John and I traveled for a day trip to Newport, Rhode Island for the first time. The landscape from the cliff walk brought the fjords of Norway to mind, a fusion of rippling water and majestic rock, oblivious to the passage of time.
Ben applied to several graduate schools across the country for a master’s program in literature. He decided to attend wherever he received the most financial aid. With acceptances in hand, Brandeis University won in Waltham, Massachusetts—the same city where John and I lived.
All three of my kids would live close to us for the next school year.
My doctor referred me to a specialist when the headache spiked, and my left arm prickled and hurt. I made an appointment with a physiatrist, a specialist in muscles and rehabilitation. Dr. Ariana Vora at Wellesley’s Spaulding office diagnosed my headache as cervicogenic: pain referred to the head from the cervical spine or soft tissues (or both) within the neck. Complicated by displaced jaw joints, fibromyalgia, and advanced arthritis. A body scan revealed an my unusually high level of arthritis literally everywhere. My neck, left elbow, right knee, and hands bothered me most. I was forty-nine years old, going on ninety.
Dr. Vora ordered physical and occupational therapy to focus on my neck muscles in constant spasm. At one session, a patient complained loudly about over-the-counter medicine that completely eliminated her wrist pain because she hated taking pills. Whining about the absence of pain? I’d be happy if mine dropped from constant to sporadic. My physical therapist with daily headaches rolled her eyes at me in solidarity. I tried acupuncture, facet joint injections, and later, botox shots.
I also drove to a shop in Brookline where an elderly Chinese man listened to the heartbeat in my wrist and sold me bitter, exotic herbs. Once.
Daily exercise, meditating, and holistic approaches tamped down the headache to a lower base level. I appreciated my evolution of sorts: to be able to make time for me and not feel guilty about it. I valued myself more. I no longer thought of myself as weak and flawed for not getting all my ducks in a row.
We all lived in the same messy pond, without perfection.
I tried not to anticipate or worry about the next headache flare. I finally absorbed the idea of taking care of myself first which allowed me to give to others in a better way. I made extra efforts to connect with friends and family and started a gratitude journal. I had so much to be thankful for.
Next: Beth's mosaic of squares!
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