Going on a Butter Run

Everybody knows what a beer run is. This is Wisconsin, after all. So, it was déjà vu when recently talking with my friend, Betty, recalling our long ago, wild college days in the 1960’s. That quickly lead to my declaration: by the way, I’m going on a butter run.

For the last month, I hadn’t been able to leave my apartment, let alone get into my car and go grocery shopping. In fact, this latest MS flare had rendered me unable to walk from the bedroom to the kitchen. I’d wondered if life would ever return to normal. The second month was better but I still had doubts.

I’d grudgingly adjusted to my niece kindly getting my groceries.  When you’ve been healthy and independent it’s really hard to ask for help and depend on others for the simplest things.  Trying to be self-sufficient, I’d researched the various home grocery delivery services advertised on the internet; the thought of navigating a cart up and down the many aisles of my neighborhood store was unthinkable.

My angst intensified the day I looked in the refrigerator and realized I was almost out of butter. I know. That doesn’t sound like the end of the world but this simple task had morphed into a simulation of climbing Mt. Everest. At that moment, in my situation, it was a jolt. So, I was at a crossroads which leads me back to my conversation with Betty.

As we talked about my progress and how I wanted to do it myself, I told her I was thinking about going to the grocery store to solve my butter problem. I said I was only going for butter and knew exactly where it was in the store. We both lamented how dairy products were in an obscure aisle at the far end and what an inconvenience that was when all you want was a carton of milk or eggs. Or butter.

I recalled my therapist thirty years ago when I’d first been diagnosed and how he’d helped me readjust back to normal life. He taught me to visualize myself doing each step of a new activity. Then doing it.  I meditated on this trip to a grocery store as though it was a vision quest and clearly saw the whole thing.

I’d walk in, get a cart and take the shortest route to the butter.  Betty encouraged me to use the electronic check-out rather than risking standing in a long line. She gave me a short tutorial. It’s easy, she said.

It felt really weird driving my car since I’d only attempted short trips in the last few weeks. As I drove the parkway, I marveled at how good it felt to be out in the world just like a regular person. I’d missed it. I channeled Jack Kerouac and meditated with Willie Nelson for their wisdom on taking trips.

While my modest little adventure couldn’t compare with the magnitude of their saga, it was pretty monumental to me. I even got cocky and diverted, stopping for my favorite lemonade on the way to the check-out. I arrived back home with a real sense of accomplishment. And a plan.

Adjustment is the name of the game and adjust I will. I accept that I’m relegated to small shopping trips at least until I’ve built up my strength and stamina. I’m going to go shopping again and only pick up two or three things at a time. A butter run is only the beginning. There’s the Chai tea run. The ingredients for chili run. The stock up on frozen dinners run. Even a brandy run. I guess that means life is getting back to normal after all.



A Little Bigger World

In a world where everyone’s going at high speed, there’s nothing like being put down by illness. The world suddenly becomes very small. When MS decides to flare, it’s the boss. It becomes a trial of my patience and the challenge of accepting I’m not in charge. Though diagnosed over thirty years ago, this flare was like being back at the beginning.

I thought I knew what to do and what it would take to get better. I wrote off the month of July. Stuck in my apartment, most days I spoke to no one. Saw no one. A big accomplishment was to check my e-mail and make lunch. Otherwise, resting and watching for small improvements.

I’d look at the calendar just to remind myself what day it was and think how was this day compared to yesterday. Were the symptoms lessoning. Did I have more energy. Would  my life ever get back to normal. What if I didn’t get better. I watched out my window, with envy, as the cheers from the soccer games in the park across the street rise to a frenzy. That’s what happens; the world passes you by.

Too much time to think. In fact, that’s all there is. Time to think. I know how everyone dreams of down time and being able to kick back, read a book or take naps and putter. But when it’s all you can do, that put a whole different spin on it.  Time becomes a curse. I read several books and watched TV constantly. And while the latest political shenanigans were entertaining, sort of like a national soap opera, even that lost its allure after a while.

Each morning started out the same. Check symptoms. Decide what I’m able to do. That fine line was always there. Stay active but don’t overdo, say all the well-meaning health care professionals. No one was sure what that meant. Especially since each case was different.   What’s overdoing for me would be okay for someone else.

I felt so mentally healthy the first day I was able to walk down to the lobby and get my mail. Then I did mail and also the laundry. Yippee! Then I added walking down to the garden and sitting for a while, reading in my Adirondack chair. I tried to add some small thing each day. But not too much lest I overdo.

A truly great day was when I could stand long enough to take a shower. Then stand long enough to use the blow drier. Even greater, the first day I drove my car three blocks to the pharmacy. I’d first checked out my perception of the brake and the gas pedal.

These small things became huge accomplishments.  Then because it felt so good and I felt so masterful, I overdid myself. Back to square one or two. So, I put a sign on my door in very big letters. DON’T OVER-DO! I hope this helps.

I’ve also written off the month of August. Remission is so slow, I’m finally being realistic. I’ll be checking symptoms and pacing myself for a long time. But today I’m happy with the small things I can accomplish and pleased that my small world gets bigger each day.

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