I come from an Italian American family on my mother’s side. Her great grandparents were farmers in northern Italy who immigrated to the U.S. to raise children and work the coal mines near Seattle. In other words, they were not fancy people. They were poor. But they were smart, hard working, life loving, and resourceful. They not only loved food but had a lot of mouths to fill. They knew how to “make something out of nothing”.

My mom knew how to do this, too. It wasn’t as if we were poor but money was tight and there were a lot of people to feed in a family of eight. Mom is also masterful at re-purposing leftovers into new meals so that food is not wasted.

The week has continued to exhaust me. I rallied in the writing of my last post, only to have an extremely fragmented and stressful evening, during which my irritability peaked, and I became quite irrational. My daughter had gotten rather angry with me because she told me that she had another parade the next morning and I had reminded her that I had asked her to tell me about all of her events and she had just told me, “Don’t worry about it, Mom.” I was not able to sacrifice half of a work day to get her there. She got very angry. It was kind of a last straw for me and I mostly took it out on my husband because she had treated me extremely disrespectfully and he left the room instead of backing me up. Realistically, he was probably doing what he needed to do to keep from yelling, with which I was already doing a good job.

I spent a good deal of the early part of yesterday fighting the urge to go back to bed. I have not had a day like this in a very long time. My brain and my heart were utterly exhausted despite the fact that it was a gloriously beautiful summer day in which I had much to do. I forced myself to stay out of bed. By late afternoon, I was sitting on the couch with a head both full of everything and nothing, swirling in eddies of acute pain and numbness.

My husband came home early from work and asked what I wanted to do for dinner. I said, “I am not doing well at all. I know I will be okay. Right now, I can’t think. I can’t answer questions. I need 15 minutes to finish up work.”

Then I started on my unfinished progress notes, one by one, and with the completion of each one, I gathered a tiny but noticeable bit of energy. In about 45 minutes I was done. I had accomplished something. I told John, “Sorry, that took longer than 15 minutes. I’m going to cook dinner.”

I walked into my kitchen. I had a perfectly ripe mango, a perfectly ripe avocado, and some limes. They were not planned for a particular meal. In general, that is often the way I shop. I just buy what looks good. In my freezer, I had some large shrimp. I also had a bit of simple salad left over from another meal. It was made from jicama, radish, and lime. I thought that might be a nice textural and flavor contrast with sweet mango but I wasn’t sure but I started getting excited to try. And as I sliced, zested, crushed, sauteed, and mixed, my spirit continued to lighten and I felt myself filling up again. When I tasted, I could tell that I’d made a lovely summer salad full of good things. My husband and I had a nice meal together, which led to a nice evening.

I had been depleted and feeling in utter need, just an hour before. I needed to give myself an experience of creating from start to finish, to remember that I am capable of making wholes and not just carrying an armload of loose fragments, which keep falling to the ground, and then others fall as I stoop over to pick them up.

Remember what you have and make use of it.

That is my meditation for today.

Shrimp and mango with lime, avocado, radish, and jicama.

Shrimp and mango with lime, garlic, avocado, radish, and jicama.

Here is the recipe:

About 1 pound of large shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails left on.
1 lime, zested (put zest to the side), then cut into quarters.
1 large ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into large dice. (Squeeze one of the limb slices on it so it doesn’t discolor).
1 large ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into large dice. (If you have not cut up a mango, read some directions on doing it. It’s not hard but it’s different than other fruit.)
1/4 of a jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks.
3-4 mild-flavored radishes, peel on, sliced thinly. (I used a small portion of a large watermelon radish, which was about the size of my fist and cut it into match sticks.)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed.

1. Put all of the ingredients into a bowl except for the shrimp, garlic, half of the lime zest, and all of lime wedges into a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and the juice from 2-3 lime wedges. Mix gently with your hands so the avocado does not lose its shape.

2. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil and about 2 teaspoons of butter in a large saute pan, on medium to medium high, taking care not to burn the butter. Add garlic and cook for about a minute, stirring frequently. Add the shrimp and cook for a minute or two on each side until curled up and opaque, but not rubbery!

3. Put the salad into a serving bowl and top with the shrimp. Sprinkle the remaining lime zest on the top so it looks pretty!

Last week I dreamed about my kittens. (Yes, I know, despite my formative years as a “dog person”, I have become a “cat lady” in my middle age.) My kittens are litter mates, brother and sister, both with pure black coats.

