How Lucky We Are

Near misses are ubiquitous. I nearly died twice, that I’m aware of – those really close calls. When I was 19 I felt the breeze of a motorcycle as I almost stepped into its speeding path crossing a busy street, but my sister pulled me back from disaster. The motorcyclist stopped and, visibly shaken, asked if I was alright. I had no idea what had nearly happened – only that I felt a slight breeze and didn’t understand why my sister tugged on me. It was only reflecting later that I had a stomach drop realizing I narrowly missed disaster, if not death.

That same summer I toppled over while attempting a yoga pose that I thought I should be advanced enough to do, hearing a couple of crunches in my neck as I landed. I stayed there nearly an hour before my sister got home, fearing a broken neck. Luckily, but also unluckily, I didn’t break my neck, but I did damage two discs, which caused great intermittent pain ever since, but I finally had surgery a few years ago when my spinal column had become so thin that I was in danger of paralysis.

I waited ten years, hoping that advances in surgery would make a complicated and dangerous surgery less complicated and dangerous, but achieved the opposite. Replacement discs were available once I finally had surgery, but my neck was so bad I was no longer a candidate for them…

I lost two major nerves from my neck due to that surgery, but not because of surgeon negligence. He was an amazing surgeon who did a fantastic job with a super delicate surgery. It took nearly a year before I had any use of my arm, which dangled from its socket, causing a frozen shoulder, and considerable pain, as well as years of physical therapy which I am still doing. I am chronically weak in my left arm, but I can move it now, and went from only able to lift 3 lbs to now lifting 8 lbs, while my right arm can press 30 lbs.

It took EMS, or electro-magnetic stimulation, to fire the muscle fibers in my atrophied arm while the nerves grew back. It felt like a gang of bees stinging me, but I gained muscle back.

My one criticism of the surgery was after-care. I found out about EMS on my own, not from the surgical department. I also found a neurological chiropractor trying an experimental therapy which greatly improved my progress, but I found out about that from a spiritual healer, not my regular chiropractor, or other medical practitioners.

I also found out about Tong Ren from my spiritual healer friend, which also helped, but not as much as the mirroring technique from the neurological chiropractor. He told me I lost valuable healing time because it was over two months before learning about EMS, time which the EMS could have been most beneficial. The neurological chiropractor directed me to experimental mirroring, where I would stand with my left shoulder against and somewhat behind a free-standing mirror so that when I looked in the mirror, my brain registered my right arm as my left arm.

I could feel my left arm responding to the exercises I was doing with my right arm, which was pretty cool, but because the nerves were renewing, I still couldn’t move my arm on its own.

Losing motion in my arm gave me great respect for my neurological system and the billions of motions we accomplish from thought to nerve firing. We are truly fantastic machines.

But we are also fragile machines. We are so easily wiped out, either by disease, by congenital disorders, by accident, or by life’s hostilities, such as animal attacks and poisoning, natural disasters, or ourselves, and other humans.

Especially ourselves and other humans. How many times have any of us driven, or been riding in a vehicle, and come a millisecond, or a mere inch from disaster? We all know of those not so lucky, or are perhaps among those not so lucky, but survived.

I think this post is about gratitude for how long I’ve endured, and acknowledgement of how amazing it is any of us make it out of childhood or young adulthood – before our frontal lobes are fully developed – and even after we’re fully connected in our brains and still do stupid things that we barely escape serious or life-ending consequences for.

Life-ing is hard. Be good to yourself – and others (as much as possible).

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

Write Now

I have the writer’s nemesis: writer’s block. It’s why I have several half-finished stories.

This is a big part of my shame, the parts of me I wish I could surgically remove and join the doer world.

Books, articles, videos, podcasts, psychiatrists have been consulted – and I still procrastinate.

The controlling editor in my head won’t let me write a sentence in peace – there’s no ‘getting it out and edit later’ for me.

But writing calls to me anyway.

Writing is this beautiful, unhampered soul just waiting for me to get over myself and create. Why does that terrify me?

It’s a rhetorical question. I know the answer, or at least I’ve been given several explanations from the above list of resources – especially the psych docs.

Information is power, sure, and I’m writing now because this is a chunk. This isn’t fraught like finishing a story is.

It’s important that I write – even if it’s never published – even if no one likes it.

I’m writing because it’s what I must do. I just know, or believe, I can be and do better.

Living up to my potential is what life’s waiting for me to do, and I’m only a chronic disappointment to myself, and probably my mother, and possibly my family and everyone who knows me.

Except that’s part of the big lie the boogeyman in my head blocks me with. I give my energy, witting or unwitting, to fear. The unwitting I can do nothing about, but the part of me that knows has to step in and, gently (for me anyway), take pen in hand – or keyboard – and begin.

