Finding the Light on Foggy Days

Carol A. Hand

I struggled with the title for this post. Should it be “finding a reason to breathe in times of pain?” Yet as I sat on my back step this morning, it seemed more fitting to view this time of my life based on the metaphor provided by my immediate environment – a warmer morning of dense fog created by the melting snow with the dark skeletal tree branches highlighted against the grey sky. In many ways, this image describes the first three years of my earlier-than-anticipated decision to retire from a job I loved and did well on some levels. I loved the challenge of exposing students to a variety of perspectives so they could think critically about themselves and the world as it was, is, and could be. Retirement has forced me to ask deeper questions. Who am I really? If I could do anything, what would it be? Where are the visions and passion that inspired me to create and survive despite the fog and pain I often had to endure in the past?

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Photo Credit: Duluth, MN – November 23, 2014

I know these questions would not have come to mind without the events of the past two weeks of excruciating physical pain, fear, and frustration. I know I don’t mention the physical challenges that I sometimes deal with that are often simplistically viewed as a normal part of the aging process. Really, that started for me in third grade when I was diagnosed with myopia – near-sightedness. Fortunately the ever-increasing vision loss I have experienced since then could be corrected with eyeglasses. Granted, in grade school, I was often teased with the mocking label “four-eyes.” The only frames available then were made of thick plastic, way too big for my tiny face, and the lenses were ground from real glass. Participating in sports required lenses made of safety-glass – even thicker than real glass – quite attractive with the addition of a heavy metal screen face guard 🙂 . But corrective lenses meant the end of constant nausea and headaches and the ability to read the blackboard without resting my face on my open palms with just the right position to slant my eyes at the outer corner. (This really did help bring the chalk messages into clearer focus.) Yet the most amazing outcome I remember was the ability to see that the tree tops were not really like cotton balls – I could suddenly see the details of individual leaves.

Despite heavy thick glasses I could still read, sing, draw, study snowflakes on my mittens or pond water life under my microscope and see the stars in the nighttime sky. I could ice skate, play softball, run races and ski. And I could still continue attending public school in an era when children with visual, hearing, or cognitive differences that could not be “corrected” with existing technologies were housed in segregated institutional settings. In this public school and community environment, I was unaware of the need to contemplate the reality that we are all at best temporarily able-bodied. (“Before the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) was enacted in 1975, U.S. public schools educated only 1 out of 5 children with disabilities.” Source)

Often with age, severe myopia places one at greater risk of other conditions, and in my situation, retinal detachment and optic nerve damage. As someone who loves to read, write, and travel, and who lives independently, the threat of losing my sight at this age is indeed frightening. I don’t normally think about it but have tried to diligently engage in preventive strategies, relying on the expertise of ophthalmologists. Moving to a new community meant changing to a new one whose competence I increasingly questioned, so two weeks I got a second opinion from another practitioner that was both hopeful and alarming. The recent vision loss in my left eye is correctable because it’s due to a cataract, not optic nerve damage. When the vision loss is serious enough (more than 20%), Medicare will help cover the cost of an operation (if it still exists at the time.)

In the meantime, reading and driving are challenging but not impossible. But it does make me somewhat clumsier than normal, and so two weeks ago, just before my doctor’s visit, I stubbed my little left toe on a chair leg – HARD – and it broke. Still limping in pain on my swollen foot several days later, I discovered I could still fit my swollen left foot into my overly large winter boots without the heavy woolen sock that could still cover my right foot and went out to shovel snow. I didn’t take into account the delicate movements I always make when I am lifting heavy objects to avoid provoking an old back injury. Because I was dealing with a painful toe by the time I finished shoveling, I failed to recognize the faint muscle twinge in my back that presaged the excruciating spasms that would spread across my entire back by the next morning. Normally, I would have simply applied an ice pack as a preventive caution. The next morning, I awoke in agony. The simplest tasks were excruciatingly painful. All of a sudden my ability to maintain my independence in my own home became uncertain.
The pain was constant and excruciating and made me remember the dream message I shared in a recent post.

“You have a choice. You may leave now. You don’t have to stay to face the storm.”

But what would happen to the little special needs dog I adopted, Pinto, or my parakeets, Queenie and Bud? Pinto has finally learned not to go into the snarling and biting fits in my presence – a condition that made him unadoptable for most homes. And what about my daughter and grandchildren? Yet, what use would I be to anyone in these difficult times if I become totally dependent on others for everyday care?

