Tinnitus?

Imagine you attend a sporting event, arena concert, or any large indoor event with cheering and clapping. At the conclusion, you walk out to your car and notice the sounds around you are muffled. Inside your head, a loud ringing noise, so annoying!, fades away by the time you get home. Now imagine it never goes away. Ever.

I was diagnosed with tinnitus 40 years ago. You say ti-night-us, I say TIN-nit-us. In the early years (feel like a little old lady telling stories, oh wait 😳), the volume of my ringing was as low as it could go and still be heard constantly in the background. I saw all the same remedies y’all saw, but not one made any impact. Presently, I’m relieved that tinnitus established itself in my teens. Having it suddenly turn on as an adult would be startling and adjustment very difficult.

Over time, the volume has turned up, particularly with intense stress. 2009 was a crap year. The loudness increased markedly and I didn’t know if I could cope. My sons were 11 and 12; the noise they and their friends made constantly was a distraction. The volume is pretty high now, maybe medium-high.

When I go to sleep, I like to fade off with the t.v. or a podcast low in my ear. That ringing is amplified most in silence.

Bright Lines

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Okay, okay, okay. I call do-over. I can do that. That’s one of the rules you agreed to when you followed my blog….just kidding. I am in a mood today. I wrote the post below last Friday, October 1st. I’ve thought a lot about this topic in the past five days. If you are interested, you can read it to see what I was thinking, or skip to the new thoughts in the last paragraph.

Just yesterday, I first heard of Bright Line Eating. Upon arriving at lunch with my mom and two older sisters, I was particularly pleased to see the oldest; we hadn’t seen each other since COVID started. She was thinner than I’d seen her in a long time. It’s been a battle for her most of her adult life. She’s tried many, many diets and programs, and some were successful for weight loss but not as much for maintenance.

Now, she’s rocking form-fitting jeans while I’ve invested in leggings and roomy dresses/tops, owing to currently weighing more than I ever have. I know a thing or two about making long-term changes to what I eat and drink. Alcohol quit me two years ago this month, and it had been something I’d very much enjoyed. Next, I quit chocolate; my June 26 post, “All Things in Moderation,” discusses the need. Three months on, I haven’t had chocolate or sugary treats. For the record, the uplift in mood and energy experienced in the aftermath of removing a lifelong staple of my diet was fleeting. The most recent major adjustment I made was dropping dairy in order to increase kidney function; it worked!

Imagine my disappointment when I learned my sister’s success story, using Bright Line Eating, involves cutting out all flour and all sugar. For crying out loud, all my food-related vices are falling by the wayside, one after another. I’m approaching these new deletions gradually. The other two bright lines, besides omitting sugar and flour, are eating three meals a day with no snacking and weighing food rather than eyeballing serving sizes. I’m including below the kind of resources I know I’m going to need.

My sis says she feels so much better. Inflammation is down so she doesn’t have joint pain anymore. She says after about ten days she woke feeling alert, really awake. Sleep has also improved greatly. She allows herself to have something off-plan occasionally. After eating flour or sugar, though, she feels it and is motivated to return to the program because she knows she’ll feel better. One tip she gives is to eat cucumbers and tomatoes because they weigh the most and 22 ounces of vegetables is a lot!

After lunch, I picked up the online grocery order I’d already placed. Many items don’t fit Bright Line Eating, so I’m going to get a food scale and prepare myself with the next shopping list. I’ll keep you posted – blog posted. πŸ˜‰

p.s. My sister has loved baking all kinds of things, from pies to lefse, since she was 17 or 18 years old. Don’t suppose we’ll enjoy any more of those treats in the future.

October 6, 2021 – I definitely want to lose weight but I won’t be a strict Bright Line eating. With my fibromyalgia, I don’t think that’s for me. The first hint I got was the fact that I am not going to be able to give up coffee creamer. No can do. Also, I’m able to eliminate foods when I decide to, like quitting chocolate and sugary treats three months ago. (See “All Things in Moderation.”) The Bright Line quiz shows I probably don’t need to follow the plan strictly. I will seriously cut down on flour and keep sugar intake low. I also plan to make a real effort to increase fresh fruits and vegetables. I’m good at buying them; gotta eat them! I ordered a food scale and it will be here any day, and I will use it. My birthday is one week from today. I don’t really care but, I confess, I use it as an excuse to eat whatever I want, dinner on Saturday with my best friend and her husband as well as take-out on the 13th. What can I say? I have ordered a magic pill that will make my fat melt away as it regulates my blood sugar by improving function of pancreas. Not going to share the name until I give it a try. I know, I know. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. But if it works….. I’ll post an update. My birthday gift is a new tattoo. (See “Before – Early October.”) I’ll be writing about my tattoo process and showing the end result after October 24th. Onward!

