Thursday, September 16, 2010

weep for us

In reading this article and watching the CNN footage today, I cried. What has happened to us and where are we going? What is this world we live in and when does this kind of insanity end? Where is all of this pain, rage, madness and victim-hood coming from? Is there any return or is is only to get worse from here? I am sad for the doctor. I am sad for the patient. I am sad for the man who thought this was an answer. I weep for us and wearily look to our future.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The "You Should Virus"

I have been doing some serious thinking lately! My mind is a whir with lots of things I look forward to sharing with you, my blogging buds. Two primary topics have been gallivanting through my little head these days: compassion and judgement. Two great tastes that go great together! Ok, not so much. But these are two fascinating studies in human nature, are they not?

In thinking about judgement, I will begin by confessing that I can be judgmental. I have knee-jerk reactions to things and people that I allow to go unjustified. Conversely, I can be compassionate too. Sometimes in a good way and other times to a fault. Giving all of your compassion away and leaving none for the self is a form of self neglect and (possibly) abuse. Would you agree? I am going to continue exploring this in later blogs but for now, I want to ask if anyone else out there remembers catching the "you should virus"?

I was 22 and facing end-stage lung disease. I was living in California while awaiting a double lung transplant. While I was rich in some life experiences, I was quite naive and innocent in many others. At that time in my life, I was not very judgmental of other people. This was not because I was saintly, it was because I had never really thought to be. I was too consumed with my own inadequacies to take time out of myself and judge other's life performance skills.

At this time, I began dating a man who was a little older than me (about 4 years) and had been on his own since his teen years. He owned a business and was certainly more are a part of the grown up set than I was. For this and other reasons, I idolized him and emulated him. I began dressing like him, talking like him and even thinking like him. (Sad, I know, but haven't many of us done this before we knew who we were?)

It was here I caught the "you should virus." He had frustrations at work and general frustrations with family and friends, as most of us do. His response to these frustrations often manifested as small or big rants to me. There was a formula to his rants, though. The sentences almost always started with "Well, I do this (implication here is "this" is being done well, with integrity or with great effort), and since I can do it she/he should too."

I began to learn this pattern and applied it. It felt good to say that because I was doing something well/right/difficult that this meant no one had an excuse not to live up to my standards. It achieved a nice effect of patting myself on the back and justifying my frustrations with other people. I had been infected by the You Should Virus and, little did I know, I would suffer the symptoms for the rest of my life.

As an older, more well-rounded adult, I could see the error of my ways. Intellectually it became obvious to me that people are different, with different talents and challenges, and comparing them to myself in this "If I can, then they should..." way was both pointless and silly (not to mention not-very-nice). At various times in my life I have made great effort to find medicine for the You Should Virus. Sadly, I find myself slipping back into it eventually. It seems to be in my blood.

Perhaps my approach has been wrong. Perhaps, once a person is infected with the You Should Virus, there is no cure. Perhaps this is a chronic illness that needs maintenance therapy. Currently, I am in the process of developing a therapy to help me keep this virus in check. I am excited to share this new therapy with you once I have done more research and self-experimentation.

Meanwhile, as I continue to think on these things, I wonder if I am looking for treatments to only medicate myself or if there are others infected. I would sincerely appreciate any comments on this. Am I the only one who has been infected by the You Should Virus?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Keepin' it real

Last night I had a...what was it? A hissy fit? Pity party? Break down?

The physical symptoms were not far outside normal. A bit more stomach discomfort than usual with some added shoulder pain. No biggee. No biggee surely with someone with my history. But I lost it. I gave into it. Partly because I thought the tears might provide some relief from the pain in my shoulders and the tightness in my stomach but, more so, because I was just "over it." Some of it was that tiny fear that, no matter how long I've been post transplant, still lingers and whispers "maybe this is something serious marking the beginning of the end."

My quality of life is so much better with these beautiful lungs and yet, there are other nags. Not as dramatic or easy to see as being short of breath but they are, in some ways, nearly as constant. Most of the time I eat, I feel sick. I work against fatigue all day long, like trudging through a swamp. As I get older the body creaks and whines more after what was once meaningless tasks, like carting baggage through the airport.

Most days I do what all chronically ill people can do, put on my horse blinders, ignore the pains and nagging nausea and go about business. There is the internal sensor that watches for signals that could be potentially dangerous while filtering out the usual noise of my body's normal level of discomfort.

Usually the horse blinders are so firmly fixed, I forget there are they. My struggle for energy, or even post-meal nausea, doesn't register on any important conscious level. Even if I have to lie down until the nausea passes, I certainly don't CRY about it or feel particularly sorry for myself. Usually. So what happened last night? Why the sudden dam break?

I guess sometimes the noise needs to be heard. All of that noise registers somewhere it can only be ignored for so long. Sometimes, I think I have to give myself that moment of what? Self pity? Self compassion, perhaps. Because as lucky as I am, as healthy as I appear, there is still a struggle there. As much as I breeze past this noise, my ears still hear the whining and the whirling. As much as I wish it did not exist, it does. And so, there is a real need to give in once and awhile and hold myself close, as if rocking a baby while repeating "you're ok, you're ok, let it out now."

Last night, the dam broke. Tears come to my eyes as I write this, even the next day. Holes in the structure still remain, it appears. Sometimes, it gets old and we feel tired. Some days the noise is louder than our fingers-in-the-ear trick can protect us from and our feet can not outrun it. As lucky as I am, I am keepin' it real and letting you know, sometimes it can be hard too.

Today, the dam is in repair and my soul feels refreshed for the momentary breakdown. Self-compassion. I needed that. Thank you noise, I appreciate your persistence. Thank you horse blinders, I need you too. It's all a beautiful dance. Just have to keep it real.