My Secret Garden

I just finished reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I read it many years ago and don’t remember it being about positive thinking, but that’s what it is about now. How did that happen? As I read the story about three children working and playing in a secret garden, and coming alive and finding joy and health there, I was sad because my gardening days are over. I have a beautiful garden, and have enjoyed may hours there, watching things grow and being amazed at their beauty. But the energy to tend it has left me. When I finished the book I wondered what I could call my secret garden? Where could I go to rejuvenate and just be happy and joyful in the present moment watching things grow and come alive? (You really should read the book to know what I mean).
A few days later I got home from work and walked out onto my back porch. I took a look at my back yard playground and was overwhelmed with a realization, “That’s my secret garden!” It hit me like a rock. That playground is a place I can watch my grandchildren grow and learn and play and come alive. I didn’t build it to please them, I built it for me – so I could enjoy their laughter, creativity, and pure fun. That’s news to me.  A few weeks ago my grandson said, “Grandma, come watch us play!” I told him I couldn’t play right now because I was getting dinner ready. He said, “I didn’t ask you to play with us, I asked you to watch us play.” That was important to him. And now it’s important to me – to just watch them travel through life. Not judging, just watching them play. In my secret garden. I’m thinking life itself is a secret garden. Don’t you just love metaphor?
Here’s an experpt from the book (page 282):  So long as Colin shut himself up in his room and thought only of his fears and weakness and… reflected hourly on humps and early death, he was a hysterical, half-crazy little hypochondriac who knew nothing of the sunshine and spring, and also did not know that he could get well and stand upon his feet if he tried to do it.  When new, beautiful thoughts began to push out the old, hideous ones, life began to come back to him, his blood ran healthily through his veins, and strength poured into him like a flood….Much more surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable, determinedly couraeous one. Two things cannot be in one place.
                                                              Where you tend a rose, my lad
                                                              A thistle cannot grow.

Part Time

Part-Time grunge blue round stamp

I did it! After asking for guidance from my program chair, I went to my department chair and requested to go part time at work, due to my health. Both chairs were very kind, understanding, and both said they wanted to keep me as a faculty member, and if all I could give was part time, they could live with that. I felt appreciated, understood, heard, and loved. It was great. We decided to drop one course next semester, so I will teach only 2 courses. I feel good about the decision, but guilt also comes up, because I am not fulfilling my original promise to teach 3 courses. When I told my co-teacher of the dropped course, she was very disappointed. I feel bad about that and told her I was so sorry. And now this weekend the guilt is really getting to me. I thought perhaps I could lecture in that dropped course but not do the grading. I think I could handle that. But I made a good decision and why am I second guessing? If I start volunteering to help out, before I know it I will be working full time but getting paid for part time! And on top of that, I have been thinking that I will miss the full-time money. Stop! Health is more important than money! And to be realistic – I feel terrible. The post-viral syndrom has hit my lungs and it hurts to breathe. At church today I talked to my Bishop and he gave me a priesthood blessing so I could feel grounded and clear about this. And a hallway discussion at church with a wonderful woman ended in her saying it’s obvious I should go part time and take care of myself, so I could keep on dancing.  That was so helpful. Seemingly small conversations often make big differences and help me make decisions. Thanks to all the great people who surround me.


I Can Live with That

While riding the train to work last week I sat next to an almost professional boxer. It was so interesting learning about his rigorous training schedule. Sadly, his trainer, a world renowned former boxer himself, got sick and had to leave the state for awhile. My new boxer friend found a new trainer, who he did not like, so he quit training. He cancelled his first professional boxing competition, and will wait until his trainer gets well and comes back to Utah. This reminds me about the blog I wrote concerning plans and how I don’t usually make specific plans but things work out. But sometimes plans just don’t work out. Like how I have been planning to work full-time until retirement. And how my husband and I were planning to be missionaries together in our later years. Hmmm… is that why I don’t write things down and stick to a plan – because I’m afraid they won’t turn out? I don’t know. I do know my new boxer friend was very disappointed, not knowing what to do because he was depending on his trainer to get him started on his career. Now that the trainer is gone, what will he do? He got off the train before I could ask him that question. OK… as I write this I realize that I’m still not a planner. I figure that if plan A doesn’t work there is always a plan B lurking in my unconscious mind. I just don’t want to take the time to write down all the plans and all the contingencies. I really do like to let life unfold without too much structure or analysis. I like to live in curiosity and surprise. Yeah, things don’t always work out, but I can live with that.

