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* update

Things are a bit better again. Adjustments in meds have made a positive difference both in terms of lessening the blues a bit and decreasing the anxiety. It’s not all gone, but both are better for which I’m very thankful. Volunteer work goes well at one site where there’s enough to keep me busy and not so much here at the other one where today I’m here blogging rather than helping as they haven’t given me anything to work on.

Not feeling quite so blue means I’m better able to shake off at least a bit of disappointment and discouragement while working to better see the sun when it does poke through on these so many cloudy days we’ve had this fall. It also means doing better at going with the flow as things move along. Realizing there’s so very little I actually control. That what I can do is work to respond to what happens to and around me. If life is whitewater, meaning we’re all flowing downstream, I don’t have to be in the middle of all that moving water. Best to leave that to those who thrive there and lend a hand to help those who don’t get closer to the bank.

* what do Tiggers do best? (part III)

It’s been a year of looking with almost nothing to show for it other than a fairly high pile of resumes which didn’t attract enough attention to even result in an initial interview. Bummer! I don’t know what the problem is other than it’s hard to get a job by applying with resumes when you’re 62. On the other hand, given a few of my own realities, networking has become a very difficult thing for me to do.
So back to the Tigger thing. What does he do? He keeps on bouncing. Somewhat like the Energizer bunny. Bouncing when he’s happy, bouncing when he’s sad. Up and down, over and over. The key is to not stop. Because Tigger isn’t one without the bouncing.

Insofar as the bouncing keeps on bouncing, it’s driven by a different type of energy than just what’s on the outside. It needs to be something found on the inside. Something that keeps on going. So “keeps on going part,” where are you? I need you.

* friends

I lost a good friend, Peter, last week. Suddenly. Rear-ended on the freeway by a semi. One minute alive, the next gone. It’s been hard. While it had been some time since I’d seen him and his wife, we shared some special years together when we were both starting families back in our Madagascar days.

Many memories from back then. Peter was a very good-natured soul who could find humor in most everything. Life wasn’t always easy for him, but you wouldn’t know it by the way he approached it. And he was gifted. 5 languages, a doctorate, architect. A loving dad and husband (2 daughters).

Peter was a person who always uplifted your spirits.

It is hard knowing he is gone.


[not my legs]

One of the things that’s joined me on my journey through life is something called CMT . This which stands for “Charcott-Marie-Tooth.” It actually showed up in high school when my mom pointed out my jammed up toes. As it turned out, I also couldn’t jump much at all nor run very fast. Endurance wasn’t a problem, but speed and getting off the ground was. I even had a friend try to teach me how to jump–to no avail as at best it was just a couple inches (he could jump about 3 feet off the ground).

And then life took over for a couple decades, with lots of work, a minimal of exercise, till in 1993, my mom again saw something a little strange. This time it was my calves, which were getting thinner than they should have been. So before we headed back to Madagascar I was in to see a Neurologist. Who tentatively diagnosed me with CMT, something I’d certainly never heard of. In addition to my thin calves, I, somewhere along the way, had lost my ability to stand up on my toes–something that was news to me! When did that happen?! So as a follow-up, another neurologist hooked me up to an old Apple IIe (the kind with the top off) and started blasting electricity up and down my legs. Not fun! After what seemed a long time of this, he looked at me in some frustration and told me the tests were inconclusive. That the only way to find out was to take a biopsy of my heel that would probably leave me with a permanent limp. This didn’t sound like much of a deal, so I asked him what they would do then if they did determine I had CMT? “Nothing,” he said. There’s nothing you can do about CMT. At which point I elected to avoid the whole biopsy thing.

So then it was time to figure out what CMT was, as I’d never heard of it before. And how my teeth were connected to this all? At which point I found out that Charcot-Marie-Tooth actually were the last names of the 3 French doctors who discovered it and thus had no connection to anything dental. CMT is a form of neuropathy that attacks one’s long nerves, as in those in the legs and arms. Unfortunately, as the nerves lose their ability to work very well, one’s muscles at the end of these nerves start to atrophy. Which results in things like skinny calves, sometimes described as “inverted champagne bottle” as that’s what they look like. So this didn’t sound like much of a deal. But it was what it is.

