Archives for posts with tag: pain

I remember being in pain yesterday, in the afternoon. I woke in pain this morning. One nice thing about unreasonably hot, wildfire-dry, summer weather – those long hot dry days are just about ideal for minimizing my arthritis pain, no Rx required.

I love autumn. I love crisp cool mornings, colder nights, and warm afternoons. I love the shff-shff of fallen leaves, disturbed as I walk through them. I enjoy the short days, the long nights, the late sunrises, the early sunsets. It’s so exquisitely lovely, all of it, that every year as it returns, I am surprised all over again that with it comes pain. Rather a lot of pain. Everyday pain. Waking up in pain. Yoga to ease pain. Enjoying long walks – that also hurt. It is what it is. I’m glad I am able to walk. To stand. To dress myself. This morning, I find room to be amused that another autumn comes, and again I have forgotten that I am always in this much pain. There will be other mornings, colder mornings, on which I no longer find humor in the moment. I’m not in any rush to reach those mornings. I take a moment to appreciate the morning, shored up by perspective on how much less pain I am in right now than I could be.

I have friends who hurt, too. Family members. Loved ones. Pain is part of the human condition. We feel. We experience sensations. Sometimes, feelings are unpleasant. Sometimes sensations are painful. We easily lose sight of the pain of others, living out our own experience of pain. I know it happens to me. When I hurt, and can’t imagine hurting more than I do, it’s way too easy to forget that there actually is more worse pain than what I am in, myself – and someone else is feeling that. Yikes. Talk about perspective. It’s true for you, too; someone else is in worse pain. Possibly more often. It’s something to remember when we face the world, hurting; we are not alone. We may feel alone with our own pain, but we are not alone in the experience of being in pain, generally.

This morning, I am in pain. I’m not bitching. I’m just noticing it there, reflected back at me when I attempt to ignore it, each movement in my spine resulting in mild nausea, and a chronic almost irresistible desire to flex, twist, move, rock – all of which hurts, but the movement may, over some minutes, ease the pain somewhat. I look at the calendar and frown. Not even October? Shit. I feel inclined to say it seems earlier this year – but I say that, and feel it, every year. lol This year, I commit to caring for myself in a reasonable and rational way (still, and, again). I take a deep breath. I let it go. I get up from my chair and do some more yoga. It helps.

I abandon my writing and take another hot shower. Lingering in the hot water, I catch myself daydreaming about the heated seat in my car and the 45 minute commute to work enjoying it. Oh, Autumn, you are so beautiful and so cruel to me! I laugh about it, because this morning I still can.

I make a mental note to myself to be kind to people; I can’t tell what kind of pain they may be in, or how hard they are having to work at being decent to people, themselves. We’re all so very human. We are interconnected, and our shared experiences color the experiences we don’t share. Being a jerk to someone can so easily become the experience that blows their day – just as a moment of kindness can turn a bad day around completely. I consider the woman I most want to be, and commit to be more her today than I was yesterday. I give a mental shout out to the friends who seem to have really mastered “self” and “have their shit together” in all the ways that matter most to me. I find myself thinking about old-fashioned thank you notes.

The morning moves on. I sip my coffee. I scroll through my playlist absent-mindedly, unsure whether I actually want to hear music this morning. Pain, coloring my thinking, changes my decision-making in subtle ways; something to be mindful of as the day goes on.

It seems like a good time to begin again. 🙂

Most mornings proceed pretty gently for me these days, and even on the worst of them I get by pretty well, and treat myself decently, and with considerable compassion. This morning was less than usually gentle, and although I’ve done what I can, I am less than ideally kind to myself – I am frustrated by my limitations and feeling irked. It’s not the best addition to my morning coffee, which somehow tastes bitter in spite of using the same coffee I find so richly satisfying most other mornings – and in spite of my general lack of ability to detect bitter flavors in the first place. It is one more defining detail of the start of my day.

