The Long Lost Memory

Pen & JournalImage by Bob AuBuchon via Flickr
Early this morning, as I opened the Harry Potter book that I was re-reading, I discovered two pressed flowers–one a ranunculus and the other, a petite red rose. From their condition, it is obvious, that I’d placed them there some time ago. After appreciating their beauty, I began wracking my brain to recall the circumstances that led me to place these flowers in this book. When? Why?

I have purchased hundreds of flowers over the past years, and there was some reason that I pressed and saved these particular flowers. Perhaps they were especially beautiful; perhaps they held some special meaning to me. What is it? Where is it?  I can not remember. Is the memory buried so deep in my subconscious mind that I cannot easily extract it, or is it, as I fear, that the memory is gone, a long, lost memory, never to be remembered, that special meaning forever lost? Gone to rest where all lost memories go.

I was lost in thought thinking about my life and all of the things that I have done, and people that I have met, knowing that some of these memories are forever lost to me. It saddens me to know that there will come a time when my future self may forget the import and significance of any number of today’s meaningful moments. This is further punctuated by the fact that I have holding over my head, testing to determine whether my “memory issues” are due to the medications that I take for my chronic pain condition, or something much more sinister. Although the testing still scares me a bit, my faith allows me to feel somewhat positive about the outcome, whatever that may be.

The happenings of my life, big, small and seemingly insignificant, form my memories.  Those memories remind me of the trials, tribulations and circuitous routes that I have taken to become the person that I am now, as well as the person that I will become.  They comprise the sum of who I am and I don’t want to forget them. If I do, I lose bits and pieces of me. 

Over my lifetime, I have journaled intermittently, but consistently for more than ten years. Within a matter of hours, my journal has grown from one of those things that “I should do” to something that “I must do.”  It is now my historical record of the sweet, special and important memories in my life, so that in the  future, I won’t be mourning the loss of a long lost memory. It will have to do.

Blessings and peace,
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Lesson From A Eulogy

224/365Image by CR Artist via Flickr
As a lover of books, there are tons of them on my “read someday” list.  Last night, I choose a book from that list and within the first 10 pages, I knew that it is one of those books that will stay with me forever. I will  come back to it again and again for its’ many lessons. Unfortunately, I am, as my Mom used to say, “hardheaded” and it takes me numerous attempts to accept even the most integral lesson. If you are interested, as I am, in living your life to its fullest, perhaps this book can offer you some wisdom. I encourage you to buy or borrow this beautiful and inspirational book. 

By now, you are probably thinking, “What book?” The book is Patricia Digh’s “Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful and Live Intentionally.” Ms. Digh intends the book as a guide to “living each individual, glorious day with more intention,” however many days you have left in your life. The book reminds us that we are meant to be active participants in our lives, not passive bystanders watching our lives flash before our eyes. Who among us, couldn’t use such a reminder every now and again? But, what insight did I glean within the first ten pages? It came via a eulogy. 

Ms. Digh wrote about a dear friend who was told that he had only a year to live. All that we know about how he lived that year is through a, seemingly close, friend’s eulogy. As an attorney, I should jump up and shout, “Your honor, that is double hearsay,” but this is not the courtroom, this is the real world and for personal reasons I can assure you, this passage left me deep in thought. I can imagine the speaker, standing before a large group full of people, saying these words about his recently departed friend:
“He continued to live the very life he had been leading before his illness. This was his life. His account of his days, his heart of wisdom, lay in the very passions and commitments which he embodied daily. Day by day, this determination not to run away from his life took more and more courage. The pain increased. The exhaustion mounted. And yet, just three nights before his death, [he] was still in the classroom, still reaching out to others, still using every bit of his energy to make the lives of others better.”
The passage was so striking to me, because it was so contrary to how I handled my own illness after I had to stop working over six years ago. Before I get to the after, perhaps I should explain how I came to stop working.

Fibromyalgia caused me to halt my active litigation practice. I believe that I’ve had fibromyalgia since 1996, so it has been with me for quite some time. For those unfamiliar with fibromyalgia, it differs from one person to another. 
“In trying to explain fibromyalgia, the American College of Rheumatology uses an effective analogy. They say that for the person with fibromyalgia, it is as though the volume control is turned up too high in the brain’s pain processing areas. Consequently, they endure chronic pain across much of their body, despite no evident source of that pain, in addition to a wide range of other symptoms including chronic fatigue and muscle soreness.”

If you are interested in more details about fibromyalgia, please refer to “What is Fibromyalgia” link on  the home page.

By 2004, the pain became such that enduring it one day at a time became, after a while, one hour at a time. Later when that too became too onerous a time frame, my mantra became “if I can just get through one minute at a time.” The pain was unrelenting, and none of the doctors, medications, or alternative therapies were of any benefit. There came a time when one minute was far too great a goal to meet, so “one second” became the new target. Of course, it goes without saying that my time finally ran out, and I could no longer hold on. I had to stop working. In hindsight, that is the day that I stopped the fight and surrendered to fibromyalgia.

