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25 Jun
It’s no surprise that bad news depletes rather than fills, but a sense of helplessness is only an illusion. If you want to change the world, begin by focusing on issues closest to home.
 
Attitude makes a huge difference and no one runs before he crawls. Instead of giving up or in, simply think.
 
1. Practice humility.
2. Do not confuse what you want with what you need.
3. Respect others.
4. Practice kindness while keeping true to your core beliefs.
5. Before criticizing others, repeat the criticisms into a mirror; most likely you need to hear the message more than you need to share it.
6. Never force your beliefs or opinions on others.
7. Always refuse to join angry crowds.
8. Listen instead of speaking.
9. If you ask someone a question and he does not answer, accept his silence as a valid response.
10. Smile rather than frowning.
11. Speak well of others.
12. Never boast or intimidate; there is a fine line between arrogance and bullying.
13. Do not fall in love with the sound of your own voice.
14. Be sensitive and aware.
15. Be a strong but loving parent to your own needs.
 
Be happy! Life is too short for anything else.  
itty 
Dream-Wisdom stone feather balance

Retired Judge

25 Feb

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Although difficult, for me, running against the wind is instinctive.  I wanted to be the peaceful type full of hope and pink ponies and optimism; but ever since I can remember, I’ve taken rough back roads instead of flowing along with crowds down pristine super highways.  I’m not a glass half empty woman any more than I’m a glass half full one.  For me, there’s water in a glass that has plenty room for more.

As a child, I used to groan under my breath at family gatherings when the topic for discussion shifted to the elders’ perception of change.  The word change, it seemed, was interchangeable with self-indulgence and destruction.  “The younger generation is going to bring about the end of everything we’ve built and cast the world over the cliff into a hungry abyss that will swallow it whole.”  Blah. Blah. Blah.

kitchen women

About this time I would generally inch my way toward the back door, planning escape.  I wish I’d listened more when I was young, paid more attention.  I wish I’d been more respectful of the process of wisdom gathering, opinion formation and varying styles of perception.  These are skills that come to fruition with aging, but I didn’t get it and I was really quite arrogant about it all, shaking my head at the gloom and doom old fools I left in the living room worrying about the future of the planet. It never entered my mind they were worrying about my life, what the realities would be in the wake of monumental change following the Great Depression and World War 2.

However, my perspective shifted noticeably when I crossed the 60 year line myself as I struggled with unsettling feelings of semi-bitterness for the rapid fire changes that had beset a world I was no longer familiar with and often uncomfortable in.

Those were emotionally exhausting days spent holding myself back, or propelling forward like rotted chicken catapulted from a giant sling shot.  And once again, arrogance, as I assumed my way was somehow the best way, often better even than the steady voices of men and women of peace, or the predictions of masterful economic minds, or the advice offered by strategic planners, or the exaggerated threats from political movers, and the woeful forecasts of intellectual shakers.  I was so full of righteous indignation I felt bloated and dour and sad.

Watching a friend lose her way in extraterrestrial philosophies and questionable directives from  guides from the other side, I paused long enough to reevaluate my own beliefs and deal, face to face, with the inflexible judge I had become.

et 2

It was a process.

Just as in childhood, I found myself inching once again toward the back door in an attempt to purge poisons I carried inside.  I thought, ‘perhaps if I fill my lungs with fresh air, or eat an apple in the swing on the front porch, or pick a bouquet of Black-Eyed Susans,’ I might feel better’.  And so I did all of those things and more, binding myself more closely with the cycles of nature and the rhythmic beat of my own heart , mindful of the emotional and mental chaos I’d created in the past and how unsatisfying the experience had been.

peaceful garden

I won’t say I killed the judge inside my soul, but I let her fade away.   I am an observer now; judging nothing, not even myself.

When I choose to watch the evening news and hear the ranting and ravings of judgmental zealots, a sense of calm fills my senses, and I feel the good intentions and the fear inside each loud voice.  I make mental notes about where they are standing, which audience they are addressing, the time of day they speak, lapel pins, the shapes of glasses they wear, and the voices of reporters trying to make names for themselves.

Adults are often little more than large children and that can go either way because a child can engage or detach as he sees fit, but when all of the pieces of the puzzle come together, it is a magnificent occasion.

These days I spend more time paying attention to what other people say.  I love hearing their ideas and opinions; I love reading what they are thinking and how they disseminate unique perspectives and personal views. I learn so much as I immerse myself in both studied and unexplored concepts.  More and more, I spend time reading non-fiction, opinion pieces, and most especially blogs.  The passion and sincerity bloggers express touches my heart.?????????????????????????????????????????????