Living on the Edge

Twenty years we’ve lived in our home and, though we would like to downsize, we’re reluctant to leave the wildlife corridor our lot borders. When we initially purchased this house, it was located on the outer limits of suburbia, so much so that the neighborhood was just newly able to have pizza delivered and only by one, locally-owned restaurant with the unfortunate name of Fat Daddy’s.

Over the years, we’ve been blessed to see many, many squirrels (who will eat hard-boiled Easter eggs and peanutbutter birdseed pinecones meant for birds), quail, turkeys, bucks, doe, and fawn as well as moose. We hear coyotes and owls. Osprey made a large nest near here, but eventually the power company had to remove it from atop a powerline pole. Hawks circle over the field, hopefully culling the number of mice making it home. One summer, our dog barked every evening at a possum in a tree on the other side of our chain link fence. My son has seen a porcupine lumbering across a neighborhood street. A woodpecker just reminded me to include it. All manner of bird are neighbors of ours, from hummingbirds to magpies. And my husband will never forget watching me high step through the field of tall grasses after seeing a snake underfoot, back in the very early days.

Each fall and spring, I love hearing the Canadian geese flying directly overhead. Ten years ago, a flock of geese flying low and making a really loud racket sent our blue heeler puppy hiding under a low deck. About six months later, we walked in the field, my dog and I, when she spotted a huge gaggle resting in the grasses. Our young blue heeler put her ears back and ran at them fast, circling wide. The birds laughed at her and moved just a bit, not unlike a stadium crowd doing the wave. They scared her more than she scared them!

Deer travel through regularly, sometimes in the field we border and many times walking down streets and across lawns, snacking on flowers and more. When I worked in a local garden center, shoppers frequently asked which plants the deer would leave alone. I would share the disheartening information that they’re less likely to eat more fragrant choices, such as lavendar, but individual animals may not realize this until they try. Personally, we had deer pull up all of my onions; they didn’t eat them, just left them all lying on the ground. It’s a trade off for enjoying the beauty of where we live and the joy of watching wildlife.

A park in our area is officially named after our housing development but everyone calls it “Moose Park.” It was an Eagle Scout project completed in the late 1990’s. Originally there was a zip line swing, bathroom, walking trail, a large grassy area, and a life-sized statue of a moose lying down. With two boys, 19 months apart, we made frequent trips to play there. Since, swings and a slide have been added. When new home and apartment complex construction picked up around us, there were rare actual sightings of moose for several years. Now that the surrounding community has been built up for the most part, they’re using this corridor again.

Twinning seems to be not unusual.

Just three weeks later, in my own backyard…

After eating, mama moose walked all around our yard, checking out even the side of the house, and then rested in the grass for a short while before heading back to the field. The twins only stopped eating to check that mom was close.

She seemed completely unconcerned with their movements and activities, and just two weeks later she’d left them on their own. We know this because they lived in a backyard two miles away from us for their first two weeks without her (communicated to me via our cul-de-sac chat group). The cow recently came back through our neighborhood by herself, but I didn’t get any pictures. Apparently, it’s time for her to mate now and she’ll be up in the mountains… until next year, hopefully.

It will be very difficult to leave here someday.

p.s. When I put out the call for photos of deer (rather than charge my old phone), my neighbor across the street, Dawn Donahoo, provided this security cam pic of a deer caught eating her roses at 1:23 a.m. I told her it’s a little dark and that we shouldn’t reward bad deer behavior with press. On the other hand, be on the lookout for this thieving deer…..

Love my neighbors!

Before – Early October

In late October, I’ll be receiving a tattoo on my lower right leg. (I just typed ‘left leg.’ Oops. Better get my story straight.) I made the appointment in August and emailed ideas to the artist. Here is the description with photos for a design. I’ll post “After” to let you know how the experience unfolds and include pictures of the tattoo.

To tattoo artist: I’d like a 4-5 inch spray of wildflowers including cherry blossom, lavender, calendula, and a sunflower. This is to remind me that I choose life. Feel free to do your own artistic take so it doesn’t look like a common wildflower tattoo. Attached are pictures and the meaning of each flower.

