Trains, pains (but no automobiles)

“Does it hurt there?” my doctor asked as she pressed on the inside of my knee.

“HOly!” I said.

She pressed on my outer knee. “Barely,” I said. She pressed on my inner knee again. “HOly!” I exclaimed, clenching my teeth.

Just as I had been congratulating myself on making it to 63 without the knee problems several friends had already faced a decade ago, I had started having problems. So not cool. 

Diagnosing by poking to find where I have pain is complicated by my fibromyalgia, since it carries some extremely tender points of its own–namely the place on my inner knee the doctor kept pressing. But given the totality of the symptoms involving my kneecaps and the fact they hurt most when using stairs, she thought I likely had “runner’s knee.”

GUFFAW!

One thing I often tell my dog on walks is “Mama don’t run.” He really wants to, even at 14 1/2. Even in my much smaller college days I hated jogging, which I guess is what you call slow running. There was too much jiggle and I felt like I couldn’t breathe and jog simultaneously. It was an annoying gym class. I was not a fan. And now decades later, my opinion hadn’t changed for the better. Running was for those blessed with long and lanky genes and definitely not for short, heavier me…and so went my train of thought–derailing somewhere about the point the train hits the crossing called Everything Is My Fault Because Somehow I’ve Done It Wrong.

Lies derail me. Instead of “okay, what can I do now?” I get hung up in the spider-webbed space of all the words I use to judge myself. Every direction I look I see a negative message and I wind myself more firmly into the web. I get stuck.

I somehow believe I should be able to be Faultless.

I somehow believe I Should Have Known how to avoid whatever problem I’m facing at the moment.

The Truth is, I’ve made each choice, each decision, based on what I knew/didn’t know/payed attention to/didn’t pay attention to IN THAT MOMENT. Given the experiences and circumstances leading up to then I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I would have made the same good/bad/shoot myself in the foot choices, because I was exactly who I was at that time. All the coulda-shoulda-if only thoughts tightly packed into that derailed train simply weigh my thoughts down and waste my energy.

Current example: rather than telling myself I Could Have Avoided having (not really a) Runner’s Knee by listing fifteen things I Should have done differently in the previous 62 years, instead I take a deep breath and do the exercises given me by the physical therapist. Recognizing the muscle fatigue of fibromyalgia may mean I can’t complete all the sets. I think my new math equation looks something like this:

available energy (minus) wasted self-flagellation energy (equals) higher quality energy to discern how I can best move forward. 

Okay, I know it’s silly math, but it’s math I can understand, math I at least know how to use. By lightening the energy load on my train of thought by dumping the thought patterns that overload and derail, I’m left with better, clearer energy to stay on the track of learning and moving ahead.

The Bring Your Own Beverage conversation: Final math equation of this post– Available energy minus (what thinking do you need to unload?) equals higher quality energy to move forward. Solve for (what thinking do you need to unload?)

Class dismissed. Now go be kind to yourself.

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When elastic surrenders

Maybe it was simply worn out. It was a fairly old skirt after all. But did it need to give out in public?

I suppose that elastic could have a retirement date, or one of those “best before” dates like food. All I know is that I was happily wandering through a shoe store in Portland with my daughter and son-in-law when I reached back to pull my shirt down, and touched….pants!  Of the under kind. WHAT?

I edged slowly, casually–well, as casually as one can while clutching the waist of their skirt–toward my daughter. “Um,” I said quietly, “my skirt elastic died.” I explained The Discovery.

She laughed. “I didn’t even notice!” And if the salespeople did notice, well, I don’t ever have to see them again. Ever.

This time I was able to laugh about it, even though my first thought was If you weren’t so overweight that wouldn’t have happened. Second thought: Everyone will make fun of you. Followed by a little You should have known–then you could have avoided this.

What if I met myself in these circumstances with a little compassion, and maybe just a pinch of logic?

Truth: Yes, I felt Imperfect. I felt Embarrassed. Those feelings washed over me, and went away when I giggled with my daughter. I realized that my whole importance to the sales clerks was whether or not I bought shoes. My Incident would be no more than an amusing anecdote to them if they even noticed. People don’t spend nearly the time focused on me as I think (which is a good thing in this instance). And not being psychic, as much as I would like to be at times, I couldn’t have known when the elastic would expire.

Today I will do this for me: When I feel that quickened breathing of anxiety as something unexpected happens (and it will), I will feel what I feel, then tell myself some version of Stuff happens (because it does). And I’ll give myself a little virtual hug and have some compassion for myself, since I deserve it just as much as the next guy.

And I’ll put some safety pins in my purse.

The BringYourOwnBeverage Conversation: Clearly for me, my weight is what I see as one of my biggest Flaws. What do you see as your biggest Unacceptable Flaw? What area in your life do you need to work on accepting? Where do you need to show yourself compassion?