Chapter 59: Guarding The Tao

Controlling people’s work is heavenly.
There are none who are like the acquisitive (of the Tao).

For man to be acquisitive is to speak of early morning submission.
Early morning submission speaks of serious, long-standing goodness and virtue.
Serious, long-standing goodness and virtue lacks all restraint.

Lacking the ability to imitate, there is none who knows the limits of their greatness.
Because there is none who is aware of their very best,
no one is able to properly rule as the greatest at the national level.

To be the nation’s mother, rule may be possible for a long time.

Yes, to speak of profound basis, strong, solid, sure foundations,
Forever grow long roots to regard Her Tao.

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For my Poppy

I’m still alive. I haven’t posted in a long time, and that’s largely due to the fact that my grandfather died.

No Toblerone bar, no non-alcoholic bloody mary mix, no crossword puzzle, and no – not even raising kittens in tribute is making me feel better about his passing – and I deal with death really well usually. I just very selfishly want him (and all of his wisdom) back.

He was the man who helped me find myself and find the path to life and light after my first husband left me. He even offered to be the property manager when I found tenants to rent my house when I went to law school, and then bought the house from me after the tenants almost completely wrecked it. To be blunt, he saved me, financially, speaking, from bankruptcy, in 2005, so that I could be a lawyer… and he did so without hesitation.

The three months I lived with him, prior to law school, I changed a lot as a person. I became a better “me.” I started to see the world differently… not as a place that was full of challenges, but a place that was full of opportunities. And I think it had a lot to do with our talks.

When I was lost about who I was and what I was about — He was the guy who said, “Just be your best Rachael every day. That’s all anyone can ask of you, especially you.” And even though I didn’t understand then, I do now.

The talks we had about what the “right kind of guy” was like are why I think I was able to find someone as good for me as Adam, and I know that he he held my husband in high regard. He said, “The right kind of man doesn’t buy you flowers. He helps you plant trees.” For our second anniversary, Adam and I are planning to plant trees.

My Poppy was the only person who was ever successful at getting me to go to Friday night Temple services… he helped me learn to observe the Sabbath, and why. And for the first time in my life, I understood the importance of doing so.

He seemed disappointed, but also non-plussed when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He already had a son with it. He never once thought that it would stand in the way of my future plans. Even on the night that he died, he told my mom that he hoped that one day I could get a good job and earn money because he thought it would be good for my self-esteem. That was one of the great things about him: he was a futurist at all times. He always reminded me to never say never – that we never knew what was coming next.

That’s the same guy who said, “You win some, you lose some…” when the doctors told him that there was nothing more that they could do for him. That’s just the kind of guy he was: practical to the very core.

Of all the things that I’ve learned about him since his passing, there is one thing that has made me smile great big, and that was that he kept scrap books, much like I blog. And he kept them since he was a teenager. Reading some of them made me feel like he was still very much alive. He’s inspired me to start scrapbooking myself, because it is a treasure for our family, for certain.

I will miss my Poppy forever, and I know that I carry him with me every day. I know the Tao of Rae would never have begun without him. His love of theology spread to me. I know my kids will know how to play chess because he taught my Dad and my Dad taught me.

I have a “Shalom Y’all” doormat because of the “Shalom Y’all” artwork in his house. (And yes, I know that Grammy bought that!) I know I was raised a proud Southern Jew in part because of his influence.

My happiest thought, when I let myself think about there being an afterlife, is that Poppy now knows EVERYTHING finally, and can kibets with the almighty to get all those niggling questions he has about life and why certain things happened certain ways off of his chest. He’ll be having Bagels and Bible with the best of them.

Welcoming the Day

It’s a beautiful morning here in Chicago.

Sure, it rained, but that’s part of living in the Windy City. It comes with weather. It’s kind of like the opposite of Los Angeles in that. Things are messy here, even the sky, and that’s okay. It’s very real, very “not on tape” and very in-your-face about it. The people wear their emotions on their face, sometimes smiling, often not, but never being afraid to make eye contact. They smile back at you though, when you’re brave enough to smile at a stranger.

And that’s what I did as I walked to Walgreens this morning to pick up some Red Bull, a Get Well Soon card for my Poppy, and some much-needed red hair dye.

