Tuesday, March 31, 2009
I've slowly but surely been telling members of my family about my conversion to Christianity. For any newcomers, I was raised in a secular, Jewish home. Here is how I ended up becoming a Christian. I was as surprised as anyone by this turn of events, so I have a lot of sympathy for my friends and relatives who are somewhat taken aback when I break the news to them.
My friends and some of my family members have been wonderfully supportive, and for this I am grateful.
What's been bugging me lately is how some other members of my family have been handling it. I would understand if they had a lot of questions, or if they expressed doubts to me about the wisdom of my decision, or if they simply needed some time to process the information. I'm open to discussions on the matter. But some of the interactions have gone like this:
I confide in a relative that I've been going to church since last summer. They are somewhat dumbfounded. I explain as briefly as I can how I got there. They tell me that whatever makes me happy makes them happy. I feel momentarily accepted and at ease. But then they can't resist getting some dig in that reveals how little respect they actually have for my beliefs.
Relative #1: Sure, that's fine. Do what you need to do to be happy. If banging your head against a brick wall made you happy, could I stop you from doing that?
Relative #2: Oh, yes, I can see how you would be attracted to Christianity. The music, the art, and the architecture, some of it is truly beautiful. But when you come right down to it, how can some guy nailed up on a cross have spiritual meaning?* It doesn't make any sense.
(*Tone of voice indicated this was a purely rhetorical question.)
Relative #3: Well, I know you've always been a seeker, so I'm happy that you found somewhere you feel that you belong. Faith is like when you're learning to ride a bicycle. If you believe that someone is running behind you, holding on to the back of your seat, you'll feel safe. As soon as you realize that you're riding on your own, it's a lot easier to fall. So if you need to pretend that there's someone holding on to the back of your seat, if that makes you feel safer, you go right ahead.
I'm open for discussion, but those comments aren't a good place to start. They say "I've already passed judgement on Christianity. It gets a FAIL. Welcome to membership in this group. Now you FAIL too." Technically I could take the initiative to open a discussion from that point, but these comments upset me enough that I figure it's better at that point to just grin through my clenched teeth and agree politely. I can't recover that quickly from the contempt.
It's very tempting to go on the counter-attack. There are plenty of things that I could find fault with in my family's beliefs, if I wanted to go looking for weaknesses and hypocrisy. But I don't want to fight with my family.
In traditional Judaism, if someone converts to another faith, their family reacts as though the convert had died. They tear their clothes; they mourn for a full week and hold prayer services as they would if someone had passed on; and they thereafter refer to that person in the past tense. No one in the family has any contact with them ever again. So, I guess I should count myself lucky.
In any case, I'm trying to be a good Christian, and turn the other cheek. It's not easy, but that's why it's meaningful. I love my family, even when they have both feet stuck in their mouths. Give a me a few more days to lick my wounds, and then I'll be ready to forgive them.
Friday, March 27, 2009
2. After I posted yesterday, I called my more kindly boss and explained that I've been under more stress than usual lately. He was very understanding. I said that I don't like to bring my personal problems to work, but I had to admit when I was at my limits. Not only was he OK with that, but he offered to help any way he can.
3. A very effective homeopathic remedy allowed me a restful sleep last night. Another tablet this morning stilled the butterflies in my stomach. I'm carrying the bottle in my purse, just in case, but your comments are better medecine than pills.
4. I'm looking forward to going to my mom's house for dinner tonight. She still lives in the house I grew up in. Walking "home" from the subway, through a large, grassy park and along streets lined with cozy houses and tall trees takes me back in time in the best way. For 20 minutes as I walk, I re-live all the best memories from my childhood as a feeling that pervades my body from head to toe.
5. I'm looking forward to hugging my furry little brothers. (Newcomers: I'm referring to my mother's cats.) Unfortunately the one with the bad dandruff and shedding problems is the one who's more eager to snuggle, but hey, that's what adhesive rollers are for.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Everything was going really well. The problem with things going too well is that it's possible to get a wee bit smug. I was congratulating myself a little too often. The awareness of this as a problem kept sneaking into my consciousness. So, I prayed: God, keep me humble.
Boy oh boy, did He ever deliver on that one.
