Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I sigh, and look down at my motionless hands on the keyboard, not wanting to explain why I'm stretching too much. Dr. Em is telling me, "C'mon, the pain in your knee, the pain in your back means STOP. But I'm not going to stop.

We've been sold the idea, from the pain killer purveyors (manufacturers, as well as drug stores), and doctors (who are, themselves, out of shape and aging), that we're older, stiffer, less capable in hundreds of small ways, but it's natural/normal, and okay to feel better with a pill or two. Thanks but no thanks! Pills are a temporary solution.

About a year-and-a-half ago, I was frantically finishing a version of my big book about Cordelia (with its chameleon titles), and agent A. who "loved" it, suddenly wanted an e-mail version of the 800 page manuscript.

I use Word Perfect, not Microsoft Word. The processes are different. It meant I had to fix 22 elements, fonts, line spacing, margins, headers (and proof read the manuscript again). Did it in three days, during which I ate snacks in my office, didn't do any of my exercise routines, took naps on the cot in the studio. Agent A got the e-mail manuscript; and I got -- well, I resumed my usual warm ups, and tried to do my dance -- the aches I got were incapacitating.

Since then, inch by inch, stretch by stretch, I've been pushing myself back to where I was. What happened? Three days off hurt me? Burning the candle at both ends hurt me? I don't know what did it. But same as the 22 elements that had to be fixed in word processing, there's a whole lot of fixing I've had to do.

No, I didn't go to the Doc. I know more about my muscles, ligaments, bones than any doctor I'd consult; I've seen the X-rays. I knew from the symptoms, and a recent blood test that there was nothing to be learned from more X-rays or a blood test. When rotators (turn-out muscles), feet, knees, spine at my waist hurt (the L1, L2 area that's been fused), I work "away" from the pain. Continue dancing, working out, but use other muscles.

Want to know more? Look up "dancing" in the list of labels on the right. I've described various aches and pains and how I cure them. It's not boring to read, but boring do. It's taken months to get back strengths that I lost. Instead of straining, struggling, I change my warm-ups, and change the choreography of the daily dance I do to Ralph Vaughn William's "Fantasia."

Here's where I'm at: Whether it is the slipperiness of the floor, or my lessening technique, no longer can I do double pirouettes reliably. Privately deciding to hell with it, sometimes I do a double; sometimes l don't. Dr. Em has told me, and I'm obeying. I've restored a sequence of "second position" plie stretches, am doing four split stretches on the mat -- am once again doing the grim, painful, turn-out stretches I did when I first began studying dance. Masochistic beginner stretches I eliminated because they're too damn painful, and I could do splits.

Not anymore. Not since those three days.

Yes, yes -- I am pushing myself. And every day I feel it more in the groin, knees, hips. But I'm stretching to see if I can get back to what I was doing a year and a half ago. I won't keep doing it forever. If it isn't possible, I'll adjust. I have to. Yes, ouch! I'm fighting age -- aren't we all -- but I'm doing it, very -- ouch -- realistically!

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