Post #23 02092020

Since I quit smoking on 12/2/2019 I have had a miserable two months of lousy sleep, periodic headaches, a sense of despair (even though my physical life is, quite frankly, one of relative ease and abundance compared to so many others suffering all over the world). Then I (accidentally) discovered I have inordinately high blood pressure! My frequent headaches are a symptom of HBP but I did not know that. Besides, BP is supposed to go down when one quits smoking!

On the positive side, my lungs do appear happy with the change, almost no phlegm, no coughing. Saving money with no trips to the tobacco shop, no shivering out in the garage while smoking in the winter (in past 25 years, have never smoked a cigarette inside my house) and no time wasted on rolling cigarettes or smoking them either. (Although hand rolling cigarettes can sometimes be experienced as a form of meditation.)

However, peeking into an unknown future, I would rather die the slow death of COPD (but still able to choose if and when to end it myself) than the possible sudden incapacitation of a heart attack or, much worse, a stroke that might suddenly steal my capacity/agency to make choices. I do NOT want to spend my life or money on a nursing home, nor on expensive end of life medical expenses. I have already purchased my long term care plan for $700, a well made .38 revolver and a box of metal jacketed bullets. (They don’t sell them individually.)

In any case, my goal is to get my BP down to a safe level.

After some research, I learn the principle causes of HBP are:

Smoking. (This is contraindicated for my situation given my BP was normal a month before I quit and sky high afterwards.)

Being overweight or obese. (I am a bit overweight but the same weight I was when my BP reading was normal only 3 months ago)

Lack of physical activity. (Walk my dog twice/day + do aerobics on an elliptical at home alternating with weight training- not in shape to do a marathon but not a slug either – same as I was 3 months ago)

Too much salt in the diet. (My diet is unchanged from three months ago and don’t eat processed food, the source of most dietary salt.)

Too much alcohol consumption (meaning more than 1 to 2 drinks per day) (I drink very little)

Stress. (Interesting possibility!)

Older age. (I am only 3 months older than I was when my blood pressure was normal!)

Genetics (have the same genes now I had three months ago!)

The possibility of stress being the source of my HBP got me to reflecting on my life.

I finished my book in November, quit smoking in December.

For the past five years, my principle daily motivation was writing the book. I would get up in the morning; eagerly go to my journal, my Morning Pages (this title taken from the excellent book, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron) and write 2, 3, 4, sometimes even 5 pages in my 8 1/2X 11 notebooks. I so looked forward to this, perhaps my favorite part of the day. I loved to write there in the garage at my work bench, in silence (Spiritdog still snoozing), armed with a hot cup of coffee and a cigarette or two or three. For me, it was Heaven on earth. Pure joy.

It is not a stretch to say that my latest book, 11 Life Practices/An Old Man’s Stories of Light, Love, Joy, was first imagined, and put down on paper (using my beloved Pentel Artist’s pen, 0.4 mm thickness) in my journal. Then, after meditating, walking Spiritdog, doing my daily exercise, the next few hours were devoted to converting those insights and revelations into readable copy on my computer.

When I get up in the morning now, I am lucky if I can fill a single page of my journal. No cigarettes, but no ideas or excitement either. Some days, I literally have nothing to say at all. There is nothing exciting to fill up my morning, or day, either. Tasks here and there of course, errands now and then but …………

 

So, here is my story:

My daily life has been tipped over, spilling away the meaning in my life. Now I understand why I have gone into an emotional tailspin.

Suddenly, my life feels empty and meaningless. I feel anxious, even despondent, at a loss with what to do with myself. The fun, satisfaction, thrill of creating something new has disappeared from my experience. What am I to do with me, my energy, my time? No surprise that my stress level has skyrocketed.

At the same time, my lifelong way of relieving stress is gone. My cigarettes!

When my wife, Dianna died, I was in a similar situation. I went from being married to an amazing woman, and having the honor of being her caregiver 24 hours/day to, in a single moment, having no one, suddenly without a purpose for being. Yet, throughout the subsequent years of grieving and sorting out my life, my blood pressure remained absolutely normal. I was smoking in those days.

In contrast, during this stressful period, my BP has gone from lifelong readings of 120/80 or less, to 160-190/100-160 when untreated with medication. So, today, I am taking 50 mg/day of Losartan and my average BP is still 140-170/80-90; better but still not good. Of course, the dose can be increased. BUT, I am not willing to accept lifelong HBP medications to achieve something I had naturally without drugs only three months ago.