Health Adventure

My mom always told me that talking to people about my health will bore them. So prepare to be bored. I’ll get back to more interesting topics later. But since this blog is for me to record what’s going on in my life, I think I need to talk about my current health adventure. If you read my last post you know that beginning October 15 I was sick for 3 weeks, which included a trip to my health care provider and a trip to the ER, to find out that it is a viral syndrome. I was so happy to get back to work last week. Still didn’t feel 100% but was able to catch up and move forward. Friday after work I decided I would go to a dance and celebrate my recovered health. I lay down to meditate before I got ready for the dance, and about mid way through the meditation I noticed that I had a sore throat! Ugh! About 20 minutes later I was sick again! I chose to take care of myself and skip the dance (Big sacrifice because who knows – I might have met someone and fallen in love…). And now I have had achy muscles and sinus congestion all weekend. I have resorted to using all kinds of natural remedies. So far no go. I am convinced I have a post-viral syndrome, which according to “Dr. Google” could last for months. I called one of my best friends to ask for some guidance, because she has been through some similar health issues. We had a long chat and I do think it’s time to think seriously about going part time now at my job instead of waiting until next year. I just don’t have the time to take really good care of myself, and if this syndrome continues, I’m not really sure how efficient I can be at work. On the other hand, I have promised to work full time for another 6 months, and I want to be true to my word. I think at this point my best option is to talk to my program chair and be honest and see what options might (or might not) be available.
Oh, and the adventure continues: I found out a few days ago that I have skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma) on my neck and need to have it surgically removed. Will the fun never stop? I have said before that I am learning to be patient, but lately I am not happy about learning to be a patient!

The Placebo Effect

Yesterday marked the 19th day I’ve been sick with a respiratory virus. I woke up aching all over, exhausted, and with a disturbing deep ache where my gallbladder is located. I called my primary care physician and was triaged by a nurse who said to go to the Emergency Department (ER). I really really did not want to but went anyway. Not much else to do. I spent almost 4 hours there and nothing wrong could be found. I’m really healthy.  I talked to the ER physician about my viral illness and she said she just read an article stating that the average duration of a respiratory virus symptoms is 21 days. That actually made me feel better, like I wasn’t crazy or special because it’s taken so long to get over this thing. I want to be above average. I went home and Googled post viral fatigue syndrome which can last for months. I really don’t want to have that. The only treatment is exercise and eating right and resting when tired. While reading I made a commitment to follow those guidelines, and to get better by day 21. So I woke up today and only sent positive energy to my health. I exercised for the first time since being sick, meditated, lifted a weight or two, and acted like I am well. I worked on creating a PowerPoint all day for an upcoming class and honestly, I feel pretty darn good. The placebo effect wins again! I think that when the doctor said the average recovery takes 21 days, I believed it and changed my way of thinking and being. So I am going out to dinner and a play tonight and I’m going to stop whining. I will miss that. Whining is good for the soul.

Sick of Halloween

I really like to focus on positive thinking, but sometimes it is truly OK to embrace sadness and not deny what might be called negative feelings. Acknowledging feelings is important. So here goes: I have been sick with a viral syndrome (congestion, exhaustion, achy muscles, headache, nausea) for SEVENTEEN DAYS. In 20 years of teaching I have never cancelled a class due to illness, but I have cancelled two of them in the past couple of weeks. I am so irritated! As I said in a previous email, I have binge watched “Parenthood” on Netflix, graded papers when I can sit up, and gone to campus twice. I feel awful. I am plagued with guilt. And so bored and lonely! OK, see? I have embraced my feelings. That feels right.
And what about Halloween? Being sick makes me weepy and a big sadness has taken me over regarding Halloween. I miss my kids being little and going trick or treating. For some reason I can’t figure out, I just CAN’T stay home and answer the door tonight. It will just bring back wonderful memories of my kids and I don’t want to answer the door crying all night. And really, I just can’t give them a bunch of sugar, which is so bad for them! When I was a teenager my mom and I would go to a movie on Halloween. But if I do that, I will miss my mom! I never thought Halloween would be something hard to get through. I think the illness makes it so I don’t have the energy to go out with my grandkids, and the illness makes me sad. Not a good combination.  I’ve looked up some things to do tonight and right now it looks like I will attend a religion class. I can just sit there.  It will keep me from wallowing in self pity, and who knows, I might meet some nice people and learn something. Or perhaps I’ll be the only one who shows up on Halloween. Scary!!!

What’s the Plan?

