Archives for posts with tag: anxiety

As you can imagine, I am still reeling from the U.S. election results.  Like many have written in other blogs, my reaction was much like being told my positive breast cancer biopsy results in May 2012. A major difference is that in the case of my cancer treatment, I felt very well taken care of by competent healthcare providers. I also had relatively clear choices to make.

No, I am not saying that the election was worse than cancer. I actually don’t know.  I don’t know what will happen to my country and the world. I don’t know what my health will be like in the future. We just don’t know the future.

A lot of people has commented that the election “woke people up”. I would say that it woke some people up the way hearing a bomb blast would. Others have their eyes open, their sleeves rolled up, and are following a clear purpose and direction.

I am in neither of those groups. I am, however, trying to follow a process in mindfulness, to be awake but at ease. This means observing pain, emotions, and even thoughts in as much of a grounded way as possible.  I have had moments of being mindful and at ease since the election. That is not most moments. But I continue to practice my meditation to cultivate compassion, to be aware in the moment, and to be as active and constructive as I can be.

It is tremendously difficult but even in those moments of balance, the results have been tremendous. Those moments provide me with hope.

May I be awake. May I be free from suffering. May I be at ease.

My you be awake. May you be free from suffering. May you be at ease.

Peace.

DSC04469 (1)

I haven’t written in awhile. My life has changed. I work, spend time with my family, and worry about our presidential election. Oh yes, there is my non-stop reading about politics. Then I meditate to deal with the anxiety about this election.

Did I mention that I am worried about our presidential election?

Oh yes, I also have my first colonoscopy tomorrow. As I type, I am savoring my last solid food for the next day, homemade yogurt with homemade apple preserves. It is reassuring to know that even at times that I feel that much is out of my control, I can use my own two hands to make delectable food.

I have not been worried about the results of the colonoscopy but now I realize that I will be waiting for the results of this test along with the election. This was, perhaps, poor planning on my part.

One more week of this never ending, unpredictable, terrifying, and bizarre election cycle.

I am struggling with our world, especially my own country. The Republic National Convention just finished yesterday. Last night, reality television star and real estate mogul, who spews obvious lies and naked hatefulness, accepted the nomination for President of the United States. Every day since his campaign was announced, it has been like waking up in a world with rules and structures that I can’t understand. And then there are the terrorist acts abroad as well as the acts inflicted on our own citizens due to institutionalized racism.

These are not the only problems in the world or in my personal world but they weigh very heavily on me. This morning, I woke up after a series of nightmares. I could feel my heart beat racing. It was tangible. I could not only feel it from within, but it was vibrating my fingers, held over my chest.

I did not want to get out of bed today. I felt unmotivated, scared, and sad. I am not depressed or suffering from an anxiety disorder but I have the sense of light fog and quivery-ness that are cues for me to engage in self-care. So I got up, got dressed, and walked outside.

It had rained all night. The air was heavy but cool. It was cloudy, but I could see lightness behind the clouds, the kind of lightness that suggests a sunny afternoon to come. I remembered to bring my camera. The light was not that great, but I took my photos, anyway. It is hard not to appreciate summer flowers, close up. The dahlias are in bloom. The sunflowers are at their peak.

I often let my mind wander and try to stay in connection with my senses when I walk. I find that instead of feeling, thinking, or sensing less, I feel, think, and sense more. I have a wide variety of experience on my walks and this is very grounding to me even though some of the thoughts and feelings I experience are troubled. Mindfulness is not about blocking out. I continue to learn that it is about being open and to experience life in a way that is real but does not produce suffering.

As I was walking along the sidewalk in my neighborhood, there was a tree branch within reach. It was one of our wonderful evergreen trees, the branch of a hemlock. They have downward pointing boughs that are soft and flexible. I reached my hand up and softly grabbed it. It was still wet from the rain. In touching it, the newness, life, and health were tangible. It filled me with calm.

With just a moment of full engagement, I felt reconnected with what is beautiful.

DSC05129 DSC05128

I was walking in my neighborhood last week and I passed two men. One of them had a newborn strapped to his chest in one of those little baby carriers. His baby looked blissfully asleep and his father looked like he was enjoying his time with his son.

