I'm feeling a lot of anger right now. I received a letter yesterday that my employer has denied my intermittent FMLA case. That's never happened to me before. In 20+ years of working at Fortune 500 (this is a Fortune 100 company) companies, I've never been denied. In fact, this was just a renewal of my previously approved intermittent case.
Here's what FMLA is about, for me. The Family Medical Leave Act protects your job in case a medical condition prevents you from working, either for a block of time (such as surgery) or intermittently, as in this particular case. So, on those days when my pain is such that I cannot tolerate working a full day, or at all, and I call out sick, the company cannot legally put my job in jeopardy through the usual disciplinary process. For me, that's very important. With Rheumatoid Arthritis, you never know how you are going to feel. One day you may feel great. Next day you may not be able to get to the bathroom without assistance. So having the peace of mind that I can call out sick without penalty (although, after my paid sick time runs out, it is without pay - another reason this disease costs me money) is vital to me.
So, now I'm upset. And I'm angry. "Why did they deny me? What are they trying to do to me?" And many more questions.
But this is a good time to talk about a common origin of anger. In my philosophy, anger derives from a lack of empowerment (you knew it would get back to empowerment, didn't you?}. Here's why I believe that.
Many times we feel anger, it is because something didn't happen the way we wanted it to, or, more likely, someone didn't behave the way we wanted them to behave. And the result of that behavior has caused us pain, embarrassment, discomfort, delay, money, etc. When we don't feel empowered in life, we get a temporary "fix" of feeling empowered by controlling a situation, a person, a child. If I can't control that situation or person, then I don't feel powerful. And I get angry.
Think for a moment about someone you know who does feel empowered in life. They have created a life that they love and enjoy - through their job, relationships, living circumstances, etc. Now, think about how that person handles moments like these. Are they prone to anger quickly? Probably not.
An empowered person recognizes that, while we can control many things in our lives, there are times, situations, people that we won't be able to control. And that's OK. By deriving a sense of empowerment, and thus satisfaction, through many facets of their lives, when something happens outside of their control that they do not like, they do not get angry. This momentary lack of control is ok because they know they mostly are creating the life they want.
So. My anger. It's frustrating. Generally, I feel empowered, but obviously, there are ways that I don't. My life is a constant struggle (as is everyone's), mostly revolving around pain that I cannot completely control. Being denied the decency of calling out of work when I'm in pain frustrates me.
I will take steps to correct this situation. It will take time. I just have to work through pain. Literally, go to work and work through pain. Frustrating.
OK. Let's stop saying that the opposite of fear is love. Instead, let's think this through a little bit.
If you fear something, what are the sentences you would use to describe how you feel? Most likely, something like this:
"I'm afraid because I don't know if they will like me."
"I'm scared because I've never done that before and I don't know what will happen."
"I have some fear because I'm not sure I can handle that situation."
Do you see a common idea? Fear is not knowing what will happen or how we will be able to respond.
I believe that the opposite of fear is confidence. And confidence is having a sense of empowerment. See how these statements feel:
"I'm not afraid because I know that, generally speaking, people like me."
"I'm not scared because I've done things similar to that and, even though I don't know exactly what will happen, I'm sure I will be ok."
"I don't feel any fear because I'm sure I can handle that situation."
Does this make sense? We don't always feel fear when there is an unknown. If we feel confident that we can handle the situation, then we go forward into the unknown without fear.
How do we feel confident we can handle the situation? By having had similar experiences where we responded capably. And (this is very important) by reminding ourselves through self-talk that we handled those similar situations.
If we don't remind ourselves of our successes, then we will forget them, and we will not feel confident to trudge into the unknown.
So, while saying "love is the opposite of fear" gives us a nice warm buzz, think it through and see that confidence to handle the unknown is the opposite of fear.
Today, I posted to Facebook with a link to the PayPal Money Pool that I've set up for my hip replacement surgery. And it feels weird.
Why does it feel so weird to ask for help in this way? And I say "in this way" because if I dropped my keys in the parking lot and couldn't pick them up, I would have no trouble asking a stranger to help. I have relied upon the kindness of strangers my entire life. I wonder what the difference is, in my mind.
