physical health

The Thing You Do, But Can’t

windup_alarm_clockYou know that feeling when the alarm goes off at whatever-dark-thirty, you reach over to turn it off, and every muscle in your body protests? Or maybe it’s your throat which feels like it turned into sandpaper overnight. Or your voice has dropped an octave and breathing feels like how Darth Vader sounds. Sometimes you’ve simply run out of oomph and the fumes you were running on have disappeared. You know that feeling.

Yup, that one.

Most days you just power through whatever aches your body normally carries. The constant twinge in your back, or the arthritic beginnings in your fingers, maybe a sore ankle from a decades old break or sprain, the hip that grinds away at your energy, a shoulder strain that needs surgery which you’re resisting; these are simply daily companions you’ve grown accustomed to, right?

You go through your ritual of stretching, steaming the aches awake in the shower, taking some over the counter mostly-placebo. And of course, mentally, whether you know it or not, you give yourself the pep talk, the “people are counting on me” speech, the everything-will-go-to-hell-in-a-hand-basket if I’m not there reminder.

Then you go, and you do. Whatever. It. Takes.

You get through it. You do it.

But some mornings, life throws on a few extra weights, like a cold, or the flu, or simply utter exhaustion from doing The Thing You Do day in and day out without ever really regrouping.

The Thing You Do: running a business, being the mom, school or college, caring giving to a loved one, training,  employment, volunteering, being the dad, driving the kids, getting to an appointment, attending an event, the endless list. It’s probably not just The Thing singular, it’s probably plural. In fact, it’s rare if it’s one Thing.

Somedays you gotta call it done before you ever get out of bed. But you can’t. Because you’re the only parent. You’re the only caregiver. You’re the ONE everyone counts on.

So you drag yourself to the shower, drag yourself through the pain, take a little more over the counter whatever might help and chase it down with extra caffeine and hope your can get through until it’s okay to call it bedtime.

If you have a back up person to call, now is the time to call them. If you can call in sick, this would be the day for that. If you don’t have any backup then you power on unending Netflix streaming for the littles and leave cereal and sippy cups out on the table and attempt to sleep on the couch or floor between requests for every little thing. It’s a sad picture of you with kleenex stuffed up your nostrils and the mangy robe wrapped around your aching, worn down, sleep-deprived body.

Now is a great time for prayer. And tears. Tears are good and cleansing and cathartic. Crying while praying can help a lot. Or it can make your nose clog up even more and maybe give you a bad headache to add to the other crud you’re dealing with.  And then you might end up feeling mad at God for not healing you instantly and maybe even blame him for feeling worse. Don’t do that part. That is not helpful.

If someone asks the unanswerable question: “Is there anything I can do to help?” don’t you dare answer with that wimpy, ridiculous reply: “Oh, I’m fine. I can handle this myself.”

That’s just nonsense.

Tell them, “Yes, as a matter of fact there is something you can do to help!!”

Pick something. Anything.

  • Wash, dry and fold a load of laundry? Yes, please.
  • Bring over a steaming pot of some delicious soup? Absolutely.
  • Chocolate? Of course.
  • Vacuum the floors? Amen.
  • Wash up the dishes? Bless you for your offer to help me.
  • Do a grocery run for a few basics? Wonderful.
  • Babysit the kids for a few hours of uninterrupted sleep? What a saint.
  • Take out the garbage? Hallelujah!
  • Stay with this person while I take a time out? Glorious.

I’m sure you could add other things you wish a lovely house elf or sparkly fairy or magical unicorn would swoop in and take care of.

Guess what?

Other human beings are the real elves, fairies and unicorns of our lives.

We should all have a list like that already made up for the inevitable day that LIFE hits the fan and the blowback is too much to handle. In fact, we could have each to-do item written on a card, like an emergency contact, and ask the semi-committed volunteer to select a card. Then you’re not even really asking but merely fulfilling their wish to be helpful. Is that an amazing plan, or what?

Not that I’d do that. Ever.

I hate asking for or needing help. I just want to be an independent island nation, completely self-sufficient and proud. Letting people help me makes me feel like a loser.

Right? Isn’t that why we say, “I’m fine, I don’t need anything,” even though we’re hanging on by our fingernails to the last frayed end of the rope with the wick of the candle burnt all the way through from both ends to the middle? (pick your metaphor)

But I’m not a loser if I need help. I’m just a human. And so are you.

Don’t you sometimes offer to help someone if they need something and they answer with that silly “Oh, I’m fine” nonsense? Don’t you wish they’d actually let you help? You don’t think they’re a loser, do you? Nope.