This is not an uncommon sight where I live. It was a rather uncommon sight when I was a girl. When I was young, a man changing his own child’s diaper was considered a rarity. Men played with their babies. They were not as involved with the day-to-day caretaking as they are now. Caretaking was considered “woman’s work” and therefore “beneath” a man. It still is, to a certain extent,  but there really has been a significant overall increase in men’s level of involvement in their children’s lives not to mention an increased appreciation for “women’s work”. I have been providing mental health services to families for since 1991. When I started out this meant working with mothers and their children. Father participation was not common. It is far more common now and it is rare that I never meet with a child’s father.

When I saw the man with his infant, I smiled in recognition of what our culture has gained from the women’s movement. There is still sexism. “Feminist” is still a “bad word”. But it is difficult to deny if I REALLY think about it that men’s lives have been improved by feminism. To know your children better and to be a nurturing force in a vulnerable being’s life are gifts. With the loosening of gender roles, I also think it is easier for gay men to be parents together.

Civil rights and social movements are often met with resistance, the resistance that to give up a privilege is an absolute loss. That there is nothing to be gained through change. There is a lack of acceptance.

Loss, perceived or actual, is often a sticking point. It is a place where we hesitate, trip, or in some cases, fall into a deep pit, for which climbing out is virtually impossible.

Honestly, sometimes we want to stay in the pit even if climbing out is a possibility. We struggle. We suffer. We want to be heard, seen, and felt. At other times, we deny that we are in a pit. “What, this isn’t a pit? Everything is fine.” This is another kind of nonacceptance, and it too causes suffering. Denying and suppressing loss and the grief that comes with it, is a short term solution with painful consequences. In the world of cancer and other griefs, I see this acutely.

In the world of cancer and other griefs, I see this acutely. It can be so difficult to find balance. It is so difficult to find the time and space we need to grieve our own losses and come to some kind of peaceful place with them. On top of that, there is no final destination. Grief is an iterative process, one that we must come back to over and over. This is why we can get on with life and yet not ever “be over” a significant loss in our lives.

This weekend, I have been feeling anxious. I had awful nightmares last night. I feel justifiably underappreciated by my family. However, the way my impatience has played out in my behavior is a way that increases my suffering as well as that of my family.

I came back to my well-spring. I did a sitting meditation and I am sitting her with my own thoughts and feelings, writing this post. I can feel myself letting go of hurt and anxiety. I am not quite solidly balanced, but I am getting there. I am nurturing myself and it is radiating within. When I leave this office and rejoin my family, I am hoping to radiate compassion toward them, as well.

I have been focusing on a particular kind of mindfulness meditation lately, the body scan. It is a form of “simple awareness” in that the focus of the meditation is on basic bodily sensations such as warmth, itch, pressure, and pain. Although I practice formal meditations, I also adapt them at times, as a form of experimentation. Last week, I decided to see what it would be like to meditate on bodily sensation while I was in my hot tub.

It was the end of a long day. I was tired and it was near my bed time. My husband did not want to join me.  At the end of the day, I need a little momentum to do things. On top of this, it was rainy, dark, and cool outside. Despite this, I went out there, perhaps in part because I had set the intention earlier in the day to do so.

The tub water was warm but the rain was cold. My initial response was disappointment followed by a sense of vulnerability to the elements. Then I closed my eyes and started my meditation. My attention drifted, as it often does, between simple awareness and drifting off into thought. When I became aware of the drifting, I redirected my attention to the awareness. Mindfulness is not keeping your mind blank and it doesn’t only occur when our minds are laser-focused on the exercise. It is a process.

I carry a good deal of tension in my neck, shoulders, and upper back, which are exacerbated by my work on the pottery wheel. I observed the pain in this area of my body. As frequently occurs with the body scan, when I observe a sensation such as pain or itch, the quality of the sensation changes and often subsides. I sat in the tub, allowing myself to move to the different areas of it, as I wanted, and with intention. I spent most of the time sitting in the middle of the tub, sitting up with my legs crossed.