I’ve been sick with a bad cold all week. I actually had to cancel a class (I teach nursing students) due to illness for the first time in 20 years. I can’t say the students were disappointed. It’s a 3-hour class. For the first two days of illness I was so sick all I could do is whine and binge watch “Parenthood.” It’s about parenthood. I was struck by how much consultation and planning went on between parents. Honestly, while I was married it was rare that we made specific plans. We made goals. The ones we wrote down are the ones we reached. But, planning to have kids, and how many, and how far apart? Didn’t happen. We just let life happen.  On Parenthood they made a big deal about deciding to have another child. They talked to each other for a long time. They talked to their extended family about it.  Really? People do that? We just had the kids. When I went to nursing school, I really had no plans for when I got out. I would just be a nurse, whatever that meant. Then I got the idea that I liked to teach, so I went back for my Master’s Degree. Then I decided that since time would go by anyway, I might as well have a PhD at the end of it. So I got my PhD. Plans? Nah! I have just let life move on and see what happens. I’ve had a great life, but I gotta say I wish I had been more intentional and deliberate about things. Then perhaps I could say, “Oh wow! Look what I did” instead of saying, “Oh wow! Look what happened!” I doubt that I will change the way I approach things, because let’s face it, things have worked out well for me. But I do admire you planners out there. Very inspiring.

Ready or Not

I went to a singles conference and dance at a local church yesterday. The conference was good, with workshops about communication, gardening, finances, and other things that older singles might be interested in, like applying for Medicare. Lunch was great. I met some interesting men and women and laughed a lot. I went home to rest before the dance, looking forward to the live band. When I arrived at the dance, it was like an orchestra, playing big band stuff, like from the ’40’s.  I’m really a rock ‘n roll kinda girl so I was a bit disappointed. There weren’t a lot of people there, but I had a great time. Just stayed for an hour. I love to dance. I smiled and laughed and felt free and energetic.

Today at church I asked one of my friends, whom I had invited to the conference and dance, why she didn’t come. She lost her husband a few months after I lost mine. She said she really wanted to go but whenever she went to contact me, she just couldn’t bring herself to do it. She felt a lot of fear, but realized that she’s just not ready for the single social scene yet. I told her I completely understand. It got me to thinking. Perhaps I’m not ready yet. And perhaps I never will be. That’s OK.  I do love to dance, and meet new people, and continue learning, but I’m not interested in or ready to look for a serious relationship right now. This girl just wants to have fun.  And what does being ready feel like? I’m not really sure. I’ll just take one day at a time and enjoy what I can. And dance as much as possible.

Teaching and Learning

Talk about live and learn! For the past two weeks I have been teaching classes about values and ethics. I taught nursing students how we make decisions based on personal and professional ethics. Ethics is basically about “doing the right thing” and values are about doing what’s important. Values and ethics guide our behavior. So guess what? Just before I taught the ethics class, I did something unethical. Ugh! At first I didn’t think anything of it, but as the days went by I was more and more uncomfortable with what I had done.  I got up my courage and apologized to two of my honest, ethical colleagues. Bummer! It was hard to be brave and communicate clearly what a jerk I had been. They were gracious and understanding. And guess what? Next week I’m teaching a class on… communication!  Really.  Am I teaching or am I learning? What a great job I have. I learn far more than I teach. Life lessons are sometimes hard but that’s what I’m here for – to live and learn. I often tell my students, “Thanks for being my teacher.”

Live and Learn

Last week I had two separate and opposite experiences about death. On Sunday I met with a friend who has been given “weeks” to live.  She has the same diagnosis that I had (meningioma). She has three tumors in her brain. They are inoperable and growing rapidly. She is  69 years old and she wants to live until she is 70. She is very determined so she will probably make it to her birthday. Another friend of mine had a heart attack and stroke resulting in blindness, extreme fatigue, and a decreased ability to communicate. I think he is ready to go, but lingers on. We never know what life will bring. When we are ready to go, sometimes we hang around and wonder why, and when we want to live, sometimes death makes an appointment that we cannot reschedule. There are days when I am ready to go, and other days when I want to live here forever. It is dawning on me that living every day to the fullest is a good idea. I say that phrase often, but I don’t really do it. I have some seemingly small decisions to make, like whether to continue working full-time, whether to continue taking a class I don’t really like, when to go to Disneyland, etc. In order to enjoy life to the fullest every day, it seems like I should make these decisions and get on with it. These small decisions often end up making a big difference in how or if I embrace life to the fullest. When my appointment with death arrives, whether I’m ready or not, at the very least I want to say that I did my best to take advantage of opportunities and learn all I could. Live and learn. Live life to the fullest. I gotta stop just saying these cliches and actually do them.