Friday, September 3, 2010

A migraine causes me to quote Mick Jagger

Last Sunday I woke up with the worst migraine of my life. We're talking horrible, debilitating throbbing throughout my entire head, as if I was being kicked in the brain with steel-toed boots every half-second. After about three minutes of this pain I actually thought to myself, "if someone handed me a sledgehammer right now, I'd gladly pull a Kathy Bates on my own (recently healed) foot to distract me from the pain in my head!"

Since lying down wasn't doing me any good I decided to sit up. Then the nausea hit, and I sat there for a moment pondering how easy labor was compared to this feeling. It took every bit of ragged strength I had to not rush to the bathroom -- I was out of town for a gig and staying overnight with a lovely family whom I had just met hours before. I didn't think that the sound of me yakking at 5:30 in the morning was the best way to say, "Thanks so much for your hospitality!"

So now I had established that lying down was bad and sitting up was worse. Next try, a stroll around the room. As I began pacing up and down, I thought longingly of my little blue magic "especially for migraine" pills sitting in the medicine chest at home. Inspired, I tiptoed out to the next-door bathroom to search for any kind of painkiller. Unfortunately, the strongest things in there were vanilla-scented guest lotion and peppermint mouthwash. Deflated, I trudged back into my room and resumed my pacing...counting the minutes until I would be able to leave and search for some kind of relief at the airport store.

Then, like a flash, it came to me: I remembered what I had just heard recently about putting what you want out into the universe and seeing if it will come to you. So, with every step I began to chant in my head, "Excedrin Migraine and a Coke. Excedrin Migraine and a Coke." (since I don't drink coffee and I know that caffeine is helpful for migraines this was my manna of choice at the moment) I even grabbed a piece of paper from my luggage and desperately scribbled "Excedrin Migraine and a Coke!"

I managed to gamely smile my way through breakfast, although the headache was not letting up one bit. On the way to the small six-gate airport I continued my silent mantra, flew through security and was finally face to face with the tiny little airport convenience store. I staggered across the threshold, mumbled to the clerk, "Medicine?" and he thankfully pointed me in the right direction. Almost immediately I saw a package of Extra-Strength Excedrin (not for migraines), grabbed it, then whirled around to the cooler to find my Coke.

As the late John Belushi would say, "No Coke, Pepsi." "Close enough," I muttered to myself. I seized the closest bottle, nearly knocking over a fellow traveler, threw both items on the counter, and with shaking hands (yes, my body was now shaking with the trauma of this headache)paid for my keys to freedom. Of course the vaccuum-sealed medicine packet took a few moments to open, but then I gratefully took my two little pills,gulped them down with my Pepsi, and sat very still, desperately praying that my prescribed remedy would kick in before takeoff. (Pressure from plane + pressure from my head = unbearable-ness.)

So I'm sitting there, and I start thinking about this whole "give it to the universe thing," and honestly, I started getting a little annoyed. So I took it up with the universe for a moment: "I said Excedrin Migraine and a Coke! And what do I get? Regular Excedrin and a Pepsi! What's up with that?!?!"

And that was when, through the fogginess of my poor hammered-upon head, I heard those ever-profound words of The Rolling Stones:

You can't always get what you want. You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need."

Hmmm.....interesting. And true too. And then I started thinking to myself, what if the little airport store had been closed? It was early Sunday morning after all, what if the guy running it chose to sleep in this morning and didn't open up? What if there hadn't been a store at all in the airport? What if there had been a store and all they had was Tylenol (which never seems to work on me)? There were so many what ifs that I began to realize how lucky I was that this particular store had what I needed to help me at this particular moment. No, it wasn't exactly what I was hoping for, but it was pretty darn close and it would thankfully serve the same purpose.

So that revelation got me many times do we let perfectly good things or times or situations be ruined because they don't turn out exactly the way we want them to. Like the camping trip that you spend months planning, and then it ends up raining for most of the time. A huge bummer? Yes. But, how about the fun time you end up having instead playing board games, having a pillow fight and figuring out how to make indoor S'mores?

Or the person you meet, and you have high expectations for them as a friend. Then they turn out to be not the person you thought they were. Disappointing? Yes. But you can still take them for who they are and maybe have a good time with them, then learn from this experience and keep searching for friends who will meet your expectations.

The list goes on and on...but the point is, even though we may not get exactly what we want exactly when we want it, what we end up with will most likely not only meet our needs, but it often is better than what we had originally hoped and planned for. We need to choose to be happy with what we get, and not focus on how imperfect it may be.

