Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Remember Who You Are.....

(Not wanting to alarm folks, I hesitated sharing the following so publicly. Yet every time I hear myself recounting the story privately to a friend, I realize I need to write it. Here goes....)

Over the past few months I've been off and on navigating the medical system, off and on because the doctor with whom I'm working periodically hears me say: I think I'm going to try energy work or a homeopathic remedy before taking further steps. The thing I appreciate and respect about this man is he not only sees me again when a remedy doesn't work, but he actually has a degree of curiosity as to what I'm trying. This is a highly unusual and most refreshing trait to find in one's doctor. His honesty has kept me returning to him to report on what I'm doing and find out what he suggests as a next step.

One of those next steps recently took me to the hospital for a biopsy. There at 7am I thought I would be one of the first folks seen so I could get on with my day. Instead I got in line and was given a card reading number "56". I felt like I was in the airport awaiting a Southwest flight in the day when passengers got colored coded and numbered flight cards.

To my surprise, I was called to another area quickly where a kind gentleman collected information then said if I paid my bill in full that day I'd get a 20% discount. I was stunned at even the discounted cost that I insisted they file insurance first. He kindly noted this and ushered me on to my next stop where I presented my doctor's orders for a neck biopsy. To everyone's surprise including mine, I had been scheduled for a thyroid biopsy. A neck biopsy meant I needed blood work prior to the procedure. As I'm being shuffled apologetically down yet another corridor, the man with me called out to a doctor just in front of us. The doctor learned I was his next patient. He looked at my neck and said I didn't need blood work. I smiled appreciating the synchronicity of encountering the doctor in the hallway.

An hour later, an apologetic nurse retrieved me from yet another holding area. By this point, I would typically be irritated, hostile and judgmental, while attributing the morning's confusion to brokenness of the system. I had a litany of former frustrations with 'the system' from trying to help family members navigate it. This was my first time to do so personally.

Throughout the past few months during this journey, I had been practicing seeing those about me, from the nurses and technicians to receptionists and insurance handlers, through a lens of love rather than fear. I had been amazed at how doing something so simple had kept me in an open place and prevented fear from controlling me. I was mindful of looking each person in the eye and seeing them as assistants as part of my journey.

My attitude was challenged when the nurse on this particular morning pulled a curtain back and offered me a hospital gown and bed on which to lie while waiting. The biopsy was on my neck. Why did I need a gown and a bed for that? When she asked if I had a 'driver' I realized I might be in for something a bit more significant than a few pin pricks in the neck. Fear temporarily became part of the lens through which I was seeing my experience.

As I lay in the bed surrounded by a curtain, I was aware of the many conversations around me. They were unavoidable in such close quarters. One man was having his lungs biopsied. The risks of the procedure were being explained and highlighted to he and his family since he had a horrible cough as well as a fever. Another woman was having a heart procedure while another was having something kidney related done which she had previously had done it seemed multiple times.

While lying there, I became acutely aware of how the material world pulls us away from who we really are and even more so when the material world is trauma-related and fear creating like a hospital. Just as I realized this I heard: "Remember who you are." No, it wasn't the voice of yet another staff member checking my cognitive capacities. It was a voice, that shot through my mind, not audibly but certainly not of my mind. I clearly heard: Remember who you are and I immediately knew: I am love.

I nearly get teary (happy tears) just recalling this because here I lay in a place surrounded by strangers, without my 'driver,' uncertain which procedure I was ultimately gonna have and all I could feel, think and be was love. A feeling of love permeated my body as I lay in a hospital bed in a strange place but not feeling like a stranger at all. I lay there over an hour, yes an hour, feeling such joy and happiness while sending love to the staff and patients all around me and throughout the hospital floors above me. I was in a deep meditative state aware that I seldom enter such a place of quiet at home because of the many distractions.

I was in that place when a different young woman came and wheeled me to the biopsy room where I met the doctor from the hallway again. Seeing the equipment that would be used to assist in the exploration of my neck made me realize the earlier sum of money requested wasn't much compared to the equipment used, not to mention paying the many salaries of those who assisted me throughout the morning.

Another hour of so later, I made it home fine without a 'driver.' Come to think of it, Love was my driver, love and the voice that I thankfully heard and obeyed. It never fails when I'm awake and aware I get little messages of such simplicity and importance.

My gift to you this holiday and every day is "Remember who you are." Take the time to listen, to pay attention to find the things that speak to you, the small things that move you and make you feel, that bring a smile to your insides or a tear to your eye. Remember, remember who you really are and allow whomever you find to be your 'driver' in the coming year!
-Love, Dawn!, The Good News Muse with the Little Lump of Rare, but Benign Cells

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy, Sweet, Sad, Dear, Deep Holidays

There's a certain start and stop quality to my decorating this year. Last night we began decorating the Christmas tree. This morning I did a bit more. Last year we didn't have a tree. Ooops, I take that back. There was a temporary tree bought the prior month at a yard sale for $2. I put it together certain that parts would be missing since I came by it so cheaply. Instead I found it was a beautiful five footer with all the necessary limbs to look very tree like. I also discovered in moments prior to decorating it that young Bogeysattva who was spending his first Christmas with us had the necessary limbs, four of them, enabling him to scale the inner tree like a little round about as he went from one level to the next ultimately to perch and peer from the top. To Bogey's dismay, I disassembled his new jungle gym and put it away in exchange for a tiny tabletop tree with magical dancing lights built into the limbs.