In my dream, they were conjoined twins. People looked at them and remarked, “Oh, look at the cute kitties!” Then the heads of the kitties started looking in different directions and the front right and left feet did the same. The kitties looked distressed. They were not working as a team.

When I awoke from the dream, I thought, “I need to use this image in a blog post.” Yes, really I did. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I am not someone who makes fancy dream interpretations. But I do think about my dreams, especially when I think they signal distress. At the time I was having the dream, I was concerned that John and I were not parenting as a team as well as usual and that we were having trouble communicating about the logistics of our lives. I think that is probably what the dream was about.

I have been pretty stressed during the last couple of weeks. I am an energetic extrovert. Nonetheless, I don’t function well if I am pulled in a hundred directions, living a fragmented life. I am not good at perpetually switching gears. That’s one of the reasons I was attracted to pursuing a research career rather than a career as a clinician. Clinical work means switching gears between people, situations, and goals, quite frequently. When I did research, I worked on one or two projects for years at a time. But I ended up being a clinician and thank goodness, I learned how to switch gears much better than I did previously.

Right now my workdays consist of switching constantly among work, driving my daughter around, getting to my healthcare appointments. My daughter has needed to be driven to one to three locations all around Seattle, every day, starting in the middle of the day. She takes the bus when she can but there are logistics to be worked there there, too.

Yesterday, I reminded her of what time she needed to be home from school (she is volunteering each morning to help with a band program for younger kids) so that I could take her to an activity at 2:00 pm in northeast Seattle. (We live in southwest Seattle.) The original plan had been for her to take the bus downtown and then take a transfer to get to the office. However, we’d tried that the day before and she missed the bus. Since it was mid-day, there was not another bus for an hour. I cancelled my annual physical so that I could come home from work and drive her. Seattle is not an easy city in which to get around. It is long, narrow, surrounded by water, and hilly, for starters. This means that there are a rather limited number of highways and streets available to get from one place to another.

As I complain frequently, I find driving to be taxing and stressful. I am a good driver and it is not that I feel really anxious when I am driving. It’s mostly that I have to think so hard. And it’s not that figuring out bus schedules and directions is that hard, especially with the Internet. It’s hard to remember to do it and to make sure my daughter has the information she needs and understands where she is supposed to be at what time and how to get there. (This is one time when I kind of wish we’d allow her to have a smartphone, but I digress.) Riding the bus involves a surprising number of steps and also, some background knowledge that a non-driver doesn’t necessarily know. Consequently, I need to break it down in my mind and then make sure she knows things I would otherwise take for granted. For example, “You have a parade after your appointment. It is north of where you will be. Do you know what side of the street to be on to take a northbound bus?” The answer is “no”. And she does not yet know north, south, east, and west. When I was her age, I didn’t either. Then there are the fragmented questions I throw out, “Remember your bus pass!” “Remember to pack a lunch!” “Remember your phone!” “Remember your band uniform. You’re not going to have a chance to come back home before the parade!”

If you are a long reader of this blog, you will know that I live with some rather forgetful people who actually need frequent reminders, even if they are not always happy to receive them, in the moment. And by the way, it is not enabling if your child is actually getting better at remembering these things on her own, which is the case for her. But she is only up to remembering these things about 50% of the time. Think about what your daily life would be like if you were not where you were supposed to be with the what you needed, half of the time. Also, you carry your bus pass in an old eyeglass case and your money in a ring box. And this is a major improvement in organization from years past. Finally, you don’t drive. See, having a nagging mom would be annoying but handy.

About two paragraphs, I was telling you about one example day. Then I veered off course. What you don’t know if that while I’ve been writing this post, I’ve stopped and started it many times. I actually wanted to write it last week when I had the dream. Right at this moment, I am fighting the impulse to walk out and investigate the bird sounds I am hearing.

When I am switching gears too much, coordinating multiple goals, I find that it is hard to stop switching gears. I find even more goals and they aren’t priority either. Instead of being a two-headed cat, I turn into a creature with an ever changing number of heads, all on one body. There is effort to do things but none of the cohesion required to get things done in an efficient way.

The first thing that happens to me is that I start getting forgetful. Then I start making mistakes. Then I start getting anxious that I am making a lot of mistakes and I am so distracted that my level of self-awareness waxes and wanes. Then I make more mistakes. Then I start a flurry of unecessary reassurance seeking. “Are you sure you have the bus pass?” “Hey, friend, did I just treat you badly?”

There is an expression that people use referring to feeling “centered”. It is a positive thing but honestly I can’t exactly articulate what it is. But what I can tell you that at this time, I don’t feel centered or “grounded”, another common description that people use to refer to a state of balance.

