27 Dresses

Mom wedding dress
My beautiful Mom in her beautiful wedding dress.

Just like an engagement ring, I never gave much thought to my wedding dress until I was engaged. I’m not typically a superstitious person, but why would I look at wedding dresses until I knew I was going to get married?

Actually, that’s not completely true. I did always love my Mom’s wedding dress and the pictures of her in it. It had long sleeves with lace on them, and a pretty little collared neck. When I was younger, I thought, maybe I could wear Mom’s wedding dress on my wedding day. But Mom was so TINY when she got married. In college, when I got really skinny in an unhealthy way, I thought about sneaking into her room and trying it on. Ultimately I decided against it – one, because of that whole superstitious feeling that I wasn’t supposed to think about wedding dresses until I was engaged; two, because there was a small voice in the back of my head telling me, ‘You will never be this skinny when you actually get married, so don’t torture yourself.’

That said, the wedding dress is a VERY big deal. It’s the most important day of your life. You’ll have these pictures for the rest of your life. Your kids are going to look at these pictures. Blah blah blah. Is it really THAT big of a deal? I don’t know.

Of course I want to look great on my wedding day and I want to love my dress, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to pay an obscene amount of money for a dress. Also, I’m doing a week-long wedding event. I need outfits for the whole week, people! I need to spread out my dress budget.

But I get it; sometimes, you just fall in love with a dress and you do not give a shit how much it costs because it’s PERFECT. I’ll leave a tiny sliver for this possibility.

My first trip, I go alone to New York Bride & Groom (in Charlotte, North Carolina). I book an appointment online, and on a rainy day, walk into the gigantic store in an outfit I would probably wear to bed – I like to be comfortable when shopping for clothes. I immediately feel like I should have worn something else. There’s a chandelier hanging from the ceiling and the people who work here look very professional. Now I’m even a little nervous. I can’t believe I’m about to try on wedding dresses. It’s kind of surreal.

Diana (50’s) with a blonde pixie-cut and thick Southern accent, is going to help me today. She’s warm and sweet, like a Mom. She tells me to take a look around and grab anything I like. It’s a lot easier to pick out what I don’t like. I don’t like strapless, poof, or really tight. I soon realize that I do like lace, an open back, flowy, and simple.

The first dress I want to try on is one that I found online. It’s called Juniper by Rebecca Ingram. Spaghetti straps, A-line, a little bling on top, flowy and simple. I like it. It’s very pretty, and it’s $800, which is right around what I’d like to spend on a dress. But I’m underwhelmed. All I can say to Diana is, “It’s pretty. I like it.” Clearly, I’m not in love with it. I told myself that it’s OK not to be the most gorgeous thing that I ever wear in my life, but when I put this thing on on my wedding day, I’ve got to feel some kind of awesome feelings.

I try on about 12 more dresses, and there are two that I like. One is very pretty and lacy, but also a little poofy. I like it a lot, but it’s not me. Diana is quick to tell me, “It’s OK to not be you on your wedding day. You get to be whoever you want that day. You get to stand out.” She means well, and I’m agreeable so I agree with her, but it doesn’t feel right.

The third one is more tight-fitting, and I’m surprised at how much I like it. It’s a halter-style, with a beautifully soft material and faint geometric design. It hugs my curves and the back is super low with a little clasp across the bottom that sets it apart from other dresses I’ve seen. Stephen would like this.

Diana is kind enough take pictures of me in all three dresses from all different angles. I thank her profusely before I head home, thinking that this might be my wedding dress. When I get home, I look at the pictures and am horrified. I look trashy. That low back is WAY too low. And look at my gut in that tight dress. Ew. No.

Mom wedding dress2
Mom and Dad on their wedding day. 🙂

On to the next. Let’s try Anthropologie’s wedding brand, BHLDN. This time, I’m accompanied by Mom and Stephen. Yes, Stephen. I don’t think there’s anything wrong or weird about having him here. IT’S JUST A DRESS. I certainly don’t need him to approve it but I do hope he likes it, so yea, I’d love to have his opinion.

