Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Touring Life. Who Is That Person In The Mirror?

 My little piece of Paradise -at the harbor

I have not posted an awful lot of creativity lately because I have not been accomplishing much lately.  I  thought I might offer a brief explanation about why my posts have been less creatively original than usual of late. I have considered writing this post for awhile but kept hemming and hawing about it - it's about life and aging - not about creating anything - or reading anything! I have been having lots of conversations with myself and I have been doodle-ing in paint, felt and cloth - but nothing very perfect or concrete. Nothing to post about or brag about. I appreciate those of you who stop by faithfully to have look and I want, very much, to be able to offer some fun, creative posts again! I'll be able to do that soon I think!

When I was younger my plan for aging was to do it gracefully. Oh, I always knew that I might try to force back time by vainly hanging onto my hair color - Mother began going gray at 21 and it seems that red hair often does that. I always planned that I would have energy enough to go around - though not, perhaps, the egocentric energy of my 20's when I could play at night and be up and get to work on time none the worse for wear.  I have always liked daydreaming so I figured that I would slow down a bit at some point and spend more time in that favored pursuit - along with my beloved habit of napping!

I have now gotten to the point when I look in the mirror and wonder who the person staring back at me is. When I was 45, not that very long ago, I was in the best shape of my life - running distance, lifting weights, chasing happiness; finding happiness and a new freedom to explore my life more creatively than I had been able to while I was on the 'short track' to a career. The funny thing about that career is that, although I truly loved it, when I got up the ladder a ways I found that I preferred a lower step so that I could have art in my life again rather than  larger pay check.  About 8 years ago or so my back began to tell me that I was no longer the  youngster that I had once been. Back pain, these days, is almost a cliche - and so I almost hoped it would be that for me. I had always prided myself on being relatively strong and thought nothing of moving furniture about or hefting large bags of soil or fabrics. I would ache that night but be over it the next day.

Recently - over that last several years- the pain has become much worse; much more insistent - it never stops- and much more debilitating. I have been forced to discover that it is not a cliche pain but something more concrete that that. One doctor told me that I had fibromyalgia, severe osteoarthritis and several herniated discs. Well, medication for fibro seemed to do nothing and, eventually, I just stopped taking it. I actually felt better without it! My back and neck pain were becoming more severe; keeping me up at night and graying down my days, restricting what I could manage to achieve in a day. Recently, I saw a neurosurgeon who does not think that I have fibromyalgia but does think that I have major issues in both my lumbar and cervical spine areas. It appears that I will, more than likely, require two surgeries over time - tomorrow I will hear more and perhaps have a timeline. I will be ecstatic if there is a chance that I can go back to being, more often than not at least, pain free.

Dealing with this issue has led me to thinking more about aging. I totally 'get' how some older people who are plagued by chronic discomfort may come to the point that they question what there is to keep going for. I have become much more empathetic about people with pain issues. Pain is insidious - people can't see it- so they can't imagine that you are not a hypochondriac or slacker. It has taken my friends awhile to understand that when I say I don't think I can manage doing something or going somewhere - I really mean it. Pain has no look of illness - you look the same, more or less, as always. Pain is subjective and, if you have not be there and done that, I don't think that anyone can really "get it".  I have been fairly lucky I suppose in that my doctor's have not thought that I was exaggerating - all in all - with one notable exception (a doctor who 'sized me up' without having a single look at my file) I have been well treated. Many people are not as lucky.

Tomorrow I will know more about what my near future holds and I am hopeful to be able to plan on getting my mojo back - I want to play and paint and sew and felt and journal with abandon. I want 'me' back again. I want to once again be able to look in the mirror and accept aging as gracefully as I had once thought I would. Age is a good thing really and I am grateful to be here. The only bad thing is pain - and hopefully I can lose a good measure of that!

The good thing is that when I can get into a creative flow it takes my mind away from the pain. My paints, felts and fabrics have never held as much meaning and pleasure for me - I just don't produce as much that's worthy of sharing right now - but I am having a heck of a good time experimenting! I know I will have some good stuff to share with you soon! 

We all go on this journey of aging, if we are lucky - and I think that there are a lots of issues we all face in the process. Few of us speak of the process though - it's boring, and, at times trite, but it is a reality. I would love to hear your thoughts on aging. Do you embrace it? Do you fight it? Does it bother you? Make you happy or sad? What are some of your thoughts? Thanks for sharing!

ps: if anyone has had back surgery I would love to hear your story about it.


Vicki W said...

To me aging is mental. I think once the doctors can solve your back problems and your pain is alleviated or manageable, that you will have a better focus on life. Pain is horrible. I have had bad back pain probably 3 times in my life. I can not imagine having to deal with chronic pain. There is no "living" with it. Your body doesn't work and your brain doesn't have the energy to care about anything else. Don't worry about aging, your creativity or anything except solving your back issues. Once that's done, everything else will come back into focus.
At least, that's my opinion for what it's worth!

Laura said...

Oh, hang in there, Marie!

JJO said...

