Monday, October 27, 2014

What's Natural?

I was watching my son play soccer the other day. He is not a natural. Field position, speed, initiative and attack do not come to him intuitively on the field. When he gets to the ball, I can see him thinking through the things he has been told about what to do next. Sometimes it takes me back to my own childhood, to the trauma of not understanding the game and not wanting to be there, on the field, on the spot. There is a big difference, though. He does want to be there. He asks to play. He's chatty and bouncy on the field (to the frustrated looks from some of his fellow players, who would like him to get his head in the game or at least know where the ball is). I have never insisted that he play soccer, or any other sport. I make it his choice, and thus far, he chooses to play. If he chooses to stop I might get my fall Saturday mornings back.

What does it mean to be a natural at something? More importantly, what does it mean to not be a natural, and do it anyway? I play the banjo. I sing. I sing harmony. I love the banjo. I love singing. I am not a natural. While I have gotten much, much better over the years, I have to work really hard at it and I am constantly coming up against limits in my ability.  There are lots of places where I am going to have to work harder than others to improve, and levels I probably won't ever get to.

I didn't start playing music for myself until a few years ago. My life has always been full of music, but in seven years of playing the piano I never quite got it. I guess I wasn't ready, or it was the wrong instrument, or the wrong teachers. No one introduced me to the idea of playing music as a casual social activity, separate from standard notation and scales. When I was a teenager and people I admired played music for fun, I felt like I had already missed my window and was destined to be a consumer forever. I felt left out. As a young adult, I was envious of the people in my life who would sit and play music together, but it still took me years to start to believe that I could participate. Sometimes I wonder where I would be as a player if I had let myself take it up as a teen and be bad at first; what would it have been like to learn to do something for the joy of it, without feeling self-conscious about my competence? I still struggle with that question.

These days, it feels like everyone wants to be a tech entrepreneur. Certainly, if you are a tech entrepreneur you are more successful than everyone else because you were making millions in your twenties. If you lack aptitude and interest in programming, you are a has-been in the "old" economy. Computer technology never spoke to me, though. I am happy enough to use it, but, like a car, when I can't get it to do what I need it to do then I find an expert and put it in their hands. I keep thinking that I want to learn more about computers, I even went so far as to buy a pc instead of a mac so that I could (haha) learn open source operating systems. Alas, mostly I just get frustrated when it acts like a creaky old pc and search the internet in hopes that someone else can solve my problem.

Given that, I am unlikely to found a successful tech startup and finance my way to happiness. I often lapse into thinking that people who start businesses that gain traction in the marketplace are almost passive, or pre-ordained, as if they are struck by divine inspiration and driven by an unerring compass to navigate the vagaries of their chosen field and the market. Naturals.  I don't actually know a single person who has built a business or carved out a career that way, however. When you are passionate about something, or even just genuinely interested in it, that doesn't mean it's going to fall into your lap as soon as you start to work at it. The most natural thing, I suspect, is to make a lot of mistakes and have some successes, and hope that what works is sufficient reward and motivation to keep trying. It's about making your own luck, and knowing that you are doing what you are doing by choice; that you intend to be there. Finding the path and making the path are two parts of the same process: the process of being open to what we really want.

I don't have to be born a natural to find a path, naturally.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Too Many Apples

I ate too many apples. Really, I did. I started to feel bad, the way you do when you eat too many apples, but I kept eating them. The next day, too. I've been dreaming of apples since mid-August, when the first bland Jersey Macs come out, because I knew that I wasn't supposed to eat an apple until October 17, the one hundredth spin of the earth since my re-birthday. So on October 17, I went to the orchard and bought two bags of apples and ate them all the way home.

And here we are in the days of no counting. The dragon is an infant whose life has been counted in hours, in days, and now in months. The dragon sheds some more soft scales. I can eat almost anything I want now; my nascent immune system is functioning and I can be in some situations without a mask. (Not the farmer's market, though, and I got some pretty strange looks doing my shopping on Saturday morning in my mask and gloves. More for me. The crowd gives me plenty of space. I went to pick up Lysander at a birthday party and the birthday boy took one look at me and recoiled in terror.)

