Thursday, March 26, 2020

Together Alone

The World  looks the same, but it is not 

We have technology that connects us, like the various social network platforms.  As a result, we can often feel less alone. But this is an illusion. It is a paradox that we feel more connected but in reality, we are not. I say this because we have developed habits brought on by reacting to social media on a superficial level, “liking”, “thumbs-up” posts as we mindlessly scroll through our newsfeed.

Last year, I decided to mitigate this by creating an online community. It began as a social experiment as I encouraged the members of the community to interact on a deeper level. I have seen some success, a small percentage, maybe 1.5%.  I have found that it is challenging to break people's habits by and large because of their belief in a lack of time to respond sensibly.  The result often is not paying attention to the source, and without giving a second thought to what the person posting might be experiencing. If a post requires too much reading, often it is skipped completely.  This behaviour can lead to an increase sense of isolation. It is the kind of lack of thinking that distresses me, especially in these challenging times when we need to depend on each other to get through it. 

Early in March 2020, when the Covid19 shutdown started, and people were directed to “socially distance” themselves to protect those they loved and to stop the virus spreading that was consuming the world, they over-reacted. Hysteria was all-consuming.

Fear and panic swept many countries. Ordinarily well-behaved folks began a frenzy buying spree. Toilet paper disappeared off shelves in stores globally like people’s life depended on it.  When that first happened, I – like many others - didn't know what the significance of toilet paper was.  They didn't stop there; they began hoarding food too. The world had gone mad.

Others acted in disbelief, rationalizing this was some kind of conspiracy hoax perpetrated by the government to control people. Still others ramped up their religious rhetoric, saying that God will save certain people if only they believed. And, that when your time is up there is nothing you can do about it. These types of messages encourage hopelessness.

Those beliefs made some people behave recklessly and irresponsibly and they refused to isolate, refused to stop shaking hands. They actually reveled in their rebellion, like teenagers. Co-opting others to also disobey guidelines to reduce spreading the virus.  I admit, it was frightening. it seemed surreal.  This is our shared experience. Like 9/11. I kept hearing the phrase “a new normal”.

When hubby returned from a business trip that week, I immediately sent him down to the lower level of the house to self-quarantine. The following couple of weeks I disinfected after him, anything he touched I wiped down clean. If he came close and looked like he was going to hug or kiss me, I'd say quickly don't kiss me get away from me. He handled this very well, to him the welfare of his family was paramount. I appreciate how well he took it. My son was home from University this semester, which gave me a level of comfort and reduced my stress, knowing he was safe here with us. 

At the beginning, I was consumed with the news on CNN, as the death toll began rising in China, and then Italy, US, and now Canada.  I could not stop watching, it’s like rubbernecking when you see a car accident.  My stress level was high.  I began noticing a correlation between watching this unfold on the news in real time, and my anxiety level. And I decided to limit watching CNN. It worked.

I then realized that I am not the only one feeling this way, and began checking on people to ensure they knew I was willing to listen if they needed to speak to someone about how crazy and unreal the world was becoming. The uncertainty was escalating every day, as the number of deaths were being reported, and the economic sector responded like the masses, and people began panicking and selling off shares, the stock market fell, oil prices hit rock bottom.  A recession was on the horizon. As people began self-isolating, businesses without their workers had to close leaving customers wondering if and when they will reopen. Schools cancelled classes. It was chaos. Hospitals were pleading with the government for essential emergency kits, like ventilators and protective gear.   Even the 2020 Olympics in Japan got postponed.  

All this uncertainty began to simultaneously weigh on people as the death toll continued to climb, and their confidence collapsed. We are just weeks into this “new normal” no one can predict how it will end.  I have been keeping to my regular schedule of exercise, meditation, and journaling, keeping note of what I am grateful for, the only control I have is my response to this pandemic, is my own behaviour.

In this unusual crazy world more than ever, we realize how interconnected we are, and what we do affects others.  In that realization we must strive for balance between doing no harm or harming others, while protecting our families.  Even knowing we could kill others by unintentionally transmitting the virus to them with reckless behavior.  it is an individual choice how you decide to behave. The choice is in our hands, as individuals we have to be responsible for our actions for the greater good.

