Category Archives: in it

pain management

I check my list and lean on my cart. There’s that familiar flutter, the anticipation of it’s going to get worse and I’m stuck. I’m here to buy groceries and the pain in my legs is explosive. I could desert my cart and drive home, but we need food. I began the shopping trip okay, my legs cramping but tolerable. And then the ache crept, grew bigger and I have three more aisles to go.

Butter, sour cream, milk go into my cart. My left leg feels squishy and I know there’s blood pooling in my liner. (A liner is made up of silicone which goes over my leg and then fits into the protheses.) What I need is some privacy; to take off my legs, ease the pressure and clean up the blood. I have to get to checkout.

One step. Two steps. Twenty steps. A hundred steps.

My hands shake as I plunk every item onto the conveyor belt. Fast and careless. While I pay I look for a restroom sign and there it is; a beacon. Public washrooms are gross and they’ve become my safe haven.

I roll my full cart into the handicapped stall. I sit down hard. Legs off, shoulders sagging, my head in my hands; I wait. Until the throbbing subsides. Pain is a second heartbeat. A ragged pulse.

I grab toilet paper to catch the dripping blood before it reaches the floor. There’s a scrape, a shuffle outside the door. Deep breath. I slide everything back on, biting my lip as the liner rolls over the open wound. Opening the door, I apologize to the woman with her baby for taking so long. For a quick second I think maybe I should explain. But. No time. No strength.

She smiles. “No, no. That’s okay.” Her sincerity, my weariness almost makes me cry. Now I have to get to my car.

One step, three steps, a thousand steps. I still have to drive home. 15 minutes of torment until I reach sanctuary.

Since being burnt and losing my feet due to a horrific car crash 17 years ago I have dealt with chronic skin breakdown and pain. There are days of reprieve. I’ve even had weeks of reprieve, but my skin breaks down, I get different liners, new prosthetic legs, and pain resurfaces. Distress is never far away.

A few short years ago I wrote a book. A memoir with a cover and publisher and title and everything! There were book signings and television spots, months of feeling like the luckiest woman in the world.

I was invited to speak more. My kids began to grow up, turning into people with lives of their own. Life got busy. My legs were an ongoing problem. Battling infections. Energy waning. A bad week spiraled into a bad month and then it was, “it’s been a bad year and a half. Oh, um, I guess it’s been two years now.” There didn’t seem to be an end. Bad legs became bad health. My body couldn’t cope. There were frequent visits to doctors. Blood drawn. Priorities changed.

Careful with my time and energy, my life is a forced list of capabilities. There’s little room for extra. I’m fine until I’m not. Each day is different. When it’s a good day, I’m grateful and I go with it – no analyzing. Walking. Seeing a friend. Going to work. Yay! Unless I’m obviously limping or I tell you “my health is for shit”, most people will assume I’m alright. I want to be okay. Because I’m over it. I am so sick of being sick. You get tired of explaining. My complaints on Facebook would look like this:

Legs hurt. Again. Please send chocolate.

In bed. Watching Downton. How cute are Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes?? (I did text that to a friend.)

Full thickness wound. Boo.:(

Really missing morphine! #nostalgic

On prednisone for some weird immune thing. I’m allergic to myself. Feeling manic. (For those of you who have had the delightful/disturbing experience of being on that steroid you get this.)

I put out the happy stuff, not because I’m lying about my life but because these issues can be consuming and my life has other parts – lightness, sweetness. The bad cannot outweigh the good. My family. A great book. A dancey Annie. A funny, weird thing Ben said. Good friends. The TV I’m obsessed with. If I’m not driving or working, I’m resting. I don’t have a choice. I have to go to bed. That gets old fast.

So, what is the point of writing this?

To fill you in, to catch you up on where I’ve been. This is what’s happening. I felt I owed it to you guys, to the kind people who followed me on this journey of writing. I was around until I wasn’t. To say I’m so sorry to my writerly friends that I haven’t been around.

To tell those of you who deal with chronic, persistent anything that you are not alone. As children we’re told we can do anything and we grow up to discover that might not be true. We have limits. We’re told to push past and soar. Sure, yes, sometimes that’s possible. But. Sometimes in order to thrive we need to acknowledge our limits – not in defeat but with acceptance. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to say this is hard. In the muck of it all I can still see the good and make the most of living. Because there is so much good.

