“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.” ~ Lewis Carroll

White Wing Blue Water (Pixdaus, photographer unknown)

                     

“What is the meaning of life? That was all—a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark.” ~ Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse 

Zen Blue by Gordon McBryde (Pixdaus)

Monday evening. Bitterly cold

Shall I share something with you? I have been pondering whether or not I should put this out for public consumption. Oh. Nothing like that. I mean, I haven’t won the lottery or suddenly become famous. Totally not where I was going with this.

This is the secret that dwells within, the truth that perhaps gives meaning to my existence: I hate my life.

Hmmm . . .

Perhaps I should be a bit more precise: I don’t hate myself. I don’t hate the people in my life. I don’t hate life. I hate my life, the one that I’m living at this moment.

You see, yesterday was my birthday, and yes, every year I go on and on about how much I detest my birthday, and yes, every year I manage to work myself into some kind of snit over the acknowledgement of (or lack thereof) my birthday, so you would probably not be completely misguided in thinking that perhaps my declaration has something to do with my birthday because, well, it does.

“What is life?
It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.
It is the little shadow which runs across
the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” ~ Crowfoot, Blackfoot Warrior

Last Blue by Bade Babayigit (Pixdaus)

I mean, how did I get to be this old without accomplishing even half of the things that I thought I would have done by now? How does that happen? How does it happen that your body betrays you much too soon and you find yourself spending days at a time in bed? How does it happen that you turn a corner and find a wall instead of a door?

You may be sitting there thinking to yourself ‘How in the hell can she claim to hate her life? What kind of statement is that?’

I won’t argue with you. I won’t even try to persuade you of the validity of my claim. I only know that a few days ago I was sitting in bed holding my head in my hands in an attempt to squeeze the pain away when I suddenly thought, “This sucks. This really, really sucks. I thought that I was getting better . . . I hate my life.”

So you see, that’s how I can make that claim. Am I being melodramatic. Of course I am. Do I mean it? Of course I do, and of course I don’t. (What, you want definitive from me?)

As I was trying to explain to Corey: The first year out on disability was a steady decline; I never knew when I was going to be stuck in bed for days, unable to do even the simplest task. The next year contained intermittent advances. Yes, I still hurt, but I had more energy. Then several months ago, I felt well enough that I toyed with the idea of returning to work. Then BAM! (sorry, don’t usually yell with caps, but felt it apropos here), I’m hit with one of the worst downtimes I’ve had in quite some time.

It’s as if I’m one of those little wind-up toys that advance a few steps each time the spring is wound and the release button is turned. The boys had those when they were toddlers, and my favorite was the penguin, the way that it toddled.

But I digress . . .

Like the toy, I can only go so far, but . . . Not. One. Step. Farther. To try to do so only messes with the spring mechanism and eventually ends up with the toy being broken and completely useless, except to look at, and who wants a wind-up toy that can only be seen and not used?

“His advanced age, his wounds, his chains . . .
‘Albanian,’ he inquired. ‘Why do you fight
when you could live differently?’
‘Because, Padishah,’ replied the prisoner,
‘Every man has a piece of sky in his breast
and in it flies a swallow.’” ~ Fatos Arapi, Sultan Murat and the Albanian

Sapphire and White (Pixdaus, photographer unknown)

Admittedly, this mood more than likely stems from that overwhelming ennui that cloaks me  from November through February. Hence the blue theme, the ice, the stillness in the pictures.

The reality is that only narcissists and psychopaths are able to go through life never questioning their existence, never doubting themselves—the former because perfection is hard to improve upon (in their minds), and the latter because self-doubt requires a conscience. This isn’t the first time that I have felt myself a failure, nor will it be the last.

Although I have to say that the idea that my life is beyond my control really torques me out of shape. The battle rages on between what my mind aspires to and what my body will accede to, and I simply will not, cannot concede, not as long as I can still find the smallest piece of blue sky to which I can cling, not as long as I can strike a match in the night to create enough light on which I can pin my hopes.

“Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen” ~ David Whyte, from “All the True Lies”

Blue Nature by Gerhard Grasinger (Pixdaus)

Okay. So this post is not unfolding as I had envisioned. Perhaps because my declaration in the first section is a few days old, and I was unable to write about it while it was preying on me the strongest—because of the headache that will not end (I kid you not—28 days and counting).

So I should clarify: I hate the circumstances of my life, those factors that keep me down (physically and emotionally), the elements that seem to be so much beyond my control. I mean, even this headache thing—the neurologist to whom my headache doctor referred me does not accept GW’s new insurance plan. Was I surprised? Not at all. Anything else would have been too easy.

