SoML: Scars

When I talked about breaking my leg, I eluded to being very sensitive. When I woke up from my 1st surgery, my body was screaming from the intrusion and the normal, cautious increases in dosage dictated by protocol took two days to reach a level and combination that finally controlled my pain. I actually had someone ask me if I abused painkillers – he had in the past but the cocktail I was on after surgery still would have put him on his ass.

It isn’t that I have a high drug tolerance or that I’m “sensitive to pain” – it’s that I feel everything, for better or worse. In the ambulance on the way to the ER, I felt the coolness of the saline flush in my IV. The EMT was astonished because he’d never had anyone notice it before. I had a second surgery in December because I could feel the plate and 7 screws in my leg, despite reassurances from friends that they barely ever noticed their metal implants.

I tear my heart open
I sew myself shut
My weakness is that
I care too much
Our scars remind us
That the past is real
I tear my heart open
Just to feel

The sensations aren’t just physical. My brain creates links between my body and my emotions. Other people have old injuries that flair up with weather, mine tell me what kind of stress I’m under. Relationship stress pulls at my right abductor, grief rears up as an ache in my left knee, work stress creeps up my SCM and spreads through my shoulders. Paraphrasing a friend’s description: The head is a lens for the body, when your mind changes so does your perception. I say the head is more than a lens – we think of the brain as sending out commands (actions) and receiving feedback (sensations). But emotional feedback can become physical sensation as well.

To quote Albus Dumbledore: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

It isn’t that my body and brain function uniquely, it’s that I notice more of the input and connections. Sensations that would get lost in the white noise of other people’s perceptions are available to me. The stress I was experiencing when an injury originally occurred associate with that pain long after the actual dysfunction has been corrected.

When I received my settlement check for the accident, I had a mixed reaction. The check included “pain and suffering” in addition to expenses. It was, all at once, generous and stingy. I weathered the injury fairly well and my recovery is about as good as you can expect so adding money on top of out of pocket amounts felt unnecessary or generous. At the same time, they put a number on my experience – the stress, pain, the dark days of my recovery – and it felt belittling that they could write off months of my life as simple math.

Tibial plateau surgery scar
Small scar, big impact.

While my head was wrestling with these conflicting thoughts, my leg began to hurt. Soreness, tightness, renewed sensitivity in the scar.  Feeling as though I was on the verge of injury. Along with the physical sensations, grief and sadness began to creep up on me. At first I thought it was because a chapter had officially closed in my life – my leg and the logistics around it were no longer in transition, unsettled. But my thoughts around the insurance payment settled quickly yet the feelings persisted. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that my once-broken leg called attention to my still-broken heart. My grief for Dash – diagnosed with a degenerative disease shortly before I broke my leg and gone shortly after my second surgery – needed to be let out. (See the companion piece on All Around Dogs – Let Grief Out, Let Love In)

SoML: Odd One

I’ve had anthems of strength, empowerment, defiance and even a little sugary pop. But what about a song for the awkward, the misfits, the outcasts? Enter Odd One…

Odd one, I wish I was you

You’re never concerned with acceptance
We are all desperately seeking out
And fitting in with anyone who will accept us
But not you, odd one

Here’s the thing about me. I have never been able to be anything other than who I am. Even in school, where blending in might have made things easier, I was always me. Being myself wasn’t often ever the “in” thing and didn’t put me in the popular crowd. In some ways, a level of pretending might have made those awkward years a bit easier. I guess I was embracing the awkward even back then, long before I coined the phrase. I acted honestly not because I wanted to – it was just part of being me. I’m not built to fake it. Years later, I had classmates comment on their admiration for the way I was in those days, that I was always true to myself. It caught me by surprise not only that they’d noticed but also that they felt envious in retrospect. Being me certainly didn’t feel like an admirable position at the time. It was a hand I’d been dealt and I simply refused to fold.

When my divorce was final (or nearly there) I not only felt free to be me but, as a now confident 30-something woman, I wasn’t as concerned with what other people thought. I danced at shows until I looked like I’d been thrown off the pier. I expected I’d get wrinkled-nosed looks from 20-something queen bee types and I was OK with that. Again, to my surprise, I found myself being admired for my confidence and honesty. I had 20-somethings chat me up in the bathroom and say they wanted to be me when they grew up.

I danced like that while I was married, but it is different when you are at a show with your husband. It isn’t that I danced less, but it was mentally more contained somehow. Once, my ex confessed that he’d seen a bunch of college kids mimicking and mocking my dance moves behind my back and he’d felt upset and embarrassed for me. What struck me most about that wasn’t that someone had made fun of me. I’m accustomed to that. What stayed with me was that he felt sadness for me… not irritation or outrage at those kids. The summer of my divorce, my first really good date was with someone who was charmed by my penchant for dancing whenever there was music. Rather than being embarrassed of me or for me, he saw the enjoyment I felt and was drawn to it. After that date, I made a mental note that whoever I was with in the future would need to not only accept but also appreciate my dancing ways. (Mission accomplished – Dave not only appreciates my moves but is almost as prone to random bursts of dancing as I am.)

