Wednesday, September 30, 2009


For a few months now, I've reported on very interesting acupuncture treatments, which were (I think) attempting to address significant deficiencies, or effect significant changes.

This week, I had the sort of treatment that I used to get regularly before The Diagnosis. Coupla points just to shore up my problem Officials, one point to shore up my energy, end with points to anchor the treatment in the Fire element. Pretty much a basic booster shot/regular oil change, if you'll forgive the mixed metaphor.

My doctor was very pleased at my state when I arrived at the office, and even more so at the end of the treatment. He smiled when he asked me what I had done to get into such a good state.

Well, as far as I can tell, it was being in front of my students. I like them every year; each new crop of students has its own charms. But somehow, this year... they smile. Easily, and enthusiastically.

So, looking back at the summer and the many dark times I had over those three "vacation" months... what were the differences between then and now?

Well, I must confess, I do always get an energy boost in the autumn; it's always been autumn's special gift. I don't get it in LA as much as I got it in New England (HOO boy, what a boost), but I'll take it.

The heat this summer was oppressive. Even when I was in the air conditioning, it was oppressive. And it was humid, which I've never ever liked, even before The Diagnosis.

One could make guesses about the energy of the summer, the season of the Fire element, and my relationship to that element. (If that makes any sense, even I'm not sure it does.)

But the single, biggest difference in my life since the summer?

Smiles. The laughter of, of all things, teenagers.

Beats the hell out of injecting yourself with interferons.

And because they're smiling, they get the benefit of their happiness too. Everybody wins.

Now, this is a real MS treatment.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Today, I hammered out a new composition: A Vaughan-Williams-esque anthem for SATB choir and organ. Nice and big, oh so Anglican, and (except for a few chords with scary accidentals like C-flats) an easy learner and an easy reader. Done in one day.

This is what my life has been like for the past few years. Music just flows. Sure, there are little speed bumps along the way, moments where things aren't ... quite... working... But by and large, I reach into the bag of tricks and stuff just comes pouring out.

Except this year. Flow? Try "the scraping of the rusty valve" followed by silence. I didn't even have the strength to untie the knot on the bag of tricks, much less open it. Much less just to sit up before unknotting the bag.

Is the drought... over?

Dunno. But right now... I think .... it just might be?

Is it the season of the year? (Autumn likes me, I like autumn.) Fifteen-year-olds that smile back at me when I smile at them? (My students are particularly engaged and engaging this year, they have a gentle kindness that is really wonderful.)

Don't care. Whatever caused the floodgates to open... I'll take it.

Whatever it was... keep it comin'.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Better. Better?

The end of the second week of school. I got the important things accomplished. I got something I didn't want to do that much taken off my plate so I could do something I wanted to do more. (Whether I'll be able to accomplish that is a different question.) I had fun with my students. We had the most boys ever at Friday afternoon's anime club, I'm clearly going to have to bring in something with way more explosions next week. (Fortunately most of my library has stuff that has all three of good story, good character, and good action. Not a lot of comedy, but a lot of good brain melters... Evangelion, Boogiepop Phantom, that sort of thing.)

And yet, heading off to the store for some ice cream and aspirin, I had another sort-of-panic attack. What is up with that?

I'm almost surprised that I'm not suffering. I wonder if I'm just expecting the sort of energetic dry spell that hung a dark cloud over my summer... but I'm not at all under a cloud right now. I don't think that I have the "no problem, I can handle it, bring it on" energy that I used to have, but things right now seem like they're ... better?

This weekend, I need to write a piece of music for chorus and organ--it'd be best if I could get it finished this weekend, and it had better be an easy learner. Not sure I have a text that I like yet, but... we'll see what comes of it. And by Thursday, I have to rewrite a couple of handbell pieces, now that I know what sort of handbell choir I'm working with. (Small but enthusiastic.)

Strange, to have spent the summer in such darkness, and now that I spend most of my day with fifteen-year-olds, things are much, much better.

I don't honestly know if I'm going to be able to do the amount of stuff that I want to do, but I'm actually enjoying living, right now.

I always get an energetic boost in the fall... let's hope I can bank some of it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The usual

Another trip to the acupuncurist. Another block unblocked. Even managed to have a civil conversation with someone at my insurance company (for once, they weren't trying to rip me off, no wonder I was confused until at least half way through the conversation).

And I'm back again to "Feeling ok, but want to do nothing." Specifically, I want to do nothing. This, too often, has been The Usual. Unblocked, dug out of the doldrums, lasts maybe a day or two at most, then back to the Pit; that's how it's been for months.

