Last night I eluded to plans that were very exciting and which I thought might take a few days to resolve. Turns out, the whole thing was incredibly easier than I had believed possible and I find myself here this morning, with this big mystery being even better than I had hoped.
What is it??
On Tuesday of next week, I will begin a precalculus class at the local community college! Yay! I won’t have to learn all this harder math on my own. It has left me with a greatly renewed sense of possibility, because I have a great deal of faith in myself and my abilities to tackle this coursework and succeed.
As I’d said last post, these past two days I have been thinking outside of the aforementioned box. Being on CSU’s campus yesterday really helped put things into perspective for me as well as talking with a few of the other students. With my mind in a highly open state last night, the thought popped into it to go and look at what courses are offered at the community college this summer, even though I was pretty sure it wouldn’t work due to their cost.
I was thrilled to find precalculus listed, but ouch! What a large price tag! I will not have any residency status until I begin at CSU in August, so I’ll be paying full price. Thankfully, that’s full price at a community college and not at a university; it makes a huge difference.
It looked like I would need to take yet another math placement exam (bane of my existence this summer!) in order to be allowed to jump right into the precalculus. Turns out, they were willing to accept my original math classes from 1995 and I could register without taking the test. It’s highly exciting, because by taking this class I won’t need to take the math placement exam at CSU for calculus either.
No more math placement exams for anything! HOORAY!
My goodness, this is all an incredible relief. By passing this precalculus class, I can walk right into calculus at CSU in the fall. When I pass that class as well, and I will, I can join the mechanical engineering program in spring 2015. Amazing.
It feels as though my future has just laid itself out before me in a highly manageable way.
This is not all my good news. The next came as a big surprise to me as well today. It seems that I will likely qualify for financial aid for this summer school class, but only if I take one more credit worth of classes. Luckily, part of the financial aid package will be a small scholarship from the college itself, which actually fully covers the extra class.
Essentially, if I take one more class, the college will make it a free class and I’ll then also qualify for federal grants and loans for the math class.
It gets even weirder. I had to ask, what do you take for only one credit over the summer?
Apparently, you take scuba diving!
Ok, I did have a choice between a few other classes, including a temping course about hiking, but after my time in Hawaii, scuba diving is the one for me. Sitting on my desk, looking at me right now, is one of my favorite pictures – Jeremy and me snorkeling. I look at that picture all the time and when I’m feeling low, it reminds me of how far I have come in life.
I’ve dreamed of learning to scuba dive, I just had no idea that dream would take the shape of a community college in Colorado giving me a free scuba diving course so I could have financial help with the class I really need.
What a strange, yet beautiful, turn of events!
I’m off to go buy my new textbook and begin preparing to start school in four days – not the four months I had been planning! Wow, I really can hardly believe this excellent turn of events. It’s going to be a great summer!
It’s fascinating to me how easily the mind can become trapped in a box of its own creation. Rattling around the walls its made, it can be terribly hard at times to see beyond the box, assuming you are even aware you are in one.
Then comes those interesting moments when something comes along and opens the box – regardless of whether its an outside influence or something from inside yourself, its just plain neat. If you find yourself being willing to let your trapped thoughts escape, there can be no telling where they will lead you. True, sometimes they can lead you into less than pleasant places as you find yourself suddenly facing the harsh reality you’ve created or allowed someone else to create for you.
Luckily, this isn’t one of those times. I’ve found the mental thinking box I was in has broken open, thankfully leaving me in a much happier place.
Such simple thoughts I had two nights ago and shared here in my last post. A realization of the incredible adventure I am having these last few years, starting with Hawaii (yay!) and coming around to me being enrolled at long last in college once more. It has changed my outlook and the last two days have been much happier, sunnier places.
Honestly, last night I think I was having such a fantastic time at Ladies Night at my gym that I was glowing from the brilliance that is my happiness right now. I think a couple lazier people who I ended up teamed with for some partner work found my enthusiasm a little intense – but whatever! I was having fun and life was filling me with beauty.
Enough poetic ramblings. My point is that between my mental box being opened and today being a long awaited day, Transfer Student Orientation at CSU, I’ve been having an incredible two days. I’ve some plans for tomorrow morning that I shall keep as a surprise until I’ve been able to see if they can come to fruition, but should they work out – wow! I’m pretty excited tonight.
I’m really thinking outside the box today and the view is incredible.
As for my orientation… great news! I met with my academic adviser and she pulled some strings to get me into chemistry without having to take a math placement exam. Woooo! Tonight I registered for two of my classes next fall – I’ll have to still wait to register for calculus. I don’t mind though, because I’m in my preferred chemistry lecture class time and instructor, along with astronomy! I’ve always wanted to take astronomy and I needed something to fill up my schedule next fall. I may change my mind and drop it later so I can take a part-time student course load instead of full-time, but for now I’m thrilled to be finally getting to fulfill my longtime desire for an astronomy class.
