Friday, November 23, 2012

A Sleep Whine

I wish to hell I could sleep at night. I sincerely hate not being able to sleep. Even my naps during the day are pathetic gestures at making up for what I lost at night. I walk around with burning eyes most of the day.

Oh, last night driving home on I-25 for about 40 minutes, I could have fallen asleep at the wheel. And not really cared, except I don’t want to hurt anyone else. Yeah, driving ­– that makes me real drowsy.

But when I got home, not so sleepy anymore. My stomach hurt, still full from eating so much Thanksgiving food. And it hurt into the night, too. Finally had to take something for heartburn.

I must have gotten up five or six times last night. Who has time to sleep when you’re getting up so many fricking times? To pee, to drink water, to take something for heartburn, to pee again. All damn night.

I did some biofeedback (guaranteed to put me to sleep, right?) around 2 a.m. Still didn’t fall asleep. Read. Fell asleep around 3 or so. Woke up at what I thought was 5:30. No. It was 4:30 but I already had the light on, so I got up.

Tricked again. I probably slept two or three hours but only one hour at a time. How fair is that?

It’s 6:15 now and in 15 minutes the sun will rise and I’ll take Violet outside while she’s safe from dogs. Then I’m going back to bed, read a little, and probably sleep another hour.

I have a triple whammy working against me for this endless insomnia. A liver disease that includes insomnia as one of its advanced symptoms. A pill to keep breast cancer from recurring, removes all the estrogen from my body – Go To Jail, repeat menopause, do not collect $200. And age, as if I needed reminding.

I’m looking forward to a liver transplant, that’s one. I have to take the pill fighting back breast cancer for four more years. Age? Haven’t found the fountain of youth yet and don't plan on it. For now, biofeedback and reading help the most. Hooray for the Denver Public Library!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Surrendering to the Right Stuff

About a year after I started my daily writing practice in 1992, it became apparent to me that I could and that I wanted to become a writer full-time. I didn’t know how to do it, though. I saw others around me doing it. Writing books. Getting their poems published. Facilitating writing groups. Flourishing.

I didn’t see how I could do the whole thing. I needed to make money, so I had to have a job. That thought always boxed me in. I took that route, for more years than I want to admit. I avoided what was calling me.

I had a wake-up call. I didn’t listen. So I had another one. And another one. Finally, I started listening.

It wasn’t until this fall, 2012 – seven years after getting diagnosed with liver disease, 20 years after committing to writing daily – that I listened. That I finally surrendered to my passion, writing.

Since the spring of 2007 (a year after being diagnosed with a liver disease with only one treatment: transplant), I haven’t been able to work full-time. But then I didn’t see what was staring me in the face: I had a door wide open that I was ignoring. I couldn’t work at all after the spring of 2010, I had income from Social Security because I couldn’t work. I had time. I still had the daily practice of writing. I could call myself Writer.

I am, after seven years of living with it, grateful for liver disease. And since last year also grateful for breast cancer. That one seemed to be the toppling point. These two lousy diseases shoved me off my pedestal of indecision and hesitation and doubt about following my passion wherever it might lead me.

Liver disease has been teaching me how to listen with my heart and to act from my gut. Instead of always going to my head and listening to and acting from the craziness there. Reason got me well-paying jobs (that I hated) and good grades (they were nice) and a college degree that led eventually to nowhere.

Listening to my heart is harder – it has a quieter voice than reason – but acting on it is easier. Much easier. I just have to relax into it and the next right move shows up. I’m not used to it yet.

I still get caught up in long to-do lists and frenetic activity. But my liver beats me up when I push too hard on it. I get immediate pushback. I know when I’m tired and need to give in. When I don’t listen to those messages, when I allow myself to get absolutely fried from over-activity, I pay the price for days.

Listening. To my body, to my heart. I guess I always believed that wasn’t enough. I’m here to tell you it is enough. And it’s real.

Thank you, Universe, for these two crappy diseases. They have changed my life. They have changed me. I can never go back to the way I was. Thank you, Higher Power, Universe, the spirit within me, God, Goddess.

“I don’t know about you, but I am here to love myself. I don’t want to leave this planet in judgment of myself. I want to be my own friend. I want to have listened to my heart. I want to have spoken my truth. I want to discover all the colors of my possibilities. I don’t want to leave this earth, never having been myself.” – Tama J. Kieves, on Facebook, November 15, 2012. Author of This Time I Dance and Inspired & Unstoppable

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Story of a Reader-Addict

I’ve been reading for a long time. I remember reading when I was four years old and would read the Sunday comics aloud to my family, who believed they were safely ensconced in my parents’ bed before breakfast. I must have driven them crazy. I remember those times, though, with great delight. 