Alrightythen.

800px-bed_in_seattle_hotel

Photo by Liz Lawley.

If you hit that wall. If you can’t do another freaking day of The Thing without a break, a rest, a respite, a me-day, a mental health break, then dang it, ask for help from wherever you need to. Call in, step away, turn off the phone, text, email, voice in your head. Take a day for you, to heal, to rest, to be.

 

I give you permission. The universe gives you permission. Actually, you don’t really  need permission. Just take care of yourself and let others help take care of you, even if it’s just you venting to them about the weight on your shoulders and in your heart.

Do it.

Just skip doing The Thing You Do for one day. Just rest.

Best wishes from a fellow human who occasionally needs people and rest just like  you.

Now I’m off to do The Thing I Do until the day I can’t.

Categories: Being Human, Mental Health, physical health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

Getting Healthy in all the Right Places

Doctor’s waiting rooms seem ripe with all sorts of possible bad outcomes. Don’t you agree?

I always wish I had my own bottle of hand sanitizer after simply opening the door to go in.

There’s those pens, the ones with flowers taped to them so no one takes one. Who’s going to walk off with a bacteria laden pen from a doctor’s office? Not me! Even minus the fake flower. Not to mention the clip boards. I’ll bet no one has ever swiped a disinfectant wipe across one of those boards o’ infection. The arms on the chairs? Ew. Potential illness abounds.

Let’s not even get started on the magazines from 1990 something, or last year, or even last month. Petri dish some of those pages and see what you come up with!

Brrrr.

Brrrr.

Last month I availed myself of the attentions of a new doctor, an internal medicine specialist. Nice guy. He looks like he’s about the same age as one of my son-in-laws, who happens to be a med student.  Putting my health in the hands of someone so young seems like kind of a scary thought, but then he seems up on the latest studies, schools of thought in Europe versus here in the States. And he takes his time with me. No sense that he’s in a big rush to get to the next patient.

Bonus points for this: he only treats grown ups. Grown ups have complicated, twisty knotted up weirdness in the physical health area. I’d suggest an internist if you fall into that category. So far, I like the guy.

So this young internist writes out a series of tests that he says I need. Labs, scopes, prods, pokes, whatever the heck you’re supposed to do on a regular basis that I (cough) rarely do. So I’ve spent the past month or so doing all that fun stuff. At one of the funner procedures, NOT the one I wrote about, I got put in a little dressing room, put on a gown which would become completely useless in no time, and took a seat next to some nice, crisp, newish magazines. I was told to wait. Or maybe I was supposed to say, “Ready or not, here I come,” when I was decent. I don’t remember.

Anyway, I had a minute to read one of the magazines called “Experience Life.” I laughed when I read the title. Like I need a magazine at my age (relatively young-ish) to tell me anything about experiencing life. I found the idea rather humorous. But, surprisingly this one article caught my attention. In fact, it riveted me to my seat and made me forget my half-nakedness. That’s pretty impressive power.

"Healing Spaces" the book

“Healing Spaces” the book

The title of the article is “Healing Spaces”. In fact you can CLICK HERE to read what I read, only online. It’s written by Esther Sternberg, MD, who excepted it from a book she wrote called Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being. I checked it out from the library and can’t wait to read it.

Basically, these ideas took hold when someone noticed that patients who could see trees through their window while they were in recovery left the hospital a full day earlier than those without a natural view. This prompted a variety of studies which have come up with some fascinating conclusions about things that help improve the healing process. Conclusions I happen to support wholeheartedly, based on personal experience.

Don’t you love it when research backs up what you already know? Makes me feel kind of brilliant. Ha!

So what sort of things has this research concluded help us to heal faster? I’m glad you asked. These things right here:

  • Quiet places
  • A place in the sun
  • The presence of loved ones
  • Places that smell good
  • Walking paths and labyrinths
  • Places of belief
The Riparian on a rare rainy day.

The Riparian on a rare rainy day.

All those things already top my list of priorities. My sanity requires regular quiet mornings and my wandering walks. The Riparian Preserve where I walk fills up some awesome smells that change with the seasons and the weather. Living in the desert Southwest I get lots of glorious sunny days.

The baking I love to do makes my home smell heavenly and right now the air is thick with the smell of citrus blossoms. Some of my most cherished moments each week I spend in sacred places. And, I know I feel better and happier when I spend regular time with family and friends.

Based on where I spend my time and this book, I ought to be one of the healthiest people around.

