Wellness Woman Writes

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Meditated at Van Vleck Gardens with flowers, pea pods, birds and perfect breezes. Suddenly, Jaguars appeared! It is "Cats in the Garden" day and Jaguars and owners spread noise, fumes and some rather obnoxious, loud behavior into my place of meditation. Found a deeper spot and stayed until shortly before noon when admission was going to be charged to see the cars adorn the Gardens.

Now, I have no excuse not to do my teaching, wash, and endless paperwork and cleaning. Or not. Not is winning; I must harness my energies and work. Soon.... Energies are somewhat diverted by an advocate-friend who is dying. She is young; in her 30s, and the cancer never really left. Still, she advocated, began graduate studies in public health, moved to California and sparkled. That Billy Joel song to New York, "...they tell me that a friend is dying, oh, New York City..." runs through my mind.

As a cancer policy reform advocate, cancer free for almost ten years, I should be able to deal with all of this death. Not really. I will miss Christine next year in DC, during the Congressional activities and afterward at one of our hours-on- end dinners and after times.

Okay, time to appreciate the rest of this day and all life! Tomorrow I am solo activities assistant in the Special Care unit. Solo times are usually tough; teaching after work. Time to read about cultures and values---obese, spoiled Chinese sons; interracial weddings, Amy Tan, and more. Why do I assign so much? Can I amend syllabus so soon? It is only the second class! Better get reading.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A lot has taken place; however, if written it would seem as though not much has taken place. It is the subtle internal change which allows external change to manifest, I believe. Teaching college in the evening has helped get my spirit back; it was rather trampled among the layers of dirt and sadness that cannot be washed with disinfectant at the day gig. Still at the nursing home, finding moments of connection and love among human change and life debris.

One of my favorite residents is "going upstairs," which often denotes entrance into the end stage dementia unit. I will miss her wisdom, wit, and voice. Ida was so independent; a union organizer, college teacher decades before women were usually permitted, and a social worker in The Bronx. She was one of my Yiddish teachers in the Special Care unit where I work. Good bye, Bubbala.

I think of Ida when I teach, sometimes, then wonder what was it like to teach college over 50 years ago. Now, I would abandon this menial pay gig to part time teach four or more courses, most likely. Then I would be faced with the loss of my health insurance benefits; would I become a "charity care" case? Or will I find more work once I am back to a set schedule, more humane hours, and less exhaustion? I think so! Sending out resumes; going for one interview later in the month.

I have learned a different meaning of work and in the future will find it tough to tolerate academic or professional moaning about overload. I know overload; I am engaged in it daily--from "traying" tables at 8 am to ending teaching at 10 pm. I get it! I don't expect to return to becoming an intellectual dilettante, ever. I will appreciate. In the meantime, back to traying, transport, activity leading, exercising leading (a good thing) and teaching Qi Gong to a population that has been largely given up on as far as learning something new. I see differently.

My spirit is somewhat back; fighting bureaucracy at work, healthcare worker sickness, and general depressing atmosphere in my day gig. Finding the ability to laugh is welcome; it has been a tortuous five months. I am searching for free summer music, art, low price days at museums; adjusting to a rather meager existence and feeling somewhat more confident that change will come, or perhaps is slowly manifesting.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

In my heart, I am a teacher, whether it be Qi Gong, wellness, or English and Humanities. In my heart, spirit, or body, I am not a slave and that is what I feel like during my hours in the dementia unit. Well, perhaps not actually a slave; I can walk out the door after pressing the code, walking past a cadre of sad residents and imperious supervisor, through the first floor and out to the air. Soon.

In order to leave I must find another job or series of jobs which will pay more than the poverty wage I currently earn. However, the position must allow me to communicate ideas, talk with others, use my intellect and feed my starving occupational soul. I am open to all possibilities; teaching is one of them. Actually, recently, I have experienced almost a visceral desire to teach college. And if a course runs, I will be doing that beginning May 26--Cultures and Values. I cannot wait!

