“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Poet Muriel Rukeyser

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Exercising Life in All It's Complexity

One of my goals during these two weeks of "stay-cation" is to maintain my exercise routine. Said routine is: one day of a 30 minute strength building workout with weights followed by something cardio - a 20 minute YouTube by Dennis Austin or a dog walk. Some days I do all three. The next day I will take a 20+ minute bike ride followed by 20+ minutes of yoga (using a podcast video from Yogamazing), and of course, if it's not too hot, a dog walk.

Walking my dogs has been a regular part of my routine for 14 years. It's one reason I have dogs - to encourage me to get outside and walk! Now, however, as my dogs age, this more of a challenge for them. Oh, they still LOVE their walk, but we simply cannot go very far. This is particularly true for my 14 year old Roxie.

The other day my husband and I leashed up all three dogs and headed off for a walk. It was a relatively reasonable day, only in the 80's. We ended up taking one of our longer, but usual routes. I've been a little concerned about Roxie's ability to manage a long walk, but she seemed good. In fact I was commenting on how well she was doing as we rounded the corner to head home, some 35 minutes later.

We crossed the street and just as we were stepping up on the curb Roxie went into a full blown grand mal seizure. Right there in the street, in the right hand turn lane. This is her third seizure since the beginning of May when she had two a week apart. This is the first one she's had outside while on a walk, but it was by no means unexpected. Still it was traumatic.

I took the other two dogs and tied them up on the railing at the entrance to the church. They were completely silent - very rare - obviously aware that something bad was happening. Then I returned to my husband who was applying chest compressions to Roxie. Her body was stiff and contorted. Cars were driving by. I was worried that a car would hit them. I helped my husband lift Roxie to the sidewalk. She was slowly regaining consciousness. A man approached us and asked if we needed help. He thought our dog had been hit my a car, but I explained that she was having a seizure, something she is prone too. He waited a moment, offered water. But slowly Roxie got to her feet, wobbled a bit like she was intoxicated, and then slowly got her bearings. We thanked the man for his offer of help. Gently we walked her home.

This seizure was a bad one. It took her two hours to recover and gain full use of her hind legs again. And so Dan and I have had the conversation - do we do chest compressions the next time? Or, as my daughter said, perhaps next time she will not revive. One way or the other, it is only a matter of time.

As I think about that I realize that today is my mother's birthday. She would have been 73, not old at all. She died suddenly at 65 from a heart attack, which happened in the middle of the night. My mother's health was not good. She was not well physically. She was not well emotionally. As her only daughter I was not looking forward to caring for her in her old age. Because of her emotional fragility we had a strained, difficult relationship. Caring for her would have been very hard. And so there is in me, sadly, some relief that I have been spared that burden by her early death. The truth, is for me, she died the year I finally understood, from therapy, that no matter how healthy I became emotionally and physically, my mother would never be capable of a healthy, normal relationship - such was her damaged self. Her physical death was, nonetheless, very sad for me. Sad even because it was also a relief.

Caring for this old dog is not the same as caring for a human being. I can't really draw a relationship between the two, however, because of the love I have for this dog, and the strained relationship I had with my mother. Still, my mother was my mother - she gave me life and despite all the challenges I loved her. And, I understood that she was who she was. I harbor no anger, just sorrow that she was so damaged - she was so smart and witty - she could have had an amazing life! Were it not for the high degree of emotional and physical abuse she suffered at the hands of her alcoholic parents...and her own fragile nature that was broken by that abuse. In her own way she did the best she could do as a parent...

On this day I give thanks for the gift of life - for good health (emotional and physical), for the long healthy life of my sweet dog, for the time I have yet to spend with her, and for my mother, who even in her woundedness encouraged me to go to college and make the best of my life. I'm grateful too for some time to rest and renew, so important for good health.

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