In which it's Story Day, and I am trying to be a bit brave(r)

First off, Happy Story Day!

Y'all can celebrate the candy-flower thing if you want, but at Haiku Farm
we celebrate Story Day on February 14th.
Here's WHY.

In more current news, I stacked up all my courage and scheduled my surgery: unless things change dramatically in the next two weeks (very unlikely), I'll head in for total hip replacement on March 3rd.  Wishes for good luck and speedy recovery are gratefully accepted in the comment box below!

But here's the thing about being afraid and being brave and most of all here's the thing about giving advice:  if you give it, you gotta be willing to take it.  So, when I posted some advice to Funder, who is nervous about entering the 20 Mule Team ride, it occurs to me that I should probably apply my advice to my own situation.  Turnabout sucks, by the way.

So, here's what I told Funder, with introspective comments inserted in italics:

Here's the thing about fear: it really IS the mind-killer and the little death. (and if you don't recognize that quote, you need to shoot me and put me out of my misery at once). Fear absolutely can stop you in your tracks and make you run backwards and go home and sell your rig and take up knitting instead BUT YOU AREN'T GOING TO LET THAT HAPPEN.

I expect Funder to get the mind-killer reference, but if other readers  don't, run-don't-walk to you local public library or bookstore and get a copy of Dune by Frank Herbert.  Then, come back here and we can talk more.

Here's what you will do instead. Pay attention. There will be a test. You can write these down (recommended) or not.

* Make a list of things that have gone wrong in the past, and how you didn't die of them. Maybe you didn't conquer them all, but they didn't kill you. If you are unsatisfied with your original response, make up a new one--better yet, make up three good responses for every one you didn't like.

The thing about Funder's situation is that she has done endurance for some years now.  She's got a good handle on what can and usually does go wrong.  

My situation is different:  I've never been hospitalized.  I still have my wisdom teeth and my tonsils.  Total sedation is a new and frightening thing to me.  

So...I gotta cope with the fear by throwing information at it.  Percentage of people who enjoy hospitalization:  very small number.  Percentage of people who have routine hip replacement surgery in modern hospitals and return to full mobility including endurance riding: much larger number.   

Okay.  Moving on.

* Make a list of things that are *likely* to go wrong at 20 Mule Team. Be very complete with this list--it should be a long one. Not everything on this list will actually go wrong, but some of the stuff on the list will. With each thing, list some responses you might have. Include the bad responses as well as the good ones, so you'll recognize them if you see them. When you're satisfied that you've found good responses to every bad situation that is likely to happen, cross off your bad responses.

Again, my situation is different because I've never done anything like this before.  

That said, I can predict some stuff that might go wrong:  
*   I will try to do too-much/too soon.  That's fairly likely.  
*  I will neglect to take my pain meds and that will bite me.  Also fairly likely.  
*   I will go stir crazy, stuck in my house away from my friends and the trails and my horse.  Actually not quite as likely, since the Usual Suspects have promised to help me through the process...and the Dragon lives in the backyard.  There's another coping strategy in the wings, but I don't want to mention it quite yet (details soon, I promise).  

I'm also stacking up books, movies (still hunting for Season 4 of Downton on DVD--anyone?  And the final season of Matt Smith as the Doctor--on DVD?)  

And of course, I do have a book or two that I can write while I'm not-very-mobile.

The takeaway is that I'm going to need to trust the authority of Jim and my friends to help me to avoid doing stupid stuff.  

I'm getting much better at not doing stupid stuff, but the Bad Idea Fairy knows my name, and she's not afraid to use it.  Sigh.

* Make a list of things that MIGHT go wrong but probably won't. Go wild with this. Include things like a major earthquake, terrorist attacks in ridecamp, your crew getting abducted by aliens, your riding partner getting bucked off and eaten by his starving horse, and the long-awaited coming of the zombie apocalypse. Again, think through your possible responses to each, and give serious brain-time to all of them, good and bad. Then, cross off the bad ideas and circle the good ones.

Most of the unlikely stuff stems from medical mistakes that are beyond my control--it's possible that Daleks will take over the hospital during my surgery.

Granted, it's unlikely, but more importantly: there's nothing I can do about it.  

It's possible that Jim will accidentally drink a love potion and fall in love with the anesthesiologist while I'm still out cold.  But since the Suspects will be on-hand to dispense a remedy, I'll just have to trust that he will still be there when I wake up.

