Archives for the month of: June, 2019

I’m sipping my coffee, a bit pre-occupied with this headache. It’s not “the usual headache”… new treatment seems to be providing some relief, which is so excessively awesome I hesitate to mention it, since that treatment is primarily to do with physical therapy, fitness, and… decompression. Traction. Newest round of doctors, images, and all that fuss and bother, and it apparently comes down to arthritis. Again. Fucking hell. So… I hurt, because it fucking well does hurt, and it’s going to. Huh. Okay, well, I can get my head around that (lol)… now what?

Verbs. An ever-loving fuck-ton of verbs.

I have to do the work, myself. It’s not actually about pills, or cures, or permanent fixes, at all. Effort. Routine. Practices. Skillful self-care. Observation. Awareness. Hey, wait… this is starting to sound like mindfulness may weigh in at some point… 😉 It’s probably fairly obvious that I can’t just stroll into the local gym and start aggressive strength training… I do, however, have to start somewhere, with something, and I need to persist at it, because it’s those incremental improvements over time that are going to be my best shot at relief. I’m fortunate to be able to “know that” confidently; I’ve been here before, with the osteo-arthritis lower down, in my thoracic spine. Holy hell, though, y’all… having arthritis in my neck?? Fuuuuuck…. The pain, the time taken getting to a diagnosis. The number of doctors puzzled why what looks fairly un-noteworthy in an X-ray could possible cause this much pain…? I sat down with the Physical Therapist and won the PT lottery that morning; she has direct subjective experience with a similar injury and condition, and ticked off the experiences I was having, confirming each are entirely within expectations for this condition. Empirical experience for the win. One more specialist to see, but it’s nice to feel like there is progress.

Steps in a journey; maybe every single appointment, and every doctor, and every image, were all entirely necessary to get to this place?

…About those verbs? Here’s the thing; knowing isn’t enough. If I want to feel better – any better – there’s also some doing to do. Practice isn’t going to make anything “perfect” (that’s just not actually a thing), but a lot of stuff does take practice. Including exercise. Including meditation.

Before I mislead anyone about the efficiency or efficacy of mindfulness for pain management, I’ll just point you in the direction of “the guy who wrote the book” about it, and the book, itself, and a famous place.  There are other great books, and authors, on my reading list.

Mindfulness for pain management isn’t like taking a strong Rx pain reliever. Let’s start there. It’s just different than that. Is it effective? Yes. If you practice effective mindfulness practices, and practice regularly, it does help quite a lot. Don’t attempt to force mindfulness to “be an opiate” – because it isn’t, and that’s not the way it works. Does it make 100% of all pain entirely go away? Nope. (And if you live with chronic pain, and you are honest with yourself, neither do the Rx pain relievers, including opiates.) The effectiveness of mindfulness practices for pain relief, though, actually improves over time, and mindfulness doesn’t make trade-offs with my health in other ways. Have I ever give up all other pain relief medication in favor of mindfulness? I sure have, for various periods of time, occasionally still returning to needing additional pain relief – because sometimes life fucking just hurts that god damned much. That’s just real.

…Mindfulness remains in my pain relief arsenal for all the same reasons I keep it handy for fighting my personal demons, or for maintaining great emotional resilience, or for managing my anxiety… it works, and doesn’t wreck my health in other ways getting that job done – and all I have to do is practice! 🙂 Are you good at something? Don’t you practice it? Martial arts? Hiking? Ice skating? Mountain climbing? Racing cars? Building models? Practice gets us to places we would never reach on aptitude alone, does it not? 😀

I sip my coffee chuckling a bit. I’ve gone on and on about using mindfulness for pain relief because this headache this morning is fairly horrible, and largely to due with the changes in physical therapy practices I’m now using; muscle pain, rather annoyingly at the base of my skull, and in my neck, and shoulders. Ouch. Meditation for the win, this morning. Maybe that won’t always be enough to manage every headache, every morning – but it’s a great start on any headache, any day. 🙂

…If it doesn’t work? I can always begin again. 🙂

Yesterday was… hard. Tears came unexpectedly, and fairly often. Like punctuation for sentences I didn’t expect to have emotional content. My context had become emotional. It was difficult. It was strange. It is ongoing, although reduced in frequency and amplitude. It still comes in waves.

I went to work because I often find routine very comfortable and sustaining in times of turmoil and crisis. I went home early because punctuating sentences in professional conversations with floods of tears feels like a loss of dignity, feels inappropriate, and, frankly, is hard on other people; we don’t all live equally authentic lives. That’s just real. (It’s not a criticism.) My Traveling Partner was kind, supportive, and very much “there for me”.

