Monday, June 30, 2008

Happy Heart

I imagine you are getting sick of my caffeine updates. I'm sorry. I have just become fascinated with how this whole thing is turning out. The secret fears about not ever being happy again without having a coffee in hand, the addict mind pulling me back to the cup with some compelling arguments, the way my body feels better but my mind still struggles and now, the intentional relapse.

This weekend, I wanted to do an experiment to see how I felt having a morning cup of coffee. I had gone 5 days without any and my body was really enjoying it's new state of equilibrium. Mind you, my hubbs grinds the beans himself (sometimes he roasts them himself too) and makes it with some sort of french press thingy. One cup of hubby's coffee is more like two cups of strong restaurant coffee.

So I drank it. And I was a freaking maniac. It was like someone had wound my up like a doll with a key in it's back and I was on fire. Doing doing doing! I got a lot accomplished that day (all of the "magazine covers" below, as a matter of fact). But boy, I felt like a crazy person and I didn't like it. I also crashed and crashed hard.

Sunday I tried a half a cup just for funzies. I didn't like that either. I felt all foggy and weird.

Here's the clincher: I went to work out today and the treadmills have a thing that measure your heart rate. I know this is crazy, but mine usually is 118-124 resting. My docs and I have just come to see that as normal for me.
Guess what it was today? 100! Can you believe it? That's so awesome. Now I feel like I have some tangible results that my body is benefiting from this decision.

So, I'm really liking this no coffee thing. I can't believe I just wrote that sentence.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Short Explanation for "Silly Magazine Covers"

Hi! In August, I will be doing a one woman show for the CFRI Conference in California. (Thank you to Ana and Isa for making that happen!)

I have been working on it a lot this weekend. I will tell you more about it later but I wanted to share some of the visuals I have created...see the "magazine covers" below!

In short, the theme of the show is about how some CFers might feel bad about themselves when they compare their bodies to those of celebrities and other style icons. In the part with these pics, I am fantasizing about a day when the parts of having CF will be high fashion and revered...

For those who have read my book or this blog, you have probably already guessed that, in this play, I come around to love myself for who I am, discover I am not illness and get in touch with The Permanent Me.

This will be my first "performance," as opposed to a talk, since long before my first transplant. I am mucho excited.

I.V. Diva is the next magazine cover to come...keep an eye out.
Happy New Week!! :)

Silly Magazine Covers




Friday, June 27, 2008

Coffee Update

Well, it's Friday and I have now gone 5 days (counting today) with only a very small amount of tea each morning! I have to say, I am very proud of myself.

It's been interesting to discover just how much my "addiction" is really mental and not physical. In fact, my body already feels better. I guess I'm sleepier but there isn't the high and low that there was with coffee. I pretty much maintain the same level of energy all day. It's been nice to not ride the energy roller coaster. My body feels less tense and it's much easier for me to relax when I start to feel stress. I have begun exercising again and I'm hopeful that that will bring my energy level up. Physically, I can feel that I have made the right choice for my body.

Mentally, however, I am still being taunted with thoughts of iced lattes. I have about 5 normal thoughts followed by one long coffee thought. All the reasons why I "should" just go get a cup of coffee: "I need to do this project, I should have coffee for that"or "Life is too short to not drink coffee" or "Today would be a good day to just have one cup." My brain has not stopped pushing for the caffeine fix!

One other discovery I made this week was that I had an unconscious belief that, without coffee, I would never feel happiness again. On Monday, I felt a wave of happiness followed by a huge sense of relief. I was so relieved to see that I could feel happy without coffee. I had no idea that deep fear of unhappiness was there until I felt the fear lift. It's so amazing all of the unconscious ties we have to things we love. Ties we aren't even aware are there until we try to take that thing away.

This probably sounds really stupid, but this whole experience has given me more respect for the people trying to kick hard drugs. If I have all of these conscious and unconscious beliefs around why I need coffee in my life, how must that be multiplied for someone with a crack or heroine addiction? I can't even imagine.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Finding the Way Back to Me

During our week-long Stay-cation, I had some revelations. That whole coffee thing was just one of them.

Perhaps the biggest one was the realization that I have lost contact with my core... our intercom system is totally down and all I get is static.