Now (this is the test): rehearse these lists. In your brilliant, creative mind, you need to practice making all the good choices you put on those lists. Mentally rehearse them while brushing your teeth, walking the dog, and doing anything else that you would usually do with your ear buds in. Visualize yourself hunting for a lost boot on the darkest part of the trail using the flashlight you remembered to bring, see yourself sucking down applesauce (or whatever) at a vetcheck when you would rather be puking in the sanican. Do this at least twice each day leading up to the ride (three times daily is better, more than that is obsessing).

So here's what I need to mentally rehearse before heading out to the hospital:
*  The surgery is so boring and routine, the doc will mispronounce my name after it.
*  Jim and the Usual Suspects will meet me in the Recovery Room wearing prom dresses and wings, and singing old Pete Seeger songs with the staff.
*  The hospital staff won't try to make me eat jello--not the regular kind and not the super-poisonous kind made with Splenda.
*  My recovery will be swift, my pain will be controlled and then outgrown, and my brain will by super-stimulated by the meds and I will finish edits on the newest book before I have to go back to work.
*  My Dragon will miss me, or at least notice when I show back up again.
*  I will be back in the saddle after a sufficiently sane period of recovery, and I will be released to do whatever damn-fool thing enters my head after the 6-month mark.


You got this.

I got this.

Now, if I can just take my own advice.  My goal is waiting for me:

Photo c.2007.  She has not gotten any shorter, and I haven't gotten any taller.

...and she is very, very tall.


  1. Get it, girl. You'll be fine! You'll say some really crazy shit when you come out of anesthesia, but as long as Jim is there to record you for posterity, all will be well.

    For me, the trick to managing my own injuries is to pretend that I am my horse. Would I dose my horse with Bute every X hours like the vet said, to control inflammation and speed healing? Damn straight I would, so I take my advil (or hydrocodone, or whatever). Would I hand walk her if there's a compelling reason to make her move? Damn straight; so do your PT. Would I lock her in a stall if needed? Yep - don't overdo it! Pretend you're an animal under your care and control and follow your vet's - errr, doctor's instructions!

    Can't wait til you're back on your Dragon!

  2. You rock, seriously. You give the best pep talks, even to yourself. How awesome is that. You've got this. I have no doubt that you'll do great and recover quickly, you've already managed to tame a Dragon, you'll conquer this too. Good luck!

  3. My name is Becky Bean and I.... I enjoy my time in the hospital.

    It's like a hotel, with free room service, and cable tv, and not only are you exempt from sweeping/mopping/laundry/whatever, people get mad at you if you even try. So you can sit back and read books and watch tv, and there is NO GUILT, no feeling of "I should be doing...." none of that. Your job is to read books. For as long as you want.

    The food is good - as in, I genuinely enjoy it. And then when you're done, someone magically takes the tray away and I didn't have to cook OR do dishes, and it's great.

    Full sedation - I've done it four times now? I think? Anyways, every time I promise myself I'm going to remember what it feels like, but I never do. You check in, and everyone greets you until you kind of want to roll your eyes at them. Yes, yes, you're my nurse... .and you're my doc... and you're my anesthesiologist... and you're my doc's assistant... and you're the lady that walks my doctor's assistant dog, yes... yes....

    After all that, they give you a shot into your IV (If you haven't already taken a pill) which makes you feel like you're buzzed on alcohol, but without the dizziness or anything. You're just - not as concerned as you were. You feel lazy, like a cat in the sun.

    And then they wheel you into the big scary operating room, and it's a little unnerving, because you're lying on a bed, so everything looks bigger, like when you were a kid... only you don't really care all that much, because of the shot they put in your IV earlier. It's just kind of interesting, rather than scary. The surgery team talks quietly, and they move around like a practiced team, and you hear soft footsteps and occasional "Did you get the such-and-such?" type comments as they get things ready.

    And then your anesthesiologist (and they'll introduce you to him before hand) comes over, and it's a rule that all anesthesiologists all have really sexy, very sweet eyes, and as you stare into them he'll either slip something into your IV, or put an oxygen mask on you. And you breathe in the mask, and think, huh, this smells kind of sweet, like mint? Or gum? Or maybe

    And then you wake up in the recovery room, and you're like, "DAMNIT. I WANTED TO REMEMBER WHAT IT FELT LIKE TO GO TO SLEEP." Except it's all over. And you think - it can't be. I would remember going to sleep - but you don't.

