Facing the departure of a loved one

My family and I are currently facing the potential passing of a loved one. He is my father in law and he has been in the hospital for a few days now. Families have been traveling to see him. Doctors are starting to talk about hospice.

Last week, we heard about a friend of the family who was involved in a serious freak accident and unfortunately lost his life as a result. It was a shock for all of us since he was a young man with four sons and a wife. He was very active in the community and in is church. He was a very kind and supportive husband. He helped my daughter find a job and took my son to practice basketball with his sons. He was an amazing man.

My own father passed away almost two years ago. I was not present when he was on his death bed because of the distance. But I was there for his funeral and burial. That was also heart breaking, not seeing my father for a long time and then losing him forever. And now we are facing another personal pain with another family member about to pass.

All these losses that we experience really take a big toll in our lives in a profound way. It reminds us of the mystery of this existence. It gives us a slap on our face about how finite this life really is. All the hopes and the goals they we have. All the challenges and shortcomings we endure. All the lessons that we receive. All the accomplishments and actualizations that we achieve. For us to then cease to exist at the end.

And then what?

This is why I have started to believe that this limited existence , as far as we can be aware of, is basically passing the torch to the next generation. And then to the next. And so on. We are collectively gaining knowledge and wisdom for our children to pass it on to their children so that we, human beings, can succeed and survive.

It is a “big picture” kind of mission and purpose. Our individual lives, if we are truly individuals , don’t have much of a purpose except to benefit humanity as a whole. In thousands and thousands of years. We just don’t see it like that , at least we don’t at the moment and don’t remember from previous generations, but we can maintain faith that that is the way this existence operates.

I could be completely off and be wrong about this. But I strongly believe this is the reason we are here. Otherwise , this is a big and chaotic mess.

So here we are, visiting my father in law for possibly the last time. Remembering his accomplishments and his contribution. Cherishing good memories. Passing on what he learned to us and our children.

Until the next time.

New Generation, New Language

“Send me the link. ”

“I will text you.”

“Attach it to the email.”

“Google it..”

“Download from the cloud.”

Do you know what these phrases mean? Of course you do. We use them everyday. But thirty years ago they had no meaning at all, at least for most of the population.

It is amazing how much our language has changed . It is impressive how fast we have evolved into a significantly different species.

We are currently using language that a generation ago was almost unheard of. And I don’t think I need to explain the reason for such a drastic change .

When I was a child back in the 80’s, the most common way of communicating in long distance was through regular mail or a telephone call. Now we can even see a live image of a person from the other side of the world on a miniature screen held in our hands and talk to that person. It is amazing!

We have become a new kind of people with a new language . It’s not English anymore. It’s something else. We may call it “Technologish” or “Cyberish.” Whatever we may call it, it’s a new way of referring to the various ways we currently operate and communicate.

Cyber space, computers, information technology, and virtual reality have become our norm. The internet is our new encyclopedia and newspaper. Ebooks are our new books. Spotify and Pandora are our new radio stations. Netflix and Hulu have become our new movie theaters. Amazon and EBay dominated our shopping days. The list goes on and on.

And the language and phrases we use are increasingly evolving. I am not sure if we would be able to communicate effectively with someone who time traveled from the past, even from the 1980’s, without confusing them with all of our terminology.

I am sure that in a not so distant future we may start talking about calling your vehicle to come and pick us up. Or teleporting to the other side of the world in minutes. Or experiencing a vacation through virtual reality. Or having personal relationship with an artificially intelligent humanoid.

What other terms will we use then?

The Box, the Dot, and the Circle

The box and the dot and the circle. What do they mean? This is a post that describes what my experience has been with these three symbols and the meaning they give to life.

The Box

You probably have heard about the saying “think outside the box. ” It is simply to think outside of what we have been taught to think most of the time. It is simply to consider other alternatives other than what has been drilled in our brains from an early age. The box may represent a specific doctrine, a custom, tradition, or way of thinking. It can be used to help structure our minds by classifying things and simplifying our minds. But it can also limit our resources and our growth .

Thinking outside the box allows us to look at alternative ways of thinking. It helps us to grow and to learn new ways of experiencing things. For example, not everyone would need to go to college to have some kind of meaningful and productive life. Not everyone has to have a strict diet and exercise in order to have a healthy lifestyle. Not everyone has to take medication to treat an illness. There’s always an alternative way to almost everything.

But it takes courage and determination to go against the popular journey and do things a little different. It takes willingness to be vulnerable to criticism and ridicule in order to be outside of the box.

Don’t be afraid. Be yourself. And grow.

The Dot

How about the dot? The dot is the unfortunate or undersized events that happen in our lives that we focus so much on.

What do you see here?:

Most people would say “a dot.” Few people actually pay attention to the white space around it. When we look at the dot on a piece of paper all of our attention is automatically driven to the dot. But when we expand our vision and look around the dot, we can begin to look at the Bigger Picture.

