Archives for category: pain

I woke during the night with an unsteady tummy. I took steps to be prepared for being sick if things were to turn for the worse; I left the light on in the hall bathroom and a hair tie on the counter. It’s not the closest bathroom of the two in this place, but it is bigger, and more suited somehow to being ill. It’s near enough. Easy to get to, too. So. I was prepared, and I went to back sleep.

I woke sometime shortly past day break. 6:30-ish. I slept in. ๐Ÿ˜€ Well… that’s my idea of sleeping in. I’m usually up by 4:30 am. I woke to a tidy home, a clean kitchen, and a smile on my face. Nice. There are a few things to do today, to face the short work week ready to travel: some tidying up, laundry, vacuuming, empty the dishwasher of clean dishes… basic household care. It’s a good day for it. I feel rested. The gray featureless sky doesn’t tempt me to the trail – or to the studio. I have brunch plans, and a partially read book. Brunch and housework sounds like a fine when to spend the day, and winding things down with a quiet evening reading sounds lovely, too.

As I sip my coffee, first one brunch friend, then another, lets me know they can’t make it today. I hear from my Traveling Partner as we cross paths in the digital world, as I wake up, and he winds down from a long night. By the time I finish my coffee, brunch “with…” has become “brunch solo?”. I barely register any disappointment – and perhaps this sets me apart from some sorts of people; I genuinely value and enjoy time spent with myself (particularly now that I’ve learned to treat myself well, generally).

I pause for a moment to consider, seemingly rather randomly, that “genuinely” and “generally” positioned so close to each other in a sentence seem a tad repetitive, even though they are totally different words. Then I find cause to be irked with the frequency of -ly endings. I notice my coffee is finished. I feel irked by that and slightly irritable. I take a deep breath, relax, and allow myself to recognize that I am, actually, a bit disappointed about brunch falling through. Acknowledging the feeling, however fleeting, prevents it from becoming festering discontent. The moment needed nothing more than awareness, respect, and acknowledgement, and the feeling dissipates. Emotions are funny that way. Fight them, they fight back. Embrace them, feed them, they deepen, and sometimes take over. Resist them completely, they flare up in the background, influencing our experience of other circumstances in sometimes subtle ways, and altering our understanding of other moments. Acknowledge them with awareness, respecting the experience without fueling the fire, and they become a sign post on a journey, a reminder, and a moment observed; that tends to be what I’m going for these days.

I find myself still a bit irritable, and not finding anything in my immediate environment or experience to explain that, I pause my writing and do a quick “self inventory”. I take a moment to simply breathe and feel my feelings, both those of my physical experience (sensations) and those of my cognitive experience (emotions). Emotionally, I feel pretty at ease, and content. Physically, I find myself having to take note of a substantial amount of fairly ordinary arthritis pain in my thoracic spine. Well shit. Okay. That’d be enough to feel sort of grumpy and out of sorts “for no reason” – only, there’s clearly quite an obvious reason to it, once I am aware of it. Awareness is such an amazing tool! I continue checking in with myself, and notice that in spite of the arthritis pain, no headache. Hey, that’s pretty nice. Uncommon these days. I enjoy that experience, and allow myself to sit with the awareness of “no headache” awhile, while I decide on the morning, and what to do about the pain.

I think over the day ahead. I’ve got what I need, generally speaking. Maybe a bite of brunch and a stop for art supplies somewhere? I head to a search tab to look up my options…

It’s a great day to begin again. ๐Ÿ˜€

I found myself having a tense moment yesterday. It could have gone very wrong. I caught myself on the edge of making a point very clear that would not benefit from being over-stated, and the circumstances themselves had done enough. I took a breath. Another. I relaxed as I exhaled. The moment passed. It’s not the answer to every challenge. It’s not the solution to all the problems. It doesn’t answer every question. It also definitely doesn’t hurt anything to take a moment – and a breath – before moving on with things. ๐Ÿ™‚

I got home fairly tired yesterday. My headache was aggravating. I did what I could to ease it. I finally just gave up and went to bed early, hoping that a few minutes of quiet meditation in dim light would put things right enough that I could sleep. I definitely slept, so I must have been tired. I woke 9 hours later, seconds ahead of the alarm going off, feeling rested – and for the moment, headache free.