I woke from a sound sleep, head as stuffy as the room also felt, throat dry, head pounding, and the clock factually admonishing me that it was already 5:30 am, well into the ‘I may as well get up’ time of morning [for me]. I definitely did not want to get up, and I felt groggy and out of sorts. I got up to pee, and opened the patio door to the morning breeze, hoping to cool the apartment down without fully waking up, and noticing my pain well beyond the usual as I did so. (That makes it sound far more efficient than my hapless dizzy clumsy careening around the room actually was.) I took my morning medication, drank a glass of water, and returned to bed, hoping to sleep in spite of the pain. That doesn’t always work out for me, particularly after sunrise, but on this gray overcast moody looking morning, and after considerable tossing and turning trying to find some combination of pillows and posture that would allow it, I slept.

I woke later to a cool room filled with fresh morning air, headache gone, and easily able to breathe. I feel rested. I still hurt. I am in more pain than usual, possibly just the ordinary change in my arthritis pain that comes with a change in the weather. Yesterday, sunny, warm, and clear… today, gray, overcast, cool, and threatening rain – it’s very much the sort of change that comes with more than usual pain, and I feel less cross with myself recognizing that. (At 5:30 am it was less obvious that it would be a cloudy day.) My coffee is still pretty dreadful… and I give some moments of thought to whether it makes more sense to pour it out and make another cup, or just drink it and have a better second cup later? I get up to go pour it out and start over… then remember I am currently getting by on limited income. Shit. I sit down, taking a more practical, frugal approach, and sip my coffee as it is… glaring down into the dark brew now and then, wondering what the hell went wrong with my process this morning to get this result?

Still… pain and a bad cup of coffee isn’t the whole of my day, or of my experience – it’s not even the whole of my morning. I’m barely awake yet, and the day stretches ahead well beyond my ‘now’, unformed, unlived, and largely unimagined. There will be verbs involved, and choices. 🙂 I sip my coffee and wonder whether or not ‘taking care of me’ today is more about yielding to the pain I am in and compromising my loose plans for greater comfort… or refusing to let my pain call the shots, and undertaking the things I am inclined to do, more slowly perhaps and less comfortably, and just understand that the pain is what it is, and it’s part of my experience more often than I’d like… It’s a hard call this morning. If it actually hurt less to just go back to bed and stay there… I probably would. It doesn’t, so that’s not even an option. lol

That’s a funny thing about the vast menu of choices life presents me with, that I don’t consider as frankly as I might, as often as would be helpful… there are some things I want very much to be choices of mine, that are not in fact on my own actual [still vast] menu of choices to consider – when I am honest with myself. I can’t really choose not to be in pain with my arthritis in any realistic way. I can’t choose to be younger. I can’t choose to change the past. I can’t choose to begin somewhere over there, when I am standing right here. I can’t choose for any of the many details of reality to be other than they are – although I can choose to ignore them, or pretend them differently, the consequences of my actions remain tied to the real reality, and the true truth. Reality does not care what lies we tell ourselves. Our truths have very little to do with what we say in words.

So… this morning… pain. I still want to go to the farmers’ market this morning. When I go, some later, I will still have to be mindful that my resources have changed a lot, and being frugal has value – this is a poor time to be careless or wasteful with resources. I will need to slow down a bit, and manage my pain – or my pain will take the driver’s seat and manage my mood. Choices. Always choices. It’s worthwhile to take a few minutes over my coffee to consider what my choices really are – and where they lead me.

I decide on a hearty breakfast at home, accepting as a given that shopping when I am hungry may drive unintended spending. Before breakfast, a walk and yoga. A second cup of coffee. A hot shower. I notice in this one moment, right here, now, I am not actually in pain… I don’t question that, and I do pause everything else (writing, coffee, gazing at the bird feeder beyond the window…) and take some time to be aware that I am not hurting, to savor it, to linger over the sensations of feeling good; doing so is a practice that shifts my implicit memory away from ‘being in pain all the time’ to being aware that I am not always in pain, and improving my day-to-day perspective and sense of my experience. Moment by moment I build my day… the difficult start? Just one moment of many to come, and I let it go. 🙂

Neither a single ocean wave nor one small bird defines a day at the beach.

