Monday, January 25, 2016
Hearts break, stories end, and yet...time marches on.
That was her biggest regret, you know. In our candid conversations near the end, she was ruined at the thought of what she would miss as time continued on without her. And here we are, on the eve of the tenth anniversary since her death. My mother was so special to me. It shouldn't have come as a surprise that she wasn't made for this world.
I admired her more than I'm capable of admiring another. She was the kind of person that I will always strive to be—she wasn't perfect, but she was real. She was true to herself and her creed...and no one who knew her had a better, more caring friend. She gave her love easily, and she gave it well. I know it sounds as though I've made her larger than life—and I grant you, I am prone to exaggeration—but to me, she actually was larger than life.
I can't believe that I've lived the past decade without you, Mom...but then, have I? I feel your presence so often...in a song, a scent, a memory. Every now and then, I open my mouth and you come out. I inherited your quirky sense of humor...which basically means that I laugh at my own jokes even nobody else does—I'm constantly amused with myself. And most importantly, I know how to love totally and without reservation...I learned that from you.
It's not such a bad life really. It would just be so much better if you were here.
I still miss you.
Friday, May 15, 2015
Well, well, wellÖwhat do we have here? A writer who hasnít written isnít just irony, itís sad—at least it is for this writer. For this writer, it means that I havenít felt like my feelings are worth recordingÖworth remembering.
Itís just thatÖlife is precious. I know it as well as anyone (probably even more than some), so I have no rational excuse: I need to stop wishing my life away.
Iím very hard on myself as I struggle through the melancholy that sometimes clouds my vision. I feel like I have a lot of things going right for me. I have a solid grasp of who I am as a person. I know empathy. I have patience. I have the love and friendship of a wonderful man. I have a job that—okay, yes it can be stressful, but it can also be rewarding. I am living in a home that captures my heart and gives me solace.
I have so many of these riches of the soul that my permanent zip code should be on cloud nine. When I am surrounded by these things without distraction, I do live there. Itís the distractions that weigh me down. They make me feel undeserving of the good because I am not impervious to the bad. My shield isnít resilient enough to keep them away, but I feel like it should be by now.
That isnít the way it works though, at least not for me.
I donít even know where to start since I donít want to write a 10,000 word position paper about the thoughts that have polluted my mind since I stopped using this blogÖmy pensieve. I suppose I should chip away at the thoughts that shame me most.
I feel ugly. Really, truly, solidly ugly. Iím not really talking about my physical appearance. That has never mattered to me all that much. The outside has nothing to do with meÖitís a collection of genes that my parents passed along. As I get older, I am beginning to see a pale version of my mother staring back at me in the mirror. Itís the living part of her I have left.
Rather, I feel like all the negativity inside me has seeped through my skinÖand now Iím coated in it. I show it to no one, but it screams at me to get my attention beneath the disguise. Iím, again, distracted by it. Iím missing beautiful, sweet, fleeting moments of life because I canít push aside my feelings of failure and worthlessness (which only multiplies those feelings). Talk about a slippery slope.
In late 2013, my doctor, in an effort to help me control my pain, began prescribing different combinations of medications that would prove to be a mistake. If I have one fault (and I have waaaaaaaay more than one), it is that I trust too easily. Itís a fault that I struggle with controlling because I think it can be positive. I donít want to be a cynic who believes in no one and nothing, but I also need to trust my intuition when trusting someone else feels wrong. Itís a balance I have not mastered, particularly with the medical profession. I always assume that a doctor is way smarter than Iíll ever be, and I should always defer to their advice. The thing is though, no one knows my body as well as I do, and no one ever could. This patient needs to grow a spine (and preferably one that isnít deformed or damaged from surgery this time).
After months on opioids, I was referred back to the pain clinic when I expressed interest in either spinal cord stimulation or neuraxial drug delivery as an alternative. My pain surgeon happens to specialize in both. It was her professional opinion that neither was an option on my treatment table. She scheduled more steroid treatments and another round of PT. She also prescribed a transdermal patch that would deliver the pain medication since the pills upset my stomach.
