Building On Happiness

The passage of time coupled with perchance interactions, have ways of presenting answers to questions we may not even be aware we’ve asked. The answers aren’t always worthy of celebration nor what we want to hear or see; however, when the information gleaned is unexpectedly joyful it can affect one’s perspective in delightfully life-affirming ways.

Throughout my life, I’ve had these experiences, but my tendency was to analyze and seek out more pieces to puzzles that only existed in my head. This created greater angst than necessary then it became nearly impossible for me to accept anything that presented itself to me at face value. Thankfully, I no longer have the need to analyze EVERYTHING in-depth and in recent years, because of my health challenges, it’s become impossible to invest copious amounts of energy into speculative mind, heart, and stomach churning overanalyses.

This brings me to a few nights ago. In what many of us may still refer to as “Kodak moments”; I saw for the first time since walking away, that I may have dodged one of the biggest bullets – actually two – in my entire adult life; and I smiled. Because of what I saw, there will never again be any looking back. There will no longer be any mournful sighing or wondering what might have been. And this smile – more like the grin of a cat after eating a succulent canary – will require no effort to reproduce. I will forever have in my mind’s eye the images that answered questions I never consciously asked and succeeded in dousing embers of lingering doubts.

 

Since then, I’ve been grinning from ear-to-ear and laughing out loud. (Not out of madness. I don’t yet spend that much time alone.) My laughter is akin to the way one’s fingers lightly skip across piano keys causing each note in a crescendoing scale to sing effortlessly through the air.

The heaviness that connected me to a long gone episode in my life lifted without any exertion on my part. The murky disjointed memories that held sway over me for years and caused me to doubt decisions I made in my best interest, lost all power. Then, as what I once characterized as meagre beatable obstacles replayed, a soothing calm fell over me as they became illumined to show they were, in fact, countless hazard symbols appropriately placed for me to dodge potential disasters on my path to becoming wholly me.

As cliché, and probably whacky, as all of this might seem to some people: the energy that becomes available for living one’s life when we let go of doubt(s) and the need for incessant forensic examination of the past is astounding. I feel freed from a thing I wasn’t aware was holding me captive. Part of my consciousness was running on a treadmill while the rest of me believed it was outside road running and hill training, stretching me and building my strength for the longevity we all need to carry us through life.

Although those physical activities are off-limits to me now – and I miss them, more than words can describe. I feel as if I’ve jumped off an invisible loop. Moreover, within the space now purged of subconsciously felt doubts, I can and I will exercise my conscious mind, emotions, and creativity to build on the happiness I already hold.

 

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The Difficulty Of Being Loved

FACT: When we are loved, it’s not always easy to accept it and take in the full meaning of it.

The difficulty of it lies in trusting the realness of receiving something immeasurable without any expectation of having to give a single thing in return. It’s especially difficult when we have lived lives where we survived abuses and/or significant traumas where love and tenderness were withheld to increase suffering. How can a person trust a reality where things are given without a price or obligation attached, when one’s whole existence screams that it isn’t possible to have that, to be worthy of that, or deserving of another human being who regards your being with tenderness and care?

I’m a witness to this struggle now. I’m seeing this unfold in the life of one of my friends and the mental health toll is enormous. My friend’s partner is in the midst of a major health battle and seems incapable of accepting, or acknowledging, how deeply they are loved and cared for by so many people. This person could be told every hour on the hour that they are loved and they still might never believe it. The exhaustive effort invested in repeated attempts to show love in tangible ways with the gifting of things, through deliberate actions, physical emotional comforts, and just being there are all dismissed as insufficient or outright meaningless; which makes the giver, in return, feel unloved.

Being on the receiving end of this dismissal may be a deeper pain than never being loved. Watching someone I love live through something like this makes me feel helpless. There isn’t enough I can do or say to make this situation better. I can be supportive. I can tell my friend kind words or make suggestions about how to cope. However, I know my actions and words only salve the pain during the moments when we interact. When those moments end, my friend is the one who returns to living this difficult reality. A reality that – if I’m reading things correctly – is not going to end well, no matter how much I hope for an alternate result.

As this situation unfolds, it’s getting harder for me to understand why people make living the lives we have so much harder than they must be. Why do we treat each other so harshly? And why, when we are most in need of it, do we reject the kindness and love of those closest to us?

 

Bonnie Raitt – I Can’t Make You Love Me

 

Almost Like Old Times

I had leftover pizza for lunch today. Leftover pizza can be a nice thing. And when it’s leftover from a spontaneous late evening dinner on my patio with one of my oldest and dearest friends, it’s even better.

Yesterday my friend M, who I’ve known forever, sent me a text message at the end of his work day to see what I was up to for the evening. As I wrote then, my mood was quite low on top of my pain level being quite high, but instead of telling him that I asked what he had in mind. He asked if I was up for a visit or if I wanted to go out to get a bite to eat. I didn’t want to do either, but I wrote back asking what his preference was and reminded him that we could get some food and eat on my patio. He thought that was a perfect idea and called me so we could decide what to eat. We quickly decided on a pizza with hot wings on the side, which I ordered while he drove to my place.

