AHOY!

I came across a fascinating deconstruction of the notorious nursery rhyme, Row, Row, Row Your Boat. I hadn’t given it much thought prior; however, I have to admit, it’s been eye-opening!

Before writing this, I did just a bit of supporting research – chalk it up to 18 and a half years of schooling and 3 college degrees – to help substantiate what I’m going to state. Please understand that I’m also going to use a little bit of poetic license, as this is just a wild theory, taking these sing-song lyrics and injecting new life into them, and hopefully lightening the mood for one or two of you, now and again, as your mind wanders “gently down the stream”…

Outside of this being what I’ve already mentioned is a simple nursery rhyme, new information – theory, basically – points to the song’s representation as a motivational mantra. Line by line, I’ll break down the song, and show how a new and unique perspective adds a deeper dimension.

Let’s start with the lyrics themselves (I’m sure I probably don’t need to do this, but humor me!):

Row, row, row your boat

Gently down the stream.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,

 Life is but a dream.

 

 

Okay, let’s take this one line at a time:

Row, row, row your boat

A boat is a mode of transportation that is used when traversing a body of water, right?

What if that “body of water” is the boat itself? Revolutionary? Let me explain!

The human body is over 50% water, roughly. According to Dr. Jeffrey Utz of Allegheny University, humans, at birth, are 78% water, dropping to 65% at around age one. Adult men consist of approximately 60% water and adult females, 55%. (These percentages vary based on body fat mass, as well as other factors.) Water in the human body is necessary to facilitate digestion, it lubricates joints, it regulates body temperature, it helps deliver oxygen all over the body, it aids in the reproduction and survival of the body’s cells, and it acts as a shock absorber for the brain and spinal cord. As outlined by the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, the skin contains 64% water, 79% of the kidneys are water, and the lungs are over 80% water. Surprisingly, even the bones consist of 31% water.

 

So, taking this idea that “the boat” is, in fact, your own body, this song starts off by suggesting that we move through life with a certain amount of ease, in an effort to ensure a level of self-preservation:

Gently down the stream.

Now that we’ve established that this transportation vessel (i.e. the “boat”) is something of immeasurable value (our own bodies), taking caution on the journey seems to be a no-brainer! And this “stream” – what is that, exactly?

The stream of consciousness, maybe?

The voyage through life? (The mid-Nineteenth Century artist, Thomas Cole, created a series of art pieces, depicting four stages of life: childhood, youth, manhood, and old age, all taking place in a boat on a river, “the River of Life”, accompanied by a guardian angel.)

 

 

How about the idea of ‘going with the flow’… Hmmm… Let that sink in for just a minute…

Don’t fight against the current (unless, of course, you’re a salmon…), drumming up adversity and difficulties for yourself, risking possible damage and/or jeopardizing the safety of your transportation vessel. Instead, go with the flow

…moving on…
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

Cheerfully. Gleefully. Sweetly. Vivaciously.

More to the point, though, the converse:

Not maliciously. Not angrily. Not struggling. Not anxiously.

Chronic stress has been proven to damage the structure and connectivity of the brain. Neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have presented findings that suggest that young persons exposed to chronic stress are prone to mental problems including mood disorders later in life, as well as suffering from learning difficulties. Reduction in brain white matter has also been linked to continual exposure to prolonged stress, and such matter reduction results in a change of the flow of electrical signals between neurons and brain regions. The brain’s response to both excitement and stress can, physiologically-speaking, be very similar, some studies show that different subregions of the prefrontal cortex respond differently to negative versus positive stimuli. Furthermore, far too often, excitement stimuli appears to be acute whereas stress stimuli is more often chronic. Without the ability to fight or flee, the “fight or flight” response within the adrenal system becomes torment. I believe it was Shakespeare who said “A tragedy is a comedy misunderstood”. That’s not to say that any of life’s tragedies – the loss of a job, the passing of a family member, devastation due to a natural disaster, etc. – should be viewed as a misunderstood comedy; however, often we dwell more on tragedies than we do on comedies – mulling over the circumstances of a traumatic event long after it has occurred, but allowing a joyful and light-hearted moment to escape like a wave on the shore – and perhaps we should turn this behavior around… We all need to traverse this thing called LIFE more merrily, I think…

Life is but a dream.

