Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Like dirt again...

I have been strongly encouraged to volunteer, but I have not wanted to take the risk.  Most volunteering I know of these days involves background checks, applications, and interviews.  I simply cannot handle talking about myself, where I am from, why I moved here, what I do for a living.  All of those questions that are so unsettled in my life and bring to surface thoughts and emotions hard to bear.

So, someone set up a volunteering opportunity at a library, cataloging books.  Seems safe, eh?  He even sent a gently worded email saying that I just wanted to be told what to do and get to it and could not handle personal talk.

I arrived with my cane.  I did not know of a place nearby to park and did not know how far I would have to walk.  Sure enough, I was not close and I ended up being escorted to another building two flights of stairs and across the street and over a ways from the library.  I was tired by the time I got to where I was going.

After the short orientation, the woman overseeing my time asked if I would prefer working there when I came back or at the library.  I told her that I have Multiple Sclerosis and that the walk was a bit far for me, so I would prefer to work at the library.

I came home, discouraged, because I am so tired, after getting dressed, driving over there, walking about, sitting in front of a computer for two hours, walking back to the car, and driving home.  But when I got home I was dismayed to learn the woman has a concern about my being there.

She's pregnant and wanted to know what autoimmune I had to see if it would affect her baby.  I walk with a cane and I am a risk to her pregnancy?  I told her I have MS, a neurological disease, and she thinks I could be a danger to her baby? 

Her baby.

Silly Myrtle has been sitting here for a long while now, sobs wracking her whole body...so very bloody hurt that she's viewed as a danger.  So hurt and ashamed that the woman called the pastor who arranged my volunteering to express her concern.  So bloody hurt and tired and wanting to scream:  THIS IS WHY I DON'T WANT TO TRY TO BE AROUND ANYONE.

Something is always going to be wrong with me. Something's always going to be objectionable about me. Something is always going to be unwelcome with regard to me. 

Pessimistic, I know.
Speaking in absolutes, I know.
But I feel like dirt right now.  Again. 

Dirt and rather stupid for even trying to volunteer in the first place.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Another life...

I miss Africa.  I miss who I was there.

Not the one who made far too many mistakes.  Not the one who was too young.  Not the one who was confused.  I miss the one who was more free to be herself than anywhere else on earth.

I miss the wide open spaces.  I miss walking along a dirt path to work. I miss being challenged by my students.  I miss the lack of guile.  I miss communal meals.  I miss being in and out of everyone's houses.  I miss picking up coconuts in your front yard and having some for lunch.  I miss having a child fetch you a pineapple to go with the coconut.  I miss setting out ingredients on the counter at night and having yogurt in the morning.  I miss sunsets so beautiful you weep. I miss fierce storms.  I miss florescent plankton lighting up the ocean at night.  I miss a life bound by harsh realities, yet filled with an enviable certitude that God was there every single moment.

I miss Africa.

Today, I spent much of the day working on collateral for Lutherans in Africa, pausing to watch the videos I linked in the pieces and still more that I left out.  I spent part of the day praying for the mission, for the pastors, evangelists, and seminary students studying the pure doctrine and the flocks of God's sheep hungry to learn, hungry to receive the gifts of Christ. I spent part of the day wishing I didn't have a disease that prevented me from walking away from my life and just moving to Africa.

Only that continent already has enough of a mess; it doesn't need mine added to the burden it already bears.

The thing about Africa is that our foe wields a rather blunt weapon there.  No guile.  No whispers.  The lies are shouted out loud.  Brute force he brings to bear...through illness, violence, and corruption.  Oh, poor Africa, such festering wounds across her body.

Ravaged generations ago by greed, the sins of the fathers are certainly being played out to the third and fourth generation.  The worst of which...if you ask me...those called as Christians charging for Holy Baptism.  Oh, does that raise my ire, make my blood boil!

And yet...

And yet amidst that open onslaught is a faith born of tasting and seeing God in the tiniest of mercies and in the broad stroke of His grace covering all. I think it is a good thing to see sin all around you, to know that our foe is waiting to pounce every single moment.  It reminds you exactly this world we live in, a world warped by sin, filled with sin, crushed by sin. It reminds you the why of Christ crucified and exactly how wide and deep and high is the love of God won for us, given to us, poured over us, worked within us.

