If you can’t stop my pain, you may as well just shoot me!

pills_variety_crop380wI try to be a pragmatic user of medications. I think we have them for a reason and the reason was all mine when I found myself in rehabilitation and unable to perform the most mundane tasks because of intense pain. Having said that, let me add that I thought I possessed a healthy but wary attitude toward all drugs, especially narcotics. I realize now that my perception of pain-killing opioids was informed by my family of origin which was rife with alcoholism and other drug addictions. My father died of complications from his years of drinking excessively. My brother died of an alcohol and drug overdose. Obviously my viewpoint was skewed.

Over the years of my adulthood I have learned to enjoy an occasional glass of wine, and I once took a Vicodin at the emergency room when I had what we believe was a gall bladder event. Triage sent me home with four tablets and told me perhaps I should take only a half since the whole tablet knocked me silly. I ended up throwing out 3 1/2 of them. That experience didn’t do a thing to quell my fear of drugs. In fact, quite the opposite.  Imagine going from that kind of trepidation about taking pain killers to begging for them back in October after my accident. That’s some serious pain.

I don’t remember exactly how long I lay in that hospital bed without any real help for my pain. I know that the therapists came to my room twice a day and laboriously tried to get me to a sitting position but the pain was agonizing and I couldn’t do it. I told them I needed to see a doctor so they sent one to see me. She said she understood I wanted/needed something for pain. I explained that I had to have something if I were going to be able to get up and get well. She left an order. I don’t know what it was but it helped about as much as an aspirin. Even one of my caregivers told me that was not what I needed; that it was not going to help my kind of pain. More time wasted while my muscles continued to atrophy.

Then I got a stroke of good luck. A staff member stopped by one day and asked me how I was doing. I told her I wasn’t making progress because of the pain. She informed me that there was a doctor on staff (I think fairly new there.) who knew all about pain management. She said, “You need to see him. He’s very good.”

I tried not to get my hopes too high but I asked my daytime nurse (CNA) to ask him to see me the next day. In fact I pleaded, “Don’t let him leave tomorrow until he’s seen me.” She promised she wouldn’t. (I have this mental image of her with a lasso around him, dragging him back down the hall. 🙂 )

I don’t think she had to rope him but by golly he showed up and my rehabilitation took a one-eighty turn and I was on my way back. My relief was palpable.

I’ve thought a great deal about what Dr. H (H is for hero.) does that makes him an effective and outstanding doctor. I’ve recently been back at the facility for additional therapy and I saw him in the gym talking to a patient. She was in a wheelchair. He got down in a squat to look her in the face and talk to her. That’s when it all came flooding back to me. That’s what he does. And much more.

He came into my room, introduced himself, looked me in the eyes and we talked. He listened. What I said mattered. He showed no sign of being in a hurry. I was the only patient he had in that moment. This wasn’t one of those 3-5 minute visits. We talked until we said what we needed to communicate to each other. I understood him. He understood me. He made me a partner in my care. That matters a great deal to me. I monitored my medication about as carefully as he did. And guess what? I’m not addicted. That had been a big concern for me.

Dr. H is very young for one so perfectly attuned to his patients needs and concerns. I believe that medical personnel can be taught a great deal about compassion and patient care. But I don’t believe this doctor had to be taught that aspect of caring. He cares about people. He has a good heart. And it shines as he goes about his work. He’s very good indeed, and I’m enormously grateful.

A day for reflection.

photo-1My ex-husband and I first met Jim and Joe (not their real names) at least twenty-five years ago.  Happily, they have continued to include me in their lives by inviting me to their parties and life celebrations.

Very few of the people I met through or with D have kept me on their social lists.  That includes family.  I have come to understand it isn’t that most of them are cold or uncaring; they simply don’t know how to be inclusive in situations that they fear (real or imagined) may get a little “sticky.”  My fiery temper during our separation and divorce didn’t help.

But this post is not about me, it’s about the remarkable and always inclusive Jim and Joe.

