I thought I was doing better. I have been able to do The Grocery Store Expedition with less and less difficulty. No panic attacks. Vision not too blurry – I can drive there. Still uncomfortable with crowds but I manage to get the food I need without being reduced to a sweating trembling heap. Victories.
I had to take my car in for her yearly check up. The fixit place is a mere three blocks away, so I can walk back home no prob. I remember when I used to think nothing of those three blocks, only a slight disgruntlement that People Who Drive Everywhere have when they have to walk or take alternative transportation.
I can’t walk.
But let me define what walking means to me. Like breathing, you know? You don’t have to think about it – it just happens. Yes, the privilege of the able-bodied. And not only that, I am a DANCER. A ballerina – an Alvin Ailey company wannabe but iDance, therefore I am Alive.
So when I realize halfway to walking back to get my car, that I just might not make it something inside of me just…. BREAKS. I had to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. I had to try to ignore the shooting pains up the back of my thighs. I had to wonder at the deep sounding cramping pain in my lower back and what was UP with my hip sockets???
I thought I was doing better. It had been over a month since I started my exercise plan. Sit ups, leg lifts, arm lifts, stretching and that fake Pilates you do on your living room rug. My exercise (and stress!) induced asthma wasn’t kicking in. My body shape was changing. (I can’t say “losing weight” because I’ve never had a scale in my house ever. I go by what I see in the mirror and how my clothes fit, and the occasional weigh-ins during my frequent hospital visits. I have to ask for those, hence the occasional).
But there I was, half way between the agoraphobic safety of my home and my destination and I thought I was going to DIE. My asthma kicked in, but of course my inhaler was at home. Yes it was nearly 90 degrees but I’ve been 10 years in Southern AZ so what else was new in desert springtime?
I turned the last corner and the garage was in sight, and this wiry thin older Black man is hoofing it my direction, slightly swaying to his headphones and we do The Nod and How You Doin and Fine Thank You and I pretend I’m not dying because most older gentlemen around here are WAR VETS and I didn’t want to come across all pitiful can’t walk three blocks. Ma-RINE!
I flop into a chair in the waiting area and attempt to collect myself. I do the breath-down thing us asthmatics do when there is no inhaler. I pretend the sweat pouring down is glistening instead. Like when Tootie says to Blair in Facts of Life when she denies sweating after her aerobics work out – she is glistening. Tootie says well then she is glistening like a pig! So I’m glistening and trying to breathe and to come to terms with maybe some other Facts Of Life, like maybe I’ll never dance again and do a grand jete or a triple pirouette.
Because I can’t walk.
I hobble to my car and fall in behind the wheel and I try not to cry. How did I go from the best the brightest the applause and the spotlight to black spots encroaching on my vision as I nearly collapse from walking three blocks in the hot sun?
My mind betrayed me. I became sick and broken and the very things that are there to fix me, to help me manage my Brain The Betrayer serve to add on the pounds to my small frame, make me sluggish and apathetic and The Crazy Shut-In where once a ballerina stood poised on her pointes and the world was her oyster.
My bones have changed to accommodate not the muscle insertions of a dancer but those of a person who more often than not is lying prone or supine or hunched in a chair or curled in a ball howling and even kneeling to pray has become an impossibility. So my bones rebel and are highly offended when I try to walk three blocks. They are the shape of who I am now, my foundation.
I thought I was doing better, because I forgot my lessons, forgot what I learned with my Bachelor of Arts in Dance degree, I forgot the biology of the dance and what we do is written first by our skeleton and then echoed by our musculature and I forgot about that. I was working to change my shape to get in shape but I was doin it rong.
So THAT is why I can’t walk.
Now I know. Even if I cry, even with the shooting pains, even as my bones cry out in protest, I will keep moving forward. Even if only The Two Black Cats as audience I will do a grand jete again, I will do my signature triple pirouette with a twist and even if I have to crawl in the dust of the desert
I will walk again.