Here in America

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One week ago at this hour I was watching the details unfold – the terrorist masssacres in Paris put France, front and center, on the world’s stage – again.  Since last Friday, November 13, our country has become divided – again.  My social media news feeds have exploded with diametrically opposing views on how we should approach the Syrian refugees.  My friends and my favorite pop culture sites have delivered everything from carefully constructed logic, to unbridled emotion on the topic. Truth be told, many of my favorite pop culture sites are no longer my favorites.  As for my friends, I certainly don’t mean to offend you here, so if we stand on opposite sides, I still appreciate your thoughts.

Deep breath. Here we go.  The loud, vocal protests of allowing refugees into America is unsettling to me:  “Close the borders!” “Don’t allow a single family into our country!”  “Build a wall!”  “Send them away!”  “We need to protect our own!” And the very worst, “Make the Muslims register.”

Just before the massacres, I was channel surfing while I finished a day’s worth of emails.  I landed on Schindler’s List.  I have seen it so many times and I know the ending.  I didn’t think I could be brought to tears, yet again.  But wept I did.  And not just watery eyes.  I sobbed out loud, in the privacy of my bedroom, safe and warm.  I wept for the conspicuous lack of humanity.  I wept for the audaciaous ability to hope.  I wept for relief when the Jews were liberated. And I wept for Oskar Schindler – a Nazi, a Savior.

Jews and Muslims, like oil and water, don’t mix.  So why do I, a Jew, need the Syrian refugees to be treated with so much compassion.    Here is why – My grandparents were immigrants from Eastern Europe.  I have their papers that granted them asylum, life and a touch of hope when they came to America through Ellis Island.  I write tonight because of those papers. I write because there was enough compassion here in America, to allow the hopeless to hope.  Here in America, my grandparents, Jews, would not have to register.  Here in America, they would not be forced to identify themselves with golden stars embroidered on their clothes.  Here in America, they could start over, build dreams, build homes, build families.  Why we must accept the Syrian refugees is for the same reason America accepted my grandparents and their families.  Why we must accept the Syrian refugees is because tonight, here in America, I get to write.  Why we must accept the Syrain refugees is because we are a civilized society, we need to provide an escape from barbaric conditions and offer a chance for lives that otherwise would be lost.

I have a client, Ray, who has trusted me to care for eleven of his businesses.  I went to visit Ray earlier this week.  I asked him where he was from, guessing he was Middle Eastern but not exactly sure from which country.  Ray’s answer saddened me.  And embarrassed me.  “I am from Iraq.”  He continued, “But I am a Christian.  I am a Coptic Christian”.  I realized at that moment, how protective he must feel for his heritage.  I feel like I owe him an apology for what must have felt like an interrogation. I am always interested in people’s genealogy.  But I suppose in this day and age, it can sound like there is judgement that lurks beneath.  It wouldn’t have mattered to me if he was Muslim.  Ray has been very kind to me over the years.  He is a good client and is a smart business man.  He is very concerned about paying his taxes and making me promise to keep his businesses in compliance with the Federal and California governments.

We don’t know how the terrorists entered Paris.  We only know what the media wants us to know.  They may have entered with refugees but from the looks of things, they have a very sophisticated and complicated network throughout the world that has been in place for quite some time.  We live in a country with an out-of-control gun problem.  We have mass shootings in elementary schools carried out by white kids from the suburbs.  We risk our lives in movie theaters while we are held hostage by an interpretation of Second Amendment Rights.  We are hypocrites.  We are using the tragedy in Paris to turn our backs on a crisis of human brutality.

“We need to protect our own!”  Who are “our own?”  Do I count as “our own?”  Did my grandparents?  How can we feel less scared of concealed weapons than we do of families who seek what we seek for “our own.” Opportunity.  Life.  Hope.  Our collective compassion is required to remain civilized.  The innocent victims of the terrorists are not only those that were gunned down without mercy in Paris, but also those who have left everything behind to begin an exhaustive journey with nothing more than hope.  By fortune, I don’t know this level of desperation.  At this time of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for that.

