Sunday, April 26, 2015

Finally Friday Week 12: Seeing the Silver Lining

My husband Yoon at the summit of Haleakala, Maui
"I'm choosing to see the silver lining. Every single moment and life event we are faced with has one, even if it doesn't seem like it."—Katherine Jenkins
 Lately, after a long period of smooth sailing, some storms and waves have been on the horizon. They have not only affected me, but those around me as well.

I wonder how and why these things come and how they have become so predominant lately. In the midst of a crisis or bad news, it's hard to see the silver lining, but what I've discovered is that life goes on.

Today, on a walk through the beautiful woods near our house, I asked my husband what he thought about the recent string of events—an earthquake, a fire in a friend's home, my own ruptured right eardrum. These things happened fast and out of the blue. One day I was walking along with a friend and the next day I could not hear. It seemed like things were exploding all around, in one way or another.

"It's nothing personal," my husband said, "Things come and go, are born and die, it has nothing to do with anyone or anything. Just the world balancing itself out."

We walked along for a while in silence. The new green leaves on the trees were so vibrant. The leafy branches seemed to almost reach out and touch us. They were pulsing with new life. Birds fluttered around us. Life was happening all around, but right below the vibrant green, swept close to the roots of these new shoots, were brown leaves from last year. They were barely noticeable and blended into the background.

I felt my own life pulse through my veins. I felt my feet in my shoes and the sun on my face. I felt my legs move on their own—strong and steady. I also felt the static of my right ear that weeks before could hear distinct birdcalls from distant paths in the forest. If I strained a bit, I could still hear those sounds. They were not so distinct, but they were there.

"Not all is lost," I told myself, "Look at all this beauty!" And in that moment I feel gratitude for all that I could see. My husband reached out to massage my neck. The warmth of his hands on my skin made me also feel gratitude for having him in my life.

Our lives may not be perfect, but this moment is just fine as it is. "This moment, this moment, this moment," became my mantra as I walked through the forest.

Recent events have caused me to stop, slow down and witness life. I feel humbled by all that is around me. Things I see everyday have become miraculous. I often wonder if life explodes or shakes or erupts to get us to sit up and notice its still there—to make us realize how amazing it is.

I've been blessed with silver linings these days. How lucky I am to get to experience this life.

Do you often see the silver lining in unfortunate situations or events?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Finally Friday Week 11: My Sixth Sense

"You lose one sense and others become stronger."—Katherine Jenkins 

I believe this to be a fact because I have witnessed it. Due to a ruptured right eardrum, I've lost some hearing in my right ear and may eventually need surgery because the hole is apparently too large to heal on its own. I'm living with a static sound in my right ear and loss of hearing. I try not to focus on it. I try to just go about my day.

People who see me can't really notice a difference. They speak to me just the same and I respond, but I am straining to hear them sometimes and even staining to get a sense of the outer volume of my own  voice, which is magnified inside my head. They don't notice this and can't see or feel the difference, but I feel it. It's with me every moment and I'm slowly learning to accept it.

It's caused me to go inward. It feels, actually, like all my senses want me to go inward a bit more. I prefer silence to crowds and a walk in nature to a walk in a busy park. Loud pitched noises, like kids screaming and low rumbles, like a truck roaring by, completely throw me off. Forget shopping malls—the sounds echo all over in my head and I need to get out. Oddly, movie theaters are okay—anywhere where the sound is somewhat contained is okay.

Writing in my office is peaceful. Writing anywhere puts me at ease. I am sitting here in my office at 5:30pm on Saturday. The late afternoon sun is casting a bright light on all the tulips and bluebells in my yard. That is what I see from my office window.

I can also hear the hissing sound in my right ear. It's like a blank spot or static on a TV. I'd like to adjust the station and make it clear again. I have faith that I will regain full sound in that ear and when that happens this white noise will disappear. I have a hunch that this will happen.

Other senses have recently become heightened. My sense of smell is very keen. I have always had a very strong intuition and even teach intuitive writing classes, but losing my hearing has caused this sense—I call it my sixth sense—to become very strong. I move slower now. I hear the birds outside right now with my left ear, and my right ear is straining to hear the sound as well. I can feel my left ear making up for what my right ear can no longer do. It's as if my brain is recalibrating everything. It's as if I am becoming a new human.

Here's what the dictionary says about sixth sense:

Sixth Sense
n. noun
1. A power of perception seemingly independent of the five senses; keen intuition.

When we lose a sense that connects us to the outside world, or a sense becomes somewhat compromised, others kick in and help out.

 All of our five senses—sight, sound, taste, touch and smell—come from the outside world and filter through our physical body, but intuition operates on its own, independent of the outside world. It's that gut feeling or hunch we have about something. It sometimes causes you to do things that you can't explain or that may not make sense at the time. It doesn't "make sense" because you are not using your senses to arrive at your answer. You are using something very different.