I had to face these questions and breathe through the pain, sleep, and sit on my exercise bike, the only seat I have with a hard straight back support that can hold an ice pack. Because it didn’t make sense to just sit still, I pedaled – over 50 miles so far. It’s all I could do because I don’t take pain relievers or use medical services other than ophthalmologists or dentists. Pedaling made me feel better, so I decided maybe Yoga would also help, and ended up rolling on the floor in even greater pain, almost laughing at the absurdity as I struggled to find a way to get up off the floor. “Enough’s enough,” I thought. “Either end your life now or decide you’re willing to bear the pain because you love others enough to see if it’s possible to heal.”

The quirks that helped me survive abuse as a child can sometimes be serious flaws – being stubborn and fiercely independent, unwilling to admit that I ever need help from anyone else. I decided to seek the only assistance that I have found valuable in the past. I found a Reiki Master who helped be begin the long journey of deeper healing. She helped me remember that physical pain and challenges provide an opportunity to connect or reconnect with the deeper sense of love that can help guide us through the fog. This morning, I realized that there are still meaningful gifts I can contribute. With this realization, the pain began to ease. The path before me will require endurance and hard work, but I still have promises to keep. I choose to live the time ahead remembering to allow love to light my way through the fog.

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Photo Credit: Mystical Path through a Forest

 Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

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About Carol A. Hand

What matters are not the titles I’ve held or university degrees I earned or the size of a house or bank account. It’s really what I’ve learned from ordinary people like me whom I’ve met along the way. They taught me to live with gratitude and give thanks for each new day.
This entry was posted in Adversity and Resilience and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to Finding the Light on Foggy Days

  1. ShirleyAnn says:

    Your post today has left me crying. Oh, my dear Carol,please just call for help. There are at least 2 of us only steps away that are willing to help you endure this awful situation you are in right now. I am so very glad that you chose to stay. The fog will lift, I promise.

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    • carolahand says:

      Dear Shirley Ann, I’m sorry this post made you cry. Although I am deeply grateful to have friends like you, there are times when I just need to face my fears and pain alone. (And I doubt that Pinto would let anyone other than my daughter enter the house 🙂 ). Truly, I’m doing fine now. I look forward to our next “tea for three.”

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  2. desilef says:

    Your posts have given no hint of your physical struggles. I am so sorry now to learn of your pain and am glad and relieved to read it is easing. Please stay with us. Carol, I agree that Western medicine too often does more harm than good and should be avoided as much as possible, but please consider it at least as an option to explore if you are again in such agony you consider giving up.

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    • carolahand says:

      Thank you for your kindness, Diane. It means a great deal to me.

      I did momentarily consider going to an urgent care center, but quickly remembered the experience that caused me to foreswear that option a long time ago. In retrospect, it’s a funny story that I may tell someday. I also remembered watching my mother’s last 13 years with Alzheimer’s. It’s not a legacy I want to leave my daughter or grandchildren, and it’s not one my ancestor’s chose when faced with the knowledge that their dependency threatened the survival of the community.

      I know I will heal from these minor injuries, and once again be relatively independent and mostly free of debilitating pain. Yet I’m grateful for being confronted with the necessity to think about the meaning of life and death on deeper levels.

      Like

  3. smilecalm says:

    wonderfully intelligent introspection, carol!
    such a strength of heart and mind.
    liberation necessitates letting go
    of the raft that got us
    to that other shore,
    i’m told 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am happy to read the final sentence and stand with you as you seek the way forward. I have only recently been introduced to you and this post strikes a chord within me. I regained, and keep, my health through eating real food, meditation, responsibility and connection with a deeper understanding of life – which includes Reiki. Allopathic medicine has it’s place, but I avoid it and know from experience that practitioners do not always know what they are doing. My best wishes Carol as you move forward on this part of your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    • carolahand says:

      Thank you for your kind and thoughtful comment, Pauline. It fits so well with the thoughts you shared in your most recent post:

      “But when a fellow blogger reveals they are upset, or ill or in emotional pain and we stay and read and allow ourselves to still the judgement and stay open and strive to feel empathy instead, when we offer words of understanding and support and even practical help if we can – then the blogging world becomes something other. We create a global and spiritual reality that is based on empathy, understanding and love. We wish to reach out, we say ‘I hear you’ in a hundred different ways and we offer support any way we can.

