Status: Ouch

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  1. December 2015 I had emergency surgery for a strangulated (AKKKRGHGGK) hernia. In March or April the hernia “recurred,” so I had it fixed again in December.
  2. Either my hernia has re-recurred or I’m growing a penis and it’s lopsided.
  3. Okay, now picture this: I’m laminating cover pages in my bedroom. The laminator is on the dresser and the laminating sheets are lying on the bed. It’s too dark to see what I’m doing, so I stretch my arm up to turn on the fan light, can’t reach it, climb onto the bed, stand up with one foot on the laminating sheets, and as soon as I put my weight on it, the laminating sheet and I slip right off the bed like a ski jumper, I crash-land on my tailbone, and I crack my head and elbow on the edge of the door. My head is bleeding and a nice lump is forming— just about the size of the brain of a person who would put her weight on a pile of laminating sheets. This is maybe half an hour ago. My head and arm don’t hurt any more but my back is killing me. (It’s okay to laugh.)

    Victorian Lady

    Victorian Lady III, John O’brien, AllPosters.com

  4. I doubt that I can get in to see the surgeon tomorrow. I don’t know what they do if a hernia repair fails more than once.  It would be easier if it were a penis. They could just lop it off (sorry, guys), plus I’d be a celebrity. Tabloids would pay big money for my story. Wouldn’t they? Or is growing a penis something that happens to 70-year-old women all the time these days, what with GMO crops and all? You just don’t hear about it because what woman wants the world to know her hormones are that out of balance? A little unwanted facial hair, deepening of the voice, we expect those things, but if I’ve got enough rogue testosterone to grow a penis, then I want some of the benefits, too: hit the ball farther off the tee… bench-press my weight (whatever that means)….
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Doing More-O with Pomodoro?

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How to Use The Pomodoro Technique in Your Business by Dale Beaumont – See more at: http://www.chan-naylor.com.au/latestnews/how-to-use-the-pomodoro-technique-in-your-business/#sthash.fXWREiQt.dpuf

My Next New Thing: a variation on the Pomodoro Technique.

You can read the book (surely there’s a book) or you can try the technique on your own—basically, work 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break, and repeat.

I use my iPhone timer. Sometimes I ignore it when it goes off, which (obviously) defeats the purpose. But sometimes I stick to the rules, and that’s usually the better choice.

If you have ADD or ADHD, Pomodoro can help you focus and prevent hyperfocusing—a huge problem for me. I get sucked into stuff—often my website, which is lots of fun but really doesn’t require the hours and hours and hours I spend on it. When a project takes hold of me, I break all the rules. I slouch, grind my teeth, forget to eat… feel the guilt but do it anyway… and worst of all, I ignore the work I ought to be doing. When it taps at my consciousness—”Hey, Kiddo [it calls me Kiddo], you were going to Skype your grandson at 4:30″—I turn into the Cosmic Queen of Self-Deception. I’m so good at rationalizing, I almost have God convinced.

In a single day of using Pomodoro—sloppily, it must be said, but still—I put six items up on eBay, went to physical therapy and actually got there on time, did a half-hour phone interview with a client, drafted a summary of the interview, and made a pot of potato-cheese-broccoli soup.

To say the eBay-ing was “critical” is no exaggeration. Having spent most of the month of May carelessly, with little or no attention to my budget, my health-and-wellness habits (in no particular order: eating, sleeping, breathing, hydrating, exercising, socializing, meditating, and so on), or my long-term goals, all I had to show for it was a negative bank balance, an empty refrigerator, and a nagging headache. Selling on eBay is one of the few ways I know of to bring in a bit of emergency cash.

Once I published the items on eBay, I tended them like a helicopter mom, but worse—beyond following their progress, I frequently jumped in and steered them in new directions. Changed descriptions. Took new photos and replaced the old ones. Added a refund policy. Revised my shipping policy. Tweeted them. Posted them to Pinterest, of which I have little knowledge and less experience.

Response, on the part of eBay prospective buyers, has been tepid. Aloof. Uninterested. Unsatisfactory—though all items are in great shape and priced between $3 and $10—in each case, lower than the competition. Should I take this personally?

Please take a look. Trash them if you like, comment on them if you’re feeling generous, buy them if they’re calling your name. Meanwhile, may God bless you and prosper you while, at the same time, not forgetting about me down here in line at the food pantry. –MMC

Sleeveless silk top size M

Sleeveless silk top, size M

YMI women's skinny jeans, size 9

YMI skinny jeans size 9

Lace & embroidery women's top size 8

Lace and embroidery top size 8

Penguin T-shirt

Munsingwear Penguin T-shirt size L

Silk dress

Jones New York silk dress size 6

Mossimo Skinny Boyfriend distressed blue jeans size 8

Mossimo Skinny Boyfriend distressed blue jeans size 8

More Water, Less Suboxone

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Suboxone report

—About three weeks ago (on a Sunday, or I would have called the doc) I was sure the stuff had just stopped working. The comparative peace of mind I’d been enjoying just sort of… vanished in a reign of terror. I sweated, I fevered, I anxietized… but I had the presence of mind to google What’s a girl to do when her Suboxone leaves her in the lurch? Better to take more Suboxone—up to four films—than swallow extra Xanax? That’s what I thought I read.

One film is 8 milligrams of buprenorphine and 2 milligrams of naloxone. My usual dose—which had served me well till then—was one-and-a-half films a day. I’ve tried to eliminate Xanax altogether, but I haven’t gotten there—close, but not yet zero. I’ve taken Adderall for ADHD going on twenty-five years now. Never have I been more committed to healthful living, for my own sake and for yours, dear friends. But glitchus interruptus….

On that Sunday, mid–panic attack, Hysteria Mary was pretty sure I was going to die anyway, but Sane Mary wouldn’t allow me to take more of either drug than seemed safe, allowing for some distortion in my judgment. Over the next several days, the panic subsided, but the nagging fear remained that I’d run out of Suboxone before my next doc appointment. I slipped into the doctor’s office on Thursday, fairly sure she’d supplement the predicted shortage. I was wrong. So for the next few weeks I’m restricted to three-fourths of a film per day—half the usual dose. So far, I’m doing okay. Which just goes to show….

If you’re uneasy about Suboxone, check out “Dying to Be Free” in the Huffington Post….

One new thing…

My one-thing-a-day pledge stands firm. Today’s revelation: A glass of cold water upon awakening. I’d read this advice in a few places—the Universe getting my attention. Here’s what one source has to say:

One of the best things you can do after you wake up: drink at least 16oz (500mL) of water. Water fires up your metabolism, hydrates you, helps your body flush out toxins, gives your brain fuel, and may even make you eat less.

From the blog “A Life of Productivity“….

Read my Prayer for Health and Harmony and check out my website’s new prayer pages….

God bless you daily, hourly, minutely, nanosecondly….

 

 

Wheel of Spiritual Practices

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WHEEL OF SPIRITUAL PRACTICES (wheel A—Click at left for full-size PDF)

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A. Wheel of Spiritual Practices

I promised to do “one new thing a day” for well-being—mine, yours, the planet’s, the universe’s, and that of other universes we might not know about. Why not reach for the stars, literally, if I’m going to reach at all? I concede that “well-being” in one universe might not be a different universe’s cup of tea. Maybe in some other cosmos, sentient beings appreciate all things strange, perverse, and upside-down. If my “one new thing” disturbs their equilibrium, I suppose they’ll let me know. Meanwhile, I’ll keep on keeping on.

 

 

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B. Holistic Wellness Dimensions

 

Above you’ll see a link to a “wheel of spiritual practices” my pastor gave me. We’re not sure where it originated. Searching online for it or something similar, I came across “the holistic wellness dimensions” (wheel B, at left, from www.richs.com).

For today’s ONE NEW THING, I chose the following from wheel A:

COMFORT OF THE FAMILIAR: Enjoyment of familiar traditions and rituals.

When I wake up in the morning, I flop and flail about for an hour or so with no particular direction, no plan, no objective for the day or the hour or the next five minutes. ADHD readers, you know the feeling. So what could be easier or more satisfying than an evening ritual at a predetermined time, when I summon my unruly feelings and emotions—panic, self-reproach (for all I meant to do but didn’t), self-pity, powerlessness—and combine setting tomorrow’s agenda with a brief candle-gazing meditation?

I’m not sure whether I should do the agenda-setting before or after the candle-gazing. I’ll try it both ways, but tonight I’m going to do the candle part first. I’ll let you know which way works better for me. Any suggestions?

RITUAL: LIGHTING MY PATH

Light a candle in a dark room and gaze at it for five minutes or so. If attention wanders, lead it gently back to the flame. (SAFETY TIP: First remove nearby wads of Kleenex, kerosene-soaked rags, small children.)

Set intentions for tomorrow—not a detailed agenda, just a few urgent and big-picture items. Examples: (1) Find out how much I’m overdrawn and sell possessions on eBay for which proceeds might cover overdraft. (2) Get in touch with friends I feel guilty about neglecting. Do not combine (1) and (2), attempting to borrow money from long-lost friends. It’s tacky and it will exacerbate the guilt.

I’m not above suggesting, however, that if you, dear reader, have been thinking about writing a résumé, this is the ideal time to seek my help, especially at the low introductory rate of $42.50 (through June 2016). Check out my website for heaps of résumé suggestions and my contact information.

Meanwhile, dear friends, may God bless your endeavors and be patient with your flailing….

 

 

One Thing Every Day

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MAY 2016—I’m 68 and starting over, girls and boys, in every way but puberty. Three months ago—about two years after quitting heavy-duty prescription opioids cold turkey—I started on Suboxone. I’m still broke (“flat-busted,” as Mom used to say), living on less than a thousand dollars a month. I’m still weak from years of addiction, from December’s hernia surgery, and from fighting chronic pain. But here’s the thing: God is good, my mind is clear, and Love and Gratitude are more than Sunday-morning words again. So I’m picking up where I left off—starting with this shabby old neglected blog—and I’m promising that I will do one thing every day toward my well-being and yours, fellow citizens of Planet Earth. Here’s some recent history, to let you know how deep down we were and how far we’ve already come….

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“Ladies in the Garden,” by American Impressionist Frederick Childe Hassam via Rebel Foster on Pinterest

UP FROM ZERO ALTITUDE

RIGHT NOW, I’M GOING TO SPEND exactly fifteen seconds wishing that I could take a mulligan on August 23, 2010. Yes, I really would like a do-over for the day I decided my life would be better with the help of a minuscule amount of a perfectly legal prescription painkiller.

I did have pain, and it did interfere with my making a living, cooking a meal, cleaning the bathroom, going to church, and playing bridge with friends on Thursday evenings once a month. When I took one Vicodin tablet—the lowest strength available (5 milligrams of hydrocodone with 300 milligrams of Tylenol)—I could work, cook, clean, and socialize, and I could do those things within twenty minutes of swallowing a nifty little pill. Was it the worst decision I ever made? Would I unmake it?

I used to pretend I could. I call it the “I Want My Old Life Back” shuffle, and when I catch myself doing it, quick as a bunny I latch on to a more realistic fantasy, like winning one of those Rhine River cruises or being elected Supreme World Ruler. If I really believed that taking opioids ruined my life, then the rest of my life would amount to nothing more than fine-tuning my obituary.

The Reverend T. Merton Rymph once preached a sermon titled “Don’t Let the Second-Worst Thing That Ever Happened to You Become the Worst Thing That Ever Happened to You.” A mega-mistake might be that perfectly awful second-worst thing, but it’s the guilt and regret that can literally kill you.

Is my fifteen seconds up? Thank God!

The first year

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“Lady in the Park,” by Frederick Childe Hassam, 1897, courtesy of Rebel Foster on Pinterest

It was a long time before I got whomped with the magnitude of that mistake. I was living in Omaha when I injured my spine and started taking small amounts of Vicodin—5 or 10 milligrams a day, three to five days a week. Dr. Schmidt was stingy with painkillers. Then I moved to Tucson and got assigned to Dr. Ross. If Dr. Schmidt was the Ebenezer Scrooge of narcotic prescribers, Dr. Ross was Santa Claus and all his little helper elves. For almost three years, she did everything she could to keep me abundantly medicated and almost nothing to keep me healthy.

 

An opioid is a drug derived from opium—natural, synthetic, or semisynthetic. Morphine, codeine, heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl are opioids. The strength of these drugs is sometimes measured in morphine equivalence. For example, fifteen milligrams of oxycodone equals ten milligrams of morphine.

I left Omaha with a prescription for 30 Vicodin tablets a month, equivalent to 5 milligrams of morphine daily. The first week I was in Tucson, Dr. Ross started me on 60 milligrams of oxycodone (equal to 40 milligrams of morphine) a day. Do the math: One day, 8 times the narcotics. But Dr. Ross wasn’t done making me comfortable. I still had pain. She couldn’t wait to get me on the fentanyl patch—plus, not instead of the oxycodone.

Less than a year later, between the patch and the pills, I was taking the equivalent of 450 milligrams of morphine every day. In eleven months she increased my opioid intake by a factor of 90, with never a cautionary word. One pharmacist questioned the dose, as did a few friends, who pointed out that I sometimes fell asleep standing up and didn’t I think I had a problem?

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“The Flower Garden,” by American Impressionist Louis Ritman, c. 1913, courtesy of Larry Rubin on Pinterest

Dr. Ross told me to show my MRIs and CT scans to the naysayers. She also gave me a copy of the criteria for addiction drawn up by the American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organization. According to these guidelines I wasn’t an addict, she said, because I didn’t take more than the prescribed amount, I didn’t lie about my drug use, I wasn’t experiencing negative consequences, and I wasn’t demonstrating bizarre behavior. Actually, negative consequences were quietly piling up and gathering interest in a sort of reserve account, the way sun worshipers accumulate cell damage that down the road might show up as skin cancer.

 

A word about bizarre behavior: In 2012 I bought a pickup truck and rickety camper in preparation for a coast-to-coast peripatetic-minstrel sort of spiritual road show. While I was in my room planning my itinerary and writing songs and creating children’s activities, on two or three occasions a semitransparent woman who looked like Dorothy Parker wearing orthopedic shoes and a pillbox hat showed up with three young male assistants. She fed me material for my songs and the young men sat at desks doing something with data on old-school adding machines. Once she brought my mother-in-law, who had been dead for eight or ten years. I saw all this as divine approbation for my elaborate plans. Every month, when Dr. Ross dutifully asked if I were having hallucinations, I said, “Nope. Not a one.” I swear, it did not for a single moment occur to me that the extraterrestrial support from Dorothy and her pals was anything but God’s way of saying, “You go, Girl!”

Every month, Dr. Ross asked if I were still having pain. I always had pain. It was tolerable, but Dr. Ross seemed dissatisfied with anything short of rapture. I never asked for more drugs. I didn’t have to. She was determined to banish every pang, prickle, sting, and itch from my universe. I still don’t understand it. She wasn’t a kid. She came well recommended and seemed to know exactly what she was doing. But she’s only one of a dozen health professionals I’ve worked with since 2011 who have an appallingly shallow understanding of opioid addiction and recovery.

The five-percent-distortion factor

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“Rose Slipper,” Richard Johnson, courtesy of Mina Jafari on Pinterest

How did I feel during my adventure in near-painlessness? I felt “normal”—plus five percent. I felt the way I was used to feeling, but a little more so. A tiny amount of distortion can create a mountain of misperception.

I’m always forgetting to clean my glasses. One day not long ago, talking with a friend in my apartment, I interrupted our conversation to ask him if he saw smoke. “It’s really smoky in here,” I said. I was really quite concerned. I jumped up and started opening windows, and he said, “When was the last time you cleaned your glasses?” Just to humor him, I got out the rubbing alcohol and cleaned my glasses. Voila! No more smoke.

Why didn’t I listen to the pharmacist or my friends? Why doesn’t anyone? Because she feels fine. Because her very-credible doctor is matter-of-factly handing her a prescription every month. Because she’s not suffering. Because deep down, in a place so secret she can’t find it, she knows that without the drugs she would experience great emotional pain.

I’m not a fan of suffering. I bet hardly anybody wakes up on a sunny Saturday morning and thinks, “Nice day. Too nice. I really don’t deserve it. I think I’ll try to do some suffering today.” But suffering has a point. It lets you know something’s wrong and lets your imagination go to work on changing it. Opioids block that signal. As long as you have the drug, you don’t need to do the self-assessment and the strategizing and the praying and the honest communicating and the meditating that would reveal and ultimately solve the problem that created the suffering. You just need to take a pill.

Please understand: I wasn’t on a three-year high. I felt happiness and sadness, anger and remorse, the usual emotions, just not the usual intensity or range. I viewed myself, other people, my circumstances, and the events in my life through that five-percent-distorted lens. The fentanyl and oxycodone acted like a Kevlar vest. A metaphorical bullet might metaphorically knock me down and break a metaphorical rib, but emotionally I wouldn’t bottom out.

Transition

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Dorothy and Ozma; illustration by John R. Neill from DOROTHY AND THE WIZARD IN OZ, by L. Frank Baum, 1908

I honestly can’t tell you why I decided to quit. Maybe it was partly because I’d been on the planet for 63 years before I took my first pain pill, not counting the stuff they give you when they pull your wisdom teeth or yank out your uterus. In all that time I learned some stuff that didn’t fall out of my head when drugs started changing the way my brain worked. Something in me knew that I was still putting one foot in front of the other but I’d stopped dancing.

So I did a little research, and I discovered that fentanyl is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 40 to 50 times more potent than pharmaceutical-grade (100-percent pure) heroin. I found out that most near-death cancer patients were taking lower opioid doses than I was.

At the time I quit, I was in my sixteenth month at what was technically a homeless shelter but was in actuality a swell deal—twelve women in a dormitory-style house built in 1927 for tuberculosis patients near the University of Arizona. The house smelled like old wood and chlorine bleach, as vintage houses do when thoroughly and rigorously cleaned and polished. It was the Downton Abbey of transitional shelters, though it wasn’t all that transitional; I could have stayed for two years with the option of applying for permanent residence.

Demographically, we were a motley crew. I was plain white bread. Everyone else was Hispanic or Navajo or Apache or black or Russian or gay or transsexual. Two women were on parole, at least two were on methadone therapy, and one was technically a man, but no one cared. She had her head on straight, and she was everybody’s favorite sister.

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My sunny new kitchen

When I first thought about quitting, I asked the former addicts how long I could expect to feel terrible. One said a few weeks; one said a few months. I guess I should have checked with people who weren’t on methadone, but it didn’t occur to me at the time. So on the strength of this dubious testimony, on a Sunday afternoon in late January 2014 I called a cab and checked myself into detox.

My advice for anyone who wants to shed a major drug habit is to first accumulate heaps of wealth. The only detox facility available to me was staffed by one nurse and a couple of nurse-assistants per shift. There were no physicians. Equally discomfiting, there was no heat. We had to wear scrubs and sleep on vinyl mattresses and go to meetings, and that was pretty much it. I left after a week.

Apart from the physical symptoms that take possession of your gastrointestinal system when it’s exorcizing toxins, the first few weeks were merely awful. The real agony began on the fifteenth day, when I woke up in a state of high anxiety, which got so much worse so quickly that I went to Dr. Ross and begged her to put me back on fentanyl so I could taper off. Any sympathy she might have had evaporated when she saw the detox wristband I’d failed to remove. She hustled me out the door with the assurance that all I needed was a good antidepressant. Seriously.

I had a prescription for the antianxiety drug Xanax but I couldn’t get my shit together for a two-block walk to CVS, so I made an ill-advised attempt to borrow half a Valium from another resident. I was overheard, reported, and evicted the same day. I stayed that night in a hospital and the next night in the No-Tell-Motel annex before a friend agreed to put me up for a month while I made arrangements to move back to Omaha. There’s a star in Heaven with her name on it—may it be many, many years before she has cause to claim it.

Making oxygen

During that month I meant to learn more about PAWS—the acronym for postacute (or protracted) withdrawal syndrome—but it was too depressing. Opioids really screw up your brain chemistry. They mess with the pleasure receptors, so not only do you get anxious and depressed, the antidepressants and antianxiety drugs that used to help don’t do any good.

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Signed, numbered 11-by-17-inch Isis print by Elaine K. Bly

For a month or two I seemed to improve. Then the bottom fell out. I couldn’t concentrate. I could hardly take a shower. I couldn’t sleep—no relief there. I had no appetite, my body temperature fluctuated from arctic to Saharan, and if someone asked the inane question “How are you?” I wanted to stab him or her in the leg with a fork. It’s exhausting to be so anxious… to never be able to relax for a second because you feel like you have to manufacture your own oxygen so you can breathe.

Depending on the particular drug, the dose, and the duration, these symptoms can persist for months or years. The studies I read generally cited two years as the maximum length of time required for your body to return to normal, usually with the disclaimer that they’re just messing with you and some people suffer indefinitely—either because their brains are really, really whacked or because it’s exceedingly difficult to practice good mental hygiene when your entire consciousness is blighted.

Ninety-five percent of recovery involves doing stuff you don’t want to do, over and over and over. I went to AA meetings when I wanted to stay curled up in bed. I spent a lot of time curled up in bed. I was experiencing anhedonia—the inability to feel pleasure. It came in waves with no remission for weeks at a time. I tried guzzling margaritas, without success. I’m not sure what would have constituted success, but I wasn’t finding any. Several times a day I gave up entirely. I prayed, but only to ask God to take me to the celestial cottage or cell block or meadow where I’d find Mom and Dad and a few mongrel dogs I’d loved and lost.

Now and then I’d persuade myself that life would be easier if I became an alcoholic, though in general I drink very little. I’d buy a bottle of cheap vodka and mix it with fruit juice—for nutrition, you know. Here’s what would happen: I’d be given a prescription for Ativan or Xanax; it would work for a while; then it would stop working and I’d become so desperately anxious I’d boost the benzos with the alcohol. At that point I’d forget how many pills I’d taken in combination with how many shots of vodka or maybe tequila. I’d start worrying that I might have accidentally overdosed. My death would bring grief and shame upon my family. At last I’d call 9-1-1, spend a week watching television in a hospital, and soak up enough energy from my fellow inmates to feel well enough to go home. Back in my apartment, I slipped back into isolation, finding it almost impossible to summon the effort to make a phone call or take a walk. After five hospital admissions I lost track.

Jean François Millet-- A Farmer's Wife Sweeping--1867

A Farmer’s Wife Sweeping (1867), Jean François Millet

The problem with hospitals, when you’re on Medicaid, is that you’re going to get the budget economy treatment. Physicians who specialize in drug rehab are by and large at Betty Ford or Sierra Tucson. The health professionals I dealt with treated my symptoms as they would any other form of depression and anxiety. I’d see people with bipolar and schizoaffective disorders come to the hospital after they had for whatever reason gone off their drugs. In 24 or 48 hours they’d be remedicated and ready to take on the world. But we all went to the same groups, where we were lectured to and often scolded about mental illness, relationships, diet, exercise, and coping skills. The secret to recovery, we were told—as if it were a recent discovery, a major breakthrough in the science of emotional wellness—was this: “Think good thoughts.”

I don’t own a television, so watching the hospital TV was a small treat… although when the evening news consisted almost entirely of refugees slogging through the Balkans on their way to Germany I remember feeling something like envy. At least they knew what they wanted. My heart broke for the parents of little kids who got sick during their long trek and had nowhere to sleep except on cold, soggy roadways, but despair is despair even when you have a warm bed.

As a parent, you don’t outgrow the instinct to protect your children. I felt toxic, and I didn’t want to infect the people I loved. When I talked to my younger grandchildren, I felt as if some of my dreadfulness would ooze from my pores and pollute their innocent sweetness, even on the phone at a distance of thirteen hundred miles. This is common among recovering addicts, which is why AA is a godsend. There were many, many times when I felt safe only in AA meetings. That’s where you find people who accept you in all your fearsome ugliness.

My last hospitalization, aside from hernia surgery last December, was in June 2015, about 15 months after quitting opioids. I was so anxious I couldn’t sit still. The underqualified, minimally trained staff urged me to use “coping skills” until I wanted to make a really unladylike and anatomically impossible suggestion about coping skills. After nine days with no improvement I was sent to the Salvation Army’s Mental Health Respite shelter, where I stayed for two godawful weeks.

Back in my apartment, eighteen months into recovery, I started feeling more energetic. I was still depressed and anxious all of the time, but I went to more AA meetings, called more friends on the phone, walked more, ate more. Then, WTF, right before Christmas I went to the hospital with a strangulated hernia. I had surgery December 29 and spent almost two weeks on IV opioids.

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J.M.W. Turner, “Pope’s Villa at Twickenham”

Even at the low dose I was allowed, the addiction grabbed me by the throat. “Remember me?” it said in its raspy sadistic voice. Wow. I talked to my psychiatrist and my family doctor about Suboxone, pretty sure I didn’t have the strength for another round of PAWS. Both doctors were supportive. I started Suboxone in late January 2016—a little more than three months ago.

Things are better now. I have more good days than bad. I remember what pleasure feels like, even—dare I say it?—happiness, not all the time, but enough to keep me fueled up.

Nowhere to go but up

There are a few people in the world I can count on to track me down and use tweezers if necessary to pull me out when I fall through the cracks. They’re friends from high school, and while I was trying to be small and not bother anybody, they wouldn’t leave me alone. It’s not as if they didn’t have anything to do with their lives except rescue me, but it felt that way from where I sat.

They prayed for me. They had their friends pray for me. I knew that if I ever again experienced a moment’s joy it would be by the grace of God. I’m not sure how that works, precisely, because if this unremitting wretchedness had been given to me as some kind of lesson, what was I supposed to be learning? I had no idea what I’d done to deserve it. I still don’t.

I know only that whatever level of strength and peace I’ve risen to has given me the energy to be of service. God is opening doors and inviting me on adventures. If I choose to not open those doors and to not seize those adventures, then I will experience the suffering that always accompanies denial of one’s core self. I believe that if we hoard our gifts and suppress our talents, those choices weigh us down until they bury us.

In 2010, not long before I turned 63, I was fairly contented and relatively productive. Four years later, at almost 67, I felt as though I were emerging from a dream and had awakened old, exhausted, and emotionally stuck in adolescence. What immediately presented itself was the need to claw my way out of the deep, dark hole I’d plunged into.

Now I’m on level ground—redeemed from despair but not relieved of all responsibility for making miracles. Ground level might give me freedom from the tyranny of fear and regret, but I don’t think any of us is meant to make a modest furrow and plant a little row of seeds at zero altitude. Level ground might be the place to fit my wings but not to finish my assignment. If I’m to spiritually thrive and do my job, I need to recognize the favorable winds and act on faith that, by the grace of God, I can navigate the stratosphere and soar across the sky. If that sounds grandiose or just flat impossible, it’s okay with me. How will I know my limits if I don’t begin with the assumption that I haven’t any?

 

 

 

Leaving So Soon?

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Downtown Omaha near the Missouri River (goodtimetravel.net)

Downtown Omaha near the Missouri River (goodtimetravel.net)

Here’s your hat… what’s your hurry?

MY RECENT, LONG-ANTICIPATED visit to Omaha was curtailed by a stunning display of bad behavior on the part of my daughter and son-in-law, “Magyar” and “Porter.” Ten days into what was to have been a twenty-day stay in their home — just before the house- and cat-sitting portion of the program was to begin — I was asked to leave in a manner that was certainly bewildering. To call it ungracious would be kind.

Late on a Sunday afternoon, Porter summoned me… I stepped into his steely presence… and he made the following peremptory announcement: “Arrangements have been made for you to stay with ‘Clotilde’ and ‘Arbutus’ for the next day-and-a-half (starting right now)”… at the end of which my plane would be waiting…. I simply “couldn’t be trusted.”

Dorothy and Ozma; illustration by John R. Neill from DOROTHY AND THE WIZARD IN OZ, by L. Frank Baum, 1908. Magyar and I were both aficionados of the original Oz series

Dorothy and Ozma; illustration by John R. Neill from DOROTHY AND THE WIZARD IN OZ, by L. Frank Baum, 1908. Magyar and I were both aficionados of the original Oz series

There are no words to describe the fury, humiliation, grief, and, um… crummy feelings I experienced. A half-hour of meditation at Clotilde’s did a great deal to dispel the most intense of these, but the anger and sadness creep up on me still from time to time, and I take refuge in my journal so as not to be poisoned by toxic emotions held within and having no other means of expression.

I’ve stopped ruminating about my alleged untrustworthiness. It was a bogus excuse for a shabby deed… and a mystifying one, given that until a few years ago this accomplished woman, lovely inside and out, the daughter of my heart, was my most cherished and trusted friend… my funny, endearing “rag dolly,” my confidante as I was hers.

Return to eBay

I had been planning to market my most recent book, Annagrammatica’s Little Book of Positive Affirmations, extensively on eBay, when my longtime pal Mary L. suggested we work together to sell some of her antiques online. Photos of some of her pieces will appear in this blog as soon as I shake off my lethargy and ADD-aggravated procrastination.

My psychic journey

Psychic journey might be a bit fancified an appellation for what is more a psychic sputtering-along. Following the advice of Sandra Anne Taylor and her identical twin, Sharon Anne Klingler, I check in regularly with “Spirit,” their term for the gaggle of angels, ascended masters, loved ones on the Other Side, ancestors, one’s own Higher Self, and who knows who-all… our guides who are with us much of the time and who come when we call.

I have been a true believer, if not an energetic one, since I had the slightly psychic experience described HERE. For a few minutes in this management class, most of us were indeed accidental psychics. Among the scores of students in the class, I’d be surprised if more than a few followed up on our remarkable intuitive accomplishments.

Given the freedom to “feel like you’re making it up,” however, I’ve had numerous small “manifestations,” mostly in the form of surprising answers to prayers I’ve forgotten about, as well as the “appearance” of surprising people making their presence known among my groupies when I do roll-call. I’ll have to take a few minutes and go through my journal for specifics.

Lily Dale, New York... said to be the world's oldest and largest spiritualist community

Lily Dale, New York… said to be the world’s oldest and largest spiritualist community

The most startling event, however, lasted only seconds: I was napping one afternoon and awakened briefly to see a young woman sitting in a chair along the wall beside my bed. Her appearance and manner were suggestive of a job applicant. She smiled when she saw that my eyes were open.

“Who are you?” I asked quietly, but she only smiled a little more brightly.

“Angel?” I asked. She made a small movement like a shaking of the head to indicate “no.” When I asked her name, she mouthed “Linda.”

I closed my eyes and slept for ten or fifteen minutes. When I woke up, she was gone, as was the chair she’d been sitting in. Perhaps you’re thinking dream. It’s possible, I guess, though I don’t see that it makes much difference; but it didn’t feel at all like a dream. It didn’t feel odd or otherworldly. It just felt like an everyday occurrence… no soft, misty edges to her; nothing at all spooky. An ordinary Arizona afternoon….

Later, fully awake and recalling the incident, I came to the conclusion that it was a “foreknowing”… that she is someone I’ll encounter again.

Now that I’m actively seeking contact with Spirit, I hope I’ll have more to report and that it will be more interesting.

Meanwhile, wishing  you and yours many bright blessings every single day….

Out of It

Standard
4th Avenue, Tucson

4th Avenue, Tucson

MONDAY — I’m about two weeks into tapering off oxycodone, and I have to say that I’m feeling pretty good about the whole process. What’s hard to know is how much of my melancholy, if any, has to do with chemicals rather than emotional health.

On one level, I’m dissatisfied with myself, as I have been since my illness began in 1998, but the extent of that dissatisfaction has varied enormously over the past fourteen years, mostly according to how much energy I have. When I’m Down, it’s hard to remember having been Up for any length of time… yet I remember in a remote sort of way, as if it were someone else’s memory, that I have been consistently happy for decades at a time. Using 1966 to 1970 as a benchmark, I’ve been genuinely filled with gratitude for every sunrise… often euphoric, seeming to have achieved a permanent sense of well-being. In times of difficulty, I’ve even been thankful that my emotions were “normal”: I could be sad or angry without ever feeling unsafe.

Being kind

Now, on the reduced dose of oxycodone, there are periods between doses when I feel like a yo-yo stuck on Down. One minute I’m making an omelette, the next I’m anxious and despairing. Even the certainty that within twenty minutes of taking the next dose I’ll be steady, possibly cheerful, brings no comfort. On the other hand, since beginning the vitamin D regimen that’s making the oxycodone reduction possible, there’s a more substantial quality to my joy.

goofy-in-front-yard

Goofy in October

For the sake of perspective… in the thirty-three years since the four-year nightmare that corresponded to my first marriage, I’ve been depressed for less than twenty-four months:

  • a year or so after Mom died in August 1974
  • six months during Dad’s illness until his death in March 1985
  • the first three months of my banishment (June-August 2011) and, off and on, the past three months

I don’t include the eight years in Omaha, 2003 to 2011, because I recall it as a time more of fatigue than of depression. I was weary and, after the Estrangement, often sad, but my response was the spiritual journey, the writing and meditating, that was profoundly heartening.

Now it seems I have my work cut out for me:

  • prayer, meditation, and study
  • blogging, podcasting
  • attention to diet and exercise
  • Catalina and other Keeping in Touch
  • social life
  • dance
  • Writing for Dollars

Seems pretty light, but we’re being kind to ourselves….