Pain Identifies Me

It’s been a crazy, pain-filled few days and I don’t know why.

I’ve been living a relatively clean life; no gluten, biking as much as I can (in the heat), keeping the sweets & dairy to a minimum.  But the pain has been rather intense.


Me, ostensibly working, in my sky chair in the backyard. Why do I always look drunk?

I’m beginning to wonder if one of the triggers for my Fibromyalgia may be heat? Who knows. Almost 4 years in and I’m still learning stuff.

When I was in my 20’s, my 30’s, even my 40’s, I had SO much more energy.

I could do anything – and many days I did!  I could bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pain, wash the pain (and the whole kitchen) PAINT the kitchen, remodel the kitchen, and THEN make you feel like a ma-a-a-an!

But I am utterly exhausted almost every day.  Physically, mentally, emotionally.

I am just drained. And I hate it.

Recently we spent a weekend with some friends, and the fact of my constant exhaustion was brought home when I needed to take not ONE but TWO naps one day. This is the kind of thing I can ignore within my own family, but it becomes noticeable (and noticed) when other folks are around.


The sleeping doxy

The dogs were thrilled, both Jasper and another guest’s sweet little doxy crawled into bed with me, and we three tired pups slept the afternoon away.

I apologize if I sound whiney –  I didn’t used to be so worried about whining, but a few years ago a rather nasty blog commented on how odd it was that I was always “moaning about my health, but could ride my bike to the top of the Wallace monument”  Yeah, whatever. 


My bike by a tiny Free Library in St. Paul

Some folks are always going to be nasty about something, and it shouldn’t matter.  Except the comment is trapped in my head like a wasp against a window and it buzzes every time the pain overwhelms. me.


I know my exhaustion comes from pain. Pain EATS energy for breakfast, then asks for more for lunch. If no energy is forthcoming, pain goes on a rampage and sets the garage on fire before fleeing the scene. Pain is a perp.


My bike at the Lyndale Rose Garden

And, as I’ve related ad nauseam, I deal with the pain with my bike, with yoga (in the winter) and with stretching.

Usually I can beat the pain back.

Or at least I can reason with it and
distract it while I make my escape.


So today I took a pain pill – not something I do regularly (perhaps I should take one prophylactically when I know it’s going to be so hot) – and I’m feeling on top of the world right now.  Where’s that frying pan…?


I offered a “Heat Wave” discount during my class last night, the current temp minus my ideal temp of 70º = 29% off on my books!


Last night I taught a lace class at Darn Knit Anyway, which is SUCH a lovely yarn shop in Stillwater, MN!  I love to visit there, I always find inspiration in the choice of yarns they carry (they have a good eye – or perhaps it’s that we share the same taste!)

The class was smallish, but that allowed me to really dig into the theory of lace, why stitches move the way they do, how to create scallops and waves in the edges of your work (intentionally!) and different ways to make a decrease / increase.  Overall, it was a very good class (and I sold a few books, too!)


St. Paul Cathedral at 9pm, on my bike ride home from SPNN

I’m excited to be teaching the same class next Saturday, this time the class is full, 16 folks at last count.  Perhaps they’ll have me back to teach classes on some other topics, that would be great!

All in all, a really terrific experience on a hot, hot day!

My plans on this steamy day are to bike downtown, sit at an air conditioned Caribou Coffee and knit, then head over to SPNN and edit from 4-9 (it’s ALWAYS cool in the edit suite!)

Yes, I’m working on a project for a documentary class I’m taking at SPNN (St. Paul Neighborhood Network), our local public access station.  It’s going very well, and I’m LOVING the editing portion.

More on this later as it transpires…

Knitting and Crochet Blog Tour – Crafting Balance

Balance is elusive.

For me, balance implies a certain skill in finding the important center of things, then working out from there – not allowing any one auxiliary part to extend or overweigh the other parts.  Those who spin wheels (to make yarn, to move a bicycle, to hoop a hula, to form a pot, to carpool kids) understand this with all the small parts of their bodies.

And, as I’m fond of saying in my classes, sometimes our bodies (hands, nerves, muscles) are smarter than our brains.

I Like To Ride My Bicycle

For this reason, balance has become a  PHYSICAL thing to me.

Actually, I should say that the act of discovering the balance between physical and mental has allowed me to feel more secure in my design / teaching / knitting / crocheting / living / mothering / wiving / friending balance.

