Happy this week got away from me, it might be Thursday!
Today we are talking about pre-recovery (clearing the decks for recovery), which for me involves naming the contributing factors to whatever is going on.
And then finding whatever clues we can find wherever we can find them.
Glowing lots of love your way from bed, which is where I have been lately.
Naming the contributing factors, with love & hope
I have mostly been in bed for the past two and a half weeks.
There are reasons for this, but my monsters don’t like them.
And also, the reasons remain true. All self-criticism mechanisms aside, the reasons remain the reasons.
The reasons remain true
They just do.
Another piece of truth I’m trying to gently hold in my mind-space is the knowledge that both [reasons are bullshit] and [these reasons are true] can absolutely co-exist. They can be true at the same time.
The reasons are valid and also the reasons don’t matter. We are where we are, in the moment. Bed it is.
Bed it is
Bed it is. Sometimes you have a no-bones day, and sometimes no-bones day turns into no-bones week, or it lasts for a long time, longer than you expect, and IIWIMI aka it is what it motherfucking is.
I don’t like it, and I don’t have to like it, and here I am.
Let’s name the reasons, or at least some of the known contributing factors, in the interest of practicing Acknowledgment & Legitimacy.
Naming is a form of acknowledging, and acknowledging what is reminds me that it’s okay that it’s happening, it’s okay that I don’t like it, it’s okay that I resist it, it’s okay that I don’t think it’s okay, and so on.
I get to not be okay! I get to rage against everything! All of this makes so much sense and is a reasonable and understandable response to circumstances being challenging, which they are!
So let’s name some of what’s going on…
Let’s name the reasons and circumstances, the contributing factors, the unanticipated stressors, the surprise last straws, the accumulated sensory input that all adds up to too much.
Contributing factor: extreme heat
Multiple days in a row of 99 degree Fahrenheit (37.2 C) high temperatures, and I live in a metal box without air conditioning.
It is extremely reasonable that I would be flattened by this even if literally nothing else was going on, and there’s a lot going on.
Similarly, even when the heat wave passes, I don’t immediately perk up. I wouldn’t expect someone else to, but I expect it of me, someone with long covid and a previous traumatic brain injury. This is silly.
I am noticing that this is silly, and saying it out loud. Babe, I love you, these expectations are very silly!
Contributing factor: Recovery from a trauma day
Three weeks ago I had to go to Tucson to pick up the windows that will make my life easier, if they ever get installed, by keeping warm air in during winter, and giving me two more screens to let in cool evening air in the summer.
In Tucson I also had to replace two tires. The waiting room at the tire place was tiny, and full of people not wearing masks. I opted to wait outside, where I had to stand, in 110 degree heat (43.3 F) for nearly an hour because first they forgot which tires they were replacing, then forgot to rotate then tires.
Not sure if everyone’s brain has been cooked from Covid, or from the heat, or both, but everything has been like this lately. Simple projects have all become complicated operations.
Also standing isn’t something I can do for very long every day. It’s a some days yes, some days no sort of thing. And this was a yes-day but also it had to be a yes-day, and something about that too is exhausting.
My body is rebelling against that experience, and I don’t blame it.
Contributing factor: Post-exertional malaise
Between that near-heatstroke of a stressful morning, then packing up, acquiring the windows which was also absurdly complicated, and an absolutely harrowing late night drive home, it was a lot.
It was more than a lot. I’m out of descriptors for how much “a lot” is. Too much.
Anyway, I drove white-knuckled through a terrifying lightning storm, a bewildering dust storm, over the Continental Divide in torrential rains, and also had an encounter with a surprise herd of cows on a dark country road, then had to unpack the car in the pouring rain while trying not to pass out from exhaustion.
Honestly I think even someone who doesn’t experience post-exertional malaise would be having a hard time.
I really had to push way past all my limits to make it through that day, and I have been paying for it and am still paying for it.
Contributing factor: Intense frustrations
This might need to be another piece, but I have been working hard this summer on a project I’ve been calling Operation Reduce & Destroy, aka reducing costs in all areas of my life.
It’s a beautiful wish, and it’s been great to have a sense clarity and focus around that wish, after the past couple years of brain fog and traumatic brain injury stealing my attention, and my ability to have clarity or focus on anything. So that part has been really meaningful and special for me.
