The Song In My Bones (Dealing With Pain)

There is a Wisdom,
Buried deep in my bones,
A Gift,
Passed down to me,
From Ancestors of Old.

Today we call it a curse,
And fight and rail,
We give it names,
Arthritis and Migraine,
And call the wild Wisdom,
By another name: Pain.

But, is it, really,
Just the song my bones knows?

5,000 years ago…

…I would have been honored amongst my Tribe. I would have warned my People four hours ago that a change in the weather was coming, something I knew because I felt the change coming in my ears, my head. We would have had time to take shelter before the raging winds arrived, as they have now.

…I would be warning my Tribe now that an even bigger change was coming. I feel it, in my bones – in the bad knee and shoulder that suddenly twinge, and the deep ache in my bones growing sharper by the moment.

My bones know. They are singing to me, singing of the changes to come.

Tomorrow, the temperature here will drop from 35 degrees to something-below-zero, with wind chills of -30 degrees.

My bones are telling me that, a Gift that could have meant the life or death of my Tribe.

I can tell you when rain is within 50 miles and headed this way, whatever the season, by the pang in my shoulder. There was a time when that would have been very useful.

Now, I have no need of this life-saving Gift. Who does? We have the Weather Channel, and weather apps on our fones.

But maybe, it’s time I stopped complaining about the “pain” of my “reactive inflammatory arthritis” and “weather migraines,” and started thanking my body for giving me the warnings it was meant to give me.

It is only my body singing to me with ancient Wisdom.

Maybe, it’s time I started just listening, just being with the sensations, without labeling them as “pain,” and instead, think about what they would have meant a thousand, or five thousand, years ago.

Survival. Life. Or, death.

Maybe, it’s time I stopped running away, and just lay still, curled up, and listened to the Wisdom buried deep in my body.

I think it has a lot to say.

I wrote that last night, but then didn’t post it.
I was too busy, listening to my bones sing.

There is a craft to this, the listening, one I’m sure our ancient ancestors refined. Just as I know the approach of rain by my very reliable shoulder, what exactly was the singing in my ribs, my bad knee, then most of my bones, even into my hands, telling me last night? If I had no weather app on my fone, I would need to know.

Waking far too early this morning, writhing from the ache in my bones, with pressure in my head, I knew the temperature was soon to start its drop and more change was coming. I could hear the wind roaring outside. When I got up, I discovered that yesterday’s mild south winds, that had changed to west winds last night, were now hard and gusting even harder from the north.

My mind flashed back to reading about the “polar vortex” and coming “arctic plunge,” with temperatures so low that “if you are younger than 40 you likely won’t remember anything this cold.” I put that out of mind.

Why stay awake and thrash and fight the “pain,” when it is only my bones singing to me, with the ancient Wisdom, as the bodies of some have done for countless generations before me?

Instead, I thanked my wonderous body for the warning, and told it that I understood why my bones were singing, the Wisdom it was sharing with me.

Muscles relaxed instead of spasmed.
The song became a lullabye.
And then, I went peacefully back to sleep.

It will take time to break long-engrained habits – the tightening of muscles around the signals my body is sending, the labeling of those signals always as “pain,” fighting and avoiding them, causing my body to only send them out louder and stronger, more urgently. But, it’s a start.

I’ve wondered before if weather-related migraines were an evolutionary advantage – if a small proportion of members of a tribe had them, they would have been, I think.

But, I never tried to consciously work with my body, to acknowledge that its messages were received, other than to say, “yeah, that part hurts, I understand, you can shut up about it now.” The flare of inflammatory arthritis I’ve been having has given me a new incentive to work on how I deal with “pain,” and acknowledging it while in deep relaxation does help – to a point.

Maybe, only “to a point” because I wasn’t acknowledging the whole message.

Yes, my wise body, I hear the song in my bones now, and I understand. You’re right, a big change in the weather is coming, a dangerous one. Thank you for warning me. I am safe, warm, and protected – and listening.

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15 Years: Time, Memory, Remembering, Forgetting, and Stupidity

It’s funny, what I forget, even now, after so long being sick. Sometimes, in my mind, I am still strong & healthy, as if time simply stopped passing when I became ill. Sometimes, it really feels that way, as if time did stop, and there is only The Before Times and a giant blur that came after.

But it’s been 15 years this month.

I had relapsing and remitting symptoms for a couple of years, and then in Dec, 1998, ME/CFS & FMS (and chronic Lyme) came to stay. I was diagnosed in 1999.

I just now, today, realized it was now actually the month of December, and the year is 2013, and that means it has been 15 years.

Time passes very differently for those of us with ME/CFS. I often am surprised at what month it is, or how long it’s been since something has happened. Sometimes I’m off by years when asked, “How long since…?”

One of the curses and also dubious blessings of this illness is memory loss. I remember things that happened before I became ill far, far, clearer than things that came after. Those 15 years are a fog, a ghostly mist through which I catch glimpses of events.

