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Thursday, February 18, 2021

Part 2 - Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Part 2

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Last year was full of chaos and upheaval for me.  One day I would feel somewhat happy and peace. The next day I’m in tears, angry, stressed, and breaking down.  Changes at work were a large part of that and trying to learn and find my place,  but so was Covid and all those changes as well. Towards the end of the year, I was in a meltdown...I was so tired of things changing and my inability to control what was out of my control. I generally don't set resolutions anymore -  but I decided my focus for 2021 was to try and let things go more, remember that everything is temporary, and also that my track record for surviving bad days and rough times is 100% thus far. 

I read once that life is a series of reboots, and I'm in the middle of one. Something occurred that caused me to take a step back and re-evaluate. So far, I've been successful for the most part - I have gotten pickier on what I allow myself to stress over.  Selective Stress Management, you could call it.

My personal care has gotten really good. I am doing a lot of things to take care of myself, which makes me excited. This does not come easy for me – my nature is to take care of everyone else first.  I bought coloring books and colored pencils off Amazon this AM (my retail therapist). I'm looking for other craft type stuff to occupy my brain. I try to walk a couple miles each morning when possible, and more on the weekends. I take a drive/roadtrip to somewhere nearby. I enjoy simple pleasures like my cup of tea while watching tv.. I am binging old comfortable TV shows that I have watched before as comfort food.  I've written (blogged) on more of this journey, although I am not ready to share that just yet.  This is where my mindset is these days. I am working hard not to stress where I don't need to. All this other stuff I used to worry about and obsess over really isn’t worth my health and peace of mind. You have to focus on what is really important. 

I am a different person  and in a different place in life than I used to be. The years of grief have moved me to a totally different place, and now as a result of my recent reboot…There is (mostly) a resulting calm I have not experienced before.  I have no room for toxic individuals and their drama in my life, and I’ve done my best to reduce that.  You could say that is part of my self care, too.  I’m in the healthiest mental place I’ve ever been.  

We learn from our challenges, if we choose to.  I’ve been on a path and journey for quite some time, leading me to this exact point in my life.  I embraced that there is a purpose to what happened. This has altered my entire concept and perspective of life and what is now important to me. What is worth stressing and obsessing over, and what is not. The most negative things of life, can and have been the things that have helped encouraged me to grow the most. I really needed this recent reset masked as a challenge. It has helped me in so many ways.

We can be survivors, grow stronger from our challenges and even oddly look back at the challenge, even while still in the middle of it, with a grateful feeling that it happened at all.   Because of the good that has come from it.

I finally see what Dad tried to tell me and impart for years. It finally clicked. As I once read, when the teacher is ready, the lesson appears.

Dad's advice:

“Don’t worry about the small shit, and it’s all small shit”

Part 1 - Another Apple Upset the Cart

 Part 1

Another Apple Upset the Cart

(Written in December 2020. I never did post it, but now I know why. I’ve been writing recently, and this will eventually be a series of 3 blog posts...Part 2 coming soon)

___

I am in what feels like a vicious cycle of back and forth, anger and acceptance, peace and war..within my head. It has been ongoing for a couple of weeks and my overly analytical side tries to figure out the cause, but I think the truth is, there is not one cause, there are multiple.

1..I'm in the leadup to both my birthday and Christmas, and in the middle of Chanukah. Historically, the lead up to most holidays and birthdays etc is rougher for me than the actual day itself.

2.Years ago, someone gave me this quote which I think is what is happening now:

“When something big happens that you have no control over, your instinct is to try and control everything.  When that doesn't work, you focus on things you can't control and can't let go of”

First, I focused on someone that discredited me - So much anger toward a comment. I can't even remember what this person said other than it infuriated me and I stewed over it for more than a week. Someone else asked me what they said; I couldn’t even tell them anymore. Crazy, right?  I know I need to let it go.

