Chronic Pain

October 28, 2016

You Bitch.

Get out of my head and leave me alone!

Give me at least five minutes

to replenish

My body

My spirit

My sleep.

I am so tired.

You take too much of

My time

My heart

My life.

You Bitch.

 

scribbler_1a

 

Advertisements

Death of Discourse

June 13, 2016

Years ago when I worked at Planned Parenthood in Kansas City, I had to cross a picket line every day I went into work.  Many of the people in this line acted poorly, to say the least.  Screaming profanities, violence and hate at the employees as we tried to get into the building.  I remember one woman in particular who used a bull horn to yell her vitriol.  She would follow me to and from my car, having spent her entire day at the clinic, yelling her hate.

As employees, we were not allowed to ‘engage’ with the protestors.  Most of the time this was fine by me, as truth be told, they frightened me.  It was glaringly obvious that we had no common ground from which a ‘discussion’ could arise.  If it existed, it was so far buried beneath emotional outrage that it was not even accessible.  There could be no grown up, reasonable discourse in this atmosphere.

It seems to me that *everything* is emotionally charged these days.  Gun control, immigration, sexuality, equality… just to name a few.  Reading comments on Facebook regarding any of these topics is enough to make one’s head explode.  We are so divided as humans that there literally is no common ground.  No middle road.  No place from which a conversation can be had.  Obviously, disagreements on how societal issues should be handled exist, yet when did we lose our ability to reason with each other?  Our ability to engage in a discourse without violence and insults?  Has it always been this way? And, if not… what in the hell has happened to us?

I don’t claim to have any answers, nor obvious fixes to our never ending divisiveness.  It does seem apparent, however, that without respect for others and a core sense of common decency, we will only widen the chasm.

325851

 

 

 

After my last visit to the hospital to have the trial stimulator removed (fail), I found an email from MU Health that provided me with access to my medical records on line.  This is fairly standard procedure these days.  I was curious about the doctor’s notes, so I read the charts regarding my visits with two different neurosurgeons.  Nothing terribly enlightening, yet I was struck by a line that read something like, “patient is sitting in no acute distress.”

I remember this visit.  My head was throbbing and I was irritated beyond belief that it had taken almost two hours for me to be seen.  I was patiently answering questions that I had already filled out on the forms that no one bothered to read, and I did not feel well at all.  Yet, in the past year and a half with this headache and almost 20 years of dealing with low back pain, I have acquired the ability to look like I am not in distress.

On one hand, this is a bonus.  A requirement, almost, to living as normal of a life as possible in the midst of chronic pain.  Yet, on the other hand, I don’t appear to be sick, so a lot of people… even professionals, like the neurosurgeons I have visited, probably wonder whether it really is as bad as I say it is.  Why wouldn’t they?  I’ve become a master of the “I’m fine resting face”.  I can do the grocery shopping, smiling and nodding at people I see, while cringing at the pain in my head or my back.  I can function.  I can laugh, and I can act like nothing is wrong.  I have had to learn how to do this.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t get anything done, or probably even get out of bed most days.

Please know, I do not wish for the kind of pain that would literally bring me to my knees, yet sometimes I wish the outside matched my insides so I did not feel the need to plead my case.  After all, who wants to insist that they are in pain?  Who wants to insist that it really is as bad as it is?  Who wants to look like someone trying to garner attention through illness?

What a weird deal.  I’m glad that I haven’t thrown in the proverbial towel, yet I am also saddened that this pain that hugs me like a second skin has inadvertently required me to mask my real self.

e35a9bc055365b47c3472781b7b599b6

Blue Veins

December 24, 2014

When I was little, I used to believe that if the veins in my hands were raised and visible along the surface of my skin, it meant I was feeling sorry for myself.  My body betraying a sense of weakness.  Being vulnerable and exposed, somehow.  I rarely saw them, other than a faint blue beneath my smooth and youthful skin, so to see them had to mean something.  Surely it did…

Sitting in the hot tub tonight, staring at my hand in the bluish underwater light, I flashed back on this memory as I looked at my veined hand.  The veins now clearly visible.   Woven and intricate.  Raised.

I see the veins in my hands all the time now.

