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Getting back on track

Monday, August 25, 2014

This summer has been a real challenge between grief and back injury. I lost my inertia, and for the last few weeks just haven't managed to do anything. So I decided that this week was going to be me getting back on track.

I got up this morning a bit later than I'd intended--but at least I'd slept well! I'd wanted to be out the door to the pool by 9, but it was actually a little after 10. For a moment I thought about letting it go, but instead I jumped up, yanked on my suit, threw a pair of gym shorts and a tank over it, grabbed my pool bag and headed out.

Things I remembered:
1. Goggles
2. Swim cap
3. Heartrate monitor

Things I forgot:
1. Flip flops
2. Underwear for when I changed

When I realized this, I thought briefly of running home. But then I realized that if I did, I'd probably never get out of the house again. So I went ahead and swam, then just came home "commando." It was a good swim, and I feel like I started the week right!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

DOTTIEJANE1 8/29/2014 12:05PM

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DOTTIEJANE1 8/29/2014 12:04PM

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LILYDOG11 8/26/2014 12:16AM

    Your post was very cute ..... Keep up the good work !!

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KANSASROSE67 8/25/2014 2:59PM

    You did the right thing.


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MARILYNROBERT 8/25/2014 1:52PM


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HILLSLUG98239 8/25/2014 12:34PM

    I'm glad you went for the swim. It's so easy to give up when conditions are perfect - I've been doing that a lot recently.

Let's hear it for a good way to start the week!

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DEMIGUISE 8/25/2014 12:31PM

    Good for you! It's too easy to come up with excuses and putting off working out, whatever the form. Kudos to you for sticking to it and starting off your week on the right foot!

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NATPLUMMER 8/25/2014 12:26PM


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A few thoughts from my trip Italy

Friday, August 15, 2014

1. Italians love their dogs. We saw dogs everywhere. Including in restaurants and shops. In Venice, many of them weren't even on leashes, just walking with their owners (no cars, no worry of being hit). And they were almost all well-behaved; only a couple of barking incidents. Most of the dogs were mutts, clear crossbreeds often involving dachshunds someplace. Seeing people in the grocery store with their dog in the cart or on a leash was pretty awesome.

2. Italians don't work out. The entire time we were there I saw three joggers, all of them tourists, and one gym, which was empty. Yet the people were all pretty fit. I believe there are two reasons behind this. First of all, there was almost no fast food (though McDonalds were dishearteningly ubiquitous), so most of the food these people eat is fresh and unprocessed. Secondly, they walk everywhere. Even in the areas of Rome where there were four lane, main thoroughfares there was relatively little traffic. But lots of people on their feet on the street.

3. All the amazing sites in Rome are actually pretty easy to get to on foot, once you get a lay of the land. We stayed in an apartment off the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps), and it took us a couple of days to realize, but everything was pretty much within a mile or two. The map of Rome that we were provided was all but useless to us because it was so small as to be almost illegible and kind of resembled a plate of spaghetti. But on the evening after we visited Eataly (a sort of death march for which I take the blame because I didn't just follow my first instinct and say, "We go this way!"), when we took a cab to a restaurant that had come highly recommended, and then tried to find a Metro station that was noted on Google maps (inaccurately, curse you Google) (but at least we were wise enough to leave DH's mom, Patricia, with younger daughter Amy seated comfortably in a nice piazza), we learned from a waiter (whose restaurant was in the very spot that the Metro wasn't) that the closest Metro stop was Piazza di Spagna. (He was quite baffled when we let out a cheer instead of expressing dismay). And then the cab ride took us right up to this large castle, which he told me was San Angelo, and past some impressive palace looking thing, then half a mile later he was dropping us off and I raced to the map to see what this thing was that was so close by and, oh look, The Vatican. At that point I had an idea of scale and realized that the Pantheon was easily within walking distance. And, after having spent a confused hour trying to locate it the first day we were looking for it, we ended up at Trevi Fountain by accident at least twice.

4. While Venice is decidedly smaller than Rome, though, it is much tougher to navigate on foot. The water bus is awesome, because it takes you all around the island and also to the other islands. But once you are on foot, you are in a maze. A lovely, fascinating, picturesque maze in which you stumble upon delights regularly. But still a maze. We quickly developed a sense of how to get to shopping areas and restaurants and churches from our apartment--and more importantly, back. But attempting to walk across the island, even though it really isn't very far, was pretty much a no-go. We were on the outer shore, very convenient to the water buses, but a long way from San Marco square. So on our last day we rode over to San Marco square and began making our way through the streets, thinking to work our way to the Grand Canal, and then bushwhack with the aid of the map back toward our apartment. After a couple enjoyable hours of shopping, though, it was getting hot and Pat was getting tired, so we decided to ask about where we were.

We were 5 minutes fro San Marco Square. We had very determinedly walked in a circle. Despite taking only right turns and trying to go straight. So we returned to the square and took the water bus back. I am thinking of the place as a Venice Fly Trap.

6. Venice makes the best meringues in the world. And they are the size of your head. I only indulged in one. But I wanted more.

