Jukebox Hero

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On the matter of gifts.

Some of us have been given a wide variety of gifts. You might say we are blessed. In my case I was singing since I was a young child. I had sisters who were better performers, but I had one of the highest sweetest voices in my elementary school.

Still my parents told me at a young age that my talent was music appreciation rather than singing. I believed them. Even when I went to college and worked hard to get a degree in music, in the back of my mind there was a voice saying that I wasn’t good enough. I just wasn’t quite good enough. So I turned my back on music and used other gifts of intelligence and memory.

What I have learned in a very hard way is that if you don’t use a gift, then you will eventually lose it. I might lose my voice or at least my singing voice. But, I would rather live than die, which seems to be the way all my decisions go lately. So I will have the surgery and I will let my throat and voice heal.

A year or so ago I decided to join a choir. Because I could read music, I was put in the alto section as a high alto. My voice was rusty because it had been so long since I had reached the high notes. Starting as an alto was fun and reminded my voice that it could soar. I didn’t understand why my partner was so excited. She kept telling the choir manager, who was two seats away from me that they needed to keep me. Then before I started this search into why I was feeling so ill, my voice began to croak at inconvenient times.

What I didn’t know was the croaking was a symptom of a thyroid problem.

Believe me I had no idea that my voice was had that clear quality that pleased other ears. I am over fifty and I could still hear my father say that my voice would never amount to anything so I needed to be grateful that I had an ear for music.

I have other gifts I have developed. I used to be quite intelligent. I am not bragging. It is just another gift like being able to draw or write. I do envy people who have the talent of organization or leadership. It has been quite a shock to find out that my native intelligence is contingent on the healthiness of my body. When I am on certain chemicals to keep my body from relapsing, I lose much of that intelligence. The body is quite a marvelous piece of engineering.

I have always been a poet, but I didn’t start developing my gifts in writing until I went to college the second time. This time I went into English Literature with a minor in German History. Every semester I would end up writing two term papers for each class and various writing projects. It was academic writing. The sheer volume of writing made me grow and learn.

I admit that Creative Writing is a different beast altogether. When I decided to move from poetry to short stories and novels, I didn’t realize that I was going through a new apprenticeship. I have to admit it has been fun and continues to be a learning experience.

If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.

Singing is the one talent that I haven’t been able to use. Now I am facing the end of it. As a teenager, I desired to sing. It was a burning in my chest and throat. Everything around me was sound and I loved it. Even with the crippling stage fright that now I know was generated by my parents, I wanted to sing.

In my mind I see myself in a long red dress in front of a small intimate jazz band. I sing the blues. Maybe in another dimension and another time–another me sings.

I wear my sunglasses at night

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I was going through some writing that I had half-way finished last year before the trouble hit me hard and I dealt with a car accident, a move, and illness. As I read my the words, I had a shock. What I wrote last year was on a different level than what I am writing now. I could see where I had gone off track and could delete entire paragraphs. It was a break-through.

I may be a talented writer, but it has taken ten years for me to get there. This included two years of not being able to write during my cytoxan/prednisone phase. I could drift back into the hallucinations and memory problems, but if you want to talk about what I went through, I have a book for that–In The Shadow of Death. I wrote this while on some heavy duty medications for Wegener’s Granulomatosis.

What I am talking around is that a good writer–writes. If she doesn’t write than she doesn’t get competent, even though she is the most talented writer in the world. As Shakespeare wrote, “Therein lies the rub.”

But writing every day is not enough. I learned this when I was writing for a now dead online magazine called Helium.com. I had to write with them for a couple of years before I became smart enough to know that I needed some pointers. I had read every book I could find on writing story. Some of it just didn’t make sense. You see, I didn’t know the lingo then. Before I  studied story elements, I had this big myth in my head about the instinctive writer. I thought that I could have the entire story inside my head. I should be able to see and write all. This was before I realized the techniques involved with dialog, description, character, and plot.

I was naive.

Why I had this idea that I could just write stories when it took me years to master poetry is beyond my comprehension now. Yes, I am also an instinctive poet, but I have studied the craft extensively. It has made my abilities better. I am still not a Master Poet. But I console myself with a thought that if you reach master status then you stagnate because there is nothing else to learn.

So the point here is that good instruction on writing story is very hard to find. What first put me on the path to writing good competent stories was when I went to Dean Wesley Smith. You might remember seeing his name on several Star Trek novels and others. He has been writing a long time and also makes a living at it.

I went to him because of some recommendations of other writers like Sarah A Hoyt, who had taken his workshops. As someone who knows, fiction writing classes are hard to find. The good ones are expensive. I went to Dean because I couldn’t find the information on my own. He didn’t disappoint. I learned that when you are writing that million words, you need to write smarter. You need to know important things like how to put the five senses in your writing. Just that one instruction changed my writing from one-dimensional to a rich tapestry.

