Monday, January 28, 2008

A Year Without Shopping

This started as a way to deal with the cost of Avonex, once I've fallen into the Medicare Abyss, but it's turned into a much more interesting - and potentially richer - process.

I decided to stop buying stuff, stuff like shoes (I ask you, how many pairs of black shoes does someone who walks barefoot in the house and doesn't go out much really 'need'?), or ceramic bowls, or computer games, or even books. We have one of the best library systems in the country here in Multnomah County, OR. If I want to read something, I can go online, put in my request, and it ends up waiting for me at the local branch of the library. We have more ceramic bowls (and glass bowls and stainless steels bowls and wood bowls) than any two people can use in a month. Why add anything more to our collection? My closets are stuffed with blouses and coats, jackets and slacks (and, of course, shoes). I have more sweaters, tunics, turtlenecks and other assorted tops than I care to count. Do I really need another purple one?

No way. I may want another purple blahblahblah, but I sure as hell don't need another purple blahblahblah.

And therein lies the real richness and learning opportunity in this self-imposed denial of retail adventure. Whenever I find myself thinking "Boy, I really need a purple blahblahblah" (which happens, sadly, a lot more frequently than I'd wish) I ask myself "Do I really need that purple thing, or do I want that purple thing? And if I want that purple thing, what is it I really want?"

Believe me, that last question isn't an easy one to answer. Often, I can't figure it out, and have to put it away. But once in a while, I'll realize what I really want is my health, or my work, or to be fifteen pounds thinner or fifteen years younger - none of which happens if I buy a purple blahblahblah (hell, none of which will happen again, at least in this lifetime). So instead of buying something, I spend a little time thinking about the real thing I'm missing, not finding answers, but learning in the process.

We find mindfulness wherever we can, if we try.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Out with the old year...

...and in with the new.

Except I neglected to write about a couple of cool things that happened last month, so please forgive me for a quick look back?

David, my wonderful husband, managed to orchestrate a surprise birthday party for me on the evening of the Day Itself. I wasn't much into celebrating the day, since I'm still not quite believing that I'm actually sixty years old, and since he hadn't suggested anything to me by Friday afternoon, I asked if we could call my son Zack and his sweetie Emily, and invite them over for Pizza And A Movie. David, looking a wee bit uncomfortable, answered that he'd made reservations at JoPa, a terrific restaurant just a quarter mile from our house, figuring that it was a safe venue even if I ended up being tired in the early evening. Since this interchange occurred just before I crashed for a 3-plus hour nap, I completely spaced on the fact that JoPa doesn't take reservations for parties under six.

Later that afternoon, the phone rang and someone asked to speak with David. I asked who was calling (all those years of working in offices has made it impossible for me to answer the phone and just hand it over to someone!) and the guy on the other end of the line said "I'm calling from JoPa to confirm tonight's reservation". David took the phone and walked out of the room to continue the conversation (another clue) and I realized that something beyond dinner for the two of us was afoot.

When we got to the restaurant, David asked if we could 'check out the upstairs room' (okay, that's VERY odd, I thought, we've been here dozens of times, and he's never even glanced towards that space) but I slowly climbed up the steep staircase, expecting maybe a small party of six people to greet me when I finally made it up there.

Nope. The room was filled with almost everyone we know in Portland - a real party! There's something special about being in a space like that, surrounded by folks you love and who love you, and I can't imagine a better way to celebrate my sixtieth turn around the sun. Thank you, dearest David, for pulling it together so beautifully!

There are photos from the party on some digital camera or other, and I'm hoping to share a few of them if/when I'm able.

On a completely different note, let's go back to the letter I posted here a week or so ago. I sent a copy to the Oregonian newspaper as a letter to the Editor, and it was published last week. An interesting thing happened yesterday - maybe a little hint that it's worth taking the time to voice my opinions and share my experiences.

The phone rang in the late morning, and a voice I didn't recognize asked if I was Libbi Lepow. Assuming it was a telemarketer, I answered in the affirmative (but warily) and the man proceeded to tell me that he'd read my letter to the Editor in last Friday's _Oregonian_, and wanted to let me know about a prescription assistance program in Oregon that might help me with the exorbitant 'donut-hole' costs for medication. Turns out that he's a retired dermatologist, and knows the program's director quite well; he gave me their toll-free number and her name, and encouraged me to call them. As he said "You've got nothing to lose - even the phone call is free!"

I'm still a wee bit amazed that someone would take the time to track me down and share that information. It was a ray of light in a year that will live in my memory as pretty damned dark overall. It's little acts of generosity and kindness like the phone call that keep my trust in humanity from disappearing completely

So, on that note, I wish everyone who takes the time to read these rambling, stream-of-consciousness missives the best possible new year. I hope it brings you light and love, abundance and joy (and for all of us, regime change at home and a return to the core values upon which this country was founded).