8.1 Playing For A Change

Posted: May 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

I woke up this morning and realized, “Holy shit! I didn’t set out to learn anything this week! Ah, hell, I have to learn something right now, really fast, so I can post about it.”

And then I thought, “No, wait. Just because I didn’t purposefully set out to learn something doesn’t mean that I didn’t. What did I learn?”

So I snuggled under the blanket for a while, letting the sun move across my face, listening to the kitty purr and roll near by feet. And I realized that I did learn something huge and accidental this week. I learned how to play.

Okay, so I know how to play. I always have. But I forgot. Everything get serious somewhere, though. I got older. I went through a bad patch, as they say. I kept trying to get my play mojo back and it would pop up here and there and then go away again. I broke my ankle and for three and a half weeks, my life became an existence. A day-to-day trial of what I could and couldn’t do, of rehab and stress and panic. I had some intense negotiations, arguments and discussions with loved ones of various sorts. I got doored. I got food poisoning. My life had started to take on so much bizarre trauma that I felt like I was lying. “Yeah, I broke my ankle, then I got doored on my bike, then I spent two days in a ceviche-induced bout of porcelain hugging.” Not only was it unbelievable, it was also starting to get boring. Whine, whine, whine. Moan, and groan, and pain. Stress and lack of laughter.

Enough. No more. Fuck the world and its desire to keep hammering me down into a small, miserable shape. I’m not doing it. I just utterly, Aries-ly refuse.

So I played. What did I play? I played the do-nothing game, where I let myself see what happened. A friend called to go to lunch. Rather than stress about time and energy and attention and work, I said yes. My housemates invited me to dinner. Ditto. I spent some quality time with friends on IM, Skype and in-game. I rode my bike for no purpose other than to ride my bike. I cooked my infamous lentil soup while cranking the Cowboy Junkies and singing in the kitchen. I played “Let’s take a huge, scary, jump-and-don’t look” emotional risk with someone I’m interested in. I played The Question Game with friends/housemates and laughed until I had tears in my eyes. (I also, incidentally, had a cat fart in my lap and laughed and choked until I also had tears in my eyes, but this was not really considered play and I have no desire to repeat this game. No, no.).

Play. Run. Leap. Jump. Laugh. Live. Yes.

Saying yes every day, every way, every play, s.

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7.2 Rehab (Redux)

Posted: May 23, 2010 in Body Candy
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And on the way home yesterday, day four of being on the bike after the ankle break, it happened like this:

I was sitting, stopped for the red light. Riding the bike is easy. Stopping and starting are not. My ankle moves round and round and round and does not complain. What my ankle does not do is bend so that I can put my foot down on the ground, toe-first, and lean my weight on it. It does not like that very much at all.

So my stopping is awkward, at best. It’s a slow-slow-slow down and then put my right foot down and lean. And then slide forward off the seat, carefully, carefully, putting my left foot down flat when I’m low enough to the ground to do so.

Starting back up is the same way. Only in reverse, of course.

So the light changes. I do my reverse, slow-motion mount and begin to peddle through the intersection. I cross the intersection, and begin to speed up, just a little. I’m two, maybe three blocks from home. I’ve done some good writing at the coffee shop. It was raining earlier, but it isn’t now. I have lunch to make and a class to go to.

There is a parked truck on my right. I begin to pass it. The driver’s side door opens, hard and fast. There is enough time to say, “Jesus!” (this is what I say — I don’t know why) and then enough time to think (or maybe not think, maybe just act) “protect the ankle, the foot, the left side.”

And then the bike is down and I am down. And my ankle aches, but only a little. And my right arm hurts, but only a little. And I can tell there’s a gash on my arm, just below the elbow. Somehow, even though I have two layers of clothes on over it, I know the skin has been ripped.

A middle-aged black man leans over me and says the kind of things that people say in that moment. Something like: Are you okay? And: I didn’t see you. And: I looked in the rearview mirror. Or maybe: I didn’t look in the rearview mirror.

