Walk On

It has been a time. We dropped off our oldest son at his therapeutic boarding school on Monday, which is when I finally felt the relief of all the preparation (packing, prescriptions, doctor visits) it took to get there and also when the fury of activity that I put on the back burner while caregiving all began boiling.

In the midst, I've also had moving and unexpectedly emotionally-wrought experiences. I've felt a shifting physically and emotionally over the past few days.

Let's start with Saturday.

Saturday was my son's last riding lesson at his therapeutic riding center called Walk On. He started many years ago. I can't count back how far now. Gigi, his grandmother and a child/adolescent therapist, found the riding center and gifted him a lesson for Christmas one year. We stayed and stayed and stayed. He learned to love horses and riding. I made a good friend, another mother whose son had lessons at the same time. Walk On saw my son through some very difficult times including hospitalizations and residential placements, and also through some very positive times including magical years of late junior high when he was doing quite well emotionally.

As I watched him ride Wilbur through the arena on Saturday, I couldn't hold the tears back. We experienced a lot between his first day there and his last, and being with horses helped him through so much. "Walk On" is a term a rider uses to encourage the horse to move. It was our turn that day to walk on.

We walked on to Sunday.

Sunday, when we zipped-up the last duffel bag and zipped away to the East Coast for my son's new school. We arrived to the hotel around 11PM. Pitch black where we were, and my son turned to me and said, "I already feel so good about this school and we aren't even there yet." There's such a different, quiet vibe in rural Connecticut than the lights, sirens, and concrete of downtown Chicago. My son went straight to bed, slept soundly through the night (which surprised me because I would have thought he'd have trouble sleeping the night before starting a new school far from home). The drop-off went smoothly. He's since emailed us a few times and we've talked on the phone today. He's made friends, loves all the various activities, and feels good about being there.

Monday took me back to movie mode. I'm in prep for a short, prep for a feature, prepping for a two-day lab that starts tomorrow, and prepping a DCP and press kit for a film fest in South Korea. My first feature is making its international debut at the Seoul Women's International Film Festival. Very exciting... and this week, a lot of work.

The days bleed together now.

But let's call it Tuesday, I went for a massage for my shoulder, and to see my chiropractor for Network Spinal Analysis. At both of these appointments, I cried. I sobbed. At the shoulder massage, the therapist released an incredible amount of tension I didn't realize I was carrying in my arm, my underarm, and my shoulder. "You're guarded," she told me. I felt it. She was right. All these months since September when I smashed my humeral head into four different pieces, my muscles have cemented themselves into a holding position. Today, everything is healed. It's all anatomically correct. My bone is completely intact and back together. But my surrounding muscles are still holding tight.

When I went to see Dr. Katie Ray at New Day, she asked me to sit with my body for a moment, to feel where I had pain, and to try to understand it. I don't have pain in my everyday existence, but it has been showing up when I'm doing treatment with her lately. And Tuesday, I realized it's the pain of holding on. Until this week, I hadn't allowed myself to feel emotions about my break. It was so bad, that the surgeon paused the surgery to confer with others about doing a shoulder replacement instead of patching together the bone. That's how bad this break was. And I've never really acknowledged that.

For weeks, I was in denial that it even happened. I recall asking my husband often, "Can you believe I broke my shoulder and had surgery? That's so strange." It may have sounded like a rhetorical question, but I do think it was a kind of denial. Maybe I've grief cycled my way to acceptance? This physical manipulation of my shoulder through massage and a focus on the pain that arises during chiropractic treatment is my body telling me not to ignore what happened. To get through the recovery, I need to process what happened and not gloss over it.

And then I saw my physical therapist. That was Wednesday. Yesterday. Our last session. Humana cut off my PT. Because I can basically function (can't change a lightbulb!) and get through my tasks of daily living, health insurance decided I'm cured enough for them (still can't raise my arm up!). I was so grateful for her weekly help of joint manipulation and exercises and giving me my work to do at home. While I'm not where I know I can get, her help getting me this far is immeasurable.

And then I went to see Frida Kahlo.

College of DuPage has an exhibit of her work. I attended with my closest friends. I met them in high school, and we have been friends over 30 years. Being with them is like slipping on your old, favorite, cozy sweater. Easy. Comfortable. Honest. There is a painting I stared at. Self Portrait with Small Monkey, 1945. There is a dog in it. The dog looked furious to me. Mad. So upset. And then I looked at Frida. Her eyes, piercing. Unhappy, too. And then the monkey, staring off into the middle distance, hoping all the upset and anger would dissipate, wanting something different, but stuck in a painting with these very angry and upset individuals. It made me cry. I cried again.

That painting expressed so much of what I had been feeling the past few days. The anger at my shoulder, at having my son so far away from me, at Humana for taking away my treatment, at myself for a slow recovery, at the fact that our wonderful Gigi is gone. And the monkey, the outward me and also the inward me who doesn't want to face the dog or the person. The monkey who wants to pretend nothing difficult is happening. To sit there, cute and fluffy. And in the background of the painting is an orange figure, full of sadness. I didn't mention that figure previously in the description of the painting because I would prefer it weren't there.

I didn't realize I had all these feelings.

Now that I've cried and thought and processed a little, I feel things shifting. I'm not sure what that means. Where it's shifting from. What it's shifting to. Shifting is too precise of a word. I feel a movement. A walking. Maybe a new day. Maybe I'm letting my guard down, and that's the next step in healing. Walk on.


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