I love the week between Christmas and New Year. I can forgive myself for getting nothing done, and then be surprised by actual accomplishments.
There's a peace about this time. Of course, I don't have hordes of children to tend---just my own unruly mind, which I decided to keep busy this week by erecting my tapestry loom and thinking about my first project. My body is cooperating, and for this I'm grateful.
But my spirit's been low and my emotions volatile. Immersion in projects I love is always a good cure. Weaving is wonderful for this. It's grounding and centering and engrossing all at once. It keeps my mind thinking positively about the next steps, reaching for solutions, envisioning the final result.
This is how we create our lives every day. Like clockwork, our thoughts become reality.
I tend to be a wallower. Dredge it up and roll around in it, that's me. I wish I were naturally optimistic and forward-looking, tasting life and dashing on to the next wonderful unknown. But my mind is still in training, and until boot camp is over I like to keep it occupied with color and beauty and interesting, fiddly things to do. It increases the chance that the life I create will be colorful, beautiful, and interesting...if a bit fiddly.
So the loom is up and ready to go, complete with obligatory cat (that's Willy) napping in the corner.
My little living room is now a weaving studio with two chairs and a TV. Nice.
In my peaceful corner of the world, I thank God for this quiet week between the holidays. When January comes, I'll revise my novel and trawl for work once again. But for the next few days, I can drape my living room with color and my mind with something other than my own complaints.
The rain is pouring down. It's gray as far as the eye can see. But I've made my cottage a cozy little nest. I feel positively Dickensian.
Sick of my own sad-sack attitude lately, I went out before breakfast today, dodging raindrops, and carried my tapestry loom in pieces from the weaving shed to the living room. Don't ask how I made room for it.
This gray weather has my creativity gushing. I'm a winter lover who struggles in the balmy climate of Baja. Still, it's probably best not to have too much gushing at once. My greatest downfall is to try to enact everything that flies into my mind.
Believe it or not, fibro has been a helpful friend in this regard. Among other things, it's taught me the value of limitations. One...all right, maybe two or three...projects at a time, but no more than that. I get more done, have a better chance of actually finishing something, and avoid total collapse.
As New Year approaches, however, I can't help but think about resolutions. I don't write them---I've disappointed myself too many times. I'd rather add up what I've accomplished at the end of the year and call them fulfilled resolutions. It makes me feel much better.
But every year, like clockwork, a new theme presents itself of its own accord. This last year's theme turned out to be hopes and dreams: what I wanted for myself and what would get me up in the morning. This, it turns out, is still a work in progress. Yet now there are rumblings from the deep, and they're even more colorful than last year's. I sense an increasingly creative time ahead, and I'm excited.
After this last series of difficult flares, I'm embarking on my new journey with care. Yes, it's true, I hauled my loom cross-country this morning. But now that it's here, it will assemble itself piece by piece, and I can---finally---get back to work.
As the rain rages outside, I'm snuggling down in my bastion of warmth and tea. I may need to take my creative journey a step at a time, but soon there will be projects that get me up in the morning.
Thirty-four years ago, my one-year-old son and I were alone for a Christmas on welfare. I had no gifts to give, no friends to be with, and a five-dollar bill in my pocket. I drove aimlessly through the streets of the city on Christmas Eve, face wet with tears, baby gooing and gurgling in his car seat.
I thank God I had the presence of mind to pray behind the wheel. And somehow, through my self-pity, came the realization that I did indeed have $5 in my pocket and my baby in his seat. I did have a family, and we were all together.
I took my $5 and headed for a Christmas tree lot, where I bought a pretty mangy-looking tree, and then to a grocery store, where I spent the rest of my money on a bag of cranberries.
Back home, I stood the tree in a corner and started making popcorn-cranberry strands and paper-loop garlands with a happy, drooling one-year-old. I'll never forget how puzzled I was that the strands were disappearing before my eyes until I realized that my son, sitting at my feet, was eating the popcorn as fast as I was stringing it. Alone in the apartment, I laughed with him till my sides hurt.
I don't remember anything else about that Christmas. I have no recollection of Christmas Day or contact with my parents on the other side of the country, or what we ate for Christmas dinner. But I will never forget the revelation of who my family was, and how quickly a toddler can devour popcorn.
This Christmas, my body aches and I'm short on cash. But as I just wrote to to a friend, the birth of Christ is in our hearts, not under the tree. It's always possible to make Christmas out of the things around us because, in fact, they are God's gifts to us.
Here's wishing you a blessed (and relaxing) time as you get ready for the upcoming holy day. May all your preparations be filled with joy and inspired by the light of Christ!
This is me: shaking my fist at the rock that hides the moon.
Among the too many things I try to do in my life is weaving---and I'm going somewhere with this, so please bear with me. I have floor looms I'm constantly trying to work on and dozens of projects aswirl in my head, most of which never materialize. I'm also on a weaving chat list, and today a fellow weaver said something that crept into my heart like a ray of moonlight.
