After a lot of thinking and talking, and frankly quite a lot of reassuring by CK, I've decided to take off most of November to recover somewhat from the past nearly 18 months of unrelenting yak-shaving, missed lunches, canceled yoga class, and late nights at work. The Project from Hell lurches ever onward, only it will do so without me for a little pause.
CK has been calling it my sabbatical. Her goal is that I start to sleep more regularly, more often, and get some rest from the intensity that took off in January 2011 with all the Mom Drama and has really not let up since. I'm also on hand to coordinate meetings, visits, etc. for Mom to transition to a different living environment.
I hope I might actually make a little art. Another casualty of the past months is art as a kind of practice. I've joined the Portland Collage Artists Guild group which meets once a month to learn about techniques and work on projects. The December meeting includes a blind gift exchange of personally made artwork. So I have a goal and a deadline for that!
I'm going to try and write about each day.
Today I woke up a bit later than I normally would and took care of the morning routine without the usual rush of needing to get out to my office. I then went over to the Southwest Community Center for a deep water exercise class. I've not done one of these in well over a year and in the year+ we've lived in our new neighborhood, I hadn't been the community center. I was careful and very mindful of my shoulders and neck, which felt a little sore by 3pm. My lower back felt better immediately.
I've ran an errand and did several chores around the house. In the evening I went to a concert with a friend. We went to see Richard Thompson opening up for Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. I somehow thought "doors at 7" meant the seating doors, and rushed to get to the venue before 6:45. My friend had just arrived too. We then realized the error and reminded ourselves that this show had assigned seats and went next door for a cocktail.
Although there's really nothing on the menu I can eat at the Heathman Hotel, aside from olives and nuts, one of the sections of the hotel is this posh, grand old lounge with comfy chairs. I first went there in my early 20s and really was charmed. CK took me there for pre-birthday-dinner cocktails a few years ago and I was reminded how lovely and elegant I find it. Getting to pop in unplanned was a nice treat; we toasted my month of respite.
The whole show was very good. Richard Thompson, who we both really went to see, was fantastic. I left wishing the whole show had been just his music. I've been a fan since college but have never seen him perform live. Next time he's in town, as the headline, I'm going to make sure I don't miss getting tickets like I did earlier this year.
My Mom was married to my step-father for nearly 25 years, so he's really the person I think of when I say "Dad". He died in December 2000. I was outside, fixing his reindeer lawn ornament, when he actually died. I held his hand for several minutes when I came in before taking off his wedding ring and putting it on my own hand.
I wore it for a few years until I'd lost so much weight I was afraid I'd lose it. I still have it and a small handful of his other things. I continue to miss him, including his inability to express his emotions well.
When I was 24 my biological father got back in touch with me and we had a strained, uneasy relationship for about 6 years before he died in November 2001. I have his discharge papers, some slides and a handful of photographs. Mostly all from before I was even born.
Both of them died because they wouldn't give up the things that were killing them. Both of them were alcoholic smokers. Dad was a Seagram's drinker and he went from unfiltered Pall Mall cigarettes to filtered Camels. My biological father was a vodka man and I can't recall what brand he smoked, but a cigarette was never far. I'm sure also had an addiction to the array of prescription pain medications he took.
My Dad felt a real sense of entitlement about his addiction, particularly to alcohol. He felt like he worked hard and he paid the majority of all the household bills, so he deserved that bedtime drink. As the size of that drink grew, the Seagram's nearly filling the glass and the 7-Up just floating over the top, he told us he just needed it to relax so he could get a good night's sleep before working hard the following day. He never tried to excuse the cigarettes this way, but in the end he was hiding them and sneaking around for a smoke as CPOD raced with cirrhosis to kill him. The coroner's statement said his liver "won" the race to the end.
