Sunday, January 29, 2012

Erasing the Evils of Envy

Do you every experience envy? I'd like to say I'm immune but that would be a lie. Sometimes, I don't feel quite as sweet on the inside as I act on the outside. Sometimes, I compare my insides to other people's outsides and come up short.

Envy is not a nice feeling. It actually feels like crap. I did a search for quotes about "envy" and that was the consensus.

The envious die not once, but as oft as the envied win applause. 
~Baltasar Gracian

If malice or envy were tangible and had a shape, it would be the shape of a boomerang.  ~Charley Reese 

Love looks through a telescope; envy, through a microscope. 
~Josh Billings 

Envy is thin because it bites but never eats. 
~Spanish Proverb

Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy. 
~Fran├žois Duc de La Rochefoucauld

Envy is ignorance.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Pity is for the living, envy is for the dead.  ~Mark Twain

Envy is a symptom of lack of appreciation of our own uniqueness and self worth.  Each of us has something to give that no one else has. 
~Elizabeth O'Connor

My antidote for envy is simple: Thank the Universe for all that I have an all that I am. My gratitude list is long but sometimes I have to force myself to make it. Here's my ABC gratitude list for today:

A. AA for changing my life and continuing to help me grow toward being my best self.
B. My boss, who is a reasonable and respectful human being.
C. Clothes on my back...and then some
D. My doctors--the GP who took my presenting MS symptom more seriously than I did and my neurologist who treats me like the captain of my own treatment team.
E. My employer that lets me work from home most of the time.
F. My fabulous friends who have been my family.
G. The knowledge that I am sensitive to gluten and that I feel much, much better living gluten-free.
H. My home.
I. My imagination that keeps my life interesting.
J. Julie. My name. I've always loved it and I've never wanted to change it.
K. The Kindle Fire I bought myself for Christmas. It's wonderful to have a large print option for any book at all.
L. Love....and a laundry room
M. My MS diagnosis and all the gifts that it's given me, including a commitment to my mental, physical, and spiritual health.
N. No drama.
O. My One Day at a Time philosophy.
P. A regular paycheck that pays all my bills.
Q. The quilts on our beds and the fact that my children and I sleep in warm beds every night.
R. Ruby and my growing appreciation of what an amazing person she is.
S. Spin class which I'm starting to really love.
T. The Ride.
U. My UU church community. They are my village.
V. The old Volvo that I gave up driving and donated to charity. I'm grateful that I loved it when I bought it for $1500 and then accepted I needed to give it up because I don't see well enough to drive anymore.
W. Writing,
X. X-rays. Ok. MRIs aren't exactly X-rays but they are close...kinda. I'm grateful that I have health insurance to pay for this important diagnostic tool.
Y. The YMCA and, of course, you, because you read what I write.
Z. Zane and how he giggles in his sleep and offers me a hug when he senses that I'm having a hard time.

How do you fend off envy?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tales of Woe on The Ride

I took The Ride home from work today. John was my driver. I know this because he said, "Hi! My name is John." But when I returned the favor and began to introduce myself, he interrupted me and said, "Yes, I know. It's on my clipboard."


Before the introductions, though, there was the actual arrival of The Ride vehicle. I was thrilled when John pulled up in a sedan instead of the short bus. I despise the back-up (BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!) signal. Because I was outside waiting, I walked right up to the car and opened the passenger door.  John scrambled to get out of the driver's seat and quickly came around to assist me into the vehicle as he yelled, "Wait right there!"

I assured him that I was fine, that I just had low vision, and that I didn't need any help buckling in, but still, John reached in and fought me for the seat belt. It probably will come as no surprise that I won.

While we were pulling out of my office park, John began to complain about how the GPS told him the wrong way to go to my office. I made commiserating noises ("Oh, I know, it's terrible...") and told him that's why I tell the dispatcher the correct way to go every time I call and that I was sorry that that information wasn't passed along to him.

"It was," John said sharply.


"But now I have to find Aboretum Drive," he grumbled. "And they only gave me 5 minutes to get there and it's supposed to be my lunch break."

I made more sympathetic statements:  "Oh. That's terrible. I hope you get a chance to eat soon...."

John then asked me if I was coming home from work. When I started to answer him, the dispatcher called on the radio. "Shh!!!!!" John said, as if I was talking out of the blue while he was on the phone with the President of the United States.