That wasn’t all the good news either. Part of orientation involved playing a Jeopardy style game with 48 other transfer students (all of us considered “adult learners” which just means we’re old) and my four woman team won! We really rocked those questions and had a great time too. Our prize was to each receive a 4gb flash drive with the CSU name and college colors on it. I’ll enjoy using it to bring along my homework to print (for free) at the college and knowing I didn’t buy it, I earned it! All in all, a great way to begin what was my first official day of being a full member of the CSU community.
That’s all for now. It may take until next Tuesday for my exciting (and secret) plans to come to be, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to make them happen. I look forward to writing that post and sharing with everyone the pretty cool things that can happen when you finally find the way to open that box and take a fresh look around.
For the last six months, I’ve been doing my best to relearn all the math I once knew, but lost to 20 years of disuse. Twenty years is a long time, especially as my brain atrophied while living in the tent just as surely as my body noticeably did.
I have deadlines I must meet for some of this math. Two of the classes I want to take this August require I pass proficiency tests before I can register. Chemistry only requires I know algebra, but calculus requires a knowledge of trigonometry as well. It’s been rather frustrating to have this roadblock before me. The sheer volume of past college credits I bring with me to this school means I have to pay over $1000 more each semester for my classes – yet the credits do nothing to meet any of my requirements because they are over 10 years old. Seems a harsh welcome back to college after all these years.
Therefore, I do what I must to try and relearn the math as quickly as possible. My hope is to pass the placement tests in time to register for my preferred class times – or even to get the class at all. It’s a very real possibility that chemistry or calculus could become completely full, with wait-listed students ahead of me, by the time I can register.
What does this mean? If I don’t take calculus this August, then I must wait another full year before joining the mechanical engineering degree program. I already feel on the old side of going back to college for a potentially 5 year degree. To add on a sixth year is a hard concept to contemplate and so I push myself very hard to complete my math studies.
Yet, I struggle.
I recently completed intermediate algebra and it actually went pretty easy once I was able to focus and commit to regular study hours. I’d struggled the first few months of this year with it, largely because I was undergoing a lot of mental and emotional healing from scars left long ago. The healing process took almost all of my time and left me exhausted, too tired to focus on mathematical concepts. I felt the weeks passing by, only a bit of math done here and there; my time before CSU in August growing shorter.
As I said, finally I am done with that – only to be faced with college algebra and trigonometry still to be learned. These are proving to be more of a struggle to learn on my own, hard concepts without the aid of someone to help explain small details I do not inherently understand. Its so frustrating to do this on my own. Without a doubt, I could easily ace these topics if I were part of a formal class. I just can’t afford the tuition for summer school and financial aid for college will begin in August.
It’s also frustrating because we were told, repeatedly, that there would be no wait-list at Vocational Rehabilitation and that they would be able to help with retraining costs to a new college degree. I’ve now been on their wait-list since September 2013 and have no idea when I will finally receive their aid. Were I off the wait-list and fully in their program, then it is likely they would pay for these summer courses I need.
It’s all just so frustrating. I’ve said that word many times here, but it is true in so many ways. It is hard to have your life taken from you by a series of mishaps, overcome the challenges of long term chronic illness, only to be met by more roadblocks when trying to rebuild your life again.
Then last night a new thought occurred to me.
In winter of 2010 and spring of 2011, I honestly began to question how I would survive another winter spent living in our tent. It was a terrible time, my health was horribly low, and though I still had the fight in me to keep living, my body had become very weak – perhaps too weak to handle the rigors of a Washington winter. Every year I would come out of the previous winter happy to have made it through, yet already dreading the return of winter in six months time. That last winter was different though, there was a lot more snow and freezing temperatures. As well, living outdoors was taking a serious toll on us by then and the thought of another winter began to look rather grim.
It was in that moment of time when life miraculously shifted and within six weeks we found ourselves in Hawaii. Six weeks from wondering if we’d even live another year to instead living the next two years on a tropical island. Simply incredible.
Last night I was lying in bed, my head resting on Jeremy’s belly and the dog’s head resting on mine. I found myself enjoying the moment of peace and wellness life had brought me and reflecting on the differences between this life and the one I had in the tent. In that moment, I also found myself realizing that I have all the time in the world left to me because only three years ago I thought I had no time left at all. Every moment I have now is an amazing gift.
Why am I so worried about this math stuff? I’m worried because it will take me another year of college if I don’t teach myself trigonometry this summer. Yet, that extra year is a year I very nearly didn’t have. I now have to ask myself – is spending this next year enjoying life, enjoying my hard earned health, and savoring my return to college really that bad, even if it becomes an extra year of school?
I think not.
I’ll still try hard to finish my math studies and take calculus this August. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t work hard towards difficult goals – it seems to be what I do in life. However, I hope to keep this new sense of perspective. Every day is a gift I created from the darkness my life had become.
Every day I am living a life I would have considered the best dream in the world just a few, short years ago. Every day I want to remember that I should stop and enjoy this journey, no matter how long it takes me to get there, because its amazing I was even able to find this road to walk.
This is a beautiful road.
Almost a year has passed since my last post here, yet I am disappointed with my lack of posting at the second blog site Jeremy and I teamed up for. In truth, though he is a great partner for many things, blog writing is not one of them. This sapped my enthusiasm for writing and over the months turned into more silence than anything. In that time, much has happened, but what brings me back here today is this blog itself. Several weeks ago I began to reread my old posts here and appreciate once more how much Sundog Tales has always meant to me. I’ve shared so much of my journey, it’s only fitting that I come back here in these final months before I begin to attend Colorado State University in August.
