Being Scared vs. Being Real

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.

And now…

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. 😉

14 thoughts on “Being Scared vs. Being Real

  1. Martha, this is such a great, heartfelt post about the trials and tribulations you went through! Whew! But what I really like is that you are rehabbing and still taking your leisure time seriously and making it a priority. Get that bike and to hell with what they think. So happy you are on the mend and have turned that corner in your life!

  2. We are the other people who got a mortgage restructuring under HAMP. It took months … Like nine of them. Finally, I got my double cancer diagnosis. I think the guy at the bank felt sorry for me and it enabled us to keep the house. I know a bunch of people who were less lucky.

    I was never a fearful person until relatively recently, but ill health makes us feel vulnerable. Being Alpha type women, vulnerability undercuts our emotional foundation. My back. Then a whole series of surgeries gone horribly wrong on my stomach, then cancer, then heart surgery. I’m not the same person I was. I hate it. I also have no idea what to do about it.

    I’m fascinated by your story and how you are dealing with it. I feel a lot of the time as if I’m wearing someone else’s body, maybe someone else’s life. Odd.

    • Doing HAMP was like teaching an extra class. I saved all those packets because I could not believe no one would want to see them again. I went to a finance counselor and ended up helping her through her divorce. What an experience that all was! The day I signed the papers I met a woman outside my classroom building (I was always teaching) and we signed sitting on a concrete retaining wall. But… Everyone working with me was incredibly kind, especially my mortgage company. Everyone helped me. In many respects it was an astonishing time. You are right about ill health making us vulnerable. That’s exactly it. I think maybe for both of us the number of dangerous changes changed us and we have to re-connect with a new person but that person is us. I feel that way often.

  3. Fear and anxiety are such life-deadening things, aren’t they. But maybe this is one way our unconscious has of keeping us safe until we truly ARE able to do the things we want to do. Your disciplined approach may not be what you’d prefer, but with it, you seem to be slowly improving.

    And if that discipline holds, then perhaps the day will come when you’ll saunter into the bike shop and buy that bike. In the meantime, it’s a great incentive, wouldn’t you say? We all need a carrot of one kind or another to spur us on.

    Speaking for myself, I know from experience that there comes a time when the “outside” doesn’t match what’s inside of us. As Marilyn said so perfectly, it feels as though we’re wearing someone else’s body. My mother used to say the same thing.

    Perhaps it’s part of the aging process, which I think is hard on all of us as we grow older, helped not at all by a society that turns its back on aging and worships youth. So we struggle on, feeling alone and betrayed by the body that we used to be able to count on for so many things.

    Frankly, I think your struggle is heroic. I wish you the strength and courage to keep on keeping on!

    • I’m not giving up and one thing I’ve learned in this whole thing (life?) is that I do not have to do everything today. Thank you for your encouraging words — I need them.

  4. I agree, buy the damned bike! I’m coming from the angle that I am doing a 5k run at the weekend; but we’ll be doing a 5k walk. Life and weather got in the way of our training. I still intend doing a 5k run one day, hopefully by the middle of the summer. I’m coming from a different starting point though; never having really tried to look after myself, it occurred to me that I’d better start doing so. Self-discipline is good, so is self-realism. I know myself well enough to know that I have to do a bit at a time, and have accepted I’m in this for the long haul. This means that if I have setbacks, it doesn’t mean I have failed – sometimes it’s good to look backwards to see how far you have really come.

      • So glad you did 😉 perhaps I’ve got braver since buying myself a most ornate and indulgent coat the other week. The back up I got here in the Blogosphere showed I was right 😀

  5. The outside appearance doesn’t matter, Martha. It means nothing. I agree with France – you are a Tyger. It takes more than self-discipline to deal with the bucketloads you’ve copped in your life.
    Anxiety is…Don’t start me. Debilitating is the polite word. And beating it is a long hard row to hoe (I know it well) but it sounds to me as if you’re almost there. And who can tell? The man in the bike shop might well think ‘good for you!’ And if he doesn’t, smack him in the chops. The person who’ll be riding the bike is a whole lot more than white hair and a dodgy hip! The young (other than my own) look at me sideways when I wade into the surf. ‘A long streak of pump-water topped with grey hair and wrinkles? In the SURF? She’s kidding herself!’ And I think ‘How little you know, my pets!’
    But it took me a while not to care.

  6. Wonder if the doctor you see now could give you any better direction and encouragement about (I’m assuming the surgery was a Total Hip Replacement) excercise? The newer prosthetic hips are really, really durable, and that mountain bike looks really, really nice.

    Hopefully anyone working in a bike shop would know the joy of being out in nature and in motion. There are people around here who appear to be in their 70’s and maybe even 80s who ride bikes. I took care of a guy who had ridden (on busy roads – which didn’t work out so well for him, but had nothing to do with his age) cross-country at the age of 81. If the bike shop people seem judgy, it can be chalked up to their own cluelessness and in no way a reasonable attitude toward one who has made it through so many difficult things.

    I hope you at least stick your toes in the water to check it out. You may well get kissed instead of slapped.

    • My hip is fine — I had resurfacing in 2007. But years of trail running, skiing and injuries also wore out my knees and they were bone-on-bone a long time ago. But the last decade of living a mostly sedentary life hasn’t helped — but I’m light-years more able than I’ve been in a long time. I’ve been training on an Airdyne, doing yoga and weight training. I was an athlete before all this started so…

      You’re right about sticking my toes in the water and checking out the bike shop — I need to give it a shot and I plan to do that on Thursday. (Thor’s day, right?) Like I said; I’m just afraid and it’s not rational fear, just neurotic fear, I think from just so much major change in such a short time.

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