Waking Up

Today I woke up.

Today, I woke up and wondered, how the hell did I get from where I was a month ago to the place I am now?

Sure, I can analyze things to death, but it comes down to one simple thing: I have continued to go through the motions to be well without the real intention of being well.

I think at some point during the several successive hospital trips over the last month and a half I started to resign myself to living a life of dissatisfaction, illness, and unhappiness. Sure, I could tell others and tell myself that I was conquering my fears by entering a hospital in pain and leaving without drugs. But it wasn’t true. All I’ve been feeling is more fear.

The fear that this might become my life again. That the wholeness and lightness I have felt since June was just a lie, a blip on the radar of my life. Fear that I was unable to live a whole and focused life as an adult, on my own.

And unfortunately, when I’m afraid, I tend to isolate. I pull back from my friends. I tell my family what I think they want to hear. I stop talking to all of you. And most of all, I lie to myself, and tell myself I’m making it work, and that I will figure it out.

The truth? I don’t know how to figure it out on my own. I should know that by now, but apparently I don’t.

I’m sitting here, 2 hours after I intended to go to bed, writing this because I know I need to write it.

The last week has been hell for me. I’ve had a toothache that feels like it was created by the devil himself injecting death into my lower rear molar. In truth, it is just the decaying nerve inside my tooth sending out constant pain signals that make it so hard for me to focus that it has taken me almost half an hour to write 300 words, and I haven’t gotten hardly any work done for my job all week long.

The only times I have felt AT ALL sane since last Tuesday were when I was with people, either my parents, or on the phone, or just doing something to get my mind off it. I even went to my Karate class just to get myself out of bed and off the couch and because I figured the adrenaline and endorphins from the exercise along with the social aspect would help. And it did. But laying in bed a couple hours later, I just wanted to curl up and pass out. Instead, I was up all night, unable to get my mind off the pain.

For me, that is the ultimate trigger. I get so wrapped up in my pain that I can’t see further ahead than the next few hours. My brain can honestly get me to believe that I won’t be to handle it if I have to go another day, another hour, another minute with the pain.

So I guess I’m writing this to remind myself of two things:

1. I can survive pain. It’s been almost a week of constant pain and minimal sleep and I am not dead. I’m also still somewhat sane.

2. When I’m struggling, I MUST reach out. I need to share with others, be with others, do something to get myself out of my own head. It is really, really tough sometimes. Sometimes I can hardly bear it. Sometimes I try to reach out and end up just being a real ass to those I love. But I have to try. Because me, locked inside my head and in pain is a recipe for crazy.

I know it’s been a while since I have posted. But I’m done with apologies. When I began this blog, I needed to post every day. I may still need or want that. But I don’t know. Part of what I am doing right now is trying to find a new framework to fit all the new things I am joyfully accepting into my life without destroying the routine that got me here.

And my blog may look a little different. My posting schedule might not be the same. But with the help of my friends, family, and all of you, I will create a new picture, new goals, and continue to walk confidently into my future.

Peace to you and yours,

-Nathan

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7 responses to “Waking Up

  1. Thank you so much Cuz, for writing this and honestly sharing about the fear and pain you are going through. I believe that the “wholeness and lightness” you experienced before was not a lie at all. You created it. You are in control of it. And you can continue to choose it. In my experience, sometimes when I get the thing I want in my life, I can get complacent and forget to take care of it, to nurture it. I like what you said about going through the motions of wellness but forgetting the intention of being well. I kno it is hard to live intentionally sometimes, but luckily fear and pain are there to remind me of the choice I want to make. I believe fear and pain are there to motivate me and steer me toward the actions that are in alignment with my highest self. The problem is that sometimes the fear and pain are too real and we begin to believe that we don’t have control, but we do.

    I want to share one of my favorite poems with you. It reminds me, when I have forgotten, that I have power over my experience and that the world is full of miracles.
    “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver

    You do not have to be good.
    You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
    You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
    Tell me about despair, yours,
    and I will tell you mine.
    Meanwhile the world goes on.
    Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of rain are moving across the landscapes,
    over prairies and the deep trees,
    the mountains and rivers.
    Meanwhile wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
    are heading home again.
    Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
    the world offers itself to your imagination,
    calls to you like the wild geese,
    harsh and exciting-
    over and over announcing your place
    in the family of all things.

    Love you Cuz.
    Lindsay

  2. Often people let fear and pain (or fear of pain) dictate their lives, but you are seeing a glimpse of the fact that you can turn that around. You can succeed, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’ll be easy. Remember it will be a challenge, so that you’re not surprised when the weight of it all hits you from time to time and you can continue to stand up in spite of it.

    You have family, friends, and even us wierdo internet folks (haha) pulling for you. Keep trying, friend. Be well. 🙂

    • Weirdo internet folks eh? I consider you and all the other “weirdo internet folks” just as much my friends and family as those to whom I have a direct physical or blood connection.

      Part of the reason I’m here is because of you and your support.

