Almost three years ago I wrote a posting titled Musings- Life And Lemons. About a month ago, life served me a big lemon. I should be used to lemons by now, you’d think. I mean life is a big mixture of lemons and strawberries – or bananas, or mangos, or whatever other fruit is your current sweet-flavored favorite. But somehow, I guess, there’s a subconscious part of me that thinks I should be exempt from lemons, despite the fact that they keep appearing on my plate, and so they tend to side-swipe me when they happen.
So what’s the latest and greatest in the lemon orchard you’re wondering. It may or may not help to understand why I think this latest event on the road that is my life is a lemon, a big lemon. I’m sixty-eight years old. So, OK, technically I was only sixty-seven when this lemon appeared on my radar. But that’s another reason it was a big lemon – it messed up my birthday!!
On Friday 27 April, I headed down to Winter Park to participate in the last-but-one class of the second year of my Audire course. Ruth, my friend who has just completed her third and final year of Audire, drove us down in her truck/van/SUV (not sure which label fits her vehicle; suffice to say it’s big enough and strong enough to haul a good sized trailer). We always go down on the Friday night before class so we can get a good night’s sleep and avoid having to get on the road at o’dark thirty to be at San Pedro retreat center by 8.30am on Saturday morning.
As always, I met up with my dear friend Bickley to enjoy a superb dinner. The dinners with Bickley are always wonderful because we choose a different ethnic restaurant each month so that we can delight our palates. She and I are food aficionados and most of her other local friends are “plain-American-fare” eaters, so she doesn’t get to indulge her more exotic taste buds very often. We had a great Cuban meal that Friday evening and enjoyed even more wonderful friendship time as we caught up with each other since the previous month – which had actually been two months because of the strange class schedule we had this year.
After dinner, Bickley dropped me back to San Pedro and I settled in for the night. Before getting ready for bed, I called my husband, Richard, to tell him about my enjoyable evening with Bickley and to say goodnight. Everything normal so far; not even the hint of a lemon. I prepared myself for the night and got into bed and, out of nowhere, I started experiencing some serious abdominal pains. My immediate thought was “oh no, food poisoning!”. I got out of bed and made a mint tea (good for digestion) and made sure I had a large container of water beside the bed. The pains continued and I resigned myself to “waiting it out”, flushing my system with the tea and lots of water.
By midnight I was worried. The pain hadn’t eased up so I called Ruth who was in the room next to mine. I could tell that she had been deep in sleep. What I couldn’t know was this was the first night she had been able to get to sleep fairly early after two very stress-filled weeks and lots of disturbed nights. I explained what was going on and asked her if she thought I should “call someone”. Ruth sleepily agreed that it sounded like food poisoning and said that there wouldn’t be anything anyone could do and that I would just have to wait for it to “go through my system”. She did however suggest that I lie down quietly and gently massage my tummy and think happy thoughts.
At 3am I was a little mentally hysterical. It occurred to me that the pain hadn’t diminished and it had not even begun to “move through my system”. It was a steady low-burning pain in both my upper and lower abdomen and there wasn’t a single sign of a rumble, a gurgle, a grumble anywhere in my intestines. It was at this point that I made a decision to call 911 and get help. I called Ruth and let her know and she said to open my door so she and the paramedics could get in.
At this point I will make a long story short. A shot of morphine, a 4-mile ambulance drive, a three-hour ER stay, and one cat scan later, the ER doctor informed me that I had an acutely inflamed appendix. Now I ask you, isn’t appendicitis a “kid thing”? Or at very least, a “teen thing”? When was the last time you heard of a sixty-seven year old having acute appendicitis? So what was I to do? “That can’t be”, I firmly told the ER doctor. (Fortunately my husband hadn’t quite arrived at the hospital by then so was spared the embarrassment of that moment.) Hopefully the ER doctor made allowances for the fact that I was under the influence of morphine.
So at about 2pm on Saturday 28 April 2012, I was surgically separated from my appendix. As I waited for surgery, I remember feeling irritated that I was missing class, especially as it was a class that I had been particularly looking forward to. I also remember being frustrated because our next class was in just two weeks and I had to prepare an end-of-year integration paper as well as other homework and I wasn’t going to be in the best of shape for the next few weeks. I found myself thinking that it was my birthday in a few days and how was I supposed to celebrate if my head was still full of anesthetic and narcotic pain-killers, and my body was still weak from the whole surgery thing. This was a very bitter lemon indeed.