 

Scribbler222a

 

The A in Authentic

May 30, 2014

Many years ago when I lived in Kansas City, I spent some time with an art therapist who helped me with some life struggles I was experiencing.  I don’t remember much about what troubled me, for thankfully, I have freed up the bandwidth previously known as my “angst space”, and have moved on from said turmoils.

What I do remember about that time is the therapist herself.  She was in her 50’s, had short gray hair, a large build, and a strong, clear voice.  An amazing artist, to boot.  The first time I met her and shook her hand, I thought, “this woman is completely at home in her own skin.”  Though I had no experience with such a state of being, I could recognize it in another.  She had such presence!  I was in awe of how calming she felt.  I wanted to sit on her lap and be wrapped in the safety of her energy.  I wanted what she had… for myself.  I wanted this peace, this *knowing* that the person I was, inside and out, was completely and utterly OK.  Somehow she had achieved such grace, and I wanted it as well.

Something rather inane got me thinking about my old art therapist today.  I caught a glimpse of myself in the rear view mirror as I was driving home, and I saw an older face, devoid of makeup, surrounded by graying curls blowing in the breeze from the window.  And, lo and behold, that face staring back at me was simply, a face. The usual litany of harassing thoughts did not follow.  You know, the ones like, “maybe I should color my hair, gray hair is aging,” “maybe I should put on makeup before I go out in public, otherwise I look all washed out, ” and on and on, ad nauseum.  I was simply a gal driving down the road in her car.

This scenario may seem like a superficial spin on the deeper subject of self security, yet to me it seemed like a huge deal to realize I no longer have the barrage of nasty thoughts in the ready when I spy myself in the mirror.  Somewhere along the way down this road we call living, I have become OK with all that I am, inside and out.  I am finally comfortable in my own skin.  How did this happen?  I remember making it a ‘goal’ to find this sense of peace , yet I never really thought it was possible.

It has taken me years to get here.  I’m pretty sure I’ve just stumbled to this spot.  Truth is, I think I just stopped listening to the judgmental diatribe in my head.  Such a ridiculously simple thing, yet so difficult to offer ourselves.

Now I think I know why Avis, the therapist, felt so amazing to me.  She was authentic, uncluttered, and utterly present.  She was yummy artistic energy wrapped in wisdom and kindness.  She was what I wanted to be.

Thank you, Avis.  I know what it feels like now…

 

mandala

 

 

 

 

An unexpected journey…

December 31, 2013

Many times when one finds themselves in a hospital, it is unexpected.  An accident or illness, perhaps, requiring care and attention.  In my case, I knew the date of my knee surgery months before it happened.  By the time that the actual day arrived, it still seemed so surreal that I was planning on replacing an entire joint in my body.  Sitting in the surgery waiting room prior to being called back for pre-op, I kept looking at my right knee and wondering… am I even remotely prepared for this?  Am I doing the right thing?  No answers were forthcoming, so I said goodbye and thanks to my crunchy, old knee, and began the journey.

What followed was pretty typical of any major surgery.  Pain, nausea from the anesthesia and heavy duty drugs, disorientation, and a constant flow of nice people coming in and out of my hospital room at all hours of the day and night, taking vitals or drawing yet another vial of blood.  It is all kind of a blur now, two weeks out from the surgery, yet I do remember how incredibly helpless and weak I felt.   For an independent person such as myself, this was particularly challenging.

Since I have been home, there are a few things that have struck me in a profound manner, beyond the initial, “holy crap, I can’t do a bloody thing for myself” awareness at the hospital:

  • Lee is a remarkable caregiver.  He goes above and beyond the “in sickness and in health” marker set by our partnership.  I am so grateful for his help, both literally and figuratively.
  • There is no way I could have been prepared for this experience.  Period.
  • I am not a patient person.  In fact, I am really, really impatient.
  • I do not appreciate my life, my person, my *everything* like I should.

The last one on appreciation is where I must expound, for it is important.  We so glibly will say things like, “better appreciate what you have before it is gone”, or “live each day like it might be your last”, or “carpe diem”, and yet we don’t have a clue as to what that really entails.  Now that I am re-learning how to walk, get in and out of a chair, or use the loo, I realize that I do appreciate what I had now that it is temporarily ‘gone’, but there would have been no way for me to know this fully before the surgery.  Not in any real and meaningful way, that is…  So, how do we appreciate the small things of our everyday lives *before* they are taken away or gone, or injured?  How do we stop and appreciate the fact that something so simple as taking a shower is a miraculous feat of physical dexterity?  It seems like in order to do that, or have a mindset that is open to that realization would require an almost dream-like state of hyper awareness.  Probably not very practical or realistic.

