N is for Notice What Still Works

Here we go with letter ONE of the soon-to-be-famous acronym:

As I was lying flat on my back on the floor writhing in pain while trying not to move, I was wracking my brain trying to use this rule just this morning! Eventually, it worked…but let me digress a bit.

As soon as I stood up from my “first thing in the morning” duty, the first of the bullets hit my back. Seriously, it felt like a bullet, or what I imagine a bullet would feel like. An unbelievably sharp, searing pain behind my left shoulder blade had me doubled over, screaming so loud my schnauzer came running…I’m sure he thought I was going to feed him some fresh kill. For a couple of minutes, I was truly afraid to breathe. I knew it was a muscle spasm. I have them occasionally, and once you have one, you remember it for the rest of your life.

So I stood there, sort of hunched over…wondering what to do. My right hand assistants this morning included Wiley, the aforementioned schnauzer, and Cisco, my 13-year-old Border Collie, who needs someone to hold his rear end in a sling in order to move. Not good. No humans, and the phone miles away.

Two more piercing gunshots later, I managed to lie down on the floor next to Cisco. He dozed (I don’t think he even knew I was there), while Wiley enjoyed the salty tears on my face, ecstatic that I wanted to play this new game of lying down at his level.

I tried to relax, because I knew that stress did not do good things for the executive function of my cerebral cortex, and I was in dire need of some direction…from somewhere. My partner was 75 miles away, at work. My kids were with their other mom. The neighbors were out of hearing range…besides; I knew if I yelled, it would spasm again. I tried to visualize my left rhomboid muscle letting go of its fixed grasp…but to no avail. Instead, it seemed like it had convinced all of my other back muscles to join in the spasm party.

Then I thought, “Ok, Julie, maybe this is a test for your theory. What does work right now?”

“Not much,” I answered myself. “I sure wish I had a tennis ball to roll on…that would help. Wiley. Go get me a tennis ball!”

Blank look. Have you seen “America’s Greatest Dog? Beacon, the white schnauzer on that show is a spitting image of Wiley…that’s the blank look I’m talking about.

So that wasn’t going to work. I knew I needed medication and ice…and the only way I was going to get it was to bear unbearable pain. What DID work, I decided, was my will.

My will has taken me through some serious stuff… even pain. I knew I wouldn’t die – it would just feel like I was dying. So, very slowly, I rolled onto my left side, imagining my left arm was glued to my side, so that my shoulder girdle would NOT move.

OK, that worked. Then to my feet and over to the Tylenol with codeine…and Advil…then to the ice pack…then to the phone. I shuffled like I was 80, and I felt more like 90. Finally, I made it to the recliner chair, where I collapsed.

LESSON ONE ABOUT “NOTICE WHAT WORKS”

First, “what still works” might not be immediately evident. Had I not come to peaceful terms with lying on the ground, unclear how I was going to get up, and relaxed…well, I’d probably still be there. Sometimes, to get clarity, you have to do whatever it takes to relax so that your brain can function again. In my case, I let Wiley kiss me until his tongue was depleted of ATP. It sort of tickled, and got me out of my “poor me…no one is here to find me…I’ll probably die like this…the neighbors will call because of a bad smell…it’ll probably be on the news…” funk.

Second, most of my body was willing to give “getting up” a try! I think this can be extrapolated to making some “positive” lifestyle changes when “part” of your body is less than perfect. So maybe your lungs don’t work so well. I bet your legs will take you for a walk. Maybe you are undergoing chemotherapy, and have absolutely NO energy. I bet connecting with your spiritual self is possible. Maybe you need to lose over 100 lbs and have no idea where to start. I bet that you can do some reading about starting a walking program, and cut soda from your diet.

The bottom line: There is always something that still works…and there is always something that you can do!

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