Getting Poked and Mauled

I have mentioned going for acupuncture before–but it had been about 8 or 9 months since I had last seen R to be stuck with needles. I got my new referral and this one is more realistic: I have 48 visits and 365 days to accomplish them. At the current rate of twice a week, it won’t take me that long.

He made some changes while I was gone. He hired a massage therapist, C. So the new routine is to start with R, getting needles wherever needed. Then he paints me with the “Chinese Ben Gay”, points the heat lamps at my feet and wherever else I particularly need it and he leaves. I lay there and contemplate whatever comes to mind. After a while, C comes in and she smudges me with mugwort. (Smudges means she lights the herb on fire, then blows out the flame. The smoke that comes off is what she then lets “fall” on my body. Think of it as aroma therapy.)

Once she’s done that, then she takes out the needles and proceeds to give me a mini-message, from neck to hips–which is where I need it the most. Yesterday’s session went just a little differently at this point. Those of you who think like I do will understand; the rest of you just have to stop giggling over the New Age “Woo-Woo” stuff and try to understand.

C was massaging my back and she stopped, her hands still on me. “You want to be healed”, she said. Duh! She told me that most people just want to feel better. Then she placed her hands on me in several different places–the feet, the nape of my neck and the small of my back, and on my shoulders. She didn’t massage–she sent energy into me. I could feel things opening up that hadn’t flowed in a very long time. It’s the sort of thing that just happens and when you try to put it into words as I am doing, loses something in the telling.

It was profoundly spiritual. I am an empath, I heal others in this same manner. But I cannot heal myself. So to have this done for me, from her generosity of spirit, was a very emotional moment for me. I find it hard to even know which are the right words to describe what happened. It felt like she opened the doors to my own energy sources and set them free again. I could feel the energy flow in from her and then…I could feel my own energy moving around.

I am using the words I know and I am sure not everyone who reads this will understand what I am trying to convey. For those of you who follow a more “mainline” religion, think of it as a healing from the Spirit. More of a response to a request than a miraculous rising from the dead, but still, as I said, very spiritual. A sacred moment, indeed.

There were hugs all around when I came out of the treatment room. I told R that hiring her was the best thing he had done–and he agreed. I went out to the car where my beloved was waiting and tried to explain to him what had happened. He understands it, in a more secondhand way–he does not see or feel energy the way I do. All he does within the Craft, he just does without conscious focusing. But he got it. And then, poor man, he had to listen to me burble and chatter from my energy high.

We went to get something to eat–getting centered and grounded again by putting food into me was a good idea. We went to the local Mexican restaurant and I ordered a grilled chicken salad. The food was amazing. Not that it was any different from any other time, but I could taste it differently, if that makes sense. All of my taste buds were …enhanced?…more awake? Whatever it was, the meal was especially delicious to me. I managed to eat a lot more than I usually do.

And per R’s suggestion at some time in the sun, we rode out to the beach. We opened up the windows and just sat in the car, watching the waves. We had a seagull land on one of the big rocks (that separate the parking lot from the beach) right in front of our car. He stood there watching us for some time, before finally flying off to do some fishing.

That was yesterday and today I am still “buzzing” to a certain extent. It’s not that there is suddenly no pain. Pain has always been, and I’m fairly certain will always be, a constant companion. So I wouldn’t say there was some miracle cure for my body. But I feel better in my brain than I have in…forever. If all C can do is help drive out the depression or at least shut it down so that it doesn’t ooze over all of my thoughts, I will consider it a blessing and more than I could have ever hoped for.

The change is internal, within my mind and heart. I see them again tomorrow and it will be interesting to experience what else can happen when you have two people who are both walking a path very much like mine own. Their world view coincides with mine, so we are, as the saying goes, in simpatico. It always amazes me how I am led to those who understand me when I talk about the esoteric things like energy flow and my connection to the Universe–and thereby, my connection to everything and everyone within that Universe.

