Taboo Tuesday: Wherein I Drop The F-Bomb

Filed under: Digital Sabbaticals,Taboo Tuesday — Tags: — Meredith @ 11:00 am May 31, 2011

Times are tough. You, me, and just about everyone seems to be going through some pretty rough patches, and we’re running out of ideas for all these lemons we’ve been given. If you follow me on Twitter or have friended me on Facebook, you have a fairly reasonable idea of my woes. About a month ago, physical health problems became an issue for both myself and my husband. First, my husband had some internal bleeding issues that needed serious diagnostics. A couple of hospital visits and one colonoscopy later, we’re waiting impatiently on lab work to answer our questions. Suffice it to say, we’re hoping for benign results and the easiest condition to treat. What’s the worst that could happen, you ask? Why, a diagnosis of colon cancer, my dears. Should that be the case in a week and a half, I think I’ll have all the right to moping about with a “woe is me” attitude.

Can it get any worse than that, you ask? Why, yes it can! You see, a little over two weeks ago I experienced some of the most terrifying pain of my life. Only once in my life have I ever been as scared of pain as I was then — that was when I had salmonella poisoning. (Fyi, NEVER eat Peter Pan Peanut Butter. Yes, I’m still angry over 5 years later.)  Actually, I was a lot more fearful for my life this time around. What started out as gas pains quickly escalated into dizziness, cold sweats, light-headedness, and sharp pains that felt like knives twisting around in my abdomen. I curled up into the fetal position on the bathroom floor, gasping for breath and pleading with my children to get their father. My husband tried to persuade me to go to the hospital, but it took another few minutes of pain before I realized it wasn’t going away. I conceded defeat and begged him to call 911. My “I’m uninsured and unemployed” side still nagged me to rethink the “error” of my ways, but it was too late to turn back. Let’s skip past the ambulance ride and time spent in the ER waiting room (because sometimes your fear of dying isn’t as founded as you think it is). One bag of IV fluids, some pain and antiemetic medication, and a couple cups of oral iodine contrast later, I received a CT scan that showed I had a ruptured ovarian cyst on my left ovary. Well no wonder I was in a world of pain! I received instructions to follow up with a gynecologist. Only, I’m unemployed and uninsured.

Whereas my husband has received care for his condition, I have not. As it would seem, a sliding scale clinic may see you and take a prorated amount of your money — but you’ll get what you pay for. I didn’t even get a prescription for birth control pills, which are the first line of defense against future cyst development. They are the least invasive form of treatment. I got about 5 minutes with the doctor before she hurried me along and told me to schedule my “annual.” For $20, I had a doctor tell me common knowledge about most of my issues and brush off my concerns. Even Medicaid will reimburse her more for a patient than I paid for my sliding scale fee. Of course she wouldn’t spend more time on me! Oh, but this post isn’t about my opinion of healthcare in our country. This is about me and my life. This is about more personal matters.

You see, I recently offered advice to a practical stranger on a blog I read just about everyday. Only after I posted it and walked away did I realize I was being a hypocrite. Only after I posted it did I realize that I need to follow my own advice and practice what I preach. I stopped, realized I’m being a fool, and began plotting the specifics of my digital sabbatical. Yesterday I divulged that I will be taking one very, very soon. Lately, I’ve been a wuss. I haven’t had the courage to face life head-on. I’ve not been myself, and I’ve been drifting through the past five months, hoping and praying for salvation. There’s one gigantic problem: I know I’m better than this. Gwen Bell once tweeted, “You have to be fucking fierce with your life. Nobody else will do that for you.” And you know what? I AM fucking fierce. If ever I need proof of that face, I needn’t look further than my HBA2C. You want fucking fierce? I roared with such ferocity while giving birth to my precious baby boy. Fucking fierce? You bet your ass I’m fucking fierce.

Life has been the opposite of a cake-walk — more like a liver-and-onions walk, or perhaps a tripe walk. Hell, walk isn’t even a word I choose to describe it. It’s been an all-out claw-your-way-out-of-the-ditch experience lately. And while the noise out there let’s me know that some people have it worse, some people are going through their own problems, that noise doesn’t make it easier. That knowledge doesn’t make it easier. In fact, it makes it harder because than I feel even worse for feeling like my life’s hit rock bottom. That noise isn’t comforting. It’s down-right stifling. People I love are hurting. People I’ve never met but feel like I’ve know them my whole life are hurting. And I’m powerless to help just about everyone at this point because I haven’t even made the effort to save myself. How can I save the world when I’m ignoring my inner ferocity? How can I make the world a better place when I’m wallowing in negativity on a daily basis? By virtue of being exposed to negative people, I have become fairly negative myself. When I plug in and see all my positive binary faces, I become more addicted to that digital hit. I close the laptop lid for an hour or so before I’m back for my next fix. I find myself living vicariously through those who have achieved more success than me. And then one day, I read something wonderful…

“Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”

