frontpage stats
Samsung DVD Burner

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The eternal climb

I just noted a headline stating that the oldest person in the U.S. died today. This is actually a tangential way of getting to my point. Yahoo! may have tips on longevity but I think one of the biggest indicators lies in the mind. One has to want to live and find reason for living in order to reach a ripe old age. I imagine this woman must have had that.

I always imagined I would live to be pretty old but at a certain point it occured to me that maybe that is not even what I want. My desire to live hinges on a number of outside factors. If I am going to live long, I want to live in a world that is still worth living in. I want a viable environment without too much pollution, disease, scarcity and global warming. I need people I love around me and I need reasons and purpose for living. A few weeks ago I made a dramatic post about being "cured" of my mental ailments. That might be a stretch. Every day is a challenge. I meet some better than others and overall I now know better how to deal with my angst.

Living! is still an eternal climb. Some days it is easy. I can often see many reasons to go on trying and to seek happiness but I also must continually refocus my mind in order to keep myself from dwelling in dark places.

One of the things I notice most about life since MS is that I am easily overwhelmed. Little tasks seem big. I am in continual fear of overcommitting. I still often psyche myself up for things by planning my next nap. My anxiety is often directly tied to the feeling that I can't take care of everything or to a sort of mental paralysis that keeps me from even starting. Sometimes the week stretches before me and it is hard to imagine how I will make it both physically and mentally. Mole hills are now mountians and while I recognize this, it is often hard to reframe my thinking.

There is also of course the guilt. It has dulled to a simmer but still I feel it. Part of the guilt comes from being overwhelmed. I am angry at myself for feeling that way. There have been so many times this year where I have pushed through discomfort and illness in order to take care of things and yet the thought of doing so still overwhelms me. I have three weeks before I leave town again and only a few things outside work to take care of and yet I still doubt my ability to take care of things. I see clearly what a lovely life I have and yet I am still operating under notions of scarcity about time and resources.

Even with the tools at my disposal, living with enthusiasm remains an eternal climb. I think that little of this has to do with MS and most of it is quite normal but I do find I sometimes envy people who spend more time acting and less time thinking about it. I even find that at times I envy those who can just lose themselves in other things with little room for thought at all about their relative happiness or unhappiness. My "cure" lies only in my own mind and my own ability to control or not control it on any given day. On the bright side, today is ok.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

The day dawned here in Northern California with a heavy fog but now it has burned off and the sun is shining brightly. I too awoke feeling foggy. My head ached and my limbs were heavy. A few ibuprofin, some caffeine and a delicious breakfast cheered me.

Like the clouds, my spirit has now lifted and I am enjoying time with my husband's family. Soon their other guests will arrive. The kitchen where I am sitting is festive with thanksgiving preparations and I am looking forward with anticipation to our shared meal.

This respite from work and home responsibilities has offered a much-needed chance to rejuvenate and reflect. I am reminded again that this is a good life, even when there are bumps in the road. I hope today that all my readers are fortunate enough to be spending some quiet time with people they cherish. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Giving Thanks

I am thankful that tomorrow afternoon I get to go on vacation for five days. By this time tomorrow, I'll be packing up to go to California to see my in-laws. It is quite possible I won't be able to get on the blog for a few but I am enormously thankful for the vacation.

Ever since I was a kid we have gone around the table at thanksgiving dinner and each person has named what they are thankful for. Although it is a family tradtion, I have never really liked it before because my responses always seemed forced or aimed at pleasing. This year I feel different. As I try to remember daily and weekly what I am grateful for I just keep thinking of more things.

I am grateful to be part of the family I am going to see. I am grateful that my own family will meet up in one place and tell each other what they are thankful for while they enjoy a "deep fried" or "blackened turkey." I am thankful that nowdays there is a great tofurky for vegetarians so I can really join the festivities. I am also grateful that all signs point towards a work-free vacation.

Above all, I am grateful for all the love and support I get from people in my life. I am thankful for all the little things my friend and department head continually does for me. I am also grateful for the caring of other close colleagues who help me make it successfully through every day. There are not enough ways for me to say how much I appreciate my friends. I often feel regret that I do not offer them more in exchange. I am most grateful for my husband who gives me a reason to get up every day. The caring and support he has shown me over the last few months is unbelievable. I appreciate all the big and small things he does for me every day and I really appreciate the way he continues to listen even when I speak in circles.