Let’s see if I can explain that a little better. When I first met R, it was like greeting an old friend. There was no hesitation, no guarded speech; just the meeting of minds that think very similarly. Likewise with C. I don’t have to be “discrete” about my Pagan life. (Like with my parents. We never talk about it because if we did, they would have to question their own religious views–or — and this more likely, just shut me down because I’m going to Hell.) His office and treatment rooms are very welcoming to me, with Pagan symbols and “rocks” (chunks o’ crystals) all over the place. He has music going all the time, best described as “New Age”. You’re not going to hear anything you really recognize unless you listen to the same sort of music.

Apparently I’m still burbling. Let’s just bring it down to this: I went and had acupuncture and massage and I’m feeling clearer and better in my head because of it. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s session.

Namaste and Peace!


The Agony and the Ecstasy of Personal Hygiene

To paraphrase Martin Luther King:
“Clean at last, clean at last! Thank gods almighty, clean at last!”

Having only a small supply of energy
I must choose wisely what to do with it.
Do I cook? Do I clean? Do I go out to buy some food?
What are my priorities, for this small supply of “able to do”?

All too often the choice becomes imperative, no choice at all–
Go to the doctor’s, pick up medication, grocery shop.
Some days the energy supply is so limited that just sitting
And typing on the computer uses it all up.

I am dirty; I stink. My hair is grotesque.
I disgust myself because I can’t remember when
I last took a shower. A week? Maybe two?
Too long and I want, but more need, a shower.

(We must insert this small note here to
Remind our gentle reader that a shower is not a big deal.
Unless…you have a chronic illness or chronic pain
Which requires a different set of rules for life.)

Mornings are the time of day for me to do things.
Always has been and more so even now–
Even before medications, before I’ve gone through my day
And used up that little triple A battery I call energy.

Thoughtfulness is a hallmark of my spiritual path,
Which is good because I need it for my physical life.
Awareness of my being, compassionate consideration of my body.
Taking a shower is like planning D-Day.

If cleanliness is next to godliness, then I’m a sinner–
Black as coal and unrepentant, stained with my sins.
But not through intent or any of the seven, deadly sins.
I haven’t had the fun of sinning to gain this status.

An animal that is sick will not take care of itself,
Does not groom its fur nor maintain its den.
Humans are no different because illness drains the energy
And choices must be made or nothing gets done.

I could–and sometimes do–weep for those days when
I long to place my body under the healing waters,
To scrub the dirt and smell of neglect off of me–
But lack the necessary ability to stand and soap and rinse and dry.

It’s not like I’m a coal miner or a pro athlete.
How do I get so dirty? Well, not dirty so much as ….
Stinky? I do nothing that requires enough exertion
To make this nasty miasma of … wait, it’s just “not clean”.

Oh the joy! Oh the rapture of making it into the shower;
To stand beneath the glorious waterfall of heat
And wet that washes away the smell and the sadness
Of not being able to do this unthinkingly.

The comforting thrill of the water pouring over my head,
Over my hair and down over my body.
The only thing better would be if I could
Lay down in a tub, a pool, the ocean…and be covered with water.

Water is my natural element, I have a strong connection
With it, no matter the form it takes.
I am happiest at the beach, with the ever-changing, ever the same waves
And the endless susurration of the water’s song.

A shower has always been a substitute for being in
The salty arms of Mother Ocean, laying on her skirt
And watching the birds overhead while I am rocked,
Like a child, in the loving undulations of water’s movement.

But personal hygiene is not as poetic as an ocean thought.
Millions of people do it, every day, without even a thought
Let alone poetic, philosophical or even spiritual consideration.
My shower is not like theirs at all.

It begins with the decision that today I will take a shower.
I have my own shower’s ritual: place two towels on the
Closed toilet seat; one for the hair, one for the body.
Start the water and give it a chance to heat up.

I set the temperature to comfortable–which my Beloved
Refers to as “lobster” because it’s too hot for him.
I step into the tiny world of our shower stall–31 inches square,
We measured. And I close the curtain behind me.

Inside this small world, apart from the rest of my life,
I worship the warmth and the water, letting it run
Over me, on me, preparing for the next step in
This most sacred rite of becoming godly.

Everything I do is thoughtfully done.
It has to be, because everything I do to get clean–
Has a price I will pay in pain.
This must be done efficiently and carefully.

