Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Today I Am Perfect

I hate taking pills. In fact, in another lifetime (before I had kids) I declared that I’d better stay healthy when I got old because there was no way I could EVER take a pill a day, let alone several.

Then I had kids. Kids taught me, in so many ways, to never say never. After my second pregnancy, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. The treatment? A pill a day.

Treating thyroid conditions requires consistency. The medication is slow to build in the body, so it takes about 3 months to reach peak efficacy. This means that you can skip a day without much negative effect. I tried taking the pills. It would work for a day, a week, maybe even a month. But then I’d forget  for a day. One day became two, then four, then 20. Failure. I’d try again, but inevitably, I would fail at taking my pill consistently, which meant that the pills weren’t really going to help me. They were a mental pain, a sign of weakness and failure. I hated thinking about them every day. I felt demotivated, sick, and old – at age 31.

I did some further research about hypothyroidism, educated myself thoroughly, and decided that my condition wasn’t worth treating. (Or at least, that it wasn’t worth treating if I couldn’t treat it perfectly). My case was mild, my symptoms minor and not at all bothersome, and the pills seemed to be taking over my life. My doctor didn’t understand or agree with my choice, but he acknowledged my autonomy as a patient. I continued to have my TSH levels checked yearly to make sure nothing was changing. I didn’t deny that I had the condition. I just chose not to treat it, because if I couldn’t treat it perfectly, I wasn’t going to treat it at all. And this way, I didn’t have to face the daunting spectre of imminent failure every singe day.

This coping mechanism worked fine for 8 years or so, but then in 2009 early pre-menopause and hypothyroidism became contributing factors in an apparent radical hormone imbalance that resulted in depression. As I got on the road to recovery, it became clear that I really needed to start consistently treating my thyroid condition to maintain good mental and physical health. So I started taking a pill a day.

The first year was on-again, off-again – just like before. But this time, I was also seeing my lovely therapist who helped me examine what I was doing and how I was feeling. Somewhere in our conversations, I had the idea that I could change my definition of “success.” Maybe “success” didn’t need to be synonymous with the “perfection” of  taking a pill a day and never skipping. Maybe I could lower the bar and re-define success as “taking a pill a day until I didn’t – THEN taking a pill a day even after a skip.”

So in January, 2011 I started a chart because I’m a firm believer in the concept that you pay attention to what you track. I made a little calendar that could fit inside my pill box, and I started writing “P” every day that I took my pill. I did pretty well! I went a whole 37 days before I missed a few days from being sick. Ugh. I gritted my teeth and started taking the pill again.

This “failure” was now progress – and success! All of a sudden, the very thing would have made me feel like a failure – missing a few days of pill taking – made me feel successful – all because I’d changed my definition of success and accepted the inevitability of human imperfection.

I went 47 more days without missing, then I missed a day, took pills for two more days, and missed an entire WEEK. Here was a challenge. Could I stick to my new definition of success and start again? I could, I did, and life was good. It was summer of 2011 and I wasn’t perfect, but I felt successful – I WAS successful!

Or was I? Maybe I was cheating. Is changing the definition of “success” to make it less than perfection really succeeding? It sure is. And in a weird way, it enabled perfection. Because you see, I didn’t every give up the notion that taking the pill a day, every day, was the ultimate goal, the perfect goal. I just stopped making it the ONLY goal.

I am a Christian and my Lutheran faith tells me that Jesus died for my sins so that I could be perfect in God’s eyes. God wanted perfect obedience from his creation, but he also wanted it freely given from us, so he gifted us with free will and the ability to choose obedience – or not. Satan is real and Satan is allowed to tempt us, try to part us from our loving creator God. Sadly, from the very first human, we’ve chosen temptation and disobedience over perfection. We are a corrupted creation.

But God changed the definition of success for us through Jesus. Instead of heaven being reserved for beings who never make a bad choice, heaven is now for those who acknowledge their failures, regret them, and come to terms with the inevitability of them. To attain heaven, we must let go of our human lust for pride and power, admit complete defeat, and accept God’s superiority over us by accepting Jesus as savior.  We can’t even do that perfectly, so we have to do it over and over again, never losing faith that through God, our imperfection can be made perfect. In holy communion, I accept Jesus as my savior again. I acknowledge what I have chosen to say and do (and what I have chosen to NOT say or NOT do) that goes against what my omniscient and omnipotent God knows would ultimately make me happiest. My sins are forgiven and I am made perfect.

In other words, when you are a Christian, every day is New Year’s Day.

