Pushmi-pullyu

Dr. Dolittle had a creature that made him a lot of money, a pushmi-pullyu. This creature had two heads and two front bodies. The benefit was, the animal cold both eat and talk at the same time. The drawback was, it couldn’t decide which direction it wanted to go. No matter where it went, half of it was uncomfortable walking backwards. Therefore, it spent most of its time standing in one place. But that creature, on display, was a source of some pretty good income for Dr. Dolittle.

I have felt kind of the same way most of my life. Not the Dr. Dolittle way,exploiting outlandish creatures for profit. No, I have felt more like the pushmi-pullyu, forever trapped between coming and going, and watching others profit from my efforts.

There is a battle inside me. Dramatic? Probably. True? Definitely. I want opposite things in life. I want adventure and I want stability. The adventure side of me wants to travel, write, take chances, jump off cliffs (well, maybe not THAT one), etc. The stability side of me wants a 9-5 job, paycheck every 2 weeks, and the ability to know what’s going to happen next week, next month, next year.

Now, some people do have both. They have a steady job that pays well enough so they can vacation and travel and jump off cliffs. They can pay their bills without worry and can spend their free time being adventurous. They can take chances in their work because they are secure in their profession. They enjoy their profession, and therefore have the emotional energy to pursue other passions in their downtime.

I would say not many people have both, but they do exist.

Far more people have the stability. They have a regular job with regular pay and they go to work five days a week to pay the bills. They spend their downtime “recovering” from drudgery. They go on vacation once or twice a year to escape their regular life.

Some people have the adventure. They travel, they backpack, they scuba-dive – all over the world. They don’t have 9-5 jobs, and their income is either based on the results of their adventures, or (more likely) they have some family money behind them and can afford to live without a steady paycheck.

Of course, then there are the majority of us. We don’t have “good” jobs. We struggle every month to pay the bills. Our life is a never-ending series of adventures in poverty. We take chances by playing the lottery, spend our tax returns on frivolous enjoyment, and continually make choices that keep us in the hamster wheel of the service class.  And for most of us, we stay in that wheel our entire lives. So, what does all of this have to do with a fictional creature in a children’s book?

Everything.

We all have within us a duality. A sense of conflict between doing what we think we want and doing what we think we should.  Most people go their entire life with this feeling just a slow burn of small dissatisfactions. Perhaps they act out as teenagers, but eventually settle down. Perhaps they blow-out with a mid-life crisis, but then meekly put the pieces back together.

Some people just never settle down.  They never lose the strong sense that there is something else they should be doing, some greater cause to pursue.  A very few reach great heights because of family circumstance, good choices made with good guidance, or luck. The rest of that group tends to stay in low-paying jobs because those are the jobs that don’t tie you down.

Not everyone who flips hamburgers is an adventurer at heart, but I’d bet serious money there are more would-be adventurers selling you your morning coffee than doing your taxes.

Me? I’m spectacularly good at making no money. I rise to the top of every low-level job I take, because I am driven, ambitious, conscientious, polite and service oriented.  I am the “lead”, the “shift manager”. I am the “boss”, who isn’t really, ever, the boss. The service industry loves my type of worker, and I have always increased my employer’s profits. But I’ve never made anything close to a comfortable wage for myself.

I have been termed “underemployed” because I have a vast skill set, yet little to show for it. I have no degree, but have taken classes in nearly every discipline. I have aced creative writing, trigonometry, psychology and anatomy & physiology. I have tutored students who have gone on to good jobs with good money.

I have traveled and lived in much of the US and in Europe. I have been asked to speak at conferences all over the world. I am published. I have been front-page news in my local newspaper and middle-ish news in the Wall Street Journal. I have an outlandish CV.

And yet, I work in a service industry job in a health care facility. I can’t pay my bills with the paycheck I make.  I am exhausted at the end of each shift I work, and I can barely muster the energy to write a grocery list on weekends, let alone anything else.

Why?

I know I’m not alone. I know there are many, many people like me who have tasted what it’s like to live a life of grand adventure, but who seem stuck in the mire of poverty.

I don’t have the answer, because if I did, I would act. It’s not college. I’ve tried that. I love school. But I have never been able to “nail down” a major, something I can see myself doing for “the rest of my life”. It’s not about taking chances. I’ve done that. I’ve lept off the cliff and soared for a while, before both my life and I came crashing down. Is it laziness? I don’t know. I work 50+ hours a week, on my feet. If I were lazy, would I be able to do that? Is it mental illness? I seriously ask because I think it might be a little bit of depression and anxiety that holds me back.  I think there is a lot of truth in the last one.

