Blue Gingham Mood

All things considered, today wasn’t such a bad day. I had an appointment with my least favourite doctor this morning. Of all the doctors involved with managing my health, this doctor is probably the one I least look forward to seeing. My feelings stem from her early unsupportive attitudes about my pain and the added speculation about whether it was all in my head, which she didn’t put aside until she received the detailed report from the Pain Clinic almost a year later. Because of this I avoid visits with her as much as I can until I can’t.

After today’s appointment, I treated myself to a great cheeseburger topped with Swiss cheese, tomatoes, ketchup, mustard, and the thinnest slice of a red onion. Instead of plain French fries, I had a side of poutine, which is fries all dressed up with gravy and melted cheese, and it’s about as Canadian as food can get. Also, for the first time in what feels like forever, I drank a root beer soda. The taste of each sip brought back some great memories. Root beer was a favourite drink when I was a child and there are some things you should never let go of just because you grow up.

However, I was in a good mood before those delicious flavours awakened my taste buds and my memories. I was in a good mood for the simple reason that I was wearing a new shirt that I bought recently because it’s the best shade of blue gingham I’ve ever seen. I know… I’m a total geek; and I’m okay with that because I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with finding happiness in small things. There’s also nothing wrong with dressing to look better than you feel.



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.


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.



Migraine Memories

As we transition into spring, I’m hit with an almost joyful thought: I haven’t had a migraine caused by barometric pressure in so long I can’t remember the last one. For a long time, my body had difficulty adjusting to the change between seasons. I dreaded the rainy, darkly cloudy, wet days that were characteristic of spring and autumn weather. I would wake in the mornings without having to open my eyes to know it was overcast outside because I would have piercing pain on one side of my head, usually accompanied by what felt like someone using a very pointy sharp tool to dig through either of my eyes. On days like that, I couldn’t go to work, before that university, before that high school, or participate in any other planned activity. My body required that I stay in bed as motionless as possible with a hand pressed to the side of my head and my face buried in a pillow to prevent any light from getting into my throbbing eye(s).

I would pray for sleep because taking any pain medication at that stage would be pointless. I couldn’t eat until the migraine passed because the smell or even the thought of food made my stomach heave with nausea. I couldn’t have anyone touch me either. The slightest touch from another person would make the already hypersensitive nerve endings all over my body make me want to peel my skin from my body. Looking at light was probably the cruelest thing I could do to myself. Allowing the dimmest level of light to make contact with my pupils felt like a blade of steel was slicing through, not just my eyes, my entire head. All these symptoms made communicating with anyone to describe what I was feeling extremely difficult. Whether it was a blessing or a curse, I’m still not sure, but all the women in the paternal line of my family suffered from migraines, so there was an unspoken acknowledgement when each of us was hit with an episode of this debilitating illness, which made the need for complete silence easier to meet.

I was also fortunate, during the early part of my work career, to have a manager who suffered from migraines too. There were days when he looked at me as we passed each other in the office hallways that he could immediately recognize that I was in pain. He would tell me to finish whatever I was doing, if I could, then go home to get rest. If I didn’t make it to work for the next day, or two, he was empathetic enough not to have calls made to my home because he knew what a ringing telephone could do to a person with a migraine. Without that support, I don’t believe I could have thrived and achieved the successes I did so early in my career in a corporate setting. Unfortunately, in later years I experienced less accommodating workplaces; and from conversations over the years with other migraineurs and from reading so many people’s stories about coping with migraines while working, I know how stressful being in an environment where people think a migraine is just a strong headache can be.

I’d like to believe that taking multiple ‘mindfulness-based meditation for stress and pain reduction’ courses is what got rid of my migraines. However, I still had some for years after taking those classes, although not with the same level of intensity, and I was able to cope with the symptoms better too, which felt like a miracle. Nowadays, I keep my fingers crossed that migraines won’t become a regular part of my life again. Living with the chronic pain condition I have would be impossible if I also had to cope with the crippling effects of migraines, especially when I can remember having some that lasted for days on end. Luckily, on this gloomy overcast day, I can look at the bright glare from the screen of my laptop and write about my experiences, instead of hiding in bed under the covers.


Blinded by the Light ~ Manfred Mann’s Earth Band


InkTober: Day 30 – Wreck

I try not to think about this too often, but many years ago, I was in a car accident that wrecked the front passenger side of my car and caused serious injury to my right shoulder. The force of the impact briefly disoriented me and it took a couple of minutes for me to recover my bearings. When my head cleared, I realized that my car had been hit and I was stopped in the middle of a busy street. There were many witnesses to the accident. A number of people came to my aid and someone called 911 for emergency assistance.