Why? Because I haven't been practicing what I preach. I have been bypassing the roses too often in the hot pursuit of my dream. At least, that's what I tell myself, and it's partly true.

My speaking career has sort of taken off like a rocket--beyond my expectations. Like a good American, though, I couldn't be happy totally with that. I have been pushing for more talks, more grants, more publications, more notoriety, more success. I'm a driven person and I see nothing wrong with that. In fact, I wouldn't want it any other way.

At the same time, I would never want to leave behind all that illness has taught me. That Which is Important, The Permanent Me, The Divine Healing of Dying--all the things which I write about in the book or present to people in my talks. Do you know why I started to lose sight of those things? I have let my "speaker's persona" take over. Dostoyevsky writes about this in "Notes from the Underground"--the way humans have a way of assuming the "role" of the activity they are doing. Whether it is the role of waiter, business man or public speaker--we create a persona to match the job.

In the past few months I have felt more confident about myself than I have in a very long time, maybe ever. What I now see is that I feel confident about my persona, not me. Take away my heels and my job title, and I feel little again. I suppose this is the difference between ego and self-esteem. If my self-esteem was high, I would feel good about me no matter what. My ego makes it so I feel good only when I am doing those things I associate with being impressive or powerful. Without those things I am neither.

Here's the good news: I know that I have the capacity to find my self-esteem. I did it when I was dying and had no list of achievements beyond who I was inside. I need to find my way back to that level of self-esteem (self-love)--I need to find the way back to me.

So, how? That's a good question. I don't know for sure. But I'm going to try some things and let you know how it goes.

I feel inclined to state that I think finding this level of self-respect is harder in some ways for me now than it was when I was dying. 1) I have far less free time on my hands than I did when I was sick--this will make meditating, pondering a more challenging prospect. 2) I have both feet back on earth now--less "other side" energy to ground me. 3) I like my speaker persona, I don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water so I will have to find a way for "the real me" and the "speaker me" to co-exist.

So here goes.
Step 1. Become my own best friend.
a. Clean out my mental closet and notice my self-talk. Am I hard on myself, critical? If so, replace that with the kindness I show my friends and family. Treat myself as well as I treat them, essentially.
b. Schedule time for quiet meditation or time to myself doing something fun, like a movie. You can't reconnect with yourself or anyone else if you don't carve out time to spend with them.
c. Write more. I connect with myself through journaling, blogging. Carve time out for this as well.

That's the start. Here I go--finding my way back to me! Wish me luck!

How do you find your way back to you??????

Quick Coffee Update

I have some stuff I feel like writing about today but I wanted to give a quick "coffee withdrawal" update.

I was off the coffee Friday morning until...I was sitting on the couch, surfing the web and waiting for hubby to return from the store. When he comes home he says something (I forget exactly) and behind him walks my best friend from NYC, Elizabeth!!!! He had flown her in as a surprise for our vacation! I was stunned and thrilled and very touched. I cried and stared with my mouth open. It was the coolest surprise ever!!!

So...I fell off the wagon. I wanted some energy and I wanted some lattes with my BFF. I was back on the juice.

She is back in NYC, now, though and it is a new day. No coffee today, just a little tea. I feel more relaxed but sleepy. Not crazy sleepy though. Maybe I can do this thing! I have more hope now than I did last week...I did drive into my favorite coffee shop's parking lot around lunch and drove back out as an act of will power. Maybe I shouldn't be quite so optimistic! :)

Friday, June 20, 2008

From Cheating to Cold Turkey

Yesterday I started the day with a half a cup of coffee. I went to visit my mom two towns over and by the time I got there I had a headache and a cranky disposition. So, yes, I cheated. I drank an entire glass of iced-tea--no refills though. Almost immediately, I got sweaty and my heart started to race. I felt very queasy and had to go lay down. Could I be that sensitive to caffeine already? After only one day of dramatically cutting back? It seems very unlikely yet I can't really think of another reason for my physical symptoms.

So today, so far, cold turkey. It sucks. My head hurts and I'm in a fog. I'm drinking water and about to do some stretches to see if that helps. The question is, will I be able to get off the couch today? :)

Day 3 of coffee detox and still wondering if it's worth the withdrawals...