Ken has been changing lately, for the better. After a long struggle with issues too personal to share here, he has begun to manifest much of the potential I've always seen in him. I loved him the way he was, to be sure, but the New And Improved Ken is even better.
He has shed much of the extra weight he was carrying. His confidence has grown exponentially. He has more energy than I've seen in him in many years. He's calling everyone in his address book to plan social outings. He's thinking about signing up for advanced classes at the comedy improv theatre. Etc. Etc. Etc.
I'm happy for him. I'm happy for us. This is what I always wanted, right?
But deep down inside, in the dark corners of my psyche, some bad buttons are being pushed. Emotions I haven't dealt with in a long time are raising their ugly heads. Versions of me from the past, ones that I thought were completely uninstalled, are booting up and running their programs. I'm trying my best to handle it all, but I can't. I'm falling down, here.
I'm jealous. Jealous of his energy when I've struggled with so much illness these past many months. Jealous that he has broken through to a new level of being while I'm still plain old me.
I'm threatened. I used to be the centre of his world because he rarely took the initiative to make social plans. Now there are all these other people on his schedule and I'm not getting the same amount of attention as I used to. Yes, it's childish and selfish of me to resent that. But I do.
(For the record, I'm hardly being neglected. Ken is going out of his way to reassure me verbally, by setting time aside just for us, by bringing me flowers, by caring for me when I'm sick... Trust me, it's not him. My insecurities are the problem.)
I'm time-travelling. In my previous marriage, my first husband was the socially dominant one. Most of "our" friends were his friends. He was in charge of our schedule. I was meek, quiet, and resentful. Sure, I had fun at the events he planned, but I also sulked because I wasn't allowed to be an equal partner in the decision-making process. Ken isn't like my ex, and yet there's enough similarity in his social initiatives to throw me back into my old feelings. I'm fighting it, but it's a struggle that's not easily resolved.
In all of this I feel completely off-balance. The only thing that centres me for a short period of time is prayer. It doesn't help that I've been sick for the past week, yet again.
This morning I finally made it back to work. The phone rang before I had even caught my breath from walking up the stairs. In my flustered, frazzled state, I had a conversation with an important special guest of my workplace. I didn't handle it as gracefully as I could have. I let slip that there had been some major miscommunications between myself and my bosses, when I probably could have covered it up. The VIP was not impressed.
In the seven years I've worked here, I've never been in trouble with my bosses like I was today. One of them sent a scathing e-mail about my behaviour to the other. The second one called and told me off, not cruelly, but firmly. In the end we all agreed to take some of the blame for the miscommunications, but I had to own that I wasn't on top of my game this morning. I really could have done better on that phone call.
So basically I'm kind of feeling like a basket case this week. I'm trying to take it day by day and do my best, but I'm not operating with a balanced mind, and I don't trust myself to handle the situations that keep coming up. I'm reacting emotionally instead of responding responsibly.
But, I asked to be humbled. If there's any better reminder that I'm human, fallible, and flawed, I don't want it! I have plenty to work with here.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
"The Scary Clown Award is given to blogs with display a great sense of humor... and attitude."
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
They were having a sale.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
2) One of my coworkers brought a hardboiled egg in her lunch. She took it out and displayed it, calmly balanced, pointy end up, on her tape dispenser all morning. There was something about seeing that brown egg meditating amongst the files that made me very happy.
I had a nightmare last night, that Larry from Three's Company tickled me mercilessly until I was absolutely furious. So furious that I woke up angry at 3:30 am. Then I realized that I hadn't thought of Larry in about 20 years, and marveled at the bizarre nature of the human brain. When I shared my dream with my co-workers, I received two stories in return:
3) Dr. D. dreamed that there was a new trend amongst young nightclubbers: after the bars closed everyone would rush to the nearest library to read books. The libraries had to hire night shift employees to accomodate the new clientele.
4) One of the receptionists told me that when she was in high school she had a job as a cashier at a busy McDonald's restaurant. At home, she shared a room with her sister: two twin beds on either side of a window. Her sister had to wake her up at night because she would sleep-work; she'd get up out of bed, go stand at the window, and ask "May I take your order please?"
