Finding A New Normal

My blog has been taking a backseat to a lot. I started a new job that is so exciting and such an honored opportunity that I have spent plenty of energy there. Granted, a lot of my work is done from home, I traveled last week and just had two very important and active days. The picture was watching the usual gamut of training videos that most new jobs require, which my dog, Napoleon found this one very interesting. I was asleep by 4 pm today.

In working, I’m trying to discover a new normal. How do I work, keep up my anti inflammatory diet, weekly infusions, manage tons of doctors appointments, regular house stuff, exercise…? I’m figuring it out. It’s going fairly well, but I can tell my next 3 days will have to be full of rest.

I’ve also had a ton of momentum to get going on my book. I read an excerpt of it to 3 of the company’s more higher ups yesterday (well one was the president!) and all 3 were very touched and moved by it. As a result, I’ve been asked now to get approved for hours to blog for them as another part of my job duties.

Part of finding a new normal has also been realizing and truly accepting that I’m doing amazing work. I’m appreciated, what I do is appreciated, how I’ve chosen to live with the chronic illnesses is REALLY appreciated, and I feel confident I’m not going to fail.

The company so much doesn’t know about my childhood trauma. My direct supervisor knows just a bit as we spent a lot of time driving where she told me some painful truths, and I chose to be calculated in what I said mine were. She could grasp enough.

Yesterday, they filmed me talking about my history with illness and the trajectory it took. My direct supervisor walked with me as I wheeled out to my car. She said, “I just want you to know I was so inspired spending those two days with you, but I can’t go on about it now as I’ll cry”. She has two disabled sons and even though their disabilities are really different than mine, she was surprised how independent I was.

She made me laugh as after she helped get my belongings into my hotel room for our work trip last week, she reminded me to close the inside locks in the hotel room door once she left. I said to her, “I’ve got this. Remember I went to Thailand alone 2 years ago?” She said, “well, I just have to mother you a little bit”.

And I thought about being mothered those two days and how it felt slightly strange. My own mom never cared. If she were alive today, she would be telling me I was going to fail at this job as she told me I failed at everything in life no matter how amazing I was.

This mothering I realize was normal. I had to go into a store so she asked if I could make it ok. Well of course I can! I’ve been taking care of my own needs since birth it seems. She asked so many questions about my comfort with temperature, if I needed to stop to stretch, if I needed so many things. It made me feel kind of bad.

Then I realized that this is my new normal too. It’s not only about conserving energy, being proud of myself, understanding my life wasn’t a failure, but it’s an acceptance that mothering in a nurturing way towards me is needed and deserved.

Today, the PR/marketing director came to my house and filmed my doing my yoga, my art, my dogs, and we went for a short hike outside where he filmed and took over 500 pictures of me. He’s very particular about how things look with shadows and such. I wasn’t the problem, but I also felt like I won when he said, “now that’s a money smile” and was so excited by my smile again and again. After years of being called ugly, awkward, fat, stupid, and could go on and on as I’ve already figured out that isn’t true, I’m holding onto “now that’s a money smile”.

So many new normals. I think about the story of “the ugly duckling”. The duck wasn’t ugly. She hadn’t found her place until she realized she was actually a beautiful swan.

A job might not fulfill being all my place, but it feels so right.

May your life, no matter what state of chaos, illness, or triumph be allowed to have moments like mine. Simply making the choice to show up with more and more conviction landed me a phenomenal job and some true feelings of “I did it. I finally did it”.

Love

Lizzie

Sometimes others words are perfect

This was my work from home professional dress. My fuzzy socks matched my skirt. I have standards!! Needed comfort after a frightening neurosurgery appointment.

Not much to say today. Had a whirlwind and absolutely wonderful business trip that left me exhausted, but the work email kept dinging that another had come in as we are filming a sort of mini documentary of my chronic illness life next week and how I have found meaning. So the work continued today from my bed.

I’m beyond proud of how well my business trip went. Any normal person would be tired. I know I am. Not much to say, but I saw this and resonates so deeply.

I have genuinely given my truth to 2 people who still stick by me. I’ve asked why so many times. It’s as simple as they get it. Both manage a chronic illness or chronic pain and have had a significant traumatic event(s) in their lives. I feel solid with them. They make me feel like I belong. I’m never “too much”. I’m loved whether I feel well, crappy, joyful, sad, scared, questioning just “why??”, and everything in between.

