Well, I completed my first week of school a few days ago. If you are new to this blog, I teach nursing at the University of Utah and started full-time in July. It’s been three years since I had a small tumor removed from my brain, and still have vision and energy problems. I went from part-time to full-time to prove to myself that I can do it. Plus, I just love teaching. The fatigue that is my companion was in high gear last week. I was able to meditate on campus a couple of times, and that helped. This Monday the fatigue was almost overwhelming. I came home and began to seriously question my decision to work full-time. I went to tai chi and felt pretty crummy. As I practiced the form, I noticed that I was focusing on the fatigue. The good news is that I caught myself thinking negatively and became very aware of how uncomfortable it is to focus on a negative thought or feeling. It sticks like glue. I said to myself, “Oh yeah! This is the negative thinking I tell everyone to avoid!” I managed to snap out of the funk (I simply started smiling) and went home and crashed on the couch. On Tuesday I woke up feeling great! I never felt fatigued all day. It was so awesome. I felt “normal.” What a gift. And a mystery, because I can’t figure out what triggers the fatigue or what triggers the energized day. I learned that it is much more fun to focus on feeling great instead of focusing on feeling crummy. Focusing on negatives seems very unproductive. What’s the point? I also learned that it ‘s amazing how uplifting and exciting one good day without fatigue made me feel. Now let’s see what the rest of the week brings.
A couple of weeks ago when I drove 2.5 hours to our Reid Ranch family reunion, my 11-year-old grandson drove with me. He is delightful. Very good at engaging conversation. Very smart and creative. We talked the whole time. On the way home he asked if he could play a video game in the car. I said OK. Well, gone was the pithy conversationalist. He was in his own world. This comes as no surprise of course. But I was surprised that even when he put the game down, he still was not talking. And if I asked him to answer my phone when it rang, her would say, “Just a minute.” It is hard to put into words the transformation that occurred when he played the video game. It’s like the real him went into hiding. The opportunity to bond and get to know each other better evaporated. I am not judging him, just making an observation. And a new rule: No technology while riding with Grandma! Or as I call it, Notendo. (Get it? Nintendo with a NO at the beginning…No Nintendo).
Friday I blogged about my daughter and thought I would write a follow-up post today. I am still having trouble gaining insight and finding meaning in the whole thing. I am feeling blocked. Perhaps that is why I am fussing over it. Finding meaning in something puts a calm to it. I’ll get there. While I was out to dinner Friday with my son, I received a text from my daughter simply stating, “I hate you.” Just out of the clear blue sky. I talked to my son about it a lot, which helped. When I got home I blocked her number. I also increased security at home and padlocked the gates. I’m still processing all this. Is it about my parenting? I know I made mistakes by enabling her and trying to make things easier. That’s not really the best approach. Seems like the more I give, the less it is appreciated. Is it about love and how sometimes it hurts? Is it about dealing with mental illness? I think I’m feeling a bit defeated, but at the same time I am glad the war has finally ended. Stopping the struggle and letting go actually feels pretty good. Today I spent lots of quiet time getting in touch with my feelings and thoughts. It was a nice break, but tomorrow is the first day of a new semester and I am looking forward to moving on. Seasons change and so do I.
The goal of my blogging is to gain and record insight from my experiences. I look for meaning in life events and in everyday occurrences, like births of grandchildren (life events) and riding the train (everyday occurrence). This week my family spent 3 days at Reid Ranch here in Utah for a family reunion. We had a great time doing activities like archery, horseback riding, tossing horseshoes, boating, volleyball, roasting marshmallows, playing card games, swimming, and eating fabulous food, all included in the price of the stay. When asked what my favorite activity was, I of course said, “just being with my family.” We talked and talked. The interesting part, that I have’t gained much insight from, is that on the second day my daughter got “in a funk” (her words) and took all of the pills she had on hand in an attempt to either kill herself or to get attention. She was up all night hallucinating and cleaning the kitchen. Honestly, it just irritated me more than anything else. She told me what a bad mom I was because I didn’t go to court with her or give her everything I’ve got. She does not seem to recognize all I have done for her. And when I give her money, it seems to let her know that no matter what, I will bail her out. I don’t do that anymore and she is very angry about it. She snapped out of her funk on the third day and apologized to several of her siblings and their wives, and seemed OK. When she got home she went to a car wash and somehow damaged her car. The police were called, charged her with disorderly conduct, and impounded her car. Since she needs a car to work, she has lost both of her jobs. She sent me a text where she called me a terrible name and pretty much blamed it all on me because I won’t help her. So… what insight am I gaining from this? I am still sitting with it all. Parenting is a challenge, and parenting someone who is mentally ill is very challenging for the whole family. I’m always wondering if I am doing the right thing.