I don’t feel centered. I don’t feel grounded. I feel like I have an infinite number of heads and none of them contain good working brains. Now, these are subjective feelings. In reality, I am functioning. I am carrying out my life with competence. But I feel icky in the process.

My natural inclination is to think of the happy, balanced, reasonable, bright, organized, empathetic, and energetic version of myself as “the real me” and the other times are aberrant.

I am becoming increasingly, aware, however of how unreasonable this belief really is. I am always me. Who else would I be? The person who gets irritable with her husband because she is overwhelmed and fragmented? That’s me. The person who asked her husband to take care of a responsibility this morning because she was exhausted, even though she’s been irritable with him? That’s me. The real me is not that perfect and it is unhealthy for me to maintain a vision of myself as needing to meet that standard in order to be “real”.

The person who is feeling a little more grounded and centered after having sorted through her thoughts and feelings while writing this post?

That’s me, too.

I have goals in my life. Some day, my life will end. But my life, itself, is not a goal or an end point.

My life is an experience, with lines of continuity as well as flux.

What else would it be?

It has been two years and three months since my cancer diagnosis. Cancer treatment is expensive. Fortunately, I have very good insurance. However, the biggest financial cost for me was missing time from work. As a self-employed person, I have no sick leave, no disability leave, no vacation leave, and no holiday pay.  Also as a self-employed person, I am not eligible for unemployment benefits. In other words, when I don’t work, I don’t earn money. The end.

I accrued a significant amount of debt. As a person who had paid off credit card balances in full every month, for decades, this was disconcerting. My husband and I work hard to have our house mortgage be the only debt that we have. And even our mortgage was refinanced a few years ago so that we could change from a 30 year to a 15 year pay off time. When I bought a new car in 2010, I put down half of the total price and then paid off the rest within 14 months, on a 36 month long loan. Again, we don’t like to be in debt.

Today I paid off my credit card, in full, for the first time in at least a year.

I think I will go celebrate by buying something expensive! (I kid, I kid, I kid.)

Seriously, health care costs are out of control in our country. I am in a much better financial situation than most people. I don’t know how other people do it.

One of the recent activities on Facebook has been for women to post five photos of themselves in which they feel beautiful. It is framed as a challenge.

I think it is good for women to recognize their beauty as we so often do not appreciate it in ourselves.

But what is beauty, anyway?

I didn’t feel beautiful for the majority of my life. There were moments, of course, during which I did.

But what is beauty, anyway?

Is it aesthetics?

What are aesthetics, anyway?

Well, most people agree on a certain set of guidelines for determining who and what is “good looking”. Looking healthy has something to do with it. Looking youthful has something to do with it. Looking fertile has something to do with it. Looking just enough out of the ordinary to be striking but not too much as to look alien, has something to do with it. Tradition has something to do with it. Looking non-threatening has something to do with it.

We could say that human aesthetics don’t really matter. But is that really true? Look at Michelangelo’s David. Look at Boticelli’s Venus. One only has to look at two pieces of art to realize that there are aspects of the human form that are aesthetically superior to others, at least as aesthetics are subjectively defined. Plus, if we are to say that aesthetics in the human form do not exist, then it is fair to argue that aesthetics in other forms, also do not exist like in trees, mountains, or other natural forms.

Beauty, though, is not the same as aesthetics. It can include aesthetics but it can also go beyond the visual. Beauty has meaning as well as looks. Beauty is also not the same as “pretty” for the same reason.

Beauty has meaning and the meaning is usually related to a virtue, like love. Love of people, including ourselves, love of animals, love of nature, love, couched in marvel of the best aspects of our planet Earth.

Love is always beautiful but it is not always pretty. Conversely, what and who are aesthetically pleasing, are not always beautiful.

Now, coming back to the Facebook challenge. It was to post photos of when one FELT beautiful. I have never felt beautiful when I was unhappy. It wasn’t that I necessarily felt ugly, though at times that was true, it was just that the unhappy feelings predominated.

The times I have felt the most beautiful, are mostly times that I also looked pretty. It was like the aesthetic aspects were the icing on the cake. But I’ve felt beautiful without the icing. Here is an example:

Here she is, Miss America!

Here she is, Miss America!

