WE ARE FINITE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Finite

Back when I was actively learning to ride and then riding as often as I could cough up the money, I also fell off horses. I don’t mean I was bucked off. No, it was the more embarrassing thing. Trying to jump a little tree limb on the path, I was positioned wrong and just fell off. Once, I fell off because a couple of German Shepherds came out of a backyard and did a lot of loud barking and the horse kicked back at them. I slid half off, then hit a tree … and I was down.

Three bright birds

I remembered the most important thing for a falling rider: hang onto the reins. If you let go, the horse will go home to his or her barn, leaving you on the trail. You may not even know the way back because it wasn’t uncommon to send people out on the trail alone and when you said: “How do I know where I’m going?” you were told: “The horse knows.”


I was never entirely happy with that answer. Horses love their stables. That’s where the food and the water trough are located. Mostly, they didn’t want to leave it in the first place, so if there’s a shortcut, they will use it. Several times, I had a horse go a couple of hundred feet, make a u-turn and trot joyfully back to the stable.

The horse knew the way. It merely wasn’t the way I wanted to go.

In the course of falling off horses while hanging onto the reins (or if that didn’t work, the stirrup), I damaged the ligaments in my right shoulder. I was young and it only bothered me when the arm was fully extended and the elbow was locked straight, so I figured, “One of these days, I’ll have it repaired.”

It was a simple repair. Other — more urgent — stuff came up through the years. My spine (falling off horses didn’t do my back much good, either) and a growth on my right leg that required a replacement of a big piece of bone and six months on crutches. I became a really good hopper. At 15, hopping was faster than crutches. My mother said I was ruining the carpeting.

Then there was a ruptured ovary from an ignored ovarian cyst … and the next thing I knew, I graduated college and I was having a baby. Then, there was work.

So for all these years, I have had a bad right shoulder. It didn’t get worse over time, but it didn’t get better either.

In November, I bought bird feeders and not long after that, I got a great long lens to take pictures of the birds. All of which has involved holding still with the heavy camera supported mainly by my right arm and trying to stay focused on one small area — the one where I’m sure the birds will show up.

A few weeks ago, that shoulder started to really hurt. Not while I was shooting, but at night when I was trying to sleep. I got a cortisone shot in that shoulder which helped calm it down, but I still have to prop it up on a pillow or the weight of my arm pulls on that old, damaged ligament.

I went to a bone and joint doctor and asked if I could get it fixed. He agreed it needed fixing but as to actually fixing it?


I double and triple checked his opinion and the answer didn’t change. It turns out there really is a finite amount of time during which you can fix broken pieces of yourself. In my case, that ligament had lost its elasticity and of course, arthritis had invaded the joint, so no one wanted to mess with it.

Add to that the number of major surgeries I’ve already had and no doctor wants to mess with me unless it’s a matter of life or death.

The shoulder was damaged while I was in my late teens, so I have had sufficient time to get it fixed. There have been too many other medical emergencies, so it never seemed critical. Now, using a heavier camera and a pretty big lens, that shoulder and I are having a rough time. My right arm really hurts. I have spent the week not taking pictures because my shoulder needs to rest. It’s frustrating and there’s nothing I can do about it … except give it a rest.

About 15 years ago, Garry had his shoulder fixed. Tommy John surgery for you baseball fans and for everyone else, tendons, rotator cuff, ligaments et al. It was a big surgery. His pitching arm went all to hell and I don’t see another Major League Baseball contract in the future. Meanwhile, his other shoulder has punked out too, but no one is willing to fix it. He’s at an age where soft connective tissues don’t heal well. Predictions for the outcome of the surgery aren’t great.

Pieces of us are finite. There’s a limit to how long you can wait to fix something and if you wait too long, oops. I was surprised. I always figured I’d deal with that shoulder “one of these days.”

I ran out of days.

Finite. Not infinity.

Categories: #FOWC, Daily Prompt, Fandango's One Word Challenge, Health, horses, Humor

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12 replies

  1. A telling story. I have my own ignored “soft” injuries—the kind bad enough to impact you with daily inconvenience but not life threatening enough to warrant getting it seen to. The ones that will accompany us to the grave. I guess we have to learn to live with our regrets since we can’t give them away!


  2. That’s the trouble with camera equipment. It is so heavy if you hold it for long periods of time. I rarely take my long lens out with me any more unless I am going to a sporting event because of the extra weight. Luckily because I like to photograph buildings and landscapes I use a wide angle more often.
    Years ago David and I bought a pair of Zenit SLR’s. They were Russian made cameras, very sturdy but they weighed as much as half a brick each. We took them overseas with us and my shoulder certainly knew about it by the end of that trip.


  3. Those lens are heavy and coupled with the camera heavier. What we do for a good photo.


    • There doesn’t seem to BE any other way to shoot birds or other wildlife, but my arm is REALLY sore. So the camera with the big lens is on the table, but I’m not using it. Maybe a little bit tomorrow if I see a particularly entertaining bird. Otherwise, I need to let this heal and continuing to work it will not make it better.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. It is a pity it cannot be fixed- not an uncommon thing to put something off – who thinks there won’t be a time to take care of it? The tripod suggestion does sound like it might help


    • It’s that I’m shooting through small windows on a French door. NOT a lot of latitude AND there are the dogs. I need to rest the arm for a few more days, then go gently, gently. Not a problem with a smaller lens … just the 100-300.


  5. I’m sorry the shoulder can’t be fixed — but perhaps a tripod or other prop would help. Your camera is doing wonders with the birds these days — that lens is spectacular!


  6. A tripod might help with holding that heavy camera, Marilyn…


    • I have thought about it and I have a tripod. But I’m shooting through small windows in a French door and I have to see what I’m doing. And I would have to get one serious, heavy-duty tripod because otherwise, the dogs would knock it over.

      Liked by 1 person

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