Will We Ever Return to Normal?

In this Twilight-zone-world we’re living in,
getting a stylish face mask is a thing.

When I actually think about what’s happening in the world, I get a disoriented feeling, like we’re stuck in an episode of The Twilight Zone.

    Returning to Normal

    Our loon returned to the lake we live on a few weeks ago. This is a sure sign that summer is coming. I say “our” because he returns year after year. He comes before his mate to prepare the nest. She’s not here yet, but I suspect she will be soon. Unfortunately, the weather this week is cool with even some snowflakes still falling. The lake is fully thawed, though, and today I got to see him outside my dining room window as he dove down into the cold water for his meal. At night, especially if we can have the window open, we listen to his beautiful loon calls.

    He has no idea that the world around him is different. That the people are shut up in their homes. That the fishing boats (motorized that is) will not be bugging him for at least another 17 days per the shelter-in-place order that was made last week by our Michigan governor. No, he had no idea that there’s a deadly virus that has brought our lives to a screeching halt. For him, life continues on and he has to prepare the nest so that he and his mate can make a home in which they will raise their nestlings (hopefully at least two) before leaving again in late September.
    We, however, have no hope of returning to our normal any time very soon. Our strict shelter-in-place order is until the end of April, but some are saying that the worst of the outbreak won’t hit Michigan until early May. And even when the stay-at-home order is lifted, normalcy will be a long-time-coming and probably, never again.
    When we first started hearing about
    “The Corona Virus” from our leaders,
    statements like “We’ve got this under control”
    never made me think we’d be at 586,057 confirmed
    cases in the USA with 23,604 deaths and 43,637 recovered
    as of 4/13/20.

    Understating Facts

    I’m not going to mince words. I do not respect in any way our current president. It’s not a political thing (although, I confess I lean liberal). It’s a person-thing. I believe nothing he says. His conduct during this pandemic has been dangerous and misleading from the start. We now find out that he was formally informed as early as January 3rd that COVID-19 would make its way into the USA. Then, late January, members of his own cabinet sent memos stating, “…coronavirus had the potential to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans and derail the US economy unless tough action was taken immediately…”-New York Times.
    On January 30th at a Michigan Rally, Trump says, “We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five — and those people are all recuperating successfully. But we’re working very closely with China and other countries, and we think it’s going to have a very good ending for us … that I can assure you.” Saying this is an understatement is in itself an egregious understatement.
    As we celebrated the New Year, your average American had no idea what was on its way and just how this would bring us all into a real “Twilight Zone” of nothing makes sense. I could list on and on, even to this day, the understatements, incorrect information, or out-right lies our president has said about the state of COVID-19 in our country.
    Luckily, other people in authority (mostly our governors) have taken the lead on keeping the people as safe as they are able.

    One treasure we have in Michigan
    is our state parks. We can still
    visit many of them as long as we
    maintain our social distancing protocols.
    Lake Michigan and the sand dunes on a sunny day
    thispast week provided a much-needed reprieve.

    Social Distancing to Flatten the Curve

    On March 13th in Michigan, Governor Whitmer closed all schools. For me, this is when I really understood that this was serious. The initial timeline was to close them for 3-weeks. As time went on and Detroit became one of the cities with the highest number of people infected, it was apparent that things were only ramping up. On April 2nd, Whitmer closed the schools for the rest of the year.
    I have not left my home area to go to a store or anything (except one aborted medical lab visit for a blood draw due to it being closed) since March 13th. My husband has done all the out in the world errands. He found two N95 masks in his work closet. He had bought them four years ago when he was sanding and painting the walls and ceiling of our newly built home. While he jokes that he’s just into a few of the risk categories (about to turn 60, had a heart attack 20 years ago, and slight signs of asthma that is being monitored by his doctor), I’m thankful that he has that mask and is wearing it whenever he goes out.
    “From Day 0 to Day 12, the U.S. was in a period of
    dramatic growth in cases, marked by a consistently high day-over-day growth in cases, exceeding 1.35x per day. Beginning only days after implementing extreme social distancing, we began to see a dramatic decline
    in the daily growth in both cases!
    Most importantly, we also see this trend
    in the mortality figures!”