Hope this strikes trauma survivors as much as it did me as I’ve learned to ask for help, but I’m still figuring it out. When no one teaches you all the life skills at the appropriate developmental ages and then betrays you so much as a little child, the ground often doesn’t feel solid beneath your feet and that’s when you ask for help to normalize it.

I am so thankful for my 2 daily. I don’t even question if they will go anymore. “Actions speak louder than words”, but for these two women, they have done both. It’s hard for me to use the word “love”, but I love both of these friends.

And for those who haven’t had to experience the kind of trauma that makes one this way, bless you. Please live with gratitude in your heart as it’s hard

I also blew the socks off my new job and not feeling like the failure I was trained to believe I always was.

Stay. Go. I’m ok. I know as I appreciate my own strengths and gifts, my life will be more and more enriched. Just two days of working in a field that is so meaningful built my armor up. Not the armor to keep people away, but the armor to know I’m strong and to take under the strength of that the others who are hurting or fear being abandoned.

It happens. We survive. We eventually trust as we find that tiny tribe that sees our worth. We take our flickering light that burns brighter by making that tribe to show others they can do it too. I’m there. I haven’t always been perfect, but I hate perfection and just grateful for so many who were so proud of me today. I love so many.

Love

Lizzie

Once Upon a Time, for a moment, I Felt Free

This isn’t a subject I talk about much as it’s painful and sensitive. In January of 2018, I returned to where I grew up after spending nearly a year with my family after coming down with transverse myelitis, using all my FMLA time at work, and having no way to support myself.

As I was making arrangements to get home, my little 10 year old told me on the phone, “mommy, I want to kill myself”.

I wasn’t even sure what to think. Did he feel this way because I had been gone? Was he lonely? Did he never think he would see me again? All I remember was telling him to hold on and that I would be home soon. It made him feel better. He promised to hold on

I made it home in January of 2018. He and I had some glorious days of being together after nearly 6 months apart as I worked on figuring out my life. I felt free. I felt like my new trauma healing had come full circle and that everything I had gone through was worth it.

Within a couple weeks, my son started telling me some horribly abusive things that had been happening to him. For about 4 months or so, I nearly exclusively took care of him while an investigation was underway about his abuse accusations. I held my little boy as I drug him to a handful of social workers, always telling the same story and always reassuring him he was brave as he felt scared.

He would wake up in the middle of the night terrified. He had become that brave child that was strong enough to speak out against what happened to him. He described what I can only call psychological torture.

The investigation happened. The person was substantiated on the charges, which is a fancy way of saying “guilty”. My son felt safe. I didn’t tell him about the substantiation verdict. I simply promised I would keep him safe.

After he had been with me a week when the investigation started and had left the other house he lived in, I got an email from his teacher stating she wasn’t sure what I had done, but my son hadn’t had any bathroom accidents at school (he was having them daily and just so it’s noted, older kids who have poop accidents without a medical reason are usually a sign of abuse. She was also amazed at how much his grades were improving as well as behavior).

It was a really hard time for me. We didn’t have a stable place to live as the vacancy rate in my city was next to nothing. While he was at school, I spent the days at the doctor having numerous tests run knowing I had neurological problems as well as autoimmune diseases that had yet to be diagnosed as those are sneaky problems to give proper names too.

I was tired. I was bone crushing fatigued, but I was there for my son. Was I perfect? No, but is any parent perfect, especially under those circumstances? I was also intensely angry for what happened to my son. He was confused and while he should get 50 gold medals for how composed he stayed during that time, he rightfully got angry too.

After a period of time, the guilty charge was overturned. He left my near full time care to go back to his other house. I just submitted. I was sick. I spent 4 months of my life caring for that precious angel of a child who is neither biologically or legally mine. I was also out of money.

Sure, I saw him with some regularity, often not as I didn’t feel well and there was a lot I couldn’t deal with. My son saw me change though. The old saying “actions speak louder than words” truly meant something to him. He told me how strong I was. I said the same to him. I was growing as a person. I was growing as a mom.

