Friday, February 19, 2010

Lessons From A Dog and A Phone

Mathilda isn’t fancy. No pedigree. She’s old and has cysts and a limp, and she sheds mercilessly twice a year. She’s had four encounters with skunks and hates that we bathe her when she rolls in deer poop.

Mathilda can’t intellectualize pain, but when her joints are out of sorts, she doesn’t berate herself or call herself old or lament the fact that she’s not a puppy anymore. Most important, she doesn’t ignore her pain and continue to romp and play like she doesn’t hurt. She takes it easy, goes out when necessary, and let’s our other dog know she can’t play. When he nudges her, she nips to let him know she hurts and can’t play right now.

If you read my last blog, “Choosing The Baby Over The Blackberry,” you know my beloved Pearl (that's Pearl in her "bra")took a trip to the bottom of the tub when G-baby Luca went head first into G-baby Claire’s bath. Luca was fine and, surprisingly, so was Pearl after spending 24 hours drying out in a bag of rice (my genius daughter’s idea).

It wasn’t Pearl’s first encounter with H20. When Claire was 9 months old, she used Pearl as a teething ring. Pearl needed a night to dry out before she could work again. Last month, Pearl fell out of my purse and into a snow bank. It took my husband and I 15 minutes to find her, calling her number over and over to hear her ring – faintly – so we could find and rescue her.

Pearl isn’t fancy. She doesn’t have a full QWERTY keyboard, her paint’s chipping, and she’s very sensitive. Just ask the folks I’ve butt dialed. But Pearl’s like a Timex watch. She takes a licking and keeps on ticking. It just sometimes takes her a few days to get back to normal.

Unlike Mathilda, it’s often hard for me to acknowledge that I have arthritis, particularly when it interferes with how I want to pick up and hold my grandchildren. If you’ve ever had a hangover, you know what I’m talking about. You know while you’re taking back that fourth, fifth and/or sixth drink you’ll pay the price the next day, but you’re having so much fun that you don’t stop. When Claire says, “Uppie, Grammy!” I pick her up. When Luca hangs on my leg and looks up at me and smiles, I pick him up. It’s fun!

“I’ll be fine,” I tell myself, even as my shoulders and wrists moan in protest. “I’ll take a few Advil.”

But arthritis (like food) doesn’t understand ignorance. It doesn’t recognize impatience or appreciate that I want the freedom to interact with Claire and Luca on MY terms. (Or in the case of food, to eat the way I want to without consequence). Arthritis (and food) does what it does, and what it did to me this week is give me a case of tendonitis and bursitis. Doc shot the shoulder up with cortisone, told me to ice it twice a day and to lay off strength training until I see my (beloved) physical therapist next week.

You’d think after all these years, after all the times I’ve been down this road, that I’d have learned my lesson. God knows you’ve read me bitch about this subject ad nauseum. But like getting real about my weight and health when I was 300 pounds (and ALL the times I lost weight before), getting real with arthritis is taking time and a whole lot of introspection. I needed a dose of reality (and a massage and a visit to the chiropractor and several Advil) to get my head on straight again. At least until the next time.

Oh to be more like Mathilda and Pearl! Both behave within the parameters of their abilities. While on a walk, Mathilda doesn’t think, “Hey! There’s a creek and steep embankment that come hell or high water I’m going to run through and climb because I want to and to hell with the pain!” No, she lumbers along and takes in the odors near the ground and enjoys what she can without hurting herself. Pearl (despite her careless owner) shakes herself off, dries out, and goes back to functioning the best way she can given her circumstances.

I’m not old. I have arthritis. Arthritis, like weight, isn’t a personality flaw. It doesn’t reflect who I am and it isn’t something I chose to have. I suspect this reality will take even more time than I realize to completely accept and incorporate, but hey, I lost weight…I can lose the “Oh, I’m not in pain!” attitude, too.

One final photo. The weather’s been tough for many of us and it’s easy to miss the beauty that’s in the snow and cold. It’s gone now because it was above freezing today, but look what grew on the lilac bush outside my bathroom window. I like to think it’s a tropical bird – a gift from the universe to say, “Hey, sorry about all the winter blech.”

10 comments:

  1. I love your ice bird! Mother Nature is amazing.

    Great comparison (or is it analogy?) with the dog. The only problem for me is that I was a slug for so many years that I don't want to slow down now, even if my body needs a rest. I feel like I'm catching up for lost time.


    Glad Pearl survived her latest adventure. I'd heard that rice helped to dry out phones and iPods - nice to know it really does work!

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  2. I don't know if you've ever considered acupunture, but I swear by it now. I had a fairly significant rotator cuff injury - surgery was recommended, eventhough no tear could be found. I went through 2 rounds of PT, nothing helped, and I couldn't lift my arm above 90 degrees from my body...acupuncture gave me full range of motion again.

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  3. Hi Lynn, just wanted to let you know that my mom struggles with the same arthritis/picking up the grandchildren issues. Her solution, which has worked well when a toddler is doing an "uppie," is to sit on the floor and gather the kid into her lap. They feel cuddled and loved, and she has spared her neck and back (her weak zones). Enjoy those babies!

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  4. Oh, Lynn, can I relate to the whole pain issue. Boy can I ever. I think it is wonderful that you have a great PT. Having a good one is so essential. Before my knee surgery, I had a young, inexperienced woman. I now have a guy who is very experienced and in whom I place complete and utter trust. And he is able to make me laugh and help me relax while I work to get msyelf better.

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  5. beautiful!

    sorry about the arthritis. I have a touch here (neck) and there (knees), but not enough to take anything regularly or even semi-regularly, so i consider myself blessed. Sorry it's a struggle for you, particularly after enjoying your grandkids. :(

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  6. I think my old dog could take lessons from your old dog. Sometimes you have to just sit and mooch for belly rubs.

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  7. i have an old dog - hannah a 9 year old rottweiler and yes i have arthritis - i feel it especially with the weather changes - and here in the midwest the weather is in constant flux.

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  8. You are just the most beautiful writer. I so enjoy your posts. Thank you!

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  9. Thanks for sharing your struggle Lynn nature can be so unkind sometimes and being reminded we are not alone is a great way to heal!

    My blackberry has seen a lot of the h20 also :)!

    Mara
    http://24stepstogo.blogspot.com/

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  10. This was a perfect post for me to read today. Lately I've been struggling with the things I can't do and hurting myself. I definitely need to take lessons from Mathilda and Pearl, thanks for the reminder. Beautiful picture, it doesn't look like a tropical bird. I'm just now catching up with you so you'll probably be seeing more comments from me today *smile*.

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