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Saturday, November 27, 2010

The good part of pain

Do you remember how I wished upon the moon for K to start getting better? This morning, K lifted her noble head toward the warm sun and I realized that the moon was shining down upon her.
K is acting as if she recognizes her paw as part of her body now. She's leaving it alone but is limping a bit more than yesterday. I scaled back our walking today. I have to admit that, for the first time, I fully realized that one of her toes is gone as I watched her standing on a rock. It was an emotional shock... but then I reminded myself that our decision to have it amputated may have saved her life.

I hope that K doesn't have phantom pain from the toe that bedeviled her with infection before the amputation. And, I fervently hope that the pathology report tells us that the infection wasn't migrating up her forelimb.
I had pain on my mind this morning during our short hike because I'm reading a good book called "The Pain Chronicles" by Melonie Thernstrom. Last night, I ran across a quote that described exactly the transformation that I experienced a number of years ago that made my daily spine pain less onerous.

Like all chronic disease, chronic pain involves a bifurcation. There is the normal state, where you used to live, and you are conditioned to that state. Then you face a debilitating circumstance that lasts for months or years. When you're in that second state, you hold onto expectations of that first life. You mourn that first life: you want it and want it a million times over. But people have to let themselves die and lose the old expectations. If they let it die, they can rise like a phoenix from the ashes and can have a new life. John Keltner.

My life was completely transformed about five years ago. During that emotional transformation, I learned to see pain as my companion rather than my opponent. I stopped fighting it and started living again.

Part of what I learned at that stage was to resume doing what I love, pain be damned. I started riding my bike again, largely with the encouragement of the Runner, who went on "pity rides" with me - very short and slow rides that gradually taught me that I wasn't as fragile as china.

Now, I get out into nature on my bike and/or on foot almost every day. It makes life worth living for me, especially when I can share it with our dogs. In some ways, my chronic pain has been good for me. I've stopped trying to achieve lofty and nonsensical goals in my professional life, just for the sake of achieving them. Instead, I do what I love.

Today, after I walked K, I had the honor of R joining me for a snow/ice mountain bike ride. I'm not exaggerating when I say that he makes me laugh out loud at least once per ride. His exuberance is contagious.
Before all of our recent training, I felt like R constantly lived on the verge of careening out of control. After our hard work at training, I can snap him out of his obsessions. Today, he was possessed by his phantom rodent obsession. I say "phantom" because the rodents that live in the juniper bush where he hunted went into hibernation weeks ago.
Yes, the muzzle is still needed for 'shroom protection.

We gazed at stupendous views. The forest was eerily silent because the wind burned out its fury last night. I could hear faint chirps of birds. The sound of my snowbike tires resonated with a deep rumbling. The absence of the wind transformed the forest into a serene and life-renewing place.
Last night, believe it or not, a bobcat visited us again. I think that he heard rumor of the Year of the Bobcat!
He stayed in the camera's view for less than a minute before exiting rapidly in his crouched stalking posture.
Yesterday, a pack of 4 coyotes moved through a corridor, one by one, where I've never photographed coyotes before. I wonder what drew them to the area? Questions, questions, questions. I couldn't find anything to attract a coyote so it will remain a mystery of the forest.
I wonder what fascinating things will happen in the forest tonight? I can't wait to find out!


  1. What a full post of awesome stuffs!

    Here's to ALL of you!

  2. Looks like you had a clear cold day much like we had here. I even took a picture of the moon in the clear blue sky (though no dog in front) and that picture is in tomorrow's post.

  3. How special a moment that must have been for you seeing the moon shining down on you and K!

    My mom lived a life of pain. She suffered terribly from crippling arthritis from the time I was in high school on through another 30 years. Her pain was truly debilitating, but I do think she tried to live with her pain. She just never managed to overcome it. You have one of the best attitudes toward pain of anyone I know. That book sounds like a good read.

    Hope we all find out what happened in the forest tonight:)

  4. It's hard when you have the moment of realization that someone you love isn't going to be the same as before. I'm betting K will emerge stronger than ever, though!

    I can't wait to see what turned up in your backyard, either!

    I lauged so hard at that story this morning! Would a certain unnamed lab happen to be a black fellow that we've seen a picture or two of before?

  5. Oh I would love to follow the trails of your forest and see all the wilds. I would make friends with them. Maybe you would see me on your camera- running with the wilds?
    There is so much to healing, emotional and phyisical,,, it all takes so much energy to get to the spot where it can be accepted. Even each day as we age,, sometimes we need to accept that too.
    You help me think,,, and you help me want to live. Your words inspire me to not give up.

  6. I agree with the OP Pack - you really do have such a positive outlook on pain. Thanks for the insight!

  7. Beautiful picture of K and the moon.Your post today reminds me - was it a year ago you went into hospital ? Can't believe how far you've come .

  8. Good to see K continue to improve and accept her new reality. We're anxious for the pathology report, too. Hope it won't be too long before you'll be able to post pictures of K flying though the air the way R does.

    Jed & Abby

  9. when i heard Melanie's fascinating interview on NPR, i immediately thought of you....
    K looks really appears that the infection is under control!?
    you are an inspiration to me...keep on keepin on.....

  10. Thank you so much for that quote. I needed that. My own pain gets worse in winter, and I long for the old life. I need to emulate what you have done, let go of that past that only haunts me, maybe stop trying to dam the pain and damn the pain instead!!! :)

  11. What you wrote about pain and how you've dealt with it (way over simplifying what you wrote) struck and moved me in so many ways. It's not just physical pain that makes you realize you need to let go of old expectations and start to see what is possible and good right now. I may also check into that book for my sister who is dealing with some sudden, somewhat mysterious thing that is causing all sorts of joint pain.

    (great feather photo in the post above)


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