And it has introduced a series of challenges or dilemmas that are beyond frustrating. Truly a twilight zone of ongoing horrors. Examples to follow….
Contributing factor: Ah yes, a twilight zone of ongoing horrors…
For example, I had to spend two entire hours on the phone switching my car insurance. I don’t have consistent phone service at my property so this involved driving into town and being in a hot car, which meant back to bed for several more days of being incapacitated.
For example, I have been fighting with a company that mysteriously doubled my monthly bill without notice, and they refuse to refund me or close my account. My body can’t handle the amount of rage-stress I’m experiencing over this, and I feel close to an implosion, and then end up too wiped out to function.
For example, I signed up with a new phone company but the SIM card they sent won’t activate. When I called, they said I need to drive to the nearest store (two hours away), and the nearest store can’t help me because “the system is down nationwide”, so now I’m paying for two services because I can’t cancel the old one until the new one kicks in. And so on.
It’s the perfect example of getting the exact opposite of your wish while working on a wish, and I hate it.
Contributing factor: Dog days of summer
A friend wisely pointed out that August is just hard, for a variety of reasons.
Dies caniculares, as the Romans called it, or “days of the dog star”, the hottest days, here in the northern hemisphere, the heat-exhaustion equivalent of the dark before the dawn.
Dog days / fog days. It’s hard to have any clarity in the heat, and also the barometric pressures of monsoon season are messing with my equilibrium.
It’s funny to me, because as the days get darker earlier here, you’d think it would feel like things are shifting, fall is approaching, but the heat is just so overwhelming. Noticing I am dreading the monsoon rains even as I am craving them. Yes, something about that too.
Contributing factor: Dashed hopes
I had a beautiful plan this summer to improve the circumstances of my tiny, tiny home: first to replace these two windows that got tweaked when the trailer my little home lives on was dropped by the truck that brought it out here.
And then to install a new tiny hot water heater and bathroom fan so that I can shower onsite, which would solve at least 85% of my problems, but everything that could go wrong on this project has, and it is now completely stuck.
The one thing I was looking forward to (showering!) is not an option until I can raise more funds for this but my brain isn’t working well enough to solve for that. So, waiting it out yet again.
It’s been over a year and a half since the shower stopped working so really, what’s a little longer or even a lot longer? I have gotten adept at washing my hair in the kitchen sink, wash cloth baths, shaving legs on the porch.
But also I was so looking forward to this being solved! And then the “just kidding, now it’s not solved!” of it all has been such an intense betrayal. A betrayal of hope, if that makes sense. It’s painful.
Contributing factor: Noise / sensory overwhelm
I live way out in the country, where you’d think there would be a great degree of quiet, however am sad to report that everyone else out here is retired and their only hobbies seem to only involve loud power tools.
Each day I wish for them new hobbies, like watercolor painting or cross-stitch. Baking muffins is fun. Bake some fucking muffins for a change, you absolute losers. I hate the noise. I hate it so much.
This is on my more generous days. Other days I wish terrible things upon them. I really need the noise to stop.
If it were’t summer, I could at least close the windows, but I need them open for the breeze. Shouting curses at my neighbors (who are far enough away that they cannot hear me, but I can hear their machinery) is also a contributing factor, along with the noise.
Some day when [time, money, energy, resources, support] allows, I will plant trees to block them off.
Contributing factor: Monsoon memories & fire memories & all the memories
So many memories.
Last summer, the fires raged for so long and so close to my property, that every dry, tense, high-risk hot day feels ominous, like everything is dangerous. Which it is, but also the stress is too much.
And, last August, monsoon season was so intense and the river raged so high, breaking all previous limits. I was trapped here for nine days because the road was flooded in both directions, and I was living on rice and oatmeal, and it was so terrifying.
Last August someone I deeply loved who deeply loved me suddenly disappeared from my life with no notice or warning, and refused to share any information about what was going on. The winds rattled this metal box I call home, and I was bereft.
Crying vs not-crying, a flood vs a fire
Now is not then, and yet my body still holds onto these memories. The fear and the hurt, the impassible passages, the surprise endings.