I was expected to say sorry to the people who were found guilty of abusing him. I did the best I could to apologize and own my part. No one apologized to me. It was plenty of accusations against while my son would still tell me late into the night on nights he spent the night at my house about the continuing psychological torture he said he was going through. I told him he had to tell someone at school or an adult as I tried to protect him and couldn’t. My son watched me be vilified. He said he would never tell again as he didn’t want me to be hurt.

I realized in those times that my son took the responsibility of my losing people, and even worse, getting really sick as his burden. I told him over and over that I was an adult as his mom, I protected HIM.

He continued to tell me about being yelled at and called awful things and horrible things being said about me. I was really sick at this point and so angry. I thought about leaving his life so he wouldn’t have to live in two worlds that were so different. He was struggling hard. I even wrote to someone about it as as much as it was destroying me, I was watching my son being ripped apart. He had been brave for years in standing up for what he knew was the truth of me. Instead, I asked to go to a 3rd party to work out my issues with the other adults caring for him. My request wasn’t flowery and friendly and sweet smelling, but neither was what my son was saying.

I knew on some level it didn’t matter. I knew I couldn’t live like this, but I knew my now 12 year old son couldn’t live like this either. I tried to find parenting books to give me advice. Therapists were useless in helping me, and trust me, I tried.

So a day or so after I sent the email, I was blocked from all communication from my son. I was removed as a parent from the school. The significant adults in his life were told I abandoned him. Some were told I was too sick to be a mom so I chose not to.

The unfortunate thing about my situation is that I don’t have any biological or legal rights to my son. I wasn’t part of the adoption, which is too much to explain right now. It’s nothing I did wrong, it just has to do with unmarried couples not being able to adopt together.

It’s been over a year since I’ve seen my son. I had a couple phone calls with him. We texted for a short time. There’s a system of power in place to protect the other adults that no longer let me see him.

I was a licensed foster parent at one point. Even abused parents are allowed to have visitation with their children. I was instead subjected to a sweeping judgment that at the drop of an email, I couldn’t see my son anymore. I was found guilty of I don’t know what without a trial.

It’s called parental alienation. No, I wasn’t always right. No. I didn’t make perfect decisions. Sadly, the other adults in his life certainly didn’t either. Maybe they reflect on it? I don’t know.

I do also reflect on what I did right. I reflect on the loving and giving heart my son has that I will take plenty of credit for. I look at the loving projects he did at my house like teach himself to loom knit off YouTube and had a plan to give out his homemade hats to homeless people this past winter. I still have the beginning of a children’s book he started writing and illustrating about a family that had fallen on hard times, but a huge meteor had landed in their yard that was going to change this family’s life.

Some people might pray by closing their eyes, folding their hands, and directing their prayers to a certain god or deity. I personally have Tibetan prayer flags in my backyard and the idea of them is that you say your prayers or good intentions and as the breeze blows them, those good intentions are set into the world going to their intended recipient or the greater good.

A piece of my heart has shattered having my son gone and the story you would hear from the other side is probably an ugly account of what a horrible person I am as that’s what the texts have said.

None of that matters to me except my sons well being that I have no way of knowing. I realize that as I slowly pick up the pieces of my shattered heart, I take those billions of shards of love to set them onto my prayer flags to be sent to my son so he can feel, maybe just a little that his mom still thinks of him, loves him, and wishes more than anything in the world to hug him when the breeze hits his face.

I’ve missed over a year of his life. There’s no speculating if he’s doing well, surrounded by love, making good choices, surviving, thriving, but all I know as I’m minutes away from my official official start date of my new job that is an absolutely amazing opportunity that I work to be a strong person, woman, mother, so if I’m lucky enough that he ever enters my life, he will see a mom who kept trying even though I honestly feel like giving up often because of this situation. It’s a pain that can never be explained.

If you are an alienated parent, whether a mother, father, or someone who was extremely significant in a child’s life to have it taken from you, I’m sorry. Feel free to email me. I won’t make your story public or ask you to be an activist. There’s simply power in knowing you aren’t alone, and I’m frankly exhausted from being silent about this.

One of the final things my extremely insightful 12 year old said to me just over a year ago was, “mom, you are Wonder Woman. Your shield is made up of your heart and your soul and that’s why you’re so strong”.

