Tag Archives: self-discovery

How I Spent my Birthday

…or, is there any reason for a 51-year-old woman with fibromyalgia to go zip-lining?

It was supposed to be a Chopin recital in Blacksburg. Garrick Ohlsson. Only it got cancelled because of a scheduling conflict. I’m not all that surprised, since I was wondering why a pianist of this magnitude was coming to Blacksburg in the first place.

So, hubby had already scheduled to take the day off, and we had nowhere to go. Alecto sent me Maxwell’s zip line commercial for my birthday, and that got me thinking. Since I’d just been to the high country for the annual ski retreat (think 35 teenagers, 10 adults and Ski Sugar, it’s scary) I knew there were zip lines around. There are billboards all over the place, advertising the adventure. One interweb search and two clicks later, there it was. Hawksnest. I emailed hubby at work: “Can we go ziplining? Please??” Knowing full well that he was NOT interested in doing anything like this.  He gets sick riding the Teacup at the fair; he ain’t gonna do this.

Only he did. He answered, “I’ll do it. For you.” So, we got up the next morning, dressed appropriately and headed up the mountain. He didn’t speak, at all, until we arrived in Boone, early. We checked out the student housing he’d drawn the plans for, talked about getting food and decided not to. Then we headed to Seven Devils, NC. Switchback roads galore.

Hawksnest used to be a ski resort. Now it’s snow tubing and the zip line course. There were several people snow tubing. We were still early, so we wandered around a bit, then sulked our way into the zip line office. They had us scheduled to go out with another group in an hour. But, one phone call and 5 minutes later, there were two guides suited up and ready to take us out. First we had to sign the release that says, in essence, that the resort is not responsible if you die during your adventure. Hey, I had to sign the same form many moons ago when I went white water rafting on the French Broad. Not much white water-it was a class II/III ride, the first rule was “no splashing”, and as soon as we were all in the water, what did our guide do?  Splashed us repeatedly until we were soaked, of course.

Harness, hardware, helmet and gloves. Check. Out we go, up the steps to the first platform. Five minutes of instruction and I’m attached to the line. Good thing the guide said it was ok if you wound up backwards, because I did. Then it was hubby’s turn. Did he turn backwards: nope.

Long story, short. Nine lines, plus a swinging bridge. Hubby performed like a pro. I had some teensy issues, and one rescue stop that was AWESOME. It took an hour, and we were back in the office, peeling off gear. I was grinning. Hubby wasn’t green. We’re ok.

On the way back down the mountain, hubby is speaking to me again. After some debriefing, we decide that I would definitely do it again, and yep, he probably would too. We learned a lot about ourselves during our adventure.

Which leads me to the original question: Is there any reason for a 51-year-old woman with fibromyalgia to go zip-lining? You know the answer, but just in case, I’ll spell it out for you: YES!!!! YesYesYesYesYes!!!!!!!!!

Why? Well, because

I learned that it is essential to trust your gear. It’s designed to take care of you, so let it. I didn’t learn this lesson very well until afterward, when my biceps were so stiff I couldn’t move my arms. I was holding on to the gear so tightly, as if it was all up to ME to keep myself from plunging to the snow tubers below. Our guides were amazing to watch, gliding across the lines, flapping their arms like birds, or just laying on their backs, riding the wind. It was right there in front of me, but I didn’t see it until AFTER I was suffering from my lack of vision. Hubby didn’t have nearly as much trouble with this one as I did.

However, hubby learned (and I learned through osmosis) that fear is crippling. He didn’t speak to me on the way up because he was TERRIFIED of what we were going to do. As it turns out, his fear was unfounded. Now he’s thinking about fear and what he’s allowed it to do in his life. And so am I.

We both learned to trust our teachers, and sometimes teachers don’t look like “teachers”. At other times our  teachers are the same age, or younger, than our children. Maybe our children are trying to teach us something while we’re trying to teach them something else?

Listening is important, and can mean the difference between safety and potential danger. The same is true of observation. Shut up and look at what’s going on around you, ok? Again, that works both ways with our children. We all need to listen more and observe more and talk less.

I’m sure there were other lessons in there that I can’t exactly get from by brain, through my fingers, and into this text box. But they ARE there, and they will make their presence known when the appropriate time comes.

I didn’t really address how the lessons apply directly to fibromites. But, if you are one, then you should see your part as it goes by.

And the most important thing I learned: If someone loves you enough to say “Yes, I’ll do it, for you, even though I am terrified”, then, well…that’s what love looks like.

