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An embarrassment of riches: this will be coming to you in installments. Here's the first.

Last week a number of you commented on a request, mostly asking for input on how to lose and maintain weight loss, exercise and rehab as we age. I posed that question to three of my readers who have agency in the matter. I got one set of responses right away, the other two are in queue and their responses will be coming along shortly.

Saga Supporter Nalini McNab offered up more than her fair share. She sent me three articles which I am going to read, parce through and put into another article. However it was her personal email to me that I want to put forth here for several reasons. Not only does this story speak to who she is, but also to how she has lived her life and how she is managing right now. This piece was inspired by NancyL who wrote about taking a dog out for extra steps and allofasudden the hip wasn't happy. We can all relate, my guess.

I found this to be profound. Nalini had a stroke out of the blue and this is how she dealt with it:

...I had been athletic all my life. I spent much of my youth in the woods, climbing around among the trees and having adventures in the creek at the bottom of our hill. I had been a martial arts instructor, and, so, studied fitness, especially as to how it affects women’s bodies.  The forms of Shotokan karate included moves that women need to alter or adjust, or just plain avoid. When I learned how to adjust my back stance to a woman’s pelvic structure, it changed my whole training practice. One tucks the front hip, in the way dancers know the expression. That realigns the pelvic bowl with the lower back and opens more fluidity of movement.

That said, I was healthy and fit when I moved to the Sierras. The stroke and how it left me without any stamina or endurance whatsoever was a shock to my system in pretty much every possible way. I knew, from my years of training, that what my body needed to do was to move. But how?

I wanted to start too fast. My body and my intuition screamed “no!”  With my brain healing, I had no synaptic access to ‘what to do.’ I had to rest. I learned, for the first time in my life, to ask for help. I also learned not to push help away when offered. I remember my friend Sofia gently taking a sharp knife from my hands one morning, saying, “Let me do that.” I was slicing bread for toast. I was also on massive doses of blood thinners and was not supposed to handle sharp objects. Rather than deal with any reactivity on my part, she simply stepped in and dealt with what needed to be done. I learned a lot from that moment!

I learned that it was not the best thing for me to run my “do by self!” routine. I had done so since childhood and it was time to learn a new way. I had to surrender into patience. I was faced with my own stubborn pride. I had to re-learn what ‘one step at a time” can mean, when taking a step seems impossible. I had to learn to communicate clearly with a healing brain.

In 2019, while visiting in Australia  I told a man who had recently had a stroke, to “describe” when he couldn’t remember a word. I was able to explain to him and to his partner that the word he wanted is ’there’ in grey matter storage.  The synaptic access path simply needed to be re-established. I recalled my own process, letting both of them know that the first casualty of the healing adventure would likely be pride. I laughed with them, citing the example of forgetting the word for ’sock’ and describing it as ’the thing that goes between your foot and your shoe.’ My brain began to search and my friend supplied ’sock,’ so that the cerebral connection could be made from the inside, out. I then had to practice that connection a few times. The brain’s holographic function took over and a new synaptic circuit formed.

My deep work entailed commitment and surrender. I knew I was healthy and my body could heal. Seventeen days after the incident, the friend who had been there to cook, caretake, and walk my dog, had to leave. My housemate was in total PTSD about my condition, so I let my dog wake me up that next morning, pulled up my courage by its bootstraps, and found her leash. She had to go out. I had to take her. I bounced off the walls to the front door, put my jacket on inside out, and snapped her leash onto her collar. I stood on the front porch, giving my body the instruction to balance with every breath, and let her go the length of the flexi-lead to do her thing.

That evening, my housemate took over and took my furry one for a walk.
The next morning, I tried a few cautious steps across the porch. I tried to take too many and collapsed, luckily into a sitting position. My furry one was amazing the whole time. If she had been larger, I swear she would have tried to pick me up. I caught my breath, used a porch pole to stand, and made it back into the house. The next morning, I made it to the edge of the porch.  A week later, I tried to walk to the end of the driveway. {about 50 yards} I would have practicing, liked to go farther, but did not attempt it. Every day I used incremental increases and determination to lengthen our time outdoors.  I drew on what I knew from practicing martial arts moves over and over again. Repetition builds muscle memory and the body’s confidence, as well as endurance.

Three weeks later, we made our first circle around the ‘block.’ Pre-stroke that would have taken about 10-15 minutes. This time it took 45. It didn’t matter. We did it! We repeated that circuit every morning for a week. Then, we did it the other way ‘round. That direction had a slight incline. The first time was tough. I had to stop to catch my breath {at 9000 feet}. By the third morning, we added a little cul-de-sac loop.

The point here  is that I drew on what my body had already been trained to do, and pared that knowledge down to the basics, using repetition and a combination of common sense and intuition to know that what my ego would have like to do had nothing to do with what had to be done. Pushing was counter-productive. Thinking  “Oh, that’s no problem” would get me into trouble.

So, I would tell the dog-walking-injured reader that, when in recovery, it is a new game. We have not been thrown off our game, but are learning new skills. Recovering gracefully is, indeed, learning about Grace. I leaned in and Grace caught me, literally more than a few times. When I couldn’t muster the strength to lace my snow boots, I didn’t. I donned something that took less effort, with more breathing in between. I slowed. everything. down. I had no choice. Many of us do have this choice, but do not choose to exercise it. Pun intended. The cadence of rehab is slower than we might like, but slowing down leads to quicker recovery.

I suppose the takeaway here is that anything can heal, and for that to happen, the deep work involves surrendering what we think we know and trusting what our bodies know. I had to. My brain had been injured. It was probably that, that made the difference. Otherwise, I would have pushed, as I had always done. (author bolded)

I bolded what stood out for me. From where I sit, I've had to sit my ego down in much the same way, and learn to let someone be of service. It is a greater strength to be vulnerable than it is to bull our way forward and end up even more injured. Nalini is steeped in Divine Goddess work, and that messaging, for me, is woven throughout all this.

I struggle mightily with vulnerability, and have tended to push away those who wish to be of service. I've learned, finally, that in doing so we rob them of the joy of being kind. We'd feel the same way, rejected, and perhaps even resentful, when our genuine offers of support are slapped away. This is a massive life lesson for me, for in my life, vulnerability has led to rejection. To paint all kindnesses with such a brush isn't fair to those who truly appear  in our lives just when we need them.

My heartfelt thanks to Nalini for this, and for her input. I will be adding to this more later. For my part this is how we grace each other. Your comments on this and all other articles are encouraged and much appreciated.

Golden sunrise.
Photo by Diana Măceşanu / Unsplash

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