Part of the reason for this website is to bring awareness to the fact that I live with pain every day. A mental health counselor has encouraged me to explain to those people closest to me just how difficult life is because of it. I've spent decades proving that I can overcome the pain, the physical limitations, and the challenges. He says that it would be therapeutic (and they would likely want to know) to share the details of the challenges I have already conquered and continue to face each day.
He used a great analogy to illustrate his point. He said that my lifelong effort to prove that I can be independent is like running a marathon. And that having lived so fully - owned businesses, traveled the world, had exciting experiences - has proven my independence. It's like I have finished my own personal marathon. So when he suggests I ask for help, and I refuse to do so, he says that is like I'm continuing to run. "Why would you keep running after you've completed the marathon?"
I have to admit he makes a valid point. I feel proud of my accomplishments. I know I've had help along the way, but I'm also very proud of all the work and energy I've expended to overcome my pain and difficulties to achieve those accomplishments.
Is it different because I'm asking for monetary help? Is that the difference, in my mind? Do I have some guilt associated with money? Do I feel guilty, or embarrassed, because at times, I've been a very poor steward of the money I've earned and/or received?
It feels like that is the difference. If my co-worker brings me a meal from home, I can accept that generosity much more easily than if she were to give me a ten dollar bill. After all, why would I accept money from my co-worker?
But then again, that plate of food is time and energy spent. And that's exactly what money is - a representation of our time and energy.
I will continue to ponder this question. And, in the meantime, humbly accept any generosity extended my way - whether money or something else, from a friend or stranger. Thank you for your kindness. Please know it is appreciated.
Pain. Everyone endures it. We all feel it. At times, more than other times. But this post is about chronic pain. Daily pain. And the way life is different when that's your experience.
I've had daily pain since age 2. So, for about 50 years, I've felt physical pain every day. Most days, the pain is significant throughout the day. I'm not going to guess how many times I feel physical pain in the course of a normal day, because the number would shock you, and me. Let's just say that 5 minutes probably doesn't go by without feeling pain somewhere in my body.
It has often been said about me that I probably have a higher tolerance for pain than most people. That's probably true. Additionally, I have learned to block most of it from conscious recognition. I have, simply put, learned how to live with it.
When you grow up with, and continue to experience, something so constant, it becomes an intimate part of who you are. The line between pain and pain-free blurs. It is always there, hitchhiking a ride to every fun social event, every chore, every work day. You learn to ignore it's pleas for attention, but in the background, the continual nagging takes a toll.
In the last several years, I have become more frustrated by the pain. I think the pain is increasing, in location, in intensity, and intervals. But more than that, I think I'm growing very tired of it.
For some reason, after relaxing on the couch in the evening, when I stand up to go to bed, I have intense pain in my left foot. Between the ankle and the toes. Somewhere in the middle, directly above the arch of my foot. It's so painful and so intense that I can't put any weight on it. I have to stand there for a few minutes and try to figure out how to make it subside. Eventually, I do. But it's frustrating. Oh yeah, and it hurts like hell.
Many years ago, I received a pair of special crutches. Instead of placing weight on my wrists and armpits, there is a support that runs underneath my forearms. They are a great solution for someone who's wrists cannot support their body weight. I store them under my bed, just in case I wake up in the morning and can't walk. Fortunately, I've almost never had to utilize them, but it's something that most people wouldn't even think about.
Recently, I had an epiphany. I've become frustrated that I don't have energy to maintain my household like before. Am I getting lazy? Not getting enough rest? The epiphany was that it takes energy to function through pain. Working 40 hours per week, through pain, zaps almost all of my energy. As a result, my apartment stays messy. Just preparing healthy food and washing dishes as needed is about all I can manage.
There's no energy available for vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the floors and bathroom, for laundry, organizing, Fortunately, I have a girlfriend who is happy to help. But she lives 45 minutes away and has her own life/schedule. When she does come over, she is often a huge help.
I wish I understood better the mechanism whereby pushing through pain uses up energy. It seems like those are two unrelated things, pain and energy, but lately I've realized a very real connection. In reflecting on this, I think that means that my pain levels have increased over the last several years.
Like most things, a gradual change in my pain level goes unnoticed. I don't think I was aware of the increase, but now in retrospect, I'm sure that must be the reason that my energy levels are depleted and my frustration has increased.
OK. This is about all I have on the topic at this moment. No doubt that pain will appear in future posts as it's always there. Lurking. Nagging. Vying for attention.