How Am I Doing? How Are You Doing?

Give it a week or two, a day or two, an hour or two and all of our lives change. I never would have guessed that I would be in lockdown due to a novel virus. I would never have guessed that I would have to figure out how to self-quarantine in a tiny motorhome. I would have never guessed that I would not have to live alone in my rig. I would have never guessed.

I am doing well. Just days before the Coronavirus became overwhelming, my friend, Cynthia, had elective surgery. Her right foot was operated on and she is non-weight bearing on her right leg for five weeks. I had offered to help her and her husband, Ward with the recovery. I was moved into their home and then the Coronavirus hit. These good and kind friends invited me to stay for as long as need be (or until they are weary of me). So, here I am isolated in a nice home with two good friends. We chat, play games, watch Netflix or Prime and wait it out. When we need alone time we all go to our corners, my bedroom, Ward’s office, and Cynthia is in the downstairs of the house. So far we are making it work with ease.

Fanita Ranch

My rig is in the driveway so I can visit it. It also gives me a wee bit of freedom to find alone time if I need it. I can drive to a view and sit in my rig and enjoy the change. The other day I drove to Santee for a possible Elsie the Cat sighting. The cat did not pan out, however, I had the opportunity to walk out on some open land, Fanita Ranch and enjoy the spring flowers. I was the only one there.

For most of us, we are in an unknown state. As a nation, we are trying to figure it out. We are struggling to do what is right. Doing what is right takes a bit of “moral muscle”. On a beautiful day in San Diego can I really not go to the beach, bay or mountains? Yes! It is hard to stay away from places I love yet, for now, I will remain distant and wait. I will need to continue to ask myself the hard questions about what is right, over what it is I really want to do. Hopefully, the answers will remain the correct ones for each given situation.

I am concerned about my friends who are living single. I am very aware that I have found myself in a fortunate situation. One of my solo friends stated, “I am an introvert, I like to be alone, but I like being able to get out and visit with friends”. What do you other singles do to help with true social isolation? What are the unique things you have found to keep yourself entertained and patient? I reach out with phone calls or texts because this is the best I can do at the moment. This morning I discovered Zoom and was able to visit with one of my single friends where we could see each other and talk.

I have been learning new skills and reactivating old, unused ones. Since Cynthia is non-weight bearing on her right leg, I am the head chef in the house. I have great instructions (Cynthia) and cookbooks to guide me in my cooking. I have not cooked so much in years. And there are so many cool tools to use in this kitchen. I have found that the right tools make the job so much easier. Last night I made broccoli soup. It was delicious. I have cooked chicken a few different ways, created lunches and more. Cynthia helps out where she can. It helps that the freezer is stocked and we can order home delivery for veggies and fruit. Ward and I have figured out how to help each other in the kitchen. It is more fun to cook for others. Cooking for one is often a disappointing affair for me.

I wonder how my friends and others who follow my blog are doing? Please let me know. I hope you are all well and working on thriving in this very odd situation we find ourselves in. Know that I think of all of you, the world and the people within it, often with love and kindness.

Still finding small and large reasons to be thankful.

It has come to my attention, recently that some of you would like to receive notices of new posting on my blog without access to Facebook. All you need to do is scroll to the link on this page titled Follow My Blog (it is underneath the pic of my rig), click on it, and add your email to the link. That way you don’t have to find them on FB and can receive a simple notification via email when a new post is published. If you find this is not easy to do let me know and I can send you an invitation. 

Dollhouses, Kayaks, Moving Forward

An Example of a Queen Ann Style Dollhouse

Years ago, more than I can remember, Jim (my husband) and I decided to build a dollhouse. A good friend of mine had mentioned that she would love to have a Queen Ann style dollhouse. Sharon is someone we both loved. She wanted a dollhouse and so we built her a dollhouse. This was not just a wee dollhouse, it was at least 2-3 feet tall. We shingled, wallpapered, carpeted, painted it and more. It was an adventure we enjoyed together. I don’t remember how long it took us to build. It was months by the time we finished it. It was a labor of love. Every moment we worked on was rewarded by Sharon’s reaction when we presented the finished product to her

Building the first one was so much fun that we decided to build a second one for Jim’s niece. This second house was just as much fun as the first. After it was completed it went home to Chris.

