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Unexpected lessons learned


It’s been a rough couple of weeks.

I think everyone can agree on that to some degree. It’s hot and humid, most of us haven’t had any rain to speak of in a month and everything that was so green four weeks ago is now crunching under foot. The Fourth of July is hard on some folks who struggle for various reasons with fireworks — it’s just generally been rough.

But for me, all of that was complicated last week when I was reduced to the use of one hand — one arm, really — by my decision to ride for five hours over two days the previous weekend on highways and dirt roads with my arm hanging out the window.

Turns out, muscles don’t really like prolonged periods of continuous resistance. Especially as they get older.

My spouse and I do this thing that we really enjoy where we take the car out of town, point it down a road — any road will do — and just go until we can’t go anymore, taking turns at random and discovering hidden gems. We call it “car therapy.” 

It’s something that we don’t do very often, especially lately, on account of gas prices being what they are, but when we do, it keeps us firmly connected to this place we call home. And it’s something we’ve done a hundred times over the last 10 years if we have done once, and never before have I come away from the experience with an injury.

I’m still shaking my head.

By the time last Monday rolled around, I’d been hurting for two days and told myself, “If it doesn’t get better tomorrow, I’ll go get my arm seen.” By the end of the day, I was in so much pain I was near tears and felt like I was going to black out. I have a very high pain tolerance, so that told me tomorrow wasn’t going to be here fast enough.

Once at the urgent care clinic, after some poking and prodding and a comical routine in which the nurse gently told me to relax so she could give my arm a proper examination, and I would tell her, “I am relaxed!” only to hear her retort, “Not even close,” I had a humbling realization: I don’t relax. I’m uptight.

I strained the muscles in my arm not because I am getting older, or at least not only, but because I don’t know how to relax.

I’ve been laughing about it for almost two weeks. Anyone who knows me well at all knows why. 

I like to be in charge, to call the shots, to be independent. I also like to know what to expect and when to expect it and heaven help anyone try to throw me a surprise party without giving me some kind of preparation. 

For my 40th birthday a couple of years ago, my spouse planned a huge surprise for me with the help of my parents in Kansas and some friends of ours at a local business establishment, and blessedly had the common sense to tell me, “You’re going out to eat, and there will be a surprise for you. I’m not telling you where or what, so don’t even ask, but I’m pretty sure you’ll love it and you’ll cry.” 

That’s all I ask. I don’t need details, just tell me what to expect and when, and I can handle the rest.

No one told me to expect a muscle strain from five hours of trying to relax. 

Go figure.

It came in handy, though. It was a good reminder for me to keep my priorities in place, and to take care of myself and let other people do the heavy lifting sometimes — literally and figuratively. And by the time we made it to the river this last weekend, I managed to be so relaxed, I was moved to tears by the joy of it all.

When the going gets rough for you, where do you go? What do you do? How do you stay connected to your roots? I’d love to hear all about it. Shoot me an email at abbyh@wpdailyquill.net or send me a letter at P.O. Box 110, West Plains Daily Quill, West Plains, MO 65775.


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