That’s the thing about balance.  It’s not forever, it’s not constant.  It changes, shifts, and we can lose it.  Balance also requires speed (it’s easier to keep balance on a bike which is moving faster-than-walking-speed than on a very slow moving bike.)

The physical touchpoint of my own balance has become my bicycling.  By jumping onto my bike and riding an average of 6-7 miles a day, I’m able to keep my blood flowing, stretch out my lungs, see the neighborhood from a slow moving perspective, connect with the world around me and reduce my fibromyalgia pain significantly.

My rheumatologist told me that she feels the increased blood flow is probably the reason for my decrease in pain, which makes sense to me.  All I know is that I feel better, my joints hurt less, and I’m happier when I get a ride in.

Having Fibro has forced me to embrace my humanity (and humility) in ways I hadn’t expected.  Well, who DOES expect this – we’re all superhuman when we’re young, aren’t we?

Fibro forces me to monitor my resources, gauge how much energy I have and how much an activity will take, and leave time after a big event (like Yarnover this past weekend) to recover my physical strength.

To folks who haven’t done it, standing in front of a class of 20 folks and explaining the intricacies of knit techniques may not sound like an energy-zapper, but it IS.

I’m an extrovert to the extent that being around folks recharges my batteries, but I’m also an introvert in that I need time alone to recharge different–but just as necessary–batteries.

For this reason bringing my bike to Yarnover and taking a chilly ride from the teaching location to the teacher’s dinner and back to a friend’s house for a post-dinner get-together was one of the best things I did. It compelled me to create time and space for myself, AND to get some physical exercise in and bike away the stiffness of the day.

I travel light when I bike; I have a small basket and now I own a cool hobo bag from Steven Be that slings over my shoulder, and that’s about it.  Lighter means balance is easier, nothing is harder than trying to carry a large load of groceries in the front of my bike, and that’s a lesson I try to take into my non-biking life.

Carrying around grudges, hurt feelings and leftover pain can do nothing but cause my balance to shift uncomfortably, and that will make me fall.  I’m working to learn to let nonsense that doesn’t add anything to my balance GO.

For someone with an insanely inconsistent and dogged memory, this is a hard, hard thing to do.

Here’s a wonderful quote I heard today:

“Forgiveness means giving up all hope
for a better past.” – Lily Tomlin

The quote reminded me that forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean that the person who’s receiving the forgiveness is even aware of it.  After all, don’t we often cause offense without realizing it?  Maybe we can forgive in that same anonymous way?

So my balance for this day (this week, this year – this life?) is trying to figure out how to let go of the myriad hurts I suffer (self inflicted or not) and forgive the source of them, even if that source is me.

Maybe by doing this I’ll be worthy of forgiveness myself.

Or, as my friend London says,
“Be very kind to them, it screws with their minds…” 
That works. too!

I get all this from my bike, my family and my friends.  And I get a great deal of it from my knitting–that is the place I go for balance when I feel I’m lacking it and veering off course.

When the center is refusing to hold, I pick up my knitting, speed up my fingers and try to slow my mind.

Rick Levine, do I need to get a restraining order..?

Once again, my horoscope is uncanny.  At least, I hope it is (the lightening up part sounds great!)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010 By Rick Levine

Yesterday | Today | Tomorrow

(Aug 23 – Sep 22)

You have big ideas about shaking up things at home in the name of adventure. You don’t want to do everything the same old way as you always do. Your life is lightening up and you feel ready to proceed full speed ahead with your new plans. Meanwhile, assertive Mars in your sign moves toward a restraining conjunction with Saturn that’s exact by the end of the month. If you move too fast now, this speed bump will surely slow you down and force you to learn your lessons.

Well, I AM shaking things up!

Remember that office I was so excited about – the one I lovingly put together when I moved Max into a larger bedroom?

And remember how it was taken over by the family when my back was turned I was out of town?

And remember how I wrestled it out of their death grip and reinstalled myself as the owner of the office?

Well, it’s slowly been taken over again.  It started when I was in bed for 3 months last Fall, then continued as I found myself unable to produce, write, DO as much as I had before.

Ceiling-less Basement Office

But I’m feeling like I need an office again, and I just can’t stand the thought of kicking the family out.  Mostly, I don’t have the resources to man the castle and keep the interlopers (aka Gerry, Hannah & Max) at bay.  So I’m taking over my corner of the basement.

