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It never ceases to amaze me how ripe the opportunities are to learn about life and self during stressful and embarrassing experiences. The latest Road Warrior trip was no different. The most recent teaching tour took me to Southern California and Las Vegas.
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After an 18 hour work day, I arrived at the hotel after my flight. I immediately collapsed into the bed, falling into a deep sleep in my Vegas hotel-casino sleep room. At 2:30am, I was jolted awake by the eerie whooping and buzzing sound of the fire alarm. Years ago I had to evacuate a hotel where a prom was being held and that turned out to be a false alarm. I considered remaining in my springy lumpy bed with its sandpaper sheets (I had to work on some gratitude for those…at least I was warm and had a roof over my head). When visions of the latest CNN news about terrorist training tapes popped into my bleary consciousness, I grabbed my cell phone, my watch and ring and my room key. I stumbled down the hall, deafened by that awful sound and shocked that only a couple of people were going down the stairwell.
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When we got to the bottom floor and went outside, there were only 6 people in the entire hotel had evacuated. The rent-a-security laughed (I missed the humor) and said, “It’s a false alarm…it happens every week and we don’t know what is causing it! You all can go back to your rooms.” I was relieved to be able to go back inside because the desert night air was chilly and windy and my bed-clothes were damp and I was barefoot. It was at that moment that I realized I had picked up a business card from one of the people who had attended the seminar…NOT my room key.
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Humorlessly, I headed toward the front of the hotel, too tired and irritated to be particularly embarrassed. I walked in the front door and I was probably a sight to behold. I wore a Sewanee t-shirt that was soaked with Nyquil-induced sweat, red flannel jammie bottoms with Christmas penguins (this is now my “uniform” since I locked myself out of my room in a skimpy gown, my first trip over two years ago) and I had the melted-over- hairsprayed-hair-all-scrunched-up-because-of-a-hot-flash look. I told them what had occurred…how can it be that the front desk NOT know about a fire alarm… and they gave me another key. I was told there wasn’t another way to get to my room except through the casino. As I had to walk through the middle of the cowboy packed casino (National Rodeo Finals with over 250,000 in attendance) and no one blinked an eye. It was quite freeing to do something you wouldn’t normally choose to do, might even be embarrassed to do. No one noticed and I was shocked.
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How many times in my life have I felt trapped by self-consciousness? For me it has caused me to wear a lot of black – even when it wasn’t stylish – hoping no one would notice me. It was (eventually) amusing that I could look so outrageous and no one even noticed. How much time and energy has been cluttered up with totally insignificant worries?
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The lessons of be myself, be bold, as long as it doesn’t hurt others or myself – take a risk, think about all the other things in my life I might be too self-conscious to do. In the big scheme of things they may not be a big deal, but the self-consciousness is restrictive. Also, walking through a crowded room like that is miniscule in the “how important is this, really?” department. Often, we can fool ourselves into thinking that something we have experienced or are experiencing is a huge deal. How does it compare to other things people are concerned about? When we compare that to eleven million of orphaned children in Africa that have no homes, food or parents and having to raise themselves at the age of six, or people that are fighting for their life and the lives of others in a war, or families that lost five or six family members during a terrorist attack are any of the irritating or embarrassing things in our lives really that important? It humbles me.
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During my trip I had reminder after reminder of things to be grateful for: I have the use of my legs to run through the airports and the health to do it. I saw a teenager in a wheelchair was reminded to be grateful that I had a job where I traveled, even if there was an uncomfortable bed and sandpaper sheets. I can be grateful that I have a roof over my head, expensive healthcare…but healthcare non-the-less, people who are alive and love me. We can find things to be grateful for and can be mindful of never taking ourselves too seriously, and if we do, the Universe conspires to teach us how.