Thank God I got out of that kind of thinking pretty quickly! I cannot remember if I got there myself or if it was Richard who spoke it into reality, but I do remember at some point being grateful that the acute appendectomy was happening now and not closer to our trip to Italy at the end of June; even more grateful that it didn’t happen during that trip! I remember suddenly being grateful that I was being taken care of and receiving good medical attention (the staff at Memorial Hospital, Winter Park, FL were all wonderful!). And I remember also feeling grateful that I had decent medical insurance that covered this care. I got to making lemonade fairly quickly, especially once I got my pain meds!
I went home just a little over twenty four hours after being taken to OR, thanks to the wonders of laparoscopic surgery, and I experienced gratitude on a whole other level. I was truly grateful that Richard is retired now and is always at home (didn’t think I would be saying that so very sincerely!), and for the very intimate and personal care that he gave me as I made my recovery from this whole event. I was grateful for all the prayers and cards that friends sent my way and the telephone calls that showed how much they cared.
Another lesson in gratitude learned. Another lesson in being flexible and to expect the unexpected. I got my integration paper done in time despite having a befuddled brain for a few weeks (anesthetic can really mess you up mentally as well as take your knees out from under you physically), and I was well enough to attend my class two weeks later. My birthday celebration was low-key and a little delayed but it was still a celebration. In fact it was more of a celebration (internally at least) because I was still around to celebrate. So, even though I’m a slow learner, I am still teachable and I am learning to make lemonade out of life’s lemons.
It seems very fitting to be coming back/starting back into my writing on the first day of the first month of the New Year. Yes, it really has been since 1 December 2010 that I last wrote. I really wanted to write yesterday. It was warm enough in the lanai, after a bit of a lie-in, to do my quiet time outside for the first time in a month. Florida, the “Sunshine State”, has been rather stubborn in following last winter’s cold trend. Actually the whole country has been ridiculously frigid for the month of December, with crazy storms and blizzards throwing themselves all over the States.
But, joy of joy, when I came outside at about 9am yesterday the temperature was already at almost 60F degrees. So I put on my new purple, fleecy house- jacket that “Santa Richard” brought me and enjoyed my first quiet time in the lanai for a month. The air was tepid, but warmed up by the minute and I was pulled in so many different directions all at once.
I wanted to just sit and savor the glory of the Lord, breathe in His precious air and all the various perfumes of the outside. I wanted to do my meditational readings and engage in my intimate time with God. I also wanted to write and get out the words that had been hiding in my heart and mind over the past few weeks. And I also wanted to let the world know why I had not written during this period – or at least give them my version, which may or may not be the “reason” but perhaps an “excuse”. Who knows what goes on at subliminal levels in my brain!
I did do my readings and spent some quiet time with God. I did enjoy just sitting there and breathing and watching the myriad tiny birds fluttering round the feeders and hopping through the grass below. I even saw a couple of butterflies and I surely heard at least two, although I think there were more, hawks screeching loudly as they swooped back and forth through the pine wood out back. A blue jay was also jump-dropping from branch to branch in one of the pine trees (I’m not sure how else to describe the strange way Blue Jays have of starting on an upper branch and then dropping-jumping-flying-flopping down from one level to another until they drop out of sight behind the fence line).
I did not get my lap-top out to the lanai however, because Richard and I had a planned date/appointment to go and have brunch together and then do some post-Christmas bargain shopping. Part of me was a little irritated because this was the first time I had felt driven to write in so long. But I enjoy my dates with Richard when we can manage them so the irritation was minimal and quickly disappeared as we enjoyed some time together, and we did find some good bargains. What was even better was that it wasn’t just “acquiring more stuff”. We found some things that we needed or had been looking for and we saved some big bucks.
So, why haven’t I been writing? It’s rather a mish-mash of things, so here goes. The day after Thanksgiving, while we were still enjoying our week in Orlando, Rich and I went bowling at the Boardwalk near Sanford. At some point I was getting ready to unleash a strike (I like to think it would have been a strike!!). I made my run up to the line, planted my left foot to bowl and as I did that something just “torqued” in my upper outer left thigh. I dropped the ball as I gasped in pain then, in a moment, it suddenly didn’t seem so bad. However, it was. A few steps later a flash pain ran up my thigh. And so it went on and off over the next day as we prepared to return home. Thank God for Tylenol Extra Strength!!
