I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Learning to cope, not my strong suit

Dog resting while waiting
I've been taking some nice slow walks around Bellingham, using my camera to take what I call a "photo safari," capturing pictures that catch my eye while waiting for my sore rear end to get better. It might not, I'm beginning to realize now, but I won't know for another month or so. This coming week I'll see my acupuncturist, who treats many lower back injuries, and I might end up coming to see him more often for a bit, if he thinks he can help.

Many people wonder why I haven't been to the doctor yet. Well, this is not my first rodeo, I've been here numerous times before. And at my age, I can pretty much tell that all they would suggest is what I am already doing. There is no external bruising and no signs that I broke anything. But it still hurts to bend over and try to straighten without using my arms to help myself get upright. That said, I can do almost all the yoga postures, although not without pain. That is to be expected. Best as I can figure, I've caused trauma to the sacroiliac joint, and that takes as long as six weeks to completely heal.

My extenuating circumstance is the previous damage I did to the sacrum, back in 2000, when I needed two stabilizing pins inserted to keep the sacrum stable. They are still there, one of them passing by the fifth lumbar nerve root. I remember the surgeon mentioning he hoped he wouldn't need to remove those pins eventually, because I would sustain further nerve damage. He said about a third of the people with my injury have chronic pain and that would be why he would need to remove them. I was one of the lucky ones, but now the pain I'm experiencing might be what he was referring to. Only time will tell.

The biggest difference between now and nineteen years ago is that I am now almost two decades older. It takes longer to heal up from everything, and I am being challenged to take it easy, but it would be out of character for me to plant myself in a chair and do nothing to help myself get better. I can do my morning Tibetan exercises, but I have to modify the one where you lift both legs; instead I lift one leg at a time, and finish off with a couple repetitions with both legs. Just to see how bad it hurts.

Yesterday, since I couldn't walk with the ladies, my usual Saturday morning routine, I went to the gym and walked on the treadmill, to see how fast I can actually walk. I started with 2.5 mph and worked my way up to 2.9, but the ladies walk at a almost 4 mph, so I've got a ways to go before I can join them again. Then I rode the sitting bicycle, which I've been doing since I got injured, and there is little to no discomfort. I'm not using as much resistance as I usually do, but otherwise, those twenty minutes really seems to help. So I am doing the best I can and keeping my spirits up by at least doing something, a little at a time. Most of the time I'm in a bit of pain, but either I'm getting used to it, or it's gradually improving.

Constant pain is wearing on the psyche, I'm realizing. I take lots of breaks by sitting in my comfortable easy chair, and with a few pillows and reclining, I can minimize the pain. I was determined when I started this post that I would not concentrate only on my latest injury, so this is the last word I'll have on this subject, okay?
* * *
Yesterday was the fiftieth anniversary of the landing of the first men on the moon. I read everything I could find commemorating the event, which was easy since all the major newspapers covered it extensively. In 1969, I was in Michigan, living with my second husband, and I remember the living room where the TV was located, and watching that incredible event is still a strong memory. The words "the Eagle has landed" thrilled me, and then when Neil Armstrong said, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," I cried with joy over our momentous achievement. 

Fifty years! A half century ago, and I was a young woman in the prime of life, filled with boundless energy, so much so that I took it for granted. I did yoga even back then, and remember when I was finally able to stand on my head. I was naturally flexible and thought that it would never leave me. However, as the years went by and I no longer practiced yoga, I began to lose that flexibility. I was 47 years old when I took up skydiving, and that activity helped me to regain a desire to get flexible again. Not just packing my chute several times a day, but being able to climb around on the outside of an airplane and not fall off required strength and flexibility.

As the decades went by, I forgot what a treat it is to attend a yoga class. After retiring from my skydiving days and having become active here in the Pacific Northwest, I sought out yoga again. After a few fits and starts with other studios and styles of yoga that no longer fit, I found Yoga Northwest and have been studying there for almost five years now. How quickly time passes! First, I started with what they call "Gentle Yoga" without inversions and lots of attention to back care. As the semesters went by, I moved from Gentle to Gentle II, which is a bit more advanced, and gradually I felt comfortable moving to Level I. In a ten- or twelve-week semester, the postures start easy and move towards more difficult ones, including shoulder stands, balancing postures, and something they call "Crazy Dog." My arm strength is stronger now, and many of the more difficult ones, while not easy, are fun for me.

Last semester, I moved up to Level I-II, which starts out where Level I stops at the end of the semester. After three classes, I realized I didn't belong there and moved back to Level I. Now that I am injured, I must modify a few of the postures, but I can still do them and my back always feels much better afterwards. Lunges are now one of my favorite things, and they don't hurt at all. Sun salutations are a delight.
Exercises are like prose, whereas yoga is the poetry of movements. Once you understand the grammar of yoga; you can write your poetry of movements. ― Amit Ray
And now yoga is as much a part of my life as my other physical pursuits. Funny, things change as I move through life, but some things never leave me: the desire to move and breathe hard, to be in nature, and to have good friends. Being injured and returning to walking photo safaris has brought back many wonderful memories. And I find that walking slowly, looking for good shots, is a much different activity than I have allowed myself lately.