I shampoo my hair. A simple declaration, yes–but with the complexity
Of a chronic illness behind it, one that doesn’t tell
The cost of that act, the amount of energy required just…
To shampoo my hair.

My hair is very long. Would it be easier for me
If I cut it very short? Could I wash it with less pain?
Of course. But I will not make that choice
Until I can absolutely no longer pay that price.

My actions for washing my hair look the same as yours.
I scrub my scalp, I rub the shampoo through the hair.
I must bend my head far enough down that I do not
Have to lift my hands above my head…

…this is the happy medium in price: both my shoulders
And my neck will hurt afterwards, but neither one as bad
As if I had not bowed my head. Spreading the pain out,
So to speak and lessening the impact on any one site.

I put conditioner in the hair and move on
To scrubbing the body with my puffy scrubber.
To exfoliate and remove the detritus of “too much time between showers”
I scrub hard. And it hurts on all the pressure points, all the trigger spots.

The size of the shower is both a blessing and a curse–
I have no room to bend over to scrub legs and feet.
But I prop myself, ass on one side, foot on the other,
Knees bent and reach all the parts I need to clean.

I rinse, feeling clean again and figure this happy state
Is worth the rest of the day spent doing as little as possible.
I’m clean, cooking doesn’t matter. I’m clean,
Doing dishes and cleaning can wait for another day.

The last part of my shower ritual has always been,
Since I began showering by myself as a child,
To make the water even a bit hotter than “lobster”
And to let it run over my back. I can feel the muscles relax.

I turn off the water and open the curtain, stepping
Back out into the world, a new person–different, sanctified.
I wrap my hair up in a turban and then I
Wrap the big towel around my body; this is my godliness.

Q-tips for the ears, lotion for the face.
I sit for a while in my towels, enjoying the “just washed” feel
And the lack of stinky smell; the baptism in the river Jordan.
I am saved from dirt and neglect; I am clean at last!

I take my medications, I begin my day online.
Eventually, I will find clean clothes to put on and
Place the ones I’ve been wearing for a week
Into the laundry basket to await their own sacred bath.

The pain is there, it always is…my neck, my arms, my hands.
I’m tired enough for a nap, I have no energy to eat BUT
I have showered and scrubbed and washed my soul
And I am clean at last, clean at last!

Thank the gods almighty, clean at last!

Friday Night Musings

Well, we may have found the right cocktail of drugs and the right way to take them.  I am taking both Cymbalta and Lyrica, but had been taking one of each in the morning and at night.  So now I am taking both Cymbalta for sleeping (nighttime) and both Lyrica for liveliness (daytime).  OK, it’s a stupid mnemonic, but I can keep it straight that way.  Get over it.  I also take one Vicodin the in the morning, but have really backed off on needing them throughout the day.  Unless something happens, like that crazy derecho weather thing couple of weeks ago–or if I try to do too much.

I still tire easily, but generally, I am feeling better.  Been doing some cooking and made a kick ass chili this past week.  Three kinds of peppers and LOTS of meat (ground beef and finely chopped steak).  Now if only the dish fairies would come…I am NOT keeping up with the dirty dishes, even with technology (dishwasher) to help me.  Sigh.  It’s the one task I sincerely hate and would almost rather have a root canal than have to do.  But since no one else is going to do it, guess I’ll have to be the dish fairy all by myself! LOL

Seems like we’ve been living in the car…between Tuesdays into Manassas to see the chiropractor and get my disability check, then deposit it.  And let me take a moment to talk about my chiropractor.  His name is Dr. Lincoln German, his practice is called Spine Care of Manassas and he is AWESOME!  Not only does he crack, fold, spindle and mutilate me (and my beloved) but he is very aware of our money situation (or really, the lack thereof) and he is essentially taking care of us for free.  Oh I suppose someday, when we have money again (sigh) we will be paying him back–but he does not have to see us while we can’t even make our copay.  THAT, my friends, is a doctor to trust.  If you need to be cracked, he’s the one to do it!