I like you, have always been energetic and thought I could do it all; work, play tennis, garden, walk 3 miles day, raise a family, and other artistic creative endeavors. Then 4 years ago my husband developed multiple myeoloma (bone marrow cancer) and I had to take on being a caretaker plus do all those "other" physical demanding household chores. I turned 60 that year and felt like I was aging 1 year every 3 months and was exhausted most of the time. I could not do it all. The stress and physical activity wore down my body so much so that I developed a irregular heart beat. Unfortunately my husband lost his battle with cancer a year ago. No one really understood that stress was the real problem. Now a year after his death, I've slowed down a bit and realize I can't do it all; age and arthritis have taken it's toll. However, the irregular heart beat is back to normal and accepting my limitations have made me happier. I get things done; at my speed, not everyone elses. Hang in there; find what makes you happy and don't become a victim of stress.

Sandy said...

I hope this is the answer to your pain. I know how it interfers with everything. I, too, use my work to forget pain-physical and emotional. As to aging, I fight it all the way, exercise like an addict, and refuse to not do things. I had planned to dye my gray hair, but it didn't turn gray.
Show your experiments. I love to see what people try.

Ruth said...

I haven't had back surgery but I have had back pain for over 25 years since the age of 23. I have flare ups of pain in the back with radiating pain into my right leg and just recently had a flare up on March 12th. I am a physical therapist but I don't currently practice. I keep my license up by taking continuing education and it just so happens I attended a course just as my back flared up. The system used in this course is very different than practiced by the majority of physical therapists and was a real eye opener for me. The course teacher evaluated me and started me on a program that is definitely decreasing my symptoms and I think will resolve the problem in another 1-2 months. His success rate with back pain is very high and his rate of reoccurence is very low. I have no connection with this program but I think it should be something that you consider before you attempt back surgery. As a physical therapist, I saw many patients that had back surgery and no decrease (or an increase) in their symptoms. That is not to say that back surgery doesn't sometimes work but I don't think it is a cure all no matter what the surgeon says. Here is a link so that you can take a look at the website of the course that I took. It has a listing of physical therapists that are using his method. If I remember correctly you are in Washington and I don't see a list for a therapist there but perhaps if you call they can recommend someone closer to you. http://www.americanbackpaincenter.com/Index.html
I don't usually recommend therapy to complete strangers (although I read your blog all the time, I still don't really know you) but I would hate to see you go through surgery and have poor results. This therapy program is based on scientific results and you don't see many therapies that are. E-mail me if you want a further explanation of how the therapy works or other questions. Or if you aren't interested, that's fine too. But I think everyone should know all the options.

sandra wyman said...

Oh Marie, I really feel for you: being a CFS person (albeit marginally these days (except in winter) I understand something of the pain, though I have not experienced it to the extent you do. And yes I have the same problems about facing up to growing older (though I am significantly older than you are!): it's the hair that does it for me - it used to be long and smooth and shiny - now it has become brittle and has thinned and I feel embarrassed about it - I hate seeing photographs and I hate unexpectedly catching sight of myself in a mirror (especially as I am also more than just a little overweight since giving up smoking a few years ago: it's going but it is taking a long time) So long as I'm with people I know I can relax much more however, and I do enjoy life a great deal. I do hope you can get the sort of treatment that you need, and I'll be thinking of you!

Karoda said...

Hi Marie, you are one of the blog friends who cross my mind even when I'm not at the computer and I hate it that you're experiencing pain so deeply...hopefully the times it compels you to be reflective will help you approach this transition creatively. I just recently experienced a moment where I felt that because I was not being engaged in art making that I was loosing my groove...I was reminded that I/YOU are the groove and your creativity gets applied in other ways of living and working out problems. Hangeth in there and please let me know what you find out tomorrow.

Joyce said...

I have decided to try to age gracefully, so no hair dye or facelifts etc. I am very fortunate to be in good health so that makes it easier. I am going to be 67 in June so I'm not all that old, or at least I don't feel old. My dad lived to 93 and still lived alone in his own house when he died.
I hope you can solve your pain problems. I'm sure that makes life very difficult.

donna said...

Chronic illness/pain is tough. I struggle with these, but the worst is fatigue. The walk-into-walls and lose-your-words, I-am-afraid-to-drive kind. This is even more difficult for others to understand.

But, like you I have been able to learn to be more empathetic, positive and spiritual. I have learned to live in spite of my limitations.

I also hope for some good news from a doctor next month. I would like to get back to living life my way!

Jeannie said...

You are preaching to the choir here! I have a theory that in your 50s & 60s your task is to learn some lessons in accepting the aging process. Once you do, you relax and have a fun filled life. I have seen this with my aunts and I am crossing my fingers that it holds true for me too. I hope the doctor had good news for you and a bright outlook for a future sans pain. Hugs

Fibreartist said...

Good luck with your appointment and the doctor's recommendations, Marie. My mother is in chronic pain and your revealing story of dealing with pain explains alot. Its a good reminder of how others feel when they look perfectly fine. Thanks Marie!

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