Every time I experience the strength of another person’s voice, my own grows; but I’m not in love with the sound of my own voice.  My own opinions don’t impress me either.  I often find it difficult to express them now.  Blogging has become more challenging as I struggle to share without preaching.  I’ve learned that listening is an integral part of observation.  So is keeping an open mind.  The boundaries of my perceptions have seeped or bled into the fluidity of the times freeing my mind to explore new possibilities. I’m happy that I don’t feel responsible for the fate of the entire world. I am finally comfortable in my own skin and at peace with the ever evolving world around me.

itty and the monster

7 Oct

spooky door 1

 

The first time I opened the door I was eighteen.  Since he wasn’t a stranger, I invited him in, never dreaming he’d stay so long.  Had I known better, I’d have pretended no one was home, saving us all a lot of grief.

He always wore black and had irritating quirks and peculiar ways.  I’d say he was funny like that, but actually, he never cracked even the tiniest smile; instead, he was all business, heavy and bleak, like the kind of storm where the air suddenly ripens with so much moisture it’s nearly impossible to breathe.

I always blamed Mother for bringing him home the first time, but looking back I honestly believe he was really Dad’s associate, one of those obnoxious, burly types that sometimes followed him around.  What I didn’t know until years later was that he was an old family friend whose relatives before him had deep, troubling relationships with generations of my kin.

It’s both ironic and perhaps a bit unusual that his predecessors were acquainted with both sides of my family, maternal and paternal; but the longer I live, the more I recognize repetitive patterns that are so distinct it’s impossible to confuse them with coincidence.

I might call our meeting fate, but I prefer to view fate through rosier lenses.  Mother used to get disgusted with what she called my romantic view of life; she would still judge my perspective as frivolous if she could, but she has Alzheimer’s now.  Still, some days I can see it in her eyes, that disapproving scowl, that once strong and swift index finger wagging in my face, telling me how ridiculously selfish I am, how I am a carbon copy of my father’s mother, that self-centered, manipulative shrew and it still stings.

My grandmother, whom I greatly adored, and whom I try daily to emulate in the strong-minded survivalist spirit she so perfectly emitted, was the life-jacket to which I clung with all my might; even though at sixteen she’d opened the door to her father’s confidant, letting him in.

By forty I sometimes confused the dark man with a livelier one.  Sometimes they seemed to share the same body, like Yin and Yang on speed.  Ten years later I understood the lively guy never existed; he was a defense mechanism, an automatic response to having spent so much time with the heavy guy back in my youth.

It used to be all about me, and I carried Mother’s sharp words in my arms like I was carrying shrapnel I’d pulled from my body, guarding it in case I needed it again.  Today if depression knocks on my door, I cop a real attitude. It’s not about me anymore; it’s always about somebody else, someone I love or have never met.  Someone I heard about on the ten o’clock news, or a child, or an old person.  Or wounded soldiers and abused animals.  Or melting icebergs.  Or cleared rain forests, or beached Dolphin and Whales.  Or bad air and dwindling water supplies. Or war and cruelty.

Today I’m the hard-core shrew pounding my own chest, but I’m pretty lucky; no one throws stones or spits out my name.  No one tries to bust my spunk, they leave me alone because I’m just being me.  They call me Mom or Nonnie, or honey, or friend, but you can call me

itty.

 bev

 

 

Surprise Me With a Cookie Every Now and Then, PLEASE!

22 Feb

I feel like Parker Schnabel on Gold Rush digging my way through a bunch of worthless crap trying to reach the treasure I believe is under it all.  According to my calculations it ought to be ‘right here’.  The problem is the longer and harder I dig, the lower my confidence sinks.

I’m starving to death for a win!  Somebody take away this stinking plate of slop and moldy bread and give the old lady a cookie.  Please.

Putting gears in reverse, let’s back up a bit in order to see the big picture.  Last June my heart went haywire and I ended up in the hospital.  Eventually cardiologists diagnosed me with an abnormal heart rhythm; they also discovered a coronary artery was plastered nearly shut with cholesterol.  I ended up with a stent and a few medications.  A few weeks later I felt absolutely great and had the energy of a hyperactive child!  It was truly amazing!

Life goes on; in November I had a tooth extracted, and that went well until I reacted to an antibiotic the dentist prescribed.  By mid-November, I felt pretty darned crummy so I went to our family doctor who treated me with two new drugs: one, I later learned, counter-acted my cardiac medicine, and the second drug came with a whole new set of problems of its own.

A week later in spite of multiple phone conversations with the doctor who tells me all of this “is to be expected”; I’m sinking like a stone.  Rich loads my lethargic carcass into the car and takes me to the doctor who is appropriately “shocked” by my condition.  He admits me to the hospital and puts me on an IV antibiotic, saying whatever allergic reaction I had is long gone, but I’m suffering from some sort of non-specific infection based on hospital blood studies.  Long story short, the new IV drug did its best to kill me.

Enter a new doctor.  I am treated for severe allergic reactions, taken off the drug that has neutralized my heart medicine, stabilized and sent home with a minor UTI that no one wants to attempt to treat until my body “rebounds” a bit.

Time passes; I simply do not regain my strength.  Thanksgiving comes and goes.  Christmas comes and goes.  The new year, my birthday, all are miserable.  I’m nearly afraid to go to any doctor, but when I do it’s around the first of February.  He prescribes a 7 day round of a gentler, friendlier antibiotic for the miserable, relentless, merciless urinary tract infection.  I finish the prescription with no problem!  I actually feel pretty good again, not great, but good.