I am lucky! I have love. I have comfort and I still have a job. While I cannot clothe the hungry or protect the innocent, I send forth my greatest goodwill and prayers to all those in suffering and need around the world at this moment.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Thoughts

I better keep this quick... My husband just complained that I spend too much time on the computer. Let me clarify lest I be labelled a junkie. I spend one hour a day at most but unfortunately this hour tends to fall between 5:00 and 6:30 on any given day right when he gets home. I guess it's time for some reshuffling of my schedule. Hmmmm...

Let me apologize now to those blogs I neglect during my busy week and my now limited computer time. I still love ya and I'll try to come by if I get any time to myself.

This was the best week of work I have had in a long time. The kids settled back in to the new term and the chaos in my room was greatly scaled back. I also seem to be getting more outside support for my classes. I have paras twice a day now and a special educator who comes in regularly. I have even had some support getting difficult kids out of my room.

I believe that a change in my attitude has also partly acccounted in the changes I am experiencing at work. I still can't seem to get excited about work but I don't dread it the same way anymore. One of the biggest recent changes in my life has been my new ability to catch myself when I am about to start freaking or stressing out. I have not gotten to the point where I don't react to things but I have gotten to the point where I notice my own reactions more. I may not control my reactions in the moment but I am not letting myself slip into a long, drawn out state of emotional discomfort. It is true that we cannot control all the things that come to pass in our lives but we can control how we deal with those things. I think I am slowly learning to do this. Again I find myself connecting to breath as the key to this process. When I feel myself getting stressed I remind myself to slow and deepen my breathing. It really seems to help. Like the yoga I do on my mat, this is a practice but I am excited to realize that I can do so much with my own mind.

Monday, November 17, 2008


No silly, I still have MS but today my therapist told me that I don't need to schedule another appointment. It seems my tool kit is up and working and that I know how to use it to fight depression and anxiety. Her affirmation of me helped me affirm this shift for myself. I feel hope. I am remembering who I am and what I am about. I am accepting the changes in myself and my life. I can smile and laugh again. Tomorrow and the rest of my life are not a burden. The sun will shine and I will bathe in its light.

Choose joy.
Choose to smile.
Choose faith.
Choose the glass half full.
Choose hope.
Choose gratitude.
Choose laughter.
Choose life!

Sunday, November 16, 2008


I have noticed that yoga teachers and meditation teachers alike often talk about finding equanimity. There is something beautiful about that word "eqanimity." It fills me with visions of a perfect peace in the body and the mind. I crave the equanimity and sometimes I find it in my own yoga and meditation practice. More and more I am trying to create these feelings beyond the mat and take them into my life.

I have also noticed that my mind is often in a cluttered place in which my yearning to be entirely present is lost in a jumble of worries about things I can do little about in the moment. In the midst of a break, a weekend or a yoga practice, I will find my thoughts drifting towards little worries that cannot be solved in that instant and things that need not constantly trouble me. I believe it is when I allow these things to overtake my mind that I cultivate depression and anxiety. When I merely notice these things as "mindfulness" suggests and then let them float by like objects in a stream, I feel much more peaceful inside. It is a slow road but I think I am learning to better control my thoughts.

About four days ago I decided to just be happy or at least content and things got easier. When I find myself fixating on irrational worries, I push these things from my mind. I have chosen to focus my thoughts and energy on the small things I look forward to. I think this is positive. There was a while there where I could find nothing to look forward to and nothing to appreciate. My sun stopped shining. Then, about two weeks ago, I started to notice pinpoints of light in my self-induced darkness. There have been many times since then when I have found myself fixated again on what's not working. At these points, I have had to work very hard to keep my mind from getting lost again in those dark places but I am determined to enjoy what peace and happiness I can find when I can find them. I have renewed my efforts to do the things I enjoy and to spend time with the people in my life who make me feel good. The more of this I do, the less guilt I feel about the things I am not doing.

