Do you remember the feeling of falling? There is a moment when you’re running downhill gleefully, thrilled at the sensation of your feel moving faster than you ever expected yet keeping everything balanced over them. Then a falter, either your feet can no longer keep up and don’t lift in time to match the momentum of your body, or the crystals of your inner ear are sloshing so hard that they can’t tell you where you are in space anymore. There’s a moment when when a voice that sounds like yours says, “I’m going down,” and then you surrender and fall and it feels just like falling in a dream.
Gravity is incredible. Your body, which normally teeters giddily upright meets the ground with incredible force. You and the earth that you are normally dancing lightly atop, slam together, like monster magnets.
How to not fall: Sit very very still in a bomb-proof chair. Do not bend over and then straighten back up. Do not lean back casually against anything solid-seeming, like a bookcase. Do not think about what you will be doing a few seconds from now or how to answer a companion’s question – STAY IN THE MOMENT! Sit on the top step and bump your way slowly down on your butt. If you must leave the house hang on tight to your friend’s arm until you are back to the bomb-proof chair. Meanwhile, undertake a precise, strenuous program of corrective exercise and DO NOT STOP until you are in peak physical form. Simultaneously and systematically optimize your balance and coordination. Get your act together! Meditate more. Regulate your emotions. Modulate your blood pressure and liver enzymes with Brain Power. I know you can do it. You can succeed. You are all that. And More.
In addition to spraining her ankle yrmama also watched the second debate, which was more thrilling than the first. I predicted Kamala would break from the pack, and she did. I also saw her standing there – and long before she shushed the bickering children and eviscerated Joe – thought she looked like she was in charge of the event. Joe, Bernie and Bill all relied on the tried-tired-and-true method of being white men who yell and looked stupid for it.
Tomorrow Marianne will be speaking at a church service in Cedar Rapids and then holding a town hall there at noon. Should be an interesting scene.
Bernie will be in town Tuesday to open his Iowa City office and to have an ice cream social at College Green Park. Ice cream! Yelling!
July 14 is the Progress Iowa Corn Feed at NewBo Market. So far 10 of the candidates plan to be there.
On Tuesday yrmama strode across the deck in her especially stable New Balance shoes after walking a couple of miles at the dog park, completing her foot and ankle strengthening exercises and her balance improving exercises to pick some luscious organic arugula for her lunch. She wobbled a bit and her ankle tipped over in such a way that all of her considerable weight was on the top of her foot instead of the bottom. Something cracked, she screamed a little from the intense pain, then lowered herself into the grass to cry and say bad words for a while. No dogs to blame this time, no ice, marbles or banana peels, just gravity. Doctors and PTs always try to blame those things for yrmama’s falls and say, “yrmama, that happens to everyone.” To which yrmama replies, “I don’t know anyone at the advanced age of 55 who wipes out, falls down, goes arse over tits as frequently as I do. I’m not imagining this.” It’s not like there’s anything they can do about it, it just sucks. A few years ago a doctor who was checking yrmama for fractures was concerned by the immense, ghastly bruises across my chest and upper arm and wondered if JM had pushed me down the steps or something. He’s no danger to me, quite the opposite, but she was right to check. Another time I cut my shin whilst falling up the stairs at the public library. When I reached the top a kind young reference librarian, alarmed by the blood trickling down my leg, asked if I was okay and if I would like a band aid. I proudly declined.
Do nothing to compromise your dignity. Admitting to a reference librarian that one’s leg is bleeding is just weak.
Fun and Useful Facts: Hypermobility makes one’s joints loose which leaves the whole chain of command wobbly. It also impairs one’s sense of where one’s body is in space aka clumsiness. As a child yrmama was so clumsy as to be sent to a remedial Saturday morning PE class that the school district provided for the clumsy kids. It was a long time ago so Ehlers Danlos hadn’t been invented yet. But that’s just as well because considering the anciency of times and my parents I would have been discouraged from exercising which would have been very counterproductive.
it’s very hard to accept that yrmama won’t get well.* Evidence of that difficulty is that I really do think I will get well soon, but genetic collagen defects are forever, man. Plus my advanced age is kicking it in. For example, yrmama was limping like a zombie yesterday, swaying stiffly side to side and constantly on the verge of losing her balance. My foot hurt, but I wanted to keep working, so I did. It was 70F, sunny and I was planting things, clearing brush at the edge of the woods and filling the car with mulch. I like to do stuff. I hate sitting. But finally I had to stop because it was painfully ridiculous to be wobbling around like that and dragging my leg while trying to use heavy tools. Giving in to the big pain in my foot led immediately to feeling bad about myself: I thought I had this foot thing fixed, I thought I had this under control. Maybe I haven’t been doing the exercises the PT prescribed dutifully enough, maybe I should have worn different shoes. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I do this when everyone else can?
