Thursday, October 24, 2013

What Is Just Freakin' Is

It's amazing how such a redundant statement can be both so true, and so difficult to accept. What Is Is. However, it happens to be the only thing keeping me from spinning out of orbit like The Sun just released its gravitational pull on Earth. To live in a subjective state of reality is impossible for me. There is simply no way to reconcile the hurt, pain, unfairness, opportunity lost, destruction, devastation and misery the last eight years have caused me and those I love. Not unless I want to spend the rest of my life in the reconciliation phase. Which I don't, because it's a sucky place to be, stuck in the unrelenting and painful quagmires of my past. 

I spent years building "freak out" neural pathways in my brain. For a long time after the strokes it felt like that's all there was. It's still my default, knee-jerk reaction to upset, stress or pain. Retraining those pathways to respond positively to challenging situations is hard work. I feel like I have to pick myself up off the floor every few days when those runaway "freak out" ones take over. Once that happens the only way to get back on track is to indulge objective reality. Which brings me back to What Is Is.

Freedom from the past is possible! Freedom from the present is possible! It is not a popular way to live and frequently challenges the fundamental basis of a person's relationship with others. But then again, disabled with crippling pain when one looks perfectly healthy isn't necessarily popular, either. By accepting the past as unchangeable, and the present as what it is, I have found I am able to focus on something I can improve and make better, the future! Any other attempt to calm my anxiety or dissuade my frustration is futile. It's too much of a mess back there to make sense of it. But I have blessings today that can grow into great and wonderful things tomorrow, if that is where I choose to focus my mind. 

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013


It's happening again. That feeling of victimized rage I spent the last few years stewing in. I feel it rising up inside me as I try and navigate my way through the outside world. Meet the minimum requirements of a successful existence. Manage my illness on top of it all. Me oh my, learning how to live life again is a much greater challenge than I anticipated. Despite my unrelenting insistence that today be a much better day than yesterday, it's not. I lost my cool on the way to another doctor appointment. This time it was at the mercy of my car's navigation system. It got me to the freeway exit okay, but failed to guide me to my destination. All I could see was one spot on one road, me, and everything else blanked out. No next went the wrong way...keep going this way. None. I cancelled and re-started it, whereupon it informed me I was too close to my destination to show it. Racing through mega-office complex after another did nothing. At this point I SATTOMLOL. Screamed At The Top Of My Lungs Out Loud.

Clearly something much bigger is stressing me out than being late to a few doctor appointments. But this much bigger only gets better if I do. If I don't give in to these fits of frustration. If I divert my attention from aggravation and only tend to the positive, doable and gentle. Otherwise everything falls apart. See this need to change my life, my outlook, my reactions, it's precipitated by the need to keep my life intact. Every time I go off course it's only a matter of moments before a massive reminder smacks me across the face. Change is mandatory.

I need to force this change. I need it to happen right, and I need it to happen right now. There is no time for a learning curve, gradual progress, one step forward and two steps back. How did my life get to such a breaking point? Become so fragile the thin little bonds of positivity I coax from sheer air are all that hold it together? For so many years all I did was slump deeper into the rabbit hole of pain, sickness and despair. It was a hard and ugly descent. Why is it so surprising climbing out of it is nearly as difficult? Many years of debilitating and life-threatening health problems have already cost me so dearly. Taken nearly everything away from me. Forced me to live a life my wildest imagination couldn't fathom. Now I find myself living in a fundamental state of existence. For it I don't, well, let's just say there is absolutely no way in hell I am going to let anything take the precious few I have left.

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Monday, October 21, 2013

I'm Late, I'm Late!

So there I am, driving on down the road on my way to a doctor appointment, late and flipping out. Getting stuck behind two cars driving right next to each other, both going exactly 40 mph in a 45 zone, pissed me off. Hitting fourteen consecutive red lights convinced me of a conspiracy theory between the Arizona Traffic Commission and the owners of all gas stations. By the time I was circling the parking lot of my doctors office like a vulture looking for a parking space, already 15 minutes late to my appointment, I was crying. Yes I got mad at slow drivers and full parking garages and the grinding frustration of a trail of red lights, but mostly I was mad at me. 

That ugly thing called 'the truth' was inescapable. See I woke up with plenty of time but laid in bed playing solitaire and looking at the Groupon app for at hour. At least. After deciding both suck I was finally ready to face the day. I took my pups on a lovely walk, grateful for a beautiful day after the 24 hour triple-digit heat of summer sequestered us indoors for the last five months. However, when I got home I had an hour to eat and get ready. Yoga got shoved on the shelf of procrastination. At this point I started getting mad at me for wasting an hour of my morning frivolously. Even if the time to do something about it had already come and gone. So I flew out the door with enough time to get there, provided my 20 mile journey went perfectly, which it didn't. Lucky for me the receptionist was kind and I still got to see the doctor. 

What a pathetic problem to have in life. That's what I tell myself. Get it together, figure it out and stop whining about your lack of motivation and organization are frequently muttered too. Yet that inescapable feeling churns my insides, mocks my efforts and blooms abundant self-doubt. It's the darn clock I feel like I am racing against. Watching it fly far ahead of me as I scrape my shins on slick pavement, trying with all my might to keep up and accomplish everything I am supposed to. For the last few months I have narrowed my focus, ramped up my productivity and really resumed some of the standards I employed before I got sick. While things have improved around here it's just not enough. Today's frustration was a manifestation of that unmet expectation. Apparently I forgot the fundamental questions that inspired any progress in the first place. Is what I am upset about something I can change right now? If not, do I want to make a choice to spend time, which will pass anyway, indulging my emotions in a negative spiral or do I choose to focus on what is good?

