Friday, December 29, 2017

Plantar Fasciitis: An "adventure" in 14 steps

Life gives us many gifts. Sometimes those gifts are treehouse-with-a-helicopter-landing-pad levels of awesome. Sometimes those "gifts" are like an itchy sweater that is two sizes too small. If you're a person with feet, sometimes that "gift" is the dreaded plantar fascists, I mean fasciitis. This fall I was forcibly given a golden ticket to the PF "adventure" and this is what ensued:

1. Feel the burn on the bottom of your foot/arches and pain in your heel, that is worse in the morning and after running. Run over snakes in Tonto National Forest and up and down in the Grand Canyon on your wedding anniversary trip to Arizona. Keep running until you are finally ready to acknowledge that denial is not making your foot any better. Funny how that works. Reluctantly admit you've got a case of the terrible no good very bad plantar fasciitis.

2. Visit Benson for many painful sports "massages" (read: torture). As he's working to break up your scar tissue, he says things like "I bet you want to punch me right now" and you're like "They should use this to extract information from prisoners. I would tell you any secret to get you to stop doing that" and he's like "Any secret, eh? So how much are you really stretching?" It is not a secret that the answer to that is "never enough."

3. Run 20 miles on the Lehigh Valley Trail. This was probably a very stupid idea. But it was a great run and a great day and Jen(n)s have so much to take over and so little time. So no regrets.

4. The pain continues. For obvious reasons (see above 20 miles). Find out from Mr. Internet that you can evict the plantar fascists with 2 weeks of bed rest. Since no one is lining up to pay you to lay around in bed for 2 weeks (and let's face it, there's no way you could stand to lay around for even one day), decide that is not a realistic option at this point.

5. Get serious about getting rid of this PF bullshit. Like no-running-or-jumping serious. This is a torture worse than scar tissue release. The hardest part of running is not running. (I function about as well without running as I do without sleep. Which is to say, not well, not well at all. But lamenting the things I cannot do only makes me feel worse so instead I do what I can and make the best out of my adventures in non-running).

6. Do all the recovery things. Stretching. Foam rolling. Icing. Befriending your robot-covered heated rice bag. Taking magnesium and turmeric. Wearing the Strassburg sock at night. Chiropractor. Acupuncture. Rolfing (which helps your foot and alignment, though not as much as it helps empty your wallet and your tolerance for super freaking weird experiences). Swimming, spin class, strength training and climbing the Jacob's Ladder and stair master to nowhere.

7. Bike around Keuka Lake with husband man. Start at the Finger Lakes Visitors Alliance (309 Lake St in Penn Yan). When husband man realizes he forgot to bring socks, buy socks from a nearby Walgreens (Pete: "Can you pay for these socks? I have to poop." Me: "Really keeping the romance alive there, aren't we?"). Follow Rt 54, with dips down to E Lake Rd for the scenic views closer to the lake. From Hammondsport, follow Rt 54A until you come across a road closed sign, construction workers and a giant hole in the road. Backtrack and take a detour up the actual steepest hill ever (It must have been at least 15% grade, so steep we were tired and sweaty just walking our bikes up it. At least it smelled like grapes at the top). Bike down the other side going so fast you're sure you're going to fly off the bike and die. But you don't die. Meet back up with Rt 54A and make your way back to Penn Yan, taking the scenic route through Keuka College. 45 miles later, you are still not a cyclist.

8. Bike around Canandaigua Lake with husband man. The laws of physics apparently do not apply to Canandaigua Lake because somehow it is uphill in all directions. And some of the "roads" abruptly turn into gravel death pits. And you get stuck in your pedal cages and fall off your bike and teary-eyed, tell your husband "I am never biking again." Except that you are still 15 miles from the car. So you bike again. 50 miles later, you are most definitely not a cyclist.

9. Do a planking challenge with your friends for the month of November, working up to 10 minutes of planking (5 minutes front plank and 2.5 minutes on each side). At first this seems impossible and excessive. But by the end of the month it seems possible and excessive. But it makes chin-ups feel easier so maybe you have actually managed to develop some semblance of shoulder muscles.

10. Volunteer or banana at races you would normally have run. Realize you don't feel any fear of missing out or wishing you were racing. Wishing you were running, yes, but not wishing you were in the race. (This is oddly comforting, though it confirms what I have always suspected. I am not a runner. I don't look like a runner. I'm just a person who loves to run. It's not my identity. I don't do it for competition or results or accolades, which is great since I'm not any competition and I don't have any accolades. I don't miss any of those things because I don't care about any of those things. What I miss is the feeling of running. At times I miss it desperately, like I would miss not breathing. I miss the physical act of running, the joy of it and the person I am when running (a happier, more relaxed, far more patient person).

11. Do a meditation challenge with your friends for the month of December. Fail to sit down to meditate more times than you sit down to meditate. Except it sort of starts happening to you anyway, even when you forget. Like when you finish shoveling and pause before going back inside to lay down in the snow and watch it fall onto the pine trees, not thinking about or rushing to the next thing, just resting there for a few minutes, supported by the snow and your maximum puff coat. Or when you're in the car and Christmas songs are making you sad because no, actually through the years we all won't be together and those who are dear to us won't be gathering near to us and that sucks. This is supposed to be some kind of magical celebratory most wonderful time of the year but all you can do is cry and say aloud to no one "Am I going to lose everything I love?" Then a tiny voice from within says "Yes" and it's so matter of fact and undeniably true that you laugh. And you realize this is the magic. This beautiful, brutal truth. We're here until we're not. We love, we lose, we laugh,we cry, we wear hippo pajama pants (ok so maybe that last one is just me). You have this moment, this now. Your life is a series of nows until your final now. The quality of your life depends on how you fill that series of nows. The magic surrounds you always. Will you notice it, will you let it in, will you spread it?

