Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Saying "I Can" to my Paralysis

At birth, I weighed eleven pounds, the size of a Thanksgiving turkey or a bowling ball. My size led to complications during my birth that partially paralyzed my left arm.

Twenty-nine years later I cannot raise my arm above my head to put my hair in a ponytail. I lack the strength and ability to straighten it completely to do a push up,  and I am not able turn my forearm downward to type with two hands. My left arm and shoulder measure two inches shorter than my right.

In spite of all this, I telemark ski with one pole (and I love bumps!). I play banjo. I perform on stage. I milk goats, build, dig, and drive a stick shift. Last year, I started swimming laps at the pool. I've rock climbed with one arm, kayaked, played lacrosse, and fallen over a lot trying to do headstands in yoga.

When I talk about things I can't do, my chest tightens and my throat constricts. Inside, I am not limited. My body is not disfigured. Inside, I feel fully capable and perfect. When my internal world crashes against words like I can't  or pictures of me that prominently display my injury, my insides get jumbled. Defeat wraps itself around me like a coiling snake.

I feel best when I say yes to life and go for it in every moment, even if my going for it looks different than others.  In the next three months I'll be undertaking a challenge with my left arm.  I want to consciously experiment with saying I can.

I've set a few goals for myself. With all the compassion and patience I can muster, I am going to:
-learn to juggle
-go climbing with my bad-ass climbing friends
-choreograph and perform a dance that pays homage to my paralyzed arm
-spend time everyday loving on my arm

Most importantly, I am going to address the strangling feeling that comes up when I talk about it because I want to be free, and light, and at peace. I am going to own this injury more than I already do, so that my internal world and my physical reality are one.

(PS: I caught and KILLED that pack rat all by myself!!!!! Boooya!)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Autumn, a Packrat, and Rotting Chicken

I've been stuffing my Subaru with leaf-filled bags that crinkle like discarded wrapping paper and fill my car with a heavy musk that feels like second-hand smoke. Incredulity tightens every muscle in Rudabega's body, not knowing how she will fit into the overflowing car. To justify my habit of trolling the curbs in town, block by block, I extoll the virtues of tossing fallen leaves in the compost to anyone who will listen; they hold valuable nutrients, improve soil structure, aerate clay soils, and help retain moisture.  Plus, the goats like to eat them.

In spite of the frosts, my outdoor greens continue to thrive under a layer of remay, which I canopied with some old chicken wire.  Inside the greenhouse the greens grow avidly and untouched.

The molting chickens, on the other hand, feel the effects of the waning light.  They only produce three eggs daily. Meanwhile, a packrat, with bulging, glossy eyes no doubt and a thick, scaly tail the color of bubble gum, is clearly nesting in the coop, eating excess amounts of feed and dragging cacti all over the place.

Though the chickens don't seem to mind, I do. I give myself a pep talk as I head out to the coop to collect eggs,  then again as I put my hand on the door knob, and again when I step into the coop. I tell myself this is another opportunity to develop my dauntless grit.

Speaking of chickens, Jo, our neighbor and caretaker of the barn, e-mailed me yesterday informing me that she found two chickens in a bag next to the freezer. Before I rented a freezer locker in town I haphazardly stowed them in the barn. In my hurried transfer from one location to the other, I left two chickens behind, only to be discovered by poor Jo weeks later. The unmistakable, oppressive smell that lurked through her house did nothing to alleviate my shame.

So I take my lessons this week from nature, making use of the things that  scare me and the things that bring me shame, reminding myself that each moment is an opportunity to cultivate and grow.