Saturday, December 10, 2016

Fear of an Awesome Time

Fear.  It can drive people, and lately it has been more of a part of my own life than I’m accustomed to.

After enduring a couple years of physical problems that doctors couldn’t understand or fix, I wound up with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia; basically, a chronic pain condition in which your nerves are constantly over-reacting and the corresponding chemical changes in your brain lead to other challenges, such as digestive issues, lowered immunity, impeded thinking, and trouble sleeping. I’m just beginning to get my mind around it, let alone to understand how best to manage it.

Last year's holiday stroll on Nantucket was
one of the most fun group trips I've ever taken.
It should sound like a blast: being invited to join a bunch of other couples we’re friends with on a long weekend on Martha’s Vineyard for a Christmas Stroll. We rented out a whole bed & breakfast right on the water, and events will be going on all weekend long. It seems to also offer a nice diversion from my challenges, right? Yet, I’m a little more anxious as the time draws closer, and now am on the eve of our departure with so many thoughts racing through my partially-fogged brain.

What if my feet can’t hold up and I’m in agony but nowhere close to our hotel? What if my back seizes up while watching a parade or street performers? How will my stomach handle it if I can’t bring my refrigerated probiotic that’s helped so much? How much of a price will I pay from cheating more on my militant diet than I’ve done any week in the last nine months? Will I hit an energy wall and need to quit the festivities and go back to my room? Will I drag Sara down with me, ruining her weekend?

Either you conquer fear or it conquers you.
Thoughts such as these can go on and on. If it’s a first thought upon awakening, I can’t stop it. But I also know it’s not best to dwell on it. A particular challenge right now is finding the balancing act between ruminating and assessing the situation and appropriately self-managing: while some meals will be unhealthy, I can eat compliant breakfasts, and with a room fridge, I can bring hard boiled eggs. I can awaken early to ease into the day and enjoy a sunrise. I can hit the gym in the morning to get some endorphins flowing and loosen me up a bit if I'm going to be active. I can bring some healthy snacks on our adventures to nibble compliant, nutritional food if my energy wanes. Since we’re morphing into various groups and offering lunch and dinner as meet-up opportunities, I can integrate a little down time here and there, or get a coffee or tea to get off my feet briefly. I can hang with the group but not be among the last ones going to bed sometime after midnight.

A late-November view of Martha's Vineyard from Cape Cod.
The basic reality won’t change: I’ll be on that island off of Cape Cod for about 72 hours. That time will pass. I will be with Sara and some close friends. There are only a couple of (admittedly big) things up for debate. The first is how I manage myself: do I push myself too hard, or do I push myself to make the most of the adventure while accepting my limits? Do I seek out activities I can handle and advocate for myself, or do I quietly go along with the crowd and white-knuckle my way along unless or until I have a flare-up? The second is what editorial I choose to attach to events: if the weekend is great, have I learned the benefits of acknowledging my limits or of calculatedly pushing myself? Or was I lucky? If the weekend devolves into a struggle, did I see the penalty of not acknowledging limits or not speaking up? Or was the whole thing a stupid idea to begin with?

For now, the piece I believe I can control is articulating and then pursuing my goals: I want to have the best time that my body allows, and to recognize my challenges only to the extent that I can then minimize them by my resulting plans. So I’ll pack food accordingly, scout out potential plans and see were the bigger dangers are, and identify my "safety valves" if I need them. I’ll then try to assume that I’m going to have a great time with great friends, and back off to allow the weekend to unfold in its own organic way. To put it more simply, my goal is perhaps no different than everyone else's: to immerse myself in a great adventure this weekend that evolves into a great memory afterwards.
It's not always a fun reality, but it is a frequent one.

One step at a time,

Jay Bell, AKA Rock Hopper


  1. How did it go ? Did you have fun ?

  2. Thanks for asking. It went really well - I had to be very conscious of managing myself so I didn't lose myself in the moment. But I did avoid problems and had a really wonderful time. Yay!