Pure. Adrenaline.

It’s always her fault!

So, anyway….

Back in June, Alecto’s feeding us writing prompts and she comes up with THIS one:

If you disappeared today who would be affected?

(other than immediate family, etc.: I added that to the thought process)

It was June 11 and I was driving the girls to the nether regions of Virginia where CG and I met. I didn’t take my computer with me, but I did play around with Alecto’s idea old-school….using spare pages from my “brain” that hadn’t been used. You know that statistic about how we only use 7% of our brain power? Evidently the same holds true for my calendar/organizer book that is supposed to help me remember where I’m supposed to be when. Darn thing doesn’t work unless I write in it, which I don’t as I should, which means I have 93% empty paper.

Rabbit trail: yesterday I tried to buy a new brain at WallyWorld  for 2010-2011 and they WOULDN’T sell me one. The check-out lady scanned it, the computer said “item not sell-able” and she said “I’m sorry, I can’t sell you anything when the computer says that about it…” and she confiscated my new brain. Sigh….oh well, it was made in China anyway, which is probably why she took it back. Lead poisoning in the vinyl cover, perhaps. Lord knows I don’t need any more brain damage right now. Maybe I should have taken Office Depot up on their offer to replace or upgrade my memory for forty bucks.

So anyway, I’m driving to the mountains and thinking about disappearing and trying to be all philosophical about it. Then it hit me, hard.

Because I was, in fact, returning to a place that I had literally disappeared from in 1974.

So, what then defined “affected”? Did anyone notice I was gone? Did anyone CARE that I was gone? Was anyone’s life transformed, positively or negatively, because I had been there? Did I leave a footprint?

Hello???

Concentrate… concentrate… I’ve got to concentrate… concentrate… concentrate… Hello?… hello… hello… Echo… echo… echo… Pinch hitting for Pedro Borbon… Manny Mota… Mota… Mota…

I’m pretty sure CG noticed. There were a couple of home town girls that lived on my street that noticed our trailer was gone, definitely. Back in June I drove by the spot where our trailer used to be. It’s a mess of tangled trees and barbed bushes now. I had one close friend in town at the time; she and I kept in touch for about a year, then on and off over the years right on up to now. I had a boyfriend to leave behind. I remember how it felt for me to leave him. Did it really hurt him that I left? Probably not much. Thought about him a lot over the years, but I don’t really believe any of those thoughts were reciprocated.

Truth is, I disappeared from places all the time growing up. Moved around a lot, went to about 10 different schools in 12 years, started at one college, finished at another, worked as a piano teacher, a manual laborer in an electronics factory, went to community college and learned some geek-speak and got a programming job, then another that required moving to NC, and then another 11 years later, two blocks away from the previous one. Did the relationships between me and my ex-corkers stretch over those two blocks? Nope. And when the world fell apart and I left my job, what about those relationships? Did they last? Nope.  I’ve practically disappeared from my church over the past year or so, been there 20+ years.

What does any of this mean, anyway? Does it matter??

Well, yes and no. Does it matter that my life, all of our lives, intersect and weave in and out of hundreds of thousands of others during our all-too-brief visit to planet Earth? Yes, and no. We can’t expect to impact everyone we meet in some huge, profound way, nor should we. If we did, then there would be that whole “the paparazzi are hounding you, what did you do?” issue to deal with that I never got to because I got stuck on this one. But, when I look back at the single thread that is my life and how it is woven into the fabric that is “us”, I’d like to think that the fabric is enhanced, just a tiny bit, by the color of my thread.

Now, what the heck IS the color of my thread?

Welcome to my mid-life crisis.

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Yesterday I got a reminder from the DMV about renewing my driver’s license. I don’t have to renew it until JANUARY, but since I ain’t no spring chicken anymore I guess it’s nice of them to give me plenty of time to prepare for the new photo that will be required with the renewal. And why is it time for my renewal anyway? Because I’ll be 50 in January. Gee, thanks for reminding me so EARLY NC dmv, bless your heart.

Welcome to my nervous breakdown, brought on by the mid-life crisis.

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One more thing: Humpty, my computer, has been seriously ill since mid-July. Took it to the computer hospital and the doctor took a week or more to diagnose the poor thing, said “it needs a new screen, that’ll be $185.” We brought it home and hooked it up to an old monitor and it limped along for a week or so, then it went into a coma again. Thanks to some advice from one of those “threads” I crossed paths with in high school and first semester of college, I purchased a screen, took Humpty apart and gave her a facelift, then put her back together. She smiled, said “that’s nice!” then immediately barfed up a blue screen of death. I hate Windows. After much weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth accompanying several applications of the dreaded screwdriver to Humpty’s face, she has stopped barfing. I also gave her a new brain to try out, Ubuntu.

