Mathilda isn’t fancy. No pedigree. She’s old and has cysts and a limp, and she sheds mercilessly twice a year. She’s had four encounters with skunks and hates that we bathe her when she rolls in deer poop.
Mathilda can’t intellectualize pain, but when her joints are out of sorts, she doesn’t berate herself or call herself old or lament the fact that she’s not a puppy anymore. Most important, she doesn’t ignore her pain and continue to romp and play like she doesn’t hurt. She takes it easy, goes out when necessary, and let’s our other dog know she can’t play. When he nudges her, she nips to let him know she hurts and can’t play right now.
If you read my last blog, “Choosing The Baby Over The Blackberry,” you know my beloved Pearl (that’s Pearl in her “bra”)took a trip to the bottom of the tub when G-baby Luca went head first into G-baby Claire’s bath. Luca was fine and, surprisingly, so was Pearl after spending 24 hours drying out in a bag of rice (my genius daughter’s idea).
It wasn’t Pearl’s first encounter with H20. When Claire was 9 months old, she used Pearl as a teething ring. Pearl needed a night to dry out before she could work again. Last month, Pearl fell out of my purse and into a snow bank. It took my husband and I 15 minutes to find her, calling her number over and over to hear her ring – faintly – so we could find and rescue her.
Pearl isn’t fancy. She doesn’t have a full QWERTY keyboard, her paint’s chipping, and she’s very sensitive. Just ask the folks I’ve butt dialed. But Pearl’s like a Timex watch. She takes a licking and keeps on ticking. It just sometimes takes her a few days to get back to normal.
Unlike Mathilda, it’s often hard for me to acknowledge that I have arthritis, particularly when it interferes with how I want to pick up and hold my grandchildren. If you’ve ever had a hangover, you know what I’m talking about. You know while you’re taking back that fourth, fifth and/or sixth drink you’ll pay the price the next day, but you’re having so much fun that you don’t stop. When Claire says, “Uppie, Grammy!” I pick her up. When Luca hangs on my leg and looks up at me and smiles, I pick him up. It’s fun!
“I’ll be fine,” I tell myself, even as my shoulders and wrists moan in protest. “I’ll take a few Advil.”
But arthritis (like food) doesn’t understand ignorance. It doesn’t recognize impatience or appreciate that I want the freedom to interact with Claire and Luca on MY terms. (Or in the case of food, to eat the way I want to without consequence). Arthritis (and food) does what it does, and what it did to me this week is give me a case of tendonitis and bursitis. Doc shot the shoulder up with cortisone, told me to ice it twice a day and to lay off strength training until I see my (beloved) physical therapist next week.
You’d think after all these years, after all the times I’ve been down this road, that I’d have learned my lesson. God knows you’ve read me bitch about this subject ad nauseum. But like getting real about my weight and health when I was 300 pounds (and ALL the times I lost weight before), getting real with arthritis is taking time and a whole lot of introspection. I needed a dose of reality (and a massage and a visit to the chiropractor and several Advil) to get my head on straight again. At least until the next time.
Oh to be more like Mathilda and Pearl! Both behave within the parameters of their abilities. While on a walk, Mathilda doesn’t think, “Hey! There’s a creek and steep embankment that come hell or high water I’m going to run through and climb because I want to and to hell with the pain!” No, she lumbers along and takes in the odors near the ground and enjoys what she can without hurting herself. Pearl (despite her careless owner) shakes herself off, dries out, and goes back to functioning the best way she can given her circumstances.
I’m not old. I have arthritis. Arthritis, like weight, isn’t a personality flaw. It doesn’t reflect who I am and it isn’t something I chose to have. I suspect this reality will take even more time than I realize to completely accept and incorporate, but hey, I lost weight…I can lose the “Oh, I’m not in pain!” attitude, too.
One final photo. The weather’s been tough for many of us and it’s easy to miss the beauty that’s in the snow and cold. It’s gone now because it was above freezing today, but look what grew on the lilac bush outside my bathroom window. I like to think it’s a tropical bird – a gift from the universe to say, “Hey, sorry about all the winter blech.”