Where does one begin? Perhaps there is no need for a beginning, for you already know me so well. A quick catch-up then.
In short, life in Colorado has been filled with many ups and downs, as any life is – healthy or chronically ill, and I’ve been undergoing tremendous growth to overcome these challenges. I’ve had the excitement of applying for and being accepted to CSU for the fall semester. This in turn kicked off a world of doubts and fears about my capabilities to return to school, being productive once more, and in some ways more importantly – to feel successful while doing it.
All those years living in a tent, day dreaming of being healthy again, working or going back to school – the reality is both much more fantastic and also more difficult that I had imagined. Somehow in each of my daydreams, the me I would become when well was the same me I had been before becoming sick. Other than knowing I was mentally a lot stronger and physically a lot weaker now, in my mind’s eye I was still the same 24 year old woman I used to be.
Boy was I wrong!
I am vastly different than who I had been. Though the tent felt like time was suspended within it’s walls, it was in fact not a time machine at all, waiting to deposit the old me 13 years in the future the same as I’d been before, but instead a device slowly molding me into a more mature and motivated person.
This is ever so obvious when I attend functions at CSU, surrounded by undergrads who are often half my age with problems I no longer identify with, such as which party to go to or who is dating whom. Worse yet are the functions for incoming freshmen and transfer students. The freshmen are often accompanied by parents who are the only ones asking questions, a glazed look on the kid’s faces, and everyone wondering where the dorms are. These are not problems in my world. My world is about paying rent, walking the dog, spending time with Jeremy, and otherwise devoting myself to my studies.
No, the me of 2001 who would have been only a bit older than these kids is as surely gone in the past as VHS tapes and a world without cell phones.
This morning I was writing an essay for a scholarship (something else past me had never done) and one of the questions was on how have I grown as a leader through my leadership activities. Well, as someone who was bedbound much of the last decade of my life, let me tell you – there wasn’t much call for leadership activities. Then I woke this morning with the thought on my mind, this right here is a leadership activity. I have reached lives I have never known, inspired people with my words to be more than they were before reading my stories, and that to me is a leader.
It reminded me of how much this blog and all my readers have meant to me over the years and I realized that at one of the greatest points in the story – I left. I went elsewhere and was hardly there too. It’s time I remedy this and finish this story, you all deserve nothing less.
So pull up a chair and settle in, because there will be more blog posts to come over the next few months as we count down to the first day of school – August 25, 2014.
I have enjoyed this chakra meditation video very much over the last few months. It has a nice grounding effect and is quite relaxing.
Each day Jeremy and I do some combination of between 2-4 meditations spread throughout the day. It is part of the Gupta Amygdala Retraining Technique we have been doing and it helps immensely. Though the program starts you off with guided meditations of their own and cd’s to help you get started, we’ve taken it beyond those to now encompassing other meditation styles too.
Sometimes we skip the afternoon meditation in favor of a walk in the park or around our semi-rural neighborhood. This also seems just as relaxing and really depends on the day as to which we do.
Over the last several months of this program I have had a lot of time to think. Originally I was unsure as to when I would share with my reading community that I was doing the Gupta program, as it is a bit alternative and honestly, I wasn’t ready to face people judging me or how I choose to heal myself. Sad that even with all I’ve been through from these illnesses, there are those people out there who will harshly judge anyone who dares to break their own boundaries by becoming well.
Unfortunately, I did indeed face some negative criticism and a fair bit of what I felt to be an irrational anger towards me for not sharing on my blog all the intimate and private details of my life. As though somehow by denying this person those details, I am not only standing in the way of their own healing, but outright doing them harm.
I hate to admit it, but even despite finding their position to have been in the minority it did take away some of my enthusiasm for sharing this healing journey with you, my readers and friends. At this same time in life, I found myself to be going into a bit of a downturn in health because of our cat, Tashi, waking us multiple times a night and causing enormous difficulties. I love that cat, but she knocked down a considerable part of my health for the better part of four full months. All in all, as you may have noticed, I haven’t been posting very much for sometime now.
But that’s about to change… just not here.
Now I’m bouncing back quickly, more quickly than I had even dared to hope! With this gigantic boost in health is also the same boost in motivation to get a move on life. Jeremy and I are going to see about moving to Colorado, sooner rather than later, and start the process of getting back to school through the work training programs available to us.
Jeremy and I started a new blog for us to share, A Thousand Miles, where we will detail out more of our adventures while trying to find enough money to make the move. Being on Social Security Disability and food stamps doesn’t leave much money to try and save up for a big expense, and being on an island means big expense if you want to move off it. Plane fare alone starts around $1200! If we actually want to take with us anything besides carry-on luggage, such as shipping our computers to Colorado or blankets, well the costs skyrocket.
Life is full of challenges and as any who’ve read my blog here for very long knows, we take each challenge and overcome them. It’s all just a matter of time.
