My People

My People
My matched set of grandchildren - Oliver and Cosette

Sunday, March 4, 2012

there are still good times to be had!

Remember yesterday when I said I was in a bloggy mood? This is the second thing that was crowding my mind... and I think once I get it committed to ink pixels, I'll feel better.

Have you ever been in a "guilty until proven innocent" situation? I used to be there quite a lot in my last marriage... and since then, I tend to avoid any relationships that put me in that position.  I usually surround myself with people who are more about "positive reinforcement" than "constructive criticism".  Without sounding self-righteous... *most* of the time... my intentions are honorable. I need people in my life who trust my character even when evidence may present to the contrary.  I have little patience for people who put me in the position to defend my actions because, without being arrogant... the truth is I feel like I deserve the benefit of the doubt! Don't most of us feel that way? Don't we all hate to have to defend ourselves?

There are a few things that will bring me IMMEDIATELY to tears:

  • seeing a soldier returning from war reconnect with their family
  • seeing a pet reunited with it's owner
  • the last part of the following movies: Beaches, Steel Magnolias, The Notebook (and a few others that I can't remember right at this moment)
  • the childrens book, "Love You Forever" which my children referred to as "the crying book" because I could never read it without crying. when they were older they would ask me to read it just to make fun of me when I cried. true story
  • frustration - specifically in a situation where I'm not being heard and/or am being misunderstood or falsely accused
  • situations that I am powerless to change

So, obviously, over the past 14 months or so I've been in a situation - with my back - that I am powerless to change. I can make good choices about how to use my limited resources of strength, energy, money, etc to make sure that I keep the wheels on this little red wagon to keep from becoming a train wreck. I can follow the advice of doctors. I can rely on experience - now that we're 14 months into this thing, I know what works and doesn't work, what causes pain and what doesn't... but ultimately... it is a degenerative problem that will get worse. I've accepted that.

Honestly... I'm still functioning because of  (1) my own stubborn will, (2) my love for my child - in wanting to keep the promise to him that he could graduate here and nothing, nothing at all, would make him have to ever change schools again and  (3) through prayer, both mine and the prayers of those who love me and want the best for me. If you're not a believer in God - then let's say that I'm surviving by "meditation" or "believing in positive things" or the vibrations I'm sending out to the universe.

Any way you slice, it, it's about attitude. It takes enormous mental and emotional strength to push through when you're body wants you to quit. For you it may be a marathon that requires all of your strength - for me it may be surviving the five hours between my lunch break and when I get home and can take muscle relaxers to quiet the muscle spasms that are making it impossible to find a comfortable position. For you it may mean climbing a mountain that tests the limits of your abilities- and for me it may be walking to the back of Walmart or Ingles to pick up a gallon of milk. Whatever your greatest physical challenges may be... mine, by comparison, may look like any average Tuesday to you. I don't envy you. I don't expect to be graded on a sliding scale. My life is just different now.

I don't make excuses. I may *explain* from time to time. It's hard to know that I disappoint people by not being where they would like me to be. I can't tell you how it breaks my heart that I only see my older boys two or three times a year. I wish I could jump in the car and make a day trip to see Cody. I wish I could use my vacation time for a trip to see Ryan instead of using that time for doctors appointments. I miss my mama and daddy. I want to be with my grandma more because I know she won't be around forever. I know that people can't help but assume that if I'm not somewhere I should be that it's because of a lack of interest/concern/desire or because my priorities are out of place. Truly... I have to take every ounce of energy and pour it into remaining gainfully employed and continuing to live independently. It's all I've got. My priorities at the moment are on not becoming a burden to anyone.

Recently there was an attempt to place blame on me for a situation (that was in no way my fault) and it was implied that my alleged failure was because of my physical limitations. It joined the list of "things that immediately bring me to tears". In addition to being my pet peeve of being guilty until proven innocent, frustrated because it was something I couldn't change... the word that immediately jumped to my mind was "discrimination". To know that if my back wasn't screwed up, the situation would have not been assumed to be my fault... did more to damage my fragile resolve than - well, than anything I can remember. It made me defensive about my disability for the first time ever. It said to me that my efforts have been in vain, that I am defined by my diagnosis (plural), not by the content of my character, the strength of my spirit, the experience, wisdom and intelligence that... have in no way been impacted by my back pain. If anything, though physically weaker, I am spiritually and emotionally stronger than I have ever been.