So no matter what’s said of me or the ramifications of not being silent anymore, I will hold onto his words as directed towards me. I certainly hope he’s found someone to love like a genuine mom again and says such profoundly beautiful things to them, but regardless if he does or doesn’t, those words were meant for me. I can send him loving words about his strength to flutter on the breezes in my backyard

Love

Lizzie

Feelings. Feelings. Cured my anxiety and depression, but??

Weary? Yes. Sad? Yes. Depressed? No. Anxious? No.

In one thing of being a trauma survivor, I was taught to be a people pleaser. I was taught the only way anyone will like or love you is to have a smile on your face.

Today wasn’t a smiley day. Today was a very brutally sad day. I had planned to go backpacking for 3 days alone to mourn as well as celebrate something I lost a year ago.

Instead, I ended up in the hospital over the weekend. I have been trying to tell my pain management specialist that something is getting worse with my neck as I have had huge pain increases. My left arm was useless on Saturday, which is why I went to the hospital in the first place. After a lengthy MRI of my brain , cervical, and thoracic spine, the news came back. My degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis has become much worse.

I have osteophytes, which are also known as bone spurs compressing and impinging on my spinal cord. Osteophytes grow when your spine become so diseased that your body mistakenly grows bone in the wrong places as a way to “fix” it. It’s like your body decides to grow the bone you are losing, except it doesn’t put the puzzle pieces together.

When the ER doctor came in, I asked if it was impinging on my left side? She said yes. I had a quick moment of pride that I have come to know my body so well when I tried to escape it for so long.

So there was no backpacking as even though I read everything possible on google and watched every YouTube video about backpacking with spine disease, this would be going from uncomfortable to dangerous.

So going out today to be in nature wasn’t my smartest plan. My life is a constant cost-benefits analysis. If I go outside to do what I need to put my mental health in check, I will physically hurt more. If I stay home and don’t go write the most beautiful letter to the most special person who ever was in my life outside, I will feel emotionally miserable. I chose to go outside.

My hike was quick. I stumbled. I fell even with my forearm crutches. My left arm isn’t very strong. Considering I was doing handstands just a bit over a week ago, it’s obviously a problem.

I found a spot and climbed a hill to write my letter and be one with my Kleenex. In the United states, we have a really hard time sitting with others pain. I have learned to do it for long periods with others as I know the isolation of sadness. I knew being in nature wouldn’t make me feel as alone with the pain of today.

It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s genuine. This is what grief looks like. This is getting it out. This isn’t depression or anxiety. This is reality. I know so many who won’t do this and suffer by taking psych meds to mask pain. If I didn’t grieve my day, I would be left with anxiety, or even worse, I’d just feel numb.

Just about at this moment, my phone rang. It was a friend who I have had a rather rocky relationship with, but we are both survivors of extreme childhood abuse, so sometimes neither of us can get it right as we just never learned how, although we both are putting in a valiant effort at figuring out life. It’s hard to explain to someone who comes from a loving, supportive family what compound grief is. I wasn’t just grieving the loss I was writing about, I was grieving the own loss of my childhood—a healthy thing! A lifelong process that will pop up.

So I answered even though my sobs were coming from my gut. She knew what this day meant. She just kept saying, “I know. I know. Let it out. I know”.

And I felt heard. And I felt seen. And I felt understood. And I finally felt a bit of normalcy in what is considered “abnormal” in American society—grief, pain, intense tears.

Sadness doesn’t need a pill. Sadness doesn’t even need a therapist often. What sadness needs is a supportive community to embrace you. Sadness needs to be as normalized as joy. Both are valid human emotions.

Despite this day still feeling very hard as I’m managing the physical pain of going out now and unknowns of my neurosurgical future or if this new debilitating pain is going to be my normal, I feel the slightest bit lucky that my forever messaging buddy with chronic illness saw me as she can with her limitations, and I was able to answer the phone while sobbing so hard without the person on the other end not being able to handle it or be too busy or need me to schedule my grief. She showed up on the phone while I sat on my granite monolith grieving and sobbing while she gently said, “I know”.

Who do you do that for? Are you capable? Do you feel your feelings? Please recognize that no one should feel pain and uncertainty alone. Show up. Sometimes it’s not convenient. Grief doesn’t come on a schedule. Tears can’t be put into a calendar for a coffee date in a week.