12. Rest. Like actual rest. More sleep. More restorative yoga (or as I call it, laying on the ground yoga). More Netflix and heating pad. More opting out of things that seem obligatory but don't bring joy. This is easier to say than to do.

13. Feel however you feel, without taking it personally. That is, feel frustrated, despondent, annoyed, or ugh at the situation, not at your body. Your body deserves to be treated like the fucking amazing miracle wizard it is. (I don't know what a miracle wizard is, there just aren't enough superlatives to fully express how awesome your body is at keeping you alive and doing cool shit every second of every day). Pain isn't weakness, it's a sign that maybe you're taking on too much, physically or emotionally, maybe you need a little more rest and relaxation, comfort and gentleness. This is easier to say than to do.

14. As your foot feels better, other parts start to hurt. It feels like you may have forgotten how to run, but probably it's just your various parts healing and readjusting. Decide to just let it take however long it takes, to listen to your body (which would be easier if your body could speak English instead of this terrible game of aches and pains charades), and trust that you will be back to your extreme shenanigans soon. It is not the adventure you would have chosen but maybe it is the push to rest you needed to have. In the meantime, buy gold leggings. Because if you've gotta live that PF life, live it in style.

I didn't choose the PF life, the PF life chose me

Lyric of the moment: "I can say I hope it will be worth what I give up. If I could stand up mean for the things that I believe. Change, change, change, I want to get up out of my skin. Tell you what, if I can shake it, I'm 'a make this something worth dreaming of..." ~Santigold "L.E.S Artistes"

Thursday, December 7, 2017

A Robot Holiday Gift Guide

My friends: it's been a dystopian nightmare/shit tsunami of a year, has it not? (2017: Go home, you've had too many White Russians, you're drunk and grabby). I'm not into the culturally coerced consumerism that runs rampant this time of year. But I'm super into the spirit of generosity and giving. A friend recently posted on FB asking for kindness as he and his family are hurting right now, and it really resonated with me. Everyone has struggles, challenges, heartaches. Everyone is hurting in some way. It takes courage to be vulnerable and ask for what we really need, knowing that people might not "get" it, that they might offer judgments or unsolicited advice instead, thus compounding our hurt. Some people might be struggling so much they don't have any extra strength to ask for what they need. Some people might not even know how to articulate what they need. So I thought I'd make a list of (in my humble opinion) the most invaluable gifts you can give to anyone, friend or stranger, at the holidays or any other time of year.

A Robot Holiday Gift Guide

  • Self-care. You need to eat, hydrate, sleep and do the things that make you happy, regularly. You need to fill up your own reserves of love and compassion, and in doing this, you will have more to give to others. The happier and more at peace you are with yourself, the more light and joy you will radiate out into the world. 
  • Presence. Undivided attention is a wonderful gift. When you're spending time with people, really be with them. Ask questions and really listen to the answers. Take pictures, even if you think you look terrible in pictures. When you're gone the pictures and the memories of the time spent together are all they'll have left of you. 
  • The Space of Grace. This is that little pause, that jolt of compassion that allows you to act from a mindset of gratitude and generosity rather than a mindset of fear and inadequacy. It allows you to not take things personally but instead to see others' unkind words and actions as what they really are - outward projections of their own struggles or hurts. Then you can choose to meet unkindness with awesomeness instead of perpetuating the unkindness.
  • Non-judgment. You don't know more about someone's life experience than they do. Let me repeat that: You don't know more about someone's life experience than they do. So when someone tells you about the way they experience the world, believe them. Don't invalidate their experience by chiming in with your own judgments and opinions. You are not them and you can't know what it's like to be them. The best you can do is listen non-judgmentally and, in doing so, you will expand your understanding of the full range of human experience. 
  • Acceptance. There is so much not-good-enough-itis going around. Give people a much needed break from the constant pressure to be fitter/thinner/richer/happier/better/etc and let them know the truth: they are so fucking enough, just as they are, in whatever body/life they currently inhabit.
  • Thoughtfulness. Gift giving, in the traditional sense (as in "stuff"), is all about thoughtfulness. If you want to give people a physical gift, think about them - about what they like, about what reminds you of them, about what would make them laugh, about what problems or struggles they have and what might ease them a little bit. Give something that shows you were listening, that you understood and remembered what they said, that you know them and what makes them happy, that you're glad to have them in your life. 

Lyric of the moment: " A few years ago, I got invited to your birthday party. I wanted to make an impression, so I walked up and down State Street to the hippie store to buy a nice present for you. I spent $34.95 on a very fancy scented candle. It smelled like strawberry Pop-Tarts and oregano. I rubbed it all over my body and wrapped it up to gave it to you. But here it is. At your garage sale. 25 cents at your garage sale..." ~Nerf Herder "Garage Sale" (This song makes me laugh. Pop Tarts and Oregano? But it also reminds me that the point of giving a gift is to give (no strings attached), and the recipient is free to do whatever they want with it - it's not for you to say or control or judge.