    The reports are showing that the #stayhome #staysafe #savelives protocol is working. I truly understand I have an ideal situation where I am to hunker down (wooded trails in our community’s property and a lake out front). However, we each have a role to play here and now. We each can contribute to the outcome of this horrendous event. Let us be strong. Let us be smart. Let us save lives.

    This was the last time that
    we got together normally. Now,
    we Zoom nearly every day.
    It justisn’t the same.

    Stressing the Good

    My concern right now is the impact this time has on our little ones. It’s confusing. My granddaughter had loved going to preschool, making good friends, and learning a lot from her talented teachers. She hung out at our house two days a week while her mom worked. All of that is has stopped for now.
    She lives for holidays of any sort and two of the biggest for her, Easter and her 5th birthday, were this week. Usually, we have a big Easter egg hunt outside at our house. For her birthday, we have a large gathering, decorating the house in fairies, or trolls, kitties, or mermaids-whatever her chosen theme. But, we had to cancel it for now.
    So, her mom and dad did an awesome egg hunt at their apartment and then took her to Hoffmaster State park (the photo above is from that day.) The night before her birthday, they blew up all sorts of balloons and sneaked them into her bedroom for her to see when she woke up. We zoomed as she opened presents. We played a fun charades game, too.

    We are determined to help her through this time. Her mom has OCD and has gone through a lot of therapy to get to a place where she’s not washing her hands a million times a day and constantly cleaning. So, this virus is truly her scariest dream coming into reality. She’s doing her best to keep her demons at bay and not let it affect her family.

    The other day, when my son had the morning off from working as a service manager at a local grocery store, they went outside to play. They sent me this encouraging photo. I’m sure everyone who walked past it that day felt a surge of hope.
    We do. We got this.
    Not that we can
    control the virus that is taking
    so many lives, but we can
    and will get through this time-together.


    And so, I’m taking this time to celebrate the good and beauty in this world. We humans sure can make a mess of things, but we also really can bring so much wonder and love. I am choosing to focus on that because what we focus on grows.
    This morning as I did the LovingKindness meditation(click live-link for the audio)from the MBSR (Mindfullybased Stress Reduction) Meditation course through palousemindfulness.com, I decided to send lovingkindness to President Trump. “May you be healthy, happy, and whole. May you be safe, protected, and free from harm. May you be alive, joyful, and have inner peace.”

    What are you focusing on during this time? What are you bringing to fruition through your thought and action focus? What will we bring forth out of this Twilight-zone?

    This post is thanks to A Chronic Voice link-up. This month, the topics were returning, understating, distancing, stressing, and celebrating. Each writer takes the given topics and gives them their own spin. Check out these wonderful writers at April 2020 Linkup (scroll past the prompts to find the linked up posts).

    Thank you for visiting my blog today.
    I am committing to posting once a week on Fridays.
    However, as you know, my new normal means that sometimes
    I have to listen to my body and am not able
    to follow throughas planned.
    Thank you for your understanding.
    An image of a head that the brain is showing; all over it are emojis that show many thoughts going on at the same time. At the top is a yellow line with the title in dark blue font. The background is dark teal.

    Mind Over Matter: 21 Days of Meditation

    As you probably have guessed, I am not a trained medical health professional. What I am is a mom, a mimi, a retired teacher, a lover of nature and of music, as well as, someone living with chronic illnesses. I share my journey to provide some insight and hopefully ideas that may be helpful to others dealing with similar issues. Always, consult with your doctor before trying anything new.

    Monkey Mind is a Buddhist term meaning
    “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful;
    inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable”.

    Have you ever noticed your mind’s thoughts as you’re driving alone in your car? Or as you’re lying in bed trying to fall asleep? Really, at any moment of the day, I can find my brain zipping from one random thought to another. Like a monkey swinging from thought branch to thought branch. My yoga teacher termed this as having a “monkey mind.”

    Thoughts that bounce from one random thing to another tends to be the norm in this day and age. I have found that while I actually thrived on that mentality for most of my life (feeling like I was more accomplished juggling all these thoughts into some sort of coherence day in and day out), I now am so overwhelmed with my foggy fibro mind that I find myself frozen in anxiety.

