I am not going to pull any punches, 2017 was a tough one.
I know, at the end of a year, we are supposed to stop and count our blessings, and, as always, our year has been filled with those; but I would be lying if I sat down and wrote a post about how great the year has been, and pretended it hadn’t been hard. It’s been a hard year, in a lot of ways, for a lot of people I know.
I am not talking about politics. I know that the social and political climate has been difficult for a lot of people to navigate, and that has put real strain on familial relationships and friendships. I know there has been a great deal of social upheaval, and stress, and anxiety, and real life consequences as a result of what is happening in the political arena, because those things impact us all every day. I don’t want to discount that, or for anyone to think that I am not taking those issues into account ~ they are part of the reason this year has been difficult for a lot of people. In fact, for some people, that is the primary reason this year has been so difficult; because, for some people, those issues directly impact their daily lives so profoundly that they can’t help but think about them every single day. So it’s hard for me to come here and say, “but that’s not what I’m talking about.” Perhaps what I meant to say was, “That’s not all I’m talking about.” I would be remiss not to mention it at all.
There were deaths in families, and deaths of long-admired celebrities, as there always are.
Here, in California, we recently had the fires, and so they are fresh in my mind, but all over there the world, there has been disaster, and violence, and so much suffering, anguish, and frustration. It’s difficult to even know what to say. Some days, it felt like the world had gone mad. It was hard to want to read the news ~ there was a genuine fear there. What else could possibly have happened?
On a very personal level, it’s been a difficult year for me, in regard to my health. If I were to say, “I don’t talk about my health much,” you would probably think I’m being ridiculous. It seems I talk about my health all the time. But, really, I don’t. Or, perhaps, I do more than most people, but there’s a lot I keep to myself. So, when the CRPS started flaring up, I didn’t mention it, because, frankly, I feel like all I ever do is complain about my health issues, and, quite frankly, people must be tired of listening. Nevertheless, it did start flaring up. I figured it was probably because I had slacked off on my exercise routine. I wasn’t doing my PT every day, and I wasn’t walking as much as I should. Oh, and also because I had cut the dosage of my daily medication down just slightly because, in combination with the other medication I take daily ~ for that other issue that I am still reticent to discuss, because I STILL don’t have a diagnosis, so I feel weird about actually saying much about it ~ it was making me VERY SLEEPY; but only at night, after I took it, and upon waking, but this matters, when you have school-aged teenagers, who might still need your help, sometimes…and they do, sometimes, and I am their mom, so I want to help. (Do I win an award for that run-on sentence? I think it was fairly spectacular, ‘though I am not convinced it was actually a sentence.) So, I decided, first, to try doing all of the Right Things. I exercised. I took my medication. The CRPS kept flaring.
I did the logical thing. I kept going to my class taking kids to school, doing chores, attending performances, meetings, shopping, driving all over town, picking up, dropping off, running errands… You know, all of the usual “mama” stuff. I kept tie-dyeing things, and playing my banjo when I had time, but it kept feeling like I had less and less time. Everything felt like it took so much longer. You know, because it did.
While all of this was happening, other things were happening, too. I wasn’t the only one having a hard time. Other people I knew were having hard times, too; and, while I am not at liberty to share other people’s hard times, you know, when people you care about are having hard times, you want to help, and you probably try to, and I hope that I did. I think, at least, I tried. I keep trying, and I will keep trying. I feel like, a lot of times, I fall flat on my face, or my back. Sometimes, I feel like I started there, and, if we are both there, maybe we can just lie there, hold hands, look at the stars, and know that, whatever is going on right now, it will all be better someday. It will. I promise. It always is.
Also, while all of this was going on, I was having increasingly terrible digestive issues. I’m not going into detail, because nobody wants that (and also because I don’t have all of the answers yet), but, basically, it breaks down like this: I was diagnosed years ago with IBS. I hadn’t had a lot of symptoms for a very long time. Then, in recent years, I started having trouble again. This year has been the absolute worst. (This is NOT the undiagnosed issue I’m not talking about. That’s still something else. Sorry to keep being cryptic about that. If you know me, I’ll probably talk to you about that ~ I just feel weird putting stuff down in writing and out on the internet about that one.) So, I saw a gastroenterologist who has put me on a low FODMAP, gluten-free diet. I was skeptical, but cautiously optimistic. I have to tell you, after two weeks on the new plan, not only are my digestive problems virtually a thing of the past ~ as long as I stick to the plan, which is very restrictive, and difficult to stick to when I am away from home, and can’t cook my own food ~ but, now that my digestive issues are under control, the medication I am taking for that other (cryptic) issue seems to be working well again, because my body is actually able to absorb and process it. I still need to return for a couple of tests to make sure we aren’t missing anything, but the good news is, things are much better.
