Matter Over Mind
When Mind Over Matter doesn't work.
This is a post about pain. Even the word hurts, doesn't it?
We know there are all kinds of pain, but the one I'm writing about is physical pain. Chronic, physical pain, and in my case back pain. Specifically (but not limited to) my sacro iliac joint in my lower back. This thing is on fire. And has been for 12 years. The last five - it's been like a live wire, zapping me at every step. Every movement I make comes with a warning, every bend, every crouch, even a shrug of the shoulder can trigger an electric shock of pain in my back, my hips, my legs, or my feet. If I step too hard, or bend too deep, or god forbid pick up something heavier than a coffee cup - sciatic pain rockets up my leg, through my hip, and into my lower back, threatening to spasm and completely disable me. So cool!
I have blogged about my condition in the past. And I have probably talked about it a bit with you if we've had coffee in the last five years - but I don't like to mention it much otherwise, on social media, etc, because it's just too depressing. The truth is that it's totally debilitating, and it dictates my life. All of it - physical, emotional, and spiritual. Which in a way I'm grateful for - it makes you dig deep, and that is kind of what it's all about, right? Digging deep enough to grow, etc etc....(keep telling myself, keep telling myself.)
The last time my back spasmed I was in bed for two years. No lie. Two years spent in the basement bedroom, where it's dark and damp and you wake up to tiny slug trails on your carpet. (and lots of spiders, ugggghhh). At the same time we were parenting a teen, whose bedroom was directly above me. It was hard. In fact, it was the hardest time in my life, and not to be too drama, but my life has not been easy. And I know all of our lives are not easy, I am not unique in that respect. But what it means is that in order to just survive the depression and the pain - I had to dig very deep.
Because I couldn't move around much during that time I didn't have a lot of options - even creatively. It is hard to draw lying down. It's like having to relearn to draw, which totally sucks if you've spent your whole life trying to hone your skills the other way. And cutting paper for stencil prints was out of the question. How do you do that lying down? I tried using a standing desk, but it hurt to stand.
The only thing I could do was write. It was at this time that I finished writing Bridge of the Gods. So despite the horror of those years, there's that silver lining. In fact, the name of my series is "The Silver Mountain Series" which could refer both to "Wy'East" (Mt. Hood) who is a character in the book, as well as the silver lining of those incredibly difficult years. You know - I never thought about it that way before, that is pretty wonderful!!!
These days I do have some mobility - as you all know from my constant pictures on instagram of my neighborhood that I am able to walk the dog nearly every day. I get around in brief bursts, carefully scheduled apart - meeting someone for coffee, going to the store, running to the post office (well, driving not running) - and then I go home and lay down and put ice on my back. Every day. This has been the deal for the last five years.
Good news - recently (only a month ago) my back took a turn for the BETTER, for the first time in that five years - I was feeling more stability, and my spirits were soaring. The new empty nest situation, the approaching publication of my book, and my lower level of pain - were all making me feel strong and undaunted and MOTIVATED!!!!
So yesterday I got busy organizing my creative space so I could make some art. I sorted through some photos, put away some candle holders, and then....I picked up a card table and CRAP - I tweaked my back. That's all it took - picking up a lightweight card table (which I should have known not to touch), and it compressed something in my spine, and pinched a nerve, and now I'm a little bit screwed. I had to take a pain pill, I have an ice pack strapped to my back, and I'm hoping I can damp this down before it gets any worse. So that means no activity today. I might be able to walk Faye a couple of blocks, and do the dishes, that's about it.
Thank goodness I can still write, and read, and connect online. I also work online. I actually work in bed - with a bed desk, because I can't sit for very long. Isn't this fun? This is why I don't bring it up.
So - I'm bringing it up now for a couple of reasons - one, to tell my story so that people understand where I'm coming from - which leads into reason #2 which is to apologize. It is possible that I've turned down an invitation or missed an event during this last hard five years - with not much explanation, or maybe I've been too reclusive and not reached out to others enough, or supported their endeavors the way I - and they - would have liked. For that I am truly sorry. I wanted to see you, to hang out with you, to have the same kind of fun we had before...but I just couldn't. And the more I couldn't the more I withdrew. Depression and pain will sideline you that way. But know this - I love you all. The good times we had, the super-hilarious, deliciously-fun conversations we had, nights out we had, and the late shifts we worked together - meant the world to me! And still do. And I am determined to have them again!
