the MIRREN LEE

The 2012 Act Three Journey of an Actress/Coach/Writer.

Archive for February, 2012

Day 60 Stick a Fork in Me

Posted by themirrenlee on 29/02/2012

Stick a Fork in Me.

I’m done.

No spoons left, zilch, zero, nada.

Took every ounce of strength to get ready for the trip, and then to actually get to the airport, on the plane, pick up baggage at the end, tote that barge, lift that bale.

I’m sure traveling used to be easier. Or maybe I didn’t have Fibromyalgia!

Anyway, I’m here in Sydney now – which, for all the hassle involved in getting here, is only an hour’s plane trip. Like the distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Plus we had such a strong tail wind we landed 10 minutes early. It took longer to drive to the airport than to actually fly between the two cities!

I’m so happy to see David, Katie and Nicky. It appears that my wonderful 12 year old grandson is now officially taller than me! (I’m 5’4″.)

I’m even happier that I get to take tomorrow off and recuperate. I want to end the day with some spare spoons!

Soon, with my son the uber geek’s help you will see a proper website take shape. David is incredible at all things technical – and he’s photographer with a great eye for design.

I will also start filling in my Categories, like my growing up with crazy in “A Different Kind of Normal”. Those of you from abusive backgrounds, whether physically, emotionally, or both, know how hard it is to write about it without just sounding like a victim. I’m more interested in the black comedy point of view, and trying to find the right writing tone is difficult.

I’m really enjoying reading the blogs of the people who have found me here on WordPress so far. I don’t know how because I haven’t pushed it much until I have a proper website. But WordPress seems to have quite a strong community.

Enough. I’m doing this on my phone so I can lie on my back and it’s hurting my arms. Always the pain trade offs!

See you tomorrow.

I’m just done …

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Day 59 One Spoon Left

Posted by themirrenlee on 28/02/2012

One spoon left.

That’s all I have, and I still have to pack for my trip to Sydney tomorrow. Actually, after all the running around I had to do today to finish up last minute errands, I think it may only be half a spoon! (For those confused by this analogy, see my post, “The Spoon Theory”.)

It’s amazing how much organizing there is to be done when going away for just three weeks. I have only street parking for my car, so I’ve arranged for my daughter to take it to her place where it will be safer. My friend around the corner is picking up my mail, and so on. Our lives are made up of so many details to take care of, it’s no wonder those of us with chronic conditions like Fibromyalgia get so sore and tired trying to keep up!

I know that healthy people will say that life is complicated and busy for them, too, but I read an interesting thing once on a site about Fibromyalgia. It was a suggestion that people without it should try to replicate the pain we suffer with in our muscles by clipping clothes pegs all over their bodies. Someone even suggested that there should be a clothes peg symbol for us! It’s an interesting idea, isn’t it?

Trying to explain chronic muscle pain is quite difficult. I shortcut it by describing it as “like arthritis of the muscles”. That seems to help make a connection to something that people are already familiar with.

Lugging around a body filled with pain, and the fatigue that follows it, makes doing anything just that bit more difficult, as fellow sufferers of any chronic condition know. With the “one day on, one day off” routine I try to follow in order to cope with the build up of symptoms, I am really looking forward to the day AFTER I arrive, which I will probably spend in bed, building up my spoons!

I do want to give one good traveling hint I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post. This last Christmas, my gift hints were heard and I finally became the owner of one of the new type of suitcases that have 4 wheels. This means they can rotate 360 degrees, and go forward, backwards, or turn on a dime. They are also usually hard cases (back to the Samsonite days!), but so much lighter than anything else I’ve used. It makes the nightmare of hauling luggage incredibly easier because I can PUSH it as well as pull it. I find pulling much harder on my shoulders, so usually I push the suitcase instead. Wonderful. I highly recommend trying one if you haven’t already.

So tomorrow night’s post will be from Sydney. When faced with doing something that I know will be unpleasant/painful, I visualize seeing myself on the other side of it. Instead of thinking about how it’s going to feel getting to the airport, etc., I’m going to focus on seeing David, Katie and Nicky tomorrow night, and replenishing my spoons on Thursday.

I’m just spoon poor …

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Day 58 Have a Nice Trip?

Posted by themirrenlee on 27/02/2012

Slow but steady is the only way I can manage to travel. I wish I had as tough a back as this little guy (girl?)!

Have a nice trip?

