The horse's pasture to the East...

Thursday, May 14, 2015


A year or so ago I was trolling through Facebook when I saw a challenge pop up on my newsfeed. The person who wrote to me wanted me to write three positive things about my day for five days in a row. OK. Easy. I can do that. I like a challenge, especially when it's a no brainer. 

But then it wasn't . I procrastinated in all kinds of directions. Organized a closet, cleaned the litter boxes ( I know! Cleaning closets and litter boxes is major league avoidance.), made granola, anything I could think of to keep from writing three positive things for five days in a row. Something was wrong, undeniably wrong, if I was working this hard at writing something positive about my day. 

Oh man. Things were sadder than I thought. I was major league depressed, not sleeping well or eating right, accomplishing very little with my Art, doing only day to day maintenance with my herd. An old pattern was back and it sat on my shoulders like a two hundred pound hod (a hod is what a brick layer uses to carry bricks). And I knew why too.

January 2nd, 2012 at about 8:30 in the morning I broke my arm. I didn't just break it. I smashed it to smithereens, both bones broken just above my wrist, ligaments and tendons torn, snapped like broken rubber bands. My hand was bent all the way backwards and hanging there like over cooked spaghetti. By the time we made it in to the hospital it was turning blue grey and getting cold because all circulation had been cut off. It was critical enough that the doctor told me the pain meds did not have time to take effect. He was going to have to move it back in to place to get blood flow back. He took my arm, apologized and moved it. Whoa doggies! I had no idea I knew that many cuss words. My language was awe inspiring! But the color came back. Step one complete. 

Pain is a necessary function, a critical one in fact. Without it we have no feedback about injuries or illness, no way to know that our body needs attention. I can tell you, from personal experience, that when you're in the middle of pain you wish you could turn it off! But even then you need it so you remember to avoid running in to things, burning yourself or any of the other hundred and one things that can happen to your mortal envelope. It is one of the prices we pay to be here, probably one of our most important tickets.

The day after my break I was scheduled for surgery. A simple realignment of the bones and a cast was not going to do it for me. Things needed to be pinned and sewn back together. This Humpty Dumpty made a big Mo Fo crack in the shell that needed to be pieced together and it was going to take a lot of glue to get the job done. 

I was hungry, exhausted and just wanted to move on with it. I was missing my cup of tea and all of the other morning rituals I use to get my motor revved up for the day. And then the phone rang. It was a family member, someone very close. One of my in laws had committed suicide. That was like being hit by a locomotive you never saw coming. WHAM! I had been there, down in that deep, dark hole, years ago. But I never did anything, never tried to hurt myself. I went to find a counselor, to face my demons and they were doozies. Horrible repressed memories that made me physically ill when they broke through. 

But I had surgery, had to go. No way to get around it. If I wanted function back in my right arm, my dominant arm, I had to do this. So, I cried, cried some more and went to the surgery center. I also got calls from my sons, friends, and other family members telling me they were sending love, hope and prayers. Stay focused. It was going to be OK.

Two days after that was the funeral. I was horribly embarrassed. I had to wear sweatpants and had a cast sticking out. I was supposed to keep it above my heart line so I did, held it in the air, even slept with it propped up. I couldn't do my hair or even take a shower. I was mortified. I knew the funeral wasn't about me but going like that felt like I was showing a complete lack of respect, especially under the circumstances. Everyone was in shock, appalled and frightened for the immediate family members. Suicide always hurts the people left behind much more than the person who died, always. Terrible ripples flow out for years and years, sometimes forever, after a suicide.

I went through all of the physical therapy, gave my PT 150% . And it was no fun, I promise you. It scared me silly having to take my brace off several times a day to do my exercises. I did not want to look at my arm and hand, did not want the support taken away. And I most certainly did not want to go through anything like that again! So I did my therapy and I cried, sweated, shook and pushed myself through it. I wanted full function back in my arm and hand. I needed my hand to continue working as an artist, playing with my horses, working in my garden, remaining fully independent. I was way too young to be a burden to anyone. 

Pushing myself through those barriers over and over was hard work. And it hurt too. I had made a decision to use no pain meds, none at all. There are addictive behaviors in my family. I did not want to test those waters. No pain meds. So I cried and throbbed and cussed and sweated and I did get through it. And I did get full physical function back in my hand. But I also fell in to a pit of 'stuck'. It was like standing in quick sand, pulling my boots off trying to get out and sinking deeper in. The color started to go, things were grey around the edges. I was at a stand still and even moving backwards as far as emotional issues went. Getting hurt like that and watching my whole family grieve just days after I had hurt myself had triggered old memories, old pain, old nightmares. I was inside out, backwards, face to the fifty foot solid brick wall stuck. I could not move, could not even write three positive things. 

So I had a meltdown, a total fall on the floor, cry until I threw up, lost it completely, way scary and out of control melt down. It was worse than the physical pain of breaking my arm ever was! I was out of control and, I thought, all because of a "challenge" on Facebook. Course that was just the fluttering little leaf in a big wind that rocked the tree and nearly broke the trunk. It wasn't the challenge. It was all of that past pain brought up to the surface by the broken arm, surgery and an unexpected death in the family (the very worst kind, in my opinion). I was in big time trouble and I knew it.

