When the big things are impossible

I’m burnt out, y’all. I’m so tired of the effort that I have to put in just to keep my damnable body limping along, both literally and figuratively.

There are medications- 13 of them- to maintain various functions or to make up for some lack, and countless supplements to juggle and keep refilled and take properly. There are braces and compression gloves and socks and the need for regular massage and chiropractor visits that I can’t afford to make happen because I can’t work! There’s tides of symptoms, ebbing and flowing, but always, always there, and then there’s the coping methods needed to keep me from just folding under the combined weight of that tide. There’s the fact that my teeth are literally crumbling from the roots out despite a healthy mouth environment and good oral hygiene and I can’t afford to see a dentist or get replacements for the ones we’ve had to just pull. And due to that, I’m starting to become afraid of smiling because my teeth are becoming ugly to look at, and that just absolutely breaks my heart because my body smile has always been everyone’s favorite thing about me.

There’s a planner full of visits to seven different specialists that I must see on a regular basis, all of them hours away from me, and the calls and texts and begging for rides from people who I’m sure are just as weary of the trips as I am but I don’t have anyone else to ask. There’s the blood tests and the scans and “oscopies” and the phone calls and the paperwork to be ferried between them all, and then, of course, there are the bills for it all. The ones that get further and further Past Due because I have nothing to give them but yet I couldn’t just do without their services.

And then there’s the home that needs tending. The regular chores that healthy people never think twice about but that don’t get done hardly ever because we’re both too tired- him from working a rough, stressful job and me from just trying to stay alive. The cats that I absolutely love dearly but need feeding and litter box cleaning, and vaccinations that I can barely pay for.

It’s just a LOT. And it never stops.

I was doing well for a while after recovering from the main part of the pancreatitis (still dealing with some related issues). I was eating healthy and balanced, was exercising regularly, was balancing the load pretty well. I even got to see my family again, my Mom and siblings, which healed up a raw spot in my heart that I hadn’t realized was hurting so badly. I got to spend the better part of a week with my Grampa, traveling around to the little towns in the Iowa countryside that he grew up in and kicked around in as he grew into his teens. Now that was a really special experience, one that I cherish deeply.

But then winter came, and with it the dramatic shifts of barometric pressure that incapacitate me so badly. And with my already limited energy reduced to but a fraction, I am struggling to keep my balance. I’m so tired. Just… weary. Frayed. In my current state, “big things” has come to mean “anything beyond dragging myself out of bed to take my meds and make sure the cats and I get fed”. I am upset that the things that I have managed before are now so far out of my reach. It feels like defeat. It feels like loss of purpose, in a way. It feels like I’m just taking up space, sucking up resources.

Tonight, though, as I got into to tub to soak my aching joints and to, hopefully, wash my hair as well, I had to wipe off the ledges of the tub before I settled in. They’d accumulated a bit of dust and stray cat hair, which is normal in our home, but it felt good to make even a small dent in my surroundings. To change something for the better, however small.

Another ten minutes passed. Agnes made tea and brought over a tin of cookies. ‘So, my girl. Why are you fixing this? If it’s sat in the attic for six years, why fix it now?’

Good question. Dara tied off the thread, and started a new strand. ‘You know what my mom used to tell me? She used to say if everything in your life looks like a mess, start with something small. Clean that up. Get control of that. Then do something else small. Then something else. By that point, the big mess will start to look smaller. More manageable. Fix what you can fix, first.’

The Spirit of Victory, chapter 102

Abusive Body

I’ve come to the conclusion that living with a chronic, serious health problem (or problems, as it were) is comparable to being in a relationship with an abusive partner. The beginning is a dizzying whirlwind of emotions as you try to get your footing and learn the unique quirks and twerks of your partner. You want to talk about this new relationship all the time to whomever will listen, and you invest massive amounts of time into research/quality time, trying to find that blissful equilibrium. As time goes on, you settle into a comfortable pattern, and you think that you’ve got things pretty well figured out. Your body has other plans, however.

