How Fibromyalgia May Ruin My Job at the Gym

Denial, and maybe subconscious pride, kept me from admitting (during the interview process) that my Fibromyalgia would prevent me from performing, what is, for seemingly everyone else, a reasonably easy job at my local gym, where I have been regularly working out for years. I didn’t lie, I just didn’t really consider the physicality of the job – I was more focused on the “front desk” aspect. I didn’t even realize it’s an “on your feet” front-desk role. I’d seen the ad, on a wipe-off board, one afternoon as I was heading out from a good workout. I was excited to see exactly what I wanted (a part-time, front-desk job).

Sometimes I work out too hard (another example of my denial regarding my medical-condition) and am then (the next day) sorely reminded of my limitations when I am completely unable to move or raise my arms or climb stairs. Other times, I am sensitive to my body’s clues, and I am more gentle to myself. Those days, my delicate state is actually more than obvious to me (but only to me, because Fibro is an invisible-symptom syndrome), and because I know that light exercise is important for Fibromyalgia management, I suffer through twenty minutes on the elliptical.

But, now after two months of six-hour shifts involving constant standing and lifting and bending (and cracking my head on a raised platform), I realize I did myself and my employer an injustice. This situation not only adds physical stress, but also emotional and psychological distress, which amplifies the physical toll on my body. Moreover, I still somewhat want to refuse to admit that my age of 52 years contributes to any body aches, pain and stiffness that is now my constant companion. As I’ve been a gym member for close to thirty years, going more often at times and absent at other times, I’ve always been a physically active person. In fact, when I was on couch and bed rest during my two successful pregnancies, respectively, I repeatedly dreamt of running, since I was forbidden to do so during my waking hours.

So, the realization that I probably need to leave the job is depressing news. And, an epiphany at the same time, maybe. It is another moment when I’m woken up to my limitations. I seem to, at these times, acknowledge, research, see doctors for symptoms, and then, in short order, go back to ignoring the truth, although never the pain, because that’s not possible. For example, I saw a podiatrist yesterday for plantar fasciitis in addition to my complaint that my foot pain and stiffness is constant upon standing and walking. He treated the plantar fasciitis and regarding the pain and stiffness, he basically told me, “You have Fibro, so just deal, stretch and if you have to quit your job, quit.”

Following that appointment, I spent yesterday frustrated and crying. My pity party lasted pretty much the whole day and without a resolution to the question: “What do I do about my job?”   —   In fact, I took the job to conquer the boredom that can come from a solitary existence as a fiction and, as-of-yet unpublished, writer. And, as I used to work full-time at a school, an unending social party of students, teachers and parents, I was feeling a little lonely.  I thought a part-time gig may help me focus on finishing my book. But, I have been spending the days that I don’t work at the gym, managing my heightened symptoms. The epiphany may just be that it is time to own up to my Fibromyalgia and focus on my health above all else. All the rest (and my book) will follow.




Timelessness— Fear & Freedom

We think in terms of time— Always and forever. This minute and for twenty-four hours of the day. In the past, too. We ask ‘how much time do we have?’ ‘how long will it take?’ and the simplest, ‘what time is it, now?’

We act based on the structure of time— ‘a 9 A.M. meeting,’ ‘next month’s re-inspection of the car,’ and ‘medicine should be taken morning, noon, and night.’

We dream in segments of time— ‘planning summer vacations,’ ‘raising children/empty-nesting,’ and ‘retirement,’ otherwise known as the golden years.

All time is not created equal. While ‘timeless’ describes certain people and styles, certainly ‘retro’ celebrates those that relish the past. Likewise, while some of us (homo sapiens  ~  200,000 years ago, in Africa) eschew the parameters created by the construct known as timekeeping, others depend on the almighty clock like an evening cocktail.

Time flies, and time stands still for no one. Creative flow ‘stops the clock’, or, more accurately, shifts our consciousness within the ‘passing of time’ realm. Advancement, enhancement and expansion are only possible when the clock stops counting down. When we ‘lose our time’ (coined, perhaps, by Edward Norton’s character in Primal Fear, 1996), we come out the other end with the realization that Earth has not stopped spinning (on its axis, which takes 24 hours and was developed by the ancient Egyptians).

