Owning My Pain


I had goals for today. They were sidetracked by housework which left me in a tremendous amount of pain. Then I discovered our ISP has some speed issues so instead of sitting down and resting or going to the gym to soak in the hot tub, I pushed myself to get things done and be ready for a tech to show up at any moment.

Of course, the tech did not show up until nearly 5pm.

I stood the entire time he was here, nearly 10 minutes, holding back tears the entire time. And then, I forced myself upstairs where I collapsed on the bed and proceeded to fold laundry. Why? Because folding laundry made me forget about the pain – it distracted me from the intense fire in my lower back. That’s how J found me when he arrived home not much after I sat down. He walked through our bedroom door, asked me how I was and all I could do was look at him with absolute pain and tears in my eyes.

He sprang into motion, put a SalonPas patch on my lower back and fixed me a drink. Then he helped me finish laundry, chiding me for twisting and lifting the laundry basket. He tucked me into bed, nudging pillows behind me and making sure I was properly supported. After awhile, (and after some Aleve finally), I fell asleep.

I’m sitting on the couch downstairs now and as long as I don’t move, I’m okay. Tomorrow is a new day and even if I have to crawl into the gym, I’m going to go sit in the hot tub.

I struggle with my emotions on days like today. I am stubborn and tend to push through pain. I do not accept “failure” well. This, this not being able to function as I should, is failure. Intellectually I know it is not but it feels like it. I live with a standard level of pain every day so when that pain level surges and affects me like this, it is incredibly difficult to deal with. I handle depression or mental health issues far better than this sort of thing. I know how to deal with those. I can still move around. But when this happens and I am relegated to bed? Just ugh.

Earlier this evening, as we were folding laundry together, I focused on the fact that we were together. I also focused on the sunset outside. It was gorgeous – a phenomenal combination of oranges, yellows, greys, and pinks which slid into vibrant purples, dark blues, and specks of magenta. Certainly one of the most beautiful sunsets I had seen in awhile and because of this intense pain, I had a front row seat.

It is a fight to focus on the positive instead of the pain so when I manage to do so, it is quite a victory. I talk myself into holding on until the next day, convincing myself I will feel better then which is usually the case…or at least has been thus far. I may need to take it easier than usual but I make it through.

The same holds true today. I just need to make it to bedtime. In the morning, a brand new (and better) day begins. Tomorrow, I will own the pain instead of the pain owning me.

A Journey Toward Personal Intimacy


The paved road curves toward the forest as trees start to bend over the edges, giving the sense of entering a tunnel. The new green leaves flutter in the light breeze as the tires squeal ever so slightly at the apex of the curve as it slants downhill. The paved road fades into a gravel road. Dust kicks up behind the car, drifting up through the trees to a bright blue sky seared with sunshine.

Once again, the road curves, a brick wall looming in the distance. A gate crosses the road. The car slows, coming to a stop just inches away from this mysterious gate in the middle of nowhere. There is a house on the hill just a mile beyond the gate.

The driver swings the door wide and steps out of the vehicle. She walks up to the gate, grabs it, and gives it a little shake. Walking down the gate, it appears there is a chain with a lock, preventing the gate from opening. The driver shrugs and begins to climb the gate despite the clear lock and desire of the resident in the house to keep visitors out. The driver leaps to the ground on the other side, and begins walking toward the house.

Imagine, for a moment, that this road is a part of yourself you have decided to let a friend journey down. Part of your brain, part of you which you are comfortable sharing. Eventually, a wall will crop up whether you want it to or not. Even the most open of those among us have a wall somewhere.

Walls, while meant to be broken down, are also meant to be respected. It is not for us to decide to suddenly leap over them despite the clear warnings to do the exact opposite. Boundaries are healthy for both parties in a relationship. That said, it is important to not have too many walls in an intimate relationship. Too many walls lead to issues with communication and understanding. If a partner is left standing on the other side of a gate for far too long, he or she will start to feel as if they are being held at arm’s length.

Love is about trusting people enough to let them into the places you often keep locked behind a gate. It’s about letting yourself behind the walls in your own head and accepting them as wide open fields instead of gripping the key tightly and refusing to open the gate, afraid to let anyone, including yourself, through.

Intimacy with others must first start with yourself. Not THAT kind of intimacy. The intellectual kind of intimacy. The kind of intimacy we share with a close friend over a cup of coffee – the kind of intimacy we experience when we are at our absolute worst and someone offers to be there for us, even if it’s just to sit in silence. The deep intimacy which speaks volumes over any kind of physical intimacy.

