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pain

Stumped

stumped
I don’t mean to co-opt his story.

Then again, no story — even if its cast is a single character — can be told without rubbing up against someone else’s story.

Indeed, even when there is only one character in a narrative, the way that person behaves, the choices he or she makes — those things reveal a great deal about everyone else whose lives have ever converged with that solitary protagonist.

The nature of stories is that they’re intersectional, always a swirl of cause and effect, always a matter of “this thing happened to this one guy, but then ripples from that guy’s thing rolled outwards and bounced other people around, too.”

So I don’t mean to co-opt his story.

But even I, someone who hasn’t seen Dave Mackey in a few years, someone who married into friendship with him, am feeling ripples.

Before I read his announcement on Facebook the other day, I was at a point of disgust with social media — exhausted by both liberals and conservatives, depleted by everyone’s revelations of their truest selves. When it comes to politics, people not only discuss ideologies, they also discover that although they love many of their friends and family, they don’t actually like them. In fact, many are agonizing through internal debates within themselves, asking questions like: “If my uncle can look at footage of Donald Trump mocking a person with disabilities, if he can hear the audio of Trump boasting about predatory behavior towards women, if he can see all the reports of women coming forward and recounting how Trump pushed them against walls and jammed his tongue down their throats while grabbing their ‘pussies,’ if he can hear the racism in the rhetoric, yet he, my uncle, can still decide to vote for Trump, is that not an indication of my uncle’s character that I cannot ignore?” On the other side, there are people who despair, “If my son can support that woman who is essentially a corporate creation, a candidate with decades-long history of scandals, a person whose campaign is riddled with cynicism, corruption, and cover-ups — if my son still supports Clinton, does that not indicate something to me about my son that I cannot ignore?”

It’s all making me sick inside. In recent days, a fog of sadness clouds my head and my heart. My brain keeps returning to a few articles that have stuck with me — reading that I hoped would offer some clarity, some support, some shared sense that others are heartsore, too. Months ago, I read an article, “I Lost My Dad to Fox News,” and still, every day, I think about it (and the extended comment section after it, in which person after person relates similar sorrow). Then my brain wanders back to the writer’s points in “Dear Dad, Please Don’t Vote for Donald Trump,” an essay in which the tone is almost woebegone as a son contemplates the disconnect between the father who raised him and his father as a person who could vote for Donald Trump: “The choice is simple because it’s hard for me to think of a single person who violates more of what you taught me as a child . . . It was from you that I learned to respect just how hard Latino, Asian, and Middle Eastern immigrants worked to make a life for themselves here. You told me what it was like picking fruit in the California heat, and explained how they took jobs that other people weren’t willing to do — because they wanted to support their families just like everyone else.” And I keep thinking of the betrayal a Latina daughter feels from her Trump-supporting father: “Donald Trump, you may argue to me, is making women strong again by forcing them to suffer insult after insult and grin and bear it. You may think, Dad, that the reason both of your daughters spent time in the hospital with eating disorders 15 years apart has nothing at all to do with insecurity or issues with lack of control in our lives because of our gender and the amount of pressure placed on a young woman from birth until the very end.”

My head hurts too much. My heart hurts too much.

Too often, when social media gives me insights into the values of friends and family, I flinch. I flounder. I wonder if I should stuff my disappointment into a shoebox and shove it to the back of the closet, pretending that careful containment of dismay will allow me to forget we are fundamentally divided. I wonder if those shoeboxes will fill my closet to bursting, if I’ll trip over them as I cling to flimsy shams of relationships.

I’m trying to breathe, yet I can’t fill my lungs.

But then the other day, just when I sat staring at Facebook and thinking, “I reallllly have to shut this tab and focus on creating a quiz for my class because I officially hate everybody,” a particularly shocking post showed up in my feed.

For at least five minutes, I sat in front of the monitor, reading, rereading, gasping, putting my hand over my heart, gasping more, feeling sick, wanting to drop my head to the desk and leave it there as I dabbed away tears.

I was looking at a post from Dave Mackey, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Dave is a long-time friend of Byron’s. They were interns together in the early ’90s at an environmental learning center in Northern Minnesota. Living in an isolated place, driven by a common passion, linked through communal living, the interns became each other’s People for Life.

