Tag Archives: meditation

The Most Important Item

“If you don’t have time to meditate for 20 minutes, you should meditate for an hour.”

I ran across this saying a few days ago. At first read, it made sense, but then I did a U-turn. Say what?

I had to reread it several times to finally get it. Of course! If your life is so hectic, if you are so busy, if your to-do list merely gets longer and longer with each passing day, then you won’t be able to find the time or space for 20 minutes of downtime.

And if that is the case, then it’s condition critical. You have become a prime candidate to self-combust. It happens to many of us. It’s happened to me. The first time I noticed it was a long time ago.

I was a young wife to a husband who traveled constantly, a young mother of three children, and a young nurse manager of three departments. By the age of 33, I had acquired 24-hour responsibility in all three aspects of my life.

Looking back, I don’t know how I did it, but I can still see myself in my hospital office taking a few moments at the end of each full day to think about what had been accomplished and what needed doing the next day. My last act for the day was to write down what I had to attend to the following day, by priority, the most important item taking number one on the list.

But before I did that, I would soberly assess each listing from the previous day and cross it out if it had been taken care of. If not, it carried over to the next day and was re-prioritized, triaged, as to what position it should take on the new list.

I would then leave the notepad open with the list in full view right smack in the middle of my computerless desk so that it would be the first thing I’d see upon entering my small office the next morning.

Those few minutes, with my office door closed, were the only moments of solitude, of reflection, that I had each day. Once I grabbed my things, threw open my door and flew down the stairs to my car, I was already in transition, planning for the needs of my family.

Needless to say, this didn’t end well. For me. At the end of two years, my departments were running seamlessly and the answer my successor gave to my staff’s question, “What are you going to change?” was: Nothing, Irma changed what needed changing.

And now Irma was going to change herself. I felt proud of having worked hard to improve things for all, but in the process, I had ignored myself. I became ill and ended up needing major surgery. When my husband’s company wanted to transfer him, and he told me there’d be less travel involved, I said yes, and gave my notice.

We moved cross-country and I cut back on work hours. I also cut back on responsibility, preferring to work as staff, and saying no politely for several years when approached about management positions. I concentrated on my family and our newest blessing, a baby girl.

I tried my best to manage the stress of everyday life and then one day, RA came calling. And that underscored the fact that I definitely had to stop at the end of my day. I had to make time to review what had been accomplished, and what had not, in the quest for regaining my health. I had to reflect on what had worked, and what hadn’t, in order to make plans for the next goal.

I had to learn a new form of triage:

Relax.

Stop.

Breathe.

Think about what truly matters.

The most important item on the list is you.

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Fluid

It’s been kind of a bad year, health-wise, but life goes on and tomorrow I go back to Tai Chi class.

I didn’t realize how much I’d missed that social interaction until I saw the familiar friendly faces when I stopped at the Center to drop off the quilt I’d made. And how much my body missed the physical poetry that is Tai Chi.

Below is my blog post from August, 2011, called In The Zone.
My goal is to recapture the fluidity I had then.

~~~

Standing tall, I take a deep breath as I raise my arms straight out to shoulder height. My open fingers mimicking a falling rain, I lower my hands to waist level. They float toward each other, palms down. My right hand then slices the air like the flat of a blade leading me to pivot on my right heel in that direction. The left foot adjusts its angle and I “drop” into position, bending at the hip and flexing my right knee.

Poised in a protective stance, I sense strong energy pushing back on my extended right hand, pressing against my outward facing palm.  I am holding it back away from me, keeping it at bay. My left hand, palm down, hangs low in front of me, guarding my center, shielding my core. I hold this position for a moment, letting the opposing force know I am ready and prepared for it. I am invulnerable.

Standing tall again, my right arm gravitates down while my left arm rises towards it; they cross at the forearm, as though suspending something in front of me, something round. I visualize a delicate sphere, it is my world; I am hugging my world. I am the unbroken shell surrounding it. No harm will come to it as long as I cradle it, making it invincible.

My weight resting on my right leg, I lift the left foot and step out on the diagonal, advancing against the unseen force. The motion is fluid, my left hand leads; my body follows, turning to confront that which comes at me from yet another direction. I allow my body to flow with the motion. I concentrate and think of nothing but continuing with the synchronized moves. I am part of a formation, a phalanx, performing a silent ballet. I am in the zone, the Tai Chi zone.

The dance progresses; the right hand moves up by the left shoulder and forms a fist. The left hand retracts against the body gathering energy then pushes back as the fist lashes out. The fist continues its momentum coming to rest by the right hip; the body follows its arc, swinging to the right, back foot pivoting on the toe. I am now crouched and ready to strike. I push that invisible force back once more and step forward with purpose, delivering my right-handed thrust.

I do not fight any one person in these pseudo matches, though I do face an enemy. Locked in a pitched battle against my personified disease, I withstand and do not cower. It is a contest I engage in daily, this struggle to gain and maintain my equilibrium, to meet the challenge of life’s burdens and its inequities.

When I practice Tai Chi, I achieve a level of serenity and all around peace no other form of exercise can give me. My worries succumb; my stressors evaporate. The poetry of the motion is beautiful and graceful, the camaraderie of performing it with others comforting and soothing. Performing it in solitude becomes meditation in motion. I withdraw to my innermost self and find medicine for my soul.

