Cultivating the “Animal mind” (Spine update)

So I’ve now banked 48 hours of work.  It’s a bit more because the first week of the month is always super heavy, and this time around it was incredible because I had to prepare for 2 surgery line meetings…the worst of which is on Monday and I am sure is causing sort of a low level background stress- when it isn’t causing me enormous anxiety.

My back has improved greatly and I think the muscles that were disturbed in the back are healing well. My right leg is still with all sorts of disturbed and altered sensations, that come and go.  Very irritating and somewhat painful, not totally limiting, but also kind of confusing.  I am assuming that the nerve is healing, and that some of the regular activity of life – sitting/walking/standing are occasionally irritating it too.  On top of the nerve pain I get some muscle spasms, because I’m not really able to stretch, or foam roll or take care of the muscle like I normally would. All of this will change in a few more weeks to months.

My second worry is about fusion of the bone.  I have X-ray in late December to look for the beginnings of fusion, but from my understanding this is the earliest they would expect to see some fusion, and we might not see any at all, which would be so depressing. I am very conscious of my movements and am trying to really limit bending, lifting or twisting.  Strangely I sometimes find myself doing these things unconsciously, especially twisting, so… we will hope I haven’t twisted my fusion from healing.  I remind myself frequently that there are patients who are less aware, and less compliant and gain fusion.  So, hopefully a positive X-ray result will be my good Christmas gift indeed.


So we will see.

In the meantime, instead of driving myself insane about it, I’ve been trying to cultivate what I’m calling, “the animal mind”. While we don’t really know too often what animals are thinking about.  (I do always wonder what my dog thinks about all day while he rests.


He does not ever seem terribly anxious about tomorrow.  He focuses intently on the situation at hand.  So far it has worked pretty well.  This has been a long injury cycle as we term it) and I think I’ve learned a few things.  People often ask me about running in the future, and I’ve really become comfortable with the reply, “We don’t know, but if things heal properly I should be able to try in about a year”.  By now I’ve realized in one year my back may be perfectly healed, and I could be struck by any number of other things that prevent me from running.  I have moments where I start to plan grandiose running adventures in my mind….


But there really isn’t anything I can do to make my bucket list happen right now except wait for healing so I tend to think about it, acknowledge a nice thought, and move on to the present.

One of the more positive things to come out of this is that I’ve had an insane amount of time to devote to other things other than training.  (The downside is that my movement is limited, so I clearly can’t devote this time to planting a garden or painting my house.) I had a load of time to research and select very nice Christmas gifts for my family, AND I think I will be able to ship them so they arrive on time. I’m going to be able to crew for a friend who is running an ultra marathon.  And I’m spending time with another friend to bake mountains of cookies and Christmas treats for people who are special to us.  I would NEVER had time for an entire afternoon of cookie baking in the past… I would have been too tired.   So there is a tiny bright side to what’s been a big cloud. And even as sanguine and calm as I feel about the spine situation, I admit honestly and freely… I’m counting the days until my follow up appointment!  16 left!!!




One thought on “Cultivating the “Animal mind” (Spine update)

  1. I’m glad you’re feeling better. When you mentioned you were going back to work, I worried it would be harder for you to heal.

    I also like your adapting “animal mind” to deal with your situation. It’s also called Zen mind, where you live just in the present moment: no thinking about the future, no worrying about the past. I think it’s a good way to deal with something you have no control over, especially a long-term health issue. Nothing wrong with making plans for the hopeful future, though! 🙂

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