The Purpose of My Purpose

I’m still here, damn it, purpose identified or not; so what’s the plan? How long has it been since I set out to discover a sense of meaning for this next chapter of my life? Feels like it’s been plenty of time, but nothing has materialized, no opportunity to set a course defined by a new interest or need.

Previously, I mentioned a desire to paint, wondering if creating with oils or acrylics could actually be my purpose. Seemed unlikely given a complete lack of skill or experience. Nevertheless, paints and brushes are organized atop a tablecloth on our dining room table, which has served more as a desk, since COVID, for when my husband works from home. The art supplies sit, untouched.

In preparation for designing and constructing artwork, as unlikely as production of a masterpiece by me would be, I found an app! Of course there’s an app for that. Once a picture is selected, the full palette is revealed. My role is to choose one color at a time and search for all the locations where the selected hue belongs. Falling far short of an art class, it has shown me the wide variety of colors and shades involved in even a simple composition. An apple isn’t just red; one may add brown, green, or a spot of yellow for this particular piece of fruit as well as establishing lighting. At the completion of each design, the app encourages me with “a great painter is about to be born!” and “Brilliant!” I appreciate the feedback. What can I say? Apps provide so much false positive reinforcement it’s no wonder narcissists abound. I don’t actually believe this will turn me into even a competent artist, but I am learning about the importance of using far more shades than I would have employed on my own.

Research proceeds, irrespective of actual painting occurring or really any reason to believe my new purpose could relate. Bob Ross has been teaching me about working with oils and urges me to decide where I want some happy trees, making it look so easy. I’ve seen online the end result of viewer participation in comparison to the Bob Ross creation and, based on these, it obviously isn’t so straightforward. Still, his calm demeanor is soothing, and I’m learning a lot regarding different brushes and the use of each, the variety of brush strokes, and layering colors to provide depth.

Now, I still doubt that my practice of painting, or the process of learning the art, will be foundational to the identification of a seminal purpose which will inform my decision-making and activities heretofore, providing a sense of earned contentedness.

Double checking correct usage of contentedness, I see this:

Hmmm. Writing out my desired outcome for establishing a new purpose, it boils down to procuring an “earned contentedness.” I find that very interesting. Why do I qualify it with “earned” and is this actually just the latest incarnation of a lifelong search for a sense that I am, indeed, enough? What is the formula for giving sufficiently of yourself so as to qualify as useful to completion?

And why am I still in my head, puzzling how to be enough??? How many times do I need to learn that I must get off the hamsterwheel of thinking, thinking, thinking??? If I stay there, I’ll never be enough, never be content.

I’m going to show myself some grace. I currently await results of a process over which I have no control, so it’s not a surprise I’ve been overthinking EVERYTHING.

Although I’m sure this lesson is a redo and I may have even written about it in a prior blog post, this is what occurs to me – it seems reframing my circumstances and allowing myself permission to enjoy the positives is not only acceptable, it could be the foundation of contentment. Any future ability to be of service to others…

Wait. Just a minute. I’m writing what I’m thinking, but as it appears on my screen, competing ideas are already causing me to doubt what I’m typing. Is it selfish to think I need to be content before I identify a meaningful purpose? Is service to others a characteristic of all purposes? What’s the purpose of a purpose besides creating meaning so people feel contented?

What’s your purpose? What’s the purpose of your purpose?

The hamsterwheel is spinning so fast it’s hard to get off!

to be continued, I’m sure….

The Light

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No one, besides me, has quit church. Sure, some folks have checked out a different house of worship and moved on; but regular attendees, including actual members of the church and people who study the scriptures, they’re not quitting. If the current pastoral staff and worship programming aren’t meeting a parishioner’s needs, they’d transfer to a new church home, not out and out quit! Run into someone at the grocery store who you’re no longer seeing in the pews, first question is, “Where are you going now?” Almost everyone answered with the name of a church, but a few would say they were church shopping. It was hard for me to say, “Nowhere.”

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Recently, I stumbled across a video, and then a podcast and YouTube channel, from MormonStories.org. I’ve never been a mormon and what I’ve heard from LDS neighbors about the control the organization has over the lives of members always bothered me. Mormon Stories interviews, for the most part, people who have had a faith crisis and are leaving mormonism. Listening to people who have been devoted mormons come to a place where they describe themselves as post mormon or ex-mormon has been startling and extremely reassuring. If they can summon the courage to tell their truth and untangle themselves from generations of LDS theology, I can feel okay with walking away from a church with some wonderful people but problems that pushed me away, a religion about which I increasingly had questions.

