Your Weekly Diversion, Weekly 37



Now we find ourselves at Week 37. It’s been quite a challenge for the planet and for human kind. My mom’s 92 year old baby sister just fell and broke her pelvis. We are all praying for her healing and return to the active life she loves. Then my cousin finally got down to her home in Florida only to find leaks and other damage. Another cousin found that her Florida art gallery and museum and all the contents survived undamaged, although trees and plants on the grounds were devastated. Friends with property and family in Puerto Rico are anxious about their wellbeing. And then there’s the political circus with its twirling and gesticulating, gyrating and posturing, bellowing and sanctifying its innocence in the face of a blunt reality that begs to differ.

Painting  by Yukon artist Natalie Parenteau

Do you smudge? If not, here’s why you might want to start. Science backs up the belief many share that smudging is good for our health and can be good for the air we breathe. I do it in the office between clients sometimes, especially if the vibe has been especially intense or just to give me a lift. The wonderful work of Canadian artist Natalie Parenteau as seen above can be found here.

The colorful seaside neighborhood of La Perla in Puerto Rico inspired singer Luis Fonsi to write and perform his iconic “Despacito”. Before you get to enjoy the video make earlier this summer, here’s how La Perla looks after Hurricane Maria, in a sobering video clip.

Now, the joyous “before” to remind us all how much work will need to be done for the people of Puerto Rico and this pastel paradise to be restored to gain. “Despacito”:

                                                            Namasté

Your Weekly Diversion, Week 34

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Graphic courtesy of Donna Downey’s Simply Me

Week 34 and I almost forgot to post this week’s diversions. We are in the middle of a hurricane, except we are 1,380 miles away from our home there. I can only say I’m glad to be safe, and we hope that all our friends, neighbors and all beings down there are safe, too. Many have evacuated, but others who are dear to us decided to ride it out. We’ve been texting with friends and family in and from Florida, from Naples to LaBelle to Daytona to Sarasota to Miami. This is the worst hurricane to hit Southwest Florida in generations. At least that’s what Brian Williams on MSNBC just said. I believe it. Suddenly I don’t care about politics. Or dieting. Or finances. Or the family challenges that might grab me at another time. We are glued to the TV coverage of Irma. Right now Mike Bettis on the Weather Channel is leaning into the 95 mph wind blasting up US 41, also known as the Tamiami Trail. They have just reported that the water level has risen 5 feet in just 20 minutes, so the surge has begun, and fast.

 

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Graphic from Polyvore

It is truly an opportunity to practice the program. If not now, when?

We have heard from friends and family from Florida and all over the country wishing us well. We’ve heard from friends in Canada and India, and I’ve heard from several clients aware we have a home in Naples and spend about half the year there. It’s so wonderful to know we’re loved and cared about and I don’t have anything more to say. But this…

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Graphic courtesy of Not Salmon

I heard this poignant song on satellite radio this afternoon. Jessica Allossery, a beautiful, beautiful voice singing “I’ll Let You Go”. This is for all of you and all that we care about, remembering that everyone and everything that we love and care about is of the nature to change. That’s from Buddhism’s Five Remembrances.

 

Namasté 

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Getting to Cloud Nine

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I’m not sure where to start with this. So I’ll start where I think it begins. We moved from New York City to rural Pennsylvania last summer. We eventually got a new MD locally. Then in May I was hospitalized with diverticulitis, a very painful intestinal infection. I was given excellent treatment in our local hospital and I was out the next day.   My primary doctor had been concerned about a serious abdominal condition other than diverticulitis, so in the ER they did a CT scan with contrast and found a couple of possible problems while confirming the diverticulitis diagnosis. I was discharged with referrals to cardiologist, colorectal surgeon, and pulmonologist. The pulmonologist referred me to a neurologist due to migraines. I saw them all.

I was off asthma meds for the first time in many years while in the hospital. I imagine they were waiting for me to complain of breathing problems to give them to me, but I didn’t have any, even with the gorgeous, big floral arrangement my colleagues at work sent me. Time was when I would have been sneezing and wheezing with flowers in the room.

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When I went to the pulmonologist and told him I hadn’t used any steroids or rescue inhaler, or even any allergy meds, in a week, he was impressed, but he also ordered pulmonary function tests and a CT scan of the lungs. I went to see him yesterday for the results. He brought out copies of the tests and said to me, “You do not have asthma!” and he explained the numbers. He said I no longer need any asthma meds, not even a rescue inhaler.

I’ve taken a lot of medications, many very expensive, for asthma and respiratory allergies over the past 35 years, which is over half my life: albuterol and its newer spinoff ProAir HFA, Advair (at the highest strength), Breo, and Symbicort (also at the highest strength), Singulair, Zyrtec, and Flonase, and others both over the counter and prescribed. I’ve been to the ER with asthma attacks, although thankfully not for decades. I’ve been on inhaled steroids and courses of prednisone for about 15 years and other asthma meds since my son was in grade school. I have the skin of an 80-year-old, in that it tears and gets purple bruises incredibly easily, and about five years ago I sustained a spontaneous fracture of the femur at the knee, all probable side effects from long term corticosteroid use for asthma.