Tierney is my helper today. I shouldn’t call her my helper. Stylist? She offers to come into the dressing room with me to help me get in and out of dresses. I would never even think to agree to this in any other circumstance, but apparently when I’m shopping for a wedding dress, all normality goes out the window. Maybe it’s because I only have her for one hour. If she’s in there with me, it moves much faster, which means I get to try on more dresses. Besides, I immediately like her. She’s young, maybe mid-20’s, and super bubbly without being over-the-top. Just incredibly sweet and real.

I picked a few out online and we get right to those. Everything I try on here is light and more on the simple side. It’s more me. There’s one that feels really good. It’s actually a skirt and top – not that you can tell that it’s a two-piece when I’m wearing it. The top is a tight corset top with thin straps and a lace bodice. The bottom is an A-line skirt that goes to the floor – no train – and flows.

I’m getting married in Puerto Rico, so light is good. I really don’t care for a train, either. I’ve been on the hunt for floor length wedding dresses and it hasn’t been easy to find. Mom and Stephen like it. I feel really good in it, but in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “But you don’t LOVE it.”

Back at my parents house, Mom’s wedding dress hangs on display in her bedroom. It’s no secret that I’ve always loved it, and now she’s had it restored. When I spoke to her on the phone about it, I voiced concerns that it will be too small, but she assures me, “It’s a size 3! It’s a generous size 3.” So I try it on.

Well, I try to try it on. I pull it up, gently, and pull the arms through. That’s about it. I can’t get the zipper up. It’s too small. It’s soooo small, like there was never any chance of me fitting in this thing. Still, I walk downstairs to show the twins and Dad. Dad seems genuinely so surprised that it doesn’t fit. He can’t believe it. The twins and I are not. We’re quick to remind him that Mom was a china doll on her wedding day.

I’ve got one more place to go. The place I am looking forward to the most. It’s called Grace Loves Lace. They’re based in Australia and have a showroom in LA, but recently opened one in New York City. I’ll be there over the Christmas holiday, so I schedule an appointment. I am obsessed with these dresses. They’re more on the expensive side, but I know I have the potential of having that moment. That moment where I say, “I don’t care how much it costs, THIS is my dress.”

And if it doesn’t work out, I’ll get the dress from BHLDN. Sounds like a solid plan to me.

Destination Wedding

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Rincon, Puerto Rico

Stephen and I have a brilliant idea for a staycation at his parent’s house and thankfully, they’re OK with it. We’ve realized that hanging out with Frank and Joan is our ideal “night out.” They only live 20 minutes away and Joan basically runs their house like a bed and breakfast. I’m not kidding – each bedroom has a guest book, chocolates, and bottles of water on the bedside tables. Whenever I’m drunk (which is most times when I stay over), I write a message in the guest book thinking it’s the funniest thing, and the next morning when I look back at it, I realize that I was clearly just drunk and the writing is sloppy.

The plan is to exercise – me at the local bikram studio and Stephen playing tennis with his Dad – cook delicious meals, drink delicious wine, and do our own respective work. For me, this is writing, but now that we’re engaged, all I can think about is the wedding. First things first, where should we get married??

We know we want a destination. It’s no surprise that the best wedding we’ve ever been to is Matt and Anna Rose’s. Obviously because we met there but truly, the most fun wedding experience ever. We want to emulate it in some ways.

First, lodging. The villa I stay at with about eight other people is the most beautiful place I’ve ever stayed. One of those moments where you walk in and your jaw drops to the floor, then you literally run around the whole place to see it in its entirety and get excited about every little thing. The bedrooms are all open and airy – it feels like a playhouse. The pool is right off the beach, and the view of the ocean is right there every morning when I wake up; the sound and smell of the ocean slowly nudging me awake.

Second, the private chefs. I’ve never been a big fan of Mexican food until this trip. Our chefs make the most delicious, authentic Mexican meals. I can’t even get a bite down without saying, ‘Oh my God, this is so good.’

Third, everything is picturesque because of the gorgeous ocean views at every location.

Fourth, cost. A week-long trip isn’t cheap, but for everything we get, it’s incredibly affordable. Kind of mind-blowing, actually.

