Day 30 – 30 Day Writing Challenge

It’s the final day of the 30 Day Writing Challenge and today’s topic is more than appropriate.

Topic: Your highs and lows for the month

The highs have been incredible. I’ve been so elated by everyone’s encouragement. I have spent a great deal of time in my life keeping my emotions in. I never revealed too much about myself.  Now, I am able to not just write about my thoughts and feelings, but I actually publish them on this blog.  People read and tell me that they enjoy my writing.

I’m so very grateful that people kept up with me throughout this month. It takes 30 days to develop a habit. This month, I started two habits: drinking one cup of decaffeinated coffee and writing every day.

This month I’ve written so much. I was excited to see the topic of the day. The blog gained a few new followers. I’ve been so inspired to keep going.

I felt challenged like my adult students do. They have to write every time we meet for class. Some days they have a hard time their writing short paragraphs. With my help, they expand and edit their work. I may start using some of their writing prompts on days I don’t know what to write. I don’t want to lose this newly found momentum

The lows were the days I couldn’t write due to a migraine and days where I fought through body pain to just get anything done. I have to see so many doctors in a week it can be a bit daunting and discouraging. I realize that this is my fight in life. How I react to all of it is what counts. I surrender on the days, I realize I won’t win a battle. But, in this war I am fighting with chronic illness, I will be victorious. It may take some time, but I’m sure I will win. My Buddhist faith helps me every day to gain courage, wisdom, and strength.

SGI President Daisaku Ikeda writes, “Life is best lived by being bold and daring. People tend to grow fearful when they taste failure, face a daunting challenge or fall ill. Yet that is precisely the time to become even bolder. Those who are victors at heart are the greatest of all champions.”

This month has made me very reflective and introspective. It has been an overall positive experience. I learned a few things about myself.

I’m so happy I was able to share this month with all of you. I’m determined to share more of my thoughts and musings. I suggest trying this challenge, you may learn a few things about yourself. I know I did.

Advertisements

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.

 

Wrapping Up and Going Forward

When I thought about starting a blog, late last year, I wasn’t sure what I would write about. I knew I wanted to write and use my gift, but I didn’t know how I would take the thoughts in my head and make them meaningful enough for readers. I have never been a poet or one who very consistently kept a journal, as much as I tried. However, I knew there were stories, ideas and great writing inside of me that I wanted to share.

I soon realized that I could best write about myself, my experiences and life events. I was about to journey into my last year of my forties. I was  determined to be more courageous so I  moved ahead. Privately, I dubbed this journey, my Year of  49. I would follow myself down this pathway and see where I ended up. I wanted this year to have meaning, be fun and have some adventures.

I wanted to go to Las Vegas to celebrate my actual 50th birthday, something completely out of the ordinary for me. I have always played safe and by the rules. I could celebrate in warm weather for only the second time in my life with some family members; maybe bring in the new year on the west coast. It was discussed and agreed upon. It would be happening and I didn’t have to plan  it. I would be taken care of. Yay!

So, I decided to do things this year I wanted to do, fibromyalgia be damned. The money would come from somewhere. I would just chant triple the amount of nam myoho renge kyo than usual, so that I could physically be up to it.

I had a ticket to see Diana Ross in concert and that started the ball rolling for me to also see Gladys Knight, Guy, Jill Scott, Stephanie Mills and The Whispers in concert. Music gets me though the toughest days. I wrote about all these musical experiences and how they made  me happy, even though I sat through most of them in pain. I fought through it and won.

I suffered tremendous physical pain this year and I spent much time indoors, resting and also dealing with chronic fatigue. I am no longer able to hold a job, as my illness and pain levels are completely unpredictable. Living with and living on disability is not easy. I’m doing my best to live a good life and have faith both situations will change for the better.

This year, I had a few in patient medical procedures done to help my migraines.  I had aqua therapy to help the sciatica like pain running down my leg like shock waves. I had trouble sitting, standing and walking. All this was happening while dealing with the house guest from hell who threw a big monkey wrench right in the middle of my weight loss plans. Medication side effects and frustrated stress eating made a girl gain weight. Sigh……  I wanted to be slimmer and healthier by my birthday, but I got frustrated; I restarted a couple weeks ago and this time I’m making a lifestyle change. Nothing or no one will interfere with my progress again.

