baby steps

In the past 7 years I have made many attempts to get “back to life.” “Life” was defined as a regular job, keeping up the house, paying the bills, an active social life, and a return to health. Each effort lasted until a flare-up, and then I couldn’t juggle all of those things. After most attempts I felt worse than if I had never tried. This past year it was clear there would be no “back to life” as I knew it.

I decided to redefine what “life” meant to me. I had to look deep and let go of things that took too much of my energy and time, rather than exhaust myself keeping the thought of that other life alive. I’m sure that some friends looked on in concern as I sold my house, my car, and many of my things, bought a townhome to share with my daughter (I made the down payment, she carries the mortgage and we are both on the deed), and came down to Tucson to stay with my dad. “Crazy,” they probably thought, ” I could never do that.”  And maybe they couldn’t, or wouldn’t.

I’m going to do something I rarely do: give myself credit for knowing, deep in my bones, that this was precisely the right series of decisions for me. Like a snake molting its’ skin, or for me, more like a hermit crab scuttling from one snug home to another, I did all those things listed above . I made my  life move, whether I’m truly ready or not. Somehow, I knew what I needed was more space where I had time to think, and to do nothing but concentrate on my health and my self. It sounds like a huge gamble, but in reality it wasn’t. Once you’ve accepted the way things are going to be and what you can change the options are easy.

You’d be surprised how little possessions matter when the tradeoff is the freedom to grow. In fact, I feel lighter, less held down by a place or the responsibilities of caring for all that stuff. Do I miss some of those things? Of course I do, sometimes, but for the most part I don’t think of them at all.

So far, the results have paid off. I feel better than I have in over seven years. There were a few hiccups (the COVID vaccination and boosters sent my immune system into overdrive for weeks afterwards), and a few times when it seemed like nothing was going to change. Then one day I woke up and realized I hadn’t taken any medications, herbs, or sleep aids for Lyme in a week. Another day I had the energy to lift weights or swim 2000 yards. I was writing with a clarity I hadn’t had in so long I feared it was gone forever.

This is good news, right? Surprisingly, returning to health has required a great deal of work and energy.  A subject we don’t talk about much is the emotional burden of having a chronic disease. Lyme, in particular, is linked to  higher rates of depression and suicide, and lower quality of life., and PTSD  PTSD? I didn’t see that one coming,  but because I never know when or why I experience a flare-up, nor do I know how bad or how long a relapse will last, my body and mind stay on hyper-alert, always ready to fight. As you can imagine, this is an exhausting vigil.

I believe I had forgotten how to be healthy, how to have hopes and aspirations, and how to have a regular, steady rhythm to life.  I discovered that I had been protecting myself from the inevitable relapse, even in areas of my life like books, movies, and television, never watching anything too emotionally challenging unless I was “up for it.” Shedding all of the parts of my life that took up time and energy gave me room to just…be.

Living in a retirement community in Tucson with Dad is about as low-key as you can get. My dad’s house is a short walk from the pool and weight room. I walk Rocky around the neighborhood every morning, saying hello to the other walkers. I help Dad with whatever he needs, which isn’t much (usually a tech problem or something he doesn’t want to take care of), and the rest of my time is my own. Well, mostly my own. One of the secrets I’ve learned during my journey, is that I need to keep plugging away at writing and learning when I can, even if I forget it later or what I wrote was crap, because sooner or later, the writing becomes good and the information sticks.

I never stopped taking twice-weekly Spanish classes and kept on writing. I continue to make long-term plans for moving to another country, even when it seemed hopeless. This has been absolutely necessary to healing, because having the hope of a different fulfilling life (even if it might never actually happen) makes my life worthwhile. And so I make these baby steps forward as my mind and body come to terms with what I can’t change and what I can change.  I am slowly reclaiming my life, wresting what I can away from Lyme while still recognizing it will always be with me.



