Friday, July 18, 2008

My Own Private Idaho

In 1991 Gus Van Sant wrote and directed a dark and compelling movie called My Own Private Idaho. It is a story of two friends who go on a quest for identity and connection and find something bigger than either one ever imagined.

This past week Richard and I took our first real vacation since my pain condition started eight years ago. We went to our own private idaho, which was, coincidentally, in Idaho. We did a six day, 120 mile white water rafting trip on the middle fork of the Salmon River.

This was the kind of adventure we used to do BP (before pain). We hiked the Canadian Rockies, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, flew with a bush pilot in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, scuba dived in the Cayman Islands. We loved to have a destination without a plan. To show up and follow the wind. We were our best selves, and at our best couple-ness, when we were moving up a mountain or diving into deep ocean. It was on dry land, within too easy reach of a wireless internet connection, that we usually lost ourselves.

When pain was my primary companion, my body and imagination were at its service. I could no more envision a wilderness adventure than I could see turning myself into a double half caf skim milk grande latte. My world was binary: pain - less pain.

When this rafting trip opportunity arose (it was at a friend's inviation who wanted to celebrate her 50th birthday in this way), I was hesistant. I feared being hundreds of miles away from Walgreens (where I send my prescriptions), a heating pad, and my pain specialist. The "what-if's" started accumulating. What if I have a pain spike? what if my meds get wet? what if it rains (my pain liked the rain)? Richard, the scientist and primo problem solver had work-arounds for all my worries.

Then I began worrying about being around twenty-five people for a week. Even BP, I needed a daily dose of solitude. AP (after pain), pain and I shared a special, private cell that only Richard and one friend ever entered. How could I focus and balance with so much human stimulation around every day?

I described my crowd anxiety to Richard. He smiled and said, "How nice to see you worrying about something other than pain. Just remember, a few years ago, a trip like this would have been unthinkable."

As soon as he said this, my perspective (and anxiety) shifted. It felt so sweet to indulge in the luxury of a normal worry.

The trip was amazing. I paddled hard and was soaking wet for 5 hours every day. My meds stayed dry. I met some wild Texans, and four take-no-prisoners Montana women who came packing water guns. I didn't think about pain much. For a week, I got reacquainted with my old self.


Tough Cookie said...

I can't stand a lot of stimulation either. Noise especially gets my nervous system going... and crowded places kill me. I need solitude. I guess it's a pain thing?

emily said...

i'm so glad you got to catch a glimpse of your self pre-pain again. i know i miss who i was before i was in pain all the time. :)

Keith, RN said...

Wow, so glad you have yourself this experience. My pain also keeps me limited, but when I let myself push just a little bit further, it often feels so good. Congratulations and welcome back!

Kim said...

What a wonderful, inspiring story! I'm glad you had fun and that pain took a back seat for at least a little while! : )