“The Foda’s Ten Theories of Absolutes”

“The Foda’s Ten Theories of Absolutes”

 Today’s Words of Wisdom:

“It’s partly true, too, but it isn’t all true. People always think something’s all true.”

~J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

 The Foda’s Take: Okay, J.D. You got me. I definitely do that. But at the same time, to live in a world of conviction means to live a life awake. Living in passive gradients of grey begets a sleepy life. (Pause as you admire the poetic beauty of that statement. D’joh!) So today I say to Salinger: “absolute power corrupts absolutely!” Oh, wait, that doesn’t support my stance at all….

 Hi, folks! I hope you enjoyed last week’s post on cancer, bravery, and Harry Potter by Words from the Sowul writer Leanne Sowul. I was thrilled she agreed to guest post for me, and I couldn’t have been happier with her poignant and heartfelt post.

Now let’s get back to my argument with Salinger. Are you ready for this? Are you sure? Okay, here goes. Dear Salinger: You must not like dogs. Why, you may ask? Because dogs see the world in black and white. And dogs are awesome. Ergo, Salinger dislikes things that are awesome. Love, The Foda. Sidebar: I actually completely agree with him, but go with me here….Discovering our own absolutes: that’s awesome. It allows us to decide with confidence: This or that. Good or bad. Star Wars or Star Trek. So today, instead of getting into why I should be searching for Middle Earth…. (heh. heh heh. Hobbits.) I am going to take this extremist theory and go with it. Which is why I sat down and created my list of ten theoretical theories of absolutes. So here we go!

The Foda’s Ten Theoretical Theories of Absolutes

1) I have a theory that there are two types of women in this world: ones that can pull off hoop earrings, and ones that can’t. Search your feelings. You know it to be true.

2) In this world, we have two types of people. Those who go through life asleep, and those who go through life awake. This theory does not apply to narcoleptics.

3) People who believe there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure- just a wide variety of things that can make you smile- are happier, more confident people. Mainly because they don’t associate indulgence with guilt. Which means they have obviously never eaten an entire cheesecake in one sitting.

4) Anyone who tells you that you can only be a cat or a dog person is clearly trying to compensate for something. Mainly, a lack of imagination. I, myself, am a giraffe person.

5) Plants grow better if you talk to them. Plants that talk back should be regarded with caution.

6) Anyone who knows that the first melodic interval of the Star Wars theme-song is a perfect fifth should be rewarded free drinks for life by the Cantina band on Mos Eisley. (If, you know, it was a real place.) Anyone who doesn’t know that is a) not a musician, or b) doesn’t know the movie, which catapults them directly to c) not cool. Geek Power!!!

7) People who march to the beat of their own drum own a drum. Or have very loud shoes.

8) Life would be better if people burst into random song and dance.

9) Laughter is the best medicine. Besides, you know, actual medicine. Ergo, laughter and medicine are the best medicines. Just don’t attempt laughing whilst taking medicine. This can be a choking hazard.

10) Blood is sexist. I hereby rename it: “hermoglobin.” As in, my hermoglobin levels are excellent.

Well, that’s it, folks! The Foda’s Ten Theoretical Theories of Absolutes. I hope you enjoyed my list.

But before I depart, riddle me this: what absolutes do YOU believe in absolutely? Because in a chaotic and ever-changing world made more turbulent by having a chronic illness, it’s sometimes best to have things that hold firm over time. Just remember that you will change… and so may your absolutes. So try to revisit them from time to time… Unless you want to end up like Darth Vader. Some soul searching before Palpatine gave Luke electro-shock therapy would really have behooved him.


The Foda

Fumbledore Speaks

Hey everybody! Foda here! I am so happy to have the fabulous Fumbledore guest posting for me today! She is wise, introspective, and super fabulous, and has been a beacon of hope and inspiration for me personally for some time. So without further ado, here she is!

“Fumbledore Speaks”

Today’s Words of Wisdom:

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” –Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

 “There are all kinds of courage.” –Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

 Dear Fans of the Foda,

Allow me to introduce myself: I am Leanne Sowul, curator of Words From the Sowul, but in the Female Yoda’s universe, I am also known as Fumbledore. (Being named after someone so wise puts a lot of pressure on this guest post, doesn’t it? I’ll try not to let the Foda down!) Although at first I was a little uncomfortable- though flattered- about being named after such an iconic character, I realized that the Foda cast me in the part because I can fill a role similar to Dumbledore’s. The reason he’s such a good mentor to Harry is that he’s fought dark magic for many years, and even defeated a great dark wizard in his youth. In a similar way, while the Foda is currently in the midst of her battle with chronic illness, I’ve already fought my battle: I had thyroid cancer for several years as a teenager, and have now been in remission for over a decade. This gives me a perspective on illness that I hope can be helpful to people who are still fighting.