Having been told with some firmness and plenty of diagnostic data that this headache is likely neurological in origin, I am treating it as something I can resolve – given the right practice(s). So, I deal with it, right now, as with any trying circumstance or condition. First – and it’s a powerful tool – I pay real attention to moments that are headache free. I take deliberate notice. I am observant, and aware, and make room in my consciousness to appreciate the lack of that headache, on the chance that over time, the experience of the headache may have grown to fill my awareness, simply by focusing on it too much. It’s not a cure, but sure enough, moments that are entirely headache-free do apparently still exist in my experience day-to-day. There’s a chance that focusing on those moments, versus the ones with the headache, may hold the potential to grow them larger in my implicit awareness, over time. So, this morning, I am enjoying my coffee, and the awareness that my headache isn’t there, right now. ๐Ÿ™‚ If nothing else, why the hell would I not take a moment to appreciate not having a headache?

Our implicit biases are powerful things. They handle a lot of our day-to-day, moment-to-moment decision-making, and we don’t even notice that we’re on auto-pilot. Everything from that suspicious stranger, to the specific foods we don’t eat, and all manner of other things we react to immediately with a sense of certainty, without having paused to consider anything at all, is part of that system of implicit biases that exists in our “programming”. Those things aren’t “real” – it’s not actually a fact, or any sort of certainty, that lima beans are gross. I just don’t happen to like lima beans. Actually, let’s be clear, I have learned to insist that I don’t like lima beans without having put a lima bean into my mouth in… more than 40 years, for sure. I can say I don’t like them, and maybe that’s actually true, but… I was so firm on not liking them so early in life, and have held on to that understanding of myself for so long, that it has become an implicit defining truth of myself that entirely lacks any basis in fact. At all. Seriously? How the fuck do I even know if I do or don’t like lima beans? That’s sort of my point. I actually don’t. Clearly, I’ve got some bias against the idea of lima beans – but that should hardly be the basis of my decision-making without some sort of legitimate validation. Otherwise? It’s just a bias. It’s not truly a preference – how the fuck do I even know? I simply don’t. I’m just saying words, and holding on to some construct in my personal narrative that lacks basis in fact. People do it all the time. Doing it with one’s food preferences is fairly harmless, but it’s not a great cognitive habit, generally.

Test your assumptions. Fact-check what you are certain of. Explicitly confirm expectations. Take your life and your consciousness off auto-pilot. You may discover a world of flavors (and experiences) that you would otherwise miss entirely. You may lighten the burden weighing down your heart. Yes, of course, there are verbs involved. Your results may vary. You may find yourself hurting in moments that you’d previously be so certain were full of wonder. Disillusionment can be an awkward sometimes painful process – and it can set you free.

I begin the day feeling well-loved, well-rested, and ready to begin again. I’m curiously eager to try lima beans (nothing like a good metaphor to kick off personal growth). lol I wonder where the day will take me?

You’re not a fish, but for real; don’t “take the bait”, online or in life. Breathe through the moment. Let it go. I know, I know, easier said sometimes, and there are definitely verbs involved. It’s so hard to let go of that urge to “correct a misconception”, to push back on an obvious falsehood, to “set things straight” when we feel wronged, played, or manipulated. The reaction, though? Following through on that urge? Yeah – that’s generally the entire point of baiting someone in the first place; getting a reaction.

Doesn’t matter if that troll is a loved one, a friend, a family member, a colleague, some random stranger in some unexpected moment sliced from a generally low-drama life, or even the person in the mirror. Doesn’t matter if the moment of provocation is online or “in real life”. Do not take the bait. You’re not a fish, so don’t become a meal. lol Don’t feed the trolls in your life and you will likely find they wander off to aggravate someone else. For real.

…Besides, just letting go that whole mess, include one’s own desire to be “right” in some specific moment, is a huge quality of life improvement, generally. ๐Ÿ˜€ It does take practice. Sometimes you may need to simply walk on from that entire relationship. That’s a thing, and trust me, it’s fine. Better than fine. Personal loyalties don’t need to become a lifestyle of self-sacrifice to benefit someone else’s emotional agenda at your expense. Treat others well, and also insist on being treated well, yourself.

To be clear, none of this is about our feelings – emotions are a very personal and subjective experience. You have yours. I have mine. That person over there has their own. None of it is subject to argument; we are each having our own experience. That said, emotions and thoughts are very different things, and the common habit of beginning sentences about thoughts with words about feelings is quite misleading. It’s a poor practice.

The content of our thinking may very well be subject to scrutiny, and we may quite reasonably be asked to reconsider it. It makes sense that our thoughts, once shared, will be dissected and analyzed, and discussed in the context of whatever shared understanding of reality is possible for human primates; we learn from each other. Behavior goes even a step further; not only are our actions subject to scrutiny, there are requirements that we behave within the boundaries of implicit and explicit social contracts, and we are responsible for, andย accountable for, our actions. Our behavior is a willful matter. Our behavior is built on choices and verbs. We aren’t free-falling through “accidents”, “mistakes”, and “happenings” – we’re making choices, and enacting our will. If you’ve done a thing once, and others have objected to it and alerted you that your behavior is not welcome, or that it is objectionable, and you do not change it, it’s no longer appropriate to say it was any sort of mistake, or in error; you are now acting deliberating to achieve that objectionable result intentionally – because you do know. The outcome has been demonstrated to be your intention, and saying you didn’t want that? It’s a lie. Ouch.