 

making room for quiet

I stood in my kitchen crying and losing perspective. I was tired after a week of attempting to do everything all at once so I could have the satisfaction of shouting “All done!” I cried because I am terrible at time management.

Scott often says, “Rest is a discipline, too.” He offers up this advice stretched out on the couch while casting a meaningful look.

As I dissolved in his arms blubbering about school forms (what is with the sheer volume of paper that comes home from school??), a doctor’s appointment and the list that looms on my dining room table which also serves as my desk, I can feel the I-told-you-so as he rubs my back.

Scott shooed me away. “Go upstairs for a while. Close the door. I’ll look after the kids.” Romance is not dead in our house.

I turned to go up the stairs. He called after me, “You’re leaving your phone here.”

I clutched my phone to my chest. “I have stuff to do, people to get back to. A whole bunch of emails…” I loosened my talons and plunked it down on the counter.

Phone-free, I realized how noisy my life has become. If we’re not chauffeuring, emailing or working, we are liking, favoriting and commenting. We are awash in a steady flow of Facebook notifications, tweets, emoticons and texts. Being thick-skinned is a requirement now when I turn on the computer. Not just to handle a snarky comment but to sift through the barrage of information. I’m not lamenting the information age (are we still calling it that?) and hearkening the good ol’ days because, c’mon, sending a quick text is far superior to the telegram or the postal service or even voice mail. I have to press 1 and # again? I love cute photos of kids, funny stories and a good, soulful blog post. But I am recognizing a gnawing in the pit of my stomach, a craving. For quiet.

Quiet makes room. For rest. For perspective. For the unimagined and unexplored. Feelings get lost, buried in noise and I don’t want to miss sadness or joy. I can’t stop everything right now. I don’t want to escape, although I wouldn’t mind moving to Paris. I’ll live vicariously through the people with wealthy employers on House Hunters International. I accept that life is busy and in the middle of overwhelmed I need to make room for quiet.

Swept up
in Dreamcatcher

dreamcatcher bookcoverTara Pohlkotte is a gifted writer (one of my favorites!) who has a collection of poems and essays all tied up beautifully in Dreamcatcher. Her writing both stills and feeds my soul. You can get your copy here.

caution to the wind

Fear is on my mind as I search for stones on the beach. It’s something I enjoy – seeking out a stone that stands out, worn by the sand and sun and water. As I pick up stones and turn them over to inspect them, I think about being afraid. How sometimes instead of pushing through fear, letting it goad me into more, it stops me. Instead of acknowledging and facing fear, I hide. I won’t run, but I let fear push me around. What if my dream doesn’t work out? What if my hard work is for nothing? What if I fail? The fear is so loud I can’t hear the beat of my heart. It’s so loud I forget how to believe. What is the point of dreaming when you’re so busy dashing your hopes? Do we stop pursuing because we can’t predict the future? Do we let go of the thrill of something new because we don’t know the outcome? Do I want a life without risking and trying? I live my life so steeped in reality and the possible pitfalls that I snuff out the what-could-be.

The problem with expecting the worst is that you begin to believe the worst. The worst creeps into everything until it clouds your vision, stunts your growth. It’s ugly because it can’t be beautiful. Futile replaces almost. There are shadows rather than light. Good doesn’t matter when it’s never good enough. ‘The worst’ is poison.

As I pick up and put down stones I think about what I want and don’t want. I put down judgment, timidity, and doubt. I pick up grace. Grace for myself and for others. I carry beauty. Beauty in the ocean stretched out in front of me, in the wondrous colors of the sky. Beauty in the softness and strength of my family playing nearby. I hang onto hope. There is hope in trying and I have to try. I am afraid of the unknown, of what I can’t control, but fear doesn’t have to be stronger than love, bigger than all that I can count on. I look at the collection of small white stones in my hand and feel the small ridges, the lightness of them in my palm, and I decide to keep what is true.

swept up

photo (2)in the beach. And throwing-caution-to-the-wind playing.

the truth

I’m in a funk. A bluesy, what-is-my-problem, watching Vampire Diaries (Don’t judge. The storytelling and hotness are a great distraction) reruns funk. One evening over wine and a lot of food (as these things go) a good friend told me, “It’s completely normal to feel depressed after finishing a book.” And the guilt that had begun to build a home on my shoulders sighed. When my friend finished her thesis a professor gave her that insight and as she imparted it, I felt relieved, an answer to my emptiness. I love pinpointing problems. It’s almost as good as my fall TV shows returning. Holla Fringe and Parks & Rec!