This brings us back to the idea of consciousness (the stream of consciousness mentioned above)…

It’s time to wake up to the reality of things – this life is temporal! None of us is going to live forever! Regardless of how meticulous you maintain your transportation vessel – and I’m not saying it’s a bad idea; I’m just saying these human bodies of ours were not designed to last forever – or how gentle and pristine the stream you’re traversing happens to be, whether by careful manipulation or sheer luck, just about the only thing we have control over in this life is our attitude! Maybe that’s why “merrily” is repeated F.O.U.R. times – emphasizing the importance of adopting the right attitude as we travel down the stream of life.

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So, as you ponder these words in a new light, what will your response be?

“Good morning, God!”     or     “Good God… morning…”

Sunrise over river Val -d'Or region

Short Circuit

Poison or a firing squad?

No cell service or a dead cell phone battery?

A shoebox apartment in the city near work with astronomical rent prices or room to stretch out with an hour-long commute?

An inescapable bad date or no date?       bad-date

Choosing between the lesser of two “evils” – never a fun task! And truly, how often is the choice really something we get to actually make, instead of the decision being out of our hands but ours to bear regardless?

…well, I guess we can decide to stay holed up in our tiny little apartment, refusing to take chances on meeting new people for fear of encountering whiny, un(der)educated, hyper-sensitive, self-obsessed, unemployed individuals who freak out when you use the word “friend” instead of being instantly “in love” and fully committed to romantic attachments within 12 hours of making their acquaintance, but I digress…

What I’m talking about are the real-life situations we’re presented with, where neither outcome is a bed of roses, and the choice is unfortunately not yours to make.

 

kraken-antiqueResolution-making aside, ‘January’s are traditionally difficult in my line of work; this has been a particularly rough one. I’ve been battling several different illnesses since the 2nd day of 2017, which makes things challenging: a quick bout of laryngitis, followed by a sinus infection with the grip hold of the Kraken! I feel as if I’ve been walking around with my head under water for two weeks! The sweet aroma of new beginnings does not fill my nasal passages – cotton packing coated with rubber cement does! But I’ve been through wicked infections before, and survived. Even with mangled sinus cavities, narrowed by scar tissue from a previous surgery, I’ve come out the other side still intact. This week, though, it was as if every force in nature wanted to see me flat on my tookus!

So I can’t breathe properly; so what of it? Been there, done that! So I have to work 12-hour days while not being able to breathe properly – you’re talking to the girl who worked half-days while going through radiation treatment (disclaimer: NOT recommended!! I was incredibly foolish, and harbored way too much self-imposed obligation)! Bring. It. On. So when the doctor’s office calls in the middle of the day to tell you that what should have been routine laboratory blood tests came back dangerously abnormal, I should be able to keep it together, right? You bet your sweet cherry cheesecake I did! For a whole day and a half, I put on the BEST performance of my life!

That fateful day, I was instructed to go back to the lab after work, and have another test done, to verify the results of the initial “abnormal” reading. THREE blood draws later ended in THREE confirmations of the “abnormal” results. Completely stunned and suffering from a severe sucker-punch to the gut, I somehow managed to fumble my way from the lab facility to the market, blindly to the pharmacy, then home to cook dinner for the household. Eating was by rote, and I recall retiring early that evening – I felt like there was nothing more I could do; any effort otherwise would result in further damage of some sort!

The next day, I casually played the role of “hey, it’s me”, while burdened with strict “dos” and “don’ts” from the doctor, wanting desperately to scream, cry, and drown my fears and frustrations in Cake Batter frozen yogurt with rainbow sprinkles (don’t judge)! Instead, payrolls were processed, tax forms were prepared, payments were received, and invoices were issued, all without anyone being the wiser. All while inside I was frantic to know why my body was suddenly short-circuiting!

Finally, Doctor-Visit-Day! Things that morning were still pear-shaped, which baffled the doctors (yes, now more than one doctor was on-board with the treatment protocol) and led to heightened anxiety. Before cozying my toosh in the clinical environment, though, I had to be “hey, it’s me” for a few hours, and as if the Kraken sinus infection wasn’t enough to deal with, the client engagement I had that morning decided to throw me a curve ball – a nationally-recognized personnel firm making a Grand Canyon-sized mistake on the financial documents of the company’s two owners! Really? Today?! Gaw!!

tight-rope-grand-canyon

Can you say “PANIC ATTACK”? I knew you could!

