Posts Tagged With: living with uncertainty

Day 2685: Despair

In all the two thousand, six hundred and eighty-five days I have been blogging, I have never once used the word “despair.”

Today, the news causes me to despair.

What should I do with despair?  I shall turn to others who have written about despair before:

“Because I remember, I despair.  Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair.” — Elie Weisel

“The opposite of hope is despair, and when we despair, it is because we feel that there are no choices.” — Warren G. Bennis

“It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not.” — J.R.R. Tolkien

“Never despair, but if you do, work on in despair.” — Edmund Burke

“The most common form of despair is not being who you are. ” — Søren Kierkegaard

“Despair is is the price one pays for self-awareness.  Look deeply into life, and you’ll always find despair.” — Irvin Yalom

“Despair is the fleeting fury of a hopeless soul.” — Immanuel Kant

“Despair is the suicide of the heart.” —  Jean Paul Richter

“Human life begins on the other side of despair.” — Jean-Paul Sartre

“Life, which creates despair, is stronger than despair.” — Alain Grandbois

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”
Mahatma Gandhi

“But what we call our despair is often only the painful eagerness of unfed hope.” —  George Eliot

“Action is the antidote to despair.”  — Joan Baez

I was beginning to despair that all the quotes today would be from men, until I found those last two.

Do you see despair in any of my photos from yesterday?











Here is “Despair” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs:

I believe gratitude is an antidote to despair, so thanks to all who help me create this blog, day after day.



Categories: life during the pandemic, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Day 2456: Time’s a-wastin’

“Time’s a-wastin'” is a phrase I used during my “Ted Talk” at my 45th college reunion yesterday.

Before I gave my talk, all the speakers at the event received an email explaining what would happen if we were a-wastin’ too much time during our 5-minute talks.

To help you keep track of the time, we will be holding up a sign for: FIVE minutes. Then SIX minutes. Then a buzzer at 7 mins.

I wrote to the organizers:

You can count on me to do what’s right.  Since I’ve got my speech pretty much memorized, please don’t rattle me with fingers or timers.

I also wrote this:

Mine is between 5 and 6 minutes. Okay?????

I was sure I wouldn’t be a-wastin’ people’s time by going over the limit because I had timed myself several times.

Because several people (including somebody with the same rare heart condition as mine) had asked me to record my speech, I left my phone running under my chair when I spoke, despite the no-taping request at the event.  I also recorded the speech for all of you, because  this blog was part of my “big finish” (as I’ve been spending much time discussing here, in previous posts).

Then I gave my speech, totally from memory.

When I checked the tape, I realized that I had slowly taken my time and taken up 10 minutes and 47 seconds!  So much for expectations.  I also realized that the organizers had respected my request and not held up signs or interrupted me with buzzers. If they had, it would have  upset me so much, I know, that all my preparation would have been wasted.

Because I always try to keep my promises, I wasted some time feeling bad about going SO MUCH over the limit.  I apologized to one of the organizers, and she said, “No worries.” (She said more, but I won’t be a-wastin’ your time with that.)

Without any further time-wastin’ ado, here is the “bootleg” of my speech yesterday:



In case any of that is difficult for you to hear, here’s the “5-minute” speech I had written:

I want to start out with a question to you. Raise your hand if you remember where you were on November 22, 1963. I’m different from all of you. I have no memory of that day because I was having heart surgery to get my first cardiac pacemaker. While you were being traumatized by the assassination of President Kennedy, my family and I were being traumatized by my unexpected surgery, by hospital rules preventing parents from staying with their kids, and by medical staff not knowing how to answer the questions of a confused and frightened l0-year-old girl like  “What is that coffin on the TV screen?” and “What is this giant thing sticking out of my body?”

I’ll tell you how I got there. I was born with the rarest of congenital heart conditions. My heart is essentially backwards, with the ventricles, great vessels, and valves switched and doing jobs they weren’t designed to do. Plus, the electrical impulses that control a heart’s rhythm are completely blocked in mine, which means I need a pacemaker to survive. However, pacemakers hadn’t been invented yet.

Luckily, I did well enough until I was 9, when my heart rate got slower and slower. You can see it in photographs from that time: I look like a ghost child in a family of mortals. The doctors tried speeding up my heart with yucky medicine that made me sick. Pacemakers were too new, too untested, and way too big for children to be even mentioned as an option.

