In 1996 I was diagnosed with Connective Tissue Disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes swelling, stiffness, physical weakness, and fatigue. As with most any autoimmune disorder, its cause is sometimes a mystery and treatment is often ineffective. In my case, stress has been the primary reason for its resurgence. But I was lucky – it went into remission within one year and I was free of the disease until 2002 when stress hit my life like a hammer and continued until 2006. That episode faded away along with the symptoms. Then in July 2014, the stress returned to such a degree that I was at times almost incapacitated. In May 2016, I found the wherewithall to remove the stressors from my life and within one year good health returned.
Recently, one of the stressors returned – reached out to me via email – and this time my reaction wasn’t illness but anger. An intense, very specific anger based in distrust popped up and remained. My initial response was to delete the email and block the sender, but instead I decided to distance myself from the stress. And for me, the most effective means by which distance is accomplished is to get outside and garden. And so, I did! My work was therapeutic until I discovered that after using my trowel for an hour I couldn’t release my right hand from the handle. I had to laugh at the futility of anger. Using my left hand, I pried off my fingers from the trowel handle until I could release the tool and stretched my right hand until the feeling returned. At that point, I decided the time had come to take a long walk. After almost 4 miles of walking, I decided to turn back home. When I arrived home, I was exhausted but calm, relaxed, and pain-free. During the walk I had thought through all the possible responses I could make to the email, but decided upon a short, friendly, innocuous reply. And in my answer, I asked about her garden – the safest, kindest, most universal topic I could think of. It went well. If we continue to communicate, my side will always be impersonal and light. And, gardening will always be present.
A few pictures of the beauty I saw during my walk:
I wish you a peaceful, beautiful spring. And a firm grip on happiness.