Winter is coming. It's kind of cold in here because I haven't gotten the okay to handle firewood yet, and I'm home alone. 100 days has been the goal for so long, it has taken a few days to accept that there's still more to do, still more waiting. And winter is coming. The time when everything closes in on itself a little, when there's a little less motivation to get out of bed, when everything starts a little slower. It's been winter for me for a while. I returned from North Carolina in early January, in the middle of a brutal cold snap, to go to the hospital and begin this journey. For most of a year, I've been a little more closed in on myself, working a little harder on finding the center, moving a little more slowly.

The problem with milestones is that life can become about the goals. The future can take my eyes off the present.  Having a point on the horizon to move towards can make the time pass, but it can't make the time be. What I struggle with most is seeing how I am exactly where I need to be, when where I am feels stuck. What if there is no other place to get to? What if I reach all my milestones and find out it's still just me, here, at the end of it all, and that doesn't feel like enough? What if it is up to me to actually do something about how I feel about my place in the universe?

I guess, while I'm working on that problem, I'll wait for the next milestone.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How Not To Get Eaten By Dinosaurs

We wanted to watch Jurassic Park. The kids were up for a dinosaur movie. I got a pirated copy, which was too laggy. Got a different pirated copy, also too laggy. Then I decided I would pay for it, and ordered an Amazon instant copy. After dinner we went to the computer room to watch the movie, and the door was closed. And the doorknob broke. So the door was frozen shut, with no one inside. After several attempts to break in to the room with credit cards, screwdrivers, or brute force, John had to go outside and break in through the window. This required using a paperclip to open the screen and then crawling through the half-open casement. (It also demonstrated the security of our house when the windows are open). Upon successful removal of the doorknob and mechanism from the inside, we were able to get in the discover that the Amazon video buffered constantly and was too frustrating to watch.

At this point a friend suggested that Jesus did not want me to have dinosaurs.

Finally, John went to the video store and got a hard copy. It worked beautifully. The kids loved it. They've been discussing the finer points of Jurassic Park ever since.

There are a couple of lessons here. One, there are a lot of ways to approaching a problem. Two, there are times when most of them fail. Three, if you want to watch a dinosaur movie, you have to keep trying.

I'm not supposed to be worrying about the future. I can dream about it, or I can stay in the present, absolutely, but it will obstruct my healing to create any anxiety about what might be. For the first several weeks out of the hospital, I felt very antsy about how I should spend my time and what might  happen in the years to come. (I learned from my homeopath that steroids interfere with emotions in a way that can trigger these types of feelings, which helped me to let go of them as part of a passing phase in the process. Nonetheless, they felt real and I wondered how to deal with them.) But there still is some kind of future coming, and this recovery is non-linear, and there are as many types of long term outcomes as there are people who undergo transplants.

Sometimes I get frustrated. I feel pretty good, considering what I've been through, but I don't feel really good. I had withdrawal symptoms when I dropped the ativan too fast, so I have to go back on it and taper it and hope that I can normalize my sleep and be free of the drugs. I can't figure out what to eat that makes me feel well and is healing. My doctors are extremely conventional and conservative and not knowledgeable about anything outside of allopathic medicine, so they can't work with me on other approaches to my recovery. I either have to go maverick and do things I am comfortable with but know they disapprove of, or I have to forego doing things that I know will help my body. I have to take medicines that are much worse for me than they realize (not that I wouldn't have to take them anyway, but I think the doctors are a little cavalier about a year of prophylactic pharmaceuticals). I have to deal with extra fatigue and shortness of breath and other unpleasant symptoms and I can't get second opinions outside of the transplant world because it is a packaged deal.

So it's up to me to experiment, because I know that my body is unique and the one-size-fits-all approach of allopathy isn't sufficient for my recovery. But there are a lot of things to try, and some of them won't work, or they won't work all the time, or it's too soon after transplant to feel the way I want to feel all the time. Do I eat wheat, or not? Gluten, or not? Dairy, or not? What do I replace salad and sauerkraut with? How do I compensate for the fact that the doctors want me to take folic acid, which is hard on the body and may be dangerous as a supplement, or prophylactic anti-fungals, which are a neutron bomb to the microflora in the body that are responsible for, well, everything from mental health to skin texture?

There are days when I feel sorry for myself. Times when I wonder if I'll ever feel better than this, or if I'll suffer permanent setbacks as a result of this process. Moments when I don't feel grateful or joyful, just irritated. When I can't keep up with my kids during a soccer game, or even with my husband on a walk, I wonder if this is the rest of my life. It's the only one I've got, though, so I have to keep trying, stay flexible, and hope that sometimes I'll get it right, or at least right now.