By middle age, we consider the ‘bucket list’ challenge, knowing that we don’t actually know how much more time we have on the planet. Global Warming and Climate Change Truth! aside, we think and dream about, and perhaps, act on, pursuits not previously achieved during the time that we were growing up, getting educated, getting married, raising children, getting unmarried, getting remarried, greeting grandchildren, attending to aging parents, working and paying bills (most of which today, is aka ‘adulting’).

Children (birth to Kindergarten) and the elderly with dementia (Currently “more than 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimers.” per — plus the rest of the world’s numbers—) live moment to moment, a sense of timelessness. Babies and small children suffer no ill effects from the absence of time. However, when an aged (or, more tragically, an early-onset-affected) adult becomes, first, confused about and, second, aware of ‘losing their time,’ it is an altogether different sensation than that of one who still knows what time it is. A lifetime of structure, rigid timeframes and memorable timelines sets the tone for order and keeps chaos at bay. Imagine the panic produced, then, by not knowing if it is Monday, March or the next millennia. Days run into night and night after night, they may think it is day.

This is when time may truly meander or it may simply stand still. It may seem, and we can hope, that as ‘timelessness’ permeates their world, those with the disease will feel fear become freedom.




Valentine’s Day Traditions RePost

[Originally Posted on Feb 13, 2013]

As I think about what to do for my fiance and our kids for tomorrow’s annual celebration of all things red and heart-shaped, I wonder, too, about what it all stands for. If I say, “Oh, it’s no big deal, we show our love every day,” one tends to choke on the sugar. Likewise, to buy the biggest (and, therefore, most expensive) card, is to recognize that the effort is major overkill, and quite frankly, a big waste of money. Money that could be better spent enjoying a filet mignon or lobster dinner. Lobsters are red, after all. Well, when they’re cooked, they are. And, if you order the filet rare, as it should be ordered, well, that’s blood red, too.
So, how does someone in love demonstrate publicly (because isn’t everything, today, publicized?) their love for that one true, special somebody who they have either chosen to spend their lives with and simply couldn’t possibly live without — or in the case of being stuck with someone because maybe they once were in love, but now just stick around for the false Valentine’s Day offer of the love that once was — show to the waiting world what one considers acceptable, maybe passionate, love-torn proof? And, as difficult to make sense of that sentence is, so is our love — and so is the answer.
However, because I do choose to spend my life with the one, true special someone I simply couldn’t possibly live without, I will, most likely…buy chocolate!
Who doesn’t love chocolate? And, flowers? And music? And dinner? Especially in a French restaurant! Filet Mignon is French!
So, whether it’s succumbing to the pretense of showing the world how much you love your somebody or genuinely thirsting to quench any question of the depths of your desire, you can never go wrong with something heart-shaped and red.
That’s here, of course. (Here being the States.) Let’s consider some other traditions from around the world. I found on the most wonderful little website, Penumbra from the UK — ( some other Saint Valentine’s Day rituals.
And, in giving full credit to this very cool site-source, I can honestly say, that if I choose to do otherwise (not the standard chocolate option I so quickly chose above), then some of these others may just make the difference in making the distinction between what we choose to do versus what we are expected to do.
For example, in “Italy, Valentine’s Day was once celebrated as a Spring Festival, held in the open air, where young people would gather in tree arbors or ornamental gardens to listen to music and the reading of poetry. However, over the course of the years, this custom steadily ceased and has not now been celebrated for centuries. In Turin, it was formerly the custom for betrothed couples to announce their engagements on February 14. For several days ahead of time, the stores would be decorated and filled with all manner of bon-bons.” (Personal note: as my fiance is 100 percent Italian, that would indicate that tomorrow, February 14th we could stretch this a bit and actually pick a date for the wedding.)
And,”In Japan, Valentine’s Day is celebrated on two different dates…February 14 and March 14. On the first date, the female gives a gift to the male and on the second date…known as White Day and supposedly introduced by a marshmallow company in the 1960s…the male has to return the gift he received on February 14. Thus, strictly speaking, a Japanese female has the luxury of actually choosing her own gift. Chocolate is the most popular gift in Japan. However, since most Japanese females believe that store-bought chocolate is not a gift of true love, they tend to make the confection with their own hands.” — Ah, see, we’re back to chocolate!!
“During the Australian gold rush period, miners who were suddenly in possession of money from the new-found wealth of the Ballarat Mines were willing to pay a princely sum for elaborate valentines and merchants in the country would ship orders amounting to thousands of pounds at a time. The most extravagant Australian valentines were made of a satin cushion, perfumed and decorated in an ornate manner with flowers and colored shells. Some might even be adorned with a taxidermy-ed humming bird or bird of paradise. This treasure, contained within a neatly decorated box, was highly valued, being both fashionable and extremely expensive.”
Whichever convention you fancy…just remember that it’s only one day a year – and you have 364 others to show the person you love … your love.