I wrote about my life as a person dealing with fibromyalgia. It was my most read and shared post.I was very proud of that post. It was relate-able to anyone with a chronic pain condition.

I follow news events and many touched my heart. I was angered or saddened by them, so I wrote about them. I wrote about personal sorrows and losses. I became more open about myself, more than I have ever been.

I  wrote about the importance of my faith and how it helps me to grow into the person I am meant to be. I want to create value with and for my life. I volunteer once a month to record readings of  SGI-USA publications on tape, for members who are visually impaired or unable to read them for themselves. I’m happy to contribute in this way to my fellow Buddhists.

The news events of 2015: mass shootings, domestic and foreign terror, police brutality, innocent Black Lives not mattering, slack gun control laws, presidential candidates spouting bigotry and spreading fear; it all became too much for my senses.

My faith and my humanity tells me and shows me all of this is wrong. Should I be packing my bags and leaving my homeland before it all goes awry? The hate filled tones may be coming towards me and my kind next. History shows this is possible.  My writing desires waned and I got stuck somehow. I haven’t made a blog post since September.

My year of 49 has two weeks left. I had a 50th birthday celebration in August, with women I have known since elementary school on an evening cruise with our teachers. We all turned 50 this year.  It was a great time and there was cake, 🙂  I really feel a kinship with them even though we don’t see other regularly.

My trip to Las Vegas never took off, I don’t even know what happened to it. I’m disappointed. So, the idea remains on my vision board.Next time, I’ll take control of my own plans.

Since the plans were altered,I didn’t know how I would bring in this milestone birthday. I wanted to do something I never did before. I refused to stay at home. I could do that any night of the year.

I was gifted a ticket to see a show, by the same Uncle who bought me a new bed this year (I’m so grateful to him); so that’s how I’ll spend my special day. I’ll see a production I’ve wanted to see for years. I have mused my way towards 50. I will continue writing this blog . I will be more consistent with it.

I want my 50’s to be incredible. I want better health. I want romance with real commitment. I want to walk without a cane. I want to travel to an SGI-USA conference. I want to meet my uncle and cousin. I want to stick to my healthier eating plans and get my sexy back. I want better finances and become debt free. I want to volunteer to help others to the best of my capacity. Helping others, helps me to grow.  I strive to be the person Buddhism,teaches me, I can become. I want my life to matter when people see me. I want the world to be safe, free from the worst humans can do to humans. I want supreme happiness for myself and for everyone.

I wish myself a Happy Fiftieth Birthday!!!!

The Christmas season is upon us and a new year is about to start. Let’s see what wonders will come in 2016. I’m taking control of my life and being true to myself. I will create a greater life for myself in my 50’s . Thank you all for reading and I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season filled with joy!

 

 

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.

Selma

I went to the movies this week to see the film, Selma, directed by Golden Globe nominee, Ava DuVernay. I heard so much about the film which is about events leading up to and including the historical 1965, March from Selma, Alabama ,across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, led by Martin Luther King Jr.  This march was to demand equal voting rights for Negro citizens of Alabama . The result was The Voting Rights Act of 1965 .The film stars Golden Globe nominee, David Oyelowo as Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

New York was one of the cities that offered free admissions to 7th, 8th and 9th grade students from the opening day, January 9 until the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday on January 19th.  I shrewdly decided to take in a matinée  on January 22, so I could be with adults seriously taking in the subject matter, I had only seen in history books.The events of the film took place 50 years ago, the year I was born.

As my ride rolled up to the theater, I saw 4 school buses parked nearby, but figured the students had a trip, nearby. I got my phone scanned with my pre-purchased ticket, bought some nachos and took the elevator (these days I’m using a cane, due to chronic back pain) up to the theater. I found a good seat near the aisle so I could stretch out my legs, leaned back and the previews began.

