down

I’ve let myself come down again

it’s not really quiet down here
whales
the earth shuddering
new mountains being born
the ebb and flow
as the earth makes love to the moon
and small bubbles

I am quiet
when I let myself
go all the way down

the ocean is not quiet, but it is dark
dark as a dungeon
damper than dew
I keep sinking

and my eyes slowly adjust
my lungs adjust too
it hurts like knives at first
but I adjust faster than i used to
like the sea lions
I can go down and get back up
no bends
I have learned from them
I hold the oxygen
and let the nitrogen out slowly
through my gut

my eyes adjust
and then they come
the glowing ones, slow and fast
like ghosts swimming towards me
maybe they are my dead
someday I will join them

I expect to return this time
maybe
or not
I don’t know if I will find pearls
or a leviathan
who will swallow me whole
and barely notice

this time I walked in
myself
I don’t blame you
or family or past or circumstances
it is time for me to go down
I go
down and down and down
deep

___________

begonia

The friend that I visited the last two weeks has a green thumb and a beautiful garden. This was on her porch.

For Cee’s Flower of the Day.

I am watching the service for Queen Elizabeth II. I wish every family who has lost someone recently or years ago, finds their way through stages of grief to a stage of peace. I fall out of it every so often and miss my mother, my father, my sister. Blessings all.

Mourn

Thank you, Queen Elizabeth II, for choosing this time to pass, to die.

The world can use public mourning now, a formal ceremony. I tear up every time I look at the lines of people watching, standing, waiting, filing past your coffin.

Perhaps we should set up a coffin for all the dead, a field of coffins, doll coffins, hundreds, thousands, a million for the United States alone, and millions for the world, for all the dead from Covid-19.

And then we need more coffins, for those who died because care was delayed during the pandemic, screening for cancer, treatment for cancer or heart disease or lung disease. Let us set them up as well.

And then we need doll chairs, hundreds and thousands and millions of doll chairs, for the people with long haul Covid, to acknowledge that we don’t know if they will get well, will rise from their beds and chairs.

And white coats, hundreds and thousands and millions of white coats, some neatly on hangers, other bloody, others thrown on the floor, for the first responders, some dead, some quitting, some ill, some deciding that they can’t do medicine or fire fighting or policing any more, some stubbornly continuing in their jobs.

And job advertisements, on tiny doll computers, doll newspapers, doll signs in windows, saying help wanted, help, help, people are quitting, people are too sick to work, people have died, people are wondering why they should work in public, people are afraid and angry and hurt, help wanted.

I tear up when I watch the public mourning. I remember my mother, my father, my sister, all dead before the pandemic. I remember other dead, family and friends. I think of all the dead that I know, starting to outnumber the living that I know.

Thank you Queen Elizabeth II, for this formal and public mourning in this time of confusion and grief. Your last public service, for which I and many others, tear up and thank you.

___________________________

The photograph is from a friend’s dollhouse.

hope molting and growing new feathers

A friend away a friend some day
a friend can’t stay all the day
a friend won’t pray a friend can’t play
not today is what they say
a friend they say a friend always
a friend who may return some day

in a way you might say
hope molts and regrows feathers today

I think my inner four year old wrote today’s poem. I am thinking about the song my mother taught me, very young, for when I was frustrated.

My sister and I loved this song and others, Samuel Hall and “I don’t want to play in your back yard, I don’t like you any more. You’ll be sorry when you see me, sliding down my cellar door.”

I gave a young friend a book of rhymes. He looked at me with some horror. “These are nursery rhymes.” I grin at him. “Look again. It’s a book of insulting playground rhymes, suitable for all occasions.” He looked at the book again and held on to it.

The photograph is from the National Museum of Women in the Arts again. Another fabulous painting that seems to fit my theme.

Healing

I realized I had pneumonia for the fourth time on March 20, 2021. It has been a year and five months now. I do not have an “overarching diagnosis” for why I am so vulnerable to pneumonia, though not for lack of trying. I have seen twenty specialists since 2012, including four pulmonologists.

Most specialists dismiss me as soon as their tests don’t fit me into one of their boxes.