Then, I made peace with that after talking to another friend who gave me another piece of sage advice:

"We have some good sides to life but our universes are not what they used to be and we just aren't that happy about it"

3..I got all my holiday shopping done early, and planner that I am - I even had every night planned out...But sometime after Chanukah started, I lost all my motivation. I don't care. I think I am hurting so bad emotionally - I don't want any joy right now. I don't want to bake. I don't want my birthday. Although, I do want Chinese food on Christmas. LOL.

4..Mom seems to be pretty happy like she is not depressed at all, and is seeing her retail therapist quite a bit. This stresses me because I see her savings as part of my safety cushion if we run into any financial trouble (ie: I get laid off). When she starts spending more than I think she should, I panic. There goes the savings, I think. 

All it takes is one apple to upset the proverbial cart. As I wrote above, I made peace with something bothering me. Yesterday, after we got the mail, Mom said something about donating to a couple of charities that sent her donation requests and I blew up and said why don't you just donate to everyone that sends you something? She laughed and thought I was joking - No smiles here. It was a stupid thing to blow up at, especially now reading this a month later. I think I just had had it.

5..My normal methods of dealing with stress and anxiety are really not available to me right now. I am choosing not to travel to stay safe. Although we did when they first opened, we have not gone to the movies at all recently - again, to stay safe. I try to go away for my birthday - someplace special or to celebrate life..But this year, so much has changed and continues to. Even my secondary plans to go back to California to the beach or to Las Vegas are not viable options. Nowhere is safe. I am COVID burned out as I recently said to someone. 

6..Since we couldn't travel, I came up with some tentative things for the weekend of my birthday (which starts tomorrow)

Two things irritated me here:

a. When I said I wanted to go to Sedona, my Mother said "why? There is nothing there." to which I replied, its my birthday and I get to say what we do.

b..Her hair appointment was originally scheduled for today, Wednesday. Her hair dresser asked her to move the appointment to Thursday - my birthday. As crappy as I felt, I kind of want to forgot doing anything fun on my birthday, but I was flabbergasted she even considered moving her appt to my birthday. I told her I guessed it was OK. I had a passive-aggressive moment. “I don't matter,” is what my anxiety and depression said to me in that moment. Her needs are more important than mine" is what I heard, even though I know...anxiety and depression lie to you to stoke the fire of your pain.

I didn't give either of us Chanukah gifts last night and I stewed and then went to bed. I was so angry and upset..as I have been off and on the past couple of weeks. (again, back in December...)

I am angry and sad that:

I cannot really travel the way I would like to.

I cannot spend my birthday or Christmas the way I would like to, and traditions and life are constantly being modified.

My Dad is not here to help deal with things when it gets difficult like this.  My Dad is not here period because when I get this like it all circles back to grief.

I have control issues that i really need to let go of, because in the end, my Mother’s money is hers to choose what to do with. As much I sound and feel like a control freak at comes, it comes out of a need to plan for and forecast the future, which isn’t always possible.

I can't let go and stop focusing on what I really need to stop focusing on, and start focusing on the positives and what I should be.

2020 has taken its toll.

I realize I have a choice on how I act and react. 

I need to change how I am reacting.

In one of the same conversations recently with a friend, she brought up this quote or idea by Joyce Meyer:

The 5 Minute Rule

Only for that 5 minutes give that event.

In 5 hours, 5 days, 5 weeks, 5 years..you wont remember and it wont matter.

This is so true, but it is so hard for me to do right now.

Do I really want to remember this birthday as the one I gave in sulked and made it bad for others?

What if it is my last birthday or my Mother's last one?

Do I really want to give into 2020 and all the shit this year has been.

It is really time to recognize how far I've come with all we’ve dealt with this year.

It is time to make applesauce out of those apples and lemonade out of those lemons.

You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.” --Brian Tracy

We can't have things as they were or used to be. 

But we can make the most of what we have while we have it.

