"It gives me great pleasure indeed to see the stubborness of the inorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed." - Albert Einstein

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I aspire to a stubbornly incorrigible nonconformity. The degree to which I have achieved my aspiration I leave in the capable hands of those whose wisdom and humilty exceed my own.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Unclogging Life's Blockage

Earlier this week I had a minor crisis. Being fed by tube involves some technology; specifically a rubber tube that is plugged directly into my intestines and is attached to a pump. The technology is not perfect or flawless. One of the most obvious flaws is that I have a tube hanging out of my belly for the rest of my life. One of the other flaws is that I am dependent for all of my nutrition on a system that is prone to getting clogged up.

Monday evening I discovered that my tube was, once again, clogged. I tried to clear it with what had been recommended to me at the hospital, diet cola. Apparently the acid in and effervescence of the soda has the capacity to clear minor blockages. Didn't work. I was still clogged, and consequently, I couldn't get anything to eat Monday night or Tuesday morning.

The first thing Tuesday morning I called the doctor, who was in Moses Lake. However, his nurse said that she would help me and we went in.

It took about thirty minutes to clear my tube with a special brush on a long stiff wire that gets inserted directly into my tube. Everything was, and remains, clear for now.

I have been practicing my Buddhist meditation at least once, and most often three times a day. I have learned some things, or perhaps it is more accurate to say I have re-learned some things. One of the insights I have gained is that my sitting meditation is simply training to live a mindful life; a life where I am fully present in each moment and where nothing can happen that will disrupt my equilibrium and tranquility. Not my best thing. Another thing that I have learned is that as it is on the cushion, so it is in life. I have learned that a life lived mindfully is made evident because there is an inherent happiness that cannot be shaken. And I have learned that in order to clear up life's obstacles, you need the right tools.

When I had this minor crisis I remembered to breathe deeply and put this minor crisis into perspective. I was missing a meal, that's all it was. Nothing to become hysterical over. It is easy for me to descend into some very dark thoughts and places when, among other things, the technology upon which I depend for keeping me going is not working. I decided that I would just be fully present to this  moment in my life. An uncomfortable moment that did not have the capacity to disrupt my equilibrium and tranquility.

And I am very clear that this was a choice I made. I decided not to worry, become anxious, or angry. I decided that I would keep my mind at peace and not be ruled by anger.

In the end, I just didn't have the right tools to clear that clogged up tube on my own. I needed the right tool. The nurse sent me home with that special tube brush so next time I can use it myself.

This all sounds much too simple as I read it now. But I am acutely aware of all the work that has gone into helping me get to this place and to achieve this mindfulness, even if it is just a brief example that might not repeat itself anytime soon. At least for that moment, I was there, really there. Not worrying about the future or regretting things I had done in the past, fully confident that this minor crisis would be relieved without too much trauma.

That made it a good day. And today, I am back to work on learning how to be retired and confident that I have another set of tools with which to unclog life's blockages.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Am I Really Linked In - And If So To What?

The other day I noticed that the links on my blog were hopelesssly out of date. I decided to update my links today, which I successfully accomplished ... on the second or third try. Going through that process of updating my links got me thinking. Am I really linked in? And if I am, just what am linked in to?

When I was a professional social worker, storyteller, workshop facilitator, and inspirational speaker I felt linked in all over the place. Now that I am reluctantly and prematurely retired (for the benefit of any new readers I had to retire due to health issues, which include an acquired speech impediment and not being able to eat or drink anything) I feel like I have lost a vital and important part of my professional identity and self.

I have been getting more accustomed to being a retired person, but it is clear to me that I am still in the grieving the loss/learning how to be retired phase. I am fifty five and I am still going through a phase. Damn it, my mother was right, I haven't ever grown up.

