I know words and phrases like “minimalism” and “slow living” are super trendy right now, and in all honesty I never expected I’d be blogging about them. But then of course I’m not trying to live a slow life because I’ve got a crazy life packed with children and career and volunteering and a husband; I’m in the slow lane because I have none of the above, except for thank goodness, the husband part, and he is amazing. And then there is the cuddly cocker spaniel, Fiona, one of the great loves of my life. I’m stumbling along in the slow life because for over twenty years now, I’ve had fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome, along with a neck injury and chronic migraines that began a few years ago. And then there is the PTSD (since I was 19) and treatment-resistant depression…I’m lucky, I have a fantastic psychiatrist and therapist, and they’ve helped me, but…I have a lot of relapses, especially when my pain flares up.
My doctors think my fibromyalgia is connected to several back surgeries I had in my late teens to correct scoliosis and Schuerrman’s Diesase, a rare deformity that causes kyphosis. I’ve had lots of physical therapy, medications, acupuncture (didn’t help), etc. Currently I do physical therapy exercises every day, yoga, and take medications (antidepressant, muscle relaxers, along with anti-seizure meds–I have a seizure disorder too, fun!–asthma meds, etc…I keep our local CVS in business). I’m not able to work, although I did manage t get my MA in Theology (my dream was to be a hospice chaplain), and I haven’t been able to have children. These are the two huge, gaping, losses I struggle mightily with every day of my life. This is not how my life was supposed to be. And so I am trying to embrace slow living to make sense of both my lost dreams and to find ways to remind myself of what I have to be grateful for.
My journal and blog, and my camera, are my coping tools. So, using my two passions, words and images, I dig into stories of discouragement and heartbreak, of contentment and joy, of love and grief and what it means to be human. And photographs about finding grace in the little things–like flowers (always, lots and lots of flowers!) puppies, and sitting on the rocky shore of Lake Superior and, old letters written by my grandmother in the 1930s… I have experienced a lot of dark places but often I find that grace shines through, although it takes me a while to see it. In my hospital room, in the dark of night, in my struggles with childlessness, in my worst nightmares, when I buried my parents…all of these are places where I have experienced God’s presence in special ways. And more and more, I have come to think that the people who love us, whether friends, family, teachers, neighbors, etc., show something of God’s love for us…
It often requires conscious effort on my part to notice these everyday wonders, and tell the truth, there are days I can’t see them at all. I’m not a saint, pain makes me irritable and gloomy and bitter and resentful (on my worst days, and I have many of them). It’s been years since I have felt “well” or had a day without pain. Sometimes I feel as though I my entire youth was stolen from me…and then I remind myself how much fun I’ve had in spite of it all, and how blessed I was to meet my husband, to have a circle of supportive friends, to find a fantastically awesome parish that has represented the best of the Catholic Church to me.
This is my life. This is my one life, the only one I will ever get. As a favorite poet, Mary Oliver asks, “…tell me, what is it you plan to do/ with your one wild and precious life?” In the final analysis, I refuse to live an unlived life. Although I have many bad days, I still have made a conscious, deliberate choice to seek out the everyday wonders, the small miracles, the graces. And there I have not been disappointed. I’ve also found activities that nourish my soul, my mind, my heart–photography, writing, long walks in nature, reading, gardening (when my back and neck can stand it!), learning to cook, researching my family history…And then there are the family and friends who love me and even treasure me even at my worst, sort of like God does. I’m not sure I understand it, and many times I have trouble believing it, but I know this love is real, it’s palpable, and I don’t think I could survive without it.