Saturday, January 19, 2013

Lance Armstrong and our heroes

Did we really all believe, once the facts came to light, that everyone else was doping -- but not Lance Armstrong? Do we demand that level of inhumanity of our heroes?

Apparently, we do. Maybe the culture of doping that has pervaded a number of sports will have trouble surviving, now that it has come to light. But let's not pretend to be shocked about it. I'm not sure why it is front-page news. Like the extramarital affairs of our statesmen (and mostly they are men), these failures are indications that no one has yet attained perfection on this planet. Not even our most treasured heroes.

In my book, Lance Armstrong is still a great man.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Prayer, and the rest of life

Reading "Open Mind, Open Heart" by Thomas Keating about centering prayer. As a joke (but also because they knew I'd enjoy it), my family also got me a book called "Open Heart, Open Mind" by a Tibetan Buddhist lama, a Rinpoche. Now I can't keep the titles of the two straight!

To foster my relationship with Dwaine, I am going to try to give him a backrub/massage more often. They say that touch is an important way for couples to stay intimate, and he does love massages. I love exercise, and now that I am entering the busy tax season, I won't have much time to go to the gym, so I have to get creative about such things. Giving a massage can be a good upper-body workout. (In the interest of modesty, I won't mention the other things couples can do together that involve touch and a good workout.)

I love the grand gestures, the big achievements that some people make in life. I just haven't had any such things happening in my little mundane corner of the world. I am trying to take to heart Mother Theresa's famous saying, "We can do no great things, only small things with great love."

I do think that attitude and belief are more important than I've suspected. A good attitude is the cornerstone of a life well lived.

Can you tell I'm tired? I wanted to come here anyway, but I'm dragging.

I am finding centering prayer to be more important in my life now, as much as exercise. I do believe that we are all part of a large super-organism, and I can extend my feelings somewhat and reach out into the universe while in this prayer. The prayer is meant to go deeper than our thoughts, as mystics believe that God cannot be directly accessed simply with the thinking mind, and is impossible to fully comprehend except in glimmers during our lifetime.

We had a family crisis earlier this week -- a fight, involving our college-age son, resulting in his being away from home (he still lives at home) overnight.

Fortunately for all of us, Austin came back home the next evening. He walked in, hugged me and his dad, and apologized to us both in a very sincere and touching way. I can never decide if Austin is becoming a fine young man, or if he's a really great politician (a bit of both, I suspect). He really has a flair for arranging circumstances in the most self-flattering of ways. I admit, it will take him far in life! It's a great combination of native talent, intelligence, some hard work (enough to get him all A's his first college semester!! Yay!), humor, and BS, all cleverly worked in the mix. You almost don't mind the fabrications, because there's so much else there to admire. Reminds me of Bill Clinton! (Lance Armstrong, anyone?)

Recently, we discovered that Austin's trombone was missing (the one he stopped playing midway through his senior year of high school, so in December 2011). I suspected right away what might have happened, but texted him to see if my hunch was correct. Here's how that went:

"Where's your trombone?"

"What trombone?"

(I explain, THE trombone, the only one we have, that he played throughout middle school and high school, etc. etc. The trombone, as a musical instrument, is no wallflower. It sticks out, literally. It takes up a noticeable amount of space. Yet Austin is implying a trombone could just -- I don't know, wander off? Get lost?)

His next text after this interchange is, "It was sold."
Notice the succinct, third-person approach here. Austin is reporting this in the most impersonal way possible,  as an immutable, long-ago fact, hoping I don't pick up on the fact that neither my husband or I were involved in or knew anything about this sale.

Turns out Austin, ever the entrepreneur (and then some), sold the trombone we purchased for him for some quick cash, which like all other cash once in his possession, was quickly spent. I do wonder if he has some other business enterprises on the side of which we are not aware; it's quite possible. Always, I carry a little nightmare image of a day the authorities come calling ...

On the whole, I think both my boys will turn into fine young men (THINK POSITIVE). Andrew was completely unfazed by the huge family drama, which by the way, hardly ever happens here. He said, Oh Mom, that happens in every family. In fact, Andrew happened to be at a friend's house not long ago and witnessed a huge fight between his friend and his friend's dad, likely along the same lines as our fight. Luckily, no one warned me that the teenage years would be so rough! Kind of like childbirth -- don't tell me, there's nothing I can do to avoid it anyway, so I don't want to know until I have to experience it myself.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Going under

I was under a brief anesthesia this morning to undergo an upper endoscopy (sure enough, I have esophagitis and really should be taking those PPI medicines I love to hate; and, yes, I will start taking them again).

When I came up out of it, I was crying about losing Dad. The nurse explained that going under brings out whatever emotions are there and they rise to the surface. I think it was therapeutic to have free -- unrestrained -- access to that part of me that is grieving and allow it to express itself. It's hard to do that in the midst of ordinary life.

I had a sad dream last night that also came to mind when I woke up from the anesthesia. We had another funeral for Mom. She was in some kind of public accident that attracted a lot of attention, so there were all these people wandering around and at her funeral, which made it harder. Almost like we had to have the funeral for them, because it was expected. I was trying to get a glimpse of her in the casket, from a distance -- it had been so long since I'd seen her. Later, she was on display wearing a wedding gown and lying, as if unconscious, arms splayed, upon some propped-up, satin-covered area near the altar. This was sort of a symbolic representation of Mom, fuzzy on the details except for what she was wearing. She was much younger, pretty, I guess she would have looked more like me and my sister than her older self.

Chris Parma escorted me in and was talking with me, and had his arm around me, and at some point it dawned on me how odd it was that I wasn't sitting with Dwaine. So we went together over to Dwaine, and he and Chris started chatting and laughing, making small talk, and I was wondering how they could do that in the middle of a funeral! (How do people keep on living normal lives even in the midst of all this grief and loss?)

