Things I am learning in my convalescence

Okay, “convalescence” might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I am prone to exaggeration, so, what do you expect?

Anyway, last week was the leg, this week, the tooth.

I was so excited to get the thing removed from my leg and even more excited to get the oh-so-painful tooth out of my mouth that it never crossed my mind that there might be anything challenging to it all.

So I’ve got pain and scarring and a mouth gap and a swollen face and weird spreading bruises all over the place that gravity seems to play with and I am on a liquid diet and so I’m starving; but those aren’t that big of a deal.

Here are the Big Deals:

Learned fact number one…As much as I fantasize about being an invalid so I have a valid excuse to lie around and watch tv and stare at the walls and eat soup and pudding and feel sorry for myself, it’s boring. I’m bored. Out of my fucking mind.

Learned fact number two…Even I can OD on Kozy Shack Tapioca Pudding.

Learned fact number three…Undercooked soft boiled eggs smell like the henhouse when cracked open.

LF#4…Head hair can get tangled up in leg stitches as it travels from one’s head to the shower drain.

LF#5…I am vain about my legs.

LF#6…I was actually quite attached to the gold tooth, or at least attached to actually having a tooth.

LF#7…I’m not really liking “scars” that come from aging rather than adventures.

LF#8…For fuck’s sake, FLOSS.

and wear SUNSCREEN (#9).

Fact #10…When they offer you stronger pain medication, take it because they can’t call in controlled substances to the pharmacy later when you realize that you need them.

Learned Fact #11…If the oral surgeon has to leverage his feet against the arm of your chair to better yard on your tooth with his pliers, there’s going to be some swelling later.

Learned Fact #12…I already kind of knew this but am just now acknowledging it…the voices that tell me that I am being lazy, not contributing enough, being a puss, and am selfishly expecting my partner to take care of me when he clearly has more important things to do are just that…voices…old ones…ones from which I can divorce myself…voices not worth listening to.

And Learned Fact #13…There is a fantastic television series from Masterpiece Theater called Downton Abbey available at the Mancos Public Library. I highly recommend it. It has saved my sanity.

 

 

On my chronic pain wagon

I just posted this article on FB:

5 Things the Healthy World Should Know About the Chronically Ill World

It popped up on my news feed and I read it because, well, I have a chronic pain disorder, that hurts, sometimes, a lot.

And, I am not the only one I know in the neighborhood that has a chronic illness.

I’m not crying out for sympathy, I’m writing because I am on vacation and I’ve been astounded by just how much sleep I’ve had and continue to need – some days, more than my 85-year-old father.

I’m working down here – plenty of hurricane cleanup, but it’s not like I’ve been felling trees and re-shingling the roof.

My days involve morning coffee while I lie on my heating pad, chores, nap, chores, dinner, bed early. I even fell asleep sitting in the sand on the beach.

Mentally I read through a list of reasons for why I might need so much sleep down here:

humidity?

getting a much-needed rest from working so many long hours at home?

emotional fatigue?

being lulled by the sound of the waves?

dehydration?

Then I think that this pretty similar to how it is when I am at home – the main difference being that I am not working 12 hour days so I do have the luxury to lie down, often.

It freaks me out sometimes. Is it just laziness? Do I not like to do work?

At home I worry about not pulling my weight around our home – because I don’t.

My ex constantly berated me for my unwillingness to work hard (another term for laziness.)

So every time I put my head on the pillow, that voice runs through my brain.

Throw in my ever-present anxiety, and you have the perfect storm.

And yet, I could sleep all day; sometimes I do.

And then I feel slovenly and guilty as fuck.

And ashamed.

But after I read that article, I thought, “Oh yeah, you do have that pain thing going on.”

So then I clicked on a link to yet another article and read these words:

“Am I lazy? No. I can do a load of laundry or cook a meal. I can usually get my son dressed, fed and to school in the morning (though not always); however, it usually means I will need to sit down and rest and recover from a simple tasks that most people take for granted.