It is this mental intimacy which we often deny because it means our soul is naked which, frankly, is far more intimidating than any sort of physical nudity. A mental intimacy is what keeps us together, it’s what endears others to us, and what endears us to others.

Keep that in mind as you relate to those around you and consider whether or not you are allowing yourself to be as intimate as possible with those closest to you, including yourself. The greatest damage we could ever do to ourselves is to lose touch with our own heart and souls – to not be intimate with our own minds. For when we fail in this area of intimacy, we fail at living the life we are meant to live and instead live the life others want us to live.

Ask yourself which life you’d rather be living and make the changes you need to bring a more personal intimacy into your life.

You won’t regret it.

A Few Ramblings About Love


When I was younger I foolishly believed in fairy tales, in the happy every after. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, animals sing, dwarfs get all ga ga, and well, happily ever after, right? Wrong.

In between, there’s housework, there is the daily mundane, the impossibly difficult discussions, the little things, the actual WORK required to make the happily ever after happen. You know, stuff which doesn’t fit neatly into a Disney movie and is over-dramatized in their sitcoms accented with a cheesy laugh reel.

Life isn’t some sitcom. It’s not a Disney fairy tale either. It is somewhere in between, it is not easy, and it requires work. Most of all, it requires intimacy, patience, trust, and the willingness to talk the hard stuff through without jumping to conclusions. It means listening instead of deciding what you’re going to say next. A partnership, a marriage.. it’s not about the day you say “I do”…it’s about all the days after.

The next time you see a couple who appears to have it all together, remind yourself you are only seeing a slice of their life. Do not compare yourself or your relationship to what they have. I used this example a few weeks ago – the story of the ugly duckling – he started out completely different from his siblings but ended up being the most beautiful and graceful creature of them all. It is also a perfect analogy for relationships. In my experience, people who have been through a lot together (and survived) have the strongest relationships.

Over the past few years through my work as a peer support advocate for women and families struggling with Perinatal Mood Disorders, I have had the deep honor of getting to peek behind the curtain of some of the most amazing people I have ever “met”. I say “met” with quotations because most of them I have only had the pleasure of talking to on through a digital medium.

This work, this advocacy, has not only allowed me to enable others to move forward with their lives through the boulder of Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders but it has also taught me quite a bit about love and relationships. You see, when you are supporting a family through a PMAD episode, you have to be aware of everything going on in their life because every little thing matters. Is she getting enough support at home? Is he sleeping okay? Does he have support too? How’s work going? Are the in-laws a source of stress? Are they communicating? Are they sharing the care responsibilities? Are they taking time for each other as a couple? There are a lot of little nuances which can add up to an explanation of why she’s had a bad week or why he seems a little snippy. These are the things which must be teased out to empower a couple to communicate and move past the potholes before they become sinkholes.

In no particular order, the following are things I believe empower a strong and successful relationship. They are things I strive to do in my current relationship and don’t ever intend to stop doing:

1) Listen. I don’t mean nod your head and “uh huh” at every little thing your partner says. No. I mean actually listen. Follow the conversation, ask questions, repeat things back. Validate their feelings, their concerns, make them heard. You would expect the same from them, yes? Everyone wants to be heard, deserves to be heard and this is particularly true with your partner.

2) Check in with your partner on a daily basis. Sure, ask them how their day went but dive deeper and ask pertinent questions beyond the surface. Get them talking abut their interests or offer to listen as they vent a problem they’re having at work.

3) Hold hands just because. Holding hands has got to be one of the most intimate things you can do with a person. I’m serious! It’s a quiet yet sweet way to let them know you care and you want to be near them. I adore holding hands and it means the world to me to be able to just sit and hold hands as we watch TV.

4) Discuss serious issues like adults. I don’t mean rage at each other, yelling and screaming. I mean sit down, and in a calm, rational voice, state your side of the situation, and then listen to your partner state his side of the decision. Sometimes you may need to wait until you both calm down. Work together instead of against each other to solve problems. You are both on the same team, here. I realize this is easier said than done but when both of you are capable of this it truly is a beautiful thing, trust me. (this is where checking in with each other comes in handy because there are less likely to be blow ups if you are actually communicating to begin with!)

5) Go on a date with each other. It doesn’t have to be ritzy, heck, it doesn’t even have to qualify as a “date”. Just spending time alone, the two of you, is great. You may have kids now but that doesn’t mean you are *just* a mom & dad. You are still the people you were when you fell in love. Nurture that, celebrate it, and don’t ever lose sight of yourselves as a happy, giddy couple madly in love with each other.