Do I look pretty in this photo? No, I don’t and I’m not going to go over the reasons for that. But I felt beautiful. That photo was taken by me last September. I had been walking six days a week for nearly a year. It was pouring down rain that day. I didn’t want to go for a walk. But I did it and it was actually really fun. I felt beautiful because I had taken care of myself and not just survived my walk but thrived in it. This felt like a triumph of my body and mind that had been through so much through my cancer treatment and reconstruction. I felt strong and there are few things that feel more beautiful than feeling strong and capable in one’s own body after a cancer diagnosis.

But there have been times in my life when I felt beautiful and looked pretty. I have written about a number of those times in my blog, times that have been captured on film. A photo of my kissing my newborn girl on the cheek while she smiles blissfully. The photo I shared recently that my husband took during a lovely evening out. Those were times, incidentally, when I was totally in the moment with a person whom I love.

My aesthetic beauty will continue to fade. I would be lying if I said that this is 100% okay with me. But it’s still okay. I have a lot of beauty in my life. I have a lot of meaning in my life. I have a lot of love and I hope you do, too.

My husband is out of town this weekend. He left this morning. I came home from driving my daughter around town this evening. The kitties were hungry. I couldn’t find their food. It wasn’t where I had left it earlier today when I last fed them.

They were pestering me for food. I knew that we were not out of kitten food, having bought a large bag of it just last weekend. I spent about ten minutes looking all around my kitchen, in the cupboards, on the counter, and on the small tables that are there. Then I thought, “John must have moved it. John is a very tall person.”

I lifted my head up to the plane of my husband’s vision, where he sees and where he can easily reach in our kitchen. There it was, the kitten food. It was set on a high cupboard above the microwave. I got out a stool to stand on so I could reach it to take it down.

Perspective taking is an important part of marriage. It is not just putting oneself in the life situation of another. Perspective taking requires thinking and feeling like another, as if you were that other person, with that other person’s life view, attitudes, capabilities, likes, wishes, strengths, weaknesses, and feelings.

My husband is a very tall person. I am tall for a woman but much shorter than he. My experience of our kitchen, what I can see and what I can reach, is much different than his, just because of a basic difference between the two of us. It doesn’t matter that the kitchen is the same. We are NOT the same.

That’s just a simple example of a difference in physical stature and how that impacts our perception of the kitchen in our home, as well as what consequences that has on our kitten food storing behaviors.

Intimate relationships can be extremely complex. There are many differences between people in a relationship and mind reading is not yet possible. And honestly, I think that mind-reading abilities would make healthy relationships even less possible. I have some pretty dumb thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. I don’t want people knowing about them! Further, sometimes, my thoughts and feelings are not completely expressed, they are disorganized and incomplete. I don’t want to communicate them until I have time  to process them.

John and I are currently working extra hard to communicate better with each other. We are also trying to understand one another better. This is a time of transition for us. My level of functioning has been in flux for over two years now due to my cancer, it’s treatment, and my physical and emotional recovery. My husband is dealing with his own issues, some of it related to my cancer. We both navigate the shifting tides that are our teen daughter’s unpredictable ups and downs.

The logistics of our lives in the past two weeks have been particularly challenging. We are getting better at working things out. Right now, I no longer feel like I’m jugging water, as I was a few days ago. We are talking and listening. I am working hard to focus on what I can do as a wife and my own responsibilities instead of focusing so much on how I think my husband should be behaving differently.

I am working on thinking tall.

As you may recall, I completed about 90% of the requirements for an art history degree in addition to my B.S. in Psychology. (Yes, I’ve heard all of the jokes about my “B.S.” in conjunction with “psychology”. Believe me, I had to take calculus, among many other hardcore classes to get that degree. It was no B.S.) One of my professors often referenced Robert Hughes’ book on modern art, The Shock of the New.

Modern art didn’t come from nowhere but it was still a shocking departure from the familiar. Art had been representative, rather than abstract for a long long time. It was often idealized but always recognized.

The shock of newness does not just apply to our external world but also to feeling new. A fellow healthcare provider and dear friend shared a blog post about being a novice in healthcare, in other words being a trainee and new professional. The post made me think about being a psychology trainee in grad school as well as when I was a post-doctoral fellow.

In most measures, I am much better at my job as a clinician than I was when I was less experienced. But there were advantages of being a novice that were therapeutically advantageous.

For one, I was supervised so this made me extra conscientious to do things “by the book”. Supervision, by the way, meant doing my work with a supervisor either in the room with me or in a separate room, observing me on video monitors, all of the while commenting to other students or interns, also in the room, about the rightness or wrongness of my actions. So, I stayed sharp and kept on top of what I was supposed to be doing.