Which brings us to November 1963. I was in the hospital for observation when my heart stopped and then started up again. That changed everything. The doctors told my parents they’d have to put in a pacemaker immediately, which would “stick out like a sore thumb.” When my mother expressed doubts about this new plan, the surgeon asked, “Do you want to lose your daughter?”

They didn’t lose me, but I had to struggle not to lose myself, as the pacemakers kept breaking down in every conceivable way. Once, when we were back in the hospital because my pacemaker had failed just two weeks after the latest operation, the surgeon called another one of my doctors on the phone and said, “The Koplows are here with their lawyer” — as a joke. My father and I used our senses of humor to mix things up — that December I went into the operating room wearing a sign that said, “Do not open until Christmas.”

Despite my many absences from school, I excelled academically, ran for class office,  read voraciously,  and appreciated the few benefits of being so different from my classmates, like getting out of gym class, which all my friends hated.  I read a book about Helen Keller who had also overcome physical differences with a palpable appreciation for being alive. Right then, I decided I wanted to go to Radcliffe, just like her.

When I was at Harvard, pacemakers had improved enough that I needed far fewer visits to the hospital. And just as I had avoided gym class, I managed to graduate without passing the swimming test. That’s another way I’m different from you.

Before, during, and after Harvard, I’ve lived my life with a deep sense of my own mortality — there’s no telling how long my very unusual heart will last. This makes me pretty impatient —time’s a-wastin’ and too precious to spend on small talk or on anything I don’t love. That’s why I changed careers until I found my soul’s best work as a wounded healer. I’m a group therapist who specializes in trauma.

And while I got enough personal training in trauma when I was young, I’ve had major heart-related crises in the latter part of my life. My poor, overworked tricuspid valve leaked badly, causing several bouts of endocarditis and also weakening my heart. Some doctors said I needed that leaky valve replaced, another doctor said that valve replacement would change the pressure in my heart to a catastrophic effect. Nobody seemed to know, because of the rarity of my condition.


In May, 2016, I met with the experts on hearts like mine at the Mayo Clinic. They said, “You must have that valve replaced immediately.“ Because my only child — a son with a fabulously normal heart — was about to enter his first year at the University of Edinburgh and we had plans to spend August together in Scotland, I asked for an extension. Well, I made it to Scotland, made it through my son leaving the nest, and made it through open heart surgery to get a new mechanical valve, exactly three years ago today.

So as I tell my story to you today, I wonder, perhaps along with you, what has allowed me to survive, so intact, through all this? What has helped me pick up the pieces, over and over again? As when I was a child — the love of my family and friends sustain me. Also, seven years ago I expanded my network of friends by starting a daily blog. Every morning, including today, I’ve written about my heart, my son, my passion for the healing power of groups, my song-writing, my cats, my hopes, my fears, this speech — whatever helps gird me and prepare me for the day ahead. The day after my heart valve surgery was the only day I needed a substitute blogger — my boyfriend Michael let my thousands of followers know I had survived the complicated procedure. Their comments included “Fantastic news! I’m in public but I’m dancing all the same,” and “She’s going to be alright guys’ is the best line ever!”

As a group therapist, I know that community is essential for survival. Perhaps because of all the traumas I’ve been through, I need a bigger group than most to keep me going. Thanks for being part of my group, here and now.

After I gave my speech, many people told me that they

  • were inspired,
  • thought I was very brave,
  • had an amazingly polished and effective delivery,
  • never knew any of this about me, even though we were good friends in college, and
  • were struggling with heart issues.

I guess people didn’t believe that I had been a-wastin’ time with my speech.

Let’s see if I was a-wastin’ time yesterday with the photos I took during the day:







If you leave any comments, that will be time well spent for me.

Time’s a-wastin’, so I will express my gratitude to all those who help me make it through every day, including YOU.




Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

Day 1291: Inexplicable

Rather than have “inexplicable” be inexplicable, here’s a definition:

unable to be explained or accounted for.
“for some inexplicable reason her mind went completely blank”
synonyms: unaccountable, unexplainable, incomprehensible, unfathomable, impenetrable, insoluble

For some inexplicable reason, my mind never seems to go completely blank.

Yesterday morning, I inexplicably said to a team of doctors that came to my hospital room:

People seem to find my getting pneumonia inexplicable. What should I say to somebody who asks, “How did you pick this up?”

