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Archive for the ‘Dysfunction Junction’ Category

Portable Magic

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”  -Stephen King

As a kid, learning to read was one of the best things that ever happened to me.  A good book became an immediate best friend, making it easier to deal with a difficult childhood.  Books offered an escape when real life became too much and they offered friends when I struggled to make any on my own.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”  – Charles William Eliot

One of my fondest memories of books is when we moved to Kentucky.  I was in the fourth grade, new and afraid, and I didn’t know anyone. Then one day a vehicle rolled into the neighborhood that changed my world.  It was a bookmobile. I had no idea such a thing existed and I was over the moon!

I can recall the feeling of walking into that incredible rolling library and seeing nothing but books from stem to stern!  Stories of all kinds waited for me, ready to take me to places I’ve never been.  I remember how it made me feel to know my summer would not be as lonely as I’d first expected.

As I entered the bookmobile little did I know the best was yet to come.  I was told I could check out as many books as I wanted, or more accurately as many as I could carry, and keep them for three weeks.  Jackpot!  It was like Christmas in July!  It only took my first experience on the bookmobile for me to realize I needed to bring a BIG bag next time so I could fill it to the brim with books.


One of the first books I read from the bookmobile was Charlotte’s Web and it still holds a special place in my heart.  So many books followed and each one brought a new world with new adventures, new characters and the kind of excitement a little girl couldn’t find in the real world.

“Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book.”  – Jane Smiley

It is now a few decades later and even though technology has given us apps to read from, I still love the feel of a book in my hands.  I’m one of those readers that feels a slight panic if I don’t have several books waiting in the wings for when I’m finished consuming whatever book I currently have my nose stuck in.

You kindred spirit readers out there know what I mean when I say that books are thieves.  They steal time.  You sit down for a chapter or two and the next thing you know an hour or three has disappeared.  And let’s not forget the lack of sleep caused by books.  It’s not unusual for me to stay up at night to “read for a few minutes” only to look up and realize it’s 1:00 am.  But it is so worth it.

In a world full of noise, books offer a quiet refuge.  Words on a page act as shade from the glare of a life that can be far too loud and overwhelming.  For many, many of us, reading isn’t just fundamental, it’s as necessary as the air we breathe.

Read on.

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Weight a Minute

As a woman of a certain age I struggle with my weight. In the interest of full disclosure I don’t go overboard trying to control it but I’m not a total slacker either. In my attempt to juggle middle age and fibromyalgia I now juggle a third ball and that is weight management or better yet, mismanagement.

In my quest to control my weight without actually having to make an effort I stumbled upon the perfect routine. It’s called “I Forgot What I came In Here for” and it’s the best exercise you will ever get.  All you need to get started are middle age brain cells.  (In my case I have the proper aging cells in addition to fibro fog, a byproduct of fibromyalgia.  It offers a wide array of cognitive difficulties such as short term memory loss, difficulty carrying on conversations, attention problems, misplacing objects (and people and dogs if one is not careful), mental confusion and more.)


The exercise routine works like this: let’s say you’re in the kitchen and realize you need a paper clip from the office which is at the other end of the house. (Why you need a paper clip in the kitchen is beyond me but who am I to judge?)  So off you go and as you enter the office you suddenly realize you can’t remember why you are there in the first place and that your need for something from that room has been replaced with a sizable but empty thought bubble.  Sighing loudly, you go back to the kitchen but upon your return you remember what it was you forgot (aha!) so you head back to the office only to arrive utterly clueless as to why you are there instead of in the kitchen where the spaghetti sauce is boiling over.

Lather, rinse, repeat.  Several times every_single_day.

If you really want to get your heart rate up and burn some carbs try this same exercise when you are upstairs but what you need is actually in the basement.  Thirteen steps and a landing later you cannot remember why you are in the basement.  Try as you might, the something you needed from this little corner of your world is not coming to mind.  Back up you go!  And then back down again because finally you remember what you went down there for in the first place.

In my attempt to not be an over achiever I’ve learned to use the reminder method to prevent too many extra trips in one day.  I repeat out loud exactly what I’m going into the other room for until I get there.  “Paper clip, paper clip, paper clip.”  As long as I go straight to the paper clips I’m fine.  If I deviate one iota of a second from my goal to retrieve what I came in there for I have to turn around, go back where I started and do another set of reps.  It’s all in the planning people.

So if you’re like me and need to let go of a few pounds this summer don’t use your body, use your middle age brain.  It will let you down every time.

The 4 Elements, Animals and Harry Potter

I’ve been pondering things.  Specific things.  For instance, things which can bring something positive to our lives but are also capable of bringing something negative as well.  For me, I consider things like the four elements, animals and Harry Potter a good place to begin.

The four elements… let’s start with fire shall we?

