non-negotiables​

I have completely fallen off the meditation wagon. In spite of declaring that exercise and meditation were going to be the cornerstones of managing my pain, I’ve neglected my practice.

And while I say that I need to reincorporate meditation into my daily routine, I stopped believing that statement. It’s just something I’d like to think I care about so much that I absolutely have to do it. Honestly, though, it feels more like a luxury more than anything else.

But then I had a conversation with someone that kind of rocked my world.

“Meditation is a non-negotiable for you,” she stated. She didn’t have a lot of background information about who I am or what my challenges are, but she was right. “And how great is that you have a chronic illness; it’s the perfect reason to commit to your practice!”

At first, that last sentence hit me wrong. How great is it that I have a chronic illness, was all I heard. Then I realized what she was saying, and I completely agreed. I have an absolutely wonderful reason to consistently meditate. I can choose to meditate to control my pain, or I can choose to skip it and deal with the consequences.

For those of you who have a difficult time drawing a clear line between meditation and controlling physical pain, let me tell you [yet another] quick story.

I went to physical therapy the same day I had the aforementioned exchange. After the dry needling portion of my appointment, I asked my physical therapist why I continue to have all these trigger points and knots everywhere in spite of the progress I’m making. His explanation was that because I’m still experiencing pain, my movements are guarded. I’m walking better but still not great, and as I go about my day I subconsciously tense up and move in unnatural ways.

Okay, so I’m in pain because I tense up, but I tense up because I’m in pain. And my pain won’t decrease until I stop tensing up? What am I supposed to do with that information? Two major things come to mind: be mindful of my movements and relax.

Meditation can help me accomplish both.

In order to be my best self – physically, emotionally, mentally….whatever – I have to meditate regularly. At least for now, it’s non-negotiable. Relabeling it as this instead of a “luxury” or even a “new behavior” helps me achieve that shift in perspective that I am desperately trying to achieve.

But more on that later.

hi, i’m anne.

Who are you?

I’m not asking what you have, what you do, or anything like that. I’m just wondering who you are.

When you take away your pain, your illness, your career, and your accomplishments, what’s left?

I remember that when a new patient was admitted to the Chronic Pain and Recovery Center at Silver Hill Hospital we were asked to all share a little about ourselves. Each time the person would start with their name, maybe follow with where they were from or what they did for a living, and then they would get into the crux of it all: their medical history.

I see this pattern repeated when I interact with people from the chronic illness community, and I watch myself do it, too! I spit out diagnoses and surgeries like they’re who I am. Yes, they play a key role [for better or for worse] in shaping the person I am today, but they aren’t me.

So, here it goes. Hi, I’m Anne. I am a smart, capable woman and a fierce friend to those I let in. I’m compulsive but sometimes pretend not to be. I say what I’m thinking readily but rarely share how I feel. I offer advice too freely and listen to my own too seldom. I like to quote The Office and try to pass it off as original material.

It’s nice to meet you.

detachment v. avoidance

notebook - stillmovingblog.com

 

First, let me apologize for not posting last Wednesday. Other projects are pulling my focus from still.moving, and I had to make the choice to publish a lousy post or publish nothing. So, I chose the latter. It was, after all, the easier option.

For the past month-or-so I’ve been rereading my old notebooks. The one I’ve enjoyed going through most is the notebook I carried with me during a month-long trip to India. One of the major ideas I pondered over the course of that trip was the Buddhist principle of attachment. This core belief states that in order to reach enlightenment we should not be reliant on any ideas, things, or even people. These attachments bound our minds and cause suffering.

So, let’s say I have an attachment to my physical discomfort. I’m speaking hypothetically; this does not at all resemble the actual situation. If this attachment was real, then having a higher than normal pain day would negatively impact my mood, my behaviors, and maybe even my view of the world.

And this would be one big attachment fail.

Allow me for a moment to pause and address every reader with a chronic health condition who is getting angrier with each word, thinking, Of course I’m in a bad mood when I’m in pain! What does this self-righteous Buddhist wannabe expect?

Take a breath, keep reading, and try to keep in mind that what I write is nothing more than expectations I hold for myself.

My ultimate goal in pain management is to notice my pain, make any adjustments to ameliorate it, then let it go. That’s detachment. Another method of dealing with physical discomfort would be noticing the pain, pretending it’s not there, and then complaining throughout the subsequent flair over the next three-ish days. That’s called avoidance, and I’m already really good at that.

The two are quite different, but sometimes might be difficult to tell apart. For example [and again, this is just a hypothetical situation and not one that I witness every day on social media], take the person whose post is nothing more than a rant disguised as an update with an “uplifting” message tacked on the end. It might read something like, My life is terrible and I hate everything and everyone, but I am stronger than this and it won’t get me down! This person is, most likely, avoiding the feeling that they are a helpless victim, and masking it as a hopeful Instagram post. Again, this is purely hypothetical.

As hard as it is to watch people kidding themselves, I know that a life of detachment is an extraordinarily tall order and not one that everyone will believe is worth pursuing. And that’s quite alright. It really sucks to sit with discomfort, whether it’s physical pain or negative emotions. You’d have to wholeheartedly believe that this is the way to go before putting yourself through that.

So, these are a few of my thoughts over the past two weeks. I’m looking back at the person I was on this trip in September 2010 and trying to figure out what’s different [if anything] about where I stand now. I feel like as long as I’m a little ahead of where I was then I’m doing okay.

Then again that goal may be a bit too easy.