Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Crap Theory (with Chai Sisu)

There have been many attempts to describe to "regular folk" the challenges of those of us who have chronic illness. The Spoon Theory is a good one. The Matchstick Theory is a little more apt. But I'll attempt my own called, The Crap Theory. This is less about choices of energy and just...about what it's like to always feel like crap.

You wake up feeling like crap. You slept crappy. There have been days when you don't get out of bed, but over the years you realize it doesn't make you feel less crappy physically, and mentally it makes it worse, so you get up. It's slow.

You move your body. It hurts. It's frustrating. But you do it anyway because overtime the crappiness will increase if you don't.

You meditate. You still feel like crap, but you're ok with it. Mostly. Not really. But you want to be ok with it. You also want to be a superhero.

You get ready for the day and interact with people who love you. You want to tell them all the ways you feel like crap, but they already know this. They know it so very well, that you decide to spare them the details and talk about other things instead: the upcoming cold snap, car coordination, we need more eggs, and you reluctantly watch a "really short!" video with your kid. You laugh. For a moment you forget about feeling crappy. Or maybe the caffeine is kicking in.

Your body tells you its time for a rest because you feel like crap, but seriously, you just got up, so you push yourself. You have realized over the years that mentally it's better for you to do things even if you feel like crap. So you do things. It's slow. Sometimes it's painful when it wasn't just the day before. Sometimes you can't do certain things at all. You often cry. You remember that you forgot something important. Crap.

You rest. There are no questions about this. There are no others options.

Eventually, you get yourself moving again with whatever works. You may feel like crap, but you make a damn good cup of tea.

You do more things. You interact with people. You feel like crap so you are impatient, inconsistent, and moody. Over the years people distanced themselves from you. You understand, but it still hurts. Then a friend sends you a Loki gif and the crappiness is alleviated by his glorious purpose.

Today you can eat. Sometimes the crappiness keeps you from this, but not today. This makes it a good day.

Today music sounds right (sometimes it doesn't), and it doesn't hurt your head (sometimes it does) so you play some while cooking. You move a little. To anyone else, this is not dancing, but in your mind you are a hoochie mama.

You rest. You are annoyed. Did I mention you feel like crap? You look at your to-do list and cross out things, not because you got them done but because they never will. You feel guilty as someone else cleans up after you.

You lose yourself to fiction. Depending on how crappy you feel, the format changes. Today, it's a book. Seriously, the girl should pick the 600 year-old ghoul over the wishy-washy werewolf. You come back to yourself and remember you feel like crap.

You are the first to get ready for bed. You stand by the bed and stare at your pillow and the litany of exactly how crappy you feel and how this may be FOREVER starts to unravel your soul. But there is a spark inside of you that crap can't touch. It knits you back together again. That meditation breathing comes in handy.

You get in bed and tell God you feel like crap because if you have to live with it everyday, then He can hear about it everyday. He tightens the strings on your soul. You pray for other people and feel perspective. The person you love comes in and kisses you goodnight. You cry a little. You remember the good parts of the day. You feel like crap, but close your eyes and hope for the best.

You open them again remembering something important you forgot, again. Crap.






Rise untethered.
Move with intention.
Be grand. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Body, Mind, and Spirit Discuss Over Tea: A One-Act Play

INT. Small, dark bedroom. A large form is under the blankets of the bed, covers drawn over its head. There is a  knock. The form does not move. Another knock. No response
       
                                                         SPIRIT                                                                                                                                                  (A small child's voice behind the door.)
                                                       Body? We're coming in.

No response from the form on the bed. The door opens and SPIRIT runs in. She is a five year old girl with a glowing, light-brown complexion, sparkling eyes, and a halo of dark curls. She is swathed in a bright blue sari with shining silver thread. She jumps on the bed.

                                                            SPIRIT
                                                    Get up! Get up! Get up! Get up!

While Spirit hops up and down on the bed, MIND leans on the door frame. He is a thin, androgynous-looking young man with a blond ponytail and fitted clothing. He is trying to look casual, but is really on the door frame for support. 

                                                              MIND
                                                    Don't you have to go to the bathroom or something?

There is a GRUNT from the form and the covers are pushed off slowly. Spirit hops off the bed and grabs the hand of BODY. Body is a large, hulking ogre lady wearing pink, snuggly pajamas. She has a pleasant face that is very sad. Body lets Spirit pull her up off the bed.

                                                             BODY
                                                     I don't feel good.

She cries. Mind and Spirit hold her up and they shuffle out of the bedroom.

INT. A small, old kitchen with herbs hanging up everywhere, and a big stove with several pots lightly bubbling. BODY, MIND, and SPIRIT enter and sit at a sturdy wooden table. 

