Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Teddy and the Meteor

Last week, I was standing on a corner with B at a busy intersection on our way to dinner. Two remarkable things happened. First, we saw a meteor the size of a car shoot across the night sky; I had never seen one before. The second remarkable thing happened just moments later. I felt compassion for a homeless person.
He was a big teddy-bear of a guy with coke bottle glasses and a garbage bag full of who-knows-what slung over his shoulder. Let’s call him “Teddy.” Teddy’s once-white shirt was soiled with a slew of food, dirt and indiscernible stains. He had a big smile on his face. Teddy was a few feet behind B and I, next to a couple who had also seen the meteor a few moments before. We were all stopped at the crosswalk together. I turned around and said, “Wow! Did you guys see that?!”

“I like your legs,” Teddy said in a soft voice, out of nowhere.

“Thank you,” I said and then looked over at the couple for their response to my question. The woman raised her eyebrows and barely parted her lips to speak, before…

“Oooh your eyes are real pretty!” Teddy interjected, with a little more excitement in his voice this time.

“Thank you,” I said again, with a nod and a smile. I looked up at B and tried to change the subject back to the meteor. “Honey, I’ve never seen one of those before!”

“And you’re teeth are nice too,” added Teddy.

The crosswalk light beckoned with the illuminated little white man and I smiled again at Teddy before turning to walk away. He had a slight speech impediment and he rocked back and forth a little when he spoke. His eyes darted away every time he met your gaze and his chin glistened with saliva. He was likely mentally disabled. I had an urge to hug him or at least invite him to dinner.

As we crossed Lombard, Teddy shouted after us. “You’re hair is real pretty!”

I waved without turning around. “Thank you! Have a good night!”

I couldn’t help think about Teddy as we waited for our table in the busy restaurant nearby. I wondered what he would eat for dinner and with whom. I realized the assumption that he’d have dinner at all was naive. I felt sad for Teddy.

On the way home, we came across at least 2 more homeless people. We pass them every day everywhere in this city. Hands out, cardboard signs around the neck, their dogs tied to open guitar cases tied to parking meters. Shoeless feet with yellowed toenails on urine scented pavement. I rarely make eye contact and never give them a cent. I certainly don’t look long enough to feel compelled to open my heart the way I was instantly prepared to do with Teddy.

I am selectively compassionate. Which doesn’t really make me compassionate at all, I suppose. I determine whether or not a person deserves compassion based on their contribution to the problem and/or the solution. Teddy deserved compassion. It's not his fault that he's homeless. And as for the guy on the next block that smells of whiskey but says he wants my money for food? I assume it's his own fault. I assume he “makes his bed” through drug-abuse or alcoholism and is forced to lie in it because he's lazy or doesn't have the determination to pull himself out of the gutter. I pass judgment on a few pages of a story I can't even begin to understand. Whose fault is that? As much as he loves me, even Teddy would tell you it's mine.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Blame Game

Although no one wants to admit it, responsibility is a dirty word. Most people go to great lengths to avoid taking responsibility on a daily basis. Girls blame their boyfriends for making them fat; guys blame their girlfriends for making them boring. Parents blame their children for leaving them; children blame their parents for having them. Friends blame each other for blacked out Saturdays and bringing out alter egos we thought were long buried. Most people find it easier to pass blame than to take responsibility for their actions. Unless you're a glutton for punishment like I am.

I'm so quick to blame myself when things go awry at work, with my health, with a friend or in my relationship. I analyze where I went wrong, identify the lesson to be learned and then attempt to beat that lesson into my own consciousness with post-it notes, journals and tedious, redundant conversations. Oh, and blogging. Why do I do this? Because when you claim ownership of a problem, its yours to fix. You control the problem, you control the solution.

For years I told myself that taking responsibility when things went wrong was the real challenge in evolving into a wise, strong woman. But somewhere along the line I started taking responsibility for things that weren't my fault in the interest of maintaining control. I failed to see that the true challenge in becoming an "evolved" woman is accepting that there are simply things in life that you cannot control. And sometimes, that shit really isn't your fault.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

One of the Bad Ones

Some days I am able to be patient with the recovery process. Today is not that day. Today I hate my surgeon AND all those nice, patient nurses and receptionists that work for him. I'm beyond over the rigid, locked-up spine. I'd even trade it for one of the curly-q spines of the hunchback 200 year-old women in Chinatown. That's terrible, I know. And any other day I'd apologize for the bad attitude and off-color comments and try my damnedest to focus on all the things I know I have to be grateful for. But not today. March 18th was the last day this body worked the way it should and today I want to be pissed, drink bottles of prosecco and smoke cigarettes. I can't do the last two (bad for recovery - I'm not pregnant) so I'll at least let myself be pissed. 

In the beginning you miss the big things: existing without pain, running, working out, dancing, sleeping well, sex. At this stage you start to miss the little things like lying on the couch next to your fiance or tying your shoes. Shoe-tying sounds so fun right now. Walking around looking like a cross between a mummy and a bored housewife with a stick up her arse gets old quickly. There's simply only so much humor you can find in feeling awkward. I'm considering a custom t-shirt that says "I was fun once!" on the front and "and I will be again someday!" on the back.

I will say that I have received many a compliment on my posture in the past few months, and that's lovely, but those compliments are no replacement for the satisfaction one feels from curling up in a big comfy chair or relaxing in a hammock with a good book and a glass of lemonade. I don't live in a Country Time Lemonade commercial, so that last option isn't open to me anyway, but you start to fantasize about random things like hammocks and bean bag chairs after being forced to exist in very specific positions for months on end. You see, there's no such thing as "hanging out" or being "casual" after back surgery. Everything is preconceived and contrived. No spontaneous morning yoga sessions. No climbing up on B's lap or stretching in front of the TV while he's watching sports. No going to a concert without being that stiff, uptight weirdo tucked into a corner looking uncomfortable and out of place. People must think I'm either agoraphobic or voting for Mitt Romney. I'm not sure which one is worse.  
I miss yoga. I want to twist my body like a pretzel and I want it to feel good. I miss moving my body in a way that reminds me that my muscles are strong and my mind is powerful. I miss the purging of bad energy and stress and the cleansing that comes from 90 minutes of reaching and folding and twisting and holding. I miss the positive reminder to love my body and treat it with kindness. It's really easy to start seeing the squishy kid looking back at you in the mirror after months of being sedentary. I even miss the camaraderie in a room full of smelly, sweaty people that know what it's like to love yoga enough to forget how close the farting hippie is to your mat, even when you're suffocating in a cloud of her body odors. I miss the challenge and sense of achievement behind bizarre poses that are first labeled as impossible and last labeled as a stepping stone. I miss my gorgeous yoga teacher on whom I had a total girl-crush. I miss working hard for her praise and then running home to tell B about it. I even miss the "should I be worried?" look he'd give me when I'd talk about her a little too much. She must think I'm a quitter. Damn it Deborah!

In place of yoga, Pilates and Bar Method, I get mummy walking and physical therapy designed for the people that usually have the kind of surgery I had: 90 year-olds. Even so, I was excited to start geriatric physical therapy because it meant I got to start moving again. Then somewhere between trying too hard to live my normal life and trying too hard to kick recovery ass, something went wrong. So today, I think physical therapy is stupid. Those tiny pelvic movements and tiny marches and sissy medicine balls feel pointless. And the therapy rooms were ugly. Can SOMEONE please start a medical facility redecorating revolution? If I have to stare at one more mundane, pedestrian colored wall while someone manipulates my spinal joints I might lose it. Stop making me