Which brings me to Dr. Dolittle and his pushmi-pullyu.  I want to break out and do great things, but I want to stay safe and small, too. I haven’t been able to keep going in one direction before my other half takes over and drags me back. I haven’t stood still, far from it. But I seem to end up in the same place, regardless of how far or how long I run.

The funny thing is, I’ve never liked the Dr. Dolittle books. Never. Even as a little kid with a voracious reading appetite, I just didn’t like them. And the character I hated the most?  Shocker: the pushmi-pullyu.

What does it all mean? I’m as interested in the answer as anyone else.

 

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Duality

January 2, 2017

I’m not super sure where to start. I’m not even sure I want to start at all. It’s been a while, I don’t know how long, and my creative juices have not only stopped flowing, I’m not sure there’s a body of creativity left. When I imagine my own well of creativity, I see a dry, cracked, dip in a hard, unforgiving ground. Nothing left of the water that may once have settled there, that may once have freely flowed along the channel, nourishing all it encountered. Now, just a dry, dusty space. Perhaps even a bit of rhyme along the edges, as if was once cool and clear had become stagnant, salty and toxic.

I have given myself to a cause that has not given back. I have spent my time and money, my heart and soul, my body and spirit, my health, my essential essence, on something that now feels as if it was never going to work.  And I feel like there is a part of me jeering from the sidelines at what’s left of my optimism. It’s not an attractive duality.

On one hand, I am alive. I have a better job than I did five years ago. My children are mostly grown and are mostly happy and healthy.  I have a better car than I did five years ago. On the other hand, I have more expenses as a result of the last five years. I don’t feel, financially, that I have gained any ground. I actually feel more stressed and more pressed that I did then. But that’s not the biggest issue.

Five years ago I was consumed with optimism for the future. Five years ago I had a plan, I had specific goals. Five years ago, I had no idea what my plan was going to cost me. Beware, you dreamers, you may get what you want, but you might not like the price you will pay.

So here I am, in my precarious space, looking back and wondering if I can even dare to look ahead.

I don’t have it in me to replicate the steps I took five years ago. I will never again risk everything for a dream. My grandfather would say, “never say never”. And perhaps I will find the courage to risk again. But right now, I just want safety. I want to wake up and know how bills will be paid, to know I am safe from eviction, to know I can keep my car for another month. I want to know where grocery money will come from for the month. I want peace.  And right now, I have none of those things.

I got exactly what I wanted, five years ago. I traveled. I started over. I gave literally everything to a relationship I wanted above all else. I got my wish. But what now? We still don’t live together. We still have no real plan for how to be a couple in real time, in real life. I just don’t know what my life means right now.

I have been on the brink of despair a lot this past year. I have semi-seriously contemplated ending my life in favor of the unknown. I value my life too much to actually end it, though. I wouldn’t put that kind of burden on my kids, either. But yeah, it’s been a rough patch. And I don’t know exactly how to get out of my emotional or financial predicament.

I feel like a complete failure.

But… perhaps because I have always had a spark of optimism regardless of how bleak things seem, I have started a course in dreaming and planning for the future. Crazy, right? I am at the lowest point in my life since those dark days when I was 17, and here I am meditating and free writing about creating a “best life”. Duality. It’s my thing, I guess.

So here’s to 2017. Whatever comes, I’m here. I’m not ready. I’m probably as far from ready as I have ever been. But… just bring it. We’ll see what shakes out.

Acknowledge

I hate when people post endlessly about how tired they are, how sick they are, how this hurts, or that aches, or whatever… whine, whine, whine… But right now, right here, this is my rant.

First of all, most people I know don’t know I have Fibromyalgia. It’s not something I spread around, because a) So many people think it’s this made up thing. b) Sometimes I think it’s this made up thing. c) It scares me.

I know so many people who are struggling with Fibro and I fear my life will become small and medically-centered, Fibro-centered. I fear sympathy, tinged with disbelief. I fear lack of control. I have enough going on in my life right now, I don’t have TIME to be sick.

But lately, I’m more than just sick. I have back pain. I mean, serious, serious pain. I have some vertebrae degeneration, some small fracturing, some disk degeneration, some spinal cord pressure… all adding up to a serious level of discomfort. Like, life-altering discomfort. Like, I can’t get out of bed discomfort. Like, I can’t stand, sit or lie down for more than a few minutes in any one position discomfort. But I DO get out of bed. I DO stand all day at work. I DO sleep (medicated sleep, but sleep, nonetheless). But it’s draining. I’ve been in PT for a few months, with absolutely no improvement. I’m on a few different prescribed meds, having upgraded from supplements and alternative remedies. Most of those meds help elevate mood, help control pain and help improve sleep. But most of them also have “drowsiness” as a side effect.