According to my doctor and all those tests, I’m in great health, with a couple of things I need to work on. (Aren’t we all a work in progress, or egress?) I’m pretty sure that the time I spend in all these places keeps me in better health than I deserve. Mentally, I’m certainly saner than I’d be without such places in my life.

So breath deeply, wander some, soak up some rays, enjoy family and friend time, hang out somewhere sacred and luxuriate in a bit of quiet. Your body and your brain will thank you.

~~~~~

“Some people see scars, and it is wounding they remember. To me they are proof of the fact that there is healing.”  ~ Linda Hogan

Categories: Mental Health, Nature, physical health | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Only Contortionists Need Apply

“Why is the ground coming up to meet my face?” I remember thinking as I fainted one day while walking from one classroom to another at university during the Paleozoic Era.

 Fainting with dramatic flair.

Fainting with dramatic flair.

I had it backwards of course. The ground didn’t meet my face, my face met the ground. And it’s nothing whatsoever like that fake fainting you see in the movies or on television, swooning and conveniently falling backwards.

No warning signs preceded that strange experience. No dizziness, lightheadedness, tripping, wooziness or injury. Just “wham” and a face plant.

I compare it, oddly, to my two brief experiences of being in very minor earthquakes. (No I’m not a seasoned quake veteran like you Californians.) When something that’s normally solid and steady and unmoving begins to undulate and sway, nothing makes sense. It’s as if Left trades places with Right, or North wearies of being true and turns into South.

Something in between those two experiences happened to me Sunday evening. It also included that slow-motion effect you see in the movies. That, I can tell you, actually does happen.

stairs

Not the actual stairs, but very similar.

My favorite one-year old had woken from her afternoon nap cheerful and ready for play. While carrying her downstairs to the family room the ground under my right foot moved and I had suddenly had nothing underneath me except my left foot, which was behind me and still midair coming down from the last step I’d taken. The right leg sailed forward ahead of my body and the left leg did something the design of the human body never intended. It folded up behind me. My body had no choice but to attempt to follow both legs.

Did you know the laws of physics prohibit motion in two directions at once? There’s a hefty fine for violating that law. And I was about to pay big time.

Binkies really do make that thwapping sound if you listen. Think Maggie from the Simpsons.

Think Maggie from the Simpsons.

The only really important part of this whole slow motion scene is that my left arm continued to keep the one-year old secure and unharmed. I’m pretty certain an angel must have caught her because she ended up gently sitting on the stairs, thwap thwap thwapping on her pacifier, completely unphased and a bit curious as to why we were sitting down so suddenly.

Meanwhile I was attempting to make sense of the pain and odd location of various parts of my body. My toe felt turned inside out and resided somewhere under my back. My knee, I was certain based on signals being sent from it to my brain, had no more connections remaining to the leg above or below it. And my hip had skittered across the kitchen floor and lay huddled, whimpering behind the refrigerator.

Can you say OUCH!

Can you say OUCH!

I wasn’t sure if attempting to move anything seemed prudent. But pretending to be a Russian gymnast or one of those freaky contortionists didn’t seem like a good option either.

Very slowly and with great effort, I convinced my hip to talk to my knee, which coaxed my toe to remove itself from my backside. Then the pain really took hold. Fortunately, I remembered to breath and didn’t pass out or puke or get woozy.

After a few minutes I could move my knee a bit more. It miraculously didn’t seem to be broken or displaced and was, I could see clearly, still attached. The hip just seemed content once again in its normal position and orientation.

The toe felt like it might explode.

An hour later, after some icepacks on the toe, I felt almost normal. The swelling hadn’t gotten too bad and I thought perhaps I’d only sprained it. Eighteen hours later, after some ibuprofen and some restless sleep, the toe looks bruised but hopefully, just needs a few days of rest and elevation. I may end up needing an x-ray of the toe if it doesn’t cheer up in the next few days. But that might not need to happen. Sadly, no long meandering morning walks for this woman for a bit.

ibuprofenAs for breaking those laws of physics? Yeah, I’m paying the price. Parts of me I didn’t know existed hurt today. And parts I knew I had but didn’t know could experience pain, also ache.

I’m happy to pay such a price if the favorite one-year old escaped unscathed. We were both blessed not to break anything, not to hit our heads, not to have to deal with blood or mayhem.

Maybe I need the extra R&R&R. (Yes, three R’s.) Maybe it’s the only way I’ll slow down enough to do some reading and writing and resting. Maybe I’ll take a day and watch all three Lord of the Rings movies (extended version) or the entire BBC Sherlock series. Or I’ll just read. And sleep. And let MSH baby me. And take ibuprofen every four to six hours.