So yes, I technically had a tree, but not one that allowed the hanging of my ornament collection from over the years. This Christmas I determined to try again hoping Bogey had 'matured' or had found satisfying, higher hiding spaces that he didn't have last year.

Decorating the tree has been a beautiful experience thanks in part to the ornaments that come from places and people who have been dear to me. Many of them are gifts from the women on my family tree and from travels afar and just down the road.

Last night though was different. Last night was hard. Last night I realized in the more recent years I've accumulated things beyond ornaments surrounding the holidays. Last evenings challenges began with the many cat ornaments I discovered I have...and they're unrelated to Mystery and Bogey. These are the ornaments from the eighteen years Templeton spent Christmas with me.

The last 'real' Christmas tree I had was 2007. I still recall the happiness I felt as I heard Templeton lapping up the water from the tree stand. I was grateful to find she liked tree water, since she like me didn't drink enough in winter. I learned early in the new year that Templeton was dying. I also learned chemicals in tree water can be highly toxic to pets. This may not have been the primary cause of her death, but I did not want another 'live' tree. I didn't want to fear Bogey and Mystery's finding a new water source or be reminded of Templeton's little lapping sounds.

I forget memories and emotions can't be avoided. I was reminded of Templeton with every cat ornament that went on the tree last night. I kept decorating only to be reminded of the year prior. How we got the phone call as I was considering undecorating the tree. The phone call informed us that a dear friend had died. We had seen him a couple of weeks prior to Christmas when my nephew rushed him from West TN to the Vanderbilt emergency room. That holiday included a stay in the hospital for Jonathan who was so spirited and young. His cancer had only been found earlier that Spring and by Christmas he looked nothing like himself physically yet his light shown through as bright as a star atop the tree.

We got the phone call and I undecorated the tree in minutes. That's no exaggeration. Jerry walked into the room and said "What are you doing? What happened to the tree?" My response to not wanting to feel regarding Jonathan's death was to undecorate the tree faster than I could feel. I still remember thinking, 'I am distracting myself from feeling the loss of Jonathan.' This is another reason I've not really enjoyed decorating a tree.

Then there's my father. The Christmas of 2005. We thought his last Christmas might be 2004 after receiving his cancer diagnosis earlier that summer. I write we 'thought' because no one actually said it yet many of us including my aunt from Alabama traveled to Middle TN for the Christmas meal. We showed up and of course my father didn't. He left home early that morning having unbeknownst to us volunteered to work all day allowing younger coworkers to be at home with their children. Meanwhile my father's family gathered without him and acted as if all was normal when it wasn't.

Month's passed and Christmas 2005 arrived. Some of us wondered between ourselves if my father would die on his father's death, Dec. 23. Papaw, as we called him, died in intensive care just down the street from me the day before Christmas Eve in 2001. For several days prior, I traveled Natchez Trace visiting him during the allotted hours as well as seeing my parents often taking them pumpkin pie lattes from the new Starbucks in the area.

My grandfather lay in the bed for days often repeating over and over the phrase "Lord's Prayer. Lord's Prayer." I volunteered to say the Lord's Prayer with or for him and he'd firmly say, "NO." This was the man I had known all my life by whom my father was reared. The man who was in control and controlling was loosing control. I'll never forget singing to him, at the moment I don't even recall the song, trying to help him find peace. He told me he didn't want me to sing, but I did. Instead of saying, "That's disappointing or sad" I sang anyway. I knew the words to Amazing Grace or whatever it was, but I didn't listen to the words of my heart, the words that would have been unscripted, personal.

I thought my father would live through the holidays in 2005 or at least be held hostage without being able to get in his car and avoid us the way he did the year prior. He ended up with hospice care in a hospital bed at home for our last Christmas together. I was so grateful to be able to sit by his bed and just be rather than have another funeral to hang on memory's tree, but even then there was a Christmas tree, a small one like the one I had last year that sat on the bedside table in his room.

I had no idea when I first started writing this that I would cry my way through holidays prior. All I knew was I wanted to own the fact that decorating a tree had been surprisingly hard for me. Now I know why. I've privately and at times openly grieved all the above losses but like Bogey going round and round last years Christmas tree, each time an anniversary arrives there's another layer to be felt, another rung to be climbed revealing a new perspective.