5) The roses Ken gave me are at the peak of their beauty today. They have unfurled their petals with graceful languor, each bloom more perfect than the last. Tomorrow the petals may start to brown and wilt, but there's still time left today to love them.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The calculating approach was dictated by my fears. Fear of being alone, fear of being rejected, fear of people being mad at me, fear of giving too much, fear of getting too close, fear of being perceived as clingy, fear of being taken advantage of, fear of being perceived as distant, and some plain old-fashioned shyness to boot. There was a very small comfort zone between Too Much Closeness and Too Much Distance. It was like walking on a tightrope.
It didn't help that I gravitated towards socially awkward introverts like myself. They had many of the same fears as me. I knew that "normal" people experienced friendship as something organic and basically comfortable. My friendships were sometimes very rewarding, sometimes stilted and difficult. And no matter how often I saw my friends, I was always unsatisfied. I always felt fundamentally lonely.
This state of affairs went on for years. Hundreds of hours of individual and group therapy made some holes in my armour, but couldn't go much further than that.
Then I found faith and started going to church. And I can't explain why, because it's not that I suddenly have dozens of new church-going friends, but since then I've changed.
I only have a couple of new friends that I met at church, with whom I spend time less than once a month. They're not responsible for this change. All I can attribute it to is this: I prayed to God to come into my heart and make me a more loving, fearless person. And He did.
I'm not keeping track of my friendships like I used to. I just let them happen. If sometimes I give more than I receive for a while, or vice versa, that's OK. If we go for months without speaking before we reconnect, that's OK too. I have the same number of friends as I ever did, but I never feel lonely anymore. I'm satisfied.
I'm not conscious of having changed visibly, but I must be giving off different cues. People seem to be more attracted to me than before. Friends who were once lukewarm are now enthused about spending time together. The kidoodles in Babyland are talking to me more and asking to be held. I've even noticed that I'm getting more flirty attention from men.
I look the same. I haven't been shopping for a new wardrobe. I'm not standing up straighter or walking with a wiggle. This change seems to be like a light that came on inside of me. I became more transparent, and people are attracted to the light. But even then I feel that it's not really about me. It's God. The glow is coming from that place in my heart where I invited God to come in and stay awhile. So I'd better stay humble. I don't want to ever lose this light.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
2) I slept poorly last night. I woke up feeling drained, dizzy, and cranky. I dragged myself through my morning routine and was about to force myself off to work when I realized: Hey I’m the manager! My bosses don’t even work in the same building! I have no meetings planned and there’s no one to tell me off for being late! I went back to sleep for another hour and a half.
3) Feeling the sun warm the back of my neck on my walk to work. Spring.
4) One of my coworkers wore glittering shamrock Deely Boppers all day long. I couldn’t look at her without smiling.
5) In a little more than one hour I’ll be lying on a table, gittin’ a massage.
Monday, March 16, 2009
2) I'm wearing a bracelet that a friend gave me on Saturday. She made it herself, from beads that she says are the same colour as my eyes.
3) On Friday I sent out an e-mail wedding invitation to all my best friends. This morning my inbox was flooded with happy replies, everyone cheering us on and feeling elated for us. The joy is contagious.
4) This morning I recieved a compliment from a patient whom I've never met. I left a message for her on her voice mail. When she called back she told me that I have a caring and compassionate voice. I was glad we were speaking on the phone so she didn't see me blush. She made my day.
5) Ken sent me a message this morning with the subject "I'm going to suprise you..." All it said in the body was "Wait..." I wrote him back asking for details, and again he wrote back "Wait..." So now I'm waiting. And there's grace in the waiting because I'll bet my bottom dollar that it's going to be something really, really good.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
It goes like this:
“Your ship has sunk. You have, of course, been stranded on a deserted island. You have salvaged a copy of the King James Version of the Bible and a copy of the complete works of Shakespeare. Nothing else. “The very next day you find one of those Arabian Lamps in the sand. Of course, you rub it and, of course, a rather grumpy Genie appears. “‘Let’s get this straight - there is a recession going on. There are restrictions on the three wishes now. I don’t do water or air transport now so no boats, planes or magic carpets. As for electronics, forget it. There isn’t the infrastructure on this island. “‘I can let you have one book and I mean one VOLUME, one essential item and one luxury item. Now hurry up and make your choices, I have to get to those five other islands you are going nominate. ”
Hoo boy, that's a tough one! OK, I'm going to be all Thinking-Outside-the-Box and ask for a blank book. I'd like to be able to record my last thoughts on this earth for posterity. Even if no one else reads them it'll make me feel less lonely.