I don’t know many who would reject the comfort that comes from a kick ass blazing fire on a cold night or the fun and companionship of sharing a bonfire and s’mores.  Staring into a fire can elicit calmness and introspection but fire can also bring destruction. Forest fires, house fires, brush fires, just to name a few, can create terror, fear and heartbreak.


Water.  Ahh water. The relief from a hot shower for tired, achy muscles or the relaxation of a dip in the pool can extinguish a bad mood.  Is there not a certain awe and mystery toward ocean waves lapping at our feet knowing they may have touched distant, foreign shores and washed over some of the most magnificent finned creatures on earth?  Beware, water can be terrifying as well. Floods, drowning and the ruination of vast amounts of property is devastating.

Air.  Oh how I love a gentle breeze!   My dogs love it too as it brings scents from far away that only they can detect. Perhaps they silently wonder why the aroma of home cooking passes gently on the breeze from other houses but rarely their own.  Air, as necessary as it is for life, can take life as well. The angry relentless wind of hurricanes, tornadoes and typhoons can destroy everything its path.

Chilli and Willow ~ so that’s what home cooking smells like!!

Earth.  Mother Earth.  Holding us in the palm of her earthly hands she keeps us grounded and reminds us that we are in her care.  Make no mistake, she gets angry and reminds us we have much to lose. Her cries go unheard and she rumbles, shakes and spews out fire in an attempt to get our attention.


When I ponder things in my life that can be both wonderful and/or scary, guess what pops into my mind first?  Learning.  (I know right? How can learning be both wonderful and frightening?) I love to learn. It’s one of the most important parts of my life. It feels good to learn something new but it can also be quite unsettling because it forces change and growth and this can be destructive to old ways of life.  This does not mean everything has to go to hell in a handbasket but it might seem that way at first.

The bottom line is once you learn something you can’t unlearn it and this can change we mindlessly enjoy into something painful.  What we learn changes us.

For instance I can’t unlearn the significance of bees to our environment and that we are losing them at an alarming rate and in devastatingly huge numbers.  For the longest time I had no idea about this problem but once I learned I couldn’t go back.  It was time to stop looking at dandelions as the enemy and also lay off the pesticides and other poisons that are destroying our bees.  This knowing has drastically altered how we handle pest control on our property.  Simple yet dramatic lesson.  Bees are da bomb.

I can’t unlearn what I’ve discovered about animals in factory farms. I can’t “unknow” the agony, terror and confusion they suffer and this has changed me and how I look at the food I eat.  Painful learning but necessary.

I can’t unlearn how soul crushing it is to keep animals captive for our entertainment.  I’ve said it before, animals should not be forced to carry the burden of entertaining us.  That is not why they are here.

On a more positive note, I cannot unlearn that animals have souls. They have the spirit and wisdom of the ancients and they know far more than we can grasp. It is fascinating and awe inspiring.  They are here to journey beside us and teach us, not to pad our wallets or perform on demand (don’t get me started.)  One of the most beautiful things about animals is not only do they have so much to share but they are willing to do so with the very species that exploits them.  And it’s not just four-legged animals; it is fish, reptiles, birds and bugs oh my!  Every living thing has something to teach us and these wonderful lessons cannot be unlearned.

On a final note (you were wondering when I’d get to the Harry Potter portion of the program weren’t you?)…I’ve learned that there is nothing wrong with waiting over a decade to watch your first Harry Potter movie.  It’s okay not to know how Voldemort breathes through that nose or what in the name of Hogworts a muggle is.  What I can’t unlearn is that these movies suck you in until you watch every_single_one of them and now you’re excited about this Harry Potter phenomenon and everyone else has moved on.  Bloody hell!

Lucky for us the magic never dies and neither does the learning.

 

Forgive…me

You can’t believe you did it. You knew it wasn’t right but you did it anyway and people got hurt. You’ve tried but you can’t stop beating yourself up. Just when you think you can let it go the memory rears its ugly head and reminds you of your transgression. An error in judgment you made years ago. A mistake from which you are still carrying the heavy burden of guilt.

I hear you. Been there, done that. What stops us from forgiving ourselves for the less-than-savory things we’ve done in the past? Do we feel we are not worthy or perhaps that deserve to suffer? I’m here to tell you friend, this is not the case.

I believe there are other equally important questions we need to ponder. For instance, what good has come from our unwillingness to forgive ourselves? Has this lack of forgiveness toward ourselves made us better people? Has it given our life purpose? Has it been of great benefit in any way?

Most likely the answer to all these questions is the same. No. So what is the alternative? For a lot of us forgiving ourselves is the hardest thing we will ever do. We’re convinced we are the worst of the worst so forgiving would be akin to letting ourselves off the hook. Irresponsible. Selfish.