She'd just finished weaving a set of towels for her teenaged daughter to put in a hope chest. When she told us this, she remarked that she didn't know if people had hope chests anymore, but there it was, the towels were for a hope chest.
Apart from my mother, I personally don't know anyone who has a hope chest, or who ever had one. Of course, when I was of hope-chest age, I was traveling in rebellious circles that rejected anything of real value, so I'm not the best judge. Still, I think she's right. A hope chest is an old-fashioned tradition. A beautiful one, though. And, I'm thinking, a helpful one.
I'm emerging from a difficult few weeks. I won't bore you with the details, but I'm only now starting to think about the sunnier things of life. To be honest, I've rather lost a sense of myself over the whole last two years. I've been spending a lot of time shaking my fist at rocks.
A hope chest suddenly feels like a loving, comforting thing to do for myself. I've had enough of rocks. How about some moonlight, soft and easy on the heart?
So I'm starting one. Not for marriage, but for life. I can fill it over time with carefully chosen, beautiful items to remind me that I do have dreams, I do have hope, and there are things to live for.
And the first thing that's going in my chest is a note to myself: Take a step to the side, dear, because the moon is just behind the rocks.
I haven't been feeling very well this week. And I wouldn't start a blog on any other topic with that remark.
I'm thinking of petitioning to have the acronym for fibro changed from FMS to HBATS (that would be Hit-By-A-Truck Syndrome, for you uninitiated). Next to being a walking hit-and-run, I'm a busted thermometer. On with the sweater, off with the sweater, freeze, sweat, freeze again. I contradict myself with everything I say, and this is so typical for me that half the time I don't know I'm not feeling well until I bite someone's head off and then burst into tears.
This is ridiculous behavior. Where's that Fibro Fairy when you need her? You know, the one who waves her wand and makes it all better?
I've come to believe that there are tricks to living with chronic malfunction. Unfortunately, fairy dust isn't one of them. For me, it has to do with making every single moment the best it can be.
I remember when I discovered this secret almost 30 years ago. I was living outside the city limits, in the middle of a field surrounded by hills and lit by stars. Wherever I got the idea, I don't know, but I found myself asking at every opportunity, "What can I do to make this moment even better?" Sometimes it required a complete attitude overhaul and sometimes it was easy as a cup of tea.
The whole thing must have worked, though, because one night a star shot across that big black sky and I couldn't think of a single thing to wish for.
Many years have passed since then and I'm not quite as good at asking as I used to be. But when I do ask, as I'm doing today, I find that it keeps me from hiding. It gives me hope that the moment CAN be made better.
I'm more likely to open the blinds (which I just did) instead of sitting in the dark, or to do someone a kindness instead of shutting out humanity. Or to write a blog post instead of going to bed.
FIBRO TIP: First, give thanks that the moment is as good as it is, because it can always be worse. Then take a long, hot, scented soak. Put on some real clothes. Let the sun fall on your face. Brush the dog hair off the couch. Smile at the mailman.
(And if you run into the Fibro Fairy, send her on over.)
This is what I wanted to be doing last night, cowboy boots and all. There was a meteor shower and I missed it. If any of you got up in the wee hours of the morning to see it, I applaud you.
Me? I chose warmth and sleep over the chilly excitement of falling stars. This isn't like me. When I was younger, I lived in my van, and then in my bus. Once, I lived in the redwoods, in a cabin made of two cargo crates pushed together and outfitted with a garden hose for water. I've relocated across the Atlantic more times than I can count and I've been to more countries than I have fingers.
And last night, I wouldn't get out of bed to see a meteor shower.
Well, maybe it's age and maybe it's fibro. Maybe it's both. In any case, the body needs what it needs, and I'm learning to listen without judgment. There are smaller pleasures in front of my nose to be content with in those times when the stars seem out of reach.
My cat was warming my feet when I woke this morning. Now, I'm sitting in my favorite cybercafe, where the coffee is good and the WIFI works. A squirrel ran across the road as I drove to town and made me smile. In the car, XM played my favorite music. The sun is shining and it's crisp and fresh here in Ensenada. And the DMV deigned to send me my license plates today. Hey! All in all, not a bad morning!
I missed counting the stars last night, falling and otherwise. But here's another FIBRO TIP: Count your blessings. God is on His throne and all is well.
I just read that, on average, children laugh 146 times a day. Adults laugh four times. FOUR times. Good grief!
No wonder we're sick.
I'm pretty much on the other side of this latest flare. Still, when I look in the mirror, I see my grandmother, who would be just about 100 if she were alive. I have no idea if what I'm seeing in the mirror is what others are seeing. All the same, I smile at the apparition and hope it helps.
Fibromyalgia will take your sense of humor and stomp it to death if you let it. I've always loved to laugh. But stick me in the middle of a flare and I'm nasty as winter on the steppes.
How do you keep smiling when it hurts so bad? You just do. There's always something to smile about. Under the waves, in the middle of pain, everywhere. I write in part to remind myself of this, because I'm the first one to forget.
