Screamed like a Girl…

A few years ago I broke my back coming off my horse. I was very lucky. My helmet was cracked – which was a pretty good indicator of the force of impact. Had I not been wearing the helmet, I would probably be typing this with a blower straw rather than my hands.

Six weeks after the fall, I returned to the fracture clinic at the hospital for my followup. The doctor told me that I was healing very well and could begin moderate exercise. I told him that was good, as I had already been playing tennis for two weeks!

This is just to show that I do not step away from things without good reason. And right now I am out. On the DL. This is what happened.

About a month ago in the frenzy of pre-move packing, I was carrying a large box down the stairs that was almost too heavy for me. The bottom of the box gave way, and I used only my right arm to stop the contents from spilling out. I felt something tear. It eased quickly and I carried on.

A couple of weeks after that, I did EXACTLY what my yoga teacher says is the reason many woman get injuries – I reached into the back seat, while driving, to grab my purse. As I swung it into the front seat, it caught on my tennis bag and I felt something tear. Again.

This also eased off and I was able to continue normal activities. To be fair, I was being extremely conscious of hitting the tennis ball in front of me – because hitting behind me as I am wont to do was really quite painful. My tennis game actually improved with this better focus and positioning.

On Monday, we were walking in the fields when my two stupid dogs were roughhousing and collided right behind me, taking me out at the knees. My husband laughed – I fell right on top of the two dogs and it did look pretty funny – but stopped laughing when he saw that I was crying. It wasn’t the fall – it was the surprise that had me fling my arms back. (You remember what surprised arms look like right? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Bmhjf0rKe8) The pain was excruciating, but after an hour of hiking it eased off once again.

Yesterday I was walking in the fields with the dogs – alone this time – when something caught their attention and they wouldn’t heel. The two older dogs were frantically digging in the middle of the pasture. I went over to see what had engaged them so and saw the puppy in the middle looking from one to the other. They had come upon an extremely large nest of field mice. As the two dogs dug, the puppy snapped at the baby mice as they flew in the air and swallowed them whole.

I stood and watched for a second or two and then the remaining mice used another tunnel to escape their furry foes – and ran out en masse, right over my boots. I screamed like a girl. Twice. And leapt backwards, throwing my arms back once again. The pain made me weak in the knees. And this time it didn’t ease off.

I tried to play tennis later that morning. Nothing if not an optimist, I was sure it was moments away from going back to nearly normal. It did not and I could not play well at all. My signature trick shot – hitting behind me without even looking – couldn’t happen. My serve was beyond weak and I couldn’t hit an overhead with power to save my life. So I am on the DL.

Conveniently, I was already seeing my doctor yesterday afternoon for a referral for foot surgery. Isn’t getting old fun kids? He checked my shoulder and sent me for an x-ray and an ultrasound – even while noting that really only an MRI would give us any real information.

At the x-ray clinic I was unable to do up my hospital gown. I told the lady if I could do it up I wouldn’t be there! Now I have to use my other arm to position my bad shoulder to do hard tasks like reach for groceries or put on mascara. It sucks. So I am taking the weekend off of tennis. We’ll see.

Song for the Dying

It’s not as sad as you think. When I tell people that I spend my free time sitting with those who are dying, they are often convinced that it must be a tragic, grief riddled event. It’s not. But they don’t want to hear about it.

It must be our culture. We choose to ignore death as much as possible and, if we deal with it at all, it’s in a reverent or sad manner. We fear death like nothing else. But here’s a scoop: Nobody gets out alive. As Springsteen sings : “Everything dies baby, that’s a fact“. Death is just another element of life.

Often the person who has truly faced their own mortality finds a heady new sense of freedom. All the little things, annoyances, resentments, all seem to fade away. They want to spend their last remaining time on earth unencumbered by negativity and petty concerns. Things that once seemed so important are now completely insignificant. There is letting go in their acceptance.

Of course, not everyone gets this far on the Kübler-Ross stages of grief. Some get stuck in anger, some in bargaining. “Why me?” they ask. “Why not you?” the world answers.

