I Hate You, but I Love Me and You’re Mine… So We’ll Dance

I hurt my hip and my shoulder in the early 2000s. The injuries healed. But as it is common with injuries, some discomfort remained… Stiffness of the muscles and ache of the bones on days I hiked with a pack on my back for too many miles; spasms on weeks I got little sleep (especially if that sleep took place out in the cold and on bare ground); cramping after driving long distances… But most of the discomfort in question would subside after a good rub with arnica oil and plenty of rest.

By 2004 the discomfort became mild pain that required a couple of pain killers a week and a lot of recovery sleep. Two years later, I began having problems sitting down—the hip and shoulders began to throb often, and a pinching pain settled on the left side of my back. When 2008 arrived, I could barely sit without my left leg beginning to shake; I could do little that required the use of my right shoulder, without the latter drooping.

Today, the pain is constant: I have days when the ache is not too bad, and days when the pain keeps me at the verge of screaming. I avoid sitting, other than in my bed with just the right amount of pillows. I haven’t run in a couple of years. I can’t write longhand for more than a few minutes at a time. I don’t drive. I can’t reach across my body, carry a purse heavier than a pound or two, climb too many stairs, hold a book in front of me for too long, vacuum, carry small children on my back (the Little Princess is not amused), ride any kind of transportation without pain, and the list goes on…

I’m sharing all these in order to explain the changes you’ve probably been noticing: I started writing poems—poetry and pain dance wonderfully together, they allow each partner to look the other in the eye, and silently say, I hate you, but I love me and you’re mine… so we’ll dance. The art form is also shorter than my beloved fiction.

More changes are on the way. I’ve been setting things up, slowly and gently, as my health allows… but I never stop moving: one must never forget to move with chronic pain. I’ve made my pain part of my day. I drink my coffee with it (place my mug on a tray by my hand, so I won’t have to reach across my body). I exercise my limitations with it (write short lists and notes longhand, while pacing myself carefully). I’ve been teaching myself to delight in the bliss of the things my pain and I can do… together.

I’m trying to learn to be one with my pain. I know how silly (and terribly cliché) that sounds, but it’s the truth. I only have one body, so the pain and I must share it well.

If we are friends on Facebook or Twitter, then you already know that I just set up an Instagram account: @MagalyGuerreroInDarkerWords. This new spot will be part of my Keep Moving, Keep Enjoying the Things You Like (perhaps in smaller doses *cough*), Keep Living with Chronic Pain or It Will Kill Your Spirit.

Because that’s the thing, my Wicked Luvs, as much as chronic pain hurts, the physical agony is rarely what gets a person in the end. What offers certain destruction (if not watched carefully) is the sense of helplessness, the near loss of identity, the nudges towards alienation… the depression.

I’ve chosen to live with my chronic pain creatively: I write about it, I laugh about it, I bare my teeth at it, I cuddle on the cold floor with it, I will live with my pain. And I’m a Dominican witchy Aries Marine woman: what I say I will do, will happen… There might be some rescheduling to accommodate a bit of agony every now and then, but what’s life without a wee twist thrown into the living?


If You Feel Too Old to Live Like You Have Always Wanted To…

This morning, as my steel cut oats simmered on the stove and I went through my cabinets in order to remove any condiments made with onion or garlic, a person I love very much messaged me to say that she felt too old. “I really wanted to help people,” she wrote. “If I could change time, I would go back and become a doctor.”

I added brown sugar and a pinch of salt to my steel cut oats and began to pan-roast five pecan halves, before replying to the text. You see, my Wicked Luvs, words implying that someone feels he or she is running out of time are not to be taken lightly. In my reply, I said that we should talk about this on the phone. And that “It’s never too late to do what our hearts call for [what our souls need]. If we are alive, we can find a way.”

The latter bit of the text sounds a bit cliché. I know that. Yet, that doesn’t keep it from being true. This person has done so much helping already. I reminded her that “Sometimes is difficult to see our own worth, but those outside… notice.” I’ve noticed the deeds of her huge giving heart a lot.

After adding two table spoons of coconut milk to the creamy oats, I stared at my half empty spices cabinet. I had no idea so many of my condiments had onion and garlic in them! My gastroenterologist put me on a mildly strict low FODMAP diet—no fructose, no lactose, no fructans, no galactans, no polyols. Which translates to no onions, no garlic, no most-of-the-stuff-I’ve-been-eating-for-the-last-almost-38-years of my witchy life… and no mangoes.

With all that in front of me, I started thinking, I’m so freaking lucky. That might sound a tad ridiculous coming from someone whose bones and gut seem to be aging three times faster than the rest of her. But I do feel lucky, my Wicked Luvs. Why? Well, because although all the changes upset me at first, in a day or two I’m back to being my usual chirpy self.

It’s not that I don’t care. Oh, I care so much and so very often. But I am lucky because losing some of the things I love and some of the ones I thought I needed—certain foods, driving, sitting at the dinner table—doesn’t take my happy away. I will miss them. But having them taken from me gives me the opportunity to search for new things.

My gut issues take my fresh onion and my garlic away? Fine! I’ll experiment with onion and garlic infused oils (the fructans in garlic aren’t oil soluble, so I can get the yummy taste without the painful *and embarrassing* tummy consequences). I shall also create a sofrito a la Magaly (yes, I’ll share the recipe). I am going to make all sorts of changes that I suspect will remind me that although I’m not living like I used to, I am still alive and I can choose to make the best of that gift.

If you feel too old to help society as a whole, then help a couple of people who live near you. If you feel too old or too sick to publish a book, then write short stories and submit them to literary journals, magazines; share them online! If you feel too old to live like you’ve always wanted to, then find something different to want just as much and live for that.

With those thoughts still swimming in my mind, I made a cup of French Vanilla coffee, added the roasted pecans to my steel cut oats, and took a bite. And you know what, my Wicked Luvs? I rather like this recipe. I might miss the rich and distinct flavor of evaporated milk, but the coconut milk and pecan combination gives my oats a wild and earthy healthy taste.

Steel Cut Oats - Low FODMAP

– ¼ cup of steel cut oats
– 4 cups of water
– 3 sticks of cinnamon
– 2 tbsp. of coconut milk (canned)
– 2 tsp. of raw sugar
– a pinch of salt
* 5 pecan halves (optional)
* one serving

In a one quart saucepan, bring the water to a brisk boil. Add cinnamon sticks. Let it boil, over medium-high heat, for five minutes. Add the steel cut oats and lower the heat to medium. Let it boil, stirring every now and then to keep from overflowing, until the oats are soft and most of the liquid is gone (about 30 minutes). At this point, I remove the cinnamon sticks, but you can leave them in if you like. Add the sugar, salt, coconut milk, and stir. Set the heat to low, cover the saucepan, and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. While you wait, crushed the pecans and roast them (I roast mine in a frying pan for 3 minutes or so). Pour your oats into your favorite bowl, sprinkled the hot, roasted pecan on top, and yum, yum, yum. ♥