Archive for the ‘being human’ Category

Words and Perception

A moving video about how words change our perception. 

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Overwhelmed and Confused

directions in the south

A little help finding our way

Life is kicking me around.  My attempts to rest have been continuously and consistently interrupted.  I wish very much I could write about the experiences I’m having.  My difficulty lies not in what to say, but what not to say.

I feel like so many things have happened over the past decade that it’s all jumbled up in my mind now.  I used to be good at dates and remembering events.

I feel upset most of the time.  My guts are torn up.  My heart is heavy.

My responsibilities have become so completely overwhelming that my brain feels like a computer barely working and about to crash.

For the first time in my life, I don’t quite trust myself.  I don’t know how I’m going to respond to people.  I feel like a volcano and many little things are shaking me up.  I feel emotionally raw.  I feel a bit defeated.

I recently got angry at a woman in an elevator for pushing the button to go down after I’d waited on three that were going up.  I was immediately ashamed of how I reacted.  I apologized.  She responded by saying, “I was going to help you Mam.”

How did she know I needed help I wondered.  I didn’t feel that I deserved her kindness.   The elevator doors opened and even though it wasn’t her floor,  she stepped out to help me find my way.  Two nurses were walking by and when they saw me they stopped.

“Do you need some help?” they asked me.

I wondered why they were all being so nice.  I had dressed decently and fixed my hair normally.  My eyes had been terribly red from sleep loss and pretty consistent crying spells, but I had used eye drops so what was it that they saw?  I hoped they couldn’t see how desperate I felt inside because I was afraid someone would try to put me in a hospital.

I got lost on my way there.  I called the clinic and the receptionist treated me much like these women in the hallway had.

She gave me good directions and didn’t want to let me off the phone.

“It’s okay,” she said once more before ending the call.  “We’ve told the doctor you got lost, so don’t worry.”

Getting lost on my way and then in the hospital too had more than frustrated me.  I felt scared that perhaps I’ve had a stroke and don’t know it.

I realized that I hadn’t eaten and it was about 2pm.  I told the woman who registered me that I was going to be sick, which was the truth.  I was looking for a trash can just in case.  She gave me a grape juice and a graham cracker.

Checking into the clinic the desk clerk asked me if I remembered where I parked.  “Yes,” I answered.  “C.”  They all looked worried.  I realized then that each level on the parking deck has a C and I had no clue what level I had parked on.

I felt as disoriented as I had the time my son and I drove to South Dakota from North Carolina.  Illinois and Iowa made me feel strange inside my head because I had lost all sense of direction.  I realized I don’t like being in the middle of our country.  I like it on the edges.  At least I know where the ocean is.

purTY purTY purTY

Pretty red bird, he sings it every day!

Photo by Virginia Sanderson via Flickr

Every day for the past few weeks I’ve heard the Cardinal call,  “PurTY, PurTY,  PurTY.”  What a nice thing for a bird to say!

I’ve always especially loved Cardinals and the male is certainly an eye-catcher,  just as nature intended.

I wonder what the very handsome guy in the above image is thinking, but then I also wonder if birds can think.

I’m too tired to research this question in-depth, but I came across a wonderful article about a Parrot, Alex, who sadly died in 2007, but left with us interesting questions about animal intelligence that I find fascinating.

There may be more to a “birdbrain” than we thought.  The article about Alex is from 1999, but I imagine there remains, “a highly emotional debate about whether thought is solely the domain of humans, or whether it can exist in other animals.”

“Alex can think.  His actions are not just an instinctive response, –but rather a result of reasoning and choice.”  (Dr. Irene Pepperberg, A Thinking Bird or just another Birdbrain).

I’ve always wondered about humans being the most intelligent species and the older I get, the more I wonder.

Living with a chronic illness has a way of putting you in touch with being human.  Living with persistent pain and/or illness is humbling.  Strangely, this experience of being so damn human gives me a sense of connection with all living creatures.

I guess when I think of the pain and fatigue I live with I remember the ticks.  They are so small and relatively low on the food chain, but one bite from the wrong one at the wrong time can change your life, or worse.