Back when I had cancer, one of the comments I often received from both strangers and friends was, “You’re so brave.” I’ve since learned that this is a common thing to say to anyone suffering from a long-term illness, but at the time, it brought up uncomfortable internal questions. Was I really brave?

I didn’t feel brave. I wasn’t choosing to be brave. I had a disease that needed to be fought. This was a fact that had to be accepted; it wasn’t going to change just because I wanted it to. The doctors and my parents gave me a plan of action- surgery, radioactive iodine treatment, a myriad of other tests, thyroid replacement hormone- and I had to follow it, or I would die. There was no choice in the matter. To my mind, bravery wasn’t really a factor, and it certainly wasn’t something I chose to feel.

As I’ve gotten older, though, and gained perspective on the cancer-time, I’ve started to question my reaction to “You’re so brave.” I didn’t think I felt brave. But what does bravery feel like, anyway? It probably feels a lot like fear. It also contains some determination, an element of stubbornness, and a lot of hope. I felt all of those things when I was going through cancer. Like Harry Potter, who was constantly frustrated by his friends marveling at his ability to face Voldemort again and again (along with dragons, basilisks and a bunch of other scary creatures), I’d agree that doing something brave doesn’t feel as cool as you’d think. It just feels scary and a little gutsy.

Then there’s the element of choice. If I was brave, did I choose to be? I didn’t have much choice about following the path that my doctors laid out for me. But I did make choices about how to follow that path. After a conversation with my pediatrician, in which I expressed concerns that thyroid medication would affect my personality, I made a conscious decision to keep being myself. I made another conscious decision keep my life the same as it was before, to the best of my (and my family’s) ability. I tried to avoid missing school, but when I had to, I made up all my work. When I was there, I was fully there, participating in class, joining clubs and activities, and making friends. Those were all choices. And maybe that’s where the bravery comes in. In order to be brave, I had to figure out how to be myself. I had to figure out where I could draw strength. I drew it from my friends, from my activities, from all the elements of myself that were outside cancer, but within my control.

It’s been fifteen years since I’ve been in remission. Maybe it’s time for me to admit to a degree of bravery. After all, I think the Foda is incredibly brave to be living through Lyme. She probably doesn’t feel that way. But neither does anyone living through adversity. They feel what I felt: fear, determination, stubbornness, hope. I don’t know if that adds up to bravery for everyone, but I’ve finally realized that it does for me.

What does bravery mean to you? Do you think it’s a choice? How often does that choice have to be made?

Thank you to the Foda for inviting me to do a guest post- it’s an honor to be featured on such an inspiring blog. Feel free to read more about cancer, Harry Potter, and philosophies of life over at Words From The Sowul

The Winding Road

“The Winding Road”

 Today’s Words of Wisdom:

“All’s well that ends well.”

~William Shakespeare

 The Foda’s Take: I said this exact quote to a nice customer service woman the other day after being mistakenly charged overnight shipping for a delivery. I didn’t mind- she naturally refunded the faulty amount, so in my mind, no harm, no foul. But she still apologized profusely, to which I said, “all’s well that ends well!” She seemed shocked I wasn’t mad. But living with Lyme tends to put small problems into perspective, wouldn’t you agree?

 Hey folks! So I was taking my short daily walk with my husband Mandalf the other day, and, as sometimes happens to people like me with dysautonomia, I started to get dizzy. So instead of focusing on the end point, I looked down at the pavement, choosing instead to only concentrate a few feet in front of me. And although it didn’t take the dizziness away, it did help me finish my walk. And that got me thinking. “Eureka! There’s a metaphor here!” <And yes, when I said Eureka, I did picture putting on a safari hat and ascot whilst puffing on a large mahogany pipe.> Sidebar- that image was completely character-related, totally not advocating smoking. (Kids! Don’t puff that stuff!)  But I digress.