7. On our last night in Venice, I decided to get adventuresome with the local cuisine. So I started my dinner with sweet and sour sardines and then had cuttlefish in black sauce. The sweet and sour sardines were delicious. Everyone at the table enjoyed them. The cuttlefish in black sauce was...well, I appreciated that I had tried something so very different. And that other people at the table were willing to share a few bites of their dinner so that I didn't go hungry. But it made me happy. Because if I don't occasionally have something that I don't like, I am not really challenging my palate.

8. A woman in the restaurant on that last night was carrying on a lively conversation in French with a little boy. Then her phone rang and she rattled along in Italian. Then she spoke to me in decent English. I was embarrassed by my lack of local literacy. Older daughter Erin had a similar incident in Eataly when she was waiting behind a couple to whom the clerk was speaking in Spanish, in which she is moderately fluent, then turned to her and spoke in Italian. She sort of froze, unable to summon any language, so he tried again in English. We really are bumbling around the world trying to speak SLOWLY AND LOUDLY ENOUGH.

10. Still, people were indulgent with the tiny bit of Italian we attempted to speak. And for the most part incredibly friendly. A few times I felt like they were refraining from patting us on the head or pinching our cheeks and telling us how adorable our atrocious attempts were. But we got through, and had fun.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

APPLESBANANAS 8/19/2014 5:53PM

    I loved reading this blog, thanks for sharing about your trip!

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OPTIMIST1948 8/16/2014 3:14PM

    My first trip to Venice with my sister we both got a kick of the sign pointing in exact opposite directions to the same place.

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NATPLUMMER 8/15/2014 10:47AM

    It sounds like a fabulous vacation!

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Venn diagrams I'd rather avoid

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

I went water jogging yesterday. I'm water jogging because my back injury prohibits many other activities that will get my heartrate high, including running, biking, the elliptical machine, and, oh, pretty much everything except walking and water jogging. (Even lap swimming is something that I'm limited in doing, though I'm working my way back up on that one.)

Anyway, so there I was, in the deep end of the pool, my head out of the water, inching slowly forward while my arms and legs pumped wildly beneath the surface, and I started thinking about the many similarities between chronic pain and grief.

Chronic pain and grief both slow you down. It's been just over a month since Rebecca died. The sharp edge of disbelief has dulled a little. The pain is not quite as fiery. At times, I don't think about it for a few minutes. But everything is suffused with sadness. Even when I'm not actively thinking about it, my brain is still muddy, my movements still slower and more cautious. Getting anything accomplished feels Herculean.

Chronic pain and grief both come slamming in on you without warning. I can be walking down the road or climbing the stairs or just twisting the wrong way and, BAM! I'm in pain. Bad pain. Pain that stops you in your tracks. Which kind of pain, you ask? Either. Both. They both sneak up on you like that.

Chronic pain and grief may be temporarily diminished, but they never go completely away. It's always right below the surface, twinging occasionally to remind you. People saying things like "I'm glad you're getting over that" is frustrating because they don't want to have to explain yet again that there is no getting over it, just better times than others.

You *can* rally for a while and spend energy to push chronic pain or grief away, but it will return, often with a vengeance. This is one of the things that people least understand about both chronic pain sufferers and the grieving. People will see them engaged in activities, talking and laughing, doing something physical, and assume that this is the magic moment when they are "cured" of their pain or grief. They are not. They are "deficit spending" their energy, and will have to pay back that debt in the days to come. So don't get impatient if you see them out and looking well one day, and then hear that they disappeared back into themselves for a week. They are doing their best, and sometimes they have to protect themselves from getting too stressed out.

Chronic pain and grief sufferers don't know when it's going to be worst, and can't always be sure about what is going to trigger their pain. Walking 4 miles one day didn't feel bad at all. Walking 3 miles a few days later was like having my left leg on fire. I can't tell you what was different about those two days. The same with grief. Some days memories will feel warm and comforting, other days they will trigger anguish. They can't tell you what was different between Tuesday and Friday.

Chronic pain and grief sufferers often feel lonely and frustrated. They have to say "no" to so many things, and then know that they are going on without them. People eventually forget to invite them, even though they would still come when they were able. They feel stupid about complaining about this, because they can't guarantee that they will be up to accepting the next invitation.

Chronic pain and grief may both diminish with time, but that time is not a week or a month or even a year. And both will always be there, ready to resurface with fresh agony. My dad's been dead for 18 years, and every once in a while his death completely flattens me. Still.

So if you are spending time with someone suffering from chronic pain or grief, don't say to them, "I'm glad you've gotten over that" or "I'm glad you're better." Say, "I'm glad you were able to participate today" or "I'm happy to see you." Enjoy what they are able to give, and don't put expectations on them for the future.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MIAMIRN 7/30/2014 6:45AM

    I apologize, but I went to my "inactive blogs" list and saw you. I don't know how it happened, but your blogs just disappeared and you got lost in my busy life. I'm glad I found your blog again. I love the way you write and the subject matter is close to my heart and mind. I am a swimmer and I am a retired pediatric RN. I have also had many deaths in my life.
Hi again,

I don't know what happened to my subscription to your blog. It disappeared. I found out from looking at my blog subscription just now. I apologize I missed many of your blogs. I could have been supportive and maybe a help. Any time you want message me. I have a kind shoulder to rest on.