My biological father had similar ways of excusing his drinking. His drinking was actually far worse than my Dad's, who was a bedtime and weekend drunk. My Father often nursed a vodka all day long, took his Oxycotin with it. Once I realized this, I stopped riding in a vehicle with him. He would wax poetic on being a vet. Vietnam was his entitlement to his addiction. A massive coronary in his sleep would take him out.
These men play into my life tremendously. If you ask me about becoming a vegan and choosing health for myself, my Dad and my Father are certainly behind it. They left me in this world feeling like I wasn't important enough.
Yeah, they loved me in their own flawed, dysfunctional ways. I know that. I also know that when it came down to choosing health and being a part of my life, they turned again and again to the things that were clearly killing them. Sure, quitting is hard, I get that, but if you don't even try what kind of message do you send to the people who love you, particularly your kid?
The lesson they taught me is that the best thing you give to your family is your life. You do the hard work to make sure you're here for them. Sure, sometimes we get caught unawares and no healthy choice we make can fix it. That said, if you're out there choosing something that's killing you and not even trying, well there's a good chance that when you're gone there will be someone feeling like they weren't worth the effort.
I never want to leave my wife, my kid, my friends, my mother, or anyone who loves me feeling like I didn't care enough to do the hard work for them. It is what we should do. We show up, we do the hard work so those people know that they're worth the effort of living for them.
I've gained some weight over the past four busy, stressful, joyful, hard years. The "why" is easy, I know myself and it isn't hard to figure out. Stress makes me crave carbohydrates, preferably in the form of cake, and fat, in the form of fried potatoes. Portland has a number of awesome bakeries and numerous places to get very tasty potatoes fried in oil. I've been able to mostly look at this weight gain with compassion and try not to let my self-criticism over it get the best of me. It is a good time to practice Metta for myself, but then again it is always a good time for me to practice Metta for myself!
Mindful of the weight gain, and my desire to do my very best to be here in good health for those who love me, in the past couple of weeks I've committed to being very mindful about food, eating very healthfully, and making a point to exercise some every day, at least 25 minutes. I'm taking inspiration, particularly in regards to food from Eat to Live.
When I was losing a much more serious amount of weight I found tracking calories and exercise really helped me understand more about what I was eating. I used a site called FitDay for quite some time to do this. It worked pretty well, but was less than ideal.
The thing I found the most difficult with FitDay was a limited food database, at least for a vegan. I spent so much time meticulously entering nutrition details and trying to deconstruct what was in my food in order to add it. Doing so was worth it and taught me a lot, but it was tedious and took up a lot of my time.
Fast forward to now and I have a smart phone to add to the mix, so I set out to find out what else was out there for both a web site and an Android application for my phone. I started using a site called MyFitnessPal and am finding the site very easy to use and the Android application is very quick. What's even better is the database of food!
I stumbled across several brand-name products, like Soy Curls in the food database. Then I started searching and found several recipes from favorite cookbooks and websites I use a lot. What I realized is that each time someone goes to the effort to manually input all these details, it is added to the database for everyone to use! There's also a community access and I've connected to other vegans working on weight loss, fitness and generally focusing on a healthier lifestyle.
And it is working, of course. Since I started tracking things on October 12 I've already lost 6.8 pounds. In fact I want to be mindful of not losing too quickly, but things might slow down after this initial kick-start of energy.
When people ask me how I've lost 130 (at this point) pounds and I tell them that being vegan in and of itself it is a huge help, but aside from that I watch what I eat and exercise more. That's it. No magic formula. No pill. No miracle.
Calories in/Calories out
I'm focusing on the type of calories quite a bit, that's the influence of Eat to Live, so even more veggies and more beans. I love tofu and tempeh, but am using a little less of it to keep calories down. Even with trying to keep to a fairly specific low-fat diet, it has been easy to mindfully include occasional indulges like a biscuits & gravy brunch, a pint of beer, tofu salad rolls with peanut sauce, and even a few kettle-style potato chips with my lunch today with CK.
