oral hygiene and deep thoughts

I brush my teeth with an electric toothbrush. It runs for two minutes and every thirty seconds there is an obvious pause in its vibration to signal it’s time to move on to another area of your mouth. It’s supposed to help you clean your teeth equally instead of spending too much time on some and too little time on others. [Please bear with me; I promise this post is about more than the detailed workings of my toothbrush.]

Recently, however, I’ve been missing the not-so-subtle change in vibration. The toothbrush shuts off and I’m not done. The first time it happened I was brushing my teeth while making coffee; I assumed I missed one of the pauses because I was doing too much at once. After this happened several consecutive times, however, I grew slightly frustrated.

How am I not getting this? I wondered. Am I too focused on other factors that are causing me to miss more obvious signals? Am I trying to focus on so much that I am missing everything? Am I thinking that I’m being mindful when in actuality I’m oblivious? Have I made any progress at all???

Then it finally hit me. The battery in my toothbrush needed to be replaced. I couldn’t feel the change in vibration because it was practically non-existent.

I complicated this simple issue by reading way too deeply into it. As a result, I had an abundance of information, yet couldn’t reach a solution because I was incapable of separating what was useful from the clutter. I also created a narrative which caused me to doubt myself and the progress I’ve made, further derailing any potential for meaningful action. But, when I finally stood quietly in front my bathroom mirror while I brushed my teeth instead of simultaneously scrolling through my Instagram feed, I understood the situation and just how simple the solution was.

Does this add up, or am I stretching this “metaphor” beyond what it really is? Whatever, I don’t need your validation [except that I definitely do]!

a look back at annoying clichés

A little over a year ago I wrote about different expressions that I found aggravating. It was a very uplifting post. At some point between then and now I’ve become a much slightly less cynical person who no longer believes that the universe is placing obstacles in front of me for its own amusement.

Nevertheless, I find myself being tested daily. Let’s say I sit down to a guided meditation and I’m really into it. I’m lying there, completely at peace and feeling like I’m amazing. And then I am suddenly aware that the speaker is dangerously close to one of those dreaded clichés. I’m ripped from a state of bliss and forced to either fake my way through the rest of the meditation or confront my discomfort. This has obviously never happened, but let’s just say it did…

Below are some of the phrases that maybe bother me from time to time :

You are exactly where you need to be. While this platitude still frustrates me because there is no way to argue it, I now believe that it is true. Life is about big picture stuff that we simply cannot understand in the moment. I need to stop worrying about where I am and how far it is from where I’d like to end up, and this is a reminder that I’m on a longer journey.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  This one never made me feel better about the struggles I faced. I was tired of these “opportunities” to become stronger and felt that I deserved a rest. But who would I be without my trying experiences? Would I be a better person? I’m not sure that I would. Would I be a happier person? Maybe, but it would be a reactionary happiness and not one that I created. I need to be grateful for these opportunities to look inward for strength and joy rather than letting my mood or self-worth be secondary to what happens to me.

Everything happens for a reason. I have a much easier time accepting rules, ideas, or anything, really, when I am privy to the logic behind it. I like to assign explanation to what happens. Still, I struggle with this one. The problem occurs when I think I’ve identified the reason and feel that it’s unjustified. In those situations, however, it’s highly likely that although I’m convinced I know a reason for something I don’t actually have all the information.

You wouldn’t appreciate the good times if there weren’t bad times. Is this really true? I’m not entirely sure. One thing I do believe, however, is that the “bad” times aren’t ever all “bad.” There is beauty, peace, and opportunity in those moments when everything seems to be going wrong. So, while I don’t believe that I’d undervalue the good if I didn’t experience the bad, I think that there’s a labeling issue and we need to alter our perception of those “bad” days.

Life doesn’t give us things we can’t handleOkay, I get this. If you believe you are exactly where you’re supposed to be at any time then we should be able to handle our set of circumstances, right? What is it, then, about this that I find so frustrating? I think this phrase to meant to empower us [a You can do it! sort of idea], but it kind of makes me feel like I’m being told to suck it up, which I find unhelpful. Wording issues aside, I do have a better and slightly more positive reaction to this phrase than I used to.

Sometimes people rely on clichés because they don’t know what else to say. It’s easy to get our feelings hurt and draw the conclusion that they don’t understand, are uncaring, or are belittling our experience. I can’t blame people for this. The real issue concerns why these phrases get to me. Do they pick at the idea that I look to others to validate how I’m feeling or the fear that I am not strong enough to handle this alone? Is it something else that I have yet to even consider?

So much room to grow! How fantastically daunting is that?!

the problem with opioids

I know that what you’re about to read is an unpopular opinion and will likely lead to some making the decision to no longer follow me. I don’t wish to portray myself as better than anyone else or pass judgment on how another chooses to manage their complicated illnesses. But even so, I feel like I found my way through a difficult set of circumstances, and if I can help someone else reach the other side I’m okay with taking this chance.

For years opioids stood in the way of learning to effectively manage my pain. When I was taking them I would have told you that the only reason I continued to hang on to any semblance of a normalcy was due to these medications. Often, they allowed me to meet friends for dinner, complete basic housework, or just get my day started. Opioids provided me with the only pain relief after more than a decade of living in constant discomfort, and I was grateful for that.

But now I understand that I was never going to get better if I continued taking them on a daily basis. You see, opioids are excellent for short-term pain relief, like following an accident or surgery, or if taken occasionally for breakthrough pain. When used in this way they don’t have the opportunity to hijack your brain and your body.

I’m not going to go into the science of how opioids work and why they can be so amazingly unhelpful when treating chronic pain. If you want to know the truth, it’s out there. For the sake of brevity, they’re tricky little bastards that can produce changes so sneaky that their negative impact might be labeled as symptoms that an illness is getting worse, or even point to new diagnoses altogether. My increasing pain, disease process, and the inability of my brain and body to communicate properly created this unstoppable progression of symptoms that practitioners wanted to define, explain, and diagnose. After all, that’s their job.

It took longer than I’d like to admit for me to finally do something about my suspicion that the way I was treating my daily pain was negatively impacting my life as a whole. It took me getting off these medicines to see that they were holding me back from gaining a clear picture of my challenges exactly as they are and not muddled by years of failed attempts to get things under control. It took me wholeheartedly believing that while it seemed to me that opioids were improving my day-to-day life I was actually better off without them.

You don’t have to agree with what I’m saying or justify to anyone [including me] why you treat your chronic illnesses the way that you do. Additionally, I am not a doctor and have no understanding of your struggles or even experience. All I know is my situation, and it is my sincere hope that there are others who share in the positive impact of learning other ways to manage their pain.