How Do I Want to Live?
I am sitting in the UAB Highlands ER, waiting to see the doctor about the severe low back pain I’ve been experiencing since Thursday morning when I bent over the wrong way to pick up soap in the shower and something popped. I ended the semester limping (literally) after shoulder surgery in November and now five days living on the couch with a heating pad and muscle relaxers. This is not me, and not who I want to be in the years to come- I’m only fifty-one (okay- almost fifty-two)…it’s time yet again in my life to make some serious changes and turn this ship around. This all makes me ask the question- how do I want to live?
Though I have fought a battle with weight my entire life, I have always been very active- kickboxing, yoga, running 10Ks, half-marathons, lots of walking with the dogs, and have always thought of myself as a healthy, fit person. I watched my mother give up on being active a long time ago, and swore I would never let myself end up spending my days in a lift chair as she did. I was doing wonderfully until last summer when Mom fell, setting into motion too little exercise, not very healthy eating, and tons of stress. Mom passed just before the new semester began, and I jumped right into the craziness of the new school year, never getting back on my healthy track…and still reeling from the affects of stress, compounded by several more challenging events, including severe shoulder pain that had reached the point of being unbearable.
The shoulder issue prevented me from doing my favorite exercises and stress-relievers, yoga and kickboxing…the things that have usually kept my back in good working order. Shoulder surgery in November left me immobile for almost three weeks- just long enough for my back and hip muscles to get nice and tight. All it took was moving the wrong way to unleash the pain. They did X-rays on my back today, and told me I am full of arthritis. The (frankly) compassionless ER doctor pretty much told me to learn to live with it. Live with constant pain? Not if I can help it.
The other part of the equation is genetics. I have to be honest- there were so many things about my mom that I hope to emulate. However, her health issues are not part of that wish list. Mom left the world racked with arthritis, barely able to walk because she had lost virtually all of the cartilage in her right hip…the same side that I am having major issues with. The big difference? I have access to much better medical care much earlier in life than Mom did, and I am determined to do whatever I can to reverse or improve my situation. A lot of people deal with much worse health issues than I am facing. I have to take responsibility for what I can change, and be vigilant about looking for answers for the things that are beyond my control.
Throughout my life, I have proven that when I commit to something, I go all the way- there’s no stopping me. From what I understand, my dad was like that, too. I feel the time coming, feel my resolve building. Being on my back for the past five days has given me time to think, time to plan. The path to health for me is clear- it’s time to return to the way of eating that works best for me, leaving off the comfort foods and going back to a primarily vegetarian diet. Time to put away the sugar (again, comfort food). As soon as I can stand up straight and walk right again, it’s time to get back to moving. Dan and I often say, “Move or die!”, and it’s a true statement. The body at rest stays at rest, atrophying. The body in motion stays in motion, thriving. It’s not about trying to be skinny (that ship has forever sailed for me)- it’s about getting back to being active and fit, bringing good health back to the front and center of my life.
How do I want to live my life? I want to laugh, to love, to feel joy. I want to walk my dogs, walk on the beach, ride bikes with my husband, do yoga regularly. I want to dash up the stairs, to be energetic and lively. I want to be a good and loyal partner and friend, a good musician and teacher. I want to write stories and play concerts. I want to help people, to be kind to those I meet along the way. I want set a good example for my students, and I want to grow young as I grow old. I want to take on challenges and learn from them instead of being defeated. I want to spend whatever years I have being alive- not afraid to really live. I want to be a positive light in a sometimes dark world. That all starts by getting off of the couch and moving, just a little bit at a time. One of my favorite exercise DVDs is by the Navy Seals, and their catch phrase throughout the workout is “Pain is weakness leaving the body”. Well, I am ready to let a whole lot of weakness leave my body. Wish me luck.