6) Surprise each other with little romantic gestures. These things are cheesy but they work. Texts, notes in work bags, mailed cards. I had to travel last summer and I left a well-planned scavenger hunt for my boyfriend at our condo while I was gone. All the clues were in a coupon holder with the dates written on the outside of the envelope. I had a blast planning it and he enjoyed all the little mementos. It really is the little things which matter in the long run.

7) Laugh together, often. Laughter really is the best medicine and if you can’t be utterly ridiculous with the one you’re with? Then you’re in trouble. It’s good for the heart, the soul, the abs, and your relationship.

8) Try new things together. Chances are you’ll both be nervous but it’ll be a bonding experience and hopefully one you’ll never forget. Just make sure you wear all the proper safety gear if you decide to leap out of a plane.

9) Give each other your own space. Know who you are and respect the person your partner is by allowing him/her to indulge in his/her interests without guilt. There is the potential for abuse of this (ie, someone hogging all the alone time and not allowing their partner to have their fair share). Love should never demand someone change their interests or who they really are just to be accepted. Love is about finding someone who is amazing and accepting them for WHO THEY ARE right then and there, not the person you plan on molding them to be.

10) Love with wild abandon. There’s no other way to love the person you are with than deeply. Love so hard your heart hurts and aches and you can’t wait to jump into their arms when they get home from work. Fall in love with them all over again every day for no reason at all than the fact that they love you right back.

Am I saying that if you do all of these things you’ll have the perfect relationship? No. Because not all of us are built the same and some of us need different things from a relationship. But for me? This is it. This is my list. Some of it may work for you, the whole thing possibly.

Underlying all of this, however, is the definitive need to communicate because without communicating, you may as well build a house without a foundation in the Everglades and just wait for the whole thing to sink beneath the swamp. And that’s not getting you anywhere but in a gator’s belly.

Sunday Reflections


The dryer hums upstairs as it spins clothes in a vortex of heat, drying them after they have spun through water and soap. Such a simple thing and yet, part of the rhythm of daily living these days. I shudder to think of the arduous task of schlepping the laundry to a river or lake and scrubbing it down with a rock or other accoutrements. Yet at the same time, I cannot help but think of how much more social the act of taking the laundry outside one’s home was back then. I assume it is much like going to the laundromat today although with the advent of technology, it is infinitely easier to lose oneself in a game of Candy Crush or on Twitter and Facebook. If you’re scrubbing clothes with a rock, however, it is a bit more difficult to ignore someone attempting to strike up a conversation.

Pondering this, the movement of society away from an integrated close-knit community to an online integrated close-knit community has me wondering why this has happened and what a profound effect it may have on some of us. For those of us who prefer not to be out and about (or are not able to be out and about), it is a wonderful thing. But it can also be a double-edged sword as it enables us to stay home and not interact with society at large, providing an excuse to continue our hermitesque lifestyles without seeming odd.

We are bombarded with negative headlines, danger lurking in every corner, things cropping up here and there. Our anxiety rises, we grow fearful of attending large events so we stay home and watch it from the comfort of our living rooms, interacting instead with others doing the same via the Internet through hashtags, status updates, and check-ins to whatever program we may be watching at the moment.

When I was younger, my father once told me to avoid growing cynical. I try very hard to keep an open mind and a child-like wonder at the world but at the same time, balance it with a strong street smart common sense awareness of what might be lurking around the bend. It is a constant battle inside, wanting to desperately to believe in the fairytale yet seeing the shadow of Gepetto just behind the satin curtain. Isolation from the world at hand will do that to a person.

I am realizing, with a resounding crash this morning, while I don’t think I am terribly cynical, I have succumbed to my fear of the world out there. I am happier browsing Amazon than in a store. I am happier in my car than in the parking lot of the chosen destination where I usually have to talk myself into getting out and walking inside. I am happier lost inside the melody and words of my favourite songs through headphones than I would ever be at a loud, raucous concert.

Perhaps this is simply how one ages, growing to appreciate the silence and solitude of a simple life as if it were a fine wine or an aged brandy. Maybe this is the old age “get offa my lawn” version of growing weary of the ridiculousness of the life out there. Or perhaps this is a knee-jerk reaction to the horrible situation at our previous residence and I simply have not pushed myself hard enough to overcome it. Whatever it is, I am caught in between wanting to fix it or wanting to embrace it.

