Putzing Around

The totally unforeseen, seldom happens occurrence happened today. I ran out of work. Weird. Something like that hardly ever happens. I NEVER get caught up but today I did. Incredible.

I did the school work I had to do. Nobody had anything else for me so I did the outside work I had in my bag (shhh, don’t tell!) and when I got that done, I just sort of sat there, dazed and amazed.

Nothing demanded my attention. There were no deadlines staring me in the face. It was a little scary.

Now, I know people who can putz around all day but one of them is not me. Putz? For those of you for whom American English is not a first language (or for whom British or Canadian or Aussie English is not a first language either, for that matter), I am back to sprinkling my speech with Yiddish again. Never realized how often I did that until I started thinking about ESL readers.

Anyway, putz as a verb means “to engage in nonproductive or inconsequential activity”. It also means something as a noun but we don’t need to go there.

To repeat, I know people who can putz around all day but one of them I am not. I am more your type A type. Goal-oriented to the core. Therefore when I don’t have an assignment, and realize a time will come when I won’t have any more assignments, I get a little scared.

The Huffington Post had an article on being mindful. The title was Why Doing Nothing is the Key to Happiness. I found it while I was having my existential crisis and had nothing to do. ( When all else fails, write a page! 😀) The author suggested being might just be enough. Noticing may just be enough. We just have to be mindful of what is in front of us.

Then he said noticing requires a stillness of the mind. Aha! A goal! I can work on being still. But the problem with that is you cannot ‘catch’ stillness by running after it.

Probably need to work some more on the mindfulness thing. I tend to try too hard.

Thoreau is quoted in The Art of Doing Nothing. The concept he was espousing was not to let ourselves constantly be slaves to routines, shoulds and musts but to let our ‘instincts’ guide us. Thoreau would set out with no particular destination in mind and just see where the road led.

That might be a thought. No specific goal other than discovery. No timeline. No schedule. Exploration.

Of course, every time my husband has tried that on vacation I have gone insane with frustration. There were things I wanted to see!

All of which makes me think I am going to have a very ‘interesting’ time of it when the eyes force me to retire. Anybody know of a good how to book on putzing around? I think I am going to need it. Continue reading “Putzing Around”

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Stop & Smell the Roses

Hello again. I am facing a transportation crisis. My ride to the Y on Saturdays is taking six months to train as a yoga instructor. Six months of Saturdays she won’t be going where I am going. Sigh.

I do not begrudge her her dream. She will make a great instructor. Just a minor inconvenience but I have started to assess my resources. I have started to network and reach out. You don’t know if you don’t ask. What can they do? Say no? Big whoop.

I was asking about posting a sign or something, asking the girl at the desk. A woman I had never seen before joined the conversation. She comes past my house on the way to the Y. She had just started Zumba and exercise in general. Being responsible for me would get her to class. She was going away for a few weeks but she might be able to give me a ride when she got back. I could live with that.

Moral of the story? a)You don’t know if you don’t ask. b) There are a lot of good people out there. c) God works in mysterious ways. d) All of the above.

Moving right along. This morning yoga class started with the reading of a commentary on a stunt the Washington Post pulled in 2007. The Post put Josh Bell, a violin virtuoso playing one of the finest violins in existence (crafted in 1713 by, of course, Stradivarius), in a subway station and asked him to play Mozart. This is a man who packs concert halls around the world. His violin is priceless.

The statistics from this little adventure were as follows: 1,097 people passed by. 7 stopped for more than one minute. Bell made $32 and change.

The commentary and articles I found alluded to Matthew 7:6, “do not throw pearls before swine”. I would prefer to think that is not an accurate application of the Scripture. I do not believe we are all so brutish the finer things are wasted on us. I would prefer to think many people, as I often am, are just too taken up with day-to-day life to even notice the extraordinary let alone stop and take it in.

While no one enjoys sensory loss, having low vision may actually give some of us time to stop and listen to the Josh Bells of the world. We might now have fewer responsibilities and more time to be mindful, more time to be in the here and now.