I made a dinner of crab cakes – seasoned as my Mom would have enjoyed – with a healthy salad, and a luxurious, but quite tiny dessert. I celebrated her life, in my thoughts. I would not call it an easy evening, but I went to bed contented and generally okay with “things”, and slept through the night, untroubled by my dreams. I woke, and got through the first 15 minutes of the day before I remembered… she’s gone.

I sat down to write, with my coffee, and tried to reset my thinking a bit, to shift explicitly away from sorrow, firmly. My thinking, my recollections, and the feel of my day kept twisting out of my grip. The result was not what I expected, but I’m okay with it.

The morning ticks by, not unpleasantly. I’m just in this weird limbo; fighting the grieving without meaning to put up such resistance, struggling to “let her go” in my own heart, and unsure what I even mean by that. Was I clinging, in the first place? Who is this sorrowful hearted creature fluttering within me? I breathe. Exhale. Relax. I do a classic “body inventory” and get more comfortable with my physical experience, shifting my awareness back into “now”, over and over again. I find myself literally “twisted by grief”, shoulder aching, head aching, neck aching, less in that familiar way, and more like a reminder to be present… or else.

A favorite groove turns up on the playlist this morning, and in that peculiarly meta way I have of listening to music, seeking a useful message in the lyrics, it reminds me; it’s not all about me. I link it, and giggle out loud; it’s really not the sort of thing one would usually associate with grief, grieving, or… um… adulthood. lol I smile, and feel the ache in my face, self-conscious and strange, that results from just a simple smile. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. This, too, shall pass. This morning the words hold some comfort, and I embrace them. I feel the suggestion of a possible return to normalcy at some future point – there’s comfort in that, too.

…It’s been a while since I spent a morning listening to music. There’s a certain heavy bass experience that somehow lifts me. I chase it, track by track, feeling it in my body. I roll back years of lifetime, track by track, looking for a certain something to lift my mood, to crack open my heart and let the love pour out.

Somehow, time passes. I find my way to one more beginning. I’ll start there… well… here. A summer morning. A cup of coffee. A bit of work to do. Surrounded by love. It’s a good place to begin again. 🙂

I’m sipping my coffee. My face is wet with the tears that just keep coming. The phone call this morning was brief. Heartfelt. Tender. My sister’s resolve and her will to hold her feelings in check impress me, even as I continue to weep. We kept the call brief; no doubt she has other calls she wants to make. Neither of us like crying “out loud” in a public way, and seeing as we’re so “strong”, we manage not to cry on the phone. Much. The call ends, the tears start.

I consider not writing, but… grief isn’t an everyday experience. I already feel… shattered. This, in spite of knowing it was imminent, in spite of being “well-prepared”, in spite of speaking gently and explicitly with my Mother, herself, about this moment, frankly, compassionately, honestly… in spite of spending yesterday well-supported by a loving and concerned partner… nonetheless; I am crying. Routines are something I can fall back on to hold life together, until… something.

“This, too, shall pass.” (I know, I know – I fucking know that, now knock that shit off, while I shed these honest tears for the passing of a complex woman, who gave me life. I’ll be okay, just not… right now, exactly.)

…Anyway. No idea how this amount of grief may affect my writing. I’m glad you are here. I hope you are well. Maybe I write a lot more than usual over the next several days? Maybe I find myself unable to lift my hands to type words in row at all. I don’t even know. I guess we’ll find out together, eh?

It’ll be okay. I reflexively offer myself all the comforting platitudes I can find. “We are mortal creatures.” (That’s a very real observation, at the moment. Painfully real. It offers no particular comfort. Perhaps it will later…?) It’s not really helpful, and I let it go.

…I don’t really know what else to do. So… I begin again.

The text this morning was to the point, although not as abrupt as I imply in the title of this post. I feel grateful that my sister is right there, with our Mother. For a moment, I imagine this stern, strong, witty woman who raised me, pushing her chair back from a crowded card table, folding a less than ideal hand, and heading into the kitchen to refresh drinks. That memory is of a lifetime ago, in a far away place, disconnected from my experience of “here” and “now”. Do I want her to “hear my voice”? “Non-responsive” doesn’t sound like she’s likely to register voices… we’ve spoken recently, and regularly – is it enough?

…We don’t have a “Book of the Dead”, in our culture… It’s a strange random thought, a forerunner to intense grief.

There are tears in my eyes. I resent them; it’s too soon. Life stretches ahead of me, while I reach my thoughts – and my heart – across great distance. Imagining her as I remember her best; in her late 30s, in her early 40s. Strong. Determined. No bullshit. Rapier wit. Iron will. I observe the characteristics in myself that I most likely got from her; my tenacious loyalty. My intellect. My commitment to being a good provider. My reluctance to walk away from a bad decision. My willingness to hide my emotions for far too long. My laugh. That same laugh that her Mother had, too. I hear Granny’s laugh in my recollection. I feel, for a moment, my Mother’s warmth – like summertime in my heart. I sip my coffee and celebrate this woman who made me.

