Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Pain in the Ass.

Photo on 2016-07-24 at 10.03 AM #2 (1)

Last week’s Girl Warrior post was about pain in all of its manifestations – physical, spiritual, emotional. Feeling it. Dealing with it. Surviving it. And ultimately, moving on. Over the past five years of writing and speaking to this remarkable Tribe, I’m more often than not, writing about life lessons that I also need to learn. Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a small book I read and reread in the seventies said, ‘We teach best what we most need to learn.” He’s right.

Since January of this year I’ve been hurting. Physically. But because human beings aren’t unconnected fragments, bits and pieces, shards and shavings that have nothing to do with each other, the physical pain has also become emotional and psychological suffering as well. There have been times, far too many truthfully, where life has lost its color. Times when everything was murky dimly lit and shrouded in grey hopeless despair. No joy at all. And it hasn’t been pretty.

The kind of pain I’m talking about is fucking ugly actually. And for me, it has literally been a pain in the ass. My sciatic nerve is being pinched or squeezed and the result is chronic relentless pain running from my butt down the right leg to my ankle. Thank God it stops there. But it’s debilitating. During my darkest hour, my worst days and fearful nights, it has taken every ounce of strength, grit, iron will and determination just to stand and walk. Even sitting for any length of time has been exhausting. There has been no relief. No relief for months.

I don’t know with certainty what brought this on, although I have theories, or why it still persists all these months later. I’ve been on a medical odyssey that included numerous visits to our sweet and kind leprechaun-like family doctor, who prescribed two different types of drugs to help manage the pain: one to stop the messages from the pain in my ass to my brain and the other to help curb the inflammation. The pain-brain pill I took once. Not only was it unable to block the chatter between my two body parts, it made me feel like puking. The other medication I took for a few weeks but I grew suspicious when I realized that they were the first thing I reached for when I woke up and the last thing I took before I went to sleep. This dependency was disconcerting to say the least so I did some online research. I quit those suckers cold turkey. They were useless anyway.

I went to my Chiropractor every Thursday night for two months. He did what Chiropractors do best – manipulate, twist, pull, bend and crack. This was a lot of fun. At first it seemed to help, then it didn’t. He recommended I also try deep tissue massage to supplement “the work” he was doing. This actually felt pretty wonderful during the 45-minute session where the Therapist kneaded my ass like it was a lump of bread dough. I thought ‘whoa, I want more of this.’ I left the clinic with this big dopey euphoric grin on my face but by the time I got home I swear to God I was crippled. I couldn’t move for 24 hours. I went back, however, for another session because it felt so damn good while he was doing all that pummeling and rubbing and stroking. Plus the clinic smelled divine. Like lavender and mint tea. But again, by the time I got home I was crying like a snot-nosed baby. It was pathetic and kind of funny if it wasn’t happening to me. That was the end of that treatment.

Two sessions with a Chinatown Acupuncturist did absolutely nothing. Well not exactly nothing. In the middle of the second session, the beautiful Asian doctor paused and said “I think your husband doesn’t love you enough.” Perhaps something was lost in translation, or perhaps it was the side-affects of having my ass used as a human pincushion, but that’s what I heard. I milked this for all it was worth. Afterwards, I told E what she said and this got me several weeks worth of loving kindness, if you know what I mean. It was good while it lasted. But everyone has limits, even E.

I did all kinds of online research on Sciatica, SI joint injury and Piriformis syndrome. All the “experts” agreed that these three were the culprits. The source of my worst nightmare, the cause of my grief and agony, the reason I was down on my knees praying for an end to this fucking misery. So I culled the best of all their wisdom and advice, and tried things. There was a common theme to the exercises promoted online for the type of injury I had. They involved a lot of pulling and stretching of the ass muscles in awkward uncomfortable positions. Kind of like yoga on steroids. While I was doing the exercises I got some relief but as soon as I got off the floor and made any attempt at getting on with my day, much less my life, I was in agonizing hell. More rubber-faced Claire Danes type crying ensued.

