Monday, January 30, 2006

SwampHag and Blogging

Some of you out there know I was pretty much dragged kicking and screaming into the blog world. I just wasn't interested and had reasons to even be somewhat cranky about it all.

Through my work I had to become familiar with them and became a regular blog reader. And I loved those blogs! I've now become an enthusiastic fan and the potential of it all (potential already realized by so many but is just now dawning on me; I can be a bit thick at times) is fascinating to me. I've even become one of those cultists who preach the word to others to suck them into this world. Muahahaha!!!

I'm going to be attending Northern Voice in less than two weeks and I have a bunch of questions and am just plain looking forward to hearing from all the experts who will be talking. A few months ago I couldn't have imagined attending such a meeting. It means a verrrrrry long day for me. I don't care now. I'm going and that's all there is to it.

You know you're really a blogger when EVERYthing in your life, every event, every conversation becomes possible fodder for a future blog entry. I thought I'd be at a loss for ideas to keep this going. Instead I've started jotting down ideas as they come to me and the list is getting longer and now I'm worried I'll never get to them all. Nothing is sacred, from my life to my parents' rather comical foibles. Okay, I'll continue to TRY to allow my sons their privacy and not share their personal issues but we'll see how long I resist THAT. ;-)

Before I say goodnight, I'll take a moment to explain my name, 'SwampHag'. Many many years ago my sons called me that during a lighthearted sparring match in an attempt to insult me. Much to their chagrine I thought the name was so creative and funny that I burst out laughing. (Little did I know it was from a Simpsons episode and NOT their oh so original and creative minds.) And when I needed a name for an online character I was playing in an RPG, SwampHag was my first choice. I made the character stunningly and exotically beautiful because I loved the contrast of that name with a beautiful looking character. (If you ever want a laugh, watch how other online characters will hit on a good-looking female character, as if the person behind the character really is that beautiful. But that's a whole other blog entry. [Hurriedly jots that idea down.]) I am very fond of the name SwampHag so when I needed an anonymous name here, it was easy to go with that one.


Sunday, January 29, 2006


Emotional pain. Physical pain.

I usually succeed in keeping them separate (and would MUCH rather have the physical pain than the emotional pain) but today the line is murky. I've been in an FM flare for a month now and it's tiring day in, day out. I'm worried I'm heading back to when it was agony 24/7 for a decade (no exaggeration). The last few years it's been good enough to notice a difference when it flared for a day or week. This time it's taking its time going away.

Constant pain and fatigue can make me feel very alone and vulnerable at times. So it's not a surprise that my thoughts today have gone to my dearest friend. I miss him so much for so many reasons, including that he probably understood better than anyone how this was for me because he spent so much time with me. I miss his distraction, his laughter, I miss his kindness and patience, I miss his healing touch and soft voice. I miss the look in his eyes when he felt so helpless to make it better. I miss his appreciation of what he considered my bravery.

Hence the intertwining of pains today.

It's very rare that anyone spending time with me would know that I'm hurting. This is less about privacy for me than it is about not allowing myself to walk or move like I'm hurting because it puts me into a mindset that can be self-defeating. I am not this illness, I am not this pain.

Having FM, for me, is like having one of those awful achy flus all the time. Everything hurts. When it's really bad a soft light comforter hurts. A shower hurts. I call it 'losing my shock absorbers'. You know how it feels when you step down a stair and the next step is further down than you had anticipated and it's made of concrete, how it jars your body hard? That's what every step is like. Sitting in a chair hurts. A bed can be your enemy.

Distraction with fun or work or sex - anything interactive - is the best treatment. Aside from that this is how I handle things now, after exhausting all other treatments both traditional and alternative:

I got myself off all pain meds except for the occasional tylenol. I do NOT recommend this to others. It's just what worked for me. I was concerned about the rebound effect (long before they started looking at this re Migraines) and so slooooooowly weaned myself away from painkillers of any kind. It helped.

I take daily calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D to keep the whole body muscle cramps at a distance.

Courtesy of my parents, I got one of those memory foam mattresses. Worth every penny. It doesn't help with the sleeping but at least my bed doesn't actually hurt me anymore. And I keep my room warm to keep the bone chilling cold that can be part of having FM at bay.

Hot showers and hot baths. Bad for my skin (no matter the oil used) but good for the pain.

I move around and exercise regularly, in between periods of rest (sitting at my computer or otherwise).

The most comfortable place for me in my day to day life is at my computer (thank goodness, since I spend so much time here!) because I have a good office chair, keep myself warm and keep my feet up. I sit back, not hunched, arms supported, the keyboard resting partway between my lap and the keyboard shelf.

I got rid of the ongoing stress in my life. That meant totally changing my life, including getting out of an unhealthy marriage. I just don't sweat the small stuff and keep my exposure to toxic people at a minimum and use humor to get me through. And most of the time I succeed in living one day at a time. Let the future worry about itself.

In another life I hiked, skiied, biked, swam. I remember those days fondly but don't pine for them. That was another me. And before and after the FM settled in for good thirteen years ago I have been the parent who taught my sons how to ride bikes, who attempted to play basketball with one of them, who coached t-ball, etc.

The saddest thing for me is that, though I do everything I can not to have this impact my sons because I am NOT my illness and didn't want them to see me that way, my younger son, at 20, has no real memory of me before the FM.

But it's not all negative. In fact there are a LOT of positives.

Pain is a great teacher.

Since everything has a price in pain and fatigue, you really figure out what is important to you and that's what you spend your energy on. Needless to say housework isn't high on that list other than me keeping it simple. Time with friends, sons, having fun, traveling, having new adventures, IS important.

And having FM brought me to the internet. I could no longer work outside the home and found myself feeling very isolated and useless. The internet brought me work I thoroughly enjoy and feel is worthwhile and which lead to me finding the strength to end my marriage, brought me new friendships, brought me love which lead to adventure, fun, travel and great joy.

Pain teaches you patience. Patience can lead to inner serenity.

As can journaling, apparently. Writing this out was an exercise in self pity and I'm sorry to subject you readers to it. But it has genuinely helped me as it brought me back to the positives, to the good things in my life, and I've regained my emotional equilibrium again.

Thanks for listening! I promise I'll lighten things up and keep things shorter next time.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


I am fortunate to have some wonderful friendships with amazing people, both online and in the 3D world. Those friendships are very precious to me.

My best friend has been my best friend for almost 29 years. We met in highschool and, despite being VERY different in many ways, it stuck. I am so grateful to have her in my life and would do anything for her and I know she feels the same about me. We have seen each other through so much in one another's lives and there have been many times when we each have dropped everything - night or day - to be there for the other and I expect there will be more such times in the future.

When I hurt, she hurts. When she hurts, I hurt.

And she's hurting right now. My best friend is the most giving person I have ever met and she works harder and with more integrity to be the best mother/wife/friend/daughter/worker than anyone I know. I just wanna go and shake the people that are creating the hurt and smack 'em and tell them to smarten up already.

But I can't do that. It wouldn't help (okay, it would make ME feel good for a minute or two or three....) and would probably just make things worse. So the only thing I can do is be a listening ear, be a shoulder, make her laugh, distract her for just a little while, and let her cry if that's what she needs. Getting her drunk is another option to consider.....

One of my favorite fantasies is of one day winning the lottery (it would help if I bought tickets more than once in a blue moon but hey, this is fantasyland) and I know that the first thing I'd do is give to her so her life would be easier. (Okay, after I get the saltwater pool complete with pool boy, that is. ;-)

I've decided that neither one of us can die before the other because I don't think we can imagine life without the other. So we either go together (maybe tandem skydiving sans parachute?) or we figure out a way to stick around forever.

Now I just have to break that to my sons. *LOL* Poor things will never be rid of me.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Part of moving on and living a life is forming new relationships, romantic or otherwise.

I'm a huge fan(atic) of the Gilmore Girls. There was an episode back in its third or fourth season, Rory's college freshman year, when Lorelei told Rory that she/Rory had never dated. She'd had relationships but had never dated. No wonder Rory was nervous about her first real date.

Well, I realized recently that I, at 45, have never dated. I, too, have had relationships but no dates. Now, within those relationships, I have been on wonderful 'dates' with my S.O. but I've never dated where that was part of the getting-to-know-you (dare I say 'courting'?) phase.

So I'm kinda looking forward to that if I ever get the chance. And that won't be soon. I have recently formed a friendship (okay, maybe a bit more than a friendship but I don't see it being a longterm romance - I am definitely not ready for such a thing - and neither does he) that quickly settled in to regular phone calls and hanging out with each other but it's not really 'dating'. And that's fine.

This casual relationship began at my instigation. I had known of him for years as he is a good friend of another friend of mine. When my friend was losing her partner to cancer, this man did some incredibly kind things that still move me to this day. So I've thought for a couple of years that he would be someone I would like to know under any circumstances. So when I was hurting and lonely and knew he was doing the same (having been through a divorce) I thought we could keep each other company now and then, see a movie, that kind of thing. I cleared it with my friend, got his phone number from her, and called him last November. Now, I don't think much of my looks but I've never let that stop me from this kind of thing but I still can't believe I had the guts to do this. I always figure 'what have I got to lose?' - maybe a bit of dignity but I can survive that and the payoffs can be great. I've often made new friends (and I do mean just friends) this way.