While it was clear at this point that there were certain things I could no longer do, things didn’t seem to have progressed much. So it was about another 10 years before I saw another neurologist, who while he didn’t know much about CMT, had a colleague who did. So it was another round of tests which this time confirmed it all. But there was still nothing to do. Other than a brand new set of braces for the feet and legs that extend from the tips of my toes up around my heal to just under my knees. With them I got about 20 years back of my walking ability. And good news was there was no talk of biopsies.

But there’s still nothing that can be done about so it’s just another part of my journey through life.

* the ocean

My “swimming pool”

I grew up in Fort Dauphin in southeast Madagascar in a house that had the Indian Ocean on 3 sides. Close enough to the ocean that when the seas were rough and crashing against the rocks along the shore about 1 km away you could almost feel it. Here’s an attempt to try and put into words some of how I sensed it:

Sound – very easy to hear from quite far away when it was rough. When it was almost mirror-like then just a gentle soft flap on the sand. If in a spot where the waves rolled, it was a constant roar. Where waves simply went splat on the sand then an episodic thump and crash, with a quiet in breath in between as the water receded back from the beach.

Smell – there’s nothing like the smell of the ocean. Salty yet fresh in it’s own way. If upwind of the ocean there might not be any smell. If downwind sometimes it can be almost overpowering.

View – the view of the ocean I find mesmerizing. In part because it has so many views. Angry, peaceful, troubled, moody. Sometimes it’s blue, other times grey. At sunrise and sunset on a clear day it can be a liquid golden. Waves that range from miniscule to very big, sometimes with currents moving through the surf as well.

Feel – I spent a great deal of time swimming. Engulfed in the coolness of the water which it embraced you and held you up (making swimming a lot of fun). On the other hand, given the buoyancy of salt water, making it harder to dive down under the water,though I spent most of my time on top of the water. And also the feel of riding innertubes in big waves that smashed down on the sand, with water as much sand as water.

The ocean. I miss it dearly. Most days. And when occasionally I’m back along the shore somewhere, I stand in awe that I spent 10 years living on the ocean.

* work of the volunteer sort

As my job search continues to venture forth through what seems like a dry and weary land I have also now begun several volunteer positions. One of them is with the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT). An international organization with its headquarters in St. Paul, MN which seeks to provide healing to refugees around the world, both by working directly with them and by supporting others who are doing this important work.

My tasks thus far have been varied, but mostly in the training side of things. Helping with the sort of things the organization just doesn’t have time for. Nice for me as they are well-defined with time to spend on each one. Nice for CVT as there are never enough people to do everything which needs doing. Thus far this work has included transcribing webinars, editing a newsletter, providing feedback on a training program, providing suggestions about how to go about doing site-visits and working to organize several hundred PowerPoints which have been developed and gathered over the years. I’m there twice a week with somewhat of an inside seat as to what is going on.

A second job is with what is now called “Alight,” up until recently “The American Refugee Committee.” This is also an international organization which works with refugees primarily in international settings in quite a few different countries. Here I’m just getting started so the task is a bit more mysterious still, but initially I’ll be working on an internal online training system they have which their employees around the world can benefit from.

The hope in both cases is to see if I can become more engaged with one or both organizations to the point of possibly doing some paid consulting for them. Of course that’s a big unknown, but in the mean time there are positive things I can be doing which I appreciate.

* writing

Writing–sometimes it comes easily, sometimes not so much. Lately it’s been in the “not so much” category. Where do the words come from? Where do they go? When I’m in the writing mood it feels like they’re waiting somewhere in my brain as they generally just spring forth without a lot of work involved. Thoughts that are there which I’m willing to share.

It’s not that I’m not willing to share these days, I just don’t have much to share. So what causes thoughts to spring forth? Is it thinking going on in the background of my brain, thoughts which are triggered by other thoughts or just something original? Depending on where and how these spring forth is it something I can control at all? Do I just power through and write whether there is something there or not? I think so. And probably helping myself do this by creating lists of possible things to write on that I review on occasion to ponder them a bit more before venturing forth.

Given I’m 61 and have lived a third of my life in Madagascar, there are most certainly things I can be writing about. Here’s to finding and sharing them!

* Act 3 – but what is it?

So let’s just assume Act 1 was my life from birth till I finished undergrad at of the U of Minnesota. About 22 years, 2/3rds of them as a baby to a high school kid. It was a time of growing up. Given I went from a kid to a young adult in the last few years, a lot happened the last third of Act 1. An intensive time where learning prevailed over most everything else. Where I almost entirely lived with my family, primarily while growing up in Madagascar.

Act 2 then began when I married Becky and then started grad school. It lasted till 2010, age 53, when my time at my last full-time job ended–30 years. A time of moving from young adult to middle aged to just into my 50s. A time where work predominated, full-time jobs all of them. The first 15 years with the clarity of my work overseas and the 10 years of grad school preparation I put into that. Since then, the last 15 years of this Act, it was much more confusing. A series of jobs that have each ended with disappointment. At least some of this especially now in retrospect at least in part due to the late onset bipolar I’ve ended up with. Lacking in anything near the clarity of the first 15 years.

But most certainly not just work. From newlyweds we fairly quickly became new parents, blessed with a daughter and two sons. Moving multiple times across the oceans and back. A time of several major health scares. A time of successful doctoral studies. Years of a great deal of time spent watching one or more of our kids engaged in sports which they all loved. Working hard to raise our little family. And then seeing each of them graduate not once, but twice. And move out on their own.

That was till 2010. At which point many things had changed. I was not well. In spite of 4 years of therapy and meds I was not improving as much as any of us had hoped. Still some crushing times of depression. And unexplained times of thinking too positively to be realistic. Or wise.

And so the start of Act 3 in 2010. Fortunately, before I got too deep into it I was diagnosed as someone living with bipolar 2. This provided new insights on a decade or so that hadn’t made sense as my being someone “just” living with depression. And got me connected to the meds and wise people I needed for the treatment of bipolar instead of what I had been doing when we thought it was “just” depression.

Now, in Act 3, like when we came home from Madagascar, I don’t know where I’m headed? I spent much of from 2010 to 2016 looking for work. I was able to teach in higher ed part time so that helped. Then a part-time job with a nonprofit I enjoyed but which only lasted 2 years. I’m now over 60 so no longer so much young. Also living with Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT), a form of neuropathy, which, while not that serious, is life-changing as it’s slowly taking away my mobility.

In terms of work, in an age that looks for specialization, I’ve been a generalist. I’d still like to work for some time in an area which makes use of the concern and compassion I have for those who are struggling in this world. But what to do? What to do indeed?

Part of it’s where to look? I don’t appear to have been looking in the right places. But where are those places? Who will still have me? Who can help me figure this out? Higher ed? Nonprofits? Something else?

* growing old(er)

Some signs one is no longer young:

  • your pharmacist knows you by name
  • a moderate workout is just thinking about doing a moderate workout
  • the ground grows further away and is much further down
  • hair of any color is a luxury
  • hearing? not so much
  • your lawn has increased in size by at least 50%
  • it’s dizzying enough to just watch your granddaughters run around the front of you without trying to spin in time with them
  • one nap is mandatory. two is a delight
  • more and more life is done by watching others live through times you’ve already had.

* what do Tiggers do best? (part II)

Since part I of this post much has happened. NAMI is no more. This became inevitable and my therapist felt this was for the best anyway given how they were not making use of my skills. Job searching has been very disappointing–I’ve only had 3 initial interviews, all by phone, all the same week. On the other hand, I finally found work (though unpaid) with the Center for Victims of Torture (finally!).

So as to bouncing career-wise, not so much at this point.

And that silly grin displayed by Tigger? Not so much–though I need to spend more time focusing on all there is in the rest of my life to celebrate. And grin at least every so often! 😎