 

 

 

I Believe

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I believe in countries with state-sanctioned siestas

I believe in dessert before dinner

I believe that eating French Fries (vegetables) for lunch is equivalent to eating a salad

I believe in falling in love – Head Over Heels, Cloud 9, Butterflies – with the same person, again, and again, and again

I believe that calling in sick to take advantage of a rare rainstorm, by staying in bed, is perfectly legitimate

I believe that legal and just are quite often worlds apart

I believe that doing something for someone else usually feels better for the giver

I believe that we use the wrong yardstick to measure success and fortune

I believe that silence is golden and useless rhetoric will fall on deaf ears

I believe in the power of a genuine apology

I believe in karma

I believe in second chances

I believe in not keeping score

I believe that pedestals are very high, can give you altitude sickness, and are dangerous places to fall from

I believe that sometimes good enough is good enough

The upRoar

Cecil: by Andrew Loveridge - www.wildcru.org

Cecil: by Andrew Loveridge – http://www.wildcru.org

Thousands of miles away, a majestic and beautiful voice has been silenced. Last month, Walter Palmer, a prominent dentist from Michigan, carelessly, cold-bloodedly and probably illegally, slaughtered Cecil, the lion. The revered 13-year-old Lion King was lured away from his protected grounds in Zimbabwe, shot with an arrow and left to die — only, he didn’t. After 40 hours of suffering, he was tracked by the dentist, shot, skinned, and beheaded; his GPS collar, then hidden in a tree. Following the killing, it is said, that the blood-thirsty, Dr. Walter Palmer, hadn’t gotten enough and was off to butcher an elephant.  Social media has gone mad with this story. My newsfeeds have blown up with Palmer-shaming. Between reports of the 2016 presidential election circus, every news update includes a report regarding the legal tangles of Palmer, his unknown whereabouts, and the request for his extradition, back to Zimbabwe, to face his crimes. The hunter has become the hunted.

The internet is flooded with images of hunters and poachers gleefully posing with their lifeless kill – a buffalo, a giraffe, a leopard, an elephant – always with an assault weapon, unabashed pride and a shit-eating grin. The commentary that follows ranges from vitriolic hatred of Walter Palmer, et al, to fervent support and defense of the hunters and the “legal sport” they pursue. In an article published in Psychology Today (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-human-equation/201104/children-who-are-cruel-animals-when-worry):

Animal cruelty in children is one of the best predictors of later violence and criminality.

When children harm animals, they are classified as psychopathic, sociopathic and closely watched for behaviors that might later lead them to more violent behaviors, even murder. When adults “legally” kill and torture animals, it is somehow considered a sport – a sport often with a large ticket in excess of tens of thousands of dollars and the farce that the money is going to save poor villages in Africa.

I have no compassion for Palmer and his ilk and only feel a mild compassion for his family for what is akin to guilt-by-association. I wish no harm on his children but I don’t care for a spouse that supports detestable behavior and “stands by her man” no matter how vile his “legal” pursuit of the innocent. Whether or not a hunt is “legal,” I wonder how can she sleep next to him given his careless disrespect and flippant attitude toward killing. Of the things that keep me up at night, the destruction of his dental practice and even his personal property are not on my list of worries. While I trust that Karma will somehow take care of this, I know that there are many others that would like to see his head proudly displayed on the wall in the center of all of his innocent and beautiful victims.

I urge you to read this lovely and cogent article written by Tony Keller:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/dr-palmer-why-did-you-kill-cecil/article25784337/

Tony Keller on “Why Did You Kill Cecil the Lion?”

That is a very good question. It is also the essential question. Not whether he had the appropriate permits, or followed local bylaws, or lured a lion out of a protected area, or knew Cecil was a revered part of a research project. No, the fundamental question is this: Why kill something for the sake of killing it? What kind of person finds pleasure in that?

 And he continues to contrast the behavior of by-standers who came across a trapped, beached orca:

Last week, a female orca was discovered at low tide in Hartley Bay, B.C., trapped on the rocks. If the whale remained stranded and in the sun for even a short time, she would die. She was making distress calls, probably to her family nearby. Volunteers rushed to the scene, covered her in blankets and for hours doused her with saltwater to keep her cool, all the while trying to calm and soothe her. When the tide rose, the whale’s five-tonne body became buoyant and she was able to swim to safety. People on the scene, interviewed after the fact, expressed wonder at what they had seen and satisfaction at what they had done. The life of a living, breathing, feeling creature had been saved.

