Appearances

Testing social waters –
that cherished state of interaction –
prone to revealing too much

have been homebound,
studying life without a facilitator,
now attempting to penetrate invisibility

gathering the salvageable bits –
minimal fragments of a once whole woman,
reaching out, reconnecting, reception mixed

much has passed me by –
no amount of homework can undo
this loss of sharpness, this dependent state

as achievement focused as ever –
would go back to work – my heart space –
if illness had not deemed me redundant

must be selective in sharing –
am met with disregard, my story, like a gunshot,
causes others to duck, glaze over, lack of scarring

a disappointment for those expecting
acts of heroism – scars command respect –
metaphors telling a linear story – my journey

not marked by projected deadlines –
origins of disease unknown, defies medical
knowledge, research lacking – I am estranged

who dares to question beyond the trembling
exterior, behold the opportunity that blesses me,
witness the gift of joy that comes with re-evaluation

when character overcomes strife,
and simplicity replaces frenetic ambition –
the outcome of enrolment in this life class.

(Appearances was penned in December, 2016, after two and half years of being primarily bed bound with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.  As I gradually gained strength, my doctor suggested that I might attempt a few social outings.  What I had to talk about, when I had been out of the loop for so long, weighed heavily on my mind, as well as the fact that I have a little known disease – difficult for others to relate to.

Featured image is an original watercolour, Dreamy Coast

I submit this edited version for my weekly challenge: character.  To participate, just clink on the link. Thanks for reading.)

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Art: Still Learning

In art class, we are given carbon copies of the images to paint which is helpful for developing techniques, but I want my art, like my poetry, to be original, so even though I am a novice I have been working from photographs.

preening.jpgIn my last post about painting with watercolours, I showed my first attempt at painting on my own.  I had titled the photo “Preening”, and thought that the simple lines of the duck would make him a perfect subject.  My error was in trying to recreate the photograph instead of using it as a starting point.  The finished product was unsatisfactory, as the left hand side of the painting was too busy.

bunnyinsettingsun

My next attempt was to recreate this scene of the bunny in the light of the setting sun.  Sketching the bunny was easy as the lines are simple enough, but I got caught up in the details of the background and the bush in the forefront all of which did not translate well in the final product.

rabbitpaintingSo, I started again, leaving out the bush in front and concentrating on the bunny, leaving the background to the audience’s imagination.  I was pleased with the outcome of this painting, although the colours are subtle.  I think this picture is worth revisiting – pretty sure the grandchildren would like this one.

I learn as I go.  I tried a series of water birds, concentrating on adding more colour.  Some worked, some offered a lesson in how to proceed next time.  Then I shifted my focus to mountains, and while I loved working with the shadows and blending colours of the rock, the final image revealed a woman’s naked back and butt cheeks (I won’t subject you to the image).  So that piece is now my colour tester.

birdnwaterMore than anything, I am loving the process.  It is calming to work with colour.  To watch the painting take form is pleasurable.  I have a sense of accomplishment at the end of it all – something that does not happen as often since I became ill.

My latest attempt was inspired by this sweet pic I took at a nearby park.  The female grackle is having such a good time perched at the top of the little waterfall that I couldn’t resist.  I was pleased with how the photo turned out and equally pleased with how the image translated in watercolour.

ParkartArt, for me, continues to instruct life:

Keep it simple.
Let go of perfectionism.
Love the process.

Hope you have a full and creative day!

 

 

Life Tests and Lessons

images-2Going over old blog posts, I came across one from March of 2015 in which I considered the lessons or tests that ME/CFS made me face and how I was faring.  Since these challenges are not exclusive to my disease, I thought I might share them here, hopefully to inspire personal reflection.  As for myself, they provide a format for comparison, to measure how much I have progressed in the almost three years since I first wrote about them.

Test #1Can you find a reason to get out of bed when you’ve lost your ability to work, and no one needs or expects anything from you?

Amazingly, the spirit adapts, and finds new purpose for living, although my daily goals are much more simplified than post-disease lists.

Test #2Who are you when many relationships have gone by the wayside?

My doctor warned me early on that friends would drop out of my life, and that I would need to distance myself from others.  What has emerged over the ensuing years is a handful of friends who enrich my life in ways I might never have appreciated before. Some of my friendships are here, on-line.  The need for people does not diminish, however; the parameters do.  I don’t go for weekend shopping trips with friends anymore, but I can now do lunch again.

Test #3Loss of brain power:  brain fog, confusion, and memory loss.

images-1This is my number one frustration, and causes the most arguments between my husband and I.  My mind, while faulty, still clings to a sense of righteousness.  It cannot see the fallacy of its processing, and I often think I’m right when I am way off base.  I will think “on” but say “off”, or misuse a word.  Directions are useless.  I get angry with myself.  This test, I continue to fail.

Test #4: What happens when you no longer have the energy to make optimal life choices?

Guilt is one of the first things I had to overcome when I became ill.   Prior to illness, I followed a healthy diet, and was conscious of keeping my activity levels up.  Now, restricted to around 1500 steps a day, my priorities have changed.  I do the best I can, with what I have.

Test #5Living with restricted energy.

Three years ago, I could only be out of bed for short periods of time (15 -20 minutes.)  Now, I am able to sit up longer, and manage about a total of 4-6 hours per day.  Using my energy wisely continues to be a challenge.  For example, I can cook dinner, and maybe even sit up to eat it, but then I will not be able to clean up, nor join Ric for TV afterwards.  Now that we are travelling, we have to be more careful about how I parcel my energy.  Ric continues to do the grocery shopping, and helps with meals, and we make getting out for drives and sight-seeing the priority.

Test #6How to stop worrying about others.

Idle time does play havoc with the mind.  I have had to learn to let go of guilt and recognize that I do what I can for others, but am not responsible for them.  Worry, in general, just seems to be part of this disease.  I lock onto a concern and my mind will not let go.  Meditation and affirmations do help.

Test #7Keeping hope alive.

This is getting easier.  There were times when I just couldn’t see my way through.  Now I know that when I am struck down for a few days or weeks, it will pass.  At least, I hope.

Test #8:  Compliance

Confession:  it is not in my personality to be compliant.  When I was four and my mother said: “Never stick your finger in a socket,” I did it.  When Dad said: “If I ever catch you smoking, I’ll kill you,” I went and bought cigarettes. I hate being told what to do, so sometimes I just don’t.  I don’t always take my meds.  Sometimes, I keep going even when my body shouts:  “Stop!”   I hate compliance.

I’ve added a new life test this year, of course:  Can I manage this disease while travelling?

What life tests are you facing?  Are you acing them, or like some of mine, are they ongoing lessons?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions From the Sickbed

Before illness, I counted
days and hours,
not out of drudgery –
I had stretched myself
beyond normal limitations.

Before illness, I wore
responsibility like a hero
and defined by work,
prioritized tasks
above well-being.

Before illness, I joked
about the disabled,
lounging around,
living the life of leisure,
usurping the system.

Before illness, I prided
myself on saying ‘yes’,
being dependable,
loyal to a fault,
thought I was invincible.

As health faded, I trudged
from doctor to doctor,
undergoing tests
and humiliation,
learned to doubt myself.

As health faded, I chastised
myself for being overweight,
and not exercising enough,
and stopped eating carbs
and pushed further.

As health faded, I ignored
my body, failed to set
boundaries, continued
to eat on the run,
shame intensifying.

As health faded, guilt
consumed me –
for the compromises
I had to make, the failure
to meet so many obligations.

Now ill, I value
priorities, recognizing
that well-being proceeds
well-doing, and that
my body has a voice.

Now ill, I’ve learned
that richness is a quality
of living and not a figure
in a bank balance.
Happiness, the same.

Now ill, discernment
decides my relationships,
no longer willing
to negate self
to please others.

Now ill, I don’t pretend
nor strive to meet
the standards that fail
to sustain me;
I’m learning to be.

Now ill, I see
with compassion
how insecurity,
and longing for approval
drove me to demise.

Now ill, I pray
that wisdom and humility
will guide my recovery
and that life will await
this metamorphosis in me.

(This post is in response to The Daily Post prompt:  confess.  It is an edited version of the poem by the same name that first appeared on One Woman’s Quest in December of 2015.)

 

 

 

Paranoia Will Destroy Ya

Can’t remember the last time I had the luxury of a full night’s sleep –
not blessed with an eight-hour bladder – and when I got up for my nightly trudge to the bathroom I noticed a light under the closed bedroom door. As I approached, the light went out and my heart stopped.th

My husband lay sound asleep on his side of the bed, and since no one else lives with us, the only people who could have turned off that light were on my side of the door.

What to do?  I tried to calm my heart’s pounding enough to listen for the intruder, but of course, I couldn’t.  The blood throbbing in my eardrums deafened me to outside noises.

I weighed my options.

A younger me would burst through the door, take command of the situation (such bravado) and oust the invader.  But I am neither young, nor strong.

So I sidled back to bed and perched on the edge, programmed my phone to call for help at the touch of a button.

Waiting for further proof was excruciating.  I put on my glasses and tiptoed to the window that overlooks the driveway.  No sign of life.  th-1

Did he come on foot?  I wondered.  My mind flashed to the series of recent visits we’d had from an odd character who strolls the sidewalks of our end of town on an endless mission for what, we cannot fathom.  He has taken to ringing our doorbell when he passes, having happened to catch us outside one day and striking up conversation.  He never says much, just asks the odd question which leaves us all startled.

The last time he showed up, I jokingly said to my husband that maybe he was scouting out the place to come back and rob us.

Now, in the pitch black of night, the possibility seemed more than real.

I couldn’t stand the tension – had to know.  th-2

Armed with the phone, I crept to the door, where once again I could see the thin line of light shining from the other side.  With one finger poised over the dial button, I opened the door abruptly hoping the element of surprise would be in my favour.

The light switched off again and we were plunged back into darkness.  I held up my glowing phone and as my eyes adjusted to the dimness, I realized I was alone.

Had he escaped to the basement?  I was not willing to venture into the basement!

I checked the front door for signs of entry, but it was securely locked.  I did the same with the side door – still bolted.  I stood at the top of the stairs and listened, but was already feeling the foolishness of my terror, when light flooded the front room again.

A bus had gone by.

Every time a bus goes by it sets off our motion-activated front porch light, which normally is imperceptible from the back of the house, except when we leave the front window blinds up.

Feeling foolish, and now fully awake, I returned to bed and pondered what had just happened.

I was certain we were being robbed at the very least, and had built myself up to a possible assault or worse.

I had almost called 9-1-1.

Of course, I didn’t get back to sleep for sometime – the adrenaline now coursing through my body – but my mind now eased, I was not immune to the lesson of the moment:th-3

It is so easy to jump to conclusions – rationality blinded by fear – and without the clarity of calmness, it is human nature to revert to defensive mode, which sometimes translates to violence.

I am a senior, living with disability, and I was ready to plunge head first into confrontation to protect my home.  No rationality to be found there.

That is the power, and danger, of fear.

 

Life Lesson Rant

I get that this illness thing may be part of higher learning;
a divinely inspired gift to awaken my soul, but really?th
My resume is already humongous – I am over-animated
with life experiences.  Okay, okay, so we are co-creators,

make life choices, must be engaged in the process, but what
kind of school is this, and when did I sign up, and are there

any perimeters?  Pardon all the ranting – I am homebound
looking for the exit ramp….
th-2
If this is a life course, at what point do I earn my degree?
(Full disclosure: it would be one heavy-assed qualifier)

Or, is this a group assignment, testing our team dynamics,
sustainable vibrancy? To what extent must I put in effort

to earn leave?  I’ve been putting myself out there – okay,
maybe with some exaggeration, and tongue-in-cheek, will

admit that there have been promotions – the overall colour
of my life a much more palatable hue than in the past – am

not alone on this journey, just want clarity for the grind,
would like to know where to draw the line for personal

hope before I get smacked down again –
hate to be disappointed….
th-1

The Risks of Playing in Traffic

Go play in traffic, kids! was a favourite direction of one of my aunt’s.  This particular aunt was snarly, often critical, and never filtered in her commentary on life.  Her favourite point of contention was how spoiled we children were, how unappreciative, etc.  She also frequently threatened to move to Alaska to get away from us all. th

As a child, I never knew how to respond to such commentary.  I sensed that she didn’t like us (although she doted on my baby sister), and I also understood that being respectful to our elders was expected, but was I just supposed to take it?

As an adult, I am able to see that this aunt lived a miserable life.  She was gay in a time when it was considered criminal, so she had no hope of ever living an authentic life.  She fed her bitterness with alcohol, which didn’t help.  At times, she could be funny, and despite her harsh words, generous.  She was an enigma.

She was also like a fifth sister in our household, being a younger sibling of my father’s and having no family of her own.  She fell into the role of eldest child, organized bathroom schedules for extended family gatherings, played the crazy old man from Laugh In at our birthday parties, and led the Christmas tradition of who could get drunk first and pass out under the coffee table.  (She and my father competed in this game.)

We had a love/hate relationship right up until her death, and I think of her often.  Especially that comment:  Go play in traffic, kids!

The thing is, despite the callousness of this wish, it was like we were playing in traffic all the time.  Aunt was just one element of the confusion that reigned in my childhood home.  The adults, who were supposed to be building a healthy, stable home life to support our growing up years, were busy trying to come to grips with their own addictions, failures, and sufferings.  For all intents and purposes, they were partying on the sidewalks, while we kids were wandering the streets looking for fun and distraction.  At four years of age, I ‘d already figured out it was safer outside the home than in.  th-1

I played a lot in traffic:  bike riding, street hockey, skipping – as did many kids in our generation.  Parents were seldom in sight.  I can’t help but think that the lessons learned in these times helped shaped my character.

My offspring are parents now, and I can say with certainty that their children do not play in traffic.  Well, not literally.  They have found a much more sophisticated avenue of danger:  the internet.  At four and five years of age, these little ones are more tech savvy then I, and have already figured out how to unlock password guarded access.th-2

While parents are much more present than generations before, children continue to be exposed to vulnerable situations.  I can look back on my life and appreciate the lessons I learned (the hard way), will today’s children be able to do the same?

Or is the traffic just too risky?