How many extraordinary things do we ignore because we are ruminating over something that happened yesterday or that we are worried about happening tomorrow? My father would call it stopping to smell the roses and he always told me I needed to do more of it.

I cannot honestly say I am mindful of the extraordinary. I would like to think that should I find a Stradivarius being played in a subway, I would kneel down in awe and reverence. However, I am realistic to know that is a bit far fetched. I would probably be one of those thousand plus people running for my train. Not exactly proud of that.

How about you? Continue reading “Stop & Smell the Roses”

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Stop Smoking Now!

This might be turning into the bad habit series for these pages. After doing the page on high BMIs and increase AMD risk, I looked up ‘hot topics + AMD’ and found smoking listed as numero uno. OK. Smoking it is.

I don’t smoke. Never did. It smells and is ridiculously expensive. Worse yet, it is bad for your health. And when I say health, I am including eye health.

BrightFocus Foundation in Smoking and Age-Related Macular Degeneration says smoking brings oxidants into the body. Chemicals can also damage cells. This activates the immune system which can further damage your eyes. These are ways cigarette smoke can increase your risk of AMD. I am sure you have heard cigarette smoking is the largest, modifiable risk factor for AMD. Those are the reasons why it is such a risk.

At least 4 of the Marlboro men died of lung cancer

The problem is it is hard to quit smoking! You have been doing it for years. Many of you remember the coolest commercials on TV were cigarette ads. Remember the Marlboro man? How about Joe Camel? And ladies, how can we forget those long, sleek, sophisticated women who sold us Virginia Slims. Could Joe Camel have steered us wrong all those years ago? Let’s just say Madison Avenue certainly did a number on us!

Anyway, no one ever showed us the Marlboro man using a white cane and hacking a lung out, so we believed the ads. Lots of us smoked and became addicted.

If you have AMD or live with someone who has AMD, you have been told to stop smoking. Quit.com has a whole list of suggestions on how to do this. They are reasonably good. For example, one of them even goes back to one of my favorite psychological theorists, Viktor Frankl, when it says know your reasons for quitting. Remember Frankl said if we have a why, we can endure any how? (“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”) Great philosophy turns up in the damnedest places.

I would add a few more from my DBT distress tolerance toolbox. Stop being sorry for yourself. Be mindful and practice gratitude. Be willing, not willful.

You are totally right. Life is not fair and now they really are trying to take away your one bad habit. It is for your own good. Stop dwelling on what “they” are taking away and think about all you have. Get involved. Substitute some fun activities for smoking, or better yet, do for someone else. Turn your mind. Continue reading “Stop Smoking Now!”

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Genetic Rant & Roll – The Miniseries: Part 2

Yesterday I threw a mini pity party for myself. This is a long road. It is a marathon and not a sprint. It should not be considered unusual to ‘hit the wall’.  It happens once in a while.

School was in full holiday mode, but I had reports with deadlines during the break. A true professional gets things done. On time. I stuck with it.  Then the people who were going to take me into the city bailed on me. Too much to do in too short a time.

I had been holding it together. Thinking about getting out of this one-horse town even for one day. Once I lost my opportunity, I started ‘jonesing’ for a change of scenery bad. Real bad. I also had a few words to think about inconsiderate people who get going blind old ladies’ hopes up and then renege. I was in high dudgeon!

Then, my dears, the pièce de résistance for the whole, lousy day. I got my genetic profile back from Arctic. Eight pairs of high risk genes, five pairs of moderate risk genes and two ‘good’ pairs.

Really???? I got dealt THAT bad a hand? My percentile rank was 97. I ‘beat out’ 97 out of every 100 people in the crappy eye genes category. Yippee. I ‘won’.

Lin literally, and I mean direct quote, looked at my results and typed “I’m sorry you have such shitty genes.” Friends can say things like that. Especially when it is true. [Lin here: And when friends don’t know what else to say.]

Maybe we should put that on a greeting card. With all the genetic testing that is soon to go on there is going to be a need for shitty genes sympathy cards. Maybe we can sell the idea to Hallmark.

