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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Life :: Slowing Down

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Eckhart Tolle wrote that there are no problems, just situations. "A situation needs to be dealt with or accepted. Why make it into a problem? Should a situation arise that you need to deal with now, your action will be clear and incisive if it arises out of present-moment awareness. As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease."

Presently, I am happy. I'm wearing my favorite sweatpants, snuggled under a blanket in bed, with a full belly and a roof over my head. But, like everyone else, I have situations. And one of them is the carpal tunnel that I've been struggling with since November 2013. Well, in actuality, it began in November 2012. However, after wearing a brace every night for a week, it floated away and I forgot anything even happened. It returned one year later, with a numbness in my fingers and sharp pains up my right arm that makes any basic function -- brushing teeth, washing dishes, eating, driving, typing, working -- difficult. The hurting goes from slightly uncomfortable one day to completely unbearable the next, and back and forth and so on. As soon as I think I'm better, I'm not, and the struggle continues.

Being right-handed and a writer, it would be easy to feel like I am experiencing a nightmare come true, but I'm determined to hold out hope that by seeing a multitude of doctors every week -- physical, occupational, orthopedic, chiropractic, massage, acupuncture -- I'll eventually be done with this condition forever. As someone who despises anything having to do with hospitals, I've refrained from even questioning whether or not I'll have to have surgery, and every day when I wake up I say, "this is the day God will heal me."

I hate any type of attention when I'm sick, even if questions are asked out of innocent curiosity or genuine concern, so I've attempted to hide my braces and medications, and when I do have to talk about it I keep the conversation short. The last thing I want is for anyone to feel sorry for me or to think that I want people to feel sorry for me. I'm still able to walk, talk, hear and see and breathe; I know that things could be worse.

At the same time, there is a jealous anger inside of me that I have to force down constantly when a part of me isn't working and I feel handicapped. I start thinking about my arm, and why doesn't so-and-so have to deal with this? And then I start thinking about other areas of my life, and I start wishing those could change too -- even material things, superficial things that I just want and don't even need -- a real bed instead of an air mattress, a new phone instead of an old Samsung, a nicer car instead of my 2007 Pontiac, a thinner laptop instead of my 2011 Toshiba, a bigger butt and smoother hair and clearer skin. When I let a slice of that darkness out, it starts with one negative thought and spirals down until life simply seems like it sucks.

It's easy to be happy when everything's going right. But when one little thing goes wrong, it's easy to let it take over and cast a shadow over our thoughts. I had to stop for gas today on my way home from an appointment in Beverly Hills, and all of my cards were declining, and all I had was $2 in my wallet. Embarrassed but out of options, I headed inside to buy half a gallon of gas -- which, thank God, was just enough. In front of me in line was a pretty, thin blonde girl who looked younger than me and had two little boys with her. I saw them hop into a Lexus SUV and I bet you already know everything I was thinking. Here I was, 26 years old and broke with tendonitis. I couldn't help but spend at least thirty seconds comparing myself to this young, pretty girl with money and a family. My second thought was, I hope she's just their nanny, and then my third thought was that even if she is, she's probably making more than me.

Of course, it didn't take long for me to snap out of my pity party, forgive myself for being immature and ungrateful, and remind myself of the fact that all of my healthcare was being paid for by work. I'm so thankful for that. I'm thankful for everything -- this cozy house that I'm sharing with three 20-something boys, this fancy air mattress that can fold into a couch with cupholders, this bulky ol' laptop that freezes up sometimes but still allows me to blog, the Galaxy S3 that fell into a toilet but still works, the amazing man who fixed said phone, my Pontiac G6 that goes faster than anything else I've driven, my growing Polish ass, my Italian wrinkle-free skin, my big messy hair. I wouldn't trade any of it for the world.

That's why I've decided that PRESENT is my word for 2014.

When I live in the present moment, instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, I realize how truly blessed I am. That's when I'm most happy and most productive. Instead of focusing on the end result, I am choosing to focus on what I can do right now. Because each little moment adds up, creating both your past and your future. Why not experience all of it fully? I don't want to miss anything.

I think I realized this back in October after visiting Charisma, a talented photographer and one of my dearest friends. I was on the plane ride home from Orlando to Los Angeles, and I was reading Joel Osteen and listening to Drake. "Don't think about it too much. There's no need for us to rush it through. My uncle used to have all these things on his bucket list; now he's acting like, oh well, this is life I guess. No, fuck that shit. Listen man, you can still do what you wanna do, you gotta trust that shit. I heard once that in dire times when you need a sign, that's when they appear." I listened to that song on repeat, over and over, and in my seat in the darkness I cried and cried.

I got home and the next morning I felt compelled to take photos outside my apartment by the garden my neighbors tended to. I walked out with my phone and out of nowhere, a hummingbird appeared. It hovered near a tall yellow flower for at least a full minute while I clicked and clicked, breathless. Then, as if it recognized me, its eyes met mine. And then it was gone.

I wouldn't have thought that was as crazy as I do except that a week later I saw another one, in another place where I was completely alone, and once again it looked at me as if it knew something I didn't.

And I think it did. Because even though a hummingbird never quits moving its wings, somehow, it still has time to stop and smell the roses. I just hadn't figured out how to do that yet myself.

*Fourth photo down by Jessica. Seventh photo by Tommy Estridge.
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