Sure, I can take a nap whenever I want. But I never feel rested. It doesn’t matter if I have had two hours, 12 hours or 20 hours of sleep, my body can just never seem to catch up.”

For just a couple of minutes, I was able to let up on myself, show myself a little compassion.

Those warm and fuzzy feelings didn’t last very long because the voices in my head, and the ones that I imagine are screaming in everyone else’s heads, are louder than the more gentle, soft ones.

I will not be a victim to this and will not use it as an excuse.

But, sometimes a valid reason is just that, not an excuse.

“Weight is Training”

Espresso-Maker

This morning as my stove top espresso maker was completing it’s brewing task, and it made that volcano about to erupt sound that means coffee is imminent, I declared, “There’s that sound!” like I’ve said a thousand times before.

But this coffee brewer is new.  I’ve been using a different method for years. So my instinctual reaction, the words, the anticipation in my pores, is a throwback to a time in my life I can barely remember in my old age.

Working in “the field.”

As I poured my hot drink into my mug I said to MCB, “This is how I used to make coffee in the field.  I love that sound.”

“You carried one of those in the field? No wonder your shoulders hurt.”

Well, duh, of course that’s part of the problem, but was it worth it to have a decent brew at 4 am before climbing the Wham Ridge with a bunch of whiney, incompetent teenagers?

Most definitely, yes.

What I didn’t say was, “Don’t forget to add in the 2 pounds of coffee to get me through until the next resupply.”

And the down jacket, the 30-below down sleeping bag, hammock for a 3-day solo, geology and natural history books, climbing gear (rope, rack, shoes), ice axe, helmet, stove, fuel, clothes, mid (shelter), various and sundry other items (journal, chacos, chocolate), and enough food to keep this scrawny little body from completely wasting away at 13,000 ft.

If I could fit it into my Astralplane, I carried it.

 

Big mother-fucker isn't it?

7000 cu. in. Big mother-fucker isn’t it?

 

And anything and everything could fit into that pack.

I once carried 90 lbs.

At 20,000 ft.

I lost an inch in height.

This was before plastic french presses. I did carry a glass one for a summer but finally broke it over a fire ring trying to knock the grinds out of the bottom and had to drink cowboy coffee for 3 days.

It was horrid.

Besides cowboy coffee (swirling the grinds around in a pot of boiling water then tap-tap-tapping the sides to get the grinds to settle enough to pour it into a mug) the other options were:

The Gold Filter, which, while light to carry, made light coffee and had a tendency to tip over just as the last of the water made it through and into the mug.

There was The Sock. Some fucking genius thought that one could make coffee in a large cotton condom, over and over, each and every day, and that it would actually taste good.

coffeesock1Just looking at the flaccid, stained, sad little resevior, made me consider options other than coffee.

I tried some of those.

Tea? Blech. Tea is fine before bed or after being caught in a storm – it serves its purpose when one needs to warm up but it definitely doesn’t satisfy in the dark and the cold when one has to motivate to put on a heavy pack and climb to the top of a mountain.

In other words, as a motivator, it sucks.

But what sucked even worse were coffee substitutes.

Double blech.

contains: barley, chicory, rye

contains: barley, chicory, rye

Pero, the substitute of choice, especially in my militant vegan days, was vile, although I pretended to love it just as I pretended to enjoy Textured Vegetable Protein.

A little chicory and barley powder mixed with a little powdered soy milk and voila! you have a morning drink that will make you want to hide back in your sleeping bag.

After you hurl.

I realize that there are many other options out there nowadays; that brewing up is still the pleasure that it always was, just a lot lighter and easier.

For one, someone came up with the idea of small, lightweight, backpacking stoves instead of a Whisperlite and 60 oz of white gas.

But back in the old days, the 9-cup, aluminum (which is why I barely remember those days and will soon forget them all together) ultra heavy, ultra noisy pot was the best option.

So when I hear that sound in my kitchen in the morning, coming from a stainless pot, no longer aluminum, it brings a smile to my face; memories flood my not yet awake brain.

And my shoulders start to hurt.

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”  

haruki murakami

 

No, being an introvert is not cool.