I didn't intend to write a strong statement about National Breast Cancer Awareness month and then say nothing else. I've actually had all kinds of ideas kicking around my mind to write about this past month, but I've been sick and have had some job interviews. Then there are the home improvement plans that are underway (new furnace, advanced weatherization). These plans require that we pack up and store most of the furniture and stuff on the first floor. I also got my new food blog as well as the total revamp of this blog up with CK's considerable help.
So it has been busy since I posted about breast cancer. I realize that I rather glad it worked out this way. My statement against the national pinkwashing that breast cancer awareness has become stood there for the whole of the month of October. It has been an interesting experience putting myself out there with that post.
I've been absolutely stunned at the overwhelmingly positive response my post has received. In addition to comments on the blog itself, I have received compliments on Facebook, Twitter and during a phone call with a technology recruiting agency. I have received a lot of appreciation for making so firm and courageous statement. I've been thanked for saying something many people have felt, but have been afraid to express for fear of negative push back.
That brings me right to "The Nay-Sayers", those people who did not agree with my viewpoint. There have been a handful of these people and I want to acknowledge that a small minority disagreed with me. You can see the comments attached to my post, some were made on Facebook.
Some merely commented that they thought the bit of fun from a Facebook meme used to remind people that breast cancer is still out there, still scary was totally wanted. Humor helps us to find strength in the face of fear. Humor helps many patients, my Mom included, get through the ugliness of breast cancer. Fair enough.
Another person said that so long as pink ribbons on ridiculous products saved one woman's breast than it is worth it. Honestly, I don't have a lot to say about that other than to point at the message some of those pink products are sending and more importantly, look at where the money goes.
Then there's the more strident detractors. To date there's been three people who've posted rather seriously negative stuff to the blog. I moderate and approve all comments and when the first of these came in, I'd hoped to respond directly to the sender but found that her comment resolved to a blocked Blogger account. Each of the more seriously negative comments have had this kind of anonymous post; a first name but no real way to connect to the person (essentially anonymous).
I have devoted a fair amount of time considering how to respond to them (if at all) and wondering if I should even post these comments at all. One of the negative comments came complete with what I feel is a rather mean-spirited comment about the person who had posted a link to my blog on her Facebook page (I've removed this bit from her comment). All of these comments have lead me to consider how I want to handle them going forth. In fact, you'll notice on the new blog an email address is required to post comments. I've also published a disclaimer and my policy regarding comments.
Ultimately I decided to post these three comments I've been holding. You can go wade through all the comments to find them if you want. I've also decided that although I did publish them, I'm not responding directly to these comments.
What I will say is that I'm all for reminding people to take care of themselves. I'm all for supporting our loved ones who survived, like my Mother (emphasis as a reminder to those people who somehow missed that I'm the daughter of a two-time breast cancer survivor). I'm equally for remembering all of those people who have not survived (including several of my friends' mothers). I'm emphatically for publicizing this disease and taking away any stigma associated with anyone who is struggling with cancer of any kind. Or frankly any kind of stigma associated with fighting any grave illness.
I'm really not that bothered by anyone being "proudly pink", as one person said. Whatever. Just don't expect me to go out and buy myself a case of bottled water (or anything else for that matter) with pink ribbons on it to support "awareness".
I think we have spent a hell of a lot of money on "awareness" while the efforts to understand WHY have been underfunded, at worst, and uncoordinated, at best. Yes, there is a whole lot of funding that goes to treatment, curing breast cancer, and that's great. I'm all for finding better treatments that don't disfigure and poison patients.
That said, funding more "awareness" avoids my question: Why is breast cancer still so common after all this awareness has been raised?
Buying "awareness" does not bring us any closer to understanding why. I'd like to see the same level of energy dedicated to "awareness" directed toward understanding and eradicating the causes.
I'd like answers, not more "awareness".
Ahhh, October... there's a crisp bite to the air, the leaves have begun to fall, there's 50 pounds of apples in my refrigerator, and I'm once again bombarded by the nauseating pinkness of "National Breast Cancer Awareness Month."
