Broken Foot or You Can Teach an Old Dog New TricksApril 14, 2012
It has been with much humility, and not a whole lot of grace that I have had to accept hobbling around on my orthopedic boot for the past four weeks after ONCE AGAIN causing a hairline stress fracture in one of my metatarsels. From running. This time the fracture is on my left foot.
My foot- she is healing, which is the good news. The bad news is that I’m not sure I can really engage in this whole “barefoot running” notion, or more recently, “flatshoe running” that I’ve been participating in. And I think, it’s not because those ways of running are inherently wrong and bad for your body. In fact, I actually believe the opposite to be true. Turns out I’m just too old and have been running on puffy running shoes for too long now to really be able to successfully change my stride from heel slammer/toe rocker to the much-better-for-you barefoot strike which is something akin to how children naturally run shoeless in the grass on a summer day. (Sliding down to the ground from the ball/toe of your foot first, then to the heel and finally springing off the toe. Try running in the park barefoot- it’s kinda what your foot wants to do naturally.)
I’d been trying to re-create my inner 7-year-old Holly over the past few months- or rather channel the 7-year-old Holly- in a noble attempt to allow myself the ability to run far into my senior years. See, those big old puffy running shoes that we humans have been plogging around on now for a few decades are kinda the worst thing for your body imaginable. They make you slam your heel down, which causes strain on your lower back, and secondly over-extend your knees. All this misaligns your body as you lean forward to run faster…farther…atop your over-extended knee. It’s no wonder why so many runners quit in their 40′s or 50′s with blown out backs, knees, hip pain.
Yet, attempting to side-step said pain by running on flatter shoes (or none at all) was clearly not the right direction for me. Help for the knees and back ended up blowing out the little bones on the top of my feet a number of times. So, I’ve been dejectedly entertaining the notion that perhaps– no. As far as running goes, you can’t teach this old dog new tricks. If I’m going to continue to run, I need to get back out there on my pumped up Nikes or Sauconys or New Balances, continue to pop my Omega 3′s, and just pray that my knees and joints hold out for at least the next decade.
This vaguely depresses me. Because running for me is akin to crack cocaine. Though I’ve never run longer than 5 miles at a stretch, running to me is something like a religion and it keeps me healthy and happy and if not stress-free- definitely stress-reduced.
So- I’ve decided to make a list in the other direction. A list of ways I HAVE changed lately. A reminder of how it IS possible to evolve. That not all attempts to alter one’s foot fall in this life end up in ugly black velcro laden boots that literally look good with zero fashion ensembles. And I’ve tried.
1. I walked into a Carl’s Jr today. I’ve NEVER eaten in a Carl’s Jr! I’ve eaten at many other fast food restaurants in my time, but until today- no love for Carl. This was not hard when you consider the horrid rumors I’ve neard about how he is a low-life racist and gives large amounts of money to politicians who would attempt to bring our country back to the good old days of the early 60′s. Additionally, I frequently scoffed at what I came to decide were Carl’s Jr’s dopey ad campaigns which seem strategically aimed at 15 year old boys. If it’s not some splooch of mustard sliding down the front of some girl’s tight white T-shirt, or glamorizing the amount of mess created from eating a Carl’s Jr burger by counting the napkins needed, it’s the “unreasonable-ness” of sit-down restaurants wanting to charge $6 for a decent hamburger. My god. Why would you ever pay $6 for a hamburger, when you can get something that LOOKS very much like that sit-down restaurant hamburger at Carl’s Jr for almost half that price?! (Where, by the way, is there a non-fast food restaurant serving a burger that’s anywhere near $6? Did anyone else find that to be a strangely silly lowball figure? Almost counter-productive to their own message? I mean, even at a joint like Marie Callendar’s- when you order a hamburger, you better be sure you have at LEAST 10 bucks floating around in your pocket. And that’s not even counting drink and tip!) But I digress. So-
Out running errands this afternoon, I got a hankerin for a hunka burger today for lunch. And seeing as it’s about that time of month I thought- yes Holly. You’re allowed a big old nasty fat burger. You need the protein- you need the iron. Go for it. As I drove toward home with my carnivorous fangs dripping, Carl’s Jr loomed ahead- mere blocks from my gastronomical brainstorm. The drive thru line was around the block. But lo- there was one little parking space left right in front of the entrance. So I swung myself and my big old velcro-festooned boot through the doors and ordered me a Six Dollar Burger. And by golly, if it didn’t turn out to be almost as good as if I had gone to one of those restaurants where they serve real burgers for about $12.95! And, btw, six napkins worth of mess. So there’s some truth in advertising. I’ll probably never align with Carl’s politics, but he now has $6.48 of my money and I was far from dissatisfied.