I was on a relatively low dose (compared to some people) for about a year, having only increased the dose once. Maybe it would have been different if I felt like the medication actually took away all the pain, but I was respectfully afraid of the drug and feared increasing the dose. The patch, plus the narcotics for break through pain, plus the steroids, plus the muscle relaxersÖI lived in a haze, if you can even call it living—and I was still in pain because I didnít want to increase any of the doses.
PT had me to cease all my regular exercise routines (at least for "a while" they said...but never really defined a timeframe when I could return to activity) because they surmised that any activity that required me to be in an upright position was worsening the problem. I felt like I was losing a friend. Exercise has helped me keep the demons at bay when darkness looms for over a decade.
Back to the drugs: I was afraid of them almost from the start but tabled my feelings and followed blindly. It struck me one night in bed as I listened to Nickís deep breathing next to me how shallowly I breathed in comparison. Would there be a night when I stopped breathing completely? How long was I willing to gamble with my life?
Maybe I just didnít give it enough time, but those thoughts were enough for me to pull the plug on this treatment plan. The year and a half of narcotics, steroids, and inactivity altered my physical appearance. I would be lying if I said that it didnít bother me or that Iím not bitter—it is a visual reminder of a bad decision, after all. But those feelings will not help me fix it. I have some hard work ahead of me, and I suppose Iím going a little rogue on approved activitiesÖbut for the first time in too long, my mind is in a positive place.
If I cannot have a perfectly working body, I at least want my mind. On the medications, I was so tired. I felt like all of my energy went toward staying awake during the hours normal people are awake. Everything was dull, like I was experiencing my own life as a bystander. I felt like my brain processed conversation and information in slow motion. There was nothing of myself that I recognizedÖI felt so lost. I am relieved to be free of them, even if the pain is greater. I donít feel like Iím forfeiting my life anymore.
Losing the extra weight will be slow going. Itís something that I need to do not only to feel like Iíve resurrected a semblance of myself, but also because I know that the lighter I am, the less stress I will place on my spine.
I canít be the exercise extremist that I used to be. I cannot eat vegetables as heartily as Iíd like because my body does not digest them well (and tells me so quite pointedly when I force the issue). Iím still figuring it out. I know how to lose weightÖI just have to figure out how to follow through within the boundaries of my physical constraints. I still believe that if you can conquer patience and consistency, you will win at weight loss every time. Point blank, you just have to want it badly enough that your goal mutes the other noises vying for your attention.
Basically, I have to not give up on myself. That seems simple enough, doesnít it? Itís not simple at all. When enough different people inject the word ďcanítĒ into your vocabulary, you start to believe it. The ceiling on the realm of possibility lowers. Fear has imprisoned meÖfear that I wonít be able to walk at all one day, fear that I will become a burden to my loved ones. Fear has stopped me from being as fit as Iíd like to be, and my fears are slowly becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even if any of my fears come to fruition, I will regret forever that I didnít use my body the way I wanted to when I still had the ability to use it at all. So, Iím breaking out of this jail. Yes, it seems simpleÖbut I know this is going to be hard. No hiding from it now.
I am suffocating under circumstances I cannot control; I need to reclaim those that I can.
Monday, January 26, 2015
I tried really hard not to pay today with the price of my tears. Then the weight of memory—and worse, the ache of what I could have shared with you the past nine years—came to rest upon my heart. Your absence still hurts as if it were the first day, when I could barely find the breath to figure out how to go on. Oh how I miss you.
If I can share one thing from the past nine years with you, it's this: I listened. I remember every lesson you ever gave me, and I am a profoundly better person for it. I see life through your lens.
I am grateful for everything.
You gave me that. You gave me the riches of appreciation, and every day seems grander and more magnificent than the last. My heart would likely drown in the flood of joy if only you were here to share it all with me. Maybe that's why you had to go.
