Friday, January 25, 2013

Rediscovering the power in a good book

The last time I spent hours and hours reading was when we rented a house on the Oregon coast in the fall of 2011 and it rained for three days. I started Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series that week and read my way through at least two of the 1000+ word tomes (on Kindle so I didn't boink myself when I fell asleep at night!) during that lovely time away.

Since I'm in full rest and recovery mode, meaning that I need to spend time with my leg elevated, and am fair-to-middling useless when it comes to doing regular chores or running around these days, I have been reading. Yeah, messing around on Facebook and reading blogs and email and so on, but reading honest-to-god books, some of which I found on the free or under $3.99 Kindle list, some of which have been kicking around my nightstand for months.

 I polished off Three Moons Over Sedona by Sherry Hartzler, one I'd gotten as a kindle freebie quite some time ago, in just a day or two, not reading constantly. It was entertaining enough to keep my interest, although fairly predictable and sometimes a little disconnected, but I liked reading about the area and the (again, fairly predictable) growth of the main character .It is not unlike something I have thought about writing, actually....

I've already mentioned Anne Lamott's Help. Thanks. Wow. which was NOT a freebie and indeed is MORE than the hardcover version. It was inspirational and touching and amazing, as I always find her writing.

I'm reading now The Blue Tail by Kim Antieau, in the soft cover version. It was a birthday gift from my lovely and literate friend Melissa, to whom I gave Antieau's Church of the Old Mermaids a few years ago and created a fan of Antieau's work and the mermaids. Antieau lives in Oregon and I've read her blog for several years.

But I've really been wrapped up in two books from the All Souls Trilogy by historian Deborah Harkness, starting with A Discovery of Witches (which was a deal of the day on Kindle several months ago), and then I just HAD to buy the second book, Shadow of Night. She's still writing the third book, blast-and-damn, but I'll snatch it as soon as it's published this year (just like I'm waiting for the eighth in the Outlander series, also to be published this year).

The trilogy is about a witch and a vampire who fall in love.

It is nothing.~~ NOTHING.~~ like Twilight or True Blood, neither of which I've read, but have only seen the movies and the TV series. (I heard such criticism of the Twilight books that I just haven't been interested, and I've found the movies fairly insipid; the Sookie Stackhouse books upon which True Blood is based may be better, but again -- not really interested.)

These two are scholars, educated and interesting, who have these, uh, big character differences. The books are chock-full of historical references (indeed, the second book contains a glossary of sorts that tells you which characters are historical) and detailed descriptions of places, including the Bodleian Library at Oxford University as well as Elizabethan England and Prague and France (in 1590). As a fan and long-time reader of historical fiction, at least some of it, I loved all the description and history.

The world that Harkness creates for her lovers begins in present day and goes back to the 16th century -- yes, there is time travel involved, which I also enjoy. There are four kinds of creatures inhabiting the world: humans, vampires, witches, and daemons, and the author vividly brings them to life with their character differences and flaws and misconceptions.

I had to pull myself out of the books, reluctantly closing my Kindle cover, to come to dinner. The device rode with me on my knee roller and even on my trips to the bathroom, I would pull it out of the little basket and read another few pages. And yet, I forcced myself to leave it alone to watch some television or to do some emails or to read a bit in a magazine or newspaper, simply because I didn't want it to be done, to have to read the last page, especially knowing that the third book isn't out yet! I wanted to savor the story longer, prolong the anticipation of finding out what happens next.

That's a good book, in my humble opinion, when you don't want it to end. (And that's one thing I adored about the Outlander books: there were SEVEN of them to read all in a row, long, long books full of places and history and adventure and great characters, which took me months to do...and then I dragged my feet through the last one, knowing it would be the better part of a year before the eighth book is out!)

So I'm onto the next -- right now The Blue Tail -- but followed soon by The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley (another Kindle bargain!) who has several other books. I've read good things about her writing and am looking forward to another good read.

I am loving all this reading, I'll be honest. While I always have a book or two and a magazine or three waiting for me, I haven't taken time to read during the day for a long time, saving it for bedtime (when I always read). These days I'm whipping through magazines almost as soon as they hit the mailbox, two newspapers, and also books. I will not give this up when I'm again two-legged and mobile -- another lesson I'm learning. I need to read. I have always been a reader. It's time now to indulge that more often and for a longer time.

Kindle owners -- or Kindle app readers -- see Kindle Deal of the Day.
See 100 Kindle books for under $3.99 here
There is also a Kindle blog.
Kindle apps for your iPad, your laptop or martphones are free. More info here.

Disclaimer: Don't get me wrong. I love paper and ink books and own many, but I love the Kindle and being able to take huge books with me in a tiny format, and also being able to read pretty much anything I want to read RIGHT NOW. Many of my paper books are going to be donated to our local Friends of the Library over the course of this year as I continue my quest to downsize and eliminate things I won't re-read or don't need or don't cherish.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Connecting to spirit

The energy work I've done/am doing in preparation and as post-operative treatment for my surgery is very spiritual for me, connecting to a Universal energy that thrums deep in the earth as well as in me.

The mountains that we see from our house remind me daily how powerful and all-encompassing that energy is. The trees, the birds, the red dirt, the greening of the meadows -- all these emphasize how energy is within us and all around us, and that it never, ever dies.

“Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.”Albert Einstein

Tony and I have had many recent conversations about energy and how it works within us. We ARE energy. What is within us does not die when our body does, so where does it go? What does it become? I have always liked Emerson's 'Oversoul' essay which I read as a high school senior, and it still explains best for me what happens to our soul, our personal energy, when the body is no longer needed. For me, it explains the inter-connectedness of everything living. Perhaps it is simplistic, but it works for me, and I can feel the connection with those I love now as well as those whose bodies are no longer on this earth. 

