Tuesday, November 9, 2010 arrived with a clear early morning that promised to become a chilly, sunny, and typically autumn day. I zipped my coat, buckled my helmet strap, unlocked my bike, and headed off to work. A few minutes later, a garbage truck crossed a bike lane to make a right turn. I was in that bike lane. The tires of the truck crushed my left leg and caused other internal injuries. An amazing team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my leg to do so.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Confucius.

In July 2011, I set off to walk a thousand miles as an above-knee amputee in my new prosthesis. The journey has held more twists, turns, and detours than I ever imagined.

I reached Mile 1000 on March 30, 2013.

But of course, that wasn't the end.

I'll keep walking!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Angry Cookies

Mile Marker 89:

On the way to Vermont, Route 89 is a good sign.   I’m usually dreary by then, contacts glued to my irises, teeth aching from Sour Patch Kids.  But the highway points to my sister’s house and the comforting warmth of arrival.  Route 89 means the long drive is almost over.

Mile Marker 89, not so much.

The last few miles have been uncomfortable.   Ankle-blades biting.  Sensitive spots pinching.  And something inside just burning and burning.

Yesterday afternoon, things finally came to a head.  Or more precisely, to cookies.

I’d tried everything else I could think of.

Went to PT.   Did exercises.  Drove in the car.   Met friends for lunch.  Read a book.   Checked my e-mail.  Nothing helped.

I need a long walk, I thought.  To get outside and start moving and forget about everything else.    But partway around the block, my muscles screamed from overuse.  I stopped to rest, already frustrated from the short distance I’d covered.   I plugged onward.   Finally, I rounded the last corner and limped back to my front door.  Defeated after only three blocks.  I’d forgotten that walking is no longer a respite.

In my bedroom, I took off my prosthesis and settled in to watch “The Adjustment Bureau.”  I thought a good movie might distract me, that some downtime might smolder the fire in my leg.  Two hours later, Matt Damon reigned victorious, but my ankle-blades did not abate.

Prosthesis on, I paced again with restless energy.  I wanted to run hard.  To pedal into a headwind on Kelly Drive.  To really MOVE.  But the impossibility of it all had me at a standstill.

I started to bake cookies instead. 

The kind of cookies that required chopping, and stirring, and lots and lots of bowls.  The kind that required tearing open 40 individual-sized Heath Bars and mixing, by-hand, three cups of rolled oats.  

And when the pain broke through, I added loud music.  Miss Saigon, if you must know.  (That helicopter scene is a great release!)  Go ahead.  Make fun.  It would just add fuel to my fire.

It wasn’t until I was washing dishes that I finally realized what was up.  Hands soapy, my mind wandered back to the movie I’d watched a few hours earlier.  Damn that Adjustment Bureau!  I thought.  They left me in the lurch.  They were supposed to give my bike a flat tire that day.  They were supposed to work the traffic lights.  Unless…. Could this all be a part of their evil plan??   

Damn that Adjustment—

And just like that -- mid-sentence -- my thought shifted to... Damn that TRASH TRUCK!   

Was this anger?

I am not an angry person.  I don’t like to be angry.   And I don’t like it when others are angry.

I like to fix things.  To find solutions.  I am a problem-solver.

Here are my usual thoughts:
I will read until I feel better.
I will work until I feel better.
I will rest until I feel better.
I will bake until I feel better.
I will ignore all this, and soon it will be over.

But there are no shortcuts here.
No easy fixes.
And no end in sight.

This is NOT the familiar haul up Route 89 in Vermont.

As I turned off the faucet, the house was suddenly silent.  My blaring music had ended. 

I grabbed my iPad and pulled up a chair to the kitchen counter.

Waiting in my e-mail box was an invitation to watch the latest Youtube video by Josh Sundquist, an inspirational amputee whose Youtube channel is one of my favorites.

Here’s the link.  It’s a minute long.


So, was this a sign that the Adjustment Bureau hadn’t forgotten about me after all?

I guess some days and some miles are just going to be like this.  Unpleasant and uncomfortable.  Even unbearable.

Josh's video spoke to me.

I, too, am not sure I can make it through a lifetime of having one leg.  Sometimes, like yesterday, I’m not even sure I can make it through one day.

But can I make it through a moment?  I think so.  

I can make cookies.  Angry Cookies.

And boy do they taste good.

13 comments:

  1. Sometimes there is nothing to say that can take your pain away. And, I feel like this is one of those times. But, just know that I continue to walk with you, be here to listen and support you and love the person who you are.