Sometimes, something or someone will trigger a memory, and something totally forgotten comes back. Sometimes, no matter how hard someone tries to get me to remember something, even some meaningful and important event, no matter how desperately I grasp for it, there is just nothing there. A ghostly mist where the memory should be. A blank slate.

But the not-remembering, the fog, and the complete lack of a sense of the passage of time, those things can be a blessing, too. If I had to really remember all the pain, misery, and suffering, of those 15 years, the frustrations, the losses… I’m not sure I could handle that. It is better that it is a blur.

Sometimes, because it seems like the last 15 years really didn’t happen, and I’m still that strong & healthy woman I was at 35, I forget, and do stupid things. Things my now-fragile body can’t handle.

Today, we are in something of a crisis as we are preparing for a severe ice storm, and I am totally stressed out. This stress is a huge problem.

My body’s been dumping adrenaline, making me think I am stronger and can do more than I am or should. It’s had this adrenaline dumping issue for months now and we haven’t been able to track down the cause.

Suffice it to say, whenever the slightest bit of stress happens, my body dumps adrenaline and prepares for “fight or flight.” This has led to a lot of pacing around the house like a caged tiger, sleepless nights, angry and irrational outbursts, a “manic & frantic” mental state, and is, in general, driving me and my very patient caregivers absolutely crazy.

Ice

The last 10 days have been incredibly stressful, with a severe ice storm last Tuesday & Wednesday leaving damage behind that I had to deal with, and now a second, probably even more severe, ice storm looming on Sunday.

I have pushed way far through the “energy envelope” we with ME/CFS are supposed to stay within, for day after day, goaded on by a flood of adrenaline.

And I’ve done a lot of really stupid things: walking around in the icy woods assessing damage, flagging down electric company workers…

I’ve been home alone for a week, as Rhiannon’s couple days’ visiting with Ben’s family turned into a week when she caught a terrible cold that I really don’t need to catch. So, I’ve been dealing with a lot of crap on my own that I normally wouldn’t – not just daily living, but getting power lines fixed, both at my house and a neighbor’s retreat cabin, being without cable for days and getting that fixed, etc.

Today’s really stupid thing?
When the electricians who are installing inside wiring for our emergency generator arrived, Kodi, our 125# Tibetan Mastiff/Rottweiler, went ballistic. He is head of security here, after all, and there were 3 people on the porch. His job is to protect me, and he takes that very seriously.

Kodi

2012 – He’s filled in considerably since…

The flood of adrenaline hit. I had to get him in the bathroom so I could insure their safety. I didn’t even think about it. I reached for his collar and he yanked himself away, rearing up like a wild horse. I lassoed him with a leash, and oh, he fought, just like the horses I used to have, before finally giving in.

Kodi understands something I still don’t, after 15 years sick, and 3 or so at this precariously low weight: He’s an incredibly powerfully built, 125 pounds of solid muscle, linebacker of a canine killing machine, and I am 107 pounds of skin, sinew and bone. I am not that physically strong woman anymore, who could wrangle a horse.

He is a dominant-aggressive dog by nature, and it took a long time and a lot of hard work to get him to submit to me as his pack leader. He still sometimes puts up a fight about that, especially when I’m in the frantic-manic mind-state that adrenaline puts me in, rather than the calm-assertive state I should be in.

It wasn’t until my adrenaline level dropped that I even realized my hand was hurting and damp. Leash burn, so bad it had blistered open and was oozing pus. And then pain in my fingers, my wrist, my back…

“What the hell was I thinking?” I asked myself, as I inspected my hand, noting yet again the hollows where muscles used to be. I wasn’t, I concluded.

Adrenaline fueled, my mind told me to take care of the problem.

Forgetting I wasn’t still that tough & strong woman who not only wrangled horses but also lived with wolves, I did.

Now I will pay the price. Hopefully, this time the lesson Kodi has taught me will stick, and I will approach him differently.

15 years I’ve been sick, and yet, still, there are times I don’t remember that.

And I don’t really know if that’s a good thing, or a bad thing.

But if ever I forget, and truly only see myself as this frail shell of the woman I once was, I think I would be done for. THAT woman has to live on in my mind, the ultimate goal, in order to keep going, keep looking for ways to get better. I will never be quite HER again… I will be older, wiser, and emotionally and mentally a hell of a lot tougher than I ever was. But SHE has to remain the goal, unforgotten.

I think that’s worth a little leash burn and sore muscles.

Forgotten Dreams & Finding Myself Again


“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
― Thomas Merton, “No Man Is an Island”

Recently, I’ve come to realize (again) just how much being chronically ill has stolen from me, and not just in the obvious physical sense.