But in the end, under the glaring light of introspection and self-analysis, I realize that I am a tortured but fortunate soul. I think that my friend Alan comes to me in my dreams occasionally to remind me of this. His death from cancer at only 39 means that he never saw his son as a teenager; he never hit those major birthday milestones. And if anyone had a legitimate reason to curse fate, it was him.

As I have said many, many times, fate is fickle, and the very fact that I have been around enough years to repeat myself, to bemoan my fate, and to find the light in the darkness is what truly defines me.

More later. Peace.

Music by Brendan James, “The Sun Will Rise” (could not insert YouTube video as content is restricted, but I really wanted this song for this post)

BRENDAN JAMES – THE SUN WILL RISE LYRICS and VIDEO.

                   

The sun will rise, the sun will save me.
The sun will change me, change the way I feel.
The day will make this heart a fortune
From the fruit of a hundred orchards,
From the water rivers bring.

The sun will rise, the sun will save me
From the night, the sun will change me,
Change the way I feel.

I’ve had enough of the hard and harder.
Times are tough. I’ve drifted farther,
Farther from myself.

I won’t dwell, baby, on my failures.
It won’t help, baby. It won’t bring changes.
I won’t run, baby, when all I want is to run.
I won’t forget the morning’s sure to come.

The sun will rise, the sun will save me
From the night, the sun will change me,
Change the way I feel.
The love I want, the love I need is
Sure to come, is sure to lead me,
Lead me home again.

The light is low, the night is burning.
My head is still but my mind is turning,
Turning ’round again.

If only I can make it through this
Lonely night, if I can do this,
If I can drift away,

Then the sun will rise, the sun will save me
From the night, the sun will change me,
Change the way I feel.

“Do you hear the snow against the window-panes, Kitty? How nice and soft it sounds! Just as if some one was kissing the window all over outside. I wonder if the snow LOVES the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” ~ Lewis Carroll

Bethlehem, Pennslvania by cornersoftheworld

 

“Here
I’m here—
the snow falling.” ~ Kobayashi Issa

Lost in Winder by aL-baum on deviantART

Boxing Day, home, early evening.

It’s 28° F and dropping. This winter, I am perhaps more grateful for one thing above all others: the return of central heat to our house—a luxury too many of us take for granted. My hope for today? That those without, those facing the elements without the warmth of a coat, or hat, or gloves, those without shelter, those without a hot meal—those much less fortunate than we will be able to find a place to sleep tonight that offers some semblance of comfort.

We are currently experiencing one of the worst snowstorms to hit this area in many years. Earlier today conditions were classified as “near-whiteout,” reminding me of our 26-hour road trip to Ohio last  holiday season in which we found ourselves driving through a blizzard with frozen windshield wipers, and eventually, a flat tire. So glad we aren’t on the road today.

That being said, Corey did have to be at work at 7 this morning, and when he finished his shift at 3, it was snowing harder. For some reason, few snow plows are out (actually, not too surprising as Norfolk probably owns maybe two plows for the entire area), which mean that most major roads, let alone backroads in neighborhoods, have yet to be cleared. Right now Corey is scheduled to be back in at 6 a.m.; the forecast is calling for snow throughout the night, wind, and falling temperatures, which means ice.

People in Hampton Roads cannot drive in snow under the best conditions; give them ice, and driving becomes bumper cars. Not pretty.

“Today on the way home, it snows. Big, soft caressing flakes fall onto our skin like cold moths; the air fills with feathers.” ~ Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye

Winter Morning (Pixdaus)

Originally, Corey had been scheduled to work yesterday morning (Christmas), but fortunately the yard to which he was supposed to report closed in the wee hours, so he was home with the family. Eamonn came over on Christmas Eve to finish his wrapping, and he spent the night here so that he could be home for Christmas morning. It was lovely.

Then yesterday was another day of running around, more so for Alexis, Eamonn, and Brett than Corey and myself. The kids had to go to their dad’s house, and then their grandfather’s house, then to my mom’s for Christmas dinner, then to their other grandmother’s for dessert. Afterwards, Mike and Alexis decided against their final three stops; Eamonn went to a friend’s house for the remainder of the night, and Corey, Brett and I came home and vegged.

Christmas dinner was wonderfully uneventful this year. Last year’s fiasco with the restaurant was not repeated. Instead, we decided collectively to eschew a traditional dinner in favor of Filipino food, so we had pancit, lumpia, rice, and tuppa. The only nod to westernization were the Pillsbury crescent rolls with fresh butter.