2. (Remember this was a list?) Here’s another new thing for me: So- I shushed someone I didn’t know today sitting next to me and my kid in our school’s weekly Friday morning “All School Meeting.” (This isn’t really the new thing for me, but I’ll get to that, so bear with me for a little bit.) The ASM, as it’s affectionately called round the hood of our school, is a four parts lovely, two parts frivolous, one part annoying tradition where all kids, parents, teachers, etc meet for (what you hope is) about 35 minutes in the Common area. Kids share songs, skits…fifth graders lead the meetings, thereby culminating their private school elementary experience with a very public display of self-confidence, school information is passed around, sometimes visiting performers come to share their talents. It’s really mostly very nice.
However, for this particularly curmudgeonly mom, I find some elements of the tradition to be tiresome- the most common of which is the propensity for TALKING during the meeting. And I don’t mean kids talking. The students at school are for the most part fairly kind, helpful, thoughtful people. They are capable of actually sitting around for a long time criss-cross-applesauce on the floor with a bare minimum of disruption. Perhaps because these meetings are weekly, the kids get used to shutting up and mostly paying attention. And mostly not talking to their friends who might be sitting right next to them or across the room. I cannot say the same thing about the adults. It’s the PARENTS who tend to be so frigging annoying. It’s the clueless entitled private school PARENTS who cannot seem to stop talking to each other during ASM. As if the code of silence only applies to their younguns and not to them. As if politeness is an overly tight snakeskin that one eventually molts out of. Well, I for one don’t agree. I don’t go often any more to these all school meetings, but when I do, I try as hard as I can to mirror for the kids what I think it is we are attempting to teach them with our communal silence and attention to whatever is happening onstage– self control and respect for others.
So today I had it. There was a middle aged man and his teenage son sitting next to me and my son just yakking away during the beginning of the meeting. Now, I didn’t recognize them so it is possible they were visiting relatives of one of the students– perhaps even one of the fifth graders leading the meeting. But suffice to say, there was plenty of “shushing” at the onset of the meeting, so it seemed evident to me there was no lack of clarity about the desire for- the need for- silence from the audience. And the meeting begins- and there’s some talk. And then a song that we’re all singing together- a call and response sort of thing. And during both the call, and the response this father and his son are still talking to each other in regular voices. Not even really an attempt to whisper at all. And I’m starting to boil with rage. (Did I mention it’s about that time of the month for me? Just so we’re clear.) Because it’s really the lack of awareness that just niggles at me. It’s the lack of ability to apparently realize you’re in a room with many OTHER individuals who are there together- trying to co-create an experience. That maybe just shutting the fuck UP might be the best thing to do. You can giggle with your teenage son after the thing is over. So, I try to sit on it. Try to sit on it. Sit. Just sit, Holly. Just Sit on– and then I can’t any longer, and instead of slightly turning my head, vaguely looking into the middle of nowhere and uttering some sort of passive aggressive “ShhHHH” like I would imagine might be the normally accepted way of handling the situation, I actually turn to completely face these two and say something like, “Hey, could you both stop talking please? It’s loud and hard to concentrate.” There’s a pause. And then because I am literally 28.9 cm away from them both and have to spend the rest of the meeting sitting next to them, I turn back to mitigate a bit and say, “I’m sorry if I sound really rude, but it’s just distracting. Thank you.” Both the father and son say nothing. They sort of glare at me as if they realize they’ve accidentally opted to sit next to the school crazy. Then they look away haughtily. And I look away. And that’s the end of the encounter.
But now here’s the part that belongs in my list today. This is new for me: I was relatively calm afterwards. My heart did not continue to beat hard after I said my little piece. I was able to breathe normally and not regret what I had said. I did not feel the need to further mitigate the situation. I did not feel the need to try to make myself more likable and look at them later with apologetic eyes, which I believe is what my slightly younger self would have done. In other words, I believe I’m getting a little better at speaking my truth and letting it hang in the air without needing to make anyone else comfortable. That’s a biggie for me.