I felt the rain. I observed the rain. It was cool. It was refreshing. I was safe and warm. It rains frequently where I live. Rain is associated with spoiled plans, canceled baseball games, indoor recess, uncomfortable hikes in the mountains, and yes, being cold and afraid. It is true that weather can be dangerous. Weather can kill.

As my body and mind were drifting, I thought of all of this, about how scary the world can be, but also how much scarier I make it when I worry about the safety of myself and my loved ones when we are actually all safe.

I am learning to reduce the burdens of my own making. More importantly, I am learning that this is a practice rather than an endpoint. Mindfulness is iterative. It is repetitive. But it also changes. It is like saying, “I love you” to my husband each day. It is always true but the shades of meaning each day can differ.

DSC04400

I watched the Oscar winning film, Man on Wire, a couple of years back. It is a documentary about Philippe Petit’s high wire stunts, in particular, his 1974 high wire act between the tops of the former Twin Towers in New York City. It is a mesmerizing film.

Mssr. Petit’s balance was AMAZING. It wasn’t exactly as if he were walking on solid ground, but it was about as solid as one could possibly be under the circumstances.

I frequently find myself in very stressful circumstances. Sometimes, I am able to keep my balance and walk as if the ground is as solid as it could possibly be. Unlike Philippe Petit, I have not sought out these dangers. He had to have constructed a very different reality to justify his actions. I thought of his friends and family and how painful it would be to be a part of his life. Then I figured that anyone who could actually tolerate being with him must share in at least a bit of his acrobatic justifications. I don’t remember if this topic was addressed in the film but in my imagination I see his wife indoctrinate, I mean, explain to their young son (in English with poor French accent because this is my imagination), “Aaah, your Papa cannot stay on the ground. For him, it is a death. When he dies, he want to be…ALIVE.”

But I digress…

I find myself lately flailing a bit, having a hard time keeping my balance. When I flail, it is not pretty. Sometimes, I fall on my ass and stay there until the pain and embarrassment subside. At other times, it is more like a tap dance on a small stage. I shuffle, I step. I keep testing the ground for firmness, trying to find the right place for right now. It all seems very much on display. I can continue to struggle to find my footing even while I am experiencing a positive situation. It’s the ups and the downs that get me. If something positive happens after a negative, I sometimes find myself doing a little dance routine, “Hey friends and family, who I have depressed and worried with my tales of woe, look at me! Look at me! I am having THE BEST time. Ta da!!!!!!  I was good, right? Isn’t this great?”

Sometimes the level of observation I do is incredibly helpful. At other times, it enhances my self-consciousness and minimizes any chance of ease I have in the moment. This is a long-winded way of saying that I sometimes think too much.

I’m not quite sure how to get out of this mode. I know that it is fear based. (The nightmares I had over the weekend were a tip off. See, I am a professional. 😉 ) I am feeling the urge to apologize to people but when I really think about what I could have possibly done to hurt anyone it is that I have been flailing and awkward. I haven’t really done anything and I know from years as  a frequent flailer that the best way to increase the awkwardness that flailing creates is to apologize. If my awkwardness was all internal, my apologizing just confuses other people. They don’t know what the Hell I am talking about. And then I end up trying to explain myself and as the words come out of my mouth I realize that I am flailing in circles. Alternatively, the other person provides reassurance that I have not been awkward and flailing or that my awkward tap dance was completely understanding. This kind of reassurance can be a drug to us reassurance-seeking types and actually reinforce anxiety. The better course is to move on and keep going.

Eventually, I regain my footing.

I am not much of a sports fan most of the time, but I do love watching the Olympics, especially the winter games. One of the most thrilling of the winter sports, at least in my view, is the luge. I watch the athlete careen down the luge run at literally, break neck speed, with their legs held out in hair-pin formation. I think to myself, “Holy crap. That’s crazy.” Yes, they wear head protection but those hair-pin legs and arms are covered in space-age stretchy materials. And what about one’s neck? I know that I am not a physical risk taker, but it looks like a pretty dangerous sport major spinal cord injury potential not to mention the orthopedic horrors that could occur. Mostly, what I see on my television screen, however, is highly controlled chaos. These are highly trained athletes at the most elite level. By and large, they love what they do. They are driven to do it, to take the risk, over and over again. I imagine that mastering the luge feels like becoming a force of nature.