                                                                BODY
                                                       I want ice-cream.
                                                 
                                                               MIND
                                                       No.
                                   
                                                                SPIRIT
                                                       I want ice-cream.
     
                                                                 MIND
                                                        With all the stomach problems, I really
                                                       don't think dairy and sugar are going to help us.

                                                                BODY
                                                        I don't care.

     Mind sighs and turns to Spirit who is smiling expectantly.

                                                                MIND
                                                       What are you really looking for?

                                                                 SPIRIT
                                                        Comfort. (Pause) I'll make tea!

                                                                 BODY
                                                        I don't want tea.

Mind and Spirit GASP. Then body smiles a little.

                                                                 BODY
                                                          Kidding.

Spirit jumps up to make a pot of tea. She pulls a stool around with her to reach any high places, and HUMS a pretty tune.

Mind pulls out a laptop from a nearby cabinet and opens it on the table. 

Body puts her head in her hands.

                                                                  MIND
                                                         Ok. Let's recap the week and plan. How are you feeling?

                                                                   BODY (looks up)
                                                            Like a forgotten Christmas package in the back
                                                            of the mail truck being banged around.

   Mind starts typing.

                                                                     MIND
                                                             Excellent description. I should use that in a
                                                            story someday. But can you be more specific?

                                                                     BODY
                                                             Stiff and sore muscles when I use them,
                                                             sometimes painful. Joints are painful.
                                                              Head is tense. Right foot swollen
                                                             and hurts.

                                                                     MIND
                                                              We need to call the doctor about that one.

                                                                     SPIRIT
                                                              I don't like talking on the phone!

                                                                     MIND and BODY
                                                              We know.

Spirit pours hot water into a teapot and brings it over with three cups. She plops happily into her seat and blows on her tea. Body picks up a cup and enjoys the warmth. Mind absently takes a cup and sips while still typing with one hand.

                                                                       BODY
                                                             Still can't breathe well so not sleeping.

                                                                       MIND
                                                             We have allergy shots tomorrow.

                                                                       SPIRIT
                                                             The ladies there are very nice, but the
                                                              needle always hurts so much.

Mind pats Spirit on the head.

                                                                       BODY
                                                             Extra sensitivity, numbness and swelling.
                                                             But the biggest one is my digestive system.

                                                                        SPIRIT
                                                             But the nausea is gone, right?

Body nods and Spirit gives her a hug, her tiny arms barely going around the large being. 

                                                                        MIND
                                                              But the diarrhea is troublesome.

                                                                        BODY
                                                              Yeah, I'm losing weight but not in a healthy way.

Mind suddenly lays his head on the table. Spirit comes over and pats his head.

                                                                        SPIRIT
                                                               Why don't we take a break?

                                                                        BODY
                                                                Sounds good to me.

                                                                         MIND
                                                                       (muffled)
                                                                 We only just got up.

                                                                         SPIRIT
                                                                 How about we play a song on the piano?

                                                                           BODY
                                                                 I'm too tired.

    MIND picks up his head and takes a deep breath.

                                                                            MIND
                                                                 Let's decide on what we need to do today-

                                                                          SPIRIT
                                                                 We don't need to do anything. We are being
                                                                taken care of by people who love us.

                                                                           MIND
                                                                  What we want to accomplish. Then
                                                                 play the piano, then rest, and then
                                                                 do something on the list. Ok?

                                                                           BODY
                                                                   A very short list.

                                                                             SPIRIT
                                                                    Let's play Christmas songs!

  Starts typing.

                                                                            MIND
                                                                   I have a plan if we have digestive problems
                                                                   again. We are on day three of nothing major.

                                                                            SPIRIT
                                                                    Maybe it's all done? Yay!

                                                                             BODY
                                                                   It won't last. It's because we increased the
                                                                    medication from being so sick. Once we
                                                                   start decreasing, it will be back to living in the bathroom.

Mind puts a hand on Body's shoulder.

                                                                                MIND
                                                                    I have a new plan that doesn't involve more
                                                                    or different drugs. And if that doesn't work,
                                                                    I'll call a doctor and ask for advice. Don't worry,
                                                                    I'm not giving up.

                                                                                SPIRIT
                                                                      I'm proud of you!

                                                                                BODY
                                                                      I want chocolate. Do we have any?

Spirit jumps up and grabs a box from a countertop.

                                                                                SPIRIT
                                                                      A friend mailed it to us because she
                                                                     loves us. Yay!

They all take a piece and enjoy it with the tea. Mind types.

                                                                                 MIND
                                                                      Ok. How's this. We call the foot doctor-

                                                                                  SPIRIT
                                                                     I hate making phone calls.