Except when will I sleep those nights? I work with some exceptional people who hold two full time jobs and don't indulge in much sleep. So for two nights, I will be one of them, partially. I have learned that prior to work in the dementia unit, I was an academic dilettante, of sorts. Now, I can easily work the 40 hours plus. Bring on the classes, papers, ideas, and students. I am ready!

I want libraries, newspapers (as long as they remain), books, journals. I want to stand outside and talk with students and sip coffee, not dodge waterbuckets, human feces, and violent residents. I am tired of hiding in closets to use a cellphone (which will soon be turned off due to failure to pay the entire Verizon bill) and to justify going to the bathroom and advocating continually for basic civil rights.

Yes, it is time to leave; to earn enough money to eat regularly, keep electricity on and soothe Verizon. I want to be able to purchase a material good when needed; however, that is not possible, now. Most important, I want to earn enough to keep taking the medicines and supplements that strengthen immunity and perhaps keep cancer in the past tense. I cannot do so now.

So, what good comes of this? Why not quit and "jump into the great unknown," as some friends and others who are secure, advise. RENT. My job covers rent. Who will cover rent if I quit? Of course, if I am fired due to teaching a college course then I will be out with a sense of freedom and who knows what else? Will I be afraid, no. I have a hard time finding fear; I have been through much in my life. I do not find time for that emotion; clogs productivity.

What have I learned? That my intellect matters, that communicating ideas matters and that at age 58 I am tired of poverty. That I might like where I'm living (re Leonard Cohen) and want to attend concerts, films, go to NY culture--all that has taken a backseat since my new job. And that I might want to continue study.

Well, it is time to get ready for another week with the residents, some of with whom I have developed a real relationship. I learned that Alzheimer's or dementia (early to mid-stage, anyway) does not completely rob a person of thought, emotion, capacity to love, to enjoy or to experience grief or pain. I see how this institution tries hard to nurture but loses just as much in attention to endless regulations, creation of new paperwork, and patience gone awry from medical/activity staff so exhausted that the residents cannot always come first.

The absence from teaching allowed me to miss it. This job reconnected me with my passion for reading, for literature, ideas and feelings that I thought might be permanently gone. I am grateful. I am also grateful for family and friends who helped and understanding for those who tend to back away.

Yet, this is all part of life experience. Time to close this chapter, soon, and see what the next one will bring.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Call my job a low paying apprenticeship that is fast speeding toward bankruptcy or call this an essential life learning experience. Well, maybe both. At the Special Care Unit where I spend my workdays and occasional workevenings, I have discovered that, at times, those labeled "clinically demented," are intelligent, witty, insightful, and for the moment, quite aware of where they are, what they are doing there and just where everyone is going.

I experience moments of laughter, anger, inspiration and tears. Not bad for a job, really. And not so slowly, holistic healing modalities are being introduced--by me--and sometimes grudgingly accepted by supervisors. Residents are usually appreciative. The inclusion of basic Qi Gong in exercise sessions works. Some residents resonate; all I have to do is start or say "Pulling Silken Threads," "Happy Buddha," or "Qi Ball" and they are there. Others need more cuing; others will try when shown. Energy work is a part of all of my work, even when forced to lead sessions in Yiddish proverbs or tabletop ball toss. Wait; I am learning Yiddish from my patient teachers-vassar is water, ich lieb du is I love you; kitzele is cat, shayna madel wit a kleidel is pretty woman with a skirt, shayn mein is good man. At times, we are all each other's mispochach (dysfunctional, crazy family).

However, at times, there is intense frustration. I am paid so very little that I cannot keep up my basic life or consider a visit to museum, film, going out with friends, or visiting one of the rather excellent area restaurants--not to mention New York City. So, I spend much time looking for other income opportunities in addition to the holistic groups I facilitate at the wonderful Green Hill Retirement Community. Nothing yet. Most places are not hiring, local businesses are closing; recession is evident, even in Montclair.

