Catching Up

It’s been awhile since I wrote a new post. I just decided to do a bit of a followup on some of my posts.

My mind has been a bit cloudy of late and i have been having trouble putting my words together. Insomnia, back pain, shooting leg pains from sciatica  and a compressed nerve in my back have kept me awake at night. I also had new health diagnoses which I emotionally had to deal with. I like to make sense when I write, so I took a hiatus.


I have a few updates:  I love the new bed I received from my Uncle. It vibrates. The head and bottom raise up and down by wireless remote control. The first night I vibrated, wave massaged and raised it up and down, hundreds of times.  I’ve calmed down. I raise up and down only once or twice a day. The first week the bed was on wheels, but since I have hardwood floors, I was rolling every time the bed moved or I tried to sit on it, LOL. I called the company and they came to put on rubber casters to save me from rolling out of my bedroom door.

Last weekend, I fulfilled a life long dream as I returned to the Kings Theatre. I saw The Empress of Soul, Gladys Knight in concert. She was magnificent and I was on a Gladys high for days. She sang all about love, sang all her greatest hits, including Neither One of Us. I teared up a bit when she sang, The Way We Were. She put all of her voice into every note and I detected a catch in her voice at the end. She then talked about friends who had passed away, including the late Marvin Gaye. Former Pip and Gladys’ big brother Bubba came on and had his own little portion of the show, including singing Happy by Pharell Williams. She had a hard time getting the show back from him, LOL. Gladys’ voice has always done something to me because it’s filled with richness. Diana Ross has the flash, Gladys has the voice. I was really happy that I made it to the show. I was recovering from a 2 day migraine, but Gladys was not to be missed. If I ever fall into a coma, please play Gladys at my bedside, I will surely awaken.


I was awed and amazed at the response I received from my last post about Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. I spoke for many in my description of living with fibro. It is not an easy road that we travel and sometimes the road is filled with many bumps and detours.

Many people who deal with chronic illness deal with some level of depression. Let’s face it, if you were hurting all the time, your life and very being had changed overnight, depression may chase you too. There is confusion and feelings of loss of your former self. I have fought with depression and was brought to the very brink of despair.

I felt so lost, pained and alone thinking that this was all that was left for me. I couldn’t chant and felt no one understood what I was going through. I was unhappy for a myriad of reasons. I didn’t care anymore and thought that was okay. One night I took some prescribed sleeping pills, because that MF insomnia had me up for five days straight. I took a few extra pills, not caring if I woke up the next day. I wanted to rest and have peace and not pain in my body. I cried because I woke up. (Damn, I can’t even do this suicide thing right. That is what my brain told me, SMH)


After a serious crying jag for hours and talking with someone, I sought medical help and was diagnosed at the hospital with major depression and anxiety. I was put on medications to help me and also started going to therapy to finally talk about issues from my childhood to adulthood. Therapy and also learning how to use my faith to uplift me in dark moments were the greatest gifts I received from that life moment.


A few of my Buddhist sisters were the first people to visit me in the hospital. For the first time in months, I chanted. It’s a memory I will always treasure. The compassion that they showed me made me feel very loved at a time when I felt empty. At that time I had not really, reached out to people who could and would have helped me on the path. They could have shown me how to utilize my faith and still get medical help. Buddhism is reason and I wasn’t using it.

Many years later, I’m no longer taking medications, but I still go to therapy, because there are many bumps and detours on the road of life. Depression can be a long battle for most people who have experienced it. I have fought and won over the major hurdles.  I plan to live, live well and live the greatest life possible, filled with happiness no matter the circumstances that I am facing.


I reveal myself so transparently because June is Mental Health Awareness month.

We don’t know what other people are going through. They may appear fine, but be in a dark place. Your health is important, Your mental health is also important. You are not “crazy to take medication for your mental health. Don’t refuse to see a “head shrinker” because no one in your family ever did it. In order to open our lives and change it, we have to do something different from what we are accustomed to.  There are many people trained to help us get out of the darkness. If you see someone who seems down, be kind to them. Kind words without judgement is what they need. Everyone could use a helpful and compassionate ear. Compassion is sorely lacking in our world.


