The hardest part about starting with a new therapist has to be all the pretending.
They pretend that their evaluation shows that you’re doing fine. You pretend that you don’t assume they roll their eyes behind your back as you struggle to lift your leg three inches off the exam table. They start with that high pitch voice which implies you might be deaf or mentally impaired but at the suggestion of which belief they gasp in overblown chagrin. You shrug off any intimation that the movements overly challenge you while clenching every muscle and orifice to keep from screaming.
Friday went like that. I started with this new therapist two weeks ago but the honeymoon period vanished about ten minutes into our second session. She asked me questions and drew a diagram on the whiteboard as I talked. By the time she finished, a tortured depiction of the sensations that I strove to explain had emerged, a tangle of red and blue marker surrounding a crudely drawn, genderless humanoid. She cast a bright look in my direction. I returned her query with a tremulous smile. She had written, “Imp CNS, 2nd to Ch Inf, Poss Incr 2 some degree Ch Trauma RW Npth”. Impaired central nervous system secondary to childhood infection, possibly increased to some degree by childhood trauma resulting in rewired neuropathways.
I nodded, hiding my dismay at being reduced to a succinct sentence. She pulled the curtain back, crossed the room to grab an exercise ball, and returned with a cheery, “Now, we work!”
The problem, of course, is that physical therapy to forestall what some would consider an inevitable decline only occupies a small segment of my time. Between sessions, I work four days a week at a straight job, run a small nonprofit, try to write, manage several websites and about five social media accounts, and — in my off-hours — keep my tiny house clean and shop for groceries. So I lay on the table and waited for her instructions, already dreading how I’d feel by Sunday morning.
In between then and today, I orchestrated the purchase of decor for our Harvest Market, ran into Lodi to buy larger pots for my overgrown succulents, organized my kitchen cupboards, and sorted through the sweaters under my loveseat. A trip to Michael’s and Goodwill to scrounge for baskets made it to the list; groceries did not.
Thus we arrived at October 15th, the day before I have to mail my tax return. I rose early, scrambled eggs to eat with leftover veggie stir fry, and brewed fresh coffee. After breakfast, I sorted laundry, put away clean towels, got a load started, and tallied the expenses for my book release last September to list in my Schedule C. A few more chores later, noon lurked. So I loaded my favorite china plate with sliced apples, softened goat cheese, fresh tomatoes, and a handful of gluten-free pita chips. With the Spode plate in one hand and a cup of water in the other, I started outside, hesitating only a second to wonder if I should have used the old metal dish from my great-aunt instead of something breakable.
I definitely should have.
Two steps out the front door, my right leg collapsed for absolutely no reason whatsoever except that I allowed my new physical therapist to torture it for an hour on Friday. My years of training automatically assumed control of my body and twisted my torso into fall position, while my brain instructed my right hand not to dare let go of that plate while giving my left hand permission to jettison the tin cup. Water showered across the deck. My bum hit the hard wood but that right hand held on tight. Food tumbled to the ground. A little table that I’d scored last year at a thrift store collapsed under my weight as I staggered.
When all motion ceased, I had come to rest in a pile of sliced apples on my Welcome mat, still holding the blue china plate. My brain derided me: All right smart girl, how do you plan to get off the ground? Easy. Gently set the plate on the pad of the rocking chair. Ease yourself towards the steps to the little garden. Plant both feet firmly on the second stair. Grasp the big brass handle screwed to the side of the deck rail. Pull yourself vertical.
The person who installed that handle arrived at my place right after I had cleaned the mess and made a new plate of food, this time definitely on that metal plate, a closed door on an empty barn. My neighbor Bri does various chores for me, and in turn I insist that she let me pay her more than she feels comfortable taking from someone she knows. Today she finished repotting some of my bigger plants, including rescuing two that she’d recently refreshed but which a critter had apparently tackled in the night. She worked while I ate. We chatted about sports (she’s from Texas and does not root for the 49ers) and the comparatively quiet week we’d each had. I told her about my fall, and the new therapist, and my recalcitrant right leg. She gave me some garden advice, waited while I bagged my trash and recycle, then gently took both burdens from me. She started to leave. I called her back, thanked her, and insisted that she let me pay for her hour’s work. She demurred but work is work, and if I didn’t pay her, I’d have to pay someone else.
She finally took the money, and then we thanked each other. Later, I sent her a message: You did me a lot of good today! She replied, “Actually, ditto you – me!” I could not help but smile. My neighbor and friend Bri had saved some part of a day that I otherwise surely would have rued.
It’s the fifteenth day of the one-hundred and eighteenth* month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
Dust of Snow, by Robert Frost
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.
*You can be forgiven if you’ve lost track of how long My Year Without Complaining has endured. Let me explain. I strove to traverse 365 days without uttering one complaint. I started on 01 January 2014. It is now 15 October 2023. I have thus been on this #journeytojoy for 9 years and ten months. Once in a while, I get confused and say it’s the “one-hundred and tenth month” when it’s the one-hundred and ninth or one-hundred and eleventh month. But, I used my fingers and my computer’s calculator to count tonight. Do it with me: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 (yes, we have to count that year), 2021, and 2022. That’s nine years. It’s October 2023. October is the tenth month. Nine years (9 x 12) equals 108 months. Plus ten. We are in the one-hundred and eighteenth month since I start my journey. If I did this wrong, please enlighten me. In the meantime, I will try to keep track.