Hey! It’s Your Body Talkin’ . . .

As I sit at my keyboard with an icepack numbing my upper arm, I reflect on the curious idea that we spend so much of our lives ignoring our bodies’ gentle communications. We don’t pay attention until they scream at us. And then we have the audacity to blame them for getting old!

You know the joke:

“Dr., Dr., it hurts when I do this!”
“Then, stop doing it!”

Well, it’s no joke. My own doctors and physical therapists have said it to me many times in the past couple of years. I’ve been dealing with shoulder issues (rotator cuff tears, frozen shoulder, bursitis). No surgery, just lots of office visits where I’ve been told to go easy on myself. Healing takes time. And it requires learning to listen to your body. Right? But we resist. We grow impatient. Why? Because we operate under the impression that we shouldn’t have limitations. That life should be fair. That our bodies should be perfect (if not in looks, then at least in health 😉 ). And we complain when they’re not. Like someone’s made a huge mistake inflicting us with injury and disease.

But that’s real life. Messy, constantly challenging, stressful. And each of our unique bodies has its own way of acting, reacting, adapting, and coping. If we pay attention, we notice subtle cues from our own bodies that can lead us to cooperate with, instead of hinder, their healing abilities. Even in the middle of debilitating illness or injury, we can work with or we can fight the process. One path requires patience, perseverance, and awareness. The other path is easier in the short term: impatience and ignorance. But this way doesn’t bode well in the long run.

So, after scraping, chopping, and shoveling a few crusty inches of snow out of my driveway — mostly using my good arm, of course — for over an hour, I’m dutifully icing my shoulder. And hoping my body appreciates the attention. 🙂

Celebrating a Record…

Well, it’s official: it’s been a record-breaking year for snowfall amounts in New England! Yipee.

Last winter, I shared my thoughts on The Art of Snow Shoveling. This year, after one particularly deep snowfall, I was out shoveling (duh!) when I thought how little my previous advice applied while standing in two or more feet of snow! And I thought, “It’s hard to be methodical when the snow is three feet deep!” The following poem was born. I thought I’d share it on this record-breaking occasion…

Help! I’m Caught in a Snow Drift!

It’s hard to be methodicalapple tree 858
when the snow is three feet deep;
I’ve been shoveling in circles
and can’t seem to find my feet!

I swear they were there at the end of my legs
only a minute ago,
but now I can’t see nor feel them —
I’m numb from hip to toe.

I wonder, will someone notice
the pathway that I shoveled?
I tried to call for help just now,
but the sound was somewhat muffled.

The wind is blowing sideways
and my scarf has frozen flat.
Perhaps they’ll spy the pom-pom
on my smartly knitted hat.

I could use a sip of cocoa
or a nip of something stronger,
for I may be a “hearty New Englander,”
but I can’t take this much longer!

Wait, I see light; maybe someone’s coming
to rescue me somehow.
They’re coming closer, hallelujah!
Oh, crap, it’s only a plow!

cvb 2015

The Art of Snow Shoveling

DSC_0202Regret is an unfortunate side effect of twenty-five years of parenting. I definitely could have done some things differently. For example, I regret not insisting more often that my kids help with the snow shoveling. That’s how I was raised: if you’ve got two arms and two legs, then you’d better get yourself outside and start working! Maybe that’s exactly why I didn’t. Anyway, most of the time I just couldn’t be bothered with the extra effort it took to request, demand, coax, and threaten them. So, between my parents’ resolve and my own stubborn approach (it’s easier to just do it myself than to ask for help) I’ve had plenty of experience with a snow shovel.

Here in New England, there seems to be little consistency in the weather from winter to winter. Some years, we get to April and are still wondering when winter’s going to start. Other years, like this one, we get pummeled week after week for months on end. And, of course, it’s the first winter without a single kid living under our snow-covered roof. For the first time, I’ve actually entertained the idea of owning a snow blower. But not really. Shoveling’s good exercise. At least, that’s what I tell myself. And there’s a bit of a mental challenge to the task, as well. That got me thinking, as I attacked a fresh blanket of snow the other day, about what jewels of wisdom I could bestow on those less experienced (like my own kids).

#1 Divide and Conquer

A foot of snow in a driveway that can squeeze 6 cars during a street-parking ban may be daunting. But if you employ the divide and conquer strategy, as one might with any of life’s overwhelming obstacles, the task can be broken down into manageable pieces. Begin by parting the area down the middle. Push the snow away from the center, toward the edges. Then scoop it up and throw. If it’s heavy, wet stuff, instead of light, fluffy stuff, you may need to part it into thirds or even smaller portions. The point is it’s doable when taken in small doses. Don’t give up.

#2 Listen to Your Heart

If all that hard work gets your heart pounding, take a breather. Literally. Stand still and enjoy the view. Lean on that shovel, take a few slow, deep breaths and watch the snow fall. Nothing will be accomplished if you end up face down in a snowdrift. So, stop for a moment and reminisce about that snow fort you built when you were a kid — the one that made you feel like you were a lone explorer in the great frozen wilderness. Savor the muffled silence that a blanket of snow creates in a loud and busy world. Wait for your heart to slow down a little before you dig in again. It’ll be worth it in the end.

#3 Work With Nature

If it snows all day, don’t wait until it’s over to tackle the shoveling. It’s easier to clear 4 inches now and 4 inches later, than 8 inches all at once even later. And your back (or arms or knees or wrists or whatever body parts that regularly protest) will thank you.

If you’ve waited until the day after the storm to finish the clean-up and the sun is shining, let it work for you. If your significant other had to drive over those last few inches of snow to get to work, leaving packed tire tracks in his wake, don’t exert a lot of needless energy scraping to bare pavement. Remove what’s easy and let the sun do its job. Come back to the nicely melted patches later. Smile and appreciate the power of the sun.

#4 Think Ahead

If it’s only December, fling that snow as far as you’re able. It’s mighty difficult to heave it up and over six-foot snow banks in February! (Especially if you’re only five feet tall!)

Don’t put off ’til tomorrow… Tomorrow might bring rain, turning it all to slush; or a 5-degree day, making it a driveway full of pretty white concrete; or tomorrow may bring MORE SNOW!  (Is it spring yet?)

I could go on. No, really, I could. There’d be “Choose Your Weapon,” spouting advice on choosing the right shovel for the job. And “Do Unto Others,” encouraging you to be extra helpful to that next door neighbor when she’s stuck ( I mean her car is stuck!) in a snowbank and maybe her son will offer to use his plow to clear out the end of your driveway. You get the picture.  I’m sure some of you who are more experienced shovelers could even add your own tidbits of advice. In the meantime, hopefully a relatively short meantime, happy shoveling!