Does it Hurt More Than a Poke in the Eye?

Every visit to the rheumatologist begins and ends with measurement of pain, fatigue, and mobility. The only discussion of how the patient is coping is in the context of measuring and assessing medications and other accommodations.

The dreaded assessment tool is handed to you at some point in your visit to rate pain and fatigue. Am I the only one to ever have the image of poking the physician in the eye with the pencil and asking “On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your pain?”?

Let me be clear: I admire and respect my rheumatologist and he is in no danger. However, my point is that the act of measuring the pain as though it is separate from me and is useful in some way to others confounds me.

We say pain is relative, subjective. What this means to me is that you need to know how many good sleeps I’ve had recently. You need to know how the weather is affecting me right now. Are any of my friends and family unwell or having troubles? Am I depressed? When we rate our pain level you need to know the context in which I am existing so the numbers mean something; to make me feel like I have meaning and am not just my pain. To do otherwise is not just dehumanizing, but demoralizing.

I don’t have to understand every test or number in my complex medical history, but understand and appreciate that I am being asked to trust there is meaning and purpose in reducing my pain to a number. Like everything else, trust costs us energy and energy is something those living with chronic pain and fatigue have in limited supply. So, let’s get this right because if this type of assessment tool isn’t giving anyone the information they need to make my life better, then why am I doing it?

It’s not like I think I have all the answers. I just want to have the conversation and isn’t that better than a poke in the eye?

The Road to Bliss

Once upon a time, or roughly eighteen months ago, a dear friend proposed to her diverse group of women friends the concept of regular get-togethers for conversation and the consumption of chocolate. The question asked was what would bliss look like for each of us. The responses were all over the map.

Over time, we’ve had opportunities to share, reflect, and support one another. Recently, we asked ourselves where we are now, right now, in that journey. Despite the differences in life circumstances amongst the group, two messages were heard over and over.

The first theme was that of personal competence. Regardless of what challenges or adventures faced the individual, there was a feeling of being equal to the task in front of them. Be it exploring a new chapter in one’s personal or professional life, we feel prepared to do battle with ferocity or serenity as the individual’s style and situation warrant.

As women, we have often felt the need and expectation to say yes to whatever was asked of us. Indeed, there was a genuine difficulty and aversion to saying no to anyone, regardless of what was being asked, or who was asking it. Predictably, then, the second message of the evening was about saying yes. The difference, however, was to say yes to ourselves. Whether it is to take a chance at a new career, personal interest, relationship, or staying the course, this time in our life is about saying yes. In doing so, we give ourselves the permission, and therefore the ability, to try, explore, fail, laugh, cry, share, and just be the women we dare to be.

We know the next steps will not all be easy ones, nor will they all be filled with joy. In fact, we know without a doubt there is hard work and times ahead. However, we also know it is at this time in our lives we have the ability, the strength, the courage, and the support to be these fabulous women on the road to personal bliss.

Fabulous women, you ask?

You damn right we are.

Why Tell Stories?

I can’t remember my own first written story, but I do remember the simple joy of hearing a good one from a very young age. It wasn’t even so much the story itself that my mind has captured so clearly, but the way the story was told and its impact on me. The enjoyment and satisfaction of the storyteller in sharing their tale with a person that truly wants to hear it – it’s a beautiful thing.

It matters not whether I see the written word or hear a tale in the old oral tradition. And, it matters not whether it is a world-renowned author or one of my grandchildren telling a thought on the spot, not so understandable, knock-knock joke. For me, it isn’t just about the story but the sharing of the joy and satisfaction bursting from the person telling the story they feel compelled to share.

Don’t get me wrong: a story with powerful themes, lovable and hateful characters, heart-stopping dialogue, breath-taking imagery, well, it gets me every time. And, my enjoyment is not diminished when the story is a heart-breaking one. On the contrary, if we’re honest, some of the very best stories are those that make no sense, causing us to stand up, toss the book aside, wipe tears from our eyes, and demand another ending.

So what is it about storytelling that causes such emotion?

It seems to me the act of storytelling is about passing on something that you just can’t hold within. Be it a few lines or a trio of novels, whether it’s putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, or simply opening your mouth to speak the words. There is nothing like that feeling of … I simply must tell this story.

It’s November and this is my homage to NaNoWriMo.



It’s Hell in the Hallway

Some may call it a turning point, or a crossroad, but whatever you call it I’m there. That’s right, I find myself looking for what direction to take with my professional life. It’s not that I don’t have options, for which I’m certainly grateful, it’s just there’s this uncomfortable feeling about the whole thing. Maybe it’s that I’ve been here before.

A woman I both admire and adore (who, by happy coincidence, is also my mother) observed that when a person is between points in their life, looking for direction, it can be helpful to recall the saying “when one door closes, another opens”. However, what people may or may not count on is that time between.

I’m referring to the hallway time of our life. That’s the time we see flashes of what we could maybe do, maybe not, missed and messed up opportunities, and overall a barrage of emotional memories and thoughts. It’s not a pretty sight, let me tell you.

To make matters worse, it’s like the only way to get through is pick a door because the hallway is brutal. Which begs the question: does it matter which door you pick?

I have to think it does. Maybe I’m idealistic or unrealistic or maybe I just haven’t spent enough time in the hallway. All I know is I’m going to try a few doors, preferably ones with windows, before deciding. I’m taking my time, living with my indecision, and embracing the hell that is the hallway.

To be continued…