So, where do I go from here to find my way back to normal BP without medication?

Post #22 02022020

Since quitting smoking on 12/2/2019, my approach is to take it one day at a time, recognizing that each day I can find a different way to respond to life events (a phone call, capping off dinner, having a beer, etc…) that used to trigger a cigarette I am re-wiring my brain for living life without tobacco.

Summarizing some sage advice from others who have traveled this road already:

Every smoke-free day I complete I am teaching myself how to live my life without cigarettes. Bit by bit, I’m re-wiring my brain, reprogramming my responses to daily events that trigger the urge to smoke by choosing something other than smoking when the urge surfaces.

Over the course of my first smoke-free year, I’ll encounter – and have a chance to clear – most of the events and situations (triggers) in my daily life that I have associated with smoking.

Practice is a necessary part of recovery from nicotine addiction. There is no getting around it, so try to relax and let time help me. I built my smoking habit through years of practice, and now I must build the nonsmoking me in the same way. The more practice I put between myself and that last cigarette I smoked, the stronger I’ll become.

Nobody said it would be easy.

On the other hand, when I look around the world and see what others are enduring, it puts my petty whining in perspective.

Time for me to Buck Up (practice #10 in my book), Lighten Up (practice #11)

Then, on 1/17/2020, a shocking turn of events.

While in a CVS pharmacy to get a shingles vaccine, I checked out my blood pressure on their store BP monitor. My blood pressure has always been normal and the last check up at my doctor’s office on 10/29/2019 was 117/74. I expected about the same this time so I could not believe my eyes when all three times I checked it, that CVS machine gave readings in the 190+/160+ range!!!!!

A couple of days later, I had my BP checked at my doctor’s office: 168/100!!! Still ridiculously high. The next day, for the first time in my life, I started taking a high blood pressure medication (losartan, 50 mg/day).

I also immediately purchased a home BP monitor on Amazon (Omron, recommended by my doctor, cost $50, and so far, am very happy with how it works, ease of use, though have yet to compare the results to the doctor’s machine, and durability is unknown.)

Unfortunately, during the two weeks since taking the medication, my blood pressure has stayed in an unacceptably high range – 145-180/90-100 – and the readings are erratic (the machine or reality – have no way of knowing yet anyway) so will be seeing the doctor again in a couple of days.

Besides, one’s blood pressure should go down when one quits smoking (smoking constricts blood vessels), not up.

So, what is going on?

Post #21 01152020

In my last post, I brought up the emotional turmoil I was feeling since I quit smoking on 12/2/2019.

How to describe it?

Periodic, almost daily, headaches (before this, I have had probably 5 headaches in my entire life), a discouraging absence of passion to do anything. No motivation, no focus, no enthusiasm. The opposite of how I usually feel about life, how I greet each day.  Worst of all, the quality of my sleep, which has almost always been excellent, has fallen off a cliff. Drifting in and out, most of the night, waking up still tired.

This all came as a complete surprise to me. I had no plan whatsoever for dealing with it.

On top of the emotional disorientation, which persisted through December, I hosted a family gathering for the holidays. About 2-3 days later, I began experiencing chills, lack of energy, headaches. The flu coming on? I immediately fell into taking long naps (2-3 hours), mega doses of vitamin C (3000 mg at a time, 2-3 times per day) and Echinacea 6-8 capsules/day). After 3-4 days, I began feeling better. So I have apparently dodged that bullet, whatever it was.

While physically OK again, I am still dealing with the same emotional funk.

I found the following comments while doing research into the characteristics of nicotine withdrawal:

People who have successfully quit the habit often talk about the “icky threes” of quitting. These include:

  • 3 days. The worst period of physical withdrawal. (not really that bad for me – I had spent months re-wiring my brain to not smoking prior to my quit day.)
  • 3 weeks. The time when physical withdrawal is waning and the psychological withdrawal takes over. (Oh yeah!)
  • 3 months. Sometimes referred to as “the blahs,” at 3 months post-quit-date some of the newness of quitting wears off, and some people wonder, “Is that all there is?” This is a common time for relapse to occur. (hmmmmm)

I am definitely in the last phase, an emotional state aptly named, “the blahs.”

