I woke during the wee hours of the night struggling with anxiety. It felt extreme, and compared to my state-of-being lately, I suppose it was. I struggled to return to sleep, dozing, and waking again later, still anxious. Meditation and managing my breathing would return me to sleep, briefly, only to wake again in this fog of tension, with this knot in the pit of my gut, and a diffuse feeling of dire… something. It was rather too literally dreadful.

I woke for the day still feeling it. I checked my heart-rate, my blood pressure; both high, which from a practical sense tells me nothing much; it is reasonable that my blood pressure and heart-rate would be high, feeling this anxious. What I don’t know is which is causal – the symptoms, or the anxiety? Knowing that it can go either way has been meaningful on past occasions, when it became clear at some point that my anxiety was a wholly physical experience, unrelated to any legitimate threat. This morning? No obvious “threat” anywhere…but there are some things I could predictably understand to be somewhat anxiety provoking; I’m not at work. What I if I made a mistake in an important log file, and some import failed? It’s a holiday. I am not available to resolve it. See? That could cause me to feel anxious. (New job – three-day weekend already? If I’m honest, that could do it, too.)

I was still turning over the anxiety puzzle in my thoughts when I headed to the kitchen to make coffee… and noticed my pain. Yep. This morning “an old friend” returns; I am in a lot of pain today.

It’s a lovely morning outside, autumn arriving, and no rain today – and although I’ve been hoping for some great hiking weather, this morning I’m fairly irked to find that the very hike-able morning arrives with a noteworthy amount of physical pain. I don’t allow myself to be surprised by it; my arthritis responds to changes in the weather, and the cooling temperatures over the autumn weeks are definitely associated with increased pain. So. What to do about it, though?

Pain makes my world smaller. I look out the window at the beauty of autumn, the changing colors of the trees on the other side of the park. I’d like to want to go hiking among the trees. What I want more is to hurt less. Anxiety? Maybe – it could be pain causing that, too. It’s been quite a while since I hurt this much, it’s no surprise to me that it would bring with it an emotional reaction, or that the reaction du jour would be anxiety. I sip my coffee, awake, aware, accepting that I am in pain (at least for now). The anxiety begins to diminish as I more fully acknowledge the pain I am in for myself.

Squirrel

One squirrel’s favorite breakfast spot.

The morning is too choice not to at least go for a short walk, new camera (phone) in hand… I swear softly under my breath when I turn to get a better look at a squirrel enjoying a bite of breakfast from a handy vantage point in a nearby tree. We often watch each other just this way – I like to think it is the same squirrel every time, but honestly, we’ve not met formally, and I can’t say for sure. Turning to move, the pain catches me by surprise again; I’ve forgotten how it limits my range of motion. I remind myself how much more important my morning yoga just became; starting the day any other way just prolongs the worst of the pain. I remind myself, too, to fully appreciate how much less pain I’ve been in, generally, over the past many weeks that this is so startlingly suck-tastic today. (Failing to do so results in less awareness of pain-free moments, and develops a strong implicit bias that suggests I am “always” in pain, which tends to become quite uncomfortably true, over time. )

A lovely morning for a journey.

A lovely autumn morning suitable for walking waits on the other side of all this pain.

I begin laying out the practices mentally… a hot shower, yoga, a healthy lean breakfast, physical therapy stuff, a walk in the park – at least 2 miles if I can manage it – but what to do about the pain? My brain refuses to give up on the pain, urgently wanting a magic bullet, an easy fix, something to be done right now. It has become the focus of the moment. I realize that it has tainted even my writing, and become my everything, for now. Unpleasant, and uncomfortable. I’m irritated with the pain, and no longer anxious. It’s just… verbs. The verbs are required or the pain will most surely persist as it is. Appropriate application of the most useful verbs will ease the pain a lot – there is no assurance that it will be completely “fixed”, although it will eventually ease enough to become inconsequential, with fair certainty. I’ve got to do the verbs, though… I hurt, even thinking about it.

Well, shit… Today is a good day to do the verbs. Today is a good day to take action and make change happen. Today is a good day to remember “this too shall pass” and “it could be much worse”. Today is a good day to take care of this fragile vessel. Some days the journey is by steps, not by miles. 🙂