Happy Monday!

 

Categories: Family, physical health | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

Rode Hard and Put Away Wet

While visiting my parents recently, I attended church with them. Much to my surprise I heard the following statement: “Some of you look like you’ve been rode hard and put away wet.”

The wordsmith in me immediately pulled out my phone and tapped in the phrase to look up later. Turns out it’s a horseman’s term that refers to someone not taking care of a horse after a hard day.

Long day?

Long day?

So we looked like we’d not been properly cared for, huh? Tuckered out, bedraggled, ragtag, worn down, scruffy. It had probably been a tough week for a few people there. In any large group there’s a high probability that more than a few were run ragged that week either physically or emotionally.

The last time I threw my leg over a horse to go riding I hadn’t graduated from high school yet. Now, what feels like nearly a hundred years later, I still remember the sway and roll of sitting in that saddle. The muscles of the horse under me felt powerful and yet, somehow, very gentle. My friend, whose family owned the horses, led the way on her horse through open fields and along the foothills. I could have sat up there all day, feeling like a queen surveying the world.

If you’ve never ridden a horse you’re missing out on one of life’s most eloquent pleasures.

That phrase, “rode hard and put away wet” has stuck with me for days now. Curiosity pushed me to research a bit more about how to care for a horse after a ride or a day of hard work. A few basic steps, about twenty to thirty minutes, and a horse can relax and rejuvenate after a days work.

Loosening the saddle some, pulling up the stirrups so they don’t bang around, letting it walk a bit to cool down are the first things to do. Following that you’d take off the bridle and put on a halter and tie the horse off. Loosen the cinch and take the saddle off being careful not to hit the horse’s back. Remove the blanket, clean off dirt and sweat with a wet sponge and brush and then dry off with a towel. While doing so check for cuts, nicks, and scratches. Check the hooves for stones and mud and use a hoof pick to clean. Lead the horse to pasture, take off the halter and let the horse cool down a bit more before feeding.

Here, let me pose for you.

Here, let me pose for you.

I wondered why someone wouldn’t take care of horse when the steps are basic common sense and fairly simple. If it keeps the horse happy and healthy and you care about the animal wouldn’t you do this every time?

What happens when these basic steps aren’t taken? A horse can develop saddle sores, or have untended wounds, become lame or simply be dirty and unkempt and uncomfortable.

I wondered why we don’t do this for ourselves. After a long day working or caring for others do we take basic measures to make sure we’re healthy and cared for?

At the end of the day do we loosen up a bit, set aside worries so they aren’t banging around, cool down a bit and shake off the weight of the day? Is there some basic self-care we could engage in that’s equivalent to having a brush down and our hoofs checked?

More than likely we push ourselves nonstop from the minute we wake up until our head hits the pillow at bedtime. Sure we might turn on the TV or browse the Internet some. For me that’s not much different from wandering into the stall untended. I need a more active, conscientious and deliberate effort to relax and care for my physical and mental well-being.

Reading or writing after a long day works wonders to wipe away the “sweat and dirt” of my day’s ride. Other times, having a conversation with MSH helps me lift the saddle weight of worry from my shoulders. Sometimes simply sitting and doing nothing, staring, thinking or meditating can wash away a day’s stress. If you’re the praying sort, that might be your emotional and spiritual grooming time to work out the kinks of life’s demands. Or maybe a literal washing in the shower or a soak in the tub serves as an emotional cleansing in your day.

Whatever we need to do to avoid being “rode hard and put away wet” seems like a good plan to me.

Well, hello there!

Sounds like basic horse sense to me!

 

“A horse loves freedom, and the weariest old work horse will roll on the ground or break into a lumbering gallop when he is turned loose into the open.” ~Gerald Raftery

 

 

 

 

Categories: good ideas, Mental Health, physical health, Wondering | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

A Real Nail Biter

When you’re determined to do something not much will stand in your way.

I had a sister who sucked her thumb when she was young until she was almost not a child anymore. Mom and Dad tried everything, rewards, punishments, a mouthpiece, and yucky tasting stuff painted on her thumb. Nothing seemed to work. Whatever she got from sucking on that thumb outweighed any threat or reward anyone could put before her.

What finally worked? Peer pressure!

In other words: You can’t be cool and suck your thumb at a slumber party.

Instant cure for her.

My bad habit cure wasn’t so instantaneous. What other people thought about my fingernail biting didn’t matter much to me at all.

Munched fingernails.

Munched fingernails.

