Finding My Umbrella

I’ve been trying something new this week.

I’ve been attempting to create a bit of balance.

It’s such a simple thing, but it took me a while to understand it. To do it.

This past week, whenever things seemed to be looking down, when something hasn’t been going right or I’ve gotten some bad news,  I’ve been trying to meet it with something positive.

I haven’t been searching for things to be happy about or thankful for, because that’s what I’ve always tried to do and this week it wasn’t working. It felt a lot less concrete, and a little bit forced to look for the patch of clear sky amidst a very real storm. I still need an umbrella to avoid getting soaked, no matter how much I focus on the blue.

Not that perspective and positivity aren’t valuable and important, because they really are. In fact, I believe that they are essential.  But this week, they felt a little too passive and fragile to stand as my primary coping mechanism.

And, as a long-time control freak, I’ve never done especially well with ‘passive’.

In grade school, group projects were the bane of my existence. I hated the thought of my name being on someone else’s work, because what if it didn’t live up to my standards? I usually ended up doing the whole thing sneakily, trying not to make anyone feel bad while editing out their sections.

Thankfully, I’ve learned to trust people a little more since then, becoming a much easier person to work with, but I still have that thread of bossiness running through me.

I like to feel as though I’m taking action, taking control of my situation.

Lately, however I haven’t been feeling at all in control. With no structure to my days, no certainly, it’s felt like the majority of my life is out of my hands, and I simply have to wait and see.

That’s certainly the reality for a big part of my life, but it doesn’t have to be my pervading approach.

I don’t have to rely on circumstance to improve, or luck to be with me.

I can take control.

This week, when the doctor’s appointment I had been waiting for was cancelled, I made some fun quizzes for this blog. When I realized that I may have to cancel a trip that I’ve been looking forwards to for a very long time, I bought myself a subscription for audiobooks. When I was feeling anxious, I delved into an exciting new project. When my GP told me that I had to go back on to a severely restrictive diet, I invented the most delicious and sugar free chocolate chip banana bread quinoa cookies.

Not every action was relevant to the trigger, but why should they be? I’m not trying to turn the bad stuff into something positive or teach myself a lesson – the punishment does not have to fit the crime.

I’m simply trying to give myself some concrete, positive experiences to balance out the negative.

Because I can’t control what life throws at me.

I can’t control my illness, I can’t control the world around me, and I can’t control the people in my life.

But I can control how I respond.

More than that, I can control what I do, how I spend my time.

I can choose to fill my life with wonderful things that I love and enjoy.

And that’s exactly what I plan on doing.

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Stuck in a Stride

I’ve been feeling pretty stuck lately.

Recently I had a conversation with a friend about how sometimes, you have to make choices in life. Sometimes things aren’t an ‘and’, but an ‘or’.

Everybody has to make these kinds of choices on a daily basis, but they are different for each of us. While one person might ponder between two parties, another might be deciding between showering or washing the dishes. And while someone might go back and forth over the cost of a cruise, another person might be debating the value of shoes over that evening’s meal.

These choices are hugely varied, and their magnitude and effect on each of us cannot be compared. But still, for each of them, the principal is the same. You can’t have it all. You have to work within your means- whether they be time, energy, finances, or opportunity – and try to make the best of it.

And even though some of these choices are frivolous and some of them are horrible, it’s still  good to have that choice. To know that you hold a certain power in the outcome.

Lately, however, I haven’t been feeling that sense of power. That sense of control.

Lately, I haven’t been seeing my choices.

I have been feeling stuck, imprisoned by all of the things my body won’t let me do. I cannot  always choose between going out for coffee or doing my laundry, because I can do neither. I often cannot even choose between watching a movie or listening to music, because the images on my screen are too difficult to look at, and the music is too loud.

Of course, that isn’t the case all of the time. I do still have moments where I can and must make choices, both fundamental and frivolous.

But there are ever increasing portions of the day where I simply lie still, because there’s nothing else that I can physically do.

And as I have been so physically stuck, I have felt stuck in life in general.