When we got home I was able to treat it with different things that I had on hand. I also had a massage booked with Michael and he worked his usual skillful magic and, fortunately, within eight to ten days it was healed. Unfortunately, about 6 days later I noticed my right knee was sore and within 24 hours I was limping quite badly. I did all the things I had done with my thigh two weeks earlier hoping for the same results. Alas, a week later the situation had not improved so I went to the doctor. Happily, after testing it in every direction, he informed me that “the knee was not compromised” and sprained right tendons were diagnosed and I was sent home to “rice” (rest, ice, compress, and elevate) and given an anti-inflammatory to take for 3 weeks.
Now we’re talking about the two weeks leading up to Christmas here. With all there was to prepare for (I had seven people coming on Christmas Day) I was supposed to “rest and elevate”? Well, the anti-inflammatory partly took care of that because it rendered me pretty useless within half an hour of taking the dose (thank God I was taking it in the evening), and although I was not left with “hangover” symptoms the following morning, after a few days I noticed that the overall effect was one of “sludge-in-my-veins”. Add to this the fact that our normally mild Florida temperatures were dipping dangerously close to freezing several nights in a row and not getting much higher in the day time, and I was ready for total hibernation!!
The whole pace of my life slowed to a snail’s pace. What does this have to do with not writing, you may ask? Well, what little useful time I had available (read – time that I was really awake and one hundred percent brain alive!) needed to be dedicated to the things that were necessary to be done to get through each day and handle the plans that were in place. The freezing cold saps me of all energy and desire to do just about anything other than curl up on the couch and stay warm, plus it tends to numb any inspiration and seems to send the Muse running to warmer climates. Every once in a while a small creative idea would do its utmost to bubble to the surface and I would even find myself thinking that my lap-top must be feeling totally abandoned. But the anti-inflammatory and the couch won that battle every time
My knee is still bothering me. In fact I went back to the doctor last Monday and I have an order to get a CAT scan this coming week and I’m also waiting for a call from the physiotherapist. Because I have a little arthritis in some of my fingers and the physical feeling in my knee joint is similar to that in my finger joints, I personally think arthritis is the culprit and not sprained tendons. But we’ll see.
In the meantime, Mother Nature has decided to be kind to me and has served up some warmer temperatures. Today is as warm as yesterday. It is 3pm and I’m sitting in my lanai dressed in jeans and a tank top and I’m aware that my whole inside – heart, body, soul, and mind – is revved up on a different level. I feel lighter and happier than I have in the last month. Muse has been tapping on my door since yesterday and today my schedule is such that I can let her out to play.
About six weeks ago in my posting Going Raw- Part One, I wrote about the process I am going through to change from eating cooked foods to eating raw foods. This is all part of a bigger process that I have embarked upon in order to get as healthy as I can. The food area of my life is probably the last major bastion that I am attempting to overcome and, because it has its roots in my childhood, it is proving to be the most difficult.
However, there is another area of my life that I am addressing right now that is having a major impact on my health. This is in the area of exercise. Yes, I know, that’s a four letter word in my vocabulary too!!! I have been struggling with exercise for many years. Which is really annoying to have to admit when I remember being the athletic person that I was in school.
I played on my High School’s netball team (UK equivalent of basketball) in each year of school. In several of those years I was the team captain. I was fanatical about netball and just remembering it, I can feel my adrenaline level soaring. We played netball during the winter season, September through March, which meant we played twice a week as part of our class PE program and then the team would also practice once or twice a week after school. Matches were played on Saturdays.
After graduating from school I went on to a teacher’s training college, and sports and gymnastics continued to be part of the regular curriculum. During my second year of college I “went off the rails” and left to get married. A baby came along quickly and my new lifestyle was very alien to anything I had known up until then. Physical activities disappeared from my life.
Many years and a divorce later I attempted to return to some form of exercise. But I only hiccupped along in fits and starts. I tried aerobics but felt very clumsy and because I am not good at multi-tasking I simply did not have the coordination necessary. I tried working with a personal trainer but it proved to be too expensive, so I just gave up.
By now I had remarried and had another baby at age forty and had not been able to rid my body of the baby weight as I had when I was in my twenties. I think this was when I pretty much gave up on myself for a while and simply indulged in eating what I wanted. The weight slowly crept up. I remember pledging with myself that I would never allow myself to go over two hundred pounds. I sat at two hundred for a few years.