After his time as an intern, Dave moved to Colorado and started to unpack the potential of his genetic and hard-earned talents. Specifically, Dave can run long, he can run hard, and he can run fast. Wikipedia sums up his largest career accomplishments thusly:

In 2011, Mackey won the Montrail Cup, which he also won in 2004. He won the Ultrarunning Magazine North American Ultrarunner of the Year in 2011, and was runner-up in 2004. He won the USA Track and Field Ultrarunner of the Year in 2004 and in 2005, and also has won several USATF national trail running titles at three different distances: 50K, 50 mile, and 100 kilometers. In running from one side of the Grand Canyon and back, also known as the rim-to-rim-to-rim (R2R2R), Mackey holds the former record of 6:59:57, which has since been lowered by Rob Krar.

Mackey also holds speed climbing records in the Boulder, CO, area, including the fastest round-trip time climbing and descending the Third Flatiron from Chautauqua Park in Boulder.

In 2012, Dave set the master’s course record for the Western States 100 trail race, covering the 100 miles in 15:53:36, finishing fourth overall. The first time Dave ran the Western States, in 2004, he and Scott Jurek pushed each other beautifully — with Jurek setting a new course record, thanks to the threat of Dave, who finished second. As that race unfolded, Byron and I, far away in Northern Minnesota, frantically refreshed our browser every few minutes as we tracked Dave’s progress through live streaming. Running on a mountain trail for 100 miles? Now that’s a sport we in our house can geek out on.

When Byron and I got married, Dave was there. When Dave and his phenomenal wife, Ellen, got married, we drove out to Colorado to celebrate with them. Whenever we’ve been in Colorado and able to make it happen, we’ve had a few hours together, falling easily into shared company. Life carries on, and he’s become a dad and a physician’s assistant. Always, with every step he’s ever taken, Dave has been gracious, sweet, even, goofy, and full of thousand-watt smiles.

Then, last year, Dave had an accident — one of those quick nanosecond blips that change everything.

After the initial shock and worry, we fell back into normal life patterns, shrugged, and figured Dave would mend and be back to fighting form in no time.

However, those of us who figured Dave was invincible were too cavalier.

This is what thousands of fans and friends discovered a few days ago as we sat in front of Facebook, gasping:

It’s been a long 16 months since I fell off Bear Peak above my house, sustaining an open tibial/fibula fracture to my left leg. The long rescue followed, 13 surgeries, including skin, muscle and bone grafting, washouts of the open-fracture contaminated surgical sites, being in an external-fixator (think “iron lung”, only on the outside of the leg) for three months, and bone infection (which still resides). I have achieved a degree of success in mobility and some improvement. I went from not walking at all, to walking with a cane until this past July, to walking cane-free now. Running has not been an option in the least just yet. Riding a mountain bike most every day now is almost real freedom. But there is still pain whenever I walk and throbbing at night, and now intramedullary nail (a rod) is wobbling and the bone grafting at the middle if the fracture sight is not dense.

So I am at a cross roads. Do I continue with more surgeries with very high likelihood of failure? More time in a hellish external fixator? And even then there would always be pain.

But there is another solution, the definite, non-reversible one, to be 100% to where I was before the accident and almost completely pain-free. There is a way to get here and I’ve decided to go this route. This would mean the freedom, if I choose it, to walk the kids to school without a thought, ski, run in 6-8 weeks, compete in races again, even take down Mike Wardian’s treadmill world record (okay, this will NOT happen). So the big news is that next week I will have my left leg amputated below the left knee here in Boulder.

I’ve spoken extensively with orthopedic surgeons and other healthcare professionals and co-workers about my options. And there are other surgical options than amputation, but the chances of success are slim, and it feels time to move on. Being below the knee, this is “good” amputation to have. The technology of prosthetics is incredible these days, and improving, so I will be out in the mountains as before with my family and friends, to completing or competing in events again, having the ability to run any distance.

Dave posted this announcement a week ago, and the response was immediate and unified: if this is what Dave needed to do, then all love on him, and may his decision result in greater quality of life and a return to him feeling like his full self again.

There were no trolls. There were no naysayers. There was no outrage. There was no disappointment.

In a rare and beautiful moment, thousands of people poured out unadulterated support. If a man who can run a hundred miles without complaining announces “I can’t live like this any more,” then that’s all anyone needs to know.