I will forever think of you as my blessing...the greatest gift that any child, any little girl, could ever imagine. We will be kindred spirits always...a thief like death could never take that away from me...us.
But I confess that on days like January the 26th, I lose myself in the void of your absence...and I wish for any other reality to be true as long as I'm still somewhere with you.
Sunday, November 9, 2014
When your day is long
And the night, the night is yours alone
When you're sure you've had enough
Of this life, well hang on
Don't let yourself go
'Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts...sometimes.
—"Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M.
I've had a hard day. Really, I've had a hard week, but today just took the cake. If I had to make a bet (and I dislike gambling), I'd put my money on the wintry front headed our way. I have had some big decisions to think through at work, I've been worried because Sophie's sick, and then there's the house. I'm doing my best to stay upright and look like nothing is wrong through the haze of narcotics...but I'm worn out.
A friend at work gave me PowerStrips to try over the weekend to see if they would help. If anything, they made yesterday miserable because I let the pain get out of control hoping that the strip would be able to replace the controlled substances that I've been prescribed for breakthrough pain. Wishful thinking, I'd say, to believe that I could replace a lion with a caterpillar and no one would be any the wiser. Once I accepted that I needed narcotics, I couldn't get an upper hand over the pain; I eventually took muscle relaxers to knock myself out. Today, a cloud of Bengay surrounds me everywhere I go.
I wasn't expecting to have to go anywhere (wanting to lick my wounds in private, naturally), so I loaded up on medication. Then Nick tells me that he needs to clean gutters for someone before the snow arrives. Great, have fun, I thought. He didn't expect anyone to be at the house, so he needed someone to spot him, to be there in case he fell from the roof. Okay, I guess that's a good reason to bring me out of private wound-licking.
Later, we were chastised for not spending enough time with someone. While it cut me deeply because I feel like I'm just barely keeping my head above water as it is, I am reminded of something Mom always used to say: "Everybody has a story." We all have needs, and sometimes those needs aren't met. Everybody does hurt sometimes, be it emotional or physical, and for many different reasons. I don't think we ever mean to hurt the people we love, but it happens just the same. The important thing to remember is that we need to step outside of our own sagas now and then to appreciate what is happening around us.
I know this is a crappy post so far, no sunshine or roses to be found. I think some house updates are in order!
The taping/mudding process is ridiculously long! I mean, I get it...a coat of plaster has to dry completely before it can be sanded and before additional coats can be applied...but still! I can't remember if we stopped by the house on Monday, but I know mudding was underway when we stopped by on Tuesday, and it was still happening yesterday (Saturday) when we stopped by to see if a light fixture fit in a space. In any event, texturing and paint should happen soon.
What else...hmm. Siding is done on three sides of the house, and the platform for the screened porch has been built. The siding is a lot darker than I was anticipating, but I actually like how much it pops with the white trim. As a cost saving measure, we agreed to a siding in what we were told was similar to a color in a less expensive brand than the color we liked best. We thought we were getting a creamy mocha but got milk chocolate instead. Oh well, at least it's still chocolate, right?
Speaking of the screened porch, we also decided on the color of the Trex product that will be used throughout the porch: a multi-tone color called Tiki Torch. I'm not sure when the material will be delivered, but I am excited to see the porch come together. I believe the expected accumulated snow has been downgraded in our area, but I had hoped that we would have seen the screen porch complete before any of that silly white stuff tickled the ground just the same.
Last but not least, the garage floor and front porch were poured on Thursday! They will need to come back to pour the driveway, sidewalk to the front door, and some stairs yet, but it's exciting to see these pieces done! We are supposed to get locks on the doors in the next week, and our light fixtures are scheduled to be delivered in just over a week (I am very excited to see those installed).
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Okay, so that title is somewhat suspicious, but I promise this isn't a TMI entry...not really. It won't get overly graphic anyway.
This week started with me scouring the depths of the Internet for bathroom fixtures and ended with squeals of delight when I saw just the vanity mirrors that I imagined in my mind. This post is about neither of these bookends (though I suppose they go well with the title).
