I have begun this Lent by asking my spiritual director what he would ask me to focus on this year, in hopes of deepening my faith and my interior spiritual life. For my physical mortification, he has instructed me to refrain from the sweeter things--sweet drinks, delicious treats, that sort of thing--while not neglecting fruits (and he did say I could have a bit of honey in my tea or a sall amount of sugar in my oh-so-necessary coffee. It's actually more difficult for me than I had thought it would be: by default I often choose chocolate milk over white, or a bottle of orange Fanta rather than water. And I love a couple of spoonsful of hot chocolate mix in my coffee, topped off sometimes with French vanilla cream...and so now as ever, I must be deliberate in my decisions, and this can only be a good thing. I was thinking earlier about how much I could miss the sweet things. And considering my love for chocolate, I really could miss them terribly! But all the better for my soul, I do hope. I've wanted to eliminate refined sugar for a long time. It would be so good for me in so many ways...so I guess I ought to thank Fr. E for giving me this particular work.
His second assignment for me is to read a specific book. We had a conversation about one of the places he loves to visit in Italy, namely Manopello, where there is displayed the image of Our Lord on mollusk silk. The book to which he referred me is called The Face of God: The Rediscovery of the True Face of Jesus by Paul Badde. I began reading it just last night, and I'm definitely hooked. I love the tests that are done in attempts to authenticate things like this miraculous veil and the Tilma of St. Juan Diego from Guadalupe bearing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I was tired last night, and so I am still reading through the first chapter. I hope to explore my understandings here.
I had forgotten what a refreshment it can be to come here to write. I've left so much of myself by the wayside in recent months, even years, and find that I need to begin peeling back the layers once again. It's astounding to me how drastically things can change in what seems an eternity whilst among the thorns of the valley, but in the grand scope even of temporal existence is truly a mere moment. The past two years, especially, have been for me nothing short of early Purgatory while walking the Earth. I dare to hope that some of the suffering here has done good for some poor soul on the other side of the veil of death. Indeed, I offer willingly my hours of purification in profound supplication for the souls of those closest to me. Don't ever forget the poor souls in Purgatory. Pray for them, offer sufferings for them, and remember that someday you may well be joining them and existing in the hope that after your purification is complete, you shall behold His Face.
Last year at this time, I was in hospital. I had been taken in because of back pain so severe I had been crawling about the house for a week. I hated to go. My babies needed me...but they needed me whole, and I was anything but. During my stay, I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and fibromyalgia--which I had suspected for years, but since the diagnosis tends to be one of exclusion and something of a collection and tidy binding of symptoms, and since I scarcely ever went to the doctor before my hospitalization, I had no official diagnosis in my chart.
Suffice it to say, this last year has found me in search of various remedies for the pains which ail me on a continuous basis. I have many good days. I have days where, although I have pain, it does not plague me so intensely. I have other days where I am glad to have a walker, or a cane, and I am always thankful to have my handicapped parking tag.
I have found a tremendous respect for physical therapists. My therapist is a gem--she's kind, she's funny, she's very knowledgeable, and she is enthusiastic about helping me strengthen my body so that I can live like a person rather than like a lump in a chair. So many days I feel like just a lump in a chair.
Of late, I have been reducing the dosage of Cymbalta. I had been taking 60 mg each day; by tomorrow, I will be taking 30 mg each day. It's a very slow process, because to wean from this medication is to create a maelstrom of withdrawal effects. It's awful. Honestly. The weaning process involves opening the capsules, counting the individual, tiny beads in each one, and removing a certain amount, increasing the amount removed each day. Those who've been studying the process recommend that for each year a person has been on the medication, it should take six months to wean off of it. I've only been on Cymbalta for six months, so I'm one of the lucky few who can take a larger number of beads out each day.
Math: not my friend. This process: math. Bah. Humbug.
I take two 30 mg. capsules each day. There are 250 beads in each capsule. I am removing eleven additional beads each day. This means that the weaning process will take me roughly 8 weeks by the time I'm done. And tomorrow is the half-way point, thanks be to God.
So far, my withdrawal effects have been minimal: I've had a couple of really overwhelming headaches, plenty of brain fog, and some tidal waves of emotion. Not always sadness or anxiety--but just emotion. And as ever, My Darling remains by my side, supporting me and understanding me and holding me so I don't become exhausted while treading this water.