So…back to the CRPS:
While I was busy getting everything else under control, it was still flaring out of control. To the point that I was having difficulty getting around to complete simple tasks like a trip to the grocery store. Pain was interfering with my ability to concentrate, focus, sleep, eat, remember things. It was bad. Worse than it had been in a long time. I contacted my neurologist and my pain management doctor ~ to see if there was any way we could change either medication, since, in combination, they made me SO SLEEPY. To make a long story short (and remain as cryptic as possible), neurologist said something like, “This medication is controlling your symptoms, so NO. We won’t be changing that.” Upon reviewing that situation, we all agreed, this was a good plan. After an examination, my pain management doctor determined that the CRPS was not just flaring up, it was progressing.
As you can imagine, this is not the news I was hoping to hear. He scheduled me for a lumbar sympathetic nerve block, as soon as possible, in hopes that I would get some pain relief, and that we might stop any further progress. That would be December 21st, and I would need to rest for several days after the procedure. Perfect timing. I hadn’t been able to accomplish much shopping, due to pain, and now, I had to be completely done by the 20th, so I could rest until Christmas Eve.
But, there was nothing else we could do, and just that little glimmer of hope that, maybe, we could stop it from progressing…or, at the very least, get a little bit of relief. So, I agreed.
It’s been 10 days since I had the nerve block.
I think I must be in that “might get worse before it gets better” phase. This hasn’t happened to me before, but I am trying to be optimistic. They say you might not know until at least two weeks after how effective it will be. So, I am waiting.
During all of this, there was this whole swirl of life events going on around us, and, quite frankly, I couldn’t keep up. I tried. I tried to attend to events I could attend. I went to the performances and parties, I smiled, I chatted, I tried to make small talk, but, you guys, I am an open book. I’m not good at this. I am a terrible liar. I don’t just wear my heart on my sleeve; it’s stamped all over my face. Which is weird, because I’m an actor, right; or, well, maybe I was, many years ago. But I think that’s different. I like to think, in my real life, I’m not assuming a character when I interact with people for whom I actually care; and so, it’s different. In real life, I am an open book. If I am upset, or angry, or tired, or sick, or sad, or anxious, or lonely, or in pain, the whole world will know just by looking at me. I thinkI have been every one of those things this year. I suppose we all have, at some point, every year.
Some great things happened this year, and others are still in the process of happening. Justice finished her Child Development certificate, and CPR and first aid training, and was accepted to the Music Performance program at her college. Hallie is a Senior in high school this year, and is busy earning A’s in classes like AP lit and Digital Imaging (things I couldn’t even grasp in high school ~ and let’s review the fact that I didn’t make it through Senior year of high school, so kudos to kids who do), and looking into art schools for after graduation. Kaia finished middle school and moved on to high school where she is participating in and loving Marching Band. She finished her Computer Science class early, and was allowed to move on to the AP course in independent study. I took my first ever ASL (American Sign Language) class, and finished with an 87%, which is a B, but a high B, so I’m cool with that. I probably can’t take another class just yet, but I will keep practicing what I have learned, so I don’t get too rusty before I can continue. I do plan to continue. Shane has worked on so many projects that I just can’t name them all ~ and I probably shouldn’t here ~ but I can say that he was recently able to purchase a used 1999 Jeep Cherokee 4×4 that appears to be in very good condition (fingers crossed). I bought him a repair manual, so he can maintain it. It’s a vehicle he’s wanted for a long time, and it means that, with Justice’s busy schedule, and with us on the brink of having a 4th driving in the household, we finally have a 3rd car. I think it should make think easier for everyone.
There have been weddings, and engagements. There have been children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews ~ oh, heavens! Not all mine! I just mean, in the world, there have been these things. In lives of my friends and family members, I have watched them unfold.
So, as I look forward ~ ever forward, never back…well, occasionally, wistfully, back, but never, ever with regret ~ it is with the very highest of hopes.
Here’s to 2017, and all of it’s challenges. Here’s to the tears we’ve wept, and the losses we’ve suffered. Here’s to the lessons learned, and to every victory, every happy memory, every blessing and every joy this year has brought with it, as well. For some, this might have been the best year yet. For some of you, this was the year you were married, or the year your child was born, the year you finally bought your first home, or brought home the pet that filled that hole in your heart and made your life complete. So here’s to 2017, for everything it’s been to every one of us.
2018, we see you on the horizon, and we have pinned our hopes on you.
We’ll see you soon.