I realize that I need balance in my life. I may spend a lot of time at work and that may often get me down but still, that is not my whole life, nor is it who I am. Yesterday's invocation of things I am grateful for reminded me just how many things there are outside my job that define me and bring me joy almost every day. This weekend I was able to live almost entirely in the moment. Today I can say that despite some health issues, this was a good weekend. I got to do everything I wanted and needed to do just by balancing my time and thoughts in ways that made sense. Tomorrow I will continue to seek balance as I move through my day.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


One of the things I have been trying to focus on lately is all the great things I have in my life. I was reading in "Yoga Journal" about the positive impact that gratitude can have on ones life. The article stated that people who regularly remind themselves what they are grateful for tend to be more satisfied with life. I can certainly see why this could be the case. When we stop and take the time to remember the great things in our life, they tend to outweigh the negatives. I know this is true for my own life. When I look back at the year before my diagnoses, I see that just about everything I ever dreamed of had fallen into place. Almost all those things are still there so I have a great deal to be grateful for.

In think I need to take the time more regularly to remember how good I really have it so perhaps I'll try to do this more often. Today I am grateful for many things. I am grateful for my mind. I am especially grateful for my loving husband. My pets give me great satisfaction with their unconditional love. I have an awesome, accepting family and most of them are here in Denver. They invite me places and let me be myself. They don't burden me with unrealistic expectations and as I have changed and struggled, they have supported me rather than finding fault in the changes I have gone through.

I have had an amazing education. I get to continually learn and challenge myself with my job, even when it is hard. The things I do at work mean something no matter what. I have caring supportive friends at my job and some kids that I really connect with.

I own my own home! I have a new car. I get to go to yoga and teach it all the time. Even more importantly, I have lots of love from my friends, family, pets and husband.

I listen to the news and I am reminded just how much so many people globally have lost and suffered in recent times, then I look at my little worries and they are nothing. People are constantly losing their jobs and their homes and I still have both. I never want for food or shelter. I get to enjoy small luxuries all the time. While I have small health challenges, overall I am doing great six months after my diagnoses. I have so many reasons to be positive and hopeful about my future. This short journal hardly scratches the surface of just how lucky I am and how much I have to be grateful for. I will have to write more about this again soon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why do the "good" die young?

I lost a student last night. I found out right when I walked into work today. Last night "Jorge" was involved in a fatal motorcycle accident.

I don't want to talk about his death. I want to talk about what I knew of his life.

Jorge had the ability to light up a room. He was friendly and charasmatic. He had a huge smile that made others feel great. Jorge understood respect. He was and is a credit to his beautiful family. Sometimes reading and writing were hard for Jorge but he always did his best in class. He worked hard and did his homework. Lately teaching has been hard for me and sometimes I would think about Jorge to get myself to go to work. He truly exemplified what a teacher seeks in a student.

Last Friday I found a card in my box. It was a hand painted card from Jorge. It says, "Thank you for helping me become a better reader." That card made my day. No, it made my year. I have Jorge's card on my bulletin board.

I will always remember Jorge as a bright patch in the center of a decaying school.

I walk away asking, "Why did it have to be this one?"

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Neurologist Visit etc...

I had the day off so rather than just chilling, I went to a few appointments. I started at the dentist. I was not surprised to be scolded for my poor flossing and tartar build up. It is clear that I have been neglecting many things since my diagnoses and my teeth is one of them. I still got off pretty easy. I have to go for a cleaning and for one filling at the end of December. I need to floss better and use mouth wash for a while but nothing too bad. They are watching a spot on my lower gum for mouth cancer but the spot has always been there. The one thing that does concern me is that when I took the time to really examine the spot, I noticed that it has changed. I am keeping my fingers crossed because mouth cancer is the last thing I need. I used to think I was invincible but cracking my sternum last year and learning I had MS has taught me not to take health for granted.

After the dentist I was really tired. My exhaustion has increased almost exponentially over the last few days but I actually feel much better these days than I have in a while. I combatted the fatigue today much as I have been. I put some caffeine into my system and then continued on with my day. It was really hard not to rush home and go back to bed but instead I drove out to my sister-in-law's house and taught her yoga for an hour. That was probably the highlight of my day. When I left there, I quit resisting sleep, came home and went back to bed for about an hour and a half. I felt like I could just keep sleeping but my alarm got me up just in time to go to the neurologist.