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Viva Las Vegas

This last weekend I did something I have not done in many years, attended my annual family reunion in Las Vegas. I really can't even remember the last one I went to. Perhaps over the past eight years of chronic illness I maybe mustered up enough strength once. Maybe. The only real memory of Vegas I have is the last trip I went on with my husband a good four or five years ago. It was so bright, loud and smokey I couldn't deal and vowed not to return until I wasn't so sick. To describe Las Vegas as a sensory, neurological experience from hell for a person with Fibromyalgia is a supreme understatement. 

For some reason I felt up to going this year so I packed my bags, kissed hubby goodbye, and flew off to sin city for a little family togetherness. What met me there was so unbelievably surprising I still can't believe it happened. I felt great. Not okay, good or fine, but really great. Yes I was at the total mercy of everyone else's schedule and horribly short on sleep. No I had no down time, but that was more because I didn't want down time. There was too much awesome stuff going on! I didn't feel sick, like I was dragging behind everyone else or forcing them to make concessions to accommodate me. No, I felt  more like a teenager stuck on vacation with her parents who wanted nothing more than to party till the sun came up but wasn't allowed to. Ummm, excuse me, when the hell did this happen?

My mouth is still agape with shock as I sit here three days later stupefied. Logic tells me I deserve to feel good. That every yoga session and AM jog got me here. That my anti-high fructose corn syrup, aspartame-phobic, preservative-avoiding self earned this. That my heartfelt belief that I had to do this myself, for if I waited for doctors and drugs to get me better I would still be in bed, was correct. However, Fibromyalgia is hardly logical. I've been trying to fit the square peg of logic and reason into the round hole of Fibromyalgia for years now and it never worked. In fact, this illness specifically defies any expectation of normalcy to such a grand degree it's what sent me running to the funny farm oh so many moons ago. Never fear, the flare hit yesterday. When a bra I didn't notice I had on the day before started cutting into my skin like a knife I knew my run had ended. But I'll be damned if on my way back home I didn't feel like the woman who put a quarter in the slots and was lucky enough to win a car.

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Health, Attitude & Productivity

I'm on a constant mission to improve my life. With great joy I gleefully report that it's working. By focusing on three main principles as the guiding force of my behavior I have improved my health, attitude and productivity. Getting those three tenets to align at the same time is nothing short of a miracle. For so many years they seemed to exist like magnets, each repelling the others into a far off, unknown land. If I felt okay I was in a bad mood, or did too much and just gave my lilacs away to a flare from overexertion. Some days I was happy, but it was only a matter of time before some egregious event took place, like dropping a new quart of yogurt on the floor or pouring my coffee in the dog's food bowl. Then happy would vanish in a cloud of victimized anger, made all the worse because I knew what set me off was simply not that big of a deal. But for the most part I pretty much just felt like crap all the time, which made being productive and happy extremely hard to achieve. 

Juicing has helped my health immensely. I no longer feel like I am on the verge of a severe flu three to five days a week. Not feeling so horrible has helped my productivity, which makes me feel like I am actually living life and not shoved into a pathetic holding pattern of failed expectations. Being realistic, not pushing myself too hard and remembering what is truly important are all critical components to ramping up my activity level, though. I could IV-drip kale juice directly into my veins and still not be able to function if I push myself too hard. 

Perhaps the biggest change has come from revolutionizing my thinking. I'm still stuck on what is is, and constantly remind myself to stop playing the silly games of false truths the institutions of our society define themselves by. It's helped my ego settle down a lot. I don't feel embarrassed by my reality, past actions or mistakes. They already happened and can't be changed. This freedom allows me to really challenge my emotions and only become engaged in things I can do something about. Specifically this means I don't spend time marching around all angry and bent out of shape about the past or things I can't change. The internal bargain is kind of a funny process. If I feel myself indulging negative thoughts my stern inner-Mother Superior steps in and asks me if I want to spend the rest of my day stressed and freaking out. Then she asks if my husband or dogs deserve my stress. Finally she asks me what on earth I can do about it. When the answers are undoubtedly no, no and nothing I find it's possible to redirect my brain to positive things that improve my life. The path I am walking down is still the same one. But I am stumbling a little less, my footing is a bit firmer, and my head held a hell of a lot higher.

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Framing Expectations

For a long time I didn't believe I was entitled to happiness. Life was too hard, confusing, unfair, devastating and simply tragic. While I was too sick to work or care for myself at the fresh age of twenty-nine, life was going on all around me. I became estranged from my friends and family because their reality, normal life, was nowhere on my radar. The ambitions and dreams I was taught to aspire for, work toward and achieve became nothing more than a sick joke I was utterly incapable of accomplishing. There wasn't a place in the world I fit in as the components of my former existence hurled away from me like dark matter expanding the compactness of space. 

So I changed EVERYTHING about my life, and here I sit feeling old and worn out from the endless toil at the weary age of thirty-seven. People remind me how young I am but I don't feel young. I feel wise, trampled, bitch-slapped and raw, but not young. The friends I grew up with all have kids and mortgages. I have canine babies and live in a one bedroom apartment because that's what I can keep clean. I used to get promotions and paid time and a half to work overtime. Now I am learning how to derive true pride from being a housewife and caring for my family. Not much of the girl who lived in this body before survived, and for this I am outrageously grateful. 

The fat pill of acceptance was hard to choke down. It sat stuck in my throat for a long time, tainting my life with a sour, bitter flavor. I couldn't re-frame my expectations for success for the life of me, and spent years beating myself up for not being who I was supposed to be. Progress is funny, you don't usually see it until it's already happened. A fundamental shift in my thinking has finally taken shape. I realize how much potential my life's journey has prepared me for. Happiness is not only something I deserve, it is something I can achieve. Things didn't suddenly get easy. The same insurmountable challenges before me haven't changed. But the way I think, what I expect and what I believe...has.  

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