Will I leave? Most definitely; given the opportunity. Will I stay? If my salary were doubled, maybe. What next? Continue the search, network more, reignite past relationships and stay in the moment. And always stay open to all possibilities.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

This afternoon I am facilitating my About You group at an assisted living/nursing facility that contrasts dramatically with the unit where I am employed. Our group, which consists of a core of about eight, and others dropping by, will meditate, share, and this week, discuss Change for the New Year. How can I lead a discussion/circle about change and making peace with it when I continue to exist in various stages of turmoil over the rather dramatic change that I made?

Perhaps I should look at my own words before I go in there and say them. It is common knowledge (isn't it?) that life experience and life change, if separated from the reactive element, can provide answers. You know, the "be still and listen" mantra which for me often comes after an impulsive or reactive jump into a situation.

That is over. O-V-E-R! I will listen to my inner self before I move again, although my physical self is pushing for immediate change. (Sitting down is not an option for on-unit activity people in my day job. In office, well, there is a lot of sitting going on.) It would benefit to meditate about what to do next--jump to a parallel position (hell, no); push to advance in this facility, take a certification course and become a recreation therapist or crawl back to the academic cocoon of the mind (hot maybe). Or persue what I really want, to be a cancer guide.

This afternoon it will be important to listen to my own signals and feelings as well as my group. Will we find truth in stillness? Will we welcome the New Year? Or, will we drink hot chocolate and divert entirely?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dementia Days

Four years ago, sitting in graduate holistic health classes, I would often become bored and impatient with colleagues who spent much of my time bitching and whining incessantly about the inequities and exploitation of the healthcare profession--low and mid level. I was a full time student, emptying savings and still teaching college. When I entered healthcare, full time, things would be different, new.

They are not. I am currently unhappily ensconced in an entry level healthcare position in one of the State's certified Alzheimer's/Dementia units. My professional life is comprised of continual serving, running, facilitating, serving, running, transporting, facilitating, quick lunch (we are timed) and quickly coding back in where some not very demented residents are spending their time, participating, observing, sleeping, coughing, and some shitting whenever and wherever they desire.

I could say I am an underpaid, exploited apprentice. I could say I am a Florence Nightengale-like martyr doing my service in the battlefields of the demented minds of the residents and the patriarchal frenzied service attitude of the basically well-meaning institution where I work, in the truest sense of the word. I could say I made a gigantic mistake five weeks ago when I left an exceptionally good semester of college teaching and launched my current financial and physical exhaustion. I could say I am a student of life and its continuing adventures.

Okay. I am stressed even though I am holistic. Oxymoron? No comment. No need to blog my physical/emotional stress symptoms. I have gotten a handle on the mind chatter. I have not yet mastered conquering an aching body after transporting some very obese residents around the aging facility or through the sometimes fetid unit. There are no windows open; there are no doors open. Residents will happily and rightly wander out. I share their frustation at their confinement.

I can imagine former professors admonishing me; telling me to look at this as a learning time. And they would be right, in part. I have connected with wise women dementia unit residents who have helped me learn about aging and living the process of dementia and fighting it, fighting hard. "Look, we have to cope with our problems, take it day by day. We may not want to, but we have to look forward and keep moving. We are women, we are strong," one resident explained to me during a small group conversation revolving around The Wellness Pie, an activity I facilitate often, to various groups. (More soon.) "I am aware of my confinement. I try to read and keep up on things. It is hard. However, it is better to be optimistic than to moan about each day," another woman explained. (These are supposed to be mid-stage clinically demented people.)

So, I take their wisdom and let it help me through these really rough days. It is useless to detail the injustices that take place in the name of care. Email if you want to know. It is more practical to focus on my escape, which I hope will be soon.