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So I’m on Cloud Nine that I’m so much healthier than I used to be, and I credit this to several factors:

  • Being vegetarian for the past 8 years and almost totally vegan for 5 ( two of my new doctors are vegetarians, so I have solid support to continue a plant-based lifestyle).
  • Meditating almost every day for the past 6 years, a practice known to boost immunity and improve health.
  • Following the spiritual practice of Buddhism that helps me cope with stress and keep life’s challenges and changes in perspective.
  • Having wonderful and supportive friends, many of whom like myself are healthcare providers who have stressed to me the importance of self care and getting answers.
  • Working out regularly in the gym and taking more walks over the past year.
  • Meeting a holistic New York medical doctor before we moved, who urged a healthier diet, exercise and supplements over prescriptions whenever possible.
  • Moving out of the city and into a less stressful, more rural life.
  • Closing my solitary New York psychology office and opening one in East Stroudsburg, PA where amidst wonderful colleagues and staff I thrive.
  • Getting a whole new look into my health with all new medical providers, including the very thorough medical work up I was given at our local hospital.
  • Having access to good healthcare, thanks to Medicare and before that employer-provided health insurance. At this time of uncertainty over affordable health coverage for millions of Americans, I am most grateful for this and hope that goodness and compassion for those in need will prevail.

So I do like to end some of my posts with a good tune. This one feels just right, and I choose it in part in memory of a good and soulful man I treated for nearly 20 years, a man who grooved to the Motown Sound and whose passing I sadly learned of today. Danny, this one’s for you.

 

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 21

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It’s Week 21 and we need distance and diversion now more than ever. Not only those, but we’ll also need energy and resolve for activism and action, and the chutzpah to do what it takes to effect change. As Mahatma Gandhi taught us, we need to be the change we wish to see in the world.

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Israeli-Palestinian Unity flag by Deviant Art

First, how about a really positive news story? A Jewish nurse was treating a mother who could not nurse her infant. What she did was wonderful. Read the details here.

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Photo from mojan.com

Second, are you an empath? If you are a sensitive person who feels the pain and suffering of others, if you yearn to help, if you are a helping professional (a nurse, a teacher, a physician, a psychologist, a therapist or counselor, an advocate) you may be an empath. Self-care is essential for your wellbeing, and one way to engage that self-care is through the use of healing gemstones. Sivanaspirit offers us some great information on this subject.

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Alice Coltrane, widow of musician John Coltrane, was a skilled musical artist in her own right. He had ordered a full-sized floor harp to be made for him, and the making of it took quite a while. Sadly, he died before it arrived. The harp sat for some time, but finally his widow decided to learn to play it. The following video features the lush jazz sounds she coaxes from this very harp. The New Yorker magazine published a comprehensive feature on Alice Coltrane’s devotional music that digs deep into her story.

 

Namasté 

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Glass Half Empty, Glass Half Full

Glass-of-water     ruler

How often we assess our assets or liabilities by an arbitrary yardstick. Maybe it’s our finances, or our looks, or perhaps our health. It could be the status of our relationships, or lack thereof. We tend to see ourselves in comparison to others, as well as in comparison to our hopes or expectations for ourselves.

What do we accomplish by judging ourselves by such a yardstick? Does doing so spur us on towards achievement? Or does it contribute to shame and guilt that we do not measure up? Whose yardstick are we using? Our mother’s? Our father’s? Our best friend’s? Or is it our wife’s or husband’s yardstick by which we judge ourselves?

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For many of us, we see public figures and have feelings about how we compare to them. We may bemoan our belief that we aren’t as successful, happy or attractive as the people we look up to in this way. Or we might gloat that at least we don’t have a life as filled with unmanageability and disaster as a movie star with many unhappy marriages or a prominent substance abuse problem.

In recovery there are a few pithy slogans worth using by anyone:

              • Identify, don’t compare
              • Compare and despair
              • Don’t compare your insides to anyone else’s outsides

The idea is that we will do far better to see what we have in common with others than to assess whether we are better or worse than they are on any given scale. When we identify, we may feel more empathy and kindness towards others, rather than feeling either smugly superior or sheepishly less-than.  The more we hold another up to ourselves in comparison, the more likely we will feel we fall short. This is in part due to the fact that we know our own shortcomings and deficiencies intimately, whereas we see the best put-together façade the other can possibly put forward.

The half glass of abundance is more than enough when you need less than half a glass. A huge glass half full is more abundant than a tiny glass filled to the brim. What do you need? Can you get what you need through your own efforts or by asking for help? When you keep your needs reasonable and your aims realistic, you will be more likely to have a sense of contentment than if you harbor intense and extreme needs and if you aim for the impossible.

How do we know when we have enough and when we need to keep striving for more of anything, be it love, money, material possessions, power, or acclaim? The answer is a complex one. A monk has his bowl, a robe and perhaps a warm, dry place to lay his head. Anything beyond this may be seen as luxury. Most of us will not live a monastic life, but learning to be content with less can be a gift. During the Great Depression and into WWII, this phrase was popular, and we would do well in this age of diminishing resources to consider it.

Use it Up

Or wear it out,

Make it do

Or do without

Life is short, much shorter than we realize, so let’s see what we can do with what we have. It is far more important who we are than what we have. Our principles and values determine our thoughts, intentions and actions. Living wisely, and helping others to do the same may be the only lasting legacy we leave. Our memory will live on in the minds of our descendants long after our bodies have returned to the earth. Will we be remembered for the good we did, the life we lived, or the things we acquired?

As for me, I am trying each day, imperfectly but sincerely, to live by the Eight Noble Truths. More about them next time!

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Namaste

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