When I come out in the morning, Simon is almost always lying in the pasture by the gate, waiting for me. I usually get a raucous bray and then he gets up and waits for his carrot. Simon's legs are still twisted and sore, a legacy of his ordeal at his other farm. I love seeing him out in the pasture, soaking up the sun, contemplating the world, waiting for me. There is no better way to start any day than to have a donkey waiting to help you get started.
Maria and I returned to Albany this morning for the first time since my surgery July 1, it was a steaming hot and sticky day – there was no time for me to walk in the morning, and I think the heat might have stopped me. I'm not supposed to walk in hot weather – me and the New York Carriage Horses. I spent several hours at the Diabetes Clinic at the Albany Medical Center, they gave me the most thorough going over I can ever remember having outside of the hospital.
Maria and I were both very quiet as we drove back into Albany. I still dream about my ambulance right from Glens Falls, it was not a happy memory. I think it was harder for Maria, having to watch me hauled around in wheelchairs and ambulances, and she had to see me in the recovery room. I know that was hard for her.
The trip to Albany was a productive and informative. My blood pressure was excellent – 110 over 50, my heart is strong and steady, my scars healing well, they asked me scores of questions about my life, medical history, lifestyle, drew lots of blood, we talked diet, blood sugar, exercise and medication. It was informative and exhausting. Afterwards, Maria and I stopped at a Sushi place downtown. I told her I felt I hadn't returned to myself yet, I didn't really feel like me.
I am glad I went to the diabetic clinic, it is good to talk to people who deal with this disease every day. One nurse told me I must never walk barefoot, ever. I said I would walk barefoot, every day. There is plenty of feeling in my feet, my cuts and bumps heal readily. Another nurse told me diabetes should never snack — three meals a day is enough. I said that was bad advice, I have healthy snacks every day – apples and cottage cheese, melon and yoghurt. I will keep on having snacks, that kind of advice drives people away from taking care of themselves.
Otherwise, we got along. Diabetes is a complex disease, it takes many forms, involves many parts of the body – feet, eyes, heart, legs, kidneys. All of my parts are doing very well. But diabetes, like heart disease, is an individual thing, we all have it differently and deal with it differently. There is no one all purpose wisdom for everyone, I have learned, we always have to keep our identity alive.
I learned a lot of things about insulin – I am taking too much, and about balancing the food that I eat. My diet – lean meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds – is very good, and has been good, but endocrinologists are always learning new things about the body. My A1C number is normal – just where I wanted it to be, yet after open heart surgery they would like it to be higher, something I had not heard. After years of working to keep my blood sugar levels down, I now have to raise them a bit. I've lost some weight since the surgery, a friend is selling me a used treadmill for $100, it is coming tomorrow. In the summer and fall, I'll walk, but in the deep winter here, I suspect the treadmill will be very helpful, I will listen to music on Spotify and walk my butt off inside on this dark and cold mornings.
I don't like feeling like I am not myself. I have worked hard to be me, feel like me, I want myself to come back. I find it discouraging, not matter how normal it may be. It feels sometimes like they have taken me from me in exchange for a working heart, and what if I don't ever come back? How do I know I will? How does one weight a soul against a heart?
I am very blessed to be a writer, I think writing every morning grounds me and heals me and steadies me. When I am writing, I do feel like myself, it is such a grounding thing.
Sometimes, in the morning, life seems a bit normal, I get up, figure out a way to take a photo, eat breakfast, take a good walk, meditate, and then – before 8 a.m. – blog, work on my book. I don't feel like me yet, and I am told this is also quite "normal," but it feels anything but normal to not feel like myself. I feel guarded, wary, conscious of my healing body and wounds, I feel the familiar symptoms of post-traumatic stress, I am not conscious of feeling depressed, yet I don't have my regular energy, my passion for things, at least not all of the time. I do some of the time.
This week has been more sobering than the previous ones, they were all about my charging around, walking up hills, doing new things. I hit some limits this week – the Merck Forest trails, the heat and humidity. For all that, I am hopeful and grateful. I am lucky to be alive, lucky my heart was not seriously damaged, lucky I can walk several miles a day, write each morning, begin to take photos again. One day, I am told, I will wake up and feel like myself again. It might be three months, it might be six months, it might be a year. I will be glad to see me again, I think I might just burst into tears.
The sun came into the living room just after 6, I was sitting downstairs gathering myself for the day, I thought the light was especially beautiful falling on my new row of medications and pills. A couple of months ago, I was taking one pill a day, now I have a table full, some twice a day, some once a day. In the light, they did look beautiful to me. There are a lot of them.
I am feeling strong and clear this morning after a tiring and fuzzy day Tuesday. My fitbit weekly stats came in and from July 14 to July 20, I took 55, 258 steps towards recovery, I walked a total of 26.40 miles, burning about 20,000 calories. A good week, moving wise. I suppose I should also count how many hours I rested, but I have not been keeping track, perhaps a lesson there.
This morning, I am heading off to Albany with Maria to a famous diabetes clinic, I hope to learn more about this disease and I will share whatever I find is useful. Finally, my numbers are back to normal after the surgery.
I am grasping that there are two legs to recovery, each as important as the other – movement and exercise, and rest and patience. I am good at the first, learning how to do the other. I have months of recovery ahead of me, I will have to get more spiritual and take a longer view. Patience and faith and acceptance.
This is the gift of surgery, if you are open to it, you can learn much about yourself and improve much about yourself. Patience is about faith in my ways, I have to let go of the idea that I can walk my way to health. My heart and my body have a lot of healing to do – the surgery was major and my body has been talking to me, reminding me that it needs time to get where I want to go.
And what is more spiritual than trusting that message and learning to listen to it?
Today, some ideas for keeping your cats and dogs healthy. Fromm Family Food nutritionists will be on my Facebook Page all day to answer questions about your pets and their nutrition. Fromm is the oldest family-owned holistic pet food company in America, the only sponsor of bedlamfarm.com and the food my dogs and cats have been eating and thriving on for some years now. I am proud to have them as a sponsor, they do not outsource any of their food and have never had a recall. At the end of the day, one of the questioners will be chosen to win a free bag of Fromm dog or cat food.
This is a regular Wednesday feature on my Facebook Page, you can go there to post your questions. Thanks for being here, and thanks to Fromm's famous nutritionists for stopping by.
I have two therapy dogs, Red the border collie, and Lenore, a certified hospice therapy dog. Her hospice career was cut short when various food earmarked for hospice patients vanished during her visits. I never actually caught her doing it, but there were sometimes tell-tale traces, indisputable evidence. Lenore is a therapy dog at heart, but her style differs from Red. She likes to hang around, come and lick the back of my legs, wag her tail, bring me her stuffed animals, sometimes bits of dead animals and things too revolting to mention.
Labs are not into fine etiquette, there is a stream of belching, gas emissions, grunting and sighing. Sometimes she rolls in things and I have to fumigate the room.
Red is vigilant and attentive, but Lenore takes a more relaxed, longer view of her therapy work. She is all about love, pure love. She is the Love Dog. She loves to lie on the sofa near my desk and doze, her tail thumping sometimes in sympathy and commiseration. Lenore is always available to love, and she is available to love every living human and animal – people, chickens, donkeys, sheep. You cannot look at Lenore and fail to smile, that in itself makes her a wonderful therapy dog.