Everyone had their fill, and the aftermath of a big holiday dinner was greatly alleviated by fewer large dishes as well as far fewer leftovers. Admittedly, I had a bit of wine to help me get through the stress that arises whenever my mother’s house is filled with people who are all talking at once, something that tends to wreak havoc with my nerves. Of course, my mother had to comment about me being a wino, which is a hoot since I have gotten to the point at which I may drink a glass of something four times a year, two of them being Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Whatever. 

“Only a house, quiet as snow, a space for myself to go, clean as paper before the poem.” ~ Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

Winter-Licht by Michael Jotze (Pixdaus)

Today was blessedly quiet, with a few exceptions. I could not get to sleep last night, so I visited a few fellow bloggers until I felt my eyes getting heavy around 2:30 a.m. I awoke at one point with Shakes sitting on my chest making hacking sounds like he was about to throw up.

Someone (who shall remain nameless) thought that it would be a wonderful idea to buy all three dogs big beef marrow bones as part of their Christmas. All three dogs took turns throwing up yesterday and into last night. Let us just say that this bad decision shall not be repeated next year.

Anyway, Shakes did not throw up on me (thankfully), and he went back to sleep. I did not, so it was another restless night for me. Which means that I was so glad that my mother called at 10 a.m., asked me if I was still asleep, and then tried to have a conversation with me. I did manage to get a few hours of sound sleep between 10:30 and 12:30, so I’m not completely sleep-deprived.

Everything outside looked so beautiful from inside the house that I decided to snap a few pictures from the doorways (hope to post tomorrow). The big Camellia bush directly across from the kitchen window was almost completely covered and resembled an huge snowball. I then opened the front door and stuck my head out to take some shots of that area. Tillie, who had been waiting for someone to take her snowplowing, immediately gamboled out the front door and sank. I wasn’t worried about her running away, and she had a great time as I clicked away.

However . . . the two Jack Russells got wind of the fun being  had without them and came from beneath whatever covers they had been snuggled in and made a mad dash out the door. When they sank up to their bellies, I thought they would turn around and come back in, but nooooo. They made a run for it. It would have been funnier if not for a few things: Brett got really nervous, and I suddenly realized that if they went into the street, no one would be able to see them (good thing few cars were out and about). So I pulled some boots on over my flannel pjs, put on a sweater and coat, and went in search of the bad boys.

Brett pulled on his boots and ran out sans coat or hat and immediately spotted the two dogs that I hadn’t managed to find yet.  It was only amusing in retrospect. 

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.
“So it is.”
“And freezing.”
Is it?”
“Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.” ~ A. A. Milne

Winter Dreams by Mikhail Tkachev (Pixdaus)

All in all, it was a fairly relaxing Christmas. I did start to go into overdrive on Christmas Eve until Corey reminded me that we had actually done pretty much everything that we needed to do. We had a nice meal, a few nice visits, and the kids got some things that they needed and wanted (the wanted was from relatives other than us).

My special present was that Corey picked up the ring that I had taken to the jeweler’s over two years ago and then forgot about; when I did remember that the ring was there, there was no money to pick it up, and then I convinced myself that they no longer had the ring and was too afraid to call them to find out the status.

Let me back up a second, the last Christmas before everything changed in our house Corey and I were both still working. He had bought me a right-hand ring that I absolutely love. Unfortunately, I didn’t really pay attention to the design until the ring broke at a stress point that was pretty obvious after-the-fact. That’s the ring that I finally took to the jeweler and promptly forgot as things like life took over my mind.

But now I have my ring back, and it’s better than new as the jeweler reinforced the stress area. So good times.

I’m going to close with a passage from James Joyce’s short story “The Dead,” which comes from his Dubliners collection. I did a Joycean seminar in which we studied Dubliners, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses—all in four weeks. If you know anything about Joyce, then you realize what a grueling proposition this was (I was unaware when I enrolled). At the time, I didn’t have a real appreciation for “The Dead” as I was still trying to come to grips with Joyce’s transitional epiphany style as well as the lack of final literary resolution to which I had become so accustomed at that point.

Years later, I can appreciate much better Gabriel’s epiphany and the overwhelming subtlety of the snow as imagery for both life and death, paralysis and change.

“A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland . . . It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.” ~ James Joyce

More later. Peace.

Music by The Weepies, “All that I Want’

“There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

Bamburgh Castle in the Clouds (Pixdaus)

                   

“You are standing in the sky. When we think of the sky, we tend to look up, but the sky actually begins at the earth. We walk through it, yell into it . . .We breathe it deep within us. With every breath, we inhale millions of molecules of sky, heat them briefly, and then exhale them back into the world.” ~ Diane Ackerman

Where the Sea Meets the Sky, by Tristan Campbell (Pixdaus)

When we are children, we have such dreams, dreams of who we’ll be, where we’ll go, who we’ll meet, things we will accomplish. We see possibilities everywhere, and it doesn’t occur to us not to think these things.