Maybe the color of my thread is “Geek Squad” blue? (hmmmm, which looks a lot like BSoD blue. I smell a conspiracy.)

Synergy: I’m not about to pay someone to take Humpty apart and give her a facelift. I’m a grown-up with geek experience, and besides, Humpty’s new face cost about one-third of what the computer doctor would have charged me. Might oughta call ITT Tech and discuss thread colors?

Or not.

when you fall off a horse

….the best thing to do is to get right back up there.

Last week I fell off a horse. Really. No metaphors. Horse is a white paint named Inki. Very strange looking horse, but she’s pretty in her own way.

For the past three or four months I’ve been riding with Little Girl during lessons, and a little in between lesson times. We started by putting a big old Western saddle on poor Inki. Next thing I know, I’m cantering and not really thinking about it. The (real) girls in our group lesson were all doing jumping courses. No jumping in a Western saddle.

I say “real” girls because I am our barn’s token seasoned citizen lesson rider.

After about three weeks I decided to give up the big saddle and go back to the normal English-or-whatever-you-call-it saddle. I’m not very good with equestrian lingo. I just know that going from western back to whatever was sort of like going from a sofa to a balance beam.

Another week went by and I’m cantering Inki comfortably and our wonderful trainer says it’s time for cross-rails. Well, ok.

That went better than I ever expected it to, so we go with small verticals. And I mean small. After a couple of weeks I’m doing that and keeping my balance and everything is just peachy. Trainer and daughter are both talking to me about showing. For the record, I am not, nor have I ever in my life been, a participant in any athletic event. Ever. Clarinet and piano playing are not sports. Neither is book-reading or computer-geeking. Not even stacking plastic cups. (Personally, I think plastic-cup-stacking was invented to make geeky kids like I was have a “sport” to call their own. I just don’t get it.)

Last week I fell off the Inki horse. I’ve fallen off a horse before, more than once. I am an expert at the emergency dismount. We were riding mini-jump courses. I had already successfully taken this jump, at the canter, several times. This time I took the jump just fine, Inki took a couple of strides, then I lost my balance and fell. Actually, I grabbed her neck and rolled off her left side, landed on my ample tush.

So, I got up, brushed off the sand and dirt, got back on the horse, and did the jump again.

Yesterday was lesson day. I didn’t try to canter any verticals, but I did canter cross-rails. I learned that I should not eat lunch at Taco Bell and then ride in 80+ degree weather. I learned that I should have gone back to the barn after last week’s lesson and worked on getting my balance and my confidence back a little quicker. I was reminded that sometimes fibromyalgia gets in the way of my progress and I don’t have the strength or energy I had even one day earlier. And it’s true what they say about activity level and fibro. The best thing to do is to keep pushing, even when you don’t feel like it. I didn’t do that after I fell, and I should have. I will next time.

I have a great bruise. Our barn owner said we should take a picture of it and put it on the barn’s website. “Yes, you too can learn to ride a horse in your fifties and you can have your own big purple butt to prove your success!!”
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I’d like to think there’s a lesson in here for the Wubby.

But the difference, and it’s a big one, is this: when you fall off the horse, you have to WANT to get back on.

Waiting

I’ve been trying to figure out why I haven’t been writing here like I really want to. There are plenty of excuses, a couple of GOOD excuses, but…

Life has been a waiting game for the family around here for, oh, three years and three days and, um, two hours and eight, no, nine minutes. Exactly three years, three days, yak yak ago, my employment as a computer systems analyst was terminated. It wasn’t a bad thing. I expected it, because exactly six months earlier I left the office trying to figure out how to do my job full time plus someone else’s job full time, plus fix another someone else’s code bugs and re-introduce the corrected code to system testing. If you’re a computer geek, or propeller head (as my first boss said) then you know how easy it is to get into someone else’s head and try to figure out what s/he was thinking when writing the nasty code in the first place. NOT. And the people who wrote the bad code I was supposed to fix, in my spare time, were in Missouri. I’d never met them face to face, never conferenced in w/ them when they were writing code.