Maybe I’ll be found a failure and a fraud, but how can I fail any worse than I already have by never following through?

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

 

 

Support Wishes

There are so many crowd-funded creations I wish I could support, and wish I could own!  One of my favorites is the Ombee adjustable stand up desk with swivel pads for standing and eliminating fatigue.

Another is the Stand desk, but that’s more expensive, and not mobile like the Ombee stand up desk.

I’d like to market my music with crowd-funding, but I don’t have any videos, and most of my songs are in the rough cut stage, so I have to afford studio time to make them marketable.

Several years ago, I purchased a share in, Story Forge, when I had $5 bucks to spare.  It was nice to see the project funded, and I do like the cards.  They’re a great resource for story-telling.  My brain, however, fights all my efforts at consistency and overcoming procrastination, but some new tools I got from Learning How To Learn have helping me advance my writing work.

If I could even purchase the anti-fatigue mats from Ombee,

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ombee-the-modular-and-mobile-stand-up-desk#/
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ombee-the-modular-and-mobile-stand-up-desk#/

that would be a great help in my ability to keep working at my make-shift stand-up desk called the kitchen counter and a few thick books. 🙂

I’m working long-distance with my writing partner now, and while slow, at least I’ve made more progress with her than I have on my own for many years.

The time of year plays a big role in my depression, often over-taking me mid-winter through early spring.  Light box therapy, and a new antidepressant I’m hoping will get me through the roughest spots this year – fingers crossed! – and I’m doing my best to stay present rather than in regret from the past, or anxiety of the future.

All we’ve got is now.

But without education, training, and dedication to my mission, current efforts are doomed, so planning for the future is important too.  I’d rather have a reliable map than keep going off course into the scary wilds of my life.

my life map so far

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

 

 

I Wish I Had Learned This Sooner!

pomodoro timer

Do you find yourself procrastinating when there is a deadline approaching, or something unpleasant needs doing?  Welcome to the club!

However, in Learning How To Learn, a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) through Coursera.org, taught by Dr. Barbara Oakley, and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski, through, UC San Diego, I learned that procrastination can be overcome!  Understanding why procrastination happens, and what to do about it, has helped me enormously.

The pain center in our brain lights up when we’re faced with something we’d rather not do, so your brain experiences procrastination as a form of pain.  Staying in the process of what you’re working on, rather than focusing on the finish, or result, helps eliminate the ‘pain’ associated with what needs doing.

A great technique described in the course is setting a timer for 25 minutes, or perhaps a reasonable amount of time to complete, or make good progress, on the task, and rewarding yourself.  Maybe it’s a nap, a walk, or some other, healthy, bonus for working through your allotted time.  Known as, the Pomodoro Technique, this helps to focus on working, as well as setting a limit, while knowing you’ll give yourself a treat for work well done.

Another important aspect of the Learning How To Learn course, was understanding our two modes of thinking and learning.  We all know about the focused mode, but I didn’t know about the diffuse mode of learning and thinking.  This relaxed mode occurs when your attention is on other things like when you’re walking, or other exercise, or when you’re taking a shower, or just ‘spacing out’, as well as during sleep – as long as you were focusing on the problem(s) before going to sleep. Your brain works on problems when you’re not consciously focusing on them.

We sometimes gain insight into a difficult problem, or come up with seemingly random solutions, by letting go of our focused mode of attack, and giving our free-form, unconscious mind a chance to work on it.

Spaced-practice, or spaced-repetition, is another concept I learned that helped me a lot.  In learning how to play my guitar, I began by practicing for hours, going over notes, chords, theory, and playing, which got me bleeding fingers and not really much gelling in my head. When my fingers healed, I applied spaced learning by taking a break for a day, then returning to practicing no more than a half-hour a day (understand that it was super tough for me to let go of trying to master the guitar in a month…), and to my delight, I’ve begun understanding more, and next week I’ll be at Carnegie Hall!

OK, I’ll be cleaning Carnegie Hall, but one day I could be playing there!

There is so much more I gained through this course that this could be the longest blog post I’ve ever written, but I suggest Dr. Oakley’s wonderful book:

A Mind For Numbers, as well as taking Learning How To Learn, Dr. Oakley, and Dr. Sejnowski’s, 4-week MOOC, where they include lots of excellent guest-speaker videos that further illuminate their subject.

Happy learning all!

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

 

 

Paradoxical Life

I re-read that many suicidal people, if not most, want to end the pain, not their life.  Lately I wake, usually in serious pain, and my first thought is how I can die with the least suffering for those around me.  How and where to end my life, what arrangements I should make.

After moving around, or doing my PT stretches and core exercises, as well as just getting on with the day, the desire to die lessens, and I think about how to make my life more manageable and more pain-free.