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The time spent in the company of the actively dying is intense and extremely rewarding. Remember – as a visiting volunteer for a Hospice these are not my people. Not my loved ones. I am there only as a tool to assist the patient in any way that I can, or as a respite for their caregivers to let them have a few hours away from the constant stress of ongoing care.

For someone who is so often in charge, it is a very good exercise for me to place all my own beliefs, and concerns aside.  My opinion matters not at all.  I follow their lead entirely.

My role changes with every client. Some want only to talk about their illness; the diagnosis, the progression, the prognosis. New methods of treatment, operations with different outcomes, a thousand “what if”s fill their days.

And they know that they are dying. When you have a hospice volunteer show up, it’s pretty clear where we are heading. However I have had more than a few occasions when a family member has said “don’t let her know how bad she is – there is no point in upsetting her”. And then the patient will say “Don’t let them know this but I’m not going to make it.” The dying almost always know.

Some never even mention their impending demise. They want to talk of happier times from long ago – the birth of a child, often grown and far away. They share memories of the war, of falling in love. It’s a privilege to hear. And because I am not part of their family, they are free to say anything to me, with no fear of repercussions. I have been told amazing things that I can never share.

Some don’t want to talk at all – they just want to listen. They want me to read to them, from a favourite book, or the daily paper. They ask me to tell them stories to make them laugh – to forget, if even for a moment, how temporary it all is.

Sometime they ask me to sing. I close my eyes and sing.

One Day at a Time

The prompt for this week’s 100 Words is “… being clear is essential to …” Here is my entry:

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I remember what it felt like. When I was deep in the throes of my addiction, I often felt disassociated from my own life. I had the sense that there was another life that I should be living, just out of reach, just beyond my sightline.

I would get glimpses of it sometimes. Brief, sweet glimpses of a life with meaning, Then it would be gone and the shreds of it would haunt my days as a human doing, not a human being. That was the life I should be living. And sobriety, being clear, is essential to experience it.

The Legacy of Invisibility

This week’s 100 word challenge is LEGACY. This is my entry:

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I watch him. I watch him struggle as he faces each new challenge. Having no experience himself, he needs to carefully construct his own idea of how to be a loving father.

Patient with you as a toddler, even more so when you reached your teens, you will never understand how afraid he was to be the parent he never had. But I can see. Sometimes, when he worries that he is too strong, or too weak, I can see the boy he used to be. Seven years old, waiting on the sidewalk for the father who never came back.

Learning what matters….

When I was nineteen I went to Miami with my boyfriend. He 12 years older than me, and we were there for him to run in the Miami Marathon. The morning of the race, as all around the runners stretched in preparation, a local t.v. new team came to interview a Miami woman, probably in her 20’s, who was favoured to win. She sat on the ground, in wide running shorts and a running bra, and continued her stretches as she answered the reporter’s questions. Obviously distracted, with only minutes until the start of the race, her answers were short and pretty snarky. In the middle of the interview, she leaned over her own thigh, covered one nostril at a time and blew her nose violently onto the ground. Gotta tell you, both the reporter and I were taken aback. My jaw actually dropped.

At the time, I was still very much a French Poodle of a girl. I spent a great deal of time looking in the mirror, blow drying, then using the curling iron on my highlighted hair. How I looked, and how you thought I looked was pretty much the most important thing to me. Smart enough that it was never an issue, I concentrated on fluff – basically I used people and valued things. I am almost sickened to remember that probably many days would pass at that time, without me giving a single thought to the well being of any other person. I was young sure, but seriously self-centered and self absorbed. Being stoned 90% of the time probably had something to do with that as well.

I’m not like that anymore. With the patient teaching of many, including my mother, my husband and the hundreds of people I have met in the rooms, I think I have become a much better person. Certainly I use things and value people.

When I think of the woman marathoner today, I have completely turned around. No longer shocked at her earthy, animalistic behaviour, I marvel at her bravery and self awareness. She won by the way.