Yes, I did, thanks, when I fell off the curb while putting my suitcase in the car after my cat sitting weekend. I gave up trying to wear anything even remotely resembling a heel on my shoes about a million years ago, after finally having to admit that I’m too clumsy, and my ankles are too weak, to trust that I don’t break something. My ankle weakness was revealed to me during the one and only time that I tried to ice skate. Hilariously impossible! (My poor daughter inherited the same weakness, going so far as to actually break her ankle during her {last} attempt to ice skate.)

And STILL I manage to fall off curbs, trip over imaginary potholes, and fall off flat sandals! An astrologer once told me that I was clumsy because I’m an Aquarian with something in Capricorn that makes it so. But he also told me that I had a short lifeline and would probably only live to see about 56. Real ethical there, boyo. Now that I’m 61, I don’t think I’ll believe the clumsy reasoning, either. I’ve had to accept I’m just a natural born klutz.

I’ll have a better trip, I’m sure, when I go to Sydney to see my son’s family on Wednesday. I’ll be staying there for 3 whole weeks, enough time to have him help me set this website up properly. Can’t wait!

I love travel, but hate the actual mechanics of traveling, only because of my health and stamina issues. My muscles protest at hauling luggage, my sinuses hate plane air conditioning (and the pressure changes of take offs and landings), my back hates sitting or standing for very long, and I don’t sleep well unless I’m in a bed, so long distance flights leave me exhausted. Not to mention that I’m a person who takes 3 weeks to get over jet lag!

And yet I love travel itself so much. New places, people, languages and experiences – just fantastic. Before Fibromyalgia tore through my body, I used to hit a new city and just walk until I’d seen most of everything there was to see. I really miss being able to do that. But this year is about getting stronger and experiencing a lessening of my symptoms, so I’m going to believe that I’ll eventually be able again to thoroughly explore a place on foot.

I have to say that they’ve also made travel itself, by plane, not such a pleasant experience. Everyone knows that. It’s such a joke to think that we’ve never had greater technology, or facilities (your own first class cabin, anyone?), to enjoy on board a flight, or faster travel times, and yet the experience is more unpleasant than it’s ever been. When I came to Australia from Los Angeles in 1969, the flight took almost 19 hours, and included stops in Hawaii and Fiji. You can now fly direct in about 12 hours – it just seems like 19 with all the crap we go have to go through just to get on board the damned plane!

I know it’s supposed to be all about security, but I’m not so sure that it’s been handled as well as it could have been. Give bureaucracies a chance to make our lives difficult, and they’ll jump on it like a cat on a mouse!

That’s why I love ship travel. In the “old days” (as late as the 70s), it was still an affordable way to go. I took a Greek ship with my son from Australia to Los Angeles in 1974, and then we went from England to Australia in 1980 on a Russian ship. (Big story coming from that trip – we called it The Death Ship!)

Then I discovered freighter travel. There’s a whole world of freighters that take a few passengers along with their cargo, in wonderful accommodations, including the owner’s cabin (obviously, when he’s not in it!). My last trip was in 2006, from Melbourne to Los Angeles, and it was bliss. Over 3 weeks, we stopped in Tauranga (New Zealand), Tahiti, and Ensenada, Mexico along the way. We had to go up and down many flights of stairs from our cabins to the galley for meals, so I lost about 10 pounds, which was a great bonus! I also read 22 books. (Yes, I counted them.) I watched DVDs on my laptop, and in between slept or stared at the ocean. Passengers have the run of the ship, and the crew are so friendly and helpful. A lot of my crew were from Kiribati, and I was ashamed to admit I’d never even heard of that island. It’s a wonderful, wonderful way to travel. I landed refreshed, pain free, thinner (!) and suffered no jet lag. Not to mention how smart I felt after reading 22 books!

This year, as part of my overall plan, I want to visit Los Angeles at the end of the year. If I could do it by freighter, I would be able to totally relax and not stress about what plane travel does to my body. However, I’ll have to find the money, somehow, as the problem is that the oil prices raised the price of ship travel. In the great scheme of things, it’s not that expensive for daily accommodation and all meals over about 3 weeks, but it still adds up now to about $3,500., with taxes. The amazing thing is, just last year they started a service from Asia to Australia, as well, so it is now possible to take freighters all around the world, and never have to set foot in a plane. Bliss!

BTW, studies have shown that ship travel leaves less of a carbon footprint than plane travel, so you’re also helping the environment. Amazing, right?

I recommend it to everyone, and if you’re interested in finding out more, just Google “freighter travel” and you’ll find agents who will send you out regular newsletters on which ships are going where and when. Just remember that because it’s freighter travel, you have to be a bit flexible with your dates. They’re at the mercy of cargo loading and unloading, so they’re not always totally precise. But hey, that feels more like “real” traveling, doesn’t it? Spontaneity: what a concept!