I continued trying to take my pills. I missed most of April, May, June, and July, 2012. In the past, I would have considered that an EPIC failure. But because of my new definition of success, I instead had the opportunity for epic success. I started taking my pills again on July 26th. And this time, I didn’t stop. So today, December 31, marks the last day of 5 consecutive months of not missing one day of pill taking!

Today I am perfect.

I know that I will fail again. Maybe not tomorrow, but some day. I am human and I simply am not capable of attaining perfection in my present form. But now I know how to shrug off the curse of perfectionism that tells me I will never succeed, change my definition of success, start over, and achieve. I wish you nothing less in 2013.

Raising Clematis

I’ve blogged about my clematis before, but I wonder if I’m the right one to raise clematis.  Clematis defies me and exasperates me.  I like things neat, orderly, and predictable.  Clematis is messy.  In fact, clematis is disorder personified and wild in the truest sense of the word.  The shoots grow fast and in every direction possible.  They have no single minded pursuit of a goal.  They just…grow!  I like control; I like things to go – and grow – the way *I* want them to be.  Clematis defies prediction and direction.  Sure, I can make suggestions to it, kind of  … guide it the way I HOPE it will grow, make sure it has support so it can keep growing without falling over or breaking off.  But really, when it comes down to it, the clematis decides where and how it will grow.  Clematis is … FRUSTRATING

I don’t understand clematis.  I can learn about its development; I can study it in books or online; I can read about other people’s experiences with clematis.  But when it comes to tending real live plants, it’s an ENTIRELY different story.  Clematis is definitely a “learn as you grow” plant.  And every clematis, depending on where and how it’s grown, has unique personality, unique character.

Clematis does not come with instructions, not REALLY.  Descriptions like “keep the roots cool and the foliage in full sun” are laughingly insufficient.  Apparently, I’m supposed to fertilize it – like every 4 weeks.  I have never fertilized my clematis.  I’m supposed to plan other plants underneath it to keep the roots cool and the moisture in.  Uh…nope.  Oh, and I’m supposed to water it, too.  Just ask my husband how good I am about that chore. (hint: watering? what’s that?)

But apparently, clematis is incredibly resilient.  Three weeks ago, I tried to be a good gardener.  I came out with tools and determination to care for the clematis in the early spring like it should be cared for.  It didn’t go well.  I pruned a gigantic part of it down to nothingness in frustration and despair.  It was overgrown, heavy, swaying, unruly.  I couldn’t fix it, so I essentially started over, years and years of growth and training sheared away in minutes.  I was sad.  No, I was sick.  I had lead in the pit of my stomach when I did it.  I was sure I had irreparably harmed it forever, that it was going to die – there were only a few small shoots of new green growth left when I was done.

But yet, in less than a month, the clematis regrew.  In fact, it more than regrew – it THRIVED.  Where I ruthlessly pruned it, the clematis has climbed as high as it’s ever been and seems set to exceed expectations for the year.  Some days, I can literally see a difference in growth from morning to evening.  It grows whether I train it or not, whether I prune it or not, whether I water it or not.  It just. keeps. growing.

But somehow, even though it baffles my very nature (hee hee – pun intended!), this plant brings me joy.  I love how forgiving it is.  It DOES grow – no matter what I do to or with it.  Its shoots reach out like arms and its flowers smile on me even when I don’t feel like smiling.  I LOVE how my porch turns into a literal outdoor room bounded by life-affirming greenery and in time, exuberant purple flowers.  I am sitting outside on the porch now as I write this, and I am so peaceful, relaxed, and calm.  Clematis does that!

I love how the clematis draws other life to our house.  Birds nest in our clematis.  And hummingbirds flit around the vines when they are in bloom – even though the blossoms are purple.  I love it when people compliment my lovely porch in spring and summer, even though I know I had very little to do with how it looks.   I apologize for the ugly brown, dead-looking vines when people visit in the winter.  But I smile wisely inside because *I* know that the new growth comes best from the old, that appearance of death – which is simply rest and not death at all – is the price we pay for spring and summer glory.

So maybe I *am* the right one to grow clematis after all.  Maybe I’m supposed to learn life lessons from my clematis – patience, vision, foresight, acceptance, love.  Maybe things are just as they are supposed to be.

(P.S.  You probably think I just blogged about my clematis.  That’s what I thought I was doing when I started writing this post.  But replace the word “clematis” with the word “kids” and…)

I doubt I know

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” ~I Corinthians 13:12

Today is Palm Sunday for Christians.  I have always felt that Palm Sunday was  an oxymoronic day.  On one hand we remember, commemorate, and even replicate in small degree the parade that heralded Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem for the celebration of passover.  It must have been such a joyful outpouring of adoration!   But minutes later, we hear for the first time this week the somber and dramatic story of Jesus’ last few days of life on earth.  The same people shouting “Hosanna!” one day are yelling, “Crucify him!” practically the next.  It’s a wide swing of emotions for one day, but a good precursor to the emotional roller coaster ride which is Holy Week for me.