  In the middle of the previews. suddenly the lights came on and the busloads of students started pouring into the room. Damn!  I thought I had escaped them.
Ms. Karen loves the kids, I was a children’s librarian for many years, but these kids looked like 5th or 6th graders. I knew this historical journey would have many bumps along the way for me, with kids in attendance. It was bumpy every time their tiny bladders, hungry tummies or thirsty throats made them get up. They kept bumping me and my seat, every time they got up. They got up in little packs of 4 or 5.
  They laughed at the southern accents of the Selma citizens in the film. The kids next to me immediately recognized Oprah Winfrey as she appeared on-screen and I heard all around me, It’s Oprah! They expressed shock when Dr. King, lit a cigarette and the kids behind me said, He smoked!!??? They expressed horror during the Bloody Sunday scene on the Edmund Pettus bridge when the marchers were tear gassed and beaten. Then, their laughter stopped and there was silence all through the theater except  for the subtle sounds of crying from some of my fellow adult viewers and myself.

Dr. King is seen not just as a cultural and historical icon here, but as an ordinary man who was shouldering heavy responsibilities. He is seen as a husband and father.  He was a man who took out the trash. He is shown as a man who was not always faithful to his wife, Coretta. He is seen as a preacher who relied on the word of God to lead him. He was making decisions that affected the masses, who followed his words. He’s seen as a regular man who cracked jokes with his friends. David Oyelowo was magnificent as Dr. King, truly capturing his essence throughout the film.
 He met many times with President Lyndon Johnson who wasn’t quite ready to sign a Voting Rights  bill into law after already signing, The Civil Rights Act of 1964, that outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, required equal access to public places and employment, and enforced desegregation of schools and the right to vote.

Ava DuVernay doesn’t take the easy road to show this story. She shows the brutality that these citizens faced from the law enforcement that showed them ignorance at every turn. The hate and anger towards the men and women alike was palpable. There were moments when I sat there crying ,feeling the blows and thinking how man can be so inhuman towards one another.  The scenes after Dr. King’s call for the clergy to come to Selma and help them march made me proud and later gave me a moment where I almost couldn’t stop crying.

 I cried thinking about these brave young men and women who helped to provide the opportunities I have been afforded. They were in their late teens and twenties. Dr. King was in his thirties and died at 39.  Could I have had their courage? I cried thinking many of these heroes have gone unknown and unacknowledged. Ralph Abernathy, Rep. John Lewis, and Andrew Young are names we are familiar with. But, now, Amelia Boynton Robinson, James Bevel, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Diane Nash and Hosea Williams will be known by even more people. I cried because we have come so far and yet things seem to be reversing themselves.

 The students around me got vocal whenever Governor George Wallace appeared on screen (I can’t blame them) and I had to even hush them like a librarian during a few scenes when guns and batons were used.  I’m still a great husher and they quieted right down. They were saying, “That’s wrong and why did they do that!?” “Guns are wrong!” “There was no need for violence.” I know those kids left the film with a different outlook on this part of history.  It seemed more real to them. They remained seated, singing along to the Golden Globe winning and Oscar nominated song, Glory by John Legend and Common, when the lights came back on.

 Selma has been nominated in the Best Picture category for the Academy Awards and the song Glory has been nominated in the music category. Alas, the two driving forces of David Oyelowo and Director Ava DuVernay were not nominated. That’s how things go in Hollywood.
 David will always be remembered for this career changing role.  Ava doesn’t need the Oscar to justify her work. It was outstanding and will live on past this awards season in Hollywood. Years from now, when people want to see, feel and understand what went on during The Civil Rights Movement, Selma is where they will turn.  I thank Ava and David,  the producers, including Oprah Winfrey and executive producer, Brad Pitt for bring this film to the big screen.  My mind was opened, my eyes were cleansed. Give yourself and any young people in your life a history lesson. Go see the film Selma!

 selma-montgomery-march

 This guidance from SGI-USA President Daisaku Ikeda is fitting after seeing Selma. The book, Buddhism Day by Day- Wisdom for Modern Life,  for the date January 24 says, Buddhism teaches equality and absolute respect  for the dignity of life. Educating people to be citizens of the world begins with cultivating respect, compassion and empathy for others. I am certain that friendship and limitless trust in people can empower us to overcome socially disruptive discrimination and hatred. Open-minded exchanges on the popular level will be increasingly important in the years to come. When people engage in mind to mind dialogue, they are grateful to see ethnic and cultural differences not as obstacles but as expressions of society enriching diversity that engenders respect and a desire for further exploration.