I have had some vivid, amazing dreams lately. Animals visit me regularly in these dreams. So far, I’ve had dreams with turtles, snakes, elephants, bees, cats, frogs, and dogs. At first, I just bored Katie with retellings of these dreams. Her advice was to look up the ‘meaning’ of the dreams. Well, I did. Let me tell you, this branch of arcana is a rabbit-hole (pun intended, although they haven’t made an appearance yet) you might want to avoid.

A quick caveat: I haven’t smoked or ingested pot since mid-September. Not that my pot habit was particularly large. I usually smoked on cleaning day, or when Lyme made it impossible not to. Anyway, those of you who have ever smoked regularly and quit, you know how dreams rebound. Researchers think that pot inhibits/suppresses REM sleep, but who really cares about the whys.

I am a lucid dreamer. I go back and change the trajectory of a dream if I don’t like it.  The other night I dreamt I went to a class reunion (don’t even get me started on what the hell that meant) and I noticed it was nothing but a bunch of old people, and we weren’t dancing. Well, I didn’t like that dream. So I changed it. The first dream was probably the way it is. The second dream was straight up memory from an earlier reunion, where we were packed together dancing to “Brown Sugar.” Much better.

I also have recurring dreams, some I’ve had since childhood. There are two houses that I know intimately in my dreams that don’t exist in my real life. Lots of stuff happens in them, and I’m almost always stressed out when they appear. They obviously represent a place I don’t want to be. I haven’t had any dreams with those houses in them in a while. There have been new dream houses, but obviously temporaries. The other night the house was a dorm of some kind, chilly, modern and all-white. It was dark, cold and rainy outside and the windows were massive and uncovered. Running on both sides of the house were dogs, like all the dogs in the area had come together and were trotting with purpose towards something. I wasn’t disturbed or scared, other than the Stephen King-like disquiet of so many dogs. Occasionally a dog would turn and look at me with a look that said, “Come join us.”

Dreaming of animals is a newer thing and quite different for me. Oh, there were the times two of my dogs visited me in the days after their deaths, or the time I dreamt I had a frog on a leash (hey, it was grad school. I also dreamt my fingers got chopped off and I’m a writer, so…), but rarely have I dreamt like I have in these last months. I’m usually too stunned by the bizarreness of these dreams to change them. I watch them unfold slack-jawed, except for the emotions that course through me: peace, rootedness, amazement, comfort.

When I started looking up the meaning of these animals and my dreams, I learned there are a LOT of people who are looking for interpretations of their weird dreams. There are also a lot of people out there ready to help. Like astrology, the language and meanings are loosey-goosey, open to whatever you are looking for. And like astrology, I don’t believe that dreams should be interpreted literally, or that such interpretations should be mistaken for absolute truth or real-life decisions.

On the other hand, my brain is going through a lot, apparently.  My subconscious is very busy at night. Sometimes I believe it’s trying to make sense of the things that I don’t want to deal with. Other times I think maybe it’s just fucking with me, teasing me with the most ridiculous and mundane images possible. A little entertainment from me for me. Haha. Joke’s on me.

Almost all of my dreams have optimistic interpretations: personal happiness, overcoming your problems, being at peace with yourself, good luck, strength, and transformation. I guess my next questions would be, why does my brain feel the need to do this to me? And why is it so relentlessly optimistic?

It is possible that I resist giving myself credit for my own personal strength. In fact, I try very hard to avoid all thoughts of the circumstances that have forged that strength. Instead of congratulating myself on finding meaning and contentment in a drastically altered life, I focus on  what needs to be done now. It seems a lot easier than thinking about my life or my inability to change things like COVID or Lyme.

Also, I don’t have the extra energy to contemplate anything more than what I choose to do, and I don’t choose to consciously tell myself how fucking great and strong I am. So my brain has chosen to do that for me in the only time I don’t control it. In essence, I’ve outfoxed my own self and become my own cheerleader through my dreams, because I can’t do that when I’m conscious. I hope all of you have such wily brains. These dreams are a lot of fun, and in their own ways, quite comforting.