Father Time, you’re a bitch

My mom came over yesterday. We had planned to go shopping and get our hair cut. But you know what they say about best laid plans…. I woke up with a hitch in my lower back Tuesday. It just got worse as the day progressed. Today it really hurts. Also, our air conditioning bit the big one a little before midnight. I’m trying to be grateful that it only got to 90 degrees today. I’m not doing a very good job being grateful.

So, I canceled our shopping day and rescheduled my hair appointment. Mom stopped by before her appointment to drop some things off. Only, she got the appointment time wrong, so she missed it altogether. I could tell that she was frustrated with herself. I seem to forget everything nowadays, so I know how she feels. It got me thinking about time.

Sometimes I play this game in my head about the past. I’ll think of a memory and try to remember when it happened. I usually fail at that, unless one of the kids or grands is in the memory. Then I can usually put a year to the memory. It’s so infuriating. I used to remember EVERYTHING. Age, anxiety, pain, medication…. I guess that’s the perfect cocktail to erase a large portion of both minor and major details.

Today, after my mom left, I thought of all the times that she showed up just when I needed her. I know that I talk about my fear of driving. I very seldom do it anymore. But, my mom is absolutely fearless when it comes to being behind the wheel. She always has been. She has no qualms about going on a solo road trip. I think it comes from being a Marine’s wife. She doesn’t get upset if she gets lost in an area completely foreign to her. She just drives until she’s back in familiar territory. I do believe that she’s probably driven on just about every highway in the continental U.S.

I thought of the times she would come to me and the kids when things got bad with my first husband. There were no cell phones then, yet I always remember how I could call on her landline and she always came. Or, how she would pick me up and take me shopping for groceries. We’ve walked down grocery store aisles way too many times to count. Remember her coming to the kids’ games. She would sit in the bleachers just watching, or she’d work the concessions, entry gate, just wherever she was needed at the time.

Hospital visits after surgery? She was usually there when I woke up. If she wasn’t, she’d be there soon after. Recovery time at home after surgeries? She (and often Daddy too) would come over with fountain drinks, sweets, adult coloring books, magazines, whatever. The point is, she’d be there.

All of this rambling is to say that seeing her upset about forgetting her appointment time was jarring. I see my kids getting older. I realize how old I am when I see my oldest GRANDDAUGHTER driving😱. But, I never think that my mom is getting older. I guess I just tend to think that she’s always going to be there. But, she’s going to be 76 this year. She’s the youngest 75 year old person that I’ve ever known. Yet the reality is she’s not immortal. She is getting older. I don’t like that thought. I want to stomp my feet, shake my fists in the air and rail at the heavens. I want to insist that she stay young and healthy forever. But, I know that’s impossible.

I don’t like these thoughts. Not one bit. I don’t ever want to imagine a life without her. I’m pouting. Maybe it’s because I’m really hot and I really hurt. But, honestly? I think it’s because my heart doesn’t want to think of a world with no Pat/Mom/Mimi in it.

Seeing the forest through the trees. Finally

I’ve spent the last 12 months or so looking very hard and deep at, well, me. And I really didn’t like some of what I had seen. I’m not talking about my physical self. I’m talking about my behavior. My mind. My heart. Chronic pain and anxiety almost stole my joy. They tried to make me bitter. Damn near succeeded too.

I used to live my life like the world revolved around me. Not so much narcissistic as solipsistic. I only really paid attention to something when it was about me or someone I loved. I just kind of skimmed over everything else. Then, once the pain got worse, everything became about my pain. I let that chronic physical pain grow to the point that it overtook EVERYTHING. The physical pain turned into mental pain. My anxiety became so magnified that it threatened to swallow me whole. After my emergency spine surgery in December of 2017, I had had enough. I was done being an empty, useless mess. That surgery saved me in more ways than one.

I was able to walk upright again after surgery. I still dealt with the physical pain, but, I realized that life hurts. Getting older is not for sissies. I figured that I would hurt no matter what, so I might as well try to actually LIVE as opposed to simply existing. It’s been one of the very hardest, yet most rewarding, things that I’ve ever done. Sometimes I feel as if I’m really moving forward at a great speed only to promptly fall on my ass. The difference of the current me and the me of the last 10 years? I get back up. I might be slower than most, but, by God, I do it.

I still have my pity parties. But nowadays they’re shorter than before. More of a dinner party length and less of a rave. My sister, DeeDee, said it best. “I’ll hold your big girl panties for awhile, but then you have to take them back”. She, my mom, Adrian and my kids will all hold them for me, but expect me to take them back. And I do! I’m celebrating that fact. I’ve earned it!!

I’m still a work in progress. I still have days where I hurt so much that I’m in tears. But, I deal with it. It no longer controls me. The hardest part hasn’t been the physical pain. It’s been finding my joy again. Learning to embrace people. The one gift I’ve received from all of this? Freedom. The freedom to be me without worrying about how I look or being seen as weird or different. I am different! I’m me and I’m happy about that. I’m thankful for that.

I feel much more in tune with the world. Sound cheesy? Maybe so, but it’s the truth. I feel my bitterness peeling away like onion layers. I feel like I’ve had cataracts removed and I can see clearly again. This dark journey started in late 2010. It slowly but surely chipped away at my body and mind until Dec 26, 2017. I’m starting the first year of this decade by walking in baby steps. Not crawling, but WALKING. And, although they’re baby steps, they’re forward moving baby steps. So, go me! And, if you’re walking in baby steps too, go you!!

Just Toddling Along

I’ve mentioned before that I live with anxiety. I think I might also suffer from depression, but I’ve only been diagnosed with “an anxiety state”. I blamed this anxiety on my chronic pain. But, if I’m honest with myself (I’m trying hard to be so), I think I’ve probably always dealt with anxiety. I used to be so fearful of getting sick. Yep, I’ve always had a touch of hypochondria. I have made myself physically ill before by worrying that something was going to happen to someone I love. Back in high school, I worried about forgetting what I studied. More often than not, I dealt with my anxiety by simply staying in bed. I just shut down. It didn’t matter if it was school or a job. I had a horrible attendance record in both my past education and employment history. I’m trying to not only be truthful to myself, but to also face my faults.

I believe that a person can only truly change if he/she accepts his or her own flaws. You can’t grow in a different direction if you don’t face your faults head on. I want to face them, dissect them and move on. I look back at all of the things that made me anxious. Some as silly as this; I love magazines, but, I HAD to every article on every page. Seriously, if I skipped an article because it didn’t interest me, I couldn’t focus at all. So, I’d go back an read the skipped page or pages. That’s not a huge thing, but it bothered me enough that I read every magazine cover to cover. Sometimes it was something big that caused my anxiety to spike so much that I literally couldn’t get out of bed. Like driving. I’ve always had crazy nerves when I knew I was going to be behind the wheel. I’d go over my intended route hundreds of times in my head. I wouldn’t venture out of the right hand lane unless it was absolutely critical. And making any kind of unprotected left hand turn? Oh, hell no. I’ve gotten past the magazine thing. Now I only read what truly interests me. But, I still have to finish any book that I start, even if I don’t like it. Baby steps, people.

As for the driving? Nope. It’s actually gotten worse. Because of chronic pain, nerve damage and lots of surgeries on my back, it’s incredibly uncomfortable to drive. So I don’t. But, the longer I go without driving, the harder it is for me to even THINK about getting back behind the wheel. My goal is to drive once a week. I usually find that it’s never actually as bad as my mind thought it would be.

I’ll be writing more about my anxieties, my goals and facing my faults. I think it’s best done in little nibbles rather than huge bites. That way I don’t choke on them.