Once the second dollhouse was complete we decided to move onto a much larger adventure. Jim and I had been planning to buy kayaks for some time. It was Jim’s suggestion that we try to build our own. After much research, we narrowed our search to two companies, Pygmy Boats, and Chesapeake Light Craft. Chesapeake Light Craft became our company of choice. Did we want to use their blueprints or build from a kit? What was the difference between the two? The blueprint meant we would have to find the wood, cut it into the shapes we needed and find all the components that were needed to put it together. The kit came with all the wood pieces cut into the shapes we needed. All the screws, nails, rolls of fiberglass, epoxy glue and more were included. We decided on the kit.

We were both working full time. The kayak building was done on weekends and nights. We were busy. Jim was certainly the lead on the building, I was a very active second in command. In approximately six months the first boat was complete. We painted her red and named her Whistling Woman. I was reading a book titled A Whistling Woman is Up to No Good. This book showed women of the ’90s how to express their wildness, describing how they can get in touch with their true natures and express themselves in a sometimes-disapproving society. The first kayak was mine.

It took us six more months to finish the second kayak. We had learned a bit from the first kayak so the second one was easier to put together. It was five pounds lighter. When it was complete it was painted forest green and named Ronin, after one of Jim’s favorite movies. The second one was Jim’s.

After launching them successfully on Mission Bay, in San Diego, our kayaking adventures started. We took classes through Aqua Adventures and an independent boating store. We learned how to capsize our boats, turn them over and re-enter them. Learning to come in through the waves on the ocean was a challenge. It was fun to get wet. Kayaking into a strong wind also presented us with new challenges.

The kayaks were frequently out on the water. Early, Sunday mornings often found us back on Mission Bay. We would kayak until the other boat traffic would get heavy, then retire to a coffee house to enjoy the rest of the morning. As we became more proficient with kayaking, the learning curve is quick, we ventured further afield.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took them camping on the lower Colorado River, on the back bay at Newport Beach. When we finally felt brave enough we went camping and kayaking throughout California, making sure to spend time on the lakes and bays. It was fun to combine our love of camping with the joy of kayaking.

After Jim died I continued to kayak. My tactics changed. First I had to figure out how to get my kayak on the roof of the Subaru Outback. Then I had to figure out how to get it off the roof. I got very good at asking others for help. Kayakers are a nice group of people and I never had to search far for assistance.

Three years ago I started my nomadic full-time existence in my Roadtrek RV. I sold my house in Southern California, moved what I wanted to keep into storage, including the kayaks and began my full-time traveling adventure.

I have been thinking of the kayaks often over the past year. I have held onto them for emotional reasons. Jim and I built them. They were a precious reminder of our life together. They were a reminder of this very loving and unique man I married. Over the past year, I decided these kayaks needed to find a loving home, where they would be used and cared for. Keeping kayaks in storage is not the best use for any boat.

October 2019, I decided that I was OK with selling them. I had a few requirements.

  • They need to go to a loving home.
  • They need to be used.
  • I need pictures of them once in a while so I can see they will be enjoyed and loved.
  • They are not to return to a storage unit.

With Elsie’the Cat’s disappearance the kayaks, once again were put on the back burner. Trying to find Elsie was the number one priority. Unfortunately, Elsie is still missing.