The largest advantage, however, was that my lack of experience as a parent made it much easier to deliver recommendations and teach parenting strategies, with a straight face. During my post-doc, I was a mother of an infant, but I still did not know how hard it would be to rear a child who could walk and talk. And disobey. And not perpetually vote me to be her favorite person in the world in a tie with her father. I didn’t know how parenting touches us in tender places, at our identity, and at the hurts we’ve held with us our own lives. I just said, “Do this!” I had a wonderful optimism. And most parents did what I recommended.

Once I got to understand what I was asking parents to do, I had to make adjustments. Every parenting situation is different. But as a parent, I can empathize with the fact that parenting is never easy and for some, it is incredibly hard.

Even so, I still ask parents to do a lot. I now understand the magnitude of my recommendations, in my gut. But now, because I am no longer a new parent, I have learned that just because something is really hard to do, doesn’t mean that it is not necessary to do.

There’s a vaudeville theater in my neighborhood, Kenyon Hall. It’s about two blocks from where I live, located in an old house. They have an antique Wurlitzer organ, which is occasionally played as live accompaniment to old silent films. They used to sell root beer floats for a dollar each on these movie nights.

We haven’t been there in a long time. There was a change in ownership and the types of entertainment offered there has narrowed. About ten years ago we went there with friends along with our daughter for a comedy juggling act, Brothers from Different Mothers. They were very funny and excellent jugglers. I laughed a lot.

Now, when I laugh, I do so loudly and with my whole body. Kenyon Hall is a small venue with no stage. We were sitting in the front row because we’d arrived early and wanted to make sure that we could see. I was quite noticeable and also conveniently close to the two performers.

I’d not seen them perform before so I didn’t know that they used audience members in their act. When it came time for that part of the show, I was promptly asked to go up front with them. I can’t remember everything that they had me do. But I remember being a very good sport about the whole thing.

But one part of the performance actually got a bit stressful. I was to grab one of the balls from one of the guys while he was still juggling. PERFORMANCE PRESSURE. I missed 2-3 times and I noticed that the juggler was holding the ball for increasingly longer times in order to make it easier for me to grab from him. I knew that there was only so long he could do this before having to attend to the other balls in the air. I also knew that if I didn’t get it soon, the act would drag. I mean, a woman hyena-laughing while trying to grab a juggling ball gets old after a few failures. Each time I tried to memorize the timing and rhythm of the balls in the air. On the next attempt, I got it, much to my relief. I had not spoiled the joke with ball dropping ineptitude.

I know it is cliche to compare one’s life to juggling balls. We all try to keep the balls in the air. However, when we parent, we are also trying to do a hand off balls or take balls from another, all in order to make sure no one’s load is burdensome. And we do it while each of us is juggling a full set of balls.

When my husband and I have an established and coordinated routine, this can go pretty smoothly. We know what to expect, can plan for it, and we’ve handled it before.

Then there are the times when the unexpected happens or we have to learn a new routine. At these times, it can feel like juggling water. I feel all of the responsibilities but can’t put my hands around them. What’s worse, I can’t tell which responsibilities are mine and which ones are John’s. They just splash to the ground, undone, and making a huge, undifferentiated mess. “Who’s water is this?” “And who stepped in it with muddy shoes?” “Who’s going to clean it up?” “What happened to the mop?”

I have been more irritable lately. I initially attributed it to the heat as well as my hatred of driving through downtown Seattle, something I am doing at least once per day right now in order to get my daughter to activities. All of these things do contribute to my mood.

Today, I woke up feeling sad and it took awhile to shake it. I realized that part of the reason is that each day is a different set of logistics and responsibilities. Our daughter’s schedule is different, every day. My schedule is different, every day. And not only am I taking my paperwork on the road, John and I have to figure out who is doing what, every day, almost from scratch. This means we have to remember to talk to each other about logistics and texts and phone calls from each other need to be exchanged. As a couple, this is not our strong suit. I over-communicate and my husband doesn’t communicate enough. It makes both of us a source of aggravation to the other.

Our daughter has two more years of high school. She will likely be driving in a year or two. There are some wonderful things that come out of spending time with her in the car. Yesterday, she told me what a fun time she’d had talking with me on the way to and from her activity.My husband and I have more evening time together during the summer, just the two of us.

Those are opportunities I can grab and hang onto.

 

 

 

I used to be a masterful list maker and follower. I made goals and got them done. Then I made new goals and got them done. As I got older, I started getting involved in large projects. I taught myself how to use Microsoft Project. I thought it was amazing. I could make multiple timelines by task and responsible party as well as define relationships between the tasks and sub timelines. I could track progress. I thought the software was one of the handiest and coolest things I’d ever encountered. I know how to build in motivators and incentives to keep progress going.