I chant Nam myoho renge kyo to uplift me and I read encouraging guidance and books from SGI President Daisaku  Ikeda. He reminds me, I have a mission for my life and it is to help others and show them through my life that they can be happy. We call this actual proof. I know I went through the hardest struggle so I can encourage other people, as I am now on the other side of depression.


My faith keeps me on the right path through this journey of life. No matter what, I will continue to chant everyday, morning and evening prayers to stay the course and never give up. That is what my Buddhist faith has taught me.

Selma

I went to the movies this week to see the film, Selma, directed by Golden Globe nominee, Ava DuVernay. I heard so much about the film which is about events leading up to and including the historical 1965, March from Selma, Alabama ,across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, led by Martin Luther King Jr.  This march was to demand equal voting rights for Negro citizens of Alabama . The result was The Voting Rights Act of 1965 .The film stars Golden Globe nominee, David Oyelowo as Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

New York was one of the cities that offered free admissions to 7th, 8th and 9th grade students from the opening day, January 9 until the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday on January 19th.  I shrewdly decided to take in a matinée  on January 22, so I could be with adults seriously taking in the subject matter, I had only seen in history books.The events of the film took place 50 years ago, the year I was born.

As my ride rolled up to the theater, I saw 4 school buses parked nearby, but figured the students had a trip, nearby. I got my phone scanned with my pre-purchased ticket, bought some nachos and took the elevator (these days I’m using a cane, due to chronic back pain) up to the theater. I found a good seat near the aisle so I could stretch out my legs, leaned back and the previews began.

  In the middle of the previews. suddenly the lights came on and the busloads of students started pouring into the room. Damn!  I thought I had escaped them.
Ms. Karen loves the kids, I was a children’s librarian for many years, but these kids looked like 5th or 6th graders. I knew this historical journey would have many bumps along the way for me, with kids in attendance. It was bumpy every time their tiny bladders, hungry tummies or thirsty throats made them get up. They kept bumping me and my seat, every time they got up. They got up in little packs of 4 or 5.
  They laughed at the southern accents of the Selma citizens in the film. The kids next to me immediately recognized Oprah Winfrey as she appeared on-screen and I heard all around me, It’s Oprah! They expressed shock when Dr. King, lit a cigarette and the kids behind me said, He smoked!!??? They expressed horror during the Bloody Sunday scene on the Edmund Pettus bridge when the marchers were tear gassed and beaten. Then, their laughter stopped and there was silence all through the theater except  for the subtle sounds of crying from some of my fellow adult viewers and myself.

Dr. King is seen not just as a cultural and historical icon here, but as an ordinary man who was shouldering heavy responsibilities. He is seen as a husband and father.  He was a man who took out the trash. He is shown as a man who was not always faithful to his wife, Coretta. He is seen as a preacher who relied on the word of God to lead him. He was making decisions that affected the masses, who followed his words. He’s seen as a regular man who cracked jokes with his friends. David Oyelowo was magnificent as Dr. King, truly capturing his essence throughout the film.
 He met many times with President Lyndon Johnson who wasn’t quite ready to sign a Voting Rights  bill into law after already signing, The Civil Rights Act of 1964, that outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, required equal access to public places and employment, and enforced desegregation of schools and the right to vote.

Ava DuVernay doesn’t take the easy road to show this story. She shows the brutality that these citizens faced from the law enforcement that showed them ignorance at every turn. The hate and anger towards the men and women alike was palpable. There were moments when I sat there crying ,feeling the blows and thinking how man can be so inhuman towards one another.  The scenes after Dr. King’s call for the clergy to come to Selma and help them march made me proud and later gave me a moment where I almost couldn’t stop crying.

 I cried thinking about these brave young men and women who helped to provide the opportunities I have been afforded. They were in their late teens and twenties. Dr. King was in his thirties and died at 39.  Could I have had their courage? I cried thinking many of these heroes have gone unknown and unacknowledged. Ralph Abernathy, Rep. John Lewis, and Andrew Young are names we are familiar with. But, now, Amelia Boynton Robinson, James Bevel, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Diane Nash and Hosea Williams will be known by even more people. I cried because we have come so far and yet things seem to be reversing themselves.