Don’t be a troll. Treat your loves well. Hell – just treat other people well, generally. Why would you not? No, I’m seriously asking you this – what possible reason could you have to deliberately treat others poorly that you think justifies that acceptably? (If the knee-jerk reaction is “well, because they…”, I have to wonder why you give that person so much power to undermine your progress toward being the human being you most want to be…? Then I’m going to back away slowly, and walk on. I have other work to do becoming the person I most want to be, myself.)

I’m over simplifying, I know. Some of those trolls in our lives are charming as hell when they aren’t trolling us or treating us poorly. Pretty promises. Pretty lies. Just as we extricate ourselves from their bullshit, they flash us a sincere looking smile, say something kind, give us something nice, or explain how sorry they are and how they didn’t mean it at all. Yeah… doesn’t change a thing, it’s a cycle of poor behavior. We know, don’t we, that the wheel continues to turn. Let go. Walk on. Allow them to be truly accountable for their actions, even to the point of losing your affection; their promises are not worth the real-life misery. Trolls are trolls. Do not compromise your values or your boundaries. Your choice to stay and feed the troll? Also not a mistake, once you know you’re doing it. Take better care of the human in the mirror, for fuck’s sake, this is your life. Live it well. Respect your own boundaries, yourself.

I finish off my coffee with a contented smile. It’s early. I woke well-rested but feeling a nagging anxiety in the background. I poke around my conscious experience for a moment or two, just checking in with myself when I notice the “anxiety” has lingered in the background. Is it the choice of music? No… it’s just arthritis pain; the headache isn’t as bad this morning, the arthritis is worse. lol The subtle shift in sensory experience specific to my pain feels a bit different, and I feel somewhat “anxious” because of it; it’s not really anxiety. It’s just pain. Well okay, I can deal with that. I change the playlist and head for my yoga mat. There are verbs involved.

…It’s a great time to begin again.

 

 

 

Nothing like spending 8 hours of precious limited lifetime in the freakin’ ER to remind me how much I enjoy doing just about anything else. LOL

I’m okay. Just middle-aged. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I resented the request to go to the ER, in the first place. I negotiated with my primary care physician like I was making a deal with the devil, when I finally spoke to her. I made work more important than my health and went in to the office yesterday still dealing with the ferocious headache that continues to plague me. The nurse in Neurology finally reached me directly yesterday mid-morning, and was fairly firm about seeing me immediately if possible. Damn it. I interrupted a productive work day figuring I’d go/come back, no problem…

8 hours, 2 blood draws, 2 IV insertions (1 failed), and 3 separate CT scans later… we ruled out most of the scariest stuff for adults in my age group worried about a headache. We’ve narrowed it down to… a headache. <sigh> No, for real? Back to Neurology. I can’t be mad. I got some first-rate care (and one failed attempt at an IV insertion that was both painful, and hurt like fire when imaging attempted to make use of it), and a chance to enjoy “Hospital ER” as a sort of live-action drama with all the pettiness human beings can bring to bear, as I quietly eavesdropped the conversations from the tiny treatment room I spent most of my time in.

Luck of the draw – I got a really good young doctor in residency. Because he’s a psychiatric resident, he “got me” on an entirely other level, and was able to do more to support me as a patient. The noise and lights and aggressively purposeful busy-ness of the ER aggravated other symptoms a lot (a lot), and that could have been a distraction for an MD who didn’t fully understand what seeing a c-PTSD diagnosis in my charts could mean. This one did. I wish he would be my full-time primary care doctor! By the time he actually saw me I was literally in tears from the noise; he took steps to ease it, first thing (ear plugs, a closed door, another closed door). Suddenly the experience was so much easier. I gotta say, hospital ERs are not actually designed to “heal” people as much as “repair” them. The noise, the actual moment-to-moment callousness (seriously, just watch, you’ll see it) of being entirely practical and attempting to be efficient, too, while serving as many customers as possible as quickly as feasible. The bright lights and infernal beeping of machinery and grinding or sliding of automatic doors. The repetitive nature of all of it just hammers at my consciousness – no stillness. Even the waiting is noisy. Nothing soothing. And for a place of healing? Holy crap they are going at such a breakneck pace that simple self-care stuff is entirely overlooked. They keep people there for hours and hours without calories or drinking water. lol Fuuuuuuck. Hospital ERs are no place for the ill.