The head resident inexplicably smiled, paused, and then responded.

Tell them, “I got it from you.”

That response is inexplicable, unless you realize that he was kidding.

Yesterday, I inexplicably had an almost completely positive day at Boston’s Tufts Medical Center, where I’ve been hospitalized since Sunday, as follows:

  • they got me off I.V. antibiotics and onto oral ones,
  • I stopped wearing any sort of oxygen support,
  • I did many laps around the hospital unit, and
  • several of the doctors mentioned the possibility that I might be going home today.

My happiness at the end of the day is probably not inexplicable.

Then,  one of the nurses woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me that my oxygen levels had inexplicably gone down while I was sleeping. No matter what position I got into, the oxygen levels remained inexplicably insufficient.  As I am writing this inexplicable post, I am back on oxygen support.

Will this inexplicable drop in my oxygen levels affect my chances of going home today?

Your inexplicable guess is as good as mine.

Are any of my photos from yesterday inexplicable?





































If any of those images are inexplicable, let me know and I shall explain.

Are my two musical choices for this post (found here and here on YouTube) inexplicable?



Honestly, if there are no comments on this post, I shall find that inexplicable.

Explicable thanks to all who helped me create this inexplicable post and to you — of course! — for reading it.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Day 976: Reflections

Here’s my first reflection of this post:

What we reflect out into the world — and what we see reflected back at us — is a reflection of our inner, sometimes hidden reflections.

Here’s my second reflection of this post:

That’s a lot of reflection, so early in the morning.

Yesterday morning, after I had reflected some morning reflections in my 975th consecutive daily-reflections blog post, I saw this reflected in my iPhone:

That reflects how much construction is going on around here.

At my office, we reflected about the reflections of anger, and how internal reflections of anger can be distorted:

After four hours of therapeutic reflections at work, I had these reflections:

  • It was my co-worker Mary’s last day before her retirement (which will give  her precious and deserved time to relax and reflect) and — despite both of us previously reflecting that we wanted to meet for some goodbye reflections — I had to leave work at noon, without her image reflecting in my eyes. My sadness about Mary’s leaving reflects her kindness and her beautiful nature.
  • I was about to see myself reflected, in a medical sort of way, for four hours of pacemaker/defibrillator tests, echocardiograms, and reflections with my cardiologist, Dr. Deeb Salem, who has been reflecting with me since 1980 about how to reflect the best treatment towards my strangely reflecting heart.
  • Since birth, I’ve often reflected about  how to reflect on that strangely reflecting heart of mine, which reflects blood back to my body through very unusual pathways.
  • Since November 2014, many different Boston cardiologists have reflected back mixed, contradictory, and sometimes dire reflections about my prognosis, which reflects how rare and confusing my reflecting heart is.
  • Perhaps those mixed medical reflections have been reflected in some of my daily blog posts, since then.
  • Four months ago, after much reflection, my team at Tufts Medical Center and I decided on a cardiac procedure that would reflect the least amount of harm onto my strangely reflecting heart and which might extend my years of reflection on this amazingly reflecting earth.

Since what we notice reflects our inner reflections, I reflected these reflecting images onto my iPhone after I left work yesterday and went to my medical appointments, sometimes lost in reflection:

Finally, at 3:30 PM — after reflecting with pacemaker experts and technologists and students in the echocardiography lab (not pictured) — I was reflecting, with my wonderfully reflecting cardiologist, Dr. Deeb Salem, upon my strangely reflecting heart. These afternoon reflections included the worries and hopes we’ve reflected together during our mutually reflecting medical partnership for over 35 reflection-filled years. The focus of those reflections  reflected the uncertainties of the last year. I also reflected with Dr. Salem some fear that how difficult it is for me to climb steps and hills might reflect poorly on my heart (although it might just reflect my age, the need for more exercise, and/or how strangely my backwards-reflecting heart operates).

As Dr. Salem and I reflected together, our tones probably reflected the fact that we were waiting for the echocardiography lab to reflect back some important findings, including:

  • my strangely reflecting ventricle’s ejection fraction, which would reflect whether I was heading toward heart failure and
  • how much my strangely located and reflecting  tricuspid valve was leaking.