I tried that yucky paint on stuff because I wanted to stop biting my fingernails. Mom and Dad wanted me to stop biting my nails, too. But the stuff didn’t taste bad enough. I would still keep biting and chewing and gnawing away at my nails and my cuticles. I would chew past the quick until my poor fingers bled and throbbed. Sometimes I had four or five bandages on my fingers to keep them from hurting too much. Once they healed enough I would be back at chewing my nails again.

Not only did I want to stop biting my nails, I wanted to have long beautiful manicured nails. But nothing I tried did any good.

I might add that this was long before the common occurrence of nail salons that populate every strip mall across the country. I couldn’t simply go get acrylic nails glued on.

At the back of most teen magazines there were adds for fake nail kits like the ones “used in Hollywood.” I succumbed in my desperation and paid out hard-earned babysitting money for one of these “easy to use” kits. What a disaster! Lumpy foul-smelling glops of gunk on the ends of my fingers. Bah!

At this point you might be asking a few questions. What was I so stressed about? Why did I chew my nails? Was I an anxious child?

Did I worry?

Oh yes, I did worry.

I worried about everything from the end of the world to what to do during a nuclear explosion. I worried about who I would play with at recess and whether I’d see the cute boy at lunch. I worried about the bullies and the popular girls and I worried about getting left behind. Then as I got older I worried about playing the clarinet decently and fitting in with some group, having cute enough clothes, homework assignments, AP tests, a part-time job. You name it, I probably worried about it.

But was all this worry the reason I bit my fingernails? I have no idea.

I think it was just a strange habit I fell into. Something to do. A nervous tic. Boredom.

Saved by Good Intentions

As a freshman in college, a slightly older freshman took me under her wing. I suppose I came across as out of date, or frumpy, or plain. I don’t know. I was more interested in learning something in my classes and doing well writing essays and taking tests. I also held down a part-time job and didn’t have much time for a social life. Whatever the reason, she had a few suggestions for updating my look, inspiring more self-confidence, and for improving my grooming.

Looking back I might have taken offense at her chutzpah, but I think I simply welcomed her attention and concern. Mostly, I was glad for the “older sister” treatment, since I didn’t have an older sister.

Among tons of advice, which I quickly forgot, she gave me some surprisingly simple advice that solved a lifelong problem. She told me that if I took care of my fingernails every single day, pushing back my cuticles, smoothing and filing any rough edges, and repainting them every single day they would grow in.

Guess what?

A sampling of nail care kitsch.

A sampling of nail care kitsch.

It worked! My nails grew. Instead of chewing at the gnarly looking stubs, I looked longingly at the barely growing but meticulously cared for tips of my nails. I saw potential. I saw hope.

Did my dorm mate’s ministrations suddenly and miraculously cause me to start dating a lot? No! And I didn’t care that much about dating then. But my fingernails grew longer than they had ever been! I finally liked how my hands looked.

Strange that all it took to cure my nail-biting was to pay attention to them in a different way. Instead of mindlessly gnawing away, I was mindfully caring for my nails.

Makes me wonder.

I wonder if that works for other things in life? Replace automatic behavior with thoughtful and focused behavior and voilà! Hmmm. Curious.

*Note to self: research this phenomenon in depth.

Once in a while, usually when I’m reading a suspenseful or intense book, I’ll start fiddling about at a rough edge of a nail or a cuticle and before I know it (after fifty pages or so) I have a short nail. And if the book keeps my attention tied up too much, I’ll find almost all my nails short again. But, then I grow them back really quickly.

I suppose that’s why I try to chew gum, or eat chocolate, or nuts, or popcorn when I’m reading. I should keep a nail file nearby, or use an emery board as a bookmark.

For the most part, now that I’m technically a mature adult, I keep my nails looking long and neat. Occasionally I’ll splurge for a manicure, but that’s rare.

I still worry. I haven’t found a magic cure for that. Which is too bad.

But at least my fingernails don’t pay that price anymore.

~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`

I did a quick search and found a few articles about changing bad habits if you’re interested in learning more.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: physical health, self-image | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

One of Those Phone Calls You Don’t Want

When your phone rings at bedtime or after and it’s one of your siblings, a jolt of lightning shoots through your chest. It’s best to sit down before you say hello. Important to remember to keep breathing.

Whatever niceties you normally say, you say them, even though you know that’s not what the phone call is about.

You hear pieces of words, not full sentences. You try to put it together like a puzzle dumped out the box before you’ve seen the picture on the box.

