Like the Old Bull

OK, the joke I linked to. Here goes:

There’s this wise old bull and an eager young bull standing atop a gorgeous hillside, looking down at a herd of pretty cows, and the young bull goes, “Hey-hey Dad, let’s run down and fuck one of them cows!”

“No, Son,” the old bull says, “Let us walk down, and enjoy them all.”

Confused? Well, you see the old bull was telling the young bull that… Oh, wait, confused on what I linked from. It’s linked on my next post on Patagonia’s blog (on Monday, I think), where I mostly write these days and where, in spite of me, they have standards. In respect for those standards, I figured that joke might be a bit inappropriate (subbing-in “make sweet love to” didn’t have the same effect). The post is my latest in a multi-part series on this aging bullshit. I hate how everyone uses it as such an excuse – yeah, stand around the water cooler and say “Well, you did hit [insert your most recent decade]” and every time you or someone else says it, it reinforces itself and, well, just shovel-down another bag o’ Cheetos.

My recent spate of injuries prompted the aging series. I haven’t written much about it here (been lazy with the blog), but in mid-October I destroyed my shoulder. Here’s the initial injury post. It’s hard for me to reconcile – I mean, the broken leg was a total fluke; my smashed face and head this summer the same (sure I should have worn a helmet, but I’d have still ended up with the stitches in my face, and who the hell does that to themselves on a wildly overhanging sport climb, anyway?); and my shoulder? Well, initially Dr. Hackett – a phenomenal surgeon in all regards, from taking his time and explaining, to his world-renowned skills, to his & his staff’s emphasis on rehab – called it a “perfect storm.” After being in there, however, and seeing the carnage that had to have come from years and years, he called it a “time bomb.”

Damn, I’ve been in denial for a long time. It’s true that parts wear out, and I’m an idiot because I’ve often ignored the fact that with each passing year of my hammerhead mentality I reinforce bad habits, improper movement patterns, strength and flexibility imbalances, and lead myself closer to injury. Harsh realities later – with perhaps some bad luck – I’m catching on, refocusing on total body maintenance. Gotta milk as many miles as I can, and I’m grateful for the memories and experiences those years of wear and destruction brought me; far better than having let my dreams pass me by, sporting a beer gut and bitching about my age.

I suppose we all bring some things upon ourselves.

A month has passed since surgery, and this week I got out of my shoulder sling and began PT – very gently. PT hurts like a bitch but I’m psyched on it, and I’m finally feeling non-psychotic again. I’ve had enough of this, it’s gotten way old, even with the injury cliché people tell you, and that I’ve told to others: “You can use this time to focus on things you don’t normally do.”

Fuck that, I want to climb.

It strikes me more than ever how climbing and physical activity outdoors keeps me sane and keeps me happy (damn, with my leg I can’t run; with my shoulder I can’t ski or bike). This round has been rough, and I haven’t had nearly the positive attitude I had when I shattered my leg. Besides, the major repair with my shoulder – rotator cuff, labrum, and joint capsule surgery all together – worked me hard. Not just the pain and immobility, but this last month of constantly disrupted sleep, the “night pain” phenomenon, and those motherfucking evil opiate painkiller drugs, I’m done with them. No mas. They seem to work for me at first, and then after awhile they just make me dark and psychotic, inducing nightmares and hallucinations, making me think I’m losing my mind. I stopped taking them during daytime hours maybe two weeks post-op, but the pain-induced sleep deprivation made me like a zombie, so I’d take one or two at night, but I think it created a double-whammy – still lousy sleep (which makes you crazy) and then some sort of opioid build-up (which makes you crazy). I felt poisoned. Earlier this week I decided that a little night pain is the lesser of the evils, and finally I’m clear-headed again, and even starting to get some decent sleep.

Anyway, time for another round of shoulder exercises. Slowly, gently, rehabbing the shoulder, thinking ahead toward spring and those delicious days of walking into the hills, maybe now with a little bit more wisdom. Maybe a little bit more like that old bull.

8 thoughts on “Like the Old Bull

  1. I hear ya Kelly. I am so tired of hearing people use age as an excuse not to try something. I’m too old to learn a new language. I’m too old to ride my bike across the state. I’m too old to just take off and travel the world. Age is not a reason to give up living your life the way you want. Go for it man!

  2. Hey Kelly,

    I had a different shoulder injury/surgery but the doc said the shoulder’s natural state is with the arm hanging and I should try sleeping sitting up. It worked. For months I couldn’t sleep more than 2-3 hours at a time. Sleeping in a rocker like an old fart worked like a dream. First time I slept a full night in six months.

    The only cure for a shitty day of PT is a little CLASE AZUL tequila – straight. Relaxes the body better than any med.

    Good luck,


  3. I agree with you about the opiates – evil stuff. Docs just dispense it like candy because they don’t know a lot about pain and it’s an easy fix. But there are alternatives, including other classes of drugs. For example, I’m taking something called Gabapentin which helps with pain caused by nerve damage – in my case scar tissue impinging on the nerves. I’m also taking 1200mg of Alpha-Lipoic Acid which also helps to regrow nerves. Using this I’ve been able to cut the Gabapentin from 3/day to 1/day. About to try going off of it all together. This is just to say that there are whole other classes of drugs. But you need to find a doc who’s open to something other than the same old same old. My PCP also does opiate addiction management & rehab so is interested in pain management issues. Basically you want someone to diagnose what your pain is caused by and then script for that specifically. Opiates are sledge hammers for docs who are too busy to be more subtle. You do want to aggressively manage your pain. You won’t heal if you’re in pain, because your body releases all sorts of nasty stuff in response to it.

    Second, regarding your comment about “improper movement patterns, strength and flexibility imbalance” leading to injury. I’ve been thinking about that to and looking for protocols to prehab my shoulder. I’ve decided to try Paval Tsatsouline kettlebell stuff because it’s dynamic and so will strengthen connective tissue as well as make me stronger. There is a lot of pushing to counter the pulling I do as a climber so I think it may deal with my imbalances. So I ordered a bunch of stuff from him ( and they of course sent me their catalog. There is a new book “Movement: screening, assessments & corrective Strategies” by Gray Cook that seem right up this alley. I have NO idea if it’s any good, but it may be a good place to start. It’s expensive, so I’ll let you order it first and tell me if it’s any good! 😉

    Cheers, Kim

  4. You got it right kC. Fuck age. Just go for it man.
    I am getting there too, although having the mid life crisis is looming in the horizon… I mint have to go climb something big to feel like a man…

    Anyway, all the energy, thoughts and marts go to you

  5. I guess everyone of us sometimes rests in the confort zone(CZ). Of course aging is just an excuse to stay in CZ. And we never do big steps in life when we are in the CZ. As a climber you learned this lesson.

    KC, if blind people can climb, and people without legs and arms can climb, so can you. Maybe you just need to find a satisfaction in easier climbing for a while. What is important is that as a climber you need to stay a discoveror.

    Just keep on going. And I hope someone gives me hope too when I’ll need one.

  6. I hear you on this one. I just dislocated my shoulder skiing 2 weeks ago and had surgery last week on my shredded labrum. You’re right about those painkillers, nasty stuff. And everybody told me the same thing ” Well at least now you can focus on your schoolwork!”I’m already going insane sitting around. Thanks for the great writing and keep us updated on the recovery, hopefully I’ll be following close behind. Good luck,

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