I have one now who is not dismissing me. He referred me to the Mayo Clinic. They did not call back when I did a self referral three months ago nor when my primary care physician referred me. However, they called within a week of his referral.

Mayo Clinic called yesterday. I may need a prior authorization or something, I have a number to call today.

I am healing. I still am on oxygen for singing, flute, night and heavy exercise, but pulmonary rehabilitation is working. I have built up steadily on the treadmill for 6 weeks. I have 5-6 more. Many of the pulmonary rehabilitation people are on oxygen and will not get off oxygen, so I am an outlier here too.

I feel better than I have in seven years, since the 2014 pneumonia. I had strep A pneumonia in 2012 and 2014 and really did not fully heal after 2014. I was tired all the time. I think I went back to work too soon and just did what I could. Not returning to work is helping immensely. I can’t return anyhow, unless the Mayo Clinic or someone figures out my “overarching diagnosis” and how to make me less vulnerable to pneumonia. Seems unlikely after 19 years. My first round was influenza in 2003. Maybe choosing a different career than primary care would have made a difference, though maybe I would not have survived a pneumonia without being a primary care doctor. We aren’t supposed to treat ourselves, but if no one believes us, well, there is not much choice, is there?

The photograph is from a beach hike in November 2021.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: heal.

the gang’s all here

Hale hale the gang’s all here
wrong hale, it’s a hale of a thing
but it should be hail
the same sort that falls from the sky

but on the other foot, hale hale
anyone who has survived the pandemic
is more hale than those who haven’t
so hale hale for the gang still here

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: hale.

Let’s dance!

Parasympathy

In 2013, Catherine Hodes, director of the Safe Homes Project (a domestic-violence program), started a workshop called “Is it Conflict or Abuse?” An abusive dynamic, she argues, requires one person to have power over the other, whereas conflict involves two people struggling for power. The distinction can be confusing, and in some cases “both people feel like they’re being abused, because they’re not getting their needs met or they’re not getting their way.”

From the Atlantic Monthly article: That’s it, you’re dead to me. September 2022 p. 14.

I think this is a fascinating idea, in the article that questions the internet wisdom of getting rid of “toxic people” in one’s life. When we cut off someone we consider “toxic”, we aren’t peaceing them, are we? Peace me, peace you, how do we actively peace people instead of being afraid, on guard, at war. I think everyone is more afraid after the two years of Covid 19 pandemic and all of the deaths and the Long Haul Covid and war. Everyone has a shorter fuse, everyone is stressed.

Remember that stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, the fight or flight system. The body makes less thyroid and less sex hormones and makes more adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid and great for short term, but bad for long term. If we are continually stressed, cortisol messes up the immune system and we get auto-immune disorders, the body attacking its’ own cells. The adrenaline raises our heart rate and blood pressure, neither of which are good for the heart long term. When the thyroid hormone is on the low side, we feel tired. The adrenaline makes us feel wired and we have trouble sleeping. The cortisol makes us more likely to get sick and raises blood sugar too. The low sex hormones, well, women can stop menses and men start asking for viagra.

So we as a world, need to learn to downregulate the sympathetic nervous system and go back to parasympathetic. The relaxed one. The one where we have less adrenaline and less high cortisol and more thyroid and our gut works and sex works again. How do we get there?

Breathing is one way. Slow breathing: 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out. Work up to 20 minutes. One of my veterans said he was not used to feeling relaxed, it felt weird. Ok, it may feel weird, but maybe we need to practice it. He did. There is circular breathing too, 5 seconds in, 5 hold, 5 out, 5 hold. Zen meditation, facing a wall for 40 minutes, works too. We try not to follow the thoughts. The thoughts pop up anyhow, but not following them down the rabbit hole is interesting and challenging. Mindful mediation and Jon Kabat Zinn’s books and tapes work as well. It takes practice. Practice peace, practice relaxing. Doesn’t that sound like a lovely practice?

Stupid cat videos work for me too. Laughter works. What makes you laugh? I like the silly animal videos, the moose playing with the wind chimes, three baby bears rescued (with care) from a dumpster, with the truck driving off to avoid momma bear. Rocking, knitting, sewing, fishing, walking the beach, cuddling a baby, dancing, listening to music, playing music. Which works for you? Silly movies. I don’t like horror movies, and I love cartoons and animation. Engage the child at heart for the parasympathetic nervous system.

