Living (not waiting)

The early part of this year has been an odd phase for me, so far, and one I suspect has things in common for a lot of people right now…a sort of sitting back waiting for the other shoe to drop. In countless ways, from large scale to small, it feels as though a lot of us are just holding our breath to see what happens next before we make our next move in life. The endless waiting, paused in trepidation, can start to undermine your confidence after a while, as though you lack sway in the world and as though outside influences have your fate fully in their hands; not a pleasant feeling and one that anyone living with long-term health issues will know only too well. So much about chronic health conditions is about waiting for some better outcome or the feeling of living suspended in constant uncertainty. All the more important, then, to remind yourself of areas where you do hold sway, where you can make a real difference and influence positive change.

For me, the stuck feeling is being greatly exacerbated by the long tedious process of selling my house, made slower by the uncertain market and initially keen people suddenly pulling out because interest rates go up (again) or because other market uncertainties cause them to get cold feet (everyone I have dealt with seems to be in a similar place of waiting for the other shoe to drop before they will fully commit to a change, which then has a knock-on effect all down the line). Meanwhile, having put all of my energy, for months, into being ready to move, I feel bound up and frustrated, all my fixations tied up in this one thing yet unable to influence the outcome…I just have to sit back and patiently wait for something to shift. This isn’t my happy place as I am the sort of person who expects to work really hard in my hyper focused way and then get the good results I deserve from all that intense effort…not to have to wait around and watch all my efforts flounder “just because”.

Added to the endless pageant of highly unpleasant symptoms of oxalate dumping passing through my body, as I undergo the transition to a low oxalate diet, ultimately positive though the outcome of that will be (see my other posts on this), it’s hard not to feel like a primal scream of frustration is going off inside of me. Some of those symptoms would be alarming in the extreme if I did not have recourse to the shared experiences of other Trying Low Oxalates forum members to compare with but, even with the knowledge that they are somewhat “normal” for how unpleasant it feels when your body detoxes from decades of oxalate accumulation, it can be pretty harrowing and unrelenting to go through and I have been feeling pretty put-upon physically for the past 6 weeks. Throw in the relentless cold weather (which also impacts my symptoms hugely) and the effect has been cumulative; another all-pervading feeling of “stuckness” and uncertainty, not knowing when it will all end.

However, whenever I feel stuck there is a part of me that always, eventually, reaches the bounce-back point and rises up to call time on the feeling of abject helplessness and feeling sorry for myself. This week, it became as clear as anything to me that I had to stop living as though I was waiting around for other things to shift and start behaving as though I was really LIVING again, not just going through the motions. Baby steps but by getting a few things in my diary that I will really look forward to over the next few weeks (I’ve booked three lots of tickets for live music…some folk, some jazz, and “a legend”) I already feel as though I am able to expel some stale air and smell the roses of a life better lived as I draw in a fresh breath. Just doing this small thing made me realise how much I had been putting life on hold, where I currently live, waiting to be moved and start living elsewhere…which is no life at all. Every day is a gift but, when you live “out there” in the ideal of some future life, you forget to appreciate the fact and can end up feeling dissociated from all the sensory gifts of being in the moment, noticing only the unpleasant ones because your mind is made up that you don’t want to be where you are (this applies equally to living with a chronic health condition). This has been me at times, I admit it; and it’s now time for me to come back to where I am right now, to live it fully, with gratitude.

Most useful of all, I’ve got back into my creative practice and, this time, not the “safe old stuff” that I normally do or for any other reason than that I enjoy it for its own sake but, rather, doing it entirely for me, the only familiarity coming from taking the well-worn path towards doing something with my hands, taking one step at a time, no pressure or high expectations, just allowing it to unfold, learning on the task. This “starting something new” process, or coming back to something “old” from a very rusty start, can feel arduous at the outset but, once in the swing of being thoroughly fixated on the task at hand, I always think to myself “what took me so long” because of the delicious feeling of being in the flow, engrossed, reaping the little rewards of satisfaction as whatever it is takes shape. Creating a piece of art is a sort of visceral reminder of the power we all have to influence something and initiate change and it has worked wonders for me, more times than I can count, over the years, as a sort of alchemical process to change the way I feel about myself and life in general. It comes with other benefits; because only when lost in creation does my ever-ruminating mind tend to slow down to a trickle or at least get into another groove and, combined with listening to music again (for some reason I had embraced the moody silence these past few weeks but this hadn’t helped my overall broodiness) I am starting to feel more like myself, fully alive and aware that I am able to influence some things, albeit only the smaller things for now but its always a start.