So, I propose this:  try and take a few moments out of each day to really, really pay attention to what you are doing.  No matter how small or simple the task.  Be that washing the dishes, or petting the cat, or making a bed.  Be amazed that you can do these things!  It may sound silly or trite, yet it isn’t.  Perhaps if we can inch in a moment or two of complete awareness in our regular, sometimes boring, lives, we will know appreciation.  The kind of appreciation that enriches our present experience.

I was thrilled the first time I could maneuver my leg under the covers without help.  I was ecstatic with my first shower after surgery, albeit a sitting one, yet it was marvelous.  I look forward to being able to manage the stairs again so I can do laundry.  Wow.  Who knew how exciting my ‘old life’ used to be?

The unexpected part of this planned reconstruction of my right knee has been the lessons I am learning everyday about appreciation and living in the present.  I thought I knew what that meant.  I thought I knew about being grateful.  I didn’t have a clue.

My goal for 2014 is to be healthier in mind, body and spirit.  I will endeavor to pay attention to the small things.  The daily things.  The sometimes mindless things.  I will be glad for my hands the next time I begin a quilt.  I will be grateful for strong arms and fingers as I play my guitar.

I will, I will, I will…

gratitude

 

Parts is parts…

October 4, 2013

Looks like more knee surgery is on the horizon.  Turns out, if it is “broke”, you do have to fix it.  Pondering the impending surgery this morning had me thinking that it would be super cool if I had a great story to tell as to how it got “broke” in the first place…

Something along these lines:

*Back in the 80’s, I wrenched my knee on a pole during my career as a famous exotic dancer.  It was brutal, yet I managed to finish the routine despite the pain.

*I crashed into Susi Chaffee in 1979 during one of our downhill races in the mountains of Washington state.  Unfortunately, I lost the race.

*I was rescuing several kittens from a burning building in Pasadena in the early 90’s and had to jump from a second story window.  All kittens survived, thanks to my personal sacrifice.

Yeah.  Those stories would probably be good ones, yet what struck me is that my own stories aren’t so lame:

*I worked as a bartender in a 5-star restaurant in La Jolla in the late 90’s and bounded up and down four flights of stairs from the wine cellar to the bar carrying cases of beer and wine.  I was in such good shape that I could do this many times a shift.  On one occasion, I made the trip to the cellar to get a particular wine requested by Sammy Hagar.  And, I got to serve him said wine.  Now, that IS cool.

*I spent weeks on end painting the outside of the very first house I owned in Columbia, MO.  I did the entire house by myself, and though my knee swelled to the size of a small child’s head from all the time on the ladder, the paint job was a success.

*I’ve lugged, hauled, lifted, and sculpted large hunks of walnut and alabaster over the years into groovy pieces of art.  All the while, standing on a concrete floor.

In the long run, it doesn’t matter how or why my knee is wrecked and needs to be fixed.  It doesn’t matter!  What matters is that it is so very cool that I did all this stuff in the first place.  That I have knees, or legs, or a back, or arms!  All these parts, and the related stories, are of me, yet they don’t define me.  Gratefully, I am more than my parts.

So, in the end, I will simply have another story to tell… how cool is that?

 

claes_oldenburg_london_knees

 

 

 

 

Unaltered

May 27, 2013

A month ago today, I decided to stop ingesting alcoholic beverages.  I was drinking too much and too often, it seemed. It was time to do something different.

The absence of alcohol has been an interesting thing.  I have missed having a buzz.  I haved missed being able to drink something that will alter my state of mind, and provide me with a little detachment from the moment.  I don’t think I drank in order to escape my problems (cliche’), yet I did drink to feel relaxed, or whatever it was I told myself I was achieving through alcohol.  It is a socially acceptable way in which we alter ourselves.  I got into the habit of doing this regularly.

Thankfully,there have been no crazy withdrawal symptoms.  I have, however, started to wonder about the deeper question of why I wanted to alter, numb, detach or otherwise be something other than what I am sober, on a regular basis.  Was this just a bad habit?  An addiction?  Perhaps, yet at the same time; I think the thing to which I was most attached was the fact that alcohol alters my awareness.  Softens and blurs it somehow.  Makes it “other than”.  This seemed to be my real habit… my real addiction.  Regularly altering my awareness to the present moment.