I took one of those silly Facebook personality quizzes last week, “What one word best describes you?” The result was, “ambitious”. I didn’t post my results, as I often do, just for fun. I didn’t like the answer. I’m not exactly sure why because objectively, I am ambitious. I set high goals. I have been an achiever my whole life. And I have certainly had people tell me that I was ambitious.

I used to take it as a compliment. Now I don’t because to me it connotes unnecessary competition with others and with myself. I realize that it doesn’t have to be that way but for me, it reminds me of unrelenting standards, of the sadness and disappointment I’ve felt when I didn’t live up to standards set by myself or others. Most importantly, it reminds me of times that I’ve relapsed from healthy life changes such as regular exercise and eating well, because I took setbacks too hard, losing my momentum.

Making and achieving goals is an important part of life. But making a life of setting and achieving goals is not a life I want to lead. It leaves out too many of the good, enjoyable bits. Enjoying the process of life. Making new discoveries. Finding new directions.

I have written a lot in my life. Thousands and thousands of pages. A lot of the writing I do is technical, in the past, scientific writing and in the present, psychological report writing. A few of my published research articles as well as my past grant proposals had 50-100 revisions. They were painstakingly outlined, re-outlined, reviewed, fleshed-out, referenced, reviewed, revised, reviewed, etc. Many lists were made and this is necessary for this kind of highly technical, collaborative, and competitive work.

I do not write multiple drafts of my reports. I write 1-2 drafts, the 2nd being a light edit for typos and such. I use templates to organize my reports, which include lists of procedures, headings, empty tables into which I dump numbers, and other information. The information is presented in a highly linear fashion, the same way that I’ve presented information, with very few changes, for many years.

Prior to starting my blog two years ago, I had not done any other kind of writing for decades. And then came my blog. I write what is on my mind. I may have mulled it over for an hour or two or in some cases, a number of weeks. But I don’t use outlines and only rarely do I make notes of stray thoughts I don’t want to lose. And I don’t always write what I had intended to write. Sometimes the stream of thoughts takes me to new places, some revelatory.  And as you’ve probably noted, I don’t do a whole lot of editing. I barely proofread and occasionally copy edit. Editing on a grand scale has yet to ever occur. Sometimes I later add to a post but it is not because I wasn’t happy with it. Rather it is because I am still thinking about the topic and have found more that I wish to say.

I have written over 600 posts in 26 months. I have not yet ever written myself a reminder to write a post or to have needed to schedule time to write. This may change over time and that would not necessarily be a negative thing. Right now, the freedom of writing in an organic fashion both in respect to process and content, is an amazing gift, in what had been a very linear periods of my life.

This is a mindful way of writing. Not all of my writing can be that way, nor should it. It suits the kind of writing I am doing right now, short bits of personal meanderings. Personal writing, not professional writing.

Similarly, I am not a professional athlete. But on most days I walk almost as far as I drive in my car. I have a general goal in mind in terms of distance but I let myself take different routes and walk longer, if the spirit moves me. I am also not a professional photographer. I have no technical or artistic training, just a desire to take photos, 90% of an art history degree, and a love for the outdoors.

I enjoyed taking photos with my smartphone and decided that I wanted to take better photos. I spent some time researching prices and types of cameras as well as their reviews, probably a total of 3-5 hours. Once I found a camera I thought would suit my needs and price range, I bought it. I knew that my decision may not be the best decision but I wanted to follow my interests and I figured that there are a lot of good cameras out there.

After the camera arrived, I started taking photos, lots of them. I had read a little about the operation of the camera but I really just wanted to use it and not analyze it. I have an analytic brain and I like to let it go free from time to time, like when I am taking photography. Analyzing is hard work.

Using this organic and intuitive process, I have become a better photographer. I am using my interests to guide my gradual learning of the existence and operation of the overwhelming number of features on my little camera.

Is this the most efficient way to become a good photographer? No, it really isn’t. But it is the way that is the most enjoyable way for me, right now. Yesterday, I left the house on a beautiful Sunday morning. I walked where my legs took me, which was to two parks and one community garden. It was still early so the air was crisp and there was a wonderful breeze. It was gorgeous and I took a lot of photos, a few of which I’ve shared with you.

Sometimes listlessness leads to mindfulness, a yielding of the “shoulds” to the freedom of how one moment leads to the next, almost effortlessly.