I am still connected and the new links I added to the blog page today prove it. I just don't always feel so connected. I have been making a diligent effort to get connected and involved in the community. Well, the truth is, (and if you can't tell the truth on your blog really, what's the point?) that I haven't been that diligent. I missed Toastmasters because, for the first time in many years, I was too anxious about the speech I was supposed to give and didn't think it was ready yet. I was supposed to go to the Cascade Writer's Group last Tuesday but got so anxious about sharing my first attempts at creative writing since high school that I didn't go. I have been keeping up with my weekly meditation at Stone Blossom Sangha in East Wenatchee, so there's one point for me.

Mostly I have been staying home, doing a little housework; a little yardwork (my yard is clearly winning that battle); reading; writing; and napping. Of all of those my best thing this last week has been napping, which seems like the enemy of ever getting or staying linked in.

And while I am on the subject, I have a www.linkedin.com page but have never really figured out how to use it. I have the time to try and learn now, but I don't really know if I can still be a storyteller, workshop facilitator, and/or inspirational speaker since I have this acquired speech impediment.

I decided right after I left work for the last time that I would need to treat my retirement as a job, meaning I had to get up at the same time every morning, brush my teeth, shave, dress and do important stuff. Well, I have gotten the getting up, brushing my teeth, shaving, and dressing down. I do that every morning whether I feel like or have any important stuff to do or  not. I have not done so good at actually doing something important every day. It looks like this blog is taking a rather unpleasant turn - maybe the reason I don't feel linked in anymore is my fault? I hate when that happens. I am committing myself right now to do better, starting Monday. Hey, it's the weekend and even retired people get to enjoy the weekend!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Settling In

I have been officially retired for about a month now and I am starting to settle in. I think I have a steep learning curve. I have worked for so long, and enjoyed it, that I have to learn how to be retired. It is a different set of skills and competencies. The first thing that I have leared, or decided I guess is more accurate, is that it is not a good idea to stay in your pajamas. I have adopted the very modest discipline that every single day, even if I have nothing scheduled or planned for that day, I will get up, brush my teeth, shave, dress, practice my zen meditation, and then do something. It is just too easy and self-destructive for me to just stay in my pajamas all day long.

So far I have spent time writing and reading and meditating. I have done a little housework, laundry, and yardwork. I have managed the bureaucracy of my disability and insurance. This is my new job, being retired. It is just like every other job I have ever had, I will get better at it the longer I do it. I was an excellent social worker and child welfare advocate and now I aspire to be an excellent retiree.

I have plans that are starting to formulate for me. I got an idea for a novel yesterday and started working on it, just a little, this morning. The story line is based on a real life child welfare social work experience of mine, so perhaps, if it ever gets written and published, it would evolve into a series? That sounds pretty exciting.

It has been an eventful week for me. I got my official award letter from social security, in which the government informed me that I am disabled and will begin receiving social security disability payments in August. I had expected that this would be a much more challenging process and that I would be initially denied and have to appeal, so this is good news, kind of. At least now starting in August I will have a reliable source of income. Income is a good thing.

It is hard for me to think of myself as being disabled though. I have come to terms with being disabled, it is the label that troubles me. It is perfectly alright for me to know that I am disabled, but it was not something that I particularly wanted to share with the entire world, or at least with my entire world. Of course, it now occus to me that that is exactly what I am doing by writing about it in my blog. I vascilate between thinking that publicizing my disability is whining and/or sympathy seeking behavior and thinking that letting people know how I am doing is a mature attempt to seek appropriate support from friends and family. It all depends on how I feel at any given moment.

I saw a friend at the park yesterday. I hadn't spoken to him since he had told me that he was diagnosed with and being treated for prostate cancer. He had suggested that we get together the next week and that he would call me. I knew, from other friends, that he was having a challenging time with his treatment, so I was not surprised when he didn't call me. Yesterday he apologized for not getting back to me and explained that his treatment was more difficult than he had anticipated. I reflected that we are just not as young and resilient as we once were, no matter what our brains tell us.