I am learning to take in energy, to receive it from the earth and from crystals, and from the Universe, and to make it move within my body and limbs. 

And yes, I know how 'woo-woo' that sounds, and that others will have other explanations for it, something that fits within what they perceive as logical and reasonable and practical. 

Thankyouverymuch. *smile*

But for me it works, just what I'm doing and what I'm learning from my beautiful, practical, amazing teacher Jessie.

A Buddhist proverb says that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. While I have known Jessie for several years, and indeed have experienced her healing skills, this time I knew that I needed her, that the only way I was going to get through the fear and anxiety that was threatening to take over my entire life was through her help. She agreed immediately to be that healing help for me.

In the process of practicing the energy work and going within, I also have been doing a lot of reading, and just completed Anne Lamott's new little book Help.Thanks.Wow: The Three Essential Prayers .I've loved her conversational approach to spirituality for a long time and have several of her books on my bookshelf already. This one really speaks to where I am now and what I need, how I talk to the Universe/God(dess), and I savored each section. I'll re-read as necessary...

I haven't called myself 'religious' for a very long time, but have always known that there is a deep spiritual desire and connection within me. There are things I miss about the churches I grew up in and attended as an adult: the communal worship, a lot of the music (which transcends any religion and goes straight to God/Universe), and some of the church activities I was active in -- choir, suppers, events, etc. SOME of them. Not all. I do not miss the politics of a big church, nor the judgmental attitudes, nor the guilt that sometimes comes with participation and attendance. I would be interested in a community of like-minded people who are not necessarily tied to one particular denomination or even belief system, but who believe in right action, right speech, kindness, gratitude; who accept energy work and reiki and angels as a part of the work we are all here to do, here to find and to share.  

I am so grateful to the people who have helped me come this far, and I embrace this journey here and now. I am beginning to be aware that this surgery on my foot was necessary, not just to fix my ability to walk, but for my ability to BE and to learn and to grow spiritually. Deep gratitude for you, my teachers, my friends and mentors. ~Blessings~

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I'm still here

....and a little embarrassed by my lack of attention to this blog, after going on three months without so much as a "Hi there."

I can't really explain it, either. Certainly life has gone on and things have happened, good and not so good.  I think I went somewhere for a while, far away from creative thought or sharing mode, and it was not especially good.

But I'm here now.  And in a completely different mode. Let me tell you more...

Living on one foot 

After a misstep last spring and nearly six months using an ankle support, I finally was able to see an orthopedist about the pain I had when I walked much at all, even with the orthotics I've used for five years and in my 'comfort' shoes. Crippling pain, folks, hobbling along with a cane on some days, my left leg feeling wooden from the knee down.

Turns out I have severe arthritis in the joints there, compounded by a severely flat foot, fixable through surgery called a triple arthrodesis. So we began to plan, with surgery finally scheduled for Dec. 27.

I will say that we were prepared: the first time I've ever had the luxury of actually anticipating the surgery and recovery period. I read health message boards, researched the procedure, figured out what medical supplies would help, and began freezing soups and stews and casseroles. Friends lent me a bedside commode, a transport wheelchair, a shower chair. We got toilet rails and in lieu of crutches, a knee roller. I practiced using just one foot to get into the shower (not doable, but it works in the big tub), to get off the toilet. 

Although this was 'elective' surgery, the alternative is literally crippling, and I'm just not ready or willing to go there. So in my mind, there wasn't an option. Even though I wanted to go through with it, I found myself gradually getting more anxious, more afraid -- and that mindset likely had a great deal to do with my not blogging

Finally I reached out to a local healer friend who works with energy and reiki and asked for help -- and it made a HUGE difference almost immediately. On her advice and with her help, I turned my focus inward, concentrating almost wholly on me -- something I have almost never done for very long, and always still trying to juggle the other commitments and relationships I have had. This time I found other, easier ways to handle existing commitments and completely backed out of others, and came home to my honey, my cats, and myself. And focused on increasing energy, positive energy, in myself and in that wooden leg.

It worked, really well. And going into surgery, I felt positive about my recovery, positive about the surgery, and actually was walking better than I had in a long time. I could feel the leg again. It was connected to my body, and I felt whole. The morning of the surgery, I was ready, I was calm, I was positive.

I confess to an unreasonable fear of general anesthesia, which I always have come out of (and have never been told that I had difficulty with) gasping and groggy and grateful that I am still alive. Although I'd hoped to do a spinal block along with a local nerve block and thus remain more or less awake, it turned out that one medication I'd taken the morning of the surgery negated that option for safety concerns, and under I went, after only a little meltdown, and indeed, I came out groggy and gasping. But within a few hours, I was coherent and without pain and so, so grateful.

That's where I am now. 

I am two weeks post-op and spending much of my time in Tony's recliner with my foot propped above my heart. There has been only minimal swelling, almost no pain**, and I am not stir-crazy. Indeed, that inward focus continues, and I'm contemplating spirit and prayer and quiet and purpose and just learning to BE instead of DO. I'm leaving other people's business and conflicts to them rather than offering opinions (unsolicited) or help (which I am in no position to give). For now, that is what my work is supposed to be.

**The nerve block did not wear off for 30+ hours, and when it did, it hurt. I spent one night in the hospital taking pain meds and using the nifty pain pump, but was so nauseated that I regretted all of the meds. Since then I have taken the strong stuff sparingly (it has such nasty side effects) and have used just the occasional Tylenol to ease discomfort. But what I had been told was a hugely painful surgery (involving screws and cutting into bone) has turned out for me to be nothing more than a few aches and twinges (nerve regeneration causes some leg jumping and zingers, but it's not so much painful as it is frustratingly random). 

Grateful. Beyond. Measure.

Time for the recliner now. 

"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us." Albert Schweitzer