Let the Countdown Begin!

What a crazy year, right? Have you ever watched or read Lemony Snicket’s children’s series A Series of Unfortunate Events?


It felt a little like I was living that title for most of this year. It makes me aware of my privilege to be able to say this, but I simply had to tune out all the things going on OUT THERE (waves hand dramatically) in order to have the energy to handle the things going on in my own life. Here’s a rough timeline:

  • mid-March: Covid and all its weirdness and my own attempts to cope with it by trying too hard to take care of the rest of you. 🥴 (Yes, I DO that!!)
  • mid-April: Micky impaled himself with an 8″ x 3/4″ stick and had to be rushed to the vet. Of course we couldn’t go in because … covid.
  • early May: got a call from the Newport, OR port saying that Justin’s 44′ fishing boat was being lived in by several drug addicts. We went down for two weeks to suss it up and begin the cleaning and repair process. LOTS of damage. 😠
  • May 29th: Home again. Justin and I were rear ended leaving the car parts store. My beloved (and old) Subaru with over 300,000 miles on it was totaled. Fortunately, we only suffered from whiplash –or so we thought.
  • June 11th: mom went into the hospital the first time with acute idiopathic pancreatitis (I became primary caretaker.) She came home on the 17th.
  • June 21st: mom back into local hospital with a pseudocyst (related to the pancreatitis.) Then transported to Swedish hospital. She was released on the 3rd of July
  • July 4th: mom almost died (my brother Sean saved her life with CPR) and was airlifted back to Swedish where she spent several weeks enjoying the fantastic care from Swedish staff in what she called her “high rise condo” overlooking Seattle’s waterfront. I got to be home for a week during this time when she was stable and being well cared for, and then went back for the second week. She was released July 23rd, a day before my birthday. Happy birthday to me! 🥰
  • July 29th: A wildfire broke out a mile from mom’s house on Lake Crescent. My brother Greg and I spent several days clearing debris around both houses, and setting up the sprinkler system. We also enlisted other family members to help us get mom’s most treasured possessions out of the house. Fortunately, the amazing fire crew (airplane, helicopter and ground) had the fire 98% contained by August 10th. It only burned 85 acres and no structures were damaged.

And that only takes us into August!! 

😲

I’d like to say the rest of the year was calmer … it FELT calmer, mostly because mom stayed out of the hospital except for check-ups and bi-weekly blood draws.

But between driving back and forth to Newport, OR to continue helping Justin repair his boat, being the primary errand runner and grocery shopper for mom, managing our rental cabin (with GREAT help cleaning between guests from three of my nieces), and providing meals, love and adventures once / week to my youngest brother’s five kiddos … (he was able to teach remotely, so he came up to visit for what was going to be two weeks, but ended up being a few months) I stayed pretty busy.

Of course, there was also a lot of catch up to do in my own backyard: my garden was a MESS of weeds after a summer of neglect and of course the dogs and Justin had been neglected as well.


How did I manage all this and not lose my mind (or my cool)?

Well, like my friend Teena –who became the mother of a quadriplegic son when he got in a bike accident in his 20’s– always says, “you do what you do.”

Right? Although not everyone does what they do with grace.

So in addition:

A) like I mentioned in the beginning, I simply had to tune out everything else going on in the world.

B) I ALWAYS felt supported. Whether it was mom’s friends sending me money for food or hotels, my nieces cleaning the cabin between guests, Justin postponing boat projects to care for the dogs, my family and friends sending me supportive texts, I felt the love. SO MUCH!!

C) I adopted the mantra “one role at a time.” That is, when I was with Justin, I tried to fully be with Justin. When I was in Seattle supporting mom, and later running her errands, that was my focus. When I was adventuring with and caring for my nieces and nephews, my attention was there. And I included time to take care of my self. Of course I didn’t do any of it perfectly, and sometimes guilt that I still wasn’t doing enough creeped in, but staying focused on one role at a time helped me stay present with what was right in front of me.

Somewhere in the middle of all of that, I started getting treatment for my whiplash from the car accident. My right shoulder was giving me a lot of trouble. I thought maybe it was frozen shoulder coming on because my doctor told me once you’ve had it in one shoulder it can come back in the other. I tried chiropractic care from my brother first, and then massage care from my amazing sister-in-law.

But after a few massage sessions, my shoulder still hurt, so we decided I should get an MRI to see whether the muscle tightness was causing the pain or something else was causing the muscle tightness.