I love the mountains, looking at them, and hiking in them. I dreamed a few nights ago that I was driving to the mountains. There was compacted snow on the road. I was driving really fast and following very close. The car was flying along the road. In the dream I had some recognition that the conditions were dangerous but I was determined to make it to the mountains and uncharacteristically non-plussed about conditions. And I was getting to my destination.

This was not a normal anxiety dream for me. Those are the ones I have when “bad guys” are chasing me or when I am stressed about work, my anxiety dreams involve my finding myself, at my current age, back in college or high school, scrambling with my classes. “Oh no. I’ve had a class I forgot to attend all quarter! I must have failed it!” Because I have evolved, the latter dreams end with my realizing that I have a diploma for a Ph.D. Why would I need to be in high school or college?

This was a different dream. It involved anxiety but it also involved a kind of moving forward in life and enjoying it. I was really enjoying myself in the mountains. It was beautiful. And I don’t really think the dream was about my taking dangerous chances or being an Olympic level snow and ice driver. I think this dream reflects how I am coming to deal with the anxiety of my life.

In reality, I am not a very skilled or experienced snow driver. Seattle may be near the mountains but it is a temperate city, at sea level. I entrust the winter driving feats to my husband, who spent his teen and early adult years either living in Eastern Washington or driving back and forth over mountain passes, to visit his parents there. But I am learning how to drive through life, despite its break neck speed, the dangers, the hidden and out in the open.

I am not a person who seeks out danger. I am not a thrill seeker or a reckless person. The mountains can be a beautiful destination. Sometimes the mountains can be barriers to where we want to go. And some of those barriers are K2’s of our own making, towering anxiety without sufficient basis.

I don’t want to live a safe life in my own home. I want to see mountains. I want to enjoy the beauty in my life right now.

20131124_133538

We are always on the verge of something. Sometimes, we are on the verge of great things. Other times, the verge of collapse. Still other times, the verge of sameness. There is always a future, just up ahead, which cannot be known until it gets here. In the mean time, we make our best predictions.

I have been working hard to move my business to another location. Yesterday, a large package arrived containing two small chairs. My new office is smaller than my current one and I’m needing to downsize some of my furniture. The package arrived just as I was leaving the house for work. I decided to carry the package down my front steps, which are concrete.

The box was not heavy but it was large and it blocked my view of my feet, which were at the time, shod in high heels. I missed the step and felt myself falling forward toward our front walk, which is also concrete. In that split second, I knew that I was on the verge of being hurt but I did not yet know how badly.

Fortunately, I was able to stand up right away afterwards. I looked down at the 3 by 6 inch scrape starting on my right knee and could see that I was on the verge of bleeding. So I walked into the house, cleaned myself up, and three Band-aid’s later, stopped the leaking.

Today, I am sore. I twisted my left ankle, which was painful during the night, but I was able to go on my walk today. It hurt a little but I could also tell that walking was stretching my muscles a bit in a good way. Phew! My big scrape may elicit comments from my patients tomorrow (yes, I know it is winter but it is not yet cold enough to wear pantyhose or tights with my dresses) but I appear to have suffered no lasting damage.

Most of the time our lives on the verge are this way. Most of the time, we avert crises. Most of the time, really horrible things don’t happen to most people, at least in this part of the world. And yes, I know that lots of bad things, too many bad things, happen in the U.S., but remember, these bad things are considered news. There’s a reason for that. They don’t happen most of the time.

When really bad and scary things happen, it hurts our foundation of security. It puts us on watch. It puts us feeling on the verge of calamity a lot more often than is realistic. And the thing about anxiety is that it is reinforced when we fret and the bad thing doesn’t happen. Phew, that fretting was so effective at averting crisis! Anxiety is also increased when we fret and the bad thing DOES happen. See, I told you a bad thing was going to happen.

It is no wonder that anxiety problems are so common. And it is no wonder that they are so tenacious for those of us who have had trauma in our lives. Lately, I have been feeling not in the front of my mind but in the back of it, on the verge of something bad happening. I have worries for my family and for my friends.