                                                                                   MIND and BODY
                                                                     We know.

                                                                              MIND
                                                                     So we call the doctor. And then play
                                                                    the piano.

    Spirit takes another chocolate.

                                                                     BODY
                                                              And then rest?

                                                                      MIND
                                                              Then rest. Then...mop? We have guests Friday.

                                                                      BODY
                                                              I don't know if I can do that much.

                                                                      SPIRIT
                                                               We can put on disco!

                                                                      MIND
                                                                 And if we do a little at a time,
                                                                it will get done. We can read
                                                               a chapter of our book, mop a room,
                                                              read a chapter...

                                                                       BODY
                                                                Ok.

                                                                        MIND
                                                              And then we are planning on going to
                                                             choir practice tonight.

                                                                        BODY
                                                               I don't know if I can handle that.

                                                                         MIND
                                                               It's hard for me too, but we want to sing at
                                                             Christmas mass, so we have to go.

                                                                          SPIRIT
                                                              I get really overwhelmed too,
                                                               but everyone is so nice, and the music is so pretty.

                                                                          MIND
                                                                 Let's do it!

           They all high-five.

                                                                            SPIRIT
                                                                 On to our day! Piano!

                                                                            MIND
                                                                  Call the doctor first.
 
                                                                             SPIRIT
                                                                   Shoot.

They all get up.

                                                                              BODY
                                                                   I don't feel good.

They all walk out, Mind and Spirit helping Body the whole way.






Rise untethered.
Move with intention.
Be grand. 
                                                               
                                                                               
                           



                                                                               

                         

   



                                                           
                                                           



Friday, December 15, 2017

Dear Life: You Suck. (With A Side of Nettle.)

Dear Life:

You suck. I sit here sipping nettle tea because I was advised it would keep me alive when I can't eat much, which has been the case for several weeks now due to digestive distress. I suppose I should be grateful to you for the existence of nettle, but since the advice came from my daughter who is a recovering anorexic, I mostly want to punch you in the face.

I am lodging an official complaint. As you know, I was a teenage mother. This subjected me to negative societal judgment in the form of blatant insults to backhanded compliments about my age for YEARS. One of the ways I kept my dignity intact was with my Future Vanity Revenge Fantasy (say that three times fast.) So when a visiting "friend" pointedly praised my pregnant sister (married, in her late 20's) for having children the "right" way, I didn't spill my homemade soup that she was enjoying onto her lap, instead I pictured the future: a college visit with my grown children, and I, glowing in the sunshine, still young and fucking hot.

Alas, my children are currently both in college and I am decidedly un-hot...post-hot? "Not hot" just sounds weird. Anyway, while they were in high-school, I developed Cushing's, which, as I'm sure you're aware, strips the sufferer of any type of vanity, ego, or pride in appearance. Thus, my complaint.

I demand recompense immediately. Some examples would be the invention of gluten-free baklava, a chance encounter with Hugh Jackman wherin he declares his endless devotion to me, or perhaps the emergence of latent magical powers. Any or all of these would be sufficient.

Sincerely sticking up my middle finger,
Becca






Rise untethered.
Move with intention.
Be grand. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Tulsi and Life's Purpose

I have received many thoughtful get-well gifts this past fall. One of my music students gave me a Tulsi tea that is so subtle and perfect right now. Tulsi is also called "Holy Basil" and an herb my daughter once grew in our backyard. I'm having trouble drinking and eating much and this particular variety of Tulsi from DiviniTea called "Soul" is all I want.

A particular story from a magazine keeps looping through my thoughts. I honestly can't remember what the article was about, but the woman writing it told a story about a friend of hers, and that story has stuck. Here it is:

A man she knows was an amazing athlete. Then he had a terrible accident and became paraplegic. After years of determination he became an athlete again. And then had yet another accident and became quadriplegic. At this point he had some dark times, but he came out of it with a profound realization that his true purpose in life was to love everyone. 

In light of my recent struggles and personal insights, I wondered about how it took this man becoming a quadriplegic to find his calling in life. And then I wondered if what he realized was true for all of us. What if our only purpose in life was to love one another, and what if I fully lived that truth without having to go through a terrible tragedy?

Now this isn't an explanation for "why bad things happen to good people". I firmly believe that life is unfair and we will never, never, never, never understand why. I also believe that humans are propelled to make sense out of everything, and when something bad happens, we will replay it over and over trying to find patterns and fit it into a neat view of the world. Did you know that earworms (when a song gets stuck in your head) are caused by not knowing the full song perfectly? And if you can get through the entire earworm from start to finish in your mind, it usually goes away? Unfortunately, bad events often don't have a logical, linear trajectory that led to your pain, and there is no satisfactory ending. The other way to get rid of an earworm is to start singing a new song.