There is a sense of oneness in the awareness that these little vectors can transmit disease and that a resulting illness can fall upon any person.  We are all alike in one way.  Blood runs through our veins and a beating heart keeps us alive.

I remember the day I found the baby deer tick on me.  It was in the afternoon and was a beautiful day outside.  I remember falling to the ground in weakness, while walking to my car.  Suddenly it felt like someone had grabbed my throat and was choking me.  My joints protruded for months.  For several weeks, I lost almost complete use of my hand and eventually my arm too.

I remember lying in bed looking out of the window thinking how I’m not any stronger than those ticks.  We are the same in one way you look at it.  We each have our place on this planet.

A few weeks ago, the deep joint pain like I had after the deer tick bite in 2003 reappeared.  This scared me.

I went to the doctor who tested me for autoimmune diseases.  I didn’t think to get tested for any of the tick-borne illnesses.  I’ve seen a few crawling on me this year, but none of them were attached.

“Positive,” one of my lab reports reads.  I received them in an email without an explanation from my doctor.  A lab report I can’t understand, but I do know the word positive.

I called the nurse,  “What am I positive for?” I asked her.

“Something arthritic,” she answered.

I know the test is for autoimmune diseases, but they have to do further testing to know which one.  It could be Lupus or RA and for all I know it could be Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or something else!

My doctor still hasn’t sent me a note, explained anything or asked for a follow-up.  Modern times I guess.

The referring nurse called to say the Rheumatologists can see me in August.  This is April.  Sigh…

We have many fine Rhuematologists here, but they won’t see me because I have insurance for poor people and doctors don’t like it because they don’t get paid as much for their services.  I also have Medicare, but because I have Medicaid, they won’t see me.  The only ones who will take my insurance are the teaching clinics at the hospitals, which is a lot better than going to the public health department like I had to when I lived in the mountains.  That was altogether horrible.

Still, it isn’t very cool that I have a positive test for an autoimmune disease, which was taken because of joint pain and a worsening of fatigue and not be able to know what exactly I tested positive for.  I would at least like advice or counseling, since knowing me, I probably wouldn’t use whatever medication they suggested.  I can’t take medication for arthritis.  They all make me sick.  I can’t take most medications without getting sick.  However, I’d still like to know where I stand and what my body is battling.

I’ve suspected Lupus before and so have a few doctors I’ve seen, but you have to test for this disease when it’s active for the results to show positive.

I’m very tired and life isn’t slowing down for me.  It’s hard to keep up my obligations, some of which are difficult when I’m feeling well.

I keep thinking things will get better.  They’ve been bad before and they got better.

A cabin in the mountains near the hot springs is what I fantasize about.  Taking my dogs, a few good novels and waking up for a month or so, only to walk over to sit in the natural springs and enjoy a Swedish massage afterwards.

For now, I take comfort in nature.  I listen when the birds sing.  I hear that Cardinal.  “PurTY, PurTY, PurTY.”  He is so nice!

Thank you for visiting Dogkisses’s blog.  Please feel free to leave your thoughts.  Emails are never published.

Forest Food Web via mdlk12.org

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My future is now

“After a certain age, there is no future.” Joseph Campbell


I’m forty-seven years old.  For the past couple of years, I’ve had acute realizations that I’m living my future.  The one I imagined when I was a child, the one I thought was so far away in my twenties and the one that in my thirties, was largely shaped and formed by turbulence and ensuing illness.

past meets presentThese acute realizations happen out of the blue.  I’ll be doing something, such as watching television or talking with my son and the feeling hits me.  I look around my home, taking note of the sentimental items I’ve kept over the years, the most special of which are displayed on the fireplace mantle or my desk.  I look at the pictures I’ve hung on my walls.  I look at my life and think to myself, This is it.  This is my future.

There is a sense of peace in this experience.  I like knowing that I’m here in the moment, instead of waiting to be somewhere else, in the future.  Then too, there is the realization that I didn’t prepare very well.  In fact, I may not have prepared at all.

