SOME DAYS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS

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I lost my battle to inertia today, sleeping in till after 8.  Then after breakfast, I curled up with a book in the sun room and lost myself in its pages.  It was wonderful laying in the sun, wrapped in my quilt…..living other people’s lives, feeling their emotions and not having to deal with anything real.   I didn’t even make dinner.

But you can handle only so much inertia before you start feeling not so great.  I felt all the weariness of others’ guilt, anger and remorse.  And they’re not even real people but made up, fictitious.  How stupid is that?  But I knew there was a lesson for me in that book.  And I had to get to the end of it.  And so I sped ahead to the last chapters.  Then backtracked to the middle to complete the story.

You see, I have no patience, even in my fatigue.  I cannot do one thing at a time, in order, no more than I can read one page at a time in the order they were put together.  I suppose it is not that huge a revelation. but it is some kind of awakening.  I will have to slow down and learn to dot all my i’s and cross all my t’s.  I might miss too many things along life’s road if I don’t.

I finally did manage to get myself up off the couch.  It was a very painful process.  And Sheba and I went for our walk.  It was equally painful but the important thing was we still did it.  Some days are just better than others.

ONE THING MORE

IMG_1969 I am sitting here, wrapped in my cashmere sweater for its warmth and softness.  I’ve made a pot of coffee for energy.  I’m pushing myself forward with my new mantra:  ONE THING MORE.  Just do one thing more.  If I was to leave myself to my natural state, I would probably be a couch potato for the whole wide winter.  I would have enough sprouts from my ‘eyes’ to be planted by spring.

So I fight my natural state.  If I give in to my fatigue, I would get super depressed and I would not get over my cold, flu, my sinus thing, whatever it is that I get.  I push myself ever so gently, but firmly and lovingly forward.  Do one thing.  Then do one more.  When it is just one thing, it is not so overwhelming.  My one thing this morning was getting rid of Sheba’s hair.  It was everywhere.  Nothing makes me feel worse than seeing all that.

The one thing for this afternoon was going for our walk.  It felt like a long difficult process just getting out the door.  But we did it, one block at a time until all the blocks were done.  Going was easier.  Coming back was challenging.  My energy was depleted and I had trouble putting one foot in front of the other.

But here I am!  I am having trouble with putting one word after another.  But somehow it happens.  A person just have to have the intention and try.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Just do it.

Now, I am going on to the next one thing more.

DO ONE THING

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They say that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.  He, who coined that phrase is such a wise man.  Everything begins with a single action.

It is Boxing Day.  How did I get here?  It has been a tough week, what with battling the flu and other mayhems.  You could say that we hacked our way through everything.  Even Sheba got sick….threw up four times yesterday.  Yuck!  Poor baby!

But, at long last, I think I’m going to make it….thanks to my leftover stash of drugs from my overseas trip last winter.  Christmas morning at 3 am found me up, googling ciprofloxacin and doxycycline – which one to take.  Now I know we’re not suppose to self medicate but I was distraught from coughing and worried about the funny noises coming from my chest.

I think I’ve turned the corner but life does not looking easy.  Everything looks messier and dirtier.  Sheba’s hair seem to be everywhere.  What to do and where to start?  And so that is where I am at.  I tell myself:  Just do one thing.  At least it will be something done.

My one thing was chasing down Sheba and brushing her out, ridding at least some of her hair.  And it is a reminder that there cannot be perfection here.  There will be less hair.  That is the way life is.

 

A NEW DAWN

A new day dawnsIt is another morning, just a week before Christmas.  I’ve just finished another 12 hour night shift.  I am tired and not in the best of spirits.  It is not the way I want to go to sleep, on a bad note.  So here I am tapping out my words and feelings.  Sheba makes it hard, being pesky and wanting to play.  But it is not a bad thing, wanting to play.  Play can help cleanse the toxin from me.