Cornered, I let my arms drop…

Cornered, I let my bare arms drop to my sides. He leans in close with his pasty white, sweaty face. I smell the sickly sweet stench of his rancid breath as he hovers within an inch of my eyebrows. He reaches for my neck, but I crouch down and squeeze past him, my legs scraping the rusty metal guardrail behind me. I focus on an escape path just to the right and between some parked cars. But, I cannot move. On all fours now, I try to scream, but I make no sound. I claw at the dirty pavement and dare not look back. Just as I feel his massive grubby paw grab my right foot, I shoot straight up in bed. Terrified and shivering, I hear a pained groan escape my own lips.

~ ~ ~

The alarm on my iPhone trills at six-thirty a.m. I roll over and hit snooze. I feel like I have been run over by a Mack truck, or maybe something between a hangover and the flu. I close my eyes and the image of my nightmare returns to me. I start to sweat, and discounting any benefit to remain in my king-size bed, I turn off the alarm and throw my legs over the side. Wincing and wearing only panties, I immediately notice the bloody patches on the backs of both legs. Now I am really freaked, but with my boyfriend, Jordan, out of town, I have to try to put this nightmare out of my mind. Can I, I wonder? I throw on gray yoga pants, careful to avoid my injuries, and a white hoodie.

Walking barefoot past the white double-entry front door of my first-floor luxury apartment and toward the galley kitchen to get a cup of coffee, I double check to see that the front door is locked. It is not locked. I rack my brain trying to remember what time I had gone to bed and why is the door unlocked? Nightly, I have a habit of running through my before-bed, secure-the-fortress routine multiple times. It is not so much an OCD thing but more likely a paranoid thing. It goes like this:  program the ten-cup coffee maker, check that the gas oven is off, turn the latch on the dining room sliders, hit the gray Audi’s remote lock button enough times that I hear the beep as do, probably, all of my neighbors. And, finally, I lock the front door. So, did I last night? And, why don’t I remember?

The aroma of French Roast brewing pulls me back to the present moment. So, I had set the coffee to start. I run to the sliders. They are secured. For dinner, I had ordered Chinese take-out; no need to check the oven. But, in my growing state of panic, I check the oven anyway. It is cold. I run, despite my body aches, back to the front door and grab my car keys from the black metal wall hook, hesitating only a moment to notice the black dirt beneath my nervous-chew fingernails. I fling open the front door and rush to my car in the trellis-covered and paver-finished driveway. I wrap my hand around the silver driver’s side handle and stop cold. Through the smashed window, I see drying blood smeared across the white leather seat.


Little Streams of Consciousness

I cleared some cobwebs and found my pen.

~ ~ ~

Contrary to public opinion, the hare raises no tail.  She prefers to count on her floppy ears for balance as she sets across the fallen tree spanning the width of the trickling creek.  It’s rained every chance the clouds have had of emptying their load, and so the creek now stands at two feet wider than its familiar berth.  Not really trickling, then, the hare thinks.  The hare burst into a full-on race with the clouds above as they burst their seams, spilling down all around her.  Drops splattered up toward the now slippery log forcing the hare to slow down, lest she fall into the creek.  Slow and steady, she made time, though, to reach the northern edge and rejoin her pack.