The man from the passage in “Life is a Verb” died, but he died as he lived, participating in his life, not running away from it.  I, on the other hand, though in comparison, blessed to have a chronic illness and ever more fortunate to live through a recent diagnosis of a bilateral pulmonary emboli, can I say the same about me?  The answer is a resounding “no.” No, I ran away from my life thinking that doing so would distance me from this illness, from the pain, but as Jon KabatZinn aptly states “wherever you go, there you are.”

The eulogy provides me a framework for living life in spite of my illness. To my knowledge, there is nothing in the “Dummies” series on how to deal with illness. Fibromyalgia has been an anchor around my neck for so long and I’d allowed it to drag me to the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean, far away from life as I knew it.  For me, the meaning of the eulogy is clear, living a full, intentional and meaningful life and illness are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to have both. I am ready to live my life, illness and all. I am not running anymore. I’ll be right here.

If we remain open to them, the opportunity for a lesson learned may well be found in the most unexpected and unlikely of places– even a eulogy.

Life Is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally

Wherever You Go, There You Are (ROUGH CUT)

TAKE NOTE: Links to Amazon go to my affiliate account, which means I make a small commission if you purchase the book through that link.

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The Book Fiend

a pile of booksImage by pteittinen via Flickr

When I was growing up as a youngster in New Orleans, drug addicts were referred to as “dope fiends.” Now, as a child, I really had no idea what a “dope fiend” was, but I knew what it wasn’t–a term of endearment. The reason that I am bringing this up, is because I have a confession to make. I. Am. A. Book. Fiend. There, I’ve said it, I am a book fiend.

Anyone who knows me long enough, will quickly notice one thing about me. It’s the books–they are everywhere. I blame my mother for my love of reading and curiosity. As a young girl, I remember seeing her, in a rare moment of quiet or non doing, with a paperback book in hand. Although I have absolutely no proof, I imagine her enjoying some tawdry, romance novel, as a means of escaping the gripping stress and drudgery of raising four children by her self. I suppose the paperback was her ‘calgon take me away’ moment.
For the most part, I prefer hardbacks, but of course, my ‘library’ contains a liberal numbers of paperbacks as well. The books are here, there, everywhere. Months ago, my amazing friend K. came over to help me get the disorganized organized. Knowing her as I do, I am certain that she wanted nothing more than to single-handedly haul every book that I owned to Goodwill, but good friend that she is, she choose to ignore them. 
Good luck to the person who decides to ‘figure me out’ by the books in my ‘library.’ I have books ranging from How God Changes Your Brain, to the Idiot’s Guide to Buddhism,  The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbs, The Poetry of Robert Frost, Mindfulness Yoga, Blink, The Book of Stones, The Artist’s Way, The Lives of Saints, The Tibetan Book of Death and Dying, Symbols of Catholicism, Web Design for Dummies, The Right to Write, The Color of Water, Living Deeply, Essence and Alchemy, The Encyclopedia of Aromatherapy and everything in between. I love them and can’t bring myself to get rid of them–unless they are truly awful. I do pass on current fiction one-time reads so that others can enjoy them (the women in my doctor’s office loves me!).  I also donate more than a few tragic mistakes to Goodwill. With that said, it should surprise you to learn that I still have scores of books. Seriously. At this point, I can’t begin to estimate the number of books that I own, but because of a brilliant online cataloguing system, I know that it is 256 and counting. So, a while back, I began a campaign to get the books under control.  
When I first heard about the Kindle, and given my love for the good old tree guzzling book back in my youth, I thought “blasphemy.” I insisted that I’d never own one. Like a gunslinger, I am always quick to sling the word “never” and just as quick to categorize its utterance as a momentary lack in judgment. Anyway, as I was picking myself out of the avalanche of books that littered my bedroom floor, realism and idealism had a face to face, and the evil Kindle was welcomed into our home–overnight, as I recall. Gasp!
Yet,  as my mother always said, “you have to give the devil his due,” I have seen the light! I love my Kindle. I have had one for at least a year and currently, I have about 45 books on it. Its light weight, easy to use and perfect for an avid reader and chronic pain suffer–unfortunately, there are still some books that for me the digital method will not suffice. Some books hold such a place in my heart that I want that old-school book to put on my shelf (or stack on the floor somewhere) and later pass on to my children or grandchildren for them to do the same. I just can’t see doing that with a digital book. I guess that until a digital book finds a way into my heart like that, it will remain just that, an e-book, but not a treasured possession that one can truly pass on to family and friends. 
I am trying to come to terms with the fact that I will always be a book fiend. There are more worrisome “fiends” as my childhood showed. Yes, I am a book fiend. I am a book fiend. I am a book fiend. I am a book fiend, I am a book fiend. I AM a book fiend. 
P.S. I ordered a book yesterday. I needed it–really!
Blessings, Peace and Love, 
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