What does it feel like to be treated like you are making it all up?

The last few months old memories have been surfacing. My daughter has recently been diagnosed with a rare disorder: hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. We are still trying to make sense of this. It’s kinda horrifying to find out your child has something like this, yet the patterns of the syndrome really do match her symptoms.

Its even more crazy when Mom, aka me, also has a rare disorder: hypogammaglobulinemia which is an immune deficiency. And thats where the old memories come from. The days when I had these odd symptoms and no one, and I mean no one, had a clue why I got sick.

Have you ever been called a hypochondriac?
Told you are psychotic and are imagining things?
That what you’re experiencing in your body is all in your mind?
Ever called up a psychologist to ask if you are crazy
or really do have health issues?

Yup. That was my life. Still is sometimes. I’ve frequently been teased about being a hypochrondriac.

In my early 30s, I was working for Apple Computer on a project that was spun out into a different building off the regular campus. It was in a more industrial neighborhood. We’d come in every morning and wipe a layer of black off our computer monitors. I began having extremely painful sinus headaches along with brain fog and fatigue. Symptoms which went away when I was not in the building. (Later I discovered the building was next to a soy sauce factory and the black residue was coming in through the HVAC system.)

My doctor kept telling me I was having an allergic reaction but we couldn’t figure out what the culprit was. I saw a half dozen allergists who told me the same thing and were no help at all. I was ordered home and out of the building during which time my symptoms went away. Of course, it was while I was home and had no symptoms that the workers comp doctor examined me and decided there was nothing wrong with me.

At that point, despite my regular doctor being convinced I was ill with allergic reactions, my then-manger decided I was simply being psychotic and a hypochondriac – and proceeded to write all of that into my annual review. Sigh.

After almost a year of this, I was going to bed tired and fatigued and waking up tired. It was like sleep had no effect on me. The sinus headaches continued as did the brain fog. I had black circles under my eyes and had gained almost 20 pounds even though I had little appetite.

My then-husband daily told me all of these symptoms were just in my head and I needed to meditate and that would resolve all my issues. He was quite frustrated with me and very clearly convinced I was making all of this up.

Dancing with the Cosmos, Annette Wagner, 2012

By this point, between my manager and husband both harping on me, I began to wonder if I was simply going crazy and being a hypochondriac. So I called up a friend who was a psychologist and asked him if there was some way to determine if what I was experiencing was medical or psychological. He proceeded to do a thorough examination of me. In his professional opinion, what I was experiencing was real and medical and not psychological. I as so relieved to have him tell me this.

Not too long after that, I was referred to an allergist who specialized in mold allergies. The first thing he had me do was a mold elimination diet. Inside of 2 weeks, I felt like a new person. I woke up alert and rested in the morning and felt SO much better. I lost all the extra weight. We had found the culprit: mold.

With treatment, my body slowly calmed down and my health began to even out a bit. I wasn’t done with my medical adventures but the path forward began to ease. Years later, I was diagnosed with hypogammaglobulinemia. My immune system is deficient in IgG and that deficiency throws everything else in my immune system out of balance.

The experience of being dis-believed, told I was imagining things, being called psychotic and a hypochondriac stayed with me. I was shut down, not listened to, and told I was an idiot to listen to my own body and follow my intuition about something being off. That searching for an answer was only going to make what I was imagining true. What bullshit.

What I have learned in my adventures with my immune system, is that searching for an answer is exactly the right thing to do. You will know when another piece of the puzzle clicks into place because of the way the patterns match up and things begin to make sense. There is a resonance with what the doctor, tests or research papers say about your symptoms and potential condition that happens.

I’ve learned to listen to my body and my intuition and to allow them to lead me. And to grow a thick skin with regard to those in the world who persist in thinking I’m “making it all up”. They don’t live in my body and will never experience what I experience.

Why has this come up now? Because it’s time to pass on this knowledge to my daughter. To give her the skills to stand strong and to listen to her body and make her own way forward. Managing her health issues is only part of the job. Learning how and when to listen is the other part.

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Fear is the mind killer?

Boat of Sorrows; Boat of Hope by Annette Wagner

“Fear is the mind killer.”

That quote from Frank Herbert’s Dune has always stuck in my mind. I’ve niggled at it wondering why it’s stuck around as long as it has and realized it’s because of the truth contained in the idea it represents.

Fear does shut down our mind and, for me, the worst part is that it also closes the door to our heart – and that’s why this quote has stuck in my mind. When the heart connection breaks, love stops flowing through our minds and hearts and that causes all kinds of havoc to erupt in our lives.

What made me unravel this story was a little incident that happened the other day and yet it was huge in how it changed the context of how I understand fear in my life.

My man was out in the garage organizing; a necessary feat as we are now living in a much smaller house than we really fit into. He was installing overhead metal shelves to create a place for luggage and sleeping bags and such so there would be more room on the lower shelves in the garage.

I was out there organizing wrapping paper supplies, looking up at these shelves and what he was putting up there – and that is when, unknowing to me, fear snuck into my mind.

I voiced my concern about it being hard for me to get things down from up there when I needed them and the conversation derailed into an exchange about yes I would need help and how else were we going to find space to store everything if he didn’t do this and resulted in him being annoyed and frustrated with me. I left the garage feeling hurt and confused.

This is when my muse stepped in and started prodding me. Why did I react as I did? I knew he was going to put up those shelves. I knew those items were going up there. There are plenty of step ladders in the garage for me to use. Then it hit me.

I had spoken from a place of fear.

Why? Was it because I have a whacky back and can’t lift anything heavy? No. My physical limitation are an issue, however my sense was that wasn’t where the fear came from. I dug deeper. So where did the fear come from?

I had looked at those shelves and the things on them and suddenly I was back in a world in which I was alone. In which I had only myself to depend on and no one else. A world which had more constraints and less love because there was no one else to share it with. A world that did not include the blessings I have now in my life. It was a world of what if and doubt and distrust.

I was shocked. All it needed was one little glimpse of fear to bring in all of that? Ick.

Now I know why my muse kept prodding me into unraveling this story. Understanding how the fear can close down my mind and shut off my heart, explains so much about how I reacted. Doesn’t mean I am going to be suddenly perfect and never react from a place of fear again.

But maybe, just maybe, it means I will do it a whole lot less as I write my own new story about fear and it’s place in my life. About the doorway to my heart is resistant to fear closing it. How it sounds alarms when fear tries to do that. How I am more and more aware when fear tries to sneak in to derail conversations. And most of all, because love is at the center of my choices and I choose love.

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Today I Turn 60

So I asked myself, what does 60 feel like?

Is it about having a full head of wildly curly gray hair with brilliant magenta patches?
Still looking great in leggings and tank tops?
Feeling more healthy than I have at several other points in my life?
Is it about dancing with my Elle to the tune of some crazy song?
Laughing with my Cass when he sneaks in one of those teasing pranks on me?

YES.

Someone send me a birthday card joking about being Sexy and Sixty. It captured where I am in life perfectly. I am a damn sexy 60 year old woman. Never thought I would say that but there it is.

I want all of you women out there reading this to know: the thing making you outrageous and sexy at 60 is loving yourself for all that you are – and living into that. It took me years to understand that. And when I did, my life turned outrageously fun and love filled it.  

I’ve had the opportunity to do lots of wonderful and wild things in my life from driving my little Porsche on a race track to painting in Monet’s gardens to being the second person in the world to create computer icons. I have 21 patents to my name and am the one who created the graphic known affectionately as Moof. I helped produce a comic book about the Java mascot Duke and lived through conversations with Steve Jobs.

I’ve hit walls creatively and walked away from failed relationships and build houses on hills only to drive away from them one day. Made lots of mistakes and there are things I regret saying to people. I walked away from hi-tech and became the artist I always wanted to be. I’ve spent days on mountains doing vision quests and days on mountains painting and drawing.

My life has been a tapestry of change and movement and creation. I never know where my path will lead me and these days that’s just the way I like it. I didn’t always, but somewhere along the way I realized it was best to just let go of having grand plans because my life was about walking my path, not forcing things to go however I might think they needed to go. Choosing to follow my heart’s desire was the best choice I ever made.

I plan to have lots more adventures visiting deserts, creating paintings, laughing at pranks, flirting with the man of my heart and raising my amazing daughter.

If this is what 60 feels like than I’m keeping it.

 

 

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Me and Mom

leoda-in-india-editedMy mother, Leoda Floradene Hall Wagner, walked on Sunday morning November 27, 2016, right on through the veil between this life and the next. I knew she was fading and ready to go. When it was clear Alzheimers had captured her brain several years ago, I said goodbye and told her to go when she was ready.

I was off in Death Valley exploring with a group of friends and out of cell contact. We woke up on Sunday morning to high winds and packed up to head out. It started raining on us – in one of the driest places around mind you. We drove out and up into the nearby mountains to explore an old mine and right into the most beautiful snowfall I’ve ever seen.

When we got out of the truck it was still snowing lightly. I wandered and played and took pictures and sketched. Only later did I learn that right about then was when Mom was breathing her last breath. I will always remember the beauty of that morning – it was a gift.

img_6180Two nights before I had hiked up a hillside into a wash in the desert and talked to her. Telling her about my man and our love and how we were doing, what her granddaughter was up too. Just catching up on things. It was peaceful and I could feel her around me. I told her again to go when she was ready. When I left I found a little rock in my pocket with a brilliant green streak through it – one of the colors she used to wear.

She and I traveled to Ireland, with a side trip to London, in late spring of 2006 – our big trip together as mother and daughter. Mom loved traveling especially to see sacred sites. I spent 4 months researching the trip, mapping out what stone circles and cairns to see and where to stay. We were gone almost 3 weeks on our travels. The longest I had been gone from my very young daughter. I taught my mom how to use a camera phone to take pictures to send back to her granddaughter.

St. Brigid's Well

We began our trip by visiting London and going to the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels – something she had always wanted to see. It rained on us as we wandered all over London. Then off to Dublin. We saw Newgrange and its sister cairns, Knowth and Dowth, staying in a B&B next door that served fried tomatoes for breakfast. We found Ramsey tombstones in Letterkenney and got lost trying to find stone circles and cairns hidden off the road. We stayed in all kinds of places including on the estate of a Lord where a Templar ruins still exist. We went up to the top of Maeve’s cairn and part way of St. Patick’s mountain. It was an adventure full of memories.

Mom was always interested in all things mystical. She had the gift of Sight; you could place your hand in hers and she would close her eyes and she would answer all the questions you were too afraid to voice. And then some. She wowed my friends and made it very hard to hide anything when I was a teenager!

One Thanksgiving, about 12 years ago, we talked about having this gift. My grandmother, her mom, had the Sight. Mom remembered as a child her mom coming to the breakfast table with dreams to share – her way of sharing her gift in a world that did not support women with the Sight. In my moms world, she became a “psychic” thought she never asked for money and never had one of those neon signs. We would laugh about that. I know the gift is in me too but different then how it was for her.

I was very rebellious when I was younger and still am I suppose. When I was born, Mom was delighted to have a baby girl after two boys and dressed me up in pink and bows and dresses and tried to make me into a lady. She painted my room pink every year until I protested and painted it brilliant orange. It took 3 coats of white to cover it when I moved out something that I admit still makes me smile. Amusingly, hot pink is now one of my favorite colors.

meandmomMom loved dressing up and fashion and shopping. And when she was shopping she walked FAST. I learned to always keep my eye on her so I didn’t lose her when we were moving through a shopping mall. She had her colors done and liked it so well she had mine done. She was making me wear rust and brown colors and it turned out my colors were black and rose and very pale blue and pine needle. Had to completely redo my wardrobe. My jeans and t-shirt phases were a trial to her. Then there was the old turquoise cape coat she really didn’t like which disappeared from my closet one day and resulted in a very heated argument between us.

She was proud of me for my career and for the things I created including being an artist. And as the years went past I realized I was proud of her too. Every place she lived she joined the local womens’ club and always became the president involved in all sorts of charitable activities. She was an compassionate real estate agent who helped her clients relocate, size down gracefully and move through the challenges of change.

I remember when I bought my little black Porsche. My dad’s reaction was shock. He literally could not believe I could drive it. Women just were too helpless to do that. My response was to take Mom for a drive in the mountains which she loved – laughing the whole time as I flew over the windy roads.

elleongrandmaShe was there when my daughter was born. She was so happy to hold Eleanor. She stayed with us for two weeks to help out and it was a gift. She did laundry, made sure I slept and ate and held Eleanor every second she could. When I had troubles with breast feeding, she couldn’t help and shared her stories of how the doctors dried up women without even asking in the 50s.

When Eleanor was small, she loved her grandma and made her play dress up with her all the time. They played with kittens and blew bubbles and we visited down at their house when we could. Unfortunately, the Alzheimers started to take her away when Elle was still young and now Elle doesn’t remember that much of Grandma. My one regret is that Elle could have had more time with Grandma when her mind was still with us.

I’ll miss her and I can feel her with me. Its odd. I am sad but mostly peaceful with her passing. Its been a long time coming. When I did my prayers this morning I could see her smiling face the whole time so very clearly. In a way she is more here now then she has been and that feels good.

I love you Mom,
Annette

From Loughcrew Cairn, Ireland. 

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Am I Still Holding My Piece of the Red Thread?

Alien Skin Rock

Facade.
An alien skin over your own
Hiding you from the world
Keeping your secrets safe
To walk in your own skin
Let your heart sing
Be you, only you
And you will loved.

I’ve not written for a while because life took me off on another tangent. One that felt like I was being derailed, distracted, and pulled away from my work, my piece of the red thread.

My wonderful, beautiful, creative daughter had a very rocky start to high school. Anxiety. Stress headaches. Tears. Anger. Overwhelm. It took weeks to figure out what was going on. It’s been very hard for her and very hard for me. To watch someone I love who has all this potential and brilliance flounder and sink into a miasma where she is entirely stalled out in her life….it rips up my heart big time.

I’ve run through the gamut of mom guilt trips: feeling hugely responsible, frustrated because I can’t just fix it, annoyed at the way it derailed her, wondering how I contributed, wondering how I missed this pattern in her all these years, feeling helpless, annoyed at how western medical just wants to hand a 14 year old drugs, annoyed at her father for his genetic contribution. You name it, I’ve been walking it.

All through this, I asked, What is wanted? I wanted an intention to guide my energy and my heart. I had a trip planned to Idaho and Montana for a week in the midst of this and I went because I needed the break, to step away for a bit. And so, there on the side of a river one day, my intention emerged:

To support my daughter in learning how and moving through transformation.

If you’ve read my blog you know that I know this transformation stuff. Its what I teach and what I paint. I’ve been through major change in my own life. But my hesitation, and I did have one, about engaging in what I teach with my child was because I felt I was too close. Yet spirit made it clear that this was what I was to do. Relief and clarity are mine – I’ve felt like I now have a light shining on my path forward.

I came home and went to work supporting her, talking to her therapist, putting routine and boundaries in place, and generally just being there with her to laugh and cry and keep taking one step after the other. I have not worked on my art updating my site or finishing watercolors and greeting cards or creating videos for online classes or any of the other projects I have on my list to get done. Part of me has been beating myself up about that. Feeling like I am not doing my work.

So what do those of us who work in the Intentional Creativity movement do when we feel like this? We ask. And so, I asked,

Am I still holding my piece of the red thread?

YES.

The answer surprised me but perhaps will not surprise you. The answer included letting me know that doing all that work to get my art out into the world is important – but it has its own time and path. And right now I AM doing my work. I AM holding my piece of the red thread. 