I remember thinking that I could live in a castle, that I could live on a farm, that I could swing on a trapeze and fly through the air, that I could be president of the United States. I dreamed of being an actor, a singer, a writer. I read Island of the Blue Dolphins and dreamed of living on an island and fending for myself in much the same way as the book’s main character. I read fables and tales of imaginary places and wondered what it would be like to live in such ethereal places.

And then I remember the first time an adult quashed my dreams: I wrote a poem in the 7th grade, and the teacher—a humorless man with dandruff on his shoulders—told me quite frankly that it wasn’t a poem because it did not rhyme and because it didn’t have the correct rhythm, which he proceeded to recite for me: da duh da duh da duh da duh. I looked at him in horror and walked away. I dropped the poem in the wastebasket on my way out the classroom.

Adults forget how to dream, and they very often forget that children still possess that ability.

“Her father’s well-remembered voice came to save her. ‘When you’re sad, my Little Star, go out of doors. It’s always better underneath the open sky.’” ~ Eva Ibbotson, The Countess Below the Stairs

Night Sky (Pixdaus)

Do I still dream?

I e-mailed a former colleague today and made the statement that I’m still trying to figure out what I’ll be when I grow up; there is more than a gram of truth in those words.

Let me back up: I know that the month of November leaves me completely spent emotionally. Even though this year was not terrible, it still affected me in ways that I am only now acknowledging. So I write this post full of pent-up emotions and unfulfilled dreams. I write with a sense of pain that lies always just beneath the surface. At least I am aware of this much.

At one point in my life I thought that I truly had all of the answers. How utterly laughable. I was in my mid-20’s and full of a sense of power and accomplishment that I had neither earned nor deserved. This reality did not keep me from acting as though the world was mine for the taking. I had but to reach out and my just rewards would come to me.

Ah youth. Folly and hubris rule unabated. Unabated, that is, until someone older and perhaps wiser steps in and crushes those dreams.

Is life just one long sequence of dreams followed by crushing realities? Do we ever reach a point at which the cycle stops? Does it take the relinquishing of dreams for this to happen? If so, then I refuse.

“Throw away the light, the definitions, and say what you see in the dark.” ~ Wallace Stevens

Gulls in the Night Sky (Pixdaus)

What do I dream? I dream of lazy afternoons, floating above the earth in a large hammock, a book on my chest, the sun in my eyes. I dream of hiking the Virginia foothills again, no thoughts of pain keeping me from the adventure. I dream of finally seeing the Grand Canyon and walking among the verdant hills of Ireland.

I dream.

I dream of writing the ultimate sentence, the one that makes me pause and say to myself, ‘Damn. That’s good.’ I dream of sitting in a darkened theater and listening to Puccini. And I dream of the day when I can think of those in my life who are no longer here and not feel as if my soul has been cleaved.

Thick cream-colored linen writing paper, hot mugs of strong sweet tea, wines heady with perfect blends of fruit and smoke, and rows upon rows of books. Reading lines of verse that make me wish that they were mine and listening to music that makes me teary-eyed. Walking through Central Park in the fall and smelling fresh cardamom and cinnamon in the markets of some far-away country.

Traveling by rail from Istanbul to anywhere. Seeing the earth below me from a hot air balloon. An afternoon spent on a beach fronting blue waters clear enough to see the bottom. Lying in a clearing at night beneath the open sky, gazing up at stars unobscured by city lights.

“I am the one who splits in the night.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

Night Lightning Cleaves the Sky (Pixdaus)

What will I be?

I am old enough to remember “Que Sera,” to remember thinking to myself that it was a song of promises. I am also old enough to know all that I do not know, will never know.

These things I know: I will always be a product of the soil that nurtured me, which means that I will always be part of two worlds. I will be my father’s daughter, the good girl, the girl who could do anything, and I will be my mother’s daughter, the girl who was always reminded of imperfections, the girl who never knew how to do enough.

I have opened my heart to those who have trampled it and tossed it by the wayside carelessly. I have given my heart to those who have cherished it and held onto it with great care. I have learned to love again and again, and continue to be astounded at all that there is to learn about love—still.

I have bared my soul to strangers and friends, and I have found comfort in the arms of the unlikely. I have railed at injustices—real and perceived, and I have keened until I thought that my heart would break. I have laughed until I couldn’t breathe, and I have experienced bliss that left me breathless and weak.