Usually I'm briskly walking from one place to another and not really looking around as I'm forced to do these days. I would have missed that adorable dog in the picture before my injury. He was sleeping quietly until I stopped to look at him. He lifted his head, obviously looking around for his owner, so I gently walked away so he would know I wasn't going to bother him. Many of the shops in Fairhaven have doggy beds and lots of water for visiting doggy patrons, and I'm sure that this bed has been happily used by many of them while Mom shops.

So I'm learning to cope, as I said in the title, and even though it's not my strong suit, I'm still young enough to learn new tricks. The Senior Trailblazers are going on one of my favorite High Country hikes this coming Thursday, but I fear I will not be able to join them. Maybe in another month, and I am reconciled to a slow recovery from this injury. Whoops, I said I wouldn't mention it again, and here I am, breaking my promise to myself.

Whatever. I need to cut myself some slack as I move into my day, right? The sun is shining, the temperature is ideal, nothing like what many of my readers are experiencing. That gives me a chance to give thanks for my many blessings. One of those blessings is my dear partner, sleeping quietly next to me, and you, my dear readers. I hope you will have a wonderful week ahead, and we'll be here together next week, if all goes as planned. Until we meet again, I wish you all good things.


Anonymous said...

I saw that same dog the other day. He must belong to the shop owner. Resting because of an injury is difficult, especially when the weather is so lovely and you just want to be outside hiking or going on long walks. I can empathize. I hope your recovery goes quicker than you expect so you can get back on the trail.


Arkansas Patti said...

I am glad you have found some of the advantages to your slower travel mode these days. Yes, you do see more that you would normally stride right past at a faster speed. To me it was like when I took up the bicycle over the car. My, there was such a lot of world I had been whizzing by.
Do kind of wish you would at least get an x-ray. Just because bones are not poking out doesn't mean there isn't a fracture that might need stabilized. Enough. You know your body. Hope your acupuncturist can give you some relief.

gigi-hawaii said...

And I wish you all good things, too. You seem to have a positive attitude, and that helps you tremendously.

Linda Reeder said...

Sometimes being required to slow down can be a good thing. I think we call it stopping to smell the roses, or take a photo of them. :-)
I am having a very slow day today after a three month build up to yesterday's big party. But this evening we'll gear up for a sounders match at the stadium. That will get me moving.

Elephant's Child said...

Love that you are working through your pain, and cutting yourself some slack. I have been a resident in the slow lane for some years now. It does have some advantages (like smelling/photographing the real and metaphoric roses). Constant pain is a blight though.
And, as I have so often said, thank you for the nudge. I do need to go back to yoga (decades after I left).
Cyber hugs and oceans of caring flowing your way.

Gigi said...

Has it been five years since you started yoga?! I remember when you first started going and it seems like it was only last year.

I'm glad you are cutting yourself some slack AND are planning to see someone about it.

I count you as one of my blessings, DJan. Heal up quick.

Linda Myers said...

Oh, gosh, DJan, it's fine if you complain. It is frustrating to have limited mobility even if it's temporary.

Glad you're moving slowly enough to look around you.

Marie Smith said...

I love how you found photography and walking slowly enjoyable. I had to do the same and quite enjoy it now.

The Furry Gnome said...

Glad you've returned to the benefits of walking slowly and doing 'photo safaris'. As Thoreau said, we should saunter through the woods, not hike. As for constant pain, if you discover an answer, let me know.

Red said...

I think you've had a long history of coping. sometimes it's easy and sometimes a challenge. I've had a torn rotator cuff for about a year. It's something that can make you feel old.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I know it is hard for you to slow down, hope you heal fast!! I can tell you are a tad out of sorts:)

John's Island said...

What I like about this post is the way you are using your life experience to cope with this new injury. I would guess you are exactly right about a trip to the doc being unnecessary. In your July 14 post the focus was on patience and that does seem to be Rx for this injury. I like the idea of short walks aka “photo safaris”. I think that is what I’d call my walks at Green Lake. I wonder if you’ll be sharing those pics on DJan-ity? Have a good week ahead!

Rita said...

It's been five years since you started the yoga classes?! Wow! Time sure flies. I would have guess possibly three years ago--LOL!

Suddenly having to slow down is unsettling. Not that I hiked mountains or jumped out of planes, but it was still quite a jolt and took me a couple years to come to grips with, honestly. Does give one an entirely new perspective, though. And I found a peace I might never have known. Enjoy your slower wanderings, my friend. You never know what might be revealed. ;)

William Kendall said...

Just take it one day at a time.