Doing My Work

I have been MIA on the blogosphere, but as Iyanla says, “I’ve been doing my work.”

I have been working hard to get physically stronger. I’ve been attending cardiac physical therapy sessions for a few months now, in an effort to build strength and endurance. When you have already have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, it becomes more difficult to maintain stamina.

Now, add to that mix, a heart attack. The exhaustion is almost unbearable some days. My therapy sessions are still going on because some days I couldn’t get it together to attend. My therapists tell me I am making progress. Slow and steady wins the race. I will win!

I’m learning how to pace myself, so the fatigue doesn’t knock me out for days at a time.  It’s not an easy task.

I am improving on the plant based diet I had already begun. Let me tell you, reducing cheese is HARD  for me to do. I’ve been told the serving size should be the length of a fingertip. Ugggh! Really??

My recommended diet is eating more fruits and vegetables, beans, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fish and lean meats. I drink tons of water. Eliminating or having less salt, sugar and processed food was something I had already started doing. Over time, it’s getting easier.  I’ve lost a few pounds and really hoping to shed more.

I’ve cut my locs which I’m still getting used to.

I loved my locs but were not as healthy as they should have been.  I’m giving my hair plenty of TLC to get it in great shape. My  5 year old locs and I went through alot together.

I suffered severe pain and stress and lost my job. I went on disability and faced financial difficulties. I coped with anger about all the aforementioned. I sought out a therapist to deal with depression (I’m great now, no more depression or medication but I still see the therapist, Everyone could use a neutral party to talk to.)

Then I had a heart attack and had to ingest lots of medications with side effects. The energy around me needed to be different. I will re grow them healthier and stronger than before.

I’m working on getting out more. My cousin and I have had lunch a few times and it’s been good. It’s nice to have conversations and laughter with people in my age group. I have family that call me all the time to check on me , give support and update me on their lives. It means so much.  I hope to see friends who have stood by me, checked on me regularly ,very soon. They think about me as a person, not a “sick person”.

I am working on not letting the radical changes in our country send me into a tail spin. The disregard for others is hard to comprehend as is the stupidity. I’m a news junkie but I now limit myself to just a few hours a week of television news.  I get ticked off and that’s no good.

I read The NY Times and Washington Post online. It’s real news. I can discern fake news. and alternative facts. I am a Librarian, Fact Detective.

I’m still cant comprehend Prince is gone and it’s been a year.  We still have the music to soothe our broken hearts. purpleprince

I’m catching up on television watching Timeless, a historical time travel show on NBC. I’m  hoping it’s renewed for season 2. Please watch it OnDemand, it’s so good! William Shatner and the Smithsonian Museum love it too.

I’ve also been watching Underground, Greenleaf and Feud. I like old Hollywood movies so watching Feud, a story about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as they  filmed, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. It was a guilty pleasure.  On Netflix, I binge watched The Get Down and missed it when it was over. Season 2 please?

I’ve been working on my life.

I’ve been on a quest for happiness and positive change for quite a while.

13 years ago today, with just some of my family members and a family friend present, I began my Buddhist practice by receiving my Gohonzon. A true renewal began in my life. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo has been a lifesaver.

I cannot begin to explain all the benefits I have received and the personal growth I have achieved since then. I am truly not the person I used to be. I fight for myself. It’s been my tool to be more courageous. I am more confident and outspoken. I don’t accept blame for everything. I do take personal responsibility for what I do.

It’s helped me lessen my own suffering and allows me to work towards building my individual happiness. I pray for the happiness of others as well as myself. I pray for the betterment of our world. I am able to look within and not outside of myself to become my best self. I see things, situations and people more clearly. 

When people are happy within, we are all on the road towards world peace.

I live with the never give up spirit of an SGI Nichiren Buddhist. My mentor is SGI’s third President Daisaku Ikeda who has spread this practice, with faith and courage to 12 million members in 192 countries and territories worldwide. He took faith at 19 and was told he would only live to the age of 30 due to tuberculosis. In 2018 he will be 90 years old. He encouraged the Japanese members here in the United States to widely spread our movement for peace and they surely did.