The book is all I’ve been doing for 2 years. Off and on. On and off. You know. You’ve heard me going on and on about it here. I’m worried you’re sick of it. Shut up already. We know you’re writing a book. Truthfully, I was tired of me too. Talking, writing, thinking about the book. The book, the book, the book.

It was/is my purpose, my dream, my job. It crept into everything. While playing a game of Uno with my kids, a teachable moment presented itself as Annie told me about something that happened at school. I can’t remember this valuable lesson, but my daughter looked up from her cards and said, “You should write a book about it,” delivered perfectly with sarcasm. That’s my girl.

I traveled back in time, exploring and defining everything I felt as the life I knew was ripped from me. So, it made sense that I crashed just a little after revising for the hundredth time and then finally, finally sending it to my publisher.

I needed a break after completing the manuscript, but I couldn’t understand the queasiness in my belly, the lack of logic. I thought I should feel good, satisfied. To celebrate I bought tequila, made margaritas, and indulged in a novel someone else wrote. Then, I disconnected. Much like after I gave birth to Annie. I waited for elation, for the rush that’s supposed to come when you have a baby. I loved her, but I felt responsible, anxious. Not happy, not matching the posters on the hospital walls of contented mothers breastfeeding their newborns. I realized I have the post-book blues.

After all these years I’m still learning how to own my feelings, therapy-speak for ‘be honest’. Hiding is easier than admitting I have a problem. Saying it out loud, acknowledging that vacant flashes bright and neon lessens the burden. I’m empty, I’m afraid, I’m lost. It feels good to tell the truth even if it isn’t the truth we want. Sometimes we don’t know the truth and until we shed light on it, hold it up, we’re stuck. (I didn’t know until a friend pointed it out.) The truth doesn’t always offer a way out, but it gives us a way through.

one summer day

Puffs of cotton candy, sticky sweet, are on my fingers. The air shimmers above the pavement. A bell signals the ride is about to start. Dangling, kicking feet. Squealing, blissful kids are lifted higher, higher until they touch the sky. I’m on the ground smiling, squinting into the sun remembering my nervous, nauseous stomach as rides turned, flipped and spun me around.

Glee everywhere, children racing to stand in line, I think of my childhood, of skipping toward my house and saying to no one, to everyone, “I’m happy! I want to stay nine forever!” My life unspooled on the sidewalk under my feet and I saw it was perfect, like only a child can see. Pink bubble gum perfect. I couldn’t ask for more.

Now. All grown up. With the many seasons of me. Overheated, summer glum Heidi. Looking forward to fall, fresh outlook Heidi. Life looks different. Smudged, good, restless. Life is presented to us in horizons, sprawling and boundary-less! The world is your oyster, at your feet. The great wide unknown. Oh, the anticipation! But, I’ve always liked life where I can see it. In nooks, in my hands, all around me.

The here-and-now serves me well. When asked where do you see yourself in 10 years? I shrug, with no answer. I’ll leave the visioning to someone else. I mark my calendar with schedules and birthdays and plans, a map of where I’m going each month. Since the age of nine my world has opened and narrowed and opened, more knowns than unknowns. I have priorities instead of dolls. I own another kind of happiness, one that is earned with growing up, and one I cherish. When I’m flattened I can count on the line of the horizon to buoy me, the glow of possibility and potential in an open sky. Hope is one of my favorite things.

I can’t be anything I want to be, but I can be something, someone who matters. Someone who is doing her best. And isn’t that all we can ask of ourselves, of anyone?