At this point in this reflecting blog post, I could include many more reflections reflecting all the topics Dr. Salem and I reflected upon yesterday, but I’m reflecting that you probably want the reflections from the echo lab, as soon as possible.  There’s no reason why your wait to find out those reflecting results should reflect the time Dr. Salem and I waited together.  Therefore …

I think those facial expressions reflect the happiness reflected in the room when the echocardiogram reflected that

  1. My ejection fraction is no worse and maybe a little bit BETTER, reflecting no dreaded downward trend in the functioning of my strangely reflecting heart and
  2. My leaky valve is reflecting blood just the way it has for years, reflecting stability.

Dr. Salem’s reflection to me: “If these numbers stay like this, you should be around for a while. ”

Pretty good reflections, right?

After much reflection on what music to include in this reflection-filled post,  I choose to reflect my love and esteem for my co-worker Mary, like so:

Take 6 (singing “Mary”) reflects THE best a capella singing I have ever heard, in my 62 years of reflection in this world.

If you express your reflections on this post, I shall reflect back a reply, after due reflection.

Reflections of gratitude towards Dr. Deeb Salem, Mary, Take 6, everybody else whose reflections helped me write this post, and you — of course! — for all your reflections, here and now.

Categories: gratitude, inspiration, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , | 34 Comments

Day 772: Grapevines

Today’s word and topic, dear readers, is “Grapevines.” I know at least three definitions of the word “grapevine.” Let’s see what the on-line defining experts say.

1. a vine native to both Eurasia and North America, especially one bearing fruit (grapes) used for eating or winemaking. Numerous cultivars and hybrids have been developed for the winemaking industry.

I’ve never seen the word “cultivars” before, but maybe I’ll find out about that and other grapevine-related information when I visit Wine Country in California, very soon.


When I grapevined over to Google Images and entered “Wine Country California,” I received the above sign of that grapevine-y image (found here).

Here’s the next definition of “grapevine”:

2. informal
used to refer to the circulation of rumors and unofficial information.
“I’d heard through the grapevine that the business was nearly settled”

Perhaps you’ve heard it through the grapevine — or through your own experience of my blog — that I like to include music I love in these posts. Yesterday, I heard it, through my headphones, THREE versions of a favorite song in a grapevine row, as I was walking and grapevining to my car after work.

Gladys Knights and the Pips are grapevining through “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” here on YouTube.

Yes I am also hearing this live performance of Marvin Gaye singing “I Heard it Through the Grapevine on YouTube:

Creedance Clearwater Revival also are hearing it through the grapevine (here on YouTube, with lyrics):

Whenever I hear Creedance’s version of “Grapevine,” this thought grapevines through my mind: What accent is assigned, when “heard” sounds like “hoid”?

Before you hear this through the grapevine, I’ll tell you that I also like Michael McDonald‘s version of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” (here on YouTube):

You may have heard it through the grapevine — or just read it in this post — that I know a third definition of grapevine.

Can you guess what that is?

That third definition did NOT grapevine back to me in my first search online for grapevine defines.

When I grapevine over to, I find these grapevine signs:

First Known Use of GRAPEVINE

circa 1736
Rhymes with GRAPEVINE

A-line, affine, airline, align, alkyne, alpine, assign, at sign, balkline, baseline, beeline, benign, bloodline, blue line, blush wine, bo…

The Merriam-Webster grapevine gives us the date of first usage and the beginning of an obviously long list of rhymes, but no sign or line of the fine wine of that third way to define.

One more grape from the vine of Merriam Webster:

Definition of GRAPEVINE

city N Texas NE of Fort Worth pop 46,334

I shall now grapevine more online defines until the defining stars align in a way that’s benign and in line with mine.

Arrghh!  I can’t find that definition for which I pine!  Although I did find these fine lines, at

In the Civil War, a grapevine telegraph was a gadget used for communicating. From there, people started talking about “the grapevine” as a source of information, especially gossip. If you heard from a friend of a friend that another friend is getting married, you heard it on the grapevine. If your cousin’s cousin told you about a family scandal, you heard it on the grapevine. The grapevine is unofficial and full of hearsay: what you hear might not be accurate.

Perhaps it’s unofficial, hearsay, and inaccurate that there is a third definition of “grapevine.” However, I shall not resign, but bee-line to this fine define at Wikipedia:

Grapevine (dance move)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Grapevine is a dance figure in partner dancing that shares a common appearance, with some variation, in ballroom, club, and folk dances. It includes side steps and steps across the support foot. The step is used, for example, in the Foxtrot, Polka, Electric Slide and Hustle as well as in Freestyle aerobics.