    Those cookies sure look good. It did bring me back to something that I always remember you saying from our highschool days. It was about dieting. Growing up as you did in a family of 8, I clearly remember you saying something to the effect of "if I can make it through the day without eatting the junk, the chances are likely that it will be gone tomorrow and then I don't need to worry about not eatting it". Though your moments now are very different, I hope that the challenge feels better the next day....like resisting the temptations for only one day.

    I love you. The name Marla means bitterness and sometimes I may take that too seriously. However, know that it is okay to have days like yesterday where anger feels best. That doesn't make you an angry person.

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  2. Well, Well. In my 30 years of making observations about people dealing with the stress of illness, I can tell you a sense of humor in most trying of times portends a good prognosis. Rebecca, you have a good prognosis.

    With that being said....my other observation is that few people listen unless one farts.

    your uncle steve

    ps. In honor of the Bear!

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  3. I will always remember the angry cookies remedy. I just have to keep the ingredients in the house.

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  4. I haven't been able to watch the video here at work yet, but your post really got to me. I had a pity party for myself last night: felt harried, tired, overworked, underpaid, ugly, fat, like a terrible mother -- you name it. I was angry, but more at myself for wasting potential and being ungrateful. So to see your post today and realize that 1.) I have nothing to be truly angry about and 2.) that my unfounded anger is really best funneled into something else. Like productivity. Or action. Or cookies. :-) So today I'm going to take a lesson from you (again) and make it through the moment, do something useful, and be grateful for all that I have. We're all lucky to be here, and to have you in our lives! Can't wait to see you in less than a month!!!

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  5. Those cookies sound really yummy. Enjoy every bite of the sweet taste of victory over your pain and anger.

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  6. The cookies will go nicely with my Angst Preserves and my Depression Jam!
    Creativity is my solace!

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  7. Thank you so much for sharing this post, Ricki. (You know how I love a good "procrastination muffin", so I can relate completely to the baking thing. And the anger thing. So often I deny myself those uncomfortable emotions, because, well, they're uncomfortable. Much more than "uncomfortable" actually. But it is so important to honor those feelings and really feel them. I remember about 10 years ago when I got some not-so-great medical news, something I had not control over and that could not be changed, and in talking with someone about it that night on the phone I was asked "so, what are you go to do to deal with this?" and I shocked myself a little when I replied: "tonight I am just going to be sad and angry". Sad and angry sucks, but I also think it's healthy in a way. and then taking those emotions and channeling them into things like baking (and kneading bread) can be especially healing.
    When I was making soup one time, I asked my brother to taste it and tell me what seasonings needed to be adjusted--he tasted, paused, looked right at me and said "did you add the love?" We laughed, but I agree sometimes when we cook for someone else you can tell that they've added love.....but in the same way, the strong emotion of anger can be equally delicious because you've really put your true self into those cookies. :o)

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  8. and apologies once again for posting a comment without first proofreading! oy, the typos!

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  9. It must be hard to share all of your thoughts/feelings with the world. We love you, we love all the Sides of Rebecca. Happy, sad and especially baking. Just know we are here, to laugh, cry and eat baked goods.

    P.s. You are amazing and Uncle Steve is funny.

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  10. Anger is an emotion that we don't like. We don't want to show our anger or share our anger. But we have to get rid of it in a very healthy fashion. I have to bet that those angry cookies were the best ever comfort food :)

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  11. By the way, I've been known to listen to Miss Saigon from time to time. No judgement here!

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  12. Thanks everybody! For me, this was one of the hardest posts so far for ALL the reasons you've mentioned. I would rather write funny stuff and good news all the time!

    But I sometimes feel like that neighbor guy on "Home Improvement." Wilson, I think. The one whose eyes peered over the wall into Tim the Toolman's yard. Remember him? When I feel angry, sad, exhausted...I know there's a bigger picture out there, but I just can't see over that wall.

    The feelings have been intense, but also fleeting. After a while, that big wall lowers a bit, and I can see just a little farther into the distance.

    So, Marla, I think you're right.... Waiting it out is key. Why not bake some Procrastination Muffins or Depression Jam? -- We should open our own bakery :)

    And, by the way, Uncle Steve is correct. Having gone through three bowel obstructions, I'm an expert!

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  13. Anger is one of those emotions I never want to admit feeling. It is a difficult emotion and it just truly stinks - especially when you don't know how to make it go away! I love the angry cookie idea and will have to try it the next time I'm angry. Just out of curiosity - did you just happen to have 40 individually wrapped Heath bars in your house?

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