Tag: health

It has taken days to write this down…

For years, i have struggled with how personal i should allow this blog to get. It is an odd conundrum to have, given my general disposition. In conversation, i have very few boundaries. No personal embarrassment will stop me from making someone laugh.  As a poet, i am a spiritual and emotional exhibitionist. There is very little that i won’t write about, and have a peculiar lack of shame when it comes to flinging my secrets out into the world.  Think of a chimpanzee throwing it’s feces at random passers by, only substitute poems.  In rhyme or blank verse, i will describe any level of transgression or epiphany, love or suffering, without a thought.

If i appall someone with my poetry, after i am done celebrating my aim, i am quick to add: a poem is to a novel what a polaroid picture is to a movie – a tiny snapshot of reality, of Truth (if done well,) but not necessarily something eternal.  Writing can be an exorcism of sorts.  Once the words are down on paper, they do not haunt the heart.  These words may reflect a moment of profound grief or trauma, but that no longer apply to every moment of my existence.  Likewise, much to my shame, that moment of bliss and understanding might have also been swept away with the tide.  So, this temporary nature of the poem has left me feeling like the nakedness of the soul is appropriate.

Only, i have tried to walk a fine line here, in the prose, in this primary blog, between what i want to write about and what i deem appropriate for polite society.

Many people have told me that i already reveal too much and should back off.  Only, this afternoon, while i sit here waiting for glasses, i have no desire to be cagy or polite or wrap a cloak of denial over the situation in which i wallow.  This journey that i will be traveling for the next six months or so will require everything i have – keeping up a facade, or being vague about my problems, will not work.  Or, rather, it will take energy that i do not have to give, so today i will shed my inhibitions and tell you exactly what is going on with me.

Only, now that my defenses lie scattered around me on the floor, i suddenly feel shy. i have noticed that it is cold.  Perhaps i am remembering the loss of yesterday, twenty-four hours martyred to maudlin moaning and cuddling up in bed with animals.

A lot of what plagues my mind i have written about incessantly: a pitiful lack of courage, an over abundance of anxiety bordering on the ridiculous, continuing problems with my health, financial insecurity. These are all still present and strong – although, maybe, i am doing better against the depression/PTSD/anxiety than i thought, because i am still standing. In the parts of this blog focused on my spirituality, i have talked openly about despair and doubt as much as i have communion and joy.   

At least six months go, i reached the level of overwhelm that made coherent thought and action nearly impossible.  Instead of actively swimming through the currents of life, i have been thrashing, choking on the waves and spray, reacting but not able to move in a coordinated and productive manner.  i know this, so i have kept praying and begging and reaching out; my persistence fueled by desperation.  Only, with one tremendous, mind-boggling, life-altering blessing (the discovery that this world is filled with love and kindness) set aside for a moment, the rest of my troubles have continued on undaunted and undiminished.

What has my guts churning today, though, is my health.  i have to get a hysterectomy as my uterus is horribly swollen with tumors (biopsy pending) and even if they are simply fibroids (please! i have been praying ceaselessly on that score) this will be major surgery.  My right leg, because these things happen in groups, has been having problems working.  Indeed, there are times it will not work at all. Thank heavens i had company over Christmas that could move my leg when i was experiencing one of these brown-outs.  Unfortunately, now that company is back home and i am left swatting at my leg in the morning, trying to get it going. Thankfully, my dog, Darwin, seems to have more sense than me and does a laying on of paws to get me started.

At any rate, that too is surgery and my left leg has the same issue but somehow, magically, still works.

The glasses i am waiting for come because my vision has been steadily declining for the past couple of years – while so much of my hair has gone white that i have been turned into a blonde.  My primary concern, though, even before they hysterectomy and the hip surgery and the collapse of my finances (for with these injuries, no wonder my ability to run my small business has been horribly impeded,) is that i am diabetic.  i have to get my blood sugars under control. Three quarters of my problem is that when i am horribly stressed out, my sugars go sky high.  Once the stress abates, A1C gets better. 

But, when will the stress abate?  Sometimes i think that letting my life fall to pieces without a struggle would be less stressful than trying to get myself to change and be strong, fierce and fearless. Surely accepting powerlessness and submitting to the crappy things that have happened like they are some kind of judgment would feel more peaceful than demanding things from life (a living, health) that it seems so unwilling to give.