Google “being an introvert is cool” and you will get approximately 502,000 hits.

Huffington Post, Near Science, Thought Catalog Weekly, Introverts for Dummies.

Have you seen all of the memes out there? Girl wrapped in blanket on couch with cat and book. Girl not answering her phone. Girl sneaking out of a party without saying goodbye.

It’s almost always a girl.

And she’s usually quite endearing.

And happy.

There are new articles, studies, personal essays and cartoons every single day celebrating the life of an introvert, making good-natured jokes about a person hoping that a party gets cancelled or eating alone in a restaurant.

I even saw on an Introvert Bingo board “Adorably Awkward.”

images

The message is definitely YAY for wanting to be alone!

Many of my loved ones find me quirky, silly, eccentric.

But let’s just clear something up right now…

IT’S NOT FUCKING COOL TO HAVE PANIC ATTACKS BEFORE FRIENDS SHOW UP AT YOUR HOUSE.

Sure, I can embrace the lighter side of introversion – I do entertain myself well, I enjoy my own company, I love to read and definitely do not need external attention to feel complete or even good about myself. And yes, because I have relatively high self-esteem, I prefer being a loner than not.

But it can be so very very dark and scary and lonely and it’s not about a goddamn bingo board or hanging out with my cat.

Last night, MCB was at the neighbor’s and when he came home he said that they were coming over for burgers (which he was preparing so it wasn’t about me having to cook.) 2 close friends, super duper casual and easy and fun. They’d been pulling thistle all day and needed to be fed.

All in all a lovely invitation from MCB and had I had notice, I would have probably gotten excited.

But, since it was spur of the moment, I lost my shit. Seriously fell apart. I ended up on the bathroom floor pathetically unable to deal, sobbing.

I couldn’t decide which was worse: telling the friends to not come over and suffer the humiliation of being rude; having them come over and trying to fake my way through the evening while my heart was pounding in my chest and I was fighting back tears and therefore couldn’t be nice, and suffer the humiliation of being a bitch to two really kind people; or letting them come over and hiding in my room pretending to be sick and suffering the humiliation of them knowing that I am a complete basket case.

I had to leave the house and go for a drive. I went to the park where I often go to cry, saw a friend and totally unloaded all of my social anxiety onto his shoulders (bless his heart.) I drove around looking at wildlife wishing I was a fox.

Then, mortified, I called MCB to let him know that I was (slowly) recovering and that yes, they should come over and hopefully I was going to pull it together and be hospitable.

I did. I actually had a good time. Since M and M were here when I finally returned and deserved and explanation I offered up, “I had a breakdown” and left it at that.

What was I going to say,”I completely freaked out because I found out that you two were coming over”?

The dark side of “cool introversion” is about exhaustion and terror and despondency. It’s about crying on the bathroom floor because you just found out that people are unexpectedly coming to your house.

It means not going to the store when you desperately need something because you don’t want to see anyone and have to talk, so doing without things like…dinner.

It’s about not getting your oil changed when it’s WAY overdue even when a mechanic shop is on your property because you get gripped at the thought of having to ask for something even though the mechanic is a good friend and it’s his job.

It’s about not returning movies on time for fear of another person standing in front of the red box.

It’s about losing friends because you are unable to keep in contact since to do so would mean talking on the phone or worse – actually making time for a face to face.

It mean people not liking you because they think you’re stuck up or intimidating.

It’s about arguing with the “more the merrier” friend because she really doesn’t get that for you, more isn’t merrier and you feel so misunderstood and flawed because you’re not able to be with great people all at one time and you’re sick and tired of having to explain that to her.

It’s about feeling deep shame when your best friend does actually get it and asks if it’s okay to invite one more person to go to the movie with the two of you.

It’s about having to offend people when you  lay down the law about drop-ins and not making exceptions even for the closest of friends.

It’s about having to have time to wrap your head around shifting gears, changing plans and being in public. It’s about sometimes being utterly unable to to that.

I live on a working ranch, there is always activity here, there are always people around.

I lie in my bed silently praying that no one decides to knock on the door.