      The world needs this, the earth needs this, we as human beings need this. It counteracts the darkness of materialism and consumerism and corpocracy and greed. Those things get all the press. But here we are doing the real work of being human. And there are an awful lot of us!”

      I am grateful you are part of my blogging community ❤

      Liked by 3 people

  5. nicciattfield says:

    Carol, I hope you are feeling better? I’m glad you are staying around to share with your loved ones, and with us, your blogging community. You showed such kindness, even while in terrible pain. I didn’t realize the struggles you were going through while you were offering kindness, wisdom and understanding. Warm wishes to you, Carol. I hope the glow of your heart melts through snow and fog, and gives you the same warmth you share with others.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Dear Carol. I’m with you. Prayers of comfort and peace. Keep blogging. JoAnn

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Tom Bates sr says:

    Pain is a way to identify feelings of unworthiness. Humans have the power to heal as Jehovah .

    Ina

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  8. Silvia TIC says:

    Dear Carol, I hope you truly feel better…reading your post reminded me of many things we seem to share: I also wear thick glasses since I was 13 (they are contact lenses now except on Sundays), I developed a tendency to depression due to childhood abuse and other not-so-happy experiences and I have suffered from pain, IBS and debilitating tachycardia all my life: it makes my life uncertain and miserable at times as I am otherwise full of energy, but when any of these things strike, all changes: they come unannounced and uninvited.
    Through all this years, I did learn something that helps: after every tachycardia my energy levels are gone, but I eventually come back to normal, after every debilitating migraine or ISB episode, I see the new day full of opportunities and after every episode of depression, I come back with dreams and gifts for the world.
    I can’t say I have won: it is a constant struggle…and lately, other scarier things are starting to happen: I forget and lose or misplace things…it is difficult not to think on going away and crossing the bridge: but then there is always a ray of sun…and all the curiosity of what would happen, of what we could bring and share and do the next day…and, I too, stay. Please stay.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. That was rough! I’ve had to make some adjustments as I get older. My back spasms have been so severe that I actually tore some muscle tissue loose. For about a week afterwards I was limited to shallow breathing in order to avoid the excruciating pain. A golf-ball sized lump formed which gradually reduced due to atrophy. As a result, I’m now very conscious about re-injury so I regularly exercise my back, sleep on a flat surface, and am careful not to make any sudden or improper movements. Since these adjustments, I’ve been doing well.

    Your eye problem sounds even worse.

    Best wishes, Carol. Hope you get better soon.

    Like

    • carolahand says:

      Thank you for sharing your experiences and good advice, Robert. (The first time I pulled back muscles, I decided to ease the pain by soaking in a hot bath – it’s not a mistake I made a second time!) Healing takes discipline and patience – two things I really need to work on anyway 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. mandy says:

    Carol, I’m so sorry to hear of not only this very difficult time now that you’re going through, but also the health struggles that have been ongoing. Your posts never give away these things, for you’re always working selflessly to make the world a better place. Thank you for showing us your vulnerability now and trusting us to stand by you. So many of us love you dearly. May the light continue to show itself through the fog. Peace-mandy

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    • carolahand says:

      I so appreciate your kindness, Mandy. It’s interesting that blogging has given me an opportunity to show vulnerability because of all of the wise and compassionate people I have met. Thank you for being someone whose kindness and trustworthiness allow others to be human ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • mandy says:

        It’s a give and take, Carol. You’ve been there for me, knowingly or not. I’m grateful we have each other. ♥

        Liked by 1 person

      • mandy says:

        Hi Carol, I’m thinking about you and thought I’d drop by to let you know. I hope so much you’re feeling a little better, that your foot is better. And that the fog is lifting. I’ve lived in the fog a lot over the years so I know it can take some patience waiting for it to lift fully. I especially experience it during holiday time–I’m not “on board” with holidays so it can take a little patience getting through all the holly-jolly, lol! Please take care and know that you are loved.♥

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        • carolahand says:

          Mandy, thank you so much for your thoughtfulness. I am feeling better – I managed to make it through the day without using the ice pack to reduce pain and swelling for my back because it’s healing, as is my toe. I’ve even been disciplined enough to just let the now pile up rather than risk hurting my back again 🙂

          Holidays are hard for many people. They really don’t mean much to me either – and I avoid going to stores from Thanksgiving until Christmas (except for groceries).

