I have this thing I’ve been doing this winter: I stand over my stove most mornings stirring chocolate chips into steaming milk; I use my grandmother’s hand mixer to whip full-fat cream and maple syrup together. The whipping cream tops my homemade cocoa. Did I mention I want to reduce my sugar intake?
I have this thing I’ve been doing for years: I clear out a build up of life junk, bringing it through the drive-thru at the Goodwill because I long to live a simpler life. Did I mention that sometimes—most times—on my Goodwill visits, I park my car after unloading it so that I can peruse the Goodwill’s diverse section of used books? I might bring home an old book simply because I like it’s cover. “Check out that Mid-century design—they don’t make covers like that anymore,” I tell my husband when he questions why I purchased a book on football in the 1950s. I also pick up vintage maps, old family photos, and other ephemera.
I have this thing I do when I’m sick: I binge watch old TV shows about large families, like Eight is Enough, The Partridge Family, andThe Brady Bunch. Did I mention that I suffer from cyclical—yet profound—longing for uninterrupted solitude?
Life is filled with opposite pulls. While it’s still common for me to struggle against the opposing poles of my life, through studying yoga, I learned that to be alive is to suffer the pull of opposites; hatha yoga creates a path towards the union of opposites. The more I can get away from black and white thinking, labeling emotions as “good” or “bad” and just rest in my knowledge that the whole of my life has the capacity to work with all experiences, the better I live.
A battery derives power from both a positive and negative charge.
This post is merely an interlude before I speak about my current health and dietary restrictions/adjustments. I was once (and for a longtime) a vegetarian. I was even, for a few months here and there, vegan throughout this period. During that time, I was often self-righteous about my diet. I was also very self-righteous about my decade of “no white stuff” with no sugar or refined flour. I was also was pretty self-congratulatory about the fact that my two older children ate the full spectrum of vegetables and whole grains. I really thought I was doing things right. I’m sure I’ve even shared some of that good old-fashioned self-righteousness on this blog–particularly during my yoga teacher’s training with the vegan brigade.
In the last five years, I have been humbled. First, my extreme pregnancy-long nausea (kid 3) brought me back to sugar when sugar-based foods were often the only thing that my body would accept. Second, I had a child that was born a pathologically picky eater even when I did everything “right” (as defined by the dietary thought police), such as eating a wide-variety of fruits and vegetables while breastfeeding him. Finally, after weaning J. at age three (because breast milk was still one of the only things he consumed back then but had at least stretched his diet to twelve items), I became sick. Overtime, my ability to digest grains diminished and then left me all together. My ability to consume green leafy veggies also vacated the premises. My lactose intolerance re-emerged with a vengeance. Left weak and exhausted (with scary amounts of hair loss), I finally decided to add meat into my diet.
Now, I feel really really chagrined by the self-righteousness of my past. I finally understand that each person may have completely different food needs (for what ever reason) then the next person. One person may have diabetes, one may have problems coping with certain food textures**, and another may lack the digestive enzymes to process dairy or grains. Another may have developed a leaky gut over time and now may be developing allergies to almost every food they eat. Still others are just struggling to find the funds to keep enough of any kind of food on the table. [On that note, I just read this fabulous article by Holly Goodman that puts a very human face on what it’s like to live at or near the poverty line in this country today. I highly recommend reading it!]
In our effort to promote health in this country, we’ve become so preachy about food choices. Even so, I’ve yet to find a consistent dietary principle. For example, while some now might be speaking of the benefits of butter, there are still those (ahem, yoga teachers) that would tell you what a great alternative Earth Balance is to butter. It all comes down to R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Respect for one another’s individual choices, in food, parenting, and otherwise. Respect because we do not know what path our neighbor walks down.
Perhaps its age, perhaps it’s Al-anon, perhaps it’s the humility gained from my evaporating health guiding me. These days, when it comes to diet, I find it is best to focus on just myself and let others be responsible for themselves. That said, I plan to tell everyone about my current diet–not because I think anyone should adopt my diet, but simply because I’ve combed through gobs of other bloggers’ posts to glean some small bit of information that might help my own quest for health. On that quest, however, there was never any one person’s dietary regime that would have completely “fixed” me.
Therefore, before i expound on my quest for health via diet, let me just say that if I ever get that log worked out of my eye, well then maybe I can see well enough to spot the speck in your eye–but by that time, I hope I’ll just congratulate you on the small size of the speck in your eye and ask you humbly, “How do you do it?”
**Recently, my dentist told me that everyone has different sensors in their mouth and dental work that might feel smooth to one person, will feel completely rough to another. She told me this to assure me that it was okay that I had come back in to have her do additional sanding and buffing of a recent composite filling because it felt scratchy to me, not unlike the horrible cheap nylons that my mom made me wear on Easter Sunday the year I turned nine. She couldn’t understand why I threw such a fit about the hose. To this day, I cannot even tolerate the thought of wearing panty hose. Their texture makes me shiver.
My daughter leaves tomorrow at 5 am. Driving to California. I am sad beyond anything I expected. This letting go stuff doesn’t seem to get much easier.
I am just finishing up a mixed CD for her road trip and her next adventure in life. And other than that, I am just going to agree to be in this moment, in the sadness of this ending. I am going to practice not fighting the emotions but letting them run through me as they need to, without denial, but also with the absolute knowledge that feelings come and go, emotions rise and fall, and as I said to H. yesterday, “The hard times will come, but then the good times will come again and you’ll get up on your feet and the hard times will come again–like waves in the ocean.” It helps to know that we won’t likely be in any one place too long. Always. Always. There is a time for joy and a time for sorrow; for mourning and for dancing. I don’t think I’d have it any other way because even dancing can wear a person out.
Going to California Playlist
Chris’s California Trip Michael Brook
Going to California Led Zeppelin
Wide Open Spaces Dixie Chicks
Ramble On Led Zeppelin
Goin Down The Road Feeling Bad Grateful Dead
You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome Bob Dylan
On And On And On Jack White
Omaha Counting Crows
Coming Into Los Angeles Arlo Guthrie
Intro Jackie Greene
Hollywood Jackie Greene
The Bare Necessities Bruce Reitherman (The Jungle Book)
La Vie Boheme Rent Cast
Tiny Dancer Elton John
Freedom At 21 Jack White
Can’t always get what you want Rolling Stones
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
“Embrace the maximally postponed decision” is a philosophy I’ve embraced ever since I read about it in a book about trying to buy/build a 1000 square foot house for under 100,000 dollars. As an aside, since my twenties, I’ve been intrigued by the concept of living in a very small, but well-built house. I still plan on embracing the small-house movement, but it continues to remain not appropriate for the number of people that I have floating in and out of my life. Fortunately, Chris shares my fascination and maybe someday, we’ll live in an airstream.
Anyway, back to the decision. Ever since Josh’s right ear (situs of Tympanoplasty and Ossiculopasty in May, 2012) started to drain late last year, and our ENT told us it was time to either have a CT scan or an MRI, I have engaged in extensive research, as well as entertained an internal dialogue, debating the pros and cons of each. Josh was originally scheduled for a CT scan in January, but I talked to our ENT and asked if we couldn’t just “watch” for a few months to see what happens. He agreed. We were going to make a decision in March, but our ENT appointment was rescheduled twice and we didn’t end up seeing our ENT again until April 3rd. In the meantime, our ENT seemed to have changed his own view on the matter, now favoring a newer type of MRI to look for cholesteatoma in Josh’s right ear over a CT scan. At the same time, our new pediatrician called the radiology department for me and concluded that a CT scan (it would be Josh’s 2nd CT), even with the high radiation, would be better for Josh than trying an awake (without sedation) MRI for Josh. In all truth, I think I was hoping that somehow neither would be necessary, if we postponed the decision long enough.
To monitor Josh’s ear, we’ve been seeing our audiologist every six weeks throughout this time and, unfortunately, from February 9 to April 17, she’s noted a 15 decibel loss across the frequencies for Josh (so he is now at 30 decibels–but likely still falling) This is a very significant loss and it’s definitely hurt him at school. In particular, he cannot understand the kids on the playground and he always feels left out (his words for this are “no one tells me what they are playing anymore”–very typical situation for Hard of Hearing kiddos). Josh has had more than his fair share of tears over the past month that I believe have their origin in the social isolation he is feeling (also, I think he is grieving this loss, without really understanding what is happening). In the meantime, the hearing loss in Josh’s left ear has been getting progressively worse and we thought it was supposed to remain stable because it is conductive loss. Needless to say, we would be aiding Josh in the right ear again if it were possible but there is too much drainage for an aid right now. On April 3rd, our ENT and I agreed to first try Josh with an awake MRI to see if he could handle it. Most people I’ve talked to since have told me they don’t believe a four year old could handle an awake MRI. The thing with Josh is that he is super amazing about some medical procedures but has a terrible time with others. For instance, he’ll sit perfectly still to get his ears cleaned out under a microscope, even with a vacuum suction, but he freaked out completely when given his sweat test for cystic fibrosis earlier this year (and we were told by the lab tech that it would be painless).
With our MRI scheduled for April 28th, I continued to debate whether I shouldn’t just change over to a CT scan to avoid all of the anxiety the MRI might entail. I’ve been working through Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening this year. I happened across a daily entry this past week that had to do with making a major decision. Nepo says that if you are having trouble making a decision, look what is under that decision. Yep. I did this and realized that I am trying to make the perfect decision in this case because I feel like I so failed Josh in a medical decision two years back (see thisblog entry for further details). Because of this decision, I think I’ve decided that going forward, I owe Josh the most well-researched, well-reasoned decision. Always.
As the debate waged on in my head, something happened. On Wednesday, Josh told Chris he heard a “whooshing” sound (he described it sort of like a whirring fan or static on a radio) in his right (surgery) ear. It was really bothering him to the point that he was hitting his ear. While the ENT’s office was about to close for the day, I miraculously got a hold of our ENT’s head nurse (I think I’ve learned to work the system a little bit). She told me nothing could be done but to have our audiologist look in the ear the following day (J. had an appointment already scheduled) and call to tell them what our audiologist saw. She also suggested trying to move up the MRI. Thankfully, the whooshing noise stopped before Josh went to bed that night.
The next morning, I got on the phone with radiology and they moved up Josh’s MRI for Monday, April 21st at 8 am. Since time is of the essence here, it was decided to also schedule a CT scan for 9:30 am, in case the MRI without sedation doesn’t work for Josh (it would take a week or two longer to get a sedated MRI scheduled). So, there you have it. Done. The decision will really be made for us by how Josh does on Monday morning.
When our audiologist looked in Josh’s ear with her otoscope she was pretty sure she was seeing his entire middle ear; meaning perhaps a total failure of the tympanoplasty (reconstructed ear drum–where did you go?). She let me have a look and yes, I am seeing a completely different ear than I was a few months back too. I am not sure if the tympanoplasty “blew” last week when Josh heard the whooshing noise. I called our ENT’s office from our audiologist’s office and they put Josh on our ENT’s appointment for Tuesday the 22nd at 9 am. So we should be learning more soon. At this point, I recognize our desperate need for information as to what is going on in Josh’s ear and so I welcome whichever test works for Josh on Monday. It is a bit of a relief to know that one of these tests has to be done and the decision has all but essentially been removed from my plate. And all that wasted time spent worrying . . . although I do not regret the time spent researching this issue. Still, it is good to know that sometimes, the answers just come and no amount of forcing will get us there sooner than we are supposed to arrive.
Sometimes the decision maximally postponed gets made for you. In a way, it is a weight off of my chest. Crazy as that sounds.
[t]he essence of compassion lies in recognizing how hard it is to be good. To forgive someone is to let him be free, even if he abuses that freedom beyond expression.
Deepak Chopra, M.D., Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine
I read the above quote while reading the Deepak Chopra book for my own health issues. I was surprised to see this offhand quote about addiction (he used to treat advanced-staged alcoholics at the VA who he’d then watch run across the street to the bar after getting their liver or pancreatic function revived). In the past, I would have just read right over that sentence because I somehow felt that my own addicts wrongs were personal; directed against me. That if they loved me enough, they wouldn’t do hurtful things. At the very least, they wouldn’t continue to drink.
When I first attended Al-Anon, I expected to (and tried to) share all of my war stories from the trenches of my life with alcoholics; recounting all the many ways these alcoholics had disappointed and hurt me. I imagined that the Al-Anon members would join my pity party and agree that, yes, I’d been wronged. Yes, I was a victim. But that’s not what is happening at all. The other members have compassion for my alcoholics as they have compassion for all who are affected by this disease–including me. They gently (subtly) help me to stop focusing on my alcoholics, and instead start to focus on me. And maybe all I needed was permission to treat myself with compassion. When I do so, it’s a whole lot easier to treat my addicts with compassion.
I think the key is that I finally accepted that alcoholism is a disease and thus, I can finally see how powerless I am over it. I am beginning to release my clenched fists and open my palms to the sky, allowing God to take control; allowing peace to enter.
Other people’s expectations are not my responsibility unless I helped create them.
From Courage to Change: One Day at a Time in Al-Anon II
I’ve been mulling over this quote since I read it in one of my daily Al-Anon readings this past week. Over the past few years, I’ve been living with the words of my yoga teacher echoing in my head. That is, “to be true to yourself, you may have to disappoint other people.” Hmmm. But if I helped create an expectation? This pulls “responsibility” back into the picture once again.