Love

Lizzie

Compassion Makes You Beautiful

There’s a brand of tea I drink that has little sayings attached to them. They are always meaningful, but this one had me really thinking.

Several months ago at the beginning of the quarantine in the United States, I was invited to join a group of women for a Sunday afternoon zoom meeting. I was excited at the chance to form community.

Something a woman had mentioned resonated with me, so I went on a limb and texted her individually. She sent me very long texts planning for our future friendship and asking numerous questions about my anti inflammatory diet as she wanted to try to go down that path. She invited me to her birthday party where her extremely large family was there. I got along with them wonderfully. This new “friend” asked if I had family. I just replied, “not really” (it’s not something I broadcast as I technically have plenty of biological family, they have either rejected me for telling the family secrets or I choose to live free from the shackles of their abuse), so in these situations, I just make it seem as though my family is all out of the area and that my mom died.

So very exuberantly, this new “friend” says, “well welcome to our family. We will be your family”. I left that day elated. I felt I was going to belong to a family!!

Shortly after, her texts stopped. I kept checking in. What was once pages of texts turned into 3-4 word replies. I felt stupid. Of course her family isn’t going to just embrace me. Whatever this friend is going through, I don’t know. Maybe something I sent could have felt like the meaning was off as we have all encountered that texting feeling can be confusing if you don’t ask for clarity. Make she isn’t interested. Maybe maybe maybe.

It hurt SO much that I left the group. I’m not interested in that kind of “community”. In my final text to the group to say I was leaving, I ended my message with “take care of yourselves and each other”. I genuinely meant it as within that group of women, many had things happening in their lives where they could use help. Take care of each other. It’s so important to have compassion to not only give to a community project, but to individuals you know are struggling. That is real satisfaction for me personally.

This “friend” put in the group text when I goodbye something along the lines “I’ve been busy. You’re still my friend”. I’m busy. You deal with so much that I’ll leave you alone… and so the excuses continue. I haven’t heard from her since.

Where I say compassion will make you beautiful is that sometimes we don’t want to have compassion for those who most need it. Have you ever been one to send “thoughts and prayers”? I’ve been guilty of it and while it’s nice, it doesn’t really do much for a person in desperate need of community, genuine compassion.

Someone from my life reached out several days ago. She and I have some similar history as far as childhood trauma. It ended kind of ugly and was done, except she sent a text saying her mom had died. My compassion kicked in. Her biological mom died decades ago, but this one hurt. The mom that chose her died. She sobbed and sobbed saying, “this was the mom that chose me and she’s gone. She actually loved me”. My friend had a mom similar to mine. I cried with her as when you have no family and you genuinely get chosen, those losses hurt—a lot.

My exes mom, who I will just call “B” chose me. She died in the not so distant past. When she passed, there was no service and have no idea if there’s a place I could visit her. I did request something of hers to remember her by. I was given two very special objects of hers. One was a sleeping disc she put under her pillow for years. It hangs in one of the posts of my 4 poster bed.

When she passed, I was sick. I had a lot going on. I was sad, but I couldn’t properly grieve her. Tonight, the tears have been flowing for my friend who lost a mom who chose her and for the one that chose me. I’ve been reminiscing a lot throughout the day about how much she did for me over the years. Unfortunately, so much of it was confusing as loving kindness didn’t make much sense when I met her around 24 years ago. Even after things ended with my ex around 11 years ago, she was still loving and kind to me.

The last time I really saw her was in March of 2018. I had no place to live and only needed a place to stay for one night. She was compassionate. Despite being blind, she had put fresh sheets on her bed. She asked which side was more comfortable for me. She set out clean towels. She hugged me goodnight. She told me she loved me.

As she went to sleep, I went to her living room and cried. She was SO loving. She chose me.

Perhaps the pain of that “friend” welcoming me into her family to only disappear dashed my hopes at humanity a lot and certainly jaded me to her brand of Christianity was painful, but I also recognize it wasn’t meant to be. I left the group so I wouldn’t have to deal with that pain week in and out. It is ok.