I have chronic pain. I've had it for about 12 years. I also used to suffer from PTSD from having unresolved guilt and pain from grief. I know everyone copes with it differently. I maybe be able to give you some insight from my point of view from time to time. I have accepted my physical and mental pain that derives from chronic pain. I'm not afraid of it any more. I just live with it like it's an old friend. I have support and help coping with it. I see a pain specialist every three months, I exercise daily, I eat healthy food and I help others in pain the best I can. I know if I didn't take care of myself I could not cope with pain of any type. My motto is "move, move, move..." If i don't keep up, the pain returns aggressively. I swim daily. I am a Red Cross certified swim instructor. I love it. I am in the water helping children, and indirectly their parents ,learn to survive, live a healthy lifestyle and have fun while learning it. Most of my students go on to team level. It's so wonderful to see them thrive, see them develop. I cheer them on at meets. My grandson is one of them. He is going to be 12 yrs old tomorrow and has very high functioning Autism and mild very mild Hypotonia (decreased muscle contractile quickness) . I taught him to swim when he was 3 yrs. old. Now he's competing in the Junior Olympics. My family and I have such drive, commitment and fun with his swimming. His personal goal is to compete in the 2020 Olympics in swimming. He trains two to four hours a day 5 to 6 days a week. He is self motivated and committed. Myself, I swim while I am teaching children and after lessons are over. I just love the water. I happen to need it and happen to adore it. It's two in one for me. Maybe we can share some stories from time to time. Myself, I started swimming all over again by walking in the water. That was many years ago. I can swim the butterfly stroke now. I've never done a triathlon. I would like to participate into swim marathon, but feel like I am not ready aerobically for it. It's taken me a long time to get to where I am today. It has been a slow process for me. I haven't reached my optimum goal yet, but I'm getting there... The gratification and fun is in the process.

Have a great day! emoticon emoticon

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OPTIMIST1948 7/11/2014 9:39AM

    Thank you for the insight...however terribly they were acquired.

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HILLSLUG98239 7/9/2014 7:04PM

    I rarely use the phrase "get over it." You're right: it implies that something is past and done. What you're doing, both emotionally and physically, is healing. Your choice is to heal, or to give up. Healing is hard work, but for most of us, it beats the alternative.

After the death of my first husband, I was saved by a support group called Friends and Families of Violent Crime Victims. Anytime a new person attended a meeting, they were told "We're very sorry you're here, but we've very glad you found us." It recognized both the terrible circumstances that brought the person to such a support group, but also recognized how deeply a grieving person needs to connect with someone who can understand their pain.

I admire your strength. It's not easy to persevere through the pain, but you are doing it.

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NATPLUMMER 7/9/2014 12:11PM


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One out of three...

Sunday, June 29, 2014

And here is the tale of my… I was going to say failure, but maybe I should make myself feel better by saying wisdom. I drove an hour and a quarter to the triathlon site. Looking at the lake, I realized that the swim was very long and it reminded me of the fact that I've been doing all of five laps in the pool. I've been walking in the water, but not swimming and I was honestly scared. I've been walking in the water and not swimming more than five laps because the doctor said I needed to build up to swimming laps extensively. I haven't done that. I was afraid that if I got in that water I would hurt myself. Even as I stood there making that decision, I felt like a big chicken. But I have to think about my health. So I put back on my shoes and walked the 5k. Even by the end of just that, my left thigh felt like it was on fire.

I didn't achieve the goal I went there for. But I did achieve the goal of not letting my Wonder Woman syndrome cause me to hurt myself worse.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

OPTIMIST1948 7/6/2014 10:38PM

    There is nothing wrong with looking at your goals and saying "this might take a little longer than expected." That's not failure - that's an acknowledgement of your injuries and being unwilling to kill yourself by drowning.

And if you died, that would suck, 'cause I would miss you.

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NATPLUMMER 6/29/2014 4:35PM

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MARILYNROBERT 6/29/2014 11:58AM

    You made the right decision. I didn't realize you hadn't been swimming very far. Even when I was training with a master swim coach, swimming in open water scared me and I wasn't injured. You did good! emoticon

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WALLINMW 6/29/2014 11:19AM


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"Two outta three ain't bad"

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Tomorrow is my second scheduled triathlon (out of four) of the year. I contacted the organizers and explained my inability to bike but my desire to participate as much as I could. They were wonderfully gracious. So I'm getting up at 5:30 a.m. to drive to and hour and a half to Milton State Park near Ravenna, Ohio, in order to swim in a cold lake, walk a 5k pretty much by myself, and get my t-shirt. Because this back thing is NOT defeating me!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

WILSHAR7 6/29/2014 12:43AM

    More power to you!!! You go girl!!!

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MARILYNROBERT 6/28/2014 6:22PM

    That's a fantastic idea. Have fun and I'll be cheering you on from here emoticon emoticon

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NATPLUMMER 6/28/2014 6:17PM

    I'm glad you'll be able to participate. Have fun!

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