The neurologist visit went well. He did not push any new meds on me but he did order another MRI so we can ascertain if I have any new lesions since I have been having a lot of little symptoms since my first exacerbation. I go for the MRI on December 1st. I am quite optomistic that I will not have new lesions. It seems that if I don't, he will not recommend any interferons for now. We both agreed that we can keep that course open if things worsen or my lesions multiply but for now I can continue to wait and see.

My neurologist said that I am doing well. He gave me a few suggestions for the fatigue too. He said he can put me on meds but we should try to avoid that if possible. He suggested caffeine, cardio and pushing through the fatigue with activity as much as possible. He also said I was sleeping too much. I think he's right but boy is that sleep tempting. I suspect that if I cut back on the sleep, I may have more energy but it is going to be hard. I am less depressed these days then I was but sleep has become like an elixir to combat anxieties and discontent. I also suspect that if I do as he says, in time I will feel better during my waking hours but this is going to be a challenge.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Journal 11/10/08

"We can transform with grace, or we can go through life kicking and screaming. We can flow through our experiences like we flow through our yoga poses. We can hold our breath, or we can deepen it and move past every obstacle. We have a choice to either go through life kicking, screaming and miserable or to fill each experience with breath, grounded only in the moment. We can use breath to anchor ourselves in the present. We can use it to guide ourselves through life's challenges. Trust that you can breath through anything."

I often use words like these to guide my yoga students. When I hear similar words from other yoga teachers, I am reminded just how important this is. I can find serenity by being absolutely present, breathing and trusting or I can cause my own suffering through a series of mental contortions. I think I want to take my own words of wisdom and live by them.

Something in me is shifting. It is subtle but I feel different. I still worry but less now... Obstacles still trouble me, but maybe not as much. I'm starting to see my most recent dramas as a hiccup in a long life. I can't claim that I have found all the answers I seek or the self I want to unearth but something is different. I think what I feel is perspective and hope.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Slowly Crawling Forth

When I look back to last Sunday it seems I have come a long way. A week ago at this time I was ill and depressed. Last Monday was really rough too. I was so frustrated because I have been trying so hard to get back on track and to feel good about myself and my life.

I think things started to shift for me a little last Tuesday. I woke up and actually felt excited about something. I was excited for the election. By the time I went to bed on Tuesday, Barack Obama was the president elect. I could see a real reason for hope and excitement.

Wednesday was not perfect but I found I again had reason for hope. That was the day I met a fellow MSer at work and started to get things more in perspective.

Thursday was the first day I used a "to do list" to get focused. It made me feel a lot better about what I had accomplished because I had something tangible to grab onto. I have gotten several pieces of advice to focus more on what I have done than what I have not. I have noticed that by making a list and checking things off I feel like I have done more of value with my day.

Friday was also ok. There is nothing spectacular to report but things went fine.

Saturday I was really busy. I did about four hours of grading and went to yoga. I also went to a nice family party and got to see everyone for the first time in a while. Then I went out and saw my best friend dj and got a chance to visit with her and some other friends. I was exhausted and didn't stay out that late but I was proud of myself for getting dressed up and making it out to two different places to catch up with people.

Today had its bright spots too. I slept in a little because I was still so tired but once I got up, I had some coffee and started on my latest to do list. Although I only had about an hour before yoga, I managed to finish my grading and take care of several little things I needed to do before class. I got to class and again I actually felt really great and excited about something. The class felt amazing. I looked in the mirror and I saw the old me again. I remember how in the past just going to yoga filled me with feelings of peace and power. Today I felt that for the first time in a long time. I practiced next to the regional manager of the studio where I go. That was awesome because she embodies the teacher I would like to be. Just practicing next to her made the class extra special. When I walked out of the studio, my heart was filled with joy.