Instead of indulging my craving for nothing, I will in fact try to do something: oh, let's pick something easy... write out more handbell music, try to read the play that's going up in November that I've got to design the production for (tried to read it this weekend, it wouldn't go in the brain, probably the block's doing). Those are good enough for tonight's goals. Looking down the road not too far, I've got to work on music for at least two other events, and prep for a national conference at which I'm making a presentation. I'm sharing the stage with international award winners. No pressure, or anything.

In the Good Old Days when I was an enthusiastic overachiever--even last year at this time--doing this Big Pile of Stuff was a complete non-issue. Now, I feel like I'm a non-starter.

Well, the evening after an acupuncturing is not always the best time to predict the week's energy level, so I'm going to poke at the handbell music (it's a pretty easy project) first. Then the new Daily Show, then read the play.

But a first, moment to share the year's best news: This year's crop of ninth graders is very dear, and they smile a lot. This, by me, is simply wonderful. I always like them, they're always wonderful every year; but this year, they're gentle, dear, and sweet.

Exactly what I need. Daily doses of smiles--you can't ask for better medicine.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

(No) Problem

School started today. Only one class, a very quiet group, but they smiled easily and sweetly. We're going to get along just fine. I meet the rest of my charges over the next couple of days, but I expect nothing but fun.

Over the course of the entire day, it was interesting to see what was easy and what was hard.
  • Talking to the ninth graders: Easy. First day is always tough and a little strange, but it was, by and large, not just easy, but fun.
  • Standing while talking to the ninth graders: Not so easy, but doable. I took my shoes off, that makes it better.
  • Walking from one end of the campus to the other: Definitely not easy. Five round trips from my office to the main office is mile (I measured it a couple of years ago) and I made at least three, maybe more.
  • Working at the computer in my office at school: Easy.
  • Talking to colleagues: Easy.
  • Driving home: Harder than I wish it had been. My feet don't interact with the pedals as cleanly as I wish they would.
  • Changing direction (for example, getting a phone call and suddenly I have to stop what I'm doing and do something else): Hard. Upsettingly hard.
  • Getting up/dressed/out of the house so I could hit the store and get my wife some congratulatory flowers and supplies for quiche-making: Surprisingly hard.
  • Dealing with Trader Joe's--a nice store, a quiet store, this particular store I've been visiting something like every three days for more than ten years: Very hard; hard to drive there, hard to take emotionally once I got there. This had nothing to do with the other people, nobody was annoying/vexing/anything me, but I was having something very akin to a panic attack--except it was closer to a grief attack.
I'm sure this means something. Or means nothing. I guess not knowing what it means (or whether it means anything) is symptomatic of not really knowing how to live with MS.

I'm definitely not sure how to live with things either being a huge deal or absolutely no problem. At least the things that are central to making my living are still easy and a whole lot of fun. It's just ... at the very least, so annoying, that so many ancillary, and in many ways (at least on paper) easier, activities turn out to be so damnably difficult.

There has to be a reason, right? Or else it wouldn't happen... I don't know if knowing the reason would make any functional difference in how I experience it, but it sure would be nice just to know it.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Abstinence (not)

Every few weeks, I swear to give up reading the news. And then I start reading it again.

If there's one thing I don't really need in my life, it's more "againstness." MS is all about "againstness." Your nervous system fighting itself to chew away at the myelin, to form more scleroses. Your nervous system fighting itself as it tries to recircuit itself, finding new paths around the damage.

I don't really know what's with this unbreakable fascination I seem to have to hear about people shouting at and about each other, in today's hot-topic health-care-payment "debate." I mean, I don't mind "argument" in the logical sense of the word, but there's a difference between argument-as-application-of-logic and argument-as-incoherent-hate-spewing.

I really don't need to steep myself in anger, terror, and desperation. I need to steep myself in unity. In peace. In reconciliation. In compassion. None of which I'm going to find in the news, today or (probably) ever. I really don't know what I'm looking for, compulsively reading the news... but I ain't findin' it, that's for damned sure.

Lord, I know you're not going to take my MS from me. But please, help me break my addiction to reading "news" that's nothing but report after report of people luxuriating in their own ignorance and terrors... is that really so much to ask?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Moving forward...

Excellent treatment, earlier this week. A Fire "horary:" the usual metaphor is that it sweeps the ashes out of the fire, so it can burn better. That, it did. I felt massively better before I even got off the table, and even though I still have a bit of "walking through mercury" on a somatic level, I don't feel like I'm pushing my soul through the mud. A very, very nice change.

Today was my first even-close-to-normal workday that I've had in months. Got there nine something, spent the day either there or at an entirely enjoyable lunch with co-workers, got home at just about five, completely drained but in much better shape than I feared I'd be. A bit of xeroxing, I forgot to do and still need to take care of, but I did get some of the niggly details taken care of (seating charts, that sort of thing) and I'm pretty much as set as I think I'm going to be for the Big Start Of School next Tuesday.