I can hear him, but I also can’t hear him. I am, at the same time, cursing the universe, which seems to have it out for me in a very serious way lately. And checking my body for disaster, beginning with the ankle. I am standing and saying something about being okay and I am walking, limping, but only slightly, out of the road and over to the side. I am thinking, “Stupid asshole for not looking before he got out,” and “fucking universe for dishing out all this shit back-to-back-to-back” and “I should have taken Fremont instead.” I am thinking of all the near misses I’ve had in the last few years — e. coli, Lyme disease, a broken ankle, a door-int0-bike event, and I am wondering if something in the world is out to get me. Or if something in the world is watching over me, considering I am still here and still alive and still, mostly intact. As I’m walking away, limping toward home, I choose the latter. And I offer thanks.

Last night, there was a ride from a new friend, a master class with an amazing writer, an unexpected and sweetest-ever bit of protective posturing from my friends/housemates, and a caramel pecan dessert that pleased the tongue almost as much as the serving of conversation that went with it.

This morning, there is a bruised wrist and a likely-to-be scarred forearm and some rather purple bruises on the inside of my right thigh. There is a bike that needs tending — a broken spoke and a rotated brake lever. Easy fixes, all. There is writing that needs finishing, stories and words that will come if I sit down and put my brain to their needs.

And then I am in the shower, and I am standing without pain on both feet and I am letting the water beat against the new cut on my arm. In that moment everything — me, the shower, the sky — everything, is crying for the beautiful, fragile thing that I am.

Busting your brain and my bones. Daily. s.

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7.1 Rehab (Choose)

Posted: May 21, 2010 in Body Candy
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I was originally going to call this lesson Healing. And then I realized that healing felt too passive for the process I was going through. What I was doing was rehabilitation. I’m not just healing — I’m moving forward into the world in a way that is (hopefully) better, stronger, and more positive.

I looked it up and realized that at least two of the definitions of rehabilitation (and possibly more) in some way fit what I’ve been doing these past few weeks (I’ll let you decide which ones I’m referring to!):

  • rehabilitation – the restoration of someone to a useful place in society
  • rehabilitation – reclamation: the conversion of wasteland into land suitable for use of habitation or cultivation
  • rehabilitation – vindication of a person’s character and the re-establishment of that person’s reputation
  • rehabilitation – the treatment of physical disabilities by massage and electrotherapy and exercises

So, I’m learning how to rehab. Mostly from the broken, torn, sprained, strained ankle. But also from other things. Mental things that I’ve carried with me for a long time, hidden deep inside their lock-box of secrets and fears. But that box was getting heavier and heavier, and I realized something this week: When I was doing everything on crutches, I had to put everything in my backpack in order to get around. And there just wasn’t room for that lock-box anymore. It was too heavy. And it was useless. It didn’t help me do the laundry on one foot. It didn’t help me hobble from place-to-place. It certainly didn’t make my rehab — or my day-to-day life easier.

And I had an epiphany: I’m strong. I can carry this damn lock-box every day while I’m healthy. I can lug it all over hell and barely notice. But do I want to? The answer was a quick and resounding no. I put the box down. It didn’t make my movement on crutches that much easier, but every little bit helped.

The second epiphany I had was an obvious one for most people. But, apparently, there are a few lessons I need to learn again and again. The “Don’t Push it or You’ll Do More Damage” is one I might have to learn a hundred times. My options were: push my injured foot and ankle so that I didn’t have to ask for help, look stupid, impose upon friends, ask for rides, etc. OR rest, rehab, grovel and beg, let go of my independent mentality and stance, crack myself open and let people in.

Doesn’t seem like THAT hard of a choice, does it? And yet I almost screwed it up. If not for a few friends who essentially said, “We ARE coming to get you,” I might have still mussed it up.

But in the end, I did choose. I spent my time doing hydrotherapy in the bathtub (hot and cold, hot and cold, to get rid of the swelling and to keep the healing blood flowing), giving my foot massages to move the swelling and bad stuff (yeah, that’s about as technical as I get) toward my organs to get rid of it, doing Ankle Alphabets and circles and stretches, lying on my ass with my foot up a lot and feeling so fucking grateful for my amazing, helpful, incredibly gracious friends. I am in debt to them — and I like this feeling. Because I know that should something happen in their lives, I can go and force them to take my offer of help (wicked laugh).

As it turns out, rehabbing the ankle and rehabbing the mind are similar things, aren’t they? Or, rather, they’re tied together. Part of that lock-box of fears and secrets has to do with asking for help, with feeling inadequate, with being afraid of relying on someone other than myself, of not moving fast enough and far enough.

It’s been almost three weeks since I stepped off the stair and borked my ankle. Three long, anxious, boring weeks of stress and worry and oh-my-god-I’m-losing-my-mind because I can’t move my body. In the past few days, things have changed.

I have taken off the casty-thing. I switched from two crutches to one. I have gotten back on my bike (in low gears, biking is recommended for movement therapy). I have slowly and carefully gotten back off the bike (the biking, as it turns out, is easy. the walking? not so much). And then, finally, yesterday morning, I realized I was making my way to the bathroom. And I realized that while I had the crutch in my hand, I wasn’t using it. I was actually walking (Of course, as soon as I realized that, I did kind of a Wile e. Coyote “Oh my god, I’m running on air!” thing out of fear and nearly fell down).

The results of rehab so far are tangible: I’m closer to walking fully again. And I’m closer to my friends who have helped out. I’ve let down some walls, put down my lock-box. Before I know it, I’ll be leaping, running, hugging, holding, shoving, hitting (uh.. no wait. Let’s pretend I stopped at holding there…)

My next step is to get to the point where the crutches aren’t necessary at all. I’m very much looking forward to that moment when I can return them to Fred Meyer and get my deposit back. Not because of the money, but because of what it will symbolize: my movement toward various forms of health. And my understanding that it’s okay to lean on things when you need to: crutches, walls, doors, your own strength, the kindness of strangers and friends.

I wonder if they take lock-boxes at Fred Meyer?

Hobbling forward, one half-step at a time,  s.

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“Nothing is more desirable than to be released from an affliction, but nothing is more frightening than to be divested of a crutch.” ~James Arthur Baldwin

Making the screen under the light. Of course, I couldn’t have asked for anything better when it comes to an image. Yah for old typewriters!

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Washing out the ink from the screen. Cool and ew.

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The end result: Totebag with Typewriter. I am a happy, happy girl!
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So, I learned a lot in the class. I actually believe that once I am no longer gimping around, I will be able to make the t-shirts that I want to make. Which is saying a lot from a one-day class. I’m very much looking forward to trying my hand at the task, and having fun t-shirts to wear (and share) this summer. Once I get a chance to do those, I’ll be adding to this lesson, of course, and showing the follow-up results!

Spreading your ink, one stroke at a time!

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Screenprinting guru, Andy Cane (yes, that’s his real name), teaches us how to make our screen printing frame at The 100th Monkey Studio. It’s as hard as it looks (although, to be honest, I didn’t attempt it, as you can see my crutches from last week’s “lesson” resting in the background).

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I’ve always loved the idea of screenprinting my own shirts. It’s one of those art skills that would produce something meaningful, fun and, most importantly, wearable. The wearable bit is important, not surprisingly. My favorite kinds of art are the ones that go places with me, that I can show off anywhere and everywhere, that I can share with friends, family, students, people on the street.

I don’t want to go blow-by-blow with the how-to of this (and I’m not willing to wax eloquent — or, I suppose in this case, print eloquent, because I’ve done that the past few weeks with Letting Go and Ankle Breaking, and honestly I’m exhausted of emotional stuff, so I’ll stick to the concrete here) , but suffice to say that it’s both harder and easier than I expected.