I continue to fight for victorious days, every day. No matter what assails me, I will win. My mentor is actual proof of the benefits of the practice. When I read his writings, I become encouraged, every time, no matter what he’s written.

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Nichiren writes ” When once we chant Myoho-Renge-Kyo, with just that single sound we summon forth and manifest the Buddha nature of all… living beings. This blessing is immeasurable and boundless” (Those Initially Aspiring to the Way, WND-1, 887)

 

I will keep doing my work, receive immeasurable blessings and happiness. I will encourage others to the best of my abilities. My work is not done. In fact it’s just beginning.

Grateful for Life

2016 has been out here like a beast taking the gifted, talented, courageous, unsuspecting and everyone in between. It almost got me too. 

I’m even more appreciative of this birthday, than I thought I would be. 

Earlier this month, after going to the hospital (I was not feeling well with a rapid heartbeat and some light chest pain, for a few days) I ignored it. (having chronic pain can make you ignore pain) My heart rate became so rapid, I knew I couldn’t ignore it anymore due to my family heart history. 

I had a test done in the hospital on the second day after my admittance. It seemed to go very well. I was rolled into the recovery room. 
 Moments later, I had a heart attack (a pain that can only be described as elephants sitting on my chest), requiring stents to be placed in an artery to keep it open. 

I felt myself dying, unable to breathe or swallow. Without the immediate interventions, my doctor said, had this occurred in the elevator going up to my room, The results would have been very different. 

We so often take our lives for granted thinking there is always the one chance for tomorrow. Sometimes we don’t get a tomorrow. I was protected by all the benelovent forces in the universe (shoten zenjin). I was in the right place at the exact, right moment. It was detected by my screams of pain and my vital signs. It was remedied immediately by the medical team. 

 The nurses took such good care of me assuring me that the 6 IV drips of medications (after surgery, I wasn’t allowed to move my leg or raise my head for 48 hrs) were giving me the chance to live) A big high five to nurses everywhere for their dedication to patients.

 If I been at home, I wouldn’t have been able to call 911 quickly enough to save myself.  
For the past year, I have prayed and chanted, so I could create value with and for my life. I started doing more service for others, including tutoring adults to read and write better. I’ve worked hard to the best of my ability within my local Buddhist district supporting and encouraging my fellow members.

 I see now, that through those efforts and chanting I’ve changed my karma. 

My mother died at 51 from a heart attack. I turn 51 today and survived a near fatal heart attack. I have a second chance at life. What will I do with this opportunity? I’m not sure right now what the future holds for me First, I’ll be healing my exhausted body and taking life saving medications daily. I will regain strength, endurance and stamina. 

I know my life’s mission has shifted. There’s something I’m here to do, that only I can do. I’m elated to still be here to find out what that something else is. I’m so very grateful for another year, another day, another moment. Later today I’ll be with a friend who has been here with me through thick and thin and has been the definition of a good friend through good and bad times. I will enjoy this very special day and raise the roof softly and gently. 🎈💃🏼 🎂🍾🎉❤️️🎁

What About Your Friends? (Social Media vs. Real Life)

I’ve been healing most of the summer.  I had a torn meniscus that had to be surgically remedied. I was walking down a flight of stairs and POP!  Pre-surgery, walking was painful so I couldn’t do much. Post surgery walking is painful, and I’m moving around slowly on a different cane.

I’m going to physical therapy, attending some Buddhist activities and that’s about all of my activity level. This is the first summer I can remember when I didn’t get a tan line or even need to use my summer makeup colors because I’m still my natural color. (If you know me, that’s a shade of semi-pale.) As a fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue sufferer, I’m sadly used to pain and discomfort. I really thought I would have been moving around faster and farther than I am but, I know that the pre-existing health conditions are slowing it down. Migraines were also kicking my ass, so I’ve been down, but got my Botox injections so I’m better. I few of my plans have been put on hold.

I haven’t really had any fun. Hell, I think I had this year’s fun, last year!  I’ve been reading books and talking to some friends on the phone. I’ve rested or slept. I’ve spent a lot of time on both Facebook and Instagram to pass some of the time.