I get resentful that I can’t go collect chicken eggs without risking a conversation. Sometimes I blow off the chickens.

I spent the entirety of today alone, doing laundry, weeding, drying mint, petting my dog. I haven’t been on the phone. I haven’t left the house except to feed the chickens. I thought about watching a movie tonight, but it feels too stimulating.

So sure, there are some really good things about not being a social beast and I am super okay with going to the desert by myself and writing for three days without fear or boredom or FOMO. I am incredibly well-read and getting sent to my room as a kids was a gift, not a punishment.

But folks, let’s not make light of this. Let’s not pretend that it’s all about the cat and the couch.

imgres

 

Sundays

You ever have those days when you want to be happy, get a lot done, enjoy the day?

You don’t wake up wanting to feel blue. You don’t get out of bed thinking, “I want to have a shit day today.”

You certainly don’t want to spend the whole day trying to hold it together or sleeping the sunshine away.

Seriously, who wants that?

So, this morning, I wake up next to my sweetest BF (MCB) and my adorable little dog is so thrilled to have me home that he can’t stop wiggling, and the sun is out, and I can hear my new wind chimes, and my children are happy and well, and I have nothing on my agenda until 5:00 pm except put the final dishes away after our super fun dinner party, feed the piglets, commune with the chickens, take the doglets to the pond, maybe go for a run, read a book, sew, write, then, go to my job that I actually enjoy, work for a few hours, make some good money, laugh a lot, then come home and curl up with MCB and the dog.

And yet, I am so off. My heart feels…unenthused. I want to crawl under the covers and escape – read or sleep. Or I could smoke a shitload of weed and just prostrate myself on the couch, stare at nothing, and think about even less.

When I took the dogs to the pond, I curled up on the grass and tried to doze off – that is, until the big one decided to roll all over me right after a long swim and traipse through the mud.

MCB is building a hog fence – we are now pig farmers. We have 8 adorable little piggy boys who will grow up to be kilos of bacon and chops. When I entered the chicken coop with their kale and hamburger treats, almost all of them squatted to be held. So endearing. So funny.

And still, blah.

I can’t think of a single reason to feel this way, today.

I am totally loving my life. The freedom of not working 9-5 is more liberating that I could possibly have imagined.  My waitressing gig is a good one and I love my cooking job.

Who wouldn’t enjoy creating really good food that’s fresh and organic and homemade and nurturing?

My kids are fantastic – one graduates from college today, another from high school next weekend, the third wrote me a text last night to tell me how much he loves me.

I live in a gorgeous place on this planet and my life is filled with beauty and good people and amazing friends and promise and hope and lightness.

And yet my soul is heavy.

Last night, an old friend posted a photo on Facebook of her family on the beach, in the place where I knew her; the place where I spent my formative summers, a place we thought we “owned.”

A place I may never see again because of the near-impossibility of getting there from here and the expense of just setting foot on the island, let alone trying to stay there.

And suddenly, because it’s today, my home feels less than. It’s not there.

And it sends me spiraling into the What If’s about all the choices that I have made in my life to get me here and not there.

And any other day of the week, I would be thanking the heavens above for those decisions, but it seems like Sundays are a kill-joy.

I have noticed that Sundays tend to be challenging (to say the least).  So often, when I feel this way I think, “Why do I feel this way?”

And then I remember that I often ask that question and seems like it’s on a very regular time frame and I realize, once again, that for some unknown reason, “Sundays are hard.”

I don’t go to bed on Saturday night thinking, “Oh fuck yeah, tomorrow is Sunday, I can be a depressed sloth for the entire day. Yippeee.”

No, it doesn’t even cross my mind at all, so this is definitely not a psychological set up where negative thoughts bring negative reality.

It’s something else. Hormones, brain chemical cycling, exhaustion from a busy weekend (or week); but definitely not bumming out over the fact that I have to return to work on Monday morning because I don’t work on Mondays.

So who knows what it is, but it definitely is.

