Fibromyalgia and Pacing Oneself

“If you can anchor yourself to a ship of tranquility, you won’t be tossed about by the waves of stimulation”, Ted Zeff

I recently asked my spouse what lessons he learned from his father. His reply was how to ‘pace’ himself; to be cautious and not overly frenetic. His father lived to be 90, was a factory worker and a musician and helped raise five children. He was a calm man, did not complain about aches or pains, was easy going and like his son, my partner of many years, a relaxed man. He was like this in spite of the stimulation of five children and two jobs. It was a pleasure to be around him. He moved about slowly, pacing himself. Neither he, nor his son, have , nor had fibromyalgia. That goes without saying.

My own father, even at 92, lives a life of great anxiety,  fear, stress, intense anger and has complained about his body’s aches and pains as long as I have known him. He causes stress and agitation to all around him with his emotional outbursts. Everything is done quickly and often without care. He taught me to be fearful and to rush through life, never letting up. He would never know what it means to pace oneself. He says he could not sleep at night if he knows something has to be done (his example: like changing a dysfunctional electric socket in a wall!). In fact, he complains that he can’t sleep at night anyway.

A Buddhist therapist told me that a religious leader once said that when we are born it is as though we are presented with a smorgasbord of personality characteristics to choose from: some of us will choose joy, fearlessness, optimism, and so on while others will choose depression, fear, anger, negativism to be our main life traits. Many of us choose a mix while others choose extremes. Needless to say we usually take on these personality characteristics based upon what we perceive to be related to our parents’ ways of being in the world. If we see a great deal of anger in one parent we may choose fear as the safety measure to guide us through life. If we feel the need to rush about helping others (whether they need it or not), rushing through our days, wanting everything done yesterday, how can we take care of ourselves?

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But, how to pace oneself from our activities of daily living when we have been frenetically sensitive to all stimuli that urge us toward constant activity? Even the simple things like buzzing around from one one chore to another that need not be done immediately and burning ourselves out by early day? Learning to organize a doable routine, planning from one activity to the next, slowing our thought processes to that which is manageable requires discipline. Ted Zeff writes :” Perhaps when you are in an overstimulating situation a good question to ask yourself would be how you can feel more in control of circumstances rather than being a victim of stimuli”, (p.14).

Zeff’s book is one I highly recommend for highly sensitive persons. The strategies for living life in the slow lane are key for those of us suffering from the angst of daily pain and fatigue which often inhibits our ability to live life as we formerly did. The question I am left with is: why does the brain keep telling us to live life at such a frantic pace? Ah! The ability to change is possible. The neuroscientists have shown us some of those possibilities, so too have Buddhist thinkers who practice daily meditation.

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