Hartford or Bristol.
Then there would be the requisite family cook-out. I always thought it was a very sacred act, visiting those dead bodies. I knew - or thought I knew -  the souls had gone to heaven, but it was still important to stop and remember. I suspect for many people the same sort of ritual still occurs. So here is a moment to stop and memorialize those spirits of the people who made us who we are today. And it's a day to memorialize people we don't know, people who gave their lives in a variety of ways. Peace and thanks to all of them. I know someone who believes we can make the past of the deceased better by living good lives in the present. I don't know if I 'believe' this, but I want to think it is possible to give something back to the dead while we are still alive.
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Speaking of cookouts, yesterday we drove through Wash Park and City Park and both parks were filled with people with grills and bags of food. Makes one grateful for Mayor Speers of the world who were visionary enough to know how important it would be to have parks in the city. It was a magnificent sight - different demographics at the two parks, but both parks filled with people intent on sharing time, space, and food together. These holidays are a great reprieve for people who work hard all year long, and finally get a chance to just hang out. They are great for the young, the adolescent, and all the way through the time line. Too much hanging out isn't a good thing, but for most of the people I saw, it appeared to be just the right time to pull out a lawn chair and catch up on family and friends.  Driving through the parks, I felt as if my mind's eye were capturing the scenes, allowing me to memorialize the beauty of it all.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Relationships

Had lunch with three very good friends today and the topic turned to dating and relationships. Sitting in the lovely gardens of Highlands, sun shining down on the goat cheese deep purple lilies standing tall behind me, I noticed the variety of relationships that percolated at various tables. The large family, two older friends, a young hetero couple, a mixed age gay couple, friends, father and daughter, more friends and probably a few business acquaintances. Love in all its forms.
As one of our group has just become involved in a new romantic relationship, our talk quickly focused on that. Two people in their sixties trying to figure out if this is romance or not; is it attraction or not; is it real? Same questions that a sixteen year old couple has. They found one another on craig's list and several ski trips later things took another turn. It takes courage to start up a new relationship at any age, but maybe a bit more courage after fifty. One's habits, patterns, likes and dislikes are pretty ingrained by sixty as are one's uncertainties and self-confidence. It takes courage to flirt, to game, to play, be coy and flattering and hold on to one's self. There are years when all one's peers are engaged in the same type of fun, dating, breaking up, starting over. But that's not necessarily true after a certain age. 
I admire my friend who decided it was time to cross over, time to take a risk, and stop wondering if she'd ever have another serious relationship. It's one thing to bemoan the lack of a personal relationship; it's another to do something about it.
We ask her questions that she deems irrelevant - how does he make his money, what does he do with his time, did he have a condom or not? With those questions, it's no wonder she isn't anxious to have us meet him. Imagine what we might ask him, given a chance to corner him.
And this makes us think once again about all the other relationships - developing, being made stronger or weaker, enduring or fragile, new or old - among the others sitting in the sun, eating lunch and looking toward the future. Gives us time to pause and reflect on our own relationships and how we nurture them.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Restorative Yoga

What's not to like about a practice that is filled with props that support all parts of the body, that allows one to move, sit or lie down with comfort and ease?
Actualy, it's taken me a while to like this form of yoga, but after today I am sold.
In the past, I've found the five blankets, cushions, back props just too much busy work and time. . . and my ability to follow the simplest directions about which way to fold the blankets, how and where to place the blankets is limited.
But I met a new teacher this morning and she made it seem so effortless and so easy. And her ability to integrate breathing with the various movements is astounding. So I fell for it and into it.
It's been more than six months since I have been to a yoga class, and I had forgotten what the yoga world is like - the world of breathing, paying attention to parts of the body, and just becoming conscious of other planes of being. It was actually quite intimidating at first and my instinct was to reject it all, reject feeling the body at the cellular level.  Too many cells running amok in this body to want to go there, but I pushed through and finally found a comfort zone.
I'm intrigued by the fact that I was so resistant at first, that everything in me wanted to bolt out the door, that my memory wasn't there. I assumed I would just re-member all those other yogic talks, the meditative approach, the find comfort in your body way of being. But, for some reason, those memories abandoned me and left me filled with fear. And truth be known, I had no voice - absolutely no voice - for the om. I couldn't find anything but this squeaky short puff. Where did my voice go? And why was I so breathless? Fear. Fear of what? Therein lie the demons. I have no idea, but I know it is not a good state in which to be stuck.
I made it through, and felt very good by the end of the session.  We spent the whole time sitting or lying down, so no return yet to postures of balance and stamina. But I don't have to be at the balance and stamina place right now, do I? Breathing and stretching work. Restoring the body works. So once again, I've had the experience of resisting something, finally doing it, and coming out better for it.  So much energy in resistance, so little payback.  I like the 're' part of re-store, as it's a good reminder that one can go back and replenish what is missing.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Weather or Not