Fifth, because it’s a 7-day celebration, it really gives so many of us time to get to know each other. It’s because of the extended stay that Stephen and I are really able to foster a connection. Not to mention getting to hang out and meet all of Matt and AR’s family and friends.

So with these things in mind, we begin our search. It’s overwhelming to say the least. Stephen and I have very different approaches to choosing a location. I am searching for large homes/villas that can accommodate at least 100 people. He is first searching for a good location. That doesn’t make sense in my head. Looking at a map and researching an area is boring. Looking at villas and imagining our wedding there or guests staying there is fun!

We consider the Florida Keys, but after speaking with a wedding planner on the phone, quickly rule it out because it is very, very expensive. Same thing goes with San Diego (neither are much of a destination, anyway). We narrow it down to three places – Costa Rica, Belize, and Puerto Rico.

Costa Rica is my first pick. Everything here looks absolutely gorgeous, from the villas to the views. Unfortunately, the places that look amazing cannot accommodate more than 75 people. Stephen and I go back and forth about this. Do we cut our list and keep it small? I realize that if we invite 200 people, the chances of it only being 75 guests is still pretty good, but it’s not a chance we can take. That’s way too stressful to hope that people won’t come. Ultimately, we feel more comfortable inviting all 200 people and finding a location that works. It saddens me, because as we do this searching, I really start to imagine it all in Costa Rica. And when I get something in my head it’s all I can think about.

Belize is pretty cool. I do my thing where I search for villas and homes. Stephen is perplexed by my search tactics. Belize is huge, apparently. He says that if we have it here, he really wants to have it in this particular area, called Ambergris Caye. Guess what – the house I find is on Ambergris Caye. Boom.

We’re pretty close to nailing down Belize as our spot. Even come up with a hashtag: #belizeinstetsandsteve. But besides the beautiful house I found where we would have our wedding, the neighboring houses are just not up to par for our guests. I want them to walk in to where they’re staying and say, “Wow, this is amazing.”

And then there’s Puerto Rico. Again, my search tactics work and I find two beautiful villas in Rincon. Then I find two more. All four are in close proximity to each other and all accommodate at least 125 people. I’m still bummed about Costa Rica, but I’m loving that this is a quaint little beach town that I’ve never heard of and I love how gorgeous these locations are.

We hop on the phone with a wedding planner. What I mostly gather from the conversation is that lots of weddings are held here and all of these villas will work. We think we’re going to use this wedding planner but then she takes over two weeks to get back to us (“island time,” apparently). So now we are searching for wedding planners. My biggest problem with any research I do on anything is that I read every single review. I become obsessed with knowing everything there is to know about this person, this venue, this product.

I’m not sure which of us finds Rincon Events but after a conversation with Allison, we’re excited to have her help us through the process.

So that’s it, we’re getting married in Puerto Rico! I love it more and more every time I think about it. It’s definitely a destination but you don’t need a passport, which is nice for a lot of guests. We love that we can help Puerto Rico’s economy, even a little, after Hurricane Maria. And the more research I do on Rincon, the more I love that it’s a small little surf town on the west side of the island, away from everyone, in its own little magical bubble.

Now we just have to nail down a final guest list, figure out what the events of the week are and where they will be held, make invitations, put together a website, and figure out where everyone can stay. Geez.

I also need to find a wedding dress…

The Family Stone

engagement ring
green sapphire engagement ring

I never gave much thought to engagement rings until Anna Rose and Matt got engaged. It was the first time I looked at someone’s ring and thought, Oh my God that is gorgeous and I would totally wear that every day for the rest of my life.

It was a black diamond. Emerald cut with no frills. A thin, gold, pave band. Totally stunning.

Stephen and I are having conversations about getting married. About spending the rest of our lives together. At first, he wants to pick out the ring; for it to be a surprise. But he still wants to know what I like.