Early in March, I decided to proceed with the selling of the kayaks. I spiffed them up, took pictures and after advertising them to friends, I put them up for sale on Craigslist, Nextdoor, OfferUp, and Facebook Marketplace. The offers started coming in. How was I going to choose? Just as I was preparing to sit down and sort out all the offers, a friend contacted me. He wanted to buy both kayaks and I would get visiting privileges. That, is a sweet deal. They will be going to someone I know. I have no doubt they will be loved and taken care of. Any time I want, I can ask Jon how they are doing. Maybe I will get an occasional picture. And…I have visiting privileges.

On a blustery afternoon in San Diego county, three of us loaded them on the top of Jon’s truck and off they went to their new home. It was hard to see them go, yet I know that it was the right thing to do. They weigh in at 40-45 pounds. I no longer have a car to haul them. They are 16 feet long, making them to long to fit in or on the back of my RV. The bottom line, I want them to be used and not just sitting and waiting to be used. It is the best way to honor them and to honor Jim.

I am content. I can look at this as a sad farewell or another step forward in my life. Maybe I can find a smaller kayak that will fit my needs better (12 feet sounds right to me). Maybe I can manage without one at all. Or maybe I will just decide to build myself another boat. the opportunities are endless as my life moves forward, one step at a time.

 

 

 

 

How I Am Doing, Friendship & More

Last Wednesday I took the Radioactive Iodine pills and immediately went into isolation. Everyone said it was easy. I would have no problems and I would be fine.

Here is what I want you to know. This Has Not Been Easy!!!!! Here is what happens when I have no thyroid hormone in my body. I took the pill at 10:30 a.m. By 4 p.m. I developed a ringing in my ears. It was more like a high pitched squeal. And I bottomed out. I have been exhausted and lacking in energy. But the ears are a big deal.

Finally, on Friday my endocrinologist ordered me back on my meds a day early. Hypothyroidism can create tinnitus (ringing in the ears). My squealy friend is still with me and I am exhausted often.

Sunset Over Mission Bay

I am patiently waiting for the tinnitus to go away. I continue to drink lots and lots of fluids and I push myself to take a short walk every day. Tonight I got far enough to see a beautiful sunset over Mission Bay. That certainly picks up my spirits.

This too shall pass. I am not complaining, I just thought you might like to know how I am doing.

I really can’t complain. I am camped at the end of a culdesac or driveway. It is private and pretty when the afternoon sun shines through my rig. I am slowly getting my taxes together and I finished and mailed in my California ballot. I am getting things done.

My friends, Cynthia and Ward, have gone way beyond being good friends and hosts. They designated a downstairs bathroom to me so I did not have to worry about using my bathroom in the rig for the past 5 days. I often slip through the front door with my key and they don’t even know I am in the house. It has worked out well.

This is a sign of true friendship, really true friendship. I am overwhelmed and grateful for their graciousness and caring for me. They have let me slip into their lives without a second thought, as far as I can tell. I am grateful for friends such as these.

Ward & Cynthia the day we took Jim’s Ashes to Sea

I met Cynthia and Ward through Scottish Country Dancing. I have known Ward since I moved to San Diego in 1985. He is a teacher for the San Diego Branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. I have known both of them for many, many years. Cynthia and I have become good friends since Jim, my husband, died from cancer seven years ago. I have enjoyed getting to know her. I have been grateful over the years for their ongoing support. She is a very talented crocheter and stitcher. I have renewed my crocheting skills with her encouragement and teaching. It is a fun and ongoing relationship.

I will remain here for another week so I can recover at a snail’s pace if need be. I am aiming to recover a bit faster than that but my body will decide that point not me.

Tomorrow I can go back out into the world. I have to attempt it because I need to take care of my rig and get more propane. Life continues. on.

What is next? On February 28th I get a full-body scan to set a baseline. I am a bit nervous about this. I can do this, though. Nerves are just a part of the whole game plan. I get nervous every year when I get my mammogram. Cancer has a way of doing this to a person.

