Archives for category: pain

I sip my coffee wondering why it tastes crappy this morning, and smile at the recollection of the numerous friends who would likely point out that it could be simply that it is coffee. Having a… “fondness” for (addiction to?) coffee isn’t something everyone has, wants, or seeks out. Coffee, sometimes, tastes like some rare combination of cardboard and tobacco tea. lol It’s not always flavorful and delicious, especially preferring it, generally, black. This morning, this cup of coffee tastes a bit like… coffee filter paper that’s had one cup of coffee run through it, the grounds dumped out, and then refilled with crushed dandelion stems, and some sort of bitter tea has resulted from this process. Only… I don’t really taste “bitter” in any clear way, so… just… not good. lol

…I could set it aside and not drink it, I mean, if I weren’t concerned about the headache that would come later today… or… yeah. Okay. I know, I know. It doesn’t make any sense. Why would I continue?? This is addiction. It’s how it works. I take another sip of my coffee…

…I drink rather a lot of coffee, and sit with that for a few minutes, just thinking about that, and taking stock of how skillfully I am/am not managing that addiction? (Addiction is what this is. The legality is not relevant to the chemistry.) My consumption over the past year has crept up to a very steady “3 coffees”…but… it had reached a point at which those “3 coffees” were all quad shot beverages. lol Oops. That’s a bit much, and even with ensuring my consumption is all in the morning (unless willfully and explicitly to support a late night), it is enough to interfere with good sleep. I’ve already cut way back to just “3 coffees”, meaning, just three actual coffee beverages (and if any one of those is an espresso drink, it only has a double shot in it). My coffee habit, over the years, has required some vigilance. Every now and then, it’s important to notice “how bad it has gotten” and take a step back, adjust, and put myself back on track with what I am really comfortable with. I recall one point in my 20s when I literally (no kidding) walked around more or less always with a coffee cup in my hand, and drank generally nothing else.

This particular cup of coffee is actually really quite remarkably bad. Wow. If they were all like this, I probably would not drink coffee at all.

I let my mind wander to other things. My Traveling Partner somewhere out in the world… The day ahead… Car shopping… The heat of summer… I sip my coffee and enjoy the quiet morning. It hasn’t mattered whether the coffee actually tastes good, not for a really long time. Not really. Sure, the coffee thing is what it is, and what it is, is that I’m addicted to coffee. I’m even okay with that. It’s a moment. A ritual. A part of a stabilizing morning routine that begins my day slowly, encouraging me to take the time to really wake up (and helps a bit with that), before I face the world.

…It does need some awareness and management, that’s just real.

My aching back is back to being more about my arthritis than injury or muscle soreness. Pain sucks, regardless, and I welcome any lessening or reduction in it. I enjoy the moment of “feeling better” without pointing my consciousness back to the pain itself. I find that focusing on the pain, and becoming invested in the emotional experience of the pain, in the moment, tends to amplify it, and I really don’t want to add that to my day. I breathe, relax, and let the awareness of pain, generally, fade into the background. I won’t lie; it’s not a perfect solution. I still hurt. I’m just not letting pain pwn my day. 🙂

I finish my coffee and look at the clock. The world goes on being the world. People are still people. Buses are still running. Commuters are still rushing across town. Work is still something that occupies far too much of the time of far too many people. Too many other people don’t have enough work to support their quality of life needs (because, keeping it real, too many jobs don’t pay a living wage at all). There is still a need for balance. There is still a search for it. Life is a process, and a verb. Active. Changing. Real. Filled with choices.

There is time to begin again. There is time to become the person I most want to be. There is time to change the world. There are verbs involved. Ready? It’s time.

It’s morning. I’m tired. Of course, this is amplified in intensity because I definitely needed the sleep I definitely did not get. I sigh and choke down more coffee. It’s going to be a long damned day.