In life, we always want to know how things end. It’s what hooks us into reading books through the wee hours of the morning or not wanting to miss one episode of our favorite TV show. It’s also what gives us a lot of anxiety when a difficult situation arises and we yearn to know how it’s going to turn out so that we can move on already!!! If we didn’t work this way, no one would have ever invented the magic 8 ball, am I right? But I’m beginning to wonder if not being able to see farther than what’s right in front of us is actually a good thing? After all, if I had known three years ago I’d still be sick today, I don’t know if I’d have had as much gumption and tenacity right out of the gate. So maybe the reason why we can’t see the whole road in front of us is because it would be too overwhelming if we immediately saw just how far we have to go?

When I was a runner, I loved going on long runs, always through winding neighborhoods, because the change of scenery was nice. (Treadmills make me feel like a hamster on a wheel. And plus winding roads remind me of those swirly straws I used to drink chocolate milk through as a kid. Wee!) But when I’d get to a long straightaway and realize just how long it would take me to get to the end of it, my head would start playing tricks on me. That doubtful voice would creep in, reminding me of how tired I was, or how far it was, or that my troublesome knee was already starting to twinge and would it be smarter to just stop? I didn’t have these issues on winding roads. Why? Because since what I could see was so slight, A to B felt like an easily-attainable goal, and my competitive side kicked in. But when I could see the long road stretched out straight before me? That’s when I felt overwhelmed, and had to fight with my mind to keep going.

Living with chronic illness is a winding road. We never know what the next turn is going to bring. And this can be frustrating and scary, and I usually loathe it. But I have to wonder- if we saw it all mapped out in front of us in one straight line- would it be so overwhelming we’d wind up simply treading water out of sheer exhaustion? Like when your to-do list is a mile long and you wind up wasting more time freaking out over how much there is to do instead of just getting started? Is our lack of transparency maybe the lesser of two evils? And if so, perhaps the real challenge is to stop trying to see the future and just work on the next step.

Just something to mull over while you search for that swirly straw you have buried in the back of your cupboard. You know you want it. And you are welcome. 

Until next time,

The Foda

The Heart of the Splatter

“The Heart of the Splatter” 

 Today’s Words of Wisdom:

“When I was four years old they tried to test my I.Q. They showed me a picture of three oranges and a pear. They said, ‘Which one is different, it does not belong?’ They taught me different is wrong.”

~Ani DiFranco, “My IQ”

 The Foda’s Take: This powerful song by Ani DiFranco has stuck with me since the first time I heard it back in college. It reminds me that sometimes what we take for granted as universal “truths” are actually in the eye of the majority beholder. So then what happens if you’re not the majority?

 Howdy, everybody! I’m going to start off right away by getting to the heart of today’s topic. (Which, in point of fact, is all about the human heart. Yay, play on words!) Today, I have to admit, I’m perplexed. Why, do you ask? So sweet of you! I’m perplexed because rewiring your brain to think a different way is a very difficult, repetitive process. But having that process in turn affect the way you feel is even more challenging than shooting womp rats from your T-16 back home. There have been many adjustments I’ve had to make to not only accept my current condition, but also to enable myself to grow and thrive through adversity, instead of waiting stagnantly for “life as usual” to make a U-turn and pick me up from this proverbial banged up X-wing with no fuel I’m floating around in hyperspace in. But there is one issue in particular I’m struggling with. And it is a doozy. And I suspect I’m not the only one out there who has been grappling with this particular beast.

Control. Or, more accurately, the lack thereof. I have been cognizant for a long time about what is and is not within my realm of control. Can I control when I will get better? No. Do I have control over what I can do on my end medicinally, nutritionally, and holistically to give myself the best chance I can? Yes! But can I control when all that hard work will pay off? Again, no. Now, this logic is sound, and makes perfect sense in my brain. However, to my impatient, driven, reach-for-the-stars heart? This seems horribly, horribly wrong. After all, if you work as hard as you possibly can, it doesn’t seem quite fair that the end result may still be out of your hands, right? And this disillusioned Foda has been trying for a long time. So it’s not just about accepting the logical limitations of control- it’s about finding peace in throwing away a burden that isn’t yours to manage. And that’s where this Foda fumbles. Because, well, if I can’t control it, I can’t fix it. And that is not something I feel too swell about.