When I went to kindergarten the next year, we didn’t learn to read. But I kept on reading at home. In first grade we began in earnest applying our little minds to reading. Reading circles, books that were given to us for the school year, writing on very wide-ruled paper with pencils. I loved it all.

My brother David, four years older, would take me to the main library in downtown St. Petersburg regularly. Mirror Lake Library, sitting next to beautifully round and landscaped Mirror Lake. The building was Florida green – a fairly ugly color. But the building held magic for me.

David showed me the science fiction section and he would check out books for me. I adored the fictional world of fantasy, space exploration, life on other planets besides Earth, visits by aliens from those planets. I don’t remember reading any “girl” books. 

My best friend Martha introduced me to Nancy Drew, girl detective, and we spent many hours replicating her adventures with our own neighborhood “detecting.” The books we read in school paled next to these adventurous stories of extraterrestrials and girl detectives.

I used to tell people I was addicted to reading and that if nothing else was available to read while I was eating, I’d read every single word on a cereal box. An early consumer detective. That was when I was a kid; I still do that.

I grew up reading both English and music. I played the piano before I started reading words. My father, a professional musician, wanted me to learn how to sightread music, so I began music theory lessons when I was five years old.

By age ten I was sightreading and learning how to accompany other musicians. My father would gather his students (violin, viola, cello, flute, oboe, clarinet) around our piano at home and we all played chamber music together. I learned how to keep time, interpret and play difficult rhythmic figures, keep track of exactly where we were at all times in the score. With music you learn how to live completely in the moment.

I finally earned a bachelor’s degree in music, and was still reading books (and cereal boxes and everything in between) voraciously. Ultimately, I ended up on the English side of the equation and earned a master’s degree in humanities so I could continue teaching writing and literature.

Then I got sick and couldn’t teach in school or keep a regular schedule of any substance.

So I write, and my reading informs my writing and my reading continues to deepen my experience of life.

Though I am most interested in 20th century literature, I am now re-reading Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. But I always read more than one book at a time. I need the balance. My balance for Anna is The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, a fun story also full of mystery, metaphorical meaning, adventure and murder. I'm also reading cowgirl writer extraordinaire Pam Houston's latest book, Contents May Have Shifted, about her worldwide travels.

What are your first memories of reading? Did you like it, love it, hate it, or just see it as a necessity? What are you reading now? I’d love to hear because I love to talk about books. And I always, always, always want to hear about new ones, too.

I’ll be exploring reading on the internet and the authors who have changed my life in the next few postings. Stay tuned for more stories of the Reader-Addict!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Exercise Your Right To Vote

I have already voted – by mail. I have a great dislike of standing in any line for any reason, so voting by mail is perfect for me. I’m sure many others feel the same way I do about lines, and I hope you have taken advantage of a mail-in ballot.

I read on Sunday morning that voters in storm-devastated New Jersey will be able to vote by email. In the future, we may all be able to vote online.

The only thing I missed by voting by mail was my little sticker to wear proudly: I Voted. As soon as I dropped my sealed ballot in the drop-off box, I wanted that sticker! I heard that some counties in Colorado mailed the stickers with your ballot.

I voted several times in presidential elections before my candidate won. But I survived Presidents Nixon, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II, and in return for my persistence was rewarded with Presidents Carter, Clinton, and Obama.

Why keep voting? Because it really does matter. If you think your vote doesn’t count, think back to 2000 when George Bush won all of Florida’s electoral votes and eventually the election by a 537-vote margin in Florida.

What if you had been one of the 537 voters who stayed home because you just didn’t think your vote mattered? Wouldn’t you make a different decision now?

I am not campaigning for my guy in this post. I simply want everyone who can to cast your ballot, have your say, make a difference. I’m not going to tell you it’s patriotic, or that others died so you could exercise your voting rights. Honestly, it is your civic duty to vote.

I suggest you do some reading, engage in some political discussion (and learn how to do it without attacking or getting personal) and maybe even do some campaigning for your party before you vote. You can even do that now! Really. An informed voter also learns how to participate in his or her local government and have a say in how their daily lives are lived.

Politics and politicians and government agencies are necessary parts of a democracy. The more involved you are, the more you get to understand what is going on around you and why.

People from all over the world want to move here just so they can vote freely – no coercion, no reprisals, all secret ballots. So, at the very least, please exercise your precious gift, privilege and right as an American citizen and VOTE.