How easy it is to forget what it’s like to feel vulnerable. That feeling of sudden, disabling weakness that sweeps in when not one, but several things go wrong. Individually, none is a big deal, but in combination, it’s a sharp reminder that we’re not really in charge.

When September arrived, I naively looked forward to spring. Facebook was vibrant with images of wattle in bloom. Then, after barely a breath, summer landed, full-throated. New fires licked the coast like hungry dogs; the heat-susceptible among us staggered around our chores.

‘It’s just my usual MS stuff’, I countered to anyone hearing that I was poorly.

Night after night, I awoke with intractable pain down my right side, hip to toe – that is, if I’d been able to get to sleep in the first place. Then one morning, easing myself off the bed, I strained a muscle in my right leg. Unable to rest that leg on the floor, I couldn’t walk, even get to the bathroom, until somehow I could. My kind neighbour brought in his late mother’s wheelchair for me to try out, in case there was a next time.

My exercise program continued to slide as I experimented with different strategies, hoping to pinpoint exactly what I might be doing that could possibly be exacerbating my pain. I felt my strength and flexibility ebbing; exhaustion took over.

In fact, it was more than ‘MS stuff’.

One rechargeable battery in my hearing aids was losing its power. The other was fine. It was time to send the aids to Melbourne for their three-year warranty check. The audiologist gave me another pair for the week, a different model. More technology to master to ensure smooth connections with my phone, my computer, the television; Ken helps me troubleshoot in my stressed state.

And then, I was scammed. One early morning, half-awake, I was browsing the internet when I saw an advertisement for compression socks. The pitch was compelling; I ordered four pairs on special. As my payment summary flickered through, I saw my order (and the cost) had multiplied; eight pairs were being sent and the special deal had morphed into an exorbitant bottom line.

I complained immediately, shooting off several emails to the merchant, and advising PayPal. I’d been the victim of a horribly aggressive marketing scam, aimed to take advantage of people exactly like me – distracted, and in pain. Within a couple of weeks, I received a partial refund (they didn’t want the socks back) but the worst part was the anger and shame I felt for days afterwards.

The accumulation of things wearing me down had left me vulnerable. I’d relaxed my guard and become exposed.

A wrong turn, a mistake, a bad decision is much more likely when one is in that state.

I can list more stressors – illness, hospitalisation and even death in my circle; pleasurable events cancelled due to my incapacity – but I can also list joys. My 14-year-old grandson wins his first after-school job; I read and enjoy more books than usual as I’m confined to barracks; the extra home help we’ve been waiting for finally falls into place; as I slowly reinstate my exercises, Ken resumes his early morning walks.

Cooler weather arrives.

This day I’m gifted a surprise, in this inner-city, sparsely vegetated suburb of mine. Our exterior camera has caught a Red Wattlebird in full flight above the front gate, complete with yellow abdomen and small red pendant below its ear. Caught off-guard, its tender underside exposed, I see a fine, handsome creature – and a vulnerable one. The image fills my day.

Unsheltered »

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8 Responses

  1. Hi Ruth, I’m sorry you had to experience such an onslaught of problems all together, yes it a reminder that we are not in charge of our lives. Who we accept is in charge is up to the individual, we all have a different opinion on that one!
    I love the photo of the beautiful bird. What a great shot!

  2. The sight of this red lobed wattle bird is a wonderful reminder that some of the things we can’t control are magical gifts from the natural world, Ruth.
    I hope that the pain is much reduced, even gone.
    Thank you for this page of encouragement.

    1. Cecile, I love the idea that ‘some of the things we can’t control are gifts from the natural world’. It gives a whole new perspective to ‘can’t control’. Thank you.

  3. How terrible Ruth! I hope you’ve been able to find out why you’d been having recurring pain and that it has since stopped (has it?).
    And the scamming – I was recently scammed too and completely understand the anger and shame you mention. And I also felt quite stupid that I’d been hoodwinked. So good to read you’ve been enjoying books and have returned to your exercise program.

    1. Thank you Kathryn – we are not alone with our scamming stories, are we. I am so sick of those intrusive phone calls and texts that aim to wear us down. And yes, my pain is improving a little thank you. Look forward to our catch-up soon.

  4. Love the shot of the wattle bird, Ruth. How clever of you to capture it in mid-flight!
    Not good to hear of your pain. I hope you can find the source of it soon and that there is something that can be done about it.
    I am extremely embarrassed to say that I recently accepted a friend request on FB from one of the many “widowers” around the world who have been pestering me. He was supposedly from Belgium- supposedly a military orthopaedic surgeon. After three or four days of text messages and questions, I realised the person was not genuine. I defriended him/her- and have resolved not to accept any more such requests from strangers. A narrow escape!

    1. Hi Sue. The camera caught the bird, not me! Interesting what you say about FB. Over the last couple of months I have received a small stream of friend requests from people way out of my circle. It’s time wasting to have to check out their page and see what if any the link to me might be – soon I will stop doing even that. Such a pity FB is getting ruined.

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