I went into the audience, where my sister was sitting, wearing some orange-ish dredlocks and a hippie-ish outfit. (I didn't see my kids or her husband in this dream.) We embraced, crying together, and she was still sick, because this had just happened, and she is right now recovering from the flu! When I touched her, she was hot with fever. Yet she had to fly down, just 7 weeks or so after Dad had died, to do it all over again for this funeral. I felt so bad for her.

Certainly, Dad's death has brought up everything from the time of Mom's passing away in 1999. It's fresh again, as well. Like we are saying goodbye to both parents at once. That is what grief does. It's timeless.

My spiritual guide says that our grief accumulates if it hasn't been expressed well, and gets worse or more difficult to cope with if it hasn't been handled from past losses. However, I feel like I was so much better prepared for Dad's death, in a spiritual sense, than for Mom's. With Dad, I saw it coming long ago. I guess that is the gift that a chronic illness brings, is a little bit of perspective on mortality. You can never really be prepared for the death of a loved one, but you can see the signs when they have been so sick and you can start to take it into your reality, a little bit, that they won't be around forever.

For me, Mom's passing was so terrible. It rocked my world for about a year, and I think I suffered PTSD because of seeing her dying in an awful way in the ICU. But all that trouble and pain made it so much more bearable, the second time. I could almost see this as a natural process, this human lifecycle, though it is really hard to bring that kind of awareness to the deathbed. Just as Dad, Cynthia, and I were there when Mom passed, even more of us were there for Dad's passing -- Cynthia and I, both our husbands, and Han, Dad's wife. Even the pastor from their Chinese Methodist Church came in, just after the nurse had removed the ventilator, at a crucial moment to pray with us all. I received that as a great blessing in a time of crisis.

My husband just came in and told me that I shouldn't be blogging the same day I was under anesthesia! Beforehand, the nurses and anesthesiologist and I were joking about where the cutoff lies for acceptable and unacceptable activities. No driving or operating heavy machinery -- one nurse interjected that she always tells patients, no horseback or motorcycle riding, either! I asked if I could go work out afterwards (in jest, believe me), and one nurse said it would be OK, whereupon the other nurse started arguing -- why wouldn't working out be just as hazardous as the banned activities? Just to be safe, I went home and took a long nap, instead.

Obviously, no legal decisions right after anesthesia ("don't sign any paperwork") and according to my husband, no ranting and raving on my blog! Oh, well. It's better than the patient who ordered vast quantities of Chinese food to be delivered to his house, when left alone by his unsuspecting wife! Or the nurse who told me he was doing some online transactions while on some "good" meds, and you know the screen where it says, only hit this button once to complete the transaction? Well, it really means that! He had so many duplicate charges that he had to cancel later. So, we're good here. Signing off as just a little loopy today --

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Life, as I know it

It would be easier, I think, if I came here more often and posted just a small amount. But prepare for another brain dump! Or would it be more accurate to say soul dump?

My view of life, and death, was again confirmed by a new NDE (Near-Death Experience) book I read called "Proof of Heaven" by a neurosurgeon, Dr. Eben Alexander. By the way, Austin got this book for me for Christmas. I had requested "The Life of Pi," and he forgot which book and got this one instead. (A coincidence, in which God chooses to remain anonymous, as my friend Karen says. Or as Carl Jung would say, there are no coincidences, after all.)

Alexander's experience follows the quantum physics line that we are all interconnected with the entire universe, and are not separate beings at all. Our lives, as we perceive them, are illusory. Like a really gripping movie, we forget that this life is not "reality." Founders of great religions and philosophers have struggled to put this concept into human language and stuff it into the constrictions of human biology-based thought.

One of my newer practices is centering prayer, which involves no intentional thinking at all, but simply being in the presence of the creator. It seems that thoughts, after all, do get in the way of deeper understanding.

Alexander spoke of coming back and having to don his mortal frame once again, and realizing just how confining it is -- the 5 senses, the dull brain, obscuring the brilliance, the love, and simultaneous awareness he experienced outside of those boundaries.

And yet, I have trouble letting go of the dual nature of reality, or binding it together. Having seen my father drawing his last breaths, it's so hard to reconcile physical death with this greater spiritual realm. It is a struggle. I believe, help my unbelief!

Alexander struggled with reconciling his scientific skepticism with this newfound vision of reality. Unfortunately, science has become so self-important that it seems to have forgotten that it is limited -- crippled, really -- by the fact that every observation must be filtered through the perceptions of the scientists. As quantum physics shows, the observer cannot be disentangled from the observed phenomenon, and influences its outcome. Science has become the new religion in western society, the new dogma that everyone must believe or be wrong.

By the way, Alexander eschews all religious dogma. God ("Om" is the sound he recalls for God, a suspiciously Buddhist-sounding intonation!) is so far beyond the human boundaries of religion. And it's silly, isn't it, to try to appropriate God as the special savior of just one type of human being -- the Jews, or those who claim Jesus as their savior, etc. What about all the rest of creation?

I relate to Alexander's worldview, as someone who was skeptical of those things that could not be empirically explained and who was not a practitioner of any religion.

Here's another philosophical issue to ponder: belief vs. reality. It doesn't matter what I, or anyone else, believes, does it? What matters is reality. Do our beliefs influence our reality, then? In that case, our beliefs could matter -- a lot. Today, Austin showed me an article on the holographic nature of our perceived reality. It hypothesized (I think) that our attitudes influence our reality, which isn't so "real" as we would think. Our thoughts weave into our reality and become our outcomes, according to this little mind-blowing bit of pseudo-science. Possible.

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