 I love this contrast. Incidentally, I was on my regular Saturday walk last weekend when I noticed a fence that was built around a tree – in a vertical way. The fence had a hole in it so the awkward, low branch could grow through it. I am always impressed when people go out of their way to protect something that is living.

Why the uproar over a lion? Why the uproar over this lion? What if this lion didn’t have a name? How about the killings before Cecil and all that will follow? Why do we care more for a lion than we do for humans, who are starving and being tortured all over the world? Here’s my thought: Why not? Ignoring the calculated, inhumane destruction of this lion, because other atrocities are concurrent, is counterproductive and doesn’t help any cause. On the other hand, if the attention given to the death of this lion frustrates you enough because your cause is being ignored, then use that frustration to motivate. If Cecil’s death forces compassion, energy and protests to right the wrongs of refugees, The Lost Girls of Nigeria, lions without names, zebras, giraffes, the hungry and the poor, and childhood cancer, then by all means, channel that passion in what matters to you. One cause is not more important than the next. They all matter. Using your voice, where others have been silenced is a small donation to the right side of humanity.

Cecil mattered. If the senseless and cruel killing of this beautiful creature forces all of us to use our voices where others have been silenced, then Cecil’s death was ultimately, worth more than his life. Restore his roar in your own voice and use that passion to fight for a cause that needs some strength.  Leave a legacy of hope for those who can no longer be heard.

An Open Letter to the Airline Industry

Dear Sirs:

On Friday, March 27 at approximately 11:00 pm, I will be placing my heart in your hands. My son, 180 of his classmates, and some very brave chaperones will be boarding your jets for the 8th Grade trip to the East Coast.

In light of this week’s events in Europe, I am begging you the utmost in care during transport. When I heard the news of Germanwings, I assuaged my angst by falsely telling myself, that this couldn’t possibly happen on our flight, not with all these kids on board. Not if I am still trying to believe in God. And just this morning, I learned that the Germanwings flight was full of high-school students on their educational trip.   My son’s flight, the flight that will carry my heart, is being trusted to you. I am no different than the parents that lost their hearts this week. I can’t bear the thought. I have turned off CNN.

You will never know what I know. You weren’t there when my 9-month old started chattering in full sentences. At 18 months, he began wearing glasses and looked like he was 45. You don’t know that he could cite every word of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” before he was two. You don’t know that by his second year, he could distinguish between a back hoe, a loader and fifteen other kinds of large tractors, just by the shape of their windows as they drove down the street in our developing neighborhood. He was mesmerized by Chriss Angel and performed magic shows for nearly 40 guests at all of our Thanksgiving feasts. You don’t know that he loved to build things every Saturday with his father at the free construction classes offered by Home Depot. He ran around in an orange apron until he was five. You weren’t with us when I laid beside him in his twin bed, covered in flannel sheets with vintage cars.  Our home was large but I knew that even if we lived in a small studio, we would still be happy. You weren’t there when, at 6, he recited the entire history of the Kennedy half-dollar in a room filled with numismatists. You don’t know that he received two awards for photography by the age of 11, and that he was one of 100 kids out of 10,000 that displayed his work at the Museum of Photographic Arts. He loves his sister more than anything in the world; his cats, next, his rabbits close behind.  You also don’t know that he can never find his shoes, still at nearly 14 years of age, and his back-pack resembles something out of a sci-fi thriller.

On Friday night, at approximately 11:00 pm, PDT, my son will be on one of your jets. I know that air travel is the safest way to see the world.  But this letter isn’t about intellect.  It’s about the raw emotion of a mother, watching the broken-hearted fill an airport nearly half a world away.  I am begging you with all I have to take care of my heart and the hearts of all parents like me. I know I won’t sleep until those wheels are on the ground and my flight tracker sends my alert.  Safe Travels, dear Pilots. My heart is in your hands. CR

Since this was posted, I learned that the Germanwings flight was intentionally downed by the co-pilot.  I plead:  If you are scheduled to carry my heart tomorrow night, and you are depressed or angry, drunk or damaged in any way that interferes with your mental composure, please seek the care you need.  Please choose to sit this one out.  And the next.  Please.