I came in from physical therapy today and was watching “America’s Doctor” on The  Dr Oz Show. I had a chance to visit the set and be part of a taping late last year. He had a quiz that I’d suggest others take, it’s called the  Adult Loneliness Quiz. Even the panelists admitted that they answered 4 or 5 out of 5 questions as true. Social media has truly become an important part in many people’s lives.

This blog wouldn’t exist if social media wasn’t my first outlet of expression. Looking back at some of my past FB posts, about 4 years ago, I became more reflective based upon the things that were going on in my life at the time.

I had kept a lot of my frustrations and confusion about my illness to myself, since I didn’t know how people would react and treat me. I wasn’t happy with the way people at my workplace made me feel about it, so, I kept it to myself, most of the time.  My reflections blossomed into this blog where I’m more open but sometimes I question my openness.  I have this blog, yet I find I’m not keeping up with it, the way I had planned to. When I feel the urge to write or express something weighing on my mind and heart, I use this platform that I paid WordPress a year in advance for (I’m not one for wasting dollars). Some days, I just can’t put words and sentences together to make coherent observations. Yet, everyday without fail I’m on Facebook and Instagram. Right now, I’m using my computer and have a tablet and phone next to my bed. I’m plugged into the world.

There is something about reading about the lives, loves and adventures of my connections. I feel engaged, even though I’m far from friends and family. I have friends beginning with elementary school all the way to workplaces. I’ve met some great people in Facebook groups, who have become friends that I would have never met without social media. I get to see places and people, when I’m too sick or too exhausted to move from my bed.

Over the past year I’ve deliberately disengaged myself from some “friends”. They never comment, like or even say Hi to me. Why are we friends? There’s been no engagement in maybe a year or more. They haven’t said Happy Birthday in 2 or more birthdays. These are not my friends, but acquaintances that know too much about me.

I have core groups of Facebook friends that are engaged, make me laugh and vice versa, love music and food. They are interested in current events, celebrity gossip, fashion and this upcoming election. They watch tv shows with me, with full commentary and just remain a part of my life. Not long ago, I had a problem and these connections help me make a decision. Some of these people I have never met or haven’t seen for years. They are my rays of sunshine every day.

I have “friends” that have basically forgotten I exist since we no longer work together. We enjoyed each other’s company at one time, hanging out outside of work, even had some of them in my home, but now,they celebrate their life events and I learn about it on social media. One of the Dr. Oz Quiz questions about this particular subject led me to write today.

Man, Facebook can hurt your feelings. I’ve tried to stay engaged, invited them to celebrate their promotions, reached out in death, without much response. I really meant -Let’s plan brunch, lunch, dinner, a drink. They know their schedule more than I do. Most people who have chronic illnesses know, we have to do things when the body is able. I guess I cancelled too many times, I don’t know.  I’ve said,  Come to my house and catch up, come to a small birthday celebration another friend was having for me and it’s like I never said a word. I turned 50 and no one who I had spent most of my days with for years said, Let’s do something for your special milestone. But, I see them celebrating or having their milestones in gatherings with other people I know.  Was my invite lost in the black hole of cyberspace? Nope, I was not a blip on the radar.

It’s been three years of suggesting, and I’m not trying anymore. I’m okay with that. I’m making room for what and who is to come. I’ve decided that these relationships are not true friendships and I will stay disengaged. I will stay connected through social media platforms only. I can’t continue to maintain what I see as one-sided friendships. The one constant in life is change. I needed to admit to myself that this was no longer working for me.

True friends are there for you in good and especially needed during the not so good. Life has truly been challenging for me and they really haven’t been there. No one is so busy that they can’t quick text -Hello, How are you? I have limited mobility and no family nearby. They’ve never asked if I needed a ride or have groceries. I do self blame for a lot of things, but everything cannot always be my fault. Other friends have asked and when I need them, I can truly say they will be there in whatever capacity is needed. I appreciate them. One real friend took off of work to bring me home after my recent surgery and made sure someone was with me the next morning. That’s a true friend.