Have you heard about how every cell in our body is replaced within seven years?  That every seven years we are, literally, a new creation?  It is easy to forget that new creation is still rife with sin, still born of sin, still enslaved to sin.

In Africa, you do not forget this.  In Africa, you understand the need for the cross.  In Africa, you do not start thinking about how good people are, how good you might be.  In Africa, it is impossible to feel safe and secure in this life.  In Africa, it is impossible to be too busy to care for others, too distracted to see how endangered we are.  In all my years of church going, I have never heard hymns sung as I did in Africa.  I have never heard a longing for prayer as I did in Africa.  I have never seen the raw and pure joy of Jesus as I did in Africa.

I miss Africa.  I miss her beauty.  I miss her clarity.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

And then I am all kinds of stupid...

I see a headline that catches my eye and I click on it to read the story.  Only I know better.  But I do it anyway.  Why?  I cannot even say.

Well, I can, but does that really matter?

Do you know how, just before you slam your fingers in the car door, a part of your mind notices and screams at you to stop, but you don't...you can't?  It was like that.  I was slamming the car door on my fingers and I couldn't stop.  I didn't stop.

Because I did not, I spent the night battling my body's reaction to the things my mind cannot bear.  My heart raced and I struggled to breath. My stomach heaved, and I was sweating. Fear overwhelmed me until there was only the fear and the anxiety and nothing else.

The whole night.  Off and on this day.  Again tonight...in between...in between the moments when I could focus on accomplishing one thing, a specific thing, the moments when my mind was not still, could not turn back to the article I never should have read.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Friday, August 26, 2011

I thought I could, but how could I...

I had a conversation yesterday morning with someone who invited me, some time later, to a networking meeting with key folk in the non-profit world here.  He knows people in several organizations it would be a privilege to serve.  And he insisted this non-profit would would be filled with organizations willing to accommodate my needs to have my skills.  My old boss has been rather insistant that I would be, still, very much value added.  I admit, in the course of that conversation, hope bloomed.

Today, I started tackling things on my hiatus list.  Too soon, I know. But I did.  The first task was small, something I have wanted to do for several months.

In my basement are four windows without curtains. I bought hooks to screw into the frames and rods for the curtains. I already have four pieces of lace curtains, but they are cut from longer ones, so a pocket needs to be sewn in the top.  I do not sew.  But I can pin.  I thought, since few visit me, that it would be better to have pinned curtains than no curtains.

So, I took the rods, curtains, pins, and hooks to the basement. I screwed eight hooks into wooden frames. I pinnned four curtains.  And I hung them.  Forty-five minutes of labor. Forty-five minutes of standing up and or bending over (while I pinned).  Easy, eh?

No.  It was not.  I was trembling like a leaf being whipped about by storm winds when I was through.  I collapsed on the couch.  And I fell asleep.  Tell me, how in the world could pinning and hanging curtains be so draining?

Sometimes I wonder how I got here.  Sometimes I wonder where I am going.  Sometimes I wish people would hear me...screaming...that this is where I am.  Where a simple task is too much.  Sometimes.  More times that I wish to face.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Talk to yourself, Myrtle...

I practically had an asthma attack laughing at the advice I was given today: "Talk to yourself, Myrtle."  How little did she know I've been doing that for quite a while now!  But...to be fair...not in the manner she meant.  I talk to myself to help remember something for a short time. I talk to myself to help figure out a task.  I talk to myself to rehearse what I want to say next. None of these were the reason I am to talk to myself now.

Sometimes, I have pain in my abdomen so bad that I believe anyone else would be racing to the emergency room.  Only, I know it is not my appendix or my liver or my spleen or my stomach.  I know it is not these things because I know it is my emotions.  Yes, I am writing in agony because I am feeling something.  Does that ever make me feel like a wimp!  Yes, feeling can fell me.

When I am curled in a ball, trying to get through the agony of such horrific abdominal cramps, I am to talk to myself.  Tell myself the truth. Speak the truth to me.

Truth is powerful.  Truth is healing.  "You are not ill, Myrtle, you are feeling...."  Be specific.  Be honest.  Speak the truth of you. Those are my instructions.

Several times of late, the idea of faith coming from hearing has arisen.  In many ways, I find that a wonder. I do not have to do anything in order to gain and increase faith!  In other ways, a comfort.  That means that faith comes from outside myself, outside of this person so overwrought that feelings can make her incapaciate her physically.  And, in other ways, I find that to be a relief because I have been asking, longing for the sweet, sweet Gospel to be spoken to me.  Spoken again and again and again, to hear the truth of me.  The specious truth our foe offers based on all that has taken place, but the truth given to me, Myrtle, through the Holy Spirit by the Son of God as He suffered and died for me.  And it is actually okay that I want to hear the sweet, sweet Gospel again and again and again.

Who am I? This question fells me for any answer I speak is one no one would wish to hear.  Who am I?  The answer Christ speaks is the answer I ache to hear.  Who am I?  I say I am a struggling, sinful, broken, marred, weak, anxious, ill, sorrowing, confused, unemployed mess of a human being.  Who am I?  Christ says I am a beloved child of God, washed clean and without blemish or spot, holy and sanctified.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Monday, August 22, 2011

The thing that is I wish were not...

There are so very many things that I cannot face, I cannot touch.  Just as you might jerk your hand away from a hot burner on a stove, so I jerk, recoil, flee things in my life and in my past.  Whole things.  Big things.  And the smallest of moments.

There are far too many initials in my life.  Ones I should be proud of, but are most often ignored. Ones that seem to define me, but should not. A new set I try to pretend are not, but are.

PTSD.  Such a conundrum. Pretending doesn't work.  Not at all. 

I find it to be like I am held hostage.  Or maybe like walking through a maze.  Or perhaps like dodging enemy fire as I seek safety.  Really, it's all of that and more.  And more.  And lonely.

Today, out of the blue, only for a reason known, I started having a panic attack.  A gasp.  Whole body tremors.  Struggle to breathe.  Racing heart. Terror.  Being swallowed whole by darkness and confusion.  Suffocating. Drowning.  Exploding.  Because of whom I was with, I was able to navigate past the moment far better than usual.  Only, just like my asthma attacks, I have been hit with after shocks each time my mind returns to that moment. The panic wells within and I fight it back with my whole being.  I am scared.  Amos is tired of me clutching him.

I have tried to keep busy. I have spent time whacking bushes, scrubbing dishes, doing puzzles, watching television, hanging out on Facebook.  I have also gasped, had my heart begin to race, and tears slip down my cheeks as abject fear washed over me.

One more time. One more time to talk. One more time to have the fractured pieces of my life, my heart, my mind bound by another.  And then six weeks.  Six weeks of sitting and waiting and trembling and battling...alone....

I am a wimp.  I know this.  I have not hidden the fact.  Of course, my wimpiness has been like an onion of late...one layer of weakness revealed after another.  A veritable abyss of wimpiness.  I've known for months that this day was coming, this time.  I've known it would be hard.  In truth, I have not been able to fathom getting through it, but I knew it was coming and worked at getting ready. 

Smells. Touch.  Sounds.  That is what usually sets me off.  Today, it was words.  Trying to speak of the hiatus.  Caught off guard. Dropped to my knees by a sucker punch by our foe heretofore experienced. I thought I knew how hard this is going to be.  I did not.  I did not.  Lord, have mercy...I did not.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Again with the pain...

Someone started reading my blog from the beginning.  Egads!  When I was asked a question about something in July 2005, I went back to look it up and was very surprised to see that I was already talking about the cognitive problems escalating.  Surprised and sobered and saddened.  Then, I wondered: Just how many times do I talk about the same topic?  Not sure I want the answer to that one!

Yet there are topics I purposely choose over and over again, primarily because that which I want to say always falls a tad short, never quite becoming that which is in my mind and on my heart. I never seem to frame my world, convey the experience, in a manner fitting the moment, the day, the week. In this case, no matter how much I try to write about pain, it never really touches how I feel.

Twice this week, I have found myself in a battle of despair for the agony of my knees, wrists, elbows, fingers...all the bits of me that bend, I suppose you could say.  The change in barometric pressure from a front passing through is the culprit.  Yet another instance, for me, where there is nothing I can do but endure the moment, the day, the week.

Sometimes, I start downing Motrin or Tylenol or both.  Sometimes, I try something stronger, if I have it on hand.  Sometimes, I think that there is nothing I can possibly do to make the pain easier, better.  Perhaps there is, but I have never found out what.

Those pain scales?  Mostly, I find them rather useless.  I have had one pain or another or many types for so long now that I cannot think of a time when this was not so.  I know that I started Celebrex seven years ago and that was after a few years of trying to deal with the arthritis on my own.  And the nerve pain from Multiple Sclerosis has been a companion since the mid 1990s.  The spasticity in my legs?  How long?  I cannot say anymore.  Though writing those words causes me chagrin since I have not worked on stretching out my leg muscles in months.

The diffuse, constant agony in my joints when fronts pass through, when weather rears its ugly head, is difficult for me to bear.  Christ be praised that not all weather fronts do this!  The curious, ex-professor part of me wonders why this is so, what it is about the weather fronts of this week that trigger the pain.  But would the why really matter?  I cannot affect the weather.  All I really can do is affect how i respond to the weather.  Alas, I fear I do not rise to the occasion in this suffering.  [Bettina, do I get brownie points for NOT wailing to you about this?]

Is it coincidence that this week has also been a week where not a night has passed without agony from my joints of a different nature?

For a while now, I cannot rest my feet on something unless my legs are supported in some fashion or another.  If not, if the weight of my legs is born by my feet and my ankle joints begin to flare in intense pain from being separated a bit, perhaps moving in a wrong direction...the way my knee fails to stay completely together when I am overly fatigued.

That is why I sleep with pillows beneath my knees and arms if I am on my back.  To have my legs straight makes my knees begin to scream in agony.  I have to steel my nerves if I have fallen asleep that way and awake needing to move them.

It is nerve pain that causes my right hand to simultaneously grown numb, stiffen, and flare with agony if I roll over on that arm.  [With the torn muscle in my upper right arm from the pit bull attack, as soon as I roll over, I awake from the pain that still remains.  So, my hand has not been problematic in nearly six weeks.]

Lately, however, I have been having problems with both arms.  Whenever my arms hang off the bed, my elbow joints slowly begin to flare in pain, almost as if they are bending backward.  Move them at that point is almost more than I can bear.  Sometimes I faint.  I never use to find myself with my arms hanging off the bed, and to do so when I have been trying to sleep in the middle of the bed is just plain strange.  So, I am blaming Amos!

Only, to be fair, it happens on the couch as well.  Stretch out my arm as if I am giving blood and soon the pain flares.  Stupid me, by the time the pain is noticeable, it is to late to avoid the agony of moving the joint.  This is because, simply put, I am just used to hurting, every moment, day, week.  Some bit of me or another protests its use or merely its existence. I have become adept at turning the other cheek to those bits.  But with this particular problem I truly do need to figure out a way to notice sooner or avoid such positions altogether.

Pain is a weird companion.  Sharp pain.  Dull pain.  Centralized pain.  Diffuse pain.  Fiery pain. Tingling pain. Girth pain. Intermittent pain.  Constant pain.  You could almost call him dissociative, a companion with multiple personality disorder.  Only he knows who he is.  He is what he is.

I know full well that I have it easy compared to some, especially those with bone cancer.  I know that I also have it easy, per se, for the very fact that I have a fairly high tolerance for pain.  But I tire of it.  I tire of how this wretched companion colors my life, tears at my balance, and turns my mind away from that which I know to be true.

Romans 8:28 does not say that God causes all good things to work together for good.  No, it declares that God causes all things.  All.  What a pesky little word.  There is no way around it, is there?  It is an absolute.  A blessing, really, eh?  I do believe that verse. I do believe all verses.  I do believe in Christ crucified.

Sometimes, when I am over set with pain, I think myself rather churlish for not considering His agony, His searing pain.  I don't know how to see past my own.  I wish I did. Would that it were I could live more in Hebrew 12, fixing my eyes on the Author and Perfector of my faith who for the joy set before Him despised the shame and endured the cross...for me.  The truth is that I am Peter, sinking in the water, begging to be saved because I took my eyes off of Jesus and looked about me.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The middle of the bed...

I have been trying to learn how to sleep in the middle of the bed.

I slept in a twin bed until I was 28.  When I graduated with my Ph.D., a "big" bed was one of the three presents I bought myself.  It is GREEN, of course, an iron full-sized bed. 

With Kashi being one of the other presents, perhaps my learning to sleep in the middle of the bed was doomed.  Many a night I found myself sleeping on the barest sliver of mattress because that small dog leaned against me until I moved over and over and over once more.  Still, for the 16 years I have had the bed, I have either slept on the right or the left, depending on what side I had my lamp and sleepmate and asthma drugs.  However, it would be wrong to blame my beloved buttercup.  He was not the reason I never took full advantage of my new mattress.

In truth, trying to learn such a thing has been difficult.  In fact, it is not going all that well for someone wanting to learn this thing.  As hard as I try, I find myself over on the edge again.  As if something within me will not allow me to have more than the sliver of mattress.  Perhaps I believe I am not worthy of an entire mattress?  Or is it that I have stuffed myself in small spaces when I am frightened since I was a small child and the edge of the bed is like a small space to me? 

[When in the dorm at college, undergrad and grad school, with the bed attached to the wall, I slept in the corner, my back pressed against the wall.]

Plus, there is the pain.

Lying in bed hurts, you see.  Lying on my back hurts, especially with my knees and elbows flat.  If I am on my back, I put pillows beneath my joints so they are not straight.  Even so, the pressure on my lower back become unbearable to me.  It is better to lie on my side, but when I do, the pressure on a nerve in my arm makes my hand eventually go numb.  Even though I can hardly move it and the surface is numb, the "numbness" is actually excruciating.  The right side is better than the left. I tuck pillows against my back so I can sort of lean against them to take the pressure off my arms, but they eventually fall off the side of the bed. I roll back over.  The pain awakes me.

For reasons unknown to me, I cannot sleep on my stomach.  I cannot lie on my stomach.  Whenever I do, I have great pain.  It is just something I ignore...and avoid. 

And, when I was a freshman in college, I torn a muscle in my neck when I dropped an old metal iron on it.  [Laugh.  Get it out of your system. The emergency medical personnel surely did.]  Ever since then, I have to have a pillow tucked securely beneath my neck.  If it is not fully supported, lying on my back or side either way, then I struggle with painful muscle spasms and nerve pain.

Finally, there is the asthma.  I sleep better propped up. Even so, I oft awake coughing and gasping for air.

Since I have lost all that weight, I can now bend over without pain in my abdomen.  [I sort of figured that the fat was squishing my organs since I carried much of my girth in my midsection.] At night, now, I often sleep with one or both of my knees tucked up nearly against my chest.  This straightens out my lower back and eases the pain there.  But then I have to try and avoid the pain in my hands.  Even before all this foolishness with the middle of the bed, sleeping has been difficult at best.

Amos has been confounded by my attempts to learn to sleep in the middle of the bed in the midst of trying to lessen the pain, prevent more pain, and breathe easier.  He still snoozes with his neck tucked against mine as I read my book at night; he still starts off the night curled atop my pillow.  Sleeping with his back against mine has been harder.  This is because the most success I have had is to sleep across the bed sideways. Curled up like I start off when I am awake, I do fit sideways.  Only, eventually, I find myself against the edge once more. 

The night mares and night terrors I face make sleeping hard, but the pain even more so.  I...just...hurt so very much when I sleep.  I move about and lose my helpful pillows off the side of the bed and awake.  Sometimes, I fall myself.  Amos is probably afraid of falling off the side of the bed.  I worry myself I shall send him tumbling in the middle of the night.  I think we would both be safer were I able to accomplish this lesson. 

If only...if only such was actually possible. Of that I have no confidence, if truth be told.  Still, I am trying.

I cannot say why I decided it was time I learn to sleep in the middle of the bed.  For one, right now is actually not the best time to take up another battle.  Only...well...a part of me wonders if I can learn this, then perhaps I can learn other things that I am needing to know.  Things I should have learned along time ago...an undoing of wrong lessons...finally understanding how God meant for life to be.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!