In high school my daughter said that most fights were stupid. “One person says something without thinking. The other person goes off and gets upset. She stops talking to person one, who has no idea what is going on, and they often talk to their friends. So there is this big fight over some dumb comment.”

I don’t think it ends with high school, sadly enough. And before we label someone “toxic”, maybe we need to wander off and breathe, or watch a silly cat video. Whatever works for you that doesn’t hurt others.

We need more parasympathy in the world. Yep, I just made that word up. Relax and if you can’t or won’t, consider practicing.

Peace you and please peace me.

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/23266-parasympathetic-nervous-system-psns

https://healthnews.com/family-health/healthy-living/how-to-activate-the-parasympathetic-nervous-system/

August 19, 2022

On meditation and breathing

In college at the University of Wisconsin, I dated a gentleman who was following the Zen Buddhist tradition.

He meditated daily, for forty minutes, facing a wall.

I was quite intrigued. I did not think I could do that. I am a fidgety person and can’t sit still. I promptly tried it.

Forty minutes is a long time facing a wall at age 19.

I would fall asleep. I would start tilting to one side or the other on my zafu and jerk back up. I knew I was not supposed to follow thoughts, but I couldn’t not think. It is more subtle than that: I slowly figured out that I can let the thoughts pop up from the toaster brain, but try not to follow them. Wave at the thought. Let it go.

One day there was a small hole in the wall when I faced it. A tiny spider came out and went back in. I was very happy about the spider.

The next day the spider came out and waved one leg at me. Then it went back in the hole. The end of the 40 minutes is signaled by a chime. I got suspicious afterwards and went back to the wall. Not only was there no spider, but there was no hole, either. I did not see any more holes or spiders.

I meditated regularly daily for two years. After that I would return to practice intermittently. Meditation trained my breathing: my breathing slows way down during meditation.

I use that breathing when I have pneumonia. In the worst episode, I was in the hospital and disbelieved. I slowed my breath way way down to calm myself and so that I could think. Eight counts in, eight counts out. Then ten, then twelve. I needed to focus and figure out what was causing sepsis symptoms. And I did figure it out. The provider sent me home that morning, septic and 6 liters behind on fluid, but I was able to survive.

Now the pain clinics are teaching slow breathing. Five seconds in and five seconds out. Start with a few minutes and work up to twenty minutes. “Almost everyone goes from high sympathetic nervous system fight or flight state to the parasympathetic relaxed nervous system state.” I think we need more of that, don’t you? This is being taught for anxiety, for chronic pain, for fear and depression. I asked a veteran to try it. His response: “I hate to admit it but it works.” Also, “I’m not used to being relaxed. It feels weird.” I laughed and said, “I think it might be good if you get used to it.” He reluctantly agreed and continued the practice.

Peace you, peace me.

peace you peace me

I forgive you faster then past trauma
choose to let go of all the drama
you told me that I should let go
I am letting go of you and want you to know

I am letting go of all the past trauma
family fighting, intolerance, stupid drama
breathe in love, breathe out love
peace be with you, olive branch and dove

let the fight or flight gently fall away
breathe in peace and air all your day
breathe slowly, five out, five in
muscles relax and face in a grin

sending love whether you respond or not
forgiveness for harm and grief and loss, all rot
I am choosing peace and choosing to breathe slow
your friendship is deeply valued, I hope you know

peace you peace me peace all our friends
kindness is contagious and laughter among friends
I still have hope in the earth, breathing in and out
peace earth, moon, sun, peace within and without

sorrow

Most of the time I am fine (I miss you I miss you I miss you).
I am busy during the day (You said I needed my own life).
What shut you down, I wonder (the family event).
You said I always try to learn daily (you say you refuse to change).
I have friends that love me and my kids (you say you do not love me).
I don’t think I know what love is (your actions felt like love sometimes).
Mostly I don’t think about you (sometimes it is very dark).
I hope that you are well (I wish I wanted you to be happy without me).
I am patching my heart again (for you I use elk sinew).
The deer remind me (life goes on, even when one doesn’t want it to).

A previous poem, when my sister died: The deer remind me.