I am extremely disappointed though I will not allow people to change me. I’m not angry or crying about it. Illness and hard times affect all parts of life. I’m a giving person to a fault and will remain that way. I have some true friends who pray and worship  with me and they have been real lifesavers. They’ve never given up on me and I contribute that to the humanism of SGI’s Buddhism. We pray for the happiness of ourselves and others. We do not want to see others suffer. Helping people become their best self is what makes a more peaceful society.

Social media can be both friend and foe. As in real life, it is the people who make it fun, exciting and meaningful. I’m a huge social media user, but real engagement is definitely necessary, even for a self proclaimed loner like myself, sometimes.

2016 Determinations

Last year,as I anticipated turning  50, I did things I always wanted to do. On my birthday in December, I had a lovely dinner, saw the Lion King on Broadway,

and had a slice of Junior’s cake and I enjoyed every minute of it.

So, 50 is here and this year I am determined to become my very best self, to help others to the best of my abilities, to grow in faith, and do everything I can to get healthier and stronger. I’ve started out both promising and not that great on the latter.  This month, I started with a healthier eating lifestyle. I had tried earlier last year but couldn’t keep it up. Now, I’m drinking green smoothies everyday, staying detoxed, eating clean foods, using stevia,eating healthy snacks and not starving myself. My Nutribullet is working overtime.

I’m hoping these new habits will heal my whole body. My intention was to attempt exercise, even though I pay later in pain, doing it sitting down, just to get moving. But as is the case with a person with fibromyalgia, my body had other plans.

I’d been having foot pain for about a month and walking became very difficult. I finally went to the orthopedist and was found to have severe tendonitis.  I’ll be going to physical therapy. I’m taking anti-inflammatories, wearing an ankle brace and getting orthotics. Guess I wont be doing Zumba or Rockin Abs anytime soon. Healthy eating will continue; I’ve lost about 18 pounds and lots of inches, my clothes are fitting differently since the year began. So goal number one is underway.

I have an opportunity to use my professional skills in a different capacity, as a volunteer, a few days a week. I’m looking forward to receive training as an adult literacy tutor. My services will not put cash in my wallet, but I will be richly rewarded, helping people empower their own lives. I am praying to stay healthy once I’m trained and be an active participant on the days I need to be present. Fibro, please leave me alone, I’m trying to have a life here!  Goal number two, is in process.

Through my faith and determination, I’m hoping to introduce at least one person to the Soka Gakki International the lay Buddhist organization I am a part of. This past year we were recognized a world religion.

My desire is that this person will accept and take faith. I have a leadership position taking care of members. I want to help each woman find her mission and become her best self and then have those women tell more people about our self empowering practice. From the deepest part of my heart, I sincerely want to help someone else become happy, despite the rigors of life.

Some may say that I suffer from illness, so does your faith really work? I say the only reason I continue to persevere is my faith.  I have many health issues, I have a shaky financial situation every month, but I have to cover co-payments for doctor visits and transportation. I’m choosy about appointments and going places because its costly.

I  count my dollars, to the penny to purchase healthy foods and still pay bills on time.  All my fun last year came with a price tag, I’m trying to catch up and clear the debt. I know I’ll get through this challenge victoriously, with no fear or anger.

What my faith teaches me is to never be defeated, to have the heart of a lion king (queen) SGI President Daisaku Ikeda says.”We should never decide that something is impossible and buy into the belief, “I’ll never be able to do that.” The power of the entire universe is inherent in our lives. When we firmly decide, “I can do it!” we can break through the walls of self-imposed limitations.”  “To fear hardships and resent our environment is to live with the belief that the Law [Dharma], the power to change, is outside our own life. Buddhism starts with believing in the great power of the Buddha within your own life.”

My faith says to believe in myself. I am powerful, I am confident and know I will turn around every adversity in my life, no matter what my past or present is. Through my prayer of nam myoho renge kyo, the future is bright. I will be happy as I continue to evolve. Suffering exists, but it won’t persist.

I’ll be writing this year about victories and overcoming challenges .