Today, today my life is here. Now. Eating a mini-donut. Riding a non-metaphorical rollercoaster. Giant pandas perched on shelves waiting to be won, the day stuffed with excitement and flavor and vendors calling out to “Come on over!” As the ride twirls and dips, and the clouds of candy dissolve into grit on my tongue, life is all around me. Imperfect and perfect.

swept up
in Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I read an early review of this book and I was hooked. I had to read this book. As soon as it came out I downloaded it and I couldn’t put my e-reader down. The story, the writing, the suspense, Amy! – it’s one of the best thrillers I’ve ever read. I was so taken with the author’s writing I downloaded and devoured her previous books Sharp Objects and Dark Places. Her writing is sharp, clever and I could not get enough. I’m just disappointed I have to wait for the next novel.

motionless

I was consumed with a calling. This calling came with a voice. Write, dig deeper, delete, write. Phrases and purpose filled my head and filled me. This is what I’m supposed to do. This is what I have to do. I fell in and out of love. I got goosebumps. I cried. When I was unsure, and felt like I was not cut out for this, I put my memoir down and it wasn’t long before a question demanded to be answered, a chapter needed to be completed, and I’d return to the computer.

When you’re consumed with a calling and that calling comes to an end, the voice satisfied, what do you do when purpose leaves? Instead of relishing the quiet I panic, worried about how I’m going to fill the void. I was busy making a tragedy count. I was busy pursuing. Focused, I wrote. I received criticism. I harassed agents. I found a publisher. I revised. What happens when the pursuit is over?

You can read the rest of this post here. I’m with the wonderful community at Studio30 Plus and I’m honored to be one of their featured writers today. Studio30 is a great way to connect with fellow writers as you find support, advice and inspiration for your writing. See you there as I figure out what to do when purpose leaves.

summer as winter

I took a break. I didn’t mean to. The time just snuck up on me. After two years of spending many emotions tap-tapping them into words; I was empty, quiet, flat. School ended, summer really began in August, and after completing a guide for the book I powered down and switched off. Scott jumped out of planes, and the kids and I did summer.

While most people live for the season where sand, sun and swimming rule, I endure. It’s self-preservation season. Heat is hard on my skin, my legs. I become an observer, watching and waiting. I’m mom. Armed with towels and snacks. I savor summer in snapshots. A lime margarita in the afternoon. An evening bbq with friends. Ice cream cones. A day at Playland where my kids rode the rollercoaster for the first time and burst into thrill-seekers.

School is back on. The leaves, the air carry signs of fall and we will step into the rhythm of routine again. After dropping my kids off I returned home to this sorely neglected place that is my blog. I swear I saw dust fly as I logged in. I’ve missed everyone and I’m sorry I wasn’t around more. But, it hit me about a week ago that my summers come with a ring of melancholy. I wish it wasn’t there. I don’t want it to be there, but heartache reveals itself each year. I try my damndest to stay in the middle, far away from the ring, and not wallow. So. I’ve made it the season of kids and I enjoy them enjoying the summer.

Real posts coming soon. I swear.

swept up

Here are Annie and Benjamin. Back to school. (I was so ready for this)

being brave

Annie has her hand up, as high as it can go. Pick me. Pick me. It’s her turn to climb the rope, her turn to use the ring, her turn to be thrown into the air. She is always eager, ready, her smile wide.

It’s the end of the acrobatics lesson, time to go. Annie bounds over, tired and beaming. A mom, waiting for her daughter, turns to Annie and says, “You are fearless.”

After I ask Annie if she had fun and we climb into the car the word brave is on my mind. It’s been on my mind for a while, begging for attention. What does being brave mean? I see adventure in the confidence of my daughter; hear strength in a friend’s voice as she confesses what lies in her heart, feel courage as I watch people try something new.

Last year believe followed me everywhere. Daring me as I typed, in my ear as I fell asleep. Riddled with doubt about the direction of my life I rose to the challenge anyway, did my best to believe, and now, now it’s time to be brave. To be afraid and do it anyway. To enter the land of the wide unknown, wind against my face, unable to see the end.

I’ve never been excited to ‘wait and see’. I don’t relish the unexpected unless, of course, it’s a happy surprise. We get sidelined by insecurities, flattened by stress until we can’t see who we are or who we’re going to be. Because we’re still becoming. We don’t get to live our lives fearless, but I wonder if I can face my fears chin-up. To have faith – faith that things will work out, and if they don’t, faith that I’ll get through it. I’m not soaring through the air or landing a back handspring, but I can learn from my daughter. Choose to be brave. Pick me. Be ready. As I try something new.