Diary of a Migraine

I finally started my blog, and apparently the news upset my body. It felt like lighting struck the back of my head. My bed became my refuge and the place to uphold me. This past week, I was stricken with a migraine. It was one for the record books. I have been having migraines for years, but they are not traditional, because nothing about me is. These headaches can last for days.

I once had to wear sunglasses in the house for a week, because the light from the sun outside was slowly killing me. WebMD describes migraine symptoms as moderate to severe pain (often described as pounding, throbbing pain) that can affect the whole head, or can shift from one side of the head to the other.Sensitivity to light, noise or odors.Blurred vision, Nausea or vomiting, stomach upset, abdominal pain.Loss of appetite.Sensations of being very warm or cold.Paleness.Fatigue, Dizziness Fever(rare) Bright flashing dots or lights, blind spots, wavy or jagged lines(aura).

You can read about it but feeling one is very different.

I peeked at the Golden Globes Awards, Sunday night with one eye squinting at the television. Common gave a fantastic acceptance speech after winning Best Song (Glory), his collaboration with John Legend for the movie Selma.
I checked into Facebook on my phone a few times. I know if I don’t post something folks may think I am on the deceased list. I have a bit of an addiction to Facebook (Don’t judge me. I have a few simple pleasures in my life, LOL) I have made great friends with total strangers, reconnected with people and stay connected with family.
Day 2– Absolutely nothing was working and believe me, I have a lot of medication to choose from. My regular migraine medications were laughing at me. Pain was all over my face. I was not standing up too straight. I was drinking tea, trying to sleep and basically waiting out the day hoping for relief.
Day 3- My Facebook friends were sending me healing vibes and wished me a speedy recovery. I needed that kind of optimism and so appreciated them. A brother in faith sent me a home remedy and I tried it. I lay down in bed chanting quietly to myself, that this had to STOP! I felt beaten and defeated, but I couldn’t let that happen. I couldn’t sleep and fibromyalgia symptoms started kicking in. My back decided it wasn’t going to work anymore. Come on man! Are you serious with this?

On the final day of the beating and throbbing, I felt like Sheila E, was living inside my head playing percussion. I was living in the house without lights on. My bill should be low next month. I struggled to my prayer altar.

The SGI-USA webpage describes our Buddhist practice as this: “The practice of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and recite portions of both the second (Expedient Means) and the sixteenth (Life Span) chapters of the Lotus Sutra in front of the Gohonzon. This is the fundamental practice of Nichiren Buddhism, performed morning and evening.”

I read the daily guidance for January 14th. It said, Everyone at some time suffers from illness in one form or another. The power of the Mystic Law enables us to bring forth strength to overcome the pain and suffering of sickness with courage and determination. The Daishonin writes”Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is like the roar of a lion. What sickness can therefore be an obstacle? That final sentence is engraved in my head and heart, since I need to remind myself of this often.


I sat at the altar, even though I felt dizzy and discombobulated. I knew I couldn’t give in to defeat. I live my life like this all the time, because I’ve suffered from chronic illness for at least 15 years. I hurt everywhere, somewhere, all the time, everyday. I’ve been through major depression. I no longer take medication for it, but I can’t let my mind master me. We need to pay more attention and take more seriously people who suffer with depression. (Another conversation, for another time.)

I said my prayers with the determination that I will win over this Boom, Boom, Boom in the front of my head. The following morning, I could feel the heaviness in my head lifting and I actually got some sleep. I rested, I told Facebook my status. Rejoicing was in the air! My face pain is better, but the rest of my body still hurts.

Here I am, back at the blog. It’s been a rough week and yes my computer screen is a bit dim, my carpal tunnel is bugging me, but I am here. I am fighting like Muhammad Ali. I take blows on the ropes, but I keep coming back. Migraine be gone and don’t let the door hit ya! The Lioness has roared! I am a Fighter, a Winner and I am Victorious!