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These interviews last hours, laying out the story of childhood, adolescence, and then adulthood that people experienced leading up to becoming inactive, nonmembers, or excommunicated. I may not share the same religious sect, but I identify so closely with the faith crises described. As certain as they’d been that they knew the one true way to live this life and enter the eternal hereafter, I had believed I was on the correct path. Billions of people around the world believe they have the true knowledge and practices to achieve their best life, now and forever. But who has the real truth? They can’t all be right, can they?

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The older I get, the more I don’t know, the less sure I am about these matters. Being okay with uncertainty takes time, maybe in direct relation to the strength of conviction held. What I do know for sure is the same sun shines on all of us, rising and setting on each of us no matter where we are in this world, whatever we believe, and irrespective of our achievements or struggles. We all share the same light, indeed.

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Brain Fog

It’s that kind of day, no coffee cup under the Keurig. Last night was spent more awake than sleeping; at least, that’s how it felt. Besides a couple wanderings around during the 2-3 o’clock hour, I heard my son come home from his night security shift at 4:30 a.m. and was still awake when my husband rolled out of bed at 5:30, a half hour before his alarm would sound. I almost said, “Good morning,” but was well aware that initiating conversation would definitely establish wakefulness. Was I done trying to sleep? Was there a chance I still could? I stayed quiet and snuggled into my bed and pillows. It worked! For two hours. Sleeping deeply, something caused me to stir. I opened my eyes, but my brain was reluctant. Those folks at Keurig smartly designed the catch tray, on which one sets the mug, perfectly sized for those of us who forget to put our cup in place.

Alas, two subsequent, successful trips to the giver of caffeine were not enough to clear my mind today. That first strange, sleepy moment when you are pulled into awakening, spending the day without that sensation clearing, that’s fibro fog.

Core Strength

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I worry that I’m not strong enough in the face of chronic pain and illness because I’m no longer working and haven’t been walking or doing yoga. Tightening my core muscles for more than a few minutes or walking less than a hundred yards causes my back muscles to spasm in a way I describe as “seizing up.” Burning, gripping pain.

But you know what? It just occurred to me that some days it takes a lot of strength just to go through each painful moment of the day. This is such a day. (written 8/28/21)

Smile!

Imagine, if you will, that you have a terrible toothache. When you awoke, it was just a fleeting sensation, like foil on a filling, when you drank your coffee and ate some breakfast. You remind yourself to take acetaminophen, get some more numbing gel, and call for an appointment with your dentist. Once at work, you get busy; before you realize, that little irritation has become a throbbing ache. You’ve got things to do, so you apply ice and numbing gel on your lunch hour. Now, you’re unable to tolerate air or cold things on the bad tooth. Pain is making you nauseous and tense, and you’re modifying the way you talk, attempting to use your tongue like a blanket covering that side so air doesn’t hit the troublemaker. There’s no going home because you’re out of sick leave, personal days, and vacation due to prior ailments and issues. Besides, you have a project you need to wrap up and get to your boss by end of day; he just stopped by your desk to remind you. You smile and reassure him you’re on it.

Is it hard to concentrate? Is that toothache distracting? Do you suppose you’re doing your best work?

You’ve spoken to your dentist about toothaches already. The receptionist says dentist’s schedule is full. She sighs and says, “What’s the problem now?” After you explain, she says she’ll see what she can do. As the day draws to a close, the dentist herself calls you. She says you just have this tooth pain syndrome and there is nothing else that can be done except icing, acetaminophen, and numbing gel. Then she asks if there’s anything else she can do. You’re so overwhelmed by this damn pain in your mouth you forget to ask her about a referral for another issue you’ve had recently.

You can’t be sure if you’re going to have to deal with this severe pain tomorrow at that tooth or maybe a different tooth. Maybe the whole jaw and neck will be sore because you spoke holding your tongue and mouth in an odd way all day in an effort to diminish the opportunities for the tooth to be exposed. You’ve hardly eaten. Nothing sounds good and you don’t feel hungry. Dinner would just hurt anyway. Exhausted from coping with the toothache and how it affected everything else in your day, you go straight to bed, fervently hoping none of your teeth will hurt tomorrow.

