Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Happy Jack and Spare Ribs

I spent some time this weekend in an area called Happy Jack just north of the valley, encircled by bird songs, teasing monsoon clouds, and pines competing for sunlight.  I am always conscious about the potential dangers inherent in the wilderness; but the potential risk is well worth the beauty of the stillness and solitude- a communion with Mother Earth. It is a place where chaos is reduced to the microscopic, time hiccups long enough to become irrelevant, and motion is anchored by the calm. 

Cognizant of potential threats like poisonous plants, angry bugs, and sharp-edged rocks, I bring first aid just in case: bandages, aloe lotion, cell phones, and a false sense of security that feigns an awareness of control.

When I returned to my safer home-of-little-risk, I put away my bandages and aloe and I sat down to check my emails.  As 400 messages downloaded through my server, I hastily- and unawaredly- arose to find my 100-plus pound Australian Shepherd tangled beneath my feet.  In an attempt to avert him, he scurried between my unbalanced legs as I knocked a hardwood chair to the ground. Unable to regain my equilibrium, I fell onto the thickly wooded back of the chair with my full body weight hitting on my left ribcage. I heard a snap, crackle, pop, and realized that in my seemingly-safer-than-the-forest home, I'd injured myself.  

"Oh, bloody great," I thought to myself.  "This is all I need three weeks before the international conference."  Recognizing the likelihood of one or more broken ribs, I called the local urgent care.

"Hello, hi," I said, "I think I broke a rib or two."  

As I recounted the story, the triage nurse listened sympathetically.  "Well," she said, "it sounds like you need to come in for pain medications."

Boy, did that sound good to me at this point, as the tissue covering my ribs was swollen with trauma.  "What do they do for broken ribs?" I inquired.

"We prescribe pain medications-- good stuff," she said.

"And?" I further asked.

"And, well, nothing," she said. "There isn't anything we can do for broken ribs. We just can't heal them or make them better. Only time. It takes time and you have to take care of yourself- you know, rest and don't reinjure the area."

Ah, profundity!

Grief is like a broken rib. It is not to be hurriedly healed- there is no curative therapy, potion, or pill  - there is no immediate relief- recovery, if it comes at all, is not to be rushed. Injuries like these come unexpectedly, in sometimes unexpected places. They are unpredictably swift, so no amount of bandages or aloe or preparedness can help. Control is my illusion of choice. And oh, I am so vulnerable. I may need others more now, to nurture me as I heal. Please touch me gently, do not shake, rattle, or roll. Fragile: Handle with care.

It is amazing how many bodily functions require the use of the rib cage- how when one part is broken the rest must work harder. I'd been wholly unaware - consciously- of their import, until today. Now, I have an appreciation for the sturdy-enough bones that protect my heart; and an appreciation for the helplessness of others to heal, even when it is welcomed, implored... It is amazing how you learn to protect your injury, keeping away from those who fail to remember the wound and poke at it relentlessly.

And, in the end, I opted against the pain medications. They may have given me a false sense of well-being, perhaps creating more problems for me. I may have felt artificially better; well enough, for example, to engage in activities that would cause me to work and not rest. Perhaps, this would postpone and elongate healing, or even cause me to exacerbate the injury, worsening the severity.  

Grief is a place of potential dangers, like both the perilous wilderness and the seeming sanctuary of home. Vulnerability to wounding is an inherent and unavoidable part of human existence. Fortunately, if you keep your heart open, so is the beauty of it all.


janis said...

i LOVE this post, Joanne! Not happy about your broken ribs, but I feel the same about everything you wrote, esp about the illusion of control. You just write so much more eloquently, it's a pleasure to read. Almost as good as enjoying a good piece of chocolate truffle! ;-)

Healing vibes to you. xoxo

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Oh, thank you Janis. Such a compliment from an equally eloquent voice is so meaningful.

Unknown said...

Broken Ribs! ugh! I'm so sorry... :-(. sometimes Life does force us to sit down and reflect on those things we all too often take for granted... like ribs! Those eggshell bars that protect our heart and vital organs,... our very life! We are so vulnerable to wounding in this fragile thing called life. So true. If there is anything I can do, please let us know. Until then, I send you warm Reiki rapid healing vibes, my friend.