That seems to only make sense – if I cannot even sit upright for extended periods of time, what exactly am I supposed to be doing?

I have appointments lined up over the next several weeks and am keeping my fingers crossed for something to change, for some sort of guidance, but in the meantime it’s pretty much all that I can do to exist, day by day, keeping myself relatively positive, laughing as much as I can.

Because my health is so unstable, so uncertain, it seems impossible to make plans. To make goals. To make strides.

And that makes sense. That’s logical.

But it’s also a bit simplistic.

It’s true that at this point in time I cannot commit to many things. It’s true that I can’t make any sort of physical goals. It’s true that it’s impossible to plan my days, never mind my months.

But that doesn’t mean that I can’t plan or have goals.

That doesn’t mean that I cannot take strides.

It just means I have to find new paths. I have to think harder.

So now, at 11:00 PM on a Sunday night, I am making that commitment. It’s here in writing, so that ought to hold me accountable.

When I lie on the couch, immobilized, I’m going to dream.

And when I am alert, I’m going to make those dreams a reality.

Starting tomorrow I will be adding some new elements to ‘Salted Brownies’. Things that I have thought of, become excited about, and become too nervous to attempt, no longer have an excuse for remaining in the shadows. For remaining in my mind.

I’m going after my dreams.

I hope you hang around for the ride!

A Matter of Scale

It’s hard.

The world can be a hard place.

It can be scary, it can be overwhelming, and it can even be cold.

In fact, the temperatures where I live have dropped below those of Mars just within this past week.

Huddled figures have crossed beneath my window, unrecognizable as human beneath their bundles of clothing and the sheets of snow obscuring their forms.

It can all leave you feeling very small. At least, it does for me.

And my body seems to only intensify that feeling.

It’s been hard to remain unaffected as my medical situation continues to show no sign of improvement.

On a daily basis, I struggle to complete basic human functions. I can’t always sleep properly. Can’t always move properly. Can’t always speak properly.

And I have no idea how to make it better.

I go to see doctors and get repeatedly brushed off. Sent to another specialist, or told that I just have to accept my state of being, to learn to live with it.

I feel helpless, and that translates into so many areas of my life.

It makes me afraid to make plans, afraid to commit, as it is far too likely that I will have to cancel.

And so I feel small. Insignificant. Vulnerable.

But, really, what is it that’s making me feel so minuscule?

If I were to make a list of everything that plagues me, it would involve aspects of the state of my body and the state of the world around me. How I function within it as well as how it functions beyond me.

In short, the two basic elements of my life – my self, and the world I inhabit, are the main instigators of my current feelings of helplessness. Of insignificance.

And that’s a bit ridiculous.

Because yes, life can be hard. It can be scary and cold. But it can also be beautiful. It is what gives us sunsets and music, friendship and love. It is widely viewed to be a pretty positive thing. We tend to cling to it, at any rate.

More than that, however, is the fact that it is a limited commodity. We are on this earth for such a brief amount of time, the enormity of the universe can become overwhelming to contemplate. Our entire galaxy is quite new in the grand scheme of things, and the human species is basically a newborn. Not even. Maybe we’re still in the fetal stage.

So I guess it’s not completely ridiculous that I feel small. I am small. I am less than a speck of dust in this world, and this world is less than a speck of dust in – well, something. Science was never my best subject, but I’m sure we’ve all had our minds blown by that lecture in school at some point in our lives.

It seems silly, though, to equate that relative smallness to a feeling of crushed significance – especially by something that that I am so privileged to enjoy. Especially when I know that, no matter what happens during my cameo on stage, there will be a final curtain.

I’m small. So is everyone else. So is everything else.

And as a result my actions, whether news-worthy or not, can shape our world just as much as anyone else’s.

I find that rather comforting.

I am one person, on this earth, for a brief period of time.

And I plan to make the best of it.

The Monster Under The Bed

I’ve been having trouble sleeping.

Well, that’s putting it mildly.