My Short List of Things Better Left in 2014

Happy New Year.  It’s 2015…how did we get here?  2014 was somewhat of a blur…it sped through so quickly and for me, it was as Dickens said, “the best of times and the worst of times”.   I wasn’t sorry to see it go.  Yet, through my health issues, I learned many lessons.  New friends emerged from no where and old friends stepped up to help me navigate some pretty tough terrain.  Relationships were tested with an absurd amount of challenges, and guess what…we won.

Saying a fond farewell to 2014 at my beach meditation this morning, I made a short list (I love lists) of thoughts, words, and concepts that I am particularly happy to leave behind. Some deep thoughts and others on the lighter side.  Just needed to write again.  Wishing you a very Healthy and Happy New Year.

1.  Headaches: On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being OVER IT, I’m at an 11.  Enough said.

2.  FML – OK dear friends. Fuck My Life – Really? I have seen this hashtag/textspeak acronym on posts about delayed flights to fabulous vacation destinations and run-of-the-mill bad days at work. Unless you are dealing with a terminal illness, a loved one on a downed jet, a life of permanent exile in a war zone like Syria, or at the very least the realization that you lost your wallet at the same moment you notice you have run out of gas, please do not complete your Facebook posts or texts with FML. It’s poor form.

3.  Remuneration – I’m sorry, but I hate this word. It showed up on my Dictionary.com word-of-the-day this morning and I don’t ever need to see it again. The “m” and the “n” are in the wrong place, it’s hard to say correctly and the word “compensation” works just fine.

4.  Sustained tension – Every story needs an ending. It doesn’t have to be happy but it does have to end. Sustained tension, in music and in life, just doesn’t work. Finish the song. Finish the thought. Finish the story.

5.  “These ones” or “Those ones” – Wrong. Always wrong. Don’t say it around me. Never. Not ever. If you MUST hear the words “these” or “those” in the same sentence as “ones” just use an adjective in between and it will all be fine: “those blue ones”, “these fat ones”.  Otherwise, just don’t.

6.  Taking the low road when the high road is virtually free of traffic  – A situation arises where someone is faced with two ways to respond: the easy choice and the right choice. This is where the rubber meets the road. Most people instinctively go with the easy choice; the one that is full of fire and unbridled emotion.  The easy choice is one of instant gratification and no mind for long-term consequences.   The thing is this, the right choice is usually harder, more controlled and requires a high level of character to pursue.  The payoff of taking the high road, however, is like a hike in the Sierra, it may be harder to get there, but once you are, you have nothing but fresh air and peace as far as the eye could see.  How can you lose?

2015 – here we are.  Happy New Year.

Live Every Day Like It’s Your Last – Make it Count

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The morning started as many do now in my new normal – in a health-related appointment. I’m trying not to allow this illness to define me, but they say: “Write what you know” and at this particular time in my life, I know medical appointments. While waiting for my CT Scan, I couldn’t help but notice the other people in the waiting room with me. What were they feeling? Were they scared or hopeful, like me. In an imaging waiting room there are two good outcomes: 1) It’s gone 2) It can easily be fixed. There is another positive outcome that doesn’t necessarily lead to positive results and that is, “The test is negative and unremarkable in every way, so we still have no clue why you have had headaches nearly every day for the past sixteen months.” I know this is the better answer than the alternative but it leaves me frustrated and without a solution.

I first noticed an elderly couple in the corner. The wife in the page-boy cap appeared to have cancer or was at least suffering the effects of a treatment that causes hair-loss. I wondered how many times she had sat in that room. She had a mild tremor, revealing Parkinson’s, I speculated. I watched her husband and thought about how many prayers he has said, asking for a little while longer with his wife or at least for her comfort. As it turned out, it was the husband that was being called for imaging. As he hobbled over on his cane, which I had not previously noticed, I wondered what else I didn’t know. How long they had been together and how many battles have they fought on the same team against the fierce realities of life?

There were young people and old in the room, and nearly everyone had disappeared into a smartphone or tablet, escaping their own minds just to be anywhere else. I chose to write these notes. The book I am reading requires much more concentration than I could muster this morning. I am allowed two “pain days” a week. That means that I am allowed two days of prescribed poison, nothing over-the-counter, which allegedly makes my condition worse. Unfortunately, the migraines are unaware of this deal I struck with the neurologist. They show up and stay often for weeks at a time. So, since I have to limit my use of poison, I need to wait to really need it. If I wait too long, I can have a pretty hard time reeling it back in. Last night was rough. This morning I was detoxing from last night’s adventures in big pharma as my latest round of headaches escalated to unbearable heights after five straight days.