Anyway, now I know why I am 63 and have the eyes of an 83-year-old. Crappy eye genes. REALLY crappy eye genes.

I have my consultation on the results early next week. See if I can understand any more about it.

But that is next week; the more pressing question for this page was how not to let my disappointments get me too far down. Circling right around again, I decided to use some – ready for it? – mindfulness! (Told you it’s a panacea.)

A big part of mindfulness is staying in the moment. The missed trip was going to be in the future. My graph looked to me as if I would be pretty much ‘completely’ blind in seven years. [Lin/Linda here: we’ll talk more about this later.] In the future. At the time I was mulling over all these negative thoughts, I was fine. If I cannot control what will happen in the future, why worry about it and ruin the now?

So I pushed it away (DBT alert!), went to yoga, then came home and listened to an audiobook. Sacrificing the now to worry about a questionable future does not make a lot of sense. Seven years from now I may have had stem cell infusions and my crappy eye genes are no longer relevant. New RPEs and I am ready for my next 63 years.

Early next week I get to talk to Arctic about my results. I will try to analyze some of the data myself between now and then.

In the meantime for you? When you hit the wall, bounce. Remember it is normal but also remember most of what we worry about isn’t even here and now. Enjoy the present. The future will sort itself out.

Continue reading “Genetic Rant & Roll – The Miniseries: Part 2”

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Patience, Not My Virtue

“People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.” – Isaac Azimov

Do you know those people who decide the ‘truth’ of a situation is what is convenient for them? Then they decide to operate on the basis of that ‘knowledge’ even though you have told them half a dozen times they are wrong? And THEN they are peeved because things did not turn out the way they thought they should? That was my day yesterday. The person who took me on my errands thought the world was going to operate his way and I knew that was not the case. It drove me CRAZY.

When I was fully sighted I did not have to worry about putting up with other people’s foibles as much as I do now. I would take myself and just know damn well what the rules were. (I check ahead of time.)

Now it is often all I can do not to be critical or say “I told you so!” when things go amiss. Let me tell you, patience is a virtue I somehow think I lack!

I touched on patience before, talking about waiting for the clinical trials to get going, but that is a little different. I can curse them out at the top of my lungs but they are over 100 miles away. it is not wise to curse your driver out when you are 25 miles from home!

I found a couple of articles on how to be patient on the web. Jane Bolton writing for Psychology Today (9/2/11) suggested we be kind to ourselves and understand it is normal to want our own way. We want things done right (read ‘my way’) because in the not so distant past, wrong decisions on even simple things could mean death. She also suggested we suck it up and understand we can tolerate more discomfort than we thought. Bolton said we can use ‘pain’ to find other solutions and to help us understand ourselves. For example, why is this action driving me so crazy???? Finally she suggested we stop the self talk about how intolerable it all is and what an idiot the person doing things ‘wrong’ is. No sense adding fuel to the fire.

Z. Hereford writing for Essential Life Skills suggested we slow down and, essentially, smell the roses. She made some suggestions that sounded very much like mindfulness skills. They sounded very similar to ‘moment to pause’ and ‘being in the moment’. Those are mentioned on other pages.

So, here I am, 24 or so hours later, and I – barely ::grin:: – survived, but survive I did. I will probably be driven crazy again but hopefully I will be able to tolerate it some better. I am, like you, a work in progress. Continue reading “Patience, Not My Virtue”

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Grandma’s Reindeer

This time next week I am supposed to be on a plane to Reykjavik. First thing I want you to notice is in the last week I have learned how to spell Reykjavik correctly. The second thing I want you to note is in real-time it is the end of August and Iceland just had two reasonably substantial earthquakes ….and they expect a volcanic eruption in the near future.

My husband thinks this is utterly cool. He would like a front seat to an apocalypse. I would like to see an eruption as long as nothing gets hurt. You know, like in a movie: no animals were killed or injured in the making of this extravaganza.

With my luck, I will be in the way when the caribou decide to make a mad dash for it. You know the song about Grandma getting run over by a reindeer? Yep. That would be me.