I’ve been having trouble falling asleep. And then I’ve been having trouble with nightmares, while asleep. After that I have been having trouble jolting awake, covered in sweat and shivering. That’s generally followed by trouble tossing and turning for several hours, trouble going back to sleep and, finally, a fitful 2-3 hours of troubled drifting between levels of consciousness until I finally give in and drag myself out of bed for breakfast.

It’s been pretty awful.

For a while I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Was it perhaps a reaction to medication? Stress? Pain? My autonomic nervous system causing more shenanigans?

And any one of those things may be root cause behind this relatively new phenomenon.

But whatever it is, it’s causing a bigger problem than disruption in my sleep.

It’s causing me to feel afraid.

It’s causing anxiety.

As the sun goes down each night, I start to become overly sensitive to the sounds around me. I analyze footsteps in the hall, and tiptoe to the door to make sure that it’s locked.

And when I finally crawl into bed, my thoughts are consumed with worst case scenarios. And as I try to distract myself with positive thoughts, people that I love and happy memories, my mind quickly imagines how during, for example, a zombie apocalypse, everything and everyone that I love will be destroyed.

Even in the moment I know that there’s something off about my thought process. That there is more to consider, other ways of looking at it. But in that moment, as I lie in the dark, alone in my apartment, I can’t seem to find one.

Last night as I grudgingly prepared for bed, miserable at the thought of facing another night in terror, I questioned why I was suddenly feeling so anxious. Why did I feel so afraid?

After all, it’s not like I haven’t thought about disasters before. As someone with an overactive imagination, I have imagined countless horrific incidents in my time – in fact, I recently found a story that I wrote at age 7 involving a child’s parents being eaten by lions (I really was quite a happy child – I swear!).

But I have always been able to move past my somewhat alarming thoughts.

It may be that medications are causing this new anxiety. It may be stress. It may be due to some shift in my body, a food that I’m eating or even the weather. It may be that I have developed an anxiety disorder.

I’m not sure.

But I do know that something is different. This is new. And it feels overpowering.

And as I thought about this all last night, I had a bit of a realization.

In the past, whenever I contemplated the scary possibilities of this world, I always told myself that whatever happened, I’d deal with it as it came.

Which, to be frank, is a little bit ridiculous. I mean, of course, you can only deal with life as it comes, but there is no certainty of being able to control it. I have always known that. Yet somehow, I was soothed by the thought that I would handle whatever came my way as best I could.

But as much as I tell myself that now, the thought doesn’t soothe me.

Because my thoughts are not consumed by what I will do in the case of that zombie apocalypse. They are consumed by what might happen to those who try to help me.

At night, a thought that I believed myself to have come to terms with, bursts through the walls I had built and consumes me with fear.

Not only do I not seem to trust myself anymore, I feel like a burden.

I feel helpless, and I fear that others feel responsible.

There might be a clear cause for my increased anxiety. For my sleep disturbances and for my fidgety nights.

In fact, taking into account the sudden onset and the presence of giant green monsters that appear in my bedroom at night, I’d wager that it’s quite likely there’s something funny going on.

But whatever it is, it has brought to the forefront a very real concern. Something that I had been brushing off, instead of addressing head on.

And now that I know, I cannot avoid it anymore.

I feel like a burden because, truthfully, I am dependant.

I am dependant both financially and physically – two of the most valued fields in our world. The two elements we rely on in times of trouble, the two elements we flaunt to show our success.

But the thing is, I am not dependant in all areas of my life.

I do not believe that I am emotionally dependant. I value the company and opinions of others, no question, but I do not rely on their validation for my happiness.

I am intelligent, talented, hardworking, and, occasionally, funny. I am sensitive and creative, and I like to think that I’m a good friend.

I may dependant in two areas of my life and, unfortunately, those areas are kind of a big deal in our world, but that doesn’t make me a burden.

A burden by definition is a load, a weight to carry. It must be fully supported and it carries a strictly negative connotation.

And that’s not me.

I have value. I have ability.

And that’s something that I can trust in.

Maybe I’m more like cargo. I have to be carried certain places, but I’m filled with all kinds of good stuff.

Definitely worth the weight.