  • lavendar – love
  • Sunflower – optimism, longevity
  • Calendula – joy, grace
  • Cherry blossom – time of renewal, life is short

Dear Reader;

My tattoo represents my acceptance and embrace of life, however long I live. Most important to me are optimism, joy, grace, and, above all, love. No matter how terrible depression gets, I make this commitment to myself: I will choose life. Look for the “After” post the last week of October!

Sara Z

Yayoi Kusama

One of her early art pieces was her lying down naked in the middle of a busy city street, New York I think. Couldn’t find a picture of that one. She also worked on paper.

After seeing a segment about this fascinating artist on CBS News Sunday Morning, I was thrilled to hear the installation of her Infinity Mirror exhibit from 1965 would be just a four-hour drive away. I felt an immediate connection to her and her artwork. Yayoi Kusama lives in a home for people who are struggling with mental health issues. She’s battled serious depression much of her adult life. She goes next door to her art studio every day. She says creating is her art therapy.

My husband and I left our 18 and 19 year old sons home, made the trip 250 miles, and stayed in a downtown hotel. That evening we went to see Mike Love, not the Beach Boy. He’s a reggae artist out of Hawaii. This tour was “The Beginning of Days 2017.” My husband is a huge reggae fan and couldn’t believe Mike Love would be in town the same weekend we’d be there. Great show!

Previews of the Kusama show advised arriving early to get a same day ticket to see the show. Planning ahead, I’d had my husband load up the beach chairs that carry like backpacks. We got to the museum at 7 am and there were only ten people ahead of us. Before the doors opened, the line wrapped all the way around the city block. Many folks unabashedly coveted our chairs and I was so glad we had them. While we waited, a one-legged, Buddhist monk came by, holding out his wrist to display several bead bracelets. I waved to him. I chose one, asking how much. He shook his head no. Taking my hand in his, he prayed over me. I don’t know what he was saying except for “peace” every few words. He put the beads on my wrist and my husband handed him cash. I felt blessed.

Our early arrival paid off and we had our choice of time slots. We returned the chairs to our car, ate a late breakfast, and went back to the museum. I didn’t know that the show was, in addition to Infinity Mirrors, primarily about Yayoi’s love of pumpkins.

The actual Infinity Mirrors artwork was made up of small rooms people could go in alone or with just one or two others in some cases. Lines waited outside each and ushers moved folks through.

Other artwork involved rooms large enough for people to walk through, again entering and becoming part of the display.

The obliteration room below begins the installation with plain white walls, furniture, etc. As people come through, each places a few dot stickers wherever they please.

The funky furniture was not a participation thing!

In one corner, a video of the artist played on a loop. Yayoi Kusama spoke about her desire to share love through her work. She is 92 years old today and continues to create.

The visit to her show was everything I’d hoped it would be. The weekend and the love flowed effortlessly.

Exceeding Expectations

My brilliant son was in his senior year of high school, excited for his next adventure – attending college out of town. Since he was a freshman, I’d been talking to both our sons about the need to engage in extracurricular activities and volunteering for solid college and scholarship applications. Occasionally, I’d see and mention an opportunity that might fit for the oldest; our youngest son gravitated toward these things naturally. The older child, on the cusp of these things becoming a reality, had earned all A’s thus far, in advanced/honors classes, and participated in cross country and track all four years. While incredibly proud of his accomplishments, I had a more realistic view of his competition for top universities.

In the fall of his last year as a Panther, my husband and I began urging our oldest child to apply for scholarships. I’d perused just some of those available online, and suggested where my son might start. Weekly or biweekly, I’d check in with him to see how many he’d done and if he’d heard back from anyone. As the fall season passed, the kid became more and more angry when we asked about his progress. Over that same period of time, my husband and I got more and more tense, because we knew for certain that he needed scholarships to get where he wanted to go, a top public university in-state or one private school across the border in a neighboring state. One day early on, he casually threw out Stanford as a consideration. Not sure if he was serious, I asked, “Stanford?” When he confirmed, I assured him he was not a candidate for Cardinal. I explained to his quizzical countenance that his peers heading to Palo Alto had impressive applications including all kinds of activities in and out of school as well as being highly accomplished in music, sports, the arts, etc. This obviously gave him pause.

