It Was Such a Pretty Dream

drinkin' in the tubYou may think it’ll all be easy after the holidays but no. Instead you’re right away dealing with all new challenges – like I was that New Year’s when the hot water heater turned everyone’s shower a lurid Book-of-Exodus red. 

The truth is, our troubles are never behind us, and today’s often pale in comparison to tomorrow’s. 

For example:

I’ve been inwardly whining for the last three months about the back pain I have on account of how the toy blocks of my little spine got stacked slightly off-kilter when God was knitting me up in my mother’s womb. I didn’t even know I had this problem until at one point about three years ago I started noticing that the zippers on my all my pants were zigging up in a northwesterly direction while the central seams on all my tops were zagging northeasterly. “What kind of cheap clothes are THESE?” I first thought. But a young friend, advised about this new condition, narrowed his eyes in assessment of my form and helped me better understand the issue.

“I see it” he cried, cheerily gesturing. “Your skirt is here and your top is over here!” They call it scoliosis. Anyway I dealt with this pain throughout the whole run-up to Christmas, even as I went about buying all the gifts, cooking all the food, addressing all 220 cards, etc.

But then the holiday passed and boy, was I psyched! One of those first post-Christmas nights, I found myself alone for the evening, always a cozy thing, and to celebrate this new lack-of-all-stress, I decided to take a long soak in a foamy bath.

While drinking a foamy Kahlua mudslide.  

And watching The Interview on my laptop, which I had set up on the clothes hamper not four feet from the suds.  

“I’m on Easy Street NOW!” I exulted.

And so I seemed to be until oh, about 30 minutes later when I climbed into my bed with its fresh clean sheets, sank back into the pillows – and felt settle into my body the worst virus I have ever had.

First, there was fever. Next, there were two whole days lost to memory, slept through entirely. And then, on Day Three, Fate poured five pounds of concrete into my sinuses. 

The concrete remains.  

With nose breathing impossible. I spend night after night moaning softly when, according to my mate, I’m not making noises like a wild animal. 

He is sympathetic though, except for the way he laughed out loud to find my semi-conscious self beside with a wet facecloth stuffed in my mouth to moisten a tongue so dry it turned white. More moaning! –  though the moaning sounds more like the underwater call of a whale.

But there is this, Dear Reader, there is this:  In the whole two-weeks-and-counting of this cold and virus misery, I haven’t been aware of so much as a tremor of pain in my lower back.  Joy snatched from suffering! I just know I’m on Easy Street now!

Say What You Think!

zumba_dancing_and_traningSo I’ll get to the meaning of THIS picture in a second. I was at the office of this bone guy, whose waiting room as I walked in held just one elderly couple. The husband of the pair was filling out his wife’s health history on a clipboard.

 “Knee problems,” he told me cheerily, nodding toward his spouse, who within the space of 30 seconds had thrown back her head, closed her eyes and begun performing an aria of happy snores.

Just as suddenly, she snapped awake and shot me an assessing look.“Nice you clothes,” she told to me in a heavy, Slavic-sounding accent.

I glanced down to see what I was wearing, because you know how it is: you’re not always sure just what you’ve ended up putting on in the morning. “Well, thanks!” I said.

I knew I would miss my visit to the Y that day, so instead of donning my usual crummy workout gear, I had on a forest green boot-length corduroy skirt very wide at the hem and a fur jacket that I have owned since the impenitent, over-the-top 80s when I found it for 60 bucks in an antique store down the road.

“All my life I work in clothes,” she said. “I am knowing good clothes.”

I would have asked more about that, but just then I was called into one of the examination rooms of this new-to-me doctor, who scrutinized my bent toy kite of a spine and asked about my daily life.

I mentioned the Zumba classes I take thrice-weekly at the local Y.

“Zumba?!” he repeated. “Zumba’s all wrong for you. You can’t be sending your thoracic region in one direction and your hips in the other! No more Zumba!”

“No more Zumba? “ I squeaked. “It’s the only thing I do that makes my back pain stop!’

“It’s CAUSING your back pain.”

“I don’t think so.”

“I think so.”

“What happened to ‘Movement is life’?” I said.

“What happened to ‘Listen to your doctor’?” he said.

 We looked at each other for a beat. Then, “Is this our first fight?” I said. “Listen the dancing is mostly salsa, where you keep your chest fairly still and just send your hips out to the right and the left.”

 He shook his head.

 We talked a little more, then he wrote me a prescription for physical therapy and suggested I also see a back surgeon.

 Fat chance I’m having back surgery, I thought to myself.

“He’s a surgeon, you know, and a prominent one,” he said. “He’ll hurry into the room surrounded by younger doctors. Don’t be afraid to slow him down. Make him answer your questions. Stand your ground.”

“I’m thinking that won’t be a problem for you,” he added, smiling.

 I smiled too, thanked him, and after we shook hands I returned to the waiting room, where the woman and her husband still sat in their chairs.

 The woman got right back to work examining me.

 “Good clothes,” she nodded as much to herself as to me.

 I looked down at myself more self-consciously this time, and picked up the end of the dark-green, tan and cream-colored scarf I had thrown around the neck of my jacket.

“The scarf isn’t right though, is it? I tried to find a better scarf but I don’t seem to have one.”

“No,” she said. “Scarf no good. The rest OK. Nice you clothes,” she said again.

 “Happy to meet you!” exclaimed her husband and with that we all bowed to one another and said our farewells – but not before I thought to myself how much I do appreciate frankness, wherever I chance to encounter it.

Bad Patch

I’ve been having a bad time this last week, I don’t know why. It’s not  because I learned that that spot on my shin that I thought might cancerous actually is cancer, though just the basal cell-kind.I guess that threw me a little: no more sitting in the sun lubed up with Coppertone or that ridiculous Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Oil. 

It’s not because I twisted my back muscles like a person making a pretend dachshund out of a bunch of party balloons either. That came from paddling too hard in a canoe. It’s not even because  avid and I worked so hard scrubbing and scouring things that we both still smelled like Pine-Sol even after two showers and a whole night’s sleep.

I think really it’s because for the last seven or eight days I haven’t been able to write with my customary joy; or in a way write at all. I mean, you see stuff here every day but every day I’m sweating bullets to get something written. I‘ve always felt that’s what Shakespeare was talking about in that one sonnet about the dead leaves. More than losing youth, or comeliness, or strength, it feels just awful when we open that drawer where we keep our special favorite thing we love to do and it’s Just. Not. There.

Yesterday I got to where back hurt too much to keep on scouring but I was too antsy to read and too anxious to nap. Finally I drove into this tourist town’s little center. I was crossing two parking lots to get from the pharmacy (SPF 40 sunscreen) to the hardware store (a fresh bucket for the Pine-Sol) when this little vista opened up. I shot 12 frames before I could get a shot that didn’t have cars zooming by between me and it but I did finally. Can you see the gentle rise of the Appalachians in the distance?  It calms me to look at them. I guess I need to remind myself to stop sometimes and try taking the long view.