Plus, I’ve been “actually” sick on and off for weeks. Many weeks. I got the Norovirus  after the holidays, and I just haven’t come out on the other side. My doc says no wonder, with all the stress, pain and uncertainty in my life right now.

I am also very tired of winter. Today was gorgeous and I was too sick and tired to enjoy it much, although I did get out for a little while.

So, I’m tired.

I give up. I’m sick. I’m sick of positive thinking. I’m sick of the type of victim blaming that says what you think, you manifest. Screw it. I feel like crap. I will probably feel like crap tomorrow, too. Guess what? It is what it is. I will likely feel terrible for a while, considering.

So…. what’s next? I have some ideas, but the first one is this. I am going to stop fighting being sick.

I have looked and looked, and most advice on dealing with chronic illness includes the word “fight”. No one wants to be sick. No one wants to feel like they don’t have control over their health, their life.

I have “fought” for years and years, with some pretty decent level of success at times. But for the past several months, I have been losing, rather than gaining, ground. So… my new strategy is to just go with it. I learned a phrase this summer that I like: Acknowledge, Ignore, Move On. it’s a great strategy in sales, and in life, when you are moving right along. But sometimes, you just can’t ignore any more. Sometimes, you just have to accept.

I have been acting like I’m not sick for a long time. But the mask has slipped. The facade is damaged. So I am now I am working on “Acknowledge”. I’m tired. I’m tired because I’m sick. I’m tired because my back is a hot mess. I’m tired because the medication that does actually help (although not eliminate) my symptoms makes me tired. None of these things can be ignored. All must be accepted. I think it will take a while before I am there, before I can really accept. I mean, it’s been over a decade since I first found out I had Fibro, and I haven’t accepted it yet, after all.

But before acceptance comes acknowledgement. So this is me, acknowledging the fact that I am sick, I am in pain, and I am tired. And right now, that is enough.

Happy New Year!!

Welcome 2014!!

As most of you know, Henning has spent the last three months in the states with me. As you also know, I was booted out of Denmark, so our situation has been complicated by not only health issues but logistical issues, as well.

I have been busy making a new life in NH, while Henning has been figuring out home hemodialysis in Denmark. We had planned on his being able to travel with the NxStage System One (the only portable home dialysis machine) but due to tons of red tape and a complete lack of urgency of his care team, time was ticking away, and away, and away.

Thanks to NxStage and HDU (courtesy of Rich Berkowitz) Henning was able to travel to the US for a conference in October. He was officially invited by HDU, and Rich gave us tons of advice and lots of pushing in the right direction. NxStage stepped up and got on board, as Henning is the first Scandinavian and only one of a handful of Europeans on home dialysis to travel to the US, and perhaps the only one to do so for  such an extended visit. This is a Very Big Deal, medically speaking.

Thanks to some sponsorship, good connections and a lot of great timing, Henning’s visit has been relatively drama-free. He did have some access issues at first. In Florida at the conference, it was getting pretty urgent as he was unable to dialyze for nearly three days. That’s a lot of days. NOT good. But due to some great support, material, emotional and physical, from NxStage staff, he was able to finally get a good cleaning and we had a great time, over all. I’ll post more about the conference now that I will have some free time to really work on my backlogged posting.

Once we were back in NH, access issues continued to be a problem. Thankfully we have great support here as well, again thanks to NxStage finding a local doctor willing to work with them and Henning. International prescription and care issues continue to be a problem with home hemo users and international travel. His doc did a scan and discovered Henning’s venus access site was about 1/4″ away from the actual fistula. Again, NOT GOOD. And… also… no great surprise. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, Henning’s care in Denmark is sub-par, and that’s the most flattering comment I can make.

Once Henning established a new access, he’s had no further access issues. In fact, dialysis has been pretty boringly unremarkable, and that’s GOOD.

We have visited some great friends, had some great dinners out, done too much shopping, and spent too much money in the three months he’s been here. We took the girls to New York City the weekend before Christmas, and that was quite an adventure! The girls had never been, and it was great seeing the city fresh from their points of view. Neither Henning nor I had been to the City during the holidays, and we did have a few cranky moments in the crush of Times Square, but otherwise we had a blast. We walked over 120 blocks, and checked off almost everything on our “If you could only spend one day in NYC what would you do” list.