You want time to move backwards to ten minutes ago, ten days ago, ten weeks ago, ten months ago, ten years ago. You want this not to be happening.

Not my favorite place. But glad they exist.

Not my favorite place. But glad they exist.

Not again.

Another stroke.

A different kind this time. Ischemic.

Ischemic, not hemmoragic. What does that mean?

A million questions. Very few answers, mostly uncertainty.

Tests to run.

Prayers to offer up. That’s all I can do from this many miles away.

Calls to make.

Decisions. Patience while hoping and praying, always praying, for the patient to improve.

The patient.

Mom.

That one word sends the tears cascading and threatens to spill what little logic yet remains all over the floor making a huge mess of things.

Grateful for group messaging to communicate with siblings quickly, easily and clearly.

Hours later you read words that calm the pounding in your head and heart.

Resting. Stabilizing. Talking. Leveling. Normal Function. No clots so far.

You write not in first person because you need the distance created by the preposition “you.”

You write because sleep seems incomprehensible.

You write to have something to do about frayed nerves and the ache burning through you.

You write because surely you want to, should be able to, create a happy ending.

You write as a sort of prayer through the fingers. A keyboard rosary. Each keystroke a pleading for intercession.

Hoping for the best.

Hoping for the best.

Still praying.

Still praying.

Still praying.

 

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” ~Mother Teresa

 

 

 

Categories: Family, Hope, physical health | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Hazards of Sleep

Ever grateful when sleep actually envelops me, I really shouldn’t complain.

And yet, this morning I find myself in a fog of sleep’s detritus, muddled, mired, heavy with the night’s work. For some reason the dream machine knobs all ratcheted up to extra high last night. Someone bumped the control panel maybe?

Only in dreams can a skateboard be a perfectly logical means of transportation on a freeway, as well as on a mountain trail.

Only in dreams does a wasteland of sandy desert intersect in clean lines with a dark thick forest of tangled growth and dangers.

Only in dreams can people leap from outlandish heights and end up landing gently in a moving vehicle.

Last night’s ultra vivid movie starred people from my past I haven’t seen in decades, as well as people I just spoke with yesterday. Complete strangers, of course, show up most often. As far as I can tell, no one had anything monumental or prophetic to say. Thank goodness.

Dreams fade fast, like sunsets.

Dreams fade fast, like sunsets.

Even now, as I write, most of what went on fades into the distance as quickly as a stunning sunset. Small glimmers of light wink on briefly but with no hand holds to grab for analyzing.

A couple of nightmares played into the mix as well. Being chased by something dark and evil, a maniacal laugh behind me as I attempted escape. MSH shaking me awake from my frightened cries. I shudder a bit even now as I think about the fogged over memory of it.

Years ago, when MSH traveled frequently for work,  I had a nightmare so real that when I awoke I held the nightstand over my head and was screaming at a non-existent intruder to get out. My children had run into the room and turned on the light and were yelling to wake me. Poor dears were more frightened than I by the whole thing.

Luckily, that’s the only time I’ve been up and about in a dream.

At two and three years of age my son experienced night terrors. What a helpless feeling to see your own child, eyes wide open, screaming, terrified, moving about, but unable to wake up. It took two of us to wake and calm him, one to hold him firmly, the other to get a cool washcloth for his face. Then both of us to talk him into wakefulness.

These remind me of a dream's ethereal and fragile nature.

These remind me of a dream’s ethereal and fragile nature.

I seldom remember my dreams or my nightmares. The few I remember still sit on a memory shelf at the forefront of my mind waiting for me to take them down and replay at will. Those, of course, pack a wallop of meaning and symbolism. Often, when I review the details of those dreams the meaning changes slightly based on changes in my life. I wrote one down once and emailed it to MSH because he played a prominent role in the dream. His interpretation, of course, fell in different lines than my interpretation did. Still does. Otherwise, my dreams stay in my head. No writing about them.

Writing a dream down gives it a different shape and texture. Assigning words to a thing as ethereal as a dream takes away some essential element and replaces it with a less refined, more sluggish substance. Even speaking about them out loud takes away part of the dreamlike quality, like attempting to capture fog in a glass jar.

If I could place an order for a dream or two I’d ask for a dreamy garden stroll with my maternal grandmother. I’d also like a dream of a day fishing with either or both of my grandfathers. And my  paternal grandmother and I at an NBA basketball game would be a dream of epic proportions. And of course, I really want a dream where Kathy and I could chat endlessly. And because it’s a dream and everything could be ideal she’d be the one driving the car and running with abandon and jumping on the trampoline and working on some hair-brained but brilliant project in the garage. Oh, and a dream of being on a cruise for a week would also be nice and relaxing. Of course, the real version of that would be better.