It was chilly in that waiting room. I wasn’t sure if I enjoyed the cold air keeping me acutely present, or if I preferred something more “cozy” at that moment. The attractive woman across from me must have been thinking the same thing. I watched her put on her jacket as I wondered what kept her awake last night.

I thought about the people that worked there. Was this just a 9:00 to 5:00 for them or did they possess the certain angelic qualities of life savers? I know that when they are not behind the desk, they also sit as “guests” in imaging centers. No one is immune. The lady that did my intake was very pleasant, compassionate and very well-suited for a job that deals with “customers,” usually at their worst: in pain, afraid and uncomfortable. Even routine screens like annual mammograms always carry at least a mild amount of trepidation and anxiety. The lady that performed my scan appeared to be too young to appreciate what might lie ahead for her. She was cold and distant, but maybe she had her own scan that left her with an unfavorable report. I’ll never know.

I thought about corporate platitudes and how absurd and practical they would be plastered on the walls right now. What if “Hit it Out of the Park” was stenciled on the wall in the room that performed x-rays on children with sports injuries? What if “Win-Win” appeared on the ceiling of the CT Scanner? What if “It’s Time for A Paradigm Shift” was etched on the door to the MRI suite? How about “Live Every Day Like It’s Your Last, Make It Count” was handed out on stickers as you left your appointment? Just wondering who thought these things up anyhow and if there was ever a place that needed an infusion of positive energy, or a false sense of hope, it was at an imaging center.

The day is nearly over. I have no results yet. What is a positive result for me? Anything that says my headaches will be resolved by something that can be excised, cauterized, irradiated, or sliced out of my sinuses–anything with a clear plan of attack. Having sinus trouble is much more palatable for me than having brain trouble. I can’t explain why exactly. Pain is pain.

Make no mistake, every time I receive an “unremarkable” result, I take a deep breath, look up, and say a very quiet “Thank You” to any force that might be listening. I would however, like to look back at this year and say “Remember when…” Until then, I will feel very grateful for the here and now. After five solid days of headache pain and pressure, I am writing this, headache free.  I will go out there and “Reach for the Stars.”

Obstacles

 

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Mt. Whitney, the highest summit in the lower 48 has an elevation of 14,505 feet.  In the fall of 2010, I hiked to Mono Pass outside of Mammoth, CA, to an altitude of nearly 12,000 feet.  I learned some things I didn’t know about myself.  Of course, all hikers know that the air up there is thin and what seems like a breeze at sea level can seem impossible at high altitudes.   I had never hiked up high before so I never really knew what that meant. Sure, I had seen expeditions to Everest on NatGeo, but that was different.  Everest is really, really high.  When we started for Mono Pass, John explained to me that a fair pace would be one boot length at a time.  I laughed with arrogance.  Did he forget…this is the girl that walks 12 miles every Saturday morning at a spry pace with a smile and a cup of coffee?  And so began my first hike in the High Sierra. I taped our trek on my Flip to show off to the kids when we returned.  I remember the moment we came around a curve and Ruby Lake revealed herself.  I laughed so hard I couldn’t stop. I had never seen anything so beautiful in my life.  I thought I was staring at a movie set.  I was giddy.  Or perhaps it was the thin air.  But, like any good correspondent, I delivered the details to the kids in what felt like a pretty solid report — the air temperature, the snow flurries, the pure exhilaration and my new LOVE for hiking.  As we climbed higher and the air got thinner, my reports became breathier and with fewer details.  By the time we reached Mono Pass, I was tripping on half inch pebbles and boot length steps seemed entirely ambitious.  At the end, John ahead of me, laid on a flat rock.  To lay next to him, I would have to climb up approximately eight inches.  I wasn’t up to the task.  After 2,500 feet in elevation gain, eight inches was a daunting obstacle.  I learned something about obstacles that day:  they come in all shapes and sizes.  Some of them are invisible, like thin air and some are made larger by circumstances that can only be felt, like an eight-inch step.  And surprisingly, it’s the obstacles you can’t see that seem to be the largest, the most hazardous.