See, I’m doing today a little differently from the way that I’ve been doing most of my days so far, and as it turns out, the day is already better, and it’s not even 11 am yet. (And yes, that does mean that I still haven’t eaten breakfast. What? I have bad eating habits…)

Today, I’m following some advice that I picked up while I was in the hospital: to try to be fully present where you are… not thinking about other things, but to be absolutely involved in your environment and to interact with it because you are a part of it.

The first, and most important part of being fully present is to Welcome the Day. Well, how do you do that?

How to Welcome The Day

  • First, you stretch (and I like to do this part in bed first, and out of bed next): You let yourself feel what it means to be inside your whole body. You reach to the sky as hard as you can, from the tips of your fingers to the tips of your toes digging into the ground. You want to feel your whole soul trying to escape your skin, like your very spirit is going to explode out of you. You have to let yourself get really big to do this! Arms Up! Legs Out! Take up as much space as you can! Twist around and realize that you are part of your environment, and next…
  • You stand tall, and proudly, and take a deep breath or two to welcome life-giving air into you. Out with the old, and in with the new.
  • Now is a good time for some light physical activity, if you have the energy. Some people like to run or go to the gym. Others like to do yoga. Me, I like to put on 2-3 songs and dance, when I remember to. At the hospital, they even had special morning mixes of songs that they would put on for us to dance to. It’s a really great idea to make yourself some playlists to get yourself going in the morning.
  • Next, you go wash up! This could mean a shower or simply washing your face and brushing your teeth — whatever your personal morning ritual for cleaning up is, so long as you do something positive to improve your hygiene and show yourself good self-care.
  • And now for breakfast! It’s important to give yourself delicious, healthy food to sustain you throughout the day so that you can be your best self and feel good.

Maybe you haven’t done your dancing for today… I know I haven’t, and I’m about to clean up the house to make it a place in which I want to be present.

Here are some great songs to boogie to, so we can have a great day together!

Fighting Old Ghosts

One of the hardest things for me with coming down on Cymbalta is when old ghosts or tapes or whatever you want to call “old thought patterns” pop up for me.

One of the most damaging old thought patterns for me is the one that goes like this:

“I am not doing enough to be deserving of the resources that I take from the world. Someone else could be living a more virtuous life than me and making the world a better place using the same air that I’m breathing, water I am drinking and using to bathe, and other resources I am taking from the land and money I am using. I don’t deserve to live, being such a selfish, lazy person. I deserve to die.”

This thought pattern was the one that landed me in the hospital in early 2003, the first time that I was fairly certain I was going to commit suicide. It has resurfaced since hitting the 50 mg mark of Cymbalta. And hard. It runs through my day like a CNN ticker.

But I know it’s not right. It’s just a thought, and thoughts are not truths. If anything it is a call to action: a call to service in the name of my fellow human being.

It is not a great big neon sign above my head blaring that I am not worthy of life, rather one above my heart saying that I am compassionate and giving to everyone but myself.

But it troubles me that it resurfaced. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I’m chemically hardwired for depression.

So what do I do about it? How do I cope with this type of messed up suicidal thinking?

  • I remember that animals do not need to prove their worth to be alive — they simply live, and that at my core, I am an animal that thinks, like all humans.
  • I recognize the dark thought for what it is: not a reason to die, but a reason to do community service.
  • I remind myself that I am already in service to others, waiting for kittens to foster, and that I am putting together a Zazzle store for the Ovarian Cancer Society in Memphis and am making them a website, and that I am not a bad person.
  • I rationalize against the thought to wrestle it to the ground. I prove myself wrong about being selfish by showing how kind I can be.
  • I admit my lack of control over my thoughts and over when I will die and allow myself to feel that vulnerability in its fullness, and then the thought can pass.
  • I give thanks to God for what I have through Gratitude Rampages and prayer, and I show my thankfulness to those in life by being a good friend
  • I forgive myself for the abusive, bullying thought that I should kill myself. I cannot control my thoughts, but I can control what I do with them.
  • And then I move on with my day, repeating this process as many times as necessary until it stops.

I will not be taken down by self-judgment. If anything, it’ll just give me reason to become a better Rae.

Let’s Make It A Friendly Day!

Hey party people! How are y’all doing today?

