Settling and Accepting…

Fandango asks a really thought-provoking Provocative Question this week, and is actually one that I’m pondering in real life right now. He asks:

Do you see a difference in settling for things and accepting the way things are? If so, in what way are they different? If not why do you feel settling and accepting are the same?

Hmmm… Well, the convoluted back story to my rambling answer is that I’ve had ongoing/ recurring problems with the ligaments in and around my right hip since my late teens and early twenties, when I was pregnant with my three kids for pretty much three years in a row.

I was diagnosed a long time ago with a Sacro-Iliac Joint Dysfunction which is annoying and extremely uncomfortable more than anything else and frustratingly it still plays up occasionally (usually when I’ve inadvertently done something to it), needing some concentrated targeted exercise on my part to mend – until the next time it plays up.

My kids are now all in their late 30s and I’m in my late 50s, so one way or another I’ve been dealing with my dodgy hip/ lower back/ leg pain on and off for a long time. By now I generally know when to rest it and when to push it to work it off, and it’s got me this far so I must be doing something right.  

Recently, however, I hurt my hip while mowing the grass in the garden – not actually that unusual an occurrence for me. I kind of turned and twisted at the same time while turning the mower around and my hip protested immediately, admittedly to an acute level of pain way beyond the norm – it felt a bit deeper, somehow a bit more than I’d had before.

I tried my usual programme of a few days or so of deliberate rest and exercise and anti-inflammatory pain medication but although the ligaments and muscles seemed to be moving OK the internal hip pain remained and if anything, it got worse as time passed. So after a few weeks (I’m nothing if not stubborn!) I finally accepted maybe something else was wrong and I probably needed to see a doctor.

The doctor duly arranged for me to see a physio, and after a thorough manual examination the physio diagnosed osteoarthritis within the hip joint itself. I’ve got to have an X-Ray to confirm exactly how much degeneration/ disintegration there is, but it seems there’s not much doubt as to what’s causing my hip pain.

I have no more range of movement with passive manipulation of the joint than when actively moving my leg myself, and although my left hip allows for an easy 40 degree rotation before it meets any resistance at all my right hip sticks fast at a measly ten, at which point it absolutely hurts like hell, screaming in its refusal to move beyond the barest minimum.

The rest of the physio consultation consisted of discussing potential treatment of what is clearly going to be a long-term problem to learn to live with – no quick fix, no cure, just a sensible programme of mobility management on into the future, and the sooner I start thinking about that, the better. In one sense, it’s no big deal.

It’s an age-related wear-and-tear arthritis in my hip, so it’s inevitably going to slow me down a bit – I mean it already has slowed me down these past few weeks, it’s been depressingly debilitating at times – but it’s not something that’s going to kill me. I’m going to need to support and protect my gradually disintegrating hip joint as best I can from now on, carefully doing just enough to keep it strong but not enough to exacerbate it.

So here’s where the settling/ acceptance thing comes in. In my current situation I have no option but to accept that my ongoing hip problem is now a lot worse than it was, and clearly I’m not going to be able to continue to manage it in quite the same laissez-faire way as I have for the last thirty-odd years. I’m not going to be able to carry on doing everything the way I’ve always done it, and some things will have to change, like it or not.

Even now physically I can’t curl up on the sofa, because already my hip just doesn’t bend that way so I’m sitting differently. I’ve already been sleeping with a support cushion between my knees for the last few weeks to allow my hip to remain reasonably level, otherwise the pain wakes me up every time I turn over in bed. And I already wear supportive cushioned footwear due to having Plantar Fasciitis, so that’s a start.

I realise I might have to start walking with a stick at some point to further reduce the stress going through my hip joint with every step – to be honest I’d probably find it helpful even now, although psychologically I’m not quite there yet. And I’ll have to change the way I do the gardening, maybe creating some raised beds instead and rethinking long-term access to the back garden (currently via stone steps leading down from the patio).

But one of the reasons we bought a bungalow in the first place was due to looking ahead to potential mobility problems as we got older. This is maybe a bit sooner than we’d intended for contemplating such considerations but the planning was already in place for accommodating such a change in circumstances once we’d retired.

Thinking about the way I like to live my life now, I’m sure I can adapt the way I do some things – most things in fact – but probably not everything. Only time will tell. So for those things I will have to give up at some point, is that going to be me settling for something less than ideal, or simply accepting my new reality?

I think for me it will necessarily be more of a positive acceptance of my new limitations, because in my mind the idea of just settling for something sounds unacceptably second best, as if you’ve decided to spend the rest of your life mourning what you simply can’t have or can’t do instead of focusing proactively on what you still can do and still have in your life.

