Tuesday, March 25, 2008

More About Hope

I seem to be reading and quoting others a fair amount here (I hope I am crediting the sources appropriately). Today, I want to tell you about a piece in griefHaven's March email. It was written by Steven Kalas, and you can find it in full if you go to www.griefHaven.org and look for their E-Haven March, 2008 issue. The piece is called "Hope and Endurance." Here is a bit of it:
"Hope is not 'everything is going to be fine.' Because some things are
never going to be fine. Hope is more like a deep commitment to the idea that
life is essentially good and no tragedy has the power ultimately to
rob life of its goodness.
"Endurance is the word I use for not giving up. Or, as my spiritual director is fond of saying, 'Steven, you only have one job: Keep showing up.'
"To endure means not allowing any loss to convince us to 'mail in' the rest of our lives, to spend our days with an entitled chip on our shoulder. Cynical inertia does not become any human
being, no matter how profound the loss that seems to justify it. I can understand cynical inertia for a while, but I could never justify it as a committed world view."

This is a helpful perspective, to me. Inertia is easy to drift into. Cynicism is also tempting, at times, but it is a hard-edged view that brings pain with it, if entertained as more than a drop-in visitor. To combat inertia, I walk about 3 miles each day. To feel the blood flowing through my veins, the oxygen that is in there, the work of my heart pumping it all around, is part of the gift of this life. To keep myself in touch with the goodness in the world, I try to be part of that goodness. I read, write, visit with friends and fellow travelers on this journey. Sewing quilts is part of my work against inertia, and an effort to be part of living goodness, -- not in a morally-righteous way, but as a way of being connected to LIFE, to LOVE. There is a reason that the heart is the symbol of love, as well as of life. I believe that they are inseparable.

On to more mundane topics...

I am nearing 49 years of age; I think it's safe to say that I've been just a bit stressed during the past year and a half. As a result of some combination of those two things, my teeth are cracking and breaking, one at a time. Perhaps I grind them in the night; Gregg seems to think that I do. I sometimes feel like a brittle old woman, anyway, these days, and this just makes more of an illustration of that. One of my favorite British terms for a nasty old woman is an "old trout," and may I just say...

Anyway, yesterday, it happened again; I think this is the 3rd or 4th broken tooth in 2 years, and, yes, I do take care of my teeth. I'm sure Dr. Peterson would back me up, but patient privacy laws prevent that. He is going to help me with this latest "casualty" today.

Before Katie became ill, Gregg and I were working on our fitness. Because I am only 5'1" tall, any extra weight shows up immediately on my frame; I can't hide it anywhere. When his parents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in February, 2003, I saw the family photos taken and thought, "I canNOT be that old yet!" Vain? Perhaps; but I also did something about it. I got our family into a healthier way of eating, and I took up Pilates (and jogging/walking again). I made progress, grew stronger and was feeling good, especially as I got nearer to 50. I made some fun fashion choices and thought, I am doing all right; I am pretty snappy for my age...and then Katie got sick.

I dropped too much weight instantly, as I couldn't eat anything but tea and crackers at first, after she was diagnosed, but I also couldn't exercise to stay as strong as I like to be. I found a rhythm, eventually, of walking each day around the Laurelhurst neighborhood and University Village, near the hospital; I figured out how to eat hospital food and Ronald McDonald House meals without blowing up like a balloon. The hospital staff totally supported me in getting exercise and fresh air each day. They kept reminding us that we had to take care of ourselves in order to support Katie.

When we finally got to come home from the hospital last April, I did my best to return to a healthy routine. [The photo to the right is from Mother's Day, 2007.] All spring and summer I was running around in my job as homemaker. When Katie's cancer was diagnosed as terminal (in late July), life got more intense, and I didn't worry about my looks or health. I just needed fresh air and exercise to keep from getting too depressed.

Now, I am trying to keep up with the walking for the same reason, and more. Exercise is a gentle antidepressant. Fresh air feels wonderful, even if it's raining. Gregg and I both feel about 80 years old, on some days; I'd like to be able to feel "snappy" again (except for my teeth; I'd like them to stop snapping off!). Getting up in the morning and making some effort is part of my work in "showing up," as the spiritual director (quoted above) said. It is important to me to celebrate and enjoy the gifts of health and movement while we are able to do so.


Karla W. said...

I totally agree with the exercise. It is wonderful and even if you ache and are sore afterward it just makes you feel alive.

Sam was only 9 months at diagnosis and although my pre pregnancy and post pregnancy weight were about the same I really wanted to loose weight to feel healthier and look healthier ( I was sick of people assuming I was her grandma...UGH!!! I was only 32!)

Just prior to diagnosis I had been doing so well and had weighed my least amount in 5 years. Then diagnosis came and priorities completly shifted. I had to go off my thyroid medicine because it plus the stress was causing palpitations. I think the only reason I didn't gain weight when sam was sick was due to stress and breast feeding (pumping as she wouldn't nurse).

I'm now once again struggling to get healthy. I typically work out 5+ times /week and am looking forward to nice weather so I can take Sam on bike rides. I still haven't managed to loose any weight. I hear bad news about a freind or go to clinic or just any little amount of stress and eating makes it hurt less. It stinks.

The pastor at my mom's church had an awsome serman on Easter. It made me think of you. I'll see if I can find it and email it to you.

Sorry for the long comment.

Sheri said...

Are you lecturing me young lady? *wink*

I need to listen to you more. I seem to be positively self destructive right now. I love to walk and was very fitness oriented at one point, though I have always struggled with my weight.

You bring up excellent points and give me a lot to think about.

Anonymous said...

I am now starting to pick up some sort of exercise again, My daughter is 4 and I'm still hoping to blame baby weight, it is a false hope to be sure. I am most certainly an emotional eater.

I appreciate you Karen and thank you for writing through your greif, it inspires me.

Also, thank you for mentioning your height :) as I looked through the many pictures you've posted I was convinced that you had to be very petite or you have giants for friends!!! :) :)

Meril said...

Hi Karen,

On the totally practical side - do you have a mouth guard to sleep with? I have become painfully aware of how much I clench while sleeping these days/year, so I had one made and just got it this week. Instant success!!
(My only dismay is that I am now discovering how much I clench during the day too -- I wonder what they do about that??)

Thinking of you,