I truly believe these words of Daisaku Ikeda- Words have the power to save. Life is not sustained by material goods and well-being alone. People need spiritual sustenance in order to undertake fresh challenges and open new horizons. 

I’ll be using words, having thoughts and giving opinions in this blog. This first month of 2016 has already had a few bumps but I’m like a Timex watch. I take a licking and keep on ticking.

 

The Little Things….

The end of September, is always an emotional time for me. It’s the little things, like the smell of Juicy Fruit gum that floods my mind and heart with memories. I bought a pack this weekend and thoughts of my great aunt stayed in my head. She raised me from infancy, although my mother remained in my life.

When I was a child, every time she opened her purse the sweetness enveloped my nostrils. It made me feel happy. Now, it makes me a bit melancholy. She passed away 11 years ago on September 29th.  I miss her tremendously. We had a tight bond. She clung to me through her day to day illness; through the infidelity of her husband, through a life not lived to the fullest.

I was her company and I never wanted to hurt or disappoint her. Sometimes, the clinging felt like a choke-hold. I was restricted from most things kids and teenagers do. I wanted to go away to college, but was kept at home. Now,I think I understand why. The streets near do or die Bed-Stuy were mean as hell. Rap music had started in the Bronx. Crack had hit NY in epidemic proportions. Very “scary” things for a woman in her sixties, an immigrant to America, to understand and get accustomed to.

By keeping me off of the streets, in her mind, I was kept out of all kinds of trouble. If I went away to school, the control of situations (partying, etc…) would be over. I might not live up to my potential. What she didn’t realize was, I wasn’t so afraid of the Big Bad Wolf of life, but more afraid that my family wouldn’t love me if I did something wrong. Fear, for me was feeling unloved.

My mother was in my life until she passed away at age 51,  24 years ago on September 27. Every time I hear a Teddy Pendergrass song, I see my mother in my head. When I think of my first experience at Walt Disney World, I hear her voice. When I see recipes for shrimps and rice, I smell her food.

She took risks, made mistakes, because she was looking for love. She looked in all the wrong places and to the wrong people for her happiness. There have been many times, I’ve heard about her negatively, even from family members, but my heart understands her suffering. It upsets me to hear the negativity, it’s like people forget she was my mother, imperfect and flawed as she was.

She didn’t know that until she found self love, she couldn’t be happy. She craved attention,companionship and love. Her childhood was not simple. She came from a divorced family when that was frowned upon. She wasn’t very book smart, but had street smarts and could handle herself when she went out to have good times. Those weren’t taken as positive attributes by people that knew her. They failed to understand, we are not all cookie cutter images to fit into. She was flawed and there was a hole in her heart she was trying to fill.

I never lived full time with her, but she went back to school shopping with me, colored my hair, and taught me how to travel the aforementioned mean streets, including having a mean mug, or blank face so I wasn’t troubled by the unsavory. She studied and became a naturalized citizen before she left this earth.

I’m about to be 50 and she died at 51. She grabbed at life and understanding her early losses, I see why. She wanted more than what was presented in front of her. She wanted to be happy.

I’m also trying to grab at fun and enjoyment. I’m trying regardless of illness, loneliness, isolation, disappearing friends and acquaintances, disappearing invitations to celebrate life or accomplishments, lack of relationships, funky finances or whatever else life decides to throw at me .

I have my SGI-USA Buddhist practice which teaches I can be in the worse of circumstances, but circumstances shouldn’t control me. I can be happy within, no matter what happens. Big and little things, they may shake me, but will not take over my life or heart.

My mind and heart are filled with memories, things I wish I had done differently. Maturing and experiencing life will make you question how you have handled yourself.  I am who I am because of the women in my life. We don’t always appreciate the whole picture, but see things one frame at a time. Growing up I saw one frame at a time. Now, I see the full picture with total clarity.

If i had one more moment spent with either of them, I would say I’m sorry you were not as happy as you could have been. I hope I brought joy to your lives. I hope your next lives will be everything you need for joy and fulfillment.

The end of September will always be this way for me. Always thinking of the little things.