When we focus too much on small issues (by small I don’t mean unimportant ) we miss other things around us that are also happening . If I worry a lot about not having enough money to buy all the groceries I need, I can then look at the bigger picture and consider those families and whole communities who have absolutely nothing to eat. If I obsess about the cold that I’m suffering from, I can then look at the bigger picture and think about those who have terminal illnesses.

And this is not only about how other people are in worse situations than ours. It’s also about , instead of focusing so much about maintaining our personal agenda and keeping track of our goals, to also think about how precious life is as a whole even if we don’t have everything we want. It’s about appreciating the life as it is. It’s looking at our experiences in a more holistic way. And the more we look at the bigger picture , the smaller our problems will become. When I look at the picture of our planet earth, or even a small white dot in a picture of our galaxy, I am reminded of how huge our universe is, compared to our daily problems.

Another link that beautifully talks about the dot is found here .

The Circle

Now let’s talk about the circle. We usually think that life is linear and everything happens in a straight line. But that’s not really the case. I have learned in this life everything starts and ends pretty much in the same spot.

Life is not linear , like most of us think . We begin as dependent , fragile, weak humans, and we end up the same way. Everything in nature follows a pattern that cycles the same way. From spring , to summer, to autumn, to winter, and back to spring again. The earth revolves around the Sun in a big circle.

When we do certain things, there is always a consequence . Our actions brings consequences back to us. Cause and effect. Everything can be perceived as in a circle.

There are many disciplines that use the circle as its model to illustrate its components. There is the circle of life as illustrated below.

There is also the circular model of the whole person as shown below.

The circle represents the notions of totality, wholeness, original perfection, the Self, the infinite, eternity, timelessness, all cyclic movement, and God .

It is a perfect symbol. In Japan it is called “Enso.” It is used to express the present moment. It also symbolizes absolute enlightenment , strength, elegance, the universe and the void .

In summary , thinking outside the box, looking at the Big Picture instead of just the dot , and embracing the totality and perfection of the circle, will bring harmony to this existence. Keep that in mind.

Letter to Anxiety

Dear Anxiety,

I hate you … with all my heart . Whatever you are, you have disrupted my life.

I can’t think straight. I can’t breath well. I can’t even sit down and be still when you attack . I feel like fainting. My heart pumps blood as if I was running a race.

But I’m not. I’m usually sitting down or calmly walking around. You’re unpredictable. And you scare me.

You act like a cardiac arrest. Or a serious thyroid problem . Or even a drop of blood sugar level. But it’s none of that.

But don’t think you have total control of my life. Because you actually don’t. I have some friends that have been helping me during this battle against you. Among them are exercise, yoga, and deep breathing . Not to mention the support of friends and family members.

I also have a couple of new acquaintances that I have decided to allow to accompany me during this struggle. Their names are Zoloft and Ativan. They are in my life to help me get you out of control. To have better control of my life. I’m waiting for Zoloft to do its job slowly. Ativan is here only for emergencies. But you get my point.

I’m going against you with full force. My long term goal is to remain with my true friends; exercise, yoga, and deep breathing , and get my life back.

Good bye.

My struggle with Anxiety

This has been my story …

I keep having some symptoms that mimic a heart attack, but I know it’s not that. Doctors and numerous tests verified it. But I noticed it still happens right when I would normally feel anxious about certain life events, such as going on a family vacation trip or stress at work.

It almost ruined my family vacation because of these symptoms. I had chest discomfort, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath right when we were preparing to head out for the trip. My wife noticed and spoke with me about it. I confessed I was not feeling well (I tried to hide it from her so she wouldn’t worry) but refused to let it ruined our mini vacation. So I took a few minutes away from everything to relax and it slowly went away. I drove for two hours, mostly taking deep breaths and disputing negative thoughts until I felt better upon arrival to the hotel. When we went to eat dinner at a local restaurant, the palpitations started creeping up again. The restaurant was noisy and crowded, so I associated it with the anxiety I would normally feel at a busy place like this. I tried to ignore it by eating and it slowly went away.

Next morning while eating breakfast, I started feeling lightheaded again, but took deep breaths and kept going. I did not feel it again in that evening. So I spent the rest of the weekend with no symptoms and enjoying my family.

Next day at work, the palpitations started again. I was driving a client to his lab appointment while taking deep breaths and trying to do some mindful exercises. It went away as soon as I returned to my work office. It seemed like an eternity.

I went to the doctor for a follow up appointment. He recommended for me to simply keep taking anti anxiety medication and follow up with the GI (which I truly believe is a waste of time since I don’t think it is gastrointestinal related).

And to no surprise, the G.I. doctor thought that this was not G.I. related but still wants to do a small test just to be completely certain.

Today I attended a meeting at a city office and had to present the services offered at the program where I work at. There were judges, directors of other social services programs, and other city officials present. I was feeling OK until it was time for me to present and then I had an episode again. It came up suddenly. It began with heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness. I was feeling so bad that I almost stood up in the middle of the meeting and walked out of the room. But I began to take deep breaths, tried to do some mindfulness by observing my surroundings, and I even tried to snap a rubber band on my wrist to redirect my attention. It helped a little bit but I still felt extremely anxious.