When he finished his conversation with the dispatcher, he seemed to forget that he had asked me a question for which he had not yet received an answer. I decided it was best to let it pass. During the drive to pick up the second passenger, John told me many things that he did not like about his job including the demands of the reservationists and dispatchers; the rudeness of some of the passengers; poor road conditions; the camera that watched his every move; and the accidents. The last one scared me a little but I just listened and made what I hope were sympathetic noises ("Mmmmm. Really?").

We pulled up to the second passenger's house 13 minutes later. I know exactly how long it took since John announced it when we arrived:  "That took 13 minutes and they wanted me to do it in 5!"

I told John that I would be happy to get in the backseat if the person was elderly or had difficulty getting in or out of the car.  He cut me off with "No need" and went around to let her in the backseat on my side.

"Can you push the seat up?" he yelled, as if I was purposefully reclining while a 6-foot tall person with two canes was trying to get in behind me.  Marilyn was probably 5' 5" and had no assistive devices of any kind.


Thank goodness, my fellow passenger was much more successful at commiserating with John. Actually, John and Marilyn sort of one-upped each other during the trip to my house with all the terrible things about The Ride. I tried to chime in once with my story about Mr. Jones but they didn't seem interested so I shut right up. Apparently, my true Pollyanna nature shined through and I wasn't fooling anybody with my attempts at grumbling.

I made it home, safe and sound and grateful to be me. Just for today, the glass is half full.

Monday, January 16, 2012

ADA Violation of Just Bi%&#y Behavior?

My MS-related vision impairment is complex. I think it's because the problem lies with my optic nerves and their connection to my brain and not my eyes themselves. I can't see far away, I prefer reading large print, I see worse when I am in motion (e.g., while walking or in a moving car), my vision is worse in the dark, and I experience visual confusion when there is too much visual information coming at me (e.g., walking through a crowded mall). So, when I do something in a large group, I usually get there early to make sure I can be up close. Which is exactly what I did when my friend Julie invited me to her Zumba class at the YMCA.

It was only my second Zumba class ever and, according to Julie, the teacher for this particular class was very good and very popular. We got in line (yes, Candice is that popular) about 20 minutes before the class began. Julie estimates that we were about 15th in line. When the doors opened and I entered the dimly lit gym, I did not exactly run to the front of the room, but I didn't saunter either. I find a spot and stood a couple of feet back from the mirror in the center of the front row. The room quickly filled up with people.

"That's not going to work for me," said a voice that came from a fit, thirty-something woman dressed in expensive, work-out wear who suddenly appeared just over my left shoulder. She stretched out her arms to indicate that I would be in her way.

So, I stepped forward. Another voice, attached to another woman who could have been the sister of the first Zumba apostle, said "That's where the teacher has to be."

So, I stepped back and to the right. "That's my spot," said a third woman, who walked up and pointed to a water bottle that she had placed on the floor.

After the fourth woman informed me that I was not where I was supposed to be, I finally said, "I can't see very well, I need to be up close."

"Well, you can't be there," she responded.

Before retreating, I turned around smiled at all the voices and said, "Thanks so much for the warm welcome."

I heard my friend Julie arguing with one of the woman and yelling for me to come back, but I just said, "That's ok" before moving way over to the second or third row at the far right of the crowded room, nowhere near the teacher or the mirrors.

When the music came on (and I assume the teacher had entered the room), I felt some trepidation. I knew that, even from the front row, I would probably have trouble following the complicated Zumba moves. From my new vantage point, I was worried that I would smash into the stack of hand weights up against the right side wall and/or get in other people's way. I briefly considered leaving but I thought, "Nope. Don't let the Zumba meanie mommies scare you off."

And I didn't. I did what I do and I made the best of it. There was a woman in front of me who was pretty good at Zumba. So, she became my unpaid instructor. I followed her as best I could and I think got a pretty good workout. I was definitely sweating by the end of class. By the time the hour class was over, I was having a blast, doing my own thing and dancing along with the music when I couldn't follow the moves of the class.

I made my way over to Julie, who had not relinquished her spot in the front row. She immediately took my arm and brought me up to loudly introduce me to the instructor, Candice. I thought it was a little odd but I smiled and told Candice that I enjoyed her class...which I did.