And so we play a little tug of war with her rope.  She is pretty strong, hanging on with her teeth, shaking her head and growling playfully.  I let her win a few rounds.  Then she gets a bone to chew outside.  She is pretty easy to please.  Play and food always work.  Too bad that we are not so predictable!  Life would be so much easier.

So I am feeling much better.  Sheba and words work most of the time for me.  It is a difficult journey to be a good, decent human being but I am trying hard.  I am remembering Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements.  What better time of the year to be tested than now?

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Be impeccable with your word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

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Don’t take anything personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

agreement 3

Don’t make assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

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Always do your best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

I am remembering another Christmas when I was experiencing the same emotions as now.  Words then help me through.  This is the letter that I posted for my very good email friends.  They are still my very good friends even though we aren’t as much in touch now.

 
“What a lucky girl am I to be receiving two sunrises from men from different parts of the world in recent days..  Of course, being -30 C in my neck of the woods,, I prefer the one from the land of palm trees and the home of all mankind.  It shows the sun rising above the horizon, casting a warm glow, bringing a promise of a new day of possibilities.

And so the pain in my chest has eased and once more I can breathe and sigh again.  Life is complex and sometimes puzzling and so are people.  Things are not always black and white.  Even gray has many shades.  And so I learn that I do not have to choose either or.  I do not have to throw the baby out with the bath water.  There’s always a middle ground and that friendship is many a splendoured thing.  Forgiveness is very freeing.  Love is all encompassing….peace everlasting.”

I saved those words, perhaps knowing they will help me again.  And so they have.  I am free. And it is another dawn, full of God’s splendour.

BEING HERE, BEING NOW

IMG_4870It is especially difficult to be here and now in the heart of snow and winter.  Many of us are dreaming of those sunny beaches of Mexico and Cuba and those all inclusive holidays where the food and the liquor flow ever so freely.  Besides that, we are constantly distracted by the news and ‘the world out there’.  It is difficult to be at home with ourselves when we are always connected.

I had a gift yesterday.  I forgot my Iphone at home when I went to work.  I felt a little lost at first, but I told myself that it was not a bad thing.  It was not a disaster nor an emergency.  People can still find me if they need to.  My pocket felt a load lighter and so did my mind.  I was able to put my whole awareness and energy to the place and the people I was with.  It was awesome!  And at the end of the day, there was nothing lost and much gained.

I’m trying to build on the experience, but the mind is like a willful child.  It wants to go here and there.  It wants to turn on this gadget, that gadget, surf the world wide web, wasting time.  I am trying to be a patient and kind parent, bringing it back to focus.  Riding my exercise bike this morning, I try to keep pedaling the 15 minutes, seeing and registering the words I am reading at the same time.

My mind is running away on me even now as I am writing.  So I let it go.  I pause and it comes back.  And so it goes.  Practice makes better.  Small building blocks, one upon another, will make a strong foundation.

BUILDING HABITS, BUILDING DREAMS

27097_321356195886_8251743_nMornings are hard in the middle of December.  The sun does not show its face till 9 or later.  So lucky that we have Sheba to be our alarm clock.  She is quite persistent.  If licks on the face, runs at the bed doesn’t work, she will resort to loud barking to get us out of bed.  I am hungry!  I am hungry!  Get up!  Get up!  What is the matter with you people?

So another day begins.  It is 7:25 and we have slept in!  I think about hopping on the exercise bike with my book and mug of tea for a few minutes but thought was all I did.  Oh tomorrow is another day.  I will have to remember that for tomorrow and not let myself down and slide on the slippery slope of will power.  I am an adult after all.

So, this is another morning.  Wake up call again..at 7.  I get up, remembering my promise to get on the exercise bike.  I am feeling low and tired.  It is not visions of sugar plums dancing I see in my head, but the shooting at the school in Connecticut.  It is the cares of the world I am feeling along with my own uncertainties and heaviness.  But time has been my best teacher.  All the thinking and feeling and trying to understand and figure things out has not helped me in the past.

And so I sigh, get out of bed, make my tea and head downstairs to the bike.  I turn on my SAD light and set my timer for 16 minutes.  Those minutes are long and short at the same time.  My thighs ache and I stop to rest and sip my tea.  Hurry, hurry, get going!  Only 16 minutes.  You want to get going to get some good.  Only 16 minutes to read this book.  Pedal!  Pedal!

The 16 minutes are over and so is breakfast.  Those feelings of despair for the world come and go.  When they come, I remember that it does me no good to think and feel them.  I get up and move.  I put the breakfast dishes in the washer.  I wipe the counter.  I put away the towels someone has folded for me.  I sucked up Sheba’s hair off the floor in the kitchen, dining room and sun room with the electric Swifter.

The sun is out and I am sitting here, tap, tapping out my words.  What I am thinking now is about the irony of our world, our lives.  This is the time when we do have the world at our fingertips.  With a touch of a button, we can send a message across the world.  We can talk via Skype to someone on the other side of the globe.  We are more connected than ever.  Yet at the same time, we are more isolated than ever.  I am missing those times when we were more brave, daring…to be vulnerable and talk to each other, face to face, on the phone.  I miss those times when we were not afraid to be friends and say, I like you, I miss you.  I need you.

I count myself lucky that I can feel all these feelings.  Sometimes they are a BIG nuisance.  You have a life to live, you know, and you have to flog through all the heaviness of feeling, just to get out of bed.  But the rewards of trying and doing are very much worth it.  Cultivating good habits help.  I love Regina Brett’s:  Get up, dress up, show up.  Every time I can do that, I know that I am a success.

sunroomI find that I can accomplish great things if I show up.  Sometimes our worst of times can be our best of times.  My sun room is the best testimony to that.  Because of my ‘condition’ of Seasonal Affective Disorder, I look for solutions and possibilities.  And this is the end result.

We are all builders.  So let us build good things.  Let us build a better world.  We can start with just a single block.

CHRISTMASES PAST

Christmas is still to come and it will be with us every year, forever and ever.  For some of us, including yours truly, we like to think we can do very well without it.  But can we?  It is such an integral part of our lives/society/world.  Sometimes we like to trash the very thing dear to us, because of one inexplicable reason or another.

I know very well why I do not cotton up to this idea of ’tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la la la.  I hope I got the correct number of la’s in.  I have always known why.  It’s very tough to embrace another culture’s tradition as an eight year old immigrant.  Back in the days of dinosaurs, as some of my younger coworkers would like to say, we weren’t as worldly and smart as kids now are.

For one thing, there was no such thing as the World Wide Web, cell phones or television that I knew of.  Why, I was only acquainted with electricity for 2 years before we came to Canada, Gold Mountain, as the Chinese call it.  I had no idea of what Canada meant.  I was still enthralled by Hong Kong and its city lights.  My mother and I had left our village only 2 years before.

In my child’s mind, the name Gold Mountain must have conjured up pictures of wealth.  I  remember visions of balloons and lollypops.  So imagine my confusion as my journey progresses towards our final destination…Maidstone, Saskatchewan.  I do not recall landing at the airport in Saskatoon.  I do not recall how we got to North Battleford.  It’s funny that I do not have any memory of it at all.  I will have to ask my mother for those details.

I recall clearly that first time I stepped into my grandfather’s laundry.  Sometimes I see in black and white, like those Hallmark occasions, those Kodak moments.  They are forever frozen in my mind’s eye.

I stepped onto bare worn wooden floors.  It was a big, plain room with a tall table against each wall opposite each other.  They were the two tables on which my grandfather and his brother ironed and folded starch shirts for their customers.  This was Gold Mountain?

A few days later, my grandfather put my mother, sister and I on a Grey Hound Bus for Maidstone where my father had a cafe with his cousin.  I did not find any lollypops or balloons there.  Nor was there running water.  Though it did have electricity, I felt as if we had returned to our village in China, only that the inhabitants had long noses and pale faces!  And I could not understand them when they spoke.