Becoming chronically ill and generally living an atypical life of someone in my mid 40s has made me extremely compassionate. My circle is much smaller than it has ever been, but it’s solid as I know the world doesn’t have to accept me as that would make me a chameleon, a people pleaser. I’m done with that chapter of my life.

As I grieve B and for my friend who no longer has the mom who chose her and returns to the ranks of those of us rejected by our biological family, a club we never asked to belong to, I understand that we are strong. We are compassionate. We are loving and have to remember all that compassion we dole out to others, we have to look in the mirror and send it back to ourselves.

Better stop. I have a sunrise hike I want to do so I can sit and talk to B and thank her for choosing me when no one ever did in a genuine way as family as I didn’t get to thank her on this earth. I will thank her properly as the sun rises.

Love

Lizzie

When You School the Psychologist

This was an “oops” picture, but I love it as nature is my current therapist.

Pain management referred me to a pain psychologist as he was supposed to help me with energy conservation and the grief of chronic illness. Instead, he wanted to delve into my trauma history without really giving me the support for it. I promised him 3 sessions. I won’t be going back.

Our final session happened last week. I mentioned a painful one year anniversary is coming up for me. He said, “how will you distract from the pain”. I looked him straight in the eye with the reply, “distract from it? Distract from it? NO, I’m going to embrace it and while it will be a sad day, I am going to do something symbolic to celebrate what I’ve lost. Furthermore, being happy all the time is a western myth”.

With my words, he got very quiet. He looked sideways out the window. After a few second of silence, he said “true”. After another period of silence, he said, “I guess that’s better than taking a benzo”.

By “benzo”, he was referring to anti anxiety drugs like Ativan, klonopin, Xanax, or any of those drugs that are an attempt to mask uncontrollable anxiety. I took them for years as western psychology told me I had to be happy and calm. My personal psychology says feel it all to not be anxious. Forget psych meds…forever.

I’ve mostly departed from western psychology for over 2 1/2 years. I learned what I needed. I thought I needed the pain psychologist as I sometimes long for someone to know what happened to me. I want them to know my history so they know the pain I lived, to know I’m a success now. I want a stranger to be proud of me.

I realized in my 34 days I spent at what I refer to as my “trauma resort”, which is really a name for the rather fancy residential treatment I went to for my CPTSD in 2017. My individual therapist came to me on the Monday or Tuesday after I had arrived with a regular composition notebook and told me to start writing. I told her I was going to need more than one notebook.

My trauma story sits written on hundreds and hundreds of pages in several composition notebooks that sit in a special place in my room. My trauma story has been told on paper even if no one knows exactly in detail what happened to me.

I recognize that having an extremely traumatic past has shaped me. I used to think it meant a lifetime of misery and hating myself. I see now it gave me resiliency, an uncanny ability to feel adept at walking in other people’s shoes, sensitivity, kindness, compassion, and I am well aware it has hugely contributed to being chronically ill.

I spoke to a young woman a few days ago who I was actually at my trauma resort with. Another one passed through town and spent the night. They and so many others who have experienced trauma and are struggling have begged me to write my story. I’m not looking back. They don’t want the story of my trauma. They want the story of how I healed without western psychology.

So I hope to get it done eventually. It’s not that I’m perfect in my healing. Far from it in fact. I do know I’m committed to it. I recognize sadness and pain are equally as important as joy and elation.

As I go into a work meeting tomorrow morning that I joked to them I would prefer my title be “hope dealer” versus what my official title is, I will spread the message that life is hard for anyone. Being happy constantly isn’t attainable. I wasn’t blessed with a loving and supportive family or a life partner. I didn’t get the satisfaction of safe adults. What I did is get an inner resolve to live to the fullest that I can. I embrace it all, even when it’s really hard.

As I go into being a “hope dealer”, I will remind the people I’m working with that “constant happiness is a western myth”.

Love

Lizzie

Books and nature and suffering

This. So much this. An excerpt from Victor Frankl’s “Mans search for meaning”. I often tell people what thrust me into emotional healing was a ton of physical suffering. Frankl also mentions in his book that finding meaning in suffering is the highest achievement in finding meaning. He wrote that in a survey of who people admired most done in the 1980s, it wasn’t academics, financially successful people, great artists or even writers, the people they admired most were ones who suffered great adversity and held their head high. He writes in depth that American society thinks the only way to be is happy. Sadness isn’t pathological. I’ve been saying it for years. Guess Frankl beat me to it by many years. Read some books. You might find some meaning.