The hard part? Making your own screens and other equipment (yes, you can buy them, but they’re pretty expensive. Making them is oh-so-cheaper).  Also, making the actual image on the mesh, which requires a test to figure out exactly how long you need to leave it under the light in order to make the proper exposure (like a photograph).

The easy part? Actually printing. Granted, it goes a lot easier when you have a friend (or better yet, a screenprinting expert) talking you through it and holding pieces parts. But still, I was impressed with how easy everything came together.

Tomorrow, I’ll show off the mesh part itself, and, of course, the final result (which was a tote bag, with the coolest ever print on it!).

Breaking bones and brains, one week at a time, s.

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The rubber hose goes in the hole… or the doggy gets it. There are more technical terms for all the tools and equipment you see here, but mostly it was a lot of sweat and a few cuts from the plastic knife.

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Making a screen is easier in pairs. But not much easier, truly.

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5.4 Slowing Down (Up Again)

Posted: May 8, 2010 in Uncategorized

I used to think I was in shape. Then I got crutches.

This morning was tough. Not in that earth-shattering, mind-bending way, but in the physical way. I was scheduled to take a screen-printing class this morning — something I’d signed up for months ago, and had been looking forward to since long before that, so I was on a bit of a schedule. I packed my stuff (for the next move), cleaned the house I was housesitting, hauled everything out to the (gratefully borrowed) car, hauled my crippled ass up the hill twice to feed and water the chickens and let them out, fed the dog, and then did my foot exercises and ankle massage. By the time I was done, I was a sweaty, stinky, dirty, exhausted mess.

I couldn’t wait to get in the shower, and wash away the process. But as I sat on the edge of the tub waiting for the water to get warm, I was seriously questioning the sanity of going to a four-hour class in my current state. I was already behind on time, my foot hurt, I was exhausted, and more than a little grumpy.

On the other hand, the stubborn me refused to give it up.

So, shower and driving, and I landed at a coffee shop nearby with a few minutes to spare. One woman held the door for me. The women in line behind me commented on how impressed they were by the fact that I’d parked a block away and hobbled my way here. Someone offered to help carry my stuff.

Here I am. I’m heading off to the class in a few minutes. I don’t know what the lesson is here. I’d like to say something smart and wrap this all up as tight as my ankle. But the truth is I know that I’m just hobbling along, trying to make my way through this, through days, through life. Trying to make the best decisions I can, without letting fear or anger or pity or exhaustion step in and make the decision for me.

I take a lot of inspiration from those people in my life who are battling much worse things than a broken ankle. Three of my favorite people in the world currently have cancer, and in their own way, they’re all dealing with it with so much courage and strength and honesty. They’re what gets my ass up when I think I can’t, they’re what makes me realize this is nothing, minor, incidental. Life changing, but certainly not potentially life ending. I can be strong for them, even when I am not sure I can be strong for me.

One slow, panting step forward at a time, s.

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5.3 Slowing Down (Help)

Posted: May 6, 2010 in Uncategorized

So, today I rode through the grocery store in a Mart Cart with my crutches and my backpack in the front basket, the machine going beep-beep-beep as I desperately tried not to hit anyone while filling out my post-doctor’s appointment shopping list. Which included, not surprisingly, ibuprofen, ace bandages, ice packs. more ibuprofen and a few edibles that didn’t require cooking.

I liked the Mart Cart once I got used to it. It makes me shorter; thus I could see things on shelves that I normally can’t see, but I also had a few moments of trying to grab things that weren’t without my reach. At all. It was a great people-watching experience as well. Some people have been in wheelchairs or crutches before. You can tell by the way they move out of your way, by their offers to assist. Other people just sort of pretend they don’t see you trying to maneuver this ridiculous cumbersome cart and they barrel right at you, requiring you to lay on the horn. (Just kidding. I only used the horn once, and it was by accident). Also, you don’t realize how difficult aisles are to get through until you try to get through one in a Mart Cart. It’s not the people, so much. It’s the boxes being loaded onto shelves, the various palettes holding stuff, the end caps. It’s a crazy, messy world when you can’t get through it on foot. While on crutches, I’ve been in two different coffee shops. In one, a customer held the door open for me, and the barista brought my coffee out to the table. In another, nothing. Odd what a difference just a little assistance can make.