February 8th, I take Rich to Little Rock to a neurologist.  Over a period of 6 weeks the muscles in his left hand have begun to shrink in obvious muscle wasting and we want to know why he is dropping forks and having such a hard time writing.  It takes 6 LONG weeks of referrals and scheduling to see a neurologist.  All along, I can’t think of anything except the shocking changes in my husband’s hand.

On the way up the stairs to his appointment, I have to keep stopping to rest; my chest hurts, and it’s hard to breathe.  Rich panics, I minimalize.  The truth is I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, and absolutely determined to get help for Rich.  It has taken us such a long time to reach these stairs; I damn well am going to climb them.

Over his protests, I push on.

Once inside, we are assured “most likely” Rich’s muscle wasting is the manifestation of significant peripheral neuropathies related to his 25 year battle with diabetes. To know the depth of what we are up against, and to set a proper plan of care, further tests are set for February 19th.

Riding back home to Hot Springs, I begin to relax.  While peripheral neuropathy is a very serious and progressive condition, I am relieved the doctor hadn’t taken one look at my husband’s hand and said something like, “I think this might be ALS.”

While my chest pain has subsided, I feel heavy and weak. When Rich asks how I feel, I smile and say, “Better.” We stop at Subway for takeout then go to bed early.  The next morning I call the cardiologist.  He says my experience with the stair case is pretty much like failing a stress test and fears my stent may be clogged.

Check it out.

Another heart cath.

Routine.

Only not.

This time the catheter tip tears a hole in a coronary artery.  With each beat of my heart, I feel life spilling out.  I see Rich’s face, hear Father’s voice; I have missed him so much since he died 2 years ago.

I try to tell the doctors I don’t feel right, but instead say “Daddy”.

I wake in ICU.  Good news, bad.  I didn’t die.  I didn’t need emergency by-pass, but my arteries are seriously diseased.  And I’ve bled into my chest cavity and it will take a little while for the blood to be reabsorbed.

Stabilize.  Rest.  But not for long.  The next day, back to surgery for placement of a 3rd stent, without which, disaster is sure to follow.

What follows in life, what leads?  How can you tell anyway, and does it matter, does anything really matter in the end or the beginning, or all the beautiful and flawed pieces in between?

Where the hell is the pony under all of the crap? Where’s a cookie for a woman starving?  An ice cream cone for the man she loves?

My husband nearly gray with fear, his hand like a soft claw touching my steel face, his eyes semi-liquid changing like the sky, hazel, blue, gray, hazel again.  The muscles in his face too smooth, (his glucose is low), idly hang like sheets or sails waiting for the wind.  But wind doesn’t come.  Or perhaps it does.  Except this time, when it does, it’s the worst storm of our lives.

Neurological test results are back.

I’m sitting in a wheelchair on a keg of 1,000 new drugs, my heart, a waiting fuse, the doctor’s words, a reluctant yet persistent match.     Then it all explodes.  The neurologist’s eyes locked into mine.  Suddenly she is a mime full of woe; but if mimes can’t talk, why is she using words?     ‘Serious.     Urgent.     Significant Underlying neuromuscular disease.       Invasive.      Tests.   Watch for twitching.   She looks at me as if I am a widow.    itty?  itty?  Can you hear me?’

The world disappears inside a microscopic black hole.  Rich and I hold hands, swirl through choking, cruel air until at last he is pushing my wheelchair back to the car that doesn’t matter anymore, to drive back to the house that isn’t home.  Home is a perfect crystal, it is the fiber of the irrefutable love that binds us together with steel and silken threads we’ve earned and created along the way.

Rich  asked me to share with readers that our lives have been challenging for a long time, but it wasn’t until the past four years, that those challenges have focused on health.  We moved to Arkansas full of hope and energy.  Three weeks after arriving, Rich had a heart attack.  One thing led to another,and in the span of four short years, we’ve both been hospitalized five times.  We don’t blame Arkansas, well, maybe a little; the reality is timing.  We are stoic people who avoid drama like the  plague.  We are quiet old folks who have a lot of fun together.  We retired to Arkansas because it is one of the most beautiful states we’ve ever seen. We assumed our health would stay strong and consistent; we believed we’d face each new challenge life threw at us the way we always have.

We’ll keep fighting, but if we have our way, it will be closer to our family.  Neither of us is a  Parker Schnabel; we’re not 19 any more with the bright shiny world beckoning.  But we know our places in it.  And we know ours hearts, as battered and bullied as they are, and we know our love is a universe of defiance and intensity, as well as a gentle cradle for holding all that is precious, and an indestructible bastion of never letting go – even past the last days of this long walk we make together.  And we take great comfort in knowing we will always walk together, never alone, through long, twisting hallways and sunny great rooms inside fortress grounds and gardens we build every day out of love.

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