Welcome to fibromyalgia. Pain is varied, widespread, and unpredictable. No one can see it. Treatment options are limited to managing the most severe symptoms. It interferes with your whole life.

What’s Up?

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To anyone who reads this, thank you so much for listening. That’s how I think of the visitors and 143 followers of my blog, as listeners. Most of my posts receive a few views and occasionally someone “likes” something I write. Regardless of how any particular post is received, just publishing my thoughts and emotions provides a real sense of satisfaction for having expressed myself.

Currently, I’m struggling with feelings of being unheard. If you looked at how many words per day I utter, the total would be far less than the average of 16,000 spoken by most people, and certainly far less than when I was working, even if we add my texts and posts.

Acceptance of this quietude is one aspect of adjusting to life with chronic illness and pain. Most people can relate, following pandemic stay-home orders. Just imagine that status continuing indefinitely.

When I’m feeling disconnected, I consider recent exchanges and am usually reassured that I’m communicating more than I think. At times, though, there have been few conversations, verbal or written. Sometimes my interest in speaking or writing is depressed, not to mention that both listening and talking cause me to feel sick once in a while.

This blog and you, the reader, truly provide a sounding board, at minimum, and two-way communication at best. Let me know what’s up with you. Drop a comment. What are your struggles? Do you relate to mine? I’d love to hear from you. Can I answer any questions for you related to fibromyalgia, depression, and/or anxiety?

Thank you if you’ve ever stopped by my blog! I appreciate so much this outlet for expression. If not for survivingsara.net, many of the topics shared on my blog would still be running on the hamsterwheel in my mind!

Oh, That River In Egypt

When cold winter and spring weather gave way to warmer temperatures, I found the clothes ascribed for summer were tight. Hmmm

My husband noted an increase in the size of my mammary glands, and he wasn’t complaining. Interesting.

My stomach no longer went flat if I was lying down. It stayed pooched up. Weird.

In selfies, I spotted jowls. Bad angle.

When the physician’s aide weighed me, the number on that digital scale went higher than it ever has before. How did that happen???

The thing with denial is you don’t know you’re there until you eventually step back and see it. Some people are content to just keep on sailing.

It’s as Beautiful or as Terrible as You Make It

What do I fear? What kind of energy am I holding inside? Instead of racing around in my head, I want to choose peace. Healing and calm CAN replace negative, toxic thoughts and emotions.

This initially fills me with anxiety, as I internalize the message, “Your wellness is your responsibility. If you were good at life, given the tools and knowledge you’ve acquired through the years, you would be feeling great. Figure this out and get off your ass.” My inner voice frequently reminds me that I’m not doing anything well anymore.

I’ve learned before that intentionally releasing negative energy absolutely improves health and function. Remembering I already know this, I wonder why I haven’t been doing that.

* I wrote the above yesterday. Indeed, on Wednesday I was watching “Healing” on Amazon Prime and was very inspired, ready to take a new look at my lifestyle in order to decrease pain and improve function.

Today, Thursday, I go to the doctor to review current symptoms and my visit with the pharmacotherapist. In my post “All Things in Moderation” I related how chocolate had become way too important in my life and I was consuming too much, too frequently. Since then, I quit chocolate cold turkey in the form of cookies, candy and ice cream. I also seriously cut back dairy in an effort to decrease the calcium in my blood. So, I was even a little bit excited to see how many pounds I’d shed.

I GAINED six pounds. What the fuck? When I saw this, I was so angry. Beyond surprised, I was furious. At who? There’s no one to whom I can direct this rush of emotion.

My doctor had the nerve, the nerve! to suggest I’m replacing those empty caTories with other food. She also asked if I exercise. Whoa, wait a minute, I didn’t ask about that. Nevertheless, she reacts to my disappointment very calmly and directs the cause of any weight gain back to me. Hate when they do that.

In addition, the lab did not run the two tests I was most interested in, calcium level and GFR indicating how well, or unwell, kidneys are functioning. They took four vials of blood but didn’t do a basic CBC (complete blood count). More blood was drawn today and the lab technician said the doctor hadn’t previously requested the CBC.

After I visit the dentist for work on a broken crown on Friday, I need to find my way back to the optimistic outlook that I can improve my situation by releasing negative thoughts and feelings. For now, they’ve got a home.

p.s. I forgot to tell you, I also quit all alcohol in October of 2019, and didn’t see any weight loss as a result. I didn’t drink a lot, but I definitely enjoyed some beers or a couple cocktails pretty regularly. Just a month before I experienced a suicidal crisis, I developed a strong aversion to alcohol. Don’t know why but I sure am grateful. If I’d self medicated with it, I can’t imagine I would have survived.

