Kind Of Blue First Day Of Summer

I know I should be happy because it’s the first day of summer. Above all else, this means we’ve reached the definitive part of the year when the days are longer and it’s okay to wear shoes without socks. Not wearing socks may be my hands-down favourite thing about summer; closely followed by the earthy smell in the air when it starts to rain. But I’m not sensing the uplifting summer feeling today. It might be because I see before me another year when my summer will be spent mainly indoors as I struggle from day to day with pain that unlike the seasons seems endless.

Instead of thinking about the longer, sunny days ahead, I’m feeling rather blue…

I can only hope that tomorrow the sun will shine brighter and that light will lift my mood. While holding on to that hope I’ll have Miles keep me company.

 

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue – 1959 (Complete Album)

 

Peanut Butter and Bananas

Some days are harder than others are.

On a day like today when my entire body feels sore from the moment I open my eyes, it’s hard to imagine anything that can help make me feel better. One would think all the pain medications I take might do that; but they only make it possible for me to cope with the always-present pain and the soreness, which is a by-product of any movement or exertion I make with my now atrophied muscles.

Today, however, there was one thing that made me feel wholly better for a short time. I made myself a peanut butter and banana sandwich. My version of a comfort food that I’ve been eating for as long I can remember. If you’ve never tried one, I suggest that you should, at least once in your life. Because, for me, peanut butter and banana sandwiches make everything feel better…

 

 

A Bright Spot In My Grey Fog

Time sometimes makes me feel as if I’m moving at a snail’s pace through a murky grey fog. Since having surgery at the end of February, that’s how I’ve been feeling. For the first weeks afterwards, I told myself it was the general anesthetics working through my body and once that passed my energy level would pick up. When that didn’t happen I told myself that I wasn’t getting enough quality sleep, which rarely ever happens, so I had to cast that variable by the wayside. Even when I got the all clear from my doctor because the pathology report from my surgery was negative for any cancer, there was no movement on my energy meter.

I started to get concerned; because I thought, I might slowly be sliding into depression but missing the true signs. Maybe the low energy I was crediting to anesthesia, fatigue, a pain flare up, or my laptop’s hard drive crashing was really the looming darkness of a mental crash. It wouldn’t be hard to miss for someone in my situation, even with the mental health supports I have in place to cope with my poor health; and especially because my nervous system gets flooded not just by the barrage of constant pain but also an unending amount of pain medications. With these things constantly at play, a shift in mood would be easy to miss.

Then last week, I felt a desperate need to change things, but I knew whatever I did had to fall within the limits of my pain. On Saturday, I decided to do something that I had taken for granted when I was healthy. I booked an appointment with the aesthetician I used to go to because it’s been such a long time – almost four years ago before the start of my illness – since I did anything to pamper myself. The women who own the spa I went to were so happy to see me. They asked why it had been so long since my last visit and I told them what I’ve been living with. Not only were they sympathetic, they were also empathetic because they both faced significant health issues in recent years. They were both extremely encouraging and expressed hopes that I would be better soon.

At the end of my appointment, as I walked to the elevators one of the women called after me. I assumed I forgot something, but I hadn’t. She followed me out to give me one of the tightest warm hugs I’ve had in a long time. I started to cry as a woman I hardly know held me with great affection. She reiterated her positive wishes and prayers that I will become healthy soon. For the rest of the day as I pushed myself to finish the errands I had to do – I’m not sure I could have lasted another week without my laptop – I could feel the fog lifting. A hug from someone I barely know lit up my day and has had lingering positive effect.

I’ve been reflecting on that for the past few days: For anyone reading my writing for the first time, this isn’t about me being starved for affection or human contact. I have wonderful friends and family who do everything they can to support me. This is about the big way small gestures can affect our lives; the way sharing our troubles can bring about such surprising connections and unexpectedly comforting events; and how feeling cared for, even if it’s just for a moment, can fortify us.

I’m glad I made that appointment. Apart from reminding me how important it is to do things to pamper one’s self from time to time, it was a truly bright experience that lifted much of the fog that had cloaked me.

 

 

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!

 

Gratitude and Creativity: Low Emotional Valley

I’m just realizing that I spent the better part of the past month in a low emotional valley. The failure of my acupuncture treatment hit me hard. I know this because of the smatterings of energy I managed to invest in anything that resembled something creative, including how little I wrote. The recovery from the pain flare up caused by the acupuncture has been slow – I haven’t been able to reduce the doses of my pain medications. The frustration and disappointment of another treatment that doesn’t work for me is becoming hard to bear. As much as I try being positive, the melancholy found its way in and decided to hang around as I drank copious amounts of tea and binge watched TV while sleep eluded me most nights.

My uninvited guest sapped me of so much energy that I became too tired to sleep. Too tired to feed myself properly, and barely able to meet the few commitments I made to family and friends. The strange thing is while this was happening I didn’t recognize it because I was still moving, still breathing, and still feeling pain. I’m not numb, but I was enveloped by whatever the opposite of being mindful and aware of oneself might be. Then, this morning, as I turned the corner on another sleep-deprived night I flipped through a few pages of my art/gratitude journal and saw how little my brain and hands have produced because of my low energy and sinking emotions.

What was I trying to find in the pages of a sketchbook at 6:45 on a Saturday morning? I was looking for a blank space to teach myself how to draw a new, to me, Zentangle pattern. The space was easy to find because, as I said, I haven’t done a lot of creating lately. I keep saying that I’m teaching myself how to draw. However, at the rate I’m going I may not reach that goal. I have the books and the art supplies I need, but without motivation and a positive mood, that amounts to a lot of blank paper and unused pens, pencils and paint.

I noticed that the time I spend in these emotional valleys seems to be getting longer each time and my awareness of that space is losing its sharpness. This morning, wanting to draw a new combination of lines alerted me to the presence of the current valley. I wanted to connect with one of the things that help to stop me from falling down the steep slopes and that desire, that smallest of desires, pulled me upward.

Last night, while sleep stayed far away from me, I spent time on Adele Bruno’s website Tickled to Tangle. She’s a Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT) from whose posts I’m learning a lot. She writes a series called “Tips for Tangling” where she shares great step-by-step information about how to draw Zentangle patterns that makes drawing them a lot easier. Because of her posts, I’m becoming more comfortable and confident about drawing in ink and not worrying about making mistakes. After all, in Zentangle there are no mistakes. It was one of her posts that made me reach for my sketchbook: Tangling Radiant Sooflowers. I wanted to try creating my own radiant drawing but I first needed to learn the tangle pattern, Sooflowers created by Livia Chua, which luckily wasn’t at all difficult. After a quick practice, I worked on my tile and made one change to customize it. Instead of stippling the white spaces with dots, I filled them with small Tipple circles.

My tired eyes and shaky hands aside, I’m happy with the result. I’m also happy that although I didn’t sleep at all last night, Adele Bruno’s creativity alerted my awareness to my low emotional valley and inspired me to start climbing out.

 

Ed Sheeran – I See Fire