I am beginning to notice this joy in short bursts again. So far it is not lasting but it gives me the encouragement to keep seeking more of it. I am starting to see myself beyond my job again. It seemed for quite some time there that my job was me and that was terrible because I felt like things were going so poorly. Honestly, I'm not sure they are all that much better now but I can see little evidences of student learning here and there so I suspect I have not screwed them up too badly. I also see it is not all on me. All I can do on any given day is my best. I think some of my self-scrutiny has come because of comments made to me by my department head and one of my friends at work. I see that while they mean well, I can't take every word they say to heart. Neither one is in my room and even if they were, how much better would things look? Even if they did look better, should I really beat myself up when I know how much thought I give things or how much effort I put in each day? I want to find a way to more regularly see myself the way I saw myself in yoga today. I was strong, fierce and beautiful and I knew what I was all about. For a little while, I really loved being that person. Perhaps I am slowly beginning to crawl forth.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Update 11/06/08

Not too much to tell today. I felt a little funky when I woke up but once I got out of bed I started to feel much better. It took a little will power to get myself going but once I psyched myself up it wasn't too bad. I made a to do list in my head while I got ready rather than focusing on potential problems I might encounter in my day. The to do list did help. At the end of my plan period, I had just finished checking off everything on my list. That kind of gave me a boost all day because I felt like I had accomplished something and I had managed to stay focused despite the urge to aimlessly multi-task. I was actually kind of proud of myself. I felt a little like the old me.

The day overall was decent. I even stayed after school and did a little work and let some kids work in my room.

When I got home I did a few things around the house. I realized as soon as I got here that I was exhausted. I did a ton of facilitating and direct instruction today and it wore me out. Neverthless, not too bad. A lot of people have been advising me to focus on the little successes and not stress about things that don't get well. With this in mind: today is a good day.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Brain Dump

So I just have too many ideas and things flashing through my mind to focus on one so I'm just going to dump for a minute and let it all come out as it may.

This is a day for hope. On my way to work and on my way home I listened to NPR and the post election coverage. A great deal of the news and stories I heard almost brought me to tears. I am overwhelmed at the enormity of this election's place in history. I am daring to dream again that we really can combat what often looks like a bleak future. I needed to be inspired and this inspires me.

I am inspired butI am still unfocused. Despite the realization of one of my greatest hopes, I am still struggling to get my own head on straight. I find I am distracted, moody and easily irritated. Nothing seems easy anymore. My mind cannot seem to create a simple list of what to do next or how best to focus my limitd energy. This makes me frustrated and the more frustrated I feel, the harder it is to yank myself out of the funk. While I aspire to look more than a day ahead, something is holding me back. I keep thinking, "If I could just concentrate more or work harder things would get better." Somehow, I don't think this is going to be a mind over matter thing although my husband insists it is. Apparently, if I just decide things will be better, then they will. The problem is I try to make that intention every day but then I find my senses overloaded and my mind abuzz and the control I seek is still not there.

This has troubled me for some time. I am ok with learning to cut myself some slack but I am not ok with having so little control over my own mind or ability to concentrate. I am like a sailboat, carried by the wind with nothing to tether me. I do not like this at all.

This sudden onslaught of ADHD-like behavior and symptoms is not helping me to feel better about myself or my ability to control my situation. Until now, it has just been another thing to feel bad about but today another woman at work came and told me that she too has MS and we had the time to chat for awhile. It helped me a bit to commiserate in person with someone else who seems to be going through similar things. She said that she even takes Ridlin sometimes to focus. Hearing that actually made me feel better. Here I just kept wondering why I felt so spacey and empty-headed, only to learn that someone else feels this way too. While it doesn't fix my problem, it makes me regard myself with less severity for having the problem. Does anyone else out there have this issue? What do you do to help you concentrate?

I was thinking about just making giant "to do" lists to help me focus on what to do next but I'm not sure because sometimes giant lists just stress me out or make me worried about what I'm not doing. Today I tried just doing things as I thought of them so I wouldn't procrastinate or add the mental stress of another thing left for tomorrow. It did help a little but I also found myself doing several things I did not plan to do at all. Maybe that was actually for the best, I'm not sure.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Through the wringer

I'm sure yesterday's post made it quite apparent just how awesome I have been feeling. This day started even worse because despite my best-laid plans, I woke up sick again. I awoke around 3:00 feeling awful. My whole body ached, my stomach and head hurt and my mouth was parched. I got up and took ibuprofin and dreamed of awaking hours later feeling fine. Alas, I awoke again at 6:00 feeling about the same. I slept fitfully until 8:00 (the time I plannned to get up for yoga) and realized that going to class was a pipe dream. I also planned to walk with my sister at 10:30 so I reset the alarm with visions of at least doing something with myself today. I was up again at 9:00 full of guilt about the time I had already laid in bed and the realization that I was going to do more of it. I had a message from my sister canceling the walk but I was relieved because I still felt awful.

