Whack-a-Mole

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Elevating a new titanium plate in my right foot last month, I tried to find an image to counter my frustration at yet another setback.  That’s when I remembered Whack-a-Mole.  Yes! That’s it.

You know: the arcade game where you try to hit fuzzy yellow creatures as they pop up faster and faster in front of you?  If you whack enough of them, you get a prize.  I doubt that I’ve ever won a prize because my arm gets too tense to be effective.

Well, I’m playing life-sized Whack-a-Mole.  You know what that is:  You dribble coffee on your shirt while driving to work.  Then the printer runs out of ink.  Replacing it makes you late for a meeting.  As you’re buying gas on the way home, you realize you left your credit card at the restaurant where you had lunch.  When you finally curl up with the remote and chill, you hear the dog barf on the rug behind you.  Yeah, you know what I mean.

My sons are good at whacking fuzzy yellow creatures.  They advise me to keep my arm loose and stay focused.  Don’t worry about the ones you miss, just keep going. When the music stops, don’t beat up on yourself–laugh.

Here’s my translation for life-sized Whack-a-Mole.

  1. Stay loose, not tense. Because tension and frustration distract, slow us down and make us inflexible; take a breath, shake out your arms and let the feelings drip off your fingers like water.  Be intense but not tense.  It’s easier to deal with beady-eyed moles if you’re loose.
  2. Stay focused.  Don’t worry about future moles or fret about past ones, focus on bringing your best to the ones in front of you.  You’ll have a chance to whack future moles soon enough.
    cartoon whackamole
  3. Laugh.  Laugh at yourself.  Laugh at the absurdity of life and its endless supply of fuzzy yellow moles.  Laugh at the perspective that sees only moles and not the bigger context. Let laughter loosen your tension, then pick up the mallet and go at it again.
  4. Most importantly, pause each night to think give thanks for five things.  Gratitude shifts your mind from the moles you faced to a bigger picture.  It lets you set down the mallet for a time.  Remembering the goodness that exists in the midst of moles puts the creatures to sleep for the night and lets you look at the stars, instead.

I’m still playing Whack-a-Mole with health issues but maybe, just maybe, I can move to a different set of moles soon.  And, no matter what each day brings, I do pause at some time, picture fuzzy creatures with black beady eyes around me and I laugh.  It’s just Whack-a-Mole.  Stay loose, Barbara, stay focused, and give thanks.

Beyond Cozy

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Butterfly in Mount Ranier National Park, by Mark Smutny

I pulled a soft blanket over my shoulders, tucked my hands under the pillow and fell asleep.  Sometime in the night, I woke up with my right hand and arm numb and hurting like Hades.  Curling myself into a ball felt cozy at first but eventually cut enough circulation to my arm that my arm and hand “went to sleep.”  Note to self:  Don’t stay curled up so long you become numb.

It’s been about two years now, that I’ve lived a mostly secluded life because of health issues.  First in LA, where I was pinned inside because air pollution inflamed my lungs and put my life at risk.  then in Seattle, where it’s taken a year for my body to recover from the injury I did to it in LA with years of pollution.  My world shrank as I curled into a ball to survive.

Safe to say, I’m not the only one who finds it hard to exit the cocoon and come back to life after a time of solitude.  Folding in on ourselves is often an essential, life-saving strategy.  It conserves our energy, lets our mind and body heal from illness or grief.  It keeps us safe.

But staying like that for too long can cut us off, numb us, cause us to feel invisible and useless, and make it hard to re-engage.  Butterflies struggle to emerge from their cocoon.  My fingers tingle and ache as I wiggle them back to life.  We hesitate to reach out friends, search for a new job, adapt to new circumstances, resume hobbies we used to enjoy.

I slept through my hand and arm going numb until it became too much to bear.  I only acted when the pain awakened me.  Then I rotated my shoulder and dangled my arm.  Action, even minor, restored feeling and life.

We emerge slowly.  Testing.  Pushing through discomfort.  Pausing.  Starting again.

Feeling returns.  Life flows again in fits and starts.  Bit by bit, we wiggle our fingers, dry our wings, and begin to live again.

Coming Home

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Our house at the end of the rainbow

The Eagle has landed!  We bought a house on a quarter acre just north of Seattle.  My husband has the hot tub and chickens he’s wanted for years.  I have clean air and gardens, and peace. It’s just the right combo of city, suburb, and country. I love it.

I forgot how stressful moving is.  Then we moved three times in eight months–into a short-term spot in a new state, then a rental house, then our own permanent house–and I remembered. Holy cow!  It’s stressful!  Find a place, move, unpack enough to live; find a place, move, unpack enough to live; find a place, move, unpack…..everything?  Get a mortgage, find a job, get lost forty million times even with GPS.  I’m still finding stuff I needed last winter–sweaters (it was cold), flat iron (crazy hair all winter), Kitchenaid whisk– that we accidentally put in a storage unit.

downloadMy health was so much a Rosanna-Rosanna-Dana sketch that at times I thought hope had gotten buried in the storage unit, too.  You know, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”  But it finally stopped raining and the sun came out.  And, like peeling an onion, the docs and I uncovered and mended one problem after another.  For the record and a public therapeutic moment, I’ve weathered:

  • broken shoulder in a fall
  • three frayed and one torn shoulder tendon
  • kidney and bladder infection
  • poor vision caused by severe dry eye,
  • broken cheekbone in a fall
  • bruised ribs from two falls,
  • severe anemia
  • infected root canal
  • sciatica
  • inflamed SI joint.

Plus the usual suspects of heart failure, adrenal insufficiency, and reactive lungs. On top of the afore mentioned moves.  OMG!  No wonder I was tired and dropped off the face of the Earth.  Maybe if I read this blog enough times, I’ll stop giving myself a hard time for not having had enough energy to be  engaged with the world, vivacious, and active in the ways I wish I’d been.

20170610_115138But I made it!   I’m home.  I read outdoors in the shade again, open my windows to fresh air and the sound of birds again, walk with my dogs again, and ride my bike on sun dappled paths along rivers.  I’ve planted flowers, weeded gardens, harvested peas, lettuce, radishes, and raspberries.  We’re exploring mountains and forests at least once a week.  I see well enough again to drive after dark.    I take deep breaths and feel my body relax.  I’m beginning to live again.