Unfortunately, I really don’t know what I like. I have never given it much thought because I always thought it would be weird to look at engagement rings until I knew I should be looking at them. Superstitious, I guess. (For those of you who don’t see a proposal in your near or distant future, I highly recommend looking at rings you like. When you have no clue what you want for a ring, a wedding dress, or a wedding location, all of these things feel very overwhelming when they happen. If you’ve never thought about them before, it only adds to the stress of it – not the joy of it – and this should be fun!). All I know is, I love ARs ring, I don’t want a diamond, and I want a thin, yellow gold band.

So, I head to Pinterest. I quickly realize that I know nothing about rings. There’s so much terminology that I’ve never heard of. First there’s the cut, which is the shape of the stone: round, princess, emerald, oval, cushion, pear, heart, etc. The setting: prong, channel, pave, bezel. Metal choices: platinum, white gold, yellow gold, rose gold. Some have a halo, which is a frame of diamonds that encases the top view face of the stone.

Finally, there’s the actual stone. I show Stephen my Pinterest board and now he’s doing his own research until he finally says that maybe we should do this together. Sounds good to me! I completely trust Stephen but I’m going to be wearing this ring for the rest of my life, and by the looks of it, it’s not something that we can just find in a store.

But let’s go to some jewelry stores and see. We go to Jared’s and Tiffany’s. I pretty much hate everything. They have the opposite of what I want. I can’t stand how everything looks the same. I can’t stand the stuffy vibe of these places.

My friend Lindsay sends us to Donald Hackk Diamonds in Charlotte. She swears by him – he’s made a lot of jewelry for her, so we make an appointment to meet with Justin.

When picking a stone, I narrow it down to something green or yellow. Green is my favorite color and I just really like the look of a yellow stone. Emeralds, I learn, are a terrible idea because they are very soft stones. For some women, this might not be a problem, but for me, who hits my hands on shit all day – literally, for no reason either, I just seem to be careless with my body and sometimes find bruises from walking into random things – I should not consider an emerald.

I learn that in terms of hardness, the top three go in this order: 1) diamond 2) ruby 3) sapphire. I also learn that sapphires are not only blue, as I thought they were. You can get sapphires in yellow, green, pink, orange, purple.

Since I don’t want a diamond and I don’t want a ruby, it seems like a yellow or green sapphire is the way to go. As we go down this path, I realize more and more that I definitely want a green ring on my finger.

I do like the look of a bezel setting – it basically encases the stone in a metal ring. My other friend Lyndsey, who works at Tiffany’s, tells me that this is a terrible idea. A bezel setting doesn’t allow the light to come through (or something like that). If I’m not going to get a diamond, then I should get a halo, because a halo will allow light to come through the stone and make it look shinier and bigger and blah blah blah. I hate the look of a halo. But I see her point about the bezel setting.

I try to tell Justin what I want. He’s very good at explaining everything and making me feel like we will find exactly what I’m looking for. It might take some time – but he will find it. I think he also might worry that the size of the stone that I want will be too heavy on my finger, but I am undeterred.

He calls us in one day, a couple weeks later, to show us a stone that he’s found. I really like it. I like it a lot. Stephen loves it. But it’s not the one. It’s slightly smaller than I was hoping and slightly on the more yellowish side of green. I want something greener and bigger. I don’t even wear rings. Like, ever. But now for some reason I’m dead set on finding this stone.

A couple weeks after that, Justin calls us in again. He shows me the stone and I gasp. Oh my God. It’s so pretty. I love the color and I love the size. This is the one. It feels good to know for sure and be supremely all in.

When Stephen proposes a couple months later and puts the ring on my finger, it’s my first time seeing the whole thing as an actual ring, not just the stone. A 10mm green sapphire cushion cut with a prong setting and a yellow gold band. I can’t stop looking at it on my finger. I love it so much. It’s weird to wear something of this size on my finger, but that doesn’t change my feelings about it. Every time Stephen asks me, “Is it too big? Do you still love it?,” I tell him, It’s perfect and I’m obsessed with it – because I am. I don’t wear a lot of jewelry, and now it’s even easier to not have to think about it because I know that if anything, I at least have this beautiful ring on my finger, and every single time I look at it, I think about our love and our life together.