I lay in bed for two more hours after that feeling guilty and awful. I was angry at myself for not pushing through. I was angry at myself for not "changing" despite my best intentions. My mind has clearly become my own worst enemy. It won't let me rest when I need to rest. The guilt about not doing better, being better and needing help rarely lifts and yet deep down, I know this is part of why my mental state remains so often tenuous. So many people have listened and reached out to me and yet I am unhealed. I realize that is because this is one demon I have to wrestle alone. Even throughout my mom's careful coaching, I found I did little except loathe myself and create excuses. I did decide to accept the help my husband kept offering so at least I eventually ate and had tea.

After that, I called my friend and we spoke at length for the first time in a long while. I discovered that her daily existence has been as much if not more of a struggle than mine of late. We talked about our shared past that has left us both with high levels of undefined anxiety. We also talked about our tendencies to mentally spin small things into mountains. It seems we also share the feelings of inadequacy and guilt. As she spoke, I just wanted to tell her to be easier on herself. I realized that I need to take my own advice. Even if all the beliefs I have built up about my failures of late are grounded in reality, I can do nothing to remedy them if I constantly dwell on my mistakes. At least for the short term, my guilt has lessened. I cannot know how long this will last but at least now I can acknowledge that I made a good choice today when I just allowed myself to rest. The end of this suffering may not yet be within my grasp but perhaps it's the little stuff that gets us through the day that matters.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Paradigm Shift

I want to make a paradigm shift. I find myself still wallowing in a mold that is unproductive and unwholesome. A few days go by and I feel ok but the slightest upset and I'm off-kilter again physically and emotionally. People keep telling me to be easier on myself but really I have become a needy, self-centered loser of late and I hate that in myself. The more I hate that, the more I tell myself to snap out of it and find a way to be a productive citizen again.

Lately, MS has become a convenient excuse for my inability to get my shit together. I'm tired, I can always skip cooking. I feel sad, I can always moan about it to someone else. Things aren't going well at work, I can blame the kids or the system. Honestly, the problem is me. Yes, I don't feel that well most of the time but this is my life now and so I need to find a way to accept it and quit feeling sorry for myself. I keep waiting to magically snap out of it but I am beginning to realize that is just not going to happen. It might almost be easier without any good excuses.

I keep resolving to myself that I am going to make the shift. I tell myself that every day is a new start. I remind myself that it's a pretty good life. Fifteen minutes pass and I hate myself again because I can't shut off the negative, destructive thoughts. Something has to give. I gave up the anti-depressants and I don't think I really got worse but I also never thought they made me better either.

I feel angry and frustrated with myself for cycling through the same miseries and pitying myself for the same crisis over and over. Even by writing this, I am wallowing. I realize this and yet I feel compelled to just keep writing it anyway.

I have been tampering with my own marriage. The worse I feel, the more bullshit, insecure things I do. The other day my husband joked that if anything happened to him, I would have to take care of him the way he takes care of me. The idiot in my head actually allowed me to say, "I wouldn't do it." Is that really how I feel? No, I love him to distraction but I curently hate myself enough to know that I wouldn't want to take care of me. In the past he has always said that I am a much better person than he is. That's just not true. I could not tolerate me. I wouldn't want to do the extra cooking or housework. I would resent living with someone who was always down or sick. I would also resent receiving nothing for my efforts. Does this mean I don't love Matt enough to take care of him? No, it just means I am super self-absorbed and self-centered. Yuck, I can't stand people who always put themselves first yet there I am. The more disgusting part... Although I have resolved to think more about others and take my head out of the sand, it is unlikely that I will really follow through with this.

I want a shift but I don't really want to do anything to make it happen. Probably shouldn't post this but...