Drugs definitely help the pain, but have other effects, like addiction, or severe itching, as well as other unpleasant side effects.

I don’t enjoy events, or my friends, as much as I used to.  It’s not a big leap to go from here to not here anymore.

Gray days like today increase my dark mood, and I have to remember that I have a full-spectrum light-box to start using this time of year.  I also turned on all the lights in the common area, so I’m not sitting in gloom.

Time-management is super tough for me.  The to-do list is large, and taunts me with nothing being checked off, except, I am writing.  I will make food.  Laundry is being done.  It wasn’t on the list, so I put it on, and cross it off.  Maybe more gets accomplished than I know, and I’ve created a poor list.

The new list reads:

Get out of bed

Exercise

Drink water

Eat something

Brush my teeth

Dress

Start household tasks

Tell myself I’m doing well.

Look at the big TO-DO list and see if there is one thing I can accomplish.  Can I do it now? Remember there is nothing I can do about the past.  Ask for forgiveness of self and others, and move on.  Focus on what is getting done – stay there.

I understand my day’s list is some else’s ten minutes, but that someone else probably isn’t anxious and depressed.  That someone manages well – has good skills.  I manage damn well for where I am.

Smile – even a half-smile – like an exercise move.  Stop the self-hate, and the judgement.

Breathe.

Keep breathing.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

 

Inside Out

Shame.

How small a word, how big a consequence.

It’s high summer, nearly the start of August, and I am unchanged.

The message board at a favorite pub has creative endeavors, artisans advertising their wares, therapeutic services offered from a High Priestess teaching you the true Wiccan way, to Reiki, and other esoteric healing arts, plastered over it.

My mind swirls with contradiction, dismissing, reviling, but also believing.  Shame enters.  I’m smarter than that, but I’m so desperate for help that anything sounds plausible.

Miracles happen, prayer sometimes works – or maybe it always works and the answer is no – or maybe it never works and yet sometimes seems to.

People describe angelic intervention, things beyond our understanding or perception. I’ve never experienced this, and I’ve asked, begged, screamed to the cosmos for help – for many years.

You can’t convince me that some god wanted my life this way.  That this is what I asked for, or what’s necessary.  Mental illness just is.  It’s not a punishment.

A therapist described medication as a tool to get you where you can deal with your messed-up perception.  So far, medication hasn’t worked for me.  I’ve tried different modalities, and suicide feels like the only definitive.

But what if I’m left with the hell in my head and this is the only place I have a hope of changing it?  Am I eternally screwed?  Am I in limbo, or purgatory, now?  Am I paying penance while I yet live?  Another therapist introduced a Sufi idea that suffering here brings great honor wherever we go from here.  I don’t want the honor.  I’d rather live without the hell.

Not all days are like this, but enough of them are.

I also get the irony that I am sitting on a beautiful screened porch, looking out over a gentle-sloping lawn, flower-filled fields, and forest area beyond.  Puffed clouds float easterly, while the Poplar trees shimmer in the breeze that also bends and waves the hay.  Various bird song and cricket chirping fills my ears along with the rising wind.  Heaven could hardly improve the scene.

What is wrong with me?

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

No Mount Washington – Boo, hoo?

My S. O. & I won a 3-day adventure trip through the AMC – Appalachian Mountain Club – from a sweepstakes form we filled out at the Boston Globe Travel Show this past February.

We drove up early Thursday morning, visiting a dear friend of mine in North Conway, New Hampshire, before heading out to the Highland Center at Crawford Notch, N. H., for the first night of our stay.  It was sunny, dry, and in the low 70°F’s.  We had supper at the center, met a lovely couple who gave us some suggestions of an easier hike the next morning before we headed up to the Mizpah Spring Hut, where we’d be spending our second night.

A fire alarm went off at 1:30 a.m., and I thought it was some AMC hyper-awareness drill, but it turned out there was an electrical fire that started in the basement.  We didn’t learn this until the next day.  What we knew is that a fire truck showed up about 15 or 20 minutes into the ‘drill’, and by then I figured out it was a real thing, and my S.O. ran back for something he needed, stupid in hindsight, but it’s not like there was smoke or open flames or anything.

An hour and a half or so, and three firetrucks later, I decided to go back up to our room and grab our backpacks so we could at least try to sleep in our car – having no idea if or when we’d get back, and my S.O. hung back while I surreptitiously made my way up to the third floor, ducking low to keep out of sight – my adrenaline surging – as I imagined the place blowing up before reaching our room. After a minute or so, my guy was there with me, grabbing what we could, freaked out about being discovered, and the trouble we’d be in for being colossally stupid.  It would have served us right to be burned up, but thankfully we weren’t. Were there open flames or smoke, I’d have counted my losses, and not risked it, but I figured we weren’t getting back in, and I wanted to go get some sleep.