My entire life, I have always been shy. I do not long to be the center of the party or live a public life. (Yet, here I am, blogging – go figure!) I have always preferred the quiet to the loud. Preferred activities? Curling up with a good book, writing, listening to music, watching movies, chatting and laughing with a few close friends. Part of me often yearns for a larger group of friends but the rest of me quietly whispers “we can’t handle that.”

Blogging is one of the few places I feel comforted. For awhile, this did not feel like my safe space because I did not know what to say. I felt as if I were the prodigal daughter, unable to return home because I had changed. But I realized those changes fit this blog and to not share them, to not offer a glimpse into how drastically my life changed and how I now fought to deal with these changes would be hypocritical. And thus, I returned. There was no celebration, no sacrifice of the fatted calf, just words filling the little white box every day.

A new voice has been found and this morning, this morning that voice called to me as I sat in our living room, alone, watching children run back and forth outside in the snow, laughing and playing. Starting to type, I exhaled, and the negativity ensnared in my soul fled. For the first time in a long time, I realized, there was nothing wrong with me this morning other than needing to turn a valve to let the words flow freely from my brain.

I may not be the most social person in this concrete world, but I am valuable, I matter, and I am a fighter. Some days will be harder than others. Some days will leave me knocked out flat on the ground while others have me floating in the heavens. It’s the days in between that matter. The days when I put my nose to the grind and do the dirty work to earn the awesome days – and the days when I pick myself up off the ground to try again.

And so, life moves forward, filled with rhythmic sounds of every day necessities, like the humming of the dryer upstairs spinning clothes in a super heated vortex.

Things I Don’t Know But Want To


I started writing when I was six years old. My first piece was one sheet of wide-ruled paper, written in blue ink. The topic? Organisms. If I close my eyes, I can feel the paper, smell the ink, and even see the encyclopedia (yes, people, I am old enough to remember a time when we did not Google. We Britannica’d.) My second piece was an eleven page short story (front and back, so really, 22 pages) about a brother and sister who were kidnapped and lost in the Australian outback. Yeap, I Britannica’d for that piece too.

We all have certain topics in which we are interested over others, don’t we? Over the years, my interests have varied quite a bit. Thanks to the development of Google, it is terribly easy to cram any sort of peripheral information in my brain these days. I remain selective, however, and try to stay away from the “fluff” but still find myself caught up in it.

In no particular order below, are things I wish I had bothered to learn about/do during the course of years gone by or want to learn about/do in the future:

1) Gaelic – I have always wanted to learn how to speak this language. Even before we discovered there is Irish in the family history. Perhaps it’s my fascination with all things Arthurian. Yes, I know Gaelic isn’t associated closely associated with it (at least, I think that’s the case – I am half asleep at the moment and I have had a couple of beers. Be gentle.) I know this is something I can remedy. Maybe one day I will.

2) Beef Wellington – I want to learn how to cook this. Not because of Gordon Ramsey but because it’s allegedly such a culinary challenge. There’s not much I can’t do in the kitchen but this is one of the few things I haven’t gotten around to trying.

3) Why people watch the Kardashians. On second thought, maybe this is something I don’t want to know.

4) Who the hell decided it was a good idea to send professional athletes to the Olympics for team sports like hockey and basketball. Talk about stealing an amazing opportunity from deserving non-professional athletes….what a crock of bullshit. In case you need a refresher course in how amazing a team of amateurs can be, look back at the Hockey team the US put together for Lake Placid. Sure, Dream Teams are lovely but they defeat the spirit of the Olympics in my humble opinion.

5) Morse Code. There was a period of time when I had this crap memorized but somehow I lost it. We’ll blame reality TV.

6) Sign Language. I used to know quite a bit of sign language, but again, somewhere along the line, I lost most of this knowledge. I need to remedy this. As for blame? I got nothing.

7) How to cook Asian cuisine. I’m slowly learning the flavour combinations but am definitely more at home with Italian or American food. But life begins beyond your comfort zone and all that. One things I’ve realized about Asian cuisine is that it is not that dissimilar from Italian cooking in theory – it really is all about getting comfortable with flavour profiles.

8) Deep Sea Fishing. Yeah, I’m not sure I would even make it out to sea without vomiting but hey, you don’t know unless you try, right?

9) Who is responsible for Stonehenge. It’s always fascinated me, Stonehenge. Again, I think this goes back to my unhealthy obsession with all things Arthurian and Druid. So many theories, so little real fact. It’d be a blast to really dig in and find out more.

10) Why the hell cats insist on sitting on your keyboard while you’re typing. Not that this is happening right now or anything. At least I can still move my fingers.

What are some ridiculous or serious things you wish you knew or want to do?