Archives for category: winter

…I just hurt, is all. Like… predicting a hard early winter levels of arthritis pain, here. Pain sufficiently severe to present a chronic distraction, to drive volatile moods, to aggravate me to the point of anger-driven anhedonia… the cluster-headache-pain of spinal pain. I hurt, and I’m fussy, and I’m irritable, and I’m… not at my best. The problem with the pain is less about the pain than the sabotage. No kidding; pain shrinks my world and limits my focus. Worse still…?

…You can’t see it. Some of us are pretty stoic about pain, most of the time. You’ve no idea what you’re up against when you interact with someone with invisible injuries like chronic pain. Was I terse with you? Yeah, well, I couldn’t stand up without my cane this morning, and every step hurts – except the ones that don’t require my spine. Breathing hurts. Moving hurts. Not moving hurts (actually more so than moving, over time anyway).

“Take something for it. Duh.” Uh-huh. I like that idea. So, after I finish ruling out the OTC stuff that may be problematic for some other health conditions and the Rx  non-opiate pain relievers I can’t have because of some contraindication or another against those, that leaves, generally, just opiates and cannabis. I’d rather not deal with the political and medical minefield of opiates, but if I could be without pain… then? Rarely. I dislike the sexual side effects, and yes, I said it; I’d rather endure my pain and still be able to enjoy sex than be 100% pain-free but not able to enjoy sex. So. Get over that with me, I’m human, and I’ve got a lifetime of experience with my priorities – the pain management options available to most of us are fairly shitty in one way or another. It’s a thing that some of us are entirely too aware of. Cannabis? Yep. Definitely. As much as I can, and it is my “go-to remedy”, but let’s be frank with each other; it’s not a perfect fix, and it is not appropriate for all circumstances (or all pain).

This is not a quantity of pain that is easily medicated away. Pain is a signal from our body about our health or circumstances. It shouts loud because it is supposed to. Drowning it out is a major task; our body would much rather we fixed whatever is actually wrong. It’s complicated, and it’s imperfect, and there are so few days in the year that I’m entirely pain-free that they become cause for real celebration. I hurt so much of the time, and have for so long (since around 1990), that I’m seriously bored of bitching about it. (Can’t people who actually know me somehow just also know that I hurt…? Like… mostly always? lol)

I plan my life as if there is no pain. I don’t know how else to do it, really. I still want to live my life. I still just fucking hurt. Sometimes I hurt too much to hike. Sometimes I hurt too much to party. Sometimes I hurt too much to do housekeeping or even to get dressed. This weekend, I filled my calendar with cool stuff I was seriously looking forward to doing, and people I am eager to see. By the time the weekend actually came, and with it the welcome rain and the autumn weather I enjoy so well, my pain had come back, too. This weekend ended up being less about going and doing, and more about connecting (with my partner) and chilling (at home). It was lovely. So worth it, in spite of my pain.

Fuck pain.

Autumn and winter are worst. Then Spring. I get some relief in the summertime heat. Most years I even get to put away my cane. It’s been in my car, unused most of the time, since May. Four and a half months almost pain-free this year… less than the year before, which was less than the year before that. I find myself wistfully remembering years ago, when it seemed like I only hurt like this in the coldest months…

I got into the elevator at the end of my day and ignored the tears that just started spilling down. I got into my terrifically hot car with a real “aaaaaaahhhhh” moment of relief; however brief, totally worth it. “Pain management”. lol It’s more like “endurance” if you’ve got chronic pain. It is an endurance test filled with well-meaning suggestions, well-wishes, and an utter inability to communicate what this experience is like to people who don’t have it; we all feel our own pain, and can’t feel someone else’s. I’ve had some amusing experiences with people whose most serious pain in life has been a hangnail, stubbed toe, or bump in the night, who don’t understand chronic, relentless, serious pain, and how it wears away at one’s enthusiasm, and will. “I hope you feel better soon! Have you tried…” Uh-huh. Yep. That too. Yeah, and that. No, it didn’t “work”… What to say when someone who really cares tries so hard to offer support and comfort? A weary chuckle and a reminder that “chronic” pain is… um… not going go away, really, probably ever. That’s when I gave up the Rx pain relievers; between the fucking hassles getting them, and the constant nagging about their use, the side effects, and the fact that this shit is fucking forever…? Nope. I actually still work for a living. I have shit to do. People are counting on me. I’m counting on me.

I’m so not saying I hurt more than you do! I’m not saying my pain is worse than… anything. I’m just saying, frankly, in clear explicit terms that chronic pain is a thing I do deal with. Daily. You, too? I’m sorry to hear that. “Have you tried…” (jk jk lol)

What I am saying is that it is not possible to sufficiently well-medicated to truly stop hurting, only to get medicated enough that I care even less about the pain in the background, for a while. Shit. That sounds bleak. Don’t be sad. Sometimes it helps a lot. Sometimes it helps enough. Right now, today, nothing helps; it is the beginning of autumn, and I go through this every year… and…

I’m glad. I mean… it’s a fair trade. It could be worse. I’m still walking.

