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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Walkdoc 3/23/14

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WoodNeck Beach

WoodNeck Beach





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Chinese Checkers

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Many of you who know me are aware of that fact that, until a year or so ago, my favorite form of exercise was lifting my fork from the plate to my mouth. Ok, maybe not that bad… maybe it was aerobically turning the pages of a good book….Or speed/power knitting. Then I discovered yoga and would now be lost without it. It centers me; my back doesn’t hurt, and I’ve lost my fear of falling over. Yoga has made an impact both on and off the mat.

Then, quite by mistake, a week ago, I arrived at the yoga studio for a 9 AM Vinyasa class. Something was quite different. The mats were going the “wrong” way. There were strange flexible rings in the front of the room and pile of elastic exercise bands that brought back memories of physical therapy and a demanding personal trainer. There was no “yoga” music in the background and many of the people in the class had real muscles.

My regular yoga teacher, Michelle, quietly told me that this was a Pilates class—the first one offered. I clearly didn’t check the latest schedule. So I looked her in the eye and said…“Well, can I do this Pilates stuff?” Without pause, she replied, “Of course, get in there.” So I did.

Learning something completely new and physically demanding at the ripe, young age of 61 might have scared me off. But it didn’t. I told the instructor, Monica, this was my first Pilates class ever… she was encouraging and her cues were crystal clear. I could follow her directions and make this Pilates thing work. The stretches we did were different than warm ups in yoga. Each move was more intense, took me out of my comfort zone and had to be repeated multiple times. I stopped worrying if I could do it, and just followed the teacher. Before I knew it, I was pulsing mini sit-ups without fears or tears.

Was it fun—no, not really! It was challenging, and I could feel that I was working my body in a different way than in my yoga practice or when taking long walks. I had to overcome the awkwardness of not really knowing what I was doing—and learn something new. It meant giving up the pretense of control and taking baby steps into the unknown. At the end of class, I was thrilled and amazed that “I did it!” I fully expected to hurt and have multiple Charlie-horses simultaneously—so I took an hour long soak in a hot Epson salt bath—and David did bring me a small (ok, medium) glass of brandy while I sat and soaked until my finger tips looked like white prunes. It was heavenly! I laid back and realized that I walked into a Pilates class unexpectedly and didn’t run away… instead I was looking forward to next Friday’s class.

How could this happen: One self-care action follows another and another and another. An entourage of wise, compassionate, skilled yoga teachers (Thank you and hugs to Kirsten, Megan, Michelle and Sandy McA) move me forward on and off the mat. They teach me yoga and so much more. I meditate and quiet my overactive mind. Most importantly, I delete toxic people and excessive commitments from my life. This all opens up room for new opportunities and new growth. I remember years ago, Danny Rothenberg told me that I ought to consider leaving more open space in my life. He made the comparison to Chinese checkers. “You need some open spots in order to jump ahead. You have too many marbles on the board.” It has taken me years to follow up on his advice.

So the benefits of life with “fewer marbles on the board” are numerous. Yes, I’m a regular Pilates and yoga student now, and I’m in much better shape than I was a year ago. I have learned the value of subtracting obstacles from my life in order to add more of the good stuff. It does come back to simplicity and having a “short list” of what is important. My hubby, David, has been talking about the value of a “short list” forever. I’m getting there.


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This past week was a tough one. We had a surrendered cat at the shelter that seemed to be uncomfortable and looked like she was in pain. A visit to one vet yielded some, but not much, comfort to both me and the cat. The kitty, Zoey, was a very pretty black cat with very sad eyes. Every day the gang at the shelter would check in to see if Zoey ate, pooped, moved around, or maybe even played a bit. A week went by and there wasn’t much improvement. She did eat and took her meds, but things just didn’t seem right.

On Thursday we decided a second opinion was in order. I carefully wrapped her like a little furry burrito in soft blankets and gently put her in the carrier. She meowed once as if to warn me to be careful because she hurt. While walking to the car, it started to snow and she looked out of the carrier and checked out the white flakes. Her pretty black coat was sprinkled with snow—and I think she liked it. She laid down and purred.

Once at the vet’s office, Zoey checked out the big dog that was leaving and looked the other way. She had bigger fish to fry. Little Zoey remained quiet and relatively peaceful. I talked softly to her and let her know we were going to see a vet who I hoped could make her feel better. Dr. Lucy entered the room and paid attention to both of us… me and Zoey. She picked up that Zoey was in pain and did not do anything to make it worse. She asked questions, collected the history and then she connected the dots.

Poor Zoey had spinal lymphoma. The diagnosis was “no prognosis”. This is the first time I’ve ever been in this situation—I didn’t expect it at all. I thought I was going to leave with a magic bullet, and Zoey would be well and happy. I can’t explain the feeling in my chest… it’s like everything dropped to the floor—or a hole got blown through me from front to back… The vet said this is a very painful condition that moves throughout the body quickly. Zoey’s pain was unrelenting, and there was nothing I could do except… well you know where this is going….

I made a few quick calls to my hubby who could miraculously understand and support me through my sobbing, and to my partners at the shelter—all best friends who are both compassionate and wise. I thought about taking her home with me for the night, but transporting her back and forth would only prolong her agony. For Zoey’s sake, it had to be sooner rather than later. David said he’d be there asap—but a half hour was too long to have her in pain. So, it was time, and Dr. Lucy helped both Zoey and me through the process of releasing Zoey from this miserable condition.

I’m always surprised when strength shows up in the midst of a shitstorm. Zoey had been given something to help her relax, and I pet her gently and talked to her and held her close. What do you say to a dying cat? Well, I sang “I love you a bushel and a peck.” Her eyes were open and she looked at me, and I cuddled her in my arms. While I was fumbling to do the next “right” thing in this situation, I told her Papa Stan who spent hours with her at the shelter said hello and wished he could be here, but he was in spirit. In the whirlwind of anxiety, sadness and fear, I thought of my Dad and told Zoey that he would be waiting for her. He loved cats—he had green eyes and freckles—and she’d recognize him. He’d play with her and be with her forever “up there.” She cuddled up closer. I let her know that my dad sings too, so she better get ready for “Five foot Two, Eyes of Blue, And oh my baby what I wouldn’t do, Has anybody seen my girl”. And yes, I sang it to her.

When it was time for the final injection, Zoey was at peace. She kept eye contact and had the most peaceful look on her face. No more sad eyes, no more tense body. She was at rest. I held to the bitter end, but it wasn’t so bitter. It was sweet and restful and right. She got more kisses and hugs and was set free. I will miss her, and she taught me more than she’ll ever know.

On the drive home, the snow seemed so other-worldly. I realized that this was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do. I also realized that my Dad is still such a strong, supportive force in life. He’s always there for me… always. I can see him with Zoey in his lap amidst the clouds. She’s purring and he’s singing to her.