There are some bad things I can head off at the pass. There are others I cannot. There are others, like cancer, that sneak in like a thief, stealing more and more every day without my knowing. I do my best to choose to live my life, all of my life. I choose to believe that I can be on the verge of many things, many of them joyful and loving.

And if I were on the verge of something awful, wouldn’t it be a waste not to enjoy this short time of calm security?

 

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I grew up in a semi-rural area, which was really the suburbs. But my parents had acreage and our neighbors had horses, goats, cows, and of course there was Louie who had 200 pigeons. Ourselves, we had a lot of animals, too. I remember when we got our first kittens, Tom, George, and Fred. Tom was an orange tabby who grew up to be a true alpha tom cat. He got into fights and was often bruised. Bumping into one of Tom’s sores was the shortest way to getting assaulted by his razor sharp claws. I’m not exaggerating, either. He once drew blood when he scratched my arm while I was wearing a winter coat. George was a cute gray cat and that’s all I remember.

Fred, as I recall was a black and white cat. One of the early discoveries about Fred was that she was female. Kitties, even litter mates, live a soap opera existence. And our cats were not spayed or neutered. To make a long story short, before long our tribe of three cats expanded to a family tree with may inbred branches. My mom may deny this in the comments’ section but at the highest number, we had 21 cats. You might ask how this could happen but these were outdoor cats and we lived in the woods. Cats go back to being feral really fast.

I remember one of our feral females who had litters and litters of kittens. We called her appropriately enough, “Mama Cat”. Mama Cat would have her kittens in the woods or behind the wood pile. If she had them behind the wood pile, we had a chance. A kitten behind the wood pile might be tamed. We used yarn hanging from the end of a stick. We would throw the yarn to the back of the pile and then pull it out gently as the kitten snagged it with his/her claws. Repeat 150 times and we had ourselves a pet! If not tamed while a kitten, the cat would just be a feral creature who could only be lured into close proximity with the sound of a bag of Little Friskies cat food being hauled from the front door to the feeding trough (a metal baking pan) next to our barn. But even so, those cats would eat but would not socialize with us. They were truly wild animals.

When our daughter was three, we found a sweet little stray adolescent tabby kitten. We tried but were unable to find the owner. Given that he was a stray in eastern Washington, he was probably abandoned there. Ollie became part of our family. And then when he was three years old, he went kind of nutty and paranoid. For whatever reason, his whole world view changed. He was  like a cat returning from a tour of duty in the middle east who had PTSD. Ollie was aggressive to visitors and responded to the many cats who roamed our neighborhood by marking our house. And he did this for years, despite the behavioral interventions and his medication. (He took fluoxetine, the generic form of Prozac, for the record. I joked at home that I was going to write an autobiography, And Even the Cat Took Prozac.)

Ollie got really nervous at times and he was unpredictable. The only thing we knew is that if anyone outside of the immediate family was visiting, he might have one of his paranoid anxiety attacks with hissing, biting, and scratching. He could be scary. Ollie was also an alpha tom, or would have been, had we let him be an outdoor cat. He was enormous. There were a couple of folks who fancied themselves “cat whisperers” and tried to get in his face, despite our warnings not to do so. They got hissed at and scratched. When Ollie was panicked like this, even we couldn’t touch him.

After he had settled down a little, I could help him calm down more by placing my nose on his. This is a calming behavior for cats as long as they are not freaking out. They can be soothed by this very close contact if they are just a bit on edge. It is important to know the signs of cat anxiety and arousal before going nose to nose with a cat, especially an unfortunately mentally ill one like our Ollie. (And by the way, the veterinarians still talk about him, even the ones who never saw him as a patient. His legend lives on at the Lien Animal Clinic.)

It occurred to me the other day that dealing with negative emotions the ones that roil and churn in our guts and our hearts is a tricky business. Sometimes we can’t go nose to nose with then until we calm the Hell down a little. Focusing on them can become a rumination, a hopeless, helpless funk, or a tirade. At those times, we need a little distance. But if we distance ourselves from our painful emotions for too long, they take on a life of their own. They become feral and seemingly impossible to tame. And they are truly painful, especially at first, to confront after a long absence of distraction and denial.

