Over planning – my claim to fame

I always have the best of intentions. I always think I can accomplish what I plan. Sometimes I get more done than I planned but often now with my physical limitations I can’t meet my goals.

Case in point. I planned a trip up north for Columbus Day weekend. I was headed to upstate New York with Kevin to visit friends and attend my friend Jon Katz’s open house he has each fall on his famous Bedlam Farm.

I was so happy I was feeling well enough to go on this trek. We were going to drive..and it is long- 7 hours plus. This was to be my first long drive and furthest vacation from home since all my pain trouble began back in May 2016. We have a new large truck that is very comfortable to drive in so I thought the drive would be fine.

I got an AirBnB not far from Bedlam Farm. We planned two nights there. Then I decided to tack on to the trip. I wanted to go see Kevin’s brother and sister-in-law in Maine. It was less than 4 hours to their place from Cambridge NY (the home of Bedlam Farm). So we added two more nights – one in Maine and another in Connecticut. The latter a place as a rest stop to break up the ride home from Maine to Maryland. Oh and we were bringing two dogs. That adds to the planning but I like to have them along.

In my head I was going to be fine for this trip. I planned ahead trying not to do too much the week before we left. I didn’t want to initiate a flare up of pain. I didn’t ride my horse. I didn’t do barn chores except feed the horses and add water to chicken waterers. I didn’t do much walking and I went into the gym once and did a few leg exercises. But I really tried to keep it light.

The big day came. Kevin packed the car and loaded the pups and we were off. I was very excited to see friends I hadn’t seen in quite a while. Then it happened – just a short time into the drive I began to feel the twinge of pain that often comes at the beginning of a flare. I didn’t want to say anything to Kevin. I wanted to power through it. But my heart sank just a bit.

By the time we got to New York I was having definite pain issues. We got to our house – which was awesome by the way- and we got the dogs settled. I had taken some medical marijuana which I use only when I really need some extra pain relief. I also had a glass of wine. Normally I am not a big mixer of these items but drastic times….

I did all this in the hopes that I would make the flare go away. I know better they normally last 3 days – more even. I woke on Saturday feeling just so so- and we went over to a local restaurant in Cambridge NY to meet friends for breakfast. But by the end of the meal I was feeling badly again. I was determined to go to the open house though. I came all that way and I was freaking going. So I took some medical MJ again and I had a couple sips of wine- God I sound like a wino druggy! I can assure you this isn’t the case – but this is what I needed to do at that moment to get through the day with less pain. I carry opiates with me. But I don’t want to take those again unless it was absolutely needed. Medical marijuana is much safer. I will write on that topic a bit more sometime.

I attended the open house which was really nice. I think the best one so far for me. We enjoyed sheep herding and sheep shearing as well as poetry readings and lots of  wonderful art for sale. When we left that afternoon I fully intended on attending it on Sunday as well. Though I was feeling pretty rough I was able to enjoy a nice dinner out on Saturday night with friends. It meant so much to be there among these really nice humans. I hope they know how much I appreciate them.

Sadly the meal didn’t sit well with me later that night. Probably too rich for me and I was a bit ill all night. So I sat much of the night awake and fretting about how bad I was feeling and how I really should pack it in and go back home. But that felt like such loss to me. I didn’t want to give up. In the morning Kevin and I talked it over and it didn’t take long for me to see that it would be better if we went home.

I was sad and depressed.  I had my cry. I worried about disappointing people. Would my New York friends think I was rude for not saying goodbye before I left?  I was feeling so crummy and was so down I just could not bring myself to make formal goodbyes in person. But a couple friends ended up driving behind us on the road 30 miles from the farm.  what are the odds? So we pulled over and I got my formal goodbye with both of them – that did make my heart hurt less for sure.

I also worried I would be disappointing family in Maine because we were cancelling. I have wanted to get up to see them for so long. It wasn’t to be. I think many of these friends and family know my heart and that I would not skirt out without saying a formal goodbye if I wasn’t feeling crummy.

I feel like pain won and I really hate that. I really really do. I am trying to navigate this life and have some semblance of life despite this pain. I don’t like IT to win. And often it is an adversary that wins some of the battles.

