(I deleted this entire post once already. I just want you to know that the first draft was brilliant--BRILLIANT, I tell you! Blogger really needs an "undo" button. OR a way to stop the trigger-happy autosave. OR, I need my husband to materialize and tell me to hit Command Z.) (Sigh.)
In early 2007, after a lifetime of running and fitness and aerobics and teaching dance to little kids, I woke up one day and couldn't walk. It turned out that my left foot was full of deformed bones (and some extra bones, just for good measure) and that, coupled with a freakishly high tolerance for pain, led to a tremendous amount of damage to my foot. I had reconstructive foot surgery in March of 2007 and had three screws installed in my foot to fuse the midsection, thus ending my running career but not ending my pain odyssey. In March of 2008, we moved from Texas to New York and I found a new podiatrist, who, after much trial-and-error (including a brief period of time when it looked like I might end up in a wheelchair) diagnosed the pain I was in as coming from an entirely different part of my foot. He built me some custom orthotics in May of 2009 which restored my mobility.
I still have pain with every step I take but it's manageable, for the most part. For a while I wore a pedometer in an effort to figure out how many steps I can take before the pain level ratchets up to excruciating and found that normally, I can walk between 8,000 and 10,000 steps without paying too big of a price for it. After that, the pain gets really loud and all the color drains out of my world and I'm on the couch until things simmer down.
On Thursday, though, my cleaners came and that's always good for at least 15,000 steps. (I know, I know, it is insane to try to declutter the house before the cleaners come. I just can't stop myself. No matter how I try, I always, always overdo it.) PLUS, we were having a dinner party on New Year's Eve and I went to the grocery store in preparation. AND I was dog-sitting for a neighbor so I was walking that dog every two hours or so. It was a lot of steps.
Friday morning, my foot was pretty tender and sore. I was signed up to take a Master Exercise class at my yoga studio, which is also a Tae Kwon Do place. I took one of these classes on Christmas Eve and even though I couldn't do the cardio/kick-boxing portion, I got enough stretching and core work (abs, back, etc.) to feel it. (I am all about increasing my core strength because it makes me better at yoga. Did y'all know that I love yoga? Have I mentioned that?) Plus, I'd asked my yoga instructor if he would do a brief practice at the end of the class. He said he would if he was there but he wasn't sure yet of his plans. Still, it seemed bad form to ask for it and then not show up, so I went.
He wasn't there, but I figured I would just do the initial stretching and then leave.
The instructor had everyone start to run in a circle around the room. After a few minutes, everyone froze where they were and either jumped rope or jumped side to side over a pad.
This was obviously beyond me so I stood there, watching everyone run and jump.
It must have been very clear on my transparent face that I wanted to play. This woman looked over at me and shouted, "Jump in!"
"I can't run," I said.
"I'M walking!" she said.
"Can't do that either. I have a bum foot."
"Come ON. Just do what you can. I'm doing what I can!"
She wasn't being mean or bossy--she was honestly trying to be encouraging.
Suddenly, to my horror, I found myself starting to cry.
I made some patently false excuse to the instructor (oh, good, now I'm a liar, too) and I managed to make it to my car before the floodgates opened up.
I cried all the way home.
I was standing in the kitchen, still crying, when my husband came in. I told him what happened. He clearly felt such a protective empathy that I had to smile. He said, "I'm sorry that woman was such a jerk." And then he just held me for a long time.
But see, that woman wasn't trying to hurt me; she was trying to be NICE. There was something else at work. I couldn't figure it out. It was 8th grade all over again --it was wanting to run track with the real athletes, despite my lack of speed.
I felt like a kid with her nose pressed to the glass, watching all the other kids get to have fun.
And then it hit me.
I had this enormous realization that what I feel mostly is SHAME. I'm EMBARRASSED by the fact that I have this messed up foot. I'm EMBARRASSED over attracting any type of attention which might be negative. I am embarrassed over being imperfect.
That's just...that's just...THAT'S CRAZY.
I know crazy (I own Scout, after all) and that's CRAZY.
So, then, because I am in a particularly contemplative mode these days, I started looking at all the other areas of my life where I am embarrassed because I am imperfect. Or because I have my own needs and desires and they go against the norm. For example, left to my own devices, I am primarily vegetarian. I don't really like chicken or beef very much and I don't metabolize them very well. But, despite the fact that I usually cook three separate meals anyway (sigh), I don't cook according to my own desires because that just seems just way too high-maintenance. Another example: I finally broke down and did some shopping for some new yoga clothes and I felt like the most self-indulgent, narcissistic person. (Although, you know...I could have justified this as a kindness to my classmates, some of whom might have been traumatized for life by the visual of my pants falling down.)
The list goes on and I'm discovering more things every day. I wonder at what point in my development did I get the idea that having my own needs and wants and desires and...you know...PERSONALITY was bad? I wonder if I am perpetuating that particular neuroses on my two daughters?
My conclusion is that you can't live in this world joyfully and purposefully if you're busy being embarrassed for the things that make you, you know, VISIBLE. If you're embarrassed by being imperfect. So, I am dedicating 2011 to Living Out Loud --with gratitude and purpose and resilience to shame.
Hi. My name is Barb and I have a disability. It doesn't define me.