Have you ever been to a nude beach? I went to my first one today!
Little Beach is part of the Makena State Park and known for being clothing optional, as well as it’s Sunday night drum parties. It’s a very nice little cove at the end of a quarter mile hike. The snorkeling wasn’t spectacular, however we saw some fish we’ve never seen before – including a small school of fish probably each the size of a large dog. As well, several sea turtles made the whole trip very worthwhile.
Yet, we didn’t go to Little Beach for the snorkeling – we went for the whales. Humpback whales migrate here each winter from December through April. According to my research, Little Beach would be just about the best place from shore to watch them passing by. Shortly after we arrived we were greeted with an amazing site. Two adult humpback whales only a few hundred feet off the shore, swimming along and doing their own thing. Though we didn’t see much more than their back spines each time they came to the surface, it was a fantastic site that brought tears to my eyes.
I mean, how fantastic is it to have seen something like that so close in the wild?
I wasn’t on a boat with dozens of other tourists or some other modern means to be out on the water with them. No, I was just standing on the shore of a beach I’d hiked out to and seeing them as I am, a human on land, and as they are, majestic beauty in the ocean. Absolutely one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in my life.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen whales, not even here on Maui – just something about them being so close I felt like I could nearly touch them… wonderful.
Have you ever wondered what whale songs are like in the wild?
Sometimes when you snorkel here during the winter you can hear them signing to each other underwater. This is the second time I’ve been lucky to hear them. Today they were loud enough to be easily heard, even over the white noise of the choppy waves we were snorkeling in. It was very magical, especially the times when we’d find a turtle to swim with. Whales whistling and calling to one another, following a sea turtle as it wandered the reef, scores of brightly colored fish swimming below us – I’ll always remember this.
I found myself at one point being struck by how diametrically different my life is now compared to March in Washington while living in a tent. Almost every year the last snow of the season would be sometime in the next two weeks. We’d be completely and totally exhausted from surviving another freezing and snowy winter only to look forward to a ridiculous amount of rain for the next two months, praying this summer would be warm and sunny. Often times it would be a wet summer too with nary a good, hot day to burn off winter’s chill before turning into Autumn and starting the cycle all over.
Instead, here I was snorkeling nude in the ocean, warm sunshine on my backside, while swimming with whales and turtles!
If life can change so dramatically for me in such a short period of time, just think of what else I can do. I am getting healthy again, there is no doubt about that, and sometimes like today I can really feel just how possible it is to change my situation for the better. It has taken an enormous amount of hard work and tenacity, but just look at where I am now!
I used to feel like I could inspire others to follow their dreams, grow as individuals, and reach places they thought were too distant – but sadly, I couldn’t do that for myself. Now I look at how life has changed me…I can be my own inspiration and reach my own dreams.
If I were to be able to speak to the illness that has stolen so many years of my life, I would have to quote one of my favorite movies – “Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the (life) that you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom as great — You have no power over me.”
There have been many changes brought to my life since leaving the tent three and a half months ago. Some are obvious such as indoor plumbing, a full kitchen to cook in, even a table with chairs to sit at while eating a meal. A few things haven’t changed – sleeping on the floor for example.
When thinking of which change I enjoy the most it’s impossible to really place an order as each one is magical in its rediscovery. Is it the hot shower on a morning when I can’t get the chill out of my bones or maybe instead the yummy dinner while sitting at our table and enjoying a rainbow on the horizon.
Some days it’s simply the act of riding in the car while Jeremy drives us along the coast towards a morning swim in the ocean before doing errands later that day. A massive weight of illness, wrapped so tightly around me as to leave me claustrophobic in its suffering, has been removed at long last.
In fact not a day goes by when I don’t at some point marvel and wonder as to how all this has come to pass, while at the same time being enormously grateful for the life saving miracle.
One change to take place is an ability to read books again – not just e-books, but a hold it in your hand, turn the page, quickly skip back to catch that last word you turned the page to fast to read, ink and paper, smelling of adventures yet to come and fond memories of journeys past … a wondrous book.
I love books, always have and no doubt I always will. I’ve worked in three different bookstores and they were the jobs I enjoyed the most. The last bookstore is even where Jeremy and I met. He started coming in every Saturday morning to browse the science fiction/fantasy section and I happened to work that shift, also with a love for the same genre of stories.
I deeply mourned the day my MCS closed my ability to read books, the inks and paper making me ill regardless of how aired out they may have been. Over the years I began to read e-books and again found joy in an old friend, but still I longed for the real book in my hands. The sensory experience was lacking and the electronic text difficult for my fogged brain to hang onto. Plots blurred, descriptions were lost, and over time reading was becoming extinct despite my desires to the contrary.
Then on a whim I had Jeremy pull into the library here in Maui on a particularly beautiful day. Cautiously we entered, unsure if we would be able to stay for more than a few minutes. As the doors slid open before us and the air conditioning greeted us I felt a great joy begin to stir within me – this might be possible.
I imagine we look rather odd in the library as we search first for a book we are interested in reading, then cautiously fan the pages before our nose while lightly sniffing for lingering odors which would make us ill. Often times we then place the book back upon the shelf, but occasionally you’ll see our faces light up with delight at having found a gem to take home.