      So thank you, and by the way, being weird is the highest compliment in my book, so yes, you are my weirdo internet folks and I am blessed to have you pulling for me.

      -N

  3. I’ve been thinking of you so often Nathan, and it’s good to hear from you, though I admit my heart hurts a bit to hear of the pain and struggle you are experiencing. I so appreciate your authenticity….your honesty….your courage to face what is so challenging in your life.

    Your comment about going through the motions of being well, but not really holding the intention of being well is a powerful insight. I’m reminded of the times when I am just going through the motions, not fully present to my life. A part of me is missing from the experience, as it is wrapped in fear – usually about not-enoughness….not enough time, not enough money, not enough wellness, not enough love. I notice my thoughts and how they are consistently on all the things I DO NOT want – on the lack, on the fear! It’s no surprise that what is showing up is more of the same! When I am able to break out of the fear, even for a brief time, I become present to all the beauty and love around me, and I fully remember my intention to live in the present moment, and to live in gratitude. My thoughts are on abundance, wholeness, wellness, beauty, love….and that’s what shows up. The key for me is finding the way out of the fear…..

    I absolutely know that you are capable of living a whole and focused life on your own, dear Nathan. I see you standing in wholeness and wellness, in beauty and in love.

    I am here and would love to sit down over a cup of tea.

    Sending Love…. K

    • Thank you Kate,

      Let’s have that cup of tea soon.

      I have a busy weekend but what about early next week? (I’ll call you to talk details)

      Your insights about “enoughness” remind me of one of my first posts I wrote for this blog.

      I always struggle to remember and reaffirm that what life is, who I am, what I have, where I am – it is all enough.

      Peace to you and sending my love in return,

      -Nathan

  4. I feel bad because I’m about to recycle something old I wrote instead of writing you something new, but I thought you’d enjoy what I discovered last year about pain. It was after a recent surgery – they had ripped out part of my throat, my adenoids and my soft pallet in an attempt to mitigate my sleep disorder (long story). Anyway, the post-surgery part was agonizing, so I went to a mindfulness reading on pain management. The thing that struck me above everything else is that pain is a “warning” response, and it’s the warning, not the pain, that causes suffering. When you acknowledge the warning and view the pain objectively, it stops being a problem. When I came home, I wrote this:

    “Surgery went well, I think. I like paying attention to the way my psyche reacts when I’m physically in pain. I alternate rapidly from wanting to isolate myself, to curl up in a dark corner like a wounded animal, and wanting to seek out any other presence I can–human, dog, cat, whatever–for comfort.

    Talking tastes like blood, so I don’t do a lot of that. I enjoy not talking.

    Being sick or wounded has always felt so special to me, a much-needed break and an excuse to sleep.

    Last night, Nice Mike took me out to a reading at Powell’s on mindfulness. The author had us try a few techniques, including three that had to do with managing pain:

    1. Shift your entire focus to your feet, paying attention to the way they press against the floor or your shoes. Try to discover everything you can about what your feet are feeling. Where do they feel lighter and heavier? How warm are they? What parts are warmer? Where do they tingle or ache? If you do it right, you’ll be so busy checking in with your feet that you’ll forget about your pain.

    2. Similarly, find parts of your body that are comfortable. Where are they? Do you feel more comfortable than you expected? What does it feel like, how good does it feel, to have relaxed legs, relaxed arms, relaxed mind? What percentage of your body is comfortable? Is it a larger percentage than the part that induces pain?

    This is my favorite:

    3. Just go into your pain. Just confront it and figure out what it actually feels like. What shape is it? How big is it? What color is it? Does it change, or remain constant? How thick is it, how deep under the skin? When does it leap, when does it ebb, when does it throb?

    I love doing this. Paying attention to pain turns it into a fascinating, life-preserving phenomenon in my body, not something to be afraid of. I’m healing, and the warriors in my body are more or less fighting my battle for me. All I have to do is let them, observe them, feel them.

    The pain in my throat is tulip-shaped and feels like chili peppers and other spices. It feels like someone’s wild, wild idea of a party.”

    • What an amazing response Meg. Thank you so much for posting this here. I hope that everyone who stops by my blog because of the “pain management” keyword search reads this.

      I’ve been taught a lot of mindfulness exercises in therapy and in rehab to help deal with stressful situations and refocus myself on the here and now.

      I find that so much of my pain comes from me worrying about the pain not just the actual physical pain response itself, which is kinda what you said at the beginning of your comment.

      My response to pain is so often to isolate and then focus on the pain, not in an observant, mindful way, but in a frantic, manic, fear-based way.

      I have had many mental health and substance abuse counselors tell me that I need to learn to live IN my pain rather than trying to escape from it.

      Obviously that’s easier said than done. But I’m working on it.

      Pain is ALWAYS both physiological and psychological. ALWAYS. Because what we feel is affected by our perception and focus.

      I am going to use the exercise you described (#3) next time I’m feeling pain and see what happens.

      Thanks again,

      -Nathan

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