Wading Barefoot

Rediscovering my barefoot-self

Wall of Pain

I was in such pain tonight walking Sally that I had to stop where I was and sit in the backyard on the wet lawn because I couldn’t stand any longer. I’m glad it was dark and nobody saw me. Pain has become a huge problem for me over the last few years and tonight I let it get the better of me.

When my body hurts like this there is little else I can do but sit down on the spot, wherever I happen to be. I keep trying to take on this pain and force myself to tolerate it or stretch and work through it, but it outlasts me every time. It is a fierce pain.

Spending a lot of time in pain has changed the way I see myself and my world; it has been a very bitter experience. I’ve always guarded my independence but as time has passed I’ve had to give up more and more of my freedom because of pain. I sold my car in July 2009 and with it went my ability to do anything outside of my walking range, which was about two miles at that time. Today, 2012- I call it a good day when I can walk the 25 yards to the stop sign at the end of my street. On a bad day, I don’t make it outside. Most days are a compromise of the good with the bad. One rather surprising change is that I am more impatient than I used to be- that’s saying quite a lot, trust me.

Something I hadn’t expected from living with pain was the onset of irrational phobias. I’ve always been claustrophobic and I’ve experienced the power of panic attacks; but as I lose control of my own comings and goings I start feeling closed in, cornered like there are actual walls confining me to this ever tightening space. The walls may be invisible but the urgency to break free of the pain is intense and I think it brings on a sense overwhelming anxiety.

Anxiety is something I’ve faced before in my life. In fact, At the age of twenty I had my first panic attack. Now, thirty-three years later I can handle most any public situation you can throw at me. *Okay, I exaggerate, but truly I’ve come very far and I’m proud of the work I’ve done to make this happen. It did not come easy, nor did it come quickly. It took all my effort to stay in the moment, create balance and focus without holding my breath (I discovered that I hold my breath when I’m scared) I learned to meditate through the pain and the anxiety. I learned that during the really hard times, when I’m wiped out with pain or paralyzed by fear that I need to better control my thoughts and focus my breathing. To that end, I created a place In my mind where I would feel serene and calm. It was a sailboat with a wooden mast. At anchor, the rocking motion of the boat made the mast creak in rhythm with the tide. I visited this place so many times that I could ‘put’ myself there in a single breath if I need be. Nobody was ever the wiser that while I was picking out tomatoes, I was listening to the gentle rocking of my boat. While kids in grocery carts pester their parents endlessly for this or that, all I hear are seagulls overhead yammering for a free lunch. I learned that reality really is yours to create and for me that was an enormous coup. I could take back control in any moment and that worked wonders.

*Ironic twist: in the past couple of years I have become anxious in water. Not the bath tub water, but rivers, lakes and even swimming pools. Consequently my sailboat is not as calming as it once was. I’m in the process of finding another focal point.

It occurs to me that for everything I’ve experienced in life some lesson has been learned and tonight was no exception. When my back tightened up and the pain got the better of me, I lost my temper. I got frustrated with the dog, snapped at her and headed in the house. I immediately felt like a heel. It wasn’t that I yelled at her, it was that I treated her unfairly; it wasn’t her fault. She was sniffing out all her marks and patrolling her territory and couldn’t have known how much it was hurting me to stand there with her. As soon as I got in the house I grabbed a chair and sat with my eyes closed, wishing for the pain to subside. Sally stood patiently waiting for me to remove her gear. It took a long time before I could move again, but when I looked down she’d laid her head in my lap and was looking up at me with such love in her eyes. My heart melted and the pain stopped; unconditional love is a powerful thing.

I continue on my path to enlightenment and I hope that you experience unconditional love along yours as well.

© Kathleen Ryan-McCullough, 2012

March 27, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lessons Learned

My parents said I was impatient and pushy, almost to the point of being ‘bossy’. They weren’t wrong, I still have these traits. My folks did help me learn to control my anger and be more tolerant. In fact, they raised me to question everything but to do so with as much respect to my fellow traveler as I possibly could. My temper however has been something I’ve battled with all my life. My father said I had an Irish ‘red-headed’ temper. He warned me not to eat black pepper as he believed it caused stress and ultimately, anger (I have yet to find a correlation between pepper and anger but I love black pepper).

It was his idea that I take equestrian lessons. It was quite a good idea as it turned out; the horses taught me more about my own attitude than any human ever could. You see, dogs and cats forgive easily (okay, more so for dogs than cats). As an example: Have you ever gotten mad and walked away, slamming the door behind you? Of course you have, we all have. I did this just the other day. I was at the end of my rope and knew that I had to get quiet and alone for a few minutes to get myself back together again. As I slammed my bedroom door I caught a glimpse of my three year old German Shepherd, Sally, who was in process of following me into the room. She picks up on my emotions very quickly and responds right away. So, when I let go of the door what I saw was her looking confused and a little worried. I didn’t look back, I slammed the door and laid on my bed until the knot in my throat loosened. When I came out of the room, there she was sitting in that very same spot all wiggling, waiting for me. It made me think of how much happier we all might be if we behaved more like our canine pals. I mean really, you can yell at your dog and walk away, but when you return, there’s your dog all wiggly, waiting to make up. *Dogs don’t hold grudges, although they can, and some would be quite justified in doing so. Dogs help keep us in the moment. They give us a reason to get up in the morning and remind us all the time that forgiveness is the true key to happiness.

Horses however, don’t always take forgiveness to the extremes that dogs do. Some are more tolerant than others, but for the most part, horses see things in black and white. I began training and riding horses around the age of 8. I took to it naturally. I was never afraid, I felt such a wonderful sense of peace and strength from these beautiful beasts. I also found out what it’s like to try to get the cooperation of a 1,200 pound animal when you’re in a ‘bad mood’. Wow can they be stubborn.

One Saturday morning I was riding a 7 year-old mare in an indoor ring and for reasons beyond my understanding at the time, I couldn’t get her to do anything I wanted. I became more and more frustrated until my instructor yelled my name and told me to smile. What? Smile? Ya, right! Not wanting to act like a know-it-all, I smiled and to my shock the mare almost instantly changed her attitude and began cooperating. Whatever I asked of her, I got. She wasn’t willing to ignore my negative energy by going along with me, she just wouldn’t respond to anger and moodiness. It was good for me to have learned these lessons and because I loved horses so much I made a conscious effort to keep my mood in check. It was a wonderful teaching experience that has been very valuable to me all these years later.

* Just a note about dogs who are made to fight, Pitbulls in particular. I think the people who have all but destroyed this particular breed’s reputation should be banned from polite society. I have had several relationships with pittbulls and each time it has been extremely rewarding and happy. These guys are lap-dog, lovers and gentle with children. The state of Oregon, where I live, is working to ban the breed statewide. I can’t tell you the last time I heard of a gun killing someone without a human trigger & dogs are, for the most part, the same way. Humans with greed and hate for motivators have made this breed feared and shunned. Shame on them. Karma…

© Kathleen Ryan-McCullough

June 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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