It took me this long since I have been home to write this because I have been so disappointed in myself. I am still dealing with pain. I was dumb and went to get a laser treatment this week which caused more pain. Which it shouldn’t but did because we did too big an area. So frustrating.

I just want to live my life and although I have come to accept that pain will likely be part of my life forever ( I sigh when I think this) I hate when it makes me unable to do something I set out to do.

My heart hurts over this. But I need to look at the bright side- and there is one. I had a great time seeing people on Saturday. I got to talk with many people – though there is always more to talk about. And there are people I wished I could have spoken with longer. But overall the experience and being with some people who share my creative spark was just what I needed.  It was enough.  I wanted more but it was enough.

This is what I am trying to take away from last weekend. The good time, the good people, friendships. So I think I won. Screw pain – the visit might have been cut short but it was enough. What was accomplished made me happy and that lifts my spirits.

And I just have to learn not to over plan.

–side note – I have discussed my pain concerns with my surgeon – and the laser debacle-and we are have an initial plan of attack for this flare up.  He is a great doctor to have on my side. Lets hope we get this under control.

_____

Here are some unedited photos from my phone that I took over the weekend – my DSLR camera was too heavy for me to use – bummer.

Red keeping the sheep in on place

Jon Katz- Author and friend and owner of bedlam Farm (along with Maria)

Maria Wulf with an amazing sheep shearer! 

Just shorn

Fate 

Mary Kellogg reading her poetry- she’s a wonderful person

Our next guest home?

On the way home

Somewhere in PA

Taken through a filthy windshield!

Sometimes things work out…

All I can say is we just never know where we are going to end up. We have no real control over anything. All we can do is make plans and have hope that things will be okay. For  the last two years  the one thing I had wanted so much to do was to ride my horse again. It wasn’t  a lofty goal really but one that seemed to be unattainable to me not long ago. I didn’t want to give up the hope that one day I would ride again…..but for a while it was iffy…

Two years ago I thought I would never be able to do many activities again let alone ride a horse. My only goal then was trying to find someone to fix the pain I was in. That was a battle unto itself but I did not want to give up- because to do so left me in a very dire situation. One that I could not accept.

June 2016 was a start of an intense pain drama that was caused by breast cancer treatments. The pain had been an issue since my surgery in October of 2013. I had sought help for it with no luck and then it really  reared its ugly head in May 2016 leaving me bedridden for much of the next year. It was hell trying to find the a doctor who would listen to me and not send me away with a shake of the head. They either had no idea what was wrong with me or they thought I was nuts. But finally I found a surgeon who listened.

Today, three surgeries later. I am not that woman stuck all day and night in bed anymore- but I still live in chronic pain. But the levels I am managing- and there may be more surgery in my future. I am left with a disabled arm that I cant use fully and overuse causes pain. Sometimes I don’t know what that overuse is. But I just try to dance with it- sometimes I am in the lead and sometimes the pain is.

I have been hell bent on doing more living- I have always been a physically active person and I missed the mental boost such activity gave me. So many things I could not do. Some because of the limits of my arm and some activities were contra-indicated by my surgeon- one being horse back riding. It was a total bummer to hear this but I temporarily shelved that disappointment and sought another activity .  I bought a kayak with pedals so I could go out in the bay near our beach house. The feeling of independence being on the water propelling myself was intense and important in my recovery. I bought a bike. I began to walk more. I can do limited exercises in the gym.  But I was really missing the one activity I was told not to do—ride my horse.

In the summer of 2017 I was still in enough pain that I was not sure I could ride and on enough drugs I was not sure I should ride. But one day that summer  on a whim Kevin and I tacked up my horse Harley . He accepted the saddle and bridle so well  that I decided to get on and have Kevin lead me around the dry lot. I knew the surgeon had not been keen on my riding but I wanted to be in the saddle. It was just a pony ride but it was the kick I needed – I set a firm goal – I would  ride my horse again. But there were still obstacles to overcome.

I didn’t think it would take another year before I was able to ride again. I had another surgery in November of 2017 to hopefully further reduce my pain. I would say the result have been pretty good. I am off opiates but still need nerve pain medications. . I have pain flares more often than I would like. But I am doing more. The surgery itself – which was fat grafting -had a longer than expected recovery time.