Over the last six weeks I have been voraciously reading all different types of books, finding a fantastic word of opportunity opening before me. Even though my health has again been on the low side the last several weeks, it is much easier to rest and recover with a good book. I feel less anxious about missing out on life because I am incredibly grateful for the gift of reading again. It makes passing the times I am again bedbound a joy instead of a jail sentence.
Yesterday I read a good book. Today I did the same. Tomorrow I think I’ll read another!
What does a month in Maui look like? All of these pictures are from today, exactly one month since we landed here.
I have been here in my new apartment in Maui for a week now. After 9 years, 6 six months, and 1 day in a tent we are finally indoors.
Maui is a beautiful place and it already feels like home. There was about two days of culture shock in which I had to adjust to wild chickens and many close neighbors, though I am more accustomed to it now. Hopefully in the next few weeks I will learn to sleep through roosters at 6 am and neighbor noises through the walls.
I have many pictures, but have not located the cable to download them from my camera. Most things have arrived in the mail unharmed, though my pc was not one of them. For now we are back to being a one computer family and I find it to be rather pleasant. It encourages us to interact together instead of being less than a foot apart physically yet miles away mentally.
I find myself feeling no worse than I would have mere weeks ago and often I feel noticeably better. This is very promising of future things to come for healing. Our apartment is steadily airing out and has promise to be an MCS safe haven despite having semi-toxic neighbors.
The rigors of a month to pack and relocate thousands of miles away have left me easily fatigued the last couple days. Next post I’ll hopefully be able to share some pictures!
Imagine living 20 minutes away from here:
Imagine sitting one sunny afternoon on a sandy beach and watching the windsurfers play in the dancing waves:
Imagine feeling the spray misting from this meeting of rock and wave, blown by a sea breeze across your face:
As I sit here and imagine all this I begin to feel my eyes tear up with overwhelming emotion because for me this will be my reality in four weeks.
There is no doubt I am currently living a rare and beautiful moment in my life; when it feels like the heavens are shifting the world around me in order to lay a wondrous path at my feet.
My time is now.
My time is here.
Together, Jeremy and I are seizing this moment and riding the wave of change out from our tent and into a new life filled with sunshine.
These events are nothing short of miraculous and I thank the spiritual path I follow for guiding me here.
It’s another sunny day here in the Pacific Northwest. Starting into the best time of year – not too cold, not too many bugs, and a few more sunny days. It only lasts about a month, usually most of April though this year it is late.
Life has been moving quickly for us the last few weeks. It seemed a slow, sluggish mire we had fallen into over the winter was going to plague us all spring. Then one morning someone turned the “LIFE” switch from ‘off’ over to ‘on’ and life began to take form around us.
It’s odd to say life started when obviously I’m still breathing and getting into mischief. However there is a difference between being alive and living.
This last 18 months I have found myself learning to live again and growing beyond my physical boundaries. Then the late snows in February and March crashed our health; it is very physically and mentally taxing to live in a tent during frequent snows. My world narrowed again to survival – just getting by for another week, another month, waiting to feel less awful. Thankfully an easy allergy season helped and in April we started to move past survival and back into living again.
As I am happily remembering, there is also a difference between living and thriving.
Two weeks ago everything changed in 24 hours. Living became Thriving. I think the last time we found ourselves thriving was in 2005. Before that… 2001, during the few months before life took a nose dive into the world of chronic CFS/MCS.
It’s been a long, hard road we walk in this life of illness.
The big news going along with this change is that we finally will have the means to find indoor housing. Yup, this couple in the woods will one day soon become homeless no more.
I find the prospect both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.
Where will we go? What sort of place will we rent? I honestly don’t know, though we are planning on answering those questions this summer. With a bit of luck, we’ll be indoors by November; we’ve had enough of living outside during Winter.
Times like these it is hard not to jump into the first opportunity that comes along. Our health concerns and the restrictions it places on housing means we must move slowly to ensure a safe living situation is found.
It also means we opted not to see the naturopath last week. As we are not certain to be staying in the local area, we didn’t want to establish care with a new doctor (a costly endeavor) and then repeat the process in another few months. However, we have followed up on a considerable amount of blood work through Dr. Buscher and will know the results in a few weeks.
Where to live when the world has suddenly opened itself up to you once more?
How to get there and more importantly, how to find safe housing?
What type of change will all this have on our health?
I am looking forwards to finding the answers to these and other questions, which swirl around in my waking and dreaming thoughts.
My life has been led by far too much fear.
If you had asked me ten years ago while I was still healthy, I would have been very sure that fear played little role in the direction life was taking.
I would have been wrong.
Over the last several months I have been thinking about fear’s role in my life. Its not just the fear I felt every time I stepped out into the darkness at night alone the last eight years, but also the fear that has unknowingly held me back from jumping in and living life instead of life living me.
I see fear in my choice to stop following veterinary medicine after a negative experience while observing a surgery on a large dog in my 2nd year of college.
There was a great deal of hidden fear that caused me to be content with stoner friends who rarely did anything but sit around and have a good time.