    The more I study how the mind works, the more I am coming to understand that I have been yanked around by my thoughts for a good portion of my life. In the past few years, I found myself being physically pulled from one thing to another right along with my thoughts which lead me to a state of panic. On the journey to rewire my overactive nervous system, I have come to realize that meditation is the missing link. As a meditation teacher and researcher Dr. John Kabatt explains, “Most people don’t realize that the mind constantly chatters. And yet, that chatter winds up being the force that drives us much of the day in terms of what we do, what we react to, and how we feel.”

    21 Days of Meditation

    I’ve been meditating every day for 30 minutes at least once a day for 21 days. As explained in my post Up the Air: Struggles with Flying, Fibro Flare, and Acceptance, I am going through the Mindfully Based Stress Reduction 8-week course online through https://palousemindfulness.com/. David Potter shares this free course, based on Dr. John Kabat Zinn’s program at UMass Medical School.

    Dave Potter is a certified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction instructor and received his training through the UMass Medical School
    where Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Center for Mindfulness.

    The program’s format makes this teacher’s heart smile. It’s easy to understand and all the resources are accessible and meaningful. While it’s all on-line, everything other than video and audio files can be printed to keep in a binder (which is what Dave suggests doing). I made a digital binder that I will share here. It’s view only, but you could make a copy of what I’ve done. I’m finishing week-3. I decided to do week-2 twice because I had a flare during the first go-round and felt it would be beneficial to continue it for one more week.


    You may click through the pages of the digital notebook that I’ve created.


    Course Overview:

    Week 1: Simple Awareness

    I watched all the video links basically in one sitting; I was excited to get started. I printed out the formal practice and informal practice so that I could begin. The first week David takes you through a guided body scan. There are two versions: one of 32 minutes and one of 20 minutes. However, the research that showed good results was at least 30 minutes a day, so I did that one.

    At first, I did the body scan in my bed. I was familiar with doing the scan because of previous experiences during yoga classes and other video-guided body scans. The main difference I found in this one was there was no mention of relaxing or releasing, just noticing how you were feeling. It is suggested that you do this and all meditations when you are alert, so if you’re really ready to drift off, this would not be the way to go about it.

    I did have a couple of sessions when I would blank out on whole sections of the body. I would be “focusing” on my ankle and the next thing I notice I was to be focusing on my belly. So, those times, I didn’t count towards my half-hour. I really enjoy the laying when I’m meditating. I find I don’t grip in my body as much. Also, I used a Bluetooth eye mask or flax-seed eye pillow to help my eyelids relax. (Does anyone else have restless eyelids?)

    I purchased both on Amazon. I like the sleep mask for listening
    to something without bothering someone else.
    It’s my
    new favorite thing for air travel.
    The flax seed eye pillow is perfect to rest my eyes,
    but it only stays on if I’m lying flat.

    The biggest takeaway I have from this first week was that it’s natural that our brain goes off every couple of seconds. So, instead of thinking I’m weak and will never be able to do this, I was told to see each time I noticed that I was thinking about something else to see that as a brain sit-up. Each noticing and bringing back the focus to my breathing, choosing to focus on my nasal passages as it comes in and out, is strengthening that brain pathway. This was a HUGE revelation for me and really helped me to enjoy the noticing and coming back to focus.

    I did the raisin meditation (which is the absolute slowest way to eat a raisin) about half-way through the week. I found the mindful eating videos in the extra resources very interesting being I feel my eating habits are long ingrained in me through a lifetime of school rushed lunches. I also began to realize that I can do anything mindfully. I’ve been working on applying that, especially with my driving. (See my post Am I Strong Enough?)


    Week 2: Attention and The Brain

    This week (which I did twice) was an introduction to sitting meditation, which was difficult for me at first because it involved setting up. I first did it cross-legged (not a requirement at all) on a chair, but then decided to set up my area downstairs where I do yoga. I have a bolster which I’m using to sit on (again, not a requirement).

