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Sunday, August 29, 2010


Another Sunday has rolled around and I find myself thinking about religion. Sunday being the sabbath and all. Except that I'm Jewish, at least genetically and culturally, so therefore Saturday ought to bring this question to mind. Sunday does, though, which I attribute to the dominant religion in American culture, to my lack of religious education, and to my attendance at an Episcopal prep school. Faith? Let's see. What can I say? Considering my secular philosophical underpinnings, I have a pretty high percentage of observant, religious friends. Most of them are Christian. Not surprising, I guess, considering the percentage of purported Christians populating the USA, but somewhat surprising to me. More than one friend has a divinity degree of some sort.

Where do I stand on religion? Perhaps a little discussion of my dog will illuminate you -- and me. See, we (the nuclear family) thought about, yearned for, planned for, anticipated getting a dog for several years. Much study of breed types and the pluses and minuses karmawise of adopting versus purchasing a puppy, of temperament, of training techniques ensued, along with much watching of Animal Planet and National Geographic TV shows about dogs. Anyone who has a dog knows about Cesar Milan the Dog Whisperer, and if you are reading my blog (thank you!) and don't have one, here is all you need to know about Cesar Milan: he whispers, dogs obey.

So full-up on information, and happily projecting all our hopes and fears for our future in suburbia onto owning this still mythical dog, we (the nuclear family) began listing names. Okay, I have a history with Eastern religions, yoga, and meditation, that started back in high school when I took yoga for PE. I was not a team sports kind of girl. Thank you Mrs.Wing and your stretch houndstooth slacks. Anyway, back to the future. There I was, coming up with all kinds of names like Roshi (teacher), Satori (flash of enlightenment), Metta (lovingkindness), and Beacon (you know what that is). I was really into the whole Cesar Milan philosophy of the dog living in the moment and teaching me how to live in the moment. Yes, the dog was going to be my guide to equanimity and mindfulness, my compadre on the Eightfold Path. I'm only a very short way along that path. Many incarnations to go.

We chose the name Milo.

And good thing, too, because Milo, cute as he is, at 9 weeks led me right smack into something awfully similar to post-partum depression. Once more, I was excrutiatingly aware of anxiety and entrapment, as I spent day after day locked in the kitchen with him, taking him outside every hour to house train him. Have I mentioned that it rained all day every day for about 6 months after we moved here to Delmar last summer? So, in the rain. Brought me right into mindful awareness of drudge and slog and mud on the floor, of self-pity and aversion, and I certainly had no time to meditate.

Milo. Very cute. Fuzzy, fluffy. Some might consider him a silly dog, more of a muppet. Certainly not DOG=GOD. Lesson learned? No, simply this: life is rainy, damp, muddy, sloggy, something to endure rather than enjoy sometimes, and dog is dog.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Borderline Hypochondriac

It's been a long time since I posted and what has happened that I can write about? I had a scare at the doctor - a pseudo-scare, sufficient for a hypochondriac. As usual, when the nurse took my blood pressure, I asked for the numbers. I'm always low. Have low blood pressure. I fainted on my 11th birthday. This time she said it was 138 over 78 or something.

"That's high, isn't it?" I said, alarmed.

"High normal," she said.

High normal? Wha? Pounding heart, sweating palms, shrill voice for the doctor who asked if I was under any stress this year. Besides the job search, the tense homelife, and handling being a parent, did she mean?

Please note that the nurse did not even tell me my numbers -- I asked for them. Nor did the doctor mention them. Okay, I might not have given her time to mention them, since as soon as she shook my hand, I brought them up.  Furthermore, no one described them as other than on the high side of normal. Nevertheless, I spiraled into heart disease, diabetes, and of course, because I'm married to a neurologist, stroke. Did I mention C is a stroke specialist?

If you have high blood pressure or any of the above mentioned terrible conditions, I am truly sorry. I know how you felt when you received the diagnosis. And you might be pretty pissed at my reaction to NOT having any of those diseases.

Nevertheless, the positive thing that came out of the visit was my realization that I have given up all of the stress-relievers that I have used at one time or another in my life. Exercise of any kind except walking the dog; yoga; deep breathing and finding my "special safe place"; and meditation. Okay, hold on. This is actually untrue. I was at the doctor due to a leg pain that began after I started using the weight machines at the Y, so I had already begun to relieve stress through exercise once again. I'm honest. To a fault. Usually my own. But anyway, any of the more groovy types of stress release I had abandoned.

That afternoon, terrified by my brush with coming close to the borderline of a chronic condition, I came back to the house and loaded up my ipodtouch with Zencasts on mindfulness meditation and started sitting. And except for a day or two, I've sat for twenty minutes every day, observing how difficult it is to concentrate on my breath and labeling my thoughts, feelings and sensations.

And you know what I've found? Absolutely everything in my life is exactly the same as it was before I went to the doctor and almost had high blood pressure. All the stressors are there, all the little pleasures that I may or may not succeed in noticing. However, I can tell that my heart rate slows down just a little bit when I sit still for a few minutes every day, and sitting still for a few minutes is a relief.