“Today I pursue wellness. In the strata of life and pain — I no longer hustle. I no longer hurtle. I live for the slow burn.” - from my Welcome Message
Okay so what is Pensive Impulse, and why?
I have always been drawn to story.
Growing up I was fascinated with biographies and autobiographies, which were located on the stacks closest to the back windows on the first floor of the Bartholomew County Library. A vulture circling carrion, I’d walk around and around and around the shelves, eyeing titles. Hungry for the echos of past lives, folks who had experienced living - how did they do it. I was always inspired.
The human narrative is an endless natural spring of inspiration. Life is sure to be tough at some point or many. Seeing how others have struggled to make sense of it, the folks who recordedly overcame, those Phoenix soul-sparks of hope. I needed their promise.
Emily Saliers in introducing her song Virginia Woolf on their live album 1200 Curfews, explained, “I wrote papers about her in college but I didn’t know what I was talking about. And then a few years ago, I got a copy, my mom’s a librarian…of her abridged diaries…she became my friend the through pages and it was a connection through time and how human beings can affect each other. It’s very profound and we’re each a part of that.”
One more time because this is the good stuff, “…it was a connection through time and how human beings can affect each other. It’s very profound and we’re each a part of that.”
Friends, we’re created to connect. By beautiful design, in support through sharing and showing up, we spur transformation within ourselves and those around us, we strengthen and lengthen the cords of connection among us, we are meant to be a part of that. A chain stitch of beauty and imperfect living and trying and being human together. That sounds nice, but probably more like a rubber band ball of crusty, elastic-fatigued broken bits tangled in an impossible-to-decipher mess. Either way, we’re each a part of that.
There’s a place within us, a basin of contemplation through retrospection, where our spirits derive our stories; the stories that connect us. You have to find your brave though, to share your stories in whatever economy you dabble. Me, I write. My kindergartener, Sam, looks for her brave to take her allergy medicine and sometimes she finds it in the other room, hmmm. Becoming brave enough to engage in the frail vulnerability of such examination can, and most definitely will, change us at our core.
From who we are.
To who we want to be.
And my goodness the ripples…
And it is not easy for me to be vulnerable, to locate my brave. My natural inclination is not to share. When I sit to write for this space, I have to say YES over and over again. YES I will be open. YES I will share and parse and process. YES I will be transparent. YES I will say the hard things I don’t want to admit or hear or own. YES I will hit publish.
Back in the autumn of my pain at a time when I was blindly fumbling through the maze of an all-consuming decay and depression that is oft life with chronic pain, I found myself wanting to witness. To talk about this isolating experience, about how folks with chronic pain are a misunderstood bunch, and about how honestly a lot of folks don’t get it. You’ll find me referencing those wellidajusthave’s often. Heaven help you if you look okay/fine/normal, whatever any of that actually looks like, without any outward clues, a cast perhaps, that something inside is not quite right.
In my head was a run-on something like this: over one in three folks (that’s over 100 million Americans, can you image worldwide?) deal with degrees of pain daily, hourly, secondly in a perpetual loop of impact and reduction and restriction, whose words of "not helping, worse and hopeless" increase in font size daily, I want to connect with the parts of the parts of the whole, the fellow Twinkles out there, flashing their infrequent sparkle into the world, all trying to do something, dream something, be something in spite of the fucking mind-numbing pain, a space to be a supportive vibration felt in a culture of uninterrupted pelting content, [Ian Anderson gulp] to be the soft pitch from the tuning fork struck against my spirit, cutting through some of the static, reaching and resonating with those in a pain without cease. [Exhale]
What I said out loud to Joe was, “I want to write about chronic pain, how’s this ____ for a title?” He shot down all my suggestions. “Let me think a bit.” Three days later, “I’ve got it, it’s you all over.” He named it. He’s pretty awesome like that. I keep him around.
By this point, I had sprinted through two decades in workaholic, milestone-driven, bullet-hurtle fashion towards achievement and the control that would surely ease the inside angst as my clearly super healthy coping mechanism for my diagnosed anxiety. Adventurous, energetic, perfectionistic and determined to 'swallow the moon.' Think Leslie Knope meets, well, Leslie Knope. Wait till you find out I went to college to be a park ranger, Boiler Up!
One day, sitting in a chair, I felt a twinge of pain. Little did I know that was the mere whisper to cause the mountain to come down. Infused in the DNA of my genes are not only overly-stretchy joints and the need for motion, thanks Mom, but another side of that same coin is the ability to tolerate high pain, thanks Dad. As years turned into more years, doctor turned into doctors who couldn't heal or reduce or source or solve, I found myself facing a dark ending. After all, it just must be my lot, something to accept, which I wouldn't do. I had reached a serious impasse.
I had to stop the train and that is exactly what I did. I ceased to zoom towards some end because what end? The means stopped meaning anything. All it was doing was causing turmoil and further irritation. I got still and lit a match.
Thus Pensive Impulse was purchased in 2012. However, I didn’t post for the first time for four years. Because, uhhhhhh, that meant grappling out loud with that vulnerability thing I was not a fan of. It meant a lot of risk. Also, pain-noise sucks and it’s hard to write when you’re in a lot of pain. Timing is everything. At the end of 2016, I was almost 6-months post-fusion surgery which was shaping up to be my game changer. With the noise turned down, I could hear myself enough to start to process.
Chronic pain is a beast. The misunderstanding, stigma and suspicion that follows pain patients sorely compounds and complicates our journey. Dismissive terms like “pill-seeking, all in your head, phantom pain” follow us around. Not only do we daily deal with the onslaught of sorting the minutia when it comes to the constant impacts and adjustments, but we have to convince others this is our reality, even with our doctors, especially if we don’t look like we constantly battle a demon monster that is just ugly. Why can’t they have good hair?