 

The Proposal

proposal

Sunday, May 13, 2018

I am an engaged woman! So weird! I mean it’s not weird and it is. I don’t know what I’m saying. It’s all very exciting. It happens Friday evening when Mom and Dad are visiting. Before we even leave the apartment, Stephen says that he wants to get a picture with me tonight because we’re dressed up and we never take pictures together. Which is true, we don’t, and we recently had a conversation about it, so it’s a totally normal thing to hear.

As we’re pulling up to the restaurant and can see Frank and Joan waiting for us outside, Stephen says again, “Before we go inside, I want to get a picture.” Of course, I ‘ve already forgotten about the picture, so it’s a good thing he says something. We get out of the Uber, and all the hugs and hellos are exchanged – our parents haven’t seen each other since their first meeting one year ago.

OK, now let’s get this picture. My Dad is clearly ready to be IN the picture and Stephen (very nicely) tells him he wants a picture with me first. Dad makes a Dad comment and says, “It’s all about you, Steve,” and gets out of the way. Steve hands his phone to his Mom to take the picture. We’re standing in front of a fountain, right outside the restaurant. Frank and my parents are fairly close to us. Joan announces that this isn’t a good angle, so we move further down to the other side of the fountain, away from the restaurant. Fortunately, Frank and my parents don’t follow.

Joan says, “This is perfect. Much better,” and we pose. I’m standing there smiling like an idiot when out of the corner of my eye, I see Steve getting down on one knee. My immediate response is, “What are you doing?” but as it’s coming out of my mouth, I know. Even though I know, I still can’t believe it’s happening. I turn away for a second, in embarrassment or shyness or disbelief or whatever you want to call it, but I come right back to him because he’s on his knee and we’ve got to be in this together.

I know he’s nervous. I feel a buzz around my head. I’m trying to be present and be with him, but part of me is screaming, “I wasn’t expecting this right now! I can’t believe this is happening right now!” I can feel his Mom taking pictures of us, I can feel Frank and my parents watching us, I can feel the employees at the restaurant watching us, and I can feel the patrons dining on the patio watching us. Everyone surrounding me is a buzzing haze on this hot evening, and Stephen is on his knee telling me things.

Focus, Lindsay. I hear the word love. I hear him tell me I’m patient and kind, and that ever since we met in Mexico it’s been magical. I feel like he’s down on his knee forever, and then he asks, “Will you marry me?” I honestly can’t say yes fast enough. I need him in my arms and kissing me. We’re both laughing and crying from the nerves and the joy of it all. There’s some clapping. I kiss him as much as I can before he takes the ring out of the box to put it on my finger. He tries, but he can’t get it all the way on so he tells me to do it. It takes a couple wiggles and then – there it is, a green sapphire shining on my finger.

We hug and kiss again and then the celebration begins. I told him I didn’t want anyone to be around when we got engaged, but now that he’s done it and our parents are here, I couldn’t be more grateful. I’m on such a high – my adrenaline is through the roof. I feel so happy I can’t stop smiling, but it also feels like I’ve had one too many cups of coffee and now I’ve got the jitters.

parents - engagement
Top: Joan, Dad, Frank; Bottom: Stephen, me, Mom

As soon as we all sit down and have drinks in our hands, Stephen makes a toast. He’s so genuine and heartfelt – it means a lot to him to share in this moment with all our parents – that he gets choked up during his toast. Maybe because both our Moms are crying, too. It’s the sweetest thing. My mind is racing – I have to call everyone. Frank jumps right in with, “OK, so let’s start planning the wedding.” It’s funny, but in my head, I’m thinking the same thing. I’m more and more happy that Stephen did this with our parents because if they weren’t here, as soon as he proposed, we would’ve been calling them. This way, I’m forced to be present, to be here, to enjoy this wonderful dinner with wonderful wine and even more wonderful company. I try to just enjoy being engaged. This is so exciting.

Later on into the dinner, Mom and I step away to call my sisters. Then, on the Uber drive home, we make some more calls. When we get back to the apartment and say goodnight to Mom and Dad, I am completely exhausted but still buzzing with a sort of giddiness. Stephen and I are getting married.

 

Pitch Perfect

You know what I think about every day? Everything I’m NOT doing.

It’s exhausting. And annoying. I try to think, ‘You know what, Lindsay, this could be the last day of your life. You could die. You should really enjoy every minute you have.’

But that thinking just gives me more anxiety, because now not only am I not doing ‘enough’, I’m also not appreciating my entire life. AND I’m thinking about dying, which always ends up in a morbid rabbit hole of fear and sadness.

What is especially bringing this up right now? I think it started when field hockey season ended. I said, all season, that as soon as field hockey ends, I’ll be able to concentrate more on my writing. And also, focus on saving money to pay off all my debt (which is a lot).

Field hockey season ends, and I’m like, fuck, I don’t know what to write about.

Besides the writing (or lack thereof), now that I’m not coaching, I have all the time in the world to work at the restaurant and make money. Which brings up another thing: all my co-workers – who are great – keep asking me, ‘So, what are you up to now that field hockey season is over?’ And I’m like, fuck, what AM I up to now? I don’t know! Nothing! I suck at life!

Unfortunately, I am realizing more and more that I really hate working nights. As a server who works from about 4pm-midnight, there’s this feeling of dread that I have the entire day leading up to that 4pm start time. It’s not just dread, it’s like I have to save my energy for work, like I can’t really focus on anything else except that I have to work later. It’s a weight, is what it is. Or maybe it’s just an excuse, I don’t know.

Would I be happier if I worked during the day? Would I be more productive with my writing? Would I live a healthier lifestyle? Would I be less stressed out? I don’t know, but I’m leaning towards a solid yes.

I can’t wait for the day when I’m making money from doing things that actually bring me joy (like coaching field hockey, for instance). It doesn’t have to always be fun. I just mean that it should be fulfilling, challenging, inspiring, and push me to my creative limits. That certainly is the goal.

For now, I have to find a way to work at a job and make money, while also finding the motivation to keep writing. Just keep swimming.

It doesn’t help that Christmas is coming up. Christmas is the most amazing time of the year and I ALWAYS overdo it. I love buying presents and making a million cookies for people. When I tell Steve my “ballpark” for how much I’ll probably spend for Christmas-y ‘things’, his eyes bug out. Then he laughs, because thankfully, he always thinks I’m adorable.

When I get frustrated with my job, Steve always so genuinely tries to help come up with a solution. My favorite is when he says, with a most serious face, “We need to figure out a way for you to monetize lip sync.”

I mean, really. He’s just the absolute best.

Private Parts

Dr. John Sarno’s 2001 book, Healing Back Pain, explains that knowledge, education, and acceptance of the TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome) diagnosis will lead to not just management of pain, but freedom from pain. “The knowledge is the effective cure.”

He goes on to say that, “One does not have to eliminate tension from one’s life. It’s not changing one’s emotions, it’s recognizing that they exist and that the brain is trying to keep one from being aware of their existence through the mechanism of the pain syndrome. As long as you are preoccupied with what your body is doing, the pain will continue.”

Sure, sure, sure, but what am I supposed to do besides believe in this diagnosis??

I google TMS and my continued research leads me to another book: Think Away Your Pain by David Schechter, M. D., released in 2016.

I listen to the sample, and Schechter’s voice seems clear and easy to listen to, so I order it. I like the start of this book, because he gets right to bullet points. I like bullet points.

“An important strategy is a review of daily reminders. 12 key thoughts. It is suggested that at least once a day, to set aside 15 minutes when one can relax and quietly review them.

  1. The pain is due to TMS, not to a structural abnormality.
  2. The direct reason for the pain is mild oxygen depravation.
  3. TMS is a harmless condition, cause by my repressed emotions.
  4. The principle emotion is my repressed anger.
  5. TMS exists only to distract my emotions.
  6. Since my back is basically normal, there is nothing to fear.
  7. Therefore, physical activity is not dangerous.
  8. And I must resume all physical activity.
  9. I will not be concerned or intimidated by the pain.
  10. I will shift my attention from the pain to emotional issues.
  11. I intend to be in control; not my unconscious mind.
  12. I must think psychological at all times; not physical.”