Tomorrow I pack for Wednesday’s trip. Yuk. The other part of traveling I don’t like. I always forget something, or pack the wrong type of clothes for the weather. But my new vow to stay stress free this year tells me it doesn’t matter. Just “be”.

I hope there’s a bit of travel in everyone’s life, even if it’s just a short hop for a change of scenery. Studies have shown (you know, by “them”) that it’s good for your mental and emotional outlook, which, of course, helps the physical you.

So Bon Voyage!

I’m just trippin’ …

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Day 57 Sleep Orgy

Posted by themirrenlee on 26/02/2012

The Australian koala knows all about sleep orgies; the narcoleptic effect of the eucalyptus leaves is better than Valium!

Sleep orgy.

That’s what I had this weekend. I’m cat/house sitting for friends, and it’s come at a perfect time as they have air conditioning; I do not, and Melbourne is in the middle of a heat wave. Yuk. They also have black out curtains, and a house that is like a 5 star hotel. Perfect conditions for a sleep orgy.

Fibromyalgia is a condition of chronic pain, and chronic pain makes one tired. Even if you don’t have chronic fatigue as a specific condition, you’re going to feel tired most of the time if you’re battling chronic pain. Then the circle starts: pain makes it harder to sleep, so maybe you take something for that (or maybe even have a sleep disorder), and then you feel hungover groggy from the medication, AND STILL IN PAIN, the next day.

The joke is that sleep, good deep rejuvenating re-energizing revitalizing sleep, is the best medicine there is. And yet we seem to be ashamed of sleeping. When the phone rings while you’re sleeping, and the person on the other end asks, “Did I wake you?”, I’ll bet most of you say quickly, trying to make your voice sound normal, “No, of course not, don’t be silly.”

We shouldn’t even answer the phone if we’re sleeping – you’re allowed to do that! I turn my phone off at night. I can’t believe how the thinking has become that we have to be “on call” at all times to all people. They can leave a message, or ring back. My sleep is more important.

In December, I came off the drug Cymbalta, which is an antidepressant when used in large doses, and the first medication to be recommended specifically for Fibromyalgia pain (given in smaller daily doses). I had been on it for about 3 years, and it did help take the edge off my pain, but it is such a horribly addicting drug that I wanted to come off it to see what happened with my pain. I hate being tied so completely to an addictive medication. Well, the most amazing thing happened: after over five years of insomnia I couldn’t seem to do anything about, no matter what I did or took, I started, all of a sudden, to sleep! I don’t know if it was coming off the Cymbalta, or just a coincidence as Menopause released its grip on the sleeping mechanism in my brain.

Coming off Cymbalta was as bad as I thought it would be – there are entire websites dedicated to how bad its withdrawal is. Took me almost 4 weeks of acute mental/emotional/physical symptoms before I was free of it. And my pain levels have increased, so I’m a tad upset about that. But being able to sleep is such a relief, it feels like such a gift, that I’d be afraid to go back on Cymbalta in case it was causing the insomnia. I had been on it for 3 years this last time, and over a year the first time I took it, about 5 years ago, so it very well could be tied to my sleeping timeline. The first time I took it, and came off because of other symptoms that I ultimately learned to live with, the withdrawal wasn’t quite so bad. The longer you’re on it, the worse withdrawal can be. If you’re one of those people that can take it without any side effects, then it’s probably helping your pain, which is a good thing. If you’re having sleep issues, consider a connection to Cymbalta.

Ever since I started being able to sleep, I can’t seem to get enough of it. The feeling of getting naturally sleepy is like its own drug. Of course, the other wonderful thing is that when I’m asleep, I’m not feeling pain, AND my body is repairing itself. What I’m hoping is that, eventually, my pain levels might go down while I’m awake, too, as my muscles get more and more sleep.

Sleep is healing. And yet most people don’t get enough of it. Study after study says this. We work too hard, we don’t make sleep a priority. As I said, needing sleep is almost considered shameful. With pride, people say, “Oh, I only need 5 hours of sleep a night.” No, you probably don’t. You’re probably depriving your body, on a daily basis, of something it absolutely needs for repairing itself, and you’ll eventually start to notice it. Sleep is like giving fuel to your car – it’s fuel for your body, and most people are running on empty.

Let’s also not forget that sleep deprivation is actually a way to torture people!

It’s true that some people need more sleep, some less. But even those who need less, like my son (who can get by on 6 hours a night for a long time), eventually find that they need to crash for a good long sleep orgy to feel better.