There have been other Sierra hikes.  I’ve learned not to speak while hiking above 11,000 feet.  I grunt.  I nod.  But I now know that speaking comes with a high price.  I don’t want to waste the oxygen on something as frivolous as chatter when my muscles have earned the precious resource.  I know that water crossings are entirely intimidating. Sheer drops are likely out of the question for my hiking future and when I’m even close to anything that resembles height, I just stare at the path in front of me and never look over the edge.

Mt. Whitney, the Magnificent, started to seduce me.  Following our first Sierra hike, I decided that Whitney and I were bound to meet in person.  I was unsure when.  I was certainly unsure how.  All I knew is that one day we would meet.  I continued my local hikes and dreamed of one day hiking to the summit of Mt.  Whitney.  More Sierra hikes followed and strengthened my determination to check this bucket list item.  I researched how to get permits and earlier this Spring, on opening day, I applied for a date in late summer, August 23, and fourteen alternate choices.  There are thousands of applicants and I never expected to secure a permit, let alone my first choice when the lottery was drawn a month later.  That was it.  I had made it past the obstacle. I had a permit and the will.

I spent the next six months training…heavily training.  I POUNDED the hills as fast as I could with my backpack on and hiking poles.  Living at sea level, I knew I was at a training disadvantage so I hiked as fast as could figuring I would trade speed for altitude on game day.  Up and down. Up and down.  In heat and humidity I clocked about forty miles per week at an average pace of four miles per hour.  This is a good pace.  In the mountains, my goal was one and a half miles per hour.  I rock-hopped with my poles for security and forced myself over very minor water crossings, as I attempted to desensitize and remove one more obstacle from my path.

It’s the obstacles you can’t see…  The migraines erupted right about the time I was awarded our permit.  Had I known in February what the coming months would feel like, I probably wouldn’t have applied for a permit. But, I always considered my challenged health, a temporary state and my head would soon return to normal.  In fact, the majority of my training hikes were accomplished with a burning, electrical migraine. Motion proved to be a solid distraction from the pain.  July brought a bit of relief and I was certain that I was on the path to health and ready for the big day.  My training hikes continued and even the odd effects of increased heart rate and poorer heat regulation brought on by my meds, did not deter me from my goal.  When August arrived, my headaches returned with a vengeance.  John checked with me, gently, at least once a week, to make sure I was up for this,  and I never wavered.  I worried a little about altitude headaches (High Altitude Cerebral Edema) making this worse but the doctor prescribed Diamox (a diuretic used to treat altitude headaches) so I felt equipped.  I got the time off, I got the kids cared for.  I had a partner willing to endure this with me.  I was going.

I attacked the sales at REI as most women do at Nordstrom.  I researched and bought all the gadgets, gear and clothing to make for a perfect or at least more palatable trek.  I had the right boots, the right jacket, the right base layer, a new Leatherman tool and a compass.  Mt. Whitney and I were to meet on August 23.

It’s the obstacles you can’t see… From August 3 – August 18th I had one solid migraine.  No relief; maximum doses of pain meds.  I took steroids as a last ditch effort, attempting to avoid the nerve block which was next on the list.  We were headed for the Sierra on Thursday, August 21st for the hike on Saturday.  By Monday, my head was so bad that I could barely walk out twenty feet to put money in a meter and opted to roll the dice for a parking ticket.  I was in pretty bad shape.  I started to accept that Whitney was further away than I had hoped.  By Tuesday morning, on my regular check-in with my mom, I exploded in tears as the reality started to register.  It was not only going to be more difficult, it was completely irresponsible to attempt this climb with my health in question. I couldn’t burden John with the very real possibility of me getting too far in and not being able to either go up or back.  And finally, at the end of the day, I confessed to him, that I just wouldn’t be able to do this.   Through my sobs, I avowed: “We are going to hike Whitney, we just aren’t going to do it this Saturday.”  I think John was relieved that I was finally saying something that made sense.

When I finally came to terms with the reality of my limits, I was much more at ease.  We swapped our accommodations in Lone Pine, for three nights at one of our favorite mountain spots, The Tamarack Lodge in Mammoth.  We hiked, we walked, we decompressed.  When we drove past the Magnificent One on Thursday night, I felt a little bit like Tom Hanks’ character, Captain Jim Lovell in Apollo 13, when he realized he would not walk on the moon.  I was relieved that I had made the decision on Tuesday, Whitney looked a bit foreboding at dusk.  But, unlike Captain Lovell, there will be more opportunities for me.  Mt. Whitney promised she would wait for me until I felt a little more up for the task.