A lot of the patients described in the book have debilitating back pain, where they can’t do much physically and/or they avoid physical movement. My pain isn’t this bad. I still work out. I do avoid high intensity workouts and classes because I feel like I get too worked up, but I still can do them.

So I do. It’s one week before Steve and I leave for Napa for his cousin’s wedding. I’m not doing a diet to get ready for this wedding (as I might have tried to do in the past), but I will commit to no drinking and yoga every day. (I end up going 6-for-7 on both).

This means, I have to do whatever yoga classes fit in with my schedule. I typically only like Hot Power Fusion, because it’s most like bikram style/holding poses, but I used to do yoga sculpt. I don’t like it as much because there’s a lot of flow movement at the beginning and I do feel my anxiety rise during class. (Also, the best teacher in the world moved away so she doesn’t teach the class anymore.)

This week, though, I decide to push through and just do it. I tell myself that it’s OK to get anxiety and that it’s not going to hurt me. Basically, I try to talk myself down from getting too anxious during class.

Whether or not it works, I don’t know, but it sure does feel good to work out in a hot studio almost every day for a week. Combine that with the no-drinking and I am feeling good!

Unfortunately, the more I listen to this book, the more I become infuriated with the narrator. First of all, he takes these weird, long pauses after words when it’s not the end of a sentence. His pauses are nonsensical and annoying. Also, you know when you’re talking to someone face-to-face, and you know they have dry-mouth because you can see that gross white stuff forming at the sides of their mouth? That’s what I imagine this guy looks like, because he keeps making this swallowing noise like he needs a glass of water. Take a sip of water, dude! But the absolute WORST part, is that I can literally hear him TURNING THE PAGES. Are you kidding me?? This is Audible. This isn’t some lame recording you made for yourself. I paid for this. I have never listened to a book where I was so distracted by the poor quality of the reading. I can’t get through it! I’m getting so frustrated, and so anxious, which is the exact opposite of the purpose of this book!

I have it up to 1.5x speed, but it’s not enough. I bump it up to 2x speed. It’s a little too fast, at first, but I get used to it. It takes out his weird pauses, and I can’t hear the pages turn. Problem solved.

Schechter really likes his lists. He goes into the 7 Lessons of Pain:

  1. The source of chronic pain is often the nervous system and brain, not structural injury.
  2. The context and the interpretation of the pain by the patient and its perceived significance, are crucial.
  3. Psychology and education can change the mind/brain and cure pain, not just manage it.
  4. Pain does not always mean disease or damage.
  5. The severity of the pain does not always correlate with the severity of the condition, or the potential for damage to the body.
  6. Pain, sensory signals, are a two-way street. Mind/brain plays a crucial role in what you feel.
  7. Mind/body pain keeps coming back until you are firm in your belief that there are no physical causes.

The more I listen, the more I think that it’s kind of repetitive. But somehow, it’s repetitive in a good way, like it’s becoming more and more ingrained in my head. I’m not sure how long it will take to actually make a difference. There are some examples of people learning about the diagnosis and feeling better that very same day. Mazza is a prime example. She felt better just by reading the book!

I don’t like these examples because I do not fall into this category. Sarno says to give it 2-4 weeks, so I will keep trying. And by try I mean, self-talk, telling my brain that the pain isn’t real and I am in control of my body. I’ve also started to recognize that every time I start to feel pain, I am feeling anxious about something in my life. For example, I start to feel pain when I’m driving, because I think every car on the road can’t see me, and is therefore going to hit me.

More from Schechter: “Your negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, stress, grief, anger, and panic, trigger real changes in your brain. Your mind/brain sets into motion changes in the mind/body linkage, that cause nerves to send pain signals, or to amplify existing sensations inappropriately. This is TMS.”

It’s been two weeks since I first started reading about Sarno’s work. I am shocked and incredibly happy to admit that my neck and back feel much better. I won’t say that the pain has completely subsided, but I truly feel so much better than I have in a long time. Doing lots of yoga and cutting back on drinking definitely helped, too, but this self-talk stuff is actually doing something to me. It’s kind of crazy.