An incident occurs, and the other’s reaction is unexpected. Out of proportion. It must be my fault, you think. Obviously I didn’t handle that right. You try harder to predict reactions, to placate your short-tempered partner however you can. You give up some of your hobbies, your friends, and your focus narrows a bit. After all, it’s worth it to keep the peace, isn’t it? And for a while, it’s enough. You think that you’ve dodged the bullet, that things will continue smoothly from here so long as you maintain the current guidelines. And maybe they do. Maybe you get a month, a half-year, a whole year! You’ve decided that despite the rocky start, it was obviously just a phase, a reaction to stress or something.

Or maybe it’s not enough. Maybe, for reasons completely inexplicable to any kind of sound logic, the abuse continues. Grows worse. It must be me, you think. Clearly I’m doing something wrong, or there’s a particular thing that I’m not doing that I should be. My neglect is causing this. If you dare to reach out for help, that message is echoed right back to you.

“It’s because you weren’t vegetarian growing up. It’s because you use cosmetics. You’ve got toxins built up that you need to purge. You’re not taking this supplement/doing this treatment/seeing this guru. You take traditional medications, you’ve been tricked by Big Pharma and it’s all just encouraging the problems, even if you’ve seen positive changes.”

You give up more and more and more because the abuser has an iron grip on your body, on your life. I know, because I live it. I have had to give up a lot, because I simply can’t do the thing anymore, and it hurts. Oh god does it ever hurt. I miss the old me, the life I led that was largely determined by my own self, tempered by consideration for the ones I love. And now, well, now my life is focused largely on myself, simply because it takes so much effort to keep up with the necessary things required by basic living, and it seems that those things increase threefold when you get a chronic illness or five. Doctor’s appointments, prescriptions, organizing rides and bills. Doing the myriad little things that help keep the symptom-beasts at bay, and doing them in a timely manner. All that and more, so that I can stay here, stay with the people I love and who love me in return. They have all expressed vehemently that I am not to willingly leave them. It’s hard, but they’re worth it.

So despite my abusive body and all the concessions to it that I’ve had to make, I do want to make one thing clear: my body and my lifestyle may be held captive, but my mind is not. My mind is my own, and THAT is the critical difference between a victim living in fear of their abuser and my living with the burden of a broken body. My mind is not broken, nor is it subservient. Weary? Definitely. Foggy as hell? Most assuredly! Free? Unequivocally.

“My mind is my own, and THAT is the critical difference between a victim living in fear of their abuser and my living with the burden of a broken body.”

The Dreaded Road Trip

I’m so burnt out on trying to find people to drive me to my pain specialist appointment every month. It’s 3.5 hours away, in a different state, no less, and it’s really a very draining way to spend the day. I don’t blame them (“them” being various friends, relatives, and acquaintances that have refused to take me), not one bit. If I could get out of going, I sure as hell would! But the meds I take are only accessible by traveling through a maze of regulations, and one of those rules is that I have to have a brand new prescription for them every month. No refills. No phoning it in. I have to personally see the doctor, obtain a hand written prescription, travel to the pharmacy and personally hand them this prescription for it to be accepted. Every. Thirty. Days. Oh, and if they are out of stock? I’m screwed, because I can’t fill the script in a different state (you know, where I live), and they’re not allowed to mail the meds to me.

(Image source telegraph.co.uk, edited by me.)

The few people that do say “yes” to the trip regularly, well… I think they’re about as burnt out on the trip as I am. No, probably more so, because at least I can sleep during the drive! It’s nothing but work for them, and I hate that I have to saddle people I like with such a crap experience on the reg, but I just can’t drive that far myself. Haven’t been able to in years. With the seizures and the dysautonomia and the narcolepsy and the pain, it’s just not a safe thing for me to do, though I can do running around town on my own some days. I’m nervous the whole time, though, and always pretty much desperate to get home.

The ideal solution would be to find a pain specialist nearer to me, but I’ve gone through all of the local offices and some in a different but still distant city, but I ended up in the hospital after mistreatment, sooooo… I’ve tried so many different things to try to lessen my need for this far-distant doctor, but nothing has done the trick so far.

And so here I am. The number that people probably cringe at when it comes up on their phones, because they know what I’m gonna ask. I feel vaguely like I’m using my friends and family, and I absolutely hate that feeling. I just don’t have any other solutions at the moment. And I also have no ride.

Switching pain management routes

I decided a while back that because it is so hard to get the pain medication I need these days and with the 14 hour trips to get to and from the doctor that would treat me, I was going to try the route a pain friend of mine has found effective and try buprenorphine therapy. You can look it up yourself, I honestly don’t have the energy, but it requires going into withdrawals from the regular opiate pain meds, which I did, and then the past week I’ve been going through the withdrawals and adjustment period which, frankly, has been hell. Now that the withdrawals have eased up, the pain has come rushing in. It’s not completely untreated, I’ll say that much, but it’s nowhere near as effective as I’d been assured it would be, and I’m quite disappointed. Disappointed and weak and suffering an immense amount.

I stayed with my grandparents for the first five days, and I’m really glad that I did. For one, it was nice having somewhere clean and comforting to stay in the midst of my distress, plus with people who are both willing and able to help me out with rides and bringing me things, watching movies with me, etc. It does a lot for my spirits to not be alone most of the time. Not only that but there were no cats trying to climb all over me well-meaningly and affectionately, and my husband didn’t have to see the worst of it and feel the helplessness that comes when a loved one is hurting and there’s nothing you can do. Gramma and Grampa feel today too, I know, but they were not able to assist me then than he would be, so the feeling was less.. I hope.

I’m doing better with hydrating since I got home, but still not great. Having trouble eating, so that’s probably contributing to my weakness and tiredness, but I’m trying. I’ve been taking my regular pills like I’m supposed to, though, all of them. Been taking a LOT of sleeping pills and Benadryl though, just to escape, which isn’t great for me but if I accidentally OD at least it’ll stop hurting. I’m kind of hoping that one of my other health issues will kick up and finish me off, like an adrenal crisis or something, but I’m not that lucky. My body is messed up enough to make me miserable but not enough to actually die.

Clearly I’ve been daydreaming a lot about death and suicide, about escape from this physical hell (which, objectively, I know could be worse and would be without the buprenorphine), but I’m doing my best to fight the urge. I mean, obviously I’ve done play with that part until now right? I’ve got a bunch of people that I feel like I have to fight for, that I have to stick around for. Robot is one of them. He’s been really good to me since I’ve been home, not like he wasn’t before, but more doting right now because I’m more incapacitated than usual. It’s good to be home with him to be able to touch him and smell him again. The cats got crazy excited when I came back home. Ecstatic is a good word for it!

I’m doing everything I can to minimize the pain with non medicine tactics, everything I’ve added to my toolkit over the past 5 years. Epsom salt soaks in really hot water helps, but there’s a specific type and brand that works really well for me and I just can’t find it in my town anymore so I’m going on Amazon tonight to get some. Plus I’m too fat to be able to fully immerse in my tub, so it’s not as effective as it could be. I have two types of heating pads though, and an electric heating blanket, to make up for that. I’m taking potassium and magnesium like nobody’s business, in addition to using the prescription topical pain creams that I’ve been stockpiling. I’m not sure if they work with buprenorphine, though, since it blocks the opioid receptors. They’re not opiate creams, of course, but I am not sure how bupe affects the pain receptors of the body, if it blocks them too or what. I had studied up on it before making the decision, but everything is so muddled in my head of late that I can’t remember what I’ve learned recently.

I’ll tell you what, though… So far, I’m long to go back to the opiates, as expensive and hard to get and side effect laden as they are. I didn’t hurt as much, and at least they knocked me the heck out so I didn’t have to be awake for the pain they didn’t block. 😦 The for says that every day is supposed to get better. It’s been true so far when the withdrawals, let’s see if it’s true with the pain management aspect.

Life, loss, and tea parties (the unpolitical kind).

I stumbled across a blog article that resonated with me over some of the fears and stresses I’ve been wrestling with lately. I thought it funny that it was written by a professional female cyclist of all things (since I’m kind of the opposite of someone who earns money by vigorous activity!), but she wrote it at a time when she was struggling with a life and body changing disease, and that’s the part of her that I relate to.

Like so many other aspects of cancer– and of life– we accept it, and we deal with it, and grow from it and become better people because we have no other choice, but I wouldn’t wish this sort of thing on anyone and would escape and run and hide from it if I could. As the hairdresser cut my hair yesterday, we talked about chemotherapy and hair loss. I told her it was exciting in a way because I never would have been brave enough to cut my hair short or shave it off if I hadn’t had some impetus and in a way, it was exciting, but honestly, I just felt like crying. I spent most of the remaining night feeling vaguely like I’d just lost a loved one.

Cancer is fucking hard. Two months ago I was making great money, acing my classes and contemplating recruitment offers from a bunch of local cycling teams. I was in great shape and felt confident about myself inside and out. Like every other human being on this earth I found things to complain about, but on the whole I was doing well. Since my diagnosis and the subsequent beginning of treatment, I feel like my life has been derailed. I feel physically and emotionally ill. I cut back my work and school load to compensate for my fatigue. I ride my beloved bike less. I’m over $2,000 in medical bills and I’m less than a month in to my 6 months of treatment. This is easily the most difficult, scary, frustrating thing I have dealt with in my adult life. {Source}

This. It feels like this, but it just keeps coming. Chronic illness, that is. You don’t “beat it”, unless you’re one of the very lucky few that get a remission, and eventually you get the release of death, but in between… You keep adjusting, giving things up, coping…but eventually, what’s left to adjust?

Coming up to my birthday, my 30th that I wasn’t sure I’d make it to, I’ve been thinking and feeling a lot. This is one of those things. I’m having a hard time coping, now that lupus has been added to my seemingly infinite list of diagnoses. (How was I born this effed up and still made it this long?!) And I still haven’t heard back from disability. And my house is a mess that no matter how diligently I work always seems beyond my power to truly get a handle on. And no matter which way I look at it I’m losing a big chunk of my pain meds and thus my sanity and will to live and ability to leave the bed. I’m overwhelmed with medical debt and I have zero income except for what’s given me out of the goodness of people’s hearts even though I’ve tried over and over again to be able to consistently put in enough effort to keep something income-generating going.

Oh, side note: the letter I got from my pain doctor turned out to be a bunch of blame shifting twisting of the truth. The DEA isn’t mandatorily cutting everyone back to miniscule amounts; the letter was quoting the guidelines recently published to govern the prescription of opioids to opiate-naive patients, which none of that doctor’s patients are. But since they’re implementing the policy anyway in a bid to protect themselves (which doesn’t surprise me as I was never reimbursed the 2k they owed me for lying about their insurance contracts and overcharging me for a year and a half, despite repeated intervention by the insurance company and a year of intense badgering on my part), I’m not going to travel that far anymore when I can get such gleeful neglect right here in my own hometown. Hopefully I will find another doctor in the near future that isn’t afraid of high dose opioid therapy when it’s needed. It’s getting more difficult to travel, though, and to recover from travel. I started a new medication for the lupus that made me very sick while adjusting to it, but the hope is that if it’s effective it will bring down the systemic inflammation and the deadly pain levels with it.

I’m just stressed, I think. Worn out, with no recharge on the horizon. I’ve got so many plates to keep spinning, a shortage of working limbs, and all the plates are full of toxic waste. That about sums it up. I do have things I’m looking forward to, of course I do. We all know I’m a naturally optimistic and ebullient person. For my 30th birthday, which I’m pretty excited about, my friend who shares the same birthday is helping me throw a fancy tea party at this lovely local pie shoppe that does tea services too. It’s a favorite place for us to visit, and lucky we have a spring birthday because the shop closes down in the summer. It’s in a historic building with no air conditioning, and she bakes her own pies, and the summers here are absolutely brutal. I have a beautiful new dress that my husband’s dad’s girlfriend bought me, all velvet and lace, and a gorgeous, glittery pair of butterfly wings I bought at the Renaissance faire recently. I think the fact that I’ll be wearing a tiara goes without saying. If I have the energy, I’d like to put fresh decorations on my walker and my walking stick. The friend who makes my birthday cakes every year is making my favorite pumpkin spice muffins with cream cheese frosting, and I’m hoping to find little tiaras or pretty sparkly candles to put on top of each one. Squeee! The only way it could be more perfect is if the rest of my family that’s flung about the country could join us.

In addition to the fancy tea party with lots of loved ones, my sister in law is coming for the weekend and the party, and a friend from my year at the Adventist boarding academy will be staying with me that weekend! It’s going to be a wonderful celebration, and I’m very excited. I’m scared to be excited because I feel like it’s just asking something cataclysmic and disastrous to happen, like tempting fate, but it’s so awesome that I can’t help it!

Then, a few weeks later is the first big marriage milestone, the 5th anniversary! I’m hoping that we can make it to the Renaissance Festival up by Phoenix, but money is really tight this year with Robot taking on more of my non-medical expenses, getting the “new” car for me to drive around to appointments when I’m up to it, and then both vehicles breaking with one needing an entire engine rebuild. But the Faire is our thing, it’s always been our thing, so I hope we can go, even if souvenirs are out of the picture.

All in all, I guess it’s not so bad as it feels. There’s still plenty to enjoy and experience, if I can drag up the energy. It feels good to let it out, though, all of the worries. I’d been stewing for a while without really realizing it. I think the financial worries are the most stressful, oddly enough. Probably because we have so little that we spend on non-essentials. If we have to “tighten our belts”, what could we possibly give up that wouldn’t have worse ramifications on our physical and mental health?

Life. She can be a beguiling bitch, but at least there’s always tea.

Hatchet Job

I started writing a big old long thing recently, explaining the misfortune that’s befallen me and everyone with intractable chronic pain, but I realized that I don’t want to go on a long, detailed rant about the situation. A simple summary will suffice.

The powers-that-be in America who concern themselves with managing the flow and useage of medications have bought into the idea that the best and only way to manage the “opioid crisis” is to reduce the amount of pain medications in circulation. This is to be done by cutting production of the medications and lowering the maximum prescribable amount to miniscule dosages.

What this means for me, practically, is that I am being forcibly cut off from 90-95% of my current pain medications. No weaning, no substituting something else, just… BOOM. Hatchet strike, cut it off clean, sucks for you that you rely on those evil, disastrous drugs. No pity. No mercy.

Of course, I’ve been down this road before, and I know where it leads. The first half of 2014 saw me still undiagnosed beyond a “working diagnosis” of fibromyalgia, with severe, unrelenting bodywide pain and tenderness to touch, with most of my pain and tenderness centered on any and all of my joints. The pain was getting worse, and I’d tried every drug shown to help with fibro definitions and failed them all. In fact, they made me even more ill. The pain doctor I was currently seeing was adamant that fibromyalgia not be treated with opioid pain medication, and because no doctor had yet looked past the fibromyalgia label to find the roots of the “fibromyalgia” symptoms, it was concluded that I was experiencing “opioid hyperalgesia.” The doctor put me on a small dose of Tramadol, ordered me to exercise daily, and in 90 days when my system was cleared of all traces of opioids we could try a small dose if it was still needed, which she doubted it would be.

I staggered through this regimen for a few weeks before being hospitalized for 3 days but discharged because there was really nothing they could do for me, and a couple of weeks after that is when I found my current pain specialist. I’ve been seeing him for about 3 1/2 years, and while there’s been some tweaking and shuffling of different medication combinations and non-pill pain therapies through the years, my treatment plan has remained largely the same, and much more effective than any plan the previous rheumatologist or pain management doctors have tried.

Even with the meds, we know this my body is going to continue to wear down and break more and more until eventually I just don’t bounce back. Since 2014 the pain has worsened, and my body is weaker now, more frayed and fragile. If I can’t somehow engage a lawyer to get me a court order that allows me to continue my treatment, I’m not optimistic about the next year. I can expect torture and suffering of the highest order, coupled with a prolonged death spiral. Eventually my body will have to say NOPE! and finally give up the ghost.

That’s what I’m facing right now. Of course I’ll do my best to get a guarantee of my right to adequate pain management (despite the fact that I *already have* that right and the DEA is choosing to ignore it), because I’d really like to stick around a while longer. Even if every moment of it feels physically awful.

And CRASH!

December is just about gone, and what a month it’s been! I helped my youngest sister with a Psychology project about how becoming disabled has changed my life, and then I had the appeals hearing with a judge for my disability application and subsequent denials. It was apparently stressing me out much more than I thought, because as soon as the hearing was over I crashed. Hard. It’s taken me a couple of weeks to get up and around and taking an interest in things again, but I’m still sleeping a LOT. Hopefully I’ll get some energy back soon and not be so deeply exhausted.

I’d like to put up the project I did with Julia on here, and I will, as well as a summary of the disability hearing, but I’m honestly not sure when that will happen, again because I’m just totally wrung out. That’s okay, though, because this journal bloggie is supposed to be an honest reflection of my life, especially my life while dealing with multiple serious chronic illnesses, and not getting around to both because I’ve prioritized my limited energy to other activities is a very accurate reflection of my day to day life. I’ve learned not to interpret it as a failure when I don’t or can’t get to everything that I want to, but it is hard not to get down on myself, especially when I’m feeling discouraged on top of everything. 

Anyway, it’ll happen when it happens. Too tired to hate on myself lol.

Oh, and as for the disability thing, the judge needed to consult with a medical expert aka a doctor over my large tome of records, to make sure he understands as much about the different aspects of my inability to work as he can before he comes to a final conclusion. So just waiting now. A bit impatiently. We really need the boost to our finances, especially me. I have a lot of medical debts to pay off, and no income to do it with. Always a frustrating position to be in, but one that’s become familiar, sad to say. I’m just hoping to catch a break and be able to start getting out from under the looming shadow of debt. I hate it there.

Wonder and regret

Some days it’s difficult to stay… what’s the word… optimistic? Convinced that I’m not just wasting space that could be better used by someone useful? I know that I labored through the pain and outright physical misery of a body breaking down, a body in rebellion, for the better part of a decade. Is it such a crime that I simply can’t do it anymore?

And yet, there’s so much that I never accomplished, that I’ll never get to. No children of my own, no business, no massage therapy license or degree in neurobiology/neuropsychology, no starting a safe house. Sigh. My bucket list, largely undone and out of my reach.

I suppose it all comes down to the question, what is a life worth? And if you believe that a life is justified by the works it produces, by how useful a life is, then I’m a prime candidate for culling. Still, I can think of more than a handful of people who would protest viciously at my erasure, no matter how much I may yearn for it at times.

Is it enough to appreciate the beautiful things in the world around me, to marvel at the sheer wonder and beauty of a piece of feldspar or a stick of olive wood? Is it enough to pour what love I have left into the people around me? I hope so. It’s all I’ve got left, humor and love and wonder. Both kinds of wonder, actually. I wonder if cats and dogs and birds are capable of wonder, of joy in the world around them? They are certainly capable of love and pain. It would make sense. But then how different are we, really, from the creatures around us? I mean, except for the opposable thumbs. Well, I’ve never been a bird, so I can’t say. 

I dont know how to end this, because the questions are still floating around my head like a wreath, a perpetual decoration of doubt. I know what the people who love me would say… but I still can’t help but be weighed down by all that I could have done, had I not drawn the short straw. And that’s the kicker– it’s no curse from a fairytale witch, nor a punishment brought on myself through a decadent lifestyle or catalogue of sins. It’s nothing but pure, random chance that dictates my life of misery, and it kills me that I could have done so much, that I still have so much fire inside me, searching for a way out!

But in the end, I’m still me, and so even in the storm of my personal sea I can’t help but marvel at the smoothness and shimmer of a tumbled piece of labradorite. Is it silly that such a small thing brings me happiness after all?

Kitty Cuddles

I have a strong bond with my pets, no matter what the species. In return, they lavish affection on me. Sure, one could argue that they’re really in it for themselves, and they might be, but I get a lot out of it, so I don’t complain… much. The workings of the cat mind are beyond my fathoming, but I found a pretty good excerpt from an infallible, scientifically objective source that shows footage of the actual feline mind at work.

