Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pondering pain and gain

"Guess I've waited long enough, hoping it might be something other than what it was."

At my annual routine mammogram appointment, I got the usual clipboard of forms to fill out. I'm not sure any doctor I've ever seen has so much as glanced at the forms, especially the long lists of symptoms and medical conditions. They usually just ask what I'm there to see them about.

I'm not quite sure why mammogram forms would have diagrams of a unisex pseudo-person, front and back views, along with about seven faces from smiley to frowny, asking me to evaluate my pain and circle where it hurt. But since it did, I circled a frowning face that equated to considerable pain. Then, on the rear-facing person-image, I started by circling my lower back. Then I circled both sides of the neck. I circled both arms and both hands. And for good measure, I drew a big circle around all the other circles, essentially circling the whole body from the lower back up.

I didn't expect the mammogram technician to comment, and she didn't. She just mashed by breasts four different ways and imaged them. One image didn't satisfy her so I had my left breast remashed.

The technology has improved since my first mammogram but that's not saying much. The bar was set pretty low. Maybe along the way the radiologists realized that breasts didn't need to be quite as flat as pancakes to visualize a mass.

I wore a t-short and my workout shorts under my blue jean skirt to the appointment so I could go straight on to the fitness center for my daily four miles. Walking isn't supposed to hurt your lower back, but I can feel the weak spot in lumbar disks L4-L5 where I had a laminectomy for a ruptured disk almost 20 years ago. It's just a nagging ache really, so I walk through it.

I have fairly new Reeboks that I bought at Sam's a few months ago, but just today I though about looking for a pair with more support. When we were in Yellowstone last month, I felt noticeably better on the days I wore my Vasques. Don't even ask why I wore my Adidas on the second day, by the end of which I felt almost crippled. I had my hikers in the car, but after we parked and went in search of cappuccino, I never took the time to go back to the parking lot and change into them.

Bead making of course is the biggest culprit in the neck, arm and hand pain I live with. I'm constantly tweaking the ergonomics of my work bench setup. Removing the elbow rests with the bean bags has surprisingly alleviated some of my arm pain. I've raised the torch on a stack of porcelain tiles and bought a huger C-clamp to hold it all steady. The one thing I haven't been able to change (yet) is the way I tilt my neck to see around the flame to the left side of the bead. (I hold the mandrel in my left hand so the right side of the bead is easy to see.)

Of course in this shot the bead is cold and the torch is unlit.

This is where the magic happens. Now you know. If I'd planned to take these I might have cleaned up my bench. Might. Have.

As long as we're coming out here, this is some of my glass.

Back and front views of my kilns (yes, that's more glass and some of my frit).

Fan that makes it possible to not die while torching in the summer, with tool and more frit visible.

So there you are, a little ad hoc studio tour. Next time, the oxygen, fuel tank, ventilation system and fire extinguisher. All in place, I promise.

I watched all of Season 1 of Prime Suspect in two days. Each of the six seasons, except for Season 4, has one story arc only, in two 2-hour parts. (Season 4 has three separate stories.) After I finished Part 1 of Season 1, I did my usual spoiler outing and searched for the full plot summary. I like knowing whodunnit.

I have to admit I was surprised because it was the first suspect who I thought had been grassed up by the lads to deflect scrutiny on corruption in the force. The force wasn't whistle clean, but the corruption seemed to mostly be along the lines of sleeping with the prostitutes who were their informants. It was just coincidental that a couple of these hookers happened to be murdered.

Before I launch into the next installment of my story about despair and redemption (sounds compelling, no?) I wanted to share this photo of Dolce, my daughter's rescue boxer. You may remember how Dolce looked, less than a month ago, when my daughter got here. If you don't, and you aren't squeamish about seeing a criminally emaciated dog, you can see her before pictures in my September 5 post.

It's just amazing what a little food and love can do. Soon this princess will be stout enough to endure a month a heartworm treatment and then she will be ready to find her forever home. I imagine that will be a bittersweet day, but this is the 31st boxer my daughter has fostered and 28 have moved on to new loving families.

I know it's hard. I felt a twinge when Elmer was adopted from Sugar Land Animal Services and just Wednesday Harley left with a nice lady. Lily is gone too. I'll see if anyone else got lucky when I go over today. I'm torn between wanting to cuddle Dominic or hear that he too found a good forever home. You can see more Sugar Land Animal Services' adoptable kittehs on Petfinder.

Back in time, I may have hit the nadir of my sorrow on Nine Eleven, 2001, but there was no bounce, no spring-back. I was on the bottom on the ocean and my spirits dug deep into the sea floor and made a temporary home there. I didn't like it down there, it was dark and cold and oh so wet, but there didn't seem to be a damn thing I could do about it. Or more truthfully, everything I tried to do to gain some buoyancy, to decompress, to surface and float, didn't help worth a damn.

When I wrote back to Marty after he sent his open letter about the terrorist attacks, I closed it by saying, I love you, Marty - I love your compassion.

He replied.
Liz, thank you.... the saddest thought of all is that our friends and loved ones who died Tuesday could eventually be considered among the luckiest of us. I think we aren't done with the tragedy, and I fear that raw emotion will only compound it. I know you understand that.