~ ~ ~

Without his cane, the old man stumbled and briefly caught himself against the blue sky.  Falling two-fifths sideways and in-between his shoulders, he stopped thinking and just let it happen.  Fighting would be futile. Fighting would not help him or his companion.  He couldn’t see the guard any longer.  He thought that maybe the guard had fallen off the cliff at the moment it all turned around.  Not being able to see the other side of the cliff from behind the mountain, he knew he’d lost touch of his surroundings and all may as well be lost to him.  But, to go on, he must.  Struggling to gather the weight of an old man, he shoved at the ground beneath him and was soon up on one knee.  Using the remainder of his strength, he teetered but rose up like a fledgling phoenix.  Once up, he straightened to his full height, reaching for youth.  Behind the bushes, he spotted his companion and walked slowly and carefully to retrieve his old, reliable friend.  Once supported, he again, looked the world squarely in the eye.

~ ~ ~

Forced to surrender under the familiar circumstances, she laid down her musket and raised her hands and her head.  Swiftly, she was taken prisoner by the two bandits wearing face masks.  Their shifty eyes still bare, she looked into the shorter man’s.  She inhaled sharply and shallowly at her recognition of his pupil-less gray orbs.  This was no man.  She quickly looked at the taller one, but he had just as quickly turned away.  Panicked now, she searched her spinning mind for a plan for escape or rescue, and survival.



Pictures & Portraits

I’ve just begun reading The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, somehow having missed reading it when working toward a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, just a few years ago.  They say timing is everything, and as I’ve written before, I believe in my first blog post, I always seem to find some connection or timely aspect to my life while reading anything, really.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is no exception. I picked up this book in the fiction section of the Cherry Hill library, while walking toward Science Fiction/Fantasy for a few books for my husband. I had recently thought I’d want to read this, although, I don’t recall now what had sparked the interest.  This morning, I started the book, having just finished reading and loving Amy Tan’s The Hundred Secret Senses from 1995.  From what counts as our own library, I found Senses on the “To Read” shelf, although I don’t know from where it came.  Perhaps the woman, Linda, from whom we bought our house and some of her own library six years ago next week.

Almost one year ago, we were in Ireland but our focus was on James Joyce’s legacy, not so much Oscar Wilde.  We were in Dublin exactly one week after the annual Bloomsday celebration of June 16 and all things Leopold Bloom, protagonist of Ulysses, 1922. Yet, I don’t recall searching for Oscar Wilde-known pubs while there, as we did to meet up with my long-time friend (7th grade pen-pal) and his family at Davy Byrnes, one of a few frequented pubs of Joyce while at Trinity College in Dublin.

And, while twice in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, I don’t recall looking for Wilde’s grave site, but I do remember looking for Gertrude Stein’s and Jim Morrison’s and finding Chopin’s.  Joyce, himself, is buried in Switzerland and was influenced by Wilde, although Wilde might repeat, “There is no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray.  All influence is immoral…”   As The Picture of Dorian Gray is a novel of aesthetics (among other concepts), also, too, is Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist.  

This year, as I prepare for an extended trip abroad ~ although neither Paris nor Dublin appear in the itinerary ~ I ponder the pictures I would normally post on Facebook.  It seems that I have primarily used Facebook for travel pictures on past trips.  And, since I had once or twice made the apparent social media mistake of posting political or topical comments, beliefs, or trends and was met with an unsatisfactory response rate, trip pix were safer.  Perhaps Facebook is not the place for let’s make the world a better place information, but instead for the simple information of one’s constant whereabouts and the photographs that accompany such a trip, duration not-designated.

However, similar to the artist’s point of view in Dorian Gray, “When I leave town now, I never tell my people where I am going.  If I did, I would lose all my pleasure.  It is a silly habit, I dare say, but somehow it seems to bring a great deal of romance into one’s life…” I consider the connection to my recent thoughts regarding my posting practices.  As I wrote above, I picked up The Portrait of Dorian Gray at the library.  It is, in fact, a Barnes & Noble Classics book, and it appears to have possibly been donated to the library, as there are underlined marks and notes in the margin.  Made by whom, I don’t know.  Page six:  in reaction to having read, “The commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it,” the unknown prior reader has written “is romance opposite of transparency?”  Are our lives becoming less romantic with every social media site post?

“…we have invented a realism that is vulgar, an identity that is void.”

