Thursday, July 31, 2008

My life as a toothpaste tube.

If the picture above symbolizes my energy level before the Fentanyl, Oxycontin, Morphine, & Methadone experiment....the one below is my energy level after.

From barely there to totally twisted, tweaked, and wrung out. (And a different brand and color, but who's counting?)

This week i have helped paint the house's front porch from top to bottom (new siding so new everything-gets-painted) and today i will help with either painting the trim on the house or cutting siding for the third outside wall of the house.

above: the new roof & dormer construction, with new siding, new windows, and new paint.

Therefore, i must assume i am beginning to come back from the dead! Maybe i will live past this Opiate Interruption after all. Woohoo.

Skimmer's recap: Ah come on, buck up!! This one was stinking short!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Apricot Thoughts.

The bible verse that kept me going during my recent Fentanyl withdrawal experiment was the one about the vine and the branch, where Jesus says, "I am the vine and you are the branch. If anyone remains in me and I in them, he will bear much fruit. Without me you can do nothing." (That's a loose-ish paraphrase of John 15:5.) While i was feeling so detached from life i needed to feel attached still to my Creator, so i would repeat it but from my end of it: "You are my vine, i am your branch." It's yet another version of something i've said to God in the past while going through what seemed an impossible situation: "i may not be able to see You right now, but i will not turn my back on You."

You see, i remain aware of His thoughts toward me, and his persistence in loving me even when i don't seem to be able to carry off my end of the deal. Sometimes simply voicing that desire for connection with God has helped me hold on.

Anyway, later in reading a random bible verse i read something written by the apostle Paul to the Christians in Colosse, "Let your roots grow down into Him and draw up nourishment from Him so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught." (Colossians 2:7.) These thoughts meshed for me. i choose to remain attached to the vine that is Jesus, and that is because i will then stay rooted to the source of nourishment, and will stay strong.

Recently i picked apricots from my daughter's tree with the help of her two girls, Haley and Cassidy. A few branches here and there had been broken away at their place of connection to the bigger tree. The only apricots they held were stunted and dried up, inedible. Other branches were heavy with apricots, growing vigorously from their solid connection to the tree, and were ripe and plump and beautifully colored.

Even i get the visual there--remaining strongly rooted to the source of nutrients grows plentiful, enjoyable fruit. The interruptions of life that we may let break us away from the tree causes dryness and immaturity of fruit.

Good stuff.

Skimmer's recap (and no, hubby of mine, i cannot set this blog up to send you only the skimmer section, sorry--): Attached to the tree= healthy growth. Not attached=little growth if any growth at all.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Habits of Happy People.

First off, welcome back to me! i say. Nearly a month is way too long for any self-respecting blogger to go between posts--

Friday i went back to the Chronic Pain Management Class at Kaiser for my 2 month follow-up day. Other than the nurses trying to kill me by having us do ALL the strength exercises i have not been doing faithfully, it was a good day. Even an encouraging day.

The last thing of the day was time spent with the psychologist--she spoke of Intentional Happiness. What is that, you ask? Why, i would be *happy* to tell you, i answer.

The psychologist started out by commenting that for all the years there have been studies to define the many types of mental/emotional illnesses and their treatments, no studies had been done on people who are well-balanced and happy in their lives. Surprising, you comment? Truthfully i had never given it a moment's thought, i respond.

This study was done with a goal of ascertaining what differentiates a person's capacity for happiness or unhappiness, thriving or failing. It encompassed people who had lived through horrible circumstances and events: the holocaust, loss of children, illnesses, etc. Those who survived and thrived had several habits in common. But first to set the stage:

If you draw a circle representing 100% happiness in your life, what percentage of that circle do you suppose genetics plays a part in? Take a guess--no really, just guess! i was totally off. It's FIFTY PERCENT! This would include things such as coming from a long line of family members with depression and/or anxiety, other illnesses both mental and physical such as a predisposition toward cancer, diabetes, etc. So HALF your happiness is affected by genetics. (Again i apologize, dear Corinne, child of birth--you are so screwed.)

Now, of the 50% remaining, what percentage do you think you are solely responsible for? This includes your behavior and habits, that sort of thing, the parts only you control. FORTY PERCENT!! That's right. A whole hunk of it is up to us. Our choices. Our habits.

This leaves 10%--that is the percentage determined by circumstances: events, disease, pain and such. A mere 10%. BUT, and here's the kicker, when that 10% starts taking over our thinking and actions, it swallows up the 40% that is our behavior and habits to become FIFTY PERCENT. Holy negativity, Batman!