Between them, I missed most of the week at work because I was overwhelmed with fatigue, pain, and nausea. I put in a full day on Monday and attempted Tuesday, expecting to snap out of whatever I had. Well, something sure snapped on Tuesday, and I felt myself losing control. I couldn't focus on anything very well, and I was so hot yet so cold at the same time. My eyes felt dry and gritty, and I just wanted to close them—I knew it would feel good to slip into the oblivion for a little while.
The symptoms should have been enough to scare me, but that's just the thing when you have chronic pain—you learn to put up with a lot before you question anything because you don't want people to become tired with your whining. Sadly, it was my self-respect and damning pride that had me going home early that day. I've never in my life fallen asleep at school or work, and I never intend to...like ever. It is Nick's busy season at work, so I drove myself separately that day when usually we carpool. Shortly into my 15-minute drive home, I stopped at a red light and nearly dosed off before it turned green. With one of those dramatic jerks that feels like you fell from a cliff, adrenaline had me wired the rest of the commute. I had an angel with me then.
I got home safely and slept immediately. After about an hour and a half, I went to use the restroom. I would avoid this part normally, but it is the only symptom that finally smacked me and told me to get my butt to a doctor. First, as someone with Ulcerative Colitis, I'm no stranger to seeing blood. Anyone who has an illness is intimately familiar with their symptoms and knows their personal mark of normal; they become diligent in monitoring those symptoms so that they can treat a flare up before it becomes too big. As such, I guarantee that anyone with any sort of digestive issues looks in the toilet before they flush—it's absolute habit even if I am asymptomatic.
I was not prepared to see that amount of blood after urinating. I'll leave it there for the description...just...I saw stars. I ran a shallow bath for myself and tried to think, to rationalize it away. I think I was literally scared stupid. By the end of my bath, I was over my shock but went back to bed instead of calling a clinic. I felt worse the next morning. My entire body felt heavy...I was thirsty but didn't want to drink anything...couldn't stand the thought of drinking. I had come to terms that this was bigger than me by then, and called the clinic as soon as they opened at 8:00. They wanted to see me and scheduled me for an appointment at 3:15. This of course gave me an illusion of calm because they didn't demand to see me right away or anything—so it's fine, right? No big deal.
It's just that it took me developing symptoms of a major bladder infection for them to also notice a kidney infection that I have had for "some time" if the number of bacteria and white blood cells they found in my test is any indication. The
only major symptoms I had were terrible back pain and fatigue, which I have accepted as part of my life. Did I notice an increase in either of these? Yes of course I did...months ago. It's when I started my latest rounds with the pain clinic and physical therapy. Nobody was interested in figuring out why the symptoms changed—only how to obscure the symptoms. I accepted it at the time. In my head, I think of myself as "The Great Acceptor." Like it's my super-human strength or something. It has given me such peace over the years...kept me whole when I didn't think I could ever be whole with so much of me missing. Defense mechanism, much?
Meanwhile, my husband notices how I've deteriorated, and he can't believe that everyone is so hunky dory with it all. I shush him, pat his head like an indulgent parent—using my Great Acceptor powers, naturally—and try to be there for him as he struggles to accept the non-answers I've received. "It's fine," I tell him. "I'm not upset." Folks: find someone who gets upset for you and keep them in your life. It wasn't fine. I should have been upset. I let them treat the symptom and assume the cause, and I was okay with it. What the heck, Laura!? All I can say in my defense is that I was terrified that they were right, that this pain-riddled life was my life. That I would need to be drugged. That the drugs would need to be increased constantly. That my freedom was slipping away from me. If they were right, resisting the idea would only make it hurt longer. Accept, accept...The Great Acceptor always accepts.