For years it has just been the ever increasing tide of pink consumer crap in the stores, and that has been bad enough. However, for the past two Octobers I've watched cutesy memes take over Facebook. Last year it was women coyly posting the color of their bras in their status updates. When it finally started to come out that bras, therefore, breasts, were the topic at hand I'm sure everyone rushed to donate to the Komen Foundation (more on them later). This year it is the suggestion that we post where we like to put our purses when we get home, e.g., "I like it on the table".
Now, leaving aside my irritation at the assumptions that only women get breast cancer (they don't) or that all women carry purses (they don't), I'm just left with the annoyance that not only does this juvenile status update meme have absolutely nothing to due with breast cancer, but that it uses breast cancer as the reason to make some kind of sexualized joke. How does this puerile humor have anything at all to do with breast cancer? Once again, do you see this kind of nonsense and rush right out to buy something pink or donate money to Komen?
Yes, you might think that I'm being a stick in the mud about this. I mean shouldn't I just lighten up and enjoy the whimsy? Isn't this just a harmless joke used to raise awareness?
To those who might say I'm being shrill and a kill-joy, I say:
Really, is anyone in the western world not aware of breast cancer at this point? Seriously?
If there are people unaware, perhaps it because they are buried under the load of pink consumer crap and juvenile Internet memes that we're bombarded with every October. So much money is spent on enticing us to buy pink M&Ms (yes, really) and BMWs (yes, really) that we're hopefully distracted from the lack of funding that goes to understanding the causes of breast cancer and the utter disorganization of those efforts.
We're so pinkwashed that we hopefully won't notice that many of the companies with products directly related to causing breast cancer are funding our "awareness". Those companies hope that we'll be so charmed by all the pink and whimsy that we won't ask them why the hell they're still producing the crap that is killing us.
Keep in mind that the "National Breast Cancer Awareness Month" was created by a drug company that is now called AstraZeneca. Yes, that's the same company that in addition to producing & hugely profiting off of breast cancer treatment drugs, also profited substantially off the sale of an herbicide known to cause cancer. That alone makes me question all of the happy, cheerful messages designed to raise my "awareness".
I am bashing the Komen Foundation, that sacred pink cow of breast cancer activism, a little bit too. After all, Komen manages to blithely take in thousands in contributions from the very chemical companies who market products that cause breast cancer! They put on these hugely expensive races and events that push mammograms and say nothing about the causes or prevention. This is the very same organization that helps market pink cars while ignoring the powerful link between a chemical produced in the exhaust of cars, benzo(a)-pyrene, that is one of the most powerful carcinogens known and was connected directly to breast cancer by the Peralta Cancer Research Institute in the 1980s. Yeah, go Komen...
What can you do? Well, know your risk and make efforts to reduce it.
- There is a lot of evidence that shows that maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise, having moderate or no alcohol consumption, and following a diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains is beneficial.
- Buy organic if possible as many herbicides and pesticides have also been linked to breast and other types of cancer. I totally sympathize to the economic barriers to this suggestion and know this is not an option for a lot of people, but if you can, buy organic.
- There are known links between r-GBH (recombinant bovine growth hormone - used on dairy cows) and breast cancer.
- A healthy vegan diet has many benefits; reducing the risk of cancer is only one of them. Yes, this is one of the many reasons I am vegan.
- Get your vitamin D level checked, particularly if you live in the Pacific Northwest like I do. There have been several studies linking low levels of vitamin D to cancer, particularly breast cancer. People in the Pacific Northwest are known for being chronically low in vitamin D.
Check out Breast Cancer Action, an organization I think is doing things right. They aren't busy "going pink", they are demanding action to reduce causes, educate people (not sell them pink crap), and find more effective, less toxic treatments.
All of this is said from my perspective as the daughter of a two-time breast cancer survivor. Yes, that puts me in a higher risk category and I take it very seriously.
