Why is Judy Wearing Santa’s Big Black Boot?

Do you like to discuss your health issues?

Recently, several caring folks noticed in social media photos, I was wearing a”big black ugly boot brace” on my right foot. They kindly inquired, “What happened?” Not one to delve into personal medical challenges. until now I have publicly remained silent. I promised some of you I would blog about it, so here are answers to your inquisitive inquiries.

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Social media blew open my secret, not that it was a huge one. When I recently ventured to the Yucatan in southern Mexico to explore Mayan ruins, my first week off in 14 months, I got busted! My foot became a curiosity. It was lovely, how wonderful people cared. I am grateful to them. I will tell you my “foot story” in just a bit.

In thinking about life choices and well-being, I needed to ponder my own silence. The psychologist and positive psychology coach needed to kindly hold hands and notice what arose in my head, heart and gut. Fun to use body centered coaching to ponder my innards. Deep breathing and quiet mindfulness musing enlightened me to understand and accept own my feelings.

We all learn to wrap our life in different packages, don’t we? So I decided to unwrap my medical silence history. Very enlightening.

Here’s my backstory awareness.

When I was young, I listened with full attention to many health-related stories from older neighbors and friends. I empathized and commiserated. I felt sympathetic and was filled with compassion for the sufferers. I worried about them. I hugged them and happily ran errands for them. I rode my bike to pick up their medications at the doctor’s office. No pharmacy in my small town back then.

But deep within me, I made a promise to myself when I was old, I would not discuss my health concerns. I did not want to cause people around me to feel badly for me. I made up my mind to be stoic as best I could, so not to add a burden to anyone else. Interestingly, I did not feel burdened by the illness stories of others, but for myself, it seemed different.

I think my wonderful mom and my maternal grandparents inadvertently role-modeled me not to let illness be the center of attention. They never complained. My grandparents were hard-working Methodist farmers. They thrived on gratitude instead. They imbued the concept of “lucky” like a tattoo in my memory banks. I am glad they did. Mom used that word everyday. She always looked for the good.

My grandparents were grit personified. And happy, too, living a very simple life of work, church and a huge Sunday brunch. Yummy fried chicken, pineapple grazed ham and a big roast beef greeted us. Did our mouths water as aroma seeped into our welcoming noses! Add buttered potatoes, green beans, lima beans, and homemade pickles and fruits. I can’t forget the sweet strawberry jelly and hot yeast rolls just popped out of the oven, begging to be patted with freshly made butter. I can close my eyes and savor the smorgasbord of delicious delights right now. That meal was the highlight of my week!

But I digress. Getting back to health issues, when I was a kid, I was blessed with good health. No major injuries, either. OK, none that I knew about. It did hurt like hell when Goldie, my cousin’s pony, dragged me through the apple orchard, knocked me off her bare back and dragged me through the decaying apples. Stinky me! I was 30 years old when my ob-gyn asked me when I had broken my coccyx and sacrum. I knew after that incident, I could not sit on both of my butt cheeks for a couple years, but I never even told anyone. I just sat on one cheek at a time. Creative problem-solving!

I was fortunate to have Mom work as the administrative assistant to the superintendent of my school. I was in the same building with Mom for all 12 years of my education. The couple sick days I had in elementary school, Mom let me stay at home alone, as she did not want to miss work. She told me to call if I needed anything and she would come home. She trusted me. That was a good feeling.

Lunch time, she brought me the school hot lunch on a school lunch tray. I thought that was special. I do remember being a tad bit afraid when I was about 10, not sure why, but it was a good learning to get past that fear. Mom told me she was proud of my independence. I know that was my bedrock of positivity learning. My beginning to understand resilience and how to appreciate and savor my freedom. I knew she believed in me. Values in developmental action. I appreciate my upbringing. I love feeling in charge of my own destiny.

So what is the scoop on my foot?

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In summary, I had my first foot surgery for an acutely painful ganglian cyst in May 2015. It seemed to help, but a few months later in Puerto Vallarta, it got worse. I could not wear my shoe without severe pain.

I got back home in Wisconsin in May this year, and I immediately went to my surgeon. Alas, he told me only 10% of people get a recurrence. “Lucky” was not the word that arose for me needing another surgery, but life isn’t perfect. To make matters worse, Immediately after this second surgery, the ganglion cyst reared it’s ugly head yet again. In July, I had the third surgery for this stubborn cyst that had cursed me with its burning pain. Immediately after surgery three, a much more aggressive surgery with more bone removed, incredulously. the menace re-surfaced. The bugger rose up, renewed its torture and vanquished me yet again. A stubborn foot infection did not help matters easier, either. My foot was rebelling!

This wasn’t my surgeon’s fault, just life. But now it was three strikes you’re out. Enough! I had been laid up all summer. I was in acute pain and barely able to heel walk even with the big black ugly boot. No meds helped. Now what?

Then to add fuel to the fire, half an hour before I was scheduled to get an mri to ascertain what else was going on with my foot to cause the recalcitrant cysts, a nurse called to tell me Medicare refused to pay for the mri. What? Three surgeries and the problem is still a mystery, and no mri? Bull! I decided to pay for the mri myself and then fight Medicare.