I have a friend who recently told me that she doesn’t go onto Facebook, because she doesn’t want to see everyone’s vacation photos when she hasn’t left the state of New Jersey in over ten years.  I see this friend once a month at book club (our next book is The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant.  Dorian Gray is an ambitious addition to my monthly read).

I thought about what my friend said, and I respect her view.  We know our friends in how we relate to them on a personal level.  Face to face, vs. Facebook.  So, what becomes a public picture of the persona is defined by what we post.  A persona with a curated life, carefully created by ourselves in how we choose to post the parts of our lives that we really only wish to become public.  Have our relationships with friends become more complex – the dividing line resting somewhere between the physically social and social media?  Do we need to weed out the excesses of the public persona to find the person we know in private?

In line with transparency and in keeping it 100, I have often thought about posting a picture of myself as I clean the bathroom – gloved hand deep in the toilet bowl scrubbing with a machine washable, reusable wipe because ew – toilet bowl cleaners just spread the filth around everywhere those bristles touch.  And often, other random potential postings come to mind, those of which if the audience were anonymous, I might actually follow through with ‘send.’  For example, a selfie of doing sit-ups on the kitchen counter, captioned, “they tell me abs are made in the kitchen.”  Silly, moments of thought – funny quips and photos of chance throughout the day caught between the serious moments of life.

So, who to tell?  With whom to share?  I wonder if the ability to send a thought out into the great void has reduced spontaneity and wit within our close, personal relationships.  As I debate the pros and cons of posting, this time while I am away (whether it be on Facebook or maybe Instagram), I am aware that what my public persona posts is forever out there.

They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever.    ~ Oscar Wilde




A Short Note On Reading Alice

A Short Note On Reading Alice

Even as an English major, I don’t think I have ever read Alice in Wonderland.  Maybe as a child. Maybe my mom read some or all of it to me. Maybe I had one of those child classics books. Maybe I had to have, as I have always known “Alice” and the “Mad Hatter” and the “Rabbit Hole” and that Lewis Carroll wrote it in the 1800s. But, to say I know the details of the story, I would be lying. I don’t remember them. Nor have I seen the Johnny Depp version or any other movie version.

This bothers me. And, as my living room doubles as a library filled with the classics that both my husband and I brought to the party [isn’t there a party in the story?], there was no doubt that on those shelves, I would find a copy or two of Alice in Wonderland.  

So, since the “Queen”, or rather … my 92-year old MIL ~ with Alzheimer’s ~

Loves for me to aloud read,

I most definitely see

an opportunity!

Ironically, I wonder if I will remember more of the details, myself.


Ageless Leftovers

Leftovers for dinner.  Although maybe he’ll make a marinara sauce for some fresh pasta. Not fresh, as in home made. Fresh, as in not part of the leftovers. Yeah, still working on these leftovers from bring-in birthday dinner. Not too much made in the way of a Happy Birthday.  Eh, maybe the day before. Friends brought gourmet desserts for a combo post-New Year’s/birthday wishes visit. They remembered my birthday. Sharon did, probably. She’s good that way.  They were creamy.  Good for my throat. My esophagus. That’s all I could eat. I’m afraid to eat now. The broccoli, the choking and the Heimlich (I thank my husband for saving my life). The EMTs left minutes before the friends arrived. Played it safe the next night, birthday night. Proper celebration this Friday night – at a local Italian BYOB. Normally, I’d say, who’s celebrating 51? Well, I am, now.

Been reading and studying up on aging. Been watching a lot of movies about it. We saw “Youth.” Artsy and different, eclectic. One that takes a brightly open mind to ponder its message and enjoy the cinematography (as part of the) abstract storytelling.  Read The Ageless Spirit, edited by Phillip L. Berman and Connie Goldman, too. I think AARP sent it to me as part of a 50th-birthday -eligibility package. This aging:  it’s fascinating me partly with the 92 year old here and with said birthday. Just a number, really. Today, I had the 92 year old doing leg lifts and curls. She did a lot more than I thought she would/could.  She likes to listen to me read. Although it would seem at times that I’ve put her to sleep — mainly because she’s completely titled over in her chair — but, upon stopping and inquiring if she’s listening, she knows just where we are and what’s going on.  Three hours, today.  You’d think I’d be done with this book I’m (we’re) reading for book club, which I didn’t like at all – when I started it.  Thought it a little lame and below (book snob that I am) standards for book club.  It’s a murder mystery, and apparently the first in a series.  When you consider that our first book was Night, by Elie Wiesel, you can see what I mean. Ah, it’s not so bad.  It picked up, but we are straying pretty far from our March Classics month theme, a little Middlemarch (George Eliot) maybe?