I have been on a bit of a cleaning frenzy since yesterday. The house had become hugely chaotic with stuff not put away. It was just a mess, truly, and bugging both of us. Merely moving some things down to the basement where they belong (yoga props I'd loaned to a Dharma sister) and getting some things taken to our respective offices made a lot of difference. Today I've vacuumed, dusted, sorted, and organized some. That and laundry - I'm kind of tired, but it feels good to have things cleaner.
Amidst all of that frenzy, while dusting, my cane caught my eye. It is mixed in with rolled up yoga mats, hiking poles, and an old paper umbrella. The handle of it was covered in a rather thick layer of dust.
As I cleaned it off I was struck at how long it has been since I've used it. From 2000 until well into 2004 I would use it occasionally when the pain and weakness in my hips would necessitate the extra assist. I purchased a cool, lightweight one with the ability to be broken down like a tent pole. People commented on it a lot for the coolness factor and they were mostly too polite to comment on a woman in her 30s using one. I generally resented the hell out of it but admitted that I really needed it.
I'm not exactly sure when I moved my cane into the cluster of stuff. Sometime in the past couple of years it took up residence with the hiking poles, which feel like an accomplishment instead of an accommodation. My third yoga mat. CK's mat. The paper umbrella I've had for years; I've been pondering how to repair a tear in it and re-purpose into an art project. The cane had an impressive amount of dust on it.
I'm also not entirely sure when I stopped using it, even very occasionally. At some point it just became a thing in my house that I never interacted with. I didn't need it, so I never went looking for it.
What I am aware of is the meaning of that dusty handle. The lack of use, the accumulation of dust as the cane sits next to my scratched up hiking poles is a testament to my Yoga practice and to the hundreds I've spent on one form of therapy, including body work, or the other. Amusingly enough the dust is a rather powerful indicator of progress.
Yeah, there's still a truly mechanical failure I deal with. It does affect me, but now it is just another part of my physical practice. Tomorrow I'll probably really feel all the cleaning and organizing I've been doing the past couple of days. I'll most likely be moving a little slower, a little more cautiously. I might wake up with a bit of a groan.
Even still, I won't need that cane.
I had my first visit with an acupuncturist today. It surprises people that I've not tried acupuncture to help with my back pain, but I have had some resistance to it. I think there's some child-part of me that went through so many medical procedures as a child that I just had a hard time looking into this. It is one of the few things I haven't investigated.
I've been having the muscle spasms more frequently and some stuff seems so stuck. So I finally asked IW for a referral. Her connection apparently has got me on the list of an acupuncturist that's difficult to see as he doesn't usually take new clients. My massage therapist even tried to see him once and couldn't get an appointment! JS specializes in a older school/style of acupuncture, Classical Five Element.
He was very quick to put me at ease and we talked about my back pain as well as touched upon some of the assorted trauma I've been through in my life. He was interested to hear about things I've encountered during sesshin practice as well. We also talked about general medical stuff, like medications, supplements, etc.
CK was there for most of the time spent during the actual procedure. As I've been told, the needles (which really reminded me of the cats' whiskers more than a needle) barely hurt at all. The first session I spent a long time with the seven needles in for quite a long time and my body had some interesting reactions. I was really grateful CK was there. Although I didn't feel the same level of anxiety that I get at a lot of physical exams & some dental appointments, it was still comforting to be present to my body's reactions with her nearby.
I left feeling tired and heavy. Not in a lethargic, mired down kind of way. Just the sensation of the weight of my body parts as I tried to move them. I got home, had some leftovers for lunch and took a couple of calls. JS had suggested that I try to nap or rest some today, especially before teaching tonight, but I felt fairly energized. I worked on some art projects for a little while and eventually lay down for a little bit.