So we see him on Tuesdays.  We also have to travel 2 hours to Fishersville to see Beloved’s doctor for about 10 minutes and then drive another 2 hours home.  Fortunately, it’s a lovely drive.  But it does mean a lot of time in the car.  We rode to Warrenton today to pick up his new meds and had a bite to eat on the cheap at the Frost Diner–the only place that’s open 24 hours a day for like miles around.  Fortunately, the food is pretty good–I mean, it’s diner food, but hey, where else are you gonna get a steak and cheese at 3 am in the morning?

I rearranged my desk this week, which involved dusting out all the shelves as I moved things around.  Slightly more organized and the meds are a tad more inconspicuous.  I’m have to fill out paperwork for long term disability (LTD) since the short term is running out on the 8th of this month.  And I’m also filling out the paperwork to apply to Social Security for permanent disability(SSDI).  Surprisingly, LTD may actually help me get SSDI.  And while we’ve already got a lawyer to help us with the SSDI process, the LTD insurance will provide (at no cost to me) an advocate to help me file for it.  So we’ll see how this goes.  The bitch of the matter is, the paperwork that my doctor is supposed to fill out cannot be done prior to August 21, since that’s when I have an appointment with him–and the there’s nothing available earlier because he’s on vacation next week and full up the next one.  Sigh sigh.

Beloved and I are also having paperwork to fill out for the insurance that pays our credit cards/loans when we are out of work or disabled.  Once again, this requires the doctor.  We will spend most of the appointment time doing paperwork.  At least he’s enthusiastic about getting us taken care of and will be most cooperative for the papers.  Another great doctor who takes really great care of his patients–and HATES the insurance companies with their arbitrary bullshit.

I did discover while having to WRITE in the answers on these forms that I cannot do that “fine manipulation” thing for very long.  Had to keep taking breaks.  Can I return to work?  Not really.  I also still need a 3-6 hour nap almost every day.  In addition to a pretty full 8 hours of sleep at night.  Hopefully the nap thing is just healing and will eventually go away.

We went to the pool today for the first time in about 3 weeks.  With temperatures that start with a “9” and a heat index that increases that to three digits, there’s no relief in swimming if you’re walking home through a wet blanket at roasting temperature.  And getting into the pool today was like walking into a slightly cool bathtub.  But it was necessary and we both felt better for having done it.  I also soaked up some Vitamin D.  I did not sunbathe.  I just laid out in the rays of the celestial orb, absorbing healthy vitamins and caressing warmth.  The fact that I’m a little browner does not mean that I am roasted and ready to serve.  LOL

I have worked this week to get my Pagan website transformed into a WordPress blog, with the pages of the website as pages in the blog, like I have here.  Mostly a lot of cut’n’paste, with some formatting to tend to, but I have finally got it finished.  Now I just have to find the book that goes with the study I am doing so that I can write and post the third chapter.  If you’re interested, here’s the link:

I was also most political this week, refusing to eat at Chik-Fil-A and posting a link to an amazing video that explained how to go in the restaurant and ask for water, then quote Scripture at them–posting that link on the actual “Chik-Fil-A Appreciation Day” FB page that Mike Huckabee started.  And somebody on the page actually liked my post!  I was afraid they’d send the cowz after me and I’d disappear into the chick’n factory, never to be seen again.  It may not have made a huge difference, but you can never tell where one small act can precipitate a landslide.  So I have to ask: are you registered to vote?  If not, please do.  And in November, VOTE.  I don’t care who you vote for, but we must be active participants in our government or we will end up as sheep led to slaughter.

And don’t even start me on the War on Women.  It’s there, it’s true.  And it’s not about reproductive rights.  It’s about making women second class citizens, with no voice in government and no chance or choice for their own lives, no opportunities for jobs, relegated back into the kitchen and just shut the fuck up.  It’s about a patriarchy that’s using religion to “put women in their proper place”–which is kneeling at the feet of their lords and masters, the men.  It’s “The Handmaiden’s Tale” and if you haven’t read it, you should.  It’s by Margaret Atwood and frighteningly prophetic.  The War On Women will lead to women as property, women as a decoration in the perfect household, with just enough education to be polite when the other men come over for a poker night and she makes them cold beers and hot sandwiches, then leaves them to their manly pursuits.  She can’t read, she can’t write, she doesn’t own property, doesn’t even own her body–her husband can rape her, over and over and it’s lawful.  A complete disregard of the intelligence, the ability, the RIGHT of women to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  I’ll ask again.  Are you registered to vote?  Why not?  Register.  And vote, vote for the people who will listen to you, who have your interests at heart, who will do as their constituents want instead of doing whatever the highest paying corporation offers them.

