Apathy, Atrophy, Aridity and Agorophobia

January 16, 2015 | My Jottings

This is the A-team I’m doing battle with these days. The Alliterative Quartet of Woe, to state things a bit melodramatically.

The first word, apathy, I have been sensing because my desire to pray seems pretty anemic. (Ah. Another A-word. Perhaps I’m up against a Quintet of Woe.) I have found myself wondering silently, do my prayers really make any difference at all? Because I’m so tired and I miss Michael so desperately, and I’m praying every single day but all around me it seems like people are losing ground and what do my prayers accomplish anyway? (I do know that prayer is communion with God, that it’s learning to align yourself with His will and ways, that it’s learning to listen, and isn’t always about answers to a prayer list.) The Bible says the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man/woman availeth much, so that leads me to conclude that my prayers are not fervent enough, I’m not righteous, and that something is missing. Is this a dark night of the soul like so many believers experience, or am I just not trying hard enough?

So I asked God to show me if prayerfully reading my Bible every morning (I’m still going through the Bible chronologically this year and just finished the book of Job — WHOA), if praying and asking Him to give me bread from that day’s passage and then writing down what comes to mind, hoping to make what I’ve gleaned the focus of the coming day, if kneeling in prayer (gingerly, on my Smith and Nephew ceramic knee that doesn’t love kneeling) is making a difference, in any way. 8501927327_741ba67bb7_bWithin days I had two dramatic answers; experiences and confirmations which were so unexpected and personal I wept with joy. Thank you Jesus. I will keep praying. Thank you Lord. Oh, how good you are….I kept breathing these words in and out, in and out, grateful that He is so kind and patient with me. I will keep showing up, in my old woman/hermit sort of way, and I trust that the flame will grow brighter someday. At least there’s still a flame, flickery as it is.

The second word of woe, atrophy, I sort of don’t want to talk about, even though it affects every step I take every single day. My right knee replacement was a resounding success in resolving the horrible, grinding, burning pain (and the growing deformity) I was experiencing with each step. But it has resulted in such weakness in my right quadriceps muscle that I can’t rise out of a chair or climb a step without holding on to something. This is the stuff an eighty year old woman is made of. Consequently, the compensating I’ve done for my right knee has now resulted in some pretty cranky left hip pain, which I’ve read is common after knee replacement surgery. The answer to muscle atrophy is usually strengthening exercise. And this is why I don’t want to talk about this. Because the hamster’s wheel of my life is: I need to exercise but am tired and busy, so I don’t exercise, then I get more tired, ad infinitum. But I have to do something soon.

The third woe on my A-list is aridity, and this refers to my eyes, which I wrote about a couple of blog posts ago. I was diagnosed with Meibomian Gland Disease and am doing a regimen not for the faint of heart. I take some giant flax seed oil and fish oil pills (for Omega 3) each morning and at night before I go to bed. I now use sterile eye drops in these tiny daily vials instead of the kind in squeezable bottles with irritating preservatives in them. (Who knew?) I have to treat my lids and lashes each night before I go to bed by scrubbing them with these little wipes that feel like they’re soaked in Essence of Jalapeño, and let that dry before I open my eyes again. A few times during the night I wake from the aridity of my eyes and grope for the tiny vial of sterile drops so I can get relief. Then in the morning I have to take a sanitized wash cloth and wet it with the hottest water I can stand to clean the accumulated gunk and delightful little collarettes off my lashes, and massage the Meibomian glands under my lower lashes, in hopes they will start functioning as they should. Then I have to treat my lashes and lids with a different wipe (these don’t burn) before I begin my day. photoNeedless to say, my eyelids are feeling just a little bit desert-like, even if I use a moisturizer. Here’s how things are looking after a morning treatment now, but I’m hoping that things don’t look like this person’s eyes before my sixtieth birthday, what with all the scrubbing and hot water and treated wipes I’m beating them up with. But that would be vain to even think about that, so I guess I’ll spend my thoughts more productively.

Which brings us logically to the fourth A-word — agoraphobia. Since my soul and my knees and my eyes seem to be ailing a bit, I kind of don’t want to go anywhere. Now, I do go places, all the time. I spend the day with Michael two times a week, I grocery shop, I attend grandchildren’s functions, take our fosters out for fun outings, take them to their medical appointments, and I do have lunch with a friend now and then. I enjoy all these things. But I’m becoming more reclusive in my mind, and breathe a sigh of relief when I walk in the door of my peaceful home after being away for even the shortest errand. I don’t really have a fear of wide open places like a true agoraphobic, but I think I could easily move away to a tiny little stone cottage in the most remote part of the Highlands of Scotland, and be utterly content. Except there are a few complications with that scenario — I have a husband who still needs me and who I’m bereft without, and I have a job I enjoy.

For those of you who’ve read this far and are ready to be done with my Alliterative Quartet of Woe, here are a few unrelated tidbits I’ll leave you with.

If you have trouble falling asleep at night, you might want to look at this. I heard it’s all over Facebook too, but I wouldn’t know. I could not believe for one second that it would be possible to fall asleep in less than a minute by doing a simple breathing exercise, but thought I would try it. It’s called the 4-7-8 method and I googled it also, to find a video of someone demonstrating it. The counting is a bit quicker than one might think, so if you are interested, just find a youtube video of a Dr. Weil demonstrating the 4-7-8 method. The first night I tried it, I don’t remember getting past six breaths. Six breaths and I was asleep! The second night I tried it, it took longer, but I fell asleep before I got to twelve breaths. Can you even imagine? Let me know if you try it and whether or not it works for you.

Also, we had delicious Creamy Chicken Curry for dinner the night before last, served over basmati rice and accompanied by homemade Naan bread. Prepared by yours truly? Nein. My dear friend Carey came over to my house and cooked for us, and I can’t tell you how guilty and delighted I felt simultaneously. While Carey cheerfully cooked and chopped, I sat nearby in the dining room and got a TON of paperwork done, while we listened to this audiobook, which is a phenomenal book every human should read. Or listen to, if you like audiobooks.

Lastly, I’m taking our fosters out for dinner and a movie tonight, something they always love. I hope Paddington Bear doesn’t put me to sleep faster than the 4-7-8 method.

And tomorrow? I will be driving north to spend the day with the light of my life….


  1. Helen in Switzerland says:

    Hi Julie, I’m with you on the closing the door and sigh of relief thing….and it gets worse as I get older….but you know, I think that’s ok. Wouldn’t it be sad if we weren’t so content in our own homes?
    By the way, I forced all my family to come to see Paddington with me – and even though the teenagers were a little dubious, we all laughed our socks off. I LOVED it!! Much love to you my friend – stay strong!
    Helen xx

  2. Just Julie says:

    I love the picture of you forcing your family to see Paddington, Helen! They are so very blessed to have you! And yes, I am very content as a homebody. I’ve always been that way but it seems a little more intense these days. 🙂 Hugs to you dear Helen… xoxo

  3. Dorothy Sooter says:

    I am the eighty year old hanging onto the railing for dear life. It happened so fast that I find it hard to believe. It was just about 7 months ago that I was working and loving it. I truly understand every thing you have written. I really believe in my heart that you will come through the tunnel to the other side and it will be so much better. You are such a blessing to so many people and feel so grateful that you heard from God. Jim’s wife had a hysterectomy 2 and 1/2 months ago. She had an ear infection when she had the surgery. Since the surgery her ear has caused her so much pain and she had seen at least three doctors here with no one giving her any help. They all went to Disney land and she had heard about this Christian Doctor in LA. The kids all came home with Amanda being in charge while Jim And Kim saw this Doctor this morning. He removed a membrane from her ear and said she will get her hearing back but it will take a little time. When I heard the good news, I cried. Actually at my present age, I cry a lot. Fortunately, I think my health issues are getting better. I am no longer anemic and my Iron is still to low but expect it to improve. Feel God wants me to be of some help to my family here but am not at all sure what our country is going to do about the horrible things that are happening throughout the world. Really question if this might be the beginning of the tribulation. Only time will tell. God bless you and keep you close to Him.

  4. Just Julie says:

    Oh I hope Kim gets better and better, Dorothy — what a trial. And I cry a lot too….I understand. Hugs to you dear Dorothy. Thank you for praying. xoxo

  5. Ember says:

    This is a really interesting post and I’m going to check out that falling asleep thing.

    I do believe that we are in the age band where gratitude is the order of the day. The things that will get us in the end are gradually making themselves felt – in my case, it’s awkward to leave home for more than two days, three at most, and I have to stick to a very restricted diet – but hey, we are still mobile, we can see, we have some teeth and hair, and neither of us has had to endure amputation or the extensive removal of important internal organs. Good.

    About the reclusiveness – I am intrigued by how common this is in women of our age group. Many of us are almost hermits. And it seems to be irresistible.

    About the prayer of a righteous man, let me bore you with a story. Nearly 30 years ago, a week before my youngest child was born, another young family came to stay with us. People of profound faith engaged in church youth work. So in our small three-bedroomed home we were accommodating 4 adults and about 6 or 8 kids for a few days, and I was 9 months pregnant. I felt very tired.
    Our guests were kind, understanding, compassionate and insightful. The husband, Tim, a delight. I remember him saying (this was a joke and it made me laugh a lot) “Ooh – you stopped smiling for a minute there, Pen – call yourself a Christian?” It was a sweet and funny way of letting me know he;d seen how tired I was.
    One day during their stay I wondered aloud just the thing you said – about the prayer of a righteous man being powerful and effective, but I wasn’t very righteous so I was bothered my prayers wouldn’t work.
    What Tim replied has nourished me for a lifetime. He said: “But, the righteous man isn’t you. It’s Jesus.”
    Duh! Of course! The only righteous man! How could his prayers fail? And he has prayed for you, Julie, as he has also prayed for me. This is the rock to which we cling.

    My apologies for such a shockingly long comment. xxx

  6. Just Julie says:

    I loved your story and do know it’s true, Ember. Thank you for the reminder. And I believe it is intentional gratitude that keeps me going! Ten minutes in my gratitude journal makes a huge difference and improves my vision quite a bit. I sure slip into sad mode quickly though. :O I’m glad you left such a nice comment — not too long at all. Hugs to you, dear Ember. xoxo

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