Poppy Fields Forever


“Are you going to write about the irony of being in a poppy field? Being so close and yet so far?” This, my husband joked when I told him I was going outside to write.

“They’re not OPIUM poppies,” I laughed. But I kinda wished they were. Poppies. Opium. Opiates. Drugs.

Hold that thought.

There was a time where I would have relied 100% on an external fix. In short, a pill. I am a pill girl. Have been since age 14 when I began taking Prednisone, Imuran and Baby Aspirin every day to slow the Glomerulonephritis gnawing away at my kidney’s filters, sending me into kidney failure by age 18.

Pills are the best. A tiny circle of hope. Then, instant relief. Freedom from pain. Until it wears off and my blood surges hot and angry, screaming for more.

[Awkward transition]

Almost every actor I know has “done” “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. A book that helps an artist nurture their creativity. One of the weekly exercises is to take yourself on a date. Visit a museum. Go to a park and write. Sketch at the beach.

Teaching us to harness the power of self.

I wanted to see the poppies.

With the recent rains here in California, I had heard the Poppy Reserve up in Antelope Valley was bloomin’ something fierce, so I was down for a wee me adventure. Turns out, my skin wasn’t on board. (Is it ever?) But I’m tired, so very tired of my health dictating my choices. So off I went.

The drive up the 14 N is spectacular, especially right now. Fifty shades of green (sorry!) sprayed with bright yellow blooms, and the bluest of cloudless blue skies. Sometimes California is just a big show-off.

For about 40 minutes we talked. Me and Big G. I lay my cards on the table. About how I’m no longer down with His plan to keep me in chronic pain. That I’m officially exhausted, bordering on depressed. The steroid shots, steroid / peanut oil, ACV, Sarna lotion, Calamine lotion, Caladryl, Aloe Vera Gel, Capzasin, Oils, and more oils. Auto-immune tests, Immunological tests, and Viral tests. Singulair, Antihistamines, Doxycycline, Gabapentin, and most recently, Amitriptyline and Ketamine (yes, a horse tranquilizer) ointment compounded for little ol’ me.

With needles jutting out of me like tiny javelins, my acupuncturist holds my head in Reiki as I break down and cry. I carry crystals in my pocket. Pray. Meditate. Exercise. Ice. Eat raw tahini in the morning, and take Gabapentin at night. Sometimes I’m empowered by all of this, and others times I fall into a big sad heap and beg God to take it all away.

In a way, I have been waiting for this to be “over” so I can fully enjoy my life again. When the pain a 2-4, I can focus, be present for whatever is going on. My book. My friendships. The love of my life. But when my pain flares into 5-6-7 territory, I’m split focused. I want to care, but I can’t. And what gift is there to be found in that? That’s not me. That’s not who I want to be. So how, how can this be The Plan?

I bet you think I’ve forgotten about the poppies! Well, they were indeed beautiful. Defiant clusters of orange exploding against the subtle shades of desert. Elegant skirt-shaped heads that twirled away from the inclement weather. For I found a surprise atop Antelope Butte Vista point. Wind. Cold gusts of wind enveloped me, whipping my (suddenly salt and peppered! When! When did this happen!) hair back and forth. I struggled not to fall over, cementing my feet against blasts of wind that made me laugh out loud. In the midst of this mini-tempest, I found my strength. I did not fall over. And I could not feel my skin. I felt no pain.

Why do I write about illness and pain so much? It’s selfish, perhaps. But I know I am not alone. I want to find those who are clutching the sides of the same dingy, sustaining the same endless battering. I can’t lose myself to this. I've lost myself so many times to pain and the pills that rolled out one-by-one, two-by-two, five-by-five until the numbers became incalculable.

And so, I share. And then you share, and so on. Until Our power becomes incalculable.

As we crossed paths in the bathroom this morning, my sleepy-headed man had a confession,

“I had a nightmare. You were being held hostage.”

“I am being held hostage,” I answered wryly.

“Ah! A metaphor!”

Life may not be mine to dictate, but living is.

For me, an external fix may never arrive, but I do not have to be held hostage by pain. Living has always has been my choice. It was a choice to take myself on a date despite my pain.

And every time I take a step forward into the storm, I find my footing a little bit more.

Love this so much! Keep writing out loud because it makes us better humans. It is how we are taught humility and empathy. And the world needs a huge dose (I did that I purpose 😉) of both. — Karin Sharav Zalkind
Oh, Henriette. There is not one moment where I can say “I don’t understand.” Almost every word you share resonates within my inner and outer world. — Victoria Margolis-Brown
Inspirational. — Jenn Dyment
So loved this. Loved reading it. Read it twice!! Love you. Love your outlook and I cannot imagine how hard it is. I love your writing and the exceptional gift you continue to be. — Kim McIntyre-Leighton
I love you. Wrote it. Felt it. That’s all. Keep on, keeping on, baby. — Christine Oddy Shandel