Some time in December, I went into my son’s room and asked him how confident he was about the application and scholarship processes. He assured me he knew what he was doing. I clarified that he didn’t need or want guidance from his dad or me, and he agreed wholeheartedly. The strife occurring with any mention of procuring funds prevented a meaningful review of same anyway.

From that point forward, I embraced this opportunity to employ and trust everything I’d learned about raising an independent, accountable, young man, from the parenting class curriculums for which I’d received teacher training before I had children, to the now 18 years of experience under my belt. My son was taking responsibility for his college career. I also explained this choice to my husband. “But he’s not doing it! He doesn’t get it. We have to be on him.” My response, “How is that working for us? Is it having any influence besides causing negative interactions?”

My husband did his best holding back – until Easter brunch. With all four of us together at the table, he brought up the topic and my son immediately got defensive and fired up. Voices raised, frustration exploded, and our oldest son punched a hole in the wall on his way to his bedroom. This was a first in our family, in our home. Our younger son and I sat stunned. I was most concerned about my husband’s reaction. Would this escalate? No. The three of us ate silently and eventually the fourth rejoined.

Hallelujah! Acceptance letters came from his three top choices and one of the local schools, he’d thrown in just for the heck of it. The biggest university instate offered nothing in the way of scholarship. The second one instate did offer him a couple thousand dollars per year as long as academic requirements were met. The third packet that arrived was from the private school; they were proud to offer him the Presidential Scholarship of $72,000 – spread out over four years!

With May 1 looming large, the reality check finally came down. Oh, I knew this was going to be so painful, but he had insisted on doing this without our “interference” and, now, the bulk of my parenting skills would be required to let the chips fall where they may. The financials broke down like this: instate schools’ aid both required my husband and I to borrow tens of thousands of dollars which had to be paid back after one year; and we’d need to do this each year. I had to explain why this was not an option, not even a little bit. We turned to the private school information. Even with the generous offer of $76,000 over four years, we would still need to come up with $20,000 per year!

The next few minutes are etched in my memory. I asked if he’d gotten some or any of the online scholarships, knowing full well he hadn’t. I would’ve heard if he had. He said no, didn’t get one, but said it wouldn’t have helped anyway because they were all so small. “Right. That’s why you have to get a lot of them.” His response, “I did, like, the ones you showed me. I was supposed to apply to all those on the website?” Sigh. As the fact that he wasn’t in a position to attend any of the three soaked in, he shrugged and said, “Well, looks like I’m going to (insert name of local university.) I requested a look at the financial aid package for that school. “Well, I don’t have that one. The app for that isn’t due until July 1.” “Honey, your dad and I cannot commit until we see the numbers.” “But letter of intent is due.” It was my turn to shrug. He erupted, “What do you mean? There’s nothing else, nowhere else to go!” I stayed quiet for a minute and quietly replied, “Yes, there is somewhere else to go.” The realization sunk in and he looked incredulous. “What? Are you talking about the community college? No fucking way! Community college?” I explained that this was a completely viable option; he could go there for two years and transfer; universities are always looking for transfers to make up for the students who enroll as freshman but don’t stay. “Then what the fuck was all this work for? It’s all for nothing if I’m just going to community college. I could’ve gone there without being a valedictorian!” Reassurance that hard work is its own reward fell on deaf ears. I reminded him that his very successful aunt and uncle both started with two-year degrees from that same institution.

He moved his bedroom to the basement, something he’d not done earlier because he planned to be moving. He had great workspace, shelving, and file cabinets, and he got colored light bulbs. When he earned top rank in his graduating class in math, we attended a countywide banquet where certificates would be given to all and one student in each academic subject would be granted a scholarship. Top finalists’ accolades were delivered and my son finally saw what I had been trying to tell him for years. There were kids who had spent summers studying at John Hopkins or at a music conservatory and people who pursued many interests simultaneously. All of the scholarship recipients had formidable resumΓ©s. Overall, when student names were announced, the university they would be attending was, too. My son was one of just a handful who were going to the local community college.

It was so difficult to watch this whole thing play out and to see the pain experienced by this wonderful young man as he saw his future plans fall apart. He was very relieved to know that his incredibly accomplished uncle, in particular, had attended community college. It seemed to make everything okay.