Sorry, I’ll get down off my soapbox.  I didn’t realize I was such a political creature until now…guess I have too much time on my hands and reading the news makes me too informed for my own good.  Sometimes, it just makes me want to smack my head against the wall.  It’s really amazing, some of the absolutely Gordian knot of twisted logic our elected representatives use to pass laws that treat women as objects to be controlled.    And I’m not even naming party affiliation because I believe it happens on both sides.  So when I rule the world….

Hoping to see my daughter and granddaughter before too long, just whenever the Lizard gets time off from work and can drive down.  No definite word about my son’s reenlistment and reassignment to teach in the school in NY (we hope).  We did have our friend here last weekend, and it was great to see her again–she’d been in Europe for a post graduation trip for a month, so it had been quite a while since we’d seen her.  She cooked for us, which is always appreciated–but just spending time with her, talking about everything and nothing in particular was lots of fun.

Nothing major planned on the horizon, just the usual doctor trips and such.  Hard to think that it’s August already and before you know it…2/3 of the year is gone.  I have done nothing much of note this year and I can’t even claim great enlightenment from sitting and meditating.  Just trying to take it a day at time, with both of us having our bad days and some good days and trying to find the point when the good outnumbers the bad.  I think we may be hitting the tipping point–mostly depends on where the money will come from for bills in the next two three months, or until LTD and or SSDI kicks in.  At least my car seats will tip back and we could sleep in the car.  Wonder where there’s free wifi I can get while parked on the street?  Living in the car would certainly be a minimalist lifestyle.

So other than the incredible stress about money, everything else is going reasonably well.  I still have foggy days, but mostly am alert and oriented, as the saying goes.  The pain is there, but manageable–and bearable as long as I don’t try to do things like be a lumberjack or Olympic gymnast.  And I need to close this off as I’ve been typing long enough that the right elbow and shoulder are beginning to indicate that it’s time to stop.  Before they scream at me, I shall.  Till the next time…and I go to finish my Gibson.  (Like a martini, but onions instead of olives.)


Making a Difference

So things have happened since we last talked.

I saw my physician and he has changed my meds up a little.  Increased the Cymbalta and instead of Xanax, I am now on Klonipine.  Been taking them for 4 days and there is an appreciable difference already.  The pain is decreasing to very bearable limits, only coming back as I tire.  He also diagnosed plantar fasciitis.  Basically the fat pad on the heel thins and spreads out as we get older…and it becomes painful.  Heel cups (with gel soles) are a godsend.  Walking (foot) pain-free for the first time in months.  Means I need to find a pair of shoes to wear only in the house as I have gone bare foot a lot more than I wear shoes…and slippers will not support sufficiently.

The Cymbalta does take time to build up, but in only 4 days I have already had a serious improvement in my mood.  (Since it’s used to fight depression.)  I feel better than I have….well, since I can remember.  At least a year and maybe longer.  I have also made the conscious choice to stop letting the negativity overwhelm me.  Yes, we’re in a bad spot financially.  Yes, we’re both ill but we are getting better.  Yes, we are both being recommended to try for SSDI (Social Security Disability) so yes, we are both considered to be prime candidates for permanent disability (not something you really want to win.)  But I had made the mistake of looking beyond this moment and fearing what I perceived as being possible.

I should have known better and I am ashamed to realize that I let go of all I had learned over the past 10 years so easily.  I fought this battle before and won it but apparently the victory was not as enduring as I had thought.  I identify as a Tibetan Zen Buddhist.  Zen.  You know, the Zen moment.  This moment, now.  This moment, right here.  That’s all we can be sure of.  It is what we are experiencing and can identify, acknowledge and know is true.  It’s the only thing we can know is true with absolute surety–which is why part of my spiritual practice is to constantly verify my truths.  And I somehow forgot this.  I allowed past conceptions and future anticipations to overshadow the reality of this moment, this now.  In so doing, I missed the now–the fact that I am getting better, slowly–but better.  Better than I have been for a long time, which is a major accomplishment.