My ultimate goal is to get through this moment in time and move forward with my life. I know I will be in the San Diego area for a while. I need to make sure I am on the right dose of Synthroid (a synthetic thyroid hormone). It takes time to build in the body. My next labs will be in five weeks. If it is OK then I am good to go. If not, they change the dose and I wait another five weeks to get my labs drawn again. I may not have to wait here but if I do, it is not too much of a hardship to be in San Diego and surrounding areas.

I can do so much more with all your support. Today I am grateful to see another sunset. Today I am grateful for all those who love and support me. Today I am grateful.

Getting Ready to Glow

This past Friday I returned to San Diego. I am getting ready for the next part of the treatment for thyroid cancer. I needed to be in the city early for lab work.

Happily, at the moment I am parked south of town, on the bay. I love the convenience of the Bike the Bay Trail from here. It is a flat and often windy ride. I had plans to bike the whole thing but then I remember the horrible disrepair of the streets around Imperial Avenue and decided to bike the better section down and back. It is a great trail, mostly off-road and takes one around the south end of San Diego Bay and up The Strand to Coronado. It is a flat and windy ride and very pretty. On The Strand, the bay is on one side and the Pacific Ocean is on the other. As you arrive in Coronado there is a beautiful view of the Hotel Del Coronado, one of the grande dame of hotels built in the 1800s. This time I biked it without too much of a headwind, it made for a nice ride.

Tomorrow I leave here and move into my friends’ driveway for several days. On Wednesday I will drive to Kaiser, alone, take the pill and semi-isolate myself for approximately a week. My little home on wheels will become my sanctuary for this time.

sag wagon summer

Who knew my Roadtrek would ever be needed for this purpose. EmmyLou has been a sag wagon for a summer, driven friends to spend Easter with the family, and an art studio, and more. Now it is going to shelter me, continue to keep me from harm, and safe until this is over. She is definitely a wonder mobile.

I am a bit nervous and overwhelmed about this whole thing. I am putting this nuclear medicine into my body. It is a scary thing.

On the day I began a low iodine diet, I started reading a book titled Radium Girls. It is about the introduction of radium onto the world stage. Very shortly things started to go south for the women who worked in the watch factories where they painted radium onto the hands of the watches. I woke the morning of the diet and stopping my meds in sheer panic. I couldn’t do this. I mean, these women were dying from radium poisoning.

Thankfully I was staying across from Jim and Rhonda. I walked over there still panicking. They calmed me down, suggested that I return the book to the library (which I did) and then we talked it through. Jim reminds me a lot of my husband Jim. He was calm and insightful and asked the right questions. The final question he asked was “What would Jim say to me?” I looked at him and I said he would be compassionate and understanding and then say move ahead, get it done so we can move on with our lives. After all, there are adventures out there that are waiting.

It took a few more days for me to make a final decision to move forward. Once that was made, then I could enjoy my time in the desert with friends and sleep better at night.

Here are a few things I know. I choose not to die from cancer. After all the years working as a nurse, loving Jim through his disease, cancer is not kind. If I can, I want to remain cancer-free for the rest of my life. I know ultimately we don’t always have a choice yet there are some ways we can encourage that route not to occur.

Head and neck cancers come back. They are known for this. Not everyone experiences a second round but many do. Jim did. I choose to do everything within my knowledge to help prevent that from happening.

Once the radioactive pill is taken I know there are certain things I can do to help my body survive radiation treatment and I will diligently do all that is required, drink a lot of water, suck on hard sour lemon candies and stay on the low iodine diet for a few more days. I will be a very important part of the team that is assembled to help me through this. These people do not only include all the medical people, they also include my friends and family.

I am getting ready to glow and move forward. It is too bad I can’t become a superhero for a week and use this opportunity to fight for what is good and right. Oh wait a minute, I can do that without radioactive iodine.

My current mantra is:  “Get Through February”. Many of you ask what is next and although I know you are curious, it causes a bit of anxiety in me. Why? Because I don’t know. I need to get through the end of the month and the first few weeks in March and then, hopefully my world will open up a bit and I can explore what may be next. Currently, I need to get through February.