And I've got another acupuncture treatment Monday, just in case.

Sometimes, I actually think I'm going to make it.

The most interesting thing about today was my lunch conversation with my tech team. I'm quite privileged to work with such incredibly nice people... they're smart, funny, amazingly competent, and we all really enjoy what we do and doing it with the team. Quite a blessing, really. We were talking about Things at Work, and about some of the challenges/annoyances we deal with, especially a person or two who's well intentioned but whose contributions Aren't Really Helping... and no, it wasn't a trash-talk session, or anything like that, but I really noticed my own mental/spiritual process as we were talking about the problem people and the real problems that they cause, and my relationship to the situation, and... I didn't like it. I felt small-minded and small-souled, I felt my consciousness-level lowering and darkening in response to the people, the effects they're causing, and my reactions to those effects.

And, you know, with MS, I've got enough problems, without diving enthusiastically into spiritual darkness. MS is a disease of "againstness," and I don't need to be gearing myself up with additional againstness towards people for whose enlightenment (or lack thereof) I am not responsible. Sitting here typing about it, I can say "Their level is their level and that's where they are, and I don't have to join them there," and with a clean spirit I can say as we were told in the Science of Mind church to say to people you couldn't help, "I bless you and release you to your good," but it's going to be a journey to release my habituated anger and combativeness against these people and these situations--especially because I know that my anger at them is the sum of many such angers against similar people and similar situations in the past.

It's been a while since I've actually been able to see a gift of MS, but one of them may very well be to confront you with the urgency of breaking the habit of small-spiritedness. One of the first things MS confronts you with is that you really do only have "so much energy" (something I seem to need to be retaught and to relearn more often than I should), and therefore you need to choose wisely and spend it only on important things. And if I've only got so much energy, and need to choose between pouring that energy into resentment or into forgiveness and acceptance, I should probably choose ...



Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I successfully confronted, and conquered, a significant musical composition project; the first, and the only, of the summer. Took longer than I liked; it was often just plain hard to sit down at the keyboard and hammer it out, and it really didn't want to be written, for most of the summer. But I did it, and I shipped it.

I am being confronted by a new project. I have a new CD project that I'd like to get out the door, very quickly. And probably could, if I could get it started; most of the stuff is already in the can. Couldn't bring myself to sit at the keyboard to get it started. I'm turning my face away from this one, right now; I like to tell myself that "I'm just not doing it tonight," but I wonder how long that'll be true. MS weakness and wobbliness, mental puffiness/rubberiness/bloatedness, the same thing that held me down through the composition project, is in the way.

I can't bring myself to confront the medical receipts that need to be sent in (not that it'll do me much, if any, good, considering that my insurance company doesn't really pay for anything anymore). Just involves sitting down, printing out forms and envelopes, folding and stuffing. Why can't I get myself into the office to do that? Well, the first answer is that it may be some sort of MS thing, I've got the "walking through mercury" leg thing going again, I've got the "let's not sleep anymore" thing going again, I've got the "simultaneously cold/hot/dry/sticky" thing going again, and pretty much all I've got energy for is lying down on the bed and staring at Internet news sites, but since I'm doing my best not to read stories that are simply about what people "say" rather than what actually "happened" or that someone "did," I don't do a lot of reading...

Meetings for school start tomorrow. I was at school successfully today, I interacted with people successfully today, I enjoyed being with the people I interacted with. I imagine I'll survive tomorrow reasonably enough, but... I'd rather just be lying in bed, not really reading anything. Sleeping: that'd be nice. Hasn't been going on a lot, recently... pretty much "not at all," it's no wonder I'm mentally out to lunch.

The way I'm disconnected from everything, I think I'm energetically blocked, I'll see if I can get to my Reserve Acupuncturist in the next day or two, but... that's another story.

Big "confrontation" of last week was during yoga class. We had been working with an Iyengar person, and I had enjoyed--truly enjoyed--yoga for the first time. The new person is very nice, very competent, very caring, but she does Ansara (I think) and it's much more of a "yang" style, and I'm back to my usual "why I don't like yoga" state: It makes me angry. Furious, really. I get into a position, and... I get angry.

Now, yes, I know, there's some sort of emotional something-or-other that's locked up in my legs, and the way to release it is to work it, and I'm not going to release it until I confront it and yadda yadda yadda and YES, I know all that. Whether I "need" to work through this or not, taking an hour out of my day every week to sit somewhere and get furious, and sit in this position where I'm furious and uncomfortable, and not have any real way to release the fury so basically all I do is stew in it... this, to me, does not seem therapeutic. For me or the teacher... we did some position, and she smiles and looks expectantly at us, and very sunnily says "How do you feel?" And I say, "Angry."

