I’m a very self-disciplined person. I never regarded myself as such because I’m also creative and spontaneous and responsive. My high school teachers used to yammer at me about that, but now I know that it wasn’t that I lacked discipline EVER but I was young and flitting here and there trying to figure out what I wanted to do, who I was. On some level I bought into the stereotype that creativity, spontaneity and responsiveness are the opposite of disciplined. But over the years of teaching an exaggerated number of classes and still writing books I developed discipline.
I’d never have made it through the past ten years without serious self-discipline. The last several years, 10 years, precisely, I’ve had some concrete problems to overcome. In 2005 two things happened. My right hip was in almost constant pain and my doctor wasn’t diagnosing it. He would, finally, in November of that year, a year after I first had symptoms and first went to see him. The second thing, I fell in love (or in need?) with a person who was very bad for me and who was, I believe, an intrinsically bad person; a con artist. I think now, if I hadn’t been in such intense physical pain, I might have thought more clearly — but maybe not.
The problem started in the fall of 2004. I felt pain when I was hiking. One evening, after I got home from a long hike, I — as usual — loaded wood in my stove and started a fire. In this middle of this, the phone rang; a land-line. I couldn’t get up. I crawled over to the phone and used the door jam to hoist myself to standing so I could get the phone. I won’t relate the long saga that led to surgery on January 5, 2007, but it should not have taken three years for me to get repaired. By then I’d lost conditioning and my knees (injured several times over the years) were in bad shape from doing more than their fair share.
Fast forward to slow, careful, responsible rehab and lost joy in hiking (I didn’t enjoy it any more; I couldn’t move fast through the hills, I couldn’t run, I was afraid to jump over rocks, I didn’t feel like myself there any more and deep inside I was afraid it would happen again). Financial pressures mounted up, even though by then I’d ejected the Evil X he’d left me in a terrible financial hole I only got out of by selling my house and moving to Colorado last year! 🙂 But back then (2008 – 2009) I nearly lost my house (I am one of the few people in existence who actually GOT Obama’s Home Affordable Mortgage Modification — that saved me).
And I had to work a lot more with less certainty during those years. Add a few more levels of fear to the cocktail. There were periods when I woke up most every morning at 4 terrified about something; sometimes I woke up screaming. I had plenty to be anxious about so my anxiety didn’t worry me. I thought there’d be something wrong with me if I weren’t anxious.
I’ve spent the six months I’ve lived in Colorado systematically rebuilding my physical abilities. We’re talking serious rebuilding because I have had a long way to go. To catalog all of the very small movements we take for granted that I could not do would take up a very long blog post and wouldn’t be interesting. But one example, in November, if I fell, I needed Dusty’s help or something large to hold onto so I could get up off the ground, and I fell pretty often. Now I can stand up on my own and I do not fall nearly as much; something has to trip me. My loss of abilities was the result of nearly a decade of my life spent driving and teaching and grading papers, trying to write fiction and truly NOT having time to do anything more than that. One of the things I used to say with great certainty, “Bah. Everyone has time to exercise.” Well, no, not necessarily and added to that was the fact that deep down inside I was afraid.
I’m still afraid though I realize I have less to fear. If I were to ride a mountain bike now and fall off, assuming it wasn’t a terrible life-threatening fall, I’d probably be able to get back up and get on the bike. Good. And, I thought about that; how many times did I ever fall when I was riding a mountain bike every day? The truth is, I only fell once and that was because I was watching a hawk in flight not watching the trail. I have been worried about my balance, but I’ve been working on that steadily, too, these six months and I can do a lot of things now I couldn’t do in October. I could ride a bike now on an average single-track and have a very good time, but I’m afraid.
I’d assumed that regaining physical strength and ability would make the fear go away, but it hasn’t. I want very much to go to the local bike store and get a real mountain bike like I used to have but I’m afraid. I’m afraid to go in there, a slightly lop-sided little white-haired lady and say, “I want a mountain bike, please.” In fact, the one I want is the one in the picture. But I’m afraid they won’t have one. I’m afraid they’ll look at me and think, “She couldn’t ride a mountain bike. It would be wrong to sell her one.” I don’t know how to live with this outside physical appearance of me, either. It doesn’t fit at all. 😉