The desert helped me to feel strong physically, mentally and spiritually. I am in the best shape I have been in, for quite some time. For now, I want to take this forward and focus on today. Tomorrow can wait.

Getting ready to Glow.

 

 

 

 

Another Next Step

Two days ago I returned to San Diego from the desert, dragging my feet all the way. It was finally time for my appointment with the Radiologist to discuss the next step regarding the treatment for thyroid cancer. I have been very good to this point of compartmentalizing the whole issue. Now it is time to bring it back into focus again and deal with it.

I have received questions from some of my friends wondering when the next step would happen. This morning, along with my good friend, Cynthia, I was off to my Nuclear Medicine appointment. The Doctor was a very nice man and extremely patient as we reviewed the preparation for this upcoming procedure. The preparation appears to take more effort than the treatment with the radioactive iodine.

This morning the doctor and I discussed how I will live for the week of being radioactive. It looks like I will be able to stay in my rig. I will need to be mindful of being too close to people and avoid children and pregnant women. There are certain things that are part of RV living. One of them is managing my gray and black water (waste). After speaking with the Doctor this morning I am feeling a bit more comfortable regarding that management issue. It is not always easy not having a permanent home.

I am scheduled for treatment on February 19. Two weeks prior I start on a low iodine diet, stop my medication to begin to prepare my body to receive the RAI. I want to starve any thyroid tissue remaining in my body so it is eager to receive the RAI. The week after ingesting the RAI I will be radioactive. Unfortunately, I will not gain superpowers or become a Marvel Comics character. Shoot, wouldn’t that be cool?

It all sounds so logical and easy. I am dealing with emotions. At this appointment this morning, I discovered more emotions than I expected. I found I was weepy and a bit scared. I am worried. I have had cancer for a second time. I don’t care if it is a very treatable cancer, I still have had it. After Jim had head and neck cancer, I swore that it was the one type of cancer I never wanted (not that I want any other kind), and here I am with head and neck cancer. This appointment was in the hospital where Jim was treated and spent the last two weeks of his life. I did not present my best self this morning. Thank goodness for tissues.

After my appointment, I went for a bike ride, a long bike ride. Exercise helps gets my emotions back into some semblance of control and order. And now I am writing this. I am at the moment emotionally exhausted. I am working my way towards acceptance. Acceptance of treatment, Acceptance of needing to rely on friends since my family members live far away, Acceptance that I will need to be in and out of San Diego until the end of February. Staying put too long, makes me think I am missing something somewhere else. 😀 Always the intrepid traveler.

During my three days here I have successfully sold a desk and file cabinet from my storage locker. It was a bit of an adventure getting both pieces into the buyer’s SUV. With great persistence, we were able to get both pieces in, and off they went. Bernadette and Tom are a very nice couple and I feel like two more “Jim and Janet” items went off to a good home. Next, the kayaks. This will be another tale for another post.

Tomorrow I will return to the desert. I am looking forward to it. I am driving into a meetup with good friends that I see yearly, in the desert and sometimes other places as well. Sandy and Pat are such a delightful couple and I look forward to meeting them again. I am ready to hike. I am ready to relax and get on with a normal life for a little while. The one thing I do not want to do is wait. I want to get on with life until the middle of February. Winter is desert season and I am off to enjoy it, in all its glory.

Getting ready and getting moving.

 

 

 

 

 

The Next Step

Friday marks two months since Miss Elsie took a walk. I decided to give her two months. I stayed in the back of the campground where she disappeared and waited. I walked the park and the surrounding neighborhoods, put her on all the different sites I could find, went to the shelters one to two times a week, and still no Elsie.

I recognized a few weeks ago that I was going to have to wean myself from my campsite and this park. I decided that the best thing to do was to move to another site within the park for 3 nights so I could adjust to not waiting and experience something a bit different. Currently, I am camped on one of the lakes and it is quite lovely. I enjoy being near the water and watching the ducks and birds.