“Every decision a young person makes is a commitment to a life course.  And if you made a bad decision of that angle by the time you get out there, you’re far off course.”  Joseph Campbell

I did get off course.  I made choices that landed me where I don’t think I would have chosen if someone had shown me a crystal ball.  A few people tried to show me, but my life was demanding.  I couldn’t get past the day, yet I still made it to the future, which is now.

“I’m not now participating in the achievement of life.  I have achieved it.”  Joseph Campbell.

I hope you enjoy this video.  The late Joseph Campbell was a great thinker who shared his knowledge and wisdom with joy and an obvious love of humanity.



Joseph Campbell Foundation

Video from YouTube, “Joseph Campbell–Myth as the Mirror for the Ego”

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What I can’t say no to

How do you say no to nicotine addiction with severe anxiety going on?

I guess there are a few things I can’t say no to, but most likely, outside of not being able to say no to air, water and food, tobacco is the one thing I can’t say no to.

I didn’t begin this post with tobacco as my choice of something I can’t say no to.  I was going to tell you about something else, something more fun and exciting, but maybe I’ll go with the flow on what I’ve already written on this page.

Maybe I should tell it like it is how addicted I am to smoking and nicotine and how I feel like I’m going to explode, or rather implode, if I go too long without a cigarette.

I may be in denial because I had to pause to write the word cigarette.  It sounds ugly to me.  I wondered before I wrote the word if I want to tell of this awful habit, this complete failing of myself and my family, especially in my attempts to heal my body.  This one thing that feels like if I hadn’t ever started that my entire life would be different today.

I could have been a great athlete.  I could have gone to New York and studied modern dance.  I could have taken job offers as an aerobics and aquatic fitness instructor.  People offered to pay for my training, but smoking made me feel like going into a career like that would be misleading or false.

My habit got worse during a very bad time in 1996.  It got worse again in 2003 when both my son and I became ill.

One day during the summer of 2003 I was smoking a cigarette and thought of a local man whom everyone downtown knew.  He had schizophrenia because his older brother, “dosed him with large amounts of acid,” when he was fifteen years old.  He died in the mental institution when they committed him and put him on a new medication.  It was a tragic loss to all who knew him.  I didn’t know him as well as some of the men did, but I cried when he died.

I was having tremendous anxiety the day I remembered him.  I felt like smoking an entire pack at once, like he did.  He cleaned windows for local small businesses and the owners paid him in food and cigarettes.  He would wait until he had what looked like over a hundred cigarettes.  Then he would sit down at the coffee-house, put them all in a large pile between his legs, and smoke every last one of them back to back.

I always felt his anxiety when I saw him smoking.  He rocked back and forth and smoked hard and fast.

I saw myself in his memory that day I wanted all those cigarettes.  My son was in serious trouble in life and utter fear was overwhelming me with anxiety.  That summer, before my son finally received medical help, is when I remembered our friend who smoked the pile of cigarettes.  I went in the side room of my little home, opened the window, and smoked while I wrote an ode to him.

“The tobacco plant, Nicotiana, has probably been responsible for more deaths than any other herb. At present, tobacco smoking is causing over 3 million deaths a year worldwide, and if current smoking trends continue the annual mortality will exceed 10 million by around 2030.”  (1)

The Nicotiana plant isn’t what’s so bad.  It’s the addiction to smoking and nicotine that leads so many to the doorway of death.

A beautiful plant meant for healing not harming

Nicotiana tabacum

A beautiful plant meant to heal not harm

Nicotiana rustica

Nicotiana tabacum, the plant now raised for commercial tobacco production, is probably of South American origin and Nicotiana rustica, the other major species which was carried around the world, came from North America. In 1492, Columbus found Native Americans growing and using tobacco, sometimes for its pleasurable effects but often for treatment of various ills.”  (1)

“As early as 15 October 1492 Columbus noted that dried leaves were carried by a man in a canoe near the island of Ferdinandina because they were esteemed for their healthfulness.  In the same year, two members of his crew observed people in what is now Cuba carrying a burning torch that contained tobacco, the purpose of which (it later emerged) was to disinfect and help ward off disease and fatigue.”  (1)

One time a wasp stung me and my leg swelled and ached badly.  I put a compress of wet tobacco on it and the swelling went down immediately.  I wore a patch for a couple of days and my leg was fine.  My grandmother had taught me that when a bee stung my foot around age seven.  I loved walking barefoot and we had more than what I considered our share of bees.