The trick is how to get my mind to stop going there and just accept life as it is.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Part 3 - "The Gift"

Sometimes, it can be hard to think of a life changing circumstance as a "gift"…

But if you can learn from it and improve as a person - then it has served its purpose.

It is time to share my experience to help others.

I had my reasons and hid this, but no longer.

I has made me who I am.

I am a Covid survivor.

What I have written is what it is like to live with and after, Covid.

On December 24, I had this incredible back pain. I thought I was about to pass a kidney stone. I could not find a comfortable position no matter how I sat or reclined. Advil took the edge off, but never took the pain away. Christmas Day it got worse. For the first time since I can remember, we did not have our traditional Chinese Food on Christmas. I felt too horrible to attempt to drive anywhere, and we attempted to get delivery instead but many others had our idea and our normal place was overloaded and shut down to new orders. It was the beginning of just letting things go and accepting things were happening (or not happening) as they were meant or needed to.

In the following days, this pain got some better, then worse again. I didn’t have a fever, and only a slight cough which then disappeared. 5 days after the pain started, I decided I should rule out Covid.  I tested and expected to be negative and then my plan was to go back to the urologist for his advice. I was shocked beyond belief, devastated really, to get a positive result via email the next morning around 430a. I had heard "muscle aches" as a covid symptom but never "it will feel like you have a kidney stone". After talking to others and comparing experiences, Covid appears to prey on your weak points.

We had been isolating since Christmas Day anyhow, but after I tested, we both completely isolated. Groceries got delivered instead of us picking them up. I felt significantly better around Days 7 and 8 and then experienced what many called the Week 2 Drop. Although I never developed a fever, I ended up with what felt like a resulting sinus infection. I felt awful. Nights were worse for coughing and trying to convince my brain to sleep sitting up or on my stomach, which was better for my lungs. I constantly monitored my temperature and my pulse ox. The scary days were the ones I felt tightness in my chest at times, like I was having an asthma attack, but I got an emergency inhaler (I was in touch with my primary care dr throughout) and my pulse ox (again, to this point) never consistently dropped below where it should be. Thanks to others who posted their experience before me, I had a guidebook of sorts so I knew what kind of medicine and vitamins to take, and when to consider needing to go to the hospital. 

We had the pulse ox and most of the medicine and Vitamins already. Some I ordered after I got sick that I heard about from others as we compared experiences. Being a planner, I was prepared in case either of us got it. I found when I coughed up the gunk - I felt much better. When I finally got an antibiotic around Day 17, I still coughed, but began feeling much better.

Having been terrified about breathing makes everything else seem just trivial in comparison.

Because it really is.. This has really changed me and my perspective on life, because I faced the possibility of staring at struggling to breathe, or even worse, resulting death.  A bad or challenging day is a temporary event.  A bad breathing episode is terrifying and really does a mental number on you.

As I said, I experienced the cough, the nasal stuffiness (which wasn't new as my allergies had been acting up the past few months), the severe chest congestion and the severe exhaustion during the 1st week when I just laid on the couch or slept. I was lucky in that my worst days were days I was already off work. I lost my sense of taste and smell off and on..The strange part was even when that happened I could still tell the sense (spicy, salty, sweet, bitter) even if I couldn't actually taste the exact flavor. I found I was craving spicy foods (like green chile enchiladas) because that was the easiest for me to taste “something”

While this seems to really bother some, and while my breathing episodes were minor and short lived in the long run – I decided as long as I stayed out of the ER, I could care less about not tasting anything.   My perspective is, as long as I am not in the ER on a respirator, I am ahead of the game. There are so many worse things than just losing your taste and smell.

Priorities.

When I was tested, I expected to be negative and I felt blindsided by the result in my email. I was devastated. But nothing was going to change the fact I was positive and the only thing I could change was how I was going to react to it. So I did. 

Life is what you make of it. I chose to learn from this.

No matter how near or far Covid has come to affecting each of us...it has become a life changing set of moments for me, and for many others who have gone through it.

It reset my priorities, reset what I spent my time worrying over.

