Monday, April 15, 2013

SMALL STEPS

It was two months ago that I awakened with an intense headache, a combination of uneasy tingling, piercing pain and a strange humming sound. A feeling of nausea soon added to the discomfort. I got up and walked toward the bathroom, but never made it. The next time I woke up, my beloved schnauzer was frantically licking my face, an ineffective(?)canine version of CPR . I’d fainted and, as I tried to get up, I felt more pain, this time from my left foot. Eighteen hours later, I had full confirmation that I’d broken my foot, but on the bright side, there was no evidence of a brain tumor or whatever other grim possibility a CT-scan might detect.

Today I am on the ferry, ninety minutes away from another X-ray and what I hope will be more good news. I need to hear that the foot has healed and that there is no need for surgery. Ideally, I need the good doctor to scold me, indicating that I’ve been pussyfooting around too much, telling me I should be jogging half marathons by now. Oh, if only...

I have weaned myself of the crutches which I rented for what I initially thought would be for a weekend. I’d been so naively optimistic. At a rate of $2.50 per week, they are one of life’s little bargains, but I will be thrilled to relinquish them and never hear that clunky clang again as they fall repeatedly when I prop them up. (My fearful little dog will be even more elated to bid them good riddance.)

Despite what the doctor may say, I am proud of how I pushed myself. Foolishly perhaps, I was back in the gym five days after the fall. No treadmill work, but I needed to maintain my upper body fitness so the long rehabilitation could focus solely on the injury. Each week, I pushed myself, regaining bits and pieces of my former 2 ½-hour workout. A couple gym goers mentioned that I inspired them or at least guilted them into doing more. Yesterday, I noticed a new person at the gym, a woman in a familiar air-cast boot, crutches at her side on the floor as she pedaled away on the exercise bike. I stopped to offer encouragement, to share some fitness “tricks” and to commiserate in general.

I have learned from the experience. Any setback should bring with it a few epiphanies. That notion that work cannot go on without me has been (thankfully) shaken. I should have taken the first week off and then worked four days a week during the first month. The combined sense of duty and martyrdom did nothing to help the healing process. Next time I’ll know better. Life happens; adjustments must be made.

This experience has frustrated me to the point of tears many times. Still, I have regained an appreciation for simple things. Walking my dog, even in the pouring rain when he can’t decide where to leave a larger than life deposit, is a luxury. Carrying a dinner plate to another room is something that feels exotic. Stepping into the bathtub for a shower without have to first sit and enter granny style seems utterly exhilarating.

I have felt jogger envy every single time a runner passes by. It’s not like I ran daily or that jogging was even the core of my exercise regime. Quite frankly, jogging bores me. But it’s like a pint of Haagen-Dazs when you’re on the grapefruit diet: you want it more when you can’t have it. Actually, jogging is nothing like ice cream, no matter how I portray it. Still, I do long to put on the new running gear that I bought on the eve of the fall. Five minutes walking on the treadmill would be an accomplishment. I am still waiting for the day when my still-swollen left foot will fit into a shoe. My hallway closet only has right shoes. I don’t even know where all the lefties wandered off to. I’ll be sure to check behind the dryer as that is the site of a hidden portal, the avenue for great escapes by a range of foot accessories.

I have to celebrate the small steps even when I’m antsy to go into intensive mode. I want to be able again. I want to shed the extra weight I gained while being sidelined. I want to be able to peek in the mirror again without glimpsing a bloated belly, feeling disappointed on a good day, repulsed on the others.

During my eight weeks of being “differently abled” there have been surprises. Twice at the gym while still using crutches, I had guys take my bench as I got up to switch weights. In a game of Rock Paper Scissors Steroids, the last category beats all.

I have momentarily bonded with seniors in my community who chat me up while moving in wheelchairs or with the aid of a cane. “Skiing accident?” they ask. Half the time I nod. Maybe it’s time to switch to snowshoes.

I have watched how people who seem long-term disabled are ignored while people give a nod or exchange mundane chitchat with temps like me. We’re comfortable talking about a freakish fainting episode that results in a broken foot. Multiple sclerosis? Not so much. Seems many of us heeded our parents’ “Don’t stare, it’s not polite” admonishments and never learned anything more socially sound.

Three or four months after my fall, all should be back to normal, but that doesn’t mean I should go back to the way I used to be. Evidence of true learning comes from actions, not mere thinking.

2 comments:

Bob Tyler said...

RG, you are right. Acknowledgement, without an accompanying look of pity, is what disabled, or the parents / care-takers of the disabled appreciate. They receive plenty of furtive nervous looks. Glad to hear things are healing for you.

Rural Gay said...

Hi Bob,
So glad you stopped by and read the post!

My first jobs thirty years ago involved working with people with various disabilities. Since that time, I've seen society evolve so much in understanding differences. (Who knew I'd ever have the right to marry?!)

Unfortunately, while we have improved in knocking down physical barriers for persons with disabilities, the social obstacles remain.

We need to find ways for genuine connections.