Wounded

I have this image in my head of a little spider. It’s brown and small, and not too menacing. Mostly, it’s just trying to go about its business. But it’s not particularly successful at the moment, mainly because it’s hiding – in a small burrow on the ground, or maybe in the side of a hill. It’s been wounded, somehow, and its instinct is to stay unseen for protection. It moves gingerly, peeking its head out from time to time, checking to see if it’s safe to come out for food or gathering. But for the most part it stays concealed inside, sheltered, away from any predators or elements that may further harm it; away from the world outside.

I have to say, I know how it feels.

There have been many offenses on my own battlefield lately that have left several wounds, and I find I’m having a hard time recovering. Physically, my migraines (which, for the most part, are fairly manageable) have decided to go completely off the chart these last several weeks, and have been immensely difficult to control. Personally, there are relationships that are testing the limits of tolerance, for one reason or another. These are not the casual kind, but the bonds of substance that play the biggest part in our lives; the ones which, when they go even slightly off the rails, cause the biggest shift in our axis. Professionally, a wound that was inflicted a while ago that I continue to work on repairing seems to want to tear itself open again at the smallest but most inconvenient intervals; maddening, yet somewhat out of my control.

None of these, on their own, cause the earth to shift. None of them make me stand out from anyone else. We all have our hills to climb every day. Many have much larger demons to fight than I, and more massive gaping wounds than I will ever experience. Rest assured perspective is not lost on me, even when my funny little mind tries to push it out of my viewfinder.

Never the less, we do all have moments when our wounds, from different aspects, collide in our own world simultaneously; times when the wounds run a little deeper than usual. Moments when we find ourselves looking for that burrow in the ground we can retreat to where no one will find us; where we can crouch down and hover while we heal, softly and silently, away from the world and its harsh jagged edges.

It’s interesting during these periods of self-preservation that I find my creativity also hides away. No ideas bubble to the surface, nothing floats around my mind asking to be explored further. I wonder if, in my psyche’s desire to guard itself, it is also burrowing; not wanting to share any thoughts or creations with the larger collective. Not wanting to put itself out there to be seen or heard. Also wanting to keep itself safe; if it doesn’t create and produce, there is no risk of injury, per se.

I suppose it makes sense, in a way; the body does not wound independently. It wounds as a whole, regardless of what part acquires the injury. All areas will suffer, and all areas will gather together to protect and conserve while it heals. It knows how to defend itself; when to burrow, when to hide.

And it also knows how to heal. As well as when to come back out and look again for the light, even if it takes a little time.

Blog-Tech-Failure

Perhaps I should order?

Let me introduce myself: hello, my name is April, and I am a blog-tech-dork. Okay, not completely, but sort of. At present, there are seventeen of you who have kindly chosen to follow this fledgling blog of mine, because for some reason you’ve decided you are interested in what I have to say. (Either that, or you find my ramblings are great fodder for illustrating to friends and family what not to say, perhaps?) So by now, I’m sure you have all seen the lovely and informative post including “J4WZWGUEEKR2”; for that, I must apologize. Or at the very least, explain…

Rest assured, it is not spam, nor is it a virus. Your internet security is safe, at least from the reaches of my verbal ramblings. It was actually a claim code to a website called Technorati, which is a site designed to help enable blogs to become more searchable and shareable to the webiverse. In researching ways to expand my writing audience I had stumbled onto this site, and thought it might be helpful to join (because, clearly, my goal of world-blog-domination needs further assistance; a 17-count is a bit thin, domination-wise). As I went through the motions of adding my blog “claim” to their ranks, I was schooled in just how NOT blog-tech-friendly I currently am. True, this is my first foray into the online writing world. But still, I thought “I’m a fairly intelligent female; I’m pretty darn computer savvy; I have a master’s degree; I work on a computer for a living; I can do this, right?” (I can hear the Technorati help staff laughing in the background already…) So, I decided to sign up.

First step: fill out their profile info, enter my blog details, and submit my form. Shortly after that I received my ‘confirmation’ email, and waited. And waited, and waited some more. It wasn’t until about four days later, after waiting even longer (and thinking to myself it was taking way too long for their ‘validation’ process), I investigated a little further and realized I wasn’t supposed to be waiting for additional verification, I was supposed to be doing something. *eyeroll*  That ‘something’ involved the cryptic claim code you all have now seen. I was supposed to put this somewhere on my blog so they could independently verify that it was mine, and proceed from there.  Sheesh; work was involved!

