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....

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Summer continues unrelentingly punishing the centuries of human carelessness with continued malevolent climactic conditions. If I were an ecofeminist, I would blame our militaristic, heavy-handed, profit-oriented history of robbing the environment of the tools it needs to survive.

Hmmm......could I do that? Well, yes, in a way. Bears are appearing on golf courses, deer are everywhere looking for a place to live and groundhogs sprout up even around apartment buildings.

And we go on, shopping(well, some of us) and environmentally looting; what is next?I hear people complaining about the weather, the humidity, the absolute torpor of it all. I whine, too; less than in prior life. However, I know I must take some of the blame. Two legged animals can be most cruel.

While meditating and just relaxing in Van Vleck Gardens, I noticed PSE&G (area utility company) digging up mounds of grass in a large area. I was concerned for the animal and bird population. What could I do? I meditated and let the thought leave.

Now, in an unbearably humid day I am defrosting the ancient mini fridge (or excuse for one) that is provided in the too-high-rent studio apartment where I reside in an area that a lot of people want. I would give up the apartment in a moment if I could find an alternative that suits me and that I could more afford. Not yet.

As for the job that will open my life financially, it has not manifested. It is time to create this job; however, it is difficult. Next step, calling holistic centers and making interest meetings or phone calls if it is in another state or area. Then my cell phone bill will rise. And the circle continues.

How to break that circle? Walk in another direction. And I will. In the meantime, back to the refrigerator, grading research papers, and doing what I need to keep self motivation at a peak.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Your-time-of-day has stopped.

I was not ready to die; I defeated cancer in 2000. Who was my computer to tell me to get ready for the next energy field? The inability of my computer to keep time and day consistent should have had nothing to do with me, or should it?

The above Hitchcockian-message appeared on the black computer screen of my relatively new Dell Inspirion 1525 on June 28, 10:30 pm. I just came back from a too-good Italian dinner with friends who always make me laugh.

The Rigitoni Leoni settled in my stomach and I began the first of several long conversations with Dell. As usual, I was transferred from one outsourced technician to another, culminating in the bleatingly earnest promise of a supervisor to have a technician with a new motherboard for my computer at my apartment door, today, July 1.

All was fairly solved; not true! Dell Computer lies. Do not buy Dell products. I am furious at Dell since my inconvenience means nothing to them. My files are on my new computer and I need them. It is time for a new summer session, my academic files are on that computer,and besides, the Internet is faster.

Damn Dell! Today is almost over and I received a voice message that my order has been delayed for at least one to two weeks. My holistic, calm persona could not last and I gave a Dell representative a fairly Joycean litany, or maybe Carlin-like might be more accurate. (And only yesterday in the college research class that I am teaching we were discussing the all too commonplace use of curse words and their etymology. I have smart students.)

And I am truly annoyed. I am using my old Inspiron which is hobbling along. However, I trust it will last and redeem itself; what does it matter that in order to get an s or a b letter to appear, I must forcefully smash the key.

Okay, I will meditate. I will return to my holistic persona. Maybe.

Peace, dudes and dudettes.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lately I have been writing. It has been years since I wrote from the heart and fully engaged in the creative process. I have written and published in area press, online ,and in cancer and wellness related journals. Not to mention the papers and graduate thesis required to earn the Masters in Holistic Health.

I do not know what I will do exactly with the deep writing. Perhaps try for a book or series of articles. It will take time; I have much material. At times, it became difficult to write and to live entirely truthfully. Selectively, I revealed my life; I still think so often of Emily Dickinson and how her work selectively revealed moments in each numbered poem (Time for a reread!)

Yet, in the creative process, what role does truth play? When we write or draw or create in any form, what are the effects? Does writing lead to wellness? When my life revolved around cancer--chemotherapy, radiation, living with an incredibly supportive other, movies, city walks, museums, art, more chemotherapy, radiation, complete evenings spent in the bathroom, writing became my therapy of a very mixed emotional time. Writing and Buddhist chanting became my bridge between this world and mortality. I would experience, write, chant. That was eight years ago and now, it is memory, except for the words I wrote, medical charts, doctor visits, and that feeling in the heart chakra when I hear the word--cancer.

I hear it often. I am an advocate with C3 Coalition, peer counselor for Colorectal Cancer Alliance, and trained holistically as a Cancer Guide, sort of a holistic resource, cancer mentor for anyone experiencing cancer. And still, it is a subject of intense interest and passion. I experienced cancer; it did not kill me, it did not define me, it did provide endless change. Sometimes, I am even appreciative.

But, does it take such intense life experience to become creative? What if life is pleasant, easy, financially secure, "normal," perhaps; if there is a norm at all? Where does creativity go?

Time to feed the cat; my orange friend. He knows all answers, I believe.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

It is strange to say that in such a financially devastating time, my spirit runs fairly free? Could it be that our physical world does not correlate directly with the spirit world? Or that, perhaps, one can still be fairly happy in the middle of economic difficulty.

I am not Melville's
Bartleby who chooses not to find a fruitful means of employ; nor am I a forever dreamer who basks in the glittery promise of a better tomorrow. (Could I not be a presidential speech writer?) However, I am hopeful, surprisingly not frustrated, and somewhat confident that I can find a way out of a financial morass while concurrently finding employment doing what I want to do.

What I want to do and what I must do to survive might be two different things or surprisingly, they might be the same. I have taught English, journalism, women's studies and more on the college level all my working years, practically. I am a good teacher; however, I have been at times an arrogant, strident, frustrated, robo-teacher, even while maintaining the visage of good prof.

Lately, I have been an excellent teacher, fairly surprising myself at moments of incredible teaching enjoyment--that rush I have seen lately only in film or heard from others. Probably this rush is coming since I am trying to leave teaching and pursue holistic work and start my own practice.

I am trained for this holistic work; I desire it, I am passionate about energy medicine, Reiki, integrative medicine, watching Eastern and Western medicine work together to create wellness (the persons involved help, too). I love chanting, Qi Gong, meditation, healing therapies. They have changed me; the persons who taught me and life experiences have helped, too. I want to take my teachings and continually evolving practice everywhere. How?

This quest will become all pervasive until the answer reveals. In the meantime, I will continue writing, teaching, practicing, and seeking.

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.