In fact, an amazing amount of my life decisions have been chosen based on an unknown fear of failure. Much easier to set expectations of myself lower so that I can be the superstar I want to perceive instead of merely being average at something I put a lot of effort into.
I have done a lot of really great and brave things in life, but there was so much more I would have done had fear not gotten in my way. I wish I had known this years ago, before illness took away huge chunks of my ability to live and follow my dreams.
After becoming ill, my fear took on a whole new dimension as there was suddenly a tremendous amount of things to be afraid of. Overnight I had to become hyper vigilant of toxic exposures which could severely impact my quickly diminishing health.
These could be found hiding in plain sight on any stranger I passed on the street, in any building I entered, any street I walked down, a shift in the breeze, a box in the mail, and many other places. Perfumes, fabric softener, car exhaust, fresh paint, solvents, pesticides… so many things and more to be wary of.
Suddenly everything I knew about being safe in the world was turned completely upside down and every where I turned was another dangerous situation that had to be avoided or minimized at all costs.
My world had become a battlefield in a hostile and foreign land.
Even at home I was not necessarily safe. Living in a tent with nylon walls does not offer much protection against anything. I found myself fearing mountain lions, bears, trees falling on our tent in a wind storm, heavy snow storms, power outages, people not respecting our privacy and strolling into camp at their leisure, shifts in wind bringing toxic fumes from neighbors into our tent, neighbor dogs rooting through our stuff, and raccoons doing the same. Worse yet was all of the above, but in the dark where I could not see it coming.
This fear had made me unable to leave the comfort of our lighted tent at night without Jeremy nearby, even for a simple trip to our ‘facilities’ because it meant being completely enclosed in the dark with nothing but my flashlight to see by. I used to go backpacking alone overnight and now I could not even tolerate 1 minute in the dark by myself without a panic attack overwhelming me.
Then a few months ago something began to change.
At first it changed so slowly I didn’t even see a difference until last month. I was up at our refrigerator area (about 70 ft from the tent) and using my sinus medication. It takes about 20 minutes for the whole process and it was quickly getting dark. Oddly, this hardly bothered me at all. I stayed the whole time and then calmly walked back to the tent. First time in eight years I have been able to do anything like this.
Over the last few weeks I have even gotten to the point where I have wanted a little quiet “me time” some evenings. I walk up to the chair we have by the fridge, have a seat, and just relax for a while – after dark. Critters rustling around in the bushes, breeze making strange noises in the trees – none of it freaks me out anymore.
When I do get spooked a bit, it is a pretty simple matter to calm my mind and body back down to a place where I can continue to enjoy the time spent alone, in the dark with only my flashlight. I have actually turned it off a couple of times. Only briefly off, but I still had the courage to do it.
I am seeing this same shift away from fear in many aspects of my life and how I look at situations. Such as making a very important and empowering choice to stop fighting my situation and working with it instead.
To fully explain what brought about this change would take at least one more article, very possibly more. In summary, I have been utilizing alternative mind/body healing practices for nearly a year, specifically EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and Reiki. It is these practices to which I attribute many of these massive changes.
I have not spoken of these things here in my blog because of my fear that at even merely mentioning I am finding healing in alternative means, it would damage my credibility and the degree my chronic illness is taken seriously.
Having one’s integrity and mental soundness questioned goes hand in hand with a diagnosis of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I was reticent to add to that by opening the door for further skepticism with alternative therapies. It appears that in writing this article, I am again seeing the same shift from a fear led life to one I lead on my own.
Too much of my life has been governed by fear. That chapter is now closing and it is time for me to write the next chapter in my own words.
In life we have choices. Choosing gives us power. When we are thrust into a situation in which we have very little choice, it can leave one feeling very powerless. Thus has been my situation for the many years I’ve been homeless in this very tent.
For years we have tried to find a way out of our situation and seem to have only dug ourselves in deeper and deeper each time.
We tried to build a house – now we are in debt we can barely cover due to our increasing medical expenses, can not finish building because the majority of the money ran out years ago, and are now left with a half finished structure too toxic for us to live in.
Three years ago we started an intensive regime of supplements which did show much promise in healing us – then a misstep with adding just the wrong type of a much needed nutrient (b12) and all our hard regained health crashed around us in a matter of a few weeks. This was the instigator of the crash from which we are only just starting to pull out of finally, a full year later.
Stuck in a difficult situation, all the motivation in the world to pull yourself out of it yet chained to a body incapable of hardly even moving at times for the most basic of needs. Its enough to drive a person nuts.
While these last few months have passed by and our health declined further and further, all thoughts turned to escape from this situation, no matter the cost. I started rooting through all the ads for rental housing, day after day, looking for the “perfect” place for all our needs – super cheap, hardwood or tile floors, no fresh paint or remodeling, no pest control, no mold, no super close neighbors, no gas appliances, and a landlord willing to work with our MCS problems … in other words, looking for the near impossible.
Even assuming we found a place that matched everything, it would still have the possibility of not being right for us depending on the lifestyle of the last few tenants. If they had been incense burners, smokers, strong laundry soap users, heavy perfume wearers, or any number of other highly toxic aromatic things in daily life, then that too would rule a place out.