I take a deep breath, relax, and think back on my appointment yesterday. There’s a lot to unpack from that one, and I won’t be doing it (all) here (now). I smile back on one fairly cool win and good moment; I did not get lost getting home (last time I did). I was, um, fairly mistaken about where, in the context of the rest of the city, and, you know, maps, this location actually is, and so last time, when I chose to “just drive home”, I got turned around on a sequence of one way streets I’d forgotten about, and ended up quite lost. Not this time. I looked at a map. 😀 To be clear – I could have used my GPS, and considered doing so, but… rush hour. I don’t find it as uniformly helpful during rush hour. It knows the roads, it does not know people. So I GPSd the suggested route, looked it over carefully, and “just drove home”. It took precisely the amount longer that I’d expect for the greater distance. Win, indeed.

Therapy can be easy to the point of wondering why the hell I am there, or difficult to the point of wondering how the hell I’ve been accepted as an adult all these years. It’s a process. Like a lot of folks, there’s an additional emotional burden to bear in the midst of the cultural shitstorm that has become American politics and society. It’s particularly weighty for me as an individual; I already “have issues”. No lie. I have mental health concerns. I have been, even, fairly easily described as “mentally ill”. Am I now? Unknown. It’s not something that should have stigma, but it does. It’s a hard label to wear comfortably while also working full-time for a living doing something I’m respected for, living alone, managing my affairs on my own… all the adulting. I was able to take a break from therapy for about a year. No kidding, the current presidency on top of family “stuff” has pushed me back in. lol It’s okay. (I can laugh about that. Healthy.) There’s just more work to do; it’s just one more beginning.

I know, I know – asking for help when we’re ill (mentally, emotionally, cognitively, or physically) can be hard; it can feel like an admission of failure to adult properly. Don’t let that get in the way of getting help, though. Maybe you did fail to adult properly – but fucking wow is asking for help, particularly for our mental health needs, totally the absolute adult thing to do when help is what we need!! Go for it! You matter. Please. (And good luck)

I headed home with a plan, and a follow-up in three weeks.

I didn’t get enough sleep last night. Too much coffee? Too much therapy? No way to know, but definitely not enough sleep.

Another work day, then another, then a weekend… all filled with adulting. Fucking hell, I’m so tired…

…Well, back at it, I suppose. Can I get a new beginning over here, please? 😉

What a delightful weekend! I probably couldn’t say enough about it in the time I have available before a new work day begins. It was… awesome. Fun. Warm. Merry. Chill. Exciting… so exciting. It was also characterized by disrupted sleep (see “exciting”), and a lot of stimulation (an art show, a road trip, a weekend with my Traveling Partner…). I’m quite entirely made of human, and having the issues I do, a weekend – however delightful – full of exciting moments, color, light, music, and did I mention the excitement? A weekend such as this one just past often – too often – results in some sort of major freak out or melt down of some kind. No kidding. Yep. I have “mental health issues”. Definitely. It’s one little detail that is a reminder that I put so much time and attention into my self-care for reasons, not because it is a hot new trend.

Flowers need no excuse.

The drive back to the city started well, and traffic was well-behaved, although more than usually dense. Average speed was a comfortably ordinary 70 mph. Somewhere about 2 hours (a bit less, I think) from home, a bad snarl and some congestion developed rapidly ahead of me. Like… bad. Cars were spinning out, into the median, in one case, onto the left shoulder in another, and the third skittering across three lanes while other drivers used breaking maneuvers, and attentive skillful driving to both keep moving forward, and also, not hit anyone else. No collisions. I’m making a point of reminding myself of that. I “drive ahead of myself” a good way, and saw things going awry in real-time. The driver directly ahead of me began to lose control of his SUV. I let up on the gas after tapping my brakes gently (just enough to flash the brake lights) to alert the driver behind me, and slipped between the SUV as he slid sideways out of the lane, and the car to his right, which was crowding the fast lane out of panic as the driver ahead of him braked hard, very suddenly. Oooh… so close. As traffic finally slowed to a full stop, I looked in the rearview, and around; no collisions. I’m still very surprised by that. No indication of collisions further down the road, either. What the fuck? I began to seethe as it became more clear that this was likely the result of aggressive or frustrated ass-hattery, custom made by some clueless fuck knob. My fury began to build as the traffic crept along. At some point, I lost myself in my anger. Oh, “nothing bad happened” – by which I mean I did not attack anyone, hurt myself or anyone else physically, nor did I directly or indirectly confront any individual, or group of individuals…but oh wow. The invective. The yelling by myself in the car. It was… not okay. I’d fully lost my dignity, my resilience, my sense of self… I was… gone. Lost in it. Taken over by my metaphorical demons – who finished the drive more or less without me.