Swept Up

I posted this photo on FB a while ago, but I just had to post it here. Annie’s ballet recital was the Wizard of Oz and she was a Munchkin. Annie has been my little symbol of bravery this year. Also, I’m ridiculously proud of her.

uptight

I’m a starfish on my bed. The fan hanging from my ceiling spins mercilessly. Music loud in my ears, it is all I hear, all I feel. I need to put my head down for a while. I get so stuck inside it. My thoughts match the fan. Round and round.

Reign it in. Reign it in. Reign it in.

Sometimes I forget who I am. I’m so immersed in schedule, in the day-to-day I can’t see I’m at war. Frustrated, I want to keep the bad at bay. To be calm and cool and collected. I picture a happy place – I hear this works. An uninterrupted shower. Sun. Rows and rows of clothes. Nope. Not working.

The fan spins. To be. To be. To be.

I used to not allow myself to feel. Poker-faced, I kept everything in check. You can’t let yourself run wild. You shouldn’t be this upset, this mad. I want to feel fine. But, I’ve learned in order to arrive at peace I have to get through.

I’m holding myself hostage with ‘shoulds’ and ‘ought to be’s’. Old habits die hard and perfectionism runs deep. I need to let my feelings in, let fear and angst swirl and mix until my insides are muddy. To be human. It’s okay. As much as I want to, and, oh, how I want to, I can’t control everything.

I’m tied up, too wrapped up in me. Even chasing perspective is too demanding. While I can’t always command my circumstances, I can choose how I’ll respond. There is power in choice. I could use a little power. And right now… Right now I don’t want to care for a while.

Robyn’s Dancing on my Own fills my head. Loud (which is the way you listen to this song). It makes me feel free. It makes me feel like dancing.

Let go. Let go. Let go.

Swept up
in Hometown Heroes Lottery
I was in our newspapers, the Vancouver Sun and the Vancouver Province this weekend, supporting burn survivors and the burn unit at Vancouver General Hospital where I spent 7 months. The prizes are amazing and tickets save lives. As promised to a few of you who couldn’t get the paper, this is the article on my story. Home Town Heroes Ad

Hanging out at the yeah write hangout grid today. It’s exactly where I need to be. No pressure and with friends.

small celebrations

Annie shouts, “I’m a pony!” She prances through a field, zig-zagging through the tall grass. Benjamin skips along the path ahead of me, hands in his pockets. The sun is high, warming my shoulders, my face. I smile, basking in the day.

In their play, in their freedom, happiness comes easily. Between consuming schedules and registration for next year’s activities and when did my car become a living room and people who exhaust me, I lose perspective. Worry gets in the way of joy, busy overshadows delight.

Annie crouches on the path, her pony left behind, and scratches letters in the dirt. Ben is nearing the bend and soon he’ll be out of sight. He doesn’t stop to look over his shoulder, knowing I’m there, mere steps away. I cup my hands around my mouth, calling, “Ben, stop! You need to wait for us to catch up!”

He halts, kicking up dust. Annie joins me, slipping her hand in mine. My heart hitches. This, all of this, is life-giving. Something to celebrate. We walk along the river, and talk and talk and talk. Blooming trees. Is someone barbecuing? Look at the canoes! Picking dandelions. Inventing wishes. And there is quiet, too, just our footfalls and breaths between us.

I don’t have to do one more thing right now. We don’t have to be anywhere. I’m not yelling, “Stop fighting! Get your shoes on! We’ve got to go!” And tomorrow, tomorrow I’ll carve out rest, some time for myself. The hurry and rush of the week falls off my shoulders.

Near home Annie lifts my hand to her face, so my palm rests against her cheek. She sighs, “I love my life.” Ben turns around, “Me too!”

In their presence, I gain clarity. I need to be in the moment. “I love my life, too.”

Swept up

In a morning spent in White Rock

There is a great community full of gorgeous, fun and funny writing over at Yeah Write, and I am joining up with them again this week.