When the Dog Won’t Go Out and Your Eyelashes are Frozen

“If your dog wasn’t such a diva,” Jaeger said to me, “she could go outside in the winter without a jacket and boots.” I defended Lucy, saying that she’s not a diva. She just has short fur and sensitive paws, and … Okay, maybe she is a bit of a diva. But I love her in spite of it.

My oldest son and I were talking about the sudden drop in temperatures which lately have reached an uncomfortable kind of cold. People around here will complain and brag in equal measures about how much cold we can tolerate. Personally, since I work from home, I’m fortunate not to be all that inconvenienced by the weather, except where my dog is concerned. It takes some effort to get her into her jacket (which she loves) and her doggy boots (which she hates). Think Randy in A Christmas Story only instead of a mom stuffing her child into a snowsuit, it’s me coaxing my dog’s paws into the booties that she barely tolerates. Yet if she doesn’t have them when thermometer goes below zero, she comes back inside favoring her paws and I feel like a bad dog-mom. But even with the boots yesterday, Lucy was reluctant to go out. I can’t tell you how many times I got her all bundled up only for her to stop in her tracks a few feet out the door, her body language saying NOPE in no uncertain terms as she turned back to the patio door begging to come back inside. And in case you’re asking, “Why all the fuss? When she really needs to go, she’ll go out, right?” Wrong. All of this effort is to avoid the bladder infections Lucy has given herself in previous years when she would just hold it rather than endure the cold.

You can’t make me go out there!

So it was that cold and I didn’t go out for a walk yesterday. But as I drove to the grocery store, I saw a brave soul making a hardy trek down one of my regular walking paths. And I contemplated, “I could put snow pants on too and get out there after I’m done at the store.” But then Chesney texted some photos. She and Farm Boy were spending time outside with his family after their annual New Year’s Day lunch. The little ones wanted to go sledding, and she wanted to show me her frosty eyelashes and Farm Boy’s frozen beard. I think that sealed the deal for me. No walk.

But I need to walk. Walking is usually an almost daily thing for me, except since I suffered an acute muscle strain in my lower back almost a month ago. I’d love to brag about the admirable and strenuous activity I was tackling at the time of my injury. But I can’t. I acutely strained my lower back while bending over. I was bundling up for my daily walk. I had donned my jacket, scarf, and hiking boots, and was just reaching down to pick up my ear muffs which had fallen to the floor where I was standing in the foyer. And that’s when it happened. I reached for the muffs and felt something like a snap, and then a fire spreading in my lower back. I paused for a moment in surprise and a bit of panic. I told myself, “Don’t let this defeat you! Get out there. Walk it off. WALK IT OFF!”

I tried. I really did. But there was no walking it off. I made it one block to my neighbor’s house where she met me at the corner and commented on how it appeared I was limping. I briefly explained what had happened and said I was sure the walk would ease out the kinks. But another block later, my muscles were tensing even more and I began to fear I wouldn’t be able to get back home. I admitted defeat and turned back. The next day I could barely get out of bed and could hardly move around the house without shooting pain running down my left hip. I had to steady myself for a few moments when getting up from a chair before I could take a step. It was all rather humiliating for someone who makes a good effort to stay as healthy as possible.

Three days later when I managed to get to a chiropractor appointment, my doctor told me this kind of muscle strain is really common, which made me a little better and slightly less decrepit. He also said that it would take some time to heal and that I needed to take it easy for a few weeks. A few weeks? I honestly didn’t believe it would take that long. After all, I have a pretty regular habit of moving my body, both with various workouts and walks. And for crying out loud, I’m in my mid-fifties, not the mid-nineties!

I figured I just needed a week to get back to normal, but sadly, I was wrong about that too. I really should learn to trust the chiropractor, I think, with his umpteen years of education in this area.) Prior to the muscle strain, I had really been pushing myself in my workouts, thinking the harder I pushed, the more I was fighting the aging process. But as my chiropractor also said to me, “When we reach the age that we are,” which was kind of him to say since he’s five years younger than me and in really great shape, “we have to start listening to our bodies a little more closely.”

Point taken. We will start listening to my body a little closer. I’ll continue to start my days with some kind of workout, but I’ll incorporate more gentle movement. And from now on, if it hurts, I’ll modify instead of thinking I can push past the pain. But the one thing that really seems to loosen those back muscles is walking. And I really need the weather to be more cooperative so I can get back to it. Today’s high is predicted to be three degrees, and that’s not going to happen until after I’ve gone to bed. So I can’t promise I’ll break out the snow pants and get out there today. (Maybe I’m a bit of a diva like Lucy.) The next three days, however, look much better with highs in the double digits. And I promise myself I will get out there again.

Blissfully Peaceful

I didn’t sleep well last night for no particularly apparent reason. I was awake this morning long before the alarm went off.

I work out each morning before I start the rest of my day. The physical activity gives both my body and mind a boost and helps me feel more prepared to face whatever may lie ahead. And if I get up on time, I might also have a few minutes to spare after a workout to meditate before the day’s demands start piling up.

I started exploring meditation in the past couple of years with the help of some free apps. I quickly found that it can help alleviate a general sense of anxiety that I seem to hold onto. My boss is extremely invested in wellness and self-care of all sorts. She’s big into yoga and encourages us to schedule daily breaks from work to go outside for a run or walk, or to meditate. So I considered myself very fortunate when she spent part of the department’s budget on HeadSpace subscriptions for the entire team. I use it often. I’m not consistently good at it, but I’ve found a sense of calm through these meditations frequently enough to want to keep working on it.

In spite of my lack of sleep, I didn’t feel fatigued or out-of-sorts this morning. It probably helped that today’s workout wasn’t so much a workout as a recovery routine, a yoga-inspired series of flowing and stretching. It helped me unwind and put me in a good frame of mind. I had plenty of time afterwards before I had to feed Lucy and then take a shower, so I pulled up my HeadSpace app and selected the day’s featured meditation.

Unlike so many other times, today I didn’t have to fight the constant interruption of thoughts or remind my muscles to relax as I tried to meditate. My eyes closed easily and my lungs filled slowly and deeply with each breath. Finally, a deep calm settled over me along with a sense of floating on clouds. It was blissfully peaceful, almost a high. I wanted to stay there forever, but of course, I couldn’t. Still, I realized how wonderful it was, even if only for a short time, to let go of the need to leap from one thought to the next, the constant list-making, and the compounding of expectations that so often occurs in my brain. All I felt was a deep sense of quiet and peace.

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This was the first thing for which I was grateful today. If nothing else went well, at least I had this.