This is why creative hobbies can be just so powerful; they remind us that we do hold sway with life and we can make things happen after all. In the space of just two days, I have produced a piece of art that is nothing like anything I had done all my adult life but which took inspiration from some pieces of scraper board art, done when I was a child, that I found when clearing out the attic (yet another gift from doing that arduous task, as rediscovering all my old diaries and letters turned out to be). Unearthing all these old pieces allowed me to, not only, remember how much I enjoyed working with monochrome line art all those years ago but that I had a real knack for it, a sort of affinity with the orderliness and simplicity of black and white line strokes and the fact I seem to need no real reference point at all, once I get started, as I just seem to know where to make my mark. This tells me, belatedly, that line art is an affinity I need to go back and explore some more, after years of painting, telling myself I had to work in full colour and use grown-up mediums to be a “proper” artist; doing it just for me, this time.

Also (just by looking at some of those old pieces, as fresh to me as if I had done them yesterday) I was transported to bygone days when I was able to immerse myself so fully in art, to become completely engaged in the act, with no outside concerns to worry me…at all…that I would be transported for hours on end. We tend to think this is a skillset left behind when we reach adulthood (for when are we ever free of our worries or preoccupations as adults?) but it’s not really true; I certainly find I can immerse myself just as fully, completely surrendered to the creative act, as I did as a child…just as long as I am doing the thing for myself, not for some other objective. This is how art came to my rescue, in the early days of fibromyalgia, long before I fell into doing it for other reasons that distracted from its escapism and sheer power…because it is a super power, to be reminded that we can create things and transport ourselves beyond the feelings of abject conditionality that dictate so much of how life is set-up these days. Doing something for its own sake…for pure joy or “in-joy-ment”…is so empowering but we too often forget to allow ourselves to indulge in this as adults (or tell ourselves it is wrong).

We spend so much of our lives doing things for other reasons…to make money, to gain attention, vindication, approval or popularity or to please or impress other people…so it can be just so important to remember to do a few things expressly for ourselves, because they make us feel good and for no other reason or justification. I needed to be reminded of this too, quite badly as it turns out. Lately, all I have been doing has been with an end objective in mind and, whilst that objective feels (temporarily) frustrated, be it moving house or feeling better in my health, that can lead to the cultivation of a subliminal, yet highly undermining, feeling of personal helplessness or victimhood, like we have no traction or momentum on our side. So many of us feel like that these days, with forces beyond our control seemingly holding all sway over our daily lives. All the more important, then, to corner some area of your life where you get to exercise the muscle of influencing things that feel creative and positive, whether this is a literal act of creation (and I don’t just mean art) or making decisions, taking actions, putting things in the diary that will help sculpt a better feeling about life, for yourself and others. It could be as small a thing as listening to music that brings you a lot of joy or smiling at strangers; yet it could change the whole feeling of a day.

One of the things I have also been doing this week is giving things away (well, changing my diet led to a whole load of surplus wholefoods that are no longer any use to me). Charities wouldn’t take them as they weren’t items on their lists so I found an app called Olio and, within a day, every single item I had advertised for free had been claimed and collected by needy individuals; that felt good, on so many levels. I felt certain there must be a solution to all this surplus stuff I had and enough rooting around online gave me the answer so it was a morning well spent. Donating to charities is also something I tend to do when I feel most stuck, even when I feel stuck financially (at those times, what’s another tenner to me and it feels so good to make a difference to someone else; it also helps me to get things in perspective). All these small things feel so much better than the constant stagnation and helplessness, waiting for outcomes that take their slow and unpredictable course, brooding on what feels hopeless and like a personal tragedy. I honestly think that, by taking a few matters into your own creative hands, even in the smallest and least related of ways, its possible to shift the general energy of “stuckness” so effectively that other, bigger, things start to gain more positive momentum all around you; perhaps born out of your own willingness to believe that you can always be a positive influence of change, however helpless you might feel at the time.

Suffice to say, doing positive things for myself this week, after more than two months of nose to the grindstone on other tasks, has been the much needed antidote to the doldrums and a certain amount of ruminatory stress for me and is just the start of a phase where I intend to get on with living my life, here and now, without all the holding of my breath about “the future”. Already, it’s been such a tonic that the air feels like it has shifted, I feel generally more positive, less wound-up, and have regained my faith in my ability to hold sway over my own experiences; such important qualities we all need to hold onto the more when we navigate uncertain situations and changeable times.

2 thoughts on “Living (not waiting)

  1. Such a positive and productive time for you! This sounds like how to live as an autistic when facing those impossible challenges with the strength and creativity and focus that comes from our neurodivergence!

    Liked by 1 person

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