What will I do to escape this truly trying situation? Listen to the dreaded economic forecast? Beg for a job at my old place? Not quite. Run to the first position that I see? I will try not to. I have learned too much. (Something in my inner self said not to take this job.) I will center, prepare, search, and somehow adjust to working in a world that I hope I will never reside in. I know the code to get out; I hope I always do.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Finally, the summer session concluded with an outstanding presentation of student research. A couple of the presentations were on par with a couple of the lesser lights of my graduate class; one was actually far superior. And to think, all of this in an urban community college, research one class. I loved that moment. Not that I am such an outstanding teacher, okay, I am "a damn good professor" as my mentor, the late Delbert Earismann, once told me. It wasn't that so much; I was exhausted; it was the collective energies generated in the class. No, we didn't practice Qi Gong (that is for full semesters) but we did meditate, focus and often I would start the class with meditation music or something mellow such as Secret Garden music or Steven Halpern. It worked. Also, I call students on their less than full participation or commitment. That is me; it is difficult to stay in a class of mine with a half hearted attitude.

Then, finally, freedom from the classroom, if only for a couple of weeks. At the close of week one, I am decidedly more calm, more rested, and able to confront the inevitable syllabi that await me. New books, new preps; a course I have not taught in years--Intro to Women's Studies. It will rock if enrollment gets to that precious 10; four more to go. If not I am decidedly screwed, in colloquial vernacular.

Although I am really at a low income base, I did splurge and see two films, which I recommend to anyone who might read this blog--Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Elegy. Elegy gets a B+ with an A+ for performances from Sir Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz. It is based on Philip Roth's The Dying Animal, and although in need of an edit here and there, it fulfills. Naturally, Kingsley plays an English professor in his seventh decade who realizes that he has never committed to love, is growing older, and perhaps might try to grow up. Cruz is a beautiful graduate student, 30+ years younger, and they become lovers and eventually more.

Yeah, I was entranced until the film broke in the midst of a poignant realization. After an interlude, all was well and the film resumed to finalize in a disappointing rather mawkish conclusion. I will not spoil it. Kingsley was so good; Del Earismann-like at times, and Cruz was pretty brilliant. Best, I earned free popcorn with my Clearview Cinema card and since the film broke, everyone got a free film pass for another time.

I gave an A to Woody Allen's surprisingly sexual Vicky Cristina Barcelona with one standout performance by Javier Bardeem who made me hot. He is stunning; far from a pretty boy type. Even if he were not wondrous, he is a great actor--The Sea Inside and the horrid No Country for Old Men, are proof. Scarlett Johannsen is weak in her part, Rachel Hall, okay; but again, Penelope Cruz was excellent. Sort of a menage a trois and more....Allen is the omniscient narrator so he is there without being cast in a role or a cameo.

Outside of that, I dined in a couple of favorite spots and look forward to a good Saturday night with friends. Went to my spot, Van Vleck Gardens. Had a great week; onward to week two! Week two brings syllabi and fulfillment of a new commitment to be a resource person at the upcoming New York Chapter of the Colon Cancer Alliance 's seminar, Sept. 6. Top docs, survivors, caregivers, and me...holistic person. I have to prepare a resource sheet. So, I am faced with work, even during vacation which is never vacation since I will not give up my Thursday holistic post at Green Hill Retirement Center.

Well, I would let a week or so pass at Green Hill ; if I had somewhere to go and could afford to go somewhere other than local....last week we discussed how to balance energies, practiced Qi Ball (assisted living) and upstairs in the transitional unit we talked about life, wherever the residents' world took them. It is a learning time for me, a giving time, and very much collective wisdom time.

Yes, I am mellow; however, don't worry. Passion may mellow but it never leaves....

About Me

New Jersey, United States
Wellness encompasses mind-body-spirit. We cannot feel well if all three elements are not in harmony. Achieving wellness can be exhilarating and can open your life. I can assist you on your wellness quest. I offer the combination of graduate training in holistic healing, practical experience and commitment to an integrative approach—using conventional and complementary healing tools, caring, and compassion. Training includes a Masters degree in Holistic Health Studies from Georgian Court University, Cancer Guiding training with the Center for Mind-Body Medicine and continuing Reiki and Medicinal Qi Gong study.