The internet inundates me with messages of encouragement. Put the past behind you! Move forward! Take control! I set down my tablet and gaze out the window, past my neighbor’s tiny house, into the pale sky. I think I’ve evidenced a willingness to follow these suggestions. I’m not sure that the people who give such advice have any idea what real life holds for some of us.
I drove the levee road to Highway 12 and onto Lodi mid-morning yesterday. Traffic moved swiftly and the draw bridge stayed down so I made good time. I honked under the tender’s house as I traversed the Mokelumne. My friend Demi Stewart works that bridge. I never know if she hears my signals. I keep honking, though. I send my greetings into the air and smile as I continue eastward.
At my primary care doctor’s office, I sat waiting for the news, good, bad, or ugly. I came to discuss all those points at which my body declines — my knobby, numb toes; my finicky digestive system; the sluggish thyroid; the varying blood pressure. She keeps me over-long. She asks a myriad of questions, then gives the sort of advice which nobody really likes. Drink more water, eat your vegetables, move more, take vitamins. “I know it’s hard for you,” she assures me, nodding her lovely head beneath its beaded scarf. “Just do what you can. I’ll see you after the new work in San Francisco.”
Ah, San Francisco! Shining city by the sea, where the young, efficient specialists rub their hands together and grin when I cross their threshold. New health insurance, new doctors, new theories about why my body twists and quivers. Not this! Not that! Not what those other guys said! They roll their eyes southward, to the now-discredited High Mucky-Muck Guru who once held court at Stanford. Fired, he has been; not for failing to properly treat his patients, but for mistreatment of his staff and colleagues. So here I am, consulting a whole new Infectious Disease department, with their youth and their efficiency and their disdain for twenty-year old theories.
It exhausts me.
Back home last evening, I stowed the new bottles of Vitamin D, Calcium, and B-12 until the lab results and the determination of how much and what to take. I heated water for tea and spread goat cheese on a rice cracker. My gradual weight loss has been documented, encouraged, and applauded. I demurred in the face of praise. Eight years ago, I weighed 103 and wore a double zero. I don’t care about size; I value the lessening of burden on my spastic legs. I’ll get back down, though maybe not that low. I don’t need to be so thin that you can’t see me when I stand sideways. I just need to reach a healthy weight. The doctors agree. Drink more water, eat your vegetables, move more, take vitamins.
A friend posts on social media about a spinal implant for pain control. I’m happy for him. As for myself, I’ve surrendered any hope of controlling pain. I shove the offending sensation to the back of my mind’s cupboard and keep moving. I drink more water. I fill my grocery cart with cabbage, cucumbers, and kale. I park a little farther from the front of the store and carefully tread across the asphalt, keeping my shoulders lowered, my head held high, and my best foot forward.
It’s the fifth day of the seventieth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.