Yet, of course, here i am, pushing against the wall with all my might and demanding that it magically become a door. One of my friends – for these delightful people have been the awesome blessing that saved my life during the past eight months – keeps syaing that she knows i will be okay because i am the most stubborn cuss she’s met.  Part of me hopes she is right.  However, every time i push forward, doing something that i thought was impossible for me, i feel a quiet wave of pride and a huge inundation of WHAT WAS I THINKING?

#

Twenty four hours have passed since i wrote these words.  Glasses have made my world have sharp, clear edges again.  A seminar about selling your work at trade shows has taught me much.  But mid way through the class, i had an epiphany:

my path must be different than that of my classmates.

Simply put, i do not have the health to do major shows yet (or create the stock i would need) – perhaps in the summer or fall, but even then, by not applying for them now i will not be accepted into them.  Moreover, i am still substantially hampered in what art i can make.  So, i will have to forge my own path – taking advice from everywhere i can, gathering inspiration from the stories of artists who can pay their bills – but finding my own way. 

At least, as my heartbeat quickens with that realization, i can take comfort in the fact that i can finally see clearly again.

8-9 January 2015

missing days

It had been my goal to blog every single day remaining in 2015, but i missed two days for no reason other than overwhelm. In eight days, i am going to have an appointment about a hysterectomy and now i’ve discovered there is a serious issue with my hips that has been causing much of my pain walking, sitting, standing and generally moving. i knew i had a problem with my legs, that is what drove me to the doctor because i was desperate with pain and my right leg to stop farting off and not working, but really thought there would be a non-surgical option – “if you just do exercise a, you will get all better.”  Alas, that is not the case. So i will definitely have one, maybe two and possibly even three surgeries this winter.  If it weren’t for friends, i would have fallen into a puddle of self-pity.

Oh, but there have been miracles this holiday season.  For a week, i have help with the chores of life and business, and it has been delightful, but this temporary relief has explained why i struggle so much alone.  Having someone here to see the difficulty i have just standing up and walking much less trying to get serious work done, the pain i am in, my distracted focus, had the unexpected effect of making me understand i can be intensely cruel to myself. Friends have been saying this a lot, commanding me to “Stop insulting my friend this way!” when i go on a tear about how awful or lazy i am. However, it is different when someone sees you 24/7.  So much denial exists when i am alone; i can tell myself that i ought to be able to overcome anything, when i fail it feels like torment.  Looking about the house to see that which i have not finished, those jobs that i cannot manage, i give myself no quarter.  It has only through other, more compassionate eyes, that i can see, ‘Ah, yes, there is a reason for this.’ and ‘Oh, maybe this is not failure so much as a setback.’

In the next few months, i intend to get myself sorted – which, i can’t believe it so i will type it out again, will involve another surgery at least, but probably more than one.  The past twelve months have made me confront the limitations of my body in ways that i don’t particularly enjoy. However, denial has stopped working.  In order to be a fierce, strong woman i have to reclaim some health first.

Still, i cannot complain that much.  This year has been a miracle too. i have learned so much about myself, i have come so far from where i started this journey eight years ago.  The fact that i have gone through this financial and physical crisis without getting self-destructive is remarkable.  However, the biggest lesson needs to come to me in 2016: how to forgive myself for my weakness, how to forgive myself for what i see as failure (by redefining both failure and success?), and most of all, how to regard myself with confidence and treat myself with compassion.

From there, i believe the other things i need – better financial stability, a way to make my art feed me, writing a new story for myself – will fall into place.

As for tonight, the lesson is: i can fuck up and be forgiven. This is really miraculous for me.  Already i had learned that a tremendous amount of physical limitations and emotional chaos could be processed by others and they could still love me, but this kind of subtlety had been suggested but not proven. Yet here it is, proven tonight: i can make thoughtless mistakes, apologize from the heart, and be not only forgiven but still loved.

If another can do that kindness for me, then shouldn’t i aspire to do the same for myself?

getting through alone

i keep wishing
i were not alone,
or that i had the confidence
to make it through
on my own.

