Calming Emotions, Mindfulness

Wrong Turns Allowed

Just before I fell asleep, a car swerved into my lane and shoved me off the road, jolting me out of that twilight state and back into my bed where I was safe and sound.

Well…safe. I’m not too sure about sound.

It took some calming affirmations to get myself relaxed enough to truly fall asleep. But whenever I woke in the night, I still had this unsettling feeling—as if at any moment, something unexpected would happen to derail me. As if I shouldn’t have been on that road.

As if I made a wrong turn.

I’m often invaded by sudden images, sometimes while wide awake. I’m walking along when—BAM!—I see and feel myself twisting an ankle. I can even hear the familiar crunch. It’s sudden and visceral and startling. And I hate it. But I understand it: I have a long history of falling off my foot.

The first time it happened I was living in Manhattan. I had just spent the day rehearsing for Cats, executing all manner of coordinated feats, when I stepped in a pothole and twisted my ankle. After that, all it took was a less than solid step for me to, literally, fall off my foot. No pothole necessary. Just a slight misalignment and down I’d go. It’s happened dozens of times since then, always unexpected, always painful, always accompanied by cringe-worthy crunch and a shock of pain.

So what does this have to do with a car running me off the road?

Insecurity

The unexpected car veering into my lane and the ankle I keep re-twisting in my imagination are signals from my subconscious that I’m feeling uncertain about myself. Did I take the wrong turn? Am I on the right course? Or is the bridge out ahead and I’m headed for disaster?

That’s what I love about this Toontown sign: It reminds me that wrong turns are okay, but more than that, it implies that wrong turns are a natural part of getting from here to there.

It’s scary to stretch out of the comfort zone.

We don’t know what to expect.

We don’t know how others will respond.

We don’t know if we’ll inadvertently cause harm or create a monumental mess.

We’re taking a chance, and in the process, risking failure.

So yeah… it’s scary. And yet, it needs to be done. Otherwise, how can we grow?

I remind myself of this when the startling images catch me unaware—while falling asleep, while walking through a lobby, while sitting at a table with friends with whom I should feel completely comfortable and am not. I shake off the feeling—a very visceral feeling—and remind myself that I am capable of handling whatever comes. Because that’s really what matters, isn’t it?

Confidence isn’t about always being right or perfect, it’s about knowing you can get back on course when you take a wrong turn.

Health, Mindfulness, Motivation, NINJA, Perspective

Ninja Journey through Total Hip Replacement

“So you’re telling me I didn’t pull my hip flexor?”

“No ma’am. Look at the x-rays. You need a total hip replacement.”

After that shocking bit of news, I zoned out and stared at the not-so-pretty picture of my bone-on-bone hip socket and two nasty looking dragon claw bone spurs thinking Seriously? A total freaking hip replacement? I’m too young for this.

The only reason I had even made this appointment was because my chiropractor had exhausted every massage, ultrasound, adjustment, and joint manipulation technique he had in his considerable bag of tricks and had delivered the sad news that there was nothing more he could do for me. The MRI showed nothing amiss that he or the radiologist could see, and his x-rays on me, taken three years ago when my pain had begun, showed ample space in the socket.

He was stumped. I was frustrated.

I had danced on Broadway. I had a fifth-degree black belt in To Shin Do Ninjutsu. I was not a gimpy old lady. I hiked in the mountains and power-walked along the coast every day. Or rather, I did before my hip went into critical lockdown.

“You’re sure I didn’t tear a hip flexor?”

“Positive.”

“Huh.” I thought of the decades of abuse I had forced on my body. “Well, I guess I came by it honestly.”

 I had chronic back issues since my dancing days in Cats. I had pulled or sprained muscles and joints from my neck to my toes. I had been hit, bent, thrown, dropped, and crushed. I had torqued my body in directions normal people reserved for Cirque de Solei performers. I had experienced this kind of pain my entire life; and no one had ever suggested surgeries or joint replacements. I had never even broken a bone.

I wished I could call my dad, but I couldn’t because my sisters and I had scattered his ashes in the ocean only a few weeks before.

Had the stress of caring for Dad through death contributed to my orthopedic crisis?

