It’s okay to get frustrated. It’s okay to grieve- in fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s healthy. While things have been going pretty well for me, everything sort of hit me at once yesterday.
We found out a few days ago that another offer was accepted on the house we were trying to buy. I was very disappointed, but not surprised. It wasn’t just some house for me, though. It was the only house I’d seen in almost a year that was near my parents, the right size, all flat, and situated such that we could expand the doors for a wheelchair, and bonus, it was in a beautiful setting by a tree-filled park. I took it pretty well, but I suppose that was short lived.
I don’t get my replacement power chair until Wednesday and I’m having trouble getting around. The stairs here continue to irritate me. I have to go a full flight of stairs to get into my house or out of my house. Sometimes I can do it. Sometimes I have to crawl and take lots of breaks. Sometimes I need someone to push me in a wheel chair out and around the back through a big hill and some rough terrain. Other than these stairs, it’s really pretty nice here, but the stairs make me feel trapped. Now with out the power chair, I’m feeling even more trapped.
So on Saturday, I asked my husband to take me out. I really wanted to be in nature. I’ve been reading a lot about climate change and the California drought, so mother nature is on my mind. We went to a regional park that I hadn’t been to since I was a kid. It was really beautiful. We started with a picnic by the pond, then rented a surrey.
I love the surrey because I can sit in it and pedal, but I also have help. It felt amazing to be outside and to use my legs. I loved the feeling of my heart pumping and my lungs taking in the cool fall air. Going off of my meds has been tricky, so I was pleased my heart didn’t race like it often does when I attempt to exercise. I also saw so many people out just having fun. I was struck by the diversity of the people and that no one was afraid or angry. I really needed to see that after too much time on Facebook and reading the news.
Afterwards, we went driving through the back canyons. Sometimes I really forget how much beautiful nature there is near us. My husband and I talked about how we have both desired for the canyon lifestyle, but lamented that the wild fires get worse each year and it was only a matter of time until these beautiful canyons were hit. Still, we drove by a few homes for sale and also noted some lots for sale. It was enough to get me all day dreamy, but I always seem to edit out my wheelchair in these fantasies and I picture myself hiking through the trees like I’ve long loved doing. We had a beautiful sunset driving through the canyons that night.
I had a really bad spell after we got home. I was transitioning off my POTS meds, I had overdone things physically, and I had way too much caffeine earlier in the day. I was fading in and out of awareness. My day dreaming from earlier was getting mixed up with my observations as I was trying to place my setting each time I would fade back in. I don’t think I’ve ever had that before. I was confused about whether I was home or still in the canyons. It had been such a lovely day, and then it was as though the whole day went through a blender and I was having trouble keeping track of the fact I was home and on the couch. My husband sat by helplessly as he tried to keep me soothed. Eventually, I stopped fading in and out so much and became more present and aware of my surroundings.
Yesterday (Sunday), I felt pretty ill. I wanted to keep hope up on the house hunt and pushed myself to get out the door and look at a condo for sale with my husband. It was silly of me because I could see from the listing photos that it had interior steps. I just wanted to see if there was a work around. We got there and that condo was amazing. It had huge windows overlooking a lake. The lake was gorgeous and complete with walking paths (wheelchair friendly) and lots of community amenities. And there were stairs. Lots of stairs. There were even stairs outside to get to the front door. It wasn’t going to happen. We left and all I wanted to do was walk around that lake or even wheel around the lake. I just wanted to watch the water and the birds and the trees. I couldn’t walk that far and I had no wheelchair.
I started crying on the drive home. I couldn’t even tell you what I was crying for, exactly. Yes, I had a migraine and was coming down with a cold. Yes, I was frustrated that I don’t have my power chair. I wanted to go appreciate the beauty of the outdoors at the lake, but had to go home instead. I was feeling like I was going to continue to be stuck up a flight of stairs when there were so many beautiful homes I couldn’t have. I felt guilty for not being more thankful. So guilty because we all know of all those people who are worse off. In fact, health aside, I have a lot of good things going for me and have a very good quality of life, all things considered.
And while those things may be setting me off, I am grieving something much deeper. I no longer know how to answer the call I feel inside me. The call is so loud. Our Earth is in such danger. Millions of trees have died in this drought. The north pole’s temperature is record breaking hot. New projections indicate we could see a global temperature increase of seven degrees Celsius within a lifetime. I don’t know what to do.
In college, I struggled with health, but managed to have two pretty good years that allowed me to graduate. During that time, I volunteered heavily and had big plans. I volunteered with environmental groups and helped support a local farm’s Community Supported Agriculture program. I worked towards educating others. I wanted to live off the land ecologically. I tried many times to figure out ways to get training in permaculture and planned to study ecovillages in grad school. And yet my health continued to be an issue. The training courses were always too physical and got pushed off to when I would be feeling better- so they never happened. I dropped out of grad school due to health and financial reasons. I was vegan for environmental reasons and now, due to digestive health, I eat fish and poultry. Pretty much, all I can say for myself now is that I have a recycle bin.
I had a vision of what people could do about climate change. It involved changes in food distribution networks (going more local), green building techniques, renewable energy, and a shift towards communal living. Now it all seems idealistic. Especially since I don’t know where I would fit in. I had been in contact with some ecovillages and you do need to contribute to be involved and I couldn’t contribute in those ways at the time. Now, since I have spent so many years taking my life in a new direction, I can’t even picture this sort of lifestyle. I don’t think my husband would care for it at all. Anyway, I’m more mindful now that we need major change on a global scale with big moves from countries and corporations. I am very afraid about the US government’s actions on this. They’re still out there displacing native people for an oil pipeline.
I thought I had dealt with this, that is, letting go of a life path of environmentalism due to my health issues, but the problems have not gone away nor has my heart break about them. That’s the trick about grieving- you never really finish it. And I feel that way about grieving for my health. Most of the time, I’m focused on solutions and adaptations. I enjoy the health I do have. And with that, I also leave space to face the loss and to reflect on what it means to me. I always push through and use my will power to find new ways of doing things, but so much of that strength comes from letting myself feel the pain of loss and to allow myself to look directly into it.
So, I know I can do that- I can find ways to help with our current environmental issues. I can research online and find ways to contribute, perhaps just using my computer, as that’s often how I try to be involved these days. However, I still need to embrace my personal loss, my disconnection from interacting with nature as I was once able. I remember I would hike out to an outlook and just take in everything. I always reveled in those moments and I am so thankful for that. I felt connected. It was spiritual. Nature was my church.
My personal loss is overwhelmed by the enormity of the global climate change crisis. This, I do not how to grieve for. And while there may still be time to avoid catastrophic climate change, many ecosystems and species have already suffered greatly. I am still reeling from our nation’s election results and this issue has hit me the most. The US must adhere to the Paris agreement and work to reduce our emissions. I know that so many are afraid of our civil liberties being threatened or our access to health care, and these are truly important issues. I am even more concerned for air, water, and food and their availability for future generations and the other amazing life on our planet. My response to fear is always to focus on love and solutions, and yet the sensation of powerlessness continues to sneak in. Maybe it’s the hippie in me, but somehow I do feel like that love has power. Even if I can’t hike, I can meditate on my love of nature, my love for our planet and all on it. I can empower myself and that can be contagious.
On that note, I think I will first go meditate on nature and love. It’s a good place to start.