One of the aspects of living with chronic pain that I had not anticipated is that I live with fear as a constant companion. I do not particularly relish fear as a guest. Fear is not one of my favorite friends. Like pain, fear is a gift that is intended to help us in short bursts – Watch out! That is harmful! This isn’t good for you! Stop doing that! – but that wasn’t intended to stay with us for long periods of time. When pain lingers for weeks and months on end, it degrades the body and mind; when fear lingers for weeks and months on end, it does the same. Lingering fear can fester into depression, anxiety, rage.
Two days ago was Election Day in the US. My polling place is about a mile and a half away. I went by it twice in the morning to try to vote. Both times, there was no parking on the neighborhood streets within a square mile. The weather was windy and rainy – arthritis weather. The parking lot was blocked. The line of voters wrapped twice around the building. I knew that I could handle the walk from the car OR the wait in line OR the walk back to the car, but not even two of the three. I was afraid I would not be able to vote. I tried to think of other options. Maplestar researched accessibility options for me; curbside voting is supposed to be available, but I couldn’t even figure out how to get close enough to the building to request it! I have a bicycle, but I’m afraid to ride it.
Isn’t that sad? I used to ride ten miles a day. Now, I’m afraid to ride a mile and a half to fulfill my responsibility to vote, because I might hurt myself. And believe me, there are some pretty horrible ways I could hurt myself on a bicycle. Just going over a curb could dislocate shoulders, elbows, wrists, ankles, knees, hips… not to mention impact on vertebrae. I miss bicycling. I miss the feeling of the breeze on my face, in my hair, the rush of freedom, the sensation of flying. I miss the trails through the parks here in Virginia Beach, the fun downshifts for a patch of sandy ground followed by quick upshifts when you get back onto firmly packed earth. I miss dodging tourists on the boardwalk, and silently cussing at the ones who insist on walking on the clearly marked bike path. Of course, the stakes are a little higher now that I live alone, too. If I’m two miles from home and alone, and I hurt myself, what am I going to do? Who will take care of the kitties and of my little Trillian? Who will pay my bills? Who will make sure my daughter gets to school and who will my son hug when he gets home in the afternoons?
I ended up able to vote. My daughter and I had lunch and then stopped by around 1pm, and both the parking and the line had improved tremendously. We were there just over an hour, but the experience stays with me, in the form of haunting what ifs. I mean, I subluxated an elbow taking the garbage to the curb this morning!
I don’t like living with fear. I’ve always said that I refuse to live in fear. Am I doing that to myself now? Am I allowing fear to be a primary motivator… or de-motivator? And why does this stuff have to be so danged complicated? Sheesh!