Appreciating Health (Today's Daily Presence)

Well, I just typed and lost an entire post for the first time so here goes a re-write!

As I noted yesterday, I am feeling under the weather with some sort of respiratory illness. I’m coughing a lot and my voice sounds as though a frog is trapped in my larynx. I selected the teeth and jaw card from my Daily Presence deck, and was shocked to realize these areas of my body are feeling better than they normally do.

I’ve been diagnosed with both TMJ and trigeminal neuralgia. My trigeminal neuralgia has gotten better after having a tooth extracted last year, but a recent visit to the dentist showed me it is still active. She merely manipulated my jaw in her evaluation (no cleaning or dental work) and my pain starting spiking on my drive home.

Today, though, my jaw feels loose and my teeth do not hurt. Simply noticing this feels like a sign that I am living with more awareness. It has been easy for me to focus all of my attention instead on what is going wrong with my body. There are of course times where my pain becomes so severe that I cannot ignore it and during which I need to use additional resources to help myself cope. For me, living with chronic pain has been about learning to work with my body as much as I can.

As I grow to fully inhabit the landscape of my body, my attention has widen and my care for parts that are healthy has improved. This awareness has increased rather than diminished my ability to respond to what my body needs when it is ill. Which parts or body systems are working well for you today? How is your jaw and tooth health? How do you balance responding to your body’s needs alongside appreciating what is working well for it?

Deepening the Stretch (Today's Daily Presence)

Today’s Daily Presence card centers on the lower back, a site easily filled with tension, pain and discomfort. When I bring my attention to this area of my body, it feels blocked, so locked in muscular tautness that I cannot sense any communication from it to the rest of my being. I believe that this is more the result of my posture than a holding in of emotions, but, if I’m being honest, it’s never relaxed enough for me to be able to tell the difference.

I chose to honor this area of my body by engaging in yogic stretches to try to loosen it. In doing so, I quickly realized that the lack of maneuverability my hamstrings afford probably contributes to the limited range of motion of which my lower back is capable. This article confirmed my suspicions. So, I added some hamstring stretches and felt at least the lowest part of my back release a bit.

Overall, since I’ve been on T, I have had a significant drop in my chronic pain and have become less consistent in stretching. Connecting the muscle groups as I did today has shown me how easy it is to adjust my comfort level with minimal effort and attention, so I hope I can be more cognizant of what my body needs going forward. How is your lower back today? Does any discomfort you feel there relate to your hamstring or other muscles?

Observing the Sky (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

It’s hard for me to remember that the sun still shines even on a day filled with clouds. Today, however, I was able to hold onto this truth as, although there were many clouds in the sky when I observed it, they were almost translucent with plenty of breaks through which the sun was peeking. The wind was blowing briskly as well, as evidenced by each cloud entering and exiting the center of my viewpoint. Everything changes, given time.

The sky represents possibility and a widening of awareness to me. My tendency is to bend my senses to a single focal point–a bird in flight–and to miss all the unfilled expanse in which both being and unbeing can be found. Today a physical condition which has plagued me for over a year threatens to overshadow any other considerations; seeing the sky reminds me that the cloud of my pain is overcast by the brilliant sun of my joy. What did the last sky you observed bring to mind?

Soaking in Water (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

Taking a warm bath relaxes and satisfies many people’s need for a simple pleasure. I, however, become nauseous from the heat. Hot water only works for me in small doses, so my version of a bath involves involves soaking my feet in water infused with a homemade bath bomb containing essential oils and dried herbs.

As I did this today, I found myself able to reconnect with my body and temporarily less aware of my chronic pain as all my energy went into finding the right temperature that was soothing rather than scalding (I recommend using a thermometer for this if you have any conditions such as diabetes that could affect your ability to perceive temperature in your feet). My feet feel smooth and pampered after my treatment, which allows the rest of my body to come to a place of calmness and comfort. What is your favorite way to soak in water?

Practice Mindfulness (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

As a person with dissociation, complex PTSD and a significant trauma history, being present in my own body has proven an elusive task. Mindfulness meditation and related practices are by far the most grounding techniques I’ve encountered. I believe that the best in life is found in the present moment, if we can engage it simply as it is.*

For today’s Simple Pleasure experience, I lit a few candles and sat in front of my altar. My dog decided to accompany me, which was a good challenge in managing distractions. I started by centering myself on my breathing and then began to attend to each sense, one at a time, experiencing what I heard, smelled, felt and finally saw.

In the dim light, there were many items glittering, including a few geodes that I’ve collected. Their sparkle in the candlelight, flickering in and out, brought me back to my breath as well as to my inner body, including areas such as my circulation and digestive system. I sat with each for a few moments and scanned my body from head to toe, returning to the breath any time I felt distracted. I felt surrounded by a golden, healing warmth.

I lived the first few decades of my life with almost no access to what my body was experiencing, other than to protest its malfunctions and pain. I still feel awestruck when I take time for mindfulness and realize how many inner worlds remain unexplored. I do not want to bend each one to my will, rather, I want to sit with myself until every part of who I am that wants to gets a chance to find the warmth and presence of my inner community.

*There is a lot to unpack in this statement that I will leave to another post. Moments of trauma are the one place where I think it really falls short of applying, but, in other types of experiences, including not only connection and excitement but also the daily grind and minor frustrations, I think it holds.

Indulge in Self-Care (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

As a person affected by multiple chronic physical and mental health conditions, including trigemnial neuralgia, complex PTSD, neck and arm radiculopathy and an undiagnosed systemic illness that has left me dehydrated and exhausted after multiple episodes last night that included digestive distress, fainting and low body temperature, I have no spoons to give today. The daily chores that must be completed to keep me fed and my house cleaned seem significantly more insurmountable than they do when my physical state is healthier. Taking time to engage in a simple pleasure on a day like today is another task rather than a bright moment of joy, but I felt determined to persist as I know giving up when I feel like this will only restart a cycle of depression.

As I use my Simple Pleasures cards, I am giving myself permission to adjust their instructions to a certain extent. Today’s draw was actually to buy up to five dollars in lottery tickets, but I know the excited anticipation they could perhaps bring would be missing with me feeling as sick as I am. Instead, I decided to use the money to buy myself flowers, which have a coalescence connotation which feels appropriate to my current state. I like the fact that they will last at least half a week and will continue to uplift my spirit as they fully blossom. Everyone deserves to have the ability to engage in self-care when they are feeling down; I am grateful for the privilege of being able to do so for myself.

Unsolidified: My Self-Definition

I knew my reason for existence before I knew who I was as a person. I’m here to aid in the soul-recovery mission of reconnection lost, buried and disowned parts of self with Self. I’m a shame-eater; someone who lives as unabashedly authentically as possible in order to provide space for others to do the same.

Coming to know one’s self when all you have to go on is chips of cracked porcelain takes patience and reconstruction skills. Nothing feels permanent to me about who I am; the projected image fills in and reshapes faster than I can process at times. I work often from the outside in; I alter my external surroundings, my appearance, my relationships and suddenly another motif of identity is emblazoned on the wall of my being.

Above all, I am fluid. Every pot I shape that bears my image solidifies only so far as I shield myself from the kilns of predictability and unity of self. I gaze with envy at those who know themselves, not simply as well as I know my pieces, but who know themselves whole and as one. I can tell you the story of how I move but not where I’m located; my being resists roots, resists entombment, resists place.

This is for survival, this ability to reshape and reform at a moment’s notice. Quick, gather the shards and make haste at any sign of danger. Present as battle-worn and shield or as open and tender, whatever works in the moment. But others take my façade as being; the true cracks are too well hidden and the visible fissures their “aha, weakness” distraction lines. They see me as I want to be seen, as I need to be seen, not as I am.

I go piece by piece, holding each up to light, notating its edges aloud, and still I without witness. My dog, truthfully, can ferret out my lost selves better than any, which somehow makes it worse. Lacking community, I must be mirror and container and wall and ground for myself.

Many of my margins break from center. I am nonbinary. Panromantic. Asexual. A sexual abuse survivor. A person with dissociative identity disorder, multiple anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD, chronic pain and on and on. A person without family, home, deep cultural ties or social support. I am paradox: rigid, brittle and yet able to bend and restructure myself instantly.

I know why I’m here and what my task is. I know why I was shattered beyond recognition early on. The unfairness of it is irrelevant; my purpose is fixed. I find myself and know myself and super-glue myself as I live it out. I know joy in simplicity and hope through endurance. Little that I have has come easily. Nothing makes me prouder than being present as a cracked and worn piece of self is cupped in palms with delicacy and honor. Even flecks of glass catch the rain.