Yeah, I’d like to place my order for those dreams. So if anyone who knows the Sandman and can put in a good word for me, I’d appreciate it.

Awake feels good for now.

Let’s get on with the day, shall we?

Categories: Mental Health, physical health, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Ignore It and It Will Show Up at your Bedside?

Oh, to sleep like a two-year old, almost twelve hours straight uninterrupted.

Oh, to sleep like a two-year old, almost twelve hours straight uninterrupted.

For the past five or six weeks I’ve run across a major roadblock to sanity.

Sleep runs the other direction when I put my head on the pillow. Dreams hide as the covers wrap me in warmth. Rest disappears and restlessness settles in like an unwelcome guest.

Legs twitch, itchy spots scream for attention, the mind performs acrobatics. Even my eyes get in on the action, closed or not, parades of colors dance and swim in loud splashes and vibrant displays.

The sheets warm past bearing, the air chills. The pillow alternates between rock and hard place.

And if by some freak of nature my body begins to relax into that mysterious land called sleep a siren screams through on a distant street, volume turned up extra loud. Or a dog barks. Or some sound or another disrupts that blessed descent to almost unconsciousness.

And if all is silent, then surely a thought intrudes bumbling and jostling its way down the crowded seating in my brain, stepping on every toe.

Every thing that normally invites sleep no longer has any power to invite, elicit, encourage or entice somnolence. A droning audio book, lullabies on Pandora, white noise, humidifier, deep breathing, relaxation techniques, limiting caffeine, eliminating caffeine, reading, lights on, lights off, a light in the hall, no light in the hall, a warm bath, warm milk, a heating pad, a cool pack, lavender, chamomile, a massage, a different bed, a different pillow, a different room, the couch, a chair, the floor, prescription sleep meds, Benadryl, nighttime cold meds, multiple pillows, no pillows, singing, humming, counting, imagining a peaceful scene, conjuring floating on a cloud, no screen time an hour before, rituals, prayer, snuggling, no snuggling, sitting up, a protein snack, no snack, a drink of water, aroma therapy.

NOTHING. WORKS.

I can watch a movie and drop off into an irresistible snooze, then sleepwalk into the bedroom and voilà, I am awake unable to sleep again. I can read a book, barely able to keep my eyes focused on the words, nodding off into incoherence, then closing the book acts like an on switch for wakefulness.

What am I thinking about? What am I worried about? What’s on my mind? What am I anxious about? Why am I wacko?

Everything. Nothing. Anything.

It hardly matters.

Sometimes, around six or seven in the morning, some trigger clicks and I’m out. However long I sleep it’s never long enough and when I do wake from that kind of daytime sleep I drag my head and body through the rest of what’s left of a day like a soaking wet blanket, useless and heavy.

The only thing that matters is the need for sleep and how impossible it is to achieve.

It’s not like this every night. Only sometimes. Every other night, every third night, sometimes. I wonder if I might simply spend the rest of my life exhausted, worn out, sleep deprived.

I can’t think that way, though. I have to believe that the word temporary applies here. Temporary sleep deprivation. Temporary exhaustion. Temporary insomnia. Temporary rest disabled. Temporary partial insanity.

What did Shakespeare say? Oh yeah, “to sleep, to sleep, perchance to Dream.” Unfortunately that lovely line resides among a soliloquy debating the merits of dying. It’s part of that whole “to be or not to be” speech. Yeah, that one. (Most of Shakespeare’s ramblings about sleep are really about dying, so maybe I’ll look elsewhere for a better quote or two about sleep.

How about this one?

“I’ve always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed.” ~ David Benioff, City of Thieves

Or, this one is brilliant in an obvious and obnoxious way.

“The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.” ~ W.C. Fields

I like how this author turns things in a positive light.

“You are not an insomniac! (you’re just a nighttime philosopher)” ~ Leslie Dean Brown

Probably, I should incorporate this one in my nightly prayers.

“Lord, grant us rest tonight, and if we must be wakeful, cheerful.” ~ Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons

Some day, or rather, some night, this insomnia will go away. I’m counting on it. In fact, I’m thinking tonight I’ll actually sleep. I’m overdue for some.

It could happen!

Categories: Mental Health, physical health | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Winds Will Blow

Thursday Afternoon:

The current variety of stomach bug snuck up on me  from behind and attacked in full force with vengeance and slaughter as its only aim.

Thursday Night:

The wee hours brought a thunderstorm that parked itself over our house and proceeded to play a few frames of Bowling with the Gods. In my semi-delirious state I thought perhaps they’d be carrying me away when the games played out.