 The students around me got vocal whenever Governor George Wallace appeared on screen (I can’t blame them) and I had to even hush them like a librarian during a few scenes when guns and batons were used.  I’m still a great husher and they quieted right down. They were saying, “That’s wrong and why did they do that!?” “Guns are wrong!” “There was no need for violence.” I know those kids left the film with a different outlook on this part of history.  It seemed more real to them. They remained seated, singing along to the Golden Globe winning and Oscar nominated song, Glory by John Legend and Common, when the lights came back on.

 Selma has been nominated in the Best Picture category for the Academy Awards and the song Glory has been nominated in the music category. Alas, the two driving forces of David Oyelowo and Director Ava DuVernay were not nominated. That’s how things go in Hollywood.
 David will always be remembered for this career changing role.  Ava doesn’t need the Oscar to justify her work. It was outstanding and will live on past this awards season in Hollywood. Years from now, when people want to see, feel and understand what went on during The Civil Rights Movement, Selma is where they will turn.  I thank Ava and David,  the producers, including Oprah Winfrey and executive producer, Brad Pitt for bring this film to the big screen.  My mind was opened, my eyes were cleansed. Give yourself and any young people in your life a history lesson. Go see the film Selma!

 selma-montgomery-march

 This guidance from SGI-USA President Daisaku Ikeda is fitting after seeing Selma. The book, Buddhism Day by Day- Wisdom for Modern Life,  for the date January 24 says, Buddhism teaches equality and absolute respect  for the dignity of life. Educating people to be citizens of the world begins with cultivating respect, compassion and empathy for others. I am certain that friendship and limitless trust in people can empower us to overcome socially disruptive discrimination and hatred. Open-minded exchanges on the popular level will be increasingly important in the years to come. When people engage in mind to mind dialogue, they are grateful to see ethnic and cultural differences not as obstacles but as expressions of society enriching diversity that engenders respect and a desire for further exploration.

Diary of a Migraine

I finally started my blog, and apparently the news upset my body. It felt like lighting struck the back of my head. My bed became my refuge and the place to uphold me. This past week, I was stricken with a migraine. It was one for the record books. I have been having migraines for years, but they are not traditional, because nothing about me is. These headaches can last for days.

I once had to wear sunglasses in the house for a week, because the light from the sun outside was slowly killing me. WebMD describes migraine symptoms as moderate to severe pain (often described as pounding, throbbing pain) that can affect the whole head, or can shift from one side of the head to the other.Sensitivity to light, noise or odors.Blurred vision, Nausea or vomiting, stomach upset, abdominal pain.Loss of appetite.Sensations of being very warm or cold.Paleness.Fatigue, Dizziness Fever(rare) Bright flashing dots or lights, blind spots, wavy or jagged lines(aura).

You can read about it but feeling one is very different.

I peeked at the Golden Globes Awards, Sunday night with one eye squinting at the television. Common gave a fantastic acceptance speech after winning Best Song (Glory), his collaboration with John Legend for the movie Selma.
I checked into Facebook on my phone a few times. I know if I don’t post something folks may think I am on the deceased list. I have a bit of an addiction to Facebook (Don’t judge me. I have a few simple pleasures in my life, LOL) I have made great friends with total strangers, reconnected with people and stay connected with family.
Day 2– Absolutely nothing was working and believe me, I have a lot of medication to choose from. My regular migraine medications were laughing at me. Pain was all over my face. I was not standing up too straight. I was drinking tea, trying to sleep and basically waiting out the day hoping for relief.
Day 3- My Facebook friends were sending me healing vibes and wished me a speedy recovery. I needed that kind of optimism and so appreciated them. A brother in faith sent me a home remedy and I tried it. I lay down in bed chanting quietly to myself, that this had to STOP! I felt beaten and defeated, but I couldn’t let that happen. I couldn’t sleep and fibromyalgia symptoms started kicking in. My back decided it wasn’t going to work anymore. Come on man! Are you serious with this?

On the final day of the beating and throbbing, I felt like Sheila E, was living inside my head playing percussion. I was living in the house without lights on. My bill should be low next month. I struggled to my prayer altar.