What if loving everyone was my only job in life? What if all this searching for meaning and purpose in work was missing the point? What if I embraced that physically poor man's epiphany for myself? What if every interaction with everyone I meet was about loving them? What if they are mean?

Anyway, I've been trying to do this for the past few weeks. When I remember, it's quite relaxing. If my real job is to love everyone, than my other jobs are just side-hustles. That took the worry out of much of my constant, "now that my children are grown, what is my life's purpose?!" thoughts. While in a crowd, it makes me listen and notice more. When with people I already love, I am filled with gratitude, compassion, and for some reason, amusement. 

I wonder if maybe the man got into those accidents specifically to tell his story to that woman who then wrote about it in a magazine which I read so I could then share my take on it here so that someone might read it and...what? I don't know. But that kind of thinking will keep spiraling with no final cadence. Instead, I will compose my thoughts into a simple and beautiful melody of love.






Rise untethered.
Move with intention.
Be grand. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Almond Crisp and A Foggy Brain

Almond Crisp tea from Short and Stout is my favorite flavor of the summer so far. I have the caffeine-free version which lets me drink it anytime of day. With a splash of cream and over ice, it's perfect (and pink!)

Unfortunately, I'm having a hard time doing much more than drink tea. The last few years my health has been declining. At first I tried to push myself, thinking revving up would cure-all. But this past year, I decided to go the opposite direction and slow down. (And get some new doctors.)

I tried very hard to keep up my GeekMom posts each week, Tea Punk Tales, this here Steepings, articles for my local food co-op, and personal writing projects with music and fiction. But everything was taking longer and longer to complete, and wasn't so fun anymore. Brain fog.

At the moment, I still write for GeekMom, though it takes me three times as long to complete each post. I put together very short articles for the Coop Scoop every other month. Aaaand that's it.  My brain is exhausted.

However, the summer gives me more time (less teaching work outside the home). Last week I wrote my first personal song in three years. I also posted on here a little Ode to my marriage. I may be slow, but I've still got things to say. And lots of tea to drink.




Friday, June 9, 2017

Twenty-One Years of Health: A Love Story

Sipping my tea this morning, I reflect...

A successful marriage takes three things: shared values, luck, and fucking hard work. This week my husband and I celebrate twenty-one years of marriage. We met in college when I was eighteen and he was twenty. We were the weird ones on campus that didn’t try to destroy our bodies on a regular basis, instead, we found in each other someone else who cared about health, the environment, and trying to figure out how to live a good life.

 Within a short time we became parents, got married, and moved into our own place. It was an abrupt dive into adulthood, but we were committed to each other, our babies, and the kind of life we had talked about in theory, but could now put into action. We stood firm together in the midst of loving-but-critical family in our decisions for attachment parenting, extended breastfeeding, cloth diapers, family bed, homeschooling, non-toxic cleaners, and not giving our kids crap to eat. We had a limited budget, but tried to eat organic as much as possible, learning how to cook all our meals at home. I was diagnosed with celiac, and we all went gluten-free at a time when no one knew what that meant.

 We came from very different backgrounds: he grew up in a farming family in an upstate town with one stoplight. I grew up in Long Island, traveled around the world as a child, and went to a private high school. We each brought heavy baggage and loving gifts to our partnership. I dropped out of college to take care of our children. He worked his ass off to get a PhD so we could give our kids a future. We confused each other, we supported each other; we stubbornly refused to give up on the other.

 I can’t say much about the luck part: we met young and happened to grow up in a compatible way; the hard work is a given for any long-term venture, but the shared values are easier to define. When we met, healthy living was an interest, after having children it became a priority. There is a continual conversation on whole care of our bodies, minds, and spirits. My partner and I want to grow old together, not just survive, but thrive. Our children are now adults, but remain the primary orbit in our universe. Their increasing independence gives us both a chance to gaze out past the familiar horizon and seek out new adventures. The challenge is to keep holding hands along the way.

 This may be too sustainably-harvested roses for you, but hey, I’m telling a love story.

Here's us volunteering at a local community garden to bring food to "food deserts" in our city.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Rooibos Almond Crisp (Short and Stout)

Well, the third Albany Tea Festival this past Friday was a hopping place! I represented the Honest Weight Food Co-op sampling their cheeses for festival-goers and chatting about what cheeses paired best with teas. Then at 8pm, my troupe of voice actors put on my original audio play. The sound effects were groovy, and I was happy with everyone's performance. Thanks family troupe! Here is a link to the script: A TeaPunk His'try Rise untethered Move with intention Be grand