Inception

After three trips to the chiropractor, I’m still in pain. I really like what Dr. Tony does while I’m there, and there’s definitely some temporary relief, but it’s not enough to justify paying that much money once a week.

A friend refers me to this book: Healing Back Pain by Dr. John Sarno. The friend is Mazza, my burning-man-yogi-half-baked-spiritual-meditative LA friend. She tells me it’s done wonders for her back issues. She actually says, “I rarely have pain, just from reading it.”

C’mon, are you joking?? You don’t have back pain because you read a book?! That’s ridiculous. I don’t believe it.

The book is on Audible. I immediately purchase it and start listening.

Well, first, I listen to the sample because I have to like the narrator. If I don’t like the narrator’s voice or the way he speaks, I can’t get through it. This book is read by the author and he sounds old and shaky. The audio itself sounds old and shaky, too, as if I’m listening to a record or something. But it’s only three hours and 23 minutes, it has great reviews, and if I put the speed up to 1.5 as I do with all audiobooks, it won’t be as hard to get through. Also, my back freaking hurts!

Here’s the gist of it. Dr. Sarno explains the phenomena of TMS, which stands for Tension Myositis Syndrome. Since I can never remember that, let’s call it the other acronym – The MindBody Syndrome.

From the Mind Body Medicine website:

“TMS is a common and treatable diagnosis for back, neck, arm, pelvic, and other types of chronic pain with no clear structural cause (benign pain). Healing comes from learning to shift focus from physical to psychological, break dysfunctional neural pathways, and process emotions differently. The symptoms are very real, but the cause is not what is expected or typically looked for by most doctors.”

By the third hour, I’m kind of annoyed. This guy has been going on and on and on about TMS and what it is, and scientific terms and OTHER ways doctors try to handle it and prescribe it. He keeps giving examples of people with pain and how they’ve tried everything but haven’t felt relief until they’ve seen him. But he’s not telling me what the heck I’m supposed to do about it.

Finally, at hour three, I’m getting worked up and even more anxious because there have been zero answers and shouldn’t I be feeling better by now??

Then things start to become clear. Sarno has been explaining TMS and its effects and giving examples, because the first step to dealing with TMS, is being educated about it.

I roll my eyes. OK, I get it. I have TMS. I’m educated now. GREAT. Now can you please tell me what to do?

More from the web:

“Step 1: Accept the diagnosis.

A key to getting well from TMS is understanding and believing the diagnosis! The TMS pain process occurs, we believe, in order for the unconscious mind to hide “unacceptable” emotions. It is a form of distraction. When this TMS process is exposed, the symptoms begin to resolve.

“Step 2: Think psychologically.

The second part of the treatment process is learning to think psychologically, not physically.  By this we mean focusing on emotional tension and your internal response to external events and not on prior, conventional, mechanical or so-called structural explanations for your pain. We also teach a cognitive system of blocking, then shifting attention that is very effective (a form of self-talk).”

Let’s say I believe all this. I mean, I do, actually. I really hope that its true because it means there is a way out. It makes sense. I have had continual back and neck pain for years, but doctors always tell me I’m just fine. I hate when they tell me I’m fine. I’m not fine. How are you not finding something wrong with me?!!

When I think about it further, and think about the onset of my pain, it does tend to occur when I’m feeling anxious about something. I always start to feel pain before I go to work. Going to work at a restaurant feels like a trigger for stress. It’s not what I want to be doing with my life, I feel trapped, and I’m not looking forward to it. Once I’m there and working, I’m fine, but it is interesting to notice that the pain doesn’t just start for no reason. There is a link between my pain and anxiety.

This could be my answer. I start talking to myself, saying, ‘The pain is not real, I am in control of my body.’ I say it out loud to Steve, too, but I can’t help but smirk when I say it. Because the problem is, I’m still in pain.

So I believe that my pain is a product of my mind. I still don’t know how to fix it. Sure, I guess it is slightly comforting to know that there isn’t anything structurally wrong with my body, and that I am OK. But Sarno’s saying that I’m repressing some emotions that I don’t want to deal with. How am I supposed to know what those “unacceptable emotions” are??

I’m going to have to read another book…