Perhaps what I’m saying is that once you’ve done everything you possibly can to improve any given situation, whereas ‘settling for something’ sounds to me like taking a glass half empty approach with something notably and regretfully missing from the past, ‘accepting the way things are’ is more about looking at the glass as half full of possibility and hope for the future, and personally I know which I’d rather do…         

Dark and Brooding

I tend not to feel too much like colouring in (or much of anything else, actually) when I’m feeling the heavy weight of depression dampen my soul, but today in spite of my dark and brooding mood I thought I’d push myself to make the effort… And here’s the dark and brooding result, with a far higher concentration of grey and black than I’d usually choose in this standard mandala design… Definitely different from my normal choice of multiple bright colours, but I suppose it still counts as creative nonetheless! 🙂

The Attention-Seeking Invisible Woman

Clothes and me have bit of a weird, love/hate relationship.

What I wear each day matters a lot to me, but not at all in a dedicated-follower-of-fashion sense. I’m not now, and never have been, fashionable in my style of dress. But for some deep-seated psychological reason I always need my daily choice of clothes to suit my specific mood at that time or I find I just feel uncomfortably ‘wrong’ and out-of-sorts all day, even if I’m wearing an outfit that worked perfectly well the week before and will no doubt work perfectly well next week, too. When it comes to choosing clothes, I really do wear my heart on my sleeve every day.

Some days I’m in a no-nonsense Plain-Jane jeans-and-hoodie mood, but on other days I maybe want to wear a feminine floaty dress, or feel drawn to wearing cropped stretch leggings with an eye-catching tunic top or… well, whatever other creative style my mood dictates on the day. And I find it’s not just the style of clothes that matters, it’s the combination of colours, too. Some days I feel bright and beautiful and reasonably flamboyant with an artistic flair for adding multiple splashes of colour yet on other days I deliberately hide in comfort-blanket layers of dull, dowdy, unnoticeable obscurity. Most days, though, I probably balance tentatively on the brink of both, inhabiting fully neither one look nor the other, blending the two together in a unique way that’s just ‘me’.

I suppose subconsciously I’m dressing externally for how I want the world to react to me (and interact with me) internally on any given day – do I feel like appearing visible or invisible to others as I walk along the street, from seen to unseen on a continuum of clothing choice, and to what extent do I take that choice and run with it? Because sometimes on my most ‘invisible’ days when I’m being full-on Mrs A. N. Other frumpy middle-aged nobody I feel like screaming inside because no-one even notices me pass on by, not even giving a cursory glance in my direction. It’s as if I’ve taken the wallflower look one step too far and my blending into the background has rendered me completely invisible even to myself?

It feels quite a contradiction to be such an apparent attention-seeking invisible woman. I imagine on most days my sense of dress must give off quite confusing ‘look at me/ don’t look at me’ messages to passers by. Does anyone else have a similar relationship to ongoing clothes-wearing or is this just me flying my freak flag high?

Come on, do tell… I can’t be the only clothes weirdo out there, surely? 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Combination

Feeling Blue

Not feeling at my best today… A bit negative, but still a little bit creative so that’s something I suppose… Here’s hoping for a more positive mood tomorrow! 🙂

April A-Z: C is for Catching Covid

It’s weird. You start to feel a bit unwell, but surely you’re not unwell enough for it to be the dreaded thing you’ve spent the last nine months trying to avoid? Granted you have one possible Covid symptom, but not enough to make you think you actually have it? I mean, you know you’ve been careful, always wearing a mask in grocery stores and santising your hands and keeping your distance and mainly staying at home.

You’ve not been out-and-out arrogant and stupid like so many others you see. It’s January, and it’s winter so you tell yourself you’re probably just coming down with a flu bug or something. But you do as you’re supposed to do and book a Covid test anyway and go out to get it done and come home again and wait anxiously for the result, worrying about wasting people’s time and being a drama queen and a million and one other crazy thoughts.

But the next day your test comes back positive. It’s written there in stark black and white text: ‘Your coronavirus test result is positive’. You read it and then read it again and you suddenly think – shit – is this it? Could I maybe be dead in ten days time? It’s such a scary sobering thought, realising you’ve caught a virus that may potentially kill you as it’s already killed many others. But then you calm yourself down and try to be rational about it.

Because of course those are the only cases you hear about – the bad outcomes – you never hear about the many untold millions who catch it and feel shit for a few days and survive. No, you only hear of the ones who don’t make it through, or perhaps the occasional miraculous saving of a life against all odds. People younger than you, fitter than you, healthier than you, now dead or left disabled for life. What about me, you wonder? Which set of statistics shall I come under? Who can tell?

But no-one can tell. And that’s the biggest source of fear. You ask yourself – what if I get it bad? What if I have to go to hospital? What if I have to be ventilated? What if I don’t come home again? So many unknown ‘what if’s’… So that’s why it’s so shit-scary realising you’ve caught Covid because in that very moment you have absolutely no idea what the future might bring. You can’t go back in time and un-infect yourself. All you can do is prepare yourself, mentally and physically, to ride out the potential storm ahead. And then you just have to wait and see… 😦

For this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge I’m aiming for an alphabetical exploration of my personal thoughts and feelings on the continuing Covid 19 pandemic one year on, using a mix of poetry, pics and ponderings…

The Flakiness Factor

Amazingly, considering the complete shit-show that has been 2020, I’m exiting the year in a much better place emotionally than I entered it. I mean obviously it’s been stressful and fearful, with month after month of how-long-is-a-piece-of-string extended rules and restrictions ebbing and flowing and effectively keeping us isolated and apart, especially from those we love. And yet somehow I feel that now I’ve got used to this insecure, narrowed, smaller way of living, I find overall it suits me more than it grates on me.

In many ways, internally, life has continued as normal for me. Granted, the external stuff has altered beyond all recognition but the way I feel about it all has not. I’ve struggled for years with ongoing depression, but to be honest that feels much the same to go through whatever the trigger for each difficult episode. Anxiety always gnaws away at me anyway, with or without Covid raising its ugly protein-spiked head, leaving me feeling flaky and fragile more often than not. A lot of the time I just pretend to be OK until eventually I am OK – basically I fake it until I make it.

But this year I’m finding I don’t have to pretend so much any more. External life has slowed down enough, has shrunk enough to fit my personal skin far more comfortably these days. I’m able to truly belong in life in a way I have never felt before. Expectations of excessive extraversion have evaporated, quiet contemplation close to home is the new order, and all is turned on its head as I find my previous weaknesses have become my new strengths. In this topsy-turvy life of lockdowns and limitations, to my surprise I no longer feel quite so flaky.

Of course I’d love to be able to see my family as I choose, and yes it would be nice to be able to go out for dinner now and again, but in 2020 it seems it’s the quiet home birds rather than the usual go-getter party animals who have at last come into their own during this pandemic year. Rather than me always running to try to catch up with the rest of the world, everyone has necessarily slowed down to my pace, and that feels amazingly liberating. My internal reality now rubs along in perfect tandem to my external reality to the extent that those feelings of flakiness have finally fallen away.

I know things won’t stay the same into the future, that as a society we do need to return to some kind of capitalist normality in order to continue to survive as before, but nevertheless there are some things I won’t forget about this year – what is known cannot be unknown, and that experiential knowledge gives me a personal power and a deep-rooted belief in myself that for me willl hopefully over-ride the flakiness factor forever…

Traditions that Bind us Together

I’m not usually the most Christmassy of people, and although current Covid Christmas restrictions could potentially have given me the perfect excuse for simply not bothering much with any of it this year, I nevertheless found myself taking the box of decorations down from the loft earlier than usual and not only have I put up the Christmas tree but have also added a few festive ornaments and a string of sparkly lights to the mantelpiece.

With all of us here in the UK necessarily having an extremely pared-down minimally-numbered Christmas this year I felt a surprising longing, a need to create some kind of fun festive feeling around our home, as if we were still expecting a flurry of visitors at any time. We may all be physically apart this year, but we can all still share the emotion and experience of the same old family traditions that recognisably bind us together, but simply enjoy them separately, each in our own home.

We can still put up our usual decorations, over-indulge in the same kind of food we always eat, enjoy the myriad repeat TV programmes we usually watch every festive season, and remind ourselves that if nothing else Christmas 2020 has truly taught us to appreciate the value of presence over presents at this time of year. Being able to choose to be with those we love at Christmas is the best gift we could have, whether family, friends, fur-babies, or any other favourite loves.

To have that choice taken away from so many of us this year hurts, but hopefully it is a wound that for most of us will heal in time. We need to remind ourselves that losing someone to Covid lasts forever and so is a risk too far for many of us to take, especially with the promise of vaccines becoming available to all in the months to come. We are where we are in this current coronavirus crisis, but this too shall pass.

So for this week’s Weekly Smile here is a gallery of some of my favourite tree decorations bringing some much-needed Christmas cheer to my home and to my blog – hopefully the idea if not the actual baubles and trinkets themselves help bring a smile to your faces too. For me the ritual of trimming the tree feels wonderfully familiar, becomes a heart-warming task brimming with mementos and memories and magic, helping me feel close to those I hold most dear, however near or far, in this time of national sacrifice.

So here I am wishing a very Happy Christmas 2020 to all my blog friends, from my home to yours, and hoping for a better year for all of us in 2021 ❤

Wishful Thinking…

Wishful Thinking…
 I can always do more than I think
 If I push myself right to the brink
 Face my fears day by day
 Trust I’ll find my own way
 Hold my head up and hope I don’t sink...