I grew up in the 1970’s in a rural cotton mill town where everyone smoked, except my grandmother.  She was the only adult in my family that didn’t smoke.

I remember my dad smoking in the line at the grocery store, along with everyone else.  The store manager walked around with a wide broom to clean up the butts on the floor.  He didn’t seem to mind this at all.   He would greet people as he did this.  I didn’t think anything about it.

I smoked my first cigarette in elementary school.  I stole them from my grandpa.  They said he was blind, but he always knew when I reached into the drawer where he always had a carton of Winston’s.  I don’t know how he knew because the drawer was out of his sight in the hallway.  One day when I opened the drawer there was a dozen packs of Juicy Fruit.  He never kept his cigarettes there anymore.

I nearly passed out the first time I inhaled smoke, but that didn’t stop me.  I thought I was cool.  I would go behind the neighbor’s outdoor shed, which was beside the cow pasture and smoke.  I didn’t do it often, thank goodness.

It was when I was around fourteen that I began to practice the habit.  I’d ride my bicycle and hide a pack of Marlboro’s in my socks or if I wore my cow girl boots then it was quite easy.  Nearly all my friends would hide cigarettes in their boots.  The cool ones anyway.

I quit the habit when I was seventeen.  That was the year when I made life-changing good decisions.  I wanted good health and an education and I got both.  I had many accomplishments when I was seventeen.

I started back one day when my son was a young toddler.  I was sitting around the kitchen table at my former sister-in-law’s house.  I hadn’t thought of a cigarette in five years.  I was having a hard time being a single mother.

“Maybe you need one of these.  You need something to calm your nerves,” my dear in law said to me.

She handed me a Marlboro light.  I thought I’d smoke only one.  I was wrong.

I was going to write that I can’t say no to severe sexual desire that has gone past the point of no return, but I wrote a little about that in The Elusive Fence.

Thank you for visiting Dogkisses’s blog.  Please feel free to leave a comment.

(1) PubMed Central, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Medicinal uses of tobacco in history.

(2) Image of sign via Wiki Commons

Click on images of plants for Wikimedia Commons description.

Topic #60 from The Daily Post, “What can’t you say no to?”

Holding Hope

We find it, lose it, and yet keep finding it... that elusive source of survival

Hope is a wonderful feeling.  It’s also hard to hold.  I guess some people have it most of the time, which must be a very nice experience.

I wonder if the people who have hope most or even all of the time are consciously aware of it?   Maybe it’s an ongoing feeling that is so normal they don’t think about it.

I get bursts of hope –sometimes in large doses and other times small ones, but it comes and it goes.

It’s like being on a merry-go-round.   Sometimes I jump off where there isn’t any hope and instead a great void of darkness.  It is from this desperately sorrowful place that I search for hope, because that’s the only thing strong enough to pull me out.  The trick is me being able to see it, grab it and hold on to it long enough to stand on the ground again.

Round and round I go.  Lose it, find it, lose it and find it again.

My losing hope feels like a normal human response to chronic repeated difficult situations filled with fear and grief.   It comes from not knowing what to do or being too tired to do what I think might help me find some peace.

Hope instills peace and joy.  If I could hold hope long enough, I’d have a better chance at feeling joy.  I might even feel happy again, like I did a long time ago.

Hope must be something you have to nurture.  It must be akin to yeast if you want bread to rise.  It might be the same to the spirit and mind as water is to the physical body.   Maybe we can’t survive without it.

Hope is hard to hold.  I keep losing it, but then again, I keep finding it.


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