Tuesday, February 26, 2013

This Present

You know how people say to focus on the present? That looking to the future, or dwelling on the past, is a moot point and possibly even destructive to your own progress? I must admit that on most days I agree 100%, today, however, is one of those unique days where I am at an impasse. As much as I know these facts to be true, I can't bring my soul to agree.
Here's the compelling argument my soul keeps presenting me while my brain is providing an ill-timed headache for support:

How can one positively *be* in the present when it is filled with pain, sickness and frailty? While, at that same time one can reflect back upon a past filled with happiness, joy and comfort under the warm wrap of nostalgia? Or, instead, daydream of the potential held within one's future standing strong in the sunbeams of hope?
How, in this case, is *being* in the present the healthiest option?

I am flattened by this argument at this moment. Perhaps it is the pain in my head that is clouding my own clear thoughts toward a simple resolution, but I am stymied. This particular present is no gift. This moment of pain, loneliness, helplessness, financial ruin, stresses imposed upon my loved ones simply due to my existence, hunger with no desire to eat, countless projects begun with impossible endings stretched out before them - this moment is heavy, unyielding and feels unhealthy.

I know, somewhere, there is hope in this moment. I know, somewhere, is a tiny ray of sunshine fighting to make way into my visual field.
Perhaps that is the power of the present: to be available to that tiny moment, rather than lost in wandering thoughts as it passes you by. Misery can only survive in the darkness, so we must gather our sunshine when it comes each time so we can build an armor of light. We can't miss the sunbeams, even on the days when there is only one...

Having said all that, I guess it's time I go catch some sun.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

What Is Love?

The other day I was watching an episode of Soul Pancake with Rainn Wilson and Oprah Winfrey. The focus of the episode was LOVE. It was a wonderful reflection on love in all of its forms. They showed stories of people who exuded and exemplified love in everything that they did. In between the stories they sent the Soul Pancake team out into the public to ask people to answer one question: "What is love?"
Image Adapted from here.
They asked people on the street, elementary school students, people in relationships, single people and people of all different ages and races. As you can imagine, the answers were quite varied. There were explanations of romantic love, platonic love, many discussed the love they felt from their mothers and fathers, some discussed the power of love and a couple cowered in the "bigness" of the question. While I typically sit passively absorbing such presentations, I found myself on this day leaning in to my television, creeping to the edge of my couch, waiting for someone to ask me "What is love?" I had something to say about it that no one else was saying.

Today, I am going to pretend that you asked me this question. Here's what I have to say:

I used to think that "What is love?" was one of the big, unanswerable questions of life. However, I have come to a new conclusion - one that is simple, clear and, once understood, obvious:

Love is the answer.

When my mother was dying and she knew her time was coming, she weakly waved all of us into her room. It became clear she wanted all of us - her long-time boyfriend, my brother and I, my fiancee, my cousins (who were essentially extended siblings) and anyone else who was in the house at the time. Her hand, mere bones covered in a wrongly-colored flesh grabbed mine with a strength I didn't think existed there any more. My fiancee held both of our hands in his. With another pulse of her hand and a serious look into our eyes, we were called to attention, as was the rest of the group when she whispered, "Love each other." My fiancee squeezed our hands as we promised we would, but my mother wasn't done yet. She just repeated the words and repeated them and repeated them. I hadn't realized, at first, what she was doing as her glossed-over, fading eyes shifted around the room, until I heard each person in the room say, "We will. We promise." This wasn't my mother's wedding night advice that she knew she would be unable to deliver - these were her dying words to us all. 

"Love each other..."

That was nearly seven years ago.  I took it as words from a woman who loved her family ferociously and wished nothing to break us up. She wanted us to "love each other," because "charity begins at home," and "family is always first," and that may be exactly as she intended it. However, in the last couple of years, I have come to read it in a different way. I have come to believe that this is the answer.

In fact, I was nearly struck dumb when I recently read George Harrison's final reported words to his wife and son. They were, "Love one another." Coincidence? Perhaps I haven't told you, I don't believe in coincidences. Three words again, with the same exact message, delivered in nearly the same format. Did George intend those words for his family alone, or is this the one searing message that comes through when we let go of everything else?