Next step: where to put it? Well, not only did I need to place it in a post, I had to ensure it would be received by them through my RSS feed. Now, I do know what an RSS feed is. However, let me tell you, it took me just about forever to find the actual web address of my WordPress RSS feed to type in on the Technorati site.  It’s not as easy as you would think; they don’t just list it for you in the FAQ’s, or account profile, or somewhere logical like that. With the help of Google answers (because apparently several others have encountered this conundrum) I finally found it. Now to apply the code to the blog…

I finally felt I was making some progress.  At this point it did occur to me that when I posted the code, I didn’t really want the world to be blasted with it. So I did a little more investigating and I thought I had successfully turned off the publish option before I posted the claim code. Needless to say, I was clearly mistaken. This was evidenced by a couple of helpful family members (who are currently also subscribed) calling to ask me something like, “What was that really weird post you sent out, it was just numbers and a code? No story? Was it a joke?” This meant that everyone else had gotten it, too. Great – fail. *facepalm*

On the upside, the code worked, and my blog claim is now in ‘final review’.  I’m pretty darn sure at this point there is no additional action required on my part (though I’ve been checking frequently just to make sure I didn’t miss anything, again).  On the downside, I’ve now clearly shown my lack of blog-site-savvy, and should probably check Amazon to see if the Dummies series has any helpful volumes to offer.  I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it eventually, and hopefully won’t have to use any future subscribers as unwilling guinea pigs.  For those of you that already were, my apologies; I blame the complex, technical beast that is the blogosphere!  But if you can hang with me and keep on reading, I promise to keep the ‘mystery codes’ to a minimum.

Sprinting Towards Selflessness

AP Photo/The Daily Call, Mike Ullery

AP Photo/The Daily Call, Mike Ullery

What compels a runner, struggling to finish her own race, to stop and help a competitor finish – even pushing that opponent ahead of herself causing them to finish first, and herself to finish dead last?   Good question.  It’s the one on the minds of all the spectators present last Saturday at Jesse Owens Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, as well as many a reporter trying to secure an interview with said runner after the race’s end.  (You can see a more detailed account here: http://espn.go.com/high-school/track-and-xc/story/_/id/8010251/high-school-runner-carries-injured-foe-finish-line)

Many are calling it ‘sportsmanship’; some are calling it ‘compassion’.  Others are labeling it ‘humanity’, even ‘heroic’.  Clearly, any of these descriptions would be accurate.  The runner herself, Meghan Vogel (of note, a junior in high school), doesn’t seem to know what all the fuss is about; she felt she was simply doing what anyone else would have done.  But really, did she?  Or rather, would anyone else have done the same?  Personally, I don’t think that’s necessarily a given, which is what makes this act of selflessness so amazing.

Traits like those Miss Vogel exhibited are not always innate; often, they are learned.  The fruit would have to fall close to the tree, as it were.  While we do have the seeds of compassion and empathy inside us all (at least I believe we do), it is the way these seeds are nurtured that determine how we put these traits into practice as we transition from children, to adolescents, to adults.  We are taught, often by example, how to treat others around us; whether to value humanity, when to lend a hand, how to practice simple decency.  The fact that, at around sixteen years of age, while obviously being a serious sports competitor, this young woman would sacrifice her athletic goal with nary a second thought to help out a fellow runner, simply illustrates the examples she has clearly been following, likely, for most of her life.  It’s not something she suddenly chose to do some random Saturday in June.  And that she would do it without even batting an eye is what makes it so extraordinary to me.

As I looked at the photo at the end of the article I couldn’t help but think of my own daughter (currently six years of age); I thought of all the hopes and dreams I have for things she will accomplish in her own life.  I have to say, I can imagine how proud Miss Vogel’s mother was of her on this day; and really, she should also be proud of herself, for helping to raise such an amazing young woman.  Selflessness is not an easy trait to foster; but it is one that will take you farther than any other.  And Miss Vogel has shown us, with this one act of kindness and compassion, that she’s already accomplished more than many have in a lifetime.

Unpredictable

Children are so unpredictable.  As a mother, you work hard to make sure you learn them as well as you can; your own, anyway.  Their moods, their tells, their triggers.  You pride yourself on not only knowing them like the back of your hand, but being there for them whenever they need you.  You don’t often prepare yourself for the moments when you will fail them; when you can’t be there for them like you want to, like you feel you should.

For me, these moments most often happen when I’ve had a significantly nasty migraine, such as the one that hit me out of nowhere last night.  Well, it wasn’t completely out of nowhere; I’ve been having a string of them all week.  The cycle is familiar; it starts out with a bad one on a particular day, followed by recurring less-severe ones in the evenings for several consecutive days until I can get the cycle to break.  The triggers are varied; they can be hormonal, weather, sleep, stress –  the list is long and complicated.  I’ve been dealing with them since my daughter was born six years ago.  While I very much abhor them, I have settled into somewhat of a respectful truce.  I cannot conquer them, so I’ve learned to exist with them as best as I can, while improving my quality of life where possible.