          I am so grateful for your friendship and hope you know that you are loved as well. ❤

          Liked by 1 person

  11. Robbie says:

    Carol, I am so sorry to read of your pain- I had no idea. I have stubbed my toe in the past + could relate to trying to stuff it into a shoe-PAINFUL…and often one could only stuff into a shoe after dragging it around for days/week for it was too swollen to get in a shoe-just awful. I felt for you….the fears + reality of aging is something people just don’t discuss. I never had eye issues as a young person but when I turned 50 ( 6 yrs ago) I needed to use glasses to read. It was my first introduction to the world “all” the rest of you had to live with…+ I started seeing how difficult your world really was…For a few years, I got by with dollar store reading glasses but that all changed..When I went to the eye doctor 3 yrs ago he said, I needed “real glasses” for my eyes needed to be corrected. I sat in the chair and he showed me what my world would look like with “new” glasses to fix my eye issues ….WOW..I kept saying, I had no idea what people went through all those years, I never had eye problems…As I read your post-it made me think—It humbled me…now I can really appreciate the struggles others went through..I can’t imagine living through what you have all these year + the fear of losing your eyes site…My husband has always worn glasses + now i understand his struggles. I understand that I can’t read without my glasses + I NEED them for I can’t do some things without them….
    I have faith you will survive + it is good you are needed by others, for it is when we are needed that gives us purpose in this world:-) My animals are like the people to me in my life…they need me + I need them:-)
    I glad you feel better:-)
    “This morning, I realized that there are still meaningful gifts I can contribute. With this realization, the pain began to ease. The path before me will require endurance and hard work, but I still have promises to keep. I choose to live the time ahead remembering to allow love to light my way through the fog.”

    It is good you will keep on going:-) Funny thing I am learning as I get older, no one talks about this stuff-I am glad you did:-) We need to more often!

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    • carolahand says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, Robbie 🙂 Two of the books in my library highlight different ways of viewing this time of life: Growing Old Is Not for Sissies, and Coming into Our Fullness. It’s important to be able to see the humor in situations that might otherwise make us despair. You are right – people don’t often talk about the challenges we face as we grow older. The philosophy you shared for making change is one I realize I need to follow more often when dealing with challenges – “I waited and sipped my tea.” Thank you, dear friend ❤

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  12. I am sorry to hear of the difficulties you’ve been going through and am moved by your unflinching honesty about the serious questions it brought up for you about carrying on with life. It is also true as you write that in such times (having recently been through a tough time myself) you can reach down to a deeper truth and find the courage to keep going. What you wrote about the realisation of being only “temporarily able-bodies” struck home to me too. Wishing you well x

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    • carolahand says:

      Jackie, I greatly appreciate your kind and thoughtful comments. Like you, I have had to face the need to learn how “to dance with fear.” The only way through it is to have the courage to look for the deeper lessons. Thank you 🙂

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  13. Carrie Cannady says:

    Carol – you write so beautifully about the fear that challenges this period of life. I wish to first honor your gift of making the painful so lovely with your style of writing and the words you choose. Secondly, I honor the way in which you choose to navigate life. I am certain that when we lovingly appreciate the gift inherent in our existence here and now, we make powerful choices about how to care for our bodies. Blessings of light, healing and of a clear path forward to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • carolahand says:

      Thank you so much for your kindness, Carrie, and for the profound insights you share in your posts. This morning, I was particularly moved by your most recent post about healing.

      “May we all find our own healing of the deeply buried, painful wounds, so that the reclamation of the love inherent in our beautiful souls can join together to heal our world.”

      Thank you so much for sharing your kindness, compassion, and wisdom.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Carol, as someone above said, physical pain is often a symptom of internal unresolved issues. And I will say the same for putting oneself in painful situations (shoveling snow with a broken toe.) You’ll have to excuse me now, because the nurse in me is speaking – and I’m a nurse who has visited allopathic doctors less than 5 times in the past 40 years – and one of those times was when I broke my ankle. Once again, I encourage you to listen to the speakers of the shift, visit the 13 Indigenous Grandmother’s page, link up in your heart with those of your heart. Acupuncture – can do wonders for pain and balance, especially combined with the Reiki. And you might want to look for a good Tai Chi class for folks your age. For your eyes, do you know how to palm to rest them – let me know and I’ll e-mail instructions. Plus, you’re going through a HUGE change. You have the rest of your life ahead to do exactly whatever you want to do – and that can be an overwhelming thought. Pamper yourself. Sit in a hot tub, listen to your people, listen to sweet music. Sit in the silence and say “universe show me what this next great journey is to be.” Release your fears and your attachments and allow yourself to revel in the wonder of just being alive – and having a lifetime of knowledge and wisdom to share with the world. Be at peace all is well. Healing energy surrounds you.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Jeff Nguyen says:

    Another fellow Mr. Magoo here. I wore bottle thick glasses when I was a kid and contacts ever since. I am very sorry to hear of the pain you’ve been living with. I also wanted to suggest acupuncture which helped my wife tremendously with some of her neuropathy. Please be good to yourself as I’m sure you are and listen to the signs you’re body gives you. I’m sure Pinto, Queenie, Bud and the rest of the family want you around for a long time. Peace to you, Carol. 🙂

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  16. Thank you for sharing your struggle. I relate to the pain of your broken toe. You are a special soul… always thinking of our grandchildren, even in your pain. Peace and healing to you.

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    • carolahand says:

      I appreciate your kind words so much, Bruce. Each time I visit your blog, I feel a sense of hope and inspiration – the beauty of your photos and depth of your insights reveals that you are a special soul as well. Chi miigwetch for your healing thoughts.

      Like

  17. WeaverGrace says:

    I understand your journey of dealing with pain. I used migraine-preventing drugs and supplements until practitioners called me an anomaly, and I read and reread articles that support my belief that pain is a lesson. I’m considering that pain might also indicate an energy block, so I’m seeing what acupuncture can do.

    I would like to be better at using EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique ). Are you familiar with it? It appeals to the artist in me.

    You reminded me of times when I looked out a window with blind fear: what if I was born before glasses were available? I’d be dead from inevitable accidents that I couldn’t visually anticipate.

    One of my recent migraines frightened me when it was accompanied by flashes. They were just from the vitreous in my eye detaching because of the strain of my near sightedness.

    Thanks for sharing your self more broadly, and evoking such inspiring responses from your readers.

    Like

    • carolahand says:

      Thank you for sharing your experiences, Grace, and for your kind and thoughtful comments.

      (I also went through the stage of visual migraines – moving kaleidoscopic patterns without pain – but they stopped. A few years after they ended, I began to see flashing light patterns as one of my retinas detached. The latter was the most frightening and I’m grateful for the competent ophthalmologist who explained the need to be alert for the signs of a retinal tear that require immediate emergency treatment.)

      I send my best wishes to you, and again, thank you for your kindness.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Lara/Trace says:

    I echo the other comments and send you a warm hug of light. Wishing you fast healing and love, my dear elder.

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  19. You’re very brave, Carol. And I don’t just say that because of this post. It seems like a very good time to tell you how much I appreciate your words. It is a great pleasure to find someone (i.e. you) who speaks with intelligence and compassion. I recently read a post elsewhere by a woman doctor in which she described vaginas as smelly and disgusting! Only myself and one other woman protested. I thought of you because I knew that if you had read it you would have protested too, in a much more eloquent way than I did. I sincerely hope that the Universe brings you some extra delights to ease your pain. x o x

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    • carolahand says:

      Ashley Lily, thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comments 🙂 . I’m glad you were able to voice your disagreement with devaluing judgments – it’s so important to speak your truth. And I’m honored to know that something I may have said helped you find courage to speak – yet, I see courage in your creative, thought-provoking photography.

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  20. What a moving post, Carol.
    I am so, so sorry that you’ve had to go through this.
    Pain is awful. Just awful. Back pain? Ugh!
    I know about that independence that makes you think you can will your way to improvement. And I know there are times when you have to seek help. Thank goodness for your wisdom in this situation, and that you are having a bit of relief. May you continue to improve.
    Sending you a virtual hug,
    Cynthia.

    Like

  21. Shery Alexander Heinis says:

    Oh Carol, I so empathize with you. Pain does come with age, but it sometimes does not require that justification. I have suffered with excruciatingly painful muscle spasms for a decade now, where I become immobilized for days sometimes, and only recently an “alternative” physio discovered the source, but it’s a question of how to put a stop to them? Having an outlet for my creativity has certainly helped. I hope you get better soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • carolahand says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Shery. I’m so sorry to hear about your muscle spasms – they are excruciating and debilitating. Mine have subsided for now. Ice packs (not appealing in the winter), Reiki, and exercise have helped a great deal. I agree that having outlets to be creative helps shift focus to something other than pain. I hope you are able to find a way to stop them in the future, or at least control them before they get too painful.

      Like

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