Neither a single ocean wave nor one small bird defines a day at the beach.

What do you suppose is the ratio of positive to negative feedback you receive? How about the ratio of encouraging observations, versus critical observations? What about the number of compliments you receive, versus the number of insults or mean remarks? Or the ratio of kind and compassionate interactions versus the number of judgmental ones? Do you feel life’s stings and papercuts more often than love’s kisses? Is the result worthy of the enduring effort? Isn’t “love” an emotion produced by verbs (a whole lot of verbs!) (and chemistry) which results in more of all the good stuff, less of all the rotten bullshit human primates are capable of flinging at one another? So… what are you personally doing to improve the ratio in each and every relationship – or interaction?

Sometimes it’s hard not to just sort of stomp around feeling exceedingly criticized. There is an ever-loving fuck-ton of shit I do not do well, and I quickly find myself overloaded with a “self-improvement list” so long I end up wondering if my existence is holding back world progress. I’m also pretty good at some stuff; generally that seems much less relevant or noteworthy. (That observation gets a sentence now and then, the rest gets a fucking blog all its own.) I remind myself of two very important pieces of understanding that don’t change much, however ‘picked on by life’ I may be feeling:

  1. Criticism is basically just a very poorly worded request.
  2. Agreement #2 of the Four Agreements – Don’t Take Anything Personally

Generally, if I can hold those two understandings in mind when I am feeling particularly criticized and beginning to feel devalued or angry, I can more easily ask a very important question, “what is this person/situation really asking for (what is the unstated need), and how can I reply gently, while best meeting my needs over time?” Remember that bit about ‘an ever-loving fuck-ton of shit I do not do well’? Yep. Here we are; I need more practice. I’m struggling not to take things personally, today. I keep practicing.

To be fair, I woke from a troubled restless sleep this morning to immediate decision-making that went mildly awry. In the moments of disappointment that followed, the nightmare I’d had returned to my thoughts provoking painful emotions, a feeling of inadequacy and unworthiness, that seemed supported by the morning thus far. Not only that, I was in pain. I was in a lot of pain – still am – more so than usual. At this point, I’ve taken all the steps to manage it that I know, and I’m mildly sedated, which doesn’t really improve my experience in a wholesome way; it definitely slows my thinking and dulls my reactivity. I earnestly need to spend some time alone, and spend some time creatively. I’m struggling to figure that out – partly it’s the pain, but partly it is this peculiarly plaguing sense of feeling criticized, and the way that feeling sort of ‘weighs me down’ emotionally, and stifles me creatively. It was even hard to write this morning.

Today I am finding communication difficult. Simple answers to clear questions evade me. I struggle to make sense of the context of questions or observations, resulting in mystifying misunderstandings. Everything sounds too loud… I am tempted to wonder if that’s the pain, or the TBI, or… truth is, it doesn’t actually matter; what matters is learning to comfortably state the simple need in simple terms, gently, safely, as an honest request for support – and sometimes for change. Yeah, I’ll just go right ahead and add that to the very long list of ‘an ever-loving fuck-ton of shit I do not do well’ and I’ll get right on that, too, also, as soon as I can – that’s even sincerely meant. I literally do try my best to actually improve on each and every fucking minute detail of some weirdness or other that doesn’t fit my idea of comfortable emotionally safe socially productive interactions…every moment at risk of being so vigilant of my ‘failings’ that I end up feeling chronically self-conscious and anxious. It’s a delicate balance, and honestly – I mean to treat myself much better than I often do. I am only easily able to treat people dear to me as well as I treat myself… so… it matters greatly to ‘get all this right’. Yeah – that’s a ludicrously high standard to hold oneself, and it is a set up for failure, internal criticism backed up by acceptance of external criticism – real or imagined – with the painful outcome of anxiety, conflict, emotional self-harm, relationship sabotage… blech. Drama and bullshit.