On our way home, I found out what happened after I retreated from the front row and why Julie made a point of introducing me to the instructor at full volume. Apparently, Julie tried to explain to one of the Zumba bullies that I had low vision and needed to be up close. The woman argued back and ultimately threatened Julie when she did not immediately back down. "I will see to it that you will not be here next week," she promised.

What??? I almost wish I had stayed in my original spot so she would have said it to me. I'd like to think I would have laughed in the woman's face and demanded to know exactly what she intended to do to ban me from future Zumba classes. Would she call in her henchmen to make fun of my Walmart work out wear until I shrunk away in shame? Would she report me to the Zumba meanie mommy mafia and throw me in the pool with barbells tied to my cross trainers? Would she lock me in the sauna and turn up the temperature until I was found shriveled up and too weak to ever Zumba again?

I love that Julie stood up for me. She is a good friend and it didn't stop with the class. I found out today that she also sent a letter to the Y, demanding that the organization apologize to me and do something to prevent this kind of bullying behavior in the future. I was so touched by her mama-bear defense of me that I posted something to my Facebook status about being in great company with someone else who sends angry letters to fight injustice.

Another Facebook/real-life friend volunteered to speak to someone he knows who serves on the board of this particular YMCA. He suggested that this is an issues of the Y condoning a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act if the organization fails to respond.

Wow. I never thought of it that way. Naturally, because I still have trouble seeing myself as someone with a disability (remember that I am the person who waited two years before sending in my Ride application?), I thought, "What? That's crazy! These were just some over-entitled, over-zealous suburban Zumba aficionados who would step on anyone who got in their way.  Should the Y have to respond to their rudeness?"

But maybe they should. The fact is, I have low vision which is considered a disability. Right?

I am not a shrinking violet. I retreated because I was new to the class and was unsure of the rules. I wouldn't do that again. I would hold my position, smile politely and powerfully, and explain that I got there earlier to get a spot up close so that I could see the instructor and, if they didn't like how close I was too them, perhaps they should move to a new spot.

But what about people with low vision who may not have so much chutzpa? What about people who regularly retreat when they are confronted with meanness and an unwillingness to provide reasonable accommodations? You could say, and I would probably agree with you, that these Zumba meanie mommies would have been just as rude to anyone, regardless of their ability to see. But, should a person with a disability use the ADA to smack down rude people?

What do you think? Talk amongst yourselves. But comment, too, because I really do want to know what you think.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Power of Wishful Thinking

A few minutes before The Ride was due to pick me up at work today, I told a colleague that I wished the driver would text me when the vehicle pulled up outside. The words were barely out of my lips when I heard the ping of a text message from my boss in the parking lot. "Julie, your Ride just pulled up outside."


Maybe I should start wishing out loud for some even better stuff. Well, not stuff exactly, but things to happen. I don't want to be ungrateful but...GEEZ!  I definitely don't want to waste my power of wishful thinking on electronic communications from a bus driver!

So here goes. I am making these statements out loud as I write this. And just to take the pressure off, this is, by no means, an exhaustive list of my wishful thinking.

I wish that my children grow up to be happy, healthy, and loving adults who want to spend time with me. I wouldn't mind, either, if they nominated me for Mother-of-the-Year...but that's really not the most important part of this wish.

I wish that the man of my dreams shows up exactly when I'm ready for him and thinks that I am the most beautiful, funny, and smart woman he has ever met. I'll know that he thinks this because he will tell me often and I will, naturally, think and express the exact same sentiments about him.

I wish that President Obama gets elected for a second term and that he starts doing more of the important work I thought he would do. I wish that he will stop giving a crap about playing politics to avoid pissing off the moderates since he won't need to run for reelection again.

I wish that I continue, on most days, to see my MS as a gift that gives more than it takes...mostly in the form of life lessons and gratitude. I wish that I continue to feel great, but that I still cheer louder than anyone at the We Found a Cure for MS parade.

I wish that I have the opportunity to travel to many new places and meet many new people around the world.

I wish that the housekeeping elves visit me in the night and clean all those corners I never notice until I drop something on the floor...especially, the ones in the kitchen and the bathrooms. Actually, dusting would also be nice. Oh...and the refrigerator could use a good scrubbing, too. What the heck! I wish the elves would come and clean every single inch of my house.

I wish that I always want to be the first person on the dance floor and the last person to sit down.