Since gay marriage is still not legal in North Carolina, J and J went to New York a while back and tied the knot after almost thirty-five years together.  Legal or not, they’ve been married all those years.  They never needed a piece of paper for those of us who have loved them and recognized their commitment to each other.  Yet I find myself feeling joyful on their behalf now that they have taken this big step which wasn’t available to them before.

I was not surprised when I received this most recent invitation from J and J.  I had attended their “twenty-five-years-together anniversary.”  But I felt a warm glow when I saw the announcement that they had wed.  And I felt extraordinarily happy that I was considered one of many friends with whom they wanted to share their good news.

At three o’clock on a beautiful autumn day, surrounded by family and friends, J and J had a ceremony on the front steps of their lovely home.  We friends gathered on the lawn in front and celebrated with them.  There were chairs for those who can no longer stand.  A very eloquent gentleman made comments and then J and J reconfirmed their vows of commitment, each in his own words.  We cheered!

As I drove home, I noticed dark clouds gathering on the horizon and the wind was tossing yellow leaves into a whirling dervish dance.  As I drove through one leafy frenzy after another and another, I thought of the many frantic dances my friends Jim and Joe have had to perform as they were growing up feeling different.  As they met with intolerance at every turn.  As they quietly accepted that they had none of the rights that other committed couples shared. I wondered if they did the same dance over and over for each situation they encountered, or did they vary the steps sometimes.

I keep coming back to the last statement “the eloquent gentleman” made about J and J.  He said, “Jim and Joe have taught us all how to live our lives.”  As I shout “Amen” to that, I realize the answer to my pondering in the last paragraph.  Sometimes these wonderful human beings danced a waltz.  Some days they did the twist.  There must have been days when the hokie pokie seemed appropriate.

Now that I think about it, I doubt their dances were ever frenzied.  And the type of dance is irrelevant.  Whatever the dance, they did it together and with purpose.

One step at a time.

Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most. ~ Benjamin Disraeli

Yesterday I drove to Daughter # 1’s house to pick up my granddaughter.  We had a dinner date.  I got there a little early so I got out of the car and walked around the yard snapping photos while I waited for her to get home.  My daughter and her family have a most marvelous yard–a Garden of Eden, if you will.  Except there’s no apple tree as far as I know.  Of course that apple notion we’ve been fed all these years is probably wrong.  I read somewhere that it would more likely have been a pomegranate in that part of the world.  I tell you all this in order to say that the photos in this post were all taken in the aforementioned beautiful yard.  There are all manner of little treasures peeking through the leaves.


As I drove to get my granddaughter A, I passed a man walking up the sidewalk.  He walked at a snail’s pace because he required a walker with wheels.  Needless to say the going was slow.  I remember thinking how much I admired his grit–the busy street must have been a bit daunting.  As I was retracing my route and heading toward our favorite restaurant, I saw the same man still walking.  I said to A, “Holy cow!  Look at that guy!  He’s walked a couple of miles or more since I last saw him.”  Then we talked about what might have incapacitated him– a stroke, a heart attack ???–and how brave he was to keep going, determined to get strong again.

I have thought about that gentleman a great deal in the past twenty-four hours.  He reminds me of the many wounded people (including me) who are trying, one step at a time, to heal.  Some wounds are physical, some are emotional.  All are serious to the one who is suffering.  Some heal quickly, some not so much; all of us heal a step at a time, a day at a time.

Sometimes my little cell phone camera seems to have a mind of its own.  I inadvertently took this picture of my foot stepping firmly toward the next colorful exhibit that caught my eye.  I started to delete it and thought better of it.  I shall keep it to remind me to keep on stepping.  It also reminds me of how far I’ve come since D-Day.  (I read a  number of blogs by people, male and female, who are recovering from separation, divorce, infidelity, etc., and many of them refer to it as D-Day.  It’s appropriate, I guess.)  We’re all recovering at different rates, but the good news is that we’re all recovering.  Each day gets a little better.

We shall overcome…

We are not afraid, we are not afraid,     We are not afraid today;                       Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,       We are not afraid today.  ~ One of many verses from “We Shall Overcome”

For a number of years I have been gathering with a small group of womenfolk on Martin Luther King weekend.  We chose this weekend because we were all teachers and we were looking for an extended weekend when we didn’t have to work.  Only one of us is still teaching and the rest of us have either retired or moved on to better-paying jobs.  Statistically we are in step with the general American population in that three of our six are divorced.  That’s actually the reason the one is still teaching.  What she thought her retirement would be was not to be.  The three of us who are divorced were “let go” in almost identical circumstances–our husbands were in their fifties and thought the grass was greener elsewhere.

This year we went to Carolina Beach where we were wined and dined and gently cared for by our gracious and talented host T.  Some people are naturally generous and giving and T is one of those.  Thank you, T.

There were only five of us this year.  One of us was unable to attend because of a tragic loss in her family.  We missed her and discussed her and tried to send her strength with our thoughts.  It’s what we do with each other and for each other.  We try to overcome together the obstacles life deals us, both large and small.

We shall overcome.

Thank you, Martin Luther King, Jr.  And thank you, Joan Baez, for expressing the message so beautifully.

Things don’t make me happy.

I don’t need … things to make me happy.  A nice quiet place to unwind at the end of the day, beautiful views, a few good friends.  What else is there? ~ Nicholas Sparks

I chuckle as I look at the beginnings of this post.  First the title approached me all on its own.  Days later I found this quote which seemed to support the title.  Then I remembered Dr. Seuss’s “things” and I couldn’t resist bringing them along.  I think they lend levity to what could be a serious, even heavy, topic.  My love of Dr. Seuss grows day by day.  Who else has consistently encouraged children (and their parents) to make up a word that sounds right when you can’t think of an appropriate, existing word?  Love it!

Back to the topic at hand.  For several months I have been thinking about my years of accumulating “things.”  Why did I ever imagine I needed so much stuff?  And why do I keep things I no longer use? (I can honestly say I’m making progress on this one.)  When I moved here I was aware that one person didn’t need this much space but I  needed room for my stuff.

I spent a great deal of time alone when we lived in the mountains and I often got very lonely.  I would go shopping just to get out of the house.  And the house was so big that I could always find a new rug, a piece of pottery, a painting to enhance its appearance.  I occasionally bought clothing, but more often it was something for my showplace of a house.  It’s as if I were trying to fix a gaping wound with a band-aid.  (I got that last sentence from my oldest daughter.)  There was a hole in my soul and I was trying to fill it in all the wrong ways.

Now as I sift through my belongings I feel sad, embarrassed, greedy, overwhelmed, selfish.  I could go on with the adjectives without even consulting a thesaurus.  Suffice to say I don’t like who I was, but I’m now making positive changes.  I cringe when I think about those years and realize I could have been supporting several third world families on the money I spent on stuff.  What was I thinking?!

So here I sit in a house that is less than half the size of the previous one, yet it’s still big enough for a family of five or six.  (Talk about a carbon footprint!  Egad!)  I’m trying to bide my time until the real estate market rebounds so I can sell this place and find a more appropriate home.  I try not to think about the fact that the money could have been better invested since I truly believe I did the best I could under the circumstances and given the emotional trauma and pain I was in at the time.

I think I’m finally on the right track.  I consider very carefully before I buy anything.  I make better choices than I once did.  I don’t buy things for the house.  The house and I are becoming happier as the clutter decreases.  They say that it sometimes takes a jolt, a shock, even a tragedy to force a needed change on some people, so I guess they’re talking about me.  As I inch toward the person I really am, the person I’m meant to be, the trauma and pain continue to diminish.  One day, maybe I’ll be able to look back and thank D for this divorce.

Writing this caused me to cry a little, but not too much.  And now I feel better.  If you’ve read this far, thank you.

Ego–his, hers, mine.

…I made a conscious effort to think like a person who doesn’t put himself at the head of the universe. ~ Sam, in “Skipped Parts” by Tim Sandlin

I’ve been thinking about this post for quite some time.  I’ve done a little research on “ego vs. healthy self-esteem.”  Little is the key word here. I even listened to a Q&A session with Eckhart Tolle in which he discussed this topic.  I find him rather difficult to listen to even though I do respect his writing and his opinions.  There is a great deal of information “out there” about ego.  So much, in fact, that my mind got boggled by it all.  Alright, I admit it, it doesn’t take a great deal of something to rattle my brain.  I read a little and came to the conclusion that my opinion is just as valid as some of those I read online.  Hehe.  How’s that for ego?  Or is that self-esteem?

  • self-esteem–How much you respect and accept yourself.  Your concept of how worthy, valuable, lovable and capable you are in society.
  • ego–An inflated opinion of yourself often accompanied by a belief that you are superior to others.

I’ve been trying to understand how or whether ego contributes to or causes divorce.  I think it could do both.  (I’m in way over my head here and I’m trying to find a graceful way out.)  The best I can tell, healthy self-esteem is a good thing.  Ego is not.  And if my self-esteem goes too far in either direction, the ego takes over.  Once my ego takes over, I do things that are not good for me.  If what I’m doing is not good for me, then it’s probably not good for my relationships.

So…When D started to have an affair with S, he started avoiding and neglecting me.  Over a period of time his inattention eroded my self-esteem.  Once my self-esteem became wounded (unhealthy), I started acting in a way that further damaged our relationship and our marriage.  That’s one scenario.  Another might be that I was already operating on too much ego and that might have been the reason he strayed.  Or maybe not.  I don’t really like that scenario.  (Ego?)

Bottom line–I can’t analyze, in retrospect, the ego of D, nor of S, nor even my own with any degree of accuracy.  Therefore this exercise in self-esteem/ego is a waste of time.  To quote an elderly priest D and I used to listen to when we were on the road together: “It matters not how the donkey got in the ditch.  Just get him out.”

I hereby promise myself that I will give up the search for what caused it and just get myself out of the ditch.  I mean it!

All the wrong reasons.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

All the Wrong Reasons                                                                                                       ~ Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne

Trouble blew in on a cold dark wind
It came without no warning
And that big ol’ house went up for sale
They were on the road by morning
Oh, the days went slow, into the changing season
Oh, out in the cold, for all the wrong reasons

Well she grew up hard and she grew up fast
In the age of television
And she made a vow to have it all
It became her new religion
Oh, down in her soul, it was an act of treason
Oh, down they go for all the wrong reasons

Where the sky begins the horizon ends
Despite the best intentions
And a big ol’ man goes up for sale
He becomes his own invention
Oh, the days go slow into the changing season
Oh, bought and sold, for all the wrong reasons
Oh, down they go for all the wrong reasons

This song has taken up residence in my brain.  Not just the tune, but the words as well.  Some singer/songwriter poems stand alone.  Bob Dylan’s and Leonard Cohen’s work, for example.  Those guys are true poets in my opinion.  This one by Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne needs to be sung.  With the music, the Oh becomes Oh, oh, oh, oh.  But even when I quadruple the word, reading it doesn’t strike the same chord (no pun intended) as when TP sings it.  I want to share it with you to find out if others feel the same way.  Click here to listen.

I’ve tried for days to figure out what I’m supposed to learn here, if anything.  It has caused me to reflect in a way that I wouldn’t have, had my daughter not given me the CD for Christmas.  I wonder how much of what we do when we’re young do we do with intention and logic and an eye to the greater good.  It’s not that I think I had sinister motives ever; it’s just that I wasn’t mature/experienced enough to understand the far-reaching consequences of my decisions.  I think the same is true of most people; and in particular, I give that bit of grace to D, my ex-husband.