Oh, Hell No

Discovering a purpose for the next stage of life continues to prove elusive, as does a good night’s sleep. Nothing to report except vertigo, serious fatigue, and widespread pain, all of which, combined, keep me feeling pretty sick.

Instead, I’m sharing a story that still crosses my mind and makes me smile more than 15 years since it happened. My husband and I went to see a blues band we love called, “Too Slim and the Taildraggers” at Annie Fannie’s Bar & Grill. It was a crowded house with no seats available in the stage area. We stood for a while and then took a table in the back by the dartboards and pool tables where there was only one other group of people.

No sooner did we sit and order drinks than this mountain of a man exits the bathroom and joins those folks. He had to be at least 6’5″ and solid as a wall, standing a head taller than anyone else nearby. More intimidating than his physical build was his vest with motorcycle club patches and rockers displaying his full Hells Angels membership.

The local Hells Angels club had been in the headlines in recent years. Their clubhouse had been visited by police frequently and a federal case was prosecuted after a years-long investigation including surveillance of various types. This, however, was the first time I’d seen a real Hells Angels biker in person. Gypsy Jokers were more common in our area, and I even had a really good friend whose uncle by marriage was in that club, though he didn’t attend many family get-togethers. 😉

Here, now, in a small room lit up enough for playing pool and shooting darts, there was a one-percenter less than 20 feet away from me and I could not take my eyes off him. Seriously. I was nervous, yes, but I knew I could only make this situation tense or difficult by continuing to stare. Even so, I couldn’t tear my gaze away for more than an occasional glance at my husband who, under his breath, was exhorting me to stop staring. I’m fairly certain my mouth was not agape but it might as well have been.

As we finished our drinks and considered whether or not to order another, I explained to my husband that we might need to leave. I felt the way I presume volunteers who’ve been hypnotized on stage at the state fair must feel, as though I was not in control. The more I tried not to look, the harder it became to avert my eyes. We agreed that the best way to handle this incidental close proximity to a Hells Angels club member was to call it a night, while the band still played. I can’t be trusted. 😆

And Then…

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Plans, goals, attitude, expectations. Pep talk to self in an effort to spur motivation and commitment. Judging my daily abilities against an aspirational mental picture. Comparing achievements of others with my own sad state of affairs. Suspiciously evaluating my behaviors, or lack thereof, for honest effort versus laziness.

And then, I spend a terribly painful night, sharp shooting neurological messages traveling down my right leg, which is the “good” one, as well as deep aching in my jaw and cramping in my mid back. Awake intermittently through the dark hours, trying desperately to find a position to ease the symptoms, which is futile because there is no direct physical cause. Knowing this but struggling anyway because there’s nothing else to be done. Over-the-counter analgesics don’t make a dent.

And then, the best laid plans are set aside. I’m exhausted and still experiencing awful pain down my leg. I’m unable to do anything today.

And then, I tell myself it’s not important if I set goals, motivate myself, and seek a purpose. It’s all for nothing.

Not So Great Expectations

Update on searching for a purpose:

I’ve been working to accept that chronic illness and pain are here to stay and affect everything. I am leaving the past behind, so thankful that I was relatively healthy for so many years. It may be putting the horse before the cart, but I’ve made plans to get a tattoo in a couple months, marking the beginning of a new chapter in my life. It’s also a reminder that I choose life, regardless of thoughts I have to the contrary. There is no need for debate on that going forward.

So, I got that far in untangling this knot. The most difficult part of moving on has been letting go of giving of myself to others. In my husband’s arms, sobbing again, I lamented, “I have nothing to give!” That. Right there. I believe that is the nexus. It is more difficult for me to accept that I am limited in what I can do for others than it is to deal with the pain and sickness of fibromyalgia. Peace will be achieved in direct relation to feeling like I am okay and worthy of love just like this, in my current situation.

My psychiatric ARNP, my massage therapist and my best friend urge me to find a counselor. My primary doctor orders tests and follow ups as she tries to be certain that fibromyalgia is alone causing the constellation of symptoms. I should be walking. I’d like to paint. Figuring out a way to contribute love and identifying a purpose that will bring meaning to all of this is vital.