So, did my headache subside. Yes, eventually. And what else did I learn from this experience? That I am never traveling without my little blue pills again!

We can't always get what we want. If we try we'll find we get what we need. And sometimes we can be prepared ahead of time, to make sure we have what we need. Now there's a lesson I wish I hadn't had to suffer through a migraine to get!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

20 minutes

Over the past three days I have come across three different accounts of men dying unexpectedly, leaving behind wives and young children. While I did not personally know any of these men (I sort of knew one of the wives many years ago) I was struck by how similar the stories were, especially the poignancy of the abruptness of their passings. These men all had plans - for their next vacations, for their kids' futures, even for where to meet a friend for lunch the next day. But these plans, and countless others were cut short because....because.....well, we'll never really know why, will we?

But that's not the point. The point is, we all know we're going to die. That's a fact (that I hope I'm not springing on anyone who was previously unaware of his/her own impending mortality). But we all assume that it won't happen for many many years, when we've lived at least eight or nine decades, when we've achieved all that we set out to do in our lives and we're completely fulfilled on all levels.

Except it didn't happen this way for these three men. When I stepped outside this morning to get the paper I was greeted by the most beeeeautiful blue sky I think I've ever seen. I can't even describe the color - it was like some magical periwinkle/cerulean combination (that incidentally I'd love to use to paint my bedroom). As I stood there, marveling at the sight, it occurred to me that three men: Henry, Paul, and Victor, would never get to look up at a sky again. Whether it was a clear blue one, a gray and rainy one, or a starry-filled black one, skygazing was over for them. Forever.

And that got me thinking how lucky I was to be alive. We don't often think about this as we go through our daily lives, do we? I'll admit that it's difficult sometimes to feel lucky when we feel overwhelmed with the many things we need to get done in a given day. But that's why it's so important to take the time to appreciate the fact that even on our worst day, it's still a day that we get to live, and find what enjoyment in it that we can.

Enter Jerry Seinfeld. I recently caught a segment of his on Oprah where he was talking about how his wife was trying to give up her morning coffee. He was saying (as only Jerry Seinfeld can): "She loves the coffee! She loves making the coffee, stirring the coffee, drinking the coffee! I love that SHE loves the coffee! Why give it up? We're dead in like, 20 minutes - HAVE THE COFFEE!"

That last bit really resonated with me: We're dead in like, 20 minutes. Isn't that SO true? So why do we spend so much of every day worrying about insignificant things? Why do we waste so much of our time on people and things and situations that cause us stress? Of course there are things we have to do that may not always be pleasant. But we have control over how we handle those things. And we also have control over choosing NOT to do some things that we know won't add joy to our lives.

Most of all, we can make the choice to consciously ADD joy to our lives. Erma Bombeck famously quoted that if she had her life to live over she would eat less cottage cheese and more ice cream. Life itself provides so many opportunities for laughter and color and light, but it's up to us to pay enough attention to find them. And if, for whatever reason we can't find them, then we can make them happen ourselves.

So have the coffee and enjoy it. Savor the hugs and kisses from loved ones. And from time to time, remember to look up at the sky. I can think of three men who would give anything to be able to do that even one more time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

8/16/2010 - One Year Moving Anniversary

Today is August 16, 2010, a year to the day that we officially landed in Boulder, CO and began our new life approximately 1800 miles away from our home in Boston, MA. (for details of the trip, see previous blogs)

So, how has the year been? Well, like most years, it had its share of highlights and lowlights. Highlights first: after moving with no jobs and barely a place to live, within five months my husband found a near-dream job and we moved into a home that we all enjoy. My son was a part of a championship baseball team, had a spectacular year at school, and has a wonderful, fun, supportive group of friends,(which was one of the things we were hoping he would find when we decided to move). My daughter has gotten to continue pursuing her passion for horseback riding (many more places to ride out here), had a phenomenal year in school, and had her first, fantastic experience away from home for two weeks at overnight camp. Both kids have blossomed over the past year, and their daily joy and enthusiasm for life consistently confirms that we made the right decision to come here. Personally, I gratefully turned 40 (see previous blog post), found some very fulfilling work, and I'm making plans for some artistic projects that I hope to complete in the coming year. Keep you posted on those!

