Letting Go and Hanging On

Did I tell you my back quit hurting?  (Not to make it all about me.  ; )

I talked about chronic back pain on the other blog, where I also wrote about listening to the body when it screams at us (pain!) in an effort to get our attention.

I distinctly remember when the pain started – three months into the last relationship.  (Hello, RED flag!)  The pain ebbed/flowed/annoyed me through that relationship, the breakup, living at mom’s (sorry, mom, but you know what I mean), and through starting a new job at an office that was not a good fit.

I knew the back pain was about stress.  I thought I could push through with yoga, valerian root, whiskey and walking.  Sometimes those things helped, but the pain was still there, waiting to get my attention when I refused to see the stress for what it was.

I started at a new office the beginning of December.  Two weeks ago, I noticed my back had quit hurting.  I didn’t say anything to the kids because I didn’t want to jinx it.  I kept doing the yoga.  The holidays gave me an excuse to drink whiskey.  (In case you’re wondering, I have never combined whiskey and valerian root, though I’ve been tempted.)

Recently, I lifted a heavy object, as a test.  I anticipated a stab.  I thought for sure my back would scream at me.  And, nothing.  No spasm.  No twinge.  Nothing.  I was able to put away the artificial tree without so much as a wince, except I did feel a little guilty about putting Christmas away so early.

I figured I was safe in telling the kids that my back pain was gone.  I did, and didn’t jinx anything.

 

All of this makes me think about resolutions and, conveniently, it’s the time of year when we might take stock in where we are and if we are happy – or at least not miserable – with where we are.

In 55 years, my success rate is abysmal when it comes to resolutions, partly because I rarely make any.

I’m not perfect.  I haven’t got it all figured out.  But I do a fine job of making myself feel bad without adding failed New Years’ resolutions to the mix.

I prefer to look back over the year and decide which things I will let go of and which things I will hang on to.

 

I will hang on to noticing when something does not feel right.  Whether it’s a conditioner or a brand of coffee, a book that seems too violent in the first 40 pages, an acquaintance that drains more than enriches, or a crappy pair of jeans that I never feel good wearing – I will let go of what isn’t good.

It’s in the noticing that something doesn’t feel right, that I learn to let go.

I will hang on to paying attention to my intuition, and let go of the stuff that does not feel good.

 

For Will:  I plan on letting go of worrying.  The worrying feels bad.  I’m tired of communicating those worries to the Universe, and to Will.  I know he is tired of hearing about it, too. (This one will be difficult, and all you seasoned parents are laughing at me because you’ve told me that, as parents, we are never done worrying.)  But, I will stop voicing my worries to him, and I will hang on to letting him know how much I care.

 

For Jen:  I will most definitely hang on to this connection we have, but I will let go when she strives for more independence.  Is that even possible?  I guess we’ll find out.

 

For me:  I will hang on to trusting myself.  I will trust myself to say, “No, thank you,” when something doesn’t feel right.  I will trust myself to let go of those things that do not make me wholeheartedly say, “YES!”

Oh, and I will let go of guilt (stop laughing!) and hang on to letting it be about me, once in awhile.

 

It’s going to be a good year!

 

Happy New Year!

 

 

Yet Another Post About Self-care

As you stand at the kitchen counter eating toast and chugging coffee while paying the electric bill, the clock on the stove says you need to be in the car in 15 minutes if you are going to be at the office on time.  You still have to figure out what to take out of the freezer for dinner, run the curling iron through your hair, feed the cat, take out the garbage, finish the 15 year old’s school list and wake the 19 year old to remind him that he promised grandpa he’d mow the lawn today.

You’ve been up since 5:30 making lists, crossing things off lists, and doing the work you can from home.

What doesn’t get done this morning can be done on your lunch hour, unless you’re lucky enough to work far enough away from home that it isn’t practical to drive home for lunch.  In that case, I want to be you.

On your lunch hour you schedule appointments, return emails, check in with the kids to see how they are doing on their lists.  You make sure you have enough milk for tomorrow morning so that you don’t have to stop at the store on the way home.  Then you realize that you are out of spaghetti, and you’ve already taken the sauce out of the freezer.  Before jumping in the car to head back to the office, you rummage through the pantry and find some macaroni.  Spaghetti sauce and macaroni make goulash, for the win!  You still don’t have to stop at the store.