Alcohol is an obvious route to an immediate distraction, though many people use other drugs, food, or even work as their methodology.  We seem, as humans, to be dissatisfied with ourselves, our circumstances or our environment, on a fairly regular basis.  Looking at our lives, or our bodies in an accepting and non-judging way is hard for most of us.  We need, or want, distractions from how things really are.  To be present to our “in-your-face realities” without trying to change anything, or judging how things look, is difficult.

I am starting to see that there is a difference between wanting to make a change for the better and wanting to make a change as a distraction from the present.  Obviously, life is not static, yet if we are not present and accounted for in the moment, we are missing something.   All we ever have is the now, and though this seems and feels unrealistic at times, it is true.  The past is gone, and the future nonexistent.  If we are forever ‘somewhere else’ than in the moment, are we really getting the full experience?

In the end, this isn’t a sermon about the sins of alcohol.   More, a pondering on how easy it is to get attached to, and actually need, our distractions as a way out of the present. I let go of one big vehicle for detaching from my life, and I like how I feel.  Not just physically, yet esoterically, as well.  I have one less need, and I feel lighter and more in tune because of it.

As Charles Bukowski said, “The less I needed, the better I felt”.

Indeed…

hooponopono-is-being-present

 

 

The Bionic Woman

April 11, 2013

When I was younger, I had several people tell me I looked like Lindsay Wagner, who starred in the 70’s hit series, The Bionic Woman.  I remember being flattered by this, as I watched the show and thought it was pretty cool.

I was thinking about old Lindsay Wagner’s character today while I was getting fluid drawn from my sore and swollen knee.  Turns out that degenerative disc/cartilage issues are not just happening in my back, yet are shining forth in my knees, to boot (pun intended).  The physician I saw said that I would probably have to have it replaced in the next ten years or so, and being only 49, this isn’t a pleasing notion.  Granted, there are lots of new and exciting things happening in the medical field, yet all I could think of was pain and money.  Both of which would be of issue if and when I have to have surgery on my back or my knee.

Why aren’t my parts lasting longer, I pondered, as I heard the news?  Was it all that Jane Fonda, spandex-wearing aerobics I did in the 80’s?  Was it bounding up flights of stairs with a case of wine when I was a bartender in La Jolla in the 90’s? What the heck have I done that warrants a crap back and a gimped out knee?  Seems to me that I’ve just been living, and using my body as a tool to make things happen.

Unlike Lindsay, I didn’t have a skydiving accident and land in a tree…hitting everything on the way down. Her maimed bits seem logical and understandable.  Why don’t mine?

Suffice it to say, I can see the direction in thinking I am going to have to take on all of this:  it doesn’t matter why or how…it simply IS.  Drat.  I’ve had plenty of nudges in that direction of late.  I want answers, dammit!  Tell me why, so I can rant and rave about it all, and regret and wish I had done things differently, or be mad and hate on something.  What the heck am I supposed to do with all this ‘in between crap’ before I get to a place of acceptance?  I am so far from being Buddha with the calm and smiling face that I can’t even see his statue.

Well, I shall divine my own answer to the litany of questions:  Life is Absurd.  <thank you, Lee>

If life isn’t fair (which we all know it isn’t), and it doesn’t matter ‘why’ things happen, only that ‘they’ do, and in the end, if it’s true that IT really doesn’t matter…then what else is there to do than just live?  Keep on keeping on, as the saying goes.  (grimace)

Well, crap.  I can see that my mind isn’t going to be tons of help with all of this angst, so I’m going to have to rely on my heart.  Maybe there is more wisdom in there than I’ve ever taken the time to know.  Maybe that is where my super strength, Bionic Woman, resides!?  Even if someday I have to have some rods and screws instead of discs and cartilage in a few spots, at least, hopefully, I will be wise enough to know where my strength actually resides.

 

lindsay-wagner-of-the-bionic-woman

Carvings

March 15, 2013

I’m being emptied out like a pumpkin.  

Seeds and pulp removed, then discarded.

What kind of face will I be given?

images

%d bloggers like this: