Sometimes in life you have to get a little lost before you are truly able to find your way.

Posts tagged ‘God’

We’re never really grown-ups.

When I was 4-years old I told my mother that I did not want to have any more birthdays. I wanted to stay 4 forever. (smart kid eh?) My mom told me she wished I could stay 4 forever too. I don’t know if I was just having a lot of fun, or if I had somehow picked up on the fact that life for grownups seemed a lot harder than anything I was interested in. Either way – something in me was telling me that where I was in that moment was a pretty darn nice place to be. I often think about that day and that wish and realize I was certainly wise beyond my years.

Growing up is tough. And it lasts a lot longer than we ever imagine. We’re always growing up. When you’re really little the high school-aged babysitter is a grown up. In high school the college kids are grown ups. In college those late 20s-early 30-somethings are grown up. It just keeps getting pushed back as we realize that the process of growing up has no end point. It is painful and joyous and hard and wonderful. It is full of goals – realized and missed; accomplishments, failures, love and loss. But most of all it is filled with lessons and knowledge and at some point, the wisdom of “old age.”

Like everyone, I have suffered through all kinds of heartache. The kind that comes from being hurt or betrayed by someone you love and trust. The kind that comes from hurting someone that you love – however well-intentioned your actions or words might be. The kind that comes from separation,  breakups of all kind – your own or those of loved ones; the kind that comes from physical pain, and usually worst of all, that which accompanies death.

The worst of all pain seems to have a life of its own, attacking us in waves when you least expect it. I wonder sometimes if that is our minds pushing it back, holding it at bay, then struggling to work through it, which requires feeling it. Or perhaps it is God giving us small breaks to catch our breath, then washing over us only as much as we can truly handle, even when it feels as though we might drown.  I’m sure I”ll never fully understand the way pain works. But it is something universal. Something we all experience, regardless of the different sources and degrees in which we all experience it.

The funny thing about pain, though, is that it is necessary. It shapes us. It strengthens us, even when in the moment, it feels as though it might break us. We come out stronger on the other side. And it doesn’t seem to matter what kind of pain it is. It could be physical pain, grief from losing a loved one, heartache from the painful end of a relationship. It fortifies us for the next round (and there is always a next round!). It transforms who we are into who we are becoming. I don’t know anyone, myself included, who doesn’t wish, beg, pray, scrape and claw through pain to make it end as quickly as possible. I don’t know anyone who attempts to prolong their own pain. At times, we experience things that seem impossible to overcome. It does not feel as though they will strengthen us, but instead be the end of us. Rarely is this actually the case. And at some point, we realize that today hurts a little less than yesterday. And a lot less than a few weeks ago. We reach a point when we can allow ourselves to think about the source of our pain with less trepidation and more fortitude. We grow – we grow through and because of pain.

I’m in a funny place in my life right now. My migraines are particularly problematic because I’m making my way through a month off of one of my medications whose side effects are so potentially harmful that every six months I have to come off of it for a full month and have CT scans done to ensure no damage has occurred from its use. At the same time I had my heart broken by someone I love very much. While I was completely overwhelmed when hit with these things, I see now that they are necessary. Necessary to keep me healthy, necessary for me to move forward, necessary for me to grow, and perhaps most importantly, necessary for me to get where I’m going and become the person I am meant to be, strong and able enough to do all the things I am destined to do.

In the moments when the physical pain is so severe I can hardly breath, or the waves of heartache that wash over me so overwhelming I think I might crumble beneath it all, it is difficult to stay positive. A few days ago I was angry. I was REALLY angry. But that got me no where. My relationship ended in a way that, in my opinion, did not honor what we had. I wish it could have ended differently, but it had to end. While dealing with this sudden loss I also had an overdue appointment with my neurologist. I drove to my appointment hoping that he would have some way of easing my migraine pain. Instead, he made a change that resulted in this month of increased pain. But this too is necessary. Anger doesn’t lessen what I feel. So once again I find myself grateful. Grateful for things that used to scare me, anger me, confuse me, confound and bewilder me. But even this pain is carrying me forward toward whatever the next big thing in my life might be.

Closing some of these doors allows me to find unexpected openings. I’m transitioning from some tough places/circumstances to a lot of unknowns and some dreams-come-true. Sure, I had my heart broken. But it’s OK. It reminds me that I’m alive. Feeling things so deeply – even heartache, can be inspiring. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to Lady Antebellum sing the words “I’d rather hurt than feel nothing at all” and thought to myself – “not me!” But they’re right. It is strangely life-affirming to feel something so deeply, even if it hurts. It is equally wonderful to know, deep down, that like all else – these feelings are only temporary, and soon the pain will be replaced with joy equal in measure.

I have a confession…I secretly want to be a song writer. The one small problem with that – I have no musical ability what-so-ever! I can’t sing; can’t play any instruments and am pretty much tone-deaf. LOL. I do love to write though, and it’s amazing to imagine someone marrying what falls onto my paper with an amazing melody. I also want to be a successful jeweler, a wildlife rehabilitator and educator. I have lots of dreams. It’s good to have places I want to go, things I want to do. And amazing to be well enough, some days, to make some progress. Perhaps one of the doors that is closing in my life will open up to one of these dreams. When I look at it from that perspective, it is hard to resent the pain. And so much easier to embrace the change, appreciate where I am, wade through the tough days and look longingly forward to all that is to come. So here’s to life, with all of its twists and turns, pain and joy and wondrous possibilities!

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Migraine, Fibro and Gratitude.

Anyone who has followed this BLOG or who knows me personally is aware of my battle with intractable migraines. I have not discussed fibromyalgia here in any detail. For a very long time I didn’t feel I should even identify myself as someone with fibro. I have friends with fibro and have read the work of others living with fibro that is so invasive and debilitating that the few symptoms I had that led to my initial diagnosis many years ago felt insignificant. It felt like an insult to those who had “real fibro” for me to claim to be affected by it at all. About six months ago, all of that changed.

Fibromyalgia is a progressive condition (a syndrome rather than a disease) that affects “an estimated 10 million people in the U.S. and an estimated 3-6% of the world population” according to the National Fibromyalgia Association. That’s a lot of people in a lot of pain. But a large portion of those suffering from fibro go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for years. The symptoms mimic those of many other conditions and there are still many in the medical field who refuse to even recognize fibro as a legitimate or real condition. Thankfully its recognition and thus its treatment has been rising steadily over the last decade.

I have no idea how long I’ve actually had fibro, because there was so much overlap between my fibro symptoms and those of my migraine condition and the side effects of several of my migraine medications. I was diagnosed with it about 7 years ago. At the time my symptoms were relatively inconspicuous. The most bothersome of any was the pain that was caused by even a light touch on my arms. My boyfriend would put his arm around me and rub my arm gently and it felt as though he were digging his fingers in as hard as he could. That seemed like small potatoes. It was nothing compared to what I dealt with from my migraine condition and nothing compared to what I knew others experienced from fibro. If you’ve read Mary Gelpi’s incredible blog, Fibromy-Awesome, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Illustration of the Reed Procedure

Illustration of the Reed Procedure – yes – I am the real deal bionic woman!

So what changed? Some of the symptoms from my migraine condition eased up after my neurostimulator implant surgeries (the Reed Procedure). I am on fewer medications than I have been at any other time in the last 13 years (only 16 a day! Woo-hoo!), and consequently dealing with far fewer side effects. Seemingly out of nowhere, my body turned alien. I started waking up with my hands so swollen I couldn’t make a fist. My legs and feet swelled so much that from the knees down I was a clone for someone 9 months pregnant and ready to burst. Many mornings my entire body is so stiff that merely getting up out of bed requires a series of countless tiny movements to stretch and ease the tension in every joint and muscle. Days of exhaustion so severe that I cannot do anything that is not an absolute physical necessity have become common. One day the joints in my left thumb were so painful when I awoke that it actually felt broken. My right wrist started intermittently hurting enough that I thought I must have started sleep walking and done something terrible to it. All of these symptoms and more. Apparently out of thin air. Some of them I recognized as fibro right away; others I had no idea could be part of this condition that I had essentially been denying I had at all for nearly a decade.

