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Emails to my Therapist

Tightly Wired: A New Definition

Nicholas, I seem to be fraying: some of my wiring, that is. I always thought “tightly wired” was a metaphor. But for about a year, I’ve had half a dozen tears in my left shoulder tendons. Now it seems that the same thing has happened in my left ankle. Guess my wires are pulled too tight. (Curiously, I’ve also recently had skin cancer and dental distress both on my left side. I’m a microcosm for the country: the Left is hurting.)

While I’m new to health glitches–I’ve mentioned this before–I’m long accustomed to the notion of being tightly wired. Meaning: hyper-focused, terribly earnest and pretending not to be, second-third-fourth-guessing myself, etc. Everybody knows what tightly wired means. And it’s probably just free-floating fear, being a-frayed of not getting things right.

But I didn’t know that the wires could actually fray. I’m sure it’s my reaction to stress–late-breaking response to the serious family illnesses in the last year. My psychologist husband accuses me of thinking there’s a psychological reason for everything; he thinks some things just happen. But as long as I think a problem originates in my head, there’s a better chance of solving it, which is encouraging even if not entirely true. Things that just happen can present quite a challenge. Best that I take responsibility for it, which is paradoxically another feature of being tightly wired.

Tightly Wired for Action

So I’ve begun my campaign for getting serene and healthy. I started taking that unwieldy handful of vitamins and supplements you suggested. I gave up my sweet iced tea habit.  Instead, quarts of water and no caffeine and a radically reduced amount of sugar. I now brush my teeth after every meal and snack. I stepped up the exercise and meditation (a little.) I went back to yoga, even though one arm doesn’t lift right. Now in addition to the arm problem, I’m wearing a big stiff black boot to immobilize my ankle, very fetching. And yoga? Awkward.


tightly wired

I’m imagining it’s really a ski boot

I am very lucky that none of these health blips are serious, just mildly painful, time-consuming, and in some cases expensive. However, the sudden eruption of them does bring mortality to mind,”mortality” being a comfortably abstract euphemism for death.

My Funeral?

While these problems aren’t serious, this morning on my ride to my office I did start thinking about who I’d like to officiate at my funeral. Didn’t come a conclusion. (Just occurs to me, how about you, Nicholas? You’re going to live forever and you’d certainly have stories to tell.)

This afternoon while I was having my first root canal wearing my first orthopedic boot, my dentist said to me, “You’re probably not going to go to your grave with this tooth.” However she thinks it should last fifteen to twenty years. Not bad! That would get me, at best, to age 88. By then dental work will probably be done instantly by smart phone. And certainly I’ll live that long.

Death also comes to mind because I’m reading psychiatrist novelist Irvin Yalom’s fascinating new memoir Becoming Myself. He’s in his upper eighties with some heftier health glitches and he writes a lot about facing death. His website has a GIF showing him transforming from 20-something to 80-something. I plan to send him my novel Sister India set in Varanasi, the place that’s most spiritually auspicious for Hindus to die. His book tells of his time in that city of burning pyres on the Ganges.

The Challenge of “Never”

My physical therapist tells me that the shoulder pain is never going to go away completely, even if I were to have surgery. I take that as a challenge. You once told me yourself decades ago that I’d never completely shake my eating disorder. But I did! I did! It was a good strategy, your saying that.

I’m ready now to shake these shoulder-ankle-teeth-and-skin problems. Not going to accept them as a stage of life. So: more meditation! More protein!






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  • Kenju
    November 1, 2017 at 4:23 pm Reply

    I wrote s long comment and forgot to hit post. Yikes! Sorry about the boot.

    • Peggy Payne
      November 1, 2017 at 4:54 pm Reply

      Sorry about the lost comment!

  • kenju
    November 1, 2017 at 4:50 pm Reply

    All are good intentions, but following up is a difficult thing. Good luck in your campaign to get well.

    • Peggy Payne
      November 1, 2017 at 4:54 pm Reply

      I’ve been doing all these healthy things for a couple of months now, kenju. Didn’t know I could hang on this long, but now I’m feeling optimistic.

  • ruth
    November 1, 2017 at 8:57 pm Reply

    Loved this post, Peggy. Not that I could relate or anything….
    I need an update in person. xo

    • Peggy Payne
      November 1, 2017 at 9:13 pm Reply

      Yes, an update. Let me know when you’re loose. Thanks, Ruth!

  • November 2, 2017 at 3:49 am Reply

    Dampens my eyes to read of your several recent body issues – you’ve managed it all with your usual strong energy, grace and optimism, and I expect you’ll prevail this passing cycle of reminders that it’s our physical body that carries our soul. The Siddhartha Buddha said we are of the nature to experience these things, including death, and we get to choose our responses to these inevitable experiences
    Irv Yalom has been a patron saint of mine since I had dinner with him and his wife when NCPA had him for a workshop and didn’t know what to do with him that night. A remarkable man, he’s done gold standard research and written the definitive text in Interpersonal group therapy [now in it’s 5th thick edition], expert in so many other complex areas i.e. existential psychotherapy, training therapists, facing death [Staring at the Sun], using the drug ecstasy to help resolve his marital problems, and radical advocate of the necessity of psychotherapy for therapists, …
    Preparing for a recent panel discussion for psychologist about clients who died unexpectedly during therapy, I was flabbergasted at how much his publications and our dinner so long ago had influenced my views and practice of therapy. And you are the other biggest positive influence on my development as a person and therapist. I’m grateful to you both, and hope you two live forever, as Nicholas will.

    • Peggy Payne
      November 6, 2017 at 6:41 pm Reply

      Thought I replied to this days ago! Thank you, Bob, and I trust you’ll live forever. I’m counting on that.

  • katie
    February 21, 2018 at 5:21 am Reply

    look into myofascial release

    • Peggy Payne
      February 21, 2018 at 5:22 am Reply

      That’s a good idea, katie. Will do. Thanks!

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