Within an hour, we were sitting in the dim evening light on my patio eating pizza and laughing almost like old times. Except that in the past, after receiving his text message or call, I would have thrown on some clothes, he’d come by to pick me up, and then we would drive until we decided what was good to eat in whichever direction the car was heading. I miss those days a lot. Life’s spontaneity is no longer something to which I can surrender. Every moment of my life that requires a large output of energy requires planning. I have to map how long it takes to get ready, whether someone will pick me up or I’ll schedule a ride (a taxi or Über), how long I’ll be able to stand if seats aren’t available, whether available seats are comfortable enough to sit in for the duration of the event, and how long I may need for recovery when it’s all over.

Nonetheless, my friends do their best to understand. Even though they know I might have to cancel at the last-minute, they try to do all they can to make my life feel normal. The latest accommodation they are willing to make is bringing the fun to my home, which thankfully is what happened last night. As blue as I felt yesterday about living through another summer trapped indoors by pain; my friend M lifted much of that mood. Him touching base with me at the end of the day to see what I was up to doing, as he often did in the past, brought me back to feeling what things used to be like for a few short hours, before my pain forced its way back to center stage.

 

Today I’m Reminded…

Today – and most days –, I’m reminded of a woman who I was fortunate to know in my lifetime: She was my Great Aunt M and she was one of the most kind and loving people I’ve ever known. Today is the day she was born and I prefer remembering it than dwelling on the day I witnessed her passing away. Even though I live thousands of miles away from where she once lived, and can’t place yellow flowers on her grave, I pay homage to her memory as often as I can because I learned so much about compassion and unconditional love from her.

She was the kind of person who, although quiet, was strong. Not everyone can survive being put on a ship alone as a young adult and sent thousands of miles away from your family to make your mark in the world. Not everyone would have been able to thrive in a place where they knew no one, but had to prove themselves knowledgeable and capable of saving lives from the very first moment they reported to a new job, but she did. Every person whose life she touched, in even the smallest way, still remembers her. The goodwill of her deeds still lives on in the community where she lived, eventually married, and raised her children.

I’ve been the beneficiary of that goodwill each time I’ve visited her small town and someone has made the connection between who she was and who I am. The pride felt in those moments is overwhelming, and added to the love and respect I already felt for the woman who loved me my whole life. It also made me feel more fortunate that what I know of her came to me, not from her professional life, but from moments that are more intimate. Times where I was fed favourite meals by her, walking with her through the streets of her town on cool summer mornings, sharing cups of tea with her dearest friends after shopping in the local market, or receiving small gifts that always arrived in time for my birthday.

Her memory keeps me positive because every time I think of her I know that somewhere inside me lives the things she taught simply by living her life. I know that I can be strong and survive anything life throws my way. When I am fearful, I know that the courage I need to overcome whatever I’m facing is within me. I know a smile and words of kindness can go a long way to make another person’s day or life better. When I am sad, I have wonderful happy memories in which she lives that I can recall. I know the value of doing good in the world because her work and its legacy live on. Most importantly, I know what it is to be loved unconditionally and what can come of giving love in the same way.

Today I honour the memory of my Great Aunt M and I am grateful I had the opportunity to know her.

 

 

When Someone Shows You Who They Are…

“I don’t trust you,” she said coldly. The same person I recently held in my arms while she cried and told me her troubles said those words to me.

I’m never going to forget being told those words because I have the kind of memory that stores information with great detail and rarely dislodges any of it. My earliest memories were created when I was a toddler and I still see the things, people and places in them as if I interacted with them yesterday – much like I can see this person on the playground of our elementary school. Sometimes I wish my memory didn’t work this way but at other times, now for instance, I’m glad I rarely ever forget. I’m glad because it ensures that I won’t allow myself to be caught in another web of deceit like the one made by a person who chose to abuse my friendship and trust.

As an adult, I’ve been accused many times of being naïve and too trusting of people, especially those I allow into private areas of my life, and with whom I share the most intimate parts of who I am. That characterization may not be too far off, but I prefer to look at it from the perspective of trusting until I’m given a reason not to trust. I approach life that way because it takes too much energy to walk around suspecting that every person one engages with is going to harm you in some way. The never-ending hypervigilance and suspicion would surely make it impossible to enjoy one’s life, and could, quite possibly drain you of your will to live.

Besides, when someone betrays or deliberately hurts you, it’s the unmasking of who they are. Therefore, it has no bearing on your character. Furthermore, when that same person has the audacity to mockingly ask, “What are you going to do about it?” in relation to the action they have taken against you; or “Who do you think you are?” after you call her or him out on their vile behaviour; it’s further evidence that they were never worthy of your friendship. Words and behaviour like this also makes one realize that the air of toughness someone might have projected for years, is just the lack of a conscience and the inability for her or him to form genuine human connections.