Just like after 9/11, it becomes apparent that the human spirit is amazing, and our innate compassion comes out in times of catastrophe. Many do show up for others, helping and comforting. While it may seem like we are alone, we are all together in the same boat. We are not isolated. How this will end is completely up to us individually and as a society as a whole. 

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Falling In Love with My Brain

My go to morning beverage matcha tea and green smoothie <3 nbsp="" td="">
This morning I got on my exercise bike at 5:30 AM. While I was doing my exercise, I realized that for 2 1/2 years I have had the same morning routine, and gave myself a virtual pat on the back. I know that it is a good habit to master.

I Wake up at 5:30. I do 30 minutes on the bike, 30 minutes meditation, and 20 minutes breathing exercise. Then 30 minutes journaling. I started doing this after I read a book called 5 AM Club after suffering a stroke, a serious health crisis that resulted in certain limitations. This inspired me to work on my brain health, and I consequently decided to devote time, first to learn about the functioning of the brain, secondly to focus on adopting habits to enhance my brain’s performance, primarily by eating healthy whole foods, drinking lots of water, and incorporating a routine exercise program to get oxygen flowing in my blood. Adopting a wellness program for complete and deep sleep nightly. And, regular meditation.

I recognise that change is not easy. Our brain does not like change. It likes to keep doing what it always has done. I knew for it to work I had to adopt a new perspective. I was more determined to get my brain right. It was my overriding determination that helped me stay focused, that coupled with a naturally curious mind. The impact of a stroke on my brain fascinated me. I was intrigued. It made learning about the brain more stimulating. As I studied neurology, it became clearer that specific actions or environmental contaminants can negatively affect the brain. I accepted that I had no control over what had happened to cause the stroke in the first instance. I was healthy, except for the growth in my heart that had to be removed stat!

However, as I studied further, I began to fall in love with my brain. It really is a magnificent and a complex and powerful organ, which I actually have control over. I wanted to protect it and help it to reach its highest potential. With this thinking as the foundation to anchor my resolve to get healthier made getting up at 5 AM all the easier. The goal for me was to be able to mitigate the deficits that had been caused by the stroke. I believe I have made a pretty remarkable recovery. Although I still have some residual processing issues and the blindness in my right eye, unfortunately, is permanent. But by and large every day I'm getting to feel more like myself. My next checkup is in June. My next field (eye) exam is in April. I hope both doctors will confirm what I ready know, and I will be driving again.

At this time, my major concern is my weight. I have been monitoring my thyroid for the last 6 months. It is 2.09 which is close to stable, but not balanced enough. I am told it is difficult to lose weight if your thyroid is not balanced. In 6 to 8 weeks I will be tested again.

The progress to get healthy, especially your brain, takes dedication, commitment, and concerted effort. I have no problem doing the hard work. My weight on the other hand is problematic and not wholly within my control until my thyroid is in balance. That is my next health objective.

The lessons I have learned in 2 ½ years is that it is important to have people around you that are supportive and understand what you are going through. Thankfully, my husband and my son have been very helpful.

It is just as important to have a positive mindset. Be patient with yourself and others. Because I live in a different Province from most of my family, and I don't have close family to lean on for support. And being that I live in the country, it would have been absolutely fantastic if I had a family member come to help, but I understand that was impossible.

Fortunately, I am the type of person who has a positive mindset, and anyway, I am not one to ask for help.

 I am resilient and capable. However, I am aware not everyone will understand fully what I am experiencing because unless you have undergone a similar experience it will be difficult to comprehend some of the challenges I have faced.

That  said, outwardly I show up as confident and independent much the way I was before this all happened. I do not rely on anybody. I like knowing that I am capable, at the same time, I will graciously accept the tenderness of others’ assistance.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Trauma of Death

Danielle Adby 1992- 2020 Forever Loved. 

Today, on March 3, 2020, we are burying our nephew Quentin.  He was short of 30 years old.  Yesterday, March 2, 2020, I received the news early in the morning that my niece Danielle, not yet 30, passed away overnight.  The quivering voice asked:  “Is this Danielle's aunt?” I could tell right away that it was serious. Her father said I was the only aunt listed on her phone. The paramedics were already on the scene and were desperately trying to revive her.   My family has still not gotten over Quentin’s death, but already we are going through the motions of preparing for yet another funeral of a young person. 

