I’ve been doing a photo challenge for which this week’s subject was Freedom. I am loathe to admit that one of the first things that crossed my mind was a cemetery. It has been a dark week (oddly, too, because I live a pretty charmed life, but I suppose depression is like that) and I wasn’t feeling very free. Fortunately, rather than tumble down into a really black place, I was able to examine that thought with some curiousity, consider how I felt about it, and go searching for other answers. I far prefer this one; a path with life and colour on all sides taking a turn toward more adventures. And some gratitude that I had the freedom to work it through.
I’m not really sure yet just what being mindful means but I caught a glimpse of something tonight that I though was worth writing about. Two weeks tomorrow I go to have a basal-cell carcinoma removed from my forehead. I’m a bit worried about it – a little about how bad it might be, a little about how bad the scaring will be, a little about the days immediately following. It is a busy time. Four days after the surgery, I have a gig with my band and another three days later. A couple weeks after that I’m going on a week-long trip to visit family, then come back to four “pit band” performances for a local high school musical, and then a week later another performance with a local choir. And work, and practices for all those things in between. That’s feeling like a lot. It occurred to me in an unfocused moment during band practice tonight just how much I love singing and playing with my friends and just how good it feels. And I realized that if the hole is bigger or deeper than I hoped, if the stitching or prognosis is worse, if there’s bruising and I’m covered in bandages on stage, being mindful of the goodness of this gift I’ve been given is what will sustain me and give me the energy to do my best. Maybe I should incorporate some mindfulness practice into my music practice.
I woke up this morning not having had enough sleep but I was feeling pretty balanced and had a clear idea of where I was going for the day. By noon, it was clear that the coding I had been planning to do was not as easy as I’d hoped and I’d have to put some stuff off. By two in the afternoon I had a customer with a crash and another with a serious bug and two support guys looking for help from me. I didn’t get in the yoga break I’ve been trying to take every day. And then the insurance company phoned to let me know they’d put off my application until after my surgery for the carcinoma to see what the prognosis would be. If I hadn’t already been feeling overwhelmed that might not have bothered me, because it isn’t so surprising. My balance, however, was gone, and I crashed emotionally. While it is easy to forget, at times, to keep moving forward, I got it today. I managed to finish the code, repair the data, and fix the bug. I put the work away and got in a really good guitar practice and spent thirty minutes on the exercise bike. I reviewed my To Do list and have a clear idea of where I’m going tomorrow. Balance restored.
I don’t know what it is about my physiology but under certain conditions of stress I ache all over. Like dozens of hot little needles deep in my muscles. I’m actually kind of fascinated by how quickly it comes on. Within a minute or so of a trigger, I can feel it run through me. I’ve been pushing through, figuring if I got the job done or dealt with the issue, it would go away. I doubt I’m very effective or efficient when it is at its worst so I’m feeling the need to reinterpret my response. To step away, but not run away, from the problem at hand, and take a bit of time to calm down and find some peace. Interestingly enough, I’m feeling a little bit of gratitude for the fact that I have my very own built in alarm system. Now I just need to pay attention to it.
Finding the time to unwind is a puzzle, between demanding work hours and a long list of interests. One of my things-to-do today was to get a picture describing “warmth” for the Dogwood Photo Challenge. The result is on this post. The enticing hot bath never got used; I went on to do other things that were on my list. I got in a workout and practiced some music and watched a bit of television. The music is part of a busy spring of music. In fact, only four days after I am scheduled for a carcinoma removal, my band is playing two gigs in three days. I’ll need some energy to heal and do well at those gigs. And here’s my first opportunity for learning in that adventure; I need to be more aware of my ability to step back from all the busy-ness, to put my work down from time-to-time, get good sleep, unwind, and be mindful.
I turned 56 last spring. Shortly afterwards I received a diagnosis of arthritis in my toes – no wonder I sometimes have trouble walking. So I’ve learned to be more careful with footwear and paying attention to the warning signs. But I kept hiking and walking and moving. In late November I found out I was pre-diabetic (if that is a thing). I immediately made drastic reduction in sugar and a less drastic one in starch and started getting more exercise. I ate almost no Christmas treats except the Christmas pudding with hard sauce. I haven’t had a cookie or piece of cake or brownie since then. I had another test later in December and the sugar was totally normal and, interestingly enough, the arthritis has not once flared up. Today I had it confirmed that I have a basal-cell carcinoma. A somewhat rarer infiltrative kind which carries more risk. While I was tempted to title this post “F*** Off, 56”, I decided to approach this with curiosity and wonder what new lessons I’ll learn this year.
I’m not entirely sure what to feel right now. I received an appointment letter in the mail today for surgery, but never received the actual diagnoses from the biopsy I had in the fall. I’m hoping that means basal-cell carcinoma. Being totally honest, I’d hope for something non-cancerish but that’s not likely. But I hope it isn’t something worse! I’m a little afraid of the scaring – which is mostly vanity because I have a couple of gigs around the time of the surgery. I’m a little embarrassed that, apparently, I haven’t been wearing enough sunscreen. I’m a little scared now because, what if I’ve left it too long or what if it is something worse? And I know that if I wasn’t so darn tired from working too hard an not getting enough sleep my emotional space would be better. But I’m feeling gratitude for a socialized medical system. Tomorrow I’ll phone the surgeon for some clarity, see if I can work around the gigs okay, and start finding some positive vibes.
I don’t know why but this evening I’m entirely too sensitive to criticism. Maybe it is because today is Blue Monday. Maybe because I’ve been working at 110% for too long. Maybe I’m just tired. I make two little mistakes, out of a day of mostly successes, and I feel like my brain is spinning out of control. What I’d like to do is find a bit of curiosity. Why did I make the mistakes? Was I not focused, living in the moment, and mindful of what I was doing? Were they really a big deal? Did I take the constructive criticism too harshly (probably) and why did I do that? Where was the critic emotionally and mentally? And was I the critic more than anyone else (most definitely)? And now, having expressed the curiosity, isn’t it interesting how I already feel a bit lighter?
I started getting up earlier and getting to work earlier so that I would take breaks during the day and try to get some exercise and fresh air and perspective. Instead, I seem to have also tacked an extra hour on the end of every day and am not taking regular breaks. There is still way too much work to do and now I’m working eleven hour days. Time to re-assess that idea.
I did a study like this last summer but decided to revisit it. I sometimes feel overwhelmed with the number of things I want to do. Music, reading, photography, exercise, blogging, geocaching, parenting, work, and so many other things. I could have put a lot more in to this picture. In fact, I started out with a lot more and thought it was too complicated and cluttered, kind of like my real life. I like the relative simplicity of this shot and maybe it really represents some of the simplicity I long for; although that pile of books looks a little chaotic.
I recently found out about the Dogwood 52 Week Photography Challenge and figured this would be a great forum to put the pictures and try to wrap some blogging around them. #dogwood2019 #dogwoodweek1