Saturday, January 18, 2020

Day #71

What will I wear today? The Silent Patient or It’s Not What Happens To You, It’s What You Do About it. I love walking around in a book. It’s the best outfit ever. I don’t have to really match anything other than my mood to the story.

When my long days of healing and dragging around an#80 “Stein” (orthopedic boot size15), it’s refreshing to find a positive escape, or at least an engaging one. Books are

woman’s best friends, especially when convalescing. Distracting the mind with something that you enjoy is the best medicine, and the side effects can be long-lasting. (i.e. When you think of a favorite read, can you put yourself back into the story and enjoy it again?)

There is actually an added benefit to this telling—humor. What’s humorous about The Silent Patient? Absolutely nothing. What’s funny is that I have been trying to listen to this book on my Audible app (best purchase since bleaching trays). I listen to this story before my daily nap and before going to sleep at night. Yup. You guessed it. I start on Chapter 4. I hear about three minutes of the story, and when I awaken at 2:18 a.m. with voices in my ear, I realize that the story has continued, but I wasn’t hearing it. This scenario has played out numerous times over the past three weeks, and I have still not finished the book. I am not even sure who the characters are, but the story seems intriguing. The funnier part is me trying to find where I left off. I have listened to some chapters three times.

I was relaying to a friend that my Resilience Tool Box is useless right now because most of the resilience tools I’ve been gathering through the years to help me survive problems and crises are not available to me in my crippled state. I can’t tap on my #1 tool:  get moving. Get the body out walking, running, biking—whatever—just get moving. This ALWAYS works for me and has gotten me off the ledge many times. Can’t do this in a wheelchair. #2 is Go Shopping or at the least, get out of the house. Can’t do this, as I can’t drive, and the budget is hard-pressed right now paying for wheelchairs and shower benches.

 #3 is Distract the Mind. This one is GOLD, and this one I CAN use. Distracting the mind is nothing new. As a matter of fact, my wise father gave me this advice 60 years ago, and I just walked away. When I was upset or down about something, my father would say, “Go get busy. Do something so you stop thinking about it.” He was saying, “Distract the Mind.” It works, but the distraction has to be something you enjoy and that you want to do. For me, lately, it’s been reading my books (when I am awake) or working on a project I’m excited about (writing my next script).

So “Quel en est le but?” I used to ask my students. What’s the point? The point is that no matter how tired, aching, pain-ridden, sad, we feel, there is always a way to distract the mind, and books are one of the best tools. 

I’ve been walking around in the second book above for two days now. It’s written by a millionaire who sustained unimaginable injuries after surviving not one, but two horrific accidents. He is paralyzed, has no fingers, has unsightly scars on his face, and he is confined to a wheelchair the rest of his life. He tells his story, sometimes in graphic detail to inspire others to learn from his own lessons. If his story does not inspire the reader in some way, the reader is worse off than than the author. 

Now some might say, wouldn’t you be better off watching reruns of “I Love Lucy?” Maybe. The content would certainly be lighter, but the lessons wouldn’t be there. I love to learn, and, as a teacher, I love to share what I learn. If you’re not interested, that’s your choice, but I am here, like W. Mitchell to tell my story. My first audience will be April 22. By then, I don’t know where I will be in my healing, but I do know one thing. I will have many lessons to share as well as some funny stories to entertain. Finding humor in the tragedy is not easy, but it’s always there. 

I will not be a “Silent” patient, and I realize that what happened to me is random and the reason I am surviving it is because I am learning what to do about it. It’s certainly not sitting around feeling sorry for myself. I will leave pity parties for those who choose to wallow, not rise. Do yourself a favor, and put a few can't-put-down reads on your night stand. You won't be sorry.

Friday, January 17, 2020

I don't know which of these photos is more weird. The top left is an ad I saw on fb for seatcovers. Are you effen kidding me? Why would I want to set my buttocks on middle C? This just doesn't strike a chord in my repertoire. I know this is a minor topic in the blog library, but. . .  And what 20-something came up with this design? Nope. That's even worse than the leopard skin sterring wheel cover that my daughter tells people I have. I do not. I repeat, I do not have either of these in my vehicle. Of course, I can't drive my vehicle for another couple of months, so maybe by then, I'll be ready to dress it up with some weird accessory.

The second photo is my weekly gallery of foot covers. Some of you know that I have a fb page called "the-write-note." Well, here is the "right shoe." It is sometimes hard to choose just the "right" shoe, as nothing matches "Stein," the dreaded ortho boot. I intend to continue wearing my heel as long as I can, as my days may be numbered in that category. You will notice the walking shoe on the left. That one is a foreshadowing of what's to come. Sorry, it just doesn't fit my look, but the way I will look when I get out of that boot will not be pretty, so I probably don't want to call attention to that foot anyway. I can't believe I am spending time and words on this topic.

WIIFY? Nothing.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A former student (a wonderful and talented one!) found this photo in her album and sent it to me this morning. This is Germaine Vogelweith, my Alsacian/Parisian French "maman." Oh, how I loved this woman who taught me so much about so much.

I lived with Germaine in Paris, France, in 1965, when I attended a graduate French program at the Sorbonne. It was my very first big trip away from home alone, and I lived with her for the six weeks of my program. She had two grown sons who were not living with her at the time, so it was just the two of us in her sweet little apartment on the opposite side of town from the University. I had to take the bus to get to school each day, and she was always warning me about pickpockets and purse snatchers. She spoke no English, so this was the best training I could have had. I was forced to eat, drink, sleep, dream the French language night and day. The American students in the program all spoke French to each other, so it was full immersion. How I loved that time with her and with my fabulous French professors at the University. At 21, I was very naive, but I was a big risk-taker, so I had many adventures during the two months I spent traveling after the program.

This photo was taken three years later when I visited her. In this photo, many things had changed. I was a French teacher at Grosse Pointe South High School, and I was married. It was such fun to spend time with her. I was the daughter she never had, and she was the kind of Mom I never had.

As a result of this wonderful experience, I wanted my students to enjoy Paris and Europe as I had, so I bravely took three groups of students to Europe by myself. I never took more than 8. We were little families, and did we have the adventures! Then later, I went with a couple of other teachers from my high school (Novi High School where I taught for 25 years) and we took larger groups twice. So many beaux souvenirs!

The student who sent me this photo actually went back to Paris where she met her French husband. Who knew? I have a couple of students who are working in Paris currently, and it is such a wonderful feeling to think I had a tiny role in their French bonheur.

Tu me manques, Germaine. Je te remercie de tout ce que tu m'as fait apprendre, et je n'oublierai jamais ta gentilesse!

(Paris, 2019)

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

I have no idea how my blog works. I know only a very few of those who follow it, and because they keep telling me they are enjoying it, and because I love to write, I keep writing it. I will be celebrating 1900 blogs in just a few days. This was going to be one of my 3-year cycle projects, but it has morphed into a lifetime passion. 

I don’t know if you are a “follower,” if you get some kind of warning notice on your email that another Fifi masterpiece has been posted or what. I do know, however, that I am definitely yesterday’s news, as my numbers are plummeting like a rock. 

I used to have about 900-1000 hits per month. After my accident, the numbers climbed to almost 3000. Now they are on their way back down to the former. I have always said, and I mean it, that I don’t write for the popularity; I write because I love to write and I enjoy telling my story. If it produces a laugh for one person or less tears for another, that is a bonus. As I can’t receive comments on my blog, I don’t know who’s laughing or crying, so it’s really a moot point:)

So a friend asked for some blogging tips. Like I’m really an expert based on the above, right?I told him that there are two things I’ve learned:

  1. You must have a photo, and, preferably, a very short compelling video.
  2. Your headline is crucially important. It’s like the title of a book, if it doesn’t jump out at people, they won’t read it.
3.  The topic has to be relevant and timely. I told him WINE, his topic, is always both. 

I neglected to tell him I got poor grades in math. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Today is catch-up day for all of my followers to read however many previous blogs they like. I will be sunning on the lanai working on my next show. It's all about the healing now. One day at a time.
Many healing days ahead.

I named my ugly boot "Stein" after Frankenstein. Humming "You are my SunStein!"

Monday, January 13, 2020

Day #66

When you are confined to a wheelchair, it is amazing how many random thoughts can go through your mind. This morning, I decided to go through my 2000+ photo album and reminisce a bit.

I sure as hell waas young once. Ah, the skin, the hair, the great legs in my stilettos. Gone, gone, gone. I focus on what's left though, so I am not complaining. I am still presentable as I roll around in "Stein," my ugly 10# boot and my unsightly thumb brace. Yesterday, I got so upset when I couldn't record a piece of a piece. We couldn't get the dumb video to record properly, so I just gave up and went to bed. My temptatio was to cry and feel sorry for myself. "Poor me. Why did this have to happen?" NO, I have never said those words aloud or to myself. I would not let myself wallow for more than one minute (I had just put on my eye makeup), so I lost myself in my Audible app. Somehow I turned the day around, and went to bed at 9:00 pm. proud and calm. (Thank you, Netflix)

I found a couple of great photos of Mr. Wonderful, one at his 70th birthday ten years ago. He hasn't changed a bit--still handsome and tucked in at almost 80. He is my casregiver, my soul mate and my best friend in the whole world. I don't know how I would have coped without him. He gets up when I do at 3:00 a.m. just to see if I'm ok, and then I send him back to bed while I write feckless blogs and peruse photos of the past.

We said we would grow old together, and despite the fact that we are both in A.D. (age denial), we are very young at heart. He still plays tennis 4 times a week and spends a lot of time running the household while I'm incapacitated. The pain of this surreal nightmare is as emotional as it is physical, but we face it hand in hand.

Today is a big day, as I get to start thumb therapy. This may sound funny to some, but to me it is the way back to my music. I pray the thumb will cooperate, and within a month or so, I will be playing again, at least minimally. To physically harm me is one thing; to take away my livlihood, that's devastating.

Today is also a big day, as I will have my first consult with my acting/storytelling coach online since a month before my accident. We will talk about the production of my upcoming show, "Peace by Piece:  The Road Back to Whole." Hopefully, some ideas will begin to gel after our 1/2 session, and I will have many things to think about--positive ones.

Today is also a big day, as the nusrse will tell me how close I am to having the wound on my arm close up so I can continue my therapy. This is a very long, tedious process, this healing thing. Patience is crucial, and I am not patient. I still mourn my excellent health, but I will thrive.

Each day, I watch the hits on my blog decline. Yes, I am yesterday's news. I'm not going to die from this, so people aren't so eager to read my posts. That's ok. I get it. I am thrilled that what used to say "1014 views this month" still says "2034 views this month." It's amazing what a tragedy can do for your social media analytics.

Random luck getting hit by a truck. Random thoughts to start my week.

WIIFY:  Looking at photos from the past can bring back wonderful memories. Taking time to reflect is important in giving us direction asnd perspective. Not allowing the eye makeup to run in self pity is a good thing.

 Mr. Wonderful, Paris, 2013

Mr. Wonderful tribute, Wilmington, North Carolina, 2010

Sunday, January 12, 2020

In a recent book to which I have referred at least twice recently, “The Miracle Equation,” the author says that when faced with a tragedy of any kind, we are all equipped to deal with it. He believes that everything we have experienced up to the time of the tragedy has prepared us for it. As I have had two months to reflect on so many things sitting in this wheelchair, I have concluded that, for me, this is true

When I went through my divorce in my mid forties, I learned to compartmentalize. I took the NOW and focused on it, putting everything else in the back of my mind. I had never done that before, and I learned that by living in the moment, I could actually find joy and laughter in the present. I recall that waking up at 4 a.m. in my little cottage in the woods, the snow burying my car daily, I could get up, spend 1/2 hour running on my mini trampoline to get rid of my anxiety, call the tow truck company to pull me out of my driveway, drive to work over the slick roads, walk into my classroom at 6:40 a.m. and teach at my best until the bell rang at 1:55 p.m. I never once thought about my loneliness, my emptiness, my fears, as I was in the moment with my students. When I got back into my car, I let down, and all of the negative would come flooding back into my head. The anxiety would start, and when I walked into my empty, deafeningly-quiet house, I would crumble into tears. I had to learn how to get through the rest of my day, so I began searching for coping strategies to endure my emotional pain. 

I learned to distract my mind in pleasant ways by reading, working out, taking walks, writing, practicing my piano and seeking professional help. That was 34 years ago. All of those tools have helped me through the first 65 days since my horrific accident.

When I was five years old and began formal piano lessons, I learned early on the crucial skill of self-discipline. I had to practice daily, and as I grew up and began performing, I used that discipline in many parts of my life besides my music. I learned to set goals and monitor my progress as I moved from simple pieces to serious classical compositions. I learned how to persevere—to not give up when others played better than me at my recitals or when I just couldn’t get a passage to work. I learned how to tough out the stage fright I felt every time I would sit down before a keyboard. Now that I am facing another several weeks of confinement, lack of mobility, discomfort and dependency, I use my self-discipline skills to work at my healing, to monitor my progress, and to find small projects to work on so I feel like I’m accomplishing something each day.

When I traveled alone in Europe for several months at the age of 21, I learned how to get myself out of delicate situations by using my creative thinking skills. I learned how to feel at home when I wasn’t home. I learned how to adapt to new people and places days after day. Adapting is probably the most crucial skill I learned early in my life which has saved me in my present situation. I focus on what’s before me, not on what I’ve lost or can’t do. Sure I would love to be out walking in the sunshine or sitting on the beach watching  a sunset. But I’ve done that, so I can enjoy the memory. I have adapted to my chair, to my temporary loss of independence, to my broken body that is healing because I am doing what I am told, to trying to lessen the burden on my wonderful husband by trying to do more myself. 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if these skills were taught in our schools:  self-discipline, adapting to new, difficult situations, compartmentalizing, distracting the mind in pleasant ways, choosing our thoughts? If our schools don’t teach such things and parents haven’t learned them themselves, children grow up having to discover them themselves. Maybe that’s a good thing.

I have almost forgotten another extremely important skill: resiliency. Learning to come back from failure,  from rejection, from disappointment and to step forward and not be afraid to risk again—-this is tantamount to survival in any situation. I give credit to my father who always taught me to forge ahead. If I didn’t succeed the first five times, to try for the sixth. He taught me to avoid conformity and to be a leader. I am a leader, but I had many false starts theough the years which provoked tears and even mild depression, but I never gave up. 

I will not give up until I am whole once again.

WIIFY? We never know what lies ahead. If all of your tools are in your toolbox, you will survive and thrive. Far from whole yet, I will get there. So can you.