I have slept most of this weekend – shows you how much I needed it, huh? In between I read, my other favorite way to let my body relax. I really feel the difference. It’s like having a booster shot of energy.

I know there are people who say that they can’t get more sleep because of work commitments, or young children to look after (god knows, with a new baby, it’s almost impossible!), but I also know that when you make something a priority, you find a way to do it. Instead of having a drink because you’re feeling tired, which also makes you feel stressed, try just going to bed. If you have children, schedule a sleep orgy instead of a night out.

I also know that meditation is a wonderful thing, and there are retreats devoted entirely to the practice of it. But it’s not the same as sleep. They say that meditation reduces your need for sleep. I think that’s probably true, but I also think it’s easier for most people to sleep than to meditate. Everyone’s minds are too busy to stop! So why not just make a sleep orgy, whether it’s for a long night, or a long weekend, a commitment to help yourself feel better?

By the way, have you ever wondered why there are no retreats for sleeping? I know that in the middle of my insomnia years, I was far too tired and sore (muscles don’t like not sleeping) to sit and meditate. I could have, however, gone on a retreat that just let me lie in bed, sometimes taking medication, and being waited on hand and foot, so that if a sleep “wave” did hit me I could just give into it immediately! Maybe a good business idea there for someone, hmmm … ? I reckon there’s a market for it.

So I’ve had my sleep orgy, and am ready to start the week tomorrow. I really hope that anyone out there who’s feeling sleep deprived can find some way to get a little bit of a sleep orgy for themselves. It’s not only good for your body, but your emotions (grumpy, weepy) and mental state (foggy) will improve as well. That’s good news for the people around you! All in all, some form of sleep orgy should be a priority for everyone.

Look at the photo. You don’t see stressed out koalas!

I’m just wakin’ up …

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Day 56 Sleepathon

Posted by themirrenlee on 25/02/2012

Sleepathon.

I’m having one. Will explain tomorrow.

I’m just sleepin’ …

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Day 55 Age

Posted by themirrenlee on 24/02/2012

Hang onto a good attitude, and ageing won't be scary, it'll be interesting.

Age.

Attitude determines your age, not years.

I know old 20 year olds, and young 90 year olds. There are people in nursing homes staring at TV game shows who are only in their 60s. Then there’s Betty White with a career resurgence at 90.

I was reminded of this while spending the day with Zina yesterday. In March she turns 91, and yet even her doctors are astounded at how young she seems. At one appointment she attended, she said the doctor told her to wait while he brought in some colleagues to show them how young she looked! (We are NOT talking about plastic surgery, we are talking about a natural youthful attitude, and a corresponding youthful appearance because of it.)

Evidently, according to this theory of evolution, we all start out as cats, then become a child, a robot, a cricket player, and someone needing a cane. Hmmmmm ...

And yet, because of our illogical, incorrect and just plain stupid perceptions, she constantly hears the phrase, “At your age …”.

“At your age, you have to accept your limitations.” “At your age, you have to take it easier.” “At your age, you can’t do everything you used to take for granted.”

As a result, she has started constantly using the phrase herself. I told her yesterday that every time she says, “At my age …” she has to pay me a dollar. Pretty soon I’ll be able to go first class to Europe!

Let’s examine this, shall we? We change physically with each passing day. That’s a fact of life. We’re born, we decay, we die. People hate thinking about it, but that’s the way it is. The circle of life.

I don’t have a problem with it, because I have a very strong Spiritualist/Buddhist faith. I believe we’re each here for specific reasons, to learn karmic lessons for our own particular souls, and then we cross over and reincarnate back. I don’t think about this faith, or try to convince others of it, I’ve just always believed it. I’ve had many psychic experiences in my life, which may have helped to imprint it on my consciousness, but whatever, it just feels right and I am very comfortable with the way life is. I’m also not afraid of death, which is not the case, I’ve found, with many so-called religious people.

I’ve never understood that. If you believe in a god figure, such as Jesus or Mohammed, and their individual heavens/after lifes, then how can you be afraid of death? I have to say it kind of implies to me that maybe you don’t get as much comfort from your religious faith as you should.

The same with ageing. If you feel that your religion has the answers for why you’re here, and what you’re supposed to be doing, then it seems to me that you should consider ageing a natural part of the whole process – the growth part, in fact.

With all the progress we’ve made with health issues and our quality of life (unfortunately, only in the more developed parts of the world), we’re living longer than ever before. As the saying goes, “50 is the new 30, 60 is the new 40, and so on.” (So I guess 20 is the 10? Yeah, that feels about right!) And yet, we still seem to be stuck in the old mindsets, before the Baby Boomers changed the rules about ageing, and said, “I still feel 18 inside.”