Lowlights: there were only a few, but they were doozies. In February I broke my right foot, 2 weeks before moving into our house. It was a long, five-month recovery, and I'm still not 100% healed. The silver lining was that we were blessed by many people who helped us out with driving, meals, some grocery shopping, etc., suprisingly by people whom we barely knew since we were still so new to the area. Another lowlight was that in late Spring, my daughter and I both experienced the devastation of being betrayed by people we trusted. There is nothing worse than opening up your heart to someone, only to have them stomp on it, tear it up, and toss it carelessly into oncoming traffic. We both learned a bitterly painful, but obviously necessary lesson of, when someone shows you her true colors, believe her the first time. Our hearts are healing, but honestly, I'm struggling with the temptation to wrap mine in bubble wrap and keep it locked up and protected from such hurt again. Tough place to be in - and in this case, I'm taking it a day at a time.

But even with the lowlights, overall the year has been absolutely terrific. I seem to have mastered the high-altitude cooking and baking adjustments, we've all gotten into better physical shape, and we feel like we are starting to build a real community around us. The scenery continues to inspire, the mountain climbing, canoeing, and skiing have connected us to nature and the outdoors, and as Fall approaches, the fact that we have apple trees, a peach tree, and a plum tree in our backyard fills us all with much anticipatory excitement!

Do we miss Boston? Well, we certainly miss the friends we left behind, the always incredible trips to downtown and Fenway Park, and we definitely miss the beach. But as we've noted, the mountains are a nice trade for the beach, we got to see our beloved Red Sox play the Rockies out here, and both Boulder and Denver have lots of interesting sights and sounds that we're continuing to explore. With regard to friendships, I'll let Sarah Orne Jewett take the reins on this one, when she said, "Yes'm, old friends is always best, 'less you can catch a new one that's fit to make an old one out of." We look forward to making more of those kinds of new friends - perhaps we've met some of them already.

So what has this past year taught us? If you don't like your situation, you CAN change it. You owe it to yourself and your family to make each day as happy as it can be. And whatever you do, DON'T TAKE ANY MISTREATMENT FROM ANYONE! You don't deserve it. No one does.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

On Turning 40

I'm turning 40 tomorrow. On the one hand, I guess it's a big deal. On the other, I honestly feel like it's the natural thing to happen a year after one turns 39. And I'm very grateful for it!

But it got me thinking: why do people, especially women, look at 40 as an age when now we begin to decline? In looks, in opportunities, and overall? Is it because it's a reminder of what we haven't accomplished in life thus far? Is it because American society puts so much emphasis on youth and wrinkle-free faces? In most other cultures, women gain respect as they age, they are honored for their contribution to society, and revered for their advice based on wisdom gained by years of experience. I think it's sad that in our culture, 40 has an air of "dead end" about it, instead of the springboard attitude that it could and should have.

It seems like the whole "decline after 40" stems from someone deciding long ago that at 40 a woman could no longer bear children and therefore she had no purpose. Well, not only is the first part of that untrue, the second part is even more ridiculous. How about a few iconic women who didn't come on the scene until well after 40? Julia Child didn't set foot on a cooking stage until she was 51. Betty While didn't have her big break as Sue Ann Niven on the Mary Tyler Moore show until she was 51. And Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't set pen to paper until she was 63! What do these incredible women have in common? All three were/are beloved icons who made a significant impact on the world around them. And they each made their indelible mark after age 50.

In looking at these powerhouses I wondered, would any of them have been as successful or as beloved had they done what they did at a younger age? Then I realized, it would have been impossible! They each needed the years before their successes to learn, experience, and hone their respective skills. It wasn't until they were older that they had the opportunities to pursue their passions, and the very fact that they were older gave them the freedom to go for it. Their kids were raised, they were ready to "retire," and they looked at this time in their lives as the time to jump off and do what they wanted for themselves. Look where they landed.

These women also remind me of the magnificent women who were already making a difference in the world, and tragically never made it to 40. Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Monica Weinstein. These three were on paths to greatness, and left behind amazing legacies. But imagine what they could have accomplished after 40 and beyond. These lives cut short before 40 remind me that every day is a gift, and that once a year those gifts come with cake!

One can look at 40 many different ways: 4 decades. 2 score. 480 months. 14,600 days. One can also look at it as a new day, beginning a new year, beginning a new decade and a new chapter. A chapter filled with more opportunities for joy, freedom, purusing passions, and making a difference.

So how do I feel about turning 40? Bring it on! And'd better get ready!