I’m Doing Fine

Myself, I’m much, MUCH better than I was doing last night, thankfully.

I just thought that last night it was important to take a moment and write about the ugly side of this disease. I get so caught up in the idea that “I’m just in it for the parking” that I sometimes forget to give credence to the fact that, YES, I actually suffer and struggle with the beast disease itself.

Today, I want to remind everyone of the importance of that which I was flippant about yesterday: Meditation and Biofeedback.

Meditation and BioFeedback

They make a world of difference! Good meditation only takes 20 minutes out of your day, sitting there, focusing on your breath or on a particular set of phrases, and can help you recenter your thinking. Once you have done that, you can greet the day in a much more positive fashion.

Science has even confirmed that by doing that, you work new grooves into your brain that help you think more clearly and feel better overall. It’s not just “woo” like astrology or whatever: practicing concentration like that makes you better able to focus, which is important for those of us who regularly get cognitive-fog.

There is a great website called http://www.calm.com where you can choose a background and a 10 minute guided meditation that will help you relax during your day. You don’t have to meditate for 20 minutes at a go: doing it 10 minutes at a time is just fine!

Just like practicing a musical instrument or working out, your body doesn’t know whether the time that you put in was linear or not: it just knows whether or not you did the work.

Let’s Get Metta

Metta Meditation is all about compassion and love. Friendliness to yourself extends to friendliness to others, which in turn, we hope, makes them friendlier to others as well. Compassion and friendliness is how we can help make the world a softer, kinder, happier place to live in: and it all begins with being kind to ourselves.

Are you looking for phrases to say or concentrate on during meditation? Here is a suggestion to develop infinite friendliness that was brought to me by Bhikkhu Samahita.

Begin by extending Friendliness towards yourself:
May I be free from ill-will.
May I be free from hostility.
May I be free from adversity.
May I be happy.
May I be free from suffering.
May I not be separated from the good fortune I have attained.
I am the owner of my kamma and must inherit its results.

Next, extend Friendliness to your parents, teachers, relatives, and friends:
May my mother and father, teacher, relatives,
and associates be free from anger.
May they be free from hostility.
May they be free from adversity.
May they be happy.
May they be free from suffering.
May they not be separated from the good fortune they have attained.
They are owners of their kamma and will inherit its results.

Then extend Friendliness to all kinds of living beings:
May all sentient things, all breathing things, all beings, all persons,
all individuals, all women, all men, all Noble Ones, all ordinary persons,
all deities, all human beings, all those destined for the states of loss,
may all these individualities be free from anger.
May they be free from hostility.
May they be free from adversity.
May they be happy.
May they be free from suffering.
May they not be separated from the good fortune they have attained.
All beings are the owners of their kamma and must inherit its results.

Finally, extend Friendliness in all directions:
In the east, the south, the west, the north, the south-east, the south-west,
the north-west, the north-east, below, and above.
May all sentient things, all breathing things, all beings, all persons, all individuals, all women, all men,
all Noble Ones, all ordinary persons, all deities, all human beings,
all those destined for the states of loss, be free from anger.
May they be free from hostility.
May they be free from adversity.
May they be happy.
May they be free from suffering.
May they not be separated from the good fortune they have attained.
All beings are the owners of their kamma and will inherit its results.

Food, Glorious Food!

So, I didn’t end up grilling those delicious sounding teriyaki burgers over the weekend. I forgot that Momma Majka is allergic to pineapple! That could have ended up disastrously. So tonight, we’re using up our ground turkey meat in tasty taco form.

Right now, I’m on an EPIC QUEST!!!! I am determined to put together a menu for our household of good meals that have 5 or fewer components per dish, so that we have flavorful-but-budget-conscious meals that are healthy and we can continue to lose weight (Did I mention we’re working out at the YMCA down the street and are eating healthier?) and save money.

I have an old debt to a dear friend that suddenly needs to be repaid, and we’ve got to magic up the cash. Tightening our belts is pretty much the only way that we’re going to be able to save the money to do so. And hey, if we get in the habit, afterwards, we’ll even have a savings plan in motion. So that’s a good thing all around.

Do you have any favorite cheap eats that you’d like to share with me? I’d love to get some recipes from readers!