Besides thinking about living a bad Christmas song, I have been thinking about everything that has to be done before I leave. I have work to finish at two places of employment. I need to go to the pharmacy and the bank. The list of things I want to see in Iceland is only half done. Packing has hardly been given a thought, etc, etc.

It is enough to make a girl crawl into a fetal position in the corner and hyperventilate….which reminded me. I told you I had had panic attacks when this mess first started but we never really talked about the ‘delightful’ things. According to the Mayo Clinic a panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions. They happen in the absence of any obvious danger and often come “out of the blue”. There is no good theory for why some people have panic attacks and others don’t. There are theories about genetics and temperament. Major life changes, stress or trauma can put you at risk for panic attacks.

I never had one until I started to lose my vision. Then I had a time I was having four or five a day. Symptoms included a lot of autonomic nervous system stuff like rapid heart rate and hyperventilating not to mention the feeling of impending doom and fear. Like I said, ‘delightful’.

I treated mine with good drugs. If you are having panic attacks, run, don’t walk to your doctor for anxiety medication. Many of you won’t need to be on the medication for the rest of your lives and, if you do, so what? It is better than waking up screaming three and four times a night like I was.

Other treatments? Psychotherapy is helpful. The emotional regulation component of DBT, including all aspects of physical regulation, is useful. Remember to stay active and try to get enough sleep. The ubiquitous mindfulness meditation is also beneficial.

And speaking of sleep, it is time for me to toddle off to bed. I got a lot done today and have a lot to do. Still, all things in moderation. If I pace myself, I can get it done.

Oh, and the volcanic eruption and the reindeer and all that? No sense worrying about the future. It distracts you from the now. The volcano will erupt if it chooses, but if it doesn’t? My husband will be really disappointed.

written 8/31/2016

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Waiting for the Go

I got that question again: when are you going for the clinical trial? When I said maybe January, I got the same response. You know the one: “But you must be losing vision all of the time!” Probably. Not very fast, but probably. Not sure I needed to be reminded, but thanks for caring.

Time is moving along rapidly actually. I am now 63 years and 5 days old!😁 Fast week this. I have noticed the birds are moving in flocks and it is getting dark earlier. My summer is starting to fade. I MUST be getting closer to when this accursed study is going to launch.

But then the next thought is right back to how many RPEs do I lose everyday? What is the other countdown here? Do I want that countdown to go so fast?

I am doing my distraction activities. I worked seven hours today. Pretty much the same number of hours every other day this week. I went to exercise classes three evenings and swam tonight. I am busy!

Kate Sweeney, featured in a Times magazine article on waiting said that distractions did not work in her study but it sounded like her subjects were actively pushing away worry with their distractions. You cannot not think about something by telling yourself to not think about it!

Sort of like: “don’t think about a blue elephant!” Yep, all sorts of thoughts about lovely hued pachyderms out there right about now.🐘

My distracting involves doing things to do those things. It probably works better. I try not to say things like “I’ll swim so I don’t think about my eyes.” I just go swimming.

Sweeney did not find high self-esteem to be a bit helpful. (I could have told her that!) However, optimism was a help as was being comfortable with uncertainty. She also found that anticipating failure did not help with waiting but helped with dealing with the final outcome.

I guess if you are screaming “failure is not an option!” It is a little hard to get yourself together after you do fail.

A lot of worry and anxiety was also found to make dealing with results easier. The worrywarts started back on task faster if they lost and were more relieved if they won. It is nice to know anxiety about this sort of thing has some benefits.

Sawyer’s article came back around to endorsing what appears to be the panacea these days: mindfulness meditation! Nice to know we are on the right track but it would have been nice to discover some sort of new revelation here!!!

So I wait. My vision loss and medical science are in a foot race. The outcome is uncertain but I remain optimistic. Now I guess I walk the dog.

[If you’re wondering about the title, it’s a ‘play’ on the title of a play by Samuel Beckett “Waiting for Godot”.]

written 7/22/2016

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