I was miserable. I was angry and frustrated by my body’s betrayal. I was depressed. And consequently depressing to be around. I felt alone and isolated. Like no one truly understood the depth of my suffering. During the day, I put on my happy “work face” and soldiered through. On a good night, if I was lucky, I found a position that was comfortable, which was usually sitting with my back completely straight and upright, my feet flat on the floor. I would sit like this for hours and not move, fearful that if I did I would trigger those delightful pain messages. This became the new normal for me.

Sometimes I screamed bloody murder. So loud and hard that the blood vessels in my neck vibrated. I scared the shit out of E and Mel. They did their best to console and comfort me. But it was pointless. Life was pointless. Hopeless. I was an embarrassing useless burden. There were no words that could make this better. No words.

Then at the beginning of June, upon the recommendation of a colleague, I went to see an Osteopath. I had no clue what an Osteopath was but I was willing to give it try. I met with the doctor on a sunny Saturday morning. She was an intense, direct, straight shooter who listened with her ears, eyes and heart. She didn’t just see me as patient, she recognized me as a human being who was suffering. And then she went to work.

For the first time in months I can see a glimmer of light that maybe, just maybe, I might get better. Session by session, I am seeing small steady improvements as Dr. D works her magic. I don’t know what she’s doing. I don’t care. I only know I’m on the journey back. I have faith in her ability to heal. I have hope again. I stopped screaming.

They say everything happens for a reason. I’ve yet to figure out the “why” of it all, and I guess it doesn’t really matter. But if I was to add a silver lining to this, it would be that my heart has been opened wide, wider than I could have ever imagined, to those who suffer. My compassion muscle has expanded and grown exponentially. My empathy is on high alert and fully engaged. For example, in the past I have often been impatient, annoyed and horribly judgmental of people who took their ‘sweet time’ crossing the street, and kept me waiting. I’d mutter irritated “for God’s sake hurry up and get across the road already.” But now I think, “what is your story, Dear One? Are you suffering?”

My heart aches. I feel your pain. I understand.

 

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: I Will Always Remember You There.

560852_10150626889916644_990312550_nShe called me Agaluk. I called her MF. Beautiful One. Sweet Butterfly.

I also called her my friend. We were Soul Sisters.

One of my most strongest, steadfast, courageous, creative, bold, brilliant, intelligent, inspiring, wise and wonderful, in every conceivable way, a true Girl Warrior to the core and beyond, died last week.

Receiving the news so abruptly. Incomprehensible. The loss for those who loved her. Immeasurable. The gaping hole in our hearts. Irreparable.

Little Back Story. We met in the most unlikely of places. Old Fort William. Decades ago. Free spirits. Wild hearts. Fierce warriors. Intelligent and introspective young girls on the cusp of becoming the women we are today.

530446_10150626890261644_650726391_nMF and I were from different worlds. She was from Southern Ontario, the part of the province with the big cities and prestigious universities. She was an intellectual. Well-read and world-wise, even then. Sophisticated beyond her years. She was eloquent and articulate.

I often wondered what she saw in me. I was smart enough but by no means an intellectual. I loved reading but in a million years I couldn’t tackle the books MF read. I was far from sophisticated, more of a small-town bumpkin. My speech was typical of the region, with its Scandinavian-Canadian twang, every sentence peppered with the non-word utterance, “eh”. And I was born and raised just across town from where we worked. I was all too familiar with the summer stench and acrid bitterness of the Abitibi Mill.

We managed to stave off adulthood that glorious summer by the shores of the Kaministikquia River.

544764_10150626890401644_450351427_nMF and I were part a ragtag troop of young vagabonds and hippies, who dressed up every day like it was 1815. We worked, and played, in the Tradesman’s Square at Old Fort William.

The young men in The Square worked as blacksmiths, tinsmiths, carpenters, coopers, and of course, the birch bark canoe builders. Many came to The Fort with these skills in tow, but by summer’s end they all knew how to handle the tools of their historic trade.

MF and I were among the “Native” wives of these rough and ready Tradesmen. Dressed in traditional garb, with our long hair braided in side pigtails or down our backs, we spent our time hand stitching garments and beading necklaces. We were called Historical Interpreters, which basically meant we told the story of the Fur Trading Post belonging to the North West Company, and the men who worked in The Square. We regaled the flocks of tourists, who streamed in and out of our log buildings, with tales of life in 1815 Northwestern Ontario.

