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Pushing Past The Pain … The Non-Vagina Monologue

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vagina heart

I don’t have a vagina.

Surprise!

And so I should never try to compare any pain I might experience with the pain of childbirth, at least – and especially – not in the company of those who happen to possess a vagina.

Vagina owners do not like to be told that anything compares with the pain of pushing a camel through the eye of a needle.

Just as I will NEVER know if a GOD or SUPREME POWER really truly exists, I will NEVER know the pain associated with pushing camels through eyes of needles. It’s the burden I carry for having an XY chromosome structure.

I suppose the best I might do someday is to attempt to squeeze out a kidney stone … a small boulder scraping its way through a slender urethra is kinda like jamming a baby out of a vagina, don’t you think?

…………………..

kelowna marathon 2015

At 7:30 am, orange-tinged early morning fall sunshine snuck a peek over the Okanagan hillsides.

A fresh dewy scent of Ponderosa Pine trees filled the chill air, masking the chemical scents floating around the long line of Porta-Potties. Modern Porta-Potties smell so much better than the foul, fetid contraptions from years gone by.

The sight of a couple thousand enthusiastic runners in their happy, colourful spandex had my heart beating fast but joyfully.

I ran a half marathon last weekend in Kelowna.

CORRECTION: I attempted to run a half marathon.

Attempted? Sorry, let me take you back in time.

Just 13 days earlier, I was being attended to by ambulance paramedics after I decided to walk off a cliff in the early evening darkness i.e. my home’s raised patio edge, with nothing but air and some vertically oriented boards between me and the ground …

It hurt like a Son of a Bitch… I like to think it hurt like giving birth to a Son of a Bitch … but remember, I don’t have a vagina, so I couldn’t know that.

And it continued to be painful. It took a week before the yellow and blue and black bruising tattoos surfaced like continents rising from the seas.

IMG_7461

I’m always on the lookout for messages and lessons I can learn. (How about the lesson of not stepping into the abyss at night!)

This bruising event taught me a lesson about internal strength. Dealing with pain is far more than a physical acculturation to contusions, bruises and cuts.

Pain is a short word with big meaning. In all its forms, it’s a creature that requires a monstrously huge mental component to overcome, or sadly sometimes, to just tolerate.

Cancer patients know this better than anyone.

Fibromyalgia patients know this.

Crohn’s and Arthritis and Gout sufferers know this.

Pain is a life test.

Each time we suffer a significant hurt or an injury, a worry, an anxiety, we go inside ourselves and talk internally about how we’ll manage the next few seconds, the next five minutes, the coming five days.

Pain is tough stuff and it’s up to us to make our way through it all in a way that each of us, ultimately, deals with alone.

I had to push past the physical hurt – the searing pain in my legs and bum – while moving towards my goal of running a half marathon in less than 2 weeks.

I was in pain. It hurt to sit, it hurt to get up from a chair or bed, it hurt to walk. It hurt to sit on the toilet. Thought to self: consume a liquid diet so you can stand to pee for 2 weeks.

Pain is a learning and building process. Pain tests us and makes us stronger to withstand tough obstacles.

There’s a utility cupboard filled with ways of dealing with pain: deep breathing and meditation, numbing medication, distractions like activity or games or music, watching or reading funny stories …

And for me?

DISTRACTION. GOALS.

In my case, I found the “carrot on the stick” approach was my pain saviour.

Who is the carrot and who is the stick?

Who is the carrot and who is the stick?

I’m very goal-oriented under normal circumstances, but with the object of my affection i.e. a half marathon run, in just 2 weeks, I needed to push myself to recuperate … quickly.

Each day following my bumbling tumble, I worked to push myself a tiny bit further through the discomfort that ordinarily would have kept me bedridden. I love my bed, so spending more time there would have been a treasured reward.

After 3 or 4 days, I was able to walk/shuffle about 200 metres up my road. It hurt a lot, I said terrible words inside my head, but the carrot was still dangling.

If I could just add a couple hundred metres of movement each day, maybe… MAYBE… I could run the race.

At the end of the first week, I was slowly walking about a half mile at a time. By now, the bruises were beginning to surface, which was a colourful, satisfying distraction.

I massaged the bruised areas. I used a roller to help work out the stiffness and break up the bruising. I cooked myself with hot packs. I Arctic-chilled with ice packs. I hot-tubbed and let the water jets massage me.

Four days away from race day I was able to slowly shuffle/run a half mile on the treadmill.

I could “run”. PROGRESS.