I’ve been guilty of this for a very long time. I also realized that I’ve been struggling to be more authentic in my life since 2007, when I discovered Brenda Della Casa. For years she has inspired me to be more authentic, to take more control over my actions and words. And in all honesty, I’ve been afraid to share this post. But today? Today, she encouraged me to “use [my] voice.” Today, I’m using my voice. I’m peeling back the layers and bearing my uncensored self. Today, I’m telling you that life can be pretty fucking hard when you’re unemployed, uninsured, married to a man suffering from bipolarism* and GI disorders, raising three kids, living with your disabled in-laws, and about an hour away from decent medical care and shopping. Life can be pretty hard when you let all the hits knock you down into that muddy ditch. But as Kaileen Elise has said, “It’s easy to get down on yourself when the hits keep coming, but the only choice we have is to jump back in.” Indeed, it is time to jump back in. But I can’t do that with all the noise in my head. I need to unplug. To relax. To dig deep. To ruminate. To review my past accomplishments. To review my life as it is. To live the life I have instead of pining for the life I planned. I need a break. And with that, I bid you farewell for seven days. I won’t be checking email. I won’t be on Facebook or Twitter. I won’t be reading blogs. I’ll get my news from Brian, who seems to have reading news in record time down to an art form. I’m tuning out the world, and tuning into myself. I’m tuning into the 5 most important people in the world to me (I’ve included myself in this count because no one is as important to a person as their own self). See you in a week!

*A post is forthcoming regarding this admission. I’m taking a break, but not before I schedule some delicious words.

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Mindful Monday: Digital Sabbaticals

Filed under: Mindful Monday,Mindfulness — Tags: , , — Meredith @ 11:00 am May 30, 2011

Recently I’ve been noticing a pattern of escapist activity permeating my daily routine. As such, I had begun considering a digital sabbatical — and when Gwen Bell asked for feedback about digital sabbaticals, I knew it was time to get serious. She asked several key questions:

Describe the moment at which you decided you needed to unplug.
In the past, I have taken a few weekend sabbaticals because I was tired of wasting time on the Internet on my days off of work. I wanted to enhance the quality of my time and get a break from the glowing screen. Now, I’ve got way too much noise — digital and otherwise — in my life at the moment. I plug in, and I’m assaulting with all sorts of noise. Some of the noise is good, some of the noise is bad, and some of the noise is just noise. Sometimes, the digital noise serves as a means to escape the real life noise. Shutting off the digital noise will give me time to sort through offline noise — and to find ways to minimize or better manage it.

How long were you unplugged?
Previously, I only unplugged for two to three days at a time. When I say “a weekend sabbatical,” I absolutely mean it was a weekend deal. I’m considering a full week this time around — I really don’t feel comfortable going longer than seven days at this given point in time, and I feel that seven days should be sufficient for me to get my head straight.

Were there moments you cheated?
Oh, definitely! The first digital sabbatical I took, I popped into my Gmail because I was expecting an email from my mother. I didn’t plan to answer it, but I wanted to read it before the weekend was over. I think I also snuck onto Facebook to respond to a private message — but I didn’t scroll through my feed. Also, I still signed in to complete my daily online sudoku and crossword puzzles — I treated those the way I would have treated their printed newspaper versions.

Who supported you during your digital sabbatical?
Basically, my husband was my support. I wasn’t taking the sabbatical for anyone other than my husband and kids, and the kids weren’t particularly conscious of their indirect support. My husband, however, knew I was intending to stay offline and provided encouragement.

What do you wish you’d done differently during the sabbatical?
I wish I’d been completely faithful and stayed out of my inbox. Trust me when I say that during this seven day sabbatical I have no intentions of entering my inbox. When I say it’s been too noisy, I absolutely mean it. Really, I can’t go outside without being bombarded by noise. The current cicada invasion can get rather loud, in fact.

Will you take another one? Why?
I’m planning one within the next few days because I’ve become far too dependent upon digital activities to fill my day. However, said activities aren’t producing results — said activities only serve to distract me and waste my precious time. Each rabbit hole adds to my internal thought processes, and much like a computer I’m beginning to run sluggish with all my running processes.

What surprised you most about unplugging?
Actually, it was like going through withdrawals from any other addiction (or at least, from what I’ve read — my vice of choice is chocolate, I can stop any time I want, but I simply choose not to). After a day, though, it was much easier than I expected.

What insights did you gain about yourself by taking a digital sabbatical?
Honestly, I didn’t gain any of insights I didn’t already know — I already knew back in 2004 that I have an Internet addiction. This was before Twitter. This was when Facebook was so exclusive, not every university or college was available on it yet. You definitely needed a .edu email address in order to sign up. This was when LiveJournal was still all the rage (actually, it was one of my time suckers). I do notice my habits and patterns, but the Internet itself is a useful tool. I just need to moderate myself better. I can’t spend hours on end researching and reading about a subject that fascinates me, nor can I spend hours on end socializing via binary. There are walks to be taken, sunshine to be absorbed, dreams to be dreamt, water to be drunk, books to be read, and all sorts of wonderful offline activities in which to partake.

Expect an announcement within the next few days — of course, it may not be much different to my blog readers, but my friends list and Twitter followers will definitely notice my absence.

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Wordless Wednesday: Why, Hello There!