Taking the next step into the New Year has many different meanings for me and for most of us. Just because the ball drops at midnight doesn’t mean that our lives start fresh. My life continues to move on to a few new steps. The first next step is obvious, moving away from my campsite and getting ready to move on with my life.

In the middle of the whole Elsie debacle, I continued to recover from my second thyroid surgery. Neither of these surgeries, the one in April and the one in October, was a hard recovery. I did some alternative healing modalities to quicken the process. The scar is barely noticeable (thank goodness for a few wrinkles). I try to remember to massage my neck often. I want to keep the scar tissue at a minimum. And, I remain positive.

The next step in this process is deciding whether to move forward with the radioactive iodine treatment (RAI). My endocrinologist is really encouraging me to follow through, yet I have been hesitant. You may wonder why and so do I. There are no real clear answers to this hesitancy. I have decided to go forward with the next step, which is an appointment with Nuclear Medicine. This is when I will get the definitive details on the whole process. I also know that I can stop the process at any time.

Taking the pill is definitely a process. First I have to switch medicines, that has been done. Two weeks prior to the ingestion of the RAI, I need to go on a low iodine diet, so that any thyroid tissue that is left will be thirsty for iodine. Next, I have to isolate myself from the general public for a week to ten days. That is the hardest part. I need to be eight to ten feet from the closest person. Can I stay in my rig? What precautions do I need to take?  How do I manage the daily chores of living in an RV? How, what, when and where? Yes, this is what I ask myself.

I belong to two thyroid support pages on Facebook. The people on these sites have been extremely helpful and supportive. When something happens in my life these support groups are a lifeline. I am sure others feel the same. I also have been accessing another web site, Thyroid Cancer Survivors. This site is loaded with information and knowledge and a cook-book. The best support is being supported by others who have already gone through what I am going through now.

I know I have a lot of support out in the big wide world, yet when it comes down to this week in my life, I am in it alone. At times like this, I miss Jim. I miss having someone to bounce everything off of. I miss having someone to take care of me so I can go into retreat for a week. I miss someone being there to make it easier. Yet I will endure and it is only a week of my life. Well, that is not too bad.

The desert at it’s best

Tomorrow I leave the campground. I am visiting a friend in the mountains, cold but not too cold. I come back into San Diego for an appointment mid-week and then I am driving east. It is the desert season. I plan to arrive in Borrego Springs and Anza Borrego State Park by Thursday at the latest. I have friends there and I am looking forward to catching up. With boots and poles in hand, I am looking forward to hiking the hills and washes.

The nice thing about the desert being so close at hand, I can easily drive into town the night before my appointment on the 23rd and when it is done, turn around and drive the two hours back east. At the moment I realize I need to be flexible. I want to move forward with my life even while I wait.

It is important to remember to take one step at a time. Too many steps all at once increases stress. I don’t like to do stress so I will take it one step and then the next. It is all any of us can do. And look for the positive in each given moment.

Taking the next step.

 

Conversational Narcissism

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”                      Epictetus

Sunday I took myself out for a late breakfast at a restaurant near where I am camped in San Diego County. The Trails is becoming a favorite of mine. The menu is good and even though it is often crowded and there is a wait, as a single I get to sit at the first come first serve counter. I love sitting there. I never know who is going to be sitting next to me.

The first time I went I met a young man who shared with me all of his favorites on the menu. We had a delightful conversation. Since then I have seen him again. As I walked in he was walking out. Yesterday I met Dan, an older man, an author, and quite the conversationalist. I spent almost two hours chatting with him, learning about his unique and interesting life. For two whole hours, I left my cell phone ignored on the counter, and when it did ring I simply set it to message. I don’t do that often enough these days. It is definitely something I would like to do again and a bit more often.