About 5 minutes after retrieving our packs, we were given the all clear to go back in. I understand the risk I took, and I’m grateful it was as I suspected, and not a crisis situation.

Three hours, and no sleep later, we got breakfast, and hiked a mile and a half up a smaller trail that was twice as steep as any I’ve hiked so far, except Mt. Chochura, which we hiked two years ago.  The pay-off was astoundingly worth it:

Me at the top of Mt. Willard
Me at the top of Mt. Willard
S.O. at the top of Mt. Willard
Mt. Washington Trip
view from Mt. Willard
Mt. Washington Trip
Us on Mt. Willard
Us on Mt. Willard

After that, we hiked down and chilled out before heading out for Mizpah Spring Hut, which we’ve heard referred to as ‘a brief jaunt‘.  I guess they’re professional hikers because I was wiped out halfway up. A brief jaunt?  Are you kidding me?

I’m holding back the ‘f-bombs’ as one of my aunts reads this and feels it’s unnecessary.  I understand that, but still type my satisfying swears, and then backspace…

The temperature had climbed to near 80°F, and the sweat was starting to drip off me.  My S.O. fared better, but it wasn’t a skip in the woods for him either.

We had supper at the hut, which was the best part of our being there, outside of meeting some really great people, as well as some not so great ones, and some truly odd folks, but sleep mostly eluded me and my normally easy and deep-sleeping beau, being in a full capacity three triple-bunk room, and not much space to move around in.

Being a hut, there was no shower – even if it were simply cold water – and we forgot to pack in towels, reading that they were provided at the huts during the high season (not true).  The only paper product is toilet tissue (thank you, thank you, thank you), and I totally get it, but I HAVE NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE. I am not a super outdoorsy, mountaineering, person, and this didn’t charm me into becoming one.

We were supposed to continue to Mt. Washington, and stay at the Lake of the Clouds Hut, which sounds so fantastical, and dream-like, but it poured into the early hours, and was still lightly raining when we got up to have breakfast at 6:30 this morning.  We got out after 8 a.m., and headed for Mt. Pierce, where we decided to take the Crawford Path back down instead of trudging on into the 25 – 30 mph winds, rain, and thunderstorms forecast along the open ridge we’d be hiking.  Plus, the hiking boots I got had already given me a few blisters, and I had liners under my ‘smartwool’ hiking socks. The lovely Linda, a former nurse, and her friend, Carla, who had hiked up to stay for the weekend at Mizpah Hut, bandaged and taped my blisters and sore spots for the trek down – I thank their kindness and expertise!

My S. O. and I decided to hike the 0.9 miles to Mt. Pierce from Mizpah to at least make it to one of the 4,000 footers, but the beginning was intimidating.  It could nearly be called a ladder trail, if the ladder were unevenly spaced and nearly 3/4 of a mile long.

Our goal was accomplished, but the day being what it was, Mt. Pierce was enshrouded in dense fog, often an ominous deep grayish-green.  I was glad to make it up, but gladder to head back down.

Mt. Pierce geological survey marker
Mt. Pierce geological survey marker
Foggy Mt. Pierce
Foggy Mt. Pierce
Mt. Pierce summit cairn
Summit cairn, Mt. Pierce
Hiking to Mt. Pierce summit
Foggy Mt. Pierce approach
Fog bank, Mt. Pierce
Fog bank, Mt. Pierce

I’d like to hike Mt. Washington some day, but it won’t be a carefree romp.  I’ll have earned every foot, sweat out every meter.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

Deconstructing

A load of dirt

Matter is created In the raw depths.  Getting there takes fortitude – carrying on, motoring through, shoveling out the muck.

Maybe there is precious metal and a few gems to uncover, and clean up for display – to show it was worth the toil.

As a child, I dug in the sand for hours, carefully piling the wet sand out of the hole.  A wave rode into my nearly finished pit – crumbling it to a smooth dent – and I sat there in tears for all my lost work.

My brother was working further up on the beach, but the sand wasn’t wet enough.  I told him it wasn’t going to work, but he was happy digging and watching it fill, content to throw sand around.

I took the pail and filled it with water and began pooling the water in the smaller hole I carved out near my brother.  When the water stayed in the pool, we dug a trench down to the wave line and kept filling the bucket, pouring it into the pool, and watching it run down our trench until we tired of it.

We ended up making a moat around a sand hill and defended the fort from the sea-gull enemy by chucking shells and wet sand at them.  They didn’t play along, but kept away from the crazy humans, thus ensuring our defensive victory.

Like the gulls of long ago, I’ve become my unwitting enemy.  I might prove a formidable foe now that I recognize the game.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.