 

It’s the small victories that get you through the day.

 

After work there will be World History, polynomials, and helping with the sewing of the Halloween costume.  You will discuss what kind of tires his truck will need for winter and where to find the money for tires.  You’ve checked the forecast and know that snow is coming, so you’ll need to move firewood into the garage.  You’ll have to make a couple work calls that you were supposed to make earlier in the day.  Oh, and then there’s cooking dinner, too.

You stop for a second to check social media while the water comes to a boil for the macaroni.  You see a post about how important it is to take care of yourself – more on that tired old line about putting the oxygen mask on yourself first.  Your eye roll is audible.  You think to yourself, “Who has time for self-care?  If I take time to take care of myself, how will everything else get done?”  And then you realize that you take several minutes a few times a day to check in on Facebook, and kick yourself because those groupings of a few minutes here and there could easily turn into a solid half-hour of self-care.

As you pour the bag of macaroni into the boiling water, you picture yourself lounging somewhere for 30 whole minutes.  It feels icky.  It feels self-centered.  It feels like you don’t deserve it.

As you stir the macaroni and turn down the heat to keep the pot from boiling over, you picture your kids taking time out of their day for some self-care.  Maybe she sketches or plays with the cat.  Perhaps he grabs a pole and heads for a fishing hole or plays pool with his friends.  It occurs to you that you wouldn’t think they were being at all selfish.  You would be glad to see them making their mental health a priority.

As you take turns stirring the sauce in one pan and the macaroni in another, you realize that they won’t learn to make themselves a priority if you don’t show them.

You Can’t Save Him

I’d left the kids with him at the house.  I wasn’t going to be long.  I’d forgotten something and had to run and get it.  When I returned with the thing (whatever it was) that I’d forgotten, my hands were full.  I was carrying my jacket, a large bag, and the item in one hand, and struggled to open the door with my free hand.  I was fumbling with the doorknob.  Finally, I’d gotten the door to open, but I was concerned about it opening too far. 

I hurried to enter, worried I’d taken too long.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a ginormous spider had come in when the door was ajar.  They didn’t see the spider as it scurried along the floor at the base of the wall.  Its two sets of legs were freakishly hairy.  Three large hairy legs ran down each side of its body, and its underside had a cluster of six smaller hairy legs.  It was large enough to make noise as it scampered, yet he didn’t seem to hear it at all.

I yelled to warn them. “You guys!!  RUN!  A spider got in!  It’s huge!  Run!!”  I saw my kids jump.  They didn’t turn to see the spider.  They took my word for it and ran.

 

(Later, when retelling the dream, I described the spider as the size of one of those plastic Melitta coffee filters.  It was “Twilight Zone” disgusting.)

 

Maybe he hadn’t heard me?  Maybe he didn’t believe me?  I yelled again as I ran toward him.  “Really!! That spider is HUGE.  You gotta run!”

As I came up beside him he got on the floor.  He did the crab walk like we used to do in 4th grade gym class.  He deliberately, without any regard for the spider, crab-walked across the room, IN THE DIRECTION OF THE SPIDER.   I couldn’t believe my eyes.  After my warnings and yelling and all the commotion, he actually got down on the spider’s level and moved toward it!

I could see that he was within a foot of the spider now!  He could SEE the spider.  What was he doing?  I turned to run and join the kids.  As I left the house, I looked over my shoulder and saw him pick up the spider, with both hands!

 

The next morning, as I poured a second cup, I told Jen of my wicked dream.  When I described my astonishment at his picking up the spider, she interrupted me to say, “But, mom, you can’t save him.”

 

 

 

If Walls Could Talk

“They’re back!  Did you see that?  They’re unpacking!”

“Do you think they’ll be staying?  Oh! I hope so.  I’ve missed them.”

“How come they’re switching bedrooms?  How come Will gets the bigger room?”

“Haven’t you noticed?  He’s too tall for a twin bed, and there’s no way a queen would fit in his old room.”

“I suppose that makes sense.  He’s too big for the blue bathroom, too.  What’s she been feeding him?”

 

“Look at Jen!  She’s gotten so tall.  Where’d her long hair go?”

“Is she stirring paint?  I hope so.  I’m so tired of this brown.  Some new paint would cheer me up, cheer me up almost as much as seeing those familiar faces again.  They look happy.  Dontcha think?  Are they glad to be back?  Do you think this is a good thing?”