But we would be wrong. On the contrary, forgiving ourselves would be an act of mercy. A gift of compassion. We’re not going to forget what we did and we’ll do everything we can to never let it happen again.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard for self-forgiveness is this…forget the mistake but remember the lesson. Forgiving isn’t the same as condoning. It doesn’t mean we lack regret or we aren’t sorry. It means we recognize that we have done wrong, we are sorry and have learned what we needed to from it and are moving on. Staying immersed in guilt and continually beating ourselves up robs us of peace.

We aren’t perfect. We are human, flawed and fallible, and we make mistakes. We do stupid crap without thinking. Sometimes we do stupid crap while we ARE thinking but we do it anyway. But if we have done what we can to make amends and taken to heart the lessons learned, why continue to beat ourselves up?

We are not defined by our mistakes. We all have a light inside that connects us to each other and to something greater than we are. Forgiveness, not only of others but of ourselves, makes our light shine brighter and the brighter we shine the lighter the world becomes. Never have we needed this more than now.

A Good Death

I recently finished a book by Lee Gutkind titled At The End of Life: True Stories of Death and Dying. It was one of the most difficult, informative, painful and necessary books I’ve read in a long time. It’s hard to talk about death because we don’t want to think about it. Understandably we want to avoid it for ourselves and those we love as long as possible. But what happens when this mindset becomes detrimental?

Very soon I turn 56 and as I often say, I have more time behind me than in front of me. I’ve never been one who had a desire to live 85, 95 or more years. I’ve lived many lifetimes in my 56 years and experienced a great deal. When my time comes I think I’ll be ready.

notscared

Death doesn’t scare me…I have a very strong belief in life after death although I have no idea what that life entails. I prefer to think of it as life after life. I’m not afraid to die. Curious, yes. Apprehensive for the unknown, certainly. But not afraid.

No, it’s not death that frightens me, it’s how I’m going to die that is concerning. I have a will as well as directives for end of life care but I’m discovering this isn’t necessarily going to stop suffering from occurring. Specifically suffering at the hands of others…over-zealous doctors, the enforcers of hospital protocol, and perhaps well-meaning people in my life.

suffering

My husband is well aware of my wishes as he has the same ones. We both agree – DNR, no extraordinary measures, no treatments to prolong a life that is terminal. Instead, palliative care, management of pain and to be in as comforting an environment as possible is what I hope for should my death not come quickly and I’m confined to small quarters and an even smaller bed. To be treated with dignity and have our wishes met is what we need as we release our grip on this life.

Studies have shown that most people, if given the choice, would prefer to die at home instead of in a hospital yet more than half of all deaths take place in a hospital or other type of health care facility. Thankfully hospice is becoming more widely available and accepted. They support both patients and their families as they maneuver the path to end of life; one as they die and the others as they move on without the one they love. Hospice strives to make death as comforting as they can, focusing on pain management with as little medical intervention as possible. They work to help manifest a meaningful and comforting end to one’s life.

I understand people wanting to fight to the very end but often times this taxes an overtaxed medical system and forces those who provide our care to reluctantly enter a battle they cannot win. On the opposite side, beware of doctors with big egos and/or the desire to utilize all forms of medical technology even when they KNOW a patient is dying. This isn’t new, it’s been going on for years.

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All this causes great strife for those left behind. They will be the haunted witnesses to extraordinary measures everyone knew would not be life saving as well as the immense suffering these measures caused prior to their loved one‘s death.

Dying and death is hard to talk about because we’ve been taught to be afraid of it. I do not believe death is the worst thing that can happen to someone. I believe immense, unnecessary suffering is much worse. Why impose that suffering if we don’t have to? Doctors and other health care professionals need to speak openly and honestly with their patients about death and dying to help alleviate their fears before it’s too late.

learn

We have to do our part too. Make time to talk to the people you love about what you do and do not want at the end of your life and then do the paperwork. Research end of life directives and you will find a plethora of information to help you get the conversation started and aid you in getting things in order. It amazes me how often people will have a will drawn up so that all their worldly possessions are taken care of but they fail to put in order their wishes for end of life care. Our life is our responsibility and so is our death. Having things in place for end of life care takes all the pressure off others to make our decisions for us and gives us peace of mind as well.

Also be sure to give those you love a chance to speak freely of their own fears and concerns. No one should be made to feel bad because of how they feel or what they may be afraid of when it comes to watching someone die. They are the ones who will be left to deal with the memories and emotions when we are gone.

Personally I think of death as a passing through so to speak. When I close my eyes for the last time in this world, I will open them for the first time in another. It will be an adventure and I believe with all my heart that this life will pale in comparison to the journey ahead.

end

We ARE Enough

I recently finished reading a James Rubart novel titled The Long Journey to Jake Palmer. One of the primary messages I took from this story is that when it comes to certain people in our lives we will never be enough. Thankfully the good news is we don‘t need to be. Because the truth is we are always enough. Always.