I got off the freeway at the first opportunity. It helped to do so; it slowed everything down just a bit, and reduced the feeling of “crowding”. Unfortunately, at that point I was also quite triggered, highly reactive, and the state I was in was less than ideal for driving, at all. I had no understanding I could have stopped driving. I wept much the remaining drive home. “I just want to go home!” I wailed, weeping. Purposeless, frustrated, impotent tears poured down my face, even completely blinding me briefly (I had to pull off the road to wipe the sweat-salt from my eyes). I got home shaking, angry, sad – so sad. Filled with drenching hopeless sorrow. My brain straight up attacking me from all sides with my deepest insecurities, disappointments in life, and leaning in hard on anything positive, and all my good feelings and recollections – a bit as if I’d come home and been confronted by a fucking dementor, honestly. It was pretty horrible.

I numbly started doing things that felt routine, feeling pressured by those experiences, and a little forced. Going through the motions. I made a point to let my Traveling Partner know I was emotionally unwell, and that I would be offline. (It does not do well to stay online in such circumstances, not for me; I use words. lol) I simultaneously gave a quick heads up to friends that I was having a tough time, but also that I did not require support; just in case shit went crazy wrong with me during the night and spilled over into the morning, I at least wanted people to wonder if I were okay – but I didn’t want to be fucked with right then (the terms in which my thinking colored all such thoughts in the moment). Then I got to work taking care of this all-too-human creature that lives my life.

A sunny summer day in the garden, tasks, routines, patterns of light – better moments.

I took a shower. I had a big class of water. I medicated (cannabis for the win, here*). I meditated. I watered the garden. I started some laundry. I began to redirect negative thoughts to their positive counterparts; ruminations about traffic were redirected to how pleasant the drive was in other respects, and what a pleasant day it was for driving, generally, and that there were no actual collisions, for example. I reminded myself, too, that once I was dealing with a storm of emotions, not only must the storm be permitted to pass, but then, as is often the case with the weather, there’s some clean up afterward needed. Our emotions have their basis in actual chemistry. Feelings of rage? Yeah, that’s like being on a fucking drug that causes that experience. It takes time for the drug to wear off, even though the moment is past. Sorrow, too. Each blue, emotionally disarrayed moment got some support, some consideration, some care and attention. It did pass. All of it passed. I felt better before I’d been home for even 2 hours. The recovery period was shorter than the emotional event. (That’s real progress!) I went to bed a bit early; I hadn’t slept well over the weekend, and all by itself poor quality sleep is enough to put me at risk of losing my emotional balance and resilience, if allowed to go on.

During the night the phone rang. Connectivity was poor at the location my Traveling Partner and I spent the weekend together, and he’d only just gotten my message. He called, concerned, to check in with me and see how I was. I answered a ringing phone during the night (I rarely do), because I went to bed expecting he might call. Partnership is lovely. I heard the warmth and love in his voice, and he heard it in mine. I was definitely okay at that point. I woke this morning, feeling rested, content, loved, and comfortable in my own skin. It’s a new morning.

A picture from a lovely summer morning hike yesterday; where will today take me?