After a party on Halloween night — a gathering of loved ones and running luminaries — Dave had the amputation surgery the next day. Yesterday, he posted:

Finally an update here on the big surgery yesterday. First of all thank you for all your voices of support, thoughts, prayers, and good energy. Once again, as it was last summer when the accident occurred, I am so blessed to have such good friends. The party two nights ago at Flatirons Running company was a complete blast. It was worth busting up my leg just to see some of the folks who came out I hadn’t seen in years. Thank you to Real Athlete Diets, Avery Brewing, and Southern Sun for the delicious food and beer, and to Hoka and Suffer Better. Generous funds were collected for the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

So medically speaking yesterday was a huge day, as well as today. The procedure was scheduled for 2 1/2 hours and took five hours. It’s a pretty involved process as amputation, many nerves, blood vessels, muscle, skin and bone need to be excised and moved around. Much of the surgical procedure is creating an effective interface to work well with a prosthetic in a few weeks, and I am fortunate to work with one of the best lower limb surgeons, Dr. Rob Leland.

I am in a full leg/stump cast now, which I will have for up to two weeks, then be fitted for a prosthetic. Another ortho pod buddy of mine, Mike Hewitt, says I will be running in six weeks and running Leadville or Leadman next summer. For my part I plan on taking it literally one step at a time and not screw up all the work that’s been done on my leg!

Billy Yang has been around and documenting much of the process over the last few days and will probably be putting out a cool documentary. I hope he edits out some of the graphic stuff though!

Sorry I have not replied to many posts. I did read them though and appreciate the good feelings. Thank you so much. Now that I’ll be out and about more I look forward to connecting.

dave

So.

I don’t mean to co-opt Dave’s story. He is living it. It is his journey.

But.

I find that this week, this year, last year, next year, I need Dave’s story. I can’t stop thinking about him. He is all the things my hurting heart has been wishing for during this election season: a dignified, genuine person who is humble, intelligent, heroic.

In these days of being overwhelmed, disappointed, disillusioned, of feeling like the shoeboxes of dismay are threatening to spill out of my overstuffed closet, I find something sustaining in Dave’s thoughtful approach to his days.

In the midst of all the clamor and mud-slinging, Dave’s courage has reminded me that every important choice can be distilled into two questions.

“How do I want to live?” and “How can I make that happen?”

Trump and Clinton be damned.

I vote for Dave.


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Craig Ferguson feet Fergie Niblet pain Webkinz

Ouchie-ooh-la-loobie-ding-dat

 


After a particularly hardcore session of Webkinz, during which he mined for precious gems, tackled fairies in the Charm Forest, and added a new trellis to his platypus’ yard, Wee Niblet stood up and staggered away from the computer.

Leaning uncomfortably against the bed, he groused, “My legs fell asleep.”

“Eep opp ork ahah, scoobie-shoo-doo, boopity ba-ba-ba,” I hummed in response as I folded the laundry, unable to find a caring bone in me. Rather, deeply immersed in my non-mommy headspace, I considered the possibility that my life, even though I’m 40, might not yet be completely set. If I could toss out scat like that with no rehearsal to speak of, the distinct possibility existed that I might be featured as JocelyNummy on Fergilicious’ next album.

“No, rewwy, Mommy. My feet have all prickles in them. It’s like I’m getting my shots for my five-year-old check-up again, all at once, ‘cept only in my feet, a million times over. I need for it to stop now.”

“Well, keep on keepin’ on, kid–try kickin’ it Pre School, for reals–and it’ll go away,” I counseled, folding another towel.

“It’s so bad, though, I won’t ever be able to sleep because it won’t ever go away,” Niblet moaned, launching the Increased Desperation Triggers Sympathy strategy.

“Dude, you have a computer to play games on and a bunch of Webkinz and a new trellis, and your platypus ate a big plate of noodles tonight and stuff. I don’t really feel for you here. Take your pain and your pout and stomp them around the room a little bit; that’ll get the blood flowing again,” I recommended, wondering if Craig Ferguson would wear a blue or a yellow tie during his monologue that night and if he might ever need me to come on to work the audience into a frenzy with my scatting virtuosity.

“But Mommy, it’s so bad. You need to feel my feet. They are so prickly you will shriek when you touch them because it will hurt you too. You should feel them to see how much they hurt.”