Friday Morning:

Surprisingly I woke in my own bed the next morning, spent, still spinning a bit but able to walk. I slogged to the front door and peeked out to see what havoc had rained down whilst I attempted sleep. A gray sky still hovered low and ominous save for a small area of sunlight valiantly attempting a go at it. I grabbed my camera and captured this image.

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All gray sky but this one small area of sun trying to break through.

And with this scene I also captured a desire to go outside, under that sky. I wanted to capture a few lingering raindrops, to feel the fresh air on my pallid skin. More than anything I wanted to replace the rancid indoor air of my lungs with this ozone enhanced and rain cooled wonderful misty infused oxygen.

Friday Noon:

I’m sure I’ve never walked so slowly through the Riparian. My energy levels sat near zero, but my wish  outdoors drove me there almost as much as the car did. My slow pace lent itself to noticing things I sometimes miss. The overcast skies kept the wildlife active and vibrant where they’re usually subdued and snoozing at midday.

Friday Afternoon:

I’d certainly walked too far for how ill I’d felt the day before, but the effects of nature’s tender cloud filled  embrace had worked magic on my heart.

Saturday:

Here I share a few of the glories available less than one mile from my home. I think it’s time I made a regular practice of visiting there as I did a few years ago.

“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” ~ John Muir

Categories: Nature, Outdoors, physical health | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Newborn-babyitis

I’ve acquired newborn-babyitis.

This involves being confused about night-time and day time. Specifically it means where the rest of the world believes it’s time to sleep my brain and body is a non-believer.

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Don’t be fooled by this sweetly sleeping infant. This photo was snapped midday.

Like a newborn, this occurs at the most inconvenient times and places. Specifically at bedtime and in bed.

There’s no logical reason for a baby to think it’s time for alert and active thrashing about and for making various odd noises when almost everyone else (except those who work third shift) has drifted off into dreamland, or as I call it, “that which cannot be named or achieved.”

There’s no logical reason for my own thrashing about and the sense of my body plugged into a direct current of electricity. Wakeful and semi-alert well past bedtime reeks of the nonsensical and infuriating.

This state of unrest, literally un-rest, is particularly aggravating when not ten minutes before climbing into bed my head kept nodding off to the side, dreams kept intruding in the current episode of White Collar or Burn Notice on Netflix, and my eyelids had lost the ability to remain open.

Why, oh why, oh why, couldn’t that near comatose state in the family room translate into the bedroom, on comfy pillows, with a fluffy comforter and total silence?

A pacifier

Unlike a newborn, I don’t have a wet diaper, I don’t need feeding, I’m past the swaddling stage, a binky is completely optional lately and swinging or rocking would just make me nauseous.

This happens even following a completely caffeine-free day. No diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Dr. Pepper or Mountain Dew. And no, none of that surreptitious caffeine like they sometime put in Root beer. My body craves, desires, requires, can’t go on without, will go stark raving mad without sleep. I’m not about to jeopardize that with a little fizzy fling on ice.

Why such rebellion from an otherwise cooperative and compliantly sleepy brain? I sort of understand the infant’s topsy-turvy sleep schedule. They’ve been ensconced in a perfect floating world for so long where sleeping and waking all looked and felt the same. Suddenly changing when those things happen appears illogical to that tiny brain. But a full-grown, semi-sane adult should drop off into Never Never Land with nary a thought.

It’s like getting in the car and finding the engine won’t turn over. Not even an Rrrrrr, or a click. Just Nothingness. A giant void of non sleep. I don’t even begin to approach that little ledge between consciousness and sleep. Yeah, you know, that elusive line of awareness, fuzziness and goneness. That blissful, wonderful, coveted lack of sensation.

That slippery slope dried up recently. A fence got built in its place.

Baby blankets

Baby blankets (Photo credit: happydacks)

Grrr.

I’ve had experience with sleep meds so I’m not really anxious to go there.  Poor sad potato.<<== Click there to make sense of that weird phrase and to understand my reluctance to go the chemical route.

Eventually newborns adjust their sleep patterns to conform to the family schedule. At least usually. Or so I’ve heard. Not sure I ever experienced that with my own children.

I could take a cue from the wee little ones. Maybe I need to try a pacifier, a blankie and a lullaby or two.

And naps. Lots and lots of napping.

Categories: Mental Health, parenting, physical health | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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