Within a few minutes, the police and ambulance arrived. The paramedics checked me and the other driver for injuries, while the police assessed the accident scene. It was clear that the driver of the other car was at fault for the collision of our vehicles. He had driven in the wrong direction down a one-way street before attempting to make an illegal turn. When he pulled out into the street to turn, he drove right into the front passenger side of my car. My car couldn’t be driven because the front wheel was bent. A tow truck towed it to my dealership for repairs.

The driver of the other car was a teenager who shouldn’t have been driving alone after dark. The car belonged to his parents and he wasn’t insured to drive it. At the scene of the accident, the police laid multiple charges and fines against him. One of the fines was an immediate $5,000.00 because he was an uninsured driver. I know that the other fines and charges were also significant and I could see the fear growing in him as the police spoke to him while they waited for his parents to arrive at the scene.

Looking back at that night, it’s incredible that neither of us had injuries that were more critical. The more incredible thing – and the reason I try not to think about that accident – is that I saw the accident before it happened. I know what that sounds like but it’s true. I saw the accident unfold in slow motion before I felt the collision of the two cars. I still don’t know how to explain it because I clearly couldn’t change what I foresaw. I couldn’t steer myself out of the path of the other car. I couldn’t slam on my brakes and halt my forward movement. I couldn’t do anything to stop what I could see about to happen. How do I explain that?

Not being able to explain what I saw may have influenced some of the decisions I made later. I never spoke to that boy or his parents again after that night. I took the information I needed from the police for my insurance company and left the accident scene with my friend who came to pick me up. When I spoke to a representative from my insurance company the next morning and she asked if I wanted to sue the family for more damages beyond what my insurance would cover – all repairs to my car, all medical expenses, any lost wages –, I said no. I didn’t even need to think about it.

What I did think about was that I somehow knew the accident was going to happen before it did but I couldn’t stop it from happening. Maybe my car was the car that boy was supposed to hit that night. Maybe there was a reason why neither one of us wasn’t more seriously injured. Maybe there was a reason the accident happened just a few blocks away from my home before I got to the fast speeds of the highway. I don’t know. What I do know is the soreness in my shoulder was increasing, but all I kept thinking about was the look of fear on that boys face; and I felt that taking more money from him and his family on top the thousands they had to pay in fines wasn’t going to benefit me, or anyone else.

Looking back at that night now, maybe that accident happened to test us both. Was I not grateful enough for my life and all I had? Was I not patient enough? Did I need to give up trying to control what happened around me? Was I unable to live in the moment instead of always looking forward for what was to come next or looking back and reliving all that had already happened? What was that boy supposed to learn? Did either of us learn what we needed from that accident; or are we both still thinking about that night and wondering why it happened?

InkTober - Day 30 - Wreck


InkTober: Day 27 – Creepy

When I saw today’s InkTober prompt: creepy; my mind started down the path of thinking about things that evoke emotions and feelings that are unpleasant and uncomfortable. However, that’s not the direction I wanted to go in. My day had already started out unpleasant and uncomfortable for me because of pain and feeling groggy, so I wanted to think of things that would take my mind and mood into a different space. Instead of going down that path, I shifted my thoughts to reflect on my childhood, specifically the long hot summers I spent with my cousins, when we would spend hours outside trying to collect bugs or what as kids we called ‘creepy crawlies’.

I know now that what we did probably wasn’t the kindest thing for the grasshoppers and caterpillars, and other unnamed bugs we would catch and put in jars, but it was so much fun trying to catch them. In our efforts to keep them alive so we could study them, we always put holes in the lids of the jars and bottles to make sure they could breathe; and we filled the bottom of them with beds of grass, twigs, and leaves so they wouldn’t be hungry. The construction of their new homes would be followed by constant checks to see if they changed in any way. I remember hoping that one of our many captured caterpillars would transform into a butterfly while we slept, and being thoroughly disappointed on many mornings when not one of them had.

I’m not sure how old we were when we stopped chasing grasshoppers and searching through the grass and trees for caterpillars. I do know that I’m glad to have the memories of summers I spent with my cousins just being kids that did silly kid things like collecting ‘creepy crawlies’ and hoping we could turn them into butterflies. I’m even more glad I have these happy memories, and many more, to turn to when I have unpleasant days like I did today, so I can transform my mood and I never have to settle for having a bad day.

InkTober - Day 27 - Creepy