I recognize the human fact that I may very well have to keep on fighting this battle and I am grateful for the help the right meds, in the right doses, are giving me.  Depression creates its own chemical template in your mind and you actually need the antidepressant medications to help reset the brain to its normal, not depressed state.  Force of will is not sufficient and there is no embarrassment in asking for that help if you need it.  (As an aside: this is true of all mental diseases; they are chemical insufficiency or excess and medications are needed to regulate them and help the person so afflicted live a more normal life.  JUST LIKE a diabetic needs insulin or a hypertensive person needs high blood pressure medicine.  No shame, no need to hide it or lie about it.)

Today was the first day that I really felt good for ever so long.  We got up early and went to the chiropractor to get folded, spindled and otherwise mutilated.  Picked up our mail from the post box and had a bite to eat at Roy Rogers.  Decent breakfast at a cheap price.  Then off to the bank to deposit our sole form of income, my short term disability check…sigh.  Then we drove up to Chantilly to go to the Korean supermarket and get our hair cut.  Yes, that’s what I said.  It’s called Lotte Plaza and it really is a supermarket.  You can also get siding for your house, clothes, a massage, jewelry and get a hair cut–or color, perm and so on.  Both the beloved and I had our hairs cut and we look a little less shaggy which also helps with feeling better generally.

Then shopping…getting perishables, meat and some specific items not available anywhere else.  We love to shop there because they have the best selection of the specialty items we use in ethnic cooking.  I am learning how to do Punjabi (think Indian, but from the area near Pakistan, so it’s a “dialect” of Indian food) and we get all the (wonderful!) spices like Garam Masala, green cardomom, cumin seed and such there.  We also get shrimp–$6 per pound, 25-30 count.  (Heads off because you can buy WHOLE shrimp there if you choose.  I do not.)  They also carry Halal beef–if you cannot find or will not spend the money on pastured/grass-fed (and finished) beef, Halal is another option.  The animal is tended and butchered according to the Jewish/Muslim law; it’s much more humane, the animal is essentially thanked for the sacrifice of its life before it is thoughtfully and carefully killed.  The meat is handled a little differently–and it is my understanding that the quality of life for these animals is also more like grass fed (and may actually be)…so the meat is very flavorful.  And at Lotte, it is not expensive.  We also got ground pork, $3/pound and some nice little pork short ribs (also $3/pound) that I am going to cut into their individual parts and marinate in a Chinese style sauce before broiling them.  (We don’t have a grill or I would sacrifice them to the BBQ gods.)

Then it was time to head home, which was good because it’s been such a busy week and the day was long and busy on top of that, so I was tiring out.  But I still feel good emotionally.  My body is TIRED, not wrung out or feeling beat up.  The pain levels are a little up from where they were this morning (when I could actually “sink the chi” –start with your hands at your sides and then lift them up in an arc over your head, then lower your hands straight down in front of you — which has been so painful for me for so long I am surprised I remembered how to do it) but not unbearable.  A single Vicodin will deal with that and in a while, I will go off to bed with the nighttime meds and sleep.

Our friend is coming over tomorrow with his new dog so it will be another day of activity–and of a pleasant sort, which always makes things go well.

The clouds are rolling away and the sky is clearing up to show me the majesty of the sunset and the mystery of the stars in the black inky darkness, followed by the sunrise and the glorious blueness of a clear day.

Or as James Brown would have sung, “I feel GOOD….I knew that I would…I FEEEEL GOOD!”.


Upsetting the World View

I wanted my Facebook profile to show my employment as this: “Works at Upsetting the World View”…but FB wouldn’t let me do it because that was not a “real” company or business.

