My Word for Today: WHATEVER.

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

November 26th, 2010 • Living with Chronic PainPrint Print

Man oh man, the last 10 days were shit. It started with the maintenance people showing up and banging a new door into place at my neighbor’s pad. Not only did the banging leave me trapped in my own pad, but when info on additional work was not forthcoming from management – despite the new door sitting on the landing outside my unit, obviously about to be installed somewhere else in my vicinity – I became very anxious.

That became a theme for the next week: Things going on affecting my health & wellness, me not getting the 411, me getting increasingly anxious. I’d say that by Monday this week, when I was just bouncing back from the tree-cutting incident, and then there was a leaf-blowing-truck incident (yo, anyone heard of a muffler?), I crossed the line into downright hysteria.

Not only was my ear’s healing being jeopardized by the repeated assault on my nerves, but I also was barely able to function, ie work, which added another layer of distress – namely, how the f*** am I going to pay my bills. Let it be known that the fallout of injury is expensive, especially when it involves two moves in the course of two months – one with a one-way truck rental ($750 for three days of renting a U-Haul. A U-Haul!)

Following the leaf-blowing-truck incident, I got into my hi-tech bag lady groove, working from my car while it was parked outside a café. That way I could make calls (yay Skype!) without getting my ear radiated by a cell phone (double ow when it’s injured). Not to mention, I could have a conversation, period. While in the café, I had to wear earplugs, to stave off nerve pain from all that espresso bean grinding and coffee holder thingamadoogee banging.

This time, I came prepared as I bolted out of my apartment: I grabbed a wool poncho to put over my legs in the car, in addition to a jacket to wear over my torso. That way I could stay relatively warm without turning on the car heat and becoming an O-Zone hater.

Part of what I was doing in that car was communicating with (ie trying to wrench out info from) management, attempting to get basic 411 on what goes on around my apartment, so that I could prepare myself accordingly. After one week of being told that management was having meetings about meetings about meetings and that they needed a doctor’s note stating my need for accommodation before they could ask maintenance to tell me about what noisy activities were going to happen when, I was advised this: Maintenance works from 8 am – 4 pm every day.

Really? All that just to tell me something you already knew last week? I lost it. I just f***ing lost it. I lay in that car, seat in recline position, bawling my eyes out. I was right back in the situation I’d fled in LA — having to be a café refugee all day every day. I was going to have to move again. And, oh yeah, one little glitch: I have no money left. Not the typical middle-class “I have no money left” with $1000 in the bank and several thou more available on credit cards. I have no money left.

So I was lying there, crying and crying, and then I started laughing. Deep unbridled laughter from my gut. Suddenly everything seemed so ridiculous that it was totally hilarious. Then the laughing became crying, and the crying became laughing. And that’s when I surrendered. OK Universe, let’s go! Where are you taking me now?

Here’s the crazy thing: In that moment, despite all the wacko fucked up shit I’ve endured over the past decade and a half, I trusted the Universe. Or more to the point, I trusted myself in my dance with the Universe. I did not feel afraid.

In fact, I felt liberated. I’d been working so, so hard over the past few years to achieve this or that high-profile thing (and, I might add, in fact achieving it), that my funky free-spirited self – the gal who danced in the streets and smashed bottles in her backyard and ran around the neighborhood in a swimsuit and Teva sandles during a rainstorm — got a little bit lost in all the hype and suit-wearing activities. I mean, all those activities were also a manifestation of my authentic spirit, but the gypsy, vagabond chick kind of took a back seat.

And there she was again. In a car. With a dented driver’s side door, because someone with a big fat combat boot had kicked it in while it was parked on the street three months earlier.

Know what? I’m set, I thought to myself. I’ve got this here car; I’ve got a sleeping bag; I’ve got a computer; and I’ve got a cell phone. What more does a gal need? Then I was happy. Happy happy happy. And I drove to my mom’s place, and she fed me a yummy, hot meat dish, which she had put aside for me from her own communal meal where she lives.

The next day, I was scheduled for a hearing test. It also happened to be the day that the tree cutters were arriving. I’d only slept a little over five hours, but I had to wake up just after 7 am, so as to get out of my place by 8 am sharp – when the hacking and shredding would start. I bolted out of my apartment, shoving down two eggs and gulping a latte, and then I headed to this café that I totally love.

At 10:30 am, I was in the auditory center for a hearing test. The technician was a warm-hearted young woman with whom I felt safe and comfortable. I explained to her that I was extra-super-deluxe sensitive in my hearing and that I was therefore nervous about the test – would there be loud sounds? She assured me that she was specifically going to test how soft I could hear sounds. I made a point of asking her to start off as softly as possible, so that I could catch any sounds before they became loud. She agreed.

She also told me that there was a second test I’d need to take, one which would determine whether my ear drum was closing properly when there were loud sounds. “It will be loud, but it will be quick,” she assured me, “and you can stop me at any time, if you can’t tolerate it.” At the time, it seemed like an important test, and I felt safe with her, so I said OK.

The first part of the hearing test went fine. More about that in another post. The second hearing test, however, holy fucking shit. All the noise I was trying to escape was suddenly stuck deep into my ear via some contraption. My whole body convulsed when the loud sound went off. I burst into tears and sat there shaking. To her credit, the technician advised that we not continue that test. More on that in another post as well.

The bottom line is that I ended up with horrific pain, of a deeper, more insidious nature, because it was coming from way inside my head. That night and the next day (yesterday), my head felt as if it were going to explode. I had a gawdawful headache; the pressure was outta control; and everything around that (right) ear – my eye, the top of my nose, the back of my head – was a mess.

It’s at these times that you just want to wave around your little white flag. But no, you can’t, because the fun continues.

I had a really hard time concentrating on my work, because my eyes were all blurry (also a result of the sound shock). And then there was this whole WTF?! thing about why they would subject to a test like that someone with super sensitive hearing. As I came to realize, doing that test was like hitting someone on an injured knee, to see if the knee reflex was still working. Theoretically: Good idea. Practically: Bad idea.

We wonder why I don’t trust the medical system. Most of my injuries came at the hands of doctors and body workers.

Then there’s the issue of the downstairs neighbors, who keep closing doors, drawers, and cabinets in such a way that it bangs up here. I get jolts of nerve pain when it happens. I’ve been such an emotional mess from all this crap going on, that I was feeling terribly anxious about talking to them about the issue.

I’d introduced myself when I first moved in, giving them my number, telling them to call me if I am ever disturbing them, and letting them know about my hour-a-day dance routine. But I hadn’t yet had the chance to build any kind of relationship with them. I’d hoped to have them and other neighbors over for tea or a meal or something, to get to know everyone, but I hadn’t gotten the chance yet.

So I felt weird going down and asking them to be more gentle closing things, no matter how diplomatically and skillfully I put it. I was anxious that they’d feel attacked and defensive. And if I was anxious, I certainly wouldn’t communicate well. I decided instead to hang on, to get through the jolts of pain, and to first invite them over for tea or a meal. I tried twice, but they weren’t home; so I left a note with an invite.

A few days went by, and they hadn’t gotten back to me. Which, honestly, felt rude, but never mind. Meanwhile the banging was interrupting my sleep in the morning and otherwise impacting me – among other things, leaving me nerve-wracked in anticipation of the next jolt. The four-day holiday weekend was coming up, and I didn’t think it would be a good time to address the issue with them – ie, interrupting their festivities with some neighbor complaints. I also didn’t want to endure four straight days of on-and-off bangs.

So I went ahead and left a note for them yesterday, after first ringing the bell to talk with them if they were home. I put a lot of thought into how to say things. I made a point of mentioning how tightly the springs are wound in the cabinets here, recognizing that they probably are not banging per se, but if they could still be more gentle, I’d be most grateful. I wished them happy Thanksgiving, let them know a neighbor is coming over for brunch on Sunday morning, and said they’re more than welcome to join.

Bang-bang-bang was the reply last night. And this morning. I’ve been moving to different parts of my apartment, but there’s no escape. I’m at my wit’s end. I also feel weird about dancing now, since I just made a point of asking them not to bang (not that they are complying), and, well, dancing = bouncing around on their heads. Whenever I’m able, I make a point of dancing while they are away at work. But we’ve got that four day holiday thingy happening now.


That’s my word of the day: Whatever. I give up. I give in. I have no idea how to manage all this crap. I’m exhausted. I’m not going to try anymore. I’m not going to think things through. I’m just going to do what I can each day and do my best to survive.

I’m not sure how this will all play out, because there’s that little inconvenient reality that the noise is causing setbacks. But instead of trying to fight the good fight, I’m just going to ask the Universe for help and do my best to let it go. Good thoughts, healing energy, and heartfelt prayers are sure welcome at this time.

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