Managing pain is all about mental toughness. I could feel my mental toughness muscles growing.

Two days away and I “ran” a full mile. Just 12 more of those and I’d finish the half marathon, time be damned.

I smiled to myself. I can do this I said to myself. Or, at the very least I can shuffle to the start line with the healthy multitudes and give it my best shot.

On THE day at the appointed time, I stood in the sunny, cool Okanagan air next to my Boot Camp workout buddies Cara and Margot … the ones who teased me weeks earlier about sharing the first 100 metres of the run together before I took off ahead of them.

We joked around and sang Oh Canada … then the gun sounded … the expensive-runners clad crowds moved forward like cheerful swarms of geese flying south.

Within 100 metres, Cara and Margot pulled away leaving me behind with their smooth running strides while I grimaced and shuffled.

I was smiling outwardly as the pain rippled inside. The first kilometre was nasty, brutish, painful. I couldn’t stop. Not yet …

The bottom line? The final result?

I pulled out at the half way point of the half marathon… 10 kilometres of uncomfortable shuffling and dragging my impatient, bruised legs left me a touch disappointed. But just a touch.

But really?

I was ecstatic inside to run 10 k. on a beautiful, mild fall day with the sounds and smells of the race and the crowds surrounding me. I was moving and doing what I love to do.

My pain was the result of a dumble (dumb tumble), a momentary unthinking act on my part.

Someday in the future, I’m sure to experience pain again.

Pain that may be far worse than I could ever imagine.

Pain that perhaps only vagina owners truly know.

But for now, I’ve learned a life lesson about myself and I’m gonna be grateful for that, even if I don’t have a vagina.

John Vagina

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Writing For Myself …

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Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who faces seemingly insurmountable odds as he tries to find a way to subsist on a hostile planet.

I saw the movie THE MARTIAN the other night.

The popcorn –meh – was only one thumb up but the film was two thumbs interstellar high.

I felt a whack of deja vu as Matt Damon, sitting solitary, totally alone on a strange planet, growing potatoes in his own shit … played Tom Hanks talking to a volleyball on a deserted island.

Blog writing is me playing Matt Damon, sitting here on Mars talking to myself … and lucky you, you get to listen in on my inner workings…

Writing affords me the opportunity to talk to myself and decide what I’m all about … I’m growing potatoes in my own shit just sitting here and looking inside myself and the world around me.

It’s like flipping a sock inside out and getting to see my own insides, smelly yes, but a part of me.

get lost

And here’s an example of something I’ve learned:

Two years ago I thought that “sure”, I might have a novel in me, so I took on the challenge of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) … an online 30 day challenge with the goal of writing a complete novel, start to finish.

NaNoWriMo was a fantastic exercise and I managed to eke out an astounding 50,000 words in a novel format in 30 days … OK, I’ll admit the end result was pretty crappy … with a few minor bursts of brilliance (if I do say so myself).

But more importantly I learned – or confirmed – something abut myself that carries over to other areas of my life .

My little life “AHA” was that I’m not one to sit for long long periods of time writing lengthy chapters. I love the idea. But that’s not good enough. NOPE.

My restless, ADHD-type personality just isn’t suited to the full-length novel form. Margaret Atwood or Stephen King ain’t in me.

But writing blog posts is the perfect pastime for those of us who enjoy writing but suffer from short attention spans.

I love writing about 1,000 words each week. Since I’ve been doing this for 3 and a half years now and still enjoy it, I think blogging and I are perfect companions.

A reasonable writing output for most serious writers is probably something along the lines of 1,000 words in a 4 hour sitting.

For me, it works out more like 200-250 words per sitting spread out in 4 one -hour bursts interspersed throughout the week.

Each post sends me down the gritty foxhole that is my mind to explore and dig through my memories and experiences and imagination.

There are countless things I find inside my head that I would have never dreamed existed and yet, by dint of some magical mystery tour, they arise and percolate to the surface like oil crude bubbling through the ground for Jed in the Beverly Hillbillies.

tightrope walker

Another lesson I’ve learned?

When pecking out a blog post:

All that matters are the words you write. Nothing else.

When you write your inner thoughts, it doesn’t matter (and it shouldn’t) what others are going to think about it.

When I write, I have to stop worrying about whether or not people are going to like my story, whether or not someone’s going to read it, whether or not they’ll care. I don’t want to hurt anyone in my writing but beyond that, the horizon is clear.

And it’s not about saying something that no one else ever thought of saying, but about saying it in my own voice. And that’s something we all have.