    I followed the same way of r
    eviewing the videos and articles as in Week 1. This time, some of the videos that David includes from YouTube led me to explore other very interesting videos by meditation gurus such as Shauna Shapiro (Ph.D., is a professor at Santa Clara University, a clinical psychologist) and Sara Lazer (Ph.D. Neuroscientist of yoga and meditation).

    A few of the biggest understanding from this week so far is that meditation actually changes the shape of your brain. It shrinks the amygdala (the fight or flight part of our brain), thus decreasing stress. Yes, thank you!

    Also, I am becoming more comfortable in an upright position when meditating; I’m slowly learning to let go in my body. Actually though, I’m having to work on not controlling my breathing whenever I’m asked to focus on it. The one thing that is automatic in our functioning, I am trying to control. After two weeks, the good news is that I am finding moments of pure letting go.

    Week 3: Dealing with Thoughts

    This week, I have started mindful Hatha Yoga. This is actually what I practice at the yoga studio where I practice. Joan, my teacher, emphasizes the breath and focus on it during each asana. However, David requires that we do the two provided videos led by Lynn Rossy, Ph.D.

    MBSR Yoga Routine #1
    One of the harder things I have to deal with is the JUDGE in my mind that comes out as I do yoga. I strive often to do the poses correctly or push my body to get to where it “should” be.

    Yoga is my jam, so I have been really happy doing this part. My teacher says, “Everything is yoga if done mindfully.” So, we can move mindfully to create an integrated body and mind. One of the harder things I have to deal with is the JUDGE in my mind that comes out as I do yoga. I strive often to do the poses correctly or push my body to get to where it “should” be.

    I’m learning that striving and pushing is not the goal here. I want to accept me where I am on this day at this moment. The Judge and Critic are real but not my truth. I can look at it for what it is, a thought bubble. By noticing it and labeling it as “Thinking” or “Judging” and then coming back to the senses of the breath and movement, I find that I’m getting stronger at letting them go.


    And so, three weeks in, I’m hopeful. I had a test today, and I didn’t fully pass, but I think I did better than I would have before meditation. After doing a wonderful sitting meditation, I went to write. However, my husband was working on getting our tax information ready. It’s more complicated with our retiring and our creating an LLC. I am the techie for the company. I created (using YouTube tutorials) a spreadsheet that keeps track of our expenditures, earnings, mileage, and costs for the office space.

    So, when he wanted my help to get it ready, I began to get overwhelmed pretty quickly because he wanted the set up to be different than I had it. I could feel myself getting riled up and ready to be snippy with him. However, I worked on remembering the feeling I had just a bit before while meditating and then worked on breathing while I worked on the document preparation. I didn’t snip and we got it done without us getting upset with each other.

    Describing meditation is difficult.
    I guess my best explanation is
    focusing on the senses of the body
    in the present moment without getting
    swept up in our own story.

    Have you ever tried meditation? I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences. I will share my journey further down the line. (Boy, I wish I had a brain scanner!)

    Thank you for visiting my blog today. I am committing to posting once a week by Friday.  However, as you know, my new normal means that sometimes I have to listen to my body, and I cannot follow through as planned. Thank you for your understanding.

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    teal line drawn waterlily with teal lettering of the title and motto

    Those Are Fighting Words! Metaphors Make Meaning

    I’m a lover and a learner, not a fighter. After doing some reflection on a poll asked to those dealing with fibromyalgia for what name we would choose to call those with the diagnosis, I realized that I bristle to the appellation of Fibro Warriors, Fibro Fighters, and the like. The war metaphors just don’t sit well with me.

    While I understand that viewing oneself as a warrior is empowering (and if it resonates with you then use it), but for me, I feel in control and strong and courageous by learning about how my mind and bodywork. Due to this outlook, I have found avenues that are working for me so that I feel like I’m able to live my life fully.

    Just Words

    Some will say that these labels are just words. But as I am doing a lot more reflection through meditation, counseling, and writing, I have come to realize that the words I say out loud and in my head end up defining me.

    The fibromyalgia that is within me is not my enemy. I have come to believe that my nervous system has been on overdrive all of my life, right from in the womb due to my own mom coping with schizophrenia and bipolar (unknown to her until I was 16 or so). Her unstable mental health was the vibrant and awful hearth that lit my understanding of the world.