Well, my acquiescence to the truth that, whether or not an administrative agency declares it, I am not able to do what I used to do. The fact that I am disabled, looks something like the following – I watch tv. Some days the theme is historical movies. Cop and detective shows are high on the list. I enjoy going down the rabbit hole of obscure offerings I “might like” or was “also watched” by viewers. Recently, I’ve been watching live court proceedings.

If I have particularly intense pain in my neck and shoulders, not able to play games on my tablet constantly, foreign shows or movies allow me to read while I watch, holding my attention. Otherwise, my phone and/or tablet are in use. All day. Every day. This is what my search for purpose or meaning look like right now. In bed, sitting or lying down, with a couple prescriptions, tissues, water, etc. within easy reach on my bedside table, watching tv and looking at news or playing games on my tablet.

When I feel like a useless sloth, I remind myself that I am chronically ill and it’s okay. The to-do list of things I should be doing to improve my condition weighs on me, but I am accepting the condition my condition is in. Is it okay that I’m not expecting anything of myself outside of laundry, doing dishes, and going to appointments? Is this progress in integrating current health and abilities into my identity or is it escapism, avoidance, and laziness?

If I don’t expect much from myself, I won’t be disappointed. Perhaps, though, increasing activity would beget more activity; the whole “a body in motion stays in motion” axiom. Okay, once again, I promise myself I will stretch in a purposeful, extended way at least three times a week. When the extreme heat and smoke clear, I must walk a few times a week, even if it’s just to the end of the street. Only I can expect greater expectations for myself. Sigh.

Do You Mind?

  • Ease my mind.
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Keep in mind.
  • Mind your manners.
  • Mind the till.
  • Playing mind games.
  • On my mind
  • Mind over matter
  • My mind is racing.
  • Mind your own business.
  • Pay him no mind.
  • I don’t mind.
  • He’s got a sharp mind.
  • In my mind’s eye.
  • She has a mind of her own.

The wide and varied use of the word mind is quite something. As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, my mind is busy, often critical, and usually worried about what other minds are thinking of me.

Close your eyes. What do you see? Is it quiet and still after the light afterimage fades? One way I can measure my anxiety or disquiet is to close my eyes to see what remains. When I’m well, the afterimage fades and what’s left is a fairly blank, calm black screen. On the other hand, when anxiety runs untamed by medication, the black screen is full of yellow symbols wiggling and wriggling. I see shapes, mathematic components, and lines that bend or undulate.

My mind signals its peace or lack thereof. If I mind it effectively, I can ease my mind. Many years of experience, though, disprove the notion of mind over matter as a means of settling an unquiet mind. When my general anxiety disorder is uncontrolled, regardless of how determined I am to slow my racing mind without the aid of a physician or medication, the jumble in my mind’s eye betrays the chaos that lies beneath.

Tonight Will Be Better

Insomnia. Not just sleep interrupted by trips to the kitchen or bathroom, now I’m talking about hours tossing and turning, in addition to waking up for the day at 4 or 5 am for no particular reason. As many as three naps a day does not even things out, maybe even more discombobulated upon waking. Acid reflux has worsened significantly; causing sleeplessness or as a result? Everything is affected.

Thinking of any kind has taken a serious blow, not just critical level considerations. Basic planning and implementation are difficult to sustain. Creativity and interest are numbed. Got nothing, but at least I know why.

On Mindfulness

Mindfulness is nothing more than a way to describe being fully present. Get out of your head. Still the inner voice that frets, regrets, plans, and criticizes. We are more than our thoughts and feelings, which are merely tools for us to use when it’s advantageous to do so. When you choose to live in this moment, you can put these in the toolbox for now. They’ll be at your fingertips, usually not even waiting to be picked up before they start operating.

As a person who spent decades believing I was my thoughts and intellect, the perspective that I could choose to set my hamster-wheel thinking aside was anathema. I didn’t know what I was beyond my ideas and education. Throw in emotions as well, which seemed like side-effects of life events and no more in my control than those circumstances.

The new equation looked like thoughts + feelings + X = me. What was that missing component? Turns out I could only find out by experiencing it. I read the book, “The power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, which was so valuable for moving me out of my head. It even provides exercises to strengthen the ability to turn off the noise. I don’t feel like I’m good at mindfulness but I had it a while ago. When I’m practicing it regularly, it definitely decreases my anxiety. Likewise, when I forget about it, that inner voice gets fired up and takes off.

