Thursday, June 11, 2009

Life Happens

"We are told from childhood that something is wrong with us, with the world, and with everything that comes along: it's not perfect, it has rough edges, it has a bitter taste, it's too loud, too soft, too sharp, too wishy-washy. We cultivate a sense of trying to make things better because something is bad here, something is a mistake here, something is a problem here.

Everything that occurs is not only usable and workable but is actually the path itself. We can use everything that happens to us as the means for waking up. "--Pema Chodron, from When Things Fall Apart

I have a stress fracture in my right foot. Or at least that's what my podiatrist speculates. Mike said the same thing to me when I described my symptoms: sudden pain in the ball of my foot that shoots through my toes and the top of my feet whenever I walk (and sometimes even when I'm stationary.) My foot is tender and swollen and I limp like Laura in The Glass Menagerie.

Now I can't take my long walks--at least not for a while. I loved my walks, they got me moving after sitting and typing all day, they made me stop and notice my surroundings, the pretty spring flowers in front of people's brownstones, the med students rushing to the hospital for rounds, the older Black man who asked for change then asked me out, the Irish-looking man in the Red Sox jacket who sold me a "Spare Change" for $1 and called me "kid." I loved walking past the museum, especially the new entrance on Huntington that they just opened. I loved feeling competent and self-sufficient. No waiting for a crowded "T" for me! I would get exercise AND get myself home.

But I'm stubborn like my father, I wore cute summer sandals to walk in instead of sensible (read "ugly") shoes. But I had gotten away with this behavior before--why couldn't I again. I miss the feeling of being invincible, of feeling like nothing bad can happen to me, well, because I'm ME. I'll be the exception, isn't that what most people think when they're young? I won't get cellulite like all those other women in their thirties at the beach, exposing the dimpled flesh on the backs of their thighs for anyone to see. Ha! Guess what, I have cellulite on the back of my thighs now, and no amount of activity or snake oil "cellulite cream" has made it go away. I have healthy teeth and gums. I get a checkup every six months, I'll be fine. Ha! Next thing I know, I'm spending four Tuesday mornings in a row prostrate in the periodontist's chair, having needles jabbed in the roof of my mouth and leaving the office drooling blood, my lipstick unevenly applied because half my lip is numb. I can walk in cute shoes! Look at how far I can go! Ha! That first stabbing pain in my foot as I was halfway home Monday night was not a good sign.

So many things happen that we thought we could avoid. So many good plans go down the tubes. As we get older, I feel like we lose a little bit and a little bit more. We can't deny any longer that we're fallible. I will have to wear orthotics in my shoes going forward. At first I imagined that meant shopping for the types of shoes nurses and old ladies (and old nurses) wear. I was horrified. But then my doctor explained that orthotics were inserts to balance my tendency to pronate (roll) my foot inward when I walked. I took a deep breath. Then he put this black velcro boot on me and told me I would need to wear this contraption until my foot healed. No end date was mentioned. Did I say that I'm going to Paris next weekend? I'm going to have to hobble around the Louvre and the Picasso museum, stopping to rest for coffee and wine and croissants, before heading for the next sight. Actually, that doesn't sound too bad.

I had an image of myself that many women have who have never been to Paris--I will walk the streets in pretty dresses and skirts and cute shoes, and pause in charming bookstores and share coffee with a dark-haired frenchman in a non-touristy cafe. Well, my best friend Alina said I can forget about passing for a French woman ("If I knew how to pass, I would try" she said with a sigh. "They just have that something.") And I'm going to have this boot on so au revoir, cute shoes. And I'm married, so I can't very well sit with an anonymous french man with deep, soulful eyes. No, I will sit at a cafe with my husband who has big beautiful blue eyes and who knows more French than I do.

One day I'll learn that my fantasies are just that, and that real life is far more complicated and far more interesting.

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