One day this week, an errand took me past a former workplace. It’s a road I spent years driving down, Monday through Friday, but I rarely have cause to drive it now.
Thanks to my pain management class, a book I learned about there, and a recent conversation with my primary care doc, I am coming to understand some things about my body’s responses to perceived threat, and how that is connected to years of chronic pain from various medical conditions. So, when I had to drive by that place slowly–it’s a school zone, and I hit it at peak drop-off time in the morning–I had plenty of time to get triggered and to feel what the triggering was doing to my body.
When I drove that road nearly every day, I didn’t notice how it felt–how I felt. It was just my normal. Maybe I was desensitized by its constancy. Maybe there was no room to really feel it. I mean, quitting was not an option. I wasn’t in denial about the problems of that place, but I was about their impact on me. Not entirely, but enough to keep myself able to function. Mostly. For a long time, anyway.
My PCP sent me to a behavioral health consultant, so that I can get access to therapy to “heal from unresolved trauma” that is playing a role in my chronic pain conditions. That person asked me to rate, on a 10-point scale, how much I feel impacted from my chronic pain.
The question stumped me.
I mean, how I feel most of the time is better than I ever have in my entire life. I have pain of one kind or another (and fairly often more than one kind at a time) most days, but it is manageable. When my back acts up after a half hour of cleaning, I am able to sit down and rest. When a migraine starts, I am able to stay home and rest. I have effective meds. For the first time in my life (other than a short stretch in my early 20s), I am not either living or working in a situation that causes me to walk on eggshells, constantly alert for trouble and doing whatever I can to avoid it. Do you know how good it feels to always feel safe, accepted, loved, and relaxed at home? I feel so incredibly fortunate to have what I have now. It’s a wonder to me.
But I do have pain of one kind or another most days, and that is manageable only because I am no longer working in my career field. I don’t feel able to commit to any other paid work because managing/improving my health is feeling like its own full-time job now. But working is a primary life function, and I’m not even 60 yet. If I can’t do a primary life function at my age and be well, what should my score be?
I think I settled on 7. Or maybe 6.
I don’t know where I’m going with this.
It’s been a funky week. The weather is cold cold cold, but the days are so brightly sunny I keep saying I need to get my sunglasses back out. I’m savoring every last bit of true fall that I can, before we pass Thanksgiving and it is officially winter holiday season. I love this time of year, when we go inside and get cozy but don’t yet have a bunch of other obligations. When we love light all the more for its scarcity.
For so many reasons, I really can’t with Thanksgiving much any more, but I will always love taking time to notice and name what I am grateful for. In this funky week full with appointments and phone calls and triggers and wind and wool sweaters, there was one morning where everything sparkled because the temperatures had dropped below freezing overnight, but the sun was rising. Branches were newly bare, but there were still leaves clinging to them–leaves blazing with their final colors. It felt like a metaphor for many things right now, so I took a picture.
One day I was home alone, and I noticed a pair of boots that Cane had left out. My daughter leaves her shoes and slippers in the hallway outside her bedroom door. When my son used to come home on military leave, he’d leave his shoes out, too, and I always loved seeing them. When I lived by myself, I had neat, tidy, empty hallways. This kind of clutter fills me.
On a walk this week, I passed an old, old tree:
Isn’t she glorious? I mean, look closer:
That’s a kind of beauty that only comes from years of living, from standing through season after season of sun, rain, wind, ice, and sun again. When I was younger, reminders that the world had existed long before me and would long after me were unsettling. Now, they are comforting. (I might have given that tree a hug. She felt like a grandmother, and I miss mine.)
Hoping all of you have a week with some beauty and comfort in it, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.