Until about a year ago I always said, “It’s going to hurt no matter what so I might as well be doing something I like.” Then I began a summery descent into a whole new realm of pain that led to spine surgery. During that un-belayed descent my doctor advised, “This isn’t the time to power through, yrmama,” and “this kind of pain is humbling.”
You’ll be glad to hear that yesterday I surrendered relatively early in the pain spiral. I washed off the poison ivy, took a big slug of CBD and some gabapentin, taped the bottom of my foot within an inch of it’s life and settled my butt down to work on my Etsy shop. I practiced saying to myself, “yrmama? You are doing a good job. The pain comes, the pain goes, some days you can do this, some days you can do that. It’s not about you. It’s not something you can fix or will away. Be humble.”
Meanwhile, my ego had it’s fists all balled up; “So now I’m supposed to obey pain?”
I replied firmly but compassionately, “yrmama, it’s not about obeying or not obeying. This isn’t about effort.” So Buddhist.
I always believed that I was the weak one, the weak willed and weak-bodied, because everyone else seemed to be accepting ~the way this feels~ (aka life in a human body) so much more gracefully. (Or being a huge pain in the ass and complaining all the time. It’s binary. Either/Or.) They must be better at tolerating the pain, they must be better at exercising/choosing shoes/carrying things/running/throwing balls for the dog. What stamina they have. They’ve clearly done enough push-ups, or something, that their elbow doesn’t pop out of joint when they push a full wheelbarrow. Since the solution to my inadequacy was clearly to be stronger I went to fitness classes at the gym five days a week and lifted more weights afterwards. But when I turned fifty everything that was circling my whole life came home to roost.
It turns out a lot of people actually go about their days and activities with ZERO painful body parts and think that’s entirely normal. When they complain about something hurting it’s because it didn’t hurt at all before, not because it’s worse than normal everyday baseline pain. Who knew?
yrmama says, “get yourself some equanimity.”
*But seriously, none of us will. We will not survive life. Except – Great news! Quantum physics!
p.s. my brain is still saying, “yrmama exaggerates. yrmama is a whiner.”
Look. Listen. I was there, saw Pete IRL and left partway through his speech drenched in that greasy kind of sweat that precedes keeling over and embarrassing oneself. For me the best parts of the event were the new best friends I made in line outside, and the second group of new best indoor friends crammed into a corner with me for the second hour of waiting.
Both groups were of my favorite demographic; women 10-15+ years older than me. Among us there was genuine enthusiasm for Pete and shared dismay at what we’ve let things come to. We wondered what it will take to get “young people” behind Pete the way they were with Bernie last time around. We ranked our favorites, we compared notes on the various campaign events we’ve been too, we admired one another’s fantastic taste in shoes and eyeglasses. In each group ladies leaned near me and asked in a confessional tone of voice if I thought Pete was “electable.” I reminded them that Donald and Barack weren’t electable either and urged them to not try to second guess their true affections. We talked about Roe v Wade and our embarrassment when we catch ourselves feeling critical of female candidate’s gestures or tone of voice because, WTH, that’s so sexist. In two hours we had time to cover a lot, including our favorite parts of his book, The Shortest Way Home, and how Pete inspires a kind of maternal protectiveness and pride in us. I think we were pretty unanimously all in for Pete.
I heard that the venue officially holds 500 people, but that was a handful of hundreds short of the crowd that showed up. I was in physical squish contact with everyone around me and I think that was a nearly universal condition. The HVAC was inadequate. Pete came onstage once they had packed everyone in and gave us one of the best ever renditions of his stump speech (according to someone I know who has watched A LOT of them on Youtube). But by then things had gotten hazy for yrmama. A woman reached through the crowd and tapped me on the shoulder. “Hi yrmama!” I mirrored her enthusiasm, “Hi!” but had no idea who she was. She wore a name tag but the only person I know with that name lives in rural Ontario. I was so confused.
*Late Breaking Edit: I’ve been thinking about the bit that follows the last couple days because I’m not happy with it. But I’m leaving it. ——–> The conclusion is wrong. ———-> This is right: Power-crazed volunteers will always exist and that’s okay. Victimhood though is useless and not at all yrmama’s brand. She wants to be more ready to stand up for herself. There’s no shame in pain or autonomic “dys”function. There’s no shame in anything because we are just little organized blobs of energy making things up as we go along. Electrons have a moral charge of zero.