Writing is about finding the courage to write. Courage to say things that hopefully are meaningful but that we don’t often say out loud.

Fear is this construct usually made up inside our heads. A tiny bit of respectful fear is good … we don’t want to jump into the Niagara River above the Falls. That is a good fear.

But most fear is irrational. It’s our mind, our head, playing crappy nasty games with us trying to tell us there are gruesome monsters in the closet.

And courage is all about realizing that some things are more important than fear.

Matt Damon was all alone on a hostile planet with no one to talk to … no one to guide him. But he turned the bastard voices off, or at least down, and took one step forward and then another step and refused to say die.

We all contain the seeds of courage and the inner strength to turn down the irrational voices – living in the moment – and just live for ourselves.

It’s a tiny step, but writing these words to you is me discovering and nurturing a small seed of courage.

courage1

On The Lightness of Being An Evangelist of Positive Passion …

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Two wolves

BEWARE!

Look both ways before crossing my path because I’m not always sure that I’m heading in the right direction.

I’m sorry. Don’t worry.

This is all just a metaphor for my choices in life.

We ALL have a direction. We ALL have choices.

We ALL make choices, even if we choose to do nothing … that’s a choice too!

positive passion

This is where my concept of Positive Passion vs Negative Passion comes into play ….

Many dive into politics and weighty issues. This is a good thing in most cases.

With lofty intentions they dive into the stinky diapers of the world and try to make changes, or try to change the opinions of others, or fight injustice and inequality.

The most common form of this arises in protest of government edicts or legislation.

Unions and armies have fought their negative passions for eons. Protesters have died in Tiananmen and Tahrir.

They are filled with passion, but it’s a negative passion. It’s a contra passion… an “against something” passion.

I feel inferior when I encounter people like this and yet I don’t change.

I’ve made my choice. Why? What choice?

I’m not a negative passion kind of person.

I decided some time back that I want to fill my life with positivity. I want to do and live positive things with positive people in a positive way.

Happy dog

I want to fill my life with Positive Passion, not Negative Passion.

Check out this Letter to the Editor in my local Penticton newspaper last week. It suggested we find something we don’t like in the world and then fight against it as our life’s passion. Negative Passion.

I hear, “what can I do” or “nothing is going to change.” 

There are many people and organizations tackling challenges we face; environmental, social and economic challenges that have the power to cripple if we let them. In the face of these challenges, these people are making changes that few of us hear about, or if we do hear, our hopelessness doesn’t allow us to register. 

I say, “Get mad, get motivated and get moving.” Action is the only thing that ever has, or ever will, change anything.

First, what bothers you?

Finding your discontent is the key to discovering your passion, and when a person is passionate, there is nothing that can’t be accomplished.

Second, “get motivated.”

Who else shares your pet peeve? I can guarantee there is a person, people or an organization already tackling the challenge you see.

Third, “get moving.” Contact one of those people or organizations. Start your own movement, volunteer, donate, whatever you can do with  whatever you have is good enough. Never let anyone tell you your efforts will never be enough.  

It’s noble and elegant, isn’t it? Superheroes fighting crime and injustice.

But I don’t want to fill my mind with negativity. I don’t want to be mad. Why do I want to be bitter and angry?  “Finding your discontent is the key to discovering your passion” just doesn’t work for me.

I try to float a bit lighter, filled with positive thoughts, positive energy; perhaps I can lessen just a teensy bit some of the problems that exist by the approach that I take.

Will I solve all the issues, the myriad of problems that beset us? Nope, not by a long stretch.

Don’t call me Polly’annish.

But I know that when I smile and see a grin mirrored back by others, problems somehow seem less significant, less bothersome. Smile dynamics break through where confrontation fails.

Here’s another approach that I’d describe as Positive Passion… this is from my local Penticton Herald newspaper Letters to the Editor, same as the example above. Positive Passion.

 

As the Okanagan summer draws to a close, we gratefully acknowledge the tremendous support given to the Soupateria.

Donations of fresh fruit and vegetables from local orchards, farmers and home gardeners have been delivered. Merchants have donated bread, baked goods and various food items. Service clubs, churches, businesses and individuals given assistance in various ways. These  contributions have enabled us to continue providing a hot, nourishing lunch each day.

To the end of August, 30,506 “signed in” lunches were served, an increase of 945 over the same time period in 2014. Due to the influx of seasonal transient workers, numbers grew exponentially.

These numbers will drop dramatically at the end of harvest time. However, as a result of the downturn of the economy, the local clientele continues to grow. Many new faces appear in the lunchtime lines. 