In 1986 I broke my back. It was pretty bad. My spinal canal was more than 60% occluded by a piece of vertebrae that had broken off from the impact, and gotten jammed into my backbone. There was real concern I would not even walk again. I was kept on a backboard for a couple days, very still, and partially restrained while we “worked out the next steps”. I wasn’t allowed to roll over, ever, without calling for nurses, who would ever so carefully roll me onto my side, re-secure my body so I couldn’t roll forward, backward, or move much at all, and put supporting pillows here and there to try to make me comfortable. I was heavily medicated. My back was broken in two places. My wrist was broken, and I had a head injury. I was not in the best shape for decision-making, but I had a good medical team. My surgeon offered me an option; a somewhat experimental procedure that could result in staying on active duty, being able to walk, and fully recovering from my injury, with some lengthy convalescence…, or, well… some less than perfect outcome in that basic “still walking” context. I took the deal. I absolutely did. (If he’d told me I’d be facing a life time of pain, would I still have made the same choice? Well, sure; we don’t know what we don’t know. I’d never known a lifetime of physical pain of this type or magnitude, and would not have been able to imagine what it might be like.)

I was in the hospital for months, then recovering on active duty long enough to be certain that I needed more time. It was going to be two years before I could “go back to work”, but that was in some rosy optimistic future I couldn’t yet envision any differently than “a full recovery”. Arthritis? That’s something that happens to old people, right? I worked hard throughout those two years of convalescence – and I returned to active duty feeling pretty fucking triumphant, no kidding; I was lean, strong, fit, and flexible. The pain came later. About a year into being back on active duty. Something definitely felt wrong… I kept going back, appointment after appointment. I wanted a diagnosis, and then I wanted to be treated, and I wanted to recover.

“Well, it looks like you’ve got a touch of osteo-arthritis…” I got my diagnosis. Shortly afterward, and feeling fairly heartbroken about it, I also got my discharge. That “touch of arthritis” has continued to spread over the years, commandeering my spine and my experience one joint at a time. I’m still walking. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for the hikes, for the downtown shopping on foot, the strolls through gardens, the slow dash to a meeting… all of it. It could be so much worse in some way. Most of the time, it’s just pain. It’s mostly manageable. It is… what it is. We age. We feel pain. We are mortal creatures.

I live my own personal Little Mermaid allegory. lol

But fuck. I hurt. Damn it. Sometimes I’m so fucking tired of hurting, and I forget myself, and end up taking it out on… maybe you? People. People who matter to me. People who couldn’t have known. People who have things to get done and need something from me. People who want to enjoy my company. People who have never hurt. People who, also, always do.

In spite of my pain, I feel very appreciated. 🙂 I could do better at demonstrating that. 

…I try “not to bitch”. (My results vary.) I do my best to manage my pain without making it anyone else’s issue. (Again with the varying results.) It doesn’t always work out well. This weekend, my Traveling Partner reminded me gently how much better a shared journey can be, when each moment and step is taken from a fully present place, in a completely authentic way. We talked about the pain. I’m glad we did. It stopped feeling like a shameful secret. It stopped feeling like a weakness. It’s just an experience.

Suddenly I’m not sure whether to post this one. Too many words about an experience no one likes to have (pain)…

…It’s time to begin again. I’ll go try some things… maybe I’ll feel better soon. 😉

I finished the work day at long last, satisfied to have gotten quite a lot done. I worked from home due to snowy weather.

I wandered the house feeling disconnected, distracted, and wholly unsettled for some minutes, feeling uncertain of what, if anything, I might do with myself that wasn’t somehow still working. It was a challenge to disengage from thinking about work. I had a similar challenge in the morning; it was on my mind when I woke, and I got started early as a result… since I was working from home anyway. Not my healthiest choice, I admit.

I restarted the evening with meditation. I still find myself feeling a bit restless, even now, some time later. My tinnitus seems louder than usual. I take a deep breath and a moment to really “hear myself think”, in the sense of actually paying attention – my entire attention – on how I am feeling, for just a moment. Slow things down. Breathe. Relax. I already know I can’t chase what I’m after and reach it – it is more correct to say I would do well to stop everything, and allow it to catch up to me. So it goes. My restless monkey mind benefits from meditation, but this evening it wasn’t enough to go through the motions of my meditation practice. I also really need to keep coming back to this moment, here. I need to really listen, to myself.

No matter how often I look behind me (or around me) and see things I want to change, and no matter how often I look ahead to what I want to achieve, it’s this moment here, now, that I’ve got to work with. 🙂

I set off with a smile, to begin again.

Expectations and assumptions are a fast track to some shitty experiences in life. Most people move through their experience seemingly unaware, much of the time, that the outcome they are railing against is built, in part, on their implicit expectations, unexpressed emotions, and unverified assumptions. It’s so easy to make up the larger part of what we think we know, entirely in our own heads, of bits and pieces we’ve cobbled together from fragments of awareness, something we heard, and things we think we recall reading. It’s not an ideal approach to living well, I think.