We had a quiet Thanksgiving and Christmas and spent lots of time with the girls. Our oldest lives next door to us, so spending time with her, her fiance and our grandson is always fun!! Megan and Larry are getting married on New Year’s Eve, so I’m thrilled that Henning will be able to be here for that.

We are sad to see his time here end. He goes back to Denmark on January 6th. So we have just a few more days together, this time around. We are already planning the next visit sometime in the spring.

Look for more posts as we catch up after a few months of just reveling in each other’s company.

I am launching a new site, as well. I have decided that it’s time for another journey in transformation. Anyone that knows me knows I spent several years before I met Henning in Self-Discovery Mode. I have managed, with time, therapy, and lots of introspection, to “get past” a lot of major life issues. As most of you also know, I still struggle with finances and fitness. SO… I have decided to challenge myself with a long-term project I call 60 to 50.

You can read about it here: http://60to50.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/welcome-to-60-to-50/

Join me as I say goodbye to 2013 and welcome 2014 with open arms and an open heart.

Happy New Year!!

Running Away With My Life… or… the dream I had last night

Because I feel like it. Also, because I just started on 750words.com and needed some words. Also, because it’s a true story.

So when I woke up today, I REALLY wanted to write. I had this great idea after a weird dream, and the idea I had was “Running Away With My Life”… and it is an interesting title to… something.

The dream I had was a typical Melissa dream. I was late, lost and not in control of the situation. I often dream of being in a huge conference hall and not able to find a person, or I am in charge and shit is going wrong. I often dream of airports and hospitals, train stations… I am on the wrong floor and the elevator doesn’t work and the stairs can only be accessed from outside the building… or I am on the wrong track and there is no way to get to where I need to go. That kind of thing.

So this time, it was an airport dream.

I was about an hour away from the airport I needed to be at… but I was already in an airport… so not sure if I was in one end and needed to go to the other…? But in any case, I knew I needed an hour to get to the airport. Whatever. Also, my flight was leaving in TWO hours. So regardless, I was late.

I was also in a wheelchair. No big. I often dream I am in a chair since meeting Henning. I often dream he is NOT in a chair… so that is interesting. Side note, in most dreams where he is not, he is either sitting, or we can’t get up stairs, or… when I notice that he’s not, he then immediately sits down. Funny, right?

Anyway, I was using a chair. And I needed to. In some of my wheelchair dreams, I am using it, but then when I get frustrated I just get up, or use my feet, or something. In not as many, I need the chair for some reason… most are small things like my foot is asleep… weird, but there it is. Rarely do I NEED the chair as in, I can’t use my legs. But in this one, I did.

But the wheels kept coming off. Especially when I went fast. And I NEEDED to go fast. I was already an hour late, remember? (Two hours to check in, for those of us who like to play by the rules.) So I was cruising along… and BAM! A wheel came off.

Now the thing is, wheels don’t just fall off. But I fear it. And the reason I do is because the first time Henning and I met, he was driving this rental, and the chair needed to be broken down and put in the back seat. I would put it back there, and pull it out and put the wheels on. First date. I was a wreck about it. He told me after our lunch at the beach restaurant that when he’d gone to the bathroom, one of the wheels hadn’t been pushed on all the way. There is this click, and it’s that easy. Slides on and off. And the pin is thick and long… so even then, the wheel wouldn’t FALL OFF. He explained no harm done, just thought it was funny… but for some reason, I am paranoid now about making sure I hear that CLICK every time. hahaha… right.

So in my dream, the right wheel just came off. In my hand. And I didn’t fall over, like what would really happen if for some reason the wheel happened to shear off… of course the chair would immediately tip… but in my dream, I stayed level… but had to sort of shift to the left and slip the wheel back on. The pin was broken, I realized… so it didn’t go in all the way… and there was certainly no click… LOL

A bit later, the left wheel came off. I had gotten brave, and had been going fast again… and BAM! The wheel was in my hand… I was kind of floating… and I had to shift RIGHT to put the left wheel on. Again, the pin was broken. hmmm…

So time is passing, I’m stressing… and of course I am speeding along again. Henning had been discussing a wheelchair racer the other night, and for some reason in my dream, I was RACING. And BOTH WHEELS CAME OFF!!! Now… again I was floating, but I couldn’t decide to shift left or right first… and then I woke up.

And the thing I thought of first was, I need to write this down! I shall call it, “Running Away With My Life.”

Weird, huh?