I was frustrated. I finally made a bit of real progress with my migraine pain for what? To swap it out for increased fibro pain? What in the world had I done to deserve this? It seemed so unfair. Then another thought occurred… what if I had had to deal with all of the fibro pain on top of the worst of my migraine pain? What if this sudden explosion of symptoms had occurred not following the surgeries that alleviated one condition, but had coincided with the onset of my intractable migraine? Could I have survived it all at once? Maybe this wasn’t the least fair thing in the world, but the greatest stroke of luck. Perhaps I should thank God and all my lucky stars that this is happening now, and not years ago when the pain in my head nearly drove me to take my own life.

I have lived by the saying “everything happens for a reason” my whole life. I believe it with every fiber of my being, even when it makes me curse whoever is in charge and when I know there is no way I will ever understand the reason. I do not believe in coincidences. I don’t believe in random chance. I have never been a religious person. My family identifies as Protestant, though we never attended church regularly, and only sometimes on Christmas and Easter. I attended Mass with my best friend as a child periodically. Her family was deeply religious (her father was a former priest). Mostly we giggled and whispered and got in trouble. I have, however, always believed in what some people refer to as God. I have always believed that our souls exist beyond the life of our bodies and that there is something somewhere greater than us all. It has been, at times, an internal battle with the scientist in me. I believe in evolution. No man in the sky created all that is in a week. But I look around the world and I find it impossible to ignore that everything is connected. There is nothing that happens in a vacuum or that does not have an effect that reaches far beyond what we can see.

A few years back on a trip to Grand Bahama Island to visit my father, I stood in a coral cave staring into a pool of fresh water sitting atop salt water. The experience was overwhelming. I found it nearly impossible to leave or resist returning once I had. The way the light came in through the collapsed ceiling where the less dense coral had eroded and eventually given way was amazing. It bounced around beneath the water’s surface making it nearly impossible to tell reflection from surface. The depth was impossible to gauge. The colors were more beautiful than any I had ever seen. It was, and continues to be one of the most awe-inspiring places I have ever been. For me, it was a deeply spiritual experience. My father asked how my trip to the cave was and I told him (after several days of discussion about religion) that the cave was my church. I don’t need a building in which to worship. I don’t need a man to tell me what God says, or to be my messenger. If I want to talk to God I’ll do it myself. I don’t mean that to sound offensive; it’s simply what I believe. My relationship with God does not require any middleman or cathedral.

I know it seems I have gotten off course here with this discussion, but to bring it back around – what I have realized is that I don’t have control over the fact that I have intractable migraines or fibromyalgia. I didn’t have a say in when they started or how significantly they have affected my life. I could allow myself to become bitter and angry that when I started to experience a small amount of relief from one condition, the other flared up with an intensity I had always been grateful not to have experienced. But I choose not to do that. I choose not feel that way. I choose, instead, to be grateful. Grateful that I have not been dealing with fibro at this level for all of my life, or for the first 12 1/2 years that my migraines were completely unabated. I choose to believe that this series of events has unfolded in ways that I might not understand, but are not without reason. I choose to believe that even if I am meant to experience both of these conditions, something greater than us all protected me from experiencing them both at the same time in ways that were more than I could handle.

For those who know me best, much of this discussion will come as a shock. The girl who has studied and worked in the sciences going on about God and spirituality will seem a giant contradiction. I have spent years being critical of those who are deeply religious. Catholics, in particular. The “word of the Lord” as written in the Bible has been at the very heart of many a heated discussion with those who try to use God as an excuse for hatred and bigotry. But we all have a right to our opinions and our faith. That does not, however, excuse any harm we inflict on others in the name of religion or spirituality.