He moved out just after turning 21 and has now graduated with his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from (insert name of local 4-year school.) When I asked him recently how his paid internship was going, he told me, “Good. I’m exceeding expectations.” He certainly is.

p.s. After writing, I just remembered this: As reality came crashing down, in exasperation he asked, “What was the plan? Did you guys even have a plan?” Took a moment, kinda knocked me back, and then I replied, “We moved into this school district, regularly in the top ten for academics in the state, and did whatever it took financially for me to stay home with you guys. We told you that you would need scholarships.”

This is my thinking about kids taking responsibility – When my sons turned 15 and started talking about driving, we told them they needed to enroll in classes and then manage getting the learner’s permit and, eventually, the license. We explained that they were responsible enough to drive when they were able to complete the process. I feel the same way about college. My older son says he’s really glad things worked out the way they did; he worked his ass off and graduated with no debt.

My View

Shhhhh

Photo by SharkBite on Pexels.com

Don’t talk about it. Keep your feelings to yourself. Oooh, do I need to treat you with kid gloves? You’re really gonna go there? I did not sound that way. It wasn’t meant like that. Makes you feel bad? Listening to you nitpick everything I say is making me feel bad. That’s how I feel about it!

I won’t bug you. Minimal texting while you’re at work. When you get home, you’ll talk to me while you change into comfortable clothes. I’ll drop a couple lines, trying to fit what’s important into a couple lines, taken by surprise as you rush in early, full of purpose. When you get busy gaming, I’ll stay quiet. If I want to talk, I’ll signal before I speak and wait for you to mute your phone.

Don’t tell me what pains you today. That gets really old. You know what? Go ahead and mention your daily complaints. I won’t let it soak in, glide right over with whatever’s on my mind. Yeah, I know you don’t feel good. Ever. Nothing I can do about it. Nada. It’s not like it’s gonna change.

When pain takes my breath away, I’ll hold it until the sharp pain passes because it usually does. I won’t even mention it. If it becomes repetitive or impairs function, I might not be able to keep it inside. I won’t bore you unless it’s absolutely necessary because I don’t want to add to the burden you always have taking care of me, but talking about it is definitely a coping mechanism. I wish it didn’t bother you so much.

I’m not a bad person. What do you want from me? I’m doing my best to keep things going at work and shopping and cooking and cleaning. Picking up a prescription for you every other day, when are you getting on that program where all your meds refill at the same time, anyway?

"Hey, honey."
"Hello. How was your day?"
"Good. I got the project done ahead of deadline so I decided to get the fuck outta there." 
"Nice."
"I took out some fish for tacos. Are you super hungry or okay until later?"
"Later is fine. You can do your thing for a while."
"Cool. There's a new map on my game."

Wishful & Wistly

Always, it seems, an echo of wistfulness reverberates in my soul to which I assign sadness and loneliness. It occurs to me now, though, that the best course may be to uncouple this sensation from depression. Experiencing wistfulness doesn’t have to be negative. Perhaps nostalgic is a more apt synonym than melancholy.

Wistful vs nostalgic. Memories of my summers at Liberty Lake, where I spent my high school years, come to mind frequently: the $1 hamburgers down at Sandy Beach resort, a mom-and-pop owned set up with cabins built in the 50’s, I’d guess, and a mobile home community now. My boyfriend lived across the street, his family cabin right on the beach, with lots of toys, including ski boat, hobie cat pontoon, windsurfers, mopeds, etc. Nothing particularly unusual or exciting in those mental snapshots, though I’m certain my teenaged self had sufficient drama. I do appreciate how fortunate I was to enjoy the year-round beauty and benefits of life at the lake. In any event, I don’t wish myself back there or that things unfolded differently than they have.

Various sources online describe wistfulness as a sadly pensive longing, homesickness, or a bittersweet yearning for things of the past but other synonyms include grimness, despondency, moroseness and moodiness. Then I looked at merriam-webster.com and found this:

Given this etymology, the closest original meaning seems to be intently wishful or silently wishful. So, both experentially and according to the vernacular, nostalgia does seem more fitting for fond recollections of my youth. Wistful, however, intently wishful strikes a familiar cord. Silently wishful, but wishful for what?

And there it is, some more. Another “aha” moment. Wishful thinking. I really wish I didn’t struggle with anxiety and depression. I very much wish fibromyalgia didn’t interact with those illnesses in such a way that each of them makes the other two worse and makes it harder to deal with all of them effectively. So which wishful is my wistful? Am I expressing a desire or hope for restored health that might happen or is it actually impractical or unfeasible? I had a year of the former but now it feels more like the latter.