So I've been thinking  about it... What if we lived solely by these words, "love one another"? Would civilization collapse? Would planetary destruction ensue? Would we survive?

I came to one conclusion, we would not only survive, we would thrive. We would find ways to feed the hungry, clothe and shelter the poor and enrich the lives of those around us. We would, undoubtedly, accomplish the goal of all goals - world peace - as there can be no reason to be at war if we love each other. 

The more I think of it, the clearer it seems: LOVE IS THE ANSWER. Whether your question is "What is my purpose?", "What is the meaning of life?", or, "What should we do next Tuesday?" the answer is, "love."

Of course, it is much easier said than done when we are faced with others whose ideology comes crashing head-on with our own and those who have hurts us in the past, but, for at least today, a day that is commercially celebrated as Love's Big Day, let's do it! Let's LOVE ONE ANOTHER!

Happy Valentine's Day Everyone!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Poem - My Brain Pain

Strained Brain
Drained brain
Compressed with too much fluid.

My pained brain
Unexplained brain
Hidden behind my healthy looks.

Insane brain
Slain brain
A shadow of its former self.

I try to explain
all of the pain
and how insane
I feel when strained,
but I've been slain
and may never be the same
ever again.

~Nicole Rivera

Dedicated to all those who have brain pain like me today, particularly all my brothers and sisters with a rare disease like Pseudotumor Cerebri/Intracranial Hypertension.

May we all have a pain-free tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I Can't Juggle

Last week Dr. Oz told me (and thousands of other viewers) that I could expand the size of my brain by learning to juggle. Two things came to my mind:
  • That's fascinating, and
  • That's not really safe for me!
Someone who has intracranial hypertension, like myself, doesn't want the stuff in her skull to take up MORE space, she actually strives for less squishiness! However, as last week faded away and Monday rolled around I realized that physically juggling isn't the only thing I have to be careful of: I must also look out for my personal tendency to start a bunch of new projects at once. I tend to throw them all up in the air and then get struck in the head as each one comes pummeling down while I'm trying to pick up up the pieces of the first one I dropped (which is nearly always my health). It's a vicious cycle that I need to stop.

The sad thing is that juggling is really exciting and fun to watch. It makes people smile and clap. I like to make people smile and clap; it breaks my heart that I can't provide this level of happiness to the people in my life. But I've come to a conclusion: I will have to do  it in some other way.

One thing at a time. Be present. Be focused. Devote yourself to one thing, see it through, then move on. These are the mantras I must live by. Fracturing my energy in an attempt to "do it all" has left me short of every finish line I've been running for. I am not the healthy Nicole I used to be (this doesn't make me any "less" Nicole, but I am a Nicole who is different) and, therefore, must approach life differently.

This life lesson that I seem hell-bent on repeating to myself ad nauseum came rushing around again on Monday because that was a day when I was supposed to throw a bunch of new "balls" in the air. The funny thing about chronic conditions is that that they do not really care what kind of importance you place on certain days. On Monday, I was battling headaches piled upon headaches that had a lifespan of 24 hours and more (today we are down to multiple headaches spacing themselves out, thank you very much). No balls were thrown in the air on Monday and if you were waiting for me to start my Memoir A to Z Challenge here on Rivera Runs Through It, then you noticed at least one of them that had to be dismissed as I spent most of my day in my neurologist's office.

And, unfortunately, that is going to have to stay on the back-burner for a little while longer. Because, as I said earlier, I have to do one thing at a time, be present and be focused. Committing to the challenge is something I don't think I can keep up without planning it further in advance (it looks like even once a week is too daunting at this time). I have my Disability hearing in six days that has to be my "one thing" right now. In fact, it is nearly impossible to think of anything else...

And, on that note, before my stress meter fills up and some more wonky symptoms come to visit me so early in the morning, I will sign off for now, requesting any good wishes and positive energy you can send to me (and the judge hearing my case) next Tuesday morning.