I know a woman who refuses to talk about the weather.  "The weather? Old people talk about the weather because it's the only thing they have left to talk about - except the traffic if they are in a car."
Well, color me geezer. I'm sort of obsessed with the weather. It is a relatively new phenomenon, so maybe it is an old person's thing. But I think of it more as a litmus test, a symbol, metaphor, message to deal with every day. It has so much to do with my weather.  Like most people, I love the warmth of sun (but not too much), love the dark, heavy rain or snow days, but detest the dark days, the grey days that don't have the accompanying storm elements. The storm elements give us license to withdraw, to nestle in, and succumb to the elements.
On the other hand, the dreary days are more of a Rorschach; I look at the weather and see myself.  Those are the days that it seems to take all the strength not be dreary also.  That's not very Celtic of me, not very New Englandish is it, and certainly not very Pacific western. But I live in CO now, and somehow expect the sun to shine and to be comfortable outside most of the time. Too much believing the advertising hype, I suspect.
Back to what conversations are banned because they are talk of the old, the aged: The weather. Illness - yours, mine or anyone's - in public places. Constipation. Death. Food on vacation. Grandchildren who are smart. Feet that hurt. Thank you notes that haven't come.
  I don't know why it's 'old' to talk about food, but I have friends who swear it is.  Why is it ok for someone 20 or 40 to talk about the gelato in Florence, but old to talk about it at 60 or 70?  Beats me.  I know the Old Age Police aren't everywhere, but I have the misfortune of knowing several of them.
So in honor of those Old Age Police, I just want to say I am thrilled the sun is shining this afternoon, and equally thrilled to be going out to dinner tonight. I'll save the rest for later. But my grandchildren are brilliant.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Six Months Gone

It's been more than six months since I last blogged. But today is decision day - I'm back at it, and hope to make this meaningful.  First, the details - or some of them - from the six-month hiatus. 
I signed off in India in December, headed back to Denver for three days and then on the FL to meet my whole big beautiful family for the holidays. Delray Beach.
I was home three days earlier than Roscoe in order to prepare for the trip to FL, but found myself sick - chilled, horrible stomach pains and pains of just being full and bloated. Delhi belly, I thought. We made it to the beach house and through Christmas Day with the whole family around bustling in the kitchen, exchanging gifts and just being merry. But they finally did an intervention on me and convinced me to go to the emergency room Christmas night, as I just was not feeling any better.
Long story short - diagnosis of ovarian cancer 111, colon and intestine involved, and thus began my major surgery, days in intensive care, and finally the end of January out of the hospital.  Back to CO and then back to FL one more time and then on to chemo in CO. During this time I bonded so closely with my family that it's hard to imagine life before this connectedness. I am so close to Rob and Chris that my love for my two sons is immeasurable. And Garrett and Terry, Jane Alyssa, Elena, Tara, Emma, Colin......people only dream of what has happened to me because of this cancer. It is so amazing, and such a God-gift. And Roscoe - my hero of heroes - solid, to the core love and relentless support.  I am graced with love, support, unconditional love.
So that's part of the story.  And my friends -- again, unconditional, relentless love and support. This is all worthy of a long blog, a detailed chapter naming names, thoughts and acts, but that is for another time. The goal of this entry is to get me back at the blog.  Goal Number One for today.
I've had some physical challenges, but the round of chemo is over and hope is that my incision, free of chemo interference, will heal. And after a PET scan at 6 weeks, I'll be on a three-month doc visit schedule. And my hair will grow back and I'll be able to do whatever suits me.
The question is: What suits me? I've been struggling the last couple of weeks with finding discipline and meaning in my days.  Didn't have this problem before the cancer and didn't have it during the weeks of being really weak and in early recovery. But now I feel hit over the head with the question: So what are you going to do with your one wild and wonderful life, asks Mary Oliver.
To quote Mary Oliver again, she says:  Instructions for Living a Life
                                                              Pay Attention
                                                              Be Astonished
                                                               Tell About It.

Well, the past six months are gone.... I paid some attention, was astonished, but didn't tell much about it. Now I am looking forward. I want to pay attention, be astonished by things great and small, and tell about in on this blog. I don't want to dwell on the cancer and my wrestling with that, although I suspect the topic will come up. It's an existential being, living with ovarian cancer (or any cancer), learning how to live in the moment, to not dwell on the morbid or be pollyannish, to make plans for the future because that is how we get to go places and visit people. . . to live with gratitude and not dread.  These were much easier to do when I was in good health. The job appears enormous right now, and that is with a cast of supporting characters who will carry me anywhere and support my every move, and whose hearts are filled with love for me. So,
a long story short.... I am back to blog. Hope you stay with me.