 

DSC02582

 

DSC02547 (2) DSC02558 DSC02567

 

 

I remember when I was starting grad school in my 20’s. One of my classmates was from the sunny city of Miami. I noticed that although she was actually younger than me, she had crow’s feet, those wrinkles people get around the corners of their eyes. I figured that since she already had them, I would get them fairly soon. But I didn’t.

The first wrinkles I noticed were above my left eyebrow. I can lift my left eyebrow above my right, just like Spock on Star Trek. I did it A LOT as a teen and a young adult. My younger brother and I laughed about it a lot. It was something I did when I was being silly and having fun.

Wrinkles are signs of aging. The first time I looked at myself and thought, “I’m not young anymore” was in my late 30’s. I was looking at the backs of my hands. They weren’t as smooth as they used to be. In other respects I still looked young. I’ve done a lot of work with my hands over the years. Writing, gardening, knitting, cooking, and caressing loved ones. My wedding and anniversary rings are on my hands.

When I was putting on make up this morning I saw them. I have crow’s feet that don’t go away when I stop smiling.

I’ve done a lot of smiling in my life. And I’ve squinted at the sun when I was in the mountains, the tropical rainforests,  and kayaking on the sea. I spend a lot of time outdoors, which makes me happy. I spend a lot of time with people who make me happy.

The lines I have, by and large, are not remnants of the bumps in the road of life, the wrinkles we have to smooth out. My wrinkles are from the best bits. They show the happy and productive moments that I have enjoyed. If I am lucky, they will continue to broaden and deepen, I hope.

When I was young my face was smooth. Now the lines tell a story, one that is meaningful and full.

Life lines is what they are.

Warning: Smiling can cause life lines! (Also, I told you that my husband puts his camera close to my face.)

Warning: Smiling can cause life lines! (Also, I told you that my husband puts his camera close to my face.)

One of the gifts of mindfulness has been perceiving sensations have gone unnoticed if I did not regularly force myself to slow down and notice. Those are its gentle gifts. The tiny intricate flowers. The refreshing morning breezes. The lovely and varied bird calls. The delicious and subtle flavors of carefully prepared meals.

It is easy to be mindful when life is slow. The hard part is slowing down.

Some situations demand that I be mindful. They are not gentle at all.

Almost every morning between 4 am and 6 am, both of our kittens jump on top of me in bed and demand my affection. They do this only to me as their designated fur-free mom.

About one second after they land on me, they are already purring. It is anticipatory purring. Basie touches my nose with his nose, REPEATEDLY. Then he starts licking my eyelids. I start petting him for about a half a minute, at which time he starts biting my hands and the rings on my fingers. Then I put my arms under the covers because biting turns into playful scratching and what I call “rabbit footing”, which is when cats grab you with their front claws and start scratching you furiously with their back claws. Rabbits do this when they are picked up by the scruff of their necks, at least ours did when I was a kid, and they were not pets.

Basie continues to try to bite me through the covers and if he is being really persistent, he crawls under the covers. Meanwhile, Leeloo is feeling left out. She is the gentler of the two but she is very affectionate. If my hands are under the covers, she climbs right under my neck on my clavicle. If I don’t start petting her right away, she will try to move EVEN higher. She also likes to groom me affectionately by licking the insides of my ears.

It is hard to be mindful of the gift of affection when I am busy doing something else, in this case SLEEPING. At these times, it can actually be annoying. But the kitties charm me nonetheless. They have tiny brains and I cannot ascribe negative intentions to their behavior. They are just babies and adorable ones, at that. I kick Basie off of the bed when he won’t stop being rough. I keep their little kitty nails trimmed. Their nails are less needle like and they are learning not to bite so hard.

Right after the kitties decided to leave the bed and run around the house, John turned over, put his around me, and nuzzled into the side of my neck. He will sleep like that for a long time. I was trying to go back to sleep. I typically have a hard time falling asleep with a lot of weight on me and I get overheated easily, too. Consequently, I usually say, “Get your arm off of me, please.” (I know I am very romantic. It is a miracle that the man still makes attempts at spooning after all of these years.)

Today, I thought, “It’s really nice that John is being so sweet to me. I’m going to try to enjoy this.” So I did and had a lovely snuggle for several minutes. Then I was really hot and asked him to move, which he did.

My usual response is to anticipate that there is going to be a problem and “nip it in the bud”. I realize that I miss a lot of affection that way. Why not instead be mindful and enjoy the part that is enjoyable instead of working so hard to avoid a minor discomfort?