Anyway, off to the doc’s…

After a long discussion (and I admit, a few tears shed in the solitude of the doctor’s office), we’ve come to the conclusion that the most viable reasons for such rapid changes and rare abnormalities are these: either my pancreas has decided to call it quits (or has been harvested by aliens while I was sleeping…) or the resident “big bully booger” (aka brain tumor I’ve been hosting rent-free since 2008) has finally awakened from its slumber to wreak havoc on my endocrine system. So which is the better option? Ummm, neither, thank you very much!

Look, I can live with knowing I have an inoperable growth inside my head. Heck, I’ve been doing that for over 8 years now! Sure, it’s a crazy thing to say: I have a brain tumor. But, I know that I’m one of the lucky ones! My tumor is non-malignant, and slow-growing. Sure, it comes with side effects: headaches, constant ringing in my ears, GH deficiency, thyroid issues, and the inability to regulate body temperature to name a few, but these are minor inconveniences once you get used to them. However, if the tumor is growing, that can be an issue! It’s precariously close to the optic nerves, and maniacally embracing the internal carotid artery (thus the reason it’s deemed “inoperable”). Additional growth is not a good thing! Blindness is not a good thing; artery strangulation is not a good thing…

On the flip side, I’m not in the mood to have yet another system in my body go caput! I don’t know too much about pancreatic function, but I’m starting to get the impression that it’s pretty darned important (and maybe a little fickle, or maybe that’s just me)! Two of my doctors consulted and decided to do a severe change-up with my medications, STAT! I’m still supposed to adhere to strict “dos” and “don’ts” until more information has been gathered about the status of the tumor (MRI has already been performed; just waiting on report now), and begin living as if my pancreas is on hiatus…

footprints-to-water

 

I don’t get to choose firing squad or poison. My choice, however, is to keep on keeping on, despite the diagnosis

in spite of the diagnosis!

 

UPDATE: MRI results – tumor is stable! Yay! So, now it’s off to investigate who authorized the vacation request for my pancreas, and check every possible travel manifest between the vocal chords, the left big toe, and Tahiti to figure out where that darned thing took off to! I need it back at its post, up and functioning properly – STAT!

Quantity vs. Quality

I’m stealing a few moments to compose this post… Why, you ask? Because I absolutely lost track of the days this week! I know, right? Not that anything in particular has been happening…  Trust me when I say nothing special – absotively, posilutely, N.O.T.H.I.N.G.   S.P.E.C.I.A.L. – has been going on this week; one beige-tinted day bleeding into the next… With that, I’ve just lost track of which boring-blah, “do I really have to do this again?!” day it was, and missed my typical Wednesday evening post…

I am proud to report my son’s face still sports some pretty spiffy stubble, for those with super-sharp vision! He complains about it every other day, as he rubs his hand across his chin. I just chuckle and urge him to carry on the brave fight! I think for his birthday – well, more an early birthday gift – I’ll get him a nice set of blades and a razor handle, from one of those mail order men’s shave vendors. I think he’ll enjoy that; it’ll appear much more “manly” than the, umm, planetary-named blade of blush tone he currently has resting on the sink in his bathroom…

I, on the other hand, have come to the conclusion that attempting to rush from a 40,000-plus word-count, 8-week semester in school that ended in late October right into NaNoWriMo was definitely ill-fated, at minimum. Both the excruciating physical pain in my hand due to arthritis in my lower thumb joint coupled with the emotional stress of pushing – nay, bullying – myself into such an undertaking has left me feeling even more drained, and with that, the fibro flares and tumor headaches have become more frequent instead of the exact opposite – enjoying the idea of not being in school right now, relaxing, taking in all the life has to offer, spending time with friends and family, and foregoing the stress of a rigid non-work-related schedule. It is apparent that I needed more than 10 days to recuperate from the school term, and I didn’t allow myself that time.

On the bright side, I did come up with a new story line, and I will pursue it! If everything works out well, I will actually COMPLETE this project! (I do go to bed every night thinking up both dialog and scene progression, so that’s good!) I just won’t continue to force myself to meet some unattainable – unattainable for me, anyway, and at this particular juncture in my life, extremely unrealistic – timeline for the sake of what, saying “I did it”? I’d rather say “I did it!” when I know saying so will go hand-in-hand with presenting something worth reading, and won’t land my toosh in a hospital bed!

Here’s to growing wise in my old age, and appreciating the difference between quantity and quality.