February 19th, 2010

Last Weekend, part 2 of 2

After Manhattan, I met up with F/friends [1] and we set off for Peekskill on the train. By that point, my back was still in quite a lot of pain; I took some pain drugs, but not enough. I spent nearly all of the trip lying down, but there were lots of amazing views of the Hudson when I did sit up a bit.

Thence to car, thence to the Catholic retreat center for our Queer Quaker gathering. Oh, the iconography at the Catholic retreat center. It was something. I took photos, but I haven't had time to do anything with them. Other people during the weekend were talking about their various relationships with Catholicism; I can say my reaction was mostly puzzlement. Whatever.

The retreat center was a seven story building on the top of a large hill, so there were great views of the Hudson and surrounding hills. The Appalachian Trail ran nearby, and there was apparently very good sledding. Not that I went outside.

The gathering went well; there were about 100 of us, including a huge number of newcomers who seemed excited about coming to next year's (in North Carolina).

I spent most of the first few days on my back. On the day we arrived, I got acupressure then acupuncture from my friend Amy, who had taught me the very effective headache acupressure points this last June. She has been practicing for 17 years; "by now, I sometimes even feel like I know what I'm doing." I will say it made a fairly big difference, and dramatically. Some of it was sort of like an ice pack, without the cold.

In the first day I also gained +1 in Pain Management skills from other friends [2]. I can be fairly stubborn about asking people for help, but this was a substantial lesson in asking. And feeling so restricted in what I could do for myself. And feeling so frustrated at not knowing how I'd be doing in an hour, or the next morning.

Very early on, lying on a couch, my eyes fell on a wall containing the Serenity Prayer ("Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; The courage to change the things that I can; And the wisdom to know the difference.") I had to chuckle, because that was indeed one thing I needed.

With all the lying-on-hard-floors and moving-mattress-off-squishy-frame and pill-popping as necessary, I did start feeling better, very gradually. I could go on for a while about how great people were; apart from when I've been home sick in bed, I had never needed that much help before. I got all the help I asked for and lots I hadn't specifically asked for.

I had a group activity each day in the center's Chapel, which had amazing stained glass (and a comfortable carpet).

The gathering itself was a combination of work and a joy and occasionally frustrating but felt overall, graceful. I think I learned more about working with people and asking them for their best and trusting in that. I helped where I could.

I missed friends who couldn't make it this time. I missed catching up with people because they were across the room or across the building and I couldn't get up to talk to them.

I didn't sing enough. I didn't play nearly enough. I'll go back.

The train back to Manhattan was wonderful- watching the Hudson and getting to know a long-time attender and talking about life experiences. He is 60; he used to travel the world, and felt at home everywhere. Now, he doesn't feel at home anywhere, and wonders what he should do about that. But he's lived in the same Midwest US town for the last six years, and may move soon for work, which hopefully will help. ...I have felt the opposite experience. I don't think I've ever felt at home "everywhere" when I'm traveling, though really I haven't ever traveled for extended periods of time. And right now I certainly feel settled.

But when we arrived in Grand Central again, I had tremendous wistfulness for not being able to spend any more time there on this trip. Oh well, it will still be there too.

The flight and drive home were uneventful, and much less painful than the other direction. I had drugs, and I had a gel ice pack, which actually was as good as advertised on the box ("stays cold eight hours": I froze it overnight and put it in my luggage, which I checked, and it was still cold at the end of the car trip, eight hours later)

And seeing melted_snowball and roverthedog was about as great as you might guess. :)

[1] that is, friends who are Friends.

[2] The details are probably boring to everyone but me, but: Alternating Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen at two hour intervals; Taking 3 or 4 Ibuprofen at the outset, with food (always with food; it's supposed to do bad stuff to the stomach without food at the same time); how effective an ice-pack can be; and laying on the floor with lower legs on a shelf/chair, parallel to the floor, to remove all leg weight from the spine. These are all probably basic things that I had been told before, but this time, it's internalized, y'know?

Oh! And I learned another acupressure point from Amy! I couldn't turn my head to the right because my neck was sore. She put my thumb against the muscle on the top of my lower right arm, and had me push hard ("as if the thumb was a coathanger hanging off the back of your arm"). To find the point: put your thumb in the crook of your elbow, fingers wrapped around the top of the arm. Note the crook of your thumb and second finger, on the arm. That's more or less the pressure-point; it should be the middle of a muscle. Move the hand so the thumb pushes into that point. She had me turn my head a bit to the right, and if the neck still hurt, move the thumb around a bit and try again. I was dumbfounded that I was able to find it, and find the same point in my left arm, and they both worked! This might have made the difference between being able to safely drive home, and not.

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Daniel Allen
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