There are times I need to slow down my thoughts. I need to be mindful of thoughts like, “Oh, how sweet” and not race right to “Oh, John’s arm is so heavy!”

I’ve been REALLY busy lately. Summers can get that way fast because I do a lot of driving to get my daughter to daily summer activities. At her age, she typically has to be somewhere in the middle of my work day. It’s a lot of shifting gears for me and cramming my work into small bursts. It also means extending my work day so that there’s a hole in the middle for transportation. She is now able to navigate public transportation but has trouble with making connections if there is a transfer. Further, the buses run only occasionally during mid-day. She can’t always take the bus and we don’t really like the idea of her wandering around for hours so I try to drive her as much as I can manage. Today there are three places that she needs to be, all in different parts of town. It’s a paperwork day for me and I am doing it at different coffee shops around town while I wait for her.

Needless to say, we’ve been spending a lot of time in the car together. My teen daughter doesn’t talk to me as much as she did when she was younger but when she does, it’s usually while I am driving her some where, often in heavy traffic.

I love talking to her but I must say that sometimes it takes a great deal of concentration I don’t have because there are subjects about which I know little that she loves to talk about. And she loves to ask questions about them, too. For example:

The Girl: “Mom, what is your favorite episode of Dr. Who with the 10th doctor?”
Me (crossing several lanes of traffic on a Friday during rush hour): “I’m sorry, honey. I’m trying to concentrate on driving. These conversations often make me feel like my head is going to explode.”

It may be that my mind is not up to the detailed nerd girl conversations while driving in Seattle traffic. I have to concentrate a lot to drive. I have a poor sense of direction and I am easily distracted. I am intimidated by aggressive drivers.

Maybe I will try a little harder today to be engaged with my daughter while we are in the car and see what happens. I don’t get a lot of opportunities to talk to her. She knows that I would like to talk more frequently and I think it is confusing to her that when she tries, I am sometimes not receptive.

It may be too hard to do but I will try it. The fact that it could get too hard is not a good enough reason to try.

Sometimes opportunity knocks softly. At other times, it licks you on the eye.

Often the kitties just love/bother each other.

Often the kitties just love/bother each other.

Woman in the Hat

A Post-Cancer Trek Toward Wellness -- In Just 1,038,769 Easy Steps!

art of breast cancer

the art of living and dying, while trying to keep them separate

Dglassme's Blog

Wouldn't Wish This On My Worst Enemy

SeasonedSistah2

Today is Better Than Yesterday

Telling Knots

About 30% of people diagnosed with breast cancer at any stage will develop distal metastasis. I am one of them.

ihatebreastcancer

...especially the metastatic kind

The Pink Underbelly

A day in the life of a sassy Texas girl dealing with breast cancer and its messy aftermath

The Asymmetry of Matter

Qui vivra verra.

thechymeeradiaries

or a young woman's journey through breast cancer

vaguear

Just another WordPress.com site

Fab 4th and 5th Grade

Teaching readers, writers, and thinkers

Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

making sense of the breast cancer experience together

Feisty Blue Gecko - a tail of the unexpected

Life and work of a Scottish woman in Asia - with the added complication of Breast Cancer thrown into the mix!

Arthur in the Garden.

Gardening and Cooking inside the beltline in Raleigh, North Carolina.

MAGSBLOG

A breast cancer experience in cartoons

cancer in my thirties

I was a mom to twin kindergartners and had just turned 34 when a breast CANCER diagnosis completely changed my life...

The Breast Cancer Warrior

Finding opportunity through adversity

Telling Knots

About 30% of people diagnosed with breast cancer at any stage will develop distal metastasis. I am one of them.

Not Down Or Out

It could be worse. I might not be laughing.

Entering a World of Pink

a male breast cancer blog

Luminous Blue

a mother's and daughter's journey with transformation, cancer, death and LOVE

I'm getting my boobs chopped off

One girl, two boobs, a genetic mutation and a big decision

Fierce is the New Pink

Run to the Bear!

My Lymph Node Transplant

One woman's quest for better health... living with lymphoedema

Shittytittiebangbang

My journey beyond breast cancer at 37 years young

Gluten Free Gus

Baking Joy Into Every Gluten-free Bite

gregsmithmd

mental health musings

The Sarcastic Boob

Determined to Manage Breast Cancer with the Same Level of Sarcasm with which I Manage Everything Else

FEC-THis

Life after a tango with death & its best friend cancer

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 291 other followers