That was in early September.  By December, I think I knew English and about Christmas of a sort.

SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS

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I am hearing John Lennon’s song, A Happy Christmas, but I’m having a hard time feeling the music or the sentiment.  I wonder how many people are of the same sentiment.  I’ve been fighting these feelings to no avail.  Perhaps it’s time to stop fighting and I mean it literally and just do the right thing.  Even Sheba looks sad as Santa Claus.

So, I give up gritting and gnashing my teeth.  I get up and down a pain killer along with  my blood pressure pill and vitamin Ds.  No point in suffering and being a hero.  I’ve been trying to make a simple batch of biscuits for the last two days.  The first time, I put in a tablespoon of baking soda instead of a tablespoon of granulated sugar.

How the hell did that happened?  Don’t think that it couldn’t happen to you.  Never say never, because even though I was reading granulated sugar, my brain saw baking soda.  And I never caught the mistake till I’ve already added the milk.  So hoping against hope, I added the missed tablespoon of sugar, formed the biscuits and popped them in the oven.

They came out of the oven puffy and golden, but with a very bitter after taste.  Well, what do you figure?  The recipe already called for 4 teaspoon of baking powder.  It didn’t need an extra tablespoon of baking soda!  Very big sigh.  Mistakes are apt to happen when one is tired or under the weather.

This reminds me of a time very early in my nursing career.  Well, I’ve never forgotten it.  It is always just barely beneath the surface of my mind, ready to pop out.  I was working a set of nights and made a medication error.  Much like my reading of the biscuit recipe, even though my eyes was reading codeine syrup, my brain was saying morphine syrup.  Even though I had to look and look at the label and calculate the dosage each time during the night, my brain told me it was morphine syrup instead of what it actually was.

The incident has taught me not to swear by my memory or my other senses.  Sometimes we are wrong even though we swear that we couldn’t be.  And kindness can come from strange places, like from the patient at the receiving end of my error.  Doctors make mistakes, too!  She comforts me, though she had received less than adequate pain relief because of me.

And from my manager at the time, a visit to her office and a typewritten list of all my inadequacies, at the time when my patient load for those nights was 25.  None of my coworkers spoke of it to me, except the one who discovered the error.  She felt so sorry for me.  Sometimes one’s universe can be such a silent empty place.  You can almost hear the echo of one hand clapping.

 That was the hardest summer of my life.  It happened in July.  I felt I had no one to talk to.  I learned to journal, talk into a tape recorder……all these memories, triggered again by the nurse who was duped by those two broadcasters from Australia into thinking it was the Queen calling and forwarded the call.  I can understand how upsetting it would be to make such a mistake…  well, maybe just a little.  Her mistake was broadcasted worldwide.

The sun has come out.  Time to move on with life.  My Tylenol 3 is working.  I’m feeling more comfortable.  And oh, on my second try at the biscuits, I forgot the salt.  They didn’t look as nice as the bitter ones, but they tasted much better.  I even fed them to a guest and got praised!

I’m a much stronger person/nurse now.  Mistakes are part of every human being/life.  If you see/know another suffering from a mistake, don’t avert your gaze or look the other way.  Give her an acknowledgement/comfort, however you can.  I am sure it will be much appreciated.  I know that from experience.

And here’s wishing everyone A Happy Christmas:

THE SPIRIT OF CELEBRATIONS

IMG_1364I’m thinking of past Christmases and New Years as I awake in the dark this morning.  I’m thinking that it would be much easier if it was in July.  There would be no snow, heavy coats, scarves and boots, coughs or runny noses to deal with.  Life would be lighter and easier…would it not?

I’m also thinking back to my childhood in China, of New Year’s Eve.  Seems to me that is the only memory I have of a true celebration ….. a welcoming in of the new year and paying homage to the one past.  That is my interpretation of the rituals,  for I was but a child when I left my homeland.  That is how I like to remember it.