(Side note: I don't provide my mother with a lot of personal information about my life. This is necessary in our relationship. So she knows very little about this new man. Tonight I let slip that I had been the one to call him first and she was truly horrified and told me 'men don't like that'. *LOL*)

I also learned after our first meeting that I am a flirt. Sorta. I saw a Dr. Phil episode where he advised single women on how to behave on a first date and his advice was pretty much everything I do naturally.... looking them in the eye, being interested in them, laughing, being open in discussions about anything, etc., etc. No wonder he responded so well. *grin* Who knew? (By the way, I'm like that with anyone.)

So here I am in a friendly relationship with a nice man - a relationship that has boosted my confidence like nothing else could have - but still dateless. I plan on continuing pushing myself out of my comfort zones and pursuing interests/hobbies so who knows who I may meet? There may be hope for me yet. ;-)

(Stay tuned for my list of things I've learned I want and don't want in a potential partner; thanks to this man, my ex-husband, and my lost love, I think I'm finally figuring that out.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


I'm torn tonight between writing what I intended or bitching about my allergies which are again out of control. Hmmm.....

The picture above - taken by my best friend - is too beautiful to sully with my bitching.

Last fall I decided that 2006 would be all about changing my environment and stepping outside the box. For years my financial and creative focus has been on financial survival, raising my sons, then on my relationship with my dearest friend, seeing him, etc. This year it's all about revamping, reenergizing my life, getting myself ready for the next phase of my life, whatever that will be. I'm someone who actually follows through on 'New Year's resolutions' (no matter when in the year I make 'em) so here's the start of my list for this year:

Repainting and redecorating my livingroom, diningroom, entrance and hallway, totally changing the look of the area. Check.
We're about two-thirds of the way through on that. Some retiling will be done later in the year to other areas of my home.

Putting more art and pictures on the walls. I grew up in a home where such things were considered clutter and it's taken me a while to break away from that and start finding my own way. It was never a conscious thing; it was just so ingrained in me that it never occurred to me to do things differently.
I've had some scenic pictures from my travels blown up and framed (one of which, taken on the west coast of Vancouver Island this past September, is above) to make me smile as I move around my home, plus I've got some Ansel Adams prints (I love black and white photos) being framed to be hung up on my newly painted walls.

Getting a massage. That's right, I've never had one before. (Never had a manicure or pedicure either.) Body issues, sexual abuse issues and just having FM - read: can hurt to be touched - among other things, have made me shy away until now. I don't like it when I don't do something simply out of fear so I've got an appointment booked for later in February.

Going to go on at least an intro flight in a glider/tow plane. Many years ago, in another life, I took lessons and soloed in an ultralight and I was a natural. But my favorite moment was during one lesson, towards the end of a summer's day with the sun going down over the fields and surrounding mountains, the instructor turned off the engine and we just glided on the air currents for a long time. No noise but wind and my own breath. It was magical. That's when I knew I wanted to try gliding. If I like it and can afford it, I may take lessons.

Going on an intro sailing day. I've never sailed and doubt I could really do it on a regular basis and I don't know if I'll even like it but I've become interested in the last year or two and figure it's time.

There's more, some more mundane, some about road trips to see friends, but enough here for now.

It should be an interesting year. :-)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Well, here I am, FINALLY starting a blog. I finally caved to the pressure. ;-)

Before there's any confusion, this blog is NOT about 'life after death' in the whole Medium, Ghost Whisperer kind of way. (Get used to it; I am a t.v. watcher.)

What this IS about is how a person - namely, me - goes on to rebuild a life after a devastating loss.

I have journaled the first half year of grieving elsewhere, privately in a hand-written (gasp!) journal and on public message boards. It's likely I'll share some of that here as time goes on but not tonight. I don't want to go back to that headspace right now.

Suffice it to say that on June 28th, 2005 I lost my dearest friend and greatest love to a sudden heart attack. We had known and loved each other for 8 1/2 years and though we lived on separate continents for a variety of reasons, we talked at length numerous times each and every day and saw each other for extended periods whenever we could. We laughed and loved and saw each other through some very difficult times. In all those years we never ran out of things to say, never stopped being eager to be in one another's presence, online or real world, never stopped missing one another if we were out of touch for a few days, never lost the excitement. His death, just as we were booking our next trip together, left an enormous hole in my life.

And here's where I wish I WAS psychic, wish that there is a life beyond this world after we die, wish I could at least dream of him and find some consolation. Other people do. But me? Nope. Nada. Zip. After many years of constant and vivid dreams and nightmares (typical when one has fibromyalgia) I can't conjure up a dream to save my life.

I didn't want to go on without him. I didn't understand why I should.

But here I am, still here after the nightmarish holidays, still putting one foot in front of the other. And sometimes reluctantly, sometimes eagerly, discovering that there really IS a life after death. That I can still laugh. That I can still feel. That I can still create things to look forward to.

In a way - and I'll explain this more fully one day - his death freed me and now, at 45, I am starting to feel that the adventure is just beginning.

At least that's how I feel on a good day. He would have loved that.