It restored a balance I was so desperately seeking at the end of last year.

I had so much out of my control that I had kept focusing on. So much I could not do anything about or change. As I’ve written before, I was in a meltdown.

I was stressed about things at work, I was upset because I couldn’t go away like I typically do most weekends in December. I was upset that my even multiple backup plans couldn’t happen, as it wasn’t safe to travel. I was afraid of getting Covid, or of my Mom getting it. I was upset about some things involving my Mom – again, all stuff I couldn’t control.

I needed a reboot.

Covid was my reboot. Getting Covid, was one of the best things to happen to me. It reset my priorities and what I was spending time worrying and obsessing over. I don’t regret getting it. I feared ending up in the ER and losing my life due to an inability to breath. Luckily, that has not been my experience, but it did divide my life with another line in the sand of before and after, just as my Father's death did.  Covid did for me what cancer did for him.

Covid is a series of ups and downs. Mentally and Emotionally. Physically. For a while, it was taking 2 steps forward and 1 step back. You have a day you feel you are improving and then you feel bad again. Frustrating. Around Day 20, I hit the breaking point of what I could deal with and broke down. It was a stepping stone, though, not a destination. Another great Covid lesson. Day 21, I picked myself up and continued the positive mental attitude and remaining hopeful, even as I struggled some more days after that. The 20 day mark and the month mark were hard mental checkpoints for me.

Around the 2 week mark, After an xray to make sure I didn’t have pneumonia, I finally got the Doctor to give me an Antibiotic. I called this Level 2 of feeling better – I felt significantly better within 3 days of taking it, but then I seemed to plateau – I remained at “Level 2” but still couldn’t get rid of the remaining cough and went on a steroid about a week or so after the antibiotic finished, which did the trick. The important thing to note, and that I realized – you can’t treat Covid, but you can definitely treat its symptoms.

I felt the antibiotic took me to Level 2 of feeling better and the steroid took me to Level 3.

Side effect of the Steroid:  Made me feel I was taking Happy Pills!

Between adrenaline, happy pills, and my mental frame of mind..those pills were THE SHIT!

I was “High on life, Honey, High on Life” lol

That’s how I recognized that little changes can make huge differences in how you feel.

 What I became thankful for as a result of Covid:

1..Ordering groceries and dinner via an app on a phone or website to get delivered. What if this had been 1990 instead of 2020, this would not have possible. What would we have done…

2..You really can't trust that anyone else will do the right thing. We masked, we washed hands, we sanitized...and although I suspect where I may have picked it up - I will never know for sure. I leave Covid a much different person as a result. One example: I was careful before, but now, every piece of clothing that leaves this house goes into the laundry basket when I return. No more using jackets or jeans a few times before washing, at least for now. Technically, my isolation ended 10 days after my 1st symptom,  but I remained isolated for about a month as I did not feel well enough. Its now 54 days since this started, and I am still not very comfortable being in close proximity around any person other than my Mother. The first few times I walked after I started improving, I panicked when someone got too close to me.

3..I have been glad throughout my Father never had to deal with this, but now I am thrilled since I tested positive. I would have been destroyed even more if I had passed it to him.  My Mother has the immune system of a warrior compared to me. We’re not sure who had it first or if she managed to skip it despite living in such close quarters - and just had a cold – she did not have any of the typical symptoms I experienced.  She was coughing first and recovered first from whatever she had – well before I did. What a miracle, regardless.

4..Despite everything I've endured over the past few month+, I am still thankful for a relatively minor case. I was able to manage this without missing work. Working from home fulltime made this possible. I’m glad I was not going into an office building!

 5..Resetting my priorities including finally giving up my beloved Coke Zero. My last one was on Christmas Eve, and I gave it up as I felt with a possible kidney issue (at the time) - I did not need any soda in my system. It obviously did not end up being a kidney stone, but I am much better for it anyhow.