Last summer all I could do is cry, this summer I have been consistently unable to cry, not sure what exactly I’m waiting for. Or what would help.
A breath for now is not then. A breath for now is temporary, everything is temporary, this too shall pass, everything shifts and changes, the only answer is to be adaptable.
And sometimes we have to do that from bed, because that’s how it is.
Now is not then
A breath for now is not then.
I can make a list of all the ways that now is not then.
I can make a list of what is working and what might help.
And I can ask an incoming self for three pieces of advice…
Clearing the decks, in any way, shape or form
I talk about this probably every time I post something here, but I think it’s worth saying every time: PEOPLE VARY!
We are all so different. Whenever I share something that helps me, it’s just that, something I find helpful, for me.
You might have a different experience, and maybe reading about something that works for me is a clue about what works or might work for you (which could be similar or entirely different!), it’s all good.
When I find myself overwhelmed by the many extenuating circumstances, any form of clearing space helps me a lot. That could be clearing off a work space, or deleting a bunch of emails, closing some tabs, putting away dishes, cleaning one thing.
If I don’t have energy for that, I journal with Slightly Wiser Me or an incoming self or a favorite person (real or imaginary) about what might help instead.
We Do Grounding Things
When everything is going wrong, or I am in the perception of everything is going very wrong, and it is miserable, we practice Acknowledgment & Legitimacy, and then We Do Grounding Things.
What are grounding things? Your mileage may vary. A replenishing glass of water is never a bad idea. A calming song if you have one.
For me it might be fifteen minutes of rolling around on the floor, stretching, yawning, humming.
Washing my face helps. Rolling feet on a ball. A three minute dance party (can be done from bed).
As long as you have your list of what helps, or what sometimes helps, you have something to try.
It’s fun to say and sometimes fun to do, and it stands for Something Meaningful On a Personal Level. Thanks to my brother for coming up with this. You can read more about the practice of SMOPL!
This can be a ritual, a practice, a favorite food. A way to shift the energy by doing something that has meaning for you, and a way to layer on new meaning.
This is a way I care for myself. If this month is the anniversary of [sad, painful things from Then], I can SMOPL my way into comfort. This is a way to treat myself with tenderness.
There are always clues to be found, in songs or in a book, outside your window, in your space, going for a small walk, watching a movie. I can turn on my clue-finding mind and see what is there for me.
Here’s a beautiful clue I found in the latest podcast episode from You Are Good, on the topic of the movie Little Miss Sunshine. I’m paraphrasing because I was doing gentle yoga while listening, but this was the gist of the quote:
“You’re becoming who you are through these years of tumult and turmoil, and also it sucks.”
Yup. It really does. See? Reminders everywhere of the power of Acknowledgment & Legitimacy.
It is not easy, and we are becoming who are, and knowing this doesn’t necessarily make it easier, but it is still a great kindness to remind ourselves as we move through the dog days, the fog days, the I don’t know why this is so hard but it just is trying times of being a person in a body in the world.
I hope it helps. I want you to have the reassurance of a good clue.
If that’s a clue for you too, then I hope it helps. I hope anything in today’s piece of writing helps.
And if it’s not your clue, I know you will find a better one for you soon. Here’s to all the best clues, in the right places, in the right timing.
And to the process of staying alert and receptive to the clues that come. (A breath for that.)
Come play in the comments, I love company!
Share anything sparked for you while reading, or add anything you’d like to into the pot, the healing power of the collective is no small thing, companionship helps.
Bonus materials! Coming soon…
Update: I am preparing new bonus materials about time and how I prepare for and relate to the different quarters, more about this to come, but anyone who gives to Barrington’s Discretionary (see below) will get these by email this summer…
If you received clues or perspective or want to send appreciation for the writing and work/play we do here, I appreciate it tremendously. Working on some stuff to offer this coming year, but between traumatic brain injury recovery & Long Covid, slow going.
I am accepting support (with joy & gratitude) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, it all helps with fixing the many broken things.
And if those aren’t options, I get it, you can light a candle for support (or light one in your mind!), share this with someone who loves words, tell people about these techniques, approaches and themes, send them here, it all helps, it’s all welcome, and I appreciate it and you so much. ❤️