A self-proclaimed curmudgeon, I am self-aware enough to know that at heart, I am a romantic. The complexity of all that is me still catches me unawares at times, as if this skin that I am in is new and untested, but that is hardly so.

“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dream. Wandering by lone sea breakers, and sitting by desolate streams. World losers and world forsakers, for whom the pale moon gleams.” ~Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy

Walking to the Moon (Pixdaus)

What is the point in all of this? Damned if I know. I suppose that once in a while I find it imperative to gaze intently at my belly button to try to discern if some pattern exists, and quite predictably, one never does.

At night, as I seek the comfort of my bed, no great truths come to me. No epiphanies lurk on the periphery of my vision. At least, not usually, and I have become accustomed to that. If asked to identify the meaning of life, I would be just as hard-pressed as the next person. I know only that I still have much to know, that what I know I paid dearly to learn, and that there are things that I would quite willingly unknow if only I could.

I cheat destiny when I can because I know what an exacting master destiny can be. As the song says, “it’s only half past the point of no return.” I have enough fuel left in me to continue this journey, and with luck, I may one day reach the point at which I become what I am supposed to be.

Until then, “the time has come, my little friends, to talk of other things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings” (Lewis Carroll).

More later. Peace.

Music by Pink, “Glitter in the Air”

                   

Glitter in the Air

Have you ever fed a lover with just your hands?
Closed your eyes and trusted, just trusted?
Have you ever thrown a fist full of glitter in the air?
Have you ever looked fear in the face and said, “I just don’t care”?

It’s only half past the point of no return
The tip of the iceberg
The sun before the burn
The thunder before the lightning
The breath before the phrase
Have you ever felt this way?

Have you ever hated yourself for staring at the phone?
You’re whole life waiting on the ring to prove you’re not alone
Have you ever been touched so gently you had to cry?
Have you ever invited a stranger to come inside?

It’s only half past the point of oblivion
The hourglass on the table
The walk before the run
The breath before the kiss
And the fear before the flames
Have you ever felt this way?

La La La La La La La La

There you are, sitting in the garden
Clutching my coffee,
Calling me sugar
You called me sugar

Have you ever wished for an endless night?
Lassoed the moon and the stars and pulled that rope tight?
Have you ever held your breath and asked yourself will it ever get better than tonight?
Tonight?

“All is flux; nothing stays still.” ~ Heraclitus

True Pathway of Life by Feathered Tary (Flckr Creative Commons)

                      

“Sometimes in life, from out of a myriad of prosaic decisions like what to eat and where to sleep and how to dress, a true crossroads is revealed. In these moments, when the fog of relative irrelevancy lifts and fate rolls out a demand for free will, there is only left or right”. ~ J. R. Ward
The Bamboo Forest by Trey Ratliff (http://www.stuckincustoms.com/)

My hearing with Social Security is coming up on September 16, and I believe that I am beginning to panic. After all, that hearing is going to be a live-altering event.  I mean, if SS determines that yes, I am in fact disabled, then I go on their roster of disabled people. It makes it official—government official.  

The fear of being officially classified as a nonfunctioning member of society is causing me to look at the job listings with George Washington. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this, wandering aimlessly through job listings, thinking about what I could do.  

But time for total truth: Would I be able to do it—it being return to the job force full-time, rejoin the lot of functioning, productive members of society?I honestly don’t know, and probably wouldn’t know until I tried. But the catch 22, the big iron in the works, so to speak, is that if I tried and found that I couldn’t do it, then what? Start the entire process again? Would that even be a possibility?  

Hence, my panic. I remember my mother used to repeat a phrase when she was perplexed: “What to do? What to do?” Exactly. Précisément.  

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.” ~ Lewis Carroll
Doorways Neuville: Number One or Number Two?

A person could go mad in the face of such a conundrum: choose to act, and the possible failure has innumerable ramifications, but choose not to act, and the acquiescence may lead to the ultimate loss of self.  

Search your soul . . . Let your conscience be your guide . . . In the end, you’ll do what’s right . . .  

Really? Seriously? Being in this position make me realize acutely why some people consult psychics, have their palms read, have a Tarot card reading: Just tell me what’s going to come, and I’ll know what decision to make.  

Sorry, but no. Back to that whole free will concept: Each individual possesses the ability to control his or her fate by choosing a course of action from among alternatives; whether or not free will is connected to moral responsibility depends upon the individual. That being said, the concept of free will implies being responsible for one’s actions as a result of being accorded the freedom to choose.. However, as most philosophers point out, the concept of free will is illusory in that whether or not the individual succeeds in carrying out actions decided upon depends on a number of factors beyond that individual’s control.  