I managed to give my presentation, although I made several mistakes and felt like I was rushing it. Words couldn’t come out of my mouth clearly. It was an embarrassment. I could’ve done a better job presenting to all these important people, but my anxiety got the best of me this time. I got up right before the meeting was done and stormed out of the room gasping for air. I couldn’t speak. I could hardly walk. I feel I made a fool of myself . And I’m upset about it.

This anxiety is affecting my personal life and my job performance. It’s not just an annoying nervousness that we all go through. It is actually a debilitating condition that cripples me and paralyses me. God forbid if I go to a job interview, give another speech to an audience, or go to the dentist.

So this has been my experience so far with what seems to be extreme anxiety.

It has been sort of a wake up call. I remember vomiting as a kid before heading to the school bus during the first week of school. I’ve also had extreme nervousness giving speeches. In the last 5 years or so I have tried to practice mindfulness, yoga, meditation , and exercise , but it seems I have not done enough of it. I have also waken up to the realization that I have been anxious most of my life and now is the time that my body is telling me to slow down. To catch myself whenever I am feeling anxious. To not let the small stuff get the best of me.

So I will schedule routine yoga, exercise, and meditation. And continue to manage this anxiety, almost as if it were a normal part of my life. I am learning to pay more attention to how my body responds to certain situations, and starting to catch myself before I get too anxious. The next time I have an episode, I will do my best to cope by taking deep breaths, being mindful of my surroundings, and changing environment if possible. I will also make positive self affirmations and remind myself I am not having a heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, acid reflex, or any serious medical condition.

I am having anxiety attacks.

Have you dealt with Anxiety Attacks..?

Just a follow up on my previous post, I continue to experience these symptoms that took me to the ER for the second time. I have gone to see my doctor and they sent me to do some bloodwork and put a heart monitor on my chest for 48 hours. There were a couple of days that I experienced palpitations, pressure on my chest, and lightheadedness , on and off. They still can’t find anything wrong with me.

I went to the ER again two days ago for the same symptoms, however they found nothing wrong with the heart. ER doctor said that she would refer me to a G.I. specialist. And if this was not the cause of my symptoms, then it could just be anxiety .

So I have been thinking that , if this is truly just anxiety, then I really need to work on relaxation, more than what I have done.

I have worked all my adult life as a counselor and have helped people with all sorts of mental illness, including anxiety. But never have I worked with anyone with the symptoms I experience. Other people usually have racing thoughts, restlessness , and some palpitations . Some have described symptoms of panic attack, which I don’t think is what I experience either, since I don’t feel fear.

These are the symptoms I have experienced :

Lightheadedness, palpitations, shortness of breath, pressure on my chest, weakness , and a cold sensation on my extremities. I also felt a little nauseous this last time.

Has anybody else experienced anxiety problems with these symptoms ?

I would like to know if here are others who have had the same experience due to anxiety.

Thanks.

Going to the ER (existential reflection )

Today I went to the ER at a local hospital. I was working and doing the usual thing when all of a sudden I started feeling pressure on my chest and shortness of breath. I asked a nurse that works with me to check my blood pressure and it was too low. I continued to feel light headedness and exhibited shallow breathing. I was starting to faint. They insisted on calling paramedics for me.

A thousand thoughts came through my mind. I really thought I was dying. So I asked the nurses to tell my wife I love her. Paramedics came quickly and took my vital signs and was still too low. I was about to faint. The world became darker and quieter. They transported me to the hospital in no time.

I then had a major existential moment, especially about dying. I reflected deeply about my state of existence. What will happen to my family if I die? Will they be ok in my absence? Will they have a different father in the future ? What about all the things I haven’t accomplished yet in life? Will I get a second chance?

And the greatest question of all: Will I face my creator or simply be in an empty state of eternal nothingness ?

Even during the time that I was riding in the ambulance I kept thinking about facing death. If this was a heart attack, it’s amazing how a small organ can determine if I live or die.

I have contemplated a lot about this subject for a long time. But this was like the culmination. This was like : “Alright, this is it!”

I have been moved to a room now. Heart rate and blood pressure are back to normal. Doctor wants me to do a stress test in the morning and go from there. I had one before, but not to this extent. I’ve met so many medical staff members since I’ve been here, including paramedics , doctors and nurses. And they have all been very nice. Not sure how the medical bill will be. Trying not to think about that so much .

So I’m still reflecting on this profound subject . And I don’t think it can get any deeper than this. What other profound topic can intrigue us and paralyze us and scare us more than what dying really means? But death itself is not the greatest mystery, but rather this existence we call “Life.”

I kept tearing up every time I thought of my family and loved ones. It was almost as if I was reminded about the fragility of life. About the importance of keeping loved ones together. About living one step at a time …and not letting small stuff get the best of me.

My family came to visit me. That was an emotional and precious moment for me. I had coworkers and friends text me. That was a good feeling.

This may have been a wake up call. A drastic reminder of this existence. It was definitely scary. It was a teaching moment. It taught me to let go. To not sweat the small stuff. And to live each moment.

As if it was the last.