The bitterest part of this for me - so far - is the effect this will have on air travel cost and inconvenience and, therefore, on my ability to be with my sons or with Mary or with all of those cherished people I left behind. I was so glib a year ago, to say I could live here and simply afford to fly myself or others back and forth for visits.

And thank you for saying you love me and my compassion... you're nothing if not consistently sweet, especially considering how prickly I get.

Hope you and the girls are well.....
And after that, there didn't seem to be anything more to say. I didn't write again.

Instead I wrote to my mom, who was concerned about my unwell-being but baffled and frustrated that I was mired in it so deeply, a sentiment shared by almost everyone who knew my situation.
I'm seeing an energy healer. I'm trying to go out. I'm showing up for work every day. I'm not trying to make anyone else sad. But I have few people I can talk honestly too. I am in a crisis and it feels like no one hears me and the responsibilities feel overwhelming. But I am fighting to the best of my ability.

I know that I don't have to stop loving him to let him go. I can always have love in my heart for him.

Thanks for caring Mom. Sorry to be the cause of more pain. There's enough of that in the world right now without mine.
And a few days later I wrote again.
I don't know whether or not I will write to him again. I love him, and I don't really know how to make my heart stop loving him, or if I even want to stop - but I know I have to learn to cope with not being his partner in life. Being on speaking terms helps to a degree, but I still have to figure out a way to let go of the ever-present heartache, the feeling of the tears always ready to come.
I was living in the pool of tears.

And if that wasn't enough, I was having a rough time with my kids. I only asked them to keep the common areas of the house tidy but I came home to books and papers and socks on the floor, chips and crumbs on the computer desk, drinking glasses and dirty plates wherever. They were good kids, with nice friends, doing well in school, but to me they showed utter disrespect.

For the first time ever I asked my ex-husband to take the girls for a while. He resisted at first, then agreed.
I think it might be good and yet they are unhappy about it and feel like I am throwing them out. I can understand that, and it makes me feel terrible too. I truly am at my wits end - not because they are bad kids, because I have no energy for discipline and no heart to be a mom when the house is so out of control.
Near the end of September, 12 years ago this week in fact, they went to stay with their dad.

I wrote to my mom again.
I'm ashamed to say it was a relief because I stayed in bed all evening and didn't feel guilty because I knew they were in a healthier place. On the whole I hope this break will help in the bigger picture.

You'll be glad to know that Marty is no longer part of the equation. I don't want him back and I don't want to contact him again. I just want to get out of this dark place and finish raising my kids and feel well enough again to someday maybe have a real relationship again. I suppose he was a wake-up call in my life, to look at what shaky ground I was standing on and rediscover the real priorities in my life, my children.

I have made so many mistakes in my life. And I am terrified because I belong to nobody now and there is no one to care about me and take care of me.

Marty was right. I do need to stand on my two feet. I feel like I was faking it badly for a long time. No wonder I loved going over to his place where it felt safe and peaceful and clean and organized - I was running away from my own messy life - as represented by the chaos at home and the troubled relationship with my kids.

So much to grieve about and try to set straight.

I guess I have to remember that I don't have to fix it all in one minute or one day. Because if I look at the big picture it is overwhelming and that is what puts me in despair and sends me to bed.

Unless I can snuff the disabling panic, I can barely take the baby steps I need to take, including making myself eat something besides yogurt and oatmeal. The intensity of the physical lassitude and helplessness and acute anxiety beats me into submission, no matter how many times I resolve that I am going to beat this and that everything will be OK again soon.

All I want is to give my kids the security I had as a child that my parents would take care of me. I have burdened them so much with my being so uncertain and sad and fearful and physically weak and my inability to stay out of bed enough. So many things I have screwed up in my lifetime.

And I hope this is the absolute bottom and that once things get better they will stay better for a long time.
If wishes were horses then beggars would ride.

Days passed.
I wonder if my kids can even distinguish between respect and disrespect. I think they often treat me disrespectfully. I have not been able to summon the strength to discipline them. The ranting and railing and door slamming and belligerence and sulking wear me down.

Anyway, I'm trying to take one day at a time. Instead of worrying about how I am going to live the next 5, 10, 20 or 40 years, I'll just try to accomplish enough in this present day to not go under water.
Funny, there's that water analogy again.

I reactivated my personal ad. I used a photo that a friend had taken of me with Marty. I was in love and I looked radiant. I cropped him out.
I wonder if I should even be doing this because I know I am not healed. I feel more anger toward Marty than I did before but I still compare all men to him in terms of how we clicked in the beginning.
In early October, after almost a month of silence, Marty sent me a note. The subject line was, you look beautiful.
Hi, Liz.... That's a very nice photo of you on your profile - and very familiar looking. Dare I guess when it was taken?

I hope you're well and happy - and thanks again for your notes last month....
Without a nanosecond of hesitation I picked up the phone and dialed his number.

"What was it like
How did it feel
It's so hard to tell if it was real
I know I was there but with every day
It slips away

And I feel like a passing glance
That you never gave a chance
Baby that's not right
What was it like

What did you say
What did I hear
When did it start to disappear
I know you were there
You know that too
What did we do

'Cause I feel like a big mistake
That you managed to not quite make
And just walk away
What did you say

Guess I've waited long enough
Hoping it might be something
Other than what it was

You took something that felt so good
And crushed it because you could
One summer night
What was it like?"

(Mary Chapin Carpenter, Gary Burr, What Was it Like)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz