Here’s to the hidden paths

One of the ways I combat the pain from fibro is through art. I don’t react well to pain medications, so I do what I can to get through the bad days, which sometimes includes losing myself in my art. I’ve never really considered myself as an “artist”, I think I’m more of a “creative gypsy” (yes, I made that term up), since I tend to wander from medium to medium. Pastels, water colors, crochet, cross stitch… I’ve tried my hand at a wide variety of hobbies in my quest for creative expression.

Lately, I’ve been painting, which is something I haven’t done in nearly two years. This isn’t unusual for me; I’ve been known to go a year or even several before picking a hobby up again. This time, though, it’s different; I didn’t pick my brush up in order to escape the pain. I picked it up because a two year old boy asked me to.

I guess I need to fill in some back story here. In order to keep myself from becoming a grumpy old troll again, I babysit, when I can. I’ve been watching this little fella for about a year now; I’ve seen him grow from a toddling baby into a rough and tumble little boy, and I have loved every minute of it. He’s at that funny age where children latch on to something and obsess over it. They want to watch the same movie, hear the same song or read the same book over and over and over again, until you think your head will explode if you have to endure it one more time…

Well, D’s obsession happens to be construction equipment. This kid can, at two years old, name more heavy machinery than anyone I’ve ever known. As a matter of fact, he often talks about machines that I’ve never even heard of.

We often color or draw together when I watch him and he always asks me to draw things for him, a doggy, a kitty… Usually it’s just simple stuff, which is great, because I really can’t draw, (there’s a reason all of my art up to this point has been abstract). So, anyway, not long ago, D suddenly asks me to draw an excavator. My mind went totally blank. Eventually, I managed to draw a box with wheels and an arm with a scoop on the end of it, D approved and the mission was accomplished.

Not long after, D’s mom told me that because D loved that (hideous) little drawing so much, she wanted to put it on canvas or something to hang in his room. It was at this point that I decided I needed to at least try to come up with something better; I really didn’t want my name attached to that awful doodle. So, I set out to draw the best darn construction equipment that I possibly could.

That, ladies and gentleman, is how my very first commissioned art work ended up consisting of a bulldozer, an excavator and a dump truck. It’s certainly not the kind of work I dreamed I would sell, but if I’m honest, I never expected anyone to ever want to pay me for my scribbles.

As it turns out, I can draw! Who knew? I’ll never be asked to do sketches for an anatomy text book or anything, but I bet I could illustrate a children’s book. How cool would that be?

I realize that on the surface, this post has basically nothing to do with fibromyalgia or dealing with a chronic illness. I shared it because I wanted to share what I’ve learned. I know I’m always talking about fighting on and not giving up, but this experience showed me that I had, in fact, given up on some things: my dreams. I’ve been so focused on getting healthy and beating this disease that I couldn’t see anything around those goals. If anyone ever asked me what I would after I achieve these goal, I wouldn’t know what to say. I’m not saying that those aren’t good goals, they’re still at the tippy top of my priority list, but I’ve come to see that I can be more.

A two year old child took me by the hand and showed me a path for my life that I hadn’t even seen. He has made me realize that there is always more to learn and that just because our original dreams are no longer possible, we should never stop searching for more.

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Choices and dreams

Life-1

What do you want out of life? Do you want respect? Do you want love, maybe a family or are material things more your speed?

We all have our dreams, some just seem more impossible than others. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go on another “you can do whatever you set your mind to” style rant. ūüôā

Today, I’m thinking about choices and how they shape not just us, but our dreams as well. From the minute we wake up, until the moment we fall asleep, we’re making choices. What to eat for breakfast, what to wear, or even whether or not to get out of bed for the day. So many of our choices are automatic that most of us don’t even really think about them until we hit one that’s not so simple.

For instance, when I get up in the morning, I make a conscious effort to choose to be happy. It’s not that I wake up depressed everyday, I’m just taking a moment to remind myself that I don’t have to let whatever happens throughout my day bring me down. Before my day even starts, I choose to have a good one. Some days, that’s all it takes, but other days, I have to make that choice again, sometimes several times in one day. No, it doesn’t always work, but you’d be surprised by how often it does.

I am choosing to be happy, and in doing so, I’ve realized that I’m becoming a stronger person. I’m creating myself into the person I want to be. That is a very cool statement to be able to make. Too many people simply take what they are given and go along with it, never realizing that they have a choice. You can’t always choose the situations you land yourself in or the way things turn out, but in every situation, you do have a choice. You can choose how you react to it.

Here’s an example: you and your family (husband, wife, kids, who ever), have been planning to go on vacation for months. You finally get where you’re going and the very next day, you wake up in so much pain that you can’t get out of bed. This is where I lose most people, they immediately start in on me saying things like “you can’t just choose not to feel the pain”, or “there’s nothing you can do to make the situation better”. No, you can’t just choose not to feel the pain, I can’t argue with that, so I won’t; however, there are things that can be done to make the situation better! Time to start looking at your choices.

The first choice you have to make is: how do you react to being in pain?

A: Do you choose to be angry or depressed?

B: Do you choose to ignore the pain the best you can and carry on with your plans?

C: Do you choose to accept the fact that you’re in pain and move on?

If you choose A, you may as well go ahead and prepare to make your loved ones miserable with you. Being angry or upset is usually the default reaction for people, being in pain is miserable, especially when you know you can’t do anything about it. It’s understandable. The problem is, when you choose to be miserable, you’re choosing to let everyone around you be miserable as well. When you choose to be angry or upset, you close the door on any other options. Choosing option B might sound like the more selfless thing to do, and sometimes, (major stress on sometimes), it actually works. You ignore the pain, carry on with your plans and the pain gets forgotten. The problem is, that it¬†really doesn’t work very often, at least not for me. Whenever I’ve chosen option B, I nearly always end up in even more pain than I was in to begin with and then I get really grouchy. Chances are, in my attempts to ignore my pain, I didn’t tell anyone that I wasn’t¬†feeling well, so my mood changes¬†are¬†unexpected.¬†I start blaming my friends or family, who ever it was that “dragged” me out or made me feel guilty about not feeling well, and then I start picking fights. It becomes a game of “who can I drag down with me?”. It’s really not a pleasant way to spend your day.

By choosing to accept the fact that you’re in pain and move on, you open up new choices, not just for yourself, but for your loved ones as well. In my case, since I don’t have kids to worry about just yet, it’s usually just myself and my husband when we go on vacation, so I’ll start with that example. When I choose option C, the first thing I have to do is be honest. I have to say “honey, I’m in a lot of pain this morning, I’m not going to be able to go to the beach”. Yes, he’ll be disappointed, but I’ve just avoided what could have been a truly miserable day for the both of us. It also opens up new options: what do we do instead?

Let’s say that we choose to spend the morning enjoying breakfast in bed, enjoy some conversation, or maybe we just watch a movie together. It’s entirely possible that by the afternoon, I might feel well enough to go¬†and actually enjoy¬†some time at the beach after all. If, however, that’s not the case, I can choose to not guilt my husband into staying bedridden with me. He’s certainly capable of enjoying some sunshine and relaxation at the beach on his own. The hard part is choosing not to feel jealous about him having a good time while I’m stuck in pain.

From my own experience, option C is the best option, not only because it keeps the overall misery level down, but also because by listening to my body and taking it easy when it tells me to, I’m much more likely to be able to enjoy the next day. If I drag myself out and ignore the messages, I’m going to keep paying it for it day after day until I’m an emotional wreck. No one wants to be stuck¬†with that!

It took me a long time to realize that it takes more courage to admit that you need help than it does to hide it. Every time I choose to face my pain and admit that I can’t keep up with everyone else, I become stronger. My choices are responsible for how the world sees me, but more importantly, they impact how the people I love see me. I don’t want them to see me as weak and miserable; I want them to see me as strong and confident. I don’t want my friends stay by me because they’ll feel guilty for abandoning me, I want them to want to be around me because they enjoy my company and respect me as a person.

I know those may seem like awfully small things to call “dreams”, but I’m¬†choosing to¬†start small. Right now, I need stepping-stones to help keep me on track for all of my really big dreams.¬†I can finally see the person I want to¬†become, I just have to choose to create her.

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