Saturday, December 15, 2012

Musings on Life

My 2 nieces at our wedding, on the right is my niece with the brain tumor
I know, I know. I said I wouldn’t blog anymore. But I couldn’t help it this time. Maybe I’ll just post when I feel like I need to - a virtual, albeit public, diary of my thoughts and musings.

Recently, I’ve had some things in my life that have made me contemplate quite a bit about philosophy, religion, life, death, happiness, the lot... Sound heavy? Sure as hell is. This isn’t to say that I’m a mess right now - quite the opposite in fact. Still as happily optimistic as ever!

But there have been two health related incidents with my family members that I have faced within the last few months. First, my niece, who was diagnosed last spring with a non-cancerous brain tumor at the age of 7. She was fine until after some chemotherapy to decrease the swelling in her brain (the tumor is on her brain stem, thus inoperable). After the first round of chemo, a whole host of issues essentially have brought my playful, devious, darling little niece to be in the hospital for the past 3+ months with a trach (so she can breathe) and in a motorized wheelchair. She’s relearning how to write, talk, use her hands, and getting used to life with a trach. Thankfully, she’s at one of the best children’s hospitals in the country (I know, I used to work there!), but still...

The second event was the disturbing phone call I received from my Dad a few weeks ago, who had just witnessed the collapse of my aunt. After working on her for about 30 minutes at my parents’ house, the paramedics transported her to a hospital, and the doctors proceeded to go through with therapeutic hypothermia (inducing hypothermia to let the body heal). Once they had brought her body temperature back to normal, they tried to see if she would respond to any stimuli - sadly, she was gone and my uncle decided to make her comfortable with morphine and let her go. She was a nursing instructor and someone who really influenced my decision to go to nursing school.

All of this has given me the opportunity to reflect upon my beliefs and to come to terms with death and life. I’m an atheist. I’m pretty sure I’ve told you that before. Some would call me an agnostic. Whatever I am, I don’t believe in god, but don’t deny the existence of a god. Nor do I necessarily believe that what I believe is correct. If I woke up tomorrow and god existed, that’d be cool. This position on religion has shaped my beliefs about life and death.

This being said, however, I would love to understand how atoms and the universe truly work. Where did the big bang come from? I’ve talked a lot about acupuncture and how much it has changed my life - but there is so much we don’t know about Chinese Medicine. You can’t dissect a human and find meridian lines. But we (at least those who believe in Chinese Medicine) know that they’re there. There is so much that cannot be explained about our surroundings and anatomy that it’s tough for me to not have some sort of spirituality.

So, am I spiritual? I never thought so until recently. With my new life (classes, volunteer work, part time job), I have made an emphasis to exercise a lot more. Now, I’m doing something 5 times a week. I LOVE it! And part of that is yoga. I’ve been going to a Hatha yoga studio for awhile now, and it’s awesome. We sing, chant, sweat (it’s heated to 95 deg F) and make personal offerings. Sounds kind of religious, huh? I’ve come to terms with this recently - my religion is the focus on clearing my mind and to treat everyone with love and respect. During yoga, when things get tough, I dedicate my practice to someone I love and who is in need. I imagine sending positive energy (whatever “energy” is) to that person and in it I find strength. That person can sometimes even be myself - I’m pretty type A and therefore can be quite hard on myself. So yes, I believe in energy, but what it is or what it means, I have no clue. And I would be happy to be told one day that “energy” doesn’t exist and here’s the proof. Cool. No problem. I’d accept my idea of “energy” as being a simple figment of my imagination - minds are powerful computers and I firmly believe that you can delude yourself into thinking nearly anything. Anyway, aside from yoga, when someone I come across in life is having a difficult time, I imagine funnelling positive energy from universe towards them. Sound crazy? It sure as hell is. But you know what? I works for me. And I like this religion so much more than the idea that only a select few are the only ones going to heaven. What kind of religion is that? Shouldn’t we love and care about everyone? Aren’t we all equal? Shouldn’t we accept everyone for who and what they are? Doesn’t mean I like everyone I meet... just saying, I have not come across a religion that is accepting of everyone and I hate that.

So back to the two cases of my aunt and niece (because many ancient philosophers have debated religion for millennia). What are my beliefs on life and death? I believe that life is an accident. A happy accident built of the amazing small probability that we would ever exist. It blows your mind if you just think about it. What’s the probability that I could ever sit here in front of this computer, writing this, while worrying about exams and skiing; that I’ll get to both by driving a car? Zilch. Almost zero. It’s quite incredible. As for death, I believe that we become atoms again and restart the circle of life. It’s a bit freaky (especially as I once used to be Christian) - thinking that death is so final. Yet, it’s so freeing. I now think of life as something to enjoy and explore. Not to just *get through.* I don’t believe in reincarnation - beyond the idea that the carbon atoms in my body may someday become a plant, animal or rock. Spirit? I believe it’s all in our brain. But you never know - this is what I believe today, but I don’t hold on so tightly to my beliefs that I’m blinded by other possibilities.

Ah, sorry, got side tracked again. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve had a really hard time with the death of my aunt and the unfortunate events that have happened to my seven year old niece. I’ve thought about my beliefs and my ideas and had to come to terms with what I personally believe in. Essentially, I think it all boils down to the idea that no one can prove anything regarding god, metaphysics or even astrology. I feel like there is something that connects us all with the universe. Is that qi? Energy? God? Atoms? Nothing? But just because I feel that way doesn’t mean that it is. It’s just the way that I choose to live my life - I want to believe that we’re connected and I find comfort in that thought. I want to believe that there really is something to karma, that my actions today affect my future. That being “good” (especially to myself and to those I most care about) will set me up for a future life of happiness and good health.

As my Mom always said - “life is too short.” And you know what? She’s absolutely right. Live the life you’ve always wanted, because the time in which we are on this rock of a planet is so infinitely small in comparison to the scope of our universe...
My aunt who passed away