Do the Right Thing—Scoop the Poop

I woke up one morning during the 2018 holidays and went about my morning chores. This includes scooping my litter boxes and carrying the waste in a plastic bag to the garbage shoot in my condo’s building. On my way there, I saw that a neighbor’s dog had had an accident on the walkway. I stepped carefully around the mess and returned to my apartment ticked off.

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I thought about what had just occurred as I continued my morning chores. I realized I was being a jerk and went outside to remove the mess, so none of my other neighbors would have to navigate around it. Once outside I saw that the poop was gone. I felt ashamed of myself for having been angry and judgmental toward my neighbors, who probably just needed a few minutes before cleaning up. But I also was proud of my willingness to do the right thing and take care of the mess myself. This incident reminded me of two important things. First, to always try to do what I believe is right, and second, to be more gracious toward others.

SEVEN DOORS

I have a bladder condition necessitating a trip to the restroom every hour or two. One week at work, all of the nearby restrooms were out of order. To reach a bathroom, I had to go through seven different doors, some of them locked because I’m employed in hospital ward in which the door to the unit and my office door are always secured.

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Sometimes I’m so busy at work that it’s a challenge to break away to use the restroom. The longer jaunt made getting to the bathroom even more challenging. As I counted the doors, I thought to myself, This isn’t so bad. So what if it takes me a few minutes longer? It’s annoying, but not an impediment.

 

GETTING OLD

I knew I was getting old when the highlight of my week was being fit for custom-made orthotics. In 2016 I’d developed painful plantar fasciitis in my right foot. With proper exercises to stretch my foot, and store-bought orthotics, my foot healed. In 2018 I developed even more severe plantar fasciitis in my other foot. The store-bought orthotics, recommended by my podiatrist, and the prescribed exercises failed to produce much improvement. Even though I’d have to pay for them out of pocket, after half a dozen months in pain, I made the appointment for custom-made orthotics.

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I guess I could be blue that my body doesn’t work as well as it once did. Instead I’m thrilled that there’s a product to ease my pain, and help is on the way. It will be worth every penny. I am getting old, but it beats the alternative.

 

YOU WILL DANCE: FINDING JOY AT AN INDIAN WEDDING

This article was first published on YoursNews.in on April 20, 2019.

For a year and a half, my friend had been inviting me to visit him in India. I knew this friend through his website, where I occasionally posted articles. I always declined his invitation. A trip to India wasn’t in my budget and held potential dangers to my health, since my immune system is compromised. Then last June, I called him and said, “Guess what? I’m coming to India!” My nephew had already gone through a courthouse wedding to a native of New Delhi, and the Hindu ceremony was scheduled for the following year. Despite my initial reluctance to travel halfway around the world to a place well known for its health risks to Westerners, I would never miss an important family event, and I began to plan the trip.IMG_0053

I’d traveled alone to Europe in 2017 and 2018, but preparing for India took my usual tourist preparations to a new level. The difference seemed like a lovely day hike on flat terrain in the spring versus rock climbing in winter. It took three tries just to successfully submit my application for an Indian visa, and I became so frustrated with the computer application, I thought I might need to engage a millennial to help me through it (a method I’d used when previously challenged by computer issues). If I drank, I’d have been chugging martinis to calm my nerves by the third try.

I researched what might be required of me to the extent possible. Everything I read stated that I needed to dress modestly, necessitating that several parts of my body be covered. This resulted in some frantic late-summer sale shopping to ensure I wouldn’t offend the locals or my nephew’s wonderful in-laws. I would also need two sets of hotel and plane reservations since I chose to travel directly from San Francisco to New Delhi. I flew from San Diego, where I live, to San Francisco the day prior to my trip to India, avoiding the risk of missing my mid-morning international flight because of local delays. I spent the night before the trip and the night I returned to the U.S. at an airport hotel. After taking care of shopping and reservations, I needed vaccinations. The preparations seemed endless, but by early January I was ready.IMG_4886

The minute I arrived at the gate for my international flight, I knew I was starting out on an adventure. There were few identifiable Americans among the waiting passengers, and instead the seats were filled with women wearing intricately patterned saris and men in turbans of bright red, deep ochre, and brown. The sixteen-hour flight might have been easier if the electronics in my seat hadn’t immediately malfunctioned. I couldn’t access any of the in-flight entertainment or turn my light on and off. The light stayed on for the entire flight, and I gave my new sleep mask and earplugs to my seatmate as a form of apology. I slept only about three hours, and the rest of the time ate the meals offered and read a good book.