That means I'd better ask for a pen as my essential item. Not much choice there.
And my luxury item? Lip balm. Dang it, if I'm going to be on a dry island, I don't want to suffer from chapped lips. I would like The Body Shop Coconut lip balm because it's not all fake-fruity and can also function as a salve for minor cuts and scrapes. No, wait - can I change that? I want a tin of Green Wisdom All-Heal Salve by ButterflyWeed Herbals. That stuff is amazing and you get way more of it in one tub than lip balm. And I could use it as lip balm.
And now I have to send on the genie to five others? Get ready:
LL Cool Joe
And would you look at this? LL Cool Joe has also tagged me with a meme! In fact he even wrote the meme himself!
Joe writes, "The boring rules made up by me:"
1. You've got to post a link from the person who tagged you.
2. List 8 things that you know about on your chosen subject. You get to choose the subject.
3. You don't have to tag anyone but you can if you want. If you do, let them know on their blog that they've been tagged.
4. List the rules.
So the idea is to write 8 things about a subject, eg. your job, marriage, sexuality, a hobby, diet, sport etc. that sheds light on the subject from your own personal perspective. So for example if you teach, you list some of the "inside" knowledge that you've gained, making your work more interesting or successful.
As my topic, I chose being a manager. I like to think that I have become the manager I always wished I had. My staff might have a different opinion, but I think that overall they're pretty happy with me. And generally there are a lot of crappy managers out there who can use some guidance. So, listen up!
1. Hiring the right people is half the battle. Set your probationary period to at least 6 months, maybe a year, and don't be afraid to fire someone who's not up to your standards. Firing someone is no fun, but it's better than trying to cope with a troublesome employee for years and years. (Actually sometimes firing someone is a little bit fun, if they really deserve it, but don't tell anyone I work with that I said that.)
2. Hiring tip #1: In the interview look for moderate grooming. The candidate should have put some reasonable effort into their personal hygiene and professional appearance. However, I have hired two women on different occasions who were completely immaculate in their personal appearance, and both turned out to be completely self-absorbed and lazy workers. Beware vanity - it is not a good quality in the workplace.
3. Hiring tip #2: Be a little mean in the interview. I used to be way super-nice in interviews because I felt sorry for the candidates and wanted to put them at ease. A friend of mine, also a manager, pointed out that this was an opportunity to see how they responded to pressure and confrontation. So I stopped being so smiley and stared them down a little, asked some tough questions, and the interviews became much more useful.
4. Hiring tip #3: If you are hiring for an administrative position, look for someone who exhibits some signs of mild Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. They will be careful, methodical, detail-oriented employees who don't need to be micro-managed. And how can you spot an OCD type? Put them at a messy desk and see if they line up all the papers, stapler, etc. at right angles. If yes, you have scored yourself a good one!
5. Use humour. If one of your employees is stressed out, crack a joke, imitate an odd client, do a little clowning, anything to get them to laugh at the situation. This can bring up the energy and morale of your whole department. This will facilitate the happy happy joy joy among your staff.
6. On the other hand, if your department is getting a little too relaxed and chatty, redirect them gently to their work. No one wants to feel like they got yelled at for smiling. Sigh wistfully and say that you're sorry to have to remind them, but there's work to be done and you're calling an end to chat time for the moment. Everyone needs a breather now and then, but there are limits.
7. Make time for your employees to talk with you, in departmental meetings and one-on-one. Even if you are the nicest boss in the world (well, you couldn't be, because I am, but maybe the second nicest) your employees will still be shy about taking the initiative to approach you. Schedule departmental and one-on-one meetings on alternating months. Or if you see that one of your staff is inordinately stressed out, or there's an interpersonal conflict developing, address it in a meeting immediately.