Today is a whole new day. I’m definitely ready to begin again. LOL

 

I talk a lot about making choices. I remind myself to make a new beginning, regularly. I practice non-attachment with commitment and discipline. I let things go. I move on. There is a serious reason why these are important practices for me; I have survived a lot through these practices. These are not practices for small circumstances, though it is the mundane petty things that provide the opportunities to practice regularly. These are the practices for the big shit in life.

Marriages that dissolve – with small children involved; sometimes people have to literally choose to walk away from their children to save their own lives. That’s hard. I can’t at all imagine what that must feel like, although I’ve had friends and loved ones go through it.

Jobs that end unexpectedly – with no opportunity to continue in a field of expertise or passion; sometimes people have to choose to undertake something entirely different, from the very beginning, without wanting to at all. Been there a couple of times, myself.

Abusive relationships – sometimes with real love involved; sometimes people have to walk away (in spite of love) to save their own lives – from violence, mental illness, or a narcissistic, petty, spoiled, unremorsefully callous loved-one unable or unwilling to make changes. Too many of us go through some version of this experience, sadly.

Sometimes life throws some very adult shit our way, seemingly forcing us to choose between our life and well-being, and what we think we want, or think we have, or think we need. It’s not easy. Sometimes the better, saner, choice is to just let it go. Begin again. Choose differently.

To escape violence in my first marriage, I had to reach a point where I was willing to walk away from everything. My home. My “stuff”. My existing social network. My career. My community. It was a matter of literally saving my life. I didn’t have much in the way of good practices for such circumstances then; I got lucky and made some choices that favored my survival. I’m grateful for that – and every day that my arthritis pain reminds me how mortal I am, it also reminds me that I have survived hell, and I am okay right now. Powerful lessons.

It’s tempting to work at things we’ve invested our hearts in, well beyond any useful point in making that effort. It’s tempting to excuse, explain, troubleshoot, or try again (and again, and again…). Sometimes those aren’t our best choices. It’s hard to be sure when that is the case, in advance, and we can be easily stalled by doubt. It’s emotionally difficult to choose differently, to select “self-care” from life’s menu, and “quality of life”, and to walk on from something we earnestly value, even when it is wrapped in misery. A good starting point is a realistic look at whether the thing we are valuing, whether it is a job, a relationship, a circumstance, or a possession, is truly all we think it to be. Is it just a “soap bubble”? What matters most? Have that and be controlled by it? Let it go and be free? It’s a choice. A really fucking hard one.

Still, and again. The very best practices work that way.

Letting go doesn’t necessarily mean there is no later follow-up, and there may be other actions to be taken… ending a marriage likely requires a divorce, for example – that’s a process that has a beginning and (hopefully) an end, but the process follows the decision to let go. The choice to act precedes the actions. Lost jobs are generally followed by new jobs – or some other new option for living life. Abusive relationships are… complicated. The ending of such things can be filled with further trauma; it’s rare that an abuser wants that relationship to end, themselves, they are invested because they specifically benefit from it. Things can get ugly. Scary. Filled with fear. Filled with sorrow. Filled with panic. Letting go – non-attachment- is a broad and well-lit path to emotional freedom. We can’t be controlled by what we are willing to let go.

It’s not easy. I’m having to let go of a specific, warm, and charming retirement that seemed so real and imminent, in favor of… no idea yet, but realistically I have to be willing to acknowledge that it won’t be that. I’m having to let go of a promising-seeming relationship (less difficult that it might have been, because the person involved made a specific point of burning bridges by way of mistreatment) – always painful. The worst? I’m having to let go of 42 original works of (my) art that I have not yet been able to recover, and may actually be destroyed (39 small works on paper, 3 canvases). It’s fucking hard, but even to continue to pursue recovering them (which may require litigation), I need to let them go, at least inasmuch as I have to allow myself to move on from grieving the loss, or being attached to a specific outcome. Still fucking hard. This? This is why I practice some of the practices I do, though; when I need them, they are here for me, reliably.

The sky is still blue. ๐Ÿ™‚

I had a lovely weekend, in spite of the possible loss of 42 precious original works of art. No small feat, and I am smiling over my coffee, feeling wrapped in love and supported and cared for. (Seriously? It was like a vacation, crammed into one delicious day and night.) I am relaxed and ready for the work week. I’m grateful for my Traveling Partner. Grateful to have such wonderful friends. Grateful to be okay right now.ย  It’s a nice beginning to the week, whatever it holds.