I’d arranged for a limousine from my hotel to pick me up at the airport. I knew once I arrived at the hotel, I could relax. There I would rendezvous with my family and for the rest of the trip would simply enjoy whatever activities they arranged. We spent two and a half days being tourists, and a day and a half engaged in wedding events.

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Although India was not on my previous list of desired travel destinations, I will be eternally grateful that I visited this country. I saw many beautiful sights, including the Taj Mahal, The Lodi Temple in New Delhi, the vast countryside (albeit from a bus window), and several markets.

But the most magical part of the trip lay in the wedding. I’ve never been to a more joyous, moving, and loving affair. My nephew’s in-laws had trimmed the celebration from the usual three days down to two. The festivities began in the morning with a henna ceremony, which lasted until early afternoon. My family had met seven members of the bride’s family at the civil ceremony in the United States, but we were greeted by the rest of her clan that first morning. Every member of my new niece’s family whom I’d met six months earlier embraced me. Throughout the day other guests approached me to ask if I was enjoying myself or to explain the meaning of the rituals. I had no idea who some of these people were, but as the ceremony progressed, I learned they were aunts, cousins, and, in one case, the best friend of the bride’s father. I’ve never been received with more warmth or hospitality. The henna ceremony was particularly moving in its inclusivity. All the relatives partook of anointing the bride and groom with saffron. Four 20-something boisterous girls attended, cousins of the bride, all dressed in saris. They seemed to be perpetually smiling and laughing. Less boisterous but equally charming was my new niece’s best friend. This young woman had a shy smile and a quiet, lovely gravitas that I found enchanting. When describing the festivities for the evening ahead, she declared “You will dance.”IMG_4819

That night, dressed in our Indian celebratory garb, my family joined in the second part of the wedding. My niece’s best friend was right—we all danced. I reminded her of her prediction, and she and I danced together. She showed me the moves, and I followed as best I could, as happy as an auntie could ever be. There were many prepared dances performed by the bride and groom, by the bride’s friends and cousins, by a group of little girls, and by many middle-aged ladies of both families. (I had missed this rehearsal somehow, so I didn’t know the steps.) I danced with one of my uncles, also new to the family, who I quickly learned could whirl me around as if he were Fed Astaire. My family and the bride’s family were enchanted with each other, both thrilled that these two wonderful young people had found each other and that we were all now connected through them. The bride and groom’s vows were touching and heartfelt. I have never been to a happier wedding.

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The next night, the families participated in another party and the religious ceremony, which ended the celebrations. During the evening, my nephew slowly approached the wedding venue in a horse-drawn chariot. An entourage of friends and family danced in front of him while a live band played. This would be a rare occurrence in the United States and was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. The party on this night was also lovely, and I met more of my niece’s relatives, who continued to warmly welcome my family and me. Joy, whenever it is felt, is rare and precious. But to experience those emotions with many of the people I love most made my nephew’s wedding blissful.

At many weddings, countless photos are taken. While photos often memorialize some of life’s best moments, other moments are ephemeral, and no one’s around to record them or even know they’re occurring. Although I have photos of my wedding, no one knows that as we said our vows with clasped hands, my husband quietly rubbed my palms. Nor did anyone record the moment he first saw me in my wedding dress and told me I looked beautiful. The first moment I saw my nephew, I was standing in the doorway of my brother and sister-in-law’s home. My brother had him strapped to his chest in a baby carrier, and I could only see the top of my nephew’s head. But this was a peak life moment. I’ve adored him ever since I saw that reddish-blond fuzz sticking out from the carrier. I had a similar moment on the first night of his wedding. As I stood there looking at our exuberant families, I thought to myself, I would have spent thirty-two hours in the broken seat of an Do the Right Thing—Scoop the Poopairplane to be here.fullsizeoutput_cfb

For my relatives, family is paramount. I heard this sentiment uttered repeatedly by my niece’s family during our time together. Everything they did made us feel welcome. I don’t know if I’ll have an occasion to return to India, but my visa is good for ten years, and I feel comfortable with the idea of visiting again. The thought fills me with warmth. If I choose to return, I’ll have family there, and in my heart, I’ll be home.