Certainly the long car rides and awkward positions—sitting at his bedside, writing in waiting rooms, sleeping on the couch between visits to his rehabilitation nursing facility—had aggravated my arthritic hip. But I also couldn’t discount the physical effect of emotional stress. I had lost both my parents within a year.

And yet, through all of the emotional stress, I managed to stay positive and productive. I finished my novel, rewrote another, and had two short stories published in anthologies. I meditated, ate well, cared for my family, and hiked or walked at least five times a week.

Which was why I wanted to tell Dad about this crazy hip replacement!

To him, I was Wonder Woman,
Super Mom, and Florence Nightingale
all mushed into one badass ninja package.

All of these thoughts played in the background of my mind as my husband and I listened to the surgeon’s explanation about how osteoarthritis had deteriorated my hip joint.

“The injury you thought you experienced was probably the tipping point. You had pain, but you could still function. Now you can’t, which is typical. Your accelerated decline over the last two months means the time has come to replace the hip.”

I could remember the exact moment of my supposed injury. I had been on my porch warming up for a mountain hike with a cardio routine I had devised using a six-foot oak staff, based on Ninjutsu fighting techniques. It was a classic case of me going too far, too fast, and too hard. Now, gray-haired grannies were whizzing by me in movie theaters, and rising from a couch had become a major event.

“Wait and see. You’ll be able to do whatever you want: ski, dance, martial arts. You’ll be amazed. This surgery will eliminate your pain.”

“How long is the recovery?”

“Three months.”

I stared at my soon-to-be-surgeon, trying to process what it might be like to take one of those Zumba classes I had heard about or making love without massive pillow constructions to immobilize my body.

My husband smiled, making me wonder if he could read my thoughts. “You’re not really be surprised by any of this, are you? After all those years of dance and martial arts abuse?”

I shook my head. “Shocked but not surprised.”

THREE MONTHS POST HIP REPLACEMENT

The surgery went wonderfully.

I recovered at my usual pace and efficiency. In fact, when I finally made an appointment with a physical therapist one month later, he was amazed by my balance, strength, and mobility. I got the green light to rely on my ample knowledge and experience (from teaching dance, martial arts, and body work/training) and told to call if I ever needed him in the future.

I continued my rehabilitation with care then amped up my expectations and goals when I hit the surgeon’s three-month mark. (Check out my Ballet Barre Therapy) Then I pushed. And paid.

I felt more pain at three months than I had at three-weeks. And yet, this did not alarm me. In fact, from my professional athlete point of view, this seemed logical. After all, I was demanding more of the joint and pushing the muscles. Why wouldn’t it hurt more? So I kept pushing—and crippled myself back to the pre-op days.

Four days later, I got the news that we had to move.

So, barely recuperated by my burst of rehabilitation enthusiasm, I pushed through four weeks of deep squats, heavy lifting, and carting bags and boxes up stairs.

Which leads me to yesterday and my reunion with the physical therapist.

FOUR MONTHS-ONE WEEK POST HIP REPLACEMENT

I explained my suffering and my concern that I wouldn’t regain my former agility if I didn’t push myself, and assured my physical therapist that I had been resting after my five-week ordeal.

“How long have you been taking it easy?”

I gave the question serious thought. “Five days.”

He laughed.

The rest of the appointment was both amusing and illuminating. Apparently, I already have amazing motion and don’t need any more at this point. What I need is strength to control the mobility I have. What’s more, I should forget the magical three-month recovery mark and shoot for full operation in a year.

Talk about an expectation/perspective adjustment!

So now at my new home, in my delightfully sunny kitchen, writing the first blog I’ve had time to write in five months, and feeling pain-free even after the PT’s stretch-band exercises. Most of our belongings are put away and I’ve been rewriting a short story I’ll submit today. Life is good and finally calm again. And I gotta say: It feels wonderful!