The mindsets that say, as we age, we should dress/act/feel/do things in a certain way. Women, in particular, are the victims in the ageing wars. A 60 year old woman is considered to be on the scrap heap, not sexually attractive, and ready to wear a blue rinse in her hair and a flowered polyester dress. Uhhh, people, hate to break your mind but the list of older women who are still rocking their sexuality is endless. Madonna will be 54 this year! Meryl Streep, at 63, can’t keep up with the work thrown her way. Not to mention all the women in their 60s fast approaching 70: Helen Mirren (talk about sexuality!), Cher (almost 66), and the luscious Susan Sarandon (64). Tina Turner is 71 (and have you seen her lately?!), Sophia Loren was doing a sexy striptease in “Pret a Porter” when she was 60 (She’s 77 now and still gorgeous – I think there might be something to that whole pasta diet idea.)

I have to say that the English (and Europe, in general) have led the way forever when it comes to “allowing” women to age in the entertainment Industry, and not “punishing” them for it. We see more older women (looking their age, as well, not Botoxed to rigidity) in English films and TV shows than we ever see in American ones. I think we’re starting to see a slow, but steady, change though, as directors complain that Botoxed actresses can’t give them expressions!

With the guys, it’s expected that they’ll still be attractive to women, even if they’ve got one foot in the grave – something about the penis that just gives them carte blanche to feel sexy at any age. But still, I have to admire people like Mick Jagger, who at 68 shows no signs of ever giving up rock and roll. And Clint Eastwood at almost 82 certainly doesn’t let age dictate his activities. Hans Solo, sorry, Harrison Ford, will be 70 this year and is also still going strong.

I could go on for pages giving examples of people who just look upon age as a number, not a command to slow down. And not just in the arts. If you’re interested in looking up how old people in show business are, go to The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and type in the name you’re interested in. It started out as a small data base run by movie buffs, and is now THE Industry website for information.

I turned 61 in January. I was so sick as a child with asthma that I never thought I’d live to become an adult, so every day is a gift to me. I just ignore what I’m “supposed” to do, and get on with living my life the way I want. My first husband was 10 years older than me (and since I was 16 that was a bit scandalous, but then being pregnant at 15 trumped the age thing!), my second husband was 5 years older than me (so that was “acceptable”), then my third was 4 years younger (oooh, getting a bit Bohemian), and my last was 19 years younger. Now THAT was food for gossip! He was 3 years younger than my son, David. And when my grandson was born, my husband became a “grandfather” at 29! Delicious.

You’ve just got to enjoy your life at any age, and keep good health as your primary objective, always. You actually have no idea how old you really are, because you have no idea when you’re going to be called to that big movie set in the sky. If you’re 20, but are destined to only be here until you turn 40, well then, you’re middle aged. If, on the other hand, you’re 40 and will beat the Queen Mother’s passing (102), then hey, you’re a young ‘un.

As Maude said, “Give me an L. Give me an I. Give me a V. Give me an E. L-I-V-E. LIVE! Otherwise, you got nothing to talk about in the locker room.” (In the movie, “Harold and Maude”, which is about a friendship between a wonderfully eccentric 80 year old woman and a sad, suicidal young man. Well, it was actually about a friendship with benefits, but no one wanted to admit that with the age difference; that felt too “creepy”. See? Mindset. It’s a very funny, inspirational movie, and I wish the whole world would see it.)

Embrace your age, whatever it is. And be too busy enjoying life to even REMEMBER how old you are!

I’m just happily agein’ …

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Day 54 No Spoons

Posted by themirrenlee on 23/02/2012

No spoons.

That’s where I’m at tonight. I spent several hours today helping Zina to shop and do her errands. At almost 91 she has more stamina than me!

I used up all my spoons (read my post on The Spoon Theory if not sure what I’m talking about.) I’m exhausted and sore, so I can’t write any more.

But I showed up, and that’s the important thing. Tomorrow we resume normal programing.

I’m just spoonless …

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Day 53 Like a Slow Gazelle

Posted by themirrenlee on 22/02/2012

These gazelles obviously know it's important sometimes to stop running!

Like a slow gazelle.

Sounds kind of funny, doesn’t it? It’s a phrase my daughter coined a couple of weeks ago for my ex mother-in-law, Zina, (her grandmother) who’s still a good friend to me. She’s almost 91, looks closer to 70, and has a Type A personality.

