I'm barely into my 40s*, and already I'm falling apart!
(*Give or take a couple. Let's not quibble about the exact number, okay?)
My knees were the first to pipe up and scream--hellooo? No more blitheful knee-twisting for youuu! That was about 8 years ago, still in my Yout.
When I discovered that I could not walk down an incline without crying, I was bereft. I thought to myself that my dancing-hiking-lunging-walking downhill days were over.
But then I learned to strengthen the front of my legs to balance all the muscle on the backs of my legs. I learned to not run around on wet rocks, twisting my knees. I learned to avoid the deep lunges and the over-extensions that my legs do so, so well. I learned to do more yoga stretches. I learned to keep a little bend in my knees on rough downhills. I stopped stomping the floor quite so hard on the balances. I wore tendon straps, which even got me all the way to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Hey, I guess my knees are doing pretty well, if I pay attention and treat them well.
Then my thigh tendons (those things that my husband knows the exact name of) got into the act. Ow, stop that. And my feet. Have I mentioned my feet?
I have friends who dance all weekend and show off their blisters. I'd be happy to dance for hours (and I have), but I just can't do that any more. I don't even want to any more. It's too painful. Let's not even mention all the kids who stomp as hard as they possibly can. (Are they crazy?! No, young.)
I used to have to dance 8 hours a day, hard, to make my feel hurt. At a long weekend on a hard floor, I'd feel it even more, and traded dancing hours for having to nurse my feet back to health over the following week. I'd have all my moleskin and band-aid supplies, my strategies for getting my feet through the whole weekend of fun. Wouldn't want to miss anything, nooo. I got to be a pro at adding padding or second skin to any burgeoning blisters, taking what dancers call "Vitamin I" -- Ibupr0fin-- to reduce inflammation, and leaving my feet sticking out of the sleeping bag to cool overnight. If I'm lucky, I can get Joe to massage my feet, but that's not a permanent solution.
Last year, I had to hold back on Saturday to have enough foot energy left for the coveted Sunday dances.
This year I wasn't even getting many blisters. At first I was happy that I wasn't coming home with as many blisters, but then, the reality started to sink in... It was because I hardly danced enough to raise a blister except on rare occasion.
Why is that, you ask? It's not that I had lost my wind. The rest of my body could keep going for hours. It's my feet that were holding me back.
Now, after I dance vigorously for a mere couple of hours in an evening, my tootsies hurt. Not just a little achiness, but pain as if I have been dancing for days. Those darn metatarsals blare out painfully.
It's the nub ends of my feet-bones, getting sore, you know. I feel it every time I raise up on the ball of my foot during a dance, which I do roughly a thousand times per dance, or conservatively, more than 7500 times in the course of an evening of dancing.
They said it might be arthritis. This made me glum, because I wasn't sure it would be possible for me to give up dancing.
I saw a foot doctor this week, and was hoping he would have some doable advice for me. Something to manage the situation that won't force me to cut back on my life. I'm already cutting back on my dancing... sitting out some dances and resting my feet. It's frustrating because the rest of me feels great. My cardio can take it; it's my feet that are pooping out.
Oh, have I mentioned my hips and my hands? All of my joints are complaining.
There I was pulling weeds last week, yanking wire grass and vines out of my garden for about an hour, and for several days afterwards, I could not curl my fingers without aching. They were painfully tight. And awkward, when I had to hold or carry something. And a week later? I can still feel it! Damn. How did this happen?
It's another reminder that my body is not as spry and resilient as it used to be.
I can't figure it out, though--are other people my age feeling this kind of stiffness and aches and pains? I never hear about it. Okay, a little more yoga would be good, but I never think of myself as quite old enough to be suffering this.
When I told one of my older friends this, she reminded me that "old age is not for sissies." I nodded and said, "true, dat." And then I thanked her for not telling me I was too young to be feeling any pain, because there's nothing more annoying than having someone minimize your situation through active denial.
Another friend of an even older vintage told me that I might want to strengthen my core from an athlete's perspective. She's a runner, so she knows the wisdom to compare notes with other athletes and what it's like to be unwilling to just quit. Okay, so I'm already working on that.
I am a little scared, though, that this is only the beginning of a long decline. Where does it continue from here? What happens next? Do I get a chance to get used to this before the next restriction? Aaiigh! Not for sissies, indeed.
Okay, so I see the podiatrist, and he gives me a list of *seven* different things that are wrong with my feet. Most of them are congenital, most of them, the kind of thing that one often outgrows, although he says my doctor could have corrected it easily with (he says, minor) surgery in my 20s. Apparently, one of my feet has outgrown something, and the other hasn't. Therefor, I am still pigeon-toed, knock-kneed, adducted, twisted, sheered, over-pronated, under-whatevered... the list goes on.
I know there are at least seven things, because after I while, I asked him to write them all down for me. I certainly can't keep track of every last one of the medical terms, but you can bet I will be asking Dr. Google for further clarification because I can barely remember what means what.
He was kinda laughing as he enumerated all my issues, but when I chided him to not make fun of my feet because after all, I had to deal with the body I inherited, he softened and told me it was not his intent to make fun of me but to soften the bad news. Oh, FABulous. It's THAt bad, huh? But I appreciated that he acquired a little more sensitivity after that and spent a lot of time explaining things to me.
Part of me is happy that most of it appears to be congenital. This means it's not my fault to be born wonky. It's not like the rest of me is particularly symmetrical. Hur, hur, hur.
But boo to my wonky genes! It means that I can't afford to be a sissy at all. If I were a horse, they'd shake their heads and say, well, she's cute, but the gait is all out of whack--we can't use her. At least I don't have a sway back. Oh wait... I probably do.
I'm sure my husband will be happy to be vindicated by the need for more stretching. "More yoga!" he will tell me. Yeah, yeah. But not just that.
There will be stretching and orthopedics and all that. Looks like I will be spending big bucks to have my everyday and dance shoes outfitted, even with my major insurance. But yea for less pain and more dancing!
I am not up for surgery at this time, although supposedly it'd be a relatively simple matter to straighten the darn leg already. I am almost certain that none of my childhood doctors ever said anything about this to my mother. When I look back, I can tell that most of this stuff was obvious 25-30 years ago, but who paid attention to that? The big thing in the 70's was the sclerosis twisted-spine that would necessitate a back brace to straighten. (I'm sorry, my brain fails to remember the exact term, but I'm getting flashbacks to elementary school when we all had to undergo screening, and one of my friends needed to wear a spine brace for three years.) My spine was straight enough to pass that test. Apparently legs and gait do not get the same scrutiny. Well, apparently, legs also usually grow out of it.
If I tried, I could probably construct a unified theory for every weird physical thing in my life. Oh, so this is why my legs feel slightly unbalanced in my downward dog? My feet are throwing off my hips, too? Is this why my torso gets thrown forward and my toes want to curl under? Did that throw this other thing out of whack? Why one eye is tilted higher? Why my neck suffered and I overreact to insect bites? ? Why I hiccuped in utero? Oy! Save me from hypochondria! Yoga has been very good to me for alignment, but now I gotta... I don't know what. Relearn how to walk? Do the Alexander thing? It'll be ortho shoe inserts for starters. That explains why my feet cry in disappointment when I take off my Danskos--they are good for me, just not good enough.
It could be much worse, I know. Chalk it up to one more wonky thing in my physical self, and the vagaries of aging. This body of mine shimmies to the beat of a different drummer.
"I will not be a sissy. I will not be a sissy. I will not be a sissy..."