So I did. I bent down and touched his paws. And those prickles of his felt like rays of burning sunlight had been taken and jammed into shards of ice which were then packaged inside diamonds and scratched along a blackboard covered with jalapeno juice that squirted into an eyeball that was being held open with toothpicks coated in barbed wire that had been heated in molten lava for six minutes. Jehosephat, but Whinebot was right. How he managed to contemplate which jammies to wear at the same time that kind of torment was roiling around inside his body–well, I’d never admired him more. Letting go of his feet, I fell to the ground, paralyzed.

“Um, Mommy?”

Croaking from the floor, weakly, whimpering, I whispered a, “Booooy? Get your father. That’s right. Get Daddy. Mommy’s dying from touching your prickles. She may need a lemontini to restore a regular heartbeat.”

“Hey, Mommy. Get up now. I have to use the potty and am going to need a wiper-suhviper. You can do your scat thing while I do mine.”

—————————————–
Despite my willingness to mess with his head and play along, I’m pretty sure Niblet will soon outgrow his certainty that interior pain can be felt by those outside of his body.

Until his first acid trip in college, of course. Then I’ll have to be all “Wow, babes, but the walls ARE melting. Yea, your hand is totally bigger than that chair. Ooh, yea, that scab on your leg is on fire.”

What?

Like I’m not going to be there?

What else I got to do? Wait for Fergie and Craig Ferguson to call?

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exfoliation Jesus pain salt swearing

Flaking and Cursing


 



Thanks to Jesus and his lot–and Lot’s Wife–I need some new swears.

If it weren’t for them and all their high-fallutin’ “Biblical history,” I probably would never have heard of the Dead Sea and its abrasive salts.

Which means I wouldn’t use sea salt in my homemade olive oil/cedar essence/sea salt body scrub that I daub on during Almighty Showertime Exfoliation. Instead, I would use pine needles and lentils softened with sap.

And if I’d never heard of Dead Sea salt and therefore didn’t use it in my sacred exfoliation process, then I would be a nicer person with a cleaner vocabulary.

You see, I have a little trouble with the order of my shower agenda; I get wet, add shampoo, slather on the soap, shave, rinse, add conditioner, and then scrub up with saltishness. But Sweet Maria von Trapp, if there’s one thing on the planet that scourges the body with an evil necromancy, it’s salt applied with great vigor to freshly-shaved legs.

To make things worse, this morning I managed to nick one my legs as I shaved. Then, a mere 74 seconds later, having forgotten all about the recently-inflicted Nick (I did that one hungover morning in college, too! But that Nick had blue eyes, little endurance, and lacked the depth of the one on my leg today), I massaged on a hefty palmful of my sea salt scrub, making sure to grind and rasp it into every crevice of my newly-minted nick.

As it turns out, the sins of the razor do not wash away. Instead, they fester and protest, as did my mouth at that moment.

Easily, I came up with a “Frick!”

Thoughtlessly, I shouted out a “Tarnation, you wascally wabbit!”

Off the tip of my tongue tripped a “SHEEE-IT” and a quick “Hell would be a mercy right now!”

But, frankly, all my efforts at verbal expressiveness fell flat compared to the stinging, briery pain that shot through my stubble-free gam as salt met blood.

Thus, I curse–ineffectively–the salt that buoyed the Lamb of God.

Damn it, Jesus. Just damn it.

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pain readers write running Trailmix

You Finish My Post”

Here are some photos from the big race this past weekend (I’m in the blue shirt, #2409). Because I was in a state of severe oxygen debt, I have no recollection of a single thought in my head.

So you tell me: what was I thinking, as I tripped through the trails?

I’ll give you a little starter:

“As Jocelyn ran the Trailmix…”
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baking soda fangs pain wisdom teeth

The Wisdom Is Not Actually IN the Teeth

The Wisdom Is Not Actually in the Teeth”

A couple of weeks ago, Groom, at age 36, had two wisdom teeth extracted. Since he’d had the bottom teeth taken out during college, he had only the top two with which to contend. One of his top buckers had emerged from the gum and, with no wisdom tooth on the lower jaw beneath it to grind against, this tooth had then continued to grow, unchecked. Basically, he had an inside-the-mouth fang, which, luckily, is just how all the Red Carpet Hollywood celebs are wearing their fangs this year. On the other side of his skull, Groom had an impacted wisdom tooth; the lily-livered thing was afraid to peer out into the light of day. Or the light of soft palate.