So…I started creating the FB page for this “business” just to have it as a list-able place.  The questions that were asked required answers, so I did.  And in the process, ended up starting my own business.  Sort of.  I now have an official site for what I’ve been doing all along: ministering to those who need an ear to listen and someone to ask the questions that will help them find their answers.  Or need healing from a non-Western medical viewpoint.  My REAL job on this planet is to minister, to heal, to teach.  And suddenly, without prior thought or planning, I have essentially put out my shingle.  I don’t have a tax number, I haven’t gotten a “doing business as” paperwork from the commonwealth, I in fact have not consulted a single “legal” place or municipality about doing this.  Might be a problem somewhere down the road, but in the meantime…I will just do what I’ve been doing anyways, and maybe, just maybe find a little income from it.

Income.  That’s an interesting concept about this whole thing.  I don’t feel right taking money for using my gifts, things I do without conscious thought or effort.  Doesn’t require special equipment (usually) and I’m not paying off school loans for some degree…since I don’t have diplomas for this either.  I realize that from a certain point of view, this could be viewed as trying to sell snake oil off a traveling wagon…but I’m not offering miracle cures.  Actually I’m not even offering any cures, just whatever help I can give–which is more about the state of mind and beliefs of the person seeking the help than anything I am or do.  But if someone wants to repay me, well…I take $ but I’ll also take barter and “in trade”.

My take on how this happened?  I think all I’ve done is made myself available to a wider spectrum of people who might benefit from contact with me.  No promises there, just a willingness to help where I can.  Some of what I do can actually be done “long distance”, over the internet and through messaging or emails.  I am more than able to be a silent and listening person who will act as a sounding board for others to hear themselves out loud, so to speak, and perhaps offer a different point of view that helps them find their answers.

I was a little surprised at how fast this all went together, how easy it was to get the page created and the continued ease with which I have updated the site and the things I’m finding that are appropriate to share.  I have found that when things go this easily in my life, it’s where I was supposed to be and doing what I was supposed to do.  I do not decline to accept this challenge and hope that the page will grow as it needs to, that it will be as useful a ministry as I could hope for.  This may be the thing that I was destined for when I first stepped back from other ministerial duties for my sabbatical.  Which lasted way longer than I planned, but I am waking up and starting to be in a physical shape that will allow this while also finding myself in a spiritual place that almost longs for this.  I have missed my ministering.

It has continued, to a certain extent, even while I’ve been dealing with my physical health.  I still have the wandering souls show up at my doorstep…so perhaps this is just an escalation of effort, not something entirely new.  Which brings me back to the new Facebook page…I have, in full glorious meaning of the phrase, “hung my shingle out” to a global community.  Exciting times ahead.  And it’s something that I am actively looking forward to.

Let me upset your world view, because as Doug Adams wrote, “….was amazed at how different things looked from a perspective just three feet to the left”.


The Zen of Fibromyalgia

I have fibromyalgia.  As near as I can tell, I have had it most of my life, since about high school.  It was an occasional visitor through the years, mimicking arthritis or a headache or the general “blahs”.  I would not have been diagnosed with it as fibro back then.  But now that I have the actual, “doctor says it is so” diganosis, it has become my constant companion.  And it’s not a very pleasant or polite companion.  Sort of like having a drunk uncle or a demented grandparent that you are responsible for, who constantly embarasses you in front of your friends and coworkers…and yet you can’t send them away to live somewhere else.

Fibromyalgia is diagnosed through a list of symptoms and testing pressure points on your body.  The list has 18 specific items and if you have 11 of them, you are deemed to have the disease.  I have all 18.  Well, okay, since my red snows have stopped, I no longer get menstrual cramps.  So I have 17 out of 18.  The most common sign is pain.  Pain without apparent cause, pain that exists without a visible trigger such as an accident or walking into the edge of a piece of furniture.

Pain has been a lifelong burden for me.  I spent time and money prior to my diagnosis trying to alleviate the pain without success.  I thank the gods that my primary care physician believes in pain management and has given me three prescriptions for different types of pain relief.  One of them is a narcotic and everyone is concerned that I will become addicted to them.  I keep telling them that I am NOT addicted to the pill; I am addicted to no pain.  Frankly, at this point in time, even this is not stopping the pain.  It takes the edge off and keeps me from having screaming levels of pain, but there are still aches and twinges.