And so here I am, just over halfway into my round of heavy antibiotics, and my pain has fallen dramatically. I wear a Fentanyl patch and take Percocet for breakthrough pain—and last week I would have told you that my average pain on a scale of 1-10 was an 8. Even with all those drugs in my system, I could still perceive pain that ranged near the top of my tolerance. I hurt standing, I hurt sitting...I hurt working, and I hurt doing nothing. Waking...sleeping...I hurt...all...the...time. I have been averaging a 2-3 on the pain scale since my first full day of antibiotics; I have handled any minor breakthrough with over-the-counter pain medication. The last few mornings, I open my eyes after waking and revel in the fact that my flanks aren't throbbing because it's been hours since my last Percocet.
I'm not quite out of the woods yet, but I have turned a corner. I still feel my fever spike if I move around much, but I have three days of medication left. I need to go back to the doctor if this flushing does not stop by the time medication is gone in case I need either a longer duration or stronger (intravenous) dose of antibiotics. I just want to get over this—in no little part because I took an ice cold shower tonight to try to get myself to stop sweating, and I found it terribly unpleasant (yet effective)—but mainly because I want to start rejecting that other imitation of life I knew.
Sunday, July 27, 2014
While the hammering is not underway at the lot quite yet, there sure are a lot of hammers currently employed along the back of my head. More of that later (it's a scintillating read, just you wait).
That's all I have folks: disjointed and incomplete is a signature I've perfected! Have a great week!
Sunday, July 20, 2014
This week in the adventures of house-building: flying dirt!
Weíre so excited to feel like progress is being made! Even though various resources have been working to get to this point for some time, this is the first time that itís visible—seeing is believing and all that. I find my imagination running away with how it will feel to be homeÖthe home where I hope to grow old and make many memories in the years ahead.
I was happy to have something so positive to keep my focus this week. My head and neck have been aching (I can't think of an adverb strong enough to add to "aching"), and it's certainly a ding to morale. I used to get bad headaches in my late teens, but they miraculously disappeared as though I grew out of them—but I've never known if there was a specific reason that caused the welcome cessation. My physical therapist, while sympathetic, acted like everything was hunky-dory and going swimmingly.
Forgive me, that was too harsh. She (physical therapist) took the time to explain why the pain has settled there and why she wasn't surprised. Apparently since the head/neck and sacrum are two ends of the same system (the spine), it's easy to create a teeter-totter effect. Since my low back and hips are usually the culprit, most of my therapy has focused on strengthening the muscles around my sacrum. There is a bunch of technical lingo that I could use to explain what happened, but I'd probably state something incorrectly. Essentially, the teeter up and tottered.
While I do appreciate the explanation and knowing that we aren't creating pain that "doesn't make sense", I just really want the pain to go away instead of move to a different location where I don't have as strong of a tolerance cultivated. Obviously I'm feeling discouraged, but I am trying to see this through. I miss the old, active me, and I'm afraid that she is fading away along with my memory of her. She was pretty awesome, but she didn't realize it at the time. Funny (sad-funny) that works.
I am desperate to find an exercise that raises my heart rate but doesn't cause my pain to flare. I may have to get over my bathing suit bashfulness and find a pool to work on my front crawl. My muscles beg to be used, but my joints seem almost frail judging by how easily compromised they become with simple movement. What a dichotomy: muscles that ache to work and joints that ache with work. It's difficult to tell how much of my current weight gain is water retention (swelling) and how much is good old fashioned calorie surplus, but I know that the less I weigh, the easier it is for my joints to do their job (regardless the quality of the cartilage).
So yes, breaking ground on the house this week: a much appreciated distraction...
Sunday, July 6, 2014
This is the longest I have ever gone without posting since starting this blog in 2004. (I even missed my ten-year blogiversary on June 6th!)
I haven't had a lot of nice, happy things to write about lately. I don't know why it's been such a blocker for me since I never used to shy away from pouring my heart out across the pages of this website. All I can surmise is that I was then dealing with a hurt that I had faith could be healed—or dulled, at the very least. Now, I'm dealing with issues from pain and poor digestion that I can't seem to quell…and I'm beginning to lose faith that I will be able to dull them, much less overcome them.