Danielle was a vibrant, happy young lady.  She was studying and looking forward to a bright future. The coroner described her death as “natural causes” but I find it difficult to wrap my head around how a young 28-year-old could pass from natural causes. 

I first thought of starting a crowd source funding like GoFundMe to help her mother pay for funeral costs, a traditional feast, and gas for people that wanted to attend Danielle's funeral, but crowd sourced funding is generally not successful, unless you are a celebrity.  By and large people are not interested in helping someone they don't know or attend the funeral of another person they don't know.  On the other hand, a few years ago, I created a GoFundMe campaign for my daughter's cat, Luke.  It was successful, and we reached the goal of $4,100 to pay veterinarian bills. That would unlikely not happen for an unknown young person, no matter how wonderful she was, and how great our loss.   

I know that people will donate generously for an ailing cat or dog, as they did for Luke the cat. My daughter was very grateful to be able to pay for his operation. It got me thinking about what we as humans feel deserve our compassion and empathy.  If my niece or my nephew, who passed away within a few days of each other had been a dog or a cat I would definitely create a GoFundMe page to help their mother. But of course they are not animals, they are human beings; they are a son or a daughter, a brother or sister, a niece or nephew.  A father.  Real people are mourning their loss. People are wondering how the world can keep on spinning after unexpectedly losing these wonderful souls. There is shock, sadness, anger, disbelief and not enough time yet for acceptance -- all the emotions when something tragic occurs to someone we love.  Both Danielle and Quentin were absolutely loved. As I write this, I see their big smiles and I hear Danielle’s soft voice and her giggle when I spotted her pet bunny hopping on her bed when we Skyped.

Quentin was a father. Danielle, was a student, was just starting her life, a young woman with a bright future.

We are mourning the loss of a bright future for these two young people. There will be no happy future for them.  Instead, we are dealing with unbearable grief: one barely completed, and another one days old. And the solemn activities of preparing for the funeral. One is taking place today. This after having buried our brother Max just a few short months ago.

Our story is typical many for families particularly Indigenous families, who face trauma on top of trauma with no time to completely go through the stages of grief when they are hit with another trauma. When you are submerged in trauma you have no understanding that you are in trauma.  You go through the motions to get through your day, putting one step ahead of the other. Perhaps, like me, you react to things more deeply. Maybe being short tempered, or irritable.  I recall years ago speaking to an elder who said when you are in the trauma of grief it is like you are living in a fog, difficult to see, and at times it is too unbearable to breathe.

He cautioned me. “Don't make any important life-changing decisions”. You need to go through the grief process and get through the other side of your trauma when the fog lifts and you're able to see clearly before you can make decisions. I always remembered those words each time I went through the loss of a family member.  I remembered not to be quick to make decisions to wait until the fog clears. And for everyone that process is different there is no right way or wrong way to cope with a death.

If you have been following my blog you know that I process experiences through blogging. I needed to write my feelings on how unfair it is that fur babies and human babies are not treated equally.  I understand the attachment to fur babies. I too had a wonderful one, a standard poodle who I absolutely adored he passed several years ago.  I could not get myself to get another dog until a couple of weeks ago. Inasmuch as I adored our dog Bodhisattva, I value and love people in my life more deeply than I could ever have loved Bodhi. That is the difference. I adored our dog, but at the same time, I understand that a human being’s life has much greater value, always, whether you know them or not. That is where true compassion for all humans is realized.

Today we lay to rest our nephew.  I cannot comprehend what my niece’s mother and siblings are experiencing. The pain must be greater than anything they have ever experienced since the passing of their grandpa. The grief, especially for her younger siblings who may not understand why they will never see her again, why their mother is inconsolable and crying for days.  Why she is closing up.  Being quiet. 

If I were to offer any advice, I would say when someone dies it is a poignant reminder to all of us that death touches everyone. Life is short and precious. A reminder that we must put aside petty differences, forgive one another, tell people often you love them, laugh often, that deep belly laugh. Don't take yourself seriously. Give yourself permission to have fun. Indulge in simple pleasures that make you happy. Know that you are doing it.  Don't worry what people think. Be happy.

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