Lately, I have had some sites cross my Facebook page regarding the topic of Conversational Narcissism. When I reposted it I was amazed at the responses I received. It appears many of us saw a little bit of ourselves in the related post: The Mistake I Made With My Grieving Friend. This article and further articles I have researched on this topic have made me very aware of my human fallacy when attempting to support and listen to my friends and others.

“Conversational Narcissism was coined by sociologist Charles Derber and describes the tendency to turn a conversation back to yourself. Conversational narcissists tend to keep the focus on themselves, so you’re getting attention but not giving any away. It invalidates the other person and what they’re trying to share. The problem is, talking about ourselves is natural, so it’s hard to notice when you’re overdoing it.” (Marissa Lalibert)

I have experienced this with Jim’s death, my own experiences with cancer and currently with the loss of Elsie the Cat. Many times the conversation was turned around to the person who was attempting to listen and support me. There are times that this made me feel unacknowledged and uncomfortable. Never, please never tell someone to move on. Need I say more.

Part of being human is recognizing my own frailties and learning how to change and grow from this recognition. I recognize that I have also been the one turning the conversation to myself. I hope that it happens less now. I am more aware of this conversational tendency and I can catch myself, take a deep breath and turn the conversation back to the person who is needing my support and love.

In my twenties and thirties, I studied medicine and spirituality with the Native American culture. I valued the “Talking Stick”. The Talking Stick is a tool used in many Native American traditions when a council is called. It allows all council members to present their point of view. It is passed from person to person as they speak and only the person holding the stick is allowed to talk during that time period. Using an object, any object is a visible reminder to those of us not holding the stick to be quiet and listen, really listen. The person holding the stick is able to complete a thought or idea. The speaker feels his opinion is respected and valued and considered.

The Society of Friends, more commonly known as The Quakers also practice this art of listening in their Silent Meetings for Worship. “During worship, a message may come to us. Friends have found that messages may be for our personal reflection or for sharing on another occasion. Or they may be led to stand and speak. Friends value spoken messages that come from the heart and are prompted by the Spirit, and we also value the silence we share together. Following a spoken message, we return to the silence to examine ourselves in the Light of that message. Meeting for worship ends when one Friend, designated in advance, shakes hands with his or her neighbors. Then everyone shakes hands. No two meetings are ever the same.”

Back to Dan at the restaurant on Sunday. He was a delightful man with a very interesting past. The longer I sat there, I realized he never asked me anything about myself. For almost two full hours Dan spoke of himself and his life experiences. Dan never even asked me my name. Although I enjoyed hearing of his life and the history of Los Angeles, where he grew up, and what he had achieved in his life, he never once asked me about myself. What was I doing there? Where did I live? The usual conversation openers when people meet for the first time were not present.

In certain circumstances, maybe Conversational Narcissism is OK. I learned a lot from Dan. He was a storyteller and wove the stories of his life in an interesting and ear-catching way. I had a delightful two-hour conversation with him. I did not feel devalued or left out. Even recognizing that he never asked me anything about myself, the two hours were delightful. I had no expectations just a good breakfast companion.

I also think that what we see as a one-sided conversation, maybe contributed to loneliness. Dan lived alone, I live alone. Sometimes when I am around others I will tend to talk more than when I shared my life with Jim and even Miss Elsie the Cat. Yes, I do get tired of my own company. Yes, there are ideas I want to share. I do try to catch myself when I feel like I am talking too much. I believe I do better at this today than when I was younger.

I am sitting in a coffee house as I write this. My ears are a little more tuned into conversations around me. The art of conversation is hard. Unless we have taken classes in the art of conversation, all of us struggle just a little with the whole idea of communicating with others. I was not taught how to converse as I was growing up. You just did it. Sometimes it was successful and others, well, not so much.

As we approach the holiday and we gather with family and friends, our conversational awareness will be tested. The family often is the ultimate test of conversation. They can be the most critical and the most supportive. As I approach Christmas day I hope that I can remember to take a deep breath and truly listen to the joy of others in the celebration of this day.