I’m crazy stressed out right now, and very discouraged, because of the difficulties I’m having in trying to get all of my evidence submitted for the disability hearing coming up in a month and a half, and I just keep getting the run-around, passed off like a Canadian penny to someone else who doesn’t know a damn thing either or won’t actually listen to me. I had a guy who interrupted me four times within an eight minute conversation to say, “Wait, wait, wait,” and immediately drop me on hold. While I was in mid sentence! So I’m pretty irritated and generally hating every second I have to spend on this.

Bringing it back to the cats, I really enjoy cuddles and snuggles when I’m in a foul mood, and whether the motivation is selfish or not, I still end up feeling better.  I submit, for your viewing pleasure, a montage of kitty cuddles, the first one being the inspiration for this post ’cause it’s happening now.

What I learned from Moana (this time).

One of the things I love about the movie Moana–and there are lots of things I love about the movie Moana– is the richness and depth of the narrative, with so many characters having their individual stories that contribute to the main storyline. Maybe you’d call that character development? Not sure. In any event, this leads to there being many layers of life lessons that you can draw from the lives of the people who surround our main protagonist Moana. Spoilers ahead, fyi. 

Every time that I watch the movie I see different aspects pop out, usually related in some way to what’s going on in my life at the time. During this last play through, a few things occurred to me. 

1. Practice makes perfect. If you’re doing something for the first time, you can generally expect to suck at it. We see this in the cases of both Moana and her father, the chief of Motonui, in regards to sailing. The first time the chief takes a boat beyond the reef is as a young man, and while the water is an integral part of their tribe’s way of life, sailing beyond the reef that shelters their lagoon is forbidden and has been for a long time. Sailing in a sheltered lagoon is much different from sailing on the open sea, and so the first time the chief-to-be is on the open water he finds that neither he nor his friend know how to deal with the rougher waters and the boat ultimately sinks.

Moana, having never been allowed to be on the water for herself, makes a pretty good hash of things when she tries to sail for the first time and sinks her boat as well. When she decides to brave the open sea she doesn’t sink (psrtly because she has a boat designed for open sea sailing, unlike the two sunken boats previously mentioned), but she does have a very tough time controlling her craft, getting better as the story progresses and she not only gains experience but instruction from an experienced sailor. By the end of the movie, Moana is a pro “wayfinder”.

2. Fear can blind and cripple you… and others. Moana’s father, the village chief, had a bad experience with sailing beyond the reef due to inexperience and bad luck. Because of that bad experience and the fear and loss stemming from it, he bans travel beyond the reef and also keeps his only child from gaining experience on the water, despite her obvious draw toward the ocean and the fact that they live on a freaking island. So great is his fear that when the resources of the island begin diminishing and the very lives of the people in his care are threatened by starvation, he is unable to see alternative solutions that could save his people and his family. He is crippled by his fear, making him an ineffective and even dangerous leader in the midst of a crisis that demands action.

Moana is willing to deviate from tradition, to adapt and change and meet circumstances head on, but she too has been crippled by her father’s fear and resultant stubbornness. She’s never had the opportunity to gain experience and competency on the water, so she sucks at it at first, as previously noted. In trying desperately to protect his daughter and his people, the chief placed them all at risk by refusing to deal with his fear. However, second guessing yourself and not moving forward for fear of making a mistake is just another version of the same problem.

3. Mistakes aren’t an auto-fail.  When Moana came back from her odessy, her father realized that he’d made a mistake or two. He was able to look back and see how the choices he’d made had played out, and though his fear wasn’t magically gone he realized that certain traditions were holding his people back from better things, and so he adapted. I, for one, have no doubts that at any given point the chief was doing what he believed was best for his village and his family. I don’t know about you, but I can recall scenarios where I really wanted what was best for everyone involved and I made decisions that I thought would work it all out but still ended up with hurt feelings and broken kitchen appliances all around. When that happens, remind yourself that you meant well, brush yourself off and try again. Remember, whether the skill you’re practicing is abstract or tangible (i.e. communication vs. learning to french braid), there are only two ways to avoid making mistakes: quitting altogether, or gaining skill through experience.