“Getting old, ain’t for sissies”, my grandmother used to say. I didn’t really understand it then when I was 20 years old and healthy. But now that I’m over 50, I get it.
My grandmother was an active, vibrant, hot redhead. She lived almost 100 years. She always seemed healthy as she went dancing every week, she had lots of friends and boyfriends, and she was very active for her age. She ate well, was happy, and was mentally strong the entire time. She actually died of “old age” right before her 100th birthday.
Yes, she had the usual getting old aches and pains, minor issues like varicose veins, used a hearing aide, and had a few other health issues like POTS. But she handled all of them with grace and she was still a firecracker to the end.
Both her and my mother also had issues with their teeth, so I knew eventually so would I. All those issues that are hereditary. Sure enough, I went to the dentist, and they said I needed a few issues corrected and that it was best to do the ones on the same side of my mouth at the same time.
It made sense to me. Besides they are the professionals, so I listened to their advice. The good news is that they put me under general anesthesia for the process and I didn’t feel anything until I woke up. I’m definitely a whimp when it comes to pain. Boy, was there pain when I woke up.
Luckily my husband took good care of me and followed all the oral surgeon’s instructions and even though I was in pain, I knew I was in good hands. I thought I’d be fine in a few hours or even a day, but I wasn’t expecting the side effects of the surgery.
I couldn’t talk!
I won’t go into details, but I couldn’t even open my mouth for most of the first day. Then when I could, it was just a little bit to get liquids down me for nourishment. That was it. My jaw was fractured and extremely painful. So, any movement hurt like the dickens.
At first, I thought, “No problem. I don’t need to talk.” Hahaha was I wrong. Since I was still drugged up with the general anesthesia and very groggy, I couldn’t get up or walk by myself the first day. Which also meant that I had major brain fog and it was difficult to think or see as well. I didn’t feel like myself mentally for almost 4 days.
Next, I thought: “I can just sit here until I get better. I don’t need to do anything.” Wrong again. Not only did I get hungry, but I also needed to go to the “little girl’s room”. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t think very well, I was groggy, and I couldn’t see very well. This was not fun.
And now somehow, I needed to try to express to my husband that I needed help getting up out of the chair, walking to the washroom, and that I wanted him to fix me something to eat (drink).
I couldn’t walk by myself yet, so he had to keep me stable as he walked me to where I needed to go. I felt like I was at one of those retreats where you do trust exercises with your partner. I really had to trust him not to drop me or run me into a wall accidentally.
I have to say, the hardest thing to figure out was our communication!
It’s not like I knew this would be an issue, and it’s not like this is something you practice. So, how do I tell my husband I needed these two things? He was doing what he normally does and was walking around the house doing odds and ends, working on his computer, and on his phone. Not paying attention to his surroundings.
The first thing I had to do was get his attention, because how else would he even know I needed something if he wasn’t looking at me. That was harder than I thought since he was concentrating on other things. Not being able to talk, trying to get his attention meant using my hands to make a noise.
Ok, now that he’s looking at me, how do I tell him I need him to get me up and take me somewhere? Needless to say, it was a difficult day. It took us a long time to figure out how to communicate properly with each other so that he understood exactly what I needed. Again, remember my brain was still groggy so it was extremely difficult for me to concentrate. I was probably confusing the heck out of him.
I had to focus as hard as I could to try to communicate with body language. All I could think about when trying to communicate with my husband was using my cues for my horse. A true horse woman at heart.
However, I couldn’t make noises so clucks or clicks were out of the question and my husband didn’t know my hand cues. He figured them out by seeing my hand cue and then asking me, “do you mean this?” until he finally got a thumbs up that meant he was right. I couldn’t even move my head up and down or sideways since any movement hurt like crazy, even with the pain killers. So, you know how much pain I was in.
We finally got the basic cues down and our communication was on track. Or at least I was finally able to teach my husband what my hand cues meant, and we were able to communicate easier. That worked for getting me up and moving down the hall. Now I had to figure out cues to tell him what I wanted to eat (drink) and how to fix it for me. Those were more advanced cues that needed me to use a lot more body language.
It was really difficult!
There were some really funny moments in there too. Me being groggy, not thinking straight, can’t move well, and trying to use only body language and horse cues to communicate with my husband how and what to fix me something to eat. It was rather humorous when I look back at it.
Then as my head started to get a little less foggy, I remembered that I have a phone and I could text my husband what I need. That went a lot easier. Duh.
I still can’t really talk and am only on liquids and soft foods, whatever is small enough to fit in my mouth that I can just swallow without chewing. But it isn’t all bad. Here is something good that happened. I was sitting out at the pond watching my fish and relaxing and being quiet. Normally I talk to my fish. I talk to all my animals, squirrels, birds, fish, dogs, cats, etc…
And now that I couldn’t talk, I had to sit in silence. I normally do that for a short time, but I must talk more than I think I do because it was hard to sit for a long time without talking. The good thing was that I learned that by not talking, I could hear more. It changed the way I was interacting with nature around me. Just slightly, but it made a big difference.
While I was sitting there listening, a beautiful dragonfly started flying around my face and landed on my knee. It sat there for a long time and then drank water from the pond and came back over to me. It was obvious to me that it enjoyed me not making noise and talking. Guess I do talk more than I think I do.
This whole experience has given me a new perspective about my horses. I have so much more respect for my horses now and their way of communicating with body language. It’s hard! As humans I know we talk a lot and don’t pay as much attention to our body language as we should when we’re around our horses. So, it’s got to be so confusing for them at times, just like it was for my husband.
Horses really are amazing to be able to figure us out as well as they do, and they have so much patience to work with us with all our talking. They hear “blah, blah, blah, blah” (like Charlie Brown’s teacher) but they have learned to understand us so well.
My takeaway from this was:
- When teaching my horse my cues, verbal and nonverbal, be more patient and allow him time to think and process what I’m doing.
- Be more consistent and precise with every cue so I don’t confuse my horse.
- Be more intentional with every cue – what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.
- Be more conscientious with my own body language when I’m around my horse.
- Always get my horse’s attention and pause before asking for something.
- Listen more and talk less.
- I’m probably not very good at pantomime games.
Those were my lessons for this week, and I hope you enjoyed my story.
If you enjoyed my blog and have a friend you feel could benefit from my story, please pass it along. My hope is that each story reaches the person it was meant for and that they can help one person and one horse at a time to reach their dream goals. Allowing the horse to have his dream person and that person to have their dream horse along with the best relationship possible.