~~~

tai chi

In case anyone wants to join us!

tai chi

We are the largest Branch in the country and the most diverse. For our 20th anniversary, I printed out flags for all the different countries represented in our Chapter. I then had to figure out how to place them on the cake. The answer came to me at the party store. Swizzle sticks!

Up With This I Will Not Put

There can be no more visceral saying to depict resilience, audacity, resoluteness, than this very graphic statement.

This quote has been much attributed to Winston Churchill. Apparently, some ne’er-do-well editor rearranged one of his sentences so it would not end in a preposition. Word has it that Churchill wrote a note in the margin, “This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.”

I first heard it said in the movie, She-Devil. Meryl Streep’s maid gets fed up cleaning not only after her, but after her lover, her lover’s kids and her lover’s dog, who went potty on the floor. Those are her final words as she stomps away, head held high, suitcase in hand, quitting her post, while Meryl pleads for her to come back.

I love the sound of that saying. I adopt it as my life motto now. I will embroider it on pillows. I will cross-stitch it and frame it. Up with this I will not put!

There are many things I can relate this quote to in my personal life. One, of course, is my illness. It is a chronic condition, but not one that has to rule my life. It did for a while, but I think it was because I let life best me for a time. But then, I got tired of coming in second. I made a move toward the inside, overtook it and passed it by. Running for my life, I snapped the ribbon and left it behind, in the dust.

Running. I could barely walk for fifteen minutes without pain. Walking the mall with my little girl was something to dread. Pure agony, torture. Well, up with that I did not put. I began to exercise, routinely. I began a love affair with my stationary bike. We would meet almost every evening; I would look forward to dusk. It was waiting for me in our private place, my patio. I would mount it and caress the handle bars; they reached out for me.

I’d slip my sneakered feet into the pedals; the pedal straps embraced them. My seat met its seat, for part of the time. I would get so revved up, I would pedal standing up. It was exhilarating. The bike would respond to me, telling me the number of laps I’d pedaled, my speed, how many miles I’d covered, how many calories I was using up. It communicated more with me than anyone else I lived with.

And as with any tryst, I would dress accordingly. I’d pull on exercise bottoms that fit like a second skin down the sleekness of my leg, providing me with muscular support. Always black. Some with a bolt of color flashing like a streak of lightning. Another boasted silver reflective strips curving round the knee of my revolutionary leg. I would slither into my tank top with built in support, black, of course. At those moments, I wished I had less to support. But, my bike didn’t care about my top, just my top form.

I would start my revolutions slow, pacing myself, loving the feel of the motion. My heart would start beating faster, my breathing accelerating with the ever increasing circular motions of my feet. The beading would commence, on my forehead, my arms. I would look forward to it as a sign, a sign that I was fleeing that which afflicted me. My own momentum would carry me away, away from all that dragged me down.

I would do bursts of quick speed, going over 20 miles an hour, faster, faster. My hair would fly in all directions as my body swung to and fro. I would hold that speed as long as I could and then collapse in euphoria against the front panel. I would cry out, the endorphin release so intense, I could not hold it in, the sweat blinding me, stinging my eyes.

And in between, I would pedal steadfastly, gazing up at the shape-shifting clouds as they passed slowly by. Their form changing in seconds as they, too, traveled in place. I marveled at how the veiled moonlight cast shadows, turning well-known trees into unrecognizable silhouettes. I preferred to keep the patio dark. Darkness interrupted only by the gentle flickering of two candles and the soft blue pinpoint of light coming from my wireless speaker. For my bike and I had to have our mood music while we communed.

When I was done, I would dismount on legs that felt like jelly. For one hour, I had had my way with it and it had had its way with me. We met like this for well over a year and in the end, I broke its heart; we hardly meet anymore. I’m seeking a replacement. I wore it out. It now creaks and groans, but I don’t. It’s shaky and unbalanced, but I’m not. It sits forlorn and alone, but I won’t. Because up with that I will not put!

Green Bananas

Why is there a picture of bananas on a blog about Rheumatoid Arthritis? Maybe because I am bananas to think anyone will read it.

Maybe it’s because nutrition is so very important in the management of any disease process. And it is of prime importance in the maintenance of a healthy body. Our bodies are made to run like well-oiled machines, but sometimes that oil pan springs a leak.

Maybe because to me, yellow is the color of hope. And the color of sunshine. The sunshine that brings welcome warmth to our aching joints and lights up our day, bringing us out of the darkness whose name is pain.

Yellow is also the color for caution. As we move from stoplight to stoplight in our lives we must proceed with caution. It is what rules the life of someone with RA. We must take care not to overdo, for that invites the pain.

We must also take care to DO. Exercise and motion keeps those joints fluid. True for any body, more so to a body with RA. Use it or lose it could not be more applicable.

As I use this forum to share, connect and inform about my disease, I look for the color green. For green means go. I want to go. Go on with my life, go on with my future, the best way I know how, for me and for those whom I love and love me.

And no, no green bananas for me.