Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Crossing the Little Styx

Not long after crossing the Little Styx from "young" to "middle-aged," I started having health problems.  Over the years little has been explained to me about them, I have not been given succinct causes, and I have gotten tired of hearing, "You know, as you age..." I've been stuck with a a growing list of parts that don't work well due to widely unknown reasons, and I've learned to adjust with ill grace and a gnawing sense of guilt. Why guilt? Why, because, we all know that if we had eaten properly, exercised, avoided destructive behavior, undue amounts of stress,  dealt with our emotions constructively, and of course, watched our BMI from birth, our Boomer bodies would not be acting out of spite.

I am, as of today,free of this guilt.  One kind, empathetic, doctor of humanitarian bent, assured me that many of my symptoms originated in my spine, and that arthritis, a pinched nerve, and a herniated disc all presented themselves clearly on an MRI. The news settled in the pit of my stomach last night, probably an unhealthy place for it bed down, but today I woke up feeling better about my poor old self than I have in ages.

When I was four, I saw a ballerina on television. My career choice was made. I started on the path to professional dance that very day. For the next twenty-seven years I did all of the horrible, gorgeous, thrilling things that a dedicated dancer does to her body with a true Scarlett O'Hara attitude. I had to do horrible, painful, fairly demented things to my body and feet in order to accomplish as much as I was able to in my art, and I'm happy today with the memories and glad as hell I "went for it." No regrets. And, by all that's holy (I guess), having a bad back is completely understandable and acceptable to me. So are the tingly feelings in my feet and legs, the fatigue, and the general difficulty I have persuing daily pursuits. If I owe these things in some way to dance, then fine! I wouldn't have skipped a single arabesque.

During a performance, when I was thirty-one, I tore an Achilles tendon. It refused to get better, and after floundering in depression for a few years, I became a teacher of emotionally disturbed children. I did this for fifteen years and during that time I ate-on-the-run, exercised but improperly, did not avoid self-destructive habits, had an undue amount of physical and psychological stress, swallowed tons of emotion, and had a dangerously low, then suddenly a risky-high, BMI. And guess what? No blame there, either. I'm glad I did that job for the years I did it. I hope I did the children some long-lasting good, but I know I did myself good that far outreaches the aches and pains, yes, even the "bad heart," that I'm saddled with now.

In short, (not my strength) the slings and arrows that brought me to this creaky place were invited by me to do so, and I will not be a hypocrite about them. I didn't exactly live the life of Jack Sparrow, but, as I believe would be true of him if he were real, I can say with honest fervor, that I'm glad my "young" and the young part of my "middle" years went just the way they went. Thank you Dr. Crayton.