Or at least, that’s how I perceive it to be.  

“Although every man believes that his decisions and resolutions involve the most multifarious factors, in reality they are mere oscillation between flight and longing.” ~ Herman Broch
Stair Pathways on Hillsides of Valparaiso, Chile

The sticking point for me, then, is that if I do what I most want to do, that is, try to go back to work, possibly work on another degree, then I am subjecting my family to risk. That and the fact that I decide, but many factors out there loom beyond my control.  

The positives of trying to go back to work: 

  • Improved self-worth from feeling as if I am doing something productive
  • Increased family income, thereby helping to move us out of this never-ending miasma
  • Having health insurance paid for by the company instead of self-paying
  • Depending more on myself to get things done
  • Possibly feeling better when my mind has other things on which to dwell

The negatives of trying to go back to work:  

  • Working again and finding out that my body cannot tolerate the activity
  • Not being around full-time for Brett while he is beginning college, or being available to my family on a full-time basis
  • The costs involved in going back to work: purchasing another vehicle, travel, wardrobe
  • Having to go out on disability again and possibly not being able to get coverage
  • Having to pay back debts that were forgiven when I went on disability

I did not put having time to write on either of these lists as my experience in the past few years has shown me that I will write whether or not I have the time depending on my need to say something. In all of the time that I have been out on disability, I still have not put together my book, which is what I said that I would do. That in itself is telling.  

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” ~ M. Scott Peck
 Pathway bridge in Saharna Moldova, by Guttorm Flatabo

                      

As some of you may realize, I write my way through, the logic being that as I put the words to page, my mind processes and sifts, allowing me to arrive at some kind of logical conclusion, and if not a conclusion, then at least a moment to pause. Having written about decisions countless times, I can say that at this moment, I am not more certain as to what I should do than when I began this post.  

No great truth has come to me. At least, I don’t believe that it has. I heard a homily or proverb one time that went something like this: If you toss a coin in the air to help you make a decision, pause as the coin is in the air to reveal to yourself which outcome you were hoping for. Kind of like truth in a fortune cookie.  

I know what I want to do, but so many things make me afraid to take this route, not the least of which is how much pain I am in from concentrating so hard on getting these words out.  

Best five out of six . . . any words of wisdom would be appreciated.  

“There are no prescriptive solutions, no grand designs for grand problems. Life’s solutions lie in the minute particulars involving more and more individual people daring to create their own life and art, daring to listen to the voice within their deepest, original nature, and deeper still, the voice within the earth.”
~ Stephen Nachmanovitch 

More later. Peace.  

Music by Dryer, “Seen Enough”  

“One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small and the ones that mother gives you, don’t do anything at all.” ~ Grace Slick, “Go Ask Alice”

Spitzer Rosette Nebula

Spitzer Rosette Nebula* (Images from space look very similar to brain scans . . . Cue Twilight Zone music)

“We can describe the thoughts of Hamlet, but we cannot describe a Migraine.” ~ Virginia Woolf

“There is much pain that is quite noiseless; and vibrations that make human agonies are often a mere whisper in the roar of hurrying existence.” ~ George Eliot

Hubble Pistol Nebula
Hubble Pistol Nebula

This is day five of this migraine. I am in the midst of a lull, which I hope is a signal that this migraine is finally abating. Or it could be the vicodin . . .kidding, only kidding. Geez.

After consulting with my migraine doctors, I’ve decided to stop trying the preventive medications for now. I’ve had so many horrible side effects with the last three that I’ve tried that I just don’t think that the preventive medication is working out for me. And the reality is that I’m getting just as many migraines on the preventive medicine as I am without. The main difference has been duration, as in, does the headache last a few days or a few weeks.

Those of you who have never had a migraine probably cannot imagine having a headache for weeks, but believe me, it is a reality. And it’s not just a headache—it’s a migraine, and there is a significant difference between the two.

“At first every small apprehension is magnified. Every anxiety a pounding terror. Then the pain comes and I concentrate only on that.” ~ Joan Didion

With a migraine, which is a neurological syndrome, several things can happen, but they do not always happen. Sometimes, it’s just one or two; other times you get the whole bag. There are actually four possible phases to the migraine: the prodrome, the aura, the pain phase, and the postdrome.