I’m feeling my loss, as a child of immigrants to this country….the  loss of my Chinese-ness, my culture, my heritage.  But I have spent many more years here than there and I can never go home again.  I am a stranger in both lands.   Sometimes it is necessary to feel our pain and losses in order to move ahead.  I have felt that pain many times.  But I also have gained much because of that sense of loss.

I really do not want to dwell on pain and losses.  They are not always real, but things our mind grab onto, maybe because of something someone said or done.  Who knows what is in another’s mind or heart.  And you cannot understand it so you write your own interpretation.  You allow yourself to doubt and you let poison in.  You hurt.  How does that help?  Better that we celebrate, however we can, to let in the light.

I like the Chinese ways of ushering in the new by cleaning and clearing out stale and stagnant chi.  Gung Hee Fat Choy! Happy New Year! Chinese tradition is to bring the new year in with clean house, new clothes and to receive/give red envelopes of money ..symbol of prosperity. My childhood memory is of our house being warmed by the fires tended by the women in our family as they made sweets and dim sims in the night.  Perhaps one day I will learn how to make some of them.

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I’m sweeping out the debris of my mind, letting go of past grievances and hurts, opening my heart to receive all the goodness that there is in the universe.  I am baking bread, , making soup, blessing our home.  I am wearing the colour red, the colour of good fortune.

I am no longer a lost child. looking for my identity.  I have found my Chinese self, Hafong, alias Lily, the born again Catholic,  who admires the ways of Buddha .  I am a Chinese woman living in Canada, a country in the Universe.  And I am celebrating my life.

HEART OF WINTER

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We are in the heart of winter.  It is dark, dark outside.  My little Buddha is shivering in the snow.  Sunrise is not till 8:59, another hour yet.  Yesterday, the sun did not come out at all.

It would be so easy to hibernate like the bears, but duty and nature calls.  Sheba is quite insistent.  She KNOWS she is hungry and she’s not letting anyone sleep in.  You try to quiet your bladder, but after awhile you know you have to get up.  So you throw those covers back and step onto the cold floor.  And another day starts.

I’m not feeling up to snuff.  My eyes are gummed up and my mouth feels grainy and dry, like the Sahara Desert.  I am achy, throaty and tired.  Welcome back, SINUSITIS, my old friend.  Your ways are familiar to me now.  I can function quite well with you on my back even though you try your hardest to drag me down.

So, I’m not so speedy or quite as organized as usual.  Is there a race on and are we in a hurry?  Or is there an emergency?  It is good that there are seasons and times for everything….times to work and times to rest, times to speed and times to slow.  We all know how that song goes, but do we listen and hear it?

I’m feeling like hell now.  So I sit back, take my glasses off and rub my eyes.  I breathe and sip my tea.  Sheba is on her mat besides me.  Animals do absorb and ease our distress and discomfort by being with you and being just themselves.  Often we take them for granted  but they are always so happy to see us when we come back, even if we’ve gone for a few minutes.They accept us as we are.  There is no judgement.

I would do well if I could learn from Sheba’s ways….let people know I appreciate them, live in the moment, letting go of minutes, hours, days, years past, of things of little consequence.  Perhaps that’s her purpose…to keep reminding me of the excitement of life, to keep wagging my tail.  The sun will come again.   Ahh, there it is now, shining over my shoulder, lighting my world!   And I have done well in this heart of the winter.

Sometimes when there is no feeling good in your body or mind, you have to go back in your memories for those feelings and live as if.  That is what I did this morning, remembering the pleasure of the cup of hot chocolate, making soup, baking bread.  I remember my body opened up, seeing  Sheba running out to greet me when I came home from work Monday evening, tired and stressed.  Her wagging tail, smile and nuzzling work miracles in easing the tension in my being.

Everything does turn, turn, turn.  Nothing stays the same.  This, too, shall pass.  And for everything, there is a purpose under heaven.  Breakfast is done, dishes cleared and the dishwasher is turning and turning.