My approach for now:

  1. So be it. This is how I feel. Be fully present to it (practice #1/ A Beginner’s Mind). In other words, do not put a happy face on it, or grin and bear it. Rather, acknowledge how I really feel, be willing to fully experience it and see if whether Werner Erhard nailed it when he said, “Whatever we are willing to fully experience disappears.” Has been true for me in the past. Will see how it goes now.
  2. Choose a more useful attitude about it all. (Practice #7, Choosing Our Attitude, in my book). Yes, the feelings I am having suck. However, each day is another day I have not responded to the million cues a smoker gets to have a cigarette by having a cigarette. Each day I am re- wiring my brain to behave as a non smoker. Each day without smoking is another success. Each day, my body, especially my lungs, are gaining time to heal, another day it is no longer under siege. Another day gifted to my body.

It is a beginning.

Post #20 01022020

Post #20 is my first post for 2020; nice symmetry.

This post also marks a shift from a 100% focus on just my dog, Spirit, to exploring other facets of my life.

 

On 12/2/2019, I smoked my last cigarette.

I smoked my first one when I was 13 years old on a cold, clear winter night in 1951. It was a Lucky Strike, snitched from the poker table where my dad and his friends were taking a break from their annual New Year holiday marathon poker session in Dearborn, Michigan.

I slipped out of the house with my single cigarette and a book of matches in my coat pocket. I can still feel that snow squeaking under my feet; see the cyclone wire fence paralleling the sidewalk, my breath puffing out into the black night air. I stopped under a street lamp to light up, then took my first ever drag.

Oooooh. Suddenly I tumbled into a wonder world. Bliss. Safer, more secure somehow, a space without sharp edges. This felt familiar to me in some diffuse, blurred way. Did I smoke in other incarnations? Did I know then what I was feeling now? That I had a new friend I could always count on to deliver, calm, peace, joy, relief, comfort, even a keener insight into life?

I never looked back.

Some 400,000 cigarettes later, I smoked my last one a month ago in a cold garage, snuggled up in my winter coat. I liked that one too. I remember liking them all save those few I smoked while suffering from one illness or another.

Why quit now, at age 81?

I have been pleasing my brain for my entire life but at the cost of abusing my body, especially my lungs. I could see the possibility of one day having to choose between breathing and smoking. I already have COPD. Not going to live my life dragging around an oxygen tank, which is why I bought a .38 last summer, paying $700 for my long term health care plan. A bargain I would say.

Still, why not do an experiment? Give my lungs a chance to some healing. See what life is like without smoking. If I don’t like it, I can always go back to it.

My process for quitting was/is elegant and simple: Pick out a date a few months away, occasionally remind myself I am quitting, and when exactly, and why exactly. I was giving myself plenty of time to practice re-wiring my brain so on “that day” I would already see myself as a non smoker. There were times during these months I was anxious for the day to come. I was already feeling like a non smoker.

When “that day” arrived, I quit cold turkey. It was easy. Since then, I hardly think about smoking – to be generous, maybe it has surfaced as a momentary desire a half dozen times during the past month.

I did buy some licorice candy and licorice root (to chew on) because I had heard it helps with cravings. Maybe it does. I like the root best, no sugar plus it provides oral satisfaction while chewing on the root. Nice.

What has not been easy at all, however, is the emotional turmoil I have been experiencing ever since. Ouch!

No energy, no motivation, no focus, no desire. Lousy sleep during the night so wind up taking long naps during the day too. And in the past couple of days, coming down with …. something. Chills, coughing, feeling delicate, vulnerable. I am devouring thousands of milligrams of Vitamin C, Echinacea.

So this is where I am at today.

There is always tomorrow.

Well, usually.

Post #18 11042019

Today marks a full two months Spiritdog has been on the fenben (fenbendazole) chemotherapy treatment. I have been charting the daily dose given (always between 600-650 mg of Panacur C, which contains 22% fenben, so delivers ~ 140-150 mg of fenben). I am also paying close attention to his behavior/response to treatment.

What I record on a monthly chart each day is his energy level, appetite, stool consistency as well as note anything else that is unusual.

So far, so good. His energy level is excellent, his appetite great and stools have been mostly firm. The only hiccup in this regard is I began adding turmeric (mixed in a coconut oil with a bit of black pepper, which is supposed to help with turmeric adsorption in the body) and began with too much – probably a full heaping tablespoon in his dog food and his stools became soft, ill formed. His body could not process the change that rapidly.