Except soft palates aren’t really renowned for their light.

So the tooth was afraid to peer out into the, er, moist, soft darkness of the mouth cave. Now *that’s* lily-livered, eh? I mean, what’s so scary about a moist, dark place, ya big Tooth Wussy?

Well, bats, for one. They’re found in moist, dark places (not so much mouths, though), and they’re scary. If you fall asleep in a cave, after a long day of spelunking, bats will crawl down your throat and suffocate you.

You maybe didn’t know that. I’m a regular font of little-known facts like that. If you ever need to know what to do with a shoelace and a bottle of lotion, just ask me. I’ve got the knowledge locked up.

So, to summarize this post so far: Groom had one too-big tooth that hurt and one no-show tooth that hurt, and bats are possessed of a rare evil.

On the day of his tooth extraction, Groomeo was nervous, fidgety even, which is a rarity. Normally, Groom is Walking Zen, all contented fluid control (he’s like the fog…everywhere at once so subtly that you can breathe him but not touch him). But that day, he was a little twitchy, scratchy, jerky.

To assuage his nerves, I tried making a dramatic show of complimenting him: “What a Big Boy you are! If it hurts when you wake up, I’ll have a Tootsie Pop and a Harry Potter sticker waiting for you, sweetie!!!! And you’re such a strong, fine lad that I’m sure you’ll be back on your skateboard, doing tricks outside the public library, in no time.”

Oddly, his twitching gained momentum.

The surgery went well–he didn’t have any psychological breaks due to the anaesthesia or provide me with any new material by waking up sobbing, “Beethoven…Beethoven…bound through the meadow towards me, my love! Embrace me!”–and a few hours later, we headed home where he began the long, slow process of recovery.

I was ready for the bloody gauze, the swollen chipmunk cheeks, and the unfocused Lortab pupils. But I hadn’t realized he would also need to rinse his mouth every half hour, for, well, let’s see how long it’s been now–um, TWO WEEKS. Basically, he’s been carrying around a Nalgene bottle full of a salt/baking soda potion, and no matter where we’re at, he faithfully does the swish and spit. Parking meters, the kids’ hair, tree trunks, and people waiting at the bus stop…all have felt the spray of his rinse.

Once or twice, when we’ve all been out somewhere together, I’ve forgotten about the All-Important Rinse Bottle and tried to give the kids a drink from it. As a result, my son has a new love for “savory water” and will no doubt dip a cup into the Pacific Ocean one day, when he visits the West Coast, raising his salty drink in a toast to Good Ole Pappy.

As the healing has progressed, there have been a few setbacks; for example, a stitch popped well before the date when it should have. After that, like the pearls falling off my heirloom choker when I snagged it on Laura Bush’s brooch at a State Dinner, the stitches began a steady plink, plink, plink of unraveling. And then, well, the smell began. (No, not at the State Dinner. The White House actually has a reasonably talented chef, one who uses shallots to great effect and who keeps bad smells to a minimum. Keep up with me here.)

The smell began inside Groom’s mouth. Personally, I stayed far enough away that I could just take his word for it–we wouldn’t want The Lurve to suffer, after all. But he spent several days shaking his head, noting, “Man, my mouth reeks.” Then he’d pick up his Nalgene bottle and do the swish ‘n rinse.

Shortly thereafter, The Flap became an issue. What with the stitches gone (and, er, our phone out of order so that he couldn’t call the oral surgeon’s office for aid), a flap of unhealed skin hung down. I envisioned it as a stage curtain that could be drawn when the bits of trapped rice and ham were ready to perform and then closed again after they took their bows. I considered buying tickets to see The Flap.

But then, one afternoon, Groom approached me rather tentatively and admitted, “I just swallowed The Flap. It sort of, well, fell off right when I was drinking, and down the hatch it went.”

R.I.P, Flap.

A consequence of The Flap’s demise was that there is now even less protection between Groom’s upper gum and his sinuses, where the impacted tooth was extracted. Only the thinnest of partitions separates these areas now, until new tissue grows to fill things in.

All of this leads me to the question that now occupies me most: Since the reek has gone away, and, thus, I now feel like getting near The Groom again, is it possible that I might try to lay a passionate kiss on him some night, only to have my tongue come out his nostril?

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