In general, so many people have offered to help that I am delightfully overwhelmed. I’m not good at taking assistance. I’m prideful and independent and bull-headed (read: Aries) and thus, I don’t even take assistance when I really really need it. I’m working on that, mainly because I want to get better, and fast. I let someone help me unload my cart, and another person help me with the door. People have offered to drive me around, and I’m going to take them up on that too. It’s a funny thing to be incredibly shy/proud about saying, “yes,” while also being so damn grateful that people are willing not just to offer hollow words, but real deeds and assistance.

This process of saying, “Yes, please, thank you,” is good zen practice for me. As is sitting in the Mart Cart, weaving my way slowly through people’s legs. As is being in a place where I need people. In many ways, I am alone in this. I am single, I am far away from my blood family, I have created a wall of independence around me that is so reflective it can scare people away. And yet, they’re not scared away. They’re standing there, holding out their hands, and helping me along.

Every movement forward a grateful one, s.

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“Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it-don’t cheat with it.”~ Ernest Hemingway

5.2 Slowing Down (Crutches)

Posted: May 5, 2010 in Uncategorized

I was hoping to grace you with an image — or even better, a video — of me doing the almost fall-over crutch dance. But, lucky for you, you get Johnny instead, since I’ve been alone most of the time since I rented my metal and rubber creatures from Fred Meyer (except, of course, for the very dangerous dance I did getting out of the store, as I’ve never walked, hobbled, what have you, on crutches before and I was pretty sure I was going to faceplant and break my nose before I made it to the big sliding door). So there aren’t any photos or videos, which truly is probably a good thing. I’m already hobbling around like a broken-winged bird. My pride can’t stand too much more humiliation.

Crutches are a funny thing, right? They’re like having an extra set of legs, but not your legs. Like borrowing someone else’s legs. It took me three days to realize that in order to carry things (I’d been putting everything into a reusable grocery bag and then slinging the handles over my shoulders like a backpack), I could actually get around using just one crutch. Revelation! A really gimpy, slow-moving revelation, but still.

Also, before I started using crutches, I thought I was in shape. Like, pretty decent shape. But being on crutches makes me. go. slow. oh. so. slow. The progress from the couch to the kitchen to cook food is exhausting. I have to sit down and pant for a while before I can gather the strength to open the fridge. Everything weighs twice as much now, I’ve noticed. Also, my arms, hands, and shoulders are so incredibly sore already. How is that possible? I have no idea.

But the good news is I’m learning how to use and abuse these suckers (Ideally without falling on my face in the process). On flat land, I can actually move slightly more quickly. I’m getting the hand of the one-handed dealy bob. I can now even carry drinks without sloshing them too badly. My internal refrain is: Slow, Shanna, Slow.

Slow is not an easy speed for me. Neither is Stopped.

But I’m learning. I’ve spent most of the day on the couch with my foot up on the back. I’ve done very little that required moving. I am in a much better mental state now that I know the extent of the bone-breakage, and that means I can get some thinking work done. Right, I know. You can slow the body down, but never the mind. One of these days I’m going to work on that.

Kicking butt in the next three-legged race, two crutches at a time, s.

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“Being a sex symbol is a heavy load to carry, especially when one is tired, hurt and bewildered.” ~Marilyn Monroe

5.1 Slowing Down (Step 1)

Posted: May 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

How to slow down. Options:

1. Learn to breathe deeply and fully. Watch your step. Move intentionally.

2. Go really really fast until you fall down and break something.

Um, yeah, I tend to do number two (as you can probably tell by the image of my foot, above). It’s not like I actually choose that. More that it chooses me. Or that I’m moving so fast that it’s not possible for anyone or anything to actually make a choice. This, I’ve decided, now that I’ve had some time to sit with it, is a bad way of moving through the world.