I can do better. I do some days. Today is not a great day for me on a couple of levels. The pain and my sound sensitivity are physically difficult, and drive the emotional volatility and loss of balance. I can’t imagine ‘my happy place’ – and I’m standing in it.

Here’s the thing about improving my emotional ‘golden ratio’ though; it’s not actually about what I hear from other people, or how they see me, or the feedback they give me. It’s very much about whether or not I ‘drink the poison’. It’s about my own choices, and about how I feel about the woman in the mirror. If I am being that hard on me, it’s even more difficult to take care of me when someone else is hard on me, too, or I have to deal with a shitty day, or a lot of pain. There really are some great practices to fall back on. Meditation. Yep. Still works. It does work best to actually do it. Most practices work that way. Getting enough rest is a great practice – and I didn’t. So. Yeah. Mindfulness… ooh, I like that one so much (it’s so hard though…); it helps me stay aware of myself in this moment, and helps me be more compassionate with myself. I really am in that much pain – it makes sense to show myself some kindness. On and on I go. One practice, and then another. One moment to consider some observation that serves me well, or another: perspective, mindfulness, sufficiency, adequacy, worthiness, compassion… I keep at it.

I do hurt… and I’m okay right now.

I woke up in pain this morning, more pain than most mornings, and particularly more so than recent mornings.  A morning with an unusual amount of pain kicks over some self-care dominoes pretty quickly, and I found myself clumsy, slow, and emotional before I’d even finished my first coffee.

Clumsy with pain, and not my best cup of coffee. One morning, one moment, of many.

Clumsy with pain, and not my best cup of coffee. One morning, one moment, of many.

I’m okay, really. At this point, I am struggling more with the un-eased stiffness of my arthritic spine than with the pain itself. Coffee #2 is quite excellent, and I’m finding a bit of yogurt with some oats and dried fruit mixed in quite satisfying for a late bite of breakfast. The morning is a good one, pleasantly relaxed and without stress…aside from the pain, the stiffness, and the coming and going of emotions associated with those experiences. I am in enough pain to evoke tears, each time the pain resurfaces. The stiffness of my joints makes me ‘feel old’ more than the pain itself does, but the pain is what moves me to tears. Now and then I contemplate just going back to bed, although it was likely some characteristic of how I was sleeping that finds me here this morning. I feel frustrated and annoyed.

I checked in with my traveling partner online between coffees. I miss him greatly, and we had discussed hanging out today. I am a lot less fun when I hurt this much. I feel the frustration in the background, and a yearning to ‘force myself’ through ‘whatever it takes’ to ease my pain – not because I hurt, but because I want so much to hang out with my traveling partner and enjoy that time together wholly undistracted by pain. Punishing myself because I am trapped in this fragile vessel, limited by mortal limitations, isn’t really a good way to treat myself – or to get the results I’d like, either, and tends to put me in a bad mood over time. I stop myself long enough to recognize that I am doing my best, and remind myself that it is enough.

I put myself on pause to meditate. I take time to do some yoga. Both these things offer some measure of relief of both the pain, and the emotionality. I sit quietly, and enjoy my coffee while watching the rain fall just beyond the patio door. I’m okay right now. Pain is what it is, and I am dealing with that today, but what I’m not having to deal with is treating myself poorly for a condition in life that is not worthy of blame, or punishment. I’ll enjoy the day, in spite of the pain I am in – because it isn’t the pain that determines the quality of my experience, it’s just something I have to deal with.

I take some good deep breaths, sip my coffee, and pay attention to my posture as I write; it is an easy enough bit of mindfulness to bring to my experience and relieves considerable discomfort. I lose sight of it repeatedly and, as with any bit of mindfulness, that’s to be expected. I begin again. And yet again. I keep practicing. Over time, I relax more comfortably with better posture, slowly encouraging muscles that may not have been doing their part to become stronger and more involved. Incremental change over time is a powerful thing. With the yoga too, postures that were too difficult upon waking are now within reach, and later today I will achieve others that offer still more relief. The toughest of the practices on a morning like this one is simply being patient with myself, and giving myself the time and consideration to get results more slowly than I might on another day.

