Goodbye 2010 (and Maybe 8th Grade!) Hello 2011!

(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 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.


tanita✿davis said…
Go, Barb.
After actually having my pants FALL when getting out of a taxi, and not just imagining it (wearing a long coat, though, so only I knew), I think you made The Right Choice in getting those new yoga togs.

Thank you for the pep talk (which was talkin' to ME, just so you know), so, so, SO much. Happy New Year.
bethany said…
Love this post, LOVE it, and I think I would have cried too. I have similar neuroses if that's the right word, because of course it's wrong to do anything that will make you visible! Must stay under the radar at all times. Shame is a nasty thing. I'm working being more Me this year too, hoping to chip away at some of the things that seem hard-wired but I know are just reactions to other stuff. I can't wait to see a Living Out Loud Barb :).
Great post, Barb. I hope in the New Year you'll find your way to working less hard!
Anonymous said…
Barb, congratulations. Shame is with us all, I think, and needs to be uncovered before it can be dealt with. I had immense shame over *being myself* and not being, for example, exactly like my ex-husband instead (as he tried to make me be). Alcoholics Anonymous actually has the best literature I've found on Shame, what it is, how to get rid of it. Oh and the related Co-dependents literature. A "fearless moral inventory" (step 4) uncovers and, for me at least, the confession (step 5), got rid of the basement of shame I had, and miraculously helped me understand what is NOT worthy of guilt or shame (i.e. being me, which as it turns out some people love me for). *WE* love ya for being you, go BARB! you rock!

Mokihana said…
Way to go, Barb. When did you suddenly get the ability to get into my brain and write down my thoughts?

This post is a real keeper to go back to over and over again. Thank you.
Lynn said…
Another great post, Barb. I think we have shame all wrong. Like guilt, if it motivates us to make positive changes, then it is not a villain. But if we use it to flog ourselves and stay stuck, best to hand it a black hat and avoid corrals (OK or otherwise) in the middle of the day.

2010 was the year I finally got rid of a persistent case of athletes foot. The toenails on my big toes have been gone for several years, because they would not learn manners (i.e., kept getting ingrown). The other toenails are skewed, thickened, or otherwise not-Hollywood-issue. A pedicure would only make the State of the Feet more obvious.

Friday night I danced barefoot at the New Year's Eve dance. I actually let the new guy see my less than perfect feet. He was way more concerned with not stepping on them, than he was about what they looked like. Score: Ms. Ravelled 1, Shame 0. We count all the small victories.
Unknown said…
Yay you! You are worth it!
Kathy said…
Hey, you! Love this one. Oddly coincidental message (but then, again, not...cause it's YOU)...
Realized yesterday that I was making a grocery list and cooking on new year's (you know, that leisurely, hours-long process that fills the house with warmth and yummy aromas?) a meal that really only my husband loves. The kids don't eat it, and it's not even on my top 10 list. But it's wintry and warms the soul and gets better the longer it cooks. Okay, so I scrapped that idea and made roast chicken instead, which everyone LOVES and fills the house with a lemony-thyme-y roasted hominess that I adore. Score one for me. :)
Then I realized that I was, at the same time, making one of my top 5 meals for a friend whose father just passed. A meal I never make for my family because it is not one my husband loves and my kids don't eat it (kids sound picky, but both of these are tomato-based and horror of horrors they do not eat tomato products). My favorite meals most often include tomato products, but that's beside the point.
I guess your piece just resonated...I also often place my own wishes or wants last. Not always, but I was conscious of it yesterday, and then this post. Thanks for your psychic powers.
Now, as far as disability goes, you are talking to the woman who often has a 4 year old with multiple disabilities in tow. I just completed a course on Disability Studies for my masters, and I am here to tell you, Barb, disability does NOT define a person. I know you know this, but I want to second your statement, because a person is NEVER, EVER their disability.
If that were true, Sean would BE Down syndrome. Hearing impairment. Possibly autism. Developmental Delays. He'd be "nonverbal." But he's Sean...full of personality, humor, skills and abilities, hugs and kisses, and all the potential in the world.
New normal was what happened when he was born. You are figuring out your new normal (trust me, it takes time...we are still figuring it out), but with the help of yoga and meditation and adapted exercise programs -- and I'm sure your creative mind can think of more -- you will change the world for the better of all people who have your type of disability. Or figure out how to make life okay with your particular challenges. Living loud is one such that!!!
You are amazing. I look forward to hearing what you have to say in 2011. Cheers to you!!!
Bullwinkle said…
You are amazing.

I know, one of the times, when I internalized the "my needs and wants don't exist" thing:

I was a teenager "rough-housing" with a family friend. An accident occurred (his fault); I was hurt. When my parents reached me, their first comment was "Don't make a big deal out of it, George will feel bad." I looked at them and thought "Dudes, I'm about to get stitches and a cast and feel bad for weeks and you don't want George to feel bad?"

My point is only that is you look hard enough, you can find the moments. But it isn't important.

What is important: where you are right now and where you go from here.
kim said…
I can't think of anything intelligent to comment. But I love this post. Happy New Year, Barb!
Anonymous said…
This is one of your best posts ever, and it speaks to many people. Lots of us have been there, or are there still.

I think I'd keep looking for an even better solution for the foot pain.

Somewhere out there is a podiatrist or someone who can make it better.
Amen, sista! I have been on both sides of that feeling spectrum (the encourager and the encouragee) and hear what you are saying. Oh, and I also clean before the cleaners--I am like a madwoman, but, boy does my husband love me for it. LOL!
Susan said…
I can totally relate to being reluctant to do for myself. There is something about us when we have husbands and kids that makes us put ourselves beyond last - like you said, our needs just of the table all together. It has been nice for me to make inroads on this issue and find out that no one in my house felt I was being selfidsh or that I shouldn't do for myself (within limits, granted!)

The shame thing is interesting, too. I had more of it when I was younger. It is something that, at least for me, has receded with age - and this from someone who managed to get over 300 pounds...I'll tell you - I don't exactly parade around the gym locker rom naked, but I go in the steam and whirlpool that way because I hate a wet bathing suit. And really, who am I fooling with a bathing suit - they know I am obese and they are going to have an opinion and I don't really care what it is because they don't know me nor have they walked in my shoes.

And bottom line? I want to enjoy the steam room and you want to enjoy the classes and we do what we can and no one has the right to judge us, but they are probably going to do it anyway - so do what you like, what you can and enjoy it and let go of the illusion that anyone or anything is perfect because there is no such thing and if there is it would be boring anyway.
Anonymous said…
I've been reading your blog for the last few years and am glad to see that have been moving in the right direction. I too live in elwood and have 2 kids the same ages as your girls.

Its sounds like you have a very supportive husbnad, which is wonderful.

Stick to yoga, I think it will take you where you need to go. I see, through your blogs, that you are becoming more self aware.

You count. You are important. As moms we put our needs/wants second or push then aside and think we are silly for having them, because our children always must come first.

Keep listening to that inner voice. As I get older, the wiser I get ;). I have been doing things for me....and guess what...the ceiling didn't cave in. Doing for you, doesn't mean you are selfish. Ultimately it will lead to a happier, more fulfilled, better mom and wife.

Keep blogging.