 

 

 

CLOUDS DID NOT GET IN THE WAY

For Unlce Jon, with much love.

My uncle Jon moved to Spain in 2016 and asked me to visit him there. At the top of the list of sights he planned to show me was the Alhambra in Grenada. It rarely rains there, but on the day of our visit to this historic fortress, it poured. We never considered canceling our plans. Nor did we complain about the rain. Jon held a huge umbrella over us, and we trekked through the ruins, the palace, and the gardens as if we were experiencing a lovely spring day. Even after I fell on a slippery step, we continued to enjoy our visit. We could have skipped the adventure or abbreviated it, only seeing the indoor portions of the Alhambra, but neither of us considered those options.e-grx1_motril_the-alhambra-palace_alhambra_2500x1250

Not everything in life goes as planned. We can either whine about things or carry on in the best way possible. Although I didn’t enjoy being soaked to the skin, the light had a magical quality that day, no doubt caused by the downpour.

When we live with illness, things go wrong all the time. We simply cannot be in the world and control all the circumstances with which we’re faced. Sometimes we have to make changes to our plans, and other times the best option is to carry on. I focus on being flexible and open. That’s how I was able to see the wonders of the Alhambra on a wet but enchanting day.

WHAT WAS I THINKING?

I knew the shingles vaccine could cause flu-like symptoms. But when the pharmacist offered to give me the second of two vaccine injections one Sunday afternoon after I’d picked up a different medication, I decided to get the vaccination over with. I’d only had a mild reaction to the first dose, so I didn’t give the potential consequences much thought. I assumed I’d be fine the next morning, when I was planning to attend an important conference.

I felt as though I had a full-blown flu by that night. I had severe chills, a fever, night sweats, and I barely slept. When I woke the following morning, I assumed I’d have to miss the first day of the conference. Luckily once I’d fed the cats and myself, and had taken a shower, I’d recovered enough to go.vaccinating-woman-260nw-181674146

I occasionally don’t think things through. I had naïvely assumed I wouldn’t have any side effects from the second dose of the vaccine. My perpetual optimism doesn’t always serve me well. I’m continually working to balance optimism with pragmatism. Taking care of myself is a lifelong process, and I’m still learning important lessons.

HOT-FLASH JOHANNA

With the onset of menopause I began to have frequent, severe hot flashes. Among friends, I jokingly called myself Hot Flash Johanna, using the Germanic version of my name.

While chatting with a close friend and her neighbor this summer, the neighbor called me by my menopausal name. I chuckled, and so did they. I realized I must have referred to myself this way during a previous conversation.black-926117__480

Seven years into menopause I still have hot flashes, although they’re less frequent and less severe. But I’m glad I used humor to address this unfortunate part of

A GREAT MISTAKE

In 1983 I bought a ticket, over the phone, to a Broadway show. Although billed as a musical, the only music I heard during the first act were bits of songs occasionally belted out by a woman standing in a cage on the side of the stage. The show didn’t seem like a musical to me, and I wondered what was going on.

The second act was completely without music, and it slowly dawned on me that I’d purchased tickets to the wrong show.static.playbill.com

By the third act, I felt I’d made the best mistake of my life. The play was gripping, beautifully written and acted, and deeply affecting. It ran for four hours, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I’d bought a ticket to Torch Song Trilogy instead of Forbidden Broadway.

That year Torch Song Trilogy won Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play, both statues going to Harvey Fierstein. I’ve made a couple of great mistakes in my life that resulted in unexpected and wonderful outcomes. Not all mistakes are bad if we stay centered in the moment and are open to unexpected, happy possibilities.

FIFTEEN-CHARACTER PASSWORD

Sometimes life gets easier, and other times it gets harder without warning. The electronic patient record system at work recently started to require fifteen-character passwords. For the previous ten years, I’d used three-character passwords. This might not seem like a big adjustment, but when we use the same password several dozen times a day, the lengthy password is annoying. I overheard my colleagues complaining about it too.computer-1185569_1280

Like so many of life’s demands, with time I adjusted to this change. The long passwords are still cumbersome, but they are no longer bothersome. I’ve become accustomed to countless negative changes in my health, and this one is easy by comparison.