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

 

Doppelgänger Dilemma

As I traveled to a recent appointment, I saw a woman I can only describe as the doppelgänger of someone who was once a close friend of mine. The striking resemblance to my former friend startled me so much I almost spoke to her, but instead I just stared, which made her and then me obviously uncomfortable. The one thing that made it clear the woman standing in front of me wasn’t the person I had once known was that she was heavily pregnant, which is a stage of life my former friend has long passed. However, the style of her hair and the shape of her features could have made them twins.

The interesting thing is that the friendship I had with this former friend grew tremendously during her pregnancy with her second child. Before that, we did the usual things adult friends do while keeping each other at a comfortable distance: we hung out some weekends, went to the movies, and went shopping together, but during her pregnancy, she changed; she became more open and caring. I enjoyed this less critical and nonjudgmental aspect of her personality. I naïvely thought that this sensitive, empathetic side of her would become a permanent fixture and we would be friends until we reached old age. Unfortunately, after the birth of her child – and what I have to assume was the re-balancing of her hormones – she reverted to the person I’d known before, and being around her for more than a few hours at a time became difficult to bear.

I’ll never understand why some people believe it is okay to treat other people like crap and still keep the privilege of participating in their lives. Why anyone believes that as long as you apologize after making cutting remarks or insults all will be well again, until the next time they do the same, is beyond me. This woman’s behaviour towards other people was so harsh at times that witnessing it made me wince. We eventually went our separate ways because of a series of things she did to others and me where, even after having the negative and hurtful effects pointed out, she made light of the situations and felt we should act as if they hadn’t happened and move forward. As expected, that lack of acknowledgement and trivialization caused more hurt. For a long while after we cut ties, I missed spending time with her and being “auntie” to her children, but our values and beliefs about how to treat people were so different I couldn’t see a way back to fully trusting her and being open about my life. I believe that had I continued in our friendship that it would just have been a matter of time before more incidents arose and ended things.

A lot of time has passed and although I know her children are nearly grown and may not even remember me, I do think of them often; and after seeing this former friend’s doppelgänger, I felt the urge to reach out to see how she and her family are doing. Then I remembered her condescension at my past efforts to mend our relationship, and that I’ve run into her over the years since we stopped spending time together and how things always felt awkward and forced. I no longer feel comfortable sharing any of what is happening in my life with her because I don’t want to be subjected to her judgement or hear her disapproving tone. I think I made the right decision not to pick up the phone, but deep down I’ve been questioning how one short conversation could hurt…

 

Lily Allen – Friend Of Mine

 

Zentangle: Residual Feelings

I didn’t sleep much, or peacefully, the many times I dozed off last night because yesterday was a bit of a strained day for me and I couldn’t shake off the residual feelings of the day. First off, I had to be up early for an appointment with one of my specialists. That meant I had a lot of anxiety the night before, and while getting ready in the morning, because getting anywhere on time these days is difficult for me. If I have to wake up early for an appointment, I don’t get a good night’s sleep because I feel anxious about the possibility that I might oversleep and miss it altogether. Then getting showered and dressed, even though I checked the weather report and had an outfit picked out, is a major production that always takes longer than any amount of lead-time I give myself to get out the door allows. I keep hoping that I’ll finally figure out the right ratio of time I need depending on the level of pain I’m feeling on a given day, but for now I’ll have to live with the crapshoot that I might get to where I’m going on time.

However, my early morning appointment wasn’t the only thing that made it such a difficult day for me. Yesterday was the birthday of my great-aunt M. She passed away about 15 years ago after a long battle with cancer. She was a sweet, caring woman. Everyone who knew her loved and respected her. Even though she was my grandmother’s sister, my great-aunt M and I had a closer relationship. She was one of the few people in my life whose love and affections I never had to question, and I miss her terribly.

Throughout my life, Auntie M was a positive presence who always did things to make me feel special. Because she lived overseas, I didn’t see her often but I did have opportunities to spend time with her during long visits over summer vacations and other holidays and she always worked to sustain a significant presence in my life. When I was a child, she would send me packages with a mixture of toys, clothes, and sweet treats. I loved opening those gifts and seeing the pretty things she had taken her time to pick out just for me. As I grew older, Auntie M wrote me letters and sent me cards that always arrived on time for my birthday and holidays, and there were her phone calls just to say hello.

As much as I miss my Auntie M, I know I should be relieved that she’s not suffering anymore from such a long, terrible illness. Because it wasn’t possible to celebrate her birthday with her yesterday or chat with her to hear her reassure me that everything will be fine the way she used to; I spent my sleepless time doing things to distract myself from my currently hard to cope with life and sadness. I like the way this piece turned out and I’d like to think it turned out so well because Auntie M was helping me to steady my pen like she used to support me when she was alive.

Tile 36 Shaded - Tangles-Sand Swirl-Leaflet-N'Zeppel - String 008

Tile 36 Shaded – Tangles-Sand Swirl-Leaflet-N’Zeppel – String 008