 

Couldn’t have said it better myself

So here’s the interesting thing…I know that I have some anxiety around some things; obvious, run of the mill things, over which I assume everyone has some anxiety: money, children, ex-husband’s abuse. And during some of those times, I’ve been known to need medication.

But I’ve never really considered myself to be someone “with anxiety,” at least never seriously considered it.

And then, I read this and it gets (the overly anxious) ball that is my brain, rolling.

While I felt each one, there were a few that stood out as, “I would have said the exact same thing,” and I think, “Hmmmm, interesting, maybe…”

3. “I’m not just blowing you off. It’s hard to make plans and just as hard to talk on the phone sometimes. It doesn’t mean I don’t desperately want to spend time and talk. I just can’t.” — Marie Abbott Belcher

7. “Even when things are wonderful, I’m always waiting for something horrible to happen.” — Lindsay Ballard

8. “When I’m being quiet, I’m not sad, bored, tired or whatever else they want to fill in the blank with. There’s just so much going on in my mind, sometimes I can’t keep up with what’s going on around me.” — Amanda Jade Briskar

17. “Don’t shut me out. My anxiety may stop me from doing certain things, but just being asked to join in can sometimes make my day.” — Vikki Rose Donaghy

18. “I analyze things constantly because of anxiety. I cannot turn my brain off and it can be exhausting.” — Cailea Hiller

21.I want to first apologize for the hundreds of times I’ve bailed on you. The hundreds of times I had to leave early and you had no clue. The hundreds of times I had to tell you no.” — Mary Kate Donahue

28. “Keep inviting me to group things even though I usually decline. Some days I feel stronger than others, so my answer might surprise you. Be patient.” — Kara Edkins

29. “Don’t take it personally when I don’t want to go out. My comfort zone is my home. It’s my safe place.” — Elizabeth Vasquez

30. “When I say I can’t take on even one more thing, I really need you to understand I really just can’t.” — Christine L Hauck

 

32. “Sometimes I just need to be alone. It’s not personal. I’m not mad. I don’t have some problem. I don’t need to just shake it off and do something fun. I just need to be alone so I can reset myself and breathe a little.” — Stacey Weber

33. “Every time I talk to you, I go over every word of the conversation many times in my head. If I said something I feel I like I shouldn’t have said, even if it’s as simple as incorrect grammar, I will obsess about it for years.” — Chelsea Noelani Gober

Amen.

Melancholy

Sometimes I find it so distressing that I am, once again, fighting melancholy. It happens so often.

“How often is often?” you ask…let’s say an average of 3 – 6 days a week.

“That’s kind of fucked up,” you might think.

Yes, yes it is.

And this is me on medication.

And this is me with the strength of a fucking ox.

This is me, sitting in my bed, wanting to crawl under the covers, maybe watch Mean Girls, or maybe that would take too much effort and I could just absent-mindedly surf Facebook taking tests to find out who my mythological spirit animal is, but instead, I am writing this, knowing that as soon as I hit “publish” I will get up, go downstairs, help with dinner, play with the dog (who will definitely know that I am faking it) and act like everything is fine.

And it will be for a while – it will get my mind off of…my mind. No one will know the Herculean will that it has taken to eat a steak, fresh off the steer and grilled to perfection just for me. No one will know the craving I have for solitude and escape

Why not just give in to it tonight?

A myriad of reasons, most of which boil down to shame or fear.

I am ashamed for anyone to know that I feel this blue when nothing has happened today to make me feel this way.

I am embarrassed for MCB who is generally very content, to see me like this for no apparent reason.

I am afraid that if he does know how I feel tonight, he will, like my ex-husband, decide that I am either psychosomatic or just a drag and leave.

I am afraid for my children to see me sad because they were witness to my nervous breakdown years ago and I never want them to have to either worry about or navigate through that again.

Which leads to the holy terror that I feel when I think that letting go, giving in, for even one evening, will cause a spiral into the depths of mental and emotional hell and that I don’t know if I will ever be able to crawl out again.

I am afraid if I take or do anything to escape that I won’t be “dealing with my feelings” which will result in my severe dysfunction as an adult along with a full-blown drug addiction.

