Gratitude and Creativity: Thank You Card

These days it’s so rare that we receive anything but bills and junk advertising in our mailboxes. However, today there was a lovely surprise waiting when I opened my mailbox. I received a thank-you card in my mail. Receiving it made me smile from ear to ear.

Someone who will always be special to me sent me the card: my nephew. He wrote me a personal message of thanks. I’m so glad to know that he’s cultivating his own practice of expressing gratitude while he’s so young.

I have a bit of a thing for thank-you cards. I always have a bunch on hand at home to send notes to people when they do something nice for me. Sometimes I send a card or note for no reason at all except to let someone know how much they mean to me.

I’m sharing this because I feel so happy and proud of my nephew; and I want to encourage everyone to send a card or note to someone to let them know you care. If you don’t have cards think of another way to express gratitude for having her/him in your life.

Thank you S for your thoughtfulness

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Bruised

I’ve written extensively about my issues with sleep. I’m an insomniac. I’ve been one for years. That means I’m happy to get sleep whenever and wherever I can. Because of this I’ve developed the terrible habit of spending the night on my sofa where I often (read most nights) fall asleep, while watching TV, writing, surfing the interwebs, reading, using my phone – actually while doing just about anything.

A few nights ago, I dozed off on the sofa, yet again. I’m not sure how long I was asleep. However, while I was asleep, I fell over and landed on a plastic container in which I keep some of the art supplies I use most often. When I woke up, I had a deep indentation in the skin on my shoulder from where it had rested on the square lid of the container while I slept.

I also bruise easily. Because my skin is apparently as soft as a peach, that indent is now a lovely sore dark purple bruise that hurts a lot. I think my bruised shoulder might be a sign that it’s time for me to give going to bed at a reasonable hour greater effort. After all, who knows what I might bruise the next time I fall asleep somewhere other than my bed…

If anyone has advice for the best way to soothe a bruise, please share.

 

New Year & New Explorations

It seems so far away now: I rang in this New Year with bubbles in a glass that fizzed up my nose when I sipped them…

Now that the celebrations are over, I’m slowly – and painfully – settling into another new year. I could approach it with introspection, by summarizing all the things that happened or went unfulfilled for me in 2017, but if you’ve been reading my writing for the past few years you’ll know that my health did not improve and my doctors have yet to find the magic pill to heal me. What I’ll do instead is tell you about the things I’m looking forward to in the coming weeks and many months from now. However, I won’t go into details because, if I do, I won’t have much to write about as the year unfolds.

I’ve decided that 2018 will be a year of learning for me. That’s not to say I haven’t learned anything in past years, especially in the most recent years since the arrival of my illness when researching diagnoses and treatments to better understand all that’s happening to me; and when writing informative – and I hope educational – and coherent posts became necessary. When I started this blog a few years ago, the main goal was to share my experiences as a person with a chronic illness that involves severe chronic pain and to connect with anyone living with similar issues. Although, that scope unexpectedly broadened to include the creative things I do to cope, my illness and pain are still what drive the tales I tell; but I haven’t invested enough time to learn how what’s happening to me physiologically has impacted the body I inhabit or how it all might have started.

To that end, I got some new books over the holidays that should shed some light on things I’ve pushed to the back of my mind as I’ve battled through painful days and disappointing treatments while somewhat passively acknowledging the changes, obvious and subtle, happening within my body. I chose these books because of the whole-body perspective each author reportedly takes when discussing health and healing.

The books in my stack include

  • Gabor Maté, M.D., When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress: “provides answers to… important questions about the effect of the mind-body link on illness and health and the role that stress and one’s individual emotional makeup play in an array of common diseases”.
  • Katy Bowman, Diastasis Recti: The Whole Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation: “Diastasis recti, an unnatural separation of the abdominal muscles, in not just a “weak core.” It’s a symptom of a whole-body problem. Your abdominal muscles have many important jobs – they help you to do everything from twisting your spine to singing, accommodating pregnancy, and protecting your abdominal organs. They should not be splitting down the middle!”
  • Susan Hollister, Heal Yourself: Anti-Inflammatory Diet. The Top 100 Best Recipes for Chronic Inflammation: “Chronic inflammation has become an epidemic. Just look at your friends and family. How many of them have diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia or chronic pain? These are caused by chronic inflammation. This book will help you manage and prevent chronic inflammation. In the chapters that follow you will find activities, supplements, medications, and other solutions that will help you reverse your inflammation and alleviate its pain. You will discover foods to avoid and you will also learn which foods help to reduce inflammation.”

As I’ve done – and will continue to do – with my treatments and my creative coping practice, I will share what I learn as I progress with the hope that it’s beneficial to others too.

Alas, by my count, there are still a number of things – mainly pain treatments –, which I did not post about last year because of the research required and the great emotional difficulty of processing the outcomes, while trying to write cohesive posts. Once I get around to finishing some editing, I’ll post them because I believe that learning about these treatments may be beneficial to others who struggle with chronic pain, regardless of my personal outcomes.

In the meantime, I’m back on the treatment and procedure(s) treadmill this week; and I’ll hopefully have some new and interesting – as well as successful – treatment information about which I’ll fill up the site. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, however, I do wish everyone (family, friends, and all those I connect with through this site) the best and hope that this year is already better than last…

 

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.