I don’t know if it is my age, the fact that we lived for a year in an apartment that had black mold (and I am highly allergic and very susceptible (like a canary in a coal mine, says my husband) which means it affects me badly), or just coincidence, but the fibro has not just flared, but reared its head up and has taken over my life.  I am out of work more often than I am at work; I have almost no social life and in fact, haven’t gone out of the house for more than a meal or a doctor’s appointment in about a month.

I am angry with my fibro.  I resent that it has robbed me of my normal routine and any meaningful activities.  It irks me that just lifting my drinking glass (weight: 24 ounces of liquid and whatever the cup itself weighs) hurts my hands, wrists and arms.  I despise that fact that I walk like a very old lady, shuffling and feeling pain in every step.  I can’t crochet or knit more than a row or two before I have to rest due to pain.  I can’t do the puzzles I enjoy because between the pain and all the pain pills (and the new fibro med that I am getting acclimated to), I am so fuzzy brained as to be…stupid.  I cry at the least thing without any real cause for the tears.

I am not a good invalid.  I do not lounge gracefully on my chaise.  I do not ask for a refill of water demurely and with a sad but gentle smile.  I do not bear the indignity of incapcitating illness (like that alliteration?) with anything approaching Hemingway’s “grace under pressure”.  I am angry.

And yet…I realize that there is a deep and necessary lesson to be learned from this.  I have endless time to meditate and to think.  (Since I do Zen, where meditation is to clear the mind of all thought and exist only in the moment, meditation and thought are two different things.)  Physical limitations open doors to spiritual and mental expansion.  Even feeling fuzzy headed as far as logic and puzzle-solving still gives me the opportunity to think in a sort of free association, going down a river sort of way.

I can take the energy of my anger and channel it into an exploration of the mind and soul.  “Be still and know that thou are god” is an attainable task for me, since I do a lot of sitting still.  I can question my anger, dissect and analyze it so that I can let it go and move on to other things.  I can open myself to the gift of other people’s generosity.  I am blessed with friends who will take care of my chores because I cannot–and I am learning how to let go of being the one who does them.  I have such a sense of responsibility, it’s very hard to sit still and let someone else do what I think I should be doing.  It’s also nearly impossible to keep my mouth shut and let them do it their way, instead of bossing them and insisting on having it done MY way.  (Side note: the search for clean kitchen items is a fun romp through the cupboards, looking for whatever it is I need.)

Having limited energy means really prioritizing tasks because there is no extra to waste on “squirrels”–our way of saying something that catches your attention like a squirrel gets a dog or cat’s attention…even if they can’t get outside to catch it–an unnecessary, unimportant task of any sort.  You’d be surprised at what can be left alone and doesn’t need all the energy we usually pour into it.  Limited energy is like limited funds…you spend it much more wisely than if you had endless amounts.

I am discovering that the fibromyalgia is actually a gift.  It has given me time (lots of it!): time to think, time to look at my life and time to learn lessons I need that could not be absorbed any other way.  The pain itself has sharpened my awareness of my body; it’s taught me how to identify and quantify  the pain and to appreciate the relief from pain that my pills, the chiropractor and massage therapy give me.  I am grateful for the diagnosis because now years of symptoms have a name and was not me just being lazy or malingering.  The addition of a cane to my daily  attire serves as a real test of other people’s courtesy and help–which comes often and from such a variety of types of people that my hope in the human race is refreshed.  Having to ride through the stores in a handicap cart is an interesting study of people’s attitudes towards the handicapped.  Fortunately, most people are pleasant and compassionate, offering help without having to be asked.  And my lesson in that is accepting this kindness…having done nothing in particular to deserve it.

So far, I would say that I have learned this: that a debilitating, chronic disease can either destroy your soul or uplift it, depending on how you choose to deal with it.  Being in constant pain makes it easy to be nasty, demanding, rude, and just plain not nice to be around.  But you don’t have to give in to that.  I’m not saying that you have to be some kind of saint, smiling through the pain…but it’s easier to deal with the pain when you’re not one–because people are more willing to help you when you are kind, which helps you feel better, so you can be more pleasant, so more help will be given…a cycle of kindness all around.  Seems like a much better way to live than the cycle of pain, your nastiness and other’s avoidance of the nasty sick person.

And the gift of time is priceless…so use it wisely.  I am trying to!