Some of the most important decisions I've made in my life have been on gut feelings or hunches I've had. The "gut feeling" or even "heart feeling" I had about my husband defied any form of rationale. He was a monk at the time in South Korea. This did not "make sense," but my intuition told me it was right and I followed it. In fact, I'm still following my intuition and it's never, ever lead me astray. The only time I've been lead astray is when I do something that doesn't feel right or when I'm pushing for something to happen or change and it's not the time for things to happen or change. 

Humans are very impatient. We want answers now. When we push for things and push for our ideas, we lose access to our intuition. Intuition is effortless. It happens in the now. It does not push or seek or strive, it just is. So much of what we are searching for in our lives is right in front of us. It's in every single moment we encounter in every situation we are faced with, whether that situation is what we call good or bad. 

And boy, do we want the good...all the time. We are pleasure seekers by nature and constantly seek it out. We want to have a five-star day everyday. We dream of a sunny day in paradise on a beach with a palm tree and a fruity drink with an umbrella in our hand. We can almost see, taste, touch, hear and smell that day. We try and make it happen exactly as we imagine it and then it rains or a flight is delayed or we lose our camera or our wedding ring while swimming and then we are disappointed because things didn't go "as planned," but even those experiences have something rich to offer us. When we let go of wanting, we allow the world to come dance with us. It's not only about me now, it's about the interplay of everyone and everything.

We've forgotten an important element to this entire puzzle. We've forgotten that we are not in control of what happens. While we can go out and plan and push and strive and scheme for all of our dreams, there may be something else in our cards AND we may not like the cards we are dealt and immediately request another hand. We may say, "Wait, I don't really like these cards, can I get another hand."

But the cards right in front of you are the only ones you've got and they hold the key to all the mysteries of this amazing life. My sixth sense tells me that those cards are right on and they aren't necessarily cards I would have chosen for myself if it were all up to me. And, oddly, that is the greatest blessing. It isn't all up to me. There are millions of factors, and people and events and timing and the aligning of the stars and planets and maybe even past lives that go into where I am right here and now—maybe God had a hand in it or my karma or even the Universe. Who knows? And that is the mystery of this life and the reason why things don't need to make sense all the time. So when my sixth sense comes calling, I sit upright and listen, take notes and follow it.

When I lost my hearing, a friend immediately texted me and said, "Your sixth sense is strong and will make up for any loss of sense." She also recently wrote to me, "And you also see the silver lining." 

Yes, I think this is true.

Is your sixth sense strong? Do you usually see the silver lining in situations?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Finally Friday Week 10: A Room of One's Own

My writing room before it got simplified.
"Our house is not a fancy place, but it holds our hearts and so many memories."—Katherine Jenkins

Well, I'm here finally....on Sunday! Time certainly flew this weekend. Last week I missed a whole week of classes at the college where I teach due to a very bad ear infection and perforated ear. I'm still getting over that and can't hear completely in my right ear. I guess these things take awhile to get over, but I'm certain I will get over it completely.

It's very strange not to hear out of an ear. Since one ear is blocked to the outside world, it's forced me to go inward a bit. I've started meditating more and cleaned up my office and made it into a little sanctuary of peace.

I used to not like coming in my office. It was stacked with books, papers, bags, clothes, etc. I did my work at the dining room table. Now that it's clean in here, I'm finding it a nice place to rest, write, work, meditate, etc.

It's a fresh clean slate in here. Anything could happen. The stale energy is gone and I feel a sense of ease. I'm reminded that much of my very first book was created in this room. I want to bring that creative energy back.

I like the room to be simple, not cluttered—just a desk in the corner, a chair, a rug, lamp, a computer. What more does one need. I work much better in clean, clear spaces. I feel the mind does not get stuck.

It's a bit like traveling the wide open road. So many places to go. A room for writing and meditating should be like that.

From my window, I can see our backyard which is in desperate need to be mowed, but my husband's allergies have prevented him from doing so. Behind the overgrown patch of grass, red tulips, clusters of blue bells and a sprinkle of dandelion's create their own bouquet in the yard. It's a wild bouquet—one that has not been tamed by a gardener's hand. I see the apple blossoms blooming on the tree and ivy is running up the trunks of the old oaks. The Japanese maple has got fresh green leaves. If I squint my eyes, it's a beautiful scene. Everything blooming and growing wild and mad. However, when I un-squint them, I see there's a lot of work that could be done.

The window in my office brings in so much light. I recall many days, between writing chapters of my book, when I'd get stuck on a section, just drinking my tea and staring out that window waiting for that spark of genius to take over—the moment when I became un-stuck.

Yoon and I have been here in this little house since February 2006—a little over 9 years. That's astonishing! Before we lived here we were constantly on the go and moving around. Before we landed here, I'd never lived any place for more than two years after I left home. But this house in Seattle has been quite convenient. It's close to everything and it's just big enough for the two of us. We still travel quite a bit, but this house has become our base—sort of by default, but it has served us well.

I have been getting the itch to change—to pack everything up and head out on the wide-open road. I'd like to live in other places. I'd like to have that feeling again where I'm not tied to any place. Time is passing and I'm still here. Here in this little house.

