How do YOU respond to adversity?

Again and again I am surprised at how slowly I learn some of life’s best lessons. None of us enjoy misfortune and sadness in our lives, and yet it seems these are our best times to learn important lessons. Now I’m sure that the greatest moments in my life have been the most difficult ones. These have been my best opportunity to see exactly what I am made of.

How we respond to great challenges defines who we will become in the future. These are the moments when we finally begin to grow and change.

I can remember a few particularly difficult times in my 64 years on this earth. Of course we remember those times best. At the time I felt completely unprepared to face the challenges put before me. In fact, I can remember asking a much older and wiser woman back when I was 24 for some reassurance that my life would get better. She said it would, but it would probably take quite a few years. She was so right! There are no shortcuts to self-knowledge and wisdom.

When our life is going along in a safe but routine way, with few ups and downs, we generally don’t change anything. We accept our rut and hope for better in the future.

The sunroom in Loveland I built myself, where I sat in quiet contemplation, after losing my marriage, my job and my career at age 49

For me, it has only been when I was taken by surprise by others’ betrayal and rejection of me, that I knew I had to begin living a different kind of life. The greatest challenge then was to figure out what that new life might look and feel like.

These days my challenges all come from new health issues popping up after living a life full of mostly good health, but lots of stress. Yes, stress can be a great motivator for change too, but for me it was something I just had to live with because of the choices I had made. When you are as stubborn as I have been, it may take major drama to shake up your life!

“Have a sense of gratitude to everything, even difficult emotions, because of their potential to wake you up….” Pema

With a traumatic head injury and now brain hypoxia, I have been forced to change my ways. I can no longer go anywhere or decide to do two or three things at once. I must learn to be more focused, slow down and be much more careful with my brain and my body. I still fight against the need to slow down, but I simply must. When you cannot breathe, nothing else matters!

I also try to feel some gratitude, or at least humility, when my body tells me what we’re doing next. My body knows my limits much better than I do now…

Holidays: A Study in Family Dynamics

Years after leaving your family of origin, it can be fascinating to return for a few days. If you have some background in family dynamics, you may sit back and observe some interesting patterns that don’t seem to vary even decades later. No matter how much you change, your place in your family usually doesn’t.

Carter Family Christmas in 1966

Here’s a few examples. In my family I am the youngest and am treated as such. I’m the little sister, permanently. There is no escaping that role. My brother and I were usually quieter than our older sister, and sure enough that is all still true. There are usually one or two family members who need and demand a lot of attention, and it’s funny to watch how most of us quickly fall into our old roles. My dad was a college professor. In his day he loved to hold forth on any topic related to botany or biology. We all respected his opinion at least on those topics. My big sister is tops in her field in long-term care, perfect training for helping out my parents now that they are past age 85. These two are our family orators

The only real change in my family is that as my parents have aged they have gotten much quieter. They mainly sit and listen to us “younger” members (all in our 60s) ramble on about some “modern” topic like politics or technology. None of us have kids and we don’t exchange gifts, so the holidays can be relatively calm in our family.

I always look forward to getting together with my family and then I am also happy to return afterward to our modest country home. This time I observed to Mike on our return home that we must all be a tiny bit OCD, because returning to a place where everything is where we left it brings feelings of security and comfort, especially as we age.

This place is truly HOME SWEET HOME TO US NOW!

The Sun is the BEST Writing and Writers’ Magazine I know of! Here’s a free sample for you:

If you’ve never heard of “The Sun” you need to find out about it now! It has no ads, it’s just pure wonderful writing supported by dedicated writers. In case you don’t believe me, here’s a link to a short essay from one of their award-winning pieces.

The Cure for Racism Is Cancer

America, that old problem of yours? Racism? I have a cure for it: Get cancer. Come into these waiting rooms and clinics, the cold radiology units and the ICU cubicles. Take a walk down Leukemia Lane with a strange pain in your lower back and an uneasy sense of foreboding. Make an appointment for your CAT scan. Wonder what you are doing here among all these sick people: the retired telephone lineman, the grandmother, the junior-high-school soccer coach, the mother of three…

When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters…

In the midst of a number of medical biopsies, scans and tests, I am learning exactly how LARGE my breathing problems are. Time to accept this new reality! My sleep study showed that I come very close to not breathing during the night, and my walking test explains to me why I feel so dizzy just walking a few blocks. Yes, it’s true this all came up after moving to a higher elevation, but I’m certain I had nodules in my lungs before. Living here just made the problem much more obvious to me.

Now to the question of why. Since I never smoked or was regularly around second hand smoke, I have to conclude that my work environments, old libraries, and the air pollution everywhere in our world have been very hard on my lungs. I have always felt a bit like the canary in the mine. I’m always the first one to notice bad air before anyone around me.

My brother, who has worked in asbestos abatement, informs me that old libraries are one of the worst places in terms of asbestos pollution. In fact, I worked at CU-Boulder when they were removing some. I have also lived in quite a few polluted cities like Bangkok, Taipei, Hong Kong, etc. I used to joke that I have had bronchitis in the most exotic places…not so funny now.

Why should this matter to you? Whenever I see someone smoking now I want to go and tell them how awful it is when you cannot breathe like you used to, or do any of the things you used to enjoy. In summary, do everything you can to protect your lungs from anything that will limit your breathing in the future because:

Struggling for breathe SUCKS!

Cancer-free for now!

A Cancer Cell

I had a Petscan a couple of weeks ago and a lung biopsy this past Thursday. Yesterday I learned that they found “no cancer cells.” For those who don’t know, a Petscan helps to identify “hot spots” in your body to check for unusual cell growth and disease. It is much more detailed than a Catscan or MRI. I found the Petscan results quite interesting, but the biopsy was particularly amazing! How can they target a small tumor and then go in and obtain such a microscopic tissue sample?

But I soon realized the more important question is how do I deal with so much more information about what is happening in my body? The technology is outrunning our ability to deal with the results! To tell you the truth, I was more concerned about what treatments might be needed and how they might affect my overall health than having “cancer.” Treatments like chemo or radiation sound scary enough.

I’m glad there are treatments, but none sound real “healthy.” In the past we just wouldn’t know what was happening inside until it was too late. Now we are able to know so much more so much earlier. Then we have to decide how to think and feel about all of this information. It certainly helps me focus much more clearly on my own mortality and I happen to believe that that is a good thing. How do I feel about my life so far? Would it be OK if it ended now?

A nation born of racial violence…

It does not take a genius to see that by killing most native peoples in this country and then importing native Africans to produce our crops for us, our very existence was based on racial violence. Anyone who hates immigrants today must hate themselves, because we are almost all immigrants to this beautiful land.

As one who rarely quotes the Bible, I say, “Violence begets violence” in all of human history. Our nation was born of violence against the aborigines of this country first, and then Africans who did NOT want to come here on slave ships! In the West we have a long history of hate for Latinos, the Chinese and the Japanese. What a country! And now we act surprised that the violence continues?

A nation born of immigration and racial violence should not now be surprised that racism and violence continues to this day. I see absolutely no end in sight. Thoughts and prayers will never be enough. A total change in human conscience is in order.