Our dedicated volunteers have been champions, giving of their time and talents throughout this long, hot summer. The smiles of appreciation from clients, their compliments to the soup makers, and their cooperation during a busy season have made the effort well worthwhile.

On behalf of everyone here at the Soupateria, to the community of Penticton,  we say, thank you.

What a beautiful, thankful way to deal with a problem that exists. Feeding the positive wolf.

I respect, sometimes even admire, those who choose to fight with negative passion.

BUT.

I’ve made my choice.

I’m choosing to feed my positive wolf.

ACCENTCHUATE_THE_POSITIVE!_

Silly is … In My Pants

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PEI Autumn

I’m just beginning to see millions of leaves succumb to their slow, colourful deaths as we pass the fall equinox. It makes dying a beautiful thing.

And it got me to thinking about changes, and seasons, and those things that are predictable in our lives and other things that change and surprise us.

Take the moon for example. We all know that full moons contribute to the “surprise” factor.

Full moons make crazy things happen, things we’d never expect. This past week’s Harvest “Blood” Moon – wasn’t it stunning? – probably had more impact than usual.

Something that surprised me? Maybe it was full moon inspired?

Singer/Songwriter James Taylor got really silly on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show the other night.

Yup, James Taylor. I love his music but he isn’t normally a silly kind of guy.

“You’ve Got A Friend” and “Fire and Rain” are beautiful, deep, hardly silly songs. He croons serious songs that melt into our hearts and our heads.

Silly? Adding the words, “in my pants…” at the end of each line of Taylor’s music definitely qualifies as silly. ” … But I always thought that I’d see you again… in my pants

So it must have been the moon. Right? Must have been.

Thank you James for reminding me that we all need to be silly sometimes.

Silliness can be an important part of our humanity, our ability to cope when times grow tough. Norman Cousins (Anatomy of an Illness) wrote all about finding humour and laughter in life when confronted with serious pain or illness.

Sometimes I find myself slipping into an earnest seriousness. I have to slap myself on the side of the head to remember to be silly, not to take everything so damned humourlessly. Then I feel better.

Fix the mood and everyone dances like feathers …

There’s a guy who is my age that I work with in the Greek restaurant where I’m a bartender … he’s a server/waiter. Let’s call him Fred.

When everything is calm and quiet, he’s sweet and charming. Full of light humour and smiles. Mr. Congeniality.

But once lineups form at the door, tables in the restaurant fill up, and the hum of activity snarls into a roar, Fred turns into a yelling monstrosity of an animal. He becomes a toddler that only knows “ME“!

It’s like he might just throw himself to the floor and begin crying and stamping his feet unless everyone does everything for him … RIGHT NOW!!

Cosby as Dr. Jeykll

I don’t like Fred much at these moments. His blood pressure readings must be reaching into the clouds way above us.

Later, when customers begin shuffling out of the restaurant, sated and satisfied and a teensy bit tipsy from the delicious libations I’ve poured, Fred sloughs off his nasty mask and returns to his “resting pulse” rate of friendly and charming.

He’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with a serving tray and a menu pad.

I can’t blame the moon for Fred’s tantrums. This is his normal reaction, the way he copes when stress begins to pile on.

I feel badly for him and badly for those around him who have to do their jobs despite his vile behaviour. Fred should try singing, “… in my pants“.

But let me tell you about another server I work with – let’s call him Mark – somewhat younger, who always finds a way to laugh and giggle through the busiest times.

He’s smart and good at his job, just like Fred, but Mark always finds a way to stay calm and goofy.

Mark gets the same work accomplished as Fred but everyone around him is more relaxed and smiley as he does his thing.

Mark works two jobs most days and is on his feet for hours and hours at a time, always with a smile and a goofy laugh. I like working with and being around Mark. He makes me calmer and sillier.

We all have our own unique personalities and ways of coping when things turn tough. It’s hard to smile sometimes.

I know I can stress out and get tense and humourless.

But I’m trying really hard to find the silliness, the humour in every situation. Really good or really bad.

Humour is like air … you can’t always see it with your eyes but it’s blowing and floating around us, helping us survive the tough stuff.

Maybe humour is like a religious tonic for non-believers, soothing us when times get rough, a bridge over troubled waters.

When things get busy in the restaurant this evening … while Fred is flailing disruptively, I figure Mark and I will be hearing “…in my pants” dancing in our heads.

... in my pants ... and I ain't afraid to show it ...

… in my pants … and I ain’t afraid to show it …