Truth is, if I don't feel better, and by better I mean human, by Monday (and the day I go back to work)...well. You know what I'm going to do, don't you?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Coffee Tears and Adict Fears

Part of our day of silence included a good meditation for me. Lots of good things came up, things which I hope to blog about soon.

The first one I wanted to address was my realization of just how much of a caffeine addict I have become. As much as I concentrated on relaxing, controlling my breathing etc...I simply could not get my limbs to let go of their state of tension. I live in this state of tension to varying degrees. It occurred to me, like a bolt of lightening, that this tension was partly psychological and largely physical. You see, I drink coffee like it's going out of style. How can a body ever relax when it is always hopped up on stimulants? It can't.

For the sake of my kidneys, my heart and my overall health, I decided this would be a good time to quit my addiction. I know from experience that on days when I don't drink coffee (usually the days I have migraines) that I sleep, sleep, sleep. Since I'm not at work, I thought this would be a good time to kick the habit and do what I needed to do to get my body back to a new normal. (I have been drinking coffee every day since college and have no idea how to function without it.)

I decided to wean myself slowly and start with only a half a cup. Compared to what I normally drink, that is pretty radical. It is my vacation, though, and I didn't want to spend the day with a caffeine headache.

I felt weird, all spinny and dull, but it was tolerable. Until I went to the post office. The post office had sent back one of my books that I had shipped out to a customer. The label on it said the package was too heavy, over 13 ounces, and needed to be sent directly from a Post Office. This made no sense, my book is 12 ounces and I ship them out all the time. I thought it was a mistake and would get it sorted out and send out another book. The exchange with the post office guy went someting like this:

Me: "Hi, I got this package back. I send them out all the time so I don't understand why. It's 12 ounces right?"

(He weighs the package) "Yes, but you have the wrong postage on it. It's 10 cents more."

Me, confused: "Oh, ok. I guess I forgot to put a second 10 cent stamp on it." Pause "I could have sworn that was the right postage."

Him, sarcastically: "It was, last month. The postage went up in MAY!"

This is when the woman working next to him breaks out into "what an idiot" laughter and just keeps laughing. Apparently, the fact that I didn't know this is so ridiculous and funny, she can't control herself.

From that point on, I assumed the posture of my 6-year old self being tormented on the playground. I barely spoke a word as he told me over and over "It changed over a month ago. Yep, it went up 10 cents in May, that's over a month ago..." and on and on. I rushed to my car after paying him 20 cents and was able to hold back the tears until I got in the driver's seat.

I cried all the way home. I mean cried. Ugly cry. Not just a tear or two.

This may sound strange, but I knew it was the lack of coffee pulsing through my veins that made me so vulnerable. There is a wall of confidence and energy that coffee gives me. Had I had my normal dose of caffiene that day, my reaction to the post office people would have been either a passing annoyance or great amusement at thier superior attitudes about a 10 cent stamp. Without my coffee wall, I felt raw, vulnerable and stupid. I had trouble recalling my worth and was a 34 year old version of my child-self. The only thing that kept my head above the despair in my chest was knowing that I felt this way because of was withdrawing my crutch.

Since then, I have been listening to my thoughts and observing them. I have watched enough "Celebrity Rehab" and "Intervention" to know that a person trying to kick an addiction often thinks thoughts that are not really their own, they are the thoughts of the addiction.

Things like:
"Is it worth losing your quality of life for this? Let's say drinking caffiene does have a negative effect on your body--is it worht this? Wouldn't you rather die earlier than live like a zombie?"
"All of the women on your mother's side are lethargic. You get it from them. Of course you are adicted to a stimulant! You need caffiene just to function like a normal person."
"You will never be able to do a good talk again without coffee to pump you up."
"You will never feel passionately about anything again. Without coffee, you are bound to a life of mediocrity."
"Everyone has a vice. This is yours. What's the big deal?"

Pretty bpowerful stuff, huh?

I will admit, the adict thoughts make sense to me. Why bother with this? I'm not going to pretend I'm committed to this. I don't really know how important this is to me. I'm still working it out. Today, I had a half a cup. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

I'll let you know how it goes...I just hope the days of coffee tears is over--that was annoying!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Not Quite Monk-Like, but Interesting Nonetheless...

This week hubby and I are on vacation! Yay! More accurate, we are on STAYcation. Between our thin wallets and our very, very old dog, going out of town just didn't look possible. We decided instead to stay home and indulge ourselves in eating out, movies etc and, of course, not working.