    After my six weeks of intensive therapy through Mary Free Bed’s Pain Program (my blog explaining this), I came to understand and believe that the pain that endlessly roves around my body, the brain fog that weighs heavy in my head, the extreme exhaustion that forces me to lay down comes from a friend of sorts-my nervous system. My nervous system kept me on alert as a child. It was protecting me from the random emotional and physical attacks my mom would have without any warning. As I’ve explained in past posts, I learned to live on that adrenalin right up until I couldn’t function any longer last year. I actually thrived in some respects.

    And so, I’ve chosen to view my nervous system as an overly protective friend who needs now to be assured that I am in fact safe and well. When I first listened to Dr. Daniel Clauw,the Director of the Chronic Pain; Fatigue Research Center at the University of Michigan, describe central sensitization/central pain disorder, I felt his metaphor for an amplifier turned on high really explained the reason for the fibromyalgia and interstitial cystitis pain I have.

    Certainly, the way is not clearly marked.
    These metaphors create images in our minds; connecting what we know to better understand those things that aren’t as understood to us. So, for me to understand this part of my life living with fibromyalgia, I have used the term journey. For the most part, I feel it fits the mentality I’ve taken. It allows for discovery, going into unknown territory, taking chances, having companions with me along the way, allowing guides to show me the way, figuring out what works best for me in this new situation or place that I’m in at this moment, etc. Journey to me involves work, courage, perseverance, hardships, discoveries, and so much more.

    I will admit, there are times where I feel like I’m going through more of an odyssey-full of hardships and trials. Sometimes moving forward in a positive way. Other times stymied by a flare that brings my progress to a standstill or even pushing me back to take shelter. Often, it’s felt like more of a quest -constantly searching to learn and to accomplish my goal of living as fully as possible.

    Humorous image here, but when I’m down and out,
    it’s not funny in the least.

    The other day, when talking to my daughter, she reminded me after a time of doubt and discouragement, that this journey isn’t going to always go on the route I’ve chosen. Unexpected exhaustion hits in the middle of me having a great time. The fog rolls in, and I can’t see or think clearly. Pain has led me into a dark alley and left me whimpering and doubting that I can continue. This too is all a part of my unchartered journey.

    Metaphors Steer Our Thinking

    For each of us facing a chronic illness of any type, taking time to really think about the metaphors we use is important. Also, that what we use needs to connect to who we are and want to be. In the medical research article, “Metaphors We Think With: The Role of Metaphor in Reasoning” published in Public Library of Science Journal,researchersPaul H. ThibodeauandLera Boroditsky state that through the five experiments they performed, analyzing the role of metaphor and mindset, they found, “…that metaphors can have a powerful influence over how people attempt to solve complex problems and how they gather more information to make “well-informed” decisions.”

    In addition, they discovered that “…the influence of the metaphorical framing is covert: people do not recognize metaphors as an influential aspect in their decisions.” And so, it is essential that we think about the words we use to describe our illness and our relationship to it. Those words impact not only how we view our situation but also influence how we chose to react to it.

    Other Possible Metaphors

    In the article From Battles to Journeys: Changing How We Talk About Illness and Cancer” byVanessa Milne, Jeremy Petch & Maureen Taylor, the list a few different ways we can think a disease. In the article, they talk about a woman who referred to cancer in her body as cells that were out of tune with the rest of her body’s cells. This got me thinking.

    Needing to be Tuned-This week, I started taking ukulele lessons. Awkwardly, I tried to get my fingers not only pushing the string down fully but on the correct fret and not lazily touching the other strings. I have not yet gotten this to happen, so when I strummed the four strings in tandem with my teacher’s notes, mine sounded sour and totally out of tune. It seems like that’s much like my body and mind, currently. It’s awkwardly trying to strum a tune, but it’s really out of tune.To my surprise, I’ve been relishing my time in meditation more and more. I feel like it’s bringing my mind and body back in harmony with one another.

    In the article, they explain that often the metaphors come from a personal connection. Which makes sense, metaphors compare two unlike things-usually something one is really familiar with to something that is difficult to explain. So, your own life experiences could bring you a meaningful metaphor that helps you to explain and cope with illness.

