Friday, July 29, 2011

Dog Days and my Sorry-Self Monster

It has been ridiculously hot for several weeks in Minnesota. Our recent vacation to a cabin in Wisconsin was cut short because all we could do was sit inside with the air conditioner on and watch the condensation on the windows.  (Okay, I polished off some schlocky mysteries, but that wasn't what I had in mind for the woods.)

Multiple sclerosis is infamous flaring up in the heat. Doctors used to diagnose MS by putting people in hot tubs of water ." If we had to fish you out," I heard Dr. Randall Schapiro say, "that meant you had MS ."

When the weather is hot and I try to move , I discover I can't. It's as if a layer of cement has formed around me while I sit.

Our neighbor took his dog out for a walk .  They were heading down the sidewalk toward their front door when the dog , deciding  she had had enough, flopped down in the grass . The owner smiled indulgently at the dog and let her lie. After a couple of minutes, he tugged on the dog's leash, urging her toward the door. The dog didn't move. The owner tugged harder. The dog raised her head, looked at the owner, and then put her head back in the grass. The owner bent over, picked up the dog and carried her inside. I mentally applauded the dog for using animal wisdom to understand this was a day for lying in the grass.

Shut inside last winter by cold and snow, I dreamed of summer trips to nearby parks. I thought I could breathe nature into my soul this summer so that I could make it through winter months of being shut inside. So far, it's not working. Too hot. Too hard to breathe.

If I want to go beyond wheelchair range, I have to plan my trip three days in advance because of paratransit rules. Disability requires advance planning. Too inconvenient.

At first, my Sorry-Self Monster made a case for how sad it is that I cannot, like a dog, decide on impulse to lie in the grass.  My first instinct is to tell the monster to stop being such a wuss. This will make it wail louder. Not a useful response on my part.

What can I do instead?

First of all, pat the poor monster on the shoulder and give it a hug. Honestly, this is not easy. Healthy people go off to the beach or the woods or Machu Picchu on a whim. (Okay, maybe not that last one…) My point is that space must be made for those feelings of hurt and anger. The monster has a right to its feelings.

What is at the core of this fantasy? I envision myself living it: a park because that makes it accessible. Trees and quiet. Greenness and critters to watch. Extra points if I haven't been there before.

I came close last week when I went to Carver Lake. It's within wheelchair distance and met all the requirements except for the quiet. Because it's a city park and it was a Saturday, there were too many engine noises and a bit of human hubhub. If I had gone earlier in the morning I would have gotten everything but the extra points.

Short-term plan: return to Carver Lake early on a weekday morning. (I'll be late to work, but it will help my mental health so much I will be more productive when I get to my desk.)

Thinking about the big picture, I know I am nourished by nature and the arts. The sensible thing to do (after all, I have a Sensible Monster too) would be to do arts-related things in the winter and nature-related things in the summer. While my soul requires constant care and feeding, the Big Things don't have to happen that often.

If I make a Fill-the-bucket date once a month, I bet that would keep me happy.

Long-term plan:  each month, plan a Fill-the-bucket outing for the next month, taking likely weather into account. (I just did some surfing about nature centers near me to which I could get paratransit or rides.) Since it's near the end of the month, I will plan now for August.

(I am pleased to see that most Wikipedia dog days dates are over by late August. I am ready for some cool fall air! )


Nicole said...

"What can I do instead?"....that's a great way to manage this. I too should fill out those papers for parastransit.

Kayla said...

Fill the Bucket dates - what a wonderful idea!

Kate Wolfe-Jenson said...

Nicole-- being a paratransit rider adds an unexpected richness to my life. (Of course, sometimes I forget to see it that way…)
Kayla-- I have my first Fill the Bucket date planned, but I have to remember to do it.