I have a full thickness, full width tear of the distal supraspinatus tendon, a shallow partial thickness articular sided tear of the anterior infraspinatus tendon and a partial tear of the intra-articular long head biceps tendon!

Guess what? I have a full thickness, full width tear of the distal supraspinatus tendon AND a shallow partial thickness articular sided tear of the anterior infraspinatus tendon AND a partial tear of the intra-articular long head biceps tendon. Finding all that out sure made me feel like less of a wimp! But it’s also funny how somatic pain can be. Once I realized I had something legit to complain about, I also noticed the pain more.

Anyway. Fast forward to tomorrow: rotator cuff surgery for me at 6 am.
Then a L O N G (apparently) recovery process. A sling for six weeks, then I can start doing a tiny bit more. I’ve been told the full recovery can take one to two years. I’ve also been told that the pain is intense. Yikes! 😲

Fortunately, I had over 30-days notice so in true Kristin fashion I made a huge “to-do-before-surgery” list which included stocking the pantry / freezer / refrigerator with healthy foods, putting my garden to bed for the winter, a deep fall cleaning of the house, plus more inside and outside chores. Plus all the things I could think of that require two good arms and that would drive me crazy if they didn’t get done.

I had to put a few of the outside chores off until spring, and the inside chores have a way of multiplying. You know how that goes. But I’m ready. As ready as one can be.


Ironically, the topic for my writing group yesterday morning was vulnerability. I bet you can guess that I have some challenges with that.

I smiled and rolled my eyes when I heard the instructor give us the timed writing assignment. The Divine always knows just what to put in front of me to make me face things I’m avoiding. So I took a deep breath and asked myself the question “what are the times when I’ve felt most vulnerable?”

The Summit of Mt. Rainier with my grad school buddies in 2008. That’s me holding the sign in the middle.

About three or four stories from my mountain climbing days popped into my head. Times I was absolutely terrified to go forward, but there was also no going back. There was my first climb (Mt. Adams) when I’d just crossed my first crevasse and then came to a shelf of shale I had to scramble over in my plastic boots. There were the last bits of the Mt. Olympus climb when I had to climb across a rocky face and then scramble up a rocky cliff (roped up and billeted of course) with a 1000′ drop beneath me. And there was the responsibility of being a leader on my second Mt. Baker climb when the bridge across the crevasse started to collapse under our two primary leaders and as the third most experienced climber I had to find us a new safe bridge across the crevasse! And finally, there was my second Mt. Rainier climb where once again I found myself the third most experienced climber. I was given the job of safety commander, but every suggestion was undermined by our team leader. There were SO MANY unsafe decisions made that trip. I was a wreck afterwards and I haven’t climbed since.

But as I wrote about those situations, I realized it wasn’t the fear of doing the physical thing that was so debilitating for me, it was the fear of not being emotionally supported. It was the need to keep it all together while not being certain that was possible. [And then, perhaps, being hard on myself for losing it rather than giving myself the emotional support I need.] The truth is, I’m great in a crisis. I go into “what needs to be done and what do I need to do.” And I appear calm on the outside. But inside, especially afterwards, I can physically shake for hours.


Funny. In January, when I set my intentions for the year –before all this craziness that has been 2020 were fully in motion– one of the three words I chose to focus on for the year was “welcoming.”

Part of the way I defined that word –in reference to me– was to welcome what Francis Weller calls the “unclaimed” parts of myself. The discomfort that comes from feeling vulnerable and messy and out of control. The parts that I rarely let myself see, let alone anyone else.

As I wrote all that and continued to ponder it later, I realized I am most afraid of this surgery because I’m afraid I might not be able to hide my vulnerable, messy, emotionally out of control side of me while I’m in recovery. And I’m afraid if I can’t, there will be no emotional support.

Logically of course, I know that’s ridiculous.

But you can’t ridicule your fear and expect it to go away. You must befriend it.


So that’s my challenge for the end of this year: to recover from surgery, learn to use my left hand, and to befriend my fear of vulnerability and being emotionally out of control.

How about you? What’s on your agenda for wrapping up this crazy year? I’d love to hear from you.

PS) I have double reasons to be looking forward to January 20th. The inauguration of a blessedly new president –and female Vice– and my six weeks in the sling will be up so I can drive again. Hallelujah!

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