    Here is a list from their article (linked here):

    • Dancing
    • Thriver (vs survivor)
    • Playing a chess match
    • Running a marathon
    • Weeding a garden
    • A persona (the illness becomes a character to interact with)
    And a few more I found:
    • A building project
    • A bike race (Lance Armstrong used this)
    • A mental or physical match (similar to war phrasing but less violent)
    • An unwelcome lodger
    • An alien invasion

    Further Food for Thought:

    What is/are the metaphor(s) you use when thinking or talking about illness? Is it serving you well? Does it fortify you? Have you ever thought of the language you and your health advisors use?

    Thank you for visiting my blog today.

    I am committing to posting once a week on Fridays. However, as you know, my new normal means that some times I have to listen to my body and am not able to follow through as planned. Thank you for your understanding.

    Click link Subscribe to Pain FULLY Living Weekly Posts by Email

    Up in the Air: Struggles with Flying, Fibro Flare, and Acceptance

    Up in the Air: Struggles with Flying, Fibro Flare, and Acceptance

    back ground of blue-whte fluffy clouds with airplane aisle with passengers seated, to the right in a transparent dark blue cloud shape  in white text is the title. Underneath in white font is the website and teal waterlily logo.
    Photo by Skitterphoto
    While I have appreciated flying with Delta
    Airlines, the long walk to the back of the plane,
    being stuffed between to bigger men,
    three tight transfers, and mysensitivity
    to all things in motion,
    made for a very challenging trip.

    This week, my husband and I splurged on a ticket for me to join him in Pasco, Washington. Kelley does contract work that causes him to travel about one week each month. Being I had never been to the state of Washington and he was going to be gone from Monday to Saturday, we decided that I would come along.

    Not Prepared

    I blame myself (and my brain fog) for how the trip has gone. After a pretty active and clear-headed week, I found myself very tired and foggy last Saturday. Being we’ve always packed a day or night ahead of any trip, I didn’t even consider planning ahead. BIG MISTAKE! I really haven’t been on any long travel trips since before my diagnosis. The last big trip (driving from Michigan to California and back) was two years ago and the beginning of the unusual, constant, deep pain roving all over my body.

    And so, Sunday, while not horrible, found me not at all motivated or clear-headed when I packed just before bedtime. My belligerent body, seemingly because it knew we’d have to get up at 4 am, decided then that I didn’t need to sleep at all. And so, I was awake and ready to go by 4:30; however, my zombified brain didn’t consider that I didn’t have my purse with me until we were nearly at the airport, one hour away from home. Of course, no identification meant no boarding.

    screen shot of text between myself and husband.  Husband sends can't believe it emoji in response to my finding my purse in the back of the car.
    My text-conversation with my husband. Me from home. Him in the airport waiting to take off for Seattle, the flight we both should have been on.

    Good News, Bad News

    Being we didn’t have flight insurance (something we may have to bite the bullet and pay the extra fee next time), we didn’t expect that I would be able to go. However, Delta, being overbooked for that morning’s flight was asking for volunteers to take the later flight. My husband was able to get them to add me to that ticket at no extra charge to us. So, off he went, with me driving home to better prepare for my travel.

    It was a bit of a knuckled drive home due to icy conditions on the roads, and I was struggling to keep awake. I felt like I was in some out-of-body state. However, I made it home safely and was really looking forward to cuddling back into bed for a few hours of sleep. Determined to get my purse into my backpack so that I had everything ready for later, I looked for it hanging on the hooks in the mudroom. Not there… So, did I leave it in my car (a bad habit I’ve gotten into lately)? Nope. Where could it be? Then, it dawned on me. I rode in the backseat of my husband’s car(the one we took to the airport that morning)with my granddaughter three days ago when we took her to a water park for the day. I walked meekly to the garage where I had just parked it and looked into the backseat; sure enough, there it was.

    Even so, I really didn’t let it get to me. I was actually thankful for the extra time to myself to get some sleep, do some yoga, and just rest, knowing that I’d be stronger for the flight the next morning.