Haziness postscript: I left while Pete was speaking and almost embarrassed myself even more by crying in public from disappointment. I’ve been feeling pretty good lately but had significant back pain that day. Indeed, during the hour we waited outside, my new best friends and I, I was happy to stand. A friendly volunteer patrolled the line offering folding chairs to the gimpy. After about 45 minutes I took her up on the chair not knowing how much longer we’d be waiting. She repeatedly assured the gimpy that there was ADA seating right inside so not to worry.
But the ADA pen was guarded this time. (Give a volunteer a nametag and a job and the power just goes to his head.) The guard looked me up and down, the cane, yes, but also yrmama’s tanned and muscular limbs. He said, “Well, can you stand?” yrmama said, “not the whole time.” “Can you climb up those stairs? There’s seats up there and I’d rather you went up there.” The “seats” were barstools which aren’t so great for bad backs but he’d successfully shamed me up the steps so I decided to stay and see how it went. How it went was it got more and more painful.
So that’s the lesson for today. Invisible disabilities, like those caused by Ehlers Danlos, are real. Ehlers Danlos, in fact, often gives one super-soft skin not prone to wrinkles hence my perpetually youthful appearance. I look strong because I exercise, and yes, people with chronic pain can exercise. I look good, but not looking as raggedy as I feel sometimes is one of my superpowers. People generally don’t fake chronic illness for the immense social benefits it affords them. They generally fake being okay so they don’t have to deal with explaining themselves all the time.
Joe is our current leader out of 22 candidates. He is the macaroni salad at the potluck – familiar and you’ll eat it if it makes grandma happy but your heart lies with that juicy, piquant quinoa tabouli a couple of bowls over. We are so afraid of Donald winning again that we are willing to put aside the quinoa and let the mayo slither down our throats if that’s what it takes. We all think macaroni salad is what our neighbors want, but do they?
yrmama arrived at Big Grove 30 minutes early and self-consciously forsook a tempting chair in the ADA pen with a clear sightline to the podium for a chair she carried over next to the ADA pen. “See? I am so able-bodied that I brought a chair over here by myself.” (read the medical postscript below for more information) Three large college girls with enormous backpacks stood right in front of me. There were 3-400 people outside around the fire pits and under the roof it looked pretty well packed.
Joe appeared 1 hour late. People stood up and clapped and strained their necks to see him. It was all very pleasant. Joe started out jokey and avuncular, like all those other guys a generation older than me (hence super old) who are “good guys” but kind of trap you into listening to them for too long and who you don’t really want to hug.
His pitch is that he is the one best able to defeat Donald and that defeating him is the main thing that has to be done. What he intends to do when he wins is to first roll everything back to where Barack left it and then continue on that path. Thanks Uncle Joe. I only partly listened a lot of the time because it was boring and because there was no electrifying energy in the air. Clapping but no cheering. He ramped up and raised his voice for his Grand Finale and people clapped a little more then left.
yrmama says, “Be brave enough to leave the macaroni salad with the Velveeta chunks and ham cubes and sooo much celery in the Corelle and help yourself to the quinoa tabouli because you know you want it.” We can both defeat Donald and have more.
I’d like to point out that my current assessment of the race matches that of Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com and he’s usually right. That is: Joe, followed by Bernie, Kamala and PETE. I say let’s pair one of the ones that isn’t super old with Stacy Abrams as VP and burn the thing down once and for all.
Medical Postscript: May is Ehlers Danlos Awareness Month and I’m not even kidding.
There are times when yrmama is ADA eligible because due to a special bit in my DNA I make crappy collagen. (Yes, you have to make your own collagen, ingesting it does not help.) With advancing age it gets worse. Collagen is in pretty much every body part and for me the current biggest consequence is I fall over a lot, get injured easily and have widespread chronic pain. My tendons and ligaments are like ancient crunchy elastic stretching for the very last time. My massive muscles have to hold my joints together by themselves which is exhausting.
A couple of weeks ago I recklessly swung my leg out of a car and stood up without first carefully rotating my butt 45 degrees on the seat, planting both feet firmly on the pavement, hinging from the hips and rising gracefully like I was in yoga class. Unused to sudden, mindless hoisting at that angle my quadricep felt like it had been struck by a hammer as a crucial tendon gave way. I’ve been expertly rehabbing that thigh with modified squats and a foam roller and blah blah blah but all the limping made the tendonitis in that foot flare up duhblah duhblah duhblah…. So before going to see Joe I taped the sole of my left foot within an inch of it’s life and could walk painlessly but wasn’t really up for standing for a couple of hours.