The night before last was bad. My neck is an arthritic, herniated, rare type of migraine causing disaster. It’s called occipital neuralgia.

I take pictures of everything in my world. By 4 am, the pain in my neck was so awful, I was just waiting for the ice to work. I couldn’t meditate or breathe through this pain, so I sobbed at how unfair it is. I won’t take an opiate at 4 am as I need to be clear and alert during the day. I rarely take them at night even.

The ice set in. It calmed the inflammation. I took a prescription dose of ibuprofen and got myself to “therapy” by sunrise as “ding ding, Lizzie you need to have an emergency therapy session with Mother Nature”.

This is my therapist: large, granite monoliths. This therapist is rock solid, literally 😂. Leaning into the power of this particular therapist reminds me I’m strong. I’m reminded I can do it. I’m held up even when I should be falling over. It gives me a break from my pain even though doing this causes me more physical pain after, but I sometimes decide the cost is worth it. Emotional freedom is ok with me. Chronic pain is chronic. It’s not going anywhere and as overwhelming as that feels, I can choose to be liberated into health in my mind. I’ll move while and when I can.

And today I played trying to figure out my backpacking equipment and scouring the internet on how to make it happen with a very bad back without causing further injury. My added bonus is I learned my $8 backpacking stove boils water in 3 minutes. An anomaly for cheap!

Love

Lizzie

This is my friend Ann. Today is her Birthday

This is my friend Ann. Today is her birthday. She is a Thai woman who works in Bangkok during the week and goes approximately 90 miles via a commuter van to her home province every weekend to be with her family.

I know Ann through another friend. I’ve never met Ann, but when I became friends with one of her family members in the United States many years ago, she friended me on Facebook. In her initial message to me, she said “hello my sister”. In the years that have gone by, Ann has treated me like a true sister. I have biological family, I’ve had plenty of chosen family, but she encompasses what sisterly love truly looks like to me. She is the only sister to call me a sister who feels like a sister.

I can’t exactly explain how important she is to me to her as even though her English is pretty good, a lot gets lost in translation. No country is perfect, but the way the Thai people encompass community and giving, always inspires me.

Each year, I get excited to read her birthday message. It’s very different from the United States where we expect people to celebrate us and give us things. She offers thanks to others. Last year she thanked her parents for giving her life. She thanked her friends for holding her up in sad times. She thanked the “god in the sky” for blessing her with a baby girl that brought her smiles.

I know Ann doesn’t have a simple and easy life. She is joy filled, gracious, and I learn so much from her. This was her birthday tribute today.

I love that she wishes blessings for others. She gave to her country and donated to the monks today. It wasn’t about what she got. It was about what she receives and her wish to give it to others.

A couple weeks ago she sent me a message that said, “Lizzie. Please come back. Show my daughter what it is to live”. I hope someday to be well enough to go back for an extended period and of course the world has to heal from COVID.

When I went to Thailand at the drop of a hat nearly two years ago, I planned to stay longer and was going to go with her to her home province and meet her family and her very young daughter. I didn’t get to go. I had to get home.

Ann was a huge reason I went to Thailand. I didn’t think she would be as gracious with sending her massage therapist to me and giving me ideas where to go and how to circumvent tourist traps like taxi gouging, but I was honored. It wasn’t even Ann that made me go exactly, it was just the kindness and kindness I experienced from her family member that I wanted to go see where this kindness was created.

I wrote about my trip to Thailand awhile ago. It was the craziest thing I ever did. It also gave me the most sanity. I went alone and booked my trip just a couple days before I left as I had a moment of feeling better and was honestly cheaper than staying home. It was the last of my savings. It was the best thing I could have spent it on. Everything aligned for me to go.

I need to do something a little “crazy” soon. I’ve felt like I’m in some kind of weird sadistic experiment lately as it’s just felt like how much more can be piled on me before I break. I don’t break. I get sad. I get upset. I sometimes lapse into hopelessness. I don’t discuss the complexities of all I manage, but I’m feeling heavy. I still maintain hope. It just feels a little different lately. It’s not depression at all. It’s just a lot.

