Look Ma, no legs!
August 4, 2010: Reflections on being tragically un-hip (original post)
Nine days ago I had arthroscopic surgery on my right hip. The doc who read my MRI diagnosed a torn labrum, but it wasn't quite torn, just worn very, very thin in places by my years as a professional modern and aerial dancer
and leading to dysplasia and chondromalacia of my naturally shallow hip sockets. In other words, nature and nurture combined over the years so that I was painfully out of joint. Recovery means three weeks of not walking, as I can't put my full weight on my right leg. I have but one leg to stand on. I can put my foot down, but without any real weight to it. (Metaphor Woman strikes again!)
It is interesting, to say the least, to be mobility impaired for the first time in my 47 years. I've long been sympathetic to those with disabilities, back to when it was still OK to use the adjective "handicapped" for people and not just parking. Years before I became a movement therapist
working with people whose damaged neurological systems robbed them of some measure of mobility, I found myself in a group of mixed-ability folks, experimenting with an improvisational dance style that allowed us all to dance while sharing weight with each other and that continues to serve as an effective technique in improving my clients' efficiency and expressivity of movement.
I went in to that experimental atmosphere thinking I was "able-bodied," only to learn that was a term we majority folks called ourselves with the idea we were being fair and sensitive to all. I quickly found out I was a "stand-up" according to the "sit-downs" and a "two-legged" according to those on braces and/or crutches. One woman with little in the way of limbs dubbed me "Legs." Each term was employed with a friendly yet almost disparaging delivery, as if I were to be pitied for my mobility. (I also received some ribbing and at least one utterance of actual disgust at being "skinny" - a stark contrast to how I was judged in the professional dance world.)
It was in that environment that I tried life for the first but not last time as a non-stand-up. I test-drove various wheelchairs, crutches, scooters, braces, etc. Of course, I walked away from each device. (I also then and there ended my utilization of "accessible" stalls in all public restrooms that offered a "regular" choice.) But it is a different matter now that I really can't walk away. Now that the post-surgery pain is manageable, it's the lack of independence that gets to me far more than the chafing from the crutches. (Hadn't considered wardrobe-crutch compatibility.) How strange to not be able to get in and out of the shower by myself or to dry myself afterward. I'm not yet able to fully flex my hip, so I also can't dress myself in pants or shorts after that. The list goes on and on. And no, it is not nearly as fun as it sounds to have one's husband be one's near-constant servant.
As I will return to stand-up status fairly soon, I can't truly empathize with those who have to realign their lives because of permanent or progressive disability. But it's an interesting chapter in my life. Lack of ability due to taking advantage of too much ability. Did get this great quote from my surgeon, the highly recommended Dr. John Franco
, "You're really shallow ... you must be a great dancer."
August 6, 2010: Wheeling around
Well, new experiences last couple days. Actually, old experiences, but from a new perspective. For getting around to places where it's asking too much of myself to go on crutches, have transferred to the wheelchair. And there it was, the OMG reactions from the stand-ups. There is the "just back away slowly and don't look" reaction, the "eek! a mouse" jump/scramble out of the way (or sometimes in the way), and the classic "trying to be helpful, even though I don't know what I'm doing, so I do it with so much caution that I'm actually not being very helpful at all" series. And then there's the pariah reaction, especially in elevators or when perceived as blocking traffic. Yup, even here in good old Burque, which, as we know, does NOT rhyme with Querque
One of my fave cartoonists is Keith Knight
, who regularly features in "Life's Little Victories"
in his strip The K Chronicles
. LLV's are those tiny, unexpected wonderful happenings that one should take a moment to celebrate (in Keef's opinion with a fist in the air and a hearty "YES!"), such as when the lint comes off the dryer sieve effortlessly in one unbroken fabric. Today I went to Motor Vehicle Division downtown to get temporary handicapped parking placard. Just as I was about to give the facility a thumbs down for not having an automatic door nor a suitable waiting area, a very kind, seemingly able-bodied man pointed out that there was a window designated for the disabled and elderly. No waiting! On a Friday afternoon! YES!
August 16, 2010: I Shall Be Released
Officially three weeks from surgery and my physical therapist gave me the green light to walk around the house crutch-free. One crutch for small jaunts outside the house and two for the long hauls. So, I am now a part-time stand-up. After only three weeks as a non-stand-up, I am pretty amazed at how much strength, stamina, and confidence I have lost. "Long walk" has a whole different meaning at present than it did a month ago. Feels weird to use a handicapped parking spot, especially now that I don't need the wheelchair. Don't need a ramp and don't feel the need arriving, but glad the car is close for departing. Should be entirely crutch-free in another two weeks. Well, with the exception of Häagen-Dazs "5" coffee ice cream!
August 18, 2010: Whoa, Nelly!
Possibly my last update to this blog for the few of you checking in. So, did Dancer Deb totally overdo it on her first day as a part-time stand-up? Heilige Scheiße, ya! ¡Si, mierda santa! Holy sheeeeeiit, yup indeedy! The pain and fatigue were not immediate. But The Humbling
followed tout suite
. (Just saw Inglourious Basterds
and feeling multilingual-ish.) OK, OK, might need the wheelchair just a little longer. My underarms are not happy, especially the left one. We feel the one-crutch thing makes me look like a character out of Dickens - think Oliver Twist
. On the other hand I can now officially shower and dress on my own (so I have that over my fave little toddler cousin) and today I did the dishes! YES!