 

UFO: Unidentifiable Food Object

Every so often, I’m lucky enough to get the opportunity to have an extended visit with my friend R. That involves breakfast, usually lunch and on rare days, like today, dinner. Today, as we sometimes do, we had breakfast at an all-day breakfast café near my home. I had a plate of neatly stacked French toast with scrambled eggs and R had the big breakfast with all the meats that tend to turn my stomach into a roaring ocean: bacon, ham, and sausage. As we ate our leisurely meal, we chatted about all sorts of things and mapped out the rest of our day.

Today we planned a very late lunch/early dinner at a favourite restaurant where R will definitely upgrade his meat choice and I might actually act like the omnivore I am. After being told I need to eat more meat a few years ago – apparently, my primarily vegetarian diet doesn’t provide my body with enough iron and protein – I now indulge in feasting on select meats (except pork, which I can’t digest) to keep my body steeped in hemoglobin. But I digress…

The plans for the rest of the day involved more food, conversation, and laughter. However, after our very late lunch/early dinner we knew we needed much lighter fare to take us through the evening. This called for a quick trip to the grocery store to grab some fruit and snacks. As we walked through the produce department deciding which fruit would be best I came across something I couldn’t make sense of. Were they mini mini eggplants/aubergines?

Nope…

They were grapes: sweet sapphire grapes to be exact. I’d never seen anything like them before. According to my mother – to whom I sent a photo of this strange fruit – and the interwebs, they are an old variety of grape. They are black, seedless, elongated, and tubular with dimpled ends. These grapes can grow as large as 5 cm to 7 cm (2 in to 2.75 in); and are usually harvested in mid to late August. Because we’d never seen them before we didn’t buy any. Truth be told, they freaked me out a bit. However, I’ll head back to the grocery store over the weekend so I can try them now that I know they are not mutant, radiated, GMO something or others.

In the meantime, I’m wondering how many other customers had a similar reaction to mine, or if others were more adventurous about trying this unidentifiable food object upon first sight…

 

Painful Pins and Needles

I haven’t had a lot of luck finding someone who can help me clean my home and do my laundry on a regular basis since becoming ill. The last person I hired was wonderful. Unfortunately, for me, housecleaning was only extra part-time work she did to make ends meet. Fortunately, for her, she was able to find full-time work with enough hours and compensation that meets her financial needs. Her now full-time employment means that she doesn’t have the extra time – and I’m certain not the extra energy – to clean homes anymore.

Since losing her help, I haven’t been able to find someone or a service that will include laundry as part of housecleaning without charging an arm and a leg. So, I’ve returned to doing both tasks on my own when I have the energy and not too much pain, which means things aren’t always as tidy as I like them to be. This past weekend, I had to do laundry because my dirty towels and bed linens were starting to pile up. All the activity and energy I needed to get them clean caused a pain flare up and triggered a symptom I haven’t had for a long while: my feet and ankles are swollen.

The usual warning sign of feeling pins and needles prickling from my toes and up my legs all the way to my hips preceded this pain flare up. Feeling pins and needles always causes an extremely high level of anxiety in me because I know it’s what happens right before the level of my pain starts to climb; and once the pain starts to climb I have no control over how intense or painful or for how long the flare up will last. All I can do is hope that it won’t be so terrible that I’ll have to go to the hospital emergency room for help to cope and get some relief.

On the other hand, I don’t get any warning sign(s) before my feet and ankles swell. It just happens and it adds to the pain in my feet and ankles because they become tender to the touch. I never know how swollen they will become: at times, I’ve been unable to wear certain shoes or boots because my feet seem to grow a size. I never know how long the swelling will last: this is the third day so far and sometimes they’ve stayed swollen for weeks.

Furthermore, after all this time, my Pain Specialists don’t know the reason(s) behind the swelling. At one point, they believed they increased the dose of one specific medication I was taking (Gabapentin/Neurontin) too high. This made sense because one of its known side effects is swelling of the hands/ankles/feet. However, last year, when my Pain Specialist decreased the dose then eventually removed Gabapentin from my treatment the swelling didn’t immediately go away. Some months later, it did stop, and it stayed away since about the middle of last summer. Why it came back a few days ago, I’m not sure.

So, once more my legs feel as if they are on fire as the pain builds and they swell. I’m doing my best to keep my legs elevated because I hope it will help to reduce the swelling – even if it’s only a little bit – and staying off my feet can help me cope with the pain flare up. I’m also sticking closely to my medication schedule by taking them as soon as my alarms go off because I want to maintain a steady level of pain medication(s) in my system.

If things become unbearable, I’ll make my way to the hospital emergency room.

There’s not much more I can do…

 

Grounding Lines

I needed to release a lot of negative emotional energy today. All the terrible violent and racist activity that’s been going on in America since last Friday has put me on edge. In the past, I might have gone for a long run but running is not an option for me because of my illness and unceasing chronic pain. Instead I opened my sketchbook and started drawing lines. I drew lines until my mind started to clear. I kept drawing them until I felt grounded again.

If I’m being honest, I’ve been on edge for quite some time. It’s hard hearing someone, like the President of America, who holds such significant power, saying things that are divisive and so far from disavowing groups rooted in hate and racism. As all of this persists, I have to believe the people who don’t hold his opinions outnumber him. I also have to believe, people whose values are built on the basic premise that all human beings are equal will prevail.