OFW-Tradesman 5MF and I often worked together in the Tradesman’s sleeping quarters. Between tourist visits, we gabbed endlessly about all the grand things of life, all the while our hands were ever-busy making the wool felt leggings and strands of colorful beads that we wore so ubiquitously.

In this backdrop of historic Old Fort William, our friendship grew. Born out of conversations that were deep and engrossing. Sometimes silly. Often extraordinary. Yet so divinely unforgettable.

MF and I lost track of each other after that summer. There were the occasional blips on the radar. But for the most part we moved on with our lives. It didn’t help that geographically we would end up thousands of miles apart, with MF in Southern Ontario and me on the West Coast.

Then, a few years ago through the wonders of social media, MF reached out to me. First on LinkedIn and then through Facebook.

It was like no time had passed. We picked up where we left off. It was as natural as the flow of the Kaministikquia River. Although many years had passed, and on the surface our personal and professional lives appeared so very different; but in our hearts, and all the places that mattered, we were kin.

It was no surprise to discover we had both spent our lives embracing all things spiritual and creative. We were both wisdom seekers, with love our abiding compass, the beacon in the dark, the light, and the way.

DSCN1131For the past twenty-four hours, I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around MF not being here. In this very physical place we call earth. Then this gentle thought came to me this morning, upon the first delicate rays of early morning sunshine. Like a heart-gift filled with grace.

Since I’ve known her, right back to the days of Old Fort William, MF shone from within. Her face literally glowed with the lightness of being. She was adroit at traversing both worlds. MF possessed a huge life force and energy field. She was always growing and ever-expanding, crossing boundaries and skipping borders with ease. There was this earth place that she loved so dearly, and embraced with wide-open arms, and then this other place where she is right now, which she understood with a breathtaking profundity. She did not fear it. Not this place. Nor that. For it is all the same. One.

And she encouraged us all to do the same. This was her mantra. Fear not. For we create our own lives. Weave our own destinies. Manifest our own worlds. Hug life and squeeze every ounce of joy out. Then push it back out. Pay it forward.

MF was/is one of the rare beings, who possessed the key to the door to wonder. She saw it all. This and that. Here and there. Now and forever. Eternity in the palm of her hand. Her hand in the hand of the everlasting.

See you later Sweet Soul Sister Beautiful Butterfly.

Love you always, Agaluk.

Footnote:

The night before she died, MF made this last post on Facebook, including a link to Hallelujah – Choir of King’s College, Cambridge live performance of Handel’s Messiah.  Extraordinary.

Posted, September 24 at 12:42am: Taking an exultant drive to my place on the water for sunrise, NOW!. Been stuck in the city waaay too long.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3TUWU_yg4s&list=PLlsiuiVOpp3pMgv0vDVk3g2fChthCLbYY

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Unfinished Business.

IMG_0676It was inevitable. Bound to happen. I’d reach a certain age and life stage.  Then bam. Smack. Thump. I’d start thinking about unfinished business.

Well here I am. Signed. Sealed. Delivered. Right on track.

On the one hand I think, ‘Yay for me. Look at all I’ve done. Little Miss Smarty Pants.’  Then the grim reality sets in. The ugly truth. The road ahead is shorter than the road behind.  Then I think, ‘I’m just getting started. I haven’t done anything yet.  Shit.’

Age and stage notwithstanding, two things over the past year triggered this obsessive unfinished thinking.  E’s cancer diagnosis.  And a painting of Ma’s that I pulled out of storage.

Dealing with E’s cancer has brought me to my knees on more than one occasion.  I’ve felt a rainbow of emotions.  From fear to anger to sadness to joy.  And now gratitude.  This experience has reminded me of the fragile and fleeting nature of life.  How quick it all passes.  The cliche is true. Time flies.  Especially the older you get.  I can barely catch my breath on some days. I just want to scream, ‘slow down!’  I want to freeze frame the good stuff.  Fortunately, the older I get the more I realize it’s all good stuff.  Regardless of how it may appear on the surface.  I want to hold on tight.  Squeeze the life out of every last thing.