Wistful some, wishful a bit, and, yes, nostalgic for those summers at the lake.

*off topic* I am loving writing so much! Thank you to anyone who reads this. I can’t believe 149 people have clicked the follow icon; the steady flow keeps me blogging. I appreciate you.

Splitting Hairs

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The first professional haircut I’ve received since COVID shut everything down at the end of March and beginning of April came at long last. In the spring of 2020, the appointment that had to be canceled was important; we’d tried a little bit of fringe, and now I needed to decide if I would go with real bangs or grow them out. Some of you know, bangs are a commitment and they’re in and out of style so quickly.

Coronavirus took care of that. Over the course of the next several months, my natural hair color grew out and I cut it myself. I’ve always had a no-confidence vote as regards my ability to trim locks, mine or anyone else’s, so this was a first. I brushed it out well and pulled it up into a ponytail on top of my head, lopping a few inches. Twice. Two times I did this, months apart. The result? Meh. Luckily I have natural curl that hides mistakes, and I wear it up most of the time anyway.

Recently, my mom asked if I wanted to come with her and get a haircut myself. My sister who lives out of town would take us, so I wouldn’t have to drive. Manning the steering wheel flares my neck and shoulder muscles. I said yes but worried it would be really difficult to be up and out for an extended period of time. I knew it would be good for me and believed I’d probably be fine.

So, a fresh reset was in order. We, all three, were able to get trimmed. Yes, it felt great to get a few inches of straggles chopped off. It was very interesting to finally meet my mom’s hairdresser, about whom I’ve heard for 30 years! We visited and laughed. Pain was manageable, although a headache did keep me from joining them for a meal afterwards.

The objectives of the appointment were met, and we got haircuts besides. My mom and sister got me out of the house and checked out how I’m doing. I stepped out of my comfort zone and was able to evaluate my ability to go and do. It was so good to spend time with family. I really appreciate their care for me. Of course, all of this went unsaid because that’s how our family operates. 😊

I am faced, though, with a difficult decision. Do I stay with my natural color, which looks golden brown in some lighting but mousy gray in others, or do I go back to coloring? Considering I do it myself for less than 10 bucks, yeah, I feel some highlights in my future – hair color and life!

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

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on Pexels.com

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. πŸ˜‰

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. πŸ˜†

Does Church Work?

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This topic has been simmering in my heart and mind for decades. Having attended church regularly for years, serving in many different capacities, and eventually volunteering as director of women’s ministry, I saw several examples of folks behaving badly. Worse, there are people convinced they’ve got it dialed in who think nothing of gossiping or excluding others, etc. What it all boils down to for me is, ‘If it works, it would work.’ And for sure the community of a healthy church does provide a sense of belonging, which alone is worthy of attendance for many.

What about being transformed by the spirit? How about leaders of the church living the message they preach? As people invest years of study, worship, and fellowship, are they raised up? Do the fruits of the spirit follow? The Christian faith teaches that if Jesus abides in a person it will be evidenced by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Truly, on Sunday mornings these are all presented.

It is my supposition that if organized religion was effective, we would see consistent growth of character traits and a widespread decrease in immoral and unhealthy behavior. I do not deny that some churchgoers experience this, but there are so many who walk that same path without the expected results.

How else to explain televangelists run amok? What about the president of a Christian college, Liberty University, who parties and has extramarital sex? Why would someone preach about the evils of homosexuality while secretly meeting a gay lover later? Now the prosperity gospel teaches that everyone who prays for success will be rewarded. You get a car! You get a car! We all know that most of those parishioners will face terrible difficulties ahead, despite praying faithfully, including economic challenges.

You might answer that people at the top of a large ministry were offered temptations unlike average folks, but sin trickles all the way down. It’s as insidious as cliques in high school or an unwelcoming attitude toward someone at church. Leaders have a greater responsibility because followers look to them for direction and guidance. After years of outwardly living as though they are bathed in the spirit, those leaders should be hemmed in by the fruits, most importantly self-control, after years of walking with Jesus.

My thoughts on organized religion could fill many pages and I’ll share more about my personal experiences and shortcomings in future posts. I don’t begrudge anyone a church-home if it meets their needs. For now, I will close this missive by saying that it is my firm belief that faithfully living to serve others and abiding daily in the spirit do not require you sit in a pew on Sundays and, likewise, perfect attendance will not guarantee absolution or a straight and narrow path.

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.

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