Yeah.. darn near impossible at this time.
And then a few weeks ago, Jeremy and I came upon a Choice.
We could keep going crazy looking for an exit to the cage we found ourselves in these last eight years or find within ourselves the key to dissolving the cage bars surrounding us and finally be free again.
I am not entirely sure how we found the ability to liberate our minds from the cage, thus freeing our souls, but I do know it started with a choice to stay.
All these years I never felt like it was by my own choosing to be here in a tent. It was always circumstance that forced my hand, left me no other options. Left me powerless.
As simple as it seems, we decided that barring unforeseen changes we would stay here for the next solid year, work very diligently and without deviation from a healing plan we wrote out that day, and most importantly – we made a choice to stop pacing the confines of the cage but to instead embrace the life around us as our own.
And with that we were freed.
It has been a three days since the cold front finally broke. When it did we got a couple inches of snow, not really all that much for around here. I expect a couple more snow storms before winter is done. This one only lasted a day this time which was very nice. Luckily behind the snow was a warm front and now it’s a balmy 50 degrees today, though it does come with the price of heavy rain showers. Such a huge change from our well below freezing temperatures less than a week ago, feels almost like spring! Here are a few pictures I took of the snow:
View from under our tarps.
Jeremy having to keep dry while getting hot canning jars for us to stay warm.
The beauty of the snow.
The rest of this is just a quick update to my previous blog articles.
For almost the entire month of November both Jeremy and I had a really difficult time around here. I wrote about the crash in “Tides of the Storm” and “Ex nihilo”. It was probably one of the hardest months we have had since moving into this tent and very possibly the hardest in the last 2.5 years. November ended with me having one of the worst flu bugs I can ever remember having and Jeremy having a tooth extracted that had been abscessing for the last several weeks at least. But with the first week of December we both started feeling slowly better and getting our feet back under us solidly. We decided that a rest was much needed and are taking a month off of all detox inducing supplements so our bodies can heal and be ready for the next round.
I have written a few times of the animals we have around here in “A More Simplistic Life” and “Squirrels!” We still see our little Winter Wren friend and he has become much braver in the last couple months. Just a week ago he was hopping around and looking for a tasty bug to eat when he got some crazy notion in his head that the pill Jeremy was handing me must have been for him. Right as I grasped the capsule I suddenly see this little form dart from the corner of the tent and do a quick swoop past my hand. As he went by I felt his little feet grab my finger nearest the capsule and quickly let go as his momentum carried him onwards. What he was thinking, we will never know but it did provide for a nice bit of comedy.
Our squirrel friends (or annoyances as was the case for several months) have been quieting down as the winter progresses. Surprisingly we saw one just behind the tents digging in the snow on Sunday, looking for some maple seeds. I wouldn’t have expected to see them out on the one day of snow, but can’t argue instinct with something who’s vary life depends on it. Luckily they have been much quieter in the mornings and so we get to finally sleep as our circadian rhythms need. I think this is certainly one of the big things that is helping us to recover from our crash in late October and all of November.
Also, an update on our progress after the big doctor visit we had early October and written about in “Back from the Wizard”. We have been taking our b12 shots every three days, using the hormones as prescribed, and taking all the additional vitamins suggested (vit D, more C, more Selenium, and more CoQ10). I have changed several of the brands we used for our vitamins. Where monetarily possible we are now on food based vitamins which feel a lot better to be taking. I wasn’t sure if there was a real difference between food based and something developed fully in a lab. However, when I had the nasty stomach flu a few weeks ago I quickly felt the difference between the two types as the fully lab manufactured ones were not even able to be tolerated by my stomach for five days, while the food based ones caused no stomach trouble.
That affected a lot of my decisions when it came time to buy our vitamins the following week and I think I have us on substantially better vitamins now because of it. I also was disturbed to find a possible source of mercury ingestion in our fish oil, apparently at some point it changed from “free of mercury” to “lower than industry allowable limits.” Ack!!! We now take krill oil and it is worth every extra penny to know it will not be adding to the abundance of mercury we must deal with.
In small ways we are seeing the benefits of these changes. It is very likely that the crash we just went through was brought about by some of the readjusting going on in our bodies to the new therapies. Certainly the vitamin b12 shots (administered at home) would be a huge catalyst for change even if nothing else was. I have noticed some good changes in Jeremy as his hormone levels are going back to normal and some positive things as mine do as well.
Within two days of our doctor trip we also stopped eating all soy products, though I did just find a couple supplements that had some soy still in them. These are now gone too. We have stopped being vegetarians, something which was hard from me as I had been one for 12.5 years, but can feel a lot of benefit happening from now eating animal sources for protein. I think this is also responsible for some of the good changes taking place in us. Currently we are working towards a large change in diet and are excited to see what might happen once we have fully made the change. We feel better in small ways every meal we eat differently now, I have high hopes for what may occur when all meals are changed.
As for our house… well nothing seems to have come of all my efforts to find help finishing it and described in “To dream of a Home” and “Fate’s Quirky Sense of Timing.” One woman at the NW EcoBuilding Guild did seem receptive to talking about my situation but after hearing how bad things are she completely disappeared. It is unfortunate she couldn’t at least have been kind enough to say she couldn’t help, but to act as though we do not exist anymore is pretty ridiculous.