I take the elder to the movies a bit.  She does quite well actually.  She’s funny, too.  She talks about the other seniors. She comments on how old they are when in truth, she’s probably the oldest one in the theater. Maybe it’s vanity keeping her going.  She takes it to a whole new level. We’ve seen all the latest:  “Joy”, “The Danish Girl”, “Carol”, “Youth” (as previously stated), and “Brooklyn.” My book club read Brooklyn by Colm Toibin quite a while ago, and my recall is that I felt the story closely. I’m all about the Irish and Italian immigrants. I’m currently working on researching my husband’s Italian lineage, we’re so close to Italy that his paternal grandfather was born in Conca della Campania and crossed in 1907. I will say, however, that I really enjoyed the movie version of “Brooklyn.”  The book, as I recall, left the ending ambiguous, whereas the movie gave the expectant audience its answer. Hey, I’m all for not finishing endings, because life goes on and isn’t always able to provide that happy or sad ending. Why do we have to know. Why can’t we wonder? Like from another movie I saw recently:  “Manhattan Romance” by Tom O’Brien.  That’s even the sentiment in the movie – from the author – from the documentarian. See the movie!

In this light, I have no fancy finish to this post. And, as it seems, I have let the 92 year old nap too long.

Palette of Pain: A Poem

Palette of Pain:  A Poem

Painting on the side of the road

She sheds her layers

Waiting for each to dry

Lest she blur their intention.


Color makes the most of the day

Shining bright or hiding below

It’s never too far from the surface

Yet can act inferior to itself.


Sensation awaits those who take

The whole of the body into the

Whole of the mind. But is that

The truth of the feeling?


It’s not a small price to pay

When she sits alone with

Her palette full of the colors

Of her pain.

There’s No Uber on Mars


There’s no Uber on Mars

There’s a Hab and a rover, but no Uber on Mars.  So when Mark Watney’s crew leaves him for dead, strands him in the red sand storm, and aborts the mission, he has no means but his own wits to survive until the next scheduled, fictional Ares mission.  That mission is four years from Sol 18, which is when he regained consciousness.

Enter the drowsy NASA tech who is alerted to screen movement picked up by satellite imaging still stuck on the spot.  Something’s moving…OMG, it’s Mark! OMG, his former crew doesn’t know he’s alive.  And, they’re months from returning to Earth.  What’s a guy to do?  Any other guy would probably die.  But, the greatest botanist, and an astronaut, to boot just might have a shot.  The audience sure knows that he’s still alive ~ to the tune of over $167 million at the box office over four weekends since Fox released The Martian on October 2, 2015.  And, the rest of the world, at over $218 million proves that we’re not leading in the movie space race.  Beijing [who] ultimately plays a critical role in aiding the rescue attempt, even if they are suggesting technology that the U.S. hasn’t used since 2009

In fact, it is the whole world cheering for Mark’s safe rescue from London, Times Square, Beijing and naturally at NASA headquarters. Uptight NASA Director Teddy Sanders, played by Jeff Daniels, has a PR profile to protect, so when NASA astrophysicist Rich Purnell (played by Donald Glover) has a brainstorm and suggests something seemingly screwy, Sanders, in today’s use of the word “literally,” throws him out of the room.

One can’t help join in on the cheering for The Martian.  Matt Damon portrays the professionalism of a trained astronaut.  He solves one problem.  Then he solves another problem, and another.  And, because he’s not really a Martian (although, who really would know? Some postulate that all Earth life may have come from Mars.), he displays quite a human tendency to be frustrated, disgusted at times and emotionally overwhelmed.

At two and a half hours, the movie is just a fraction of the time it truly takes to reach Mars – and yet, we, mere Earthlings, only need take an Uber to our local theater. More than once, may I suggest.


Writing by Marnie Mitchell-Lister

DoubleU = W


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