Reading a post of Perpetual Beginner, as she talks about the ways an athlete or martial artist knows when they do it right. She describes her practice of her kick again and again but when you kick the heavy bag, if it starts to rotate then you haven’t done it right. It reminded me of my life.
Much of what I did was and continues to be is in absolutes, even in writing. While I never write perfectly, I either came closer or further away, each day.
Athletically that meant, did I do a lunge correctly, if so, do it again 100 times a day, do it 200 times. If I did not, have it corrected and do it until it can be done without thought, do a parry-lunge-advance lunge attack, do it 50 times in a row back and forth in the courtyard, with only the moon above as light and with my blood pounding in my ears. Do a lunge into a fleche and practice it simply because you have heard that women don’t have enough “power” to do this move (I actually got a point using this in competition).
Back when I ran long distance, get the body in rhythm; find out what is lacking, the body or the lungs. What complains? Am I out of breath, or do my legs feel like concrete. Work on that, push that. I sought a perfection beyond what was expected, beyond what those around me did. Exercise to exhaustion and THEN time your next five miles. Exercise to exhaustion and THEN do the basic 20 minute warm-up of lunges, advances, retreats; where is your arm, where is your wrist. Push for perfection, at all times.
I miss that more than I can express. That seeking of of the physical moment were you ARE perfect....for two seconds, and then the next lunge, or the next mile is to be run. When I biked, I biked to class, I biked to work, I biked over mountains for fun, biked across British Columbia, biked when Linda and I got together. That was when I learned that some people don't LIKE obsessively pushing themselves. That if I wanted Linda and I needed to tone it down a bit on bike rides. Yet often, our early dates were me running laps around an abandoned outside track, trying to go faster than the flies and mosquitoes while Linda timed me (hey, I had marathons coming up, can't miss a training day!).
That is not who I am now. It is not possible. If I talk too much, without interruption, I go into seizure, even while on oxygen. I push myself and the beast of the disease will push back, without thought or remorse, leaving me to be carried to bed, to lie there moaning for hours. I cannot seek that or any kind of external perfection. I cannot eat without biting my lip or tongue, so much has my tongue weakened; my mouth a mass of open sores. My hands tremble, my fingers tremble, I try to pull of toilet paper after peeing to pat down, and I can’t, I take two tries, I drop the toilet paper. This is the body I life in.
I won’t have those feelings of control again, except as a gift on a good day. An hour or two a week maybe when I am out on a training wheel for a 5K, or at badminton.
Now, I send postcards, I blog, I focus on Linda and the people on a list I have. A list of people who while I may hope care in the same way, I first must struggle to care about, whether there is any sign of them caring or not.
I work on postcard, I work on replying to comments, I work on blog posts and most important I work on staying emotionally connected, even when people go away, and when I can’t understand what that means. Becuase I don’t have the ability to sequence time, so all I understand is 'go away'. I get about 10% feedback from what I send out. Some days, I get great feedback, these are the times, when as an emotional athlete it is easy to connect, to care, to be there. There are the days which are empty, where I have worked hours and hours and there are a couple comments, or I have sent out 20 or 30 postcards and heard nothing at all and yet I turn back to the list and the postcards and I start again. Those are the days when I am emotionally exhausted, when, like as an athlete before, everything inside me tells me to quit, to give up, that no one cares about this but me.
I go on. I try to go on. I wobble emotionally. Much like the spent athlete, the easy things are not easy, do not look easy to others anymore. I am told by others this is a waste; a loss of time, of money, of energy. I look emotional clumsy to myself, to others, I feel alone and disconnected. It just means I need to keep working. This are the times every athlete, artists, human being who cares faces.
I get up the next day, and take down a list, look at the postcards, spend 10 minutes to find a postcard for a name and write out the address. During those ten minutes I will care as much as I can about that name, that person I know only from words on-line (and the two to three hours it will take me to finish the postcard).
I do not have a body that can be athletic. I struggle, often through pain, or distraction, through fatigue, exhaustion, to care, to be there emotionally for someone, someone I do not know, someone I will never hear from, and I know it. This is the way I challenge myself, the way I choose to rebel against a society where it is always someone else's problem and against a medical and social system I am now part of where actually caring and doing something for someone, something that isn’t your job, that you aren’t getting paid for, is unheard of. This is the way I try to be the type of emotional reaching out I will rarely if ever receive from a system that is supposed to support me.
I will send out letters, I will send out gifts and from some, from the majority, I will never hear back. And when the time comes, like last night, sick, bleeding, I was taken off by Linda still working on the name of those for postcards, those for gifts. Lay in bed, in delirium of unstable body temp and pain. I will never know if the card makes a difference or not, for most of the people I post to. So the challenge in the second and third time sending to a name, is to care just as much as the first. I am an emotional warrior challenging myself to send out the message, “I care about you” at the times where there is no evidence, when I feel most in pain, the most isolated and send the same warmth, the same caring.
I do this because to do so is good. When I know or receive it back, that makes the load lighter and connections are made, when the days of silence occur, it is heavier but is not why I train or act. I do so because it is good, and because I can push myself to try and be, for a few minutes in this person’s life, what I did not receive in my illness.
For my first year of disability, for over a year, I received more concern and more action on that concern from a person who sold me a muffin and a coffee than from my social worker, my specialists, test technicians, schedulers, case managers and other people paid to supposedly give a damn.
If you give me your name and address, I will not wheel by. No, I can’t make you better, I can’t solve your problems though I might be able to listen in an email. But I will keep sending postcards until you tell me to stop. You may be lying on a bed, in depression thinking no one cares, but I will, and something will come for you. You may rip up the card as soon as it arrives. See, I don’t know. I have to put myself out there. Put the card out there. Some days it is hard, very, very hard. Sometimes I want to curl into a ball and demand that I am not coming out until I get love and caring. Some days the health baggage, the pain baggage the change in conditions drive me to the point where I can barely see or hear. And within that I look at a name and prepare myself to open, prepare myself to search what I know, to find what might make this REAL PERSON, not just a name, but a REAL PERSON happy, to give a damn about this person. Even on days I don’t give a damn about myself.
This is my discipline, this is my art, this is rebellion, this is how I am a warrior, this is how I am fragile and open to be hurt.
6 hours ago