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Finally good news. The mri results unlocked the mystery. My surgeon finally knew why my foot situation was a whole lot more complicated than x-rays had suggested. I had advanced arthritis. Now I really felt old! He referred me to another orthopedic surgeon in Green Bay. I needed a first joint big toe bone fusion with a plate and screws. My poor big toe joint was bone against bone. I needed to have more bone removed and other repairs. Problem was, my foot was too small and skinny for the plate to stabilize it. Instead, two crisscrossed screws would have to do the trick alone. That and a prayer. OK, lots of prayers!

Then something interesting happened. I inadvertently discovered an old photo from several years ago. It was a picture of my right foot black and blue exactly where my cysts had arisen. Aha. My memory refreshed, I recalled when a hug full box of photos fell on my foot. It was black and blue for weeks. I had forgotten about it. It had apparently triggered the advanced arthritis.

I had my fourth surgery at the end of August. Now I am certifiably screwed up! Or sometimes downwardly chagrined, when I am in the airport and incite the metal detector’s angst! I use my humor strength when I show them the photo of my foot and watch their eyebrows lift in amazement.

So now you know. I need to wear the boot here in Puerto Vallarta as the cobblestones are dangerous on a good day even without four foot surgeries in a year. I still need to ice it everyday and limit being on my feet. I continue to have pain everyday, but I manage it. It might take 12 months to heal. Patience, Judy!

So that’s my story for all of you curious folks, and I am stickin’ to it. You bet I am grateful to have a foot. And thanks for your love, prayers and concern. I feel very blessed.

Yes, I have been using positive psychology to help me cope with seven months of healing.

“Cope or mope and always have hope,” I use my character strengths. my 10 positive emotions, and I also daily remind myself of the PERMA model for flourishing:

Positive Emotions.

You bet I harness them everyday: Look for joy. Be grateful as it could have been worse. Breathe in serenity when discomfort rears its head.Be interested in life and in awe of my lovely world. Be amused at how I hobble around. Strap on hope. Be proud of myself for not whining and not missing one scheduled coaching appointment. Read and listen to stories inspiring coping And most of all, avail myself to love and self-compassion. Positive emotions are empowering!

Engagement.

I really dig into life and appreciate and savor it. Be it my work, gardening (very carefully now!), taking photos, loving others, or performing well. I sink my teeth into life. The result? I feel well-being and happiness. I feel in touch with my life and my purpose to help and serve others as a positive psychology coach. Even with a sore foot, I know I can forget about pain when I am in active pursuit of positivity. Choosing to keep busy and look for the good in life are great healers.

Relationships.

Positive relationships make my whole life sing with the happiest colorful notes. Sharing is caring. Other people matter. Yes indeed, positive psychology pioneer, Chris Peterson, was so very right on. Knowing I am connected to scads of folks I love and adore gives me grace and an awareness that I am in an upward spiral of positivity with to many healing souls. Positivity resonance is also key. I look people in the eye, smile, and we share micro-moments of uplifting love energy. And for that I am eternally grateful. Also, I thank my loving husband, Ken, for going to every doctor’s appointment with me and for hauling my butt on the seven-hour marathon trips to Madison for laser healing treatments too many times to count. What a guy!

Meaning.

Positive Psychology founder, Martin Seligman, defines the meaningful life as knowing what your highest strengths are and “using your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are.” And believe me, I have done my best to grab hold of my 24 strengths and wear them like a bonnet with 24 bright ribbons that brighten my life. You can discover your 24 strengths here. My top five signature strengths are: Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, Capacity to Love and be Loved, Curiosity, Gratitude, Forgiveness. Yes, indeed, these strengths as well as Hope and Diligence have paved the way for me to manage and even smile through my surgery ordeals. They are bright star constellations that light my way to experience my 10 positive emotions, too.

Accomplishment.

That seems to speak for itself. It was hard for me not to be demoralized every blame time I got news I needed another surgery. “Damn it all!” I thought, “This can’t be happening again!”. Then I would let go (or be dragged!) and ask myself what I could do to cope. What was the good here? How could I harness my blessings, strengths, and positive emotions to manage my negative feeling. It was not always easy, but many folks have it so much harder that I do. Like my cousin, Bonnie, I blogged about a few months ago. Poor dear had to have her leg amputated. My problems are minor! I am lucky indeed. I can still walk, albeit slowly. I can do almost anything I set my mind to do. It feels great to know I can continue to work and to pay positive psychology forward. Have coach will travel!

As an adjunct to PERMA, researchers have added H for Health and/or V for Vitality. You may see PERMA-H or PERMA-V in your readings. You may also notice PERMA-S suggested by my dear friend, MentorCoach colleague coach trainer, Steve Coxsey, The S is for Self-Care. Eat, sleep, exercise and mindfully take care of yourself. Live self-compassion. These elements are essential for thriving, flourishing and for finding happiness and meaning as you journey through life. They are the blissfully relevant foundations for flourishing.

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So now you know my positive mantras for living positivity, foot pain or no foot pain. Life is great even if you sometimes need to limp along. Thanks to all of you curious, kind souls who took the time to write or call to ask me about my foot. I am doing ducky dandy. I am grateful to you all. I mirror your love back to you.

Positively yours,

Judy

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