Tuesday, February 28, 2012

One Damned Thing After Another


Life is just one damned thing after another.

Elbert Hubbard (1856 – 1915) is credited with this quote.  That’s a pretty pessimistic outlook for my Pollyanna mindset, but I am beginning to believe that a twist on this quote is very accurate:

Aging is just one damned thing after another.

Don’t get me wrong – overall I’m pretty happy with how I’m aging and what I’m doing to stay as youthful as possible, but, as I’ve said before, the body doesn’t always cooperate with my plans.  As I wrote in my last entry, my foot problems seem to be abating.  Then, Saturday, I went for a three-mile run and ran better than I have ever run in my life.  Afterwards – foot problems.  Not to worry, ice, heat and stretching had the inflammation calmed down by the next day.  However, the pain of walking gingerly the rest of the day on Saturday apparently caused me to tweak my hip.  Yesterday, I went out for my scheduled run, excited to see if I would be the gazelle I felt like on Saturday, only to find that I couldn’t run at all.  I used to have knee pain, then I had foot pain, now I have hip pain.  What gives?

What gives is that I’m no longer a youngster.  The foot bone is still connected to the leg bone and so on, but in between there are all these tendons, ligaments and muscles that aren’t as young as they used to be and they like to flare up at what I consider the slightest provocation.  I’m not giving into the one damned thing after another mindset, though, so today I carefully stretched my hip and I’ll let it rest for a day or two, but sore knees, feet or hips be damned.  I will be running again soon.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Evelyn


I’m a crier – I cry at movies; I cry when I read; the old McDonald’s and Kodak commercials always brought tears to my eyes.  So it’s not a big deal to see my eyes welling up with tears, but there’s one subject, the mention of one person (other than my own mom and dad), that always makes me cry even after 40-some years.  That’s my cousin Evelyn.  Evelyn was married to one of my cousins when I was just a little girl.  They lived nearby so we saw them often…and I adored her!  Evelyn was young, beautiful and so kind.  For me, a little girl growing up without sisters, she was the epitome of what I would have asked for in an older sister.

When Evelyn became pregnant with their second child, we were all excited – until we learned that there was no pregnancy.  What was believed to be a pregnancy was actually cancer.  They say, “So and so fought a valiant fight,” I’m not sure what constitutes a valiant fight, but Evelyn certainly fought a graceful fight.  Throughout her treatments, which required her to live off-and-on in a different city, she always seemed so cheerful, so bright.  I knew she had cancer; I knew she was very sick, but I never think of her as having anything other than a smile on her face.  When we both ended up at one of my aunt’s for a weekend (that’s where Evelyn stayed when she was out-of-town), my aunt told me that I’d have to share Evelyn’s bedroom.  I was thrilled to have the one-on-one time with Evelyn.  We had a lovely time.  She played with my hair and we talked.  When it was time to go to bed, Evelyn looked at me seriously and warned me that she would not be wearing her wig to bed.  She didn’t want me to be scared if I woke up in the middle of the night to find a bald lady lying next to me.  I hadn’t even realized that she was wearing a wig, but it didn’t matter – with hair or without, she was still beautiful to me.

One evening my mom and dad were preparing to go visit Evelyn when she was staying at a local hospital.  I asked my mom to give Evelyn a hug from me.  I still remember the dagger that went through my heart when my mom gently replied, “Honey, she won’t even know we’re there.”  My naïve 12-year-old brain had never grasped the idea that Evelyn would not survive this illness, that her condition was terminal.  She died a few days later and a piece of my heart went with her while my brain matured overnight.  I suddenly saw all the signs, understood all the words – all those clues that my former 12-year-old self didn’t notice, but that the somewhat hardened new 12-year-old would never again miss.

I didn’t go to Evelyn’s funeral.  Instead I volunteered to be the babysitter for all of the little ones in my family so that the adults would be free to attend the funeral.  I remember my mom asking me if I was sure that was what I wanted to do.   She knew how much Evelyn meant to me, but I assured her it was okay.  Helping with the little ones was where I thought I belonged.  Consequently, I never really grieved Evelyn’s death.  I’m not sure, at that point in my life, I even knew what grieving meant.  I just went on, sad, but bolstered by the vision I had of Evelyn, what she’d meant to me and what I would carry with me from her for the rest of my life.

That year, at Christmas, Evelyn’s husband brought by a gift for me – a gift he’d found in their closet after Evelyn had died.  The gift was marked that it was to go to me for Christmas.  It was Neil Diamond’s Gold album featuring the song Sweet Caroline.  I had loved that song before receiving this gift from the grave, but cherished it even more afterwards.  Years later, my husband and I attended a Neil Diamond concert with a group of friends.  It was a great concert and I was enjoying it immensely.  Then the opening chords to Sweet Caroline started and suddenly that little 12-year-old girl who had never grieved returned to me and I found myself overcome with emotion.  I sobbed through the song with my husband’s arm tight around me as he whispered to our concerned friends that I would be okay.

Evelyn’s life left me with a living vision of positive qualities that I wanted to emulate in my own young life.  Her death marked a turning point that meant I would never again see myself as that naïve 12-year-old child.  And now, more than forty years later, I still cry, but I believe, I hope, that I still carry some of Evelyn with me

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Barefootin'


For the last several years, I’ve struggled with foot problems – plantar fasciitis, then bunion surgery, then more plantar fasciitis, a couple of cortisone shots but still more plantar fasciitis.  I was advised to ice and stretch, to always wear supportive shoes and certainly to never go barefoot.  I now have a wardrobe of supportive athletic shoes and expensive flip-flops with arch support that I’ve been wearing every time my feet touch the ground.  I’ve even been wearing a special band around my foot with a pad on the bottom to give additional support to my arch.  Supportive shoes, additional arch support and icing and stretching seemed to help, but still the plantar fasciitis was always slightly present and every so often it would flare up.  Then I read the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall – if you’re a runner, read it!  No, if you’re a human, read it!  Among many other topics that are covered throughout the book’s story, the author examines barefoot running and the science behind the construction of the foot.  Now, understand, going barefoot is exactly the opposite of what my podiatrist recommends.  This is one of those topics where the opinions are on polar ends and I’ve been subscribing, with some success, to one end.  This week I decided to run (pun intended) to the other end.  Beginning Monday morning, I quit wearing shoes indoors and I even spent a few minutes each day walking barefoot on the treadmill.  No supportive shoes, no arch-support flip-flops, no arch-support bands, just my feet.  What did I discover?  I discovered that my feet didn’t know how to relax.  After years of never being given freedom of movement, my feet scrunched up with each step, like they were looking for the arch support.  It took a while to get them to fan out, to roll through the motion, but within a couple of days, they felt so much better.  I did have a flare-up yesterday.  It might have been the run (with shoes) – I’m trying a new running style, or it might have been the hours afterwards that I spent scurrying around the house cleaning while still wearing my running shoes instead of going barefoot.  A little ice and being barefoot for the rest of the day and the flare-up ended in time for me to wear heels last night.  I don’t think I’ll be shucking my shoes for barefooted running, but I’m really enjoying going barefooted as much as possible.  I even painted my toenails bright red – happy feet!