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

I will conclude with this…a thank you to my mother who gave me a book of daily devotions (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young) that I would never have picked up on my own. She handed me her copy in the midst of a very dark moment when pain and fear and exhaustion were getting the better of me. She didn’t read it to me or insist that I read it. She simply left it by my side. Since then I have read it every day. While some of what is said in this book is at odds with what I believe, the messages, for the most part, have been not only comforting but kept me from falling into weak patterns without purpose or constructive thought. I will leave you with one of my favorite passages that zeros in on something that is both difficult and essential for everyone with a chronic illness;

When you are plagued by a persistent problem – one that goes on and on – view it as a rich opportunity. An ongoing problem is like a tutor who is always by your side. The learning possibilities are limited only by your willingness to be teachable.”  

Marriage…is it about religion, offspring or love?

A few days ago (March 11 to be exact), the Maryland legislature voted to table a bill on same sex marriage. The bill had passed in the state’s senate on February 24 and Governor Martin O’Malley had vowed to sign the bill into law if it came to his desk. The bill now goes back to the state’s judiciary committee where it will stay until the legislature reconvenes in 2012.

I’m going to try to keep this short, but I have some very strong feelings on this matter. Same sex relationships have existed for as long as we have been keeping history. This is nothing new. It is not wrong, or disgusting, or unnatural or any of the far worse words that have been used to describe it. It is also not a choice.

Over the years I have heard countless arguments about why same sex marriage should not be legal. I’ve yet to hear a single one that stands up to even the lightest bit of reason.

Argument #1. “It’s blasphemy.”

If that were really true, and you believe that God made us all, then he wouldn’t have made anyone homosexual. Also, if you take the time to really study the Bible in its historical context, you’ll realize that it tells a story that has  been told and retold over and over throughout centuries and translations, and that if you go back far enough, the truth is that sodomy does not refer to the practice of anal sex. Sodomy refers to the act of rape. Same sex relationships at the time that the Bible was written have been documented to have been wide-spread. The crime was not in the sexual act, it was in the forcing of one individual to participate in that act without consent.

Argument #2. “It betrays the sanctity of marriage.”

Really? Marriage is about the union of two people who love and honor one another.  Whether those two people are a man and a woman or two men or two women, that love and honor is still the basis for the union. It is still cherished and valued the same way.  Betraying the sanctity of marriage is not about the two people who enter into it, but about how carefully they choose to enter into it, their commitment to one another and to their marriage.

Argument #3. “Marriage exists for the purpose of reproduction.”

Oye. Ok, so then this isn’t really a gay/straight argument at all is it? This is about whether a couple is marrying for the purpose of producing offspring. So under those guidelines, if you do not know if you want to have children, or if you are unable to have children, you should not be afforded the right to marry. Period.  And while we’re at it, if you have married the love of your life and have either chosen not to have children or learned that you are unable to have children, you forfeit that right and the state should then come in and nullify your marriage.

Argument #4. “They have civil unions; why do they even need to get married?”

I can hardly address this one without shaking out of my skin with anger and frustration. Simply, it is a Human Rights issue. The minority should not be treated with any less respect, dignity or access to freedoms, rights and privileges. Two people who love each other should be able to choose marriage and all of the challenges, rights and privileges it affords them, no matter who those two people are.

There are other arguments, I know. But those are the four big ones I typically run into. I don’t claim to know everything, but I do know this. The same sex couples that I know are wonderful, genuine people who love each other. And from where I stand, there is not a reason in the world why they should not have the opportunity to enter into marriage, to love and honor one another and be afforded all of the respect, rights and privileges afforded to any heterosexual couple. Currently five states and the District of Columbia have legalized same sex marriage. The tide is changing…slowly, but it is changing. Like all human rights movements in our country’s history, this will be no quick event. Down the road though, we will look back on this and see the error of our ways, and be thankful we’ve righted a terrible wrong.

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