She started to have some funny “turns” a couple of months ago, and they thought it might be mini strokes. They put her through every test under the sun, with multiple hospitalizations, including a stint in a rehab hospital. They found out she’s healthy as a horse, and finally could only attribute the symptoms to “silent migraines.” She doesn’t get headaches, just numbness in her left arm and leg, plus a tight feeling in the back of her neck, as well as an acute sensitivity to light.

Not surprisingly, the attacks were distressing her, and she couldn’t believe that they were really just migraines, so I had her type “arms legs numbness migraines” into our friend Google. She was astounded to find that there are thousands of people who get the same symptoms as she’s been having! It immediately relieved the stress she’d been feeling, wondering if she was, in fact, actually having mini strokes instead, and might pop off at any moment. And numbness in itself is a scary thing.

It was interesting to see that because she was far less stressed, the frequency of the attacks slowed to almost a complete stop! Now if she does start to feel a tightness in her neck, or a slight numbness coming on, she knows to sit down right away and just let it pass, which it does. It’s hard for a Type A personality to just stop and take it easy, but it’s the only way to combat this weird condition she’s developed.

As a Type A personality myself, that’s been the hardest thing about having my Fibromyalgia go into the red zone about 5 years ago with the onset of Menopause. I always took it for granted that I could work as much as I wanted (or needed to). I love multi tasking, and have a low boredom threshold with more than a touch of ADHD, something my daughter inherited, but my son did not. He’s the lucky one!

So as my conditions worsened, I had to learn to slow down. Argggghhhh … To know that I had to cut my To Do lists down to one thing a day, if I was lucky, from about a million, has been a frustration to equal that of having the condition in the first place. And, of course, since frustration doesn’t help stress levels, I had to work on not feeling frustrated about being frustrated!

The same for Zina. She’s had to learn to do things at a slower pace, and get less done in a day. Unfortunately, it’s also affected her ability to drive, because she might have a numbness attack while behind the wheel. This means she’s become dependent on others for transportation, and that’s very tough when you’re used to being independent.

We were having trouble getting Zina to accept all this, especially the part where she’s just going to have to take things a bit more slowly than she’s used to, when Sarah came up with the gazelle idea. (Sarah calls Zina Babi, pronounced Bubbie, and her late Grandfather Duki, because they’re from Lithuania, and those are the words for Grandma and Grandpa in Lithuanian. I find myself always using those titles as well, because I think they’re so charming.) Sarah told her Babi that she has always been like a gazelle, swift and graceful in everything she did.

Then she delivered the words that got through to her. “But”, she told her, “now you have to be a slow gazelle, because that’s what Duki would expect you to do.” Duki (John) died a couple of years ago, and not only were they very close, married for a billion years (came to Australia after the War as refugees), but he was one of the people who knew how to handle her, as she can be very stubborn. (Something else Sarah inherited from both sides!)

Babi immediately got it, and we realized it applied to me, too. So now “like a slow gazelle” are our code words for taking it easy, and not only are they effective as a reminder, they also make us laugh, which is always a good thing!

I hope any of you gazelles out there who are running around like crazy, overdoing things, especially if you’re battling a chronic condition, listen to this very good advice, and sometimes let yourself be slow gazelles. As the saying goes, “Less haste, more speed.” It really doesn’t all have to get done right this minute. Not unless you want to end up as a crippled gazelle!

I’m just slowin’ down to get more done …

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Day 52 Blunt is Better

Posted by themirrenlee on 21/02/2012

Blunt is better.

It’s better than dancing around what you need to say.  It’s better than being “nice” because you’re afraid they’ll get “mad” at you, or “disapprove” of you. These are such trigger words for people. Nothing worse than people disapproving of you, or getting mad at you, or not thinking you’re a nice person, is there? Bullshit.

You know what’s worse? People discounting you, invalidating you, and walking all over you. Which is what happens if you don’t stand up for yourself. Which sometimes means, to make people really hear you, that you have to be blunt.

As I said in one of my other posts about what a motivational speaker told his class, “No one is coming to rescue you.” You have to be your own strongest protector.

This becomes of crucial importance when you have a chronic condition – especially one that’s either misunderstood or not understood at all, like Fibromyalgia. If I were to tell people I have MS or cancer, for instance, they’d understand in a minute if I said I didn’t feel well. If I say I have Fibromyalgia, the usual reply is, “What’s that?” Once I say that it’s like arthritis of the muscles (the best shorthand way I know of explaining it), a bit of ground is gained in their understanding. But that ground is quickly lost once they realize that I don’t look sick, and it confuses them.