Hell, I considered not writing about this experience, that’s how good I feel this morning – but here’s the thing; this experience is not one I’m ashamed of. I didn’t “fail” here. I managed things pretty well, actually. Somewhere, out there, there is an alternate version of this experience playing out that may not end as well, or may feel “permanent”, lacking any hope or perspective. I put these words on paper, sharing this moment, not only as a later reminder for myself that all this progress isn’t “a cure” (I need these practices, this level of self-care and self-awareness, to maintain my quality of life day-to-day.) I also put these words on paper because someone else may need to hear that there is hope, and it is possible to do better, and it is possible to find some relief – it’s within reach. There are verbs involved, no lie, but the incremental change over time has been… huge. Wonderful. A vast improvement impossible to overstate. It could have been much worse. I’m okay right now. That’s a big deal. It’s worth sharing.  🙂

Oh, hey, look at the time! It’s time to begin again. 🙂

*Note: It is unfortunate that cannabis is not yet fully legal, and that it is not more widely available, and easily, affordably available to more people. It is actually fairly stupid we make it so difficult for researchers to research it. Literally nothing offered to me by doctors, anywhere, has been as reliably helpful for my PTSD as cannabis has been, and for the most part side-effect free. Psychiatric pharmaceuticals were less effective for me, had horrific side effects (that included impairing me artistically, cognitively, sexually, emotionally, intellectually, and destroying my health), and didn’t actually result in an improved quality of life for me. I don’t write much about cannabis, itself, mostly because I’m not sure how to do so skillfully, and feel uncomfortable with the unsettled legal status it has in a broader sense. Having said that, I’ll be frank; when I talk about “medication” and “medicating”, if I am not more specific, I am most definitely referring to cannabis, and no, I don’t particularly care that it doesn’t come in a pill. 🙂

I woke in pain this morning. Ah, but, I am also undeniably well-rested. That’s something. I scrolled through my feed too early, not quite awake, and fucking hell, the news is not very pleasant. On the other hand, there’s also quite a lot of hopeful news, and, historically, a lot of forward momentum, too. So… I guess that’s something to hold onto. Back and forth – finding “balance” is its own challenge. Like a pendulum or a see-saw, my experience, mood, perspective, and general sense of both wellness and self, shift, swing, adjust, wobble… It’s kinda crazy up in here. You, too?

Where is your fulcrum? What do you pivot on? What supports that search for balance, and soothes your stress? For me, it’s “now”. Just that, and it’s pretty basic, uncomplicated stuff. I come back to this present quiet moment, right here. If “now” is also really super shitty (and not the national or global heart-wrenching what-the-fuck-is-going-on “now”, we’re talking about our personal right here, this instant, “now”) I may need to walk on, get some distance, and work from some other slightly future “now”, when I get to it – more often than not I simply need to let go my attachment to something or other I’ve begun to cling to emotionally, and be truly present, myself, in this “now” right specifically here where I am, myself.

A flower. A moment. There is effort in tending my garden with care.

I woke in pain. Yeah, that sucks. Could be worse pain than it is. That’s something. Perspective is a big deal. I don’t focus on other moments of worse pain, though, that’s sort of backwards, as it happens. I sit gently with my thoughts, contemplating entirely other things than pain, at all. There’s the art show tomorrow night. That’s a thing. I’m excited about it. I consider the work I’ve selected, and what all I may need for the evening, generally, and the pain slips from my consideration for a time. I share a moment of conversation with a far away friend over my coffee. I water the container garden on the deck in the lavender light of dawn, before the summer sunrise. Perspective helps me find balance.

Carefully selected work waiting to be seen.

I sip my coffee, already past that irksome moment when I observed I’d yet again allowed myself to run out of “easy options”. I smirked at myself, leaning on the counter for support, hurting, painfully aware (literally) that the state of things is entirely my own doing, for me to manage. There’s plenty to make coffee with; it all requires effort. Effort, I point out to the woman in the mirror, is not a swear word, and is, in fact, a goal. Making more of it results in greater emotional and physical wellness, and connects me more fully to the things that matter to me most. There are verbs involved, and don’t I know it! I pull myself upright with a sigh, and make a pour over. My coffee is very good this morning. Better than convenient. Better than easy. Made with love. There’s a lesson in here somewhere.