Every time I went to see my nerve surgeon – Dr. Williams- I would tell him that I wanted to ride my horse.  HIs concern was that my arm would be yanked forward if the horse pulled the reins forward suddenly- and this does happen. This can cause more damage to my arm. Also there is the risk of falling off but I think in my case the real concern was with the yanking of my arm. So I wanted to rectify that. How to keep that from happening. There had to be a way . Maybe I would ride one armed. I began to look into that as an option.

Then sometime this past spring my farrier came. I was telling her my plan to try ride again. I explained my concerns of riding with two arms and one getting yanked and I was also becoming nervous about not being strong enough to ride using only one arm (my horse is also neck reined) if my horse pulled suddenly. She told me to get a Daisy Rein. I had no idea what they were but it turns out they are used often for young riders. The rein hooks onto the saddle and also to the bridle and that keep the horse from pulling his head down. Maybe it would work for this old rider!

I saw my surgeon again in July and explained how much I wanted to ride and told him about the rein. He never did give me his blessing but he told me if I did ride I needed to send him photos after I was safely off.  So that to me was an ok to go ahead.

My plan was to move slowly into riding my horse Harley beginning in early August- but life threw us a loop as we suddenly  lost Harleys companion a- our beloved Arab mare -Airy to colic. It was a tough loss on all of us and I again shelved trying to ride. This time more for Harley than for me. I knew it was a stressful time for a horse when there are changes like that adding me riding him after such a long time off might add to the stress – and we wanted another companion for Harley so the focus shifted on that. It took some time but we now have Hank and Yukon here. Hank belongs to our neighbor and Yukon is our Guardian horse form a local rescue.

One  day a few weeks ago  I went out to the barn to feed the horses and our neighbor was bringing Hank back from a ride. I began to feel that envy. That yearning to ride my horse. I really felt it was now or never so I began to get Harley tacked up. It is a bit of a chore for me to get it on while trying to limit the use of my arm but I was able to do it with Kevins help.

Before long I told Kevin I wanted another pony ride. I have to use a step to mount now to get on- it allows me to not use my arm too much.  I got up and settled – feet in stirrups and I was holding both reins because we put the daisy rein on to give that a try too. He tolerated it well and best of all it worked! He couldn’t pull very far so no yanking of my arm.  After a bit, I asked Kevin to let me go and and I took a deep breathe in and let it out and off I went.  I maneuvered Harley around the dry lot for a while..at a walk.. nothing fast. He did very well – and we then called it a day. Best to end on a good note when working with a horse. And I was not ready to ride in the fields yet. But it didn’t take much time for me to be ready! So much for slow starts.

Since that day I have ridden twice out in the fields. The last time – this past Saturday- I was able to tack up on my own. I have learned to yank the saddle out of my locker with one arm and I can toss it up on his back with one arm too.  It was very freeing to be able to do this on my own.

I also can ride with one arm so I switch from using two hands on the reins to one. It turns out my arms are in a “safe” position so I don’t think I will get a pain flare if I am careful – but again it is that dance i mentioned above. That day I was in the lead. Dismounting is a bit of a challenge. I now lower the stirrup iron and dismount on the  right which is the opposite side we proper English riders are taught to do.

Obstacles aside I can’t begin to explain the mental effect being able to ride again gives me. It is something I have needed. It didn’t feel like it had been two years since I had ridden solo. It was as if no time went by at all. I felt right at home in the saddle. I am so lucky to have the horse that I have. Some horses may have been too much for me after not being ridden for so long. Harley is a true champ. We have a bond.

My goal is to ride twice a week for now. I will have to be flexible on this as well as I live my life around things we have planned – social visits, traveling, and doctors visits. So I often curb any physical exercise for a couple days prior to doing these things because I don’t want to have a flare up of pain which may require me to cancel the plans.

But that is life as I live it now. I accept it. You just never know where you will end up…right now for me I ended up back in the saddle. How lucky I am….

….And Dr Williams has been sent a photo..with more to come…