I also spoke with the president of the guild who upon learning that we were not paying members she immediately became very aloof and wanted nothing to do with us either. I had tried to explain that being almost completely housebound, on a fixed income with high out of pocket medical costs, and scrimping every cent we could to finishing building our house that it just hadn’t made much sense to pay monthly membership dues for meetings we would never be able to attend.
But it did not matter at all. Unless we had been paying for services we were too disabled to use even once in the four years we have been trying to build, she wanted nothing to do with us. If it were me, I would have looked at an opportunity to get us as new members and make a statement that it is an organization not just about recycling building products but about the people who live in the world we are claiming to want to save. I have to wonder who they are trying to save the planet for if not for the people who are in their community.
There are a few other exciting bits of life that have been going on around here but I will save those for later as they develop more fully. I am starting to finally feel like there is some progress being made from all the hard work we have been putting into life for the last four months since starting the climb back up out of the hole this summer’s crash left us in.
Ok, maybe this wasn’t such a quick update after all. Surprising to see how much has been happening when most of the last few months I often felt as though very little was going on. Small things have a way of adding up over time to much bigger things.
I had a wonderful birthday yesterday. It was a very relaxing day. Here are the things that made yesterday one of the best birthdays I have ever had:
Perfectly blue skies and sunshine.
A quiet hour spent at my spirit rock, contemplating the remarkable changes taking place in me in recent months.
Time spent with my sweetheart, not doing much of importance but simply enjoying each other’s company throughout the day.
Organic chocolate truffles arriving by UPS just in time for dessert.
An amazing amount of birthday greetings from equally amazing people all over the world. Thank you to everyone who wrote to me yesterday, it was spectacular in its awesomeness. hehe
A very enjoyable time spent day dreaming with a friend of possible futures in store for us, sandy beaches, coffee shops, and remembering that in daydreams there are no earthly limits to what you can do or where you can go. First round of tequila sunrises are on me when the dreams meet reality.
A good night’s rest at the end of a beautiful day.
Eight years ago today saw one of the worst days of my life. The last two months had become an ever increasing nightmare as life started to plunge into the icy depths of serious illness. With chronic fatigue making it increasingly difficult to work even part time and chemical sensitivities springing up like wild flowers in some twisted tormented garden, my world was definitely crashing down around my ears.
It all began from something in an apartment I rented. Whether it was from a toxic mold problem I had apparently brought with me from my last rental or from some other toxic chemical source inside the apartment, it hardly matters all these years later. But on this very day in 2001, it mattered greatly because whatever was causing my health to dramatically drop, it was now all too evident it had also soaked every single belonging I owned turning each beloved item into what was beginning to feel like a little bit of hell when around them.
The nature of this illness left others able to still use the things I owned, as I saw when a friend came with me to the storage locker I had rented in the hope of one day soon recovering and reclaiming all that was mine. It was during this trip that I came to a horrifying revelation. Although others had no trouble from being near any of the treasures I had gathered in my life, I had become so sensitive to each one’s remaining toxic soup that I could no longer be within even twenty feet of them. And so out of desperation, a plan was formed to cut my losses, which were daily growing larger, and try to restart from scratch. Hoping maybe my illness was being caused by the trappings of my former life that I had continued to hold on to and that once removed entirely, as one would do with a rapidly spreading cancer, my health would have a chance to recover.
Eight years ago today was a Saturday. It was the worst Saturday of my life and I hope it remains that way. With an inner strength I did not know I possessed, this day saw me holding a yard sale of my once normal life and everything that had ever been in it. Strangers pawed through my belongings while looking for fabulous deals that they could brag about to friends and family later. I had started the day with at most a hundred dollars to my name and so with a great weight in my heart I haggled each price higher, for I knew my only options for rebuilding would come from having the money to do so.
Eight years ago was my birthday, as it is again today. A birthday of great loss and sorrow, spent with vultures and hyenas feasting on the wreckage of my healthy life.
Today will be different. There is already more hope and happiness than I have had in years. Some early birthday wishes from friends I have only recently made is adding a sweet reminder that I am becoming human again. It seemed last night that even the woods around me sent out a shout of greeting just after midnight as animal after animal briefly called out into the dark night around me before quieting again as though nothing had occurred. That was one of the more odd things I think I have heard all these years in the forest. Deer, owl, coyotes and a raccoon all within mere moments of each other, outside and raising a ruckus each in their own turn, it was very odd indeed.
And in one of those rare moments when you see fate’s quirky sense of timing, yesterday saw what seems to be an almost unbelievable miracle. I received word that a letter I had sent to the NW EcoBuilding Guild was being taken seriously, that my request for help to finish my home and leave this tent had not fallen upon deaf ears. I do not know what will become of this; I only know they read my words and have passed them on to others to read as well. But the hope blazing in my chest is a vastly more wondrous feeling than the despair of so many years ago.
Today is indeed a very Happy Birthday for me filled with much anticipation and excitement for life and what the next year may bring.