Mostly because it usually results in injury of some sort. Although, truly, the majority of my injuries have been minor — cuts and bruises, torn ligaments, ripped muscles, what have you. I’ve never had to have stitches. And I’ve never broken a bone.

Until now. On Saturday morning, I took a small step for mankind, a big step for Shanna and broken my ankle bone. My talus, if you will. This, as I understand it, is not good news. I won’t know until Wednesday how “not good” this news is (when I go to the foot guy), but at this point, the bad news is shaded a really gross hue of purple-green-black and is swollen to about three times its normal size. I was able to write it off for a day or two as a minor something-or-other, snapped tendon, torn ligament, what have you. The x-rays, however, disagreed with me.

This wasn’t the lesson I was hoping to learn this week, but I suppose sometimes the universe thinks you’re not paying enough attention to the things that matter, and it throws you a curve ball. This certainly feels like one of those times.

So, step one in slowing down? Take a wrong step.

Tomorrow, we learn how to walk on crutches without breaking our face. It’s going to be very slow going.

Hobbling your sensibilities, one step at a time, s.

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“Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.” ~Napoleon Hill

4.4 Letting (Things Slide)

Posted: May 2, 2010 in Uncategorized


My ankle and foot before.

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So I managed an entire evening of revelry and merry-making in the heels you see pictured above. I’m not talented in heels — perhaps someday I’ll make heel-walking (ironically, I just spelled that the first time as “hell-walking”) one of my to-be-learned items. But, in truth, after you read today’s post, you’ll know that what I really need to learn is how to be present in my body. Or perhaps How to Walk Barefoot 101.

Heels + drinking + great food + fab friends + erotic art festival = Happy girl.

Waking up the next morning, walking to the bathroom, and then walking back to the couch = Ouch.

Here’s what I did. I fell down.

Okay, it was slightly more complicated than that. I fell down off a single stair (that leads from the foyer into the sunken living room). I think what I actually did was step half-on and half-off the stair. The next thing I know, I hear a seriously loud POP!, I’m yelling something and crumpling to the rug. Not wanting to wake my hosts (turns out they were already awake and watching a movie, which luckily drowned out both the sound of my foot and my pride breaking), I crawled, shaking and sweaty, to the bathroom, where I proceeded to hunch over the toilet, retching from pain.

When my delightful host came downstairs with her daughter (who’d been waiting to meet me and was all bubbly joy-joy), they found me standing stork-legged at the bottom of their stairs, looking ash gray and begging for ice.

Needless to say, it wasn’t the kind of weekend we expected to have.

And, apparently, since I had promised to spend the week learning about letting, the universe thought it would help me along with my goal and throw a serious curve ball. Not only by wrecking my foot, but by turning me into a needy, unable to do a damn thing, house guest.

I pride myself on being a good house guest, whether I’m staying with friends, renting from someone, or house sitting. I keep my things organized and in one spot, I do the dishes, I wipe up my spills, I love their pets, I clean up after myself (and after them if I can get away with it). But this weekend, I mostly sat around watched my friend K take loving care of me (and her children) by driving me all over, cooking us fantastic food, doing the dishes, keeping the conversation rolling, and much much more.

It’s hard for me to sit by and watch that. It’s hard for me to sit still at all. It’s hard for me to be needy or under the weather. I learn so much from my friends. K just took everything in stride, never made me feel stupid or lazy for the fact that I spent my entire weekend sipping wine and eating her food and popping her pain pills with my foot up on a chair-pillow concoction.

I want to learn to be that. Both sides. The side that can take assistance and do it with grace and kindness. And the kind that can offer assistance the same way.

Breaking your neurons, one step at a time, s.

My ankle and foot after. You don’t even want to see the color and shape of it under all of that. Trust me.

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