Daily I do my best to ignore this pain, and to create a satisfying alternative life, because there is one, right there. Right there, where it always was is a life of creativity, sunshine, humor, delight - a sensual experience of the little things that pass before my eyes - like bird song, the wind and the sunshine on the pine tree outside my bedroom window, vegan cooking, arranging my things (albeit gingerly, and with Greg's help), great (and loud, how I love loud) music, and of course - making stuff. Writing stuff. Drawing stuff. Spray painting stuff.
And it works, for the most part. I am so happy! These days I am delighted! I am quietly partying! I do very small and careful dance moves all alone!
Zodiologically speaking I am a Cancer, and I love all things Home. Which is very true - I love my little world in this sweet house, and Faye and Chalkie are excellent company. But I do long for certain things I once adored, and are now a bit beyond my abilities - things like travel. I used to LOVE TO TRAVEL. Mon dieu, j'ai recu mon diplome en francais for crying out loud!
I haven't been on a plane in over five years. My spirit literally grieves for France, for New York, for LA, for all of my favorite places, and I have a burning desire to find new ones. I used to travel without fear, without pain - but now - what if a back spasm happened far from home? What if I collapsed in New York and couldn't fly back? I couldn't sit on a plane for an hour let alone five. Let alone the 15 or so hours it would take to get home from Europe. And so I go nowhere.
This is one of the places where you have to dig really deep - dealing with this kind of fear and psychological trauma. It can and will immobilize you. The problem is if you do go for it and decide to "not let fear rule you" (as they are always saying, annoyingly) - your body can literally immobilize you!!! It's not pretty, and it's pretty damned scary to me.
So. All that said, I really am determined to make the most of this life. There is so very much to be grateful for. I have it bad, but I have it SO much better than some. I am all about gratitude. Gratitude is the sweetener of life. It's the gilding of the lilly. And I do believe that it leads to healing, both emotional, spiritual and physical. So fingers crossed I can practice enough gratitude, and use enough ice packs to get over this latest setback.
There are so many exciting things on the horizon - I am sick of waiting, and I want to travel next year. By hook or by crook I WANT TO TRAVEL NEXT YEAR, DO YOU HEAR ME GODS?! My goal is to get to France and Italy and England - stopping in New York on the way. Sounds good, doesn't it darlings? In NYC I am going to hang out with my old, dear friends Nick and Gayle, and Bill and Kate and their whole collective passle of girls, and I am going to walk through Central Park. In France I want to revisit my old apartment in Poitiers, see an old friend in Toulouse, and lay eyes on the French Riviera for the first time in my life. It's going to be a second honeymoon with Mr. Greg Rios, back or no back. I figure, if it goes out in Europe, they have better health care, and I can just stay!
Also coming up - the launch of my book, and the subsequent book readings! Back or no back - if I have to lay down until I'm "on", and wear an ice pack under my shirt, it's going to happen! I am so excited, people. Even though I'm a little bit broken, I'm hell bent on healing, and I'm practically bursting with joy.
And by the way - I've learned how to cut stencils lying down. Stay tuned for a batch of new work!
One more goal for next year - I want to play music again. I have a huge desire to rock. I want to be in the loudest, heaviest band in the world. I want to wear my french cop boots again, and be a 50 year old woman kicking ass. Unfortunately I don't know that I could stand on stage holding a heavy bass or guitar - in fact I'm pretty sure I can't. So live performances might be impossible. :( Maybe not if I improve - but who knows. However, I can still record!!! And I will!!!! I am determined to get this kick-ass vision off the ground and make some really great (loud) music. I have so many ideas, for the songs, for the photo shoots, for the video. I hope I can make it happen, I'm going to do everything in my power to do so. Think good thoughts for me!!! :)
Enough for now - time for a new ice pack and an Aleve - happy Monday to you all, and so much love! xoxoxo Diane