POST-OP HEALING TIPS

1) Slow and equal beats a fast and limping. (walkers are great for this)
2) More movement requires more rest (preferably with ice and elevation)
3) Backpacks are awesome (even inside the home)
4) Do your PT exercises diligently throughout the day
5) Accept and embrace the process

night watch
Calming Emotions, Mindfulness, Relationships, Writing

Night Watch

I wrote the notes for this poem on my father’s bed during the wee hours of the night, pen in one hand and his fingers curled around the other. Writing is the best way I know to process emotions and pass through challenging times. It helps me arrange my thoughts and get to the heart of what I’m experiencing. When I arrive at what I feel is a finished poem, essay, or story, I feel a great sense of peace about what has transpired.Read more

prayer for the precious lost
Calming Emotions, Mindfulness

Prayer for the Precious Lost

I greeted the day with my habitual morning meditation—reaffirming my commitment to the path of enlightenment; acknowledging and atoning for my own misuse and misdirected actions, words, and thoughts; activating energy points throughout my body; and centering my spirit for a calm mind and focused intent.

And then I prayed…Read more

may
Mindfulness, Perspective, Writing

Yay for May!

Yay for May with flower leis, mommy love, and special days…
For Spring and breath, reflection and life,
To start anew and shed the strife,
For all the hope our hearts envelop,
And goals our minds and guts develop
Hurray for May! I say with glee,
to all of you from all of me.Read more

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Mindfulness, NINJA, Relationships

Paying Back & Living Forward: Ninja Travel with Dad

In an ideal world, family relationships are such that parents care for their children and, after time, those children grow up wanting to care for their parents. This isn’t always the case. Some relationships are too toxic to continue or too fractured to recover. Sometimes distance, severe infirmity, or financial strain stand in the way between what the heart wants and what can actually be accomplished. However, when all else aligns, a child’s ability to payback love and care—in whatever capacity—is one of the greatest joys in life. Such has been, and continues to be, my experience.Read more

Gung hay fat choy
Mindfulness, Motivation, NINJA, Writing

Year of Calm, Smooth Efficiency

“Mom, you’re moving too fast,” my eldest son said, as I chopped, scooped, and tossed a butcher knife full of veggies in a sizzling wok, nearly slicing my wandering husband in the process.

I froze, mid-step, in the center of my narrow kitchen and assessed the scene. Sure enough, I had been zipping like The Flash from one cooking station to another in frantic dash to get my gourmet dinner on a perfectly set table before any of the seven courses dropped in temperature. However, as my son so accurately pointed out, I was not The Flash. No one is.Read more

Dumpling Happy New Year website
Exciting Stuff, Mindfulness, Motivation, Writing

Starting the New Year with Discipline, Inspiration & Momentum

Gong Hey Fat Choy!  Happy Chinese New Year!

Are you ready for the Year of the Fire Monkey?  I certainly am.  In fact as I write these musings, I’m sprawled in exhaustion from cleaning the last bits of Wood Sheep energy from my house!  It’s just one of the many rituals I do to focus my intent on the New Year.  Why?  Because coordinating mindful action with a significant occasion leads to powerful and meaningful results!Read more

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Calming Emotions, Health, Mindfulness

Reflections on Gratitude (Insights from a Fractured Tooth)

Who knew a blast of air on a fractured tooth could render a badass ninja into a trembling kitten? Okay… I suppose I would have expected it if I had given it prior thought. But here’s the thing: I don’t have problems with dental work. I don’t leap from the chair like a Halloween cat and claw the ceiling every time the dentist pokes at a tooth. In fact, my biggest concern is staying awake in those comfy reclining chairs. But when that air blasted my nerve, I embedded all twenty of my claws so deeply into ceiling panel I didn’t think I’d ever come down.Read more

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Calming Emotions, Communication, Mindfulness

Dangers of Over-Sharing

We’ve all got problems, right? They exist. We can’t just close our eyes and pretend they aren’t there. Well, actually we can, but pretending won’t really make them disappear. Our problems will still be waiting when we work up the courage to take another peek. So, we might be tempted to think that talking about them couldn’t hurt. We might even believe that unburdening our troubles will relieve some of our stress. And to some degree, it does. But at what price?Read more

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Empowerment, Health, Mindfulness, Motivation, Writing

5 Empowering Things to Do While Walking

In this age of sedentary occupations, busy schedules, and convenient modes of transportation, most of us do not exercise as much as we would like. Every option seems to take more time than we have and/or more money than we can afford—except walking. Once we get up from our desk and head out the door, we’ve begun. It’s as simple as that. But it can also get boring. So here are five empowering ways to keep you engaged and motivated.Read more