I don’t hide them from my daughter; they are a part of my life, and they very much affect my life.  As such they affect my family’s life and, by proxy, affect hers.  As a result, she is aware when I have one; she is aware that I take medication for them.  She is aware that sometimes, they knock me out completely, like today.  This last cycle was rough, but I thought I was on the other side of it; when I went to bed last night, things were feeling fairly clear.  Then I woke up at 2:30 am in blinding pain.  They rarely present that way but, when they do, they’re merciless and almost impossible to control.  The few times they have, I’ve wound up in the ER for pain meds; it’s not pretty.  This time, fortunately, I was able to control it at home on my own, but it was difficult.  It also meant that I would be completely out of commission for the rest of the day trying to recover; both from the pain, and from the meds.

As I mentioned, I’m very honest with my daughter about my migraines.  Mainly because I feel honesty is important, but also because at six, she is keenly observant and can usually tell when something is up anyway; it’s no use trying to hide it from her.  So today when she hugged me to say good morning as soon as she woke up (shortly after 6:00, at which point I’d barely relieved the pain and gotten almost no sleep), she looked at me funny and asked if my head hurt.  I told her that I was going to need her help today and why, and gave her some suggestions about options for breakfast and activities for the morning while I slept in.  She kindly kissed me on the head saying “don’t worry, Momma, I’ll make good choices and come check on you real soon.”  It’s an odd mixture of guilt and sweetness to see your 6-year-old take care of you the way you do for her…

When I pulled myself out of bed a few hours later, I started to go through the motions of steeling myself for the rest of the day.  It’s odd how your mind will shift into survival mode, especially from a mom-perspective.  What food do we have in the house that’s relatively healthy that I don’t have to actually prepare?  What can I keep her occupied with for a full day and still move as little as possible?  Because regardless of what horrible shape I was in, the reality was that I had a daughter who required watching for the day, and she still needed me.  But as I mentioned, children are unpredictable.  And today was certainly one of those times.  My 6-year-old usually rambunctious daughter was so fluid today, I was amazed.  She entertained herself in the morning without complaint.  She helped with ideas for lunch for both of us.  When she clearly appeared bored this afternoon and needed to blow off a little steam, she willingly compromised with me by sacrificing a trip to the park in lieu of the swing set in the front yard (where I could sit in silence on the porch and watch her), even though it meant she would have to play alone.  She ate leftovers for dinner without issue, and helped clean up the living room without complaining.  She again compromised afterward by accepting Mom as her badminton partner (far lackluster in comparison to her friends) so that I could keep her near the house and not have to chase her down when it was bedtime.  And then, when it was time for bed, she went willingly with a big hug, kiss and smile.

Given my lack of energy today and basic inability to cope, I could not possibly have asked for her to have been any more amazing than she was.  Don’t get me wrong; my daughter, for the most part, is a pretty good girl (though she has her moments; she is six, after all).  But I felt like today, she sensed that I really did need her help; that by trying extra hard and being extra good, she really was doing something special.  It reminds me that we all have such an unlimited capacity for empathy and compassion; even at such a young age.  And even though my head can throw me for a loop in its unpredictable capacity for pain, it’s still no match for my daughter’s unpredictable ability to love.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Today

Today I was in a bad mood. I’d had a rough week with my head (migraines), work was a pain, we were having challenges with my daughter’s school, and all of it was feeling like a lot of weight resting squarely on my shoulders alone. It was clearly not helping my attitude. Then at lunch I happened to be shopping at Whole Foods and, while in the checkout line, I noticed the strains of accordion music wafting through the air. I questioned the checker about it, and she said it was an elderly man who happened in a couple of times a week on his own to play; they believed he was a little lonely and liked the company. I found myself compelled to stop and say hello to this stranger before I left the store. He was cheerful as could be; sitting alone in his chair, playing for whomever chose to listen. He shook my hand and patted my arm, thanking me for coming by. I told him my father used to have an accordion when I was little and that his melodies reminded me of that; my reminiscing seemed to cheer him even further. He shared that his favorites were the religious hymns because he could remember them better, and proceeded to play the intros of a couple for me “testing” to see if I could guess them. He seemed pleased that he could stump me as he chuckled to himself. I asked if I could take his picture and had to laugh at his response of “Sure, but I might break your camera!” I told him I needed to leave, but encouraged him to keep on playing and thanked him for his time. He shook my hand again and I left him with not only a big grin on both of our faces, but a much improved countenance on my part. It’s amazing how a random encounter with a total stranger made my “today” so much brighter.