Thunderstorm on the Prairie

Sweet Sixteen.pngWhere I grew up, just past the place where the glaciers scraped the Midwest prairies flat, you can sometimes see a storm coming all day long. A look out the window shows the clouds forming, and you can probably still get the wash out hung out on the line with plenty of time for it to dry.

But sometimes, if it’s a hot day with lots of humidity and lots of sun, you can see the clouds go from fluffy little dabs of cotton floating along to roiling black with lightning zinging between top and bottom, sometimes you can even watch them drop a funnel.

I wish depression did the day long thing; let you know it was coming, gave you time to order your life, get the laundry done, before it hits.

But it doesn’t. It just blows up like rolling thunderstorm on a steamy Minnesota afternoon; shutting things down like a tornado warning.

Here’s the thing though, it also clears the air like a storm. Clean rain, clear thoughts. Hope that there won’t be another storm, for a while anyway now that all that nasty air has been purged.

This weekend was one of those clear times. Busy. Happy errands, happy family gathered. No storms on the horizon. What feels like clear air. And a little time to build the shelter, safe harbor of family, in preparation for the next storm.

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The Trials of Tramadol

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One a week. One middle age woman dies from an opioid overdose every week in Orange County, CA. How many more suffer, losing themselves and all they have worked and hoped for? How far does the pain radiate? Children? Spouses?

And how close is this to you? To me?

One year ago I was diagnosed with a fuzzy autoimmune disorder, meaning the first person I told about the diagnosis said “you know that’s not a thing, right?” Yes, I know it’s a catch all for things that don’t fit in the other boxes. But the reality was that I was in a lot of pain, a lot of the time. It made me nasty mean and tired; my sleep was all topsy turvy.

Somehow the nearest big clinic and my insurance aligned to bring me a great rheumatologist who listened and offered to run interference with my family if needed (it wasn’t) and encouraged me to at least have pain killers and try them to see if it helped.

I filled the prescription, but didn’t take any pills for months. I watch my local paper with articles about people who hurt their back or have a surgery and two years later they are in full-on heroin addiction. I know I’m not good at moderation. I didn’t want to start because I wasn’t sure where I would end.

But the pain continued and one day, before I was going on a trip, with the thought of being stuck in an airplane seat with no way to move and relieve the pain scaring me silly, my husband suggested we just try it. I take one and see if it helped.

We sat watching TV and as the words “there’s no difference” were coming out of my mouth, I could feel the pain lessen. It was like a cloud of relief covered my body.  That was better, WAY better.

I brought the bottle of pills with me, but didn’t take any on that trip. I was still scared of them. Once every few weeks or so I would take one, and they worked. But it never felt safe.

I pulled down the bottle the other day, it was a bad flare day. My fault, I taunted the karma fairy by saying “Gosh, I haven’t had much pain at all lately.” That’ll teach me. But here’s the thing; I’m lucky, I was done with my work day, I don’t have little kids.  I could just take a few hours. A break. Rest. Distract myself from the pain watching “Catastrophe” on Amazon Video. Drink tea. Wrap up in a blanket. I was not dealing with post surgery pain. Mine is more of a feeling of having rough sand in my joints.

But given what I have learned about being a middle aged woman, and being deemed “unnecessary” by our society, I get why people take these things without meaning to get in trouble but wind up lost. I get how the cloud of relief can be so, so seductive. Who cares if we’re out of commission? No one wants to hire a middle aged woman or advance us or move to the side a little as we walk down the damn sidewalk.

It’s painful to realize that the majority of people around us see us as just not worth an investment of time or money.

Expendable.

A little relief can feel, well, like a relief.

I am lucky that my doctor framed this thing, whatever it is that’s not a real thing but is, as a spectrum. She suggested all kinds of lifestyle modifications that have helped. I am back in yoga, and but for this little setback I am almost ready for the level one classes again, after a long ramp up time of restorative and gentle classes. Until this week, I was using one of those apps to do a slow lady jog that I call RUNNING on my treadmill and while I had one spectacular cartoon like spill I am getting better. I’ll have to work my way back up, but I will. I eat differently and value sleep like a secret health tonic.

Life is good. Mostly.

But I can feel, just on the other side of good, how very dark and bad it could be for me, and how very easy it is to get there for my neighbors.

FIGHT LIKE HELL!

I’m wearing my favorite Hillary campaign t-shirt. No, not because I live in some dream land where Hillary is president. I don’t. I live right here in Trump’s America where the time I spend in lovely downtown Huntington Beach, California is with a protest sign and a threat that the police will arrest me if I step foot near the office of my member of Congress.

I suited up in my Hillary gear because I need to feel like there is hope for my country. Post-election I was sure that what had happened had to be some massive mistake. How could people vote for a candidate with the values of a carnival huckster?

On the day the electoral college met and did NOT do their civic duty, I cried in the grocery store and bought the really good lavender fabric softener to sooth my soul.

I marched in the Women’s March and signed up with my local Indivisible group and, because I was the first person to click “Join” on the congressional district page, I got to be an administrator.  A month of speaking before groups about Indivisible, being interviewed by the LA Times, local ABC radio and ThinkProgress was heady and exciting. I felt like we were making a difference! We were visiting our MoC, people were joining us in droves, we were on the Rachel Maddow show!

Then my dog got sick. Really sick. I had to step back from everything I could possibly step back from. For a long time I couldn’t feel anything but dread about my pup. And then, just when we thought she was going to be fine, she had an awful relapse and we had to let her go.

Here I am now. A week out from losing my girl. The news is awful. Terrible. I mean, isn’t what we are talking about from the Trump campaign called treason? Does it not come with the death penalty? Am I seeing most of the Republicans, including my member of Congress who calls Putin a “Chicago Mayor Daly-style politician, fall in lock step with a traitor?

Hillary had to re-invent herself at age 50 out of the ashes of the Lewinsky scandal. Hillary had to pull her husband out of a horrific loss and put him on the right path so he could be governor again after he lost. Hillary had to give up the dream of what she always wanted to be because people didn’t believe in her. Hillary did it. She still smiles. She still reads books and goes for long walks in the woods and enjoys her grandchildren. She still believes in this messed-up damn country.

Lily and I miss Noodles, but we are fired up.

Today it’s not about politics for me. It’s personal. I may not have always agreed with Secretary Clinton’s stand on all the issues. But one thing we can say is that this woman knows how to fight like hell. Fight like hell. If she can, maybe I can. This country is not for the haters. It’s not about keeping people down, it’s about lifting each other up. We can’t stop working for each other. It’s too important. There is too much on the line.

I still got a lot of fight left in me. And I got a t-shirt to prove it.