Yet, this house hasn't held me back in the least. I've been able to travel all over the world and always come back to its welcoming, yet wild, garden, warm my body near the fireplace, rest with a good book on the sofa, watch all the different flowers come to bloom like our pink camellia tree, the cherry blossom Yoon planted five years ago,  and the Japanese maples that greet us at our fence door along with the purple clematis. Oh, and the irises and tulips, daffodils and sweet roses!

It's not a fancy place, but one that holds our hearts and so many memories.

Do you have a room of your own? How long have you been in your house?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Finally Friday Week 9: The Good Side of Pain

Humans are all like tiny cells in a body. When one part is diseased, a whole network of good cells reach out to help. Eventually the body either dies with all the good love around it, or it is healed and restored to balance.—Katherine Jenkins

Pain. How do you feel when you see that word? I decided to look it up in the dictionary and I found this:

1. Punishment
2. Usually localized physical suffering associated with bodily disorder
3. Acute emotional distress or suffering: grief

And its origin is Middle English, from Anglo-French peine, from Latin poena, from Greek poine, all meaning payment or penalty. In Sanskrit its cayate he meaning revenges.

Does that mean we all have to pay our dues in this world?

I have no idea. But I paid mine over Easter weekend. Actually, it all started last Wednesday. I got a very bad earache. On Thursday the pain was so severe, that I went to a walk-in clinic with my husband. They gave me antibiotics and drops, but they did not help and the pain kept escalating. By Saturday, I was experiencing the most intense pain I have ever felt in my life. That is not an exaggeration. I have never experienced giving physical birth, but one woman who went through acute ear pain explained that having a serious ear infection/ruptured eardrum was worse than the pain she felt giving birth to her three children.

On Saturday, my husband took me to ER. The doctor said I had damaged and possibly ruptured my right eardrum, but there was something else going on. I'd have to wait until Monday to see an Ear, Nose, Throat doctor.

What? Monday? Monday?

He gave me Percocet, anti-nausea medication and told me not to use the antibiotics I was on, but to replace it with antibiotic drops.

First of all, I don't like pain meds, so I tried to endure without them until I felt so much pain that I was shaking...yes, shaking all over. I did not sleep, I did not eat, I just sat there and felt the pain. I actually went into the pain eventually and started to observe it. I observed the shaking, I observed throbbing, I observed knives stabbing into my ear very deeply. I breathed through my nose and every now and then a pause would come...a place beyond the pain, even though it was still there. I was in it...going through it...feeling it, as agonizing as it was. I was feeling it.

I could do nothing. It was a beautiful weekend—one that was meant to be spent with family and friends. I felt I was in a time warp.

Finally, after utter exhaustion and not feeling sure I could survive another night, I took the pain meds and at least got some rest, as groggy and strange as that rest was.

On Monday, I begged the Ear, Nose, Throat doctor to see me. The receptionist said, "Sorry, no appointments are available until Tuesday evening." This is where I started to beg. I begged her. I said, "Oh please, can you just squeeze me in for 10 minutes on Monday morning. I was just in ER and referred here." She said, "Just a moment." She came back to the phone and said, "Okay, come at 11:30AM, the doctor will see you then."

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!

The doctor was a calm Indian man. He knew what he was doing. He looked in my ear and said. "Oh, you've been on the wrong meds. You have Otomycosis (fungal infection inside the ear). You need different drops."

He then spent part of his lunch break suctioning out my ear. It was terrible, but it stopped the pain. I no longer have to take anything for pain. I wanted to kiss him. I still have a blocked right ear, tinnitus and a possible eardrum rupture, but no more serious pain.

What did I learn from this experience?

Well, we all want to have a good time. We want life to be pleasurable and fun, but pain will come to all of us and sometimes when least expected. I learned that I can get THROUGH pain and even experience its edges.

Pain makes us vulnerable and makes us feel what it means to actually be living. There's some power in that. It makes us feel gratitude for all the people in our lives and for all the experiences we have had. We realize that people want to reach out and help us. They want to use any way possible to alleviate the suffering. I believe it's because they have also felt pain and know what it is like.

There's something in all of us that is shared. Perhaps we are greater than this one small body. We are part of a bigger body of life and when one small part is suffering, an entire network of humans (and sometimes animals and other life forms) reach out to try and maintain the balance again.

Humans are all like tiny cells in a body. When one part is diseased, a whole network of good cells reach out to help. Eventually the body either dies with all the good love around it, or it is healed and restored to balance.

Perhaps, then, love is key. Love for ourselves and others. Maybe it's love that actually heals?

I am tremendously grateful for my husband. Wow, what an amazing, strong, balanced "little cell" to have right by my side. He surely helped in my recovery. I'm thankful to all the people who offered help, love, support, comfort. I grateful for the doctor who took his lunch break to help me. I'm grateful to my colleagues who scrambled together to find a sub for my classes this week and told me not to worry. All these "little cells" working together to maintain the balance of the larger body of life.

I'm still healing, but can finally move about. I will remember this time as a powerful experience and a reminder to be a "good cell."

Have you ever experienced tremendous pain? What did you learn from it?