I wish that I remember that I don't need to spend money I don't have on things I don't need to impress people I don't even like. (Thanks for that reminder, Kat!). And with all the money I save on not acting out on my fears of other peoples' opinions, I wish that I organize my finances once and for all.

I wish that I regularly find opportunities to stay out too late listening to loud, live music...and I wouldn't mind getting to meet the band either since I need to let the 12-year old groupie inside me come out to play every now and then. 

I wish that I am surrounded by love and laughter and that I keep on learning and growing until the day I die...when I'm a very old woman wearing purple. 

Oh, and I wish for peace on earth, an end to world hunger, and a home for everyone.

What do you wish for?

Thursday, January 05, 2012

My MS, Your MS

I know I have MS. And most people who know me (and some that don't) know that I have MS. It's not a secret. I tell anyone who asks and/or who I think would benefit from that knowledge. I participate in MS fundraising events, I have this blog, and I have an online identity as Lazy Julie in the MS community.

But you know what? MS is different for every single one of us. If you were to gather 100 people in a room, we would probably have 100 different stories of diagnosis and symptoms. So, it stands to reason that we will have different ways to treat our MS and to respond to the fact that we have MS.

Since MS is my disease, I do it my way. Currently, I'm doing it without prescription medication. As I've described here, I am now taking vitamin D, probiotics, have a gluten-free and lactose free diet, pray and meditate daily, and try to exercise every day (and most days, I succeed).That's me.

You, on the other hand, may take injectable, disease modifying drugs. You may take oral MS medication. You may get regular infusions of Tsysabri or solumedrol. You may take LDN. You may have had the CCSVI "Liberation" procedure. You may do none of those things. Or many. Or have your very own regiment. But you know what? It's YOUR disease and that's your choice.

You can and should do exactly what works for you and, as long as you don't try to convince me to do it your way, we're good.

I go to a Unitarian Universalist church. I didn't go to church for years. I didn't want to and I didn't need to. I had kids and that changed for me. So now I go. But you know what? I don't tell YOU to go. I am totally ok with any god, goddess, or whatever that you worship or if you believe in absolutely nothing. That is your choice and I'm ok with that. I would NEVER, EVER try to convince you to share my spiritual beliefs (in part, because they are kind of fluid). If you ask me what I believe or how I practice my particular brand of spirituality, I would be happy to tell you. I would not, however, enter a spiritual debate with you. In my opinion, spiritual beliefs or lack thereof, are a personal decision and it's absolutely none of my business, as long as your beliefs don't infringe on my freedoms or beliefs.

It's kind of the same thing with MS treatment. Tell me what you do, I will tell you what I do, but PLEASE let's respect our differences. We share a disease but not a personality.

Let's make a deal. Don't tell me that the doctors I trust are lying to me and I won't tell you the same. Don't tell me or anyone else that the drugs they are taking are poisoning them and I won't make negative comments about your treatment of choice. Don't call anyone a freak or a crazy person because they are taking part in controversial treatment and I won't either.

Do me a favor:  talk about yourself and your own experience. Don't lecture or harass. And, while I'm ranting, please don't tell me how I should change my Facebook status to show my support for people with MS.  I support MS causes in my own way and I update my Facebook status in my own way.You are not the boss of me or my MS.

As always, thanks for letting me share.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Happy New Year

Do you make New Year's resolutions? A new friend suggested coming up with a list of positive things to do in the new year instead of picking random bad stuff to give up. He's chosen the number 12 for 2012 so I'll go with that, too.

Here are 12 things that I intend to do in 2012, in no particular order since I am making them up as I go along.
  1. Play with the kids more. Zane's new foosball table will help.
  2. Pray, meditate, and do my spiritual/12 step writing every day, even if it's just a few minutes.
  3. Blog more.
  4. Dance more. I started out pretty well with this one since I went dancing New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. I LOVE to dance!
  5. Keep finding new ways to move my body. Last week, it was Zumba and spin class. Who knows what this week will bring!
  6. Surround myself with people who are kind and make space in their lives for me.
  7. Let go of the mean/sad stuff.
  8. Keep eating more healthy than not.
  9. Help more.
  10. Take more baths. Bonus if I use the expensive bath oil Christina bought me in England.
  11. Walk outside all year long.
  12. Do more yoga, even if it's just sun salutations in the morning.