In this world, we’re initially taught using concrete problem solving methods. One plus one is two, Star Wars is synonymous with awesome… you know, things like that! They’re the easiest to grasp, and have a “right” answer. Like the oranges and pear problem in my quote of the day! So it makes total sense that in life, we want our answers to be concrete. But life isn’t concrete. It’s abstract, and variable, and ever-changing. And this is a fact we accept easily in our minds- so why is it so hard to connect that fact with acceptance in our hearts? Perhaps because we learn, as Ani said, that “different is wrong.” Things that are concrete- black and white- have clear answers that will always be the same, and we can feel safe and secure in them. But things that are obscure, like the splattered paint drops of abstract artist Jackson Pollock, have no right answer. Therein lies the beauty- but also the controversy. Since there is no “right” answer, a sense of certainty is harder to obtain.

I, like most people who deal with a chronic illness, am searching for peace throughout this journey. And to accept peace, I’m going to first have to let go of things I can’t control. As a woman- oh, okay, fine, as a human being, this won’t be easy. We don’t like things we can’t control, because it makes us feel helpless. But clinging to them is also a lot like holding onto a plane seat during turbulence. It’s not going to make the cabin steady out any faster- and if the turbulence lasts for a loooooong time (making an analogy to having chronic illness here, folks) then all you get out of the deal is swollen knuckles and some fancy indents on your palms.

So this week, I’m going to try and stop searching for the “right” answer as to how I can get better faster, or find (and by find, I really mean feel) peace. Instead, I’m going to channel my inner yogi and use my brain for one thing only when that old restless feeling creeps over me- to remind myself to breathe, and that the rest is out of my hands. Thankfully, they say it only takes 28 days for something to become a habit. (Which, ironically, is a super black and white statistic concerning a very abstract concept.) But we shall see!

Now where did I put that incense…

Foda out!

The Foda

Newok Says No

“Newok Says No” 

 Today’s Words of Wisdom:

“You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and latch onto the affirmative, don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.”

~Johnny Mercer

 The Foda’s Take: This 1940’s song, “Accentuate the Positive,” was covered by greats such as Bing Crosby, the Andrews Sisters, and Ella Fitzgerald. I love the message- and there’s really nothing to lift your spirits like hearing an old-school jazzy recording! Check out the original version on Youtube by clicking here.

 Welcome back, party people! Today I’d like to introduce a new member to the Foda’s Galaxy. He is my super cute, totally adorable 20 month-old nephew, whom I shall heretofore refer to as…. Newok! Yes. Nephew + Ewok. Newok.

So, Newok has been getting more and more verbal in the past several months, and lately he’s been going through this phase where when you ask him anything, he’ll look up at you, all wide-eyed and adorable, and say in his cute little high voice: “no!” He says no to everything now, even when he obviously means yes. I consulted my fabulous  sister Fumbledore on this, and she said that many babies learn to say “no” before “yes” because shaking your head is an easier motion than nodding. It’s also linguistically easier to say. And this got me thinking. Is it possible that our preliminary penchant for saying “no” stays with us as we grow?

As we get older, it’s considered intelligent to fully weigh situations and not plunge into new paths blindly. This is part of being an adult, yes? But I have to wonder if the reason many of us shut down ideas before fully exploring them or jump to a negative conclusion is not that we’re pessimistic people- it’s just physically easier to say no! Yes? No? Do you agree?

Living with Lyme has forced me to say “no” to a lot of things. I’ve had to say “no” to my old life, my old fitness standards, and my old favorite foods. (Ah, bread, cheese and chocolate, how I miss thee….) But contrary to my “Newok Says No” theory, saying no hasn’t felt easy. It’s been a difficult process of time and acceptance. And I still daydream of the moment when I’ll be able to say: “yes!” YES, I want to go on that walk with you! YES, I’d love to meet up for a drink. YES, I will sign up for that race in the spring. In a world full of “no’s,” what I want more than anything is to hear “yes.”

So I had to think.. what in my life can I currently answer “yes” to? And this is what I came up with.

Do I have a family who loves and supports me? Yes. Am I sharing beauty and creation with the world? Yes. Have I found a way to define myself other than “the girl with Lyme Disease?” Yes. Am I doing everything I can to get well? Yes, yes, YES! 

So all the rest- all the “no’s”? Are out of my control. Which actually relates back to my post last Sunday regarding how many women’s perception of their self-worth revolves around things they can’t control. And as such, I suppose this theory is just another way of saying how important it is to try and focus on the positive when you’re dealing with a chronic illness. Because so much of the time, living at a deficit can feel like you’re living in a world of NO. But what if the no’s don’t count- because if they’re out of our hands to begin with… can we really say “no” to something that’s not ours to control? And if that’s true, perhaps this is just another way for us to step up and redefine our lives on our own terms.

