Health and Humility

IMG_3556After 10-plus days of head-aching congestion, laryngitis and basically feeling pretty rotten along with many days in a row of having a fever (once all the way up to 103), I’ve been feeling rather pitiful…missing my mom (she took great care of me when I was sick!). I had a couple of hours of being fever free the other day (so I decided to give myself the gift of writing about my mother), then wham the fever hit me again! Is this the dreaded 10-day virus? Or is my immune system just seriously compromised after dealing with the Lyme co-infections? Who knows? It just is… Maybe this is where humility begins. So much for getting a running start into summer. Thought I’d post a pretty photo, so at least my eyes can be happy.

 

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Step by Step

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I woke before dawn, an eagerness spilling over me to greet the day, see what it holds. Before the recurrence of Lyme symptoms, I woke like this every morning for six weeks in a row, maybe more. I’d slip out from the covers, pull my clothes on and set out with Sunny for a walk to the end of the road. Those mornings were delicious…quiet, light splashed, cool, damp, grey-filled…always different, but always a gift.

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For a few mornings this week, I stayed in bed after the sun crept over the horizon and wondered if last-year’s fatigue would take over and keep me from celebrating each morning’s blessing. Today, I hoped when I got out of bed, I’d have the same energy to walk and enjoy the beginning of my day. It was not a miraculous healing…but it was a positive step. I had some energy and was able to walk. Not all the way to the end of the road. But partway. And maybe I pushed myself a little. But it was worth it…to see the pale peach sky behind the barn, to hear the twitter of birds, to see the world waking. Yes, I felt the drag on my right side as I continued. But my pride or my stubbornness kept me going. And I was rewarded.

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It would be easy to get discouraged and compare my present state with my recent great health. But I remember the days where I dragged myself around a short route for five minutes, once, twice, eventually three times a day, then slowly increased my time. My body responded…gradually.

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And even when my body didn’t respond, I learned how quickly we adjust and gain perspective. When my legs no longer worked, I was reminded that I still had my hands. When my hands no longer worked, I rejoiced that I could still think. Not that it was easy. No. There was mourning too. But appreciation somehow flowers when we lose things.

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Today, I remembered to thank God for each step, even the draggy ones. I was awake and moving. The sun will shine today and beauty abounds.

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Cold Rain

 

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Foxie and Smokey staying dry under the eaves of the barn during the rain.

 

Less than a week into having the horses here, and I feel a sharp burning below my right armpit. I first noticed it when I was lunging Foxie, thought that maybe I was using my arm in way that my muscles had long forgotten or my bra strap was a little too tight. The next two nights I felt around the area with my fingers, noticing a tenderness that had never been there before. A blocked gland or lymph node? Maybe.

Around the same time, I noticed a slight looseness in my gait. I had been walking over 10,000 steps every day for the past six weeks, and feeling great. The last time I had been aware of how my legs and feet were moving was back in December, after having the flu and a mini relapse of my Lyme symptoms. Suddenly, during the Christmas season, I had no stamina and my left foot felt wobbly as I walked. I would collapse on the couch after a quarter mile hike to the mailbox.

Today, it was my right side (the same side as the burning sensation under my armpit) that felt a little unstable. I walked to the end of the road, as I usually do, with my husband, but felt less and less control of my right leg as I went. I was able to complete the walk, but felt my right foot lightly slapping the ground near the end.

Am I scared?

Yes. But it’s not the all-consuming fear I experienced back in January of 2014 when my left leg and arm,  had gone numb, along with my spine and backside, and I could barely drag my body from one side of the room to the other. It took an act of enormous will to get myself up the one flight of stairs to my bedroom. And once I made it there, the mind-numbing fatigue kept me resting for a few hours before I could attempt the return trip down. Routine chores and errands suddenly became overwhelming. Life narrowed to a thin line of two or three small accomplishments each day: making breakfast, doing laundry and planning dinner. My feet felt like blocks of ice, my fingers like sausages. I stopped sending emails because I could no longer strike the correct keys.