Having nearly completed the forced decoration of the tree, I want a do-over. I want to redecorate the tree from an engaged place allowing tears to flow if there are any left. Then it occurs to me, have you ever seen anyone actually crying as they put ornaments on a tree or a wreathe on the door? I haven't and the thought of my doing so prompts the fear of folks thinking, 'What is her problem?'

I'll tell you what my problem's been. I have spent far too much of my life especially the 2000's not allowing myself to express what I'm feeling. This has been the elephant in my world as I began writing about in the prior Musing "Elephants in the House of Love."

So if you see me or talk with me or think of me this holiday and I'm crying, please don't have pity or feel sad for me. Be glad I'm allowing the greenery that grows in my heart to be alive and nourished. I'm resuscitating my heart through beautiful sadness while honoring all of those in my life, Templeton, Jonathan, my father and grandfather, whose lives are sweet ornaments on the tree of my heart. With that in mind and heart, it's not enough to say, "Happy Holidays." More truthfully it's "Happy, Sweet, Sad, Dear, Deep Holidays."

P.S. I could not complete this story without completing the tree. Once again I went into the cold basement and dug out the last of the ornaments and the angel to top the tree. The sugar plum fairy I made from dough forty years ago and saved by my mother all these years is now tucked in the limbs near Ragged Ann and Andy from the same period. The angel....well that's another story. She broke. Her head broke to be exact. I didn't even know it was glass until she tipped over on the tile floor. Bogey immediately began batting chunks of angel head about as I thought, 'This is a strangely perfect metaphor reminding me of the necessity to get out of my head and live from my heart.'
As for the cats, thus far the only ones in the tree are the ornamental, hanging kind. Hopefully this will not change since Bogey, while I decorated the tree, discovered the top of the refrigerator, a warmer, higher place from which to survey his kingdom as I am in the process of discovering the kingdom of my heart.

Happy, Sweet, Sad, Dear, Deep Holidays to You and Yours and may this holiday find you dwelling inside your heart. --Dawn! The Good News Muse 12/09

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Elephants in the House of Love

My nephew Kirk (the one in the black shirt by me) and I decided to choose a photo from holiday's past and each write an impromptu story inspired by the photo to jump start the holidays and our creative juices.

Knowing this was the chosen photo prompted the turning of my wheels. I thought of how most families have "elephants," particular issues that are avoided that create either deeper denial during holidays or conflict and distress as individuals try to address the "elephant."

The photo also reminded me of "Larger than Life," the movie in which Bill Murray inherits an elephant upon his father's passing. This movie had particular significance for my nephews and me because it was released just after Mr. Murray had just been an angel in disguise for us at a Chicago Bull's game and the Elephant Sanctuary in nearby Hohenwald, TN had just opened the year prior. 1996 was an elephant themed year.

Now as I sit looking at the photo and attempting to write, I feel unexpected tears. Why would a photo so funny and dear strike a chord of sadness? The young elephants in this photo are now nearly 18, 24 and nearly 21. My sadness has something to do with the word 'dear' or more correctly the experience of someone being dear. You see I took my nephews to the above mentioned basketball game because they were dear to me. Their parents were going through a divorce and I wanted to give my nephews a positive memory. My intention, the Universe and Bill Murray got my nephews a memorable present but what I learned was the importance of presence, honestly showing up with another and listening. The 'doing' of my gift was my way of saying, "I'm sad you're going through this" but I never actually said that.

Of course, I didn't learn this lesson well enough. As my father was passing four Christmases ago, one of the bigger elephants in my life, I was told by a friend that his mother's cancer was ultimately a gift because he was able to share with her all he needed before her passing. He said, "Be sure you say everything you need to him."

I thought I did this with my father until he died. That's when I realized I never just honestly said, "I'm so sad." I sat by his bed and sang to him. I held his hand and reminisced. I thanked him for things like ensuring my car oil was changed regularly in college and for giving me Duchess our poodle in fifth grade, but I never did the simple thing. I never looked at him and said, "Daddy, I'm sad you're dying. I'm sad I feel like I've never really known you and you've not really known me." Yes, it was a stretch for me to sing especially since I'm not prone to this, but I was in control. Singing didn't make me feel vulnerable, the way simple honesty would have.

I did not practice presence. In my not wanting to feel the pain of his possibly responding gruffly to me, I said nothing at all. This of course didn't allow me the opportunity to hear him potentially say he was sad too.

Now I look at the photo above and reconsider Bill Murray's inheritance in the movie. We all inherit "elephants" of some sort. If I'm sincere in my prior story about building a house of love, I'll embrace the "elephants" in my life
as opportunities to be present and honest, not judging, but honestly speaking from my heart what's true for me.

I've nothing against gift giving, but this holiday it will be interesting to see if I can practice the level of presence to which I aspire and desire and allow that to be the greater gift I offer regardless of whether it's received. Just imagine if we shared our presence as much as we tend to share presents in this country.

And don't forget to check out my nephew Kirk's story and leave your thoughts at one of our sites .. optional of course :)