No one person could possibly do all that stuff even if s/he worked 24/7. And I was supposed to have a life outside of work: husband, children, music, church. So, I came home to find my phone ringing and my daughter looking at caller ID and asking me if she should answer it. I didn’t recognize the number, but I did recognize the place and told her to answer while I got myself in the door, dropped my briefcase and laptop, and got myself to the phone. It was my mom. My dad had a stroke that afternoon. It was serious. I needed to come now. I did. Daddy died 4 days later.

That was the proverbial straw the broke this camel’s back. Life changed in an instant.

During the time from then up to now, I’ve spent time in a mental hospital behavioral health center, in counseling, being poked and prodded because the fibromyalgia. I’ve been in a barn, a poverty-stricken barrio outside Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, the emergency room (twice); Slidell, Louisiana and Biloxi, Mississippi after Katrina. I’ve vacationed at the beach, in the mountains; counseled teens at summer camp three years straight. Taught Sunday School, taken an art class, read tons of books, knitted socks.

So what?

I don’t know how to be me. I’m not sure I KNOW me. I’ve taken care of myself since I was 7, took care of my parents (translate: cooked, cleaned, etc.) while in elementary, middle, high school, and college. I got married, took care of our financial requirements while my husband looked for himself. Took care of my son and my daughter. Taken care of my mom since my dad died and she moved here.

I’m not saying that I’ve done nothing else in my life except this “taking care of”.

I’m not saying that I was a caretaker for everyone all the time, 24/7.

I am saying that I made tons and tons and TONS of mistakes.

I am saying that I love all of these people more than I can describe in mere words.

My son is about to graduate from high school and venture off into the scary world of ultra-left wing liberal college. My daughter is finishing middle school and heading to high school. My husband is excelling in his chosen profession. My mom is venturing back into the world of relationships three+ years after my dad’s death, and she was with him for 43 years.

And I realize that a lot of that caretaking that I’ve done is not pressing on me as hard now as it once was. I feel lighter, more relaxed, more OK with myself and my world.

But I still don’t know me, don’t know how to be me without the constant “worrying about everyone else” part of me totally engaged.

It’s new territory for me. I don’t know what it is yet, but I know it’s what I’ve been waiting for.

Back in January I received a favorable decision on SSI disability, after 3 years of waiting. The benefit isn’t bad; the back benefits have helped us with some financial issues we desperately needed to address. But it took another five months of waiting for all of that to establish itself.

Another load off my mind.

So, here I am, after all this caretaking and waiting and mistakes and rabbit trails and….

What am I saying?

That maybe the waiting can be over now. That maybe I can look back and finally reclaim the parts of me that weren’t fed and watered during all those years and see what grows.

Look at what I just said. “Feed and water it and see what grows.”

You know what that means?

ACTIVE waiting.

 

Little Girl, Lost

The little girl I used to be is lost in my basement.

I went down there yesterday looking for a book. I found these pieces of that little girl, scattered in cardboard boxes, plastic storage boxes, and a trunk:

a naked, dirty baby doll.

a plastic circus elephant coin bank; you put the penny in his trunk, pull his tail, and he throws the penny into his back.

her first pair of prescription eyeglasses.

a broken souvenir of the Empire State Building, given to her by her first “boyfriend”; he was 5, she was 4. His mother was her babysitter. He went to New York on a vacation and brought her back the souvenir.

clothes that she made for herself when she was 10 or 11: a skirt, a blouse, shorts, a dress.

one of her favorite sweatshirts: there are two sets of footprints facing each other. One set has 6 toes on each foot. The other set says, “I like you. You’re different!”

her only ballet costume and black ballet shoes.

a pocketbook.

a list of students from her fourth grade class: Chris F, Robby R, Regina H, Tammy M. Contrary Goddess is on that list too.

“Teaching Little Fingers to Play”, “My Recital Book”, “My First Hymn Book”: all circa 1965.

school books: Virginia History and Geography, Spelling Correctly, Journey Through the New World.

a stuffed black bear, souvenir from her trip to the Smokey Mountains when she was 9.

Evening in Paris, purchased at the Ben Franklin on Front Street.

Avon bottles in cartoon character shapes, that used to contain shampoo.

vinyl records: 45s, LPs of Donny Osmond, The Jackson 5.

a matching scarf, hat and mitten set, green and gold striped.

Monopoly.

a single blue mitten that she knit herself.

her girl scout handbook.

a heart-shaped pink box that began its life as a Valentine candy container. Now it holds broken costume jewelry, an old wallet, string, various other junky broken things. I think her daddy gave her the candy, but I’m not sure.

Who is this girl, and why is she in pieces in my basement?  

I cried for her. Hard. For hours.

And I can’t seem to stop.