With a handful of posts, entering a third year, Pensive Impulse is still a seedling. I have put in serious time on the tough soul-work of knowing myself and that includes coming to terms with my pain. Michael J. Fox, in a recent Variety article where he talks about living with the Parkinson’s he was diagnosed with in 1991, says it so perfectly, “And it wasn’t until ’94 that I started getting it. That’s when I started to accept the disease — and acceptance doesn’t mean resignation. It means understanding and dealing straightforwardly.”
Can I get an Amen?! “…acceptance doesn’t mean resignation. It means understanding and dealing straightforwardly.”
This is my why. To live it straightforward. It’s not about complaining or some cull of attention; perceived fears that initially held me back. It is about testimony and real-time grappling. Celebrating all the wonderful and good and awesome that is in my life and not shying away from the hard and frustrating and draining. Showing my children that the measure of a life well-lived doesn’t equal absence of challenge. That comes in how we rise to meet our challenges. That even if and when or for however many times we get knocked over, we are getting back up, using our words and asking for help in this humanity thing. It’s showing them how to be a fucking human being. We are meant to connect, to not go it alone, to not be afraid to be seen as as vulnerable. We all need something. We will all at some point need something.
Guaranteed, I will someday look back and cringe at the early stuff. We always do. I already do. I see this space as one of movement with time, finger exercise and volume, deep breaths and cat stretch, therapy and sorting, practice and play — while locating my timbre. I write long-form, which is not everyone’s cup of tea but I’m also not trying to be everyone’s cup of tea. That would make for some boring tea time.
It will be nice when my children are much older and can better understand why mommy sometimes couldn’t…and to be reminded of how much mommy still could. My soul-sister, I’m pretty sure we were separated at birth, whom I miss something so awful as she recently moved 5000 miles across an ocean, tasked me to make a list of what I still could do to cling to when the darkness comes. It’s a beautiful idea and matchbook for some dark cave.
I have lived seasons of much worse and more debilitating pain that what has recently set in. These last two months have been the act of sitting up in dizzying-shake-off style after hitting a wall of restriction that just six months ago was not there. It’s felt like a gut-punch making it hard to catch my breath. I’ll find it though, I always make it back to my center.
Write Club, where everyone doesn’t know your name
“Shut up and write. Don’t talk about writing, just physically do it.” I hear this Natalie Goldberg quote in my head as if being screamed at by Tyler. My writer friend, Maria, who, believe me, we’re going to be reading her novel someday so soon (she is raw and sublime and eek, I got to read a draft), loaned me her copy of Writing Down the Bones by the brilliant Ms. Goldberg. I bought my own, returned hers, and then didn't read very far because, squirrel or kid or cat or dead bunny in my backyard, I know it was you, Kumo.
Pensive Impulse is just one of the spaces where I respond. In my Welcome Message, I quote Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, “Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” This is the ever-present guide for my life. I don’t talk about the other spaces to many folks, but I work at them, poorly in my opinion. I recently re-picked up this book of inspiration and it’s almost too hard to read for the noise of excitement in my head interferes. I am slow reader and I am allowing myself to go extra slow. To let my Radio-GaGa-mind exhaust itself. I’ll ask you same as I would ask my son - now who sings that?
Three years ago, I created a Facebook Page for Pensive Impulse. I super suck at social media, volleying between copious bursts of updates and long breaks away. I’ve been incredibly inconsistent with posting and upkeep. This means I fail to hit any algorithm equation of visibility. This book is inspiring me to restructure and focus my time. My plan is to return to using my Facebook PI-page on a weekly post schedule. It will hold me accountable to this space. To Not Retreat is my constant battle when I face my pain and this makes me own whatever is going on and face it. It forces me to show up and sometimes I need that boot kick. I’m considering, maybe, thinking, dunno, shuttering my other page (which is how it was until last year when I took my pseudonym account public under my actual name, oh the why…). I could see this helping me better target my intentions and prioritize/manage my time for the other spaces.
Spaces that might take 20 years or more or never, but that do require my attention. I know there is nothing else I’m supposed to do. Almost seventy years after the world first caught glimpse of a white whale, folks finally thought there might be something to that story after all. Melville, whose extensive works have now cemented him as a literary giant, died forty years after publishing Moby Dick, which came out to flat reception.
I wonder about the untold, countless writer-souls who have bled their spirits, if only ever to a someone. I hold fast to sweet Emily’s words and know I, too, shall not live in vain, for one is all that matters. Hence, the fate of our words cannot, must not matter. Our passions inform our purpose. The writer-soul shares the same impulse — the pensive demand that we witness the richness that exists in a place no one else can see.
This striking parallel to my beautiful pain journey of an unseen influence and impact on my life is wholly remarkable. Friends, I just got chills writing this sentence.
Slow burn is my posture, my happy place. I get to things. FOMO, schmomo. I am frequently late for some party, be it a book or show or podcast or fad or you name it. I’m not much for grain and rule. I like to consume and re-consume and I’m deliberate about it. I need time and space about it. I’m okay to try something and fall flat. My highest falls towards failure, Friends, just data points, have been when I have hesitated and haven’t trusted myself.
I’m content with steady-as-she-goes, my onward-ho thing. As long as I can still utter a YES to vulnerability and bravery and transparency and process and cultivating the connected ways we are each a part of — as a rubber band ball or a nicely knit blanket, works fine either way. Earl Nightingale will leave us with this gem, “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”