Filed under: Wordless Wednesday — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 10:00 am May 18, 2011

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May’s Reverb 11 Prompt

Filed under: Reverb 11 — Tags: — Meredith @ 2:46 pm May 15, 2011

If you participated in Reverb 10 during December of last year, are any of the things you wanted to manifest in 2011 revealing themselves?

Write your responseprivately or publicly. Tumblr it. Take a photo and post on Flickr with the tag “reverb11.” Draw it out. The prompt is yours to flip it on its head, answer it as-is or make up your own prompt.

Cali Harris of Caligater fame inspired me to dive deeper into my reflections, which lead to reviewing several reverb posts, answering questions, and noticing patterns. Last night, armed with a bright green pen and my trusty notebook, I jotted down my thoughts as I sat with my thoughts and creativity. Here’s what I uncovered:

I had wanted to manifest a life worth living. I wanted to be my own boss. I wanted to take better care of myself and my family. I wanted to stop dreaming and start doing. Well, that’s a lie — I’ll still dream, but the point stands that one must do in order to achieve. Thus far, I’ve made time to walk, dance, practice yoga, and attempt to tone and strengthen my muscles. I haven’t answered to a boss, but that’s mainly due to my continued unemployment. This does not translate to being a successful entrepreneur, and I’ve spent much more time in quadrants 1, 3, and 4 in the importance/ urgency matrix. By the time I’ve finished with everything that’s urgent, I’m left with little energy to do much more than escape to trivial activities. In my response to the February prompt, I asked where this year is going. Gretchen Rubin’s observation that the days are long but the years are short has rung all too true for me during the first five months of 2011. I need to make more time to follow my dreams, or I need to make peace with the status quo. There is no excuse for sitting in a puddle of unhappiness day after day.

But where would I like to go? I asked this both literally and figuratively back in March. Literally, I’ve begun to appreciate the area we have moved to. I bore witness to the beautiful snow-covered mountains and the flowering trees. So, I decided to search around and see what the houses around here look like. I stumbled onto this “unusual find” and realized the dream could in fact be had here. I’ve also become enamored with the locals and their ties to an era of which my ancestors missed prior to immigrating. Alternatively, I’ve discovered that this area — like any — has its own issues and flaws. Politics inflame the locals, and I imagine home-ownership would remove my sheltering from said issues at hand. Still, I simply want the house, the land, and the views that feed my body and soul so that I can live the dream. I haven’t stopped dreaming of New Hampshire just yet, but I have been challenged to review my reasons for dreaming about it. Given the current circumstances, I’m just more concerned with the next step and less with the end goal. Of course, it’s really all about the journey, NOT the destination anyway.

I still ask myself where life is taking me and what the future holds in store. I still ask myself daily if I’m doing the right thing. I’ve realized to an extent that current discomforts will fade into unpleasant memories. My gardening endeavors resulted in a few tomatoes and sugar snap peas getting planted — and so far I’ve only seen half the garden grow. It’s like an external manifestation about how I feel in life right now. I have several packets of seeds that may never know the soil’s richness, and only about half the seeds I’ve planted seem to be thriving. The harvest looks grim, which is to the advantage of the grocery store. I have identified several personal factors holding me back. Said factors lead me to drift through life, and I’m working to identify ways to overcome these obstacles.

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April’s Reverb 11 Prompt

Filed under: Reverb 11 — Tags: — Meredith @ 11:40 pm May 4, 2011

What’s blossoming?

This prompt is yours to use as you like: answer it as-is on your blog, create a vision board, share your response in conversation with a loved one, make a short film. Get creative. Change the prompt as you like. Enjoy.

Peach blossoms. Cherry blossoms. Red buds. Wild flowers. Azaleas. Roses. Gorgeous landscapes. Alas, I wasn’t swift enough to capture the beauty that blossomed around me. However, I did manage to capture lush, green landscapes — sans any tropical foliage. I’d become accustomed to the palm trees, the live oaks, and the cypress trees. It was pedestrian. For most, it’s a dreamy landscape made of dreams. For me, it was the same old, same old. I missed the splendor of spring. I missed how a cold, barren landscape (I’m repeating that word a lot, aren’t I?) would bloom into vivid, vibrant colors. You know that spring green crayon in your box of crayons? It’s aptly named — the fresh, new leaves have this gorgeous shade of yellowish green that seems to signify the start of warmer weather, longer days, and fresh fragrances wafting through the air.

But the local flora wasn’t the only thing blossoming. Oh no — spring is a time for flora AND fauna! The horses down the road added a couple foals to the herd. Those quarter horses and saddlebreds consistently fool me into thinking they’re Chincoteague ponies with their gorgeous (another repeated word here) markings. The filly — or so I can tell — has gotten her land legs, but she’s still a bit wobbly. Why, just the other day she finally came up to the fence and sniffed my hand for the first time. Her warm breath gently tickled the back of my hand as I stood motionless, softly assuring her that I meant her no harm. Her mother took some long stalks of grass from my hand this time, too. The filly wouldn’t bite, but it’s to be expected. She’s still learning about the world around her.

And now for some unedited photographic illustrations!

(Okay, so this last one required some cropping to remove address identification…)

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