I started a quest. I was going to have to treat this like more physical therapy, push my way past barriers, sweat, cry, shake, have the nightmares. I was going to treat it like a double dog dare, the kind that I never backed down from as a kid. Except I wasn't a child anymore. I knew way too much about consequences, pit falls, earth quakes. I was going way, way outside my comfort zone on this one for extended periods of time and with the support of only a few people. I was going to make myself face the dark and yell at it!

I sat down at the table and turned on my iPad. And I made myself sit there, not reading the news or watching kitten videos on Youtube, not responding to anyone on Facebook or Email. A piece of really good Green and Black super dark chocolate and a cup of hot tea would be my reward, but I wasn't going to have that either until I wrote that damn Five Day challenge, three positive things first. And I sat there. And I sat there, and sat there. I stared at the iPad, watched it turn itself off. I turned it back on. And I sat there. I sweated, chewed my fingernails off, even thought seriously about picking my nose. I had a war right there in my kitchen. " Do it. Do it Nancy. Do it. Come on you beeeaatch! DO IT!" 

My hands were shaking, sweating. I'm pretty sure I didn't smell very good either. I sat there and found every reason in the world not to do it, to write those three positive things. I cussed, cussed in french too. I tapped my feet, jitted around like a kid in class who wanted to go outside lots more than they wanted to be there doing classwork. I wiggled and jiggled, thrummed on the table with my hands. I spent so much energy and time on not doing a simple task I was angry with myself. How hard could it be to write something positive? 

And then I did it! I can't, for the life of me, remember what I wrote. I suppose I could go back and look it up. But I do remember what that chocolate tasted like. Heaven! And I let myself have three small squares of it too. It was definitely a three square achievement. I made my first tiny breakthrough.

I kept going with it too. I did my five days and each one was easier than the day before. Just about the time I finished another friend sent me another challenge. This time it was one positive thing for one hundred days. Oh yeah! Bring it on! I was ready.

And on the tenth or eleventh day I began to procrastinate again. The house and barn got all kinds of clean and orderly. I kept trying to tell myself it was all good. I was getting things done, right? No worries. It was all good ... sort of. Sort of is not good enough. It never is. It's an old pattern reestablishing itself. I was sliding down that slippery slope again and the abyss  was deeper and dark each time. It looked mighty scary down there. 

I decided to make it a habit. I would be gentler on myself this time, a kind of Approach and Retreat. 100 days was a big deal. I kept a journal next to the bed. In the morning I wrote down one positive thing when I woke up. And sometimes I didn't sleep either. Without meaning to I was working myself in to another dither, but writing things on paper was another pattern I had started eons ago when I was a kid. It was the only part of my life, along with academics, I could control. It was a kind of lifeline. 

I wrote something every evening too. I had a mob of demons I was trying to face down. I did my best to be polite and passive in the proper position, insistent, firm but not demanding. And in the evening, before I went to bed, I wrote it out on Facebook, an extremely open forum. Everyone was going to see this. Whew. I had left the comfort zone about two thousand miles back. I was in a desert and waiting for the prickly things to bloom. And I was tired, so very tired. But I did it anyway. When you're stranded in a big open place and have no idea where to go, you either stand still and die or move forward in any direction, take your chances it's the right one and that it will lead you to cool, clean, fresh water. 

As I came up on day 98, people began to write to me. They told me they were going to miss my 100 Happy Days posts, they looked forward to them. " Please don't stop! I need to read your posts. They give me hope." Oh my. Here comes the scary part, the pick it up and keep it going part. And I wasn't doing it just for me anymore either. It was a seed that was growing because I'm one of those gardeners who is just too damn stubborn to let the bugs have my tomatoes.

So I turned it in to 200HAPPYDAYS. And I kept going. It had become a habit and , low and behold, it was beginning to work. I was sleeping better, making clear, well thought out decisions, finding my direction again, laughing, breathing and still enjoying my most excellent chocolate, but not because I had to. I ate it because it was fun! And so was finding my way past being afraid of my horses (yes, the break happened while working with my horses), drawing and sketching again, writing short stories, and bringing home another puppy. I was hop, skip and jumping ahead again. And when I stumbled I laughed! Oh yeah. I was back!

Yesterday was the end of my 200HAPPYDAYS posts on Facebook. I finished it with a 10 to 1 countdown because I had put off ending it. That sneaky old pattern was trying to come back, that fear of completion and then what? So I did it in a blaze of glory, ten things in one day. 

Here's the cool thing. It wasn't hard to do! It was fun. I felt great! And there were more than ten things I wanted to write too. I was changing my direction. Instead of walking sideways or backwards, in circles or wallowing in my latest stop, I was moving forward again. Sometimes the steps were short, hesitant. But I was moving! And sometimes I leaped, did base jumps and bungee cord leaps, danced and twirled around. 

I am making messes again in my studio, writing again, telling stories and working on my word for this year, CONNECT. I'm not just peaking from between the leaves. I am swinging on a tire right out over the water, whooping and hollering and then letting go! 

I am back. I am growing. And I have ideas I am working on, places to go, people to meet, things to do. And when the sweats happen (and they always do), I am coming in to the center swinging. Better be careful. I have a pretty good round house kick and I've been practicing! Take that you bounder! Sweaty, scary, nightmare stuff had better be prepared for a fight. I've gotten pretty good at smothering it, knocking it out of the way, even changing it with laughter, good stories and positive chocolate reinforcement. 


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