Sarah Bain said...

Okay, you wacky woman! You cracked your ribs? Good lord, do we have to tie you down for the next 3 weeks? I have HUGE expectations for you, you know. I come in Wednesday night at 5 p.m and don't expect to let you go to bed before the early hours of the morning. Get thee self well!!!!

I have 2 years to catch up on and no more cracked ribs. Sit. Stay.

Kara Chipoletti Jones of GriefAndCreativity dot com said...

Oh my gawddess oh my gawdess! Remind me not to squeeze you with hugs when we meet! I love that the nurse told you it was the good stuff. Ugh. Go slow. Ask for help. Know that lots of distance Reiki is coming your way!

"Gently, gently, darling."
-Auntie Mame


Travelwahine said...

Absolutely beautiful post. I'm sorry about your broken ribs. I admire your bravery to opt out of pain medications but can see why you did so. Healing vibes your way.

On a side note, I really wanted to attend the conference but due to scheduling conflicts will not be able to attend. But, I will definitely try next year.

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thank you so much for your kind words. I am "recovering" well, as swiftly as can be expected, and I do feel upheld through it all. It makes the broken-ness more bearable.

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thank you so much for your kind words. I am "recovering" well, as swiftly as can be expected, and I do feel upheld through it all. It makes the broken-ness more bearable.

Jessica Knapp said...

I just found your blog! What a treasure. I'm sorry to hear you broke ribs though. I hope you heal quickly.

Leave it to a dog to remind you that you can't ever think life is predictable.

I'm in the process of applying to PhD programs so that I can study issues related to death and dying—in order to help people better handle them—and I'm always happy to find someone with similar interests. Best of luck with your work and your health.

Sunny said...

Just to say what beautiful pics....
I have always been very active till 2 yrs ago...
My immune system now gone but am slowly able to get about again...
I can no longer take anything
and have about 6 chronic things....
I am a Christian a\\nd maybe now he can speak to me as before I was always busy....
I had two lovely trips to Malta... one to visit a pnfriend in Zabbar
I have also been to Rome and many places and met beautiful people...
For whom I have wonderful memories...
'Memories are as friends who sometimes meet us as on the air in passing'
I do Pray for your recovery...
If you care to view my other blog
I can only get onto it when on aol
and as I am now esconsed in a housing comlex lol I have to view @ our library... The filters are xtra strong here due to abuse....
Thanking you for your lovely site

Karin said...

Hey Jo, (((((((((hugs)))))))))).

How awful. Ugg! My dad broke his ribs when he feel down a mountain - what you were trying to avoid doing when out on your nature trek!!I've not had it happen to me but I know the scene. It seems supporting the area helped him - big ace bandage. Kind of like a big hug.

What a metaphorical post. So accurate. I hope you are better soon. I wish I could come to the conference. I'd carry your books for you. :-)

Laurie-Beth said...

Oh no, broken ribs! I know how miserable that is and I'm so sorry. The pain medication IS good stuff, but Karin's suggestion really worked better for me. Wrapping them just enough to give me some support, and taking a good anti-inflammatory during the day let me function, and the pain meds at night let me sleep. They don't recommend it these days because too many people were wrapping themselves too tightly and puncturing a lung - but a little support can went a long way for me...Very metaphorical, I think…Take care of yourself…(((Hugs)))

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thank you LB and Jessica and Karin.

I'm starting to feel a tad better already. Just moving slower than usual :-)

thestraightpoop said...

Dr. Joanne,

I found your blog through Janis' "Ferdinand's Gifts", and I am so glad I did. You write with such an elegance and eloquence, and on subject matter so near to my raw heart.

Day by day you are getting stronger but remember not to get too confident, as your injury could be exacerbated just when you think you're good and healed. That's about where I am now, some six months after losing our son Henry in a stillbirth.

I am glad you drew that parallel as it helped bring some clarity to me.

Warm thoughts to you,



The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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