So, I stopped giving him turmeric all together to give him a breather. That was about a week ago and his stools are gradually becoming better formed. In another week, if all is well, I will give it another try but with maybe a ¼ teaspoon and slowly build up to perhaps a tablespoon each day. Will see how it goes.

Stepping back from all this, what I am engaged in here is what could be called “bucking up,” meaning staying in the game for the long haul, doing what needs to be done day in day out, doing the work that it takes to meet a challenge and see it through to its ultimate conclusion. Bucking up is one of the practices in my new book, 11 Life Practices/An Old Man’s Stories of Light, Love, Joy, headed for publication sometime around the end of this year.

This effort to support Spirit in healing his cancer is my current opportunity to practice “bucking up.”

Another, not so obvious optional quality of bucking up is cheerfulness. It is one thing to trudge along in a long term effort weighted down by a sense of obligation, or perhaps even resentment if one is feeling forced to do what needs to be done. It is quite another to buck up with a smile in our hearts and a capacity to have fun with it, even having a sense of humor about it all (which alludes to another life Practice I have called Lightening Up).

When we can adopt an attitude (another of the Life Practices I have termed, Choosing our Attitude, choosing one that best suits whatever situation we are facing) that includes cheerfulness, our staying power is magnified enormously. Instead of a feeling that we are trudging through Jell-O, we are, instead, engaged in doing what Love does (another one of the Life Practices). We feel joy in our hearts as we go about the work, which now feels like an opportunity rather than a burden.

This is how I feel about supporting Spirit through his journey with cancer, not unlike the journey I took while supporting Dianna in her 17 year struggle with cancer (what my first book, Dianna’s Way was about).

So, why am I getting to do this journey again?

My sense is to practice doing what Love does by supporting one I love as they go through a rough patch helping them create and experience the best life they can live. Unsurprisingly, this allows me to create and experience the best life I can live too. What could be better, more satisfying then helping those you love live their best life?

Joy.

What I can see now is the practice of bucking up provides us with the opportunity to practice all 11 practices I have identified in my book.

Stepping back even further, choosing to be in this reality (physical form) could be looked at as our ultimate opportunity to buck up!

What better way to live our lives than being immersed in a challenge that captures our attention and energy, one that brings us all that life has to offer? Life’s blessing.

 

Post #12 07/17/2019 Done with Radiation, on to Chemotherapy

 

Back to the practical side after my deep dive into the spiritual side of this adventure, caring for Spirit, my dog, who has cancer.

To review, I had the lump on his leg surgically removed to the degree possible. Because the cancer is enmeshed in his ligaments, tendons and nerves, clear margins are not possible (only amputation of the entire leg offers that option). What the surgery did do is cut down on the size of the mass radiation had to kill, making radiation more effective.

What the radiation treatments did hopefully accomplish is completely kill localized cancer cells in his jaw and leg. This buys us time to continue CBD oil as a possible natural chemotherapy to deal with cancer cells throughout his body, or at least keep them at bay.

Maybe.

There is some early science, but not much, to indicate this may be effective.

I am going to assume this is true and have begun with 45-50 mg/day as the dose he needs to do that, again, with no science to back this up – simply what I concluded after perusing suggested dosages based on vague, anecdotal reports.

I will do this for a year.

If he is doing well, with no new evidence of cancer, will decide then whether to continue at this dose level or shift to a lower, maintenance level of maybe half as much …… probably for as long as he lives – two thirds of all Golden Retrievers eventually die of cancer so why stop if it seems to be working?

 

Post #11 07042019

It was 11 years ago today that I was writing a many page letter to my wife, Dianna, after she died on February 20, 2008 at 7:04 AM.

As recounted in my book, Dianna’s Way, a memoir about our life together, I was deeply immersed in grief over her death and this letter was my way of completing my relationship with her (practice #9 in my second book, Creating a Life that Works/11 Practices, currently being edited).

It has been my experience that when someone we love dies, our grief often includes an element of feeling guilty about something in that relationship. Not surprising. Few of us express Love perfectly in every moment of every day.

However, the beauty of guilt is it invites us to create and experience forgiveness, of self, of others.

This act opens the door wide to completing our relationships.

Simply put, the steps to completing our relationships are to a) notice there is something amiss in the relationship, b) own it (take responsibility for our own feelings, words and actions), c) forgive ourselves, then, if the shoe fits (if they have harmed us) forgive them too, d) share our completeness when appropriate, e) repair any damage we have done as best we can, f) honor their choices about whether to complete with us or not, without being bound by their choices.

 

So that was then and this is now.

I guess I never thought about it this way before but I had to complete my relationship with my dog, Spirit, too. This is an amazing insight for me!

In retrospect, completing is exactly what I did when I recognized I was transmitting negative energy into his psyche and body with my fear-filled thoughts and feelings about him dying of cancer.

Just by noticing my own negative energy, forgiving myself for harboring them, letting them go and creating a positive, constructive energy, both within my heart and mind as well as expressed in action, I could achieve completion with him. Now the way was open to moving forward with a practical, constructive plan of healing.

Of course, in all of this, I will continue to honor his choices in this matter, which may mean him choosing to end his life in a few months or not. I have no say in his choices.

Repairing the damage is simply doing what Love does (practice #5).

In this situation, this means doing whatever I am able to support him in his healing process.

This began with the insight that there was a practical way forward that had some possibility of success: radiation on the two tumor sites to kill the cancer cells in those locations, followed by an experimental CBD oil based chemotherapy for the next year – and, of course, all the associated support he needs in the form of wound healing, good diet, exercise and, in general providing a life he loves living.

Most of all, what Spirit, and any dog we have in our lives, most wants, most keenly requests, most appreciates, is always open and ready for, is that we be present to them in whatever moments we are willing to give (practice #1).

They, themselves, are masters at this practice, so teachers for us whenever we choose to be a willing student.

Doing what Love does also includes shifting my attitude to a positive, constructive frame (practice #7). There is a possible way we can achieve healing. No guarantees, the future is unknown, he may live a year or five. I don’t know. What I do know is, no matter how it turns out, I will have no regrets about everything I am doing now. Whatever happens, I will have done everything I could have done.

So, now we are in the phase of bucking up (practice #10), doing whatever it takes over the long haul.

We also know, given how this reality is designed, all of us are here only for a little while. We all leave this reality one day.

If I live that long, one day, I will experience Spirit dying, whether at age 8 or 15 or anywhere in between. When I held that squirming little puppy in my arms for the first time, I knew I was signing up for this experience too, that I would likely have the opportunity, painful as this always is, to practice letting go. (practice #8).

Life provides us with life, an amazing game to play.

 

So, why am I getting all this practice at care giving?

Life brings us the experience we need to expand our capacity for being and expressing. Nothing in life is an accident, not even “accidents.”

So, why me?

Why now?

I am naturally inclined to lean toward the mental, rational, side of experiencing life. I often love thinking about life rather than living it.

Care giving brings me back into life, into being present; how would I know if someone needs help if I am not paying attention? When present to what is, and what is is someone I love, who is in need, I am drawn into my own emotional nature, my emotional sensitivity, expressed as empathy, compassion.

Keeps me in touch with my heart.

All I need to do is pay attention to what it is saying, moment to moment.

So, care giving offers a perfect venue for practicing not only listening to my heart but to practice all of these practices.

Perfect.

 

 

It has been a bit over two weeks since radiation treatments ended for Spirit and he is slowly beginning to “come back to himself.”

Today, for the first time in a long time, he picked up a tennis ball and wanted to play ………. until he kind of realized he is not ready to play yet. Looked at me for a moment, dropped the ball and stared at me with a dumb look on his face, like “What the hell am I thinking here!” I almost had to laugh.

The underside of his jaw is still completely hairless and the right side of his lower jaw, where the tumor was located, is still swollen. That is drool hanging down off his jaw in the photo.

A week ago, he wouldn’t let me touch it.

While it must still be tender, he did lay his head on my shoulder the other day as we were driving to our walking place. Before all this happened, his habit was to ride in the car with his front feet on the center console, paw me when he wanted me to pet him, and nuzzling into my neck now and then too – so it is nice to notice he is able to do that a little bit again. A week ago, he was laying on the back seat of my minivan, period.

I still don’t touch his jaw though.

His leg, the other tumor site, is still hairless too but I don’t think there is much, if any, pain there anymore. Looks bad but don’t think it feels bad for him.