The SGI-USA webpage describes our Buddhist practice as this: “The practice of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and recite portions of both the second (Expedient Means) and the sixteenth (Life Span) chapters of the Lotus Sutra in front of the Gohonzon. This is the fundamental practice of Nichiren Buddhism, performed morning and evening.”

I read the daily guidance for January 14th. It said, Everyone at some time suffers from illness in one form or another. The power of the Mystic Law enables us to bring forth strength to overcome the pain and suffering of sickness with courage and determination. The Daishonin writes”Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is like the roar of a lion. What sickness can therefore be an obstacle? That final sentence is engraved in my head and heart, since I need to remind myself of this often.


I sat at the altar, even though I felt dizzy and discombobulated. I knew I couldn’t give in to defeat. I live my life like this all the time, because I’ve suffered from chronic illness for at least 15 years. I hurt everywhere, somewhere, all the time, everyday. I’ve been through major depression. I no longer take medication for it, but I can’t let my mind master me. We need to pay more attention and take more seriously people who suffer with depression. (Another conversation, for another time.)

I said my prayers with the determination that I will win over this Boom, Boom, Boom in the front of my head. The following morning, I could feel the heaviness in my head lifting and I actually got some sleep. I rested, I told Facebook my status. Rejoicing was in the air! My face pain is better, but the rest of my body still hurts.

Here I am, back at the blog. It’s been a rough week and yes my computer screen is a bit dim, my carpal tunnel is bugging me, but I am here. I am fighting like Muhammad Ali. I take blows on the ropes, but I keep coming back. Migraine be gone and don’t let the door hit ya! The Lioness has roared! I am a Fighter, a Winner and I am Victorious!

Let Me Introduce Myself

I decided to start a blog. Why would I do that?? I have to take myself back to high school, Bishop Loughlin Memorial, 1979, when as a freshman I joined the newspaper, as an after school activity. I found out I expressed myself well and often better, when I wrote. I was basically shy and sheltered, but I felt free and happy when I wrote.

I thought I would become a journalist like Barbara Walters or write for a newspaper, like The New York Times. I had attended free workshops at Columbia University for aspiring high school journalists, and received an honorable mention award in a Catholic newspaper for catholic school high school students. I was listed in both my junior and senior years of high school in Who’s Who Among American High School Students for my journalistic endeavors. I was ready to study journalism. I was ready! Maybe I could be an entertainment reporter since I loved feature articles. I had been reading The National Enquirer and Star Magazine since I was very young. Celebrity gossip was so cool. I knew all of Liz Taylor’s business.

Even with all this momentum around me, I felt no one around me truly supported my dreams. I didn’t have the self-esteem and inner strength to be a cheerleader for myself. Oh, if we could do a rewind, the things we could change……..

I believed the negativity hype. I heard that it was harder for blacks in that industry or how someone they knew didn’t do well in the profession. Instead, I pursued less creative paths. I was a paralegal and then a librarian, but always kept journals and didn’t turn down opportunities to participate in newsletters at work. I had a knack for writing and I knew it.

I have had a lengthy period of health issues. Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, migraines, carpal tunnel and chronic pain finally took their collective toll and I could no longer work. Fibromyalgia makes it difficult for my brain to put thoughts together. Reading and writing that has always come easily, became a process of labor. It still is a struggle to get my thoughts down. This is why I decided to blog. I don’t want my gift to disappear, because of my chronic illness. I know now to fight for myself and for what I want.

I have practiced Buddhism with the SGI-USA for the past 10 years and my goal is to be happy. Nichiren Buddhism, teaches that each person has within the courage, wisdom and compassion to face and surmount any of life’s challenges. If you watched the film, What’s Love Got to Do With It, about the life of Tina Turner, starring Angela Bassett, you heard her chant -Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. We all see how Tina’s life changed when she started to chant.

So, I’m going to be happy despite the obstacles in my life. I have changed from my core, so I am brave enough to blog. I’ll write about the everyday, give insight about living with chronic illness. I’ll write about the mundane and the amusing. I’ll blog about what upsets me, enlightens me and what makes me, ME. Winning in life is what’s important no matter what. So as I blog I may face failure, criticisms and everything in between, but I believe in me and know this is the right time to write for me and to share it with others. I hope you will join me on my journey, finally fulfilling a dream.