About fifteen years ago, while living in Naples, Italy, I met a wonderful yoga instructor and started practicing yoga with her. I loved the asana’s and working with the breathe. Moving slowly into and maintaining the poses under Meredith’s compassionate instruction, I began to feel somewhat reconnected with my body. “Sun salutations” became my passion along with the “fish” pose. My weight diminished some and I felt healthy for the first time in a long time.
Then in 2004 I moved to Jacksonville, Florida and, in hindsight, I realize that it took me about two to three years to make the big transition from my European culture to the American culture. My exercise pattern got lost in the shuffle for quite a while. Every once in a while I would make a half-hearted effort to implement a walking regime. I love being outside and walking puts me close to God’s creation which allows me to exercise my body and my soul. I also found a good Yoga studio and began going regularly again.
Then I had a shoulder problem. Had to quit yoga while I dealt with that and exercise got away from me again. Once the shoulder healed I finally pushed myself back into yoga but shortly after that I had a knee problem. Six months later I tried to get back into yoga again but found that it re-awakened the knee issue so quit. I tried walking again but the knee was just too much of a problem and, again, I found myself at that quitting-on-me stage.
One day at the beginning of this year I got on the scales and realized that my weight had bloomed to two hundred and sixteen pounds. I felt defeated and at an all-time low with myself. I made the decision to try and go raw – again (I had been dabbling with raw for a few years), or at least vegetarian. But underneath I knew that if I didn’t start exercising I would get nowhere fast. However, I simply could not get myself motivated to do it.
I think God took pity on me – again. He has a habit of doing that from time to time and when I get to the end of my rope, he offers me the beginning of His! But, as usual, He has a funny way of doing it. My husband was hospitalized toward the end of February with chest pains. Long story short: no heart problems but he was finally forced to look at high blood pressure and cholesterol issues and the doctors were serious when they told him to make lifestyle changes. Our diet swung drastically to mainly salads, lots of veggies and fruit, and we cut out most of the carbs.
Within a month or two we both lost weight dramatically. Then I hit a plateau and stayed there and got depressed. Underneath I knew the answer was exercise but I just didn’t want to have to deal with it. Again God came to my rescue in His usual round about way, and in July I was introduced to Wendy, a personal Pilates instructor. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do Pilates because my only knowledge of this form of exercise was a memory of a friend who used to do it (a much fitter, younger woman!!!), and she would say things like “We were massacred at Pilates class tonight” or “I didn’t think I’d make it through the whole class today.”
I am grateful for the God-incidental way that I got to Wendy, for I’m sure I’d never have taken the leap otherwise. She is a compassionate but relentless instructor with a grand sense of humor. I told her where I was at and she said something like “I guess I’ll have to work you”. I have been doing Pilates twice a week with Wendy since about mid-July. I have pushed below my plateau, not a lot but enough. However what has happened to my body is nothing short of a miracle.
I have a level of sustained energy that I did not have before. My body is so much more flexible and feels very alive. There has been a shift in shape; I cannot explain it any clearer than that. The first major change that I noticed was one day when I went to do up the strap on a pair of shoes and realized I did not have to get into a certain position to “accommodate my stomach” as I leaned down! My tummy has definitely toned and my legs are so much more flexible. I can climb a flight of stairs without feeling breathless.
This week Richard and I are enjoying our traditional week of Thanksgiving in our time share in Orlando. Yesterday afternoon we went to Universal to watch the new Harry Potter movie (which was great by the way!). We walked around for a while before the movie and I noticed that I had no problem keeping up with Richard (he’s over six foot and has a long stride). Nor did I find myself getting breathless keeping up with him and, in fact, I felt quite invigorated. Today we went to Sea World and the same thing happened.
As I sit here typing this post I have to make a confession. I have been wanting to walk on a regular basis for about a month now. The reason I have not is because I did not want to feel tired and breathless or realize that I couldn’t keep a decent pace for long. Yesterday and today have shown me that I can get out there, keep a good pace, and feel really good. I know that this is partly because of the diet changes I have made as well as the regular exercising with Pilates. It is a total change of lifestyle that is allowing me to feel good about myself and to feel so much more healthy. This is what self nurturing is truly about.