Here are some signs and lines I saw as I grapevined through yesterday:

IMG_5385 IMG_5387 IMG_5392IMG_5393IMG_5395IMG_5396IMG_5397IMG_5399  IMG_5400

IMG_5403 IMG_5406 IMG_5409 IMG_5414 IMG_5416 IMG_5417



One final grapevine sign: I have yet to hear — through the medical grapevine — anything defined about my heart’s (alleged) decline (while I feel fine enough to grapevine).

That won’t stop me from grapevining up the coast of California, starting in three fine days!

Thanks to grapevines, grapeviners, definers, all those who composed, sang, or played on any version of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” the Fenway Park area of Boston, and to you — of course! — for grapevining your way here, today.

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Day 700: Night fly

As you’ve been flying through your days and nights, have you ever heard the term “night fly”?

I just googled “nightfly,” “night-fly,” and “night fly,” and this was the only definition that came flying back (from Webster’s 1828):

NIGHT-FLY, n. An insect that flies in the night.

I expected a definition like this:

Somebody who prefers to stay awake during the night, as opposed to the day.

But, apparently, I was thinking of “night owl,” whose definition flies back immediately, from Google:

night owl
noun informal
a person who is habitually active or wakeful at night.

My boyfriend, Michael, is a night fly … I mean, night owl. I used to be one of those night-preferring creatures too;  as I get older, I love being awake during the day.

Yesterday, when I was walking– and pretty fly (for a white non-guy) — in an unseasonably warm day in the northeastern USA, this song flew through my headphones:

(Donald Fagen‘s title song from the album The Nightfly flies here, night and day, on YouTube)

I shall now fly to you the lyrics of “The Nightfly” by Donald Fagen (with some  interruptions for images that flew through the sunlight and the night into my iPhone, yesterday):

I’m Lester the Nightfly

Hello Baton Rouge
Won’t you turn your radio down
Respect the seven second delay we use

So you say there’s a race
Of men in the trees

IMG_2654 IMG_2656 IMG_2678IMG_2728

You’re for tough legislation


Thanks for calling
I wait all night for calls like these
An independent station

With jazz and conversation
From the foot of Mt. Belzoni
Sweet music


Tonight the night is mine

Late line till the sun comes through the skylight


I’ve got plenty of java

And Chesterfield Kings
But I feel like crying
I wish I had a heart of ice


Heart like ice

If you want your honey

To look super swell
You must spring for that little blue jar
Patton’s Kiss And Tell
Kiss And Tell


An independent station

With jazz and conversation
From the foot of Mt. Belzoni
Sweet music
Tonight the night is mine

Late line till the sun comes through the skylight


You’d never believe it
But once there was a time
When love was in my life

I sometimes wonder
What happened to that flame

The answer’s still the same
It was you, you, it was you


Tonight you’re still on my mind

An independent station


With jazz and conversation
From the foot of Mt. Belzoni
Sweet music
Tonight the night is mine

Late line till the sun comes through the skylight


Not too bad, for matching words and pictures on the fly, don’t you think?

Whether you, dear reader, are a night or day owl or a day or night fly, you’ve probably noticed that the nights and days have been flying from autumn into winter, from November into December, from Day 1 to Day 700 (or however else you number your days). Lately, in this blog, I’ve sometimes wondered what happened to the flame of

  • warmth,
  • energy, and
  • health

as those flames have seemed to flicker, back and forth, day to night.

However, a true detective might look more closely at this photo (which flew by above):


That’s me, your respectful blogger, in the light of day, flying and dancing in the street. My having the energy to do that yesterday, for way more than seven seconds of sweet music,  made my heart fly with hope for the future.

While The Nightfly says

I wish I had a heart like ice

I wish my heart could stay the same, like it is, without surgery.  I shall fly through several more nights and days before I know more about that (as I fly to consult with several cardiologists, one of whom I KNOW is a night fly/owl).

Am I being too obscure, oblique, or mysterious (like the Nightfly, perhaps)?  If so, please let fly with comments or questions, during your night or day.

In the meantime,


the sun’s come through the skylight.

Many thanks to all night and/or day flies, owls, moths, cats, snow-people, reindeer, and humans (including you, of course!).

Categories: personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Blog at