Sunday, August 16, 2015

My Couture Compass

I remember hearing as a child how quickly time passes, especially as you age. A more true statement I cannot imagine. So many years feel as though they've been swallowed up by medical mayhem and misdiagnosis. Time has been spent managing one crisis after another, and when you're fighting for your life, time goes even faster.

My last post was about the emotional crossroads I've found myself at, and the weight of all that's passed felt like a ton brick on my soul. I thought I was losing it. I've realized through counseling and prayer that I'm actually on my path to claiming it. And by it, I mean my compass that seems to be sending me on a journey inward. My physical issues seem so overwhelming at times, almost like layer upon layer of straight jackets that are binding me from accomplishing what I want in life. However, when I think of where I was physically last year this time, I am light years ahead. And compared to two or three or five years ago, I'm a miracle of survival.

When pain is a constant in your life, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by it. After all, it HURTS, but it hurts you only as much as you allow it to. This is a revelation I've made in just the past fifteen minutes.  Time passes, days fly by, months disappear. It's so easy to get stuck in the undercurrents of life that you can lose your perspective and appreciation for the privilege just to LIVE it! The day in, day out activities we each go through make it very easy to become almost numb to the actual energy of life. Rather than feeling the breeze in our hair as time blows through it, we are stuck in ruts of the norm.

I can't remember the last day I lived without pain. It's been over 16 years. Sometimes I wish I could go back, with the knowledge of that last day of painless liberty, and do all the things I wish I could do now. I'd love to go back and soak up all the painlessness and pack it away like squirrels do with food for the winter. That way I could access morsels of painlessness to enjoy when I find myself struggling. It's a great theory, but obviously not one that is possible.

So I've developed a plan for moving forward in time. I've been told over and over by accomplished doctors that it's unlikely I'll ever be pain-free. With the help of a counselor, I'm learning to focus more on my emotional journey, as it is something I can truly affect. I can eat healthy, do yoga and acupuncture, take vitamins, etc. to be proactive about my health going forward. The damage to my nerves and the extensive adhesions from scar tissue will likely remain unaffected by those choices. That's just part of my reality.

On this journey inward, one of my goals is to not get lost in time. It passes quickly enough without any help from me. I don't want to be a woman that gets lost in a monotonous tizzy where one day runs into the next. I need to use something that is unique to me that will make me sit up and take notice of every day in some way. Something that infuses me with the privilege of being alive, imperfect and eccentric as I am.

So I rearranged my perspective and thought that perhaps my pain, and the daily routine of its presence, can be that thing that MAKES me take notice of every day. Rather than drown myself in my inability to fix it, I can feel it like a lightening-rod of awareness that surges energy into my step. If it's going to be there for the long run, I best make friends with it. Nasty neighbors make for nasty drama, and I've met my drama quota for awhile.

The counselor I've been seeing has asked me to start a gratitude journal. For someone who has had a SEVERE case of writer's block this summer, I thought it was going to be a challenge. What I've found is the opposite. I've realized how full my life is of simple pleasures, and how much I enjoy writing them down. It's helped me accept my physical challenges, primarily by seeing how much better I am that in the past.  It's documenting what I'm able to do despite my physical limitations, and I'm left with a record of my joy and gratitude.

Everyone gets lost now and again. Time can swallow you whole. Realizing that my pain can be one of my greatest tools, I'm back on track. My compass is pointing inward, where true identity is found. My Nana used to tell me that inner peace was the greatest gift you could give yourself, but that it takes lots of time and effort. Her physical pain was severe, especially in the last few years of her life, but she somehow nurtured it into a bountiful treasure. She used to breathe her pain in and then blow it right out. It was a sign of life.

I've made several advances in my thinking. First, being lost isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it's just a physical or emotional sign to reassess your direction and purpose.  Second, taking time to note life's simple pleasures can make the big picture clearer. Gratitude is like a life vest that keeps you from drowning in life's rougher challenges. Focusing on the good keeps your head above the water. The joy of feeling alive far outweighs the sadness of the pain. My pain and I are bound straight for my heart. 
May you all find your couture compasses.

I've realized that I'm healthier than I've been in years (knock on proverbial wood.)