Teaching tonight felt pretty good. The heavy feeling had subsided somewhat and the series of twists and warrior poses I did seemed to shake it off. Afterward I went and steamed at the gym, deciding to add to the energy cleansing quality of the acupuncture and the twists, with the chance to warm up to my core and sweat out any toxins. I felt really energized by the time I had a cool shower.
I'm seeing JS again on Thursday then once a week for a few weeks. I'm using some money from savings to cover the appointments. I think it is really worth trying to get at this energy that seems stuck in my body. CK also mentioned to me that I should let her know if I needed some money from her to make things not as tight this month - which brought up the usual mix of anxiety & guilt, but I gently reminded myself that it really is OK that she helps me when I need her to and that she won't be angry at me for it.
Very curious to see how I'll feel in the morning after the class and the long acupuncture session. I'm supposed to stay away from alcohol (not a big deal) and coffee (a disappointment) for the next little bit. He suggested I have as much green tea as I like, so it will be good for me to switch from my pots of black tea & regular lattes for a little while.
I am waking up with a lot more energy the past few days. I still reach a point during the day or evening where I am suddenly just worn out. Right now I have a pile of skin from some Delicata squash I roasted earlier. We've been enjoying the thin skin of the squash lightly coated in oil then roasted low until it is crispy.
But I had an enormous pile of phone calls today then rushed around getting stuff together to make a great dinner, vacuumed the front rooms & hall, and cleaned up a bit. We met with our insurance agent for the oh-so-boring and "grown-up" task of discussing life insurance. After he left we had the most marvelous dinner (squash casserole, no recipe yet), watched an episode of Big Bang Theory (CK has introduced me to this and we're watching back episodes online). I've cleaned up a bit, CK made chocolate almond biscotti, and I just ran out of steam.
I'm trying to remember that I've apparently had a low-level infection for quite some time. I'm taking enormous doses of antibiotics. I have chronic pain, which tires me too. It isn't unreasonable that I'm prone to running out of energy. Sure it is a great opportunity to practice with the body, with the impatience I feel with it, but I'd honestly like a little break.
It has let me look at the exhaustion I felt during the Grasses, Trees & Great Earth sesshin in August. I suddenly was stopped and some of the exhaustion from the infection was able to express itself. That little crack opened by the actual physical illness I was fighting, present to it without the distractions of work, life, etc. opened me up to feel a deeper exhaustion within me. It was so utterly consuming, I had the sense of never having had enough rest in my whole life.
The first time I saw Chozen for sanzen I told her about the exhaustion. Not just a drowsiness of wanting to avoid being present, but a cellular weariness. I said that I was so tired, so warn out that even my Inner Critic wasn't getting much traction on me. It was if a very young version of myself was saying plaintively, "Oh go away. I don't feel good."
She told me to do the most restful practice I could. It was unusual to have even my Inner Critic silenced by anything at all. I would find myself sliding in and out of a very heightened awareness of the sound of the rain. I'd be watching it fall, hearing the different sounds of it as the water connected back to the earth, and drift off to a very light sleep. When I'd open my eyes it would feel as though I was blinking very slowly. The whole world seemed to move slowly.
The whole of the sesshin I was in a present, slow state of alertness and sleep. During every break I'd crawl into my bed, under the blankets and fall immediately to sleep until the bell rang. At night, when sitting ended, I'd take a hot shower to loosen up my back & hips, crawl into bed again and fall asleep. I experienced very little insomnia, for me. This is significant since I actually cannot recall not having insomnia.
During zazen I might drift off, but not know it. It would only have that lazy, strange sensation as if I'd just blinked very slowly. My Inner Critic never grew loud during these times, never berated me for my bad practice. I just let myself be present to the exhaustion I felt.
I felt rested by the time I left. Slow moving still, but not as brittle & bright feeling as I'd felt leaving the Loving-Kindness sesshin in April. I felt profoundly grateful at the end of our last early morning zazen.
I'm trying to be mindful of how judging I can be of my energy level away from the container of sesshin practice. How quick I am to either bemoan my lack of energy or prod myself to get just one more chore done. How unwilling I am to just be present to the sensation of being tired, the sensation of the body needing rest to heal.