    And you'll lay there kind of loopy, in that weird in between daze, trying to gather your thoughts, and you'll feel like you're all there, except they'll wheel you back to the room, and you won't really notice it, and time passes by really quickly, because you'll discover you've been out of surgery for 2 hours, and it really only feels like 5 minutes.

    And the hospital controls your pain meds for the first 24 hours or so, so you just get to watch HGTV and pretend you can decorate your house that nice, and doze, and you're not that hungry, but by golly, someone's offering you food again, isn't that sweet of them?

  4. At the grocery store I observed this woman, in her mid 60's, walking quite well and upright with purpose with a walker. She is walking around greeting all the workers with a chipper attitude. Turns out she works there and she just had her hip replaced a week ago (yeah I was shamelessly eavesdropping). ONE fricken week and she is happy to be out and about and talking up a blue streak! You can do this, you will be just fine.

  5. Aarene, you are one of my heroes. I admire your courage, your wisdom, and your outlook on life. I will be thinking about you lots during this time, and as you said in your post... "You got this."

  6. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing......Only I will remain

    I wanted to talk about anesthesia but Becky did it so much better. I was equally disappointed to not remember anything. I woke up and said, "OK I'm ready to have my teeth taken out now" and they said, "You're done."

    That you have such a support system will make all the difference if a meal by chance includes a jello cup. I'll be praying for you too.

  7. You got this... I admire your bravery, respect your clarity, and most of all need to see you back on the Dragon (and yes, I got the Dune reference). Be smart, be brave, and Do AS YIU ARE TOLD.

  8. I just experienced total sedation in November, to attach a metal plate and six screws to my shattered arm.

    I was petrified about it. Pretty much lost my sh*t for the week between finding out I needed surgery (arm wasn't healing normally) and the day of...

    Was still a little weepy throughout the calm, considerate and careful prep my lovely nurses guided me through. My very sweet (and yes, Becky is correct, sexy eyed) anesthesiologist patiently answered my questions, assuring me that people with control issues often have a hard time anticipating getting knocked all the way out.

    Yes, yes we do.

    Surprisingly, it was the most thoroughly restful sleep I've ever had, during which I happily dreamed of riding. Seriously - I was kind of mad to be waked up.

    Bottom line - it's not all bad, easier than you think, and being whole again is totally worth it. Totally.

    Joining the many folks sending happy, healing thoughts your way. :D

    1. I too panicked and cried when I found out the leg needed surgery (though I only had a couple hours to accept the reality of it). My anesthesiology nurse was incredible and literally held my hand through it. I too dreamed of riding... CP on a beautiful spring day.

  9. You give marvelous advice, Aarene. I am betting you very often follow it, unlike Alice.

    I took a fabulous class once on facing fears. I ended up shocking myself to push my electricity fear limits. It was horrible and also exhilarating. If you've got a smaller fear you can face, I would recommend this game to build up your mental muscles.

    Here's my story if you care to give yourself scary ideas:

    March 3rd is on my list of days to send you extra mojo. Go, Aarene, go!

  10. Sending thoughts for a smooth surgery and recovery. Total sedation is a scary thing. I didn't have a choice either time that I had mine, and I was a ball of nerves for Mike's surgery. The good news is that you'll have no sense of time during your sedation so after the initial, "Here, breathe this," it'll literally be over before you know it. Keeping you in my thoughts <3

  11. " The hospital staff won't try to make me eat jello--not the regular kind and not the super-poisonous kind made with Splenda." - OMG that is exactly my fear about being in the hospital too! No joke. LOL.

    Seriously you've got this. And you are doing it for the right reasons, and the right reasons (saddle time) can triumph all. A love of horses and endurance are an incredibly motivator to face fear head on.

  12. Trust your surgeon, have faith in your higher being, and be relentlessly optimistic of a good outcome. You can do this. Sending you wishes for peace and calm.

  13. I'll be thinking of you! I've never had surgery (and am petrified of hospitals) so can't offer any advice but will look forward to seeing a pain-free you and the Dragon on the trail later this year:)

  14. You GOT this! Focus on how awesome prom dresses, wings, and Pete Seeger songs will be on pain meds. You will laugh yourself silly. As for taking one's own we really have to do that? :)
    FYI it's super helpful to take one large-ish person or several smaller persons into pre-op, to sit on oneself. I found this very helpful in the Not Walking Out of The Hospital department. This is going to be so routine the surgeon not only will mis-pronounce your name, he'll scratch his head and say "gee, I thought you were a dude. No...he was last week. All good. Sorry."


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