…Grieving comes soon enough. It’s important to examine those cherished moments as treasures, with great delight, and excessive merriment, and not allow the tears to wash those away. They matter so much more than the tears ever could.

Life didn’t have a map – you did okay with that, Mom. No reason to expect death to be more difficult to master; in a sense, we prepare for it all our lives, don’t we? Striving, clinging – and learning to let go. Good fold, Mom. Safe travels.

You are part of me. My journey began with you.

I sit quietly with my coffee, remembering life with my Mom. My “origin story”. Some details are fuzzy, others crystal clear. Some moments remain painful to this day, others bring me immediate joy when I recall them. One thing is certain; she will not be forgotten. Tears later. Coffee now. I wish she were sitting here, sharing that with me, right now; I have so much to ask, and now there is no time… 

I woke up easily this morning, a nice change from yesterday. Rather oddly, I woke with the whisper of a dream left behind still resonating in my consciousness. Words lingered, although I could no longer recall the dream. “You’re not the good guy, here.” And, “This isn’t about you, at all.” Interesting observations, suitable for many occasions – but I don’t have any context. The dream had already faded.

I’m not “the good guy” here, though, I’m sure of that; I’m a human being, living my life. Only that. Sure, I like to think I am doing my best. Sometimes I actually am. By many practical measures, it isn’t always the case, though; I could sometimes do more, better. That’s real, and very human.

This isn’t about me, at all. Well, much of it is not, that’s also quite true. Most of it, maybe. Like, seriously, almost any detail of any moment I can be present for, still just isn’t much “about” me. I’m here, living and being, and (in this case) drinking coffee…and even this moment, right here, early in the pre-dawn gloom, isn’t much “about” me. It’s about a typical Thursday morning. It’s about this cup of coffee, and this handful of words. It’s about this headache. It’s about the morning traffic, and the sound of little birds in the hedge beyond the window. I’m such a small part of this moment – and not in any “bad” or diminishing way. It’s just that there is so much more to… all of it. I’m just one consciousness present in this here-and-now. Taken in the larger context of “everything else”, my breath, and my very life force, are minuscule. That’s okay, too; there’s a lot of life to live, and a lot of details to take in. If I spend all of my energy on my small concerns, I’ll miss a lot of other stuff. lol

I stop drinking coffee long enough to meditate. Nice morning for it. Today, it does nothing for the headache. I hadn’t seriously expected that it would, but sometimes it does. If nothing else, it often gives me perspective on life that makes it seem of less consequence.

…I realize rather abruptly that I’d forgotten to take my morning medication when I got up. I go ahead and do that, once I’ve poked around in my recollection of the morning a bit, trying to be sure I’m correct about that (doesn’t do anything good for me to take it twice, I promise you that!) – I wash it down with coffee, feeling vaguely guilty about doing that (it’s supposed to be taken with a glass of water…). I let that petty shit go.

My body is uncomfortable, this morning. This fucking headache. Why do I call it a headache, I wonder? It is also a terrible bit of pain in my neck, and a weird jabby stabby sensation in my ear when I turn my head, sometimes, and also a rather horrible permanently cramped up trapezius, particularly painful along the top, from my neck to my shoulder. These pains all feel related to each other, and nothing much helps, so far. I think I would endure it more easily if I knew what the problem is. I’ve been in significant pain since about 1990, when my osteo arthritis developed, I don’t really expect to ever be entirely “pain free” again in my life… I do my best to care for this fragile vessel skillfully, and ease the pain as much as I am able to without poisoning myself or wrecking my health in some other way. It could be worse. I’d just like an answer to the question “what the fuck??”

Fuck. A glance at the clock reminds me of the work day ahead. Pain and employment are not really the best-ever combination of experiences, and it requires so much to stay ahead of the irritability, the distraction, and the misery of it. I breathe. I let it go. We all walk our own hard mile. We’re each having our own experience. Unavoidably, the pain I live with is the worst pain I can imagine; it’s what I know. Each one of us has our own challenge, and I am certain I have coworkers whose pain is more severe, whose life contains more chaos, who woke this morning frightened, or sad, or angry, or needing a moment of support and consideration. I can, if nothing else, do my best not to add to any of that, myself, and to be considerate, thoughtful, kind, and compassionate. I can, at least, try. Another breath. Another sip of coffee. Another moment to consider how fortunate I am to be mostly fairly healthy, all things considered, and to live with pain that doesn’t debilitate me to the point that I can’t work at all. It could be so much worse.

…Fuck this headache, though! Neck-ache? Whatever. Fuck all of that painful nastiness.

It’s time to begin again. I’ve got to work with “the materials on hand” in this life, and unfortunately, pain is a thing. I breathe through it, finish my coffee, and turn to face the day as the sun rises. 🙂