Last Friday I was diagnosed with what may be the same sinus infection I was fighting in the spring. This was my doctor's thoughts on why I've also been having hives occasionally as well as some distortion happening in my left eye. Bacterial infections can start to cause systemic allergic reactions - this explains the hives. The visual distortion may be migraine being tiggered by having had a sinus infection for this long.
Ugh. I'm on a second round of antibiotics now, much stronger ones. Hopefully this really knocks this out. The nearly constant head ache combined with the usual 3-7 level of pain my hips & back has me feeling worn out. I've even been napping, which I don't do unless truly sick.
Enough kvetching about being ill and on to the poetry!
I had an Amazon gift certificate and today my "prizes" arrived. I haven't been writing much poetry, but it really seems to be what I've been reading lately. I think the books of poetry have been edging out the fiction and non-fiction on my nightstand. Today, I added 3 more poetry books: New and Selected Poems (volumes One & Two) by Mary Oliver and The Gift
by Hafiz (which CK nearly purchased for me for my birthday but instead choose two marvelous editions of Rumi's writing).
And on that note I am off to lay around with a bag of hot flax seeds on my head and hopefully dream peaceful dreams. Here is some Hafiz:
For no reason
I start skipping like a child.
For no reason
I turn into a leaf
That is carried so high
I kiss the Sun's mouth
For no reason
A thousand birds
Choose my head for a conference table,
Start passing their cups of wine
And their wild songbooks all around.
For every reason in existence
I begin to eternally,
To eternally laugh and love!
When I turn itno a leaf
And start dancing,
I run to kiss our beautiful Friend
And I dissolve in the Truth
That I am.
Metta is the only thing we need Chozen reminded us again and again in April. It is the most vital tool to get one through all that has happened, all that may happen, all the myriad ways of suffering we encounter in our lives. Whenever we are feeling anxious or sad, do Metta practice.
It isn't just words. We have to mean it, we must cultivate an attitude of loving-kindness for our bodies. Without that love for the very body that moves the concept of "self" around, as well as love for that collection of memories, reactions, and ideas that is the "self", we cannot sustain ourselves. We easily fall into behaviors that lead to ill health.
If we love others, want to be loving towards others, we must start with the love of the self. The most important thing we can do for our loved-ones is to be here, to be present, and open-hearted from a foundation of loving-kindness. Helping to alleviate the suffering of others means being around to do so.
I had news about MJ today, not very good news. She still isn't stabilized and could quite easily have another stroke. She has slurred speech and quite a lot of body impairment. She has experienced some cognitive damage as well.
MJ doesn't recognize her daughter and thinks she's a nurse. MJ keeps telling the daughter, through very slurred speech and thinking she's a nurse, that she is so reminded of her daughter. They are considering calling her son to come home from Minnesota where he's working right now. It is possible that she may not recover much past this point and need assisted care for the rest of her life. There's a chance she may not even live.
As a kid MJ seemed so much older. When I would visit during the summer, quite often for a month at a time, she would drive me around. She was sweet to me and generally pleasant, but quite often seemed far removed and onto her adult life already. At some point growing up I realized that MJ was not actually that much older than I.
High blood pressure, diabetes, morbid obesity and a stubborn refusal to go to a doctor. Every time I would see MJ these past few years I would think that she really needed to loose some weight. I was concerned for her, it really wasn't just a few extra pounds, it was a problem.
Kind of a tough note to start sesshin on, although I suppose if not this then something else would pop up. I feel rather shocked and rattled by this news. More than anything it is the double-wammy of this news combined with my friend's cancer news. I'm also just really struck again at the ways people avoid taking care of themselves. MJ particularly avoided truly taking care of herself, putting it off, not wanting to think about it.
It is just kind of hard to watch sometimes. Sending her Metta, all that can be done.