Little bits & pieces of me, of who I am, have been slowly slipping away into the morass of living with ME/CFS/Lyme, etc., buried under the avalanche of chronic illness, a little bit (or occasionally a lot) at a time, as I slowly spiral downward.

And then I found myself again, all the little missing bits, in the most unlikely of places.

The loss of physical function, of ability, is the easy part to see.

I can no longer ride horses, garden beyond a few pots on the deck & my beloved bonsai, or even make a trip to the grocery store without seriously overtaxing my body. Those long hikes in the Woods are long gone.

Less obvious to those on the outside looking in are the loss of the ability to watch TV or movies because of sound & light sensitivity & the damned migraines. I had have my favorite sci-fi & fantasy shows & movies, and I miss them, though they wait patiently for me on the DVR.

Perhaps most of all, I miss the ability to inhale a good novel, to luxuriate in a fantasy world of warrior women, magic, and quests to be fulfilled, or to travel backward into history & relive the ancient past. I used to read upwards of 150 pages a night of a good book, but I lost the ability to retain what I read, and so keep track of plotlines and characters, about 10 years ago.

But the Amazon warrior woman within, the myths & magic I love so much, reside within me still, I have found.

Rather than be pushed away into the fog and forgotten, they beg to be brought out into the open, acknowledged, and, even, nourished.

They are part of who I am.

Exploring more, I re-discovered the thrill of seeing a beautiful vista from a far-away land, a gorgeous garden, an amazing animal, an unusual and well done piece of art, and so much more.

And so I have found myself again, I have awoken from my soul’s slumber, thanks to that unlikely source I mentioned: Pinterest.

For those who don’t know, Pinterest is a highly addictive online “pinboard” site, where you can create pinboards – collections – of images of things you like, and keep them neatly arranged in as many boards as you like. You can “follow” people who share your interests, and browse their boards, and repin what you like to your own boards. Most of the pins lead to websites, often of interest, too.

To be honest, I joined Pinterest because I saw friends joining, and didn’t really expect much to use it.

But then I discovered the world of imagery that resides on the web, the treasure hunt that is Pinterest, finding people who like the same things I do, and began luxuriating in the glorious artwork & photography the way I used to do with my reading, tv and movie watching, and travel.

During a bad migraine day, of which there are many, I barely feel like moving, and thinking is terribly difficult. About the only thing I can do at such times is to immerse myself in the fantastic art & images of the divine, creative DIY ideas, magical homes, forests & sacred spaces, found on Pinterest, all while barely budging from my pillow, on my smartphone.

As I collect and categorize, I am both losing myself from the pain of the migraine & drudgery of another day of “chronic-ness”, and also finding myself, the parts so long buried & lost, hidden away. But still there.

Buried, but still alive & well inside my heart & soul.

It’s been six months of pinning now, and I’ve found it to be an interesting & invigorating process, both spiritually & emotionally.

Hidden anger & grief has risen to the surface to be dealt with, as I see things that remind me of The Before Times, of things I used to do, places I wanted to see, but now can’t.

I thought I was over that aspect of this illness we call ME/CFS, over the loss of so much that was a part of my identity.

But seeing some of these images, these visions of the Past and hopes for the Future, served as a reminder to me that grief is a process, a spiral, not a circle – we don’t go through the steps of the circle and be over it.

Instead, we go ’round and ’round the spiral of grief and anger, mourning the loss of Life-As-We-Knew-It, and with each turning of the spiral, the grief in our hearts heals a little more, slowly, ever so slowly, fading away…

As I’ve wandered the spiral of grieving for my life, I’ve found Pinterest to be invaluable in renewing my hope and fueling inspiration.

Creativity has budded, and begun to flower.

Images and how-to’s fill my Creativity board of things I know I can make and do, albeit very slowly. I can revisit and refine what inspires me, as new pins are found and pinned, and not-quite-right pins are removed. They remind me that:

I can still create. I can still make beautiful things.

Another board reminds me of my deep connection to Nature, and is populated with images of wild women and wild places, prompting the sleeping wildling within to awaken.

With every visit, the fires of inspiration burn brighter.

Once upon a time, I had my very own, very large, herb garden, with just about every herb, medicinal and culinary, you could have. But for now, we have the Woods, some pots on the deck, and dried herbs that can be purchased.

Pinterest has re-kindled my interest in using natural ways for healing. The internet is full of tons of information on using herbs & foods for healing, and my board is a great way to organize all that info – and encourage me to try it!


When things are very bad, physically, I can drop myself into the sacred imagery, fantasy art, especially lovely places, or beautiful wildwoods that populate my boards, and hide myself from the pain & distress. I can distract myself from the boredom of living a life filled with chronic pain & exhaustion by going treasure hunting – for new & wonderful things to pin.

It is a refuge, a respite, and a renewal, that I never expected, but am very thankful for.

To see my entire collection, please visit me on Pinterest ~ and if you’d like an invitation to join, just let me know (it’s free).