The sensation of mindfulness is commonly visited upon us in a crisis. You receive jarring news, outside the realm of usual or routine. You know, the late night/early morning call from anyone, because no one should be phoning at that hour and it cannot be good. Perhaps you’re in a car accident or a near miss. Suddenly, your attention and all your senses snap into immediate focus. Time moves slowly or not at all. Later, the memory is sealed with the smells, colors, and surroundings.

Fortunately, we don’t need upheaval or ruination to engage this version of ourselves. It’s helpful for me to breathe deeply using my diaphragm, feeling how my ribcage and chest respond. Checking in with my environment using each of the five senses helps draw me to the present. When the voice inside starts mulling and judging, I gently move the thinking aside and continue observing, touching, etc.

We are more than the sum of our parts. Our thoughts and emotions inform our energy, activities, creativity, preferences, etc. and our “self” is a synergy of these dynamics.

Circle Back

Seems I’ve been learning the same things for all my years. Felt like I was moving through life in a linear fashion but, looking over the posts of this blog, I found something that surprised me.

I see recurrent themes and topics, which is to be expected. Then, not too long ago, I penned a missive describing a new perspective or lesson I’d learned. Something that I was excited to know because I thought it was another of the missing pieces to this puzzle I’m trying to complete. I’m certain, each time, that this is the wisdom that brings everything into focus, ushers in healing, and transports me to a place with no depression or anxiety and with a clear purpose. (Because there is such a place, right?)

Scanning past titles to prevent duplication before I published, I did see a couple similar to what I’d been thinking for this latest. When I opened the first and read, not only was the heading familiar; it was the same damn lesson! And you know already, the other document in question was nearly a copy the others.

I started this blog in late December of 2019. 19 months ago. Apparently, I’ve been amazed to learn the same lesson, as though it was novel thinking for me, three times or maybe more. In 19 months. I get that in the beginning my cognitive abilities were impaired by suicidal depression, but surely I would have an idea imprinted somewhere in my brain and recall at least a notion.

Now that I think about it, I’ve taken 56 trips around the sun. What are the chances of having a truly original idea? I’ll continue to celebrate when my mind contributes encouragement but maybe not go straight to the press, WordPress that is. 😉 I imagine you who have read this blog smiling and wondering how many times I could write the same thing a different way with equal excitement!

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Letting Go

My life has consisted of serial efforts to meet or exceed expectations, obvious or imagined, in a wide variety of roles, both familial and those I’ve adopted. The past 18 months, I’ve been trying to succeed at fibromyalgia, depression and anxiety. I’m so tired of clinging ferociously to my climbing rope, aiming for a plateau that’s never quite visible to me.

It’s a good rope with strong fibers combining to create a tensile lifeline. The individual strands include my husband, family, friends, professional care, medication, painting, and gardening. If I never rise out of this particular episode of major depression, it won’t be due to faulty equipment. I feel like I’m responsible to get better to reflect the love and support I receive. I worry what they think of me and my circumstances, how long it’s taking for me to regain strength and stability. I pick at those fibers.

What if I let go? What if there is no plateau ahead and this effort is in vain? What is out there away from the rock face? What would it feel like?

If I stop holding on so tight, my whole body could release the tension from trying so hard to be worthy of my rope. Maybe I wouldn’t fall. Perhaps this time I’ll actually be able to let the weight of my world drop. I’m so tired from desperately wanting to be and do good,

When life events shake our world, because they always do and usually just when we think we’ve got it down, do we hold on tight and try to remain the same? Or do we let go?

Though I’ve pledged this to myself many times previously, I am going to let go and see what happens.

Declaration of Peace

The cease fire of the armed conflict with myself outlines mutually agreed upon obligations. Both parties consent to:

Disarmament to include insults, both real and imagined, self-doubt, pessimistic outlook, and any other efforts to injure.

Revisiting the past will focus only on positive memories. Negative events are deleted and no longer available for review.

Breathing counts as a daily activity and will occasionally include use of the diaphragm for deep inhalation. Choosing continued respiration is a worthy goal and deserves credit.

Declining invitations will serve, when appropriate, as an opportunity to share with a friend or relative current circumstances. Receiving understanding and support contributes positively to health.

Laughing is encouraged daily when possible. The physical benefits can’t be quantified and are an antidote to dwelling on personal shortcomings.

