Sunday, April 29, 2012

I Need a Good Electrician…

Penny the Therapy Pony. She is therapy for me, and I want a therapy pony of my own!

Okay, so the title is a bit misleading. What I really need, I suppose, is a good shrink. I need assistance in getting my brain re-wired to a more positive place.

Last weekend (from Friday, April 20 at 3 p.m. to Sunday, April 22 at around 4:30 p.m.), I had the best weekend I’d had in over 15 years.  I admit I had concerns about driving myself for four hours, as my usual pain limit is around an hour. And yes, when I got out of the car in Tehachapi to refuel, those first ten steps or so were excruciatingly painful. But any hint of pain utterly vanished as I drove toward Bear Valley Springs and descended into the valley itself, looking at open spaces, nice homes and horse properties complete with horses.

Normally what I would have done after a 4-hour car ride is take something for pain. But I didn’t. I visited with my friend and within an hour I was holding a horse in a wash rack, with horse hair flying all over, and reveling in the smell of wet horse. We bathed three horses together, and while Charisse and her husband Vic bathed a fourth, I sat in the sunshine with Penny while she was drying from her bath. I should have been hurting like hell, but I wasn’t.

It was only after I took a shower, washing off horse hair and horse smell that I figured I probably should take something for pain, because pain just has a way of keeping me awake. I fell asleep reading horse magazines and woke up 7 hours later, a bit stiff (normal for me), but nowhere near in as much pain as usual. I took a pain pill, and went about the day’s activities, which included several hours of photography, walking, bending, kneeling—whatever it took to get the shot.  I know I should have been in pain—I do these things when I do yard work. Mind you, I am as slow as a turtle doing yard work—I require frequent rest periods and stretches, and at times I do have to break and take something for pain. So by no means am I fast, nor do I lift much, and it takes me three times as long to do something when compared to an able-bodied person.

That second night I noted I went 14 hours without taking any pain medication.  The next day we spent time with the horses, and I even spent a good 15 minutes kneeling on the barn breezeway floor, a brick surface, scratching dear Penny between her front legs while she reciprocated and groomed the nape of my neck at the base of my hairline. I did not want to return home, but knew my cats probably missed me (and I them), so  off I went in the late afternoon, wishing I could bottle whatever “it” was that made the weekend so wonderful.

By the time I got back to the Salinas Valley, I noticed how much my low back was stinging. It was close to bedtime, so I took something for pain. I was sad and my mind dwelled on how I would never have a horse property, how I would never be able to have horses or live in the country on a house that is surrounded by a few acres. I woke up in pain four hours later, my knees just ached to the core, and I repeated my pain meds. About five hours later I awoke again, and again took something for pain.

I tried real hard to not fall back into my pain pattern my first day home, and I did okay. But as the week has progressed, I’m back to my old pattern. I don’t watch the clock, but my body just tells me that my back and knees hurt, and first thing in the morning my wrists, hands and hips hurt so badly that I’m just one package of pain.

Yesterday morning (Saturday) I woke up in horrible pain. The first few steps I took across the hall to the bathroom were excruciating. But I’d promised a friend I would visit her and bring her some blackberry cuttings from my yard—I have so many blackberry plants, they are like weeds growing everywhere! I forced my carcass to move around, eventually repeated my pain medication (about 5 hours from the previous dose), dug up some plants, cut some roses as a surprise to cheer my friend up, and off I went!

I have always had physical limitations—always! When I was a very young child my knees would just stop working—probably dislocated kneecaps, but I was too young to remember. If I took a wrong step or if my horse took me into a tree or a fence, and I was hit just right, I’d dislocate my kneecap, and I was at the mercy of whomever was with me to pull my leg out straight and the kneecap would pop back into place.  I had to stop ballet in the third grade because my knees would not tolerate dancing en pointe. I had limitations in PE throughout junior high and high school. So I’m used to pulling myself out of very physical activities.

But when I saw my friend for the first time since 1974—someone who was so golden, so vivacious, so unlimited and whose body has utterly betrayed her despite doing everything right physical activity-wise, the breath was knocked right out of me. Her spirit is still exactly as I remember, but now she’s got the physical limitations—multiplied twofold—that I have.  Back in high school, nothing stopped her.  Immediately my “pain,” the pain I always have, went right into the shadows and I went into “what can I do for you?” mode.

I happily planted the infant blackberry plants I’d brought for her. Some went into pots, and I planted five in the ground, in a strategic location so she can easily water and ultimately harvest the berries that will come to her in July. I walked on uneven ground, sat on the ground, kneeled, got up, walked around, and even carried in a case of dog food for her. When she voiced concern about my pain, I had to say “I know it’s here but it’s just not here.”

I went home expecting to “pay” for my activities. But I didn’t. I took something for pain just before I went to sleep, and had my sleep interrupted about 6 hours later, so repeated the medication. I putzed around the house for a couple of hours in preparation for doing some of my own yard work.

At noon I went to the side yard to water my little bulbs who are peeking their heads from the mulch. I watered them, and cultivated some weeds (I’m trying to get rid of weeds before they get very big; I’m trying to avoid having Round-Up sprayed all over the place). With 30 minutes of slow and fairly gentle yard work, I hurt terribly. I took something for pain, and continued cultivating the weeds in the dry, hard ground. An hour later I still hurt, so I repeated my pain medication, and then went back outside to burn some yard waste—branches and leaves I’ve trimmed from all over, dried weeds I pulled up several weeks ago, and lots of mistletoe that is falling from the elm tree I’d like to cut down.

I was happily interrupted by a visit from a friend I’ve not seen in some time. She and her family lived in the house above ours, and we grew up running around in the hills like wild animals—we’d leave home in the morning, maybe go home for lunch (or more often, take food with us), play in the creek or in the hills, and go home before dark. Our parents never worried for our safety.

The only trauma from the visit was she saw my ghetto house and ghetto yard. My house is nowhere near “house beautiful.” It’s in bad enough shape that I generally don’t invite people in, I am so embarrassed. Two slobs live in this house, and one of the slobs isn’t able-bodied enough to clean up after two! I’m embarrassed she had to look at the ghetto deck and the ghetto hot tub where an opossum sleeps! But she said nothing—I think she knows and understands my physical limitations, and of course now my financial ones. Someday I will have the house and yard I want—no garbage strewn about, nice furniture, a comfortable place that people want to return to, a place where I can host family get-togethers during the holidays and not be embarrassed by piles of paper and torn-up furniture.

Anyway, I am beginning to come to the conclusion that I have less pain if I am doing something I love or doing for others. Now “all” I have to figure out is where and how I can routinely apply this to my life every day. Opportunities to “do for others” are sorely lacking in SoMoCo. I’m looking at joining the Daughters of the American Revolution (yes I am eligible, I have TWO relatives who served!) and I’m hoping there will be service opportunities there.

In lieu of a mini-horse I think I will buy some chickens and care for them—probably a temporary fix until I can afford to buy a mini-horse and build a little turn-out pen for it in the backyard. Even though I’m not an egg-eater (I cook with them) I know there’s nothing like fresh eggs, and I think it will give me immense pleasure to raise chickens and collect their eggs and give them to family and friends. Wonder if I can make a little money by selling eggs… maybe that’s how I will be able to buy myself a mini-horse, which is what I think will contribute greatly to keeping the pain I will always have in check. 

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