Iyengar never made me feel anything but wonderful. Ever. Ansara made me furious instantly. I know the difference between "I can't do this yet" frustration (which is to be expected with any new physical endeavor, and which I don't have any real problem with working through) and "I can't even get started doing this" fury, and I go immediately into the latter.

My doctor's out of town, this is #1 on my "talk with my doctor" list for our next appointment. And I've been thinking this week a lot, a lot, about what it means to "really live with MS." Clearly, I am so not there yet.

Anyway, all this talk of confrontation and fury... I wanted to leave you with something integrational, soothing; something quite lovely about "your people" from Rands in Repose.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Oasis (today, at least)

Most of what I've had to say recently has been rather (read as "pretty") dark... but today was a good day, so I thought it was worth mentioning.

A very good day, actually. Yesterday, my acupuncturist said she was going to include at least one "just have fun" point, and my spirits are definitely lighter today. Actually got some composition done; I would have gotten more done, but school called because something had electronically thrown a shoe and they were stymied, so I had to drive in and do the technological equivalent of hitting something with a fifteen-pound sledge, which solved the problem quite nicely (and, fortunately, quite quickly). I was relieved that the going there was without difficulty, the being there was without difficulty, and the interacting with the other folks who happened to be there at the time was not just without difficulty, but actually enjoyable.

I am very glad, though, that stuff has been going on there that I have been having nothing to do with, and that I will continue to have nothing to do with. The place is swarming with technophobes, just getting e-mail into semi-regular use took at least eight years. And that's only SEMI-regular use. There are a terrible number of just plain misconceptions about anything electrically powered, it would seem, much less anything network-enabled... but to get to the point of the story, this year for the first time we're providing e-mail addresses for the students (so nobody has to remember that little Sally is "", but rather has a much-easier-to-understand-and-remember address like "") , and apparently there was recently a meeting between some Highly Placed Administrator and one of the tech crew about how to encourage students to use their school e-mail accounts.

I suggested to my techy friend that any and all plans to accomplish this could be summarized with the same three words: "Use the f**kers." Whether e-mail has uses that pretty much everybody except some of the people on our staff have already known for what, ten years? Twenty years? Thirty years? ...apparently, it hasn't quite soaked in, and some people think we're going to need to "strategize" on how to implement it... Well, all I can say is, thank God I don't have anything to do with this project, because I'm sure that nobody wants to hear what I'd have to say about it. Even if I only said the polite things I'd like to say about it. Of which, frankly, I don't have many. I had my first internet-accessible e-mail account in... 1981, was it?

Well, anyway, that technological nonsense shot at least half of a day that was, up to the point of the phone call, filled with joy and creativity. But, I had at least a reasonable amount of fun hopping down the road, I didn't have any problems doing it, simply driving the car (something I've occassionally been concerned about as something that maybe might not be doable any more) was no problem at all.

Someone at school asked me how I was doing, and I said, "I'm in air conditioning and my house isn't on fire. In Southern California right now, that's about all you can hope for, and for us right now, that's pretty good."

So, all in all... a good ride, today, bumps and all. Hope the "happy" is still going tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I had one of what are becoming all-too-usual lie-awake-and-stare-at-the-ceiling-for-hours evenings last night. Usually, my brain just spins like a car stuck in second gear: engine is working furiously, but you don't really get anywhere.

But I somehow started thinking about what my doctor said to me last week or so, that I didn't really yet know how to live with MS, and then I remembered... I'm not even remotely thankful for having MS.

Why is that important, you may ask. (I know I did.) Well, I guess it basically boils down to coming from a comic book version of Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place that I read nearly thirty years ago, in which Corrie quotes her sister Betsie reminding her, while they were both imprisoned in a concentration camp, to "give thanks even for the fleas." Betsie's point was that yes, they were fleas and yes they were awful, but because the guards didn't want to get infested, they stayed away, so she, her sister, and their friends had a great deal more freedom than they would have had, had they been flea-free. So the fleas were, for all their disadvantages, a gift.

When I can look God in the eye and say, truthfully and from the heart, "Thank you for the MS," I can finally move forward to where I'm really supposed to go.

I'm not there yet.

I've been able to do that with many quite arguably horrible things that have happened to me at various points in my life (many of which were my own fault, and enough said about those for the moment), and every time I had to do it, being able to do it took a whole lot of work.

I'm not there, with the MS. Not yet. But that may be, right now, where I'm supposed to go.

Gotta think about this some more...