In the prodrome, or the phase leading up to the migraine, the sufferer can experience several things: euphoria (never had that one), irritability (yep), fatigue, yawning, food cravings, stiff muscles (yep, yep, yep). The prodrome can occur anywhere from a day up to hours before onset. The aura can appear 5 to 20 minutes before pain onset, and can last for up to 60 minutes. The pain phase, well, that’s self-explanatory. And the postdrome can be manifested as euphoria (what is it with euphoria?), malaise, weakness, loss of appetite, stomach problems, and cognitive function impairment. Some sufferers liken it to a hangover. I prefer to call it the limp dishrag syndrome.

Hubble Eskimo Nebula
Hubble Eskimo Nebula (resembles auras I have had)

Most of the time, I get an aura before the onset of the pain. This aura can be blurred vision, spots in my eyes, or waves, accompanied by tingling in the limbs. The aura is usually a signal that the pain is about to errupt in the brain. This pain can be a band around the head, sort of like someone tightening a metal band around the circumference of your head until you feel that you skull is going to crack open.

The pain can be focused in one or both eyes. I tend to get the eye pain. The only way to describe this is as if someone is taking an ice pick and sticking it in the corner of your eye. Or, if the pain is behind the eyes, it feels as if someone is trying to push your eyeballs out of your head from the inside.

Too graphic? Now you know why I have a thing about my eyes, as in, I cannot stand the thought of anyone approaching my eyes with a laser, or anything sharp. Strike the laser eye surgery.

The pain is often accompanied by other wonderful symptoms: nausea, vomiting, dizziness, clumsiness, a sensitivity to sound (hyperacusis), sensitivity to light (photophobia), inability to bend over. There have even been occasions when I have had a migraine, and I have had a temporary blinding light behind my eyes, which in essense, makes me blind for a few seconds.

My postdrome phase is almost always the same: I feel very weak, achy, and have a dull headache for at least several hours after. Often I am nauseous.

“When there is pain, there are no words. Everything is the same.” ~ Toni Morrison

According to an article from ABC News, many doctors believe that migraines are the result of “a genetic disorder that makes one person’s brain more sensitive to certain stressors that other people would barely notice—like missing a meal or a rainy day.

More than 26 million [up to 32 by some estimates] Americans suffer from the neurologic disorder,” according to the American Medical Association (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/PainManagement/story?id=4170218&page=1).

Hubble Massive Galaxy Cluster
Hubble Massive Galaxy Cluster

I think at this point, I should count as at least two people in that statistic.

In essence, people who suffer from migraines do not deal well with change (I’m not talking about my emotional dislike for change). Migraines can be triggered by changes as innocuous as not getting enough sleep. According to Dr. Joel Saper, founder and director of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute, “Any change of the norm, any stress to your system, and your body will produce a headache.”

Triggers for migraines (outside and inside factors) include many different things: bright or flashing lights, certain smells, chocolate, caffeine, bananas, cigarette smoke, fresh paint, hormonal changes, climate changes (e.g., rapid drop in barometric pressure), lack of sleep, too much sleep (http://www.relieve-migraine-headache.com/migraine-trigger).

 In other words—life.

“It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.” ~ Alice from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland

Spitzer Towering Infernos from Hubble
Spitzer Towering Infernos

Triggers vary from person to person. I am sensitive to certain colognes and bright lights. Caffeine, which can be a trigger, can also alleviate a migraine, so I have not given up my Pepsi or coffee. I do know that certain foods can trigger my migraines, but I don’t think that a banana has ever set off my pain. 

One of my big triggers is MSG, or monosodium glutamate, which is a flavor enhancer that used to be a major ingredient in spices and packaged foods. Individuals who are sensitive to MSG, as I am, routinely scan the list of ingredients for this additive. Corey is particularly diligent in checking labels of any new foods that we may be trying for the first time.

Unfortunately, some of my favorite snack foods contain MSG: cheese puffs, Cheetos, Ranch-flavored Doritos. Even fast foods contain MSG: McDonald’s used to use MSG to enhance the flavor of their french fries. Chinese food used to contain MSG routinely; however, most Chinese restaurants have become aware of the large number of people who are allergic to MSG.

Adverse reactions are not limited to migraines or headaches. People who are allergic to MSG can have asthma attacks, nausea, vomiting, arrhythmia, rash, facial pressure, tingling and warming  in the face, arms and upper body, to name but a few of the possible reactions.

MSG is actually an excitotoxin, which means that it effects the brain by exciting it. Excitotoxins include MSG, aspartate (which is found in Nutrasweet), and hydrolized protein (http://www.ezhealthydiet.com/excitotoxins).