Overall, It was like I got this wash of wisdom and strength from only a few short hours after my positive result after I got upset. I picked myself up and decided I couldn’t change the cards I was dealt, only how I dealt with them.  I finally was able to implement a lot of what I wanted to, over the past few months, in what seemed to be a matter of hours. As I stated above, a covid diagnosis for me did what cancer did for my Father. He learned, grew and implemented from his diagnosis. So did I.

As time went on, as I continued to battle, taking two steps forward and one step back, I gained even more respect for how he must have felt to have something foreign in his body attacking him.  The month mark of being sick was mentally tough for me. I was sick of being sick and though at no point did I really say “Why Me” I did observe some feelings of “I was careful and still this happened…” Covid does not discriminate. 

Anyhow, the month mark was hard. I thought how much more of this can I take. I was tired of coughing and of feeling chest tightness, which seemed to occur around the same time each afternoon/evening.  I decided my lungs must have been getting tired of working harder after a certain number of hours. I was tired of being sick.  The coughing made my chest tight. The chest tightness made me panic and threw me into anxiety attacks, thinking about needing to go to the hospital. The anxiety made me cough, so I couldn’t heal. Some nights, I went to bed with that tightness, praying it would be OK in the morning. It was a vicious cycle.

When they took Dad off the Chemo, it mentally did a number on him.  He felt he wasn’t doing anything to “attack the bastard” (his words) and I remember trying to convince him that his body probably needed a break. I know to him, that didn’t matter and it wasn’t enough.

After I finished the antibiotics, the random cough a few times a day and the chest tightness were the only symptoms that remained. Even though I had improved significantly from the first two weeks, it felt like I just couldn’t get out of this vicious cycle of coughing and anxiety. Covid is a back and forth dance of symptoms.  Without an antibiotic (I had finished the course) and with Mucinex not working at all after 4 weeks, I finally understood and related to what my Father must have felt back then. That’s where the steroid came in and saved the day for me. It took the last part of Covid away for me and got me to the point I now feel healed.

As I write this, it is now 54 days since my 1st symptoms started. Although I’m not counting or paying attention to how many days since this started any longer. I don’t need to, because I have recovered.

To me, it is currently Day 18 of NO symptoms. Nearly 3 weeks without the majority of the symptoms. I am through the worst.  No more coughing, no more breathing episodes, I feel better than I did pre-Covid, for the most part. Some residual exhaustion at times, and what is called the Covid Brain Fog. I forget that I have mentioned something in a previous conversation and repeat it as if I never mentioned it. The scars of covid remain – a new day of exhaustion after plenty of energy, a new tickle in the throat or just not feeling 100% - the anxiety is triggered and makes me want to panic after what I’ve been through. In some ways, just not as frequently, I still experience the Covid back and forth dance. I refer to it as my fancy Covid anxiety.

I recently re-tested and ironically – I am thrilled that I am now positive, but this time for Covid antibodies, which means I am done with the active virus and my body has what it needs to fight it.   I soon hope to resume donating plasma to other Covid patients who can benefit from it, too.

The past month+ changed my perspective on life.

I finally see what Dad tried to tell me and impart for years:

“Don’t worry about the small shit, and it’s all small shit”

Sunday, April 26, 2020

What Does Luminaria Mean?

I am not sure how many years we have been doing Relay now.
We started in New Jersey the year after Dad was diagnosed and recovered from the Lymphoma Cancer. I still have that shirt.

Since my parents moved to AZ in 2008 or 2009, we resumed attending a Relay event, choosing the one in our local town - Chandler.
This year our East Valley Relay event became a virtual one, for the first time ever.

Within the Relay event, The Luminaria Lap is among the most meaningful. 
The white luminaria bags that surround the track are lit and ignited with candles inside, causing them to glow.

The Luminaria Lap is where we honor those still fighting cancer and remember those no longer with us.

In honor of our virtual Luminaria cerememony this year,
What does each letter of Luminaria mean to me?