In the end, one must decide what bearing such a betrayal is likely to have on any kind of relationship continuing to exist. In my experience, that chance arcs sharply towards zero, because in all likelihood, there may be nothing to salvage. After all, it would be more than naïve to allow any person who treats you so poorly to get that close to you again. And if there’s any doubt about this decision there are always these wise words from Maya Angelou to remember, “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.”

When Someone Shows You Who They Are

 

Mood Soothing Blooms

Yesterday I was having a tough day, with respect to pain and mood. Of course, in my case, one feeds the other and sends me into a downward spiral of agony. The day had started reasonably well – even though I hadn’t slept much the night before – then an abrupt about-face came because I was angered by something someone said to me. I know that becoming angry doesn’t work in my favour – it never has –, but controlling one’s temper isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

With the hope that it might pull me out of my prickly mood, I practiced a guided iRest meditation, but my mind kept skipping out to engage with other thoughts and memories. I had, however, committed at the beginning of the meditation to accept whatever might show up during my practice so I didn’t stop before the end of the recording. When it finished I was grateful that I worked through it because, as I usually do, I felt sleepy. I was able to fall off to sleep for about an hour until my slumber was interrupted; first by a phone call from my pharmacy and then immediately after hanging up, by a heavy knock at my door.

My annoyance was elevated again because the short sleep hadn’t helped to reduce my pain, so walking to my front door was more than uncomfortable. I was further annoyed when the person hammering my door refused to identify himself until I opened it. When I did open the door, he asked me my name from behind what appeared to be a box overflowing with shocking pink and white tissue paper that he handed to me. Because I was still somewhat foggy with sleep, I almost lost my balance when the weight of the box shifted to my hands. When I shut the door, I was a bit confused by what had just happened because I wasn’t expecting any deliveries.

Mood Soothing Blooms

The overstuffed box of tissue paper turned out to be a beautiful bouquet of a dozen assorted roses. The timing of their arrival couldn’t have been planned more accurately. I knew who sent them as soon as I ripped off the paper and saw each beautiful bright bloom and I was so grateful they arrived when they did. The flowers lifted my mood and proved to be a welcome gift of distraction from what I was feeling physically and emotionally. I know they were meant to be a Valentine’s Day gift, but they delivered a more meaningful message by arriving a day early. They remind me that even though others might engage in negative behaviours, which I sometimes allow to affect me too deeply, there are always those who love and value me for who I am.

Thank you B!

 

Blogiversary: 2 Years & 200 Posts

I received two unexpected notifications this week from the WordPress staff. I’ve been writing in this space for two years and I’ve written 200 posts. When I started this blog, I did it with the aim of unburdening myself of all the stress and emotional and psychological pain my illness causes me. I needed a space separate from the judgement and input of my family and friends. A space where I could be completely honest about what I am living with, while hoping to connect with other people who could empathize and truly understand what I’m living with. I’ve gotten that and so much more from this small corner of the interwebs that I’ve turned into my own.

This past year I started sharing my writing with some of my friends and family. I did that because they still have a hard time wrapping their heads around what is happening to me and how I cope with this illness every day. I hadn’t shared my writings about my illness with them before because I was anxious about exposing myself and the raw truth of my experiences and emotions; and I worried that I might have to become less candid with what I write. However, the feedback I received from some of them made me realize that I had no reason to fear what they might think.

In fact, my anxiety was unwarranted. The friends and family, with whom I shared my writing, were all incredibly compassionate. Some expressed disbelief that I’ve managed to hold myself together all this time while living with the level of pain I do daily. They couldn’t understand how I manage to maintain such an upbeat outlook even with the many failed procedures and pain medications that often don’t manage my pain as they should. Others just enjoyed reading my writing and were surprised with the level of detail I retain about my experiences and how vividly I convey what is happening to me.

This made me feel closer to them, which was completely unexpected. I never thought it could be possible to appreciate and love them more – let alone feel closer to them. Because of this, when I sit down to write I don’t worry anymore. I don’t feel the need to consider that I might express something that may be upsetting to them because they have made it clear that the support they extend to me and the love they hold for me is not conditional on what I might need to vent. They see this space as an opportunity to tap into the truth I might not fully share otherwise.

Two years into writing this blog and almost four years into living with my illness, I continue to learn about the people in my life and myself. Obviously, I don’t know what to expect in the coming year. My hope is to continue with the same determination to cope with my illness and to share what I’m living through with others who might connect with something I post. Writing has always been an important part of my life and even though I started this blog on a whim, it’s become an invaluable tool to help me – and now people I’m close to – cope with and better understand my life.

Blogiversary Bouquet