    Seated in the airport, image of knees in black pants, with black backpack and hot pink fuzzy half-moon headrest.
    Feeling confident and prepared,
    I started my Tuesday morning
    pretty alert and energetic.

    Let the Games Begin

    I felt ready. Starbucks’ non-dairy splurge coffee made me feel like a pro. It wasn’t until my short flight to Detroit that I really looked at my tickets. I was arriving at A5 four-minutes before boarding started for my flight to Salt Lake which was leaving from gate A-65. Hmm… I realized that I was going to have to sprint. I made it and had time to pee before getting on because I was in one of the last seats on the plane (beggars can’t choose better seats). As I carefully walked down the narrow aisle, guarding my backpack so as not to hit anyone, I saw my seat, middle-stuffing between two bigger guys. Luckily, I don’t mind smaller spaces, or so I thought.

    Boy, I now realize that being confined without ways to stretch really isn’t good for my tightly-wound body. It was a long four and a half hours. I had chosen not to travel by myself while on Bonine for my motion-sickness and forgot my ginger chews, so as the flight progressed, I began to get a strange dizzy-headache that then lead to a hardball forming in the pit of my stomach. During the last 45-minutes of travel, I did nothing but work on closing my eyes and slow breathing. I was glad to get off without having to use the little paper bag provided in the seat pocket in front of me.

    The last connection, again a very tight-transition time, caused me to have to get directly on the flight to WA. I was in the very last row of this puddle-jumper airplane and knew from the get-go that it was going to be a rough trip for me. I didn’t open my eyes until the wheels touched down an hour and a half later. Meditating got me through the time without throwing up, but my body was one big knot, and it took everything I had to get my suitcase and find Kelley waiting for me just outside the airport’s doors.

    Image of a hotel room with sitting room, purple yoga mat on the carpeted with purple Coreageous ball on it.
    A wonderful room to hang out, write, read, and do yoga.
    Unfortunately, I’m still feeling like I have
    motion sickness.

    Not Feeling the Acceptance

    I’m struggling with acceptance.  Today is the third day of feeling like I’m still motion-sick with added muscle pain literally everywhere.  I’m feeling so weak, dizzy, light-headed, and nauseous in addition to aggravating, whimper inducing pain at every point of my body. I really had wanted to use this get-a-way to write, read, and practice meditation and yoga while Kelley went off to his job. While I am doing some of that, it’s coming hard.  I’ve been feeling a bit defeated in the whole practicing of acceptance. I have this gnawing doubt that my life with Fibro will never get better and that going on Cymbalta just maybe my only option.

    But still, I plugged on the past couple of days searching for anything that proves I’m on the right path of rewiring my brain through meditation and mindfulness.  I went down a neuroplasticity and meditation Google research path that took me to an open door of hope.

    A close up of an 8 brown rock cairn on a beach that is blurred out.
    Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction by
    Jon Kabat-Zinn is a scientifically
    researched 8-week meditation class
    that has shown great results for
    people with issues like chronic pain.

    Have You Heard of MBSR?

    I hadn’t heard of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Therapy until I stumbled on the research paper titled “Mindfulness- and acceptance-based interventions for patients with fibromyalgia – A systematic review and meta-analyses”. The report talks about how participants in 8-weeks of meditation classes of 30-40 minutes a day caused noticeable, positive changes in their brains. This led me to find the developer of MSBR, Jon Kabat-Zinn (who I actually have read his book Wherever You Go, There You Are).  I ended up watching a talk he gave to Google employees on their lunch hour: Mindfulness with Jon Kabat-Zinn.  From there, I found various ways to participate in the 8-week course, but all of them would cost a decent amount.  Then, I stumbled on something amazing!  The course is offered online for free from Dave Potter, a fully-certified MBSF instructor.

    I started my preparation for the 8-week class today.  Instead of a printed notebook of the materials as is suggested, I’m creating a digital version.  So far, I have it ready through week 1.  Feel free to make a copy of what I have or follow along with me as I add the upcoming weeks in as I go.

    Click arrows to go through the pages.  Some pages have links to videos and PDFs.

    I’ve enjoyed the meditation that I’ve done through Calm and Jeff Warren, but they tend to be short sessions. They’ve given me the thirst for more, and I think this is a good next step.