The thing is, I have an exciting reprieve in my stream of consciousness as of late! THE HOUSE BUILDING PROCESS HAS BEGUN! Well, the official, paperwork side of it, anyway. We are set to break ground in the next few days (!!!) though, and it is a welcome distraction!
We (by "we" I mean Nick while I sit in the air conditioned SUV and read...he just needs me to help load and unload the push mower that a friend has allowed us to borrow as needed) have been mowing the lot per neighborhood guidelines to keep the weeds on the lot looking lawn-like until our builder breaks ground (at which point, the weeds on our lot will be replaced by mounds of upturned dirt and no longer growing like...well...weeds).
The above paragraph is a bunch of run-on sentence nastiness that I'm not even going to attempt to straighten out. Please don't judge me.
Anyway, a little over a year ago, we were still undecided what we wanted to build. I mean, we weren't COMPLETELY undecided. We were pretty sure that the structure we wanted to build was a house and that it would have a door somewhere...but beyond that, we had nothing. I still had lingering feelings for the first house we walked through (that sold before we had the chance to put in an offer). It was a one-story ranch (new construction) with an unfinished basement. It wasn't perfect layout-wise for us, but it was situated well on the lot with a grove of mature trees in the backyard. I remember walking in and seeing all the natural light filtering in...and feeling like I was under a spell.
After I got over the disappointment of "losing" that house (which was never ours to begin with...crazy sentiment, I know), I started dissecting what it was that I loved about it so much. I already knew that I wanted to live next to the conservancy in my hometown. I even knew the neighborhood (Hawthorn Point). When I really thought about it, what I loved about the house that we lost was as specific as I described it above. The one-story ranch wasn't what I wanted: the land was what I wanted.
We jumped on a beautiful lot just down the road that seemed perfect. We couldn't believe that it was still available. Two deer ran through the trees in the back when we viewed the property with our real estate agent. We joked for a long time that our agent probably whispered "CUE THE DEER!" into his fancy-looking watch as soon as Nick and I ventured through the snowy (at the time) lot.
With this blank slate, we headed out to the local area Parade of Homes last year (2013). We saw a house that felt like home as soon as we crossed the threshold.
AAAAAND, I think that's a good place to stop for tonight (ooooh, suspense!). Look for more in the next day or two!
Sunday, November 10, 2013
So, I saw this video clip with Robyn Lawley, and I felt refreshed after watching the interview.
This isn't the first time in recent weeks that I have found myself thinking about the je ne sais quoi of beauty that we're actually expected to know (and project).
I stumbled upon "A Beautiful Body Project" a few weeks ago. Specifically, I stumbled upon this poem: Milking Millions off Women's Self-Doubt.
I felt a little like I was reading something from the Beat Generation…which, I know, seems melodramatic (or silly at the very least). But to me, the Ginsbergs and Kerouacs of the movement challenged societal norms and asked the question that no one could answer: why?
Not that women's lib was part of the Beat message…but for as many gains that we have made in society from the 1950s, our increased exposure to media and propaganda has created an additional challenge on society: superficial self doubt. It is a nasty disease, and industries thrive on ineffective, short-sighted treatments.
I often ask myself why I think a certain thing is normal, and that really started after I took one of the required women's studies courses at college during my sophomore year: the professor brought up an advertisement for feminine deodorant spray, questioning why we as a culture think that the smell is something that needs to be masked; the room was silent.
I know a handful of women who are extremely confident in everything about their outward appearance, and I am envious because that is not me. I've never cared what other people look like. I was brought up in a family that wasn't visually perfect by societal standards, and I was never made to feel like anything was more important than the presentation of good character. Yet, surrounded by so many airbrushed images and veiled messages, I don't quite measure up. It's a difficult thing to admit, and an even more difficult thing to feel.
"Self-esteem doesn't come in a bottle. You were born beautiful."
Poem originally published on A Beautiful Body Project. (Note: linked page contains nudity and may be unsuitable for some audiences.)
Continue reading "Milking Millions Off Women's Self-Doubt: A Poem"
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