As we were talking, it became clear that a big goal for both of us was to "detox" a bit--me from Jibber Jabber and hubbs from constantly surfing the web.

I have found, as an introvert, that a "successful" public speaking career will require conscious balance. After a week or two of public talks, I get so sick of hearing my own voice! So, as a way of detoxing, from many of life's common practices, hubbs and I decided to go silent. We made a few rules about when we could talk, how we could communicate etc. and began living without words. We weren't going for monk-dom. We could read modern novels and watch movies. We could do some charades and a few written messages were ok. For the most part, though, silence. Here's how it went:

My first reaction was mild panic. I didn't know how this would go, what it would look like. I didn't know how to function without language. It was surprising, however, how fast my mind adjusted and within hours watching people in movies talking seemed strange.

My thoughts were so LOUD at first. Jibber jabber, jibber jabber, bla bla bla! Stupid stuff, commenting on everything! But, there was no one to share my inner narration with and so there was really only one choice, let it go.

When things happened, like the strainer came out of the dishwasher all rusty, there was no discussion. No discussion meant no big deal. If you can't hash something out, all you can do is accept and move on...no blame, no remorse, no hang up.

I could not say "thank you" and I realized that was both good and bad. Bad because I could not express gratitude easily. Good because I noticed a feeling that can come with "thank you" is one of "superior" and "submissive." There was none of either in the silent world--only doing what needed to be done as it needed to be done.

No adjectives meant I either needed to physically share my experience, like yummy food, so that we could each have the same experience of "good" or "yummy." When faced with the choice of sharing tasty food, I kept my adjectives to myself and ate the food without conveying how it tasted to hubbs. Selfish? I wouldn't have given him any if I could talk, so why should I just because I'm silent! :)

I was surprised to see that the dogs didn't notice at all. All the yammering I do to my dog all day and she did not notice that it had stopped. In fact, I felt much more in tune with our dogs as we communicated in silence. I felt that my Whippet actually became more expressive but perhaps I was just paying closer attention. I felt more like them than I ever had--I understood them better as silent companions.

I learned that most of the things about which I would normally engage in a discussion, I actually didn't care that much. My hubb wanted to make the room cooler and indicated so as he turned the AC dial. Normally, I would have something to say--a need to discuss. With no words, I realized I just didn't have a strong opinion either way. It made me see that often, words= ego. I may not care abut something but if given the option to ruminate, to discuss, ego will not pass that up!

When we started cooking dinner, I felt more like primitive man. Communication around tasks like cooking is so helpful! Communicating around abstract tasks is equally difficult and important. Things like, "I'm going to the Grocery Store. Do you want anything?" was impossible to communicate without words. It gave me a strange understanding/appreciation of the origin of language.

I noticed the capacity for language to help us QUALIFY EVERYTHING! As children we are asked by everyone around us "Do you like this? How do you like that?" and we are programed that way to attach descriptions and opinions to every little thing. I learned that not everything requires a qualification! Somethings just ARE. Words, modern language, asks us to analyze and find a conclusion for every experience, belief, taste etc. Perhaps that is just overdoing it! Perhaps not every nuance of life requires my (internal or external) description and conclusion.

Without words, you have to either BE your expression or DO your expression. Gratitude is a kiss, not a word. Wanting to be close to someone becomes a physical closeness, not pretty language from across the room or via email. When I wanted hubby to know I missed him, I waited on the front porch for him to come back from walking the dog. At some point, I got hot and bored and I would have liked to go inside. But if he came back home and I was not on the porch, how would he know I missed him? Words are gone and we become our action. Not a bad way to live, with or without the silence!

My mind got quieter and quieter as the silence went on. Things like colors and the blooms on trees caught my eye. I wasn't too busy running my mouth anymore to notice these things and I like it this way. I was able to get very clear in myself about a few things, personal and professional, that I have not been able to get my mind around. After 24 hours of silence, it seemed so obvious.

I like words. I like talking. I like sharing abstract thought. I also like what I found in the quiet. I will now seek to find a balance between the jibber-jabber of modern life and the sweet silence of this staycation.

Tonight, we are going out to dinner and have ourselves a nice talk...with as many comfortable silences as possible.