Being there with my daughter as she walks this path IS doing MY work in the world right now in this present moment. Its about loving my daughter in all the ways she needs so she has the opportunity to heal herself so she can live her life fully and with love and happiness. Tears as I write this…

I needed to hear this. I needed to recalibrate myself with my own inner purpose, with my own piece of the red thread. Recalibration comes in many ways and I am grateful whether it comes with rocks or rose petals strewn down my path so long as I know which direction to walk in. 

Rocks from Glacier Flathead Lake

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The Many Uses of Canvases, aka The Mouse Episode

Last night, I woke up to that sound of something scritching – little tiny feet rustling about.

Groan. Not again.
Did that darn cat bring in another baby possum?

Over the last three weeks, Hero has made a habit of bringing in a collection of baby possums which then eat all the cat food, wash up in the water bowls, and proceed to wander about the house leaving droppings here and there until they find my open bedroom door. Then they carefully crawl up the inside of the screen door trying to find their way out. Hence my aversion to the scritching noise. 

The only redeeming quality of this behavior is that the baby possums really are very non-agressive. They just roll up and play dead and I scoop them out and out of the house and they wander off. Even the one that found its way into the bathtub did that. Of course, it might have just fallen asleep.

The sound of scritching definitely brings me out of a good sleep. Its why I now had a small flashlight by that bedroom door. So I grudgingly rolled myself out of my bed, grumbling that my man was not here to do this for me – after all isn’t this his job!? I grabbed the flashlight and carefully opened my bedroom door wider and allowed the beam of light to play over the entire door. Nada. Not one sound and not one little critter. Hmmmm.

mouse behind dresserThe very early morning is not the time when my brain works fully. That warm bed was calling me even if the man was not in it. I did notice that Princess, Hero’s sister, was sitting on the bed at full attention – a clear sign that something was up. Didn’t matter. I rolled back into bed, snuggled into a nice warm pillow and went back to sleep.

A few hours later, I had two cats demanding pets and breakfast so I rolled back out of bed and over to the big picture window to pull up the curtain. My usual morning routine. And that’s when I found out why Princess was still at full attention.

I pulled on the cord, the curtain went up, and the bloody mouse that had been rustling its way back and forth on the top of the rail went flying to the other end and out into the air landing at the far end of the wall. I shrieked as Hero went racing in trying to catch the beastie. It was trapped between a piece of furniture and had nowhere to go. I grabbed the damn cat and attempted to drop him in there but he was having nothing to do with that.

So I shifted stuff and the mouse came flying out right at me. Another shriek ensued. The cat flew out of the bedroom and the mouse ran for the dresser in the other corner. Double frigging arg.

Mouse episode 2I did what any self-respecting woman would do especially one who is just barely awake and very annoyed. I texted the man to express my opinion and took myself off to the shower. I left Princess to oversee the mess and the open screen door.

After my shower, I got dressed, an important detail when dealing with tiny scurrying critters that bring on shrieks. I felt more awake and ready to deal with the beastie. Princess was still on guard.

I carefully cleared off the top of the dresser. Then I very slowly angled out one corner of the dresser and took a long look with the flashlight. Yup. Right there – 3 inches of brown furry mouse clinging to the back of the dresser with all its might. Well, I was NOT going in after it. Possums yes, mice no. And no, do not ask what the reasoning is. I have my rules. 

mouse episode princessI did the only thing I could do. I went into my studio and grabbed several long canvases. Then I arranged them such that the only open path was out the screen door. Then I carefully pulled the dresser out from the wall more. The mouse perched on the plugs. Princess set herself outside the door and settled in to wait.

I went off to make breakfast. For me.

I informed the cats that their breakfast was not an option until the mouse situation was resolved. Not that this had any real effect on Hero. He cleaned out the leftovers in the bowls and went to sleep on his chair. Apparently he had a hard night – all those shrieks unsettled his equilibrium.

Sheesh.

  

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