I am not sad anymore.  The Sierra hike was refreshing and reassuring.  In a strange twist of fate, I was headache free for the entire time we were away.  All my training at sea level paid off.  I felt stronger than I had the year before by a mile.  I made peace with myself.  The biggest obstacle I have in front of me now, is getting my health in order.  I want to return to days, when my morning call to my mom begins with a “Hi, honey. How are you?”  And the question is simply rhetorical.  I have met a friend through my hiking chat group who  is summiting Whitney again for something like the 23rd time in the Spring of 2017 to celebrate his 90th birthday (For you, Boone, if you are reading this far…) .   That leaves me with nearly 40 years to recover.

I have climbed bigger mountains than Whitney.  These are stories for another day.  But as I explained to John, in my sobbing confession of surrender, I can’t really articulate my need for this, because I don’t understand it myself.  It resides somewhere in a place so deep that I can’t reach it.  But someday we will meet, Whitney and I.  And when we do, oh what a meeting it will be.

 

 

 

 

 

The Cloud of Uncertainty

Grey Day

Be! Here! Now!  It’s the mantra I’ve been forced to embrace.  What else can you do while you rest on the Cloud of Uncertainty — when the predictable, or at least manageable course of your life, takes a sharp turn without your consent.  Do you fight with all your might, or surrender and enjoy the ride?  I panic when faced with uncertainty and I can’t clearly see around the next corner, when I don’t know what to expect.  The trick, I know, is to stay present and surrender and as luck would have it, I am horrible at both.  I thoroughly admire those who live every minute now and to the fullest, with a sanguine approach to the future and its implied uncertainty.   I’ve heard it said, that emotional challenge in life is the physical equivalent to being caught in a powerful eddy.   If you fight and flail in swirling water, you will likely drown.  The key to survival, is to let go, relax, and let the water carry you until it gradually loses power and releases you to rest.  While this sounds very blissful and soothing, I would likely drown, after I first worked through my list of all the ways I would fight to control it.  Be here now.  Stay present. Let go.  I keep practicing.

The past six months has been challenging.  It was quite scary there for awhile, waking up every day with a headache so intense, I could barely open my eyes at times.  I started to believe that there was something indeed much more serious than a migraine and that the MRI was either faulty or performed too early, before my brain revealed truer signs of bigger trouble.  As an added bonus, the cocktails and concoctions perscribed for relief brought side effects that are nearly as unfavorable as the headaches themselves.   I relished the moments in between when I could take a deep breath and if only for that day, the pain had subsided.   I am happy to say that the latest treatment and chemical cocktail is finally starting to kick in and I can count the bad days easier than I can count the good.  In the Spring, it was quite the opposite.

The headaches and the meds have been no picnic.  But the biggest culprit of the season by far was the fog of unknowing and the lack of predictablity.  Unable to rely on my mind for reason and logic, unable to push my limits, stay up late, meet commitments and get work done with any efficiency, has completely challenged my ability to stay centered, focused and more than anything, present.  The fear that life would never return to anything constant has taken a tremendous toll.   Imagine being on a roller coaster with a blindfold and no certain end.  A steep climb, followed by a terrifying drop is only soothed by the mild lull that comes next.  It’s in the lull, the status quo, the mundane that allows you to breathe, regroup, and prepare for the next hill.  But it’s the Cloud of Uncertainty that complicates this.  Blinfolded, it’s impossible to tell what is going to happen next.  Alas, the conundrum.  Worry and panic verses surrender and presence.  I’m very good at worry and panic, but not nearly as accomplished in the more peaceful skills.

I am climbing off of the Cloud of Uncertainty as my health returns to it’s normal and much, much preferred state. And I’ve begun to practice this surrender business, and Be! Here! Now!  Energy devoted to anything else simply seems like a waste.  I’m not nearly as good at this as I’d like to be, but I’m a work in progress and even with the blindfold on, I’m certain I’m headed in the right direction.  One final thought, that I must always remind myself.  The thing about clouds, is this:  despite how dark, heavy and thick they are, the sun is always on the other side.