Another compound found in food that can cause migraines is tyramine, which is produced from the natural breakdown of the amino acid, tyrasine. Tyramine, which can cause blood vessel dilation is usually found in aged or preserved foods. For example, beef jerky. How do you go hiking without beef jerky? Other foods containing tyramine include olives, alcoholic beverages, aged cheeses, and soy sauce.

Okay. I’ll give up a lot of things, but I simply cannot give up soy sauce. I’m Filipina. My blood is probably 5 percent soy sauce. I was raised on soy sauce. I like soy sauce on cauliflower (weird, I know, but try it). Obviously, I’ve built up an immunity to soy sauce because I don’t have migraines every day of my life, and chances are pretty good that I’ll have soy sauce 6 out of 7 days a week.

Soy sauce? Is nothing sacred?

“Everything hurts.” ~ Michelangelo

Hubble M17 Omega Nebula
Hubble M17 Omega Nebula

I was reading an online article from Science News that contends that people who suffer from migraines have brain scarring, specifically on the cerebellum, which controls motor function and cognition. The odds of scarring for migraine sufferers who have accompanying auras are nearly 14 times higher than people who just have regular headaches.

Headache expert Dr. Richard Lipton of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City contends that “It’s pretty clear that migraine sufferer have more brain lesions [than people without the attacks] . . . That strengthens the view that migraine is a neurologic disease, a disease of the brain.”  (http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/41052/-migraines_leave_trail_of_scars_across_the_brain).

Great. My cerebellum has infarctions or dead spots, and my brain is scarred—I don’t think that this is the kind of scarring that you can fix with dutiful applications of aloe vera.

“Pain is real when you get other people to believe in it. If no one believes in it but you, your pain is madness or hysteria.” ~ Naomi Wolf

Hubble Eagle Nebula M16
Hubble Eagle Nebula M16

If you are a migraine sufferer (migraineur), you probably know that having migraines is not always looked upon kindly. In the workplace, there is often a stigma attached to migraine sufferers who call in sick, the reaction being, “I’ve worked with a headache before. Why can’t she?”

The Migraine Awareness Site had one of the best passages regarding this situation that I have ever read:

“. . .oftentimes people think that those with Migraines just can’t handle life or are drug addicts or alcoholics. Such perception can be formed when, for example, people see a Migraineur wearing sun glasses indoors due to sensitivity to light, lying in a dark and silent room due to sensitivity to light and sound, making frequent trips to the rest room due to nausea and vomiting, leaving work early, slurring their speech, or engaging in otherwise erratic behavior. According to Dr. Sheftell, “Historically, patients with the most intractable Migraines experience a downward spiral in terms of income and contributions to society at large.” (http://www.migraines.org/disability/impawork.htm).

I know that I had to attend a marketing meeting once when I was suffering from a horrible migraine, and I wore my prescription sunglasses during the meeting. Everyone knew that I had a migraine, but something was still said about it. I had one boss who was very annoyed when I informed him that if I had to share an office with someone, they would need to be able to use natural light and lamps.

We were relocating into a new building, and I had had a private office in the old building. I was not trying to be difficult, as I knew that there were two other migraine sufferers in his employ; I was merely asking for accommodations for my illness. In the end, I did share the office with another individual who didn’t like overhead light either, but my boss’s reaction exemplifies how uninformed people who do not suffer from migraines can be.

 “Life’s sharpest rapture is surcease of pain.” ~ Emma Lazarus

ESO Horsehead Nebula
ESO Horsehead Nebula

Even though a significant percentage of the population suffer from migraines, it is still one of the most stigmatized disorders in society. Small comfort is the fact that migraines have been around for centuries, actually longer. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, wrote in 460 BC about shining light that was typically seen in one eye and followed by severe pain that started in temples and worked its way to encompass the rest of the head and down into the neck.

Ancient cures included applying an electric fish (related to a ray) to the forehead (Greek). Albucasis, an ancient Arabian doctor (936-1013 A.D.) advised applying a hot iron to the afflicted head, and if that failed, he recommended cutting a hole above the temple and inserting a garlic clove (what?) into the hole for 15 hours. Russian folk medicine recommends placing large cabbage leaves on your head and neck.

I can smell like garlic or like cabbage. Great.

Well, at least I know that I’m in good company:  Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Virginia Woolf, Charles Darwin, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Cervantes, Tschaikovsky,  Lewis Carroll, Mary Todd Lincoln, Elvis Presley, and President John F. Kennedy just to name a few migraineurs in history.

And the good news is that they don’t cut holes in your head any more.

More later sooner. Promise. Peace.

*All images are from NASA’s Spitzer or Hubble space telescopes, which are part of NASA’s Great Observatory Program.
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