This wretchedness
makes me feel
like a fool.

After all,
it is hard
to maintain
what little dignity
i have left
bare-assed
in a hospital gown.

But the reality is:
i am surviving.

When i had to seek help,
i did.

Perhaps i move through
this experience
without grace.
Doubtless,
i am a mess of sweat
and frustration.
Certainly,
i experience my share
of thrashing,
near drowning
panic,
and the diarrhea
of complaint
leaks
from my lips.

Yet, i am still here.

Somehow,
i have endured
the most dangerous
despair
and i have learned
to make do
with what is
in this moment.

Full of fear and confusion,
with the world spinning
awkwardly,
with a gorilla on my chest
hampering
my heart and lungs,
i am managing.

Each breath comes,
albeit through pain.

My heart is still beating –
tests have proved it –
and i have done this.
i have managed,
while i feel forsaken.
Oh, but, i know,
truly,
i am not alone.

I have had the help
of God
and friends,
and whatever crazy spirit
i have within me
that refuses to surrender
without a fight –
no matter how many nights
lonely and broken,
i find myself praying
for death.

6 august 2015

too stupid to be my friend

I feel like I should be writing about really important stuff.  Only, I am preoccupied with the stress. My health is crippling my ability to function as a human being.  Thankfully, I still seem to have poetry and pen and ink drawings oozing out of me, but other aspects of creativity have been hampered.  I have not had enough energy to throw; my attention  span (or, rather, the lack thereof) has stalled my novels. And without every medium distracting me from the struggle of running the business and trying to sell my art, I get lost to anxiety.  I am a paradox:  a psyche absolutely at sea without new art coming through me, enjoying this huge engine ready to create, and simultaneously suffering from this massive ignorance as to how to sell my work.

Every once in a while this feels like a strange form of prostitution, convincing people that the work of my hands, something so intimate and personal to me, are worth their money and appreciation.

It is when I am in this kind of state that I make stupid decisions.  I flounder and become easily susceptible to suggestion.  Thankfully, I know it – so I seek out the counsel of others.  My friends keep me reasonable, even if they have to tell me if I go down this path or that I will be too stupid to be their friend anymore. I listen, and every once in a while I even obey.

Depression wears me down.  My limits glare at me.  All I feel competent to do is make art – so I throw myself into it, hoping it will save my life.

 

Good mornings

bare angelJust a quick note, completely delaying the blog that was going to go out today.

I woke up feeling almost 40% human this morning. My nebulizer and inhalers seem to be doing some good. The sun is shining, I can hear birds. My animals had all curled up with me during the night and I finally figured out why some pages of my website were messed up.

So, I am getting ready to start my day, thankful beyond words for feeling somewhat better and having the sense that things are possible.  Even if those things are just teaching and making art for one more day.  My dreams were full of pottery and stories.

I just have to meet my enthusiasm with some common sense and not wear myself down.

 

 

free will and faith, stubbornness and depression

i lost my temper this morning.  Even though i am a pretty terrible Buddhist/Christian, i do make a serious effort not to say mean things or be snappish and today i failed miserably. If i am honest, i can give you reasons – mitigating factors of feeling miserable, crushingly alone and overwhelmed – but to this studio member, i was bitchy. Either i will be forgiven or not, but the words came out of my mouth and – much worse – in that exact moment they were true.  My problems loomed so massively inside me, my cognitive overload crushed me so badly, that i did not have room to care about anything other than the task at hand.  Once it was done,  i apologized and said i was in a place to care about other things again, but i don’t know if those words did any good. They certainly failed to evoke the same power as the original utterance. As the hours have ticked by, i have been recriminating myself over my vocalized irritation.  Because i am a poet and a navel-gazer in general, this has lead me to start pondering four things: free will, faith, stubbornness and depression.  And you’ll need a paragraph of background to understand why:

For a few months, life has been growing more and more challenging.  In early October, a second neurologist confirmed what the first has thought since October of 2011 – that my nervous system is being slowly digested by my immune system. Alas, that is as far as i can get with a diagnosis because my health insurance won’t cover any tests. Indeed, i have to find a way to pay the nearly $300 bill for the second neurologists’ time, since that was not covered because he’s a specialist. These problems have been around for a couple of years, but they have gotten much worse over the past six months. With some horror, i watch the situation get worse while i frantically try to make it better. The failing of my body includes massive pain, problems walking, unpleasant confusion, issues with manual dexterity (a real blow for me, given the art i make) and constant headaches that have made even the most basic thinking difficult for the past two months. This is not the first time i have struggled with hobbling ill-health, but this time i lack the support structure i used to have.  Not to mention the wonderful (pre-divorce) health insurance that i still dream of fondly.  All in all, being so unstable physically makes me feel much more vulnerable and alone generally. Then, about three weeks ago, i found out (in a failed attempt to get life insurance) that my A1C was terrible.  Either i have lost my genetic fight with diabetes or the stress from running a business with all the health issues has gotten to me. But, again, i cannot afford any actual doctoring for this.  Nor can i afford any prescriptions (which are also not covered by my health insurance) so other than cutting out carbohydrates from my diet i am on my own.  Which, truthfully, gives me some stress.

Which is where the musings on free will, faith, stubbornness and depression all come in.  Being sick is depressing.  Being this vulnerable to financial and physical instability is terrifying and depressing.  Being so unrelentingly single is depressing.  Feeling like i am not enough to get done the things that need to get done is depressing.  Every day that i am not able to throw or paint leaves me agitated, wondering if these problems are permanent, which in turn is depressing.  i wish i could say that i have blind faith that things will get better and be awesome, but i don’t.  Free will can mess me up – both my own and others.  i cannot make people buy pots.  i cannot force them to support my kickstarter.  i can beg for help, but that does not mean i will get it.  i can argue with the insurance company, but they do not have to bend to my will.  i can go on healthcare.gov but that does not mean the site will work. i can develop crushes, but that does not mean i will be going out on a date. Moreover, as i have written before, my own free will matters more than i can say.  Do i choose to eat as well as i can? Do i choose to move my body much as possible, even if it’s just walking, bent like Quasimodo, in circles in my studio? Do i choose to snap at everyone i meet, or do i try to be friendly and kind and act as though nothing is wrong as much as i possibly can? Do i forgive myself when i am bitchy? Do i drag myself out of bed when every cell is screaming in pain?  Do i face my depression down – spitting in its face as i wrote in a haiku the other day – or do i crawl into a hole and cry?  (Both might be the answer to the last question.)

angel_smFaith, when i look at it on days like today, becomes a hard, cold choice rather than an effervescent feeling of belonging or certainty.  i have to make the choice to believe that things will get better even though i know there are no guarantees, even though i am close to tearing my clothes and covering myself with sackcloth and ash.  i have to gird my loins and believe in myself and what i’m doing enough to open the studio and start writing (throwing is way beyond my abilities today.)  I have to be stubborn in my faith, forcing it to stand like a breakwater against the waves of vulnerability and despair.  Even more, i have to do this when everything inside of me – every emotion, every sensation – screams that life is too hard, too unfair and too lonely to bear.  Today, i do not feel faithful; i feel forsaken.  Optimism has drained out of me these past three days of intense physical wretchedness. Friday and yesterday, i barely wrote, only drew a few melancholy sketches and drained myself to nothing working on pottery.  There is no way to be kind to myself when there is so much that i have to do.  Kindness would be huddled in bed with a heating pad, under covers, cuddling with the animals.  Stubbornness requires me to sit here at my work table typing away. Right now, all i can do to keep myself going is to act like what i do, what i am, matters and then ground myself in this determination.

And now we have come the synthesis, how all these four pieces fit together in my heart right now:

i use my free will to stubbornly choose faith to fight off the demon of depression.

And, God, i hope tomorrow is a better day.  The prayer is so fervent i lit three candles for it.

 

thinking about the power of thoughts

Over the past three days, several people gave fairly randomly mentioned the power of thinking positively, and the unconnected conversations have caused a cascade of musings on my part.

i do think that our thoughts matter. Despair can make any situation worse; peacefulness can make everything better. However, there are moments when even the most blindingly positive thinking cannot deny reality. People get sick, they die. It is not a matter of choosing it, or willing illness onto yourself – everyone gets sick, everyone eventually dies. If someone has positively thought herself into immortality, she is keeping it quiet. Arguments could be made, i suppose, that the truly enlightened are the exceptions that proved the rule, but after his awakening the Buddha did choose to die in the end, and Christ begged in Gethsemene. Even they knew pain, which means to me that i cannot take my own as unique and singularly tragic.