Back then, I couldn’t help imagining the possibility of life in a wheelchair. Not that it would be the end of the world, but certainly a sea change for someone like me, who loved the outdoors, who refreshed myself on quiet walks with the dog, who drank in the beauty of the country, the mountains and the ocean as I walked for miles each and every day. I vowed then and there that I would appreciate every step I took if I were given the ability to walk again.

Just a few short days ago, I couldn’t wait until morning so my daughter and I could walk down to the barn. After feeding the horses and cleaning stalls, I looked forward to lunging Smokie, giving Sydney a riding lesson and then hopping on Foxie for a little training session. It was all so easy, so natural, so wonderful. The days were too short for all our plans.

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My fear is tempered this time around with hope. There is something going on on my right side, and perhaps that is causing the weakness in my right leg. When I had the flu, it drained my body, leaving me vulnerable to old symptoms. Perhaps the same things is happening…maybe it’s an infection, a clogged duct, a red flag – maybe, a concern – yes, something to tend to, a reminder to go slowly and treat my body with gentleness and care.

I have been moving fast this past month, in preparation for horses. Now they are here. As I told my husband, I’m so thankful this didn’t happen before now. How would I have had the energy to clean out the barn, go through the process of trying out Foxie, spend an afternoon trailering two horses home, etc., etc.?

Cold rain has moved into our area for the past two days. Despite our desire for sunshine and spring temperatures, this weather has allowed me to slow down and rest my body. I will continue the alternative treatments that have provided healing over the past sixteen months. I don’t know how I will feel tomorrow, but I trust that my strength will return, that my right leg will feel normal again, that the sun will shine again and that I will have many wonderful days ahead with Sydney and our horses.

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An Empty Barn

Our barn has stood empty for the last 10 years. Anyone who knows me well or has read my memoir, Motherhood: Lost and Found, knows that the years before that were filled with the grief of multiple miscarriages and the slow loss of my mother due to Alzheimer’s.

I used to teach riding lessons and, at one time, kept five horses and enjoyed a sweet community of riding friends and students. But I came to a point where the grief and exhaustion of caring for my mother took over my days and I had little energy for anything else. I had to send the horses away. Then my daughter was born and I became completely absorbed in both her care and in the miraculous blessing of her presence. Through toddlerhood and the wonderful, demanding years of homeschooling, I had little time and even less energy to contemplate the possibility of horses.

In 2013, when my daughter was 11 and turned 12, I first began to consider bringing horses back to the farm. But at the end of that year, in December, I had the first symptoms of a mysterious, debilitating illness that would last throughout much of the next year. Thankfully, my good health is returning.

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Now it is early spring and the grass is greening. The sun rose at 7:10 a.m. On my walk, I took photos of the barn in the dawn and gradually the glow in the eastern sky brightened until it took over the morning. Birdsong surrounds me, red buds are blossoming in the woods, new life is all around. Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday and on Sunday we will celebrate Easter.

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This week my daughter and I will go look at a sweet Quarter Horse mare. She seems to have all the characteristics of a good schooling horse, one on which I can teach my daughter the basics of riding and horse care. But time will tell. They will meet, and there will be a spark that flashes between them, a spark capable of igniting a heart – or not.

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I have learned to be wary, to hesitate before celebrating. But these early spring days are calling me out, asking me to risk, dangling joy in front of me. It’s hard to imagine that I could have this second chance with horses, a return to my old life. But even as I write these words I know that nothing stays the same. Even old memories become layered with new experiences. What we think is set in our mind’s eye shifts and is recreated daily. I am fearful of being pulled back into recollections of days where barn chores were a heavy burden because of the emotional weight I carried as I grieved over my empty womb and cared for my declining mother. Am I willing to risk facing those griefs as I form a new layer of reminiscence with my daughter as we feed horses, clean stalls, scrub buckets and all the rest that comes with looking after and loving horses?

I don’t know what tomorrow’s sunrise will bring. But I am ready to move forward into a new day.

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