Maintaining a comfortable awareness of the vastness of all that I just don’t actually know is something I practice. Seems worthwhile; I tend to be less annoyed with people as a result, generally. I tend to cry a lot less. I don’t feel so hurt, so often. I enjoy the day-to-day of life as a human primate a great deal more without attempting to do so leaning into the disappointments that are so inevitable when I’m holding on to carefully crafted expectations and assumptions.

…I still have nightmares that seem to be about nothing besides uncertainty, itself. (Fucking hell, even many of my nightmares are weirdly meta) I dislike being uncertain – and I’m grateful to have learned at some point that the opposite of “uncertainty” is not “feeling very certain of the made up narrative in my head”. lol (Because it isn’t that, at all, emotionally; the opposite of uncertainty is being comfortable with not knowing.)

I chuckle to myself and sip my coffee. I don’t actually know that stuff, either. I’m guessing, maybe, or coasting on new assumptions and a different understanding of things, until those also fall to a failed attempt to check them against reality. Cycles of growth and learning. Incremental change over time. The understanding of life and love that met my needs at a teenager, are unlikely to be at all similar to my understanding of life and love as a growth woman past 50, and will also be, most probably, quite different from those I’ll have as a woman of 90.

I’m okay not knowing. I avoid tempting myself with guessing to fill in the blanks – definitely where people are concerned. We are each having our own experience. We filter our understanding of the world through our limited lens of that experience, framed in the context of our fears, and whatever lingering childhood brainwashing we’ve hung on to over the years. We are each so similar. So human. We have much to share with one another. Stories to tell. Trails to walk. Lessons to teach and to learn.

It’s Friday. A busy work day. Another doctor’s appointment. A long weekend ahead. A trip down to see my Traveling Partner for a couple days, and hang out where love lives, watching the shadows on the mountain shift, and the many tiny chickadees picking between the gravel of the drive. It’s been a couple weeks, and although I definitely needed the break from the frequent trips down, and time to really rest and also care for my current residence, I have missed being there. 

Each trip down to the The Place Where Love Lives feels a little more like “real life” and less like being a welcomed guest, which is lovely. I make a point each trip to find some new way to feel more at home, to be more appropriately prepared for life there, and inevitably I leave a bit more of my heart behind when I return to The Place Where I Live, myself. This time I am taking art down with me. 🙂

I notice my coffee is finished. The clock advances the day minute by minute and it’s time to participate. 🙂 Enjoy the weekend! (Hell, I think this weekend, I’ll even write…)

I woke much earlier than my alarm. Early enough to do yoga, shower, dress, and make an Americano before my alarm would have gone off. I’m quite alert and wide awake, and feel rather as if weeks and weeks of fatigue and illness are finally behind me. Still have the weird headache. Still have more future appointments to deal with it. Still have the arthritis pain. Still bitching about that. It is morning. I am human. 🙂

I sip my coffee contentedly, noting how good it is this morning and just really enjoying that. It is a Friday, tomorrow is the weekend. I feel relaxed and at ease – because, partly, I’ve chosen to practice having this experience of relaxed contentment, learned to build and sustain that over time, and it’s become (if not my default “state of being”) quite common to feel this way. It is a huge improvement over being mired in despair, chronically frustrated, and wondering endlessly what the point even is to living. 😀 I’ll straight up say it; I got here with my choices. I got here with practice. There were – and are – verbs involved. Practicing practices is an ongoing thing; this is not a task, these are processes. This is me, living my life, and my results vary – right now, this moment here? It’s very pleasant. 🙂

There is stuff yet to do. Housekeeping. Tidying up. Maintenance. Repairing, cleaning and maintaining. lol There’s also brunch with a friend, hang out time with another, and perhaps a lovely hike with a new camera on a pleasant Sunday morning. 😀 I get to choose. 🙂

I’m ready to begin again. Let’s start this day!

I’ve been in pain most of the weekend. Most of the day. Not struggling with it, you understand, just aware of it, in the background, an occasional and persistent distraction, something to be dismissed, acknowledged, dismissed again. The day wore on. The pain wears me down.

There is more to my experience than the pain I am in.

It’s harder to be aware of hurting when I’m distracted by the antics of my squirrel neighbors. I spent a merry time doing that, instead of hurting. 🙂 Totally worth it.

Later, tickled by a brief back and forth exchange with my Traveling Partner, I reached for my headphones and lost myself in music. More time passes during which I don’t really notice any moment of hurting. Relief doesn’t always require a prescription. My results vary. There are definitely verbs involved.

I feel myself smiling, thinking back over the very pleasant, restful weekend – is it already Sunday? Damn. Work tomorrow. I think about the exceptional chocolate I tried this weekend and pause to send a surprise treat “home” to be shared (seriously, so good). The weekend feels more complete having found some way to share this pleasant detail.

My neighbors aren’t home this evening. The bass shakes the floor and I dance into the living room to pick up borrowed buugeng to practice awhile, listening to this music I love. The bass rumbles through my body, and I feel connected to a home a couple hundred miles away, where, most likely, the bass is shaking the house right now, there, too. I smile with my whole self, feeling contented and serene. This is a fine moment right here, I make a point to enjoy it right now.

Tomorrow will be soon enough to begin other projects, another week, a new journey, right now, this moment here is enough. 🙂