Aye, it’s gonna be okay
Aye, we’re gonna laugh at this one day

Don’t let someone tell you you’re no one
Don’t let someone tell you you’re no one
Odd one

When this song was still relatively new, I was at a show and saw this t-shirt for sale. I hesitated to buy it. At the time I was afraid it would only give people more reason to call me out for being different.

Being myself was one thing, doing something extra that might make me a target was another.

But I sucked up my uncertainty and bought it anyways. And wore it proudly. I decided to own the label rather than fear it. So much so that I asked the presenter to pose with the shirt when I attended a seminar with Dash (a fellow Odd One in Boxer form).

Posing in my Odd One t-shirt
Dog Trainer Extraordinaire Chad Mackin being a good sport for the photo.

I’ve been complimented on being “brave” and honest in the way I write and what I am able to share. Not everyone is comfortable baring their soul to the uncaring Interwebs. Or even to their extended circle of friends. There are some things I reserve for private, but not much. I put the majority of who I am and what I think right out in “public.” But again, that’s just me. For better or worse, I am an open book.

BJJ: Self Defense without the Nut Shots

The first time I mentioned Brazilian Jiu Jitsu on this blog in 2015, I said that I was looking to acquire some skills as a newly single woman and “learning to grapple and defend myself in awkward situations seemed like an excellent choice.” What I didn’t mention was what prompted me to finally act on my thought.

Continue reading BJJ: Self Defense without the Nut Shots

The Skinny on My Healthy Body

Body image has been on my mind a lot lately. Between my brief return to dating, recovering from my broken leg, I have spent a lot of time (unintentionally or not) thinking about my body and how it is perceived.

My struggle with body image is not typical. To give you an idea of where I’m coming from, I’ll give  a little history – I will try to keep it brief. Continue reading The Skinny on My Healthy Body

BJJ: Soaking Up Recovery Time

Last year, a new business opened up nearby: Float Harder Relaxation Center.  You float in a room or pod with enormous amounts of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) dissolved in the water. The concentration is so strong that even those with “negative buoyancy” like myself supposedly can’t help but float. There is also an added a sensory deprivation element as you relax in peaceful quiet and dim lighting while you float. (If you’re a fan of Stranger Things, this is basically a ritzy version of the swimming pool that the gang set up for Eleven. Except you won’t be searching the Upside Down for missing people and scary creatures.) It was an instant hit with some of the guys at the Academy, especially if they were training extra hard to prep for an event or tournament. I’d only just heard that floating was a “thing” when a friend across the country raved about her first float experience. It’s getting very popular and if you practice BJJ, anything that promotes recovery time is bound to get your attention.

But if you don’t have $65 to plunk down for one session of specialty relaxation… how about a couple of bucks and a bathtub?

To quote Cole: “Epsom Soaks are my jam.”

Continue reading BJJ: Soaking Up Recovery Time

BJJ: It’s Good to be Bruised

On Labor Day, I finally got back on the mats. A mere seven months and three days after my surgery but who’s counting… who are we kidding, I was counting. I was probably driving people nuts with my Facebook posts and comments about how I missed it and how I’d be back “soon!” Six months of healing, one month of constant business trips, and one major move later, words finally became action. I walked into the Academy with a smile on my face and a gi in my bag. Continue reading BJJ: It’s Good to be Bruised

SoML: Windows Down, Volume UP

Lately I’ve caught myself spending too much time with the windows of my car rolled up and my stereo off or at a modest volume. Jamming out in the car was a piece of myself that I recaptured last summer. I’d gotten used to keeping the windows up to filter the air and keep the temperature at a set level. I sang along with the radio at a reasonable volume. Sounds like a simple, normal adult thing, right? But it isn’t my normal and it should never have become that way. Continue reading SoML: Windows Down, Volume UP

Operation: You Can’t Go Home (Nomad Edition)

I’ve moved 3 times since leaving the “house formerly known as home” – a way stop at my parents’ for 3 weeks until I moved into the snowbird’s for 5 months and  then back to my parents’ for (hopefully only) 5 months. Moving 3 times within 6 months to places where I can only have a subset of my “stuff” has taught me a few things. Continue reading Operation: You Can’t Go Home (Nomad Edition)

My 1st Tattoo: I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

Even before I turned 18, I’ve had the rough idea of a tattoo in my head that hadn’t quite formed into a design. With my 36th birthday in the not-too-distant future, I can honestly say that today was 18 years in the making. (I think that might be some sort of record for analysis-paralysis.) Continue reading My 1st Tattoo: I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

BJJ students lined up for the Shark Tank

BJJ: The Friendliest Shark Tank Around

In late April I finally made it to the gym to watch testing for the first time. The format was simple and I suspect it’s pretty universal among BJJ gyms – head trainers sitting at the front of the room asking people to demonstrate techniques on the curriculum. I don’t know if describing the reasons for the test and the focus for each belt color is standard but as a newbie, I appreciated hearing it.  I doubt Jay’s brand of commentary is considered par for the course, but it would have felt like I was in the wrong place without it.

BJJ Stripe Test
Jay and Eli providing direction and color commentary

Continue reading BJJ: The Friendliest Shark Tank Around