Yes, writing is a craft. Yes, we need to write a lot to gain proficiency. What I have found as I dive into the world of writing is that every day is a challenge. Every day I learn something new. Every day. I don’t get bored.

So I had an interruption

I won’t get into the details, but this last week was incredibly stressful. The only hint I am going to give is that it was about money. So yea, incredibly stressful– but I don’t want to talk about what caused the stress. It will only make my mind roll and loop until all I can think of is how to fix an unfixable problem.

What I want to discuss is what I do to snap myself out of such loops and stresses. It isn’t easy because when I see a problem or an injustice, I want to fix it. If I can’t fix it, then I want to discipline. When I see a problem, that is the point where I try the cooperation thing. You know–talk to the company or representative. When I find that the person or thing is not interested in cooperation or even in a little give and take, I go immediately into the Viking mode.

There are folks here who know what I mean. I come from a family who are mostly Nordic and can claim berserker blood in their genes. The scientific world is seeing this as the MAO gene. At one point they thought that predominantly criminals would have this gene, which turned out to be false. Folks who have this gene spend a lot of their time learning ways to keep these impulses under control. To others who don’t have to deal with this emotional turmoil, it looks like the person who is controlling themselves are control freaks.

So what do I do when I reach the boiling point?

I used to have a stuffed bear that would fall to pieces when I threw it against a wall. It would make a satisfying thunk and then I would come to my senses. I would put the bear back together for another time when I the stress levels got too high. However, I learned this last few years in therapy that using violence to relieve those feels i.e. throw the bear or thump the pillow reinforces the violence. So I am trying a few new ways, which take daily practice.

Meditation:

When I practice meditation daily, it takes a lot more stress to reach the mind loops. When I am in a mind loop, I found that if I light a candle and just watch the flame for fifteen minutes that my mind will go quiet. It is a very useful tool when my mind has become unruly.

QiGong (or Tai chi):

This is also a daily practice that will quiet my mind. Once again it needs to be practiced daily. It gives the mind other grooves besides the one– of hurt and betrayal. When I focus on how my body moves, the mind doesn’t have time to ruminate.

Walk:

I go outside with the dog and walk around the property. When I begin to see the birds and rabbits, then I know that my mind is quieting. The dog is so joyful when we walk that I can’t stay stressed. Her tail wags back and forth and she walks purposefully. We travel at speed.

Recently, I was told that many of these techniques are called “grounding” in the mental health fields. I think of it as keeping my mind busy with something else so it stops making ruts in my mind. I have worked had to overcome many childhood problems–and I don’t want to fall back into the patterns of victim and betrayal.

Still when I get this stressed it takes days to get back into my peace. This time though I went for help. Considering that I have been a very independent woman and solved most of my problems myself or tried, this is a real break-through. It didn’t take months or years before I asked for help. I asked within days.

So now I am ready to write Unlicensed Sorceress. I now have some experiences that will enrich Hilda’s frustration with agencies. I wonder if she will solve her problems with her mind, magic, or sword?

Here comes the sun

DSC00632 It has been a wild ride this last month. This weekend my brother and nephews (a few honorary nephews) helped move the last of my stuff into my new apartment. This includes my tables, chairs and recliner. I have boxes above my eyeballs in the living room and gradually I will be opening them and putting them away.

I thought I had gotten rid of a lot of stuff, but obviously I have more than I expected. So I will continue to wean until I get down to one-person land again. I still miss Otto and always will.

Foxy is settling in. She is having to share her doggy land with other chihuahuas. I was told that there is a doggy park just down the road. When I am more settled, I’ll take her there. It was great to see an almost 80 year old man, walking with a walker, and a dog walking by his side. Almost everyone here has a support dog.

I want to mention the help and encouragement I received to get through all of this trauma that seemed to be following me around this month. I had some friends who would take me away from the stress and either feed me or take me to the movies. These breaks really helped me to refocus on what I needed to do next.

Also I want to thank my brother who supported me all the way especially when I needed to get the heavy stuff moved. Almost everything is too heavy for me to lift anymore.

To Jolie who contacted me and offered to help with the cleaning. I couldn’t have finished all of that yesterday without her help. She also showed me that the cleaning I had been doing as I packed actually made the last of the cleaning easier to do. In my mind it was a monster and she reduced it to a mouse.

So I still have a lot to do with unpacking. I am stiff and sore today so I think I will take a break from it. I am setting up my writing room again. I feel like I’m home.

The Eye of the Hurricane

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This has been one of the most stressful months in a long time. I was in a car accident, some money I was expecting was terminated, and my rent was raised. Most of this happened while I was recovering from a concussion and whiplash from the car accident.

I wasn’t thinking straight and it felt like the world had decided to stomp all over me. When I tried to read I would get sharp pains in my head. When I tried to think in the future, my head would ache. For a couple of days there, I would stare off into space. I was scared because I could only see homelessness ahead of me and the dog.