Lately, my entire life feels like an oxymoron, a carousel ride: up and down, moving, but getting no where.  I feel at the same time wise and foolish; old and young; loved and invisible; supported and abandoned – some times all of those in the course of a single day!  I am exhausted but cannot sleep, hungry with no appetite, desirous yet apathetic.  I have been energized one moment, yet sit down and in an instant have literally no momentum.  I have been full of words and thoughts…and speechless; strongly, boldly confident…and reticent; sure in my faith…and spinning in a void of questions.

Since mid-December, I’ve felt like I’ve been holding on for the ride of life.  I’ve felt complete awareness of this pulling back, yet a distinct disconnect from it all.  Part of my brain analyzes and worries that this is not right, not good somehow while another part acknowledges that life has ups and downs, like a carousel.  All my life’s a circle, and I’ve been here before; there’s nothing to be done but patiently wait it out.

I’m asking some faith questions, too.  Questions to which I thought I knew the answers.  Questions that are a bit scary in the asking.  But at the same time, I have always believed – still believe – that God is big enough for all our questions, that we were given brains to use, to apply, so as to come vigorously to our faith.  And I do have faith.  Deep.  Forever.  Unshaken.  Though the details may well move around and readjust themselves for me, that truth is unmoving.

I have faith that God is.  I have faith that my life has purpose, that I am loved for who I am in my entirety – good, bad, and gray.  And I have faith in humanity – or at least in God’s ability to turn all our mistakes into triumph.  I also have faith that we’re part of a bigger picture, a larger story.  I have faith that I am fully known and that I will know fully.  Someday.  I know I doubt, but I know.

All’s Well That Doesn’t End

Part of my most recent blogging hiatus can be blamed on Plurk, a social microblogging site I discovered in December of 2008.  Though I haven’t stayed up ’til all hours  – or even all night – chatting like I did when I discovered my first online community in college in 1990, I have met many neat people from literally around the world.

Two of my Plurk friends – one from Vancouver, Canada and one from York, England – are poised to meet face-to-face next week, and they are both a bit nervous about it.  This post about one of my earliest face-to-face encounters with an online friend is largely for their benefit.

How I viewed the VAX in those days!

Back in the old days of the internet (1989-1990), this whole online chatting-connecting-texting phenomenon was in its infancy.  I came home from Europe, fell out of a three-year romantic relationship I’d had since high school, and found respite in a strange new digital world, albeit one basically restricted to the campus on which I was attending college.  I fell in love with VMS Phone, a comparatively primitive messaging system through which you could actually talk by typing in real time to people who were simultaneously online on campus.  Radical!  It was neat to watch each letter appear as the other person typed (there was no “instant” in instant messaging in those days!).

I spent hours glued to either my own computer or to a computer in one of the campus labs, unless it was time for class, studying, or a broomball game (my favorite sport, but that’s for another post).  I even joined MCUG (Miami Computer Users Group) so I could meet face to face the people I was “meeting” online.

In addition to VMS Phone, our school network had installed CoSy, a bulletin board system.  With this software, anyone on campus could create a profile, basically an info page about themselves.  If there was no one online with whom to chat on VMS Phone, I’d sometimes go browse the profiles on CoSy.  Mostly, I just read the profiles, but every so often, I’d find someone who looked interesting and I’d email them a message.

On March 27th, 1990 (or so I’m told), I sent one such message to someone who I thought, from his profile, might have gone to school with some girls who transferred into my high school.  He didn’t know them, but we got to talking about lots of other things via email.  Frequently. Long-windedly.

Eventually, there was a MCUG meeting coming up and I invited him to come so we could meet face-to-face.  He begged off, saying he had too much Calc II homework.  I went anyway and did what people always did at MCUG meetings: plopped down at a computer, logged on, and chatted with people all over the room via computer.  Pretty soon, I saw that HE was online.  I promptly chastised him for saying he had too much work when he clearly had time to be online.  He asked how I knew he WASN’T there.

Well, THAT got my attention!  So I ripped my eyes away from the screen and looked around the room, only to find a guilty looking, grinning guy sitting DIRECTLY BEHIND me.  He had been there the whole time!  Apparently, the plan was to scope me out and make sure I wasn’t hideous before he admitted to being in the room.  This was easy to do, since I was one of only two women in MCUG at the time.

To make a long story short(er), our 15 year wedding anniversary comes up October 22, 2009!

So I don’t worry about meeting online friends face to face.  It’s always turned out ok for me.

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