I am afraid that if I give in, it means that the medication that I do take isn’t working, that my sadness is too much for it.

I am ashamed that I am medicated.

I am ashamed of what others would think of me if they knew the truth.

I am afraid of others expressing their opinions to me, about me.

My desire to check out and sit on my ass is mortifying in a world where my friends are always game to do something. It shames me that I would rather hide in my bedroom than spend the evening with my fabulous children. I fear that if I do actually do that, then tomorrow something will happen to one of them and I will forever live with the guilt that I wasted this night “feeling sorry for myself.”

So, I’m wrapping up this post; I can smell the grill. Guess I’m going to go play with the dog.

My poor (almost adult) baby

He has to have major surgery day after tomorrow: hamstring repair.

He tore it off his pelvic bone.

Crutches, brace, PT, no driving for 2-3 months, 1 year rehab before he can do any type of athletic activity.

Pain.

They told me yesterday that Lortab isn’t going to cut it.

Blood thinners, pain meds, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories.

They also said, “Plan on being in the hospital ALL day.”

That’s when I got off the phone and cried.

Watching the physical pain is bad.

Watching the emotional pain: unbearable.

Everything he has dreamed of for his future in on the line right now – and honestly, one foot over the line. He may never play football or wrestle again.

So much for D-1.

He was contacted by a college football recruiter the other day. First question after name and position: “Any athletic injuries?”

He is trying to hard to remain hopeful and undefeated. He is determined that this will not stop him from fulfilling his ambitions and dreams.

He is also very aware that no matter how determined he is, it might not do him any good. He just may never play again.

He did something stupid and reckless the other night. When I called him out on it, he fell apart, “Mom, my life is ruined.”

You and I know that it’s not, but when you are the star of the football team and the most physical kid in town, it feels that way.

My heart broke for this sweeter-than-sugar young man.

I’m trying to just hold space for all of his pain – to be able to hear him and help him remember that he is loved and will, no matter what he thinks, be okay.

“We will get through this. It’s going to be hard, and, we will do it. Together.”

I’m calling in the forces: friends, teammates, coaches, grandparents, cousins.

He’s the toughest kid I’ve ever met – plays football with multiple broken ribs.

And he is the most sensitive kid I know.

Watching this huge, muscle-bound, tough-guy cry is simply and horribly sad.

So, as I prepare and he prepares, I find myself praying – something I am not prone to doing.

But we are going to need all the help we can get to make this boy continue to smile that glorious, infectious smile of his.

 

 

Selfish Selfish Selfish

One child lost his Social Security benefits (but didn’t lose his disability) and the appeal has been going on for 6 months. We need to plan his future and get him a driver’s license and teach him how to balance a checkbook.

The next one, the off-the-charts brilliant one, is putting in minimal effort, getting mediocre grades and now his teachers are calling me in to discuss behavioral problems in the classroom.  I got word this morning that he threw up in his friend’s bunk bed after too much to drink at the Homecoming party.

The third is apparently not having the football season that he needs to have if he’s going to get recruited and can’t afford college without some scholarship money. He’s got a mom flirting with him and potentially sending him boobie-photos.

Get me the fuck out of here.

I want to think about me. I want to read my book, write my memoir, get a massage, and run away to the desert, ALL. BY. MYSELF.

I want to not think about anyone else.  I want to paint my nails and think about having another cup of coffee and where I will run.

I don’t want to worry about anyone else. I don’t want to be constantly trying to fix, help, or encourage. I don’t want to brainstorm for another.

Sick of teacher meetings, coach meetings, guidance counselor meetings.

Last night I had to make the choice: Write another letter to the Federal Government, rage against my oh so underachieving child, or find out if there is a sexual predator pursuing my handsome child.

Child being the operative word here.

I chose that one – seemed like the most urgent.

Looks like it was nothing.

So relieved that I completely blew off the others. Figured there was so much shit going on that one more day wouldn’t matter.

Especially when I have no interest in dealing with any of it.

Is there anyone out there who wants to take over for a little while?