Part of life is suffering, we cannot fully escape it. Someone’s free will can damage another’s best  intentions and challenge their most positive thoughts to the core. Just the difficulties of life can knock people down, regardless of their mindset.

i have watched people face profound illness and their mortality with awe inspiring grace, kindness and merit. Their strength and faith and wonderful attitudes made their time more pleasant, possibly longer and their trials certainly more bearable. Positive reactions filled the moments between pain with a better emotion, but they did not cure cancer or muscular dystrophy or keep mindless violence from ending a life.

So, i remain skeptical of positive thinking’s success in curing all ills. However, i am also acutely aware that it does help. Joy makes life precious, love is something worth fighting for. It is hard to underestimate how potent changing the internal dialog about challenges and reversals and self perception and health can be. i have seen it with vivid clarity in my own life – the color of the words i say to myself about a situation lend their hue to the whole experience. Without a certain amount of optimism (i have written about magical thinking and stubbornness as tools before) the impulse to surrender can be overwhelming – both personally, professionally and in the greater realms of politics and society. Believing unshakably in the worth, decency and dignity of the individual – yourself no more and no less than all others – is necessary in this world of negative messages and judgment.

It can drive not just personal healing but can provide fuel for the engine for social change.

That said, positive thinking itself can be wielded like a club when others insist that the suffering have somehow chosen their situation or simply lack the strength to think their way out of it. People do not suffer because they are weak or lazy or bad; every life is full of challenges that cannot be predicted or controlled. We all get sick; we all eventually leave this world. Neither is a cause for condemnation. More importantly, we cannot know the intimate sensations and abilities within another’s form – much struggle and pain hides beneath the skin without giving any outward clues to its existence, which makes it impossible to judge their will or merit by their perceived physical state.

Quite literally, positive thinking might need to be the antidote to someone’s orders to think positively – exchanging an honoring of self and celebrating the joy that intersperses with pain for the command to think oneself out of pain, or disability, or grief, or poverty, or any other trouble. If you have fallen in the mud, wishing and thinking “I am not in the mud” won’t be as useful as forgiving yourself for falling, struggling to stand again and then using the mind to come up with a way to move through the world that takes gravity better into account, if such a way exists.

Writing this is easy, living it has been outrageously difficult. i continue to have one foot stuck in negative habits and reflexive reactions while the other stands on solid ground. Spasms of despair and anxiety occasionally tackle me and wrestle me to the ground. Too often i stumble into puddles of self-pity. And i have never been able to fully disarm the recordings of insults and cruelty that can be triggered into playing within my memories. However, i have gained the ability to question those messages, ignore them and even tell them off. Dwelling in gratitude helps immeasurably, but i know i am still vulnerable to negative thoughts and emotions.

Perhaps this is why i am receiving these messages about positive thinking, if i choose to seek meaning behind such gifts. Today, a wonderfully wise and kind woman talked to me about acceptance and letting go. The compassion in her voice and manner melted me a bit. As she spoke, i saw the image of forgiveness as a layered process, hitting the mind, then the heart, then the gut. All of the positive thinking In the world would be ineffective – even at simply soothing a flash of pain in the moment – without it reaching down from the mind to conquer the heart and then convert the guts. Mental, spiritual, physical.

She said nothing about having brought suffering onto myself. Instead she described healing as this ever deepening process of bringing love, kindness and forgiveness (the most positive emotions of all) deeper within, like they move through shakras or penetrate to the depths of the soul. This kind of positive deepening can bring marvelous change, but it does not change a basic reality: barring marvelous, miraculous enlightenment, i am still bound to this mortal coil and the suffering it entails.

i leant her Showings by Julian of Norwich, with a quote i love so well that a version of it is tattooed on my arm:

all will be well.
and all will be well,
and all manners of thing
will be well.

that masterpiece is the best positive thought of all.