Curses and Cures

My wife and I have favorite restaurants as I am sure many of you do, too. But apparently, somewhere along the way we upset the gods who oversee such things. Really pissed them off. And they have not forgotten. Now please note , we are not finicky diners. In 25 years of marriage if we have sent food back more than one time I would be surprised. We are not loud and boisterous. We do not ask for dressing on the side or off the menu items or clean glasses or water without lemon wedges. And if you think I protest too much or am subject to connecting random dots or fits of paranoia consider:

South of the Border Mexican Restaurant. Gone.

MaMa Fu’s? Gone.

Roasted Pepper? Gone.

Bread and Honey? Gone.

Genghis Grill? Gone.

Even Red and White is gone and we only ate there because it was in our neighborhood and the only other people we ever saw there owned the place. And watched soccer on the restaurant TV. They seemed happy in their empty restaurant. And very attentive. And they made a great roast chicken with black beans and rice and fried plantains on the side. But we made the mistake of eating there three or four times, which was one time too many. The gods who order such things took notice, rubbed their hands with glee and the restaurant-killing curse that we carry overwhelmed their earnestness, despite the red and white checkered table cloths and unlimited refills on the ice tea. They are long gone now and a new restaurant is going in there soon according to the hand painted sign in the window. And it does not stand a chance if we come to visit.

Someone might want to warn Bistro 1902, and tell them that we are really, really sorry. It is not our fault that their lovingly prepared fish, fresh bread and ample Groupons and Living Social coupons drew us to them. It was our go-to place, quiet and intimate with excellent service and ambiance. During our third visit both our main courses had a bit too much salt in them. Like we were worried about our blood pressure amounts of salt. It might already be too late for them. We are sorry. Don’t worry. We will be OK. We are used to change. To moving on. Doors close and doors open.

Eight months have now passed since I was diagnosed with clinical depression and six since I was diagnosed with lupus, an auto-immune disease. Every day I take five pills and four vitamin supplements. I do yoga, but not enough. I strive for 10,000 steps a day and often fall short. But I have moved out of the home office and set boundaries there. No more work at home, short of email/texts from my phone if they require immediate responses. Please understand that I have worked form home 95% of the time for more than a dozen straight years, most days of the week and most evenings. There were no true boundaries. Every now and then I would get a burr up my butt and crack down on keeping my day off as holy writ, an inviolate Sabbath, but it never stuck. There was always more work to do. It got so bad that when I wasn’t working my universe went off kilter and I became anxious. Free time became a burden.

So now I have for the past two weeks stopped working at home. I put Pandora on the computer at work, adjust the thermostat and forge ahead. And I meet people who stop by. They are interesting and weird and entertaining angels of a sort. And I answer the phone. I swat flies. I have cleaned up my old office, the one I am turning slowly but surely into a meeting room, and have busied myself making a mess in my new one. And I try to get out and shoot photos a couple of hours a couple of times a week in the Everglades among the alligators and senior citizens who love to take selfies with them. It is a brave new world, comfortably unsettling, yet right. I go to work and come home. Live and love. And ponder the great and greatest mysteries and look for new restaurants.

When Down Means Up

Every three months I get to have my blood tested in preparation for my quarterly appointment with my rheumatologist on the state of lupus in my body. Thankfully I have great veins. They just pop out and make fat targets that are hard to miss and nurses rarely do. And I bleed so fast that nurse – patient conversations are typically short, but never boring.

For example, we have discussed weight loss. Not my idea, trust me. I am not that stupid even under the influence of mind-altering medication. Rather blame the nurse who after noting my weight was down sighed that she wished it was that easy for her. “It’s the drugs,” I said. “The anti-depressants.” I was then left somewhat speechless when she responded: “Mine just make me fat.” Where does one go from there? A moment passed. And then another. Despite the fact that I was bleeding into one collection tube after another, some smidgen of pastoral care kicked in; empathy of a sort since we had just declared ourselves part of the same family. “Weight gain, that’s my greatest fear,” I said. Thinking that or major organ failure. If a person has a needle in your arm, go with the flow.

Of course I will be going on an indefinite melodrama sabbatical since my blood tests reveal numbers going down across the board. The presence of the disease active in my body appears to be diminishing. The medication isn’t supposed to do that, so as to the “why,” it is anyone’s guess. Lupus flares up and goes quiet; rinse , wash, repeat; with the blood test numbers often anticipating which direction it is leaning. Has my self-care contributed to its apparent desire to slumber? A bit more exercise? The yoga? The care I now take out in the sun? The daily regimen of anti-anxiety and anti-depression meds finally combatting the stress that has been slowly killing me for years? Is it my kitten, which follows me around everywhere, takes naps on my chest and purrs a lot? My giving in to my wife’s healthier eating suggestions, including salmon and something called “super greens?” Those bottles of vitamin supplements? My cathartic discovery and watching of the TV show “Arrow” on Netflix giving me the heart of a survivor with a purpose? All that prayer people have been offering in my direction? As the commercial from my childhood declared: you roll your dice and move your mice. The numbers are going down and I am feeling up. Less fatigue and bed-ridden-ness. Fewer headaches and body aches and my thumb hasn’t looked so un-swollen since my last Easter.

And I am not taking it for granted.

I have moved back into the church office after primarily working out of a home office for a dozen years. This is partially because I am now, after budget adjustments, the de-facto office administrator, but more to the point I am reclaiming my home life. Establishing healthier boundaries between work and not work. It used to be I would work all the time at home, carving out a little time here and there for myself and my family. My home computer was my work computer and my desk was one enormous inbox. And since home was the office I never really left work. I am attempting to make home, home again, a great re-programming of my daily life. If you receive an email from me after work hours from now on chances are it is my kitten, which has become obsessed with trying out my computer. Though he is much better at texting at this point. I am also being careful. Resting more. Walking more. Eating better. Avoiding stress. Avoiding becoming over-committed. Delegating more. Laughing more. Spending more time out in the wildness of the Everglades, camera in hand, and just entering the peace of the moment.

Next week I could be flat on my back, head crushed in pain, staring blankly at my smartphone and wondering why all my friends are so much smarter than me at Words with Friends, me unable to focus. Or maybe never again. Who the hell knows? We are all called to be faithful, and sometimes foolish, but never stupid. Working oneself to death, even for the sake of the church, is really an act of ego and selfishness, even if we tell ourselves it is otherwise.

We are called to live and set an example of a better way. DSC_0056