    Trip Home

    In my research, I have also learned that my impromptu travel planning and packing is not the best when you have fibromyalgia. I’ve found a few helpful articles by fellow spoonies that I will use for this home trip and those to come. Also, I’m going to take Bonine which will make me really sleepy, but with Kelley leading me around, I should be okay.

    Do you have any travel tricks that make long journeys more bearable and less flare causing? Have you tried MBSR or meditation to help with your symptoms? I’d love to learn from you.

    But….HOW do I Practice Acceptance (My Super Power in Development)

    Image by John Hain from Pixbay

    Today in yoga class, we had a good giggle. Just as we were to stretch into our final rest pose, Shavasana, the drill of a maintenance worker started up loudly in the building next door that shared the long side wall of our classroom. It juxtaposed against the calming, meditative music now taking a backseat to the jackhammer being amplified in the space. Our teacher, after a few jokes, reminded us that as we began to breathe and set our minds to meditate, we had a great opportunity to accept what we cannot change and continue on.

    Imageby windyschneider from Pixbay

    I’ve spent this first week of January with the intention to purposefully practice acceptance of the things I cannot change. What I know is that this is not an innate part of my nature. Neither is it something that I can just decide and then I am. However, as this little, somewhat silly opportunity to accept what came up, I found that I could do it without much effort due to the groundwork I’ve laid these past few months with brain plasticity and rewiring.

    One surprising tool that has really helped me is the Calm App that I have on my phone. I had gotten it to help me fall to sleep. Several people I knew had recommended it for the music and stories which is what I tried first. These past two weeks, though, I began to do the beginner 30 days of meditation training with Jeff Warren. At 4 days in (Inner Smoothnessepisode), I learned a new word-equanimity.Its definition is mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.Learning to not balk or run away from uncomfortableness, but be able to literally (and figuratively) sit with it.

    Meditation with Jeff Warren

    The thing that has helped me the most was how he guides to “Notice your thinking. Every time you catch yourself thinking or visualizing and can notice as if from a perch outside, you are strengthening your focus and equanimity muscle.” And so, I’ve been doing this each day when I meditate in bed as my husband is sleeping next to me. He snores. So, it could be distracting, but I’m allowing it to be. Or when Willow, our 15-pound long-hair cat decides to nestle in the area that really makes my leg feel uncomfortable, I allow it and maybe eventually move my leg so that he leaves.

    I am practicing to notice my thoughts (self-talk and/or images) that come up. I notice if it’s a judgment, a plan, a worry, a bracing, a sinking into the past. I label it and let it go. Jeff’s explanation that the thoughts will happen and that the more we notice, label, and release these thoughts, the stronger we become in doing it. And then, as we practice doing this during these times of meditation, we then find that we can do this when we go back into our day.

    And so, I am beginning to find some positive changes. First, I look forward to meditation time. As I’ve stated before, I have ADD and have always been a doer, so being able to enjoy this is miraculous. It used to be torture for me. Second, and the most amazing, is that I’m beginning to do this when something uncomfortable or even painful hits.

    Last week, I had a bought of nausea, dizziness, and fatigue that started with a headache upon waking. It stayed the whole day and into the evening. That evening, though, was a special night. We had tickets (from Christmas) to go see a Michigan State basketball game. I got dressed to go, but I could just feel that the two-hour drive there, dinner, the game, and drive home, was going to be beyond what I could handle. I was bummed.

    But, I did not sink into a deep sadness, which has been my norm when the fibro symptoms have caused me to cancel. I was able to be okay with it. And my quiet night alone ended up being fine.
    I know I have a long way to go with this, but I’m really seeing positive changes already. I feel that I am already becoming flexible and resilient. I’m learning how to handle this life (even with the symptoms of fibromyalgia) with grace and ease.
    Have you tried meditation? If you’re anything like me, this seemed a bit silly, maybe even a bit voodoo-ey. I’m finding now, that it’s a concrete practice that’s rewiring how I react. I will continue to explore this topic of acceptance in upcoming posts. I’d love your thoughts, questions, concerns, experiences to help me in my exploration.