Looking at the handful of pictures I took in Thailand, I will just leave you with this one. When my plane pulled out of the gate in San Francisco heading to my first layover in Tokyo, I thought of faking a heart attack so the plane would go back to the gate as I had a huge rush of anxiety of realizing what a crazy idea this was. I was on a Japanese airline, the only white person, ok that didn’t bother me, but no one was speaking English. I was going to a country I knew nothing about except that google said it was safe to travel there as a woman alone. I didn’t even know what I was going to do there honestly.

Just as I was about to hit the call light to alert them to my fake heart attack, a little Japanese toddler in the row in front of me turned around and gave me the biggest smile. I knew it would be ok.

So this isn’t a picture of how calm I felt there or pictures of Bangkok. This was a picture of my plane descending into the airport on the outskirts of Tokyo. All I had seen was water below me for 10+ hours. Suddenly, there was green land. I was arriving in Japan! A chronically ill woman alone. I wasn’t looking backwards towards that gate in San Francisco. I was looking forward to navigating making it to my connecting flight to Thailand with silent tears streaming heavily down my face that after so much of a lifetime of being afraid. I was definitely being crazy. I was also being brave.

Love

Lizzie

Chronic Means Forever

I have multiple chronic illnesses. Somehow I keep thinking I’ll escape the idea that chronic means forever. I guess I have this vision that I’ll regain energy and abilities that are gone.

I have been slowing down a lot. I’m making space for people in my world that gets more and more limited as I realize the limits on my energy. It’s not as much a sadness as an acceptance.

I was tired today after an impromptu out of town guest spent the night as we talked late into the night and woke early craving more conversation. This past week has been a lot of planning and doing as I prepare for what looks like entering the world of employment again within a few weeks. It’s an incredible opportunity. It’s honestly a gift.

After my guest left late this morning, my instinct was to go outside even though my body was begging me to go back to bed. My head was pounding.

I decided today hiking wasn’t going to be about distance, calories, miles gone, or a destination. Today was about finding a quiet spot to sit and enjoy that my life can still be as joyfully spontaneous as my symptoms are that make me feel sick and destroyed without much warning.

I didn’t track how far I went. I didn’t notice the time. I did find a shady perch on a huge, granite monolith characteristic of the eastern Sierras.

I took off my shoes and sat. I felt grounded being there. I also felt very tired and even though I wished I could sit on my perch all afternoon, I noticed how much I could enjoy the time I was there to just be.

The hike back was gratefully shorter than I thought I had gone. I ate my snacks quickly and drove 45 minutes back home.

My body hurt. My arthritic neck was asking me “why?”, the headache that was already there before I departed was stronger. I got a very quick shower in and fed my dogs. I think I was in bed by 4:45 pm and asleep within seconds. I was kind of mad at myself for doing it. I was angry that something quicker than my normal had depleted me so much.

As I wake up 2 1/2 hours later where the sun is still up, but I’m not personally getting up, I know why I did it. With the pain and fatigue my little outing brought me, it also gave me a few moments of respite from my chronic illnesses. Sitting on that huge slab of stone with my shoes off made me forget the complexities of my world that contains hardship as well as lots of hope. I sat on that powerful surface not even thinking about much except being fully present in that moment. I wasn’t looking back. I wasn’t looking forward.

And I’m not mad about my body being so tired from a little adventure into the calm of the mind. The calming and grounding of nature is an escape to peace.

I had a goal in spring to keep increasing my mileage in hiking so that maybe I could keep up someday with my hiking friends. I realized there’s a good possibility I won’t ever get there. As I slow down and allow my body to do what is naturally within its capabilities versus what my mind wants to do, I get something greater than an increase in distance, stamina, the ability to keep up with healthy people, instead I gain an appreciation for myself and no matter how many miles I put in today physically, I went an infinite number of miles in my mind and my soul.

All I wanted to do was be barefoot in nature. I got it. And if there’s another day I long to ground my bare feet into the earth with a day I’m not able to get up, I can stick my toes in my houseplants at the end of my bed remembering the day I sat on a granite monolith completely at peace knowing that chronic is forever. The day I gained so much more acceptance that I probably won’t keep up, but who am I racing? If it’s just me, I already won.

Love

Lizzie