Anyhow, that’s about it for today’s blog entry: not much else going on here besides the usual dishes and laundry. I hope that you’re feeling well, and that things are good for you and your family.

All my love all the time.

Make It A Great Day!!!

I’m not a complainer, but: Pain.

I am almost always dealing with some annoying amount of pain, but right now, it’s the kind that you’ve got to hit with something that makes you feel no pain or talk about it or cry about it or all of the above.

Sometimes, I get acidy burning sensations in my forearms, my left one especially, and it feels like I’m wearing a bracer of fire right now, going from my elbow to my wrist, and again at my shoulder and in my knuckles.

For all the positive talk I give about meditation, bio-feedback, and however smiley I can be — this MS is just a huge pain in the ass at times. I can handle pain; I take it well enough, but I don’t like how it just shows up out of nowhere. And you have no idea how long it’s going to last, and it turns you all hard and steely and hungry for a fight. It takes your day and stomps on it. Then, when your day gets back up and dusts itself out, it stomps on it again just to be sure it got the message.

My arm feels heavy, sore and bruised, especially towards the middle, and I know perfectly well that it’s fine, but that’s the kind of trick your head plays on you when you have MS. You can know you’re fine and feel the pain of something that never happened.

And I know there’s nothing that the doctors can do for me unless this bitchass pain sticks around for 2 or more days. Because otherwise, it’s a pseudo-exacerbation.

So you just feel like you’re fucking crazy and know that you aren’t, you’re just “misfiring” like a flesh robot with messed up wiring.

Enough self-pity; I’m going to do what I can to get some relief.

Edit: Not 15 minutes after I first published this, the pain subsided. This is the kind of madness that I go through. Bouts of extreme pain, followed by nothing.

I feel like I should be more grateful that the pain is inconsistent. I just wish there were no pain.

Woah!! We’re halfway there! Wooooahh! Livin on a Prayer!

Well, so far it’s taken almost 6 months, but I’m halfway off of my anti-depressants!

Titrating down off SSRIs is a tough thing, but it’s worth it to make my body a safe place in which to welcome new life. At the beginning of every month, I’ve been coming down 10 mg more off Cymbalta. And boy HOWDY is it a difficult couple of days, the first few days.

My body tricks me into thinking, usually, that I am a worthless and unkind individual who is not worthy of the love she has or the life she is leading, and it takes all the wherewithall I have from meditation, self-soothing, writing out Gratitude Rampages, and snuggling with my husband to remind me that life really is Okay. Not to mention that I am sore all over and am crabby as can be.

I had no idea when I started taking anti-depressants that they were so habit-forming, and that coming off of them would take so long or be so painful. It’s like ripping a band aid off of my psyche incredibly slowly.

Fortunately, I have a “prize” to keep my eyes on… and it’s a big one. I know that what I’m doing is good for my body and for my overall health, and I know that what I’m doing will enable me to be a mom.

I swear, my babies will know they were thought of well before they were born. They were wanted, and loved, and planned for.

So, for anyone playing along at home, here’s what the rest of the “Rae coming off of Meds” schedule looks like:

Dropping 10 mg of Cymbalta in October to 40, November to 30, December to 20, January to nothing. February, I go down on Abilify from 5 mg to 2 mg, March I go from 2 mg to nothing! April, I stop taking Nortriptyline and my birth control pill. May 2013, we’re “clear” to conceive as far as psych meds go.

Somewhere in there, we have to get me clean of Topamax as well. I have a neurology appointment in October, so we’ll be discussing titrating down from 300mg starting then.

SO! The very earliest we will have a new baby Majka is February of 2014, which seems like it’s a million years away, but I know life moves fast, and that I should treasure the time I have with Adam where it’s just the two of us because this time will never come again.

I’m personally all in a tizzy about it because our good friends the Biel’s just got pregnant, and I’m pretty much sold on the idea that our kids are gonna be friends too. That means they need to be close to each other in age. I figure a year apart’s not too bad.

And if theirs is a boy and ours is a girl, then they will get married and live HAPPILY EVER AFTER! ❤ Just kidding. 😉

But it does mean that I have something like a year and a half to really learn some MommySkills. I'm thinking I'll need sewing. Can y’all think of any other skills I should brush up on?