Cats give signals when they need space. Their tails twitch. They climb onto high surfaces to make themselves bigger. If you miss those cues, they will up the volume by sending a low hiss and standing their fur on end. And they will flatten their ears. Do not go nose to nose with a cat with these signals! Give them some time.

We all have our own signals and as for myself, I have used life experience and more recently, mindfulness to identify times when I am too raw to go nose to nose with my thoughts and feelings and need to do something to get myself back into control like deep breathing, walking, or getting myself into the woods. Then I can start going nose to nose with myself. And I can stand myself and my feelings at these times.

I may never be a cat whisperer but I have gone many years without getting scratched going nose to nose with a kitty. Maybe I can keep learning how to do the same getting up close and personal with myself.

Ollie, sunning himself on the deck. He was pretty sick and weak by this time, but still finding enjoyment.

Ollie, sunning himself on the deck. He was pretty sick and weak by this time, but still finding enjoyment. He died a few weeks after this photo was taken. He was a beautiful boy and we loved him.

This is a re-post from 9/20/13, which I wrote (and sang) as a gift for my mom’s birthday. Mom has been fretting about me a bit because I’ve been writing about worry and stress. She is asking me what she can do to help. I am reposting this 1) to remind her that I know that I am resilient even if my life is complicated at this time and 2) to remind her that she has already and continues to do so much for me, just by being herself.

 

Martha MacKenzie is my wonderful mom. And today is her birthday. In addition to being a mother of six and a wife for nearly 59 years, my mom is a singer. She has a glorious voice. Mom has almost no formal vocal training but comes from a family of musicians, especially singers. Her singing style can best be described as sacred classical. In other words, she is a church singer. Mom has been singing in church choir since she was six years old. Her oldest sister, Gloria, sang for KIRO radio’s Uncle Frank’s Kiddie’s Hour for a number of years, until she was about 12. Mom and her middle sister auditioned for and were accepted into the children’s choir for an opera production in Seattle, starring Metropolitan Opera’s Rise Stevens. Mom still remembers what she was asked to sing for the audition.

Mom  was SMART and graduated from high school at age 16, after which she took a music performance class, along with her older sister, Barbara at Seattle University. We have recordings from those times of my mom’s clear soprano and my aunt’s animated mezzo-soprano singing songs from 1950’s musicals. Shortly after, Barbara moved to New York City to try to make it on Broadway. She was an amazing performer but like many talented performers did not make it in the Big Apple. During the Koren war, Mom was in a singing trio with Barbara and their cousin, Betty. They wore glamorous dresses and pulled off those unbelievably dark lip stick shades that were popular in the early 50’s, while performing for the USO.

Mom continued to sing in church choirs all of this time through marriage, rearing six children, and throughout my father’s post-retirement years. She is a member of the St. James’ Cathedral Choir in Seattle. It is a wonderful choir, which has toured Europe singing at noted cathedrals such as Notre Dame in France. They also sang at the Vatican and had an audience with Pope Benedict. My mom likes to tell us how she was trying to hike up the waistband of her support hose just as Pope Benedict walked by.

Wow, Elizabeth your mom sounds great. And you’ve talked about being a musician in your youth. You must have sung. You must have sung for your mother.

Well, it’s complicated. I was in band but did belong to the choir during 7th grade. Our claim to fame was performing, “The Sound of Music” during a middle school JAZZ competition. And no, it wasn’t a jazzy rendition of the song. I don’t know what that teacher was thinking. Then I stopped singing except for a few months during college when my mom convinced me to come to St. James to rehearse for a special community choir mass. (Regular choir members must audition. Soloists are professional opera singers.) I remember singing “A Mighty Fortress” and learning a piece based on Psalm 84 (“Yeah the sparrow hath found a house…”). I learned how to articulate words differently for singing than for speaking. It was a lot of work but was really fun.

So I did a little singing in groups. But NEVER alone in front of people. (Okay, one time five years ago I sang “Goody Goody” for my neighbors Jim and Deana. I’m not sure why I did it.) Not even for my mom except for a few bars of something and even then that was when I was much older, like 35 years old. People, singing in front of people is even more mortifying to me than wearing a swim suit in public! Zoe is the only one I have ever sung to and I sang to her a lot when she was little. I would sing with her now except that she only likes to sing alone. (Annoying teen.)