Future planning and goals will be realistically planned around limitations as they currently exist and may be modified as conditions change.

The opinions and perspectives of others will be considered for usefulness and support. Suggestions, diagnoses, and cures from family and friends are acceptable for further exploration if the intention is positive. Do not reject these out of hand, unless they’re bullshit.

Reading of this cease fire will occur at least twice a week in order to refresh understanding of these obligations to self and their importance.

I am who I am today, whatever my circumstances. There is no pressure to be anything else. People who love me know who I am.

The Nature of My Insecurity

When I read this, my anxiety rises. My head knows it is beautiful and I breathe, knowing it should feel good to revisit. Instead, I see a list of characteristics and rate my performance on each in the back of my mind, not comparing myself to others but judging against an ideal.

The first hit is the career I forfeited to stay home with my children, who are now fine young men, and I wouldn’t change the decision. Still, it’s the most glaring shortcoming, according to this. The other serious infraction is those dark imaginings that run wild in my hours alone.

A perfect example of how my insecurities play out is as follows:

When I started this blog, I had zero experience. I didn’t know if even one person would be interested, with the exception of the folks closest to me. I was tickled when someone I didn’t know liked a post or actually chose to follow! My husband and I celebrated when I had 50 followers, and I’m pretty sure I used number 75 as an excuse to splurge on a good dinner.

At some point, I hit my stride and was writing frequently. The words were flowing and I posted nearly every day, much the way I feel currently. And then, I lost a follower. I went from 96 to 95. Huh. My brain starts in right away, setting things straight, looking at the situation calmly, providing obvious rationale. I couldn’t help it though; I felt like I’d disappointed someone.

My brain went from chief defender to prosecuting attorney very quickly, listing a myriad of flaws that could have been enough to drive anyone away. What was I doing differently? Think, think, think. Well, the most easily identifiable change was the increased pace of posting. I decided that must be it. Probably a friend from when I initiated my blog who was receiving email notifications but not really interested. After deciding this was the cause, I deliberately slowed putting my writing up, which resulted in quite a few musings as drafts. This occurred months ago, and I continue to operate under this constraint, this response to one person discontinuing my blog. I have no idea who it even was because I don’t know how to look that up. Saying this all out loud, it sounds absurd.

Recently, the writing juices are flowing. I have several drafts, some of which will never see the light of day, but a few I’d like to publish. I found myself considering I’d posted two days in a row, so I better slow it down, And then the voice inside me said, in a very firm tone, “Screw that. This is your blog. You get to decide. You can post every five minutes, should you so choose,” and I said, “Yeah!”

Dr. Google

Dr. Google is an alarmist. I knew this but I went back to see him because he’s so available to patients. No appointment, no answering service or on-call partners. I don’t have to sit in a waiting room full of sick people. No risk of COVID. And he provides diagnoses galore. Pick one! Don’t like what you see? No problem, go to page 2 or 3.

Once you choose a diagnosis, be sure to read several entries so you know everything there is to know. You’ll want to relate all of this information to an in-person physician when you go ask them why they didn’t mention dengue fever or Rocky Mountain fever as possibilities for your muscle aches and high body temperature. A variety of medications may be highlighted by Dr. Google that your local guy doesn’t even mention. When you ask about them, he might not even know what you’re talking about if the rep from that drug company hasn’t been by yet.

Typically, a physician who actually has your full medical history (and recent travel destinations) will tell you it’s the flu. That was the very first entry Dr. Google gave you, so common it can’t be right. If your temperature was 99, he might even say that’s not really a fever!

In my case, a couple different healthcare providers explained that I need to decrease a couple of my medications because of something called GFR. Nobody told me what one’s GFR actually measures, range of healthy GFR, diagnoses indicated for low GFR, treatment, or long-term prognosis. I didn’t ask any of those questions because they didn’t occur to me until later. Tell you what, Dr. Google gave me all of that.

So, my conclusion is that I have moderate-to-severe chronic kidney disease!! None of those people discussing GFR told me this! Outrageous! I’d have go to medical school myself if it weren’t for Dr. Google! (see previous post “Unbelievable!”)

Later, the same day Dr. Google delivered the scary news, a friend contacted me after reading my medical findings. She explained that her mother was recently noted to have a moderate decline in renal function. Her doctor said it’s very common and not as alarming as it sounds. Whew! That’s the thing with Dr. Google, you always need a second opinion.

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