3. Ok. What else? I could list how I recently took my kids on a plane by myself (bootlegged) to Atlanta over spring break and how I didn’t let my peri-menopausal CRUSHING travel anxiety get the better of me. (I love you, Ativan.) Or I could say something about how when during my trip to the doc three days ago to re-check some hormone levels, and my well-intentioned GP mentioned something about how my facial melasma looks really bad- like it’s gotten worse- and it must be because I didn’t have any makeup on, I didn’t go down the self-esteem rabbit hole. Despite the fact that I had just seconds before her entrance been applying foundation to my face with the few minutes I had to myself in the exam room. Nor did I really care to inform her that for six months now I’ve been applying a very expensive bleaching cream that my dermatologist has recommended to me and that actually, my melasma is significantly better than it was the last time I saw her. I think she was trying to be supportive of my assertion that my estrogen is rising. (Melasma is a sign of high estrogen. I think she was trying to be a Yes Girl.)
4. Ah wait– I’ve got one. This is good. Two weeks ago I had a gig at a local joint. Fun place- two blocks from my house. And I hobbled over on my boot. Ready to rock it onstage with the Black Velcroed Wonder. And I brought out– for the very first time– my Fender Telecaster. Which is an electric guitar, for those who don’t know. And for those who don’t know me, I’d NEVER played my Fender Telecaster onstage before – never. Though the guitar was cool looking, and though I had posed with it slung on my back for the cover of my third album, and though the guitar came to me out of the blue- literally showed up on my doorstep one day back in 2001 after I’d put out my first record (I unwittingly won some online contest that I hadn’t even entered myself in) –I could not bring myself to play it. In fact, until 10 days ago, it still sported the same lightweight strings that it came with, propped up against my front door back in 2001 with a congratulatory note taped to it.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to play the Telecaster. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to honor the nudge that the universal forces were apparently giving me right at the dawn of my recording career. It was just that the thought of figuring out what sort of AMP to buy for it, and what kind of STRINGS it might require and how it might change the way I was already haltingly picking and struming my acoustic guitar… I just wasn’t READY for it, I decided. The universe is never wrong, but in this case, I had decided the universe had shown up to the party a little early and would just have to hang around by the buffet with a drink and wait for the rest of the party guests to arrive.
So of course I didn’t play it or even pay any attention to it for a long time. And when any musician would come over to practice with me and notice the poor neglected Tele leaning expectantly in its stand in the corner of my office, he would comment on how- Oh Hol! I didn’t know you had a Fender! That’s cool. Why don’t you ever play it? And then the litany of whys would pour out of me.
And it wasn’t until 2012 that I really decided to own the ONLY reason why I wasn’t playing this delightful gift of the Magi that showed up like Moses in the basket to Pharoh’s wife. I wasn’t playing this guitar because I was SCARED. I was scared of trying something I didn’t know how to do. I was terrified of my eventual trips to Guitar Center armed with my little Tele, forced to go ask one of the tattoo encrusted sales dudes, “What kind of amp do you think I should buy for this guitar?” And I would be forced to say “I don’t know anything about anything when it comes to pedals and sounds and effects. I only know that they exist and that I won this guitar and I should probably start playing around with some gear and such and stuff.” I didn’t want to appear as the Soccer-Mom-Wanna-Be-Middle-Age Rockster whose smiling face would soon grace an ad-hoc WANTED poster in the Guitar Center break room: ”Seen this tall, slightly wrinkly, totally clueless loser? Warning- knows nothing about anything! If you happen to encounter, pitch only expensive reject guitar gear. She apparently has dough to burn! Claims to play the “keyboard.”
I finally swallowed my pride this month and borrowed a cool little amp. And a tremolo pedal. And immediately wrote a song on the 11 year old lightweight strings. And then showed up armed with said guitar, amp, pedal and song to my gig of two weeks ago. The best part is of course, the high E string broke onstage just as I was about to play the new tune. Though I played it anyway- struggling every moment with the guitar wailing painfully out of tune. See, when one string is missing on the neck of the guitar, the balance of tension gets all off and it will pull the remainder of the strings off their game. It was hilarious listening to my guitar in the monitor get softer and softer as the song progressed. (Thank you sound man.) Luckily, I was performing with my pal Eric who is a SMOKIN guitarist and who sort of took over the song even though he had never heard it and was wingin it the whole way through. Suffice to say, the song rocked. Even though I did not on my Fender Tele.
So there’s more. But I believe I have now reached the organic end of this blog post. It feels like it’s done. I think I’ve made my point to myself and the millions of tiny etheral quarks which surround me as I sit here typing away that I am indeed, if only very slowly and very slightly, evolving. I am learning to face my fears one broken guitar string at a time. I am edging farther away from my safe position of moralism, and learning to live who am I more consistently. Even though I may irritate a fellow human being or two seated next to me. Even though I may accomplish something as mundane and unnecessary as patronizing a fast food restaurant.
Because I suppose I can still surprise even myself. And that is something I never want to break.