So--this brings us to the answer to the original question: What are the common habits of happy people?

*Intentional happiness. This is the choice to look for the good--what happened today that was good? What went right? (NOW who's talkin' smack about Pollyanna, huh?)

*Support. The habit of seeking support and working to maintain and improve those supportive relationships.

*Hobbies. Those who thrived in the midst of bad circumstance had hobbies! Since i am a big hobby person i understand this one. My hobbies focus me on the immediate. i have no thoughts of past failure or present pain, i'm lost in the moment. And lest you think a hobby means craftiness, a hobby can be many things that don't mean having shelves full of yarn and scrapbooking supplies and fabric and....yeh. That would be me. A hobby can be as simple as reading a library book, or watching a movie. All hobbies don't require huge amounts of supply space and/or money, they simply are an activity that gives you something to focus on other than your circumstance.

*Flow. This was an unfamiliar term. As soon as the psychologist explained it i understood--that feeling you get when you're doing something that absorbs you and puts you in the moment? That's flow. For me all those hobbies i mentioned, the reading/creating and such, those put me in "flow."

*Meaning. Finding meaning for life is a habit of a happy person. For me there have been many things that contributed to that--none of which i can do as easily any more, given my energy-free life. Once upon a time i loved providing infant foster care, i loved being a part of students' lives for the years i worked in the church high school department. i loved providing a safe space for the occasional teen who needed a place to stay. i loved (and still love!) loving my kids. i find that i am in a time of redefining what i can do, given the change in health. But that's okay--no place does it say i have to do the exact same things to have meaning in my life. For me it has all been driven by the unconditional love i have known from my Creator God, and the desire to share that in my actions toward others. i need to accept that i will do this in my flawed way, but the desire is there and always has been. i just need to do some thinking to find a different way to perform the acts that give me meaning and purpose.

As simple as this all seems, the practice is the key. My choice to look for the good, to seek support, to find ways to be focused and absorbed and in the moment, to find meaning--these choices are the key to thriving in the midst of crappy circumstance. Crappy circumstances are the things we often see as interruptions in our real life, when in fact they are our life at that moment.

Skimmer's recap: Half your potential for thriving in life is determined by your genes. Only 10% is determined by your circumstance. That leaves 40% dependent on your personal choices and habits. That's a whole lot of control.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Farmers Market chats.

Okay. So i couldn't figure out where the apostrophe goes in the title, so i left it out.

A few Saturdays ago i went to our Castro Valley market held in the parking lot of the BART, our local Bay Area Rapid Transit station. The market had recently opened for this year's nicer weather, and it was my first time attending this year.

It's small, just two shortish rows of vegetables and fruit, with a third row of ready-made yummies such as scones, meat pies, and fudge. (Notice the sweets got two mentions?) A few artisan stands run along the end of the food rows, selling things like jewelry and local honey. One of those stands held necklaces of brightly colored, playfully decorated handcrafted ceramic whistles. i stopped to see the whistles and stayed for the conversation (as i tend to do.)

The whistle crafter was talking to a passerby about relationships, and as soon as i stopped they included me. The subject seemed to be men and the longevity (or lack thereof) of the relationships they'd had, both being divorced. i was the stand-out, nearing our 32nd anniversary in September.

The whistle crafter began talking of the recent reconnection with an old boyfriend of 50 years ago. "Back in the '50s, when you had sex it was in the car with all your clothes on," she said.

Being but a mere babe in the '50s and obviously more shy than she, i managed to mutter an embarrassed "Oh! i did not know that."

"Oh yes," she said, "and he remembers exactly what I was wearing that night--all I remember is that I was shoved up against the steering wheel--"

i honestly can't spell the exact sounds i was making, trying to utter something showing interest without appearing as surprised as i felt by this naked flow of information.

The conversation continued, as i love learning about people's lives, seeing things through another's eyes. The conversation was just the frosting on the cake of my morning full of fresh greens and berries and squash, and the smells surrounding me of the sharpness of arugula and the contrast of a woman's heavy perfume as she passed.

"i loved this day!" i thought as i gathered my bags of fresh romaine, strawberries and golden beets. i was taking home farm fresh squash and the stories of romance past and present of an energetic 70 year old woman. It was the story of two paths diverted and once again crossing because they're both involved in the boards of their local farmers' (farmer's??) market associations, proving that "local, sustainable, and renewable" applies to relationships as well as produce.

Do you have any local market stories of your own? Chance encounters? Favorite fresh foods? Share, please!