This had been the plan from the start, and we half finished the basement, but we’ve hit a snag here because Gerry’s getting a bit more tired, a bit more overwhelmed every day, and the wait for me to move into the office space downstairs turned into a holding pattern.

So I’ve requested permission to land.  It’s not finished, it’s not pretty, it’s not big, but it’s MINE!  ALL MINE!!

The bonus is we have a bathroom in the basement with a nice shower, so I’ll take that over and use it for my daily stuff (until we hit the coldest part of the MN winter when even a space heater won’t make the basement shower do-able!)

Ladies & Gentlemen, I present my new office.

It needs a LOT of straightening up, the move in is going to be rough, my computer doesn’t work and its currently dark, but it’s MINE!  And it’s cool.


Dear Mr. Levine.  Thank you – let’s hope you’re on point today with my scope!

Thursday, July 22, 2010 By Rick Levine

Yesterday | Today | Tomorrow

(Aug 23 – Sep 22)

It may feel as if a weight has been taken off your shoulders now that heavy Saturn has moved out of your sign. The cooperative Sun-Saturn sextile makes for a rather comforting day as you begin once again to make plans for your future.

Nevertheless, today’s free-flowing energy can be misleading, for you have consistently worked hard over the past few weeks. Don’t expect too much or you will be disappointed with whatever you receive. Your biggest reward is the satisfaction of a job well done.


I’ve been doing the Yoga for 2 weeks now.  It’s not easy, parts of it are very hard, but the sum of the experience is SO positive that it draws me to the studio most mornings for the 8am C1 class.

Nesting at Hill House

Nesting at Hill House

I do feel less lower back pain, the shoulders ache but that comes and goes.  It’s all such an experiment!  I’m a member of Core now, and although I feel it may not be the perfect practice for me, it’s very good right now (and as I grow I can perhaps find a practice that will suit me perfectly.  Or not.)

I went for a longish bike ride this weekend and stopped at the Hill House on Summit.  I often ride by and park my bike on the side porch, sitting just below on a stone pedestal while thinking and knitting.  It’s a peaceful place, very beautiful, a nice stopping point on a bike ride.

While pondering  on my perch I thought of how much we are like telephone lines, going slack in the heat of summer – relaxed – and tightening up in the cold winters.

The past 6 months has been a process of learning to relax, not to judge myself against others, letting all the strings of my bow un-tighten.

I am definitely not on knife edge, not on my A-game.  I’m slow moving, contemplative, watchful.  Not something I can remember being for an extended time before.

Faith Healer

For most of my 48 years, my identity has been wrapped up in GETTING THINGS DONE, and getting them done NOW.  But now I’m stretching, relaxed, not taut.

I can’t decide if I’m happy with this change, or scared by it, but I’m trying to embrace it.  I just cannot – at this point – be the mover and shaker I had been.

Unfortunately, as I was moving some stuff today I dropped poor Wonder Woman and she split.  I felt a kinship with her as she broke in half.

I am not Wonder Woman.  I’m not sure I ever was. But I did feel pretty wonder-full for a continuing period of time.  Designing, teaching, coping – I was doing a lot, and the fibro is probably the price I’m paying for it.

I need to get back to that place, but without the extra angst.  Is that possible?

It’s time to tighten up my game a bit, this being relaxed can begin to feel a little TOO natural.  The trick is in the balance point between too tight and too lose, which I’m hoping I will find in my yoga practice.  I want to be loose enough to be considerate in my choices, tight enough to get my work done.


My computer’s been acting badly  – not the computer so much as the new hard drive Gerry put in back in March. It’s been great, I’ve had SO much more room, but now it seems to have gone wacky.

I use carbonite to back up, and I also have a hard drive I use to store all my movie making files (they’re HUGE) so all I’ve really lost are things from certain libraries that did NOT restore very well (riddle me that, Mr. Carbonite…)

My mail and photo libraries for March – July seem to be missing.

881 emails remain AFTER my first sorting

Luckily, I’d been in a frenzy of flicker uploading or I would have lost all the Ireland photos.  I have all my emails on my server (with the exception of the past 3 weeks, another mystery) so my mail loss is not as bad as it might have been.

This means, though, that every email I’ve received from March through early July have re-downloaded into my mail so there’s a week’s task just sorting them and filing the important ones.  Double damn.

My horoscope today says I should hunker down and wait for my emotions to clarify (like butter?) so that’s what I shall do.

The next sound you hear will be that of me hunkering.