Last week my friend at work told me she was going to Wyoming to view the solar eclipse. I told her, “Oh I’ve got to get you a T-shirt.” My son Sid has created some beautiful artwork and I wanted to give it to my friend. Well, she loved it and now her brother has ordered 130 more shirts! So Sid said I am in the running for his Salesperson of the Year Award. Which is cool because he doesn’t have salespersons and he doesn’t have a sales competition. So I’m pretty sure to win the award.
I’m at the stage of life now where I find myself reminiscing about the past. It’s sometimes called a “life review” and is what many people do as they age. I remember happy events in my life but then I notice that I get sad because those events and people have come and gone and I can’t get them back. I was thinking about my kids yesterday, remembering them as little children. It made me sad to think that I can never interact with them as small children again. I miss their little giggles, funny faces, cuddles, and learning together. I also miss being with them every day. As I checked in with my emotions, an epiphany hit me: Why be sad about sweet memories because we can’t go back? Why not enjoy the memory and appreciate the experience as an enriching, joyful, unique blessing? I began to smile and feel all the joy of sharing my life with those four awesome beings. A wave of gratitude engulfed me. I know I have said this before but here I go again: I am a blessed woman! It is exhilarating to connect with a memory and just enjoy it instead of losing myself in sadness for what was. Sure I miss my little ones, but missing them should not get in the way of totally enjoying my memories of them and being thankful for them. This experience was also a great reminder to me to live fully in the present moment every day. Now I enjoy and love my kids as adults, and appreciate the joy of having grandchildren. This is a great stage of life. Bring on the memories!
I learn so much riding the train to work. I usually sit by a sign that reads, “Please yield seat to elderly and handicapped persons.” I like to sit in those “handicapped” seats because they are shorter and my legs don’t fall asleep like they do on the “non-handicapped” seats that are so high. And let’s face it, I’m a little bit elderly and a little bit handicapped. I always pay attention as people board the train so I can yield my seat when needed. Yesterday I was on my way to my neurosurgeon appointment and a lady came in and sat beside me. Right behind her a man boarded the train and told her, “Oh, that’s how it is? You immediately sit in my seat? You don’t care that I’m handicapped?” She instantly got up and offered him her seat. He said, “Never mind” and took a seat directly behind us in an available “handicapped” seat. She and I discussed the incident. We decided she did nothing wrong, and behaved appropriately, yielding her seat like the sign said. We also talked about how we can’t read people’s minds or bodies and very often cannot tell if someone is handicapped or not. We then had a lovely conversation about our jobs at the University.
When the train stopped she stood up, as did the man who talked to her in the first place. He looked at me and said, “So, you’re a nurse, right?” I answered yes. He said, “That’s interesting because it’s usually the nurses who take the handicapped seats. It’s always the nurses.” I don’t honestly know what his point was but I looked him right in the eyes and said assertively, “I am handicapped. As a matter of fact I am on my way to see my neurosurgeon right now.” I pointed to the sign to show him that it said YIELD your seat; it doesn’t say nobody but handicapped people are allowed to sit in those seats. He got off the train then so I don’t know how he might have responded.
Here’s what I liked about this: I was assertive without getting mad. I really wasn’t mad at all. I just wanted to be clear and support nurses, support my new friend, support handicapped and elderly people, and defend my own behavior (OK yes I was a little defensive). And I wanted to verbalize the lesson he tried to teach us: You can’t tell if someone is handicapped or not just by looking at them and making assumptions. I appreciated the reminder. And it feels good to be assertive. Why has it taken me all these years to learn to be assertive?
By the way, I went to the neurosurgeon because a lump appeared over my left eye at the surgical site and I was concerned a tumor was growing back again. He said it’s not really a lump – the dent next to it makes it look like a lump! The dent is because the bone that he took out and then put back in is losing mass and might eventually have to be re-built. But nothing to worry about now. Oh, the fun of brain surgery… This Tuesday marked the 3-year anniversary of that life-changing event. And life is good!