L is for Light or Luminarias. 
We light up the Luminarias to honor and remember our loved ones.

U is for United. 
United, we can win this fight against cancer.

M is for More Birthdays.
More celebrating, More fighting back, More remembering. 
More life when we no longer have to hear "you have cancer" or "your Dad/Mom or loved one has cancer"

I is for In It - We are in this fight together.
We support our loved ones any way we can - taking them to doctors appointments, shopping for them or doing other errands, sitting with them at treatment, and once they are gone, carrying on their legacy and living as they would want us to do.

N is for Never lose Hope. 
Mitch Albom, one of my favorite authors wrote:
"Hope, no matter how buried, wants to find the light of day and rises from within us until it does."


My Father, also, never lost hope.
Many or all of you know, how we loved to talk to help others.
He ended many of his speeches with "I make hope happen" and he absolutely did.

A is for Alan
My Dad is the reason we started Relaying, and we reason we carry on his legacy.

Luckily, he is as a structured and organized as I am.  I found all of his speeches on his computer. I'm the apple and he's the tree.

I found this among what he wrote:
 "As a cancer survivor I speak publicly about my experience with cancer, to groups and organizations to raise awareness and further the mission of the American Cancer Society to save lives, celebrate lives and lead the world in the fight against cancer"
 
R is for Remember.
The Relay slogans tend to change each year
My favorite of these has been.. "Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back"
We need to epitomize these - Celebrate when we can, Remember the good times, and those who aren't here, and Fight back to aid the ones still fighting.

I is for Insightful.
As stated above, the Luminaria ceremony is among the most meaningful and insightful.
It is the most somber part of the night.
The lights are dimmed, so that the glowing luminarias provide all the light onto the field.
Now that I think about that, its very fitting..Our loved ones are the lights of our lives, and they light up our lives, on this special night and on many others.

A is for Advances.
With the medical advances being made,
Hopefully one day we will, as Dad used to say, eradicate cancer from our vocabulary.

S is for Sheri.  
Sheri is my cousin.

As we say in our family, We are #TeamSheriSTRONG. 
We love you and are with you, Sheri. <3  

The Luminaria ceremony is all these things to me.
What does it mean to you?

Monday, March 30, 2020

Writing Challenge Day 7

Day 7: List 10 Songs You're Loving Right Now

1.. Fix You - Coldplay

2..Don't Worry Baby - Beach Boys

3..You Don't Bring Me Flowers - Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand

4..Elton John and Kiki Dee - True Love

5..A Chorus Line Soundtrack (Let Me Dance For You, Nothing, One, etc)

6..The Rose - Bette Midler

7..Last Christmas - Emilia Clarke (from the movie  "Last Christmas"

8..A Million Dreams - Pink

9..Shallow - Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper

10..Smoke Gets In Your Eyes - The Platters

 

 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Writing Challenge Day 6

Day 6: Six Ways to Win My Heart

1..An incredible sense of humor (and you are probably sarcastic too)

2..The ability to take the shit I give you, but fling it right back in my face.

3..Cookies, Cookie Dough, Potstickers and Wings!

4..Being compassionate,  supportive, and loving.

5..Indulging my need to plan and be prepared

6..A love of travel but at the same time, a love of spending time at home.    (each of these when it is by my choice)


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Writing Challenge, Day 5

Day 5: Five Places You Want to Visit

Writing Challenge, Day 5
Five Places You Want to Visit

Corona threw a wrench in my plans, but here goes.
Most of these were planned for this year.

1..Go on the cruise I booked and cancelled.

2..Return to London (and possibly Paris) in November 

3..Either Sedona or Arches National Park in September for my Dad’s Anniversary weekend

4..Niagara Falls

5..Disney (California) or Universal (Florida) Trip

6...Back to Hawaii

7..Grand Canyon

8..White Sands 

I don’t travel to many exotic places, and I tend to return to places I like, but I have a great time planning and then executing my travel dreams.