We may have spent better part of our lives being told in one way or another that we are not enough. Perhaps it came from our parents or our siblings, friends, bullies, coworkers, spouses or significant others. They said we are not worth it but they were wrong. Why? Because those opinions belong to them, not to us. We can’t own those opinions if we make the choice not to. We know our own truth.

sanctuary

I don’t know about you but I’ve offered a lot of my time to worrying about what other people think of me. So I adjusted, changed and altered who I am for no other reason than to improve their opinion of me. It was a futile effort because it never worked. I was never going to be enough for them. And you know what? It’s okay because I AM enough and so are you.

For those who think poorly of me or consider me weak or too sensitive, they are people who didn’t understand me and quite frankly I don’t think they want to because they have other agendas. A sensitive person is an easy target for those who have low to no self-esteem. What better way to build yourself up than to beat down on someone who’s not interested in fighting back? Someone who just wants to keep the peace? Other people’s opinions of us are often based on how they really feel about themselves but don’t want to admit it. It’s easier to reflect their crap onto someone else then they don’t have to be responsible for themselves. We were not created to be someone else’s mirror.

authentic

At the end of the day opinions are just that, opinions. They are not our truth. They are a judgment based on any number of things. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be well thought of but when the opinions of others alter how we feel about ourselves, especially when we know those opinions are wrong, it’s problematic. It can be very self destructive because we sacrifice being who we really are in order to be what someone else wants and that just doesn’t fly. We were made to be us and we are important.

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We need to give ourselves permission to be who we are regardless of what other people think. In turn we have to allow other people the same freedom, to be who they are whether we like it or not because ultimately we are all on our own journey. We matter and we are enough! We’ve always been enough. Now is the time to believe it. Trying to live up to other people’s opinions will not fulfill us. It will only leave us empty.

I think the best way to end this is with words spoken to Jake Palmer as the realization hits that he IS indeed enough.

“What would life look like if you could accept yourself, Jake? What would it look like if you realized the fault of your growing up was not yours, but parents who were just children themselves? Parents who tried but simply did not know how to love you because of their own brokenness? What if you realized you are worth being loved not for what you look like, or how powerful your body is, or what you’ve accomplished, but simply because you are?” 

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(Excerpt from “The Long Journey To Jake Palmer” by James L. Rubart. Thomas Nelson publisher. All Rights Reserved.)

Anxiety Doesn’t Age Gracefully

When I was younger I mistakenly believed life would somehow become easier as I got older. I could not have been more wrong.

Once I hit my 50s it seems anxiety has become more of a companion than I would prefer and I’ve struggled to figure out why. I’m older now and wiser too so I should feel more confident and less afraid, right? Perhaps finally accepting that I have more time behind me than in front of me has exacerbated anxiety I’ve carried for so long. I know this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be but I think the pressure I put on myself to “get over it” is a big part of the problem as well.

anxiety

I’ve been spending time lately identifying my anxieties and fears for what they truly are and trying to unearth their origins. I figured if I did this I might be able to work through some of them. I can’t say that I’m over them or they are gone but I’ve learned a few things that make my fears and my worries less monsoon-like.

storms

First I had to be honest with myself and admit I have issues with trust. It stems back to when I was very young and right or wrong, good or bad, I have carried them with me my entire life. This includes a lack of trust in God. I believe strongly in a higher Power but I don’t totally trust it. I think the problem lies in how I perceive the world around me. Because the world appears to be going to hell in a hand basket it makes it hard for me to believe in a loving God. That is, until I take the time to be completely aware that I only see the world through a small lens and this is not enough to make a judgment call regarding trust toward a Power much more vast and mysterious than I can ever know.

mountain

I also have a thing about control…I want to control everything in my life. This has pushed me to live more rigidly than I need to. I think deep inside I believe that if I can control everything (EVERYTHING!!), down to the most miniscule speck of whatever is in my life, then I will be safe. This is so not true! But sometimes I can’t convince my head of it.

demons

In the context that I’m speaking, the opposite of controlling everything is letting go. I’m terrified to let go and just live. Why? I guess I’m afraid I’ll get hurt (umm, been there/done that), disappointed (yep, that too), let down (uh huh, it’s happened.) All of this has occurred even while I’ve tried to maintain total control. It makes no sense and the whole flippin’ deal is exhausting.

So…what if letting go signifies truly living? Letting go obviously doesn’t mean a lack of pain in life but releasing all the crap will open up room to let in an abundance of joy and fun and excited anticipation too. We have to look for it and trust that we are worthy. Because we are.

Control is prison. Letting go is freedom.

I don’t know what it will take to set all my fears free, to let go and really live, but I won’t give up. I won’t quit. Every move I make to release my demons, my need to control and my lack of trust is a step toward freedom. Life truly is too short not to be lived.

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