I smile thinking of my traveling partner, and hope that his morning is going well, and that his coffee is excellent, also. Today is a good day to smile, and enjoy what each moment offers; the moments themselves are so few in a mortal lifetime. Today is a good day to appreciate what is working out well, and any improvements that develop over time. Today is a good day to appreciate the woman in the mirror and to treat myself well, rather than criticizing my best efforts on a difficult day. Today is a good day to enjoy my coffee and listen to the rain fall. It’s enough.

 

The evening is a quiet one. I arrived home at the end of a busy day with a headache, which has slowly become irrelevant, ignored in the background; my back aches much more. All evening my awareness has bounced between the two. I laid down for a while with the headache. The backache got me up some time later. Yoga eased the backache somewhat. The headache became more prominent. I had a bite of dinner, and meditated later, and found that my headache was substantially eased. I am now most aware of the backache. I’m not bitching, just noticing, being aware, and taking time to monitor these states without judgment, providing myself with whatever symptomatic relief is available, and doing what I can to make the most of the evening nonetheless. It’s a lovely quiet one.

I am enjoying the evening doing quiet things, and making a point to embrace the softer sounds, and the peaceful stillness. It is rare for things to be so entirely quiet, and I find myself wondering if it is the new windows; I don’t hear the traffic. The wall clock in the kitchen, a recent addition, ticks off the seconds quite audibly. It wasn’t long ago I would not have been able to bear the ceaseless ticking reminding me of time slipping away…precious…finite… The quiet tick-tick-tick no longer resonates with finality. It’s just a quiet tick that indicates nothing more or less than the movement, in increments, of the second-hand on a man-made mechanical device that measures time in arbitrarily selected units devised by human beings for record-keeping, communication, and convenience. That quiet ticking has no relevance to my subjective experience of time. The clock does not control me. It’s a nice feeling… I don’t know when I got here. (I wasn’t watching a clock at the time, I guess. lol)

I find myself favoring a different approach to time than I did when I was younger. Relative to subjective experience in the moment, the only time that is ‘finite’ is the time that has already happened, and become ‘the past’; my future, as yet uncreated and only imagined, is entirely infinite and limited only by my imagination itself… And my present? Also infinite – infinitely now – and utterly continuous, and also a series of tiny singular moments that quickly become experienced, and past. In my thinking of it, time isn’t so different from light…sometimes a wave…sometimes particles…sometimes science…sometimes poetry. I mean, sure, I am mortal (as far as I know) and someday I’ll die – I guess at that point I will, myself, pass from the present and into the past, but from my perspective, what then? Will I even continue to know time? I have no particular thoughts on the subject of ‘things after death’, and no answers, no conclusions, no expectations, or assumptions; I am comfortable with accepting that there are both things that are known and things that are unknown…about most things.

I didn’t have any particular notions when I sat down to write. It’s hard to think past this headache, even to notice the ticking clock. Oh, hey. The headache is back. The backache isn’t so bad, though; this chair is pretty comfortable backache-wise.

What time is love?

What time is love?

I find myself just sitting, fingers poised over the keyboard, thinking over my recent conversations with my traveling partner, and feeling secure, compassionate, understanding, and very much in love. For a few minutes neither the headache nor the backache have much to say to me, while love fills my thoughts. I smile, half wondering how is it that I love this particular human being so very much, the way I do? I am not concerned with troubleshooting love.  I am grateful to enjoy any measure of sentiment so profound; it’s a complicated journey, and the good bits are so splendid in good company – the bad bits far easier to endure when shared. I noticed time passing at some point. It wasn’t the clock; my traveling partner hits send on a moment of love on his end, and my reverie ends with a smile renewed when I see the emoji pop up, a brief distraction that is no distraction at all. Love comes first.

Be love, if you can, I remind myself; it’s enough.