One thing I know for sure: Smiling through the fog is like driving with your headlights on. You never know what you'll see.
Frumpy Sweater Syndrome is one of those fibro-associated conditions the doctors never tell you about.
Actually, my frumpy sweaters aren't nearly as natty as this lovely vintage model. Mine are big and baggy and I can really hide. As winter approaches, I'm very happy for them, even here, south of the border. And during a flare, I feel absolutely justified in pulling the collars up over my ears.
Today, as the pain subsides and the fog starts to roll back a bit, I look down and wonder what in the world I was thinking.
My mind knows it's important not to surrender (too much) to the frumpiness of fibro. But who cares about holding your stomach in when everything, including your stomach, hurts? FSS can really cloud one's fashion sense.
I'd like to have a collection of soft, smart-looking jammie-like things to wear around the house, but during a flare it hurts too much to go shopping, and afterward I've already forgotten whatever it was I'd been thinking about.
If all I lose during a flare is my fashion sense, I can't complain. Still, if anyone has any suggestions about how to spiff up painlessly, it can only help.
That's not a fair tip. I knew you wouldn't anyway. But boy, sometimes I wish I could.
Once a week, when I can, I drive to my favorite cyber cafe and write. It's a great place to sit. Today, I got a lot done and had a brownie and now I'm home and spinning. Or rather, the fog is spinning around me. But it's okay. I don't have to work this afternoon and I've got something to read.
A colleague of mine, another fiction writer, sent out a call for influencers a few weeks ago. Influencers are people who read the advance copies of a book and then tell people about it. It's a nice form of unpaid publicity because it comes from the heart. And influencing for someone might encourage them to influence for me when my book finally comes out.
So today I'm in Florida. Not really, but I may as well be. After my strenuous morning, I'm taking a nice long break and reading the novel I'm an influencer for. I'm not quite ready to officially influence, seeing as I'm only on Chapter Two. But it's nice to have a "professional" reason to lie around and read. My body likes this job.
The book, by the way, is Love Finds You in Holiday, Florida. And this is fibro-related--sort of. Because today's entire FIBRO TIP should actually read: "Don't do this (see above). Lie down and read a book instead."
You'd think it would take a certain amount of chutzpah (or idiocy) to start a blog in the middle of a fibro flare. Actually, it gives me a great excuse to sit here and stare at the screen.
Well, I did manage to get something done today, and that brings me to a new feature here on Foghorn...
FIBRO TIP: I learned a long time ago that writing To-Do lists is futile. A better idea is to wait until the end of the day, write down everything I actually did, and then cross each one off.
So here's my list: Sweep the floor. Huzzah!
A dear friend of mine wrote me recently about checking something out on Facebook and I had to admit that I'm not a member. I don't do Twitter, either. I don't think Twitter was created for folks like me. "8 a.m. Put on socks by lying on floor." "12:30 p.m. Dusted one shelf." I mean, what's the point?
This may change, of course, as I build my writing empire as a way to cope with not being part of the corporate world. However, I feel this is one of the benefits of having fibromyalgia. I'll never have to work on Wall Street.
To celebrate this fact, I joined Bukisa yesterday and posted my first article. Bukisa is a site where it's possible to make some money by writing what I love to write. If you've got something to get off your chest but just don't have the wherewithal to start a blog, you still might like to upload an article once in a while and pick up a few pennies.
If, like me, you're a creative soul who also has to work--somehow or other--you might enjoy the article I just posted there. I wrote 11 Tips For Surviving a Day Job With Your Creativity Intact a couple of years ago already, but the points it covers will probably never die. Fibro or not, day jobs aren't easy when you want to be doing something else.
Ironically (but probably not surprisingly), I've been sitting here for two days, staring through the fog at this picture and wondering what to write.
I like this picture. I'm sure I'll be sued any moment now for using it, but I can't recall the photographer and it's just too beautiful not to use. This image is my fibro fog on a good day, when the distance may be hazy but at least I can see what's up close.
The first post on a new blog is so important. Or we think it is. We feel we have to make a mission statement or some such thing, announce our existence to the world so it knows who we are and what we're about, and then stick to that purpose with steely intent until we just can't do it anymore and the whole thing implodes.
In my experience, blogs tend to morph over time into unexpected shapes. This one will, too.
I'll tell you what, though--everything I read about fibro on the Internet makes me want to bury myself alive, and my goal here is exactly the opposite.
I can handle the pain--not well, but I can--and I can handle the fatigue. But what really gets me is the fog. So this blog is dedicated to cutting through the fog of fibro and living life with some modicum of creativity and zest.
There are ways to live with love and light despite fibromyalgia, even when it affects our professional lives. I invite you to check in with The Artful Day-Jobber once in a while to see how I tiptoe around that particular landmine.
In the meantime, let's just keep smiling, every day, step by step , as we pick our way through the fog by the light from above.