 

Because this leg wound is unprotected by a fur layer, each time we go for a walk, I put a Telfa non stick pad on it, hold it in place with Nexcare gentle wrap (sticks to itself), then cover that with a couple of two inch wide self sticking Velcro strips that protect against damage to his skin from brush, etc. Works very well, leaves him free to walk normally and infinitely better than the various medi boots out there, which are clumsy, always coming off and are not water proof anyway.

This routine works well whether it is raining out, or he takes a dip in a creek or whatever. As soon as we get home from our walk, I take all of it off, dry his leg with a paper towel if necessary, save the Velcro for the next time and dispose of the rest of it.

After this is done, I spray his leg (and jaw) with a wonderful Aloe Vera Spray product I found on Amazon (www.sevenminerals.com ). This is a great product for applying healing Aloe Vera without having to touch the area. A godsend for helping Spirit’s jaw, in particular. Now, when I start to spray, he lifts his head up and back so I can apply it – obviously it feels really good to him.

Next time, we will talk about my CBD oil chemotherapy experiment.

Blog post #7 06072019

So far, I have been talking about the day to day nitty gritty of caring for Spirit as we proceed through his healing process.

But, as it always is, it is my healing process too, if we broaden the meaning to include creating a more integrated, conscious self as a “healing process.”

All of us experience being divisible in this reality as “you and me.” However, the underlying reality is we are also and always in life together, indivisible, part of a mysterious whole. Our pathway toward a more fully integrated way of being, expressing, and experiencing this is to practice. (Practice #4 in my upcoming book, currently in editing, tentatively titled, Creating a Life that Works/11 life Practices.

In this book, we explore how this reality is put together and how we might practice playing this game in this more fully conscious way.

I have titled these practices as follows:

Part I Being (Practices in being more fully who we are)

  1. A Beginning Place/Being Now-Here (practice being present to what is)
  2. Our Inner Voice     (practice listening to our inner voice)
  3. Life is Re-creation (practice noticing the stories we are always creating)
  4. Me and We (practice experiencing being one with Infinite Being expressing)

Part II Expressing Being (the practices of playing the game with our words and actions)

  1. Doing What Love Does (this is Love with a capital L, how God expresses Love)
  2. Showing Up
  3. Choosing our Attitude
  4. Letting go
  5. Completing (practice disappearing upsets in our relationships)
  6. Bucking Up (practice fulfilling the promise of any long term commitment)
  7. Lightening Up

What I am discovering is we have the opportunity to practice most of these practices almost every day! It may be true that we could be practicing all of them every day. Perhaps, even in every moment!?

In any event, I am going to report how I experience engaging in these practices as Spirit and I go through our healing process together.

Why?

Reporting helps me to practice. And, who needs to practice more than me?

And, when would be a better time than now?

I am 80 years old. Probably shouldn’t wait much longer! J

 

So, let’s take a look at how these practices appear in one daily life, my own.

 

This particular life adventure began when I noticed what is: a lump on Spirit’s rear leg, then not long after that, another one on his lower jaw. (Practice #1)

What first emerged out of this awareness was noticing my own contribution to his illness. I realized I had long been busy creating a reality about him getting cancer with my fear of him getting cancer. (Practice #3, noticing my own story, reported in an earlier post.)

Next, I chose to let that (debilitating) story go. (Practice #8).

I consciously chose to create a new story. (Practice #3 again): I will treat this as a challenge, as an opportunity for healing. I would chart a new course, sailing toward an unknown shore, to be sure.

I may not know the outcome but am open to whatever Life brings, with love in my heart, grateful for each moment we have together. (Practice #7)

I could have let nature take its course and let him die (in a few months, I was told).

When I looked into his liquid brown eyes, my heart spoke, loud and clear (Practice #2).

I will spend whatever resources I am able to give him a chance at life (Practice #5).

Many, without the money to do anything else would have to make the heartbreaking decision to let him go (practice #8 again, and a much tougher row to hoe). How blessed we are that I have enough energy and money to use help from the veterinary profession for the treatments needed. I feel incredibly grateful.

Doing what Love does, in this situation, asks that I step up to meet the challenge (Practice # 6). I must be willing to provide my daily, even hourly, attention to his well being over the many months, perhaps even years to come. This is not going to be a quick fix but a long journey through surgery, radiation, and whatever other means I can bring to the table. (Practice #10).