My mom used to sneak next to the bathroom door to try to hear me sing in the shower. (Watch the comments section, she will deny it!) If we were in church together and standing next to each other, she would sing really quietly so that she could listen to ME. I knew that it was really important to my mom to hear me sing but it was so hard for me to do this and I’m not sure why. She wanted to know if I had “a voice”. I performed frequently as a flutist, despite my nerves, and even performed in two master classes. (A master class is when some well-known musician comes to town and students are selected to get a lesson by that person in front of an audience of a bunch of students and music teachers. I did it twice as a college student.)

My singing anxiety does not just apply to my mom. Objectively, I have a pleasant, untrained alto voice with limited range. I think I could have been an excellent singer if I had trained to do so as I had with the flute. Perhaps the difficulties started as a combination of my perfectionism and the fact that my mom’s eagerness stressed me out a bit. And then as irrational anxieties do, it gathered its own steam from my continued avoidance, and took on a life of its own.

Last July, I wrote about the co-existence of grief and joy as being part of resilience in the post, How Can I Keep from Singing? The post title is the name of one of my favorite Christian hymns. I included the lyrics in the post followed by a little message to my mom asking her to record the hymn so I could post it on this blog. She offered me the deal that she would record it if I sang WITH her. I replied to her comments with a “definite maybe” type reply. I don’t think she ever saw that reply because she hasn’t mentioned the topic even once in the last almost two months. Or perhaps she has been playing it REALLY COOL.

I subsequently decided that I wanted to record the song both for my mom and for myself, to face my fear of public singing. Unlike going on loop de loop roller coasters, I actually enjoy singing quite a bit. It’s the only kind of music I still make. My original vision was for my mom, Zoe, and I to sing one verse apiece and the last verse together. However, Zoe was not at all interested in participating at the time I asked. My mom kept going camping with my dad all summer. I ended up not talking to her about it.

I decided to go solo and a cappella. Actually, a cappella is my favorite for this hymn. Plus, I don’t play piano and ukulele accompaniment by Zoe would probably not sound right.To me, the hymn sounds a little Irish. However, it is American and although there is a somewhat complicated history behind it, the authorship for the music is attributed to a Baptist minister, Robert Wadsworth Lowry. There are a number of different versions of the lyrics. I chose the one that was closest to the one I’ve sung in church many times as a member of the congregation.

I started practicing the song on and off about three weeks ago. Then I had to figure out how to audio record myself. (No way would I have a videotape made. This audio recording is a big enough step as it is.) I finally decided, as time was passing quickly, that I just needed to get it done. So I downloaded a free recording app onto my smartphone and started recording myself. I spent enough time on it to give myself a few tries but not so many as to activate my perfectionism.

Happy Birthday, Mom! Here is a song for you. I am posting it on my blog as my kind of “performance” so you can have a cyber stage mother experience.

How Can I Keep from Singing?

My life goes on in endless song
above earth’s lamentations,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear it’s music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

Oh though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
Oh though the darkness ’round me close,
songs in the night it giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that rock I’m clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
how can I keep from singing?

When tyrants tremble sick with fear
and hear their death knell ringing,
when friends rejoice both far and near
how can I keep from singing?

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that rock I’m clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
how can I keep from singing?

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

KomenWatch

Keeping our eyes and ears open.....

Life in a Wheelchair

You never think it could happen to you!

4 Times and Counting

Confessions Of A 4 Time Breast Cancer Survivor

Nancy's Point

A blog about breast cancer, loss & survivorship

After Twenty Years Cancer Research Blog

Exploring progress in cancer research from the patient perspective.

My Eyes Are Up Here

My life is not just about my chest, despite rumblings to the contrary.

Woman in the Hat

Cancer to Wellness in 1,038,769 Easy Steps!

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.

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.

Fab 4th and 5th Grade

Teaching readers, writers, and thinkers

Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

making sense of the breast cancer experience together

Telling Knots

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

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

Fierce is the New Pink

Run to the Bear!

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