Back and forth with myself all morning. Finding balance. Using perspective. Making an effort. Practicing practices. I smile and sip my coffee.

…Then sneeze, spilling coffee in my lap, and rather hilariously also sneezing it all over my keyboard. Damn it. Already time to begin again. 😉

This morning, before I quite realized what I’d done, I’d gotten lost in my newsfeed within moments of sitting down to write. I didn’t write. Well, I did write – but I wasn’t writing in a rational, purposeful, helpful way that supports me as a human, or shares something of value. I was mad. I was… posting replies. Oh my.

Once I noticed I was putting myself at risk of an angry screed, I pushed my chair back, sat fully upright, and took a couple deep deep cleansing breaths, and let myself relax. I held on to the awareness of that moment, breaking free of the tantalizing sticky trap of opinion, pulling myself free of the outrage machinery. (There is so much to be outraged about this days, no lie, that’s real.) Differences of opinion so easily become anger. We each feel so certain we are “right“, and that if only we could share the nuances of our personal perspective, everyone else would get it, too! While that may be true, now and then, it mostly just isn’t, at all. We are each having our own experience. It’s not actually fully share-able.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not a “relativist“. While I do recognize that context, culture, and variations in human understanding and experience can change the truth of a proposition, I also understand the nature of reality to have unchanging elements (that I may or may not be fully able to recognize or understand, myself). I think how we define the terms we use matters a great deal, and definitely affects our ability to have meaning dialogue, generally, every bit as much as “the nature of reality”. I have an ethical framework, as an individual, that suggests to me that some actions and choices are “wrong” – meaning, not consistent with my ethics, as an individual. So far so good. Where things get messy, and I think this is true for a great many of us, is when my own sense of “wrongness” pressures me from within to make a point of calling it out when I see others taking those actions, or making those choices. Do I really get to decide right vs wrong for anyone but me?

Yes.

…Also, no.

So… “yes”, in the limited sense that I’m utterly free to express my opinion on the matter. However, in doing so, I’m a wiser happier human if I can also remain aware that my opinion on such things is not likely to a) change anyone else’s opinion (or actions) or b) have any great persuasive weight in the world, generally, and also… c) it’s not for me to decide what everyone else will think or do. I’m just saying. I mean that – I’m literally merely, simply, only, and “just” saying words. Someone may hear my words and change. Someone else may hear my words and double-down out of pure resentment and fury, because in their view I am clearly wrong. Still someone else will disregard my words without ever hearing me out,. We are each having our own experience. I don’t really get to decide what anyone else understands right or wrong to be – but I am not required to respect, value, share, or appreciate their perspective, beyond hearing them out, and accepting their agency.

I don’t personally take any of this to be an expression of futility, or as a reason to “stand down” or “keep my opinion to myself”, because humanity’s culture has formed around our opinions and understanding of the world. Our shared ethical commitments become our shared understanding of right vs wrong, and ultimately informs entire communities, and whole nations, allowing society to enact change. We do need to share our individual sense of right vs. wrong with each other to help steer this cultural ship through the waters of change and growth over time. It’s the anger and outrage of social media specifically (before coffee) that is problematic; too much noise, not enough signal. So, I give myself a break, sip my coffee, and bring my moment closer to home. I have plenty to do to make change happen right here. I have work to do to be the woman I most want to be. That’s a project I have real influence over – every day. My example, as an individual, has meaning without extending my reach “to the world” by replying to all manner of media detritus in a reactive moment. Hell, I don’t even respect the opinions of 100% of every human; some are worth far more than others (this is likely true for you as well), and we each “rate” the value of another person’s opinion on different criteria!! (Totally true, too.) So… another good moment to practice non-attachment. lol

I finish my coffee and begin again.