This experience prompted me to make a list of things I can and can't do and I decided that I'm still a valid, vital, productive member of society.

Here's what I can't do:

  • Walk for long distances or long periods of time
  • Sit on a hard surface any or ever
  • Sit for long periods of time
  • Carry anything heavier than a mug of coffee
  • Anything that involves bending over and picking things up off the ground
  • Practically anything after a work day or on some days, anything after I've sat for awhile
  • Pretty much any repetitive motion - chopping is difficult
  • Go from a sitting to a standing position easily
  • Go from a standing position to a sitting position easily

Here's what I CAN STILL DO:

  • Type really fast - insanely fast
  • Be positive and encouraging - it's a spiritual gift and those don't go away, you know?
  • Sing off key to the radio in my car
  • Pray. I'm an awesome prayer warrior and I pray for a lot of you, every day.
  • Take good care of clients, even mean ones.
  • Write, fairly articulately and with beautiful penmanship (I think)
  • Blog, again, fairly articulately
  • Read, even more now than I used to
  • Eat. I get in three meals a day.
  • Go to the bathroom by myself, even though Trouble thinks I need supervision
  • Dress myself - even though my fashion choices might disturb Purple Michael at times
  • Manage my glam routine. I'm past due for a brow waxing but otherwise, I still do my own hair and makeup.
  • Drive. I'm avoiding long distances because it's painful but I can get around on my own.
  • Manage my budget... what there is to manage...
  • Shop for our household.
  • Pump my own gas.
  • Play Castleville ( although I've given up the other games because it was all too time consuming and I was convicted of spending too much time on those kind of recreational activities instead of prayer, bible study)
  • Facebook.
  • Text
  • Talk on the phone (although - truthfully - I still hate to do it. I'm changing my cellphone plan to be text only)
  • Email
  • Take great digital pictures
  • Be an Amazing Aunt... a Super Sister... a Dynamite Daughter... a Marvelous Mommy... a Fantastic Friend.. Incredible Insurance agent... and so on and so forth.

The takeaway from this all for me is to continue to fight to be the best me I can possibly be... to make no apologies for what has slipped away... and to embrace all the wonderful things that remain. In the words of Annelle Dupuy in the movie, Steel Magnolias, "there are still good times to be had".

A little postscript for those who are new to my blog or who can't remember exactly what's wrong with my back... I have osteoarthritis/degenerative disc disease that has caused spinal stenosis. My spinal cord becomes compressed whenever my back is inflamed... and that inflammation is caused by a lot of different things. Once it becomes inflamed and my spinal cord is compressed, it is difficult for me to walk/stand/sit/function. I also have spondylolisthesis (which means the bones of the spine slip out of position and compress discs). The stenosis and the spondylolisthesis both can cause the nerves in my spine to be affected which causes things like sciatica (which most people have heard of but basically... it's nerve pain that runs down from your spine to your toes, causing pain all along the way. It causes numbness in the feet and makes it hard to stand/walk/etc) and piriformis syndrome (which causes a deep pain in your rear end, like if you had been sitting on a wallet for a long time). I take a slow release form of neurontin to reduce the nerve related pain. When the discs are compressed it causes muscle spasms in my back that are fierce. I have to take muscle relaxers every day just as soon as I get home from work to be able to straighten up. I can't tell you how many days the walk from my car to the house feels like a mile long... when it's about ten feet. The osteoarthritis is not limited to my spine. It affects my hands as well, making it difficult to grip things (like the timer in our bathroom at work). I also have fibromyalgia which is sort of the mother of all pain, at least, that's how I would describe it. It causes fun little sidebars of pain such as irritable bowel syndrome, (which I usually just refer to as "tummy trouble") interstitial cystitis and various random pain that just comes out of nowhere for no good reason.