“There you go worrying again.  Just look at them!  Listen to them laughing!  Listen to the way they banter and giggle and tease each other.  They’re glad to be back.  I can feel it, can’t you?”

“I guess you’re right.  I feel the energy shifting in here.  It’s familiar.  I remember this feeling.  This is good.”

“Hey!  I like the colors Jen picked.  This will be fun and new and lighter.  Out with that brown.”

“I thought you liked the brown?”

“I did.  But now it’s time for a change.  Nothing wrong with a change.  You’ll get used to it.  You always do.”

“Where’s Nina?  Is that a new feline?”

“Didn’t you hear?  I heard Jesse say something about missing Nina in this place.  That one’s called Pansy.”

“Does Pansy ever leave Jen’s side?”

“Nope.  I think that’s the point.  I heard Will’s getting a canine.”

“Yay!  A dog!  That’s so good.”

 

“Look!  Will’s mowing the grass.  Can you hear the yard?  Even the yard is glad they’re back.  I’d swear the grass is smiling, even as he cuts it.  Oh!  That’s good.”

“He cuts the grass a lot faster than he used to.”

“No kidding.  He’s a man now.  He’s not a boy anymore.”

 

“Jen still does her art!”

“You mean painting the walls?”

“Not just the walls, silly, she still draws and paints on paper.  I can’t wait to see what she draws next.  I’m so glad they’re back.  Now we get to see what happens to these kids.”

“Do you think they’ll stay?”

“I hope so.  They had it real good here.  They’ll have it good here this time, too.”

“I heard Jesse say she’s never moving again.”

“Oh, no!  Will’s leaving.  Look at him!  He’s walking out of the garage.”

“He’s got a fishing pole!  Don’t worry.  He’s heading to the river.  He’ll be back.”

“Yeah!  He’ll be back in time for dinner.  Just watch!”

 

It turns out you can go home again.

 

On Mixed Messages and Secrets

Her foot was in that temporary boot they apply when someone has broken their leg.  And because I knew her, I said, “Oh my! You’re the one who is always working out and staying in such great shape.  What the heck happened?”

She was in tears as she told the story.

I said, “Do you ever wonder why the Universe can’t deliver messages in a more gentle fashion?  Maybe you’re supposed to slow down?”

She wiped a tear and shook her head.  She’s not the type to slow down.  I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that.

And as I sat in the curtained room waiting for the results of the EKG, the blood work, the urine sample and the foot-long swab that actually fit up my nose, I wondered if the words I’d directed at her were really meant for me.

How many times have I written about stress?  How many signs have I received that clearly tell me to slow the hell down?

I guess I’m not the type to slow down either.

And so after being told that my heart was fine, I stood in the waiting room, watching for Will.  I’d insisted he drop me off, so he could get to school and focus.  But then he insisted on picking me up.  So much for his focus.  As I watched for his truck, it was my turn to cry.

The tears were a mix of relief, embarrassment, frustration, and defeat.

Will dropped me at home and went back to school.  Jen offered to cook me dinner, but I let her clean up instead.  (I can only admit to so much defeat in one day.)  We watched mindless television and waited for Will to get home.  I got sick of them asking me how I felt, but hugged them because they asked.

I slept the night through.

This morning I read a post about secrets, and how unhealthy it is to keep secrets.  I didn’t search out this post, it appeared on my laptop the way some gentler messages from the Universe do appear.

Soon after, my brother called to check in.  He listened.  He asked the right questions.  He re-framed what I told him.  He put a new spin on possible solutions.  He made my secret seem less foreboding.  (I realized that my big secret is feeling like I’m a failure.)  He made different choices sound less like defeat, and more like a new route to success.  His suggestions lightened my load.

Then I did the stretching and the poses and listened to the tapes.  My back feels better.  Of course it helps a lot that I’m not worried about the classic signs of heart disease in women.

But I see the pattern.  It’s what I’ve said so many times.  When I allow myself ease – the ability to slow things down, I feel better.  Duh!!

But admitting I can’t do it all is like some f’d up version of defeat or failure.  ‘Ease’ was not part of Wonder Woman’s vocabulary.  Imagine how much better she’d have felt if she had eased up on that belt a little.

Today’s lesson:  Do as I say, not as I do.  Oh, and get the stress test.