8. Your job as a manager is to help your staff do their jobs better, and in better circumstances. You heard me right. If you think that being a manager means that you get to boss everyone around and be a dink, then... then... well, I don't like you very much. And your staff will give you no end of trouble. The best way to lead is by example. Don't ask your staff to do anything that you wouldn't do, and show them how hard you want them to work. Then they will be loyal and hardworking even on the toughest days.
And those are my tips for managers. I have a lot of fun with my staff, my department runs like a well-oiled machine, and I love my job. In fact, I love my staff like family, and I do believe that they love me a little too.
I'm not going to tag anyone with this meme, but I encourage you to share your Eight Awesome Pieces of Wisdom. You can tag yourselves in the comments if you like.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
After 16 years of intermittent symptoms, some phases of which were so disabling that I doubted my ability to continue working full-time, I was hoping yesterday that I’d get my Mystery Diagnosis. I was glad that I’d arrived at the rheumatologist’s office early, because I felt so overwhelmed by emotion as I checked in that it took me a quarter of an hour just to settle down and collect myself.
Generally speaking I don’t allow myself a lot of freedom to feel the feelings that my symptoms trigger. I do write about the subject, or sometimes talk to someone who cares, but most of the time I’m trying to push through the fatigue, pain, weakness, and other symptoms that come and go, so that I can carry on with my life. I ignore it at work. I push through so that I can do shopping and housecleaning. I put it aside so that I can enjoy socializing with friends. But at some level I guess it builds up, because there was a large amount of sadness, aloneness, and frustration just waiting to break through.
Having hope put me in a very vulnerable position.
Eventually the doctor called me in. She was a pleasant woman, probably only a few years older than me. She went over my blood test results, the symptom list I’d typed in advance, and did a basic physical examination. Then she presented her findings.
I definitely don’t have lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Which is good news, for sure. That means that whatever it is probably won’t kill or cripple me in any permanent way.
So what do I have? First she warned me that between 30 and 40 per cent of patients who see her for aches and pains leave without a specific diagnosis. The field of rheumatology deals with a few well-established syndromes, but there are many constellations of symptoms that don’t fit neatly into any particular diagnosis. No offence to rheumatology, but one third of patients leave with nothing but more questions? Seems to me like someone needs to hurry up with the research and figure out what’s going on, because that’s not a very good track record for the specialty.
The furthest she would go was to “suggest” that I might have fibromyalgia, with the emphasis firmly on “suggest”. Due to my place of work I know a little about fibromyalgia (FM) already. Some doctors diagnose it based on the classic criteria: 1) widespread aches and pains lasting more than three months and 2) at least 11 of 18 specific points on the patient’s body must be tender when pressed. Even given those two criteria it is a fuzzy-edged and often-disputed diagnosis. Two physicians who examine the same patient will often disagree about this diagnosis.
Another way doctors will diagnose FM is to use it as a
Imagine that you go to the doctor with red spots all over your body. The doctor tells you authoritatively “You are suffering from Circulae Scarlotum” or whatever the Latin translation of “red spots” is. You feel much better because you think this means the doctor has it all in hand, but really all he’s done is tell you in another language that you’re covered in red spots, which leaves you no further ahead. Not every diagnosis is inherently meaningful or helpful.
I have to give credit where credit is due: she was very warm, friendly, and informative. Relative to many doctors I’ve seen, she was generous with her time, explaining things to me that she must have explained hundreds of times before without any hint of impatience, and answering my questions without a trace of annoyance.
But here’s the most disappointing part: she gave me no treatment options whatsoever. No medications. No further referrals. Just advice to do moderate exercise and keep up with my yoga practice. So in that sense I’m no further ahead than before. I would have been happy to leave without a diagnosis but with a prescription for some kind of painkiller that wouldn’t completely bugger up my stomach. No such luck.
Anyway, I’m not giving up just yet. I made an appointment to see my naturopath on Thursday. I think it’s been five years since my last visit. He’s been my N.D. since 1993, and although his methods produce slow, undramatic results, he can often help me with problems that fall outside the scope of allopathic medicine. So, I’ll see what he has to offer.