I’m no child psychologist. I have no idea if the Newok theory holds any water. But I’d like to leave you with this thought. For every “no” life has given you, is it possible to find a “yes” that counters it?

(Just don’t ask Newok that question. Because he will say no. And it will be adorable. And that will be that.)

Affirmatively yours,

The Foda

Episode XXXVIV: A Woman’s Worth

Episode XXXVIV

A Woman’s Worth

 Today’s Words of Wisdom:

“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.”

~Vince Lombardi

 The Foda’s Take: Well, that’s a lot easier than spending all our energy chasing after what we don’t have, right?

 Hello, friends of Foda! To all the mothers out there, Happy Mother’s Day! (Especially you, Professor Momgonagall!)

First off, may I say I am overwhelmed with the amazing response “Once Upon A Lyme” has gotten. It’s been pretty unbelievable! The Female Yoda was even mentioned this week on the Huffington Post (<— click to read) which is so amazing! Thank you all for being a part of creating a healthier, safer community for the upcoming generation. Please continue to share, especially since May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Alright, with that said, now let’s get on with our topic for the day!

Drumroll, please! Today I’d like to talk about: Yardsticks! (Although to be clear, by yardsticks, I mean the figurative ones we use to measure our worth by.) Not sure what I mean? Read on!

I recently wrote a guest post for “Words from the Sowul,” one of my favorite introspective bloggers, on the topic of beauty. (Read it here!) And it really got me thinking about how we as women determine our worth. (Sidebar: sorry, boys, this is going to be a totally femme-centered post. Oh, wait just a minute. You’re leaving? Don’t you know I’m letting you into the secret underground workings of the female mind—yeah, okay, he’s gone.)

Anyway! A woman’s worth has been determined throughout history using a variety of different yardsticks. Does she come from a powerful family? What dowry does she bring with her as incentive for marriage? Will I get two goats and a yak, or just one old camel? And, of course, is she beautiful?

Notice none of these ancient values focus on personality, skill, or intelligence. (Unless you’re going totally 1950’s on me and count cooking. Cooking is a skill…. one I don’t… happen… to have. Sigh.) Anyway, the point is, women have (historically speaking) been valued for things completely out of our control. Can we control who we’re born to? No. Can we control our physical appearance? No. (Well, yes. Hence the multi-billion dollar makeup and clothes industry. But let’s face it, at some point every day, you’ll be down to your birthday suit with no “science” on your face. Hence, no. Can’t control DNA.) So basically, women have been taught that they need to have many things to be valuable, but psych! If you weren’t born with them, you’re up Dagobah creek without a paddle!

So how does this fit into my theme of living gracefully with a chronic illness? Why, I’m so glad you asked! You see, I, like most women, grew up convinced I had to try and be the “ultimate” woman. A beautiful, successful, heel-wearing powerhouse who could keep up with the boys and still look fabulous doing it. Now some of that I could control, and I tried for a long time. Then I got sick. And I realized two things. One, my outward appearance was the same. Lyme, as I’ve said before, can be an invisible illness. But two, my inward appearance was in complete shambles- and when that would return to normal was beyond my control. So after a couple years of waiting for my health to return, sure I’d get better any day now, I realized I had to throw out the old yardstick and change how I viewed my worth. It could no longer be measured by my beauty or physical accomplishments, because since there was such a divide between how I looked and how I felt, my appearance felt like a lie. And you can’t value a lie. (Or you can. But that makes you foolish. And destined for a life of unhappiness.) But I digress. So I had to discover my true worth- what makes me truly, inwardly beautiful, regardless of outer appearance or inner health. And that, my friends, was the real game changer.

I’m still working on changing how I view myself in this world. For now, I accept that the old me is gone, and the new me has to play by a different set of rules. Is it fair? No. But is it better? Yes. Because going through this has allowed me to move past the superficial societally constructed ruler of a woman’s worth and pushed me to create my own yardstick. (How do I measure my worth now, you ask? Through creation. The beauty no person, no illness, and no amount of time can take away from me.)

So today, dear reader, I’d like to pass you my yardstick. Everything we can’t control has been wiped off it: DNA, health, fate, family. (And yes, I say health, because if  it was so easy to maintain, would anyone ever get/stay sick?) So I ask you- if you had to write in your own markers of worth- what would they be?

Ciao for now,

The Foda