One day, as I am looking at him sleeping peacefully, lost to the world, it occurs to me that I am doing this for him …. and for me ………. and what is the difference? What works for him works for me too. We are engaged in a win-win game together. Everything I feel for him I feel for me too. (Practice #4). I feel complete with him in this moment. (Practice # 9)

It also occurs to me one day, things could be so much worse.

His cancer is treatable, appears not to have metastasized, his appetite is good, his poops are good, he sleeps a lot (a key healing activity all by itself), loves being petted and is still excited by deer crossing a field, or a rabbit standing on the road, or when the plumber or a friend comes to the door.

He loves life.

Enough motivation for me.

So, whether he decides to leave in a few months and stays with me for many more years to come, I feel blessed. I feel cheered by this challenge, even joy! (Practice #11)

 

Two practices I have touched on, completing (practice #9) and the practice of being me and we (practice #4) warrant a bit more comment.

Unlike with my human relationships, which are more prone to fall in and out of completion, I am essentially almost always complete with Spirit.

How do I know this?

Whenever I look at him, there is a smile in my heart.

If there is an occasional incompleteness, if something needs repair, it is always within me (my fear based thoughts about losing him being one example). But, day in, day out, being complete with Spirit is our normal state of being together.

 

Robin Wall Kimmerer (Professor, State University of New York and author, Gathering Moss and Braiding Sweetgrass) proposes using the word, Ki as the singular pronoun to use when referring to non human life. This gets rid of “it” as in I ran over “it’ with my car or “it” landed on my birdfeeder or….

 

Naturally, as she notes, the plural of ki is a word we already have, kin! Perfect!

So, Spirit is Ki.

But I am Ki, too.

Each of us is part of the All That Is, Infinite Being expressing. Spirit expresses as Spirit, I as me, each of us, as who we are being in this reality.

We are all kin.

While in this duality reality of light/dark, large/small, good/bad, right/wrong, we mostly experience being me and “other.” But some magical moments, at least, I experience being both me and we. (Practice #4) He has given me so, so many such moments.

And he sleeps here at my feet, healing his body. So far, anyway, he is choosing to stay here, with me in this life.

 

 

 

The Origin of 11 Life Practices

Hi Steve, Mark,

As you know, my wife Dianna died at 7:04 AM on February 20, 2008.

As you also know, while still grieving, I started to write a book. I wanted to tell her story, about the way she lived her life.

We were all moved by how she expressed herself in the world.

That book, Dianna’s Way, was a best seller … well, among her friends and family anyway. 🙂 Thanks for buying a copy, by the way. Did sell a few hundred copies and I enjoyed talking to people about it.

Still, I was nagged by a feeling there was still more to say.

What were these qualities that made her stand out?

In Dianna’s Way, I showed the reader what these qualities look like when embodied in a real human being, but nowhere did I identify them, even for myself. Which was fine – it was a memoir not a self help book.

As I began to write this book I slowly realized I was not talking about qualities, I was talking about practices.

Makes sense now. It’s not like we’re born with a list of qualities we then magically use to master the game of life. Regardless of our raw talent, none of us walks out on a baseball field for the first time, already a Hall of Fame player.

To get good at playing the game, we have to practice, practice, practice… And of course there are guys like you that never get any good at it! 🙂 Sitting around drinking beer or smoking joints does not get it done. Okay. Kidding. I admire both of you or I wouldn’t be writing to you.

Anyway, as you now know (finally – I hesitate to tell you I told you so but I told you so) better than I, we are playing a particular game while we are here messing around in physical reality. Sure, we enter this reality imbued with some genetically based talent for playing the game (physical life) but if we want to excel at our position (our unique expression of Infinite Being), we will have to practice if we are to gain the skills needed to become competent at playing our position (our role in the grand game of life).

In the game of life, from our first breath to our last, not a day or an hour or a minute goes by that we are not practicing. We are always in the game, no time outs, like it or not.

The only question is, practicing what?

Some practices are useful for creating a life we love living, some are enough to get us by and some are counter-productive. Of course, I wanted to focus on the former – we all know how to do the rest without trying.

Hence the origin of my upcoming second book, tentatively titled 11 Life Practices/ Creating a Life that Works.

In my next blog, I will talk about why I saw the practices naturally divided into two distinct groups, hence the reason for Part I and II of the book.