In the meantime I’m feeling a little let down, but I’ll get over it. I’m not a giver-upper.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
I brought my wedding dress to my favourite seamstress for alterations. I was worried because the dress is beaded in the area that needs to be altered, and not just anyone is willing to fuss with undoing and redoing beading by hand. But Mrs. Lee didn't let me down. Her face lit up with delight when I unzipped the garment bag. "So pretty!" she exclaimed, "Where you buy? How much?" And when I told her: "Ah, good price, good price." Of course she can do the beading - she has mad sewing skills! So that's one worry off my mind.
I had dinner with my step-dad. We got off to a great start. He rang my doorbell to let me know he'd arrived - I could see the rental car waiting right behind him. (His regular wheels are in Florida for the winter. It's a long story.) He told me he'd wait in the car and as he turned away I shut the door to put my coat on. Moments later I opened the door to the car that was waiting outside my home. The light in the car came on - there was some young Asian guy in the driver's seat saying "No no no!" and pointing emphatically to another car, just down the common driveway. I laughed at myself. Nice one. My step-dad apologized for failing to warn me that it wasn't him parked outside my front door.
Later we closed the evening with a satisfying symmetry. A friend of his who he hadn't seen in a few years was in town, staying with his daughter. My step-dad remembered that she lived in the corner house at the end of a certain block. I waited in the car while he went to pick up his friend to go for coffee after dropping me at home. The door was opened by a suspiciously young, good-looking guy. There was a moment of conversation, and then my step-dad returned to the car, smiling and alone. Wrong block, wrong house. I guess it was that kind of night.
The point of all that was for us to have a nice dinner together, which we did. And for the first time in more than a year I found that I could be with him without feeling angry, or bitter, or resentful. Since we had our heart-to-heart talk the last time he was in, despite him still being a complete doofus about how he's handled moving out of my mom's house, I've slowly but surely forgiven him. Or mostly so. And that's a wonderful thing to have discovered, because I wasn't even aware of it until last night.
I wanted to point out all those good things, because other than that, Saturday was difficult. Although I haven't written about it in a while, I'm still having aches and pains on and off, and Friday night was a bad one. The temperature in the morning was 10 degrees C, which fell to -15 degrees C by walk-home time. Even though I brought a bag of extra layers with me to work and wore them on my walk home, my body couldn't handle the extreme change. By Friday night I was on the couch, aching from my shoulders to my toes.
I haven't been able to tolerate Ibuprofen since a few years ago. I switched to Acetaminophen (Tylenol) because that's supposedly easier on the stomach. That worked for a while, but then came the day when I took one little tablet, and got some very familiar tummy pains. I got scared off it for a while, but in the back of my mind I wasn't sure - maybe it was just a fluke and I should give it another chance. On Friday I was in enough discomfort to take the risk.
At first I thought I was OK. The pain receded within 20 minutes and my tum was fine. I was like "Score! Painkillers rock!" But it was not to last. In the middle of the night I felt the reaction come on, and all of Saturday was a misery. My stomach hurt enough that I couldn't ignore it, and at mealtimes instead of getting hungry I got nauseous. For hours and hours it was relentless. I know it could be worse, but it did get me down. The part that was most dispiriting was knowing that one more avenue of relief has been permanently closed to me. With all the other major NSAID's (ex. Aspirin) clearly warning of stomach upset in the side effects, I am left with no option but to slather myself from head to toe in Rub A535, which is better than nothing, but it's not a useful remedy if I'm anywhere other than at home. I can't very well strip down in a washroom stall at work and goop up my back under my proper work shirts.
Here's something: I have a surprise appointment with a rheumatologist tomorrow. I didn't realize that my g.p. was going to refer me. I had blood tests done in early December, and didn't hear anything back from him, so I assumed that the numbers didn't indicate anything useful. When I got a call at work on Friday stating that I had been referred, I was totally surprised. So, maybe my blood tests showed something significant after all. It would be good to have an actual diagnosis, and possibly even some treatments that don't hurt me. I'll let you know how it goes.
That being said, you might not hear much from me this week. There's a high likelihood that I'll be working with half my usual staff all week, as two ladies in my department both came down with the symptoms of a vicious cold that's making the rounds. I'll probably be working late every day, and running off my feet the whole time. So, have a good week, and keep your fingers crossed for me please, around 2:00 pm tomorrow, Eastern Standard Time. I'll be back with an update as soon as I can.