Thankfully I was able to get help and the last few weeks I have been doing physical therapy, which included deep tissue massage and neck traction. Normally I would hate being strapped into a machine that makes me feel helpless. However, as the machine stretched my neck and then released it, I could feel the pain get less. So a few weeks later, I can read, write, and think.

When I received the notice for the rent, I was still not thinking properly. Even so, I was sure that I needed to look for a new place. Somewhere closer to my specialty doctors and somewhere closer to better emergency medicine. If I hadn’t had the car accident, I might have stayed in this apartment. It was the push of the two other things that made me start looking again. I was a crab who had gotten comfortable with its shell.

I took Foxy with me when I looked at the apartment. The gardens are lovely. The staff are willing to help make the place comfortable. Also, they do wellness checks.

Just finding this apartment has decreased my stress to a low level. I will still be in a two bedroom. It is almost impossible to get a one bedroom in this city. One bedroom will be my writing and workshop room. The square footage is about the same as my current apartment.

I am looking forward to starting my new life.

A time for headaches

img_0111 “For everything there is a season” and since my last post, it has been the a time for headaches–literally and figuratively.

If you have been reading my facebook page, on September 20, 2016 I was involved in a rear-end accident. I came out of it with a lump on my head, a headache, and strained neck muscles. The pressure on my head during the next few days was enough that I couldn’t thing clearly for a long time. I’m pretty sure I am still not thinking clearly, but that is another issue.

At this time, I am seeing a physical therapist. I am hoping that all the other issues will eventually resolve as I do the exercises, and have traction. Many of the issues come and go except for the headache.

So two issues– when I read for a period of time or stare at the monitor screen–for for instance when I am writing a blog post– the headache gets worse. I have problems with in close stuff which includes knitting and crocheting. Each day I feel better, but each day brings new challenges. Even though I don’t want to admit it, I am in pain. Even worse, I do this cold turkey without OTC painkillers.

The foundation of my life is crumbling again. At least it is not as bad as when I lost my late-husband. I am having problems planning for the next steps. So the cryptic note, one project, one day, one exhaustion at a time.

Life has once more landed on top of me and smashed me flat.

The one good thing this month is that my kidneys stabilized again. I am at Stage IV kidney disease and I am forever walking the line between bad and worse. Filtering my water, taking Omega 3s, and turmeric seems to be helping my kidneys. I am also eating more fish. I’m eating less beef, pork, and chicken. I would love to be a carnivore, but life has once again made me conform.

Epictetus, a former slave turned philosopher said “We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.”

So today I will choose to respond with patience and kindness as I traverse whatever legal, physical, or spiritual challenges in front of me.

A day, a day, and another day

So I had an appointment on Tuesday, a lunch on Wednesday, and another appointment today. Then at the beginning of next week after the holiday, I need to get my labs done to check my kidneys. In between I have been looking critically at what I have overflowing in closets and other spaces, and I have decided to get things cleaned, sold, or given away while I have the energy.

There is a thought in the back of my mind that I won’t have the time or energy to complete all of this in three months. Don’t ask me what is going to happen in three months because I don’t know. When I think that far ahead, I feel a heaviness that tells me another big change is coming.

I used to like change. When I was younger, moving to a new place wasn’t scary. I thought that adventure was seeing new places and making new friends. Then off I would go to another adventure in a new place with new friends. It changed when I had my huge health change. It wasn’t just a scare– it was an entire change of life. I had orders that I couldn’t be around large groups of people. Since I live near Las Vegas, it meant that while I was on a chemo like Cytoxan, I couldn’t go to events, theaters, or malls. My late-hubby used to take me to malls during the time of day when most people were doing other things. I carried wet wipes and we would wipe down every bench before I sat. I would walk twenty feet and then have to sit down again. Those were survival days.

When I lost my hubby, it was another huge change. It changed my physical, social, and mental frame of reference. I am still dealing with the aftershocks. I suspect this change that I am dreading has to do with my kidneys.

I notice that I cramp more at night even when I take vitamins and drink enough water. Sometimes I have a low- grade fever. Both of these symptoms can cause sleep deprivation which can cause the short-term cognitive problems. Or it might be the kidneys again. So last night I slept like the dead. It was good. The little doggy jumped up and down on my side before I woke up. I could have slept another two hours.

So I am beginning to dread change– change means illness and more problems to solve. Change means that when I move, I can’t carry those heavy boxes, like I used to do. It means that when I move the furniture, I spend two to three days resting.

Change means that I meet new people and worry about getting new infections. On the other hand, I have met others who are dealing with some of the same problems. Plus I am learning tolerance for the ill and infirmed. Sadly, I had to become one of them before I could feel for them.

Still– I have cleared out things that I haven’t used or seen used in a decade or more. The apartment feels lighter.