I’m overwhelmed at times by the immensity of this thing called life.  The fact that we’re here at all is utterly astonishing when you think about it.  Big bangs and creation debates aside, it’s mind blowing.

Then there’s the insignificance of my little life in the grand scheme of things. My humble place in this mysterious cosmic eternal universe.  We are all less than a blip on the radar of time.  Practically nothing.  Or perhaps not?  Why are we here anyway?  I don’t know.  But I want to know.  This, and the answers to about a million other philosophical and spiritual questions.  I’m a seeker.

I’m pretty sure that this pursuit will be the biggest business I’ll leave unfinished.

Then there’s Ma’s painting.  The unfinished one.  I found it in the attic at 204 after she died.  Vibrant yellow and orange color streaks across the canvas with etherial wisps and airy brushstrokes.  From a distance it looks finished.  A bit abstract for Ma’s typical style, but done. It’s only when you get up close that you see that it isn’t finished at all.  Not by a long stretch.  You can see that the yellow and orange were just the beginning.  The first few layers.  The background for the real painting.  Up close you can see the pencil marks where she had sketched in the foreground images.  The Sleeping Giant on the horizon.  Sail boats reflected in the water.  I don’t know for sure.  I only know that this painting was intended to be so much more than what was left behind.

Over the past year, I have spent time contemplating this painting.  I have struggled with the desire to finish it.  Complete this one little piece of her work here on earth.  But I won’t.  This is her unfinished business.  Not mine.  And quite frankly, none of my business.

But this painting is a gentle reminder of all the things that are my business to finish.  Truth is, I know I will go to my grave with tons of things left undone.  Not sure I’m okay with that.

Ironically, I love lists but I’m not a bucket list person.  At least not in the formal sense, with an actual physical list.  Like the one I make at work every day. I think I’m too lazy to sit down and compile such a thing.  Or maybe mine would be too long.  Endless.  From here to eternity.  It would take me forever.  When people talk about checking something off their bucket list, I’m perplexed.  Where do they find the time to both make the list and do all that shit on it?

Having said all that, I do have things I still want to do.  I also have things I wish I had done when I was younger.  These are the things that require a much more youthful body and brain.  C’est la vie.

So I focus on what I can still do.

Instead of attempting to accomplish, achieve, attain or actualize, I focus on what really matters.

When do I start?  Here.  This place.  This present moment.  As much as possible, I try to stay in the now.

What can I do right this minute to have a more meaningful life?  It doesn’t matter.  Meaning can be found in anything. And everything.  Doing the laundry.  Mowing the lawn.  Climbing a rock.  Soaring from the top of a mountain.  Lying on my back gazing at the sky. Kissing my love goodnight.  Holding the hand of the broken hearted.  Eating spaghetti. Writing a song. Running barefoot through the grass. Standing still.  The list is endless.  And very personal.  That’s the supreme beauty of it.

Who can I surround myself with?  Who are my people?  My tribe?  My dear ones?  They’re already here. Every last one of them.  And more will come.  Some will leave when our business together is done.

Where do I need to be to make a difference in the world?  Make it a better place than when I arrived?  Improve someone’s life, even in the smallest way?  Everywhere. Anywhere. People need help all over the place.  In my own home.  At work.  Down the road.  Across the street.  The country.  The ocean.  The earth.

How do I get it done? One baby step at a time. Occasional giant leaps.   Little tiptoes.  One foot in front of the other.  Maybe I’ll strap on a cape or sprout a pair of wings.  I don’t know.  I just know I’m going to die trying.

Why bother with all of this hullabaloo? Why not?  Just because.  That’s all I got.

I’ll take a crack at some dreams.  Hatch a few more schemes.  Make a new plan or two.  Write another story.  Wish upon a star.  Cause a ruckus.  Blow out a few more candles on the cake.  And keep going down the road.  For as long as I’ve got.

Will I die with some business left unfinished?  Most undoubtably so.  I am a work in progress, after all.

Just like Ma’s painting.