Two days ago I wrote “Screw Rigid”, and it came from my experience with someone who was upset with me because I had to cancel our arrangement to take her shopping due to me being in a Fibro Flare. Since this year is all about progress for me, I was very glad to have had the breakthrough of being able to tell her, bluntly, without excuses or lies, that I just couldn’t do it. She tried to guilt trip me, but I held my ground and said she’d have to wait until I felt better, or go by herself.

Then yesterday I had my “Cranky” day. I was cranky because I didn’t feel well, but also because I had some residual crankiness at her for not understanding what I go through, and even a tiny bit of cranky at me for letting her attitude bother me at all. Thankfully, my comfort routine worked (see Post), and I’m not cranky today – just full of tea and sugar!

I am still having a bit of a Flare, though, so when she rang me today to find out when we could reschedule our shopping trip, I got blunt. I told her that I don’t normally make plans with anyone who doesn’t understand my condition. I said I never know how I’m going to feel on any given day, so it’s better if I either make no plans in advance, or make them with the few people I know who totally understand my needs. I told her I couldn’t let the stress of rigid plans affect my health.

Well, how amazing. She told me that she understood how hard it was for me, and I shouldn’t feel bad if we have to cancel whatever plans we make! I almost dropped the phone. I thanked her for understanding, and we made plans for a short trip that would start late in the afternoon this Thursday. She told me to ring her in the morning if I didn’t feel up to it. Wow.

Even if she does a turnaround and tries to guilt trip me again in the future, I know now that the world doesn’t stop turning when I have to be blunt with her, or anyone else, and I’ll just say what I feel. Funnily enough, I usually have no trouble with bluntness. (Or, as my mother said to me once, “Mirren, you are so tactless.” Thanks for that tactless remark, Mom.) But that’s only if it’s with things that have nothing to do with my health. With health issues, I go back into childhood button guilt mode, and find it hard to stand up for myself.

Not now, though. With this breakthrough, I will tell people what I need, when I need it, and how much I am able to give of myself. I will protect me like a parent protecting their vulnerable child. This is huge for me. Exactly what I want as part of the changes I’m looking for in 2012.

Being blunt saves energy and time. It takes courage, sure, but it’s mightier than a sword for cutting through people’s shit towards you. And if you can’t be brave for yourself, then pretend you’re doing it for someone you care for. It’s so much easier, sometimes, to do for others what we can’t do for ourselves. Then slowly, maybe you’ll be able to transfer that courage to defending yourself just for you. That’s what I’m doing now, finally, and it’s a great feeling of progress.

I think it’s a good affirmation for anyone with a chronic condition to say, “I’m worth waiting for.”

I’m just bluntly sayin’ …

Posted in Fibromyalgia/Chronic Conditions, I'm Just Sayin' | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Day 51 Cranky.

Posted by themirrenlee on 20/02/2012

My cranky Inner Child demands sugar, lots of sugar, NOW!

Cranky.

I am so fucking cranky I could kill someone for trying to take my parking spot. When I get like this, I hope someone will irritate me so I have an excuse to abuse the hell out of them, just to release some of my pent up rage.

Everyone handles their bad stuff differently. By bad stuff, I mean either feeling bad physically/emotionally/mentally, or simply having a bad day. I either cry or get cranky. I cry when I feel I can’t cope any more and I need a hug, a cup of tea and a good sleep – after bawling my eyes out to release those wonderful endorphins.

If I don’t go into vulnerable, I go into anger – absolute, burning, furious anger, usually because I have to endlessly put up with, and be limited by, the chronic conditions that plague me, especially the Fibromyalgia. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining about this anger. By expressing it, I know I won’t go into a depression.

Most people don’t seem to know the difference between organic and situational depression. Having grown up with 2 depressed parents, and a strong family streak of bipolar as well, I’m a bit of an expert on both.

(I just love the line in the movie, “Arsenic and Old Lace,” when Cary Grant says, “Insanity doesn’t run in my family, it fairly gallops.” I’m sure many people feel that describes their own families perfectly!)

Organic depression is a disorder of the brain mechanism, a mental disease. Luckily, thank the Universe, we now have numerous medications that can treat it. Anyone suffering from organic depression, which they can’t help anymore than they can help catching a cold, who doesn’t want to take antidepressants seems to me a tad desirous of wallowing.

If we’d had antidepressants when I was growing up in the 50s-60s, my childhood story would not have to be titled, “A Different Kind of Normal.” (Yes, the Category is there – waiting for me to get started on it. Don’t remind me; I’ll just make me crankier.)

Situational depression is suppressed anger. As simple as that. Instead of getting mad at what’s really bothering you, which even may be yourself and how you’re (not) handling something, you turn it inwards and feel depressed. Find out what’s making you angry, deal with it, and you’ll find the depression lifts. You don’t need antidepressants; you need action.

So when I get weepy, I give myself a cup of tea and a hug. Since I was a “parentified” child, meaning I was the parent who gave out the hugs to everyone else, I had to learn to hug myself. My first counsellor told me to try stroking my stomach back and forth when I needed a hug. The first time I tried it, I was driving. I burst into violent tears and had to pull over! The sensation of feeling someone “hugging” me, caring about me as if I were a child, even if it was myself doing it, was like a drink of water in the desert. It took many “hugs” before I could do it without crying, and just enjoy the sensation of comfort, but it finally happened, and now I add it to my cup of tea as part of my comfort routine.

Ah, the cup of tea. My belief has always been that it was tea that got the English through the Blitz, so that’s good enough for me! But it can’t be tea like the Americans drink it – weak, with a bag dangling over the edge of the cup. Yuk. The bag has to be strong enough that it gets taken out after the color in the cup is right (I like my tea like my men – caramel colored and sweet). Then I add milk and at least 2 teaspoons of sugar. I get out the pot and make a cup with real tea leaves if I’m in the red zone – for emergencies only.

But whether I’m feeling weepy or cranky, the one thing I ALWAYS need to help calm me down is SUGAR. Lots and lots of sugar. I have a sweet tooth that would give the tooth fairy diabetes. I was raised in the U.S. until I was 18, so my formative years were spent developing American taste buds. And that means sugar. The Australian tastes run more to the English, so they like things a bit tarter. My mother (Australian) used to put lemon and sugar on her pancakes, while her American husband, and 7 American children, poured endless amounts of maple syrup.

I know if I’m struggling with either weepy or cranky (sometimes both at the same time!), it’s because I’m feeling vulnerable. I’ve found that so often anger in people is based on feeling vulnerable, which, of course, means feeling fearful. I’ve given angry people hugs and they’ve burst into tears! It’s funny, but also sad. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, instead of having to “protect” ourselves with the armor of anger, we could say, “I’m feeling sad/cranky/vulnerable/fearful/depressed; can I please have a hug?”

Anyway, back to my cranky. So today I was feeling tired and sore, and got cranky about it. I have a lot of things on my “To Do” list that aren’t getting done, and just looking at the list made me feel like going postal! I went to the grocery store (since I HATE grocery stores this was enough to make me glad I wasn’t carrying a gun) and stocked up on all things sugar. When I got to the check out, one of the regular guys, who is always nice, served me. I said to him, “You’re always so cheerful. I don’t know if I like that, or find it irritating. You serve the public; don’t you know your job sucks?” It’s okay, he laughed. He knows I’m a touch eccentric. And he saw all the sugar.

Everyone gets cranky/weepy over things. It might be a monthly thing for women and girls, or an older life thing for women (poor females – hormones are a bitch!), or life’s tribulations, or just feeling sorry for yourself over something (and that’s okay). As I learned in counselling, just “sit” with your feelings and don’t fight them. Use the weepiness as a time to release endorphins, which make you feel SO good, and the anger to motivate and give you power. Try calling a “customer service” officer during a cranky time – you’ll win the battle, for sure! (Isn’t “customer service” the world’s greatest oxymoron, right up there with “military intelligence”?)

I really encourage you to have a “comfort routine”, though, no matter how you feel. What do you need when these strong emotions hit you? I advise sugar, but then I’m biased.

I learned to not just wallow when I feel weepy or cranky. I take charge with my comfort routine, and wait for it to pass. (I often include a call to someone close to me, but I tell them I don’t want them to “solve” anything. I just want them to sympathize and ask me if I have enough sugar in the house.)

In the time it took me to write this, I’ve started feeling slightly better. And that’s including the fact that while writing, I somehow lost half of it at one point! I didn’t explode – I ate a chocolate bar, and refreshed my tea.

I’m now going to curl up with a good book while playing multiple games of “Words with Friends,” and harvesting my crops in Farmville. Then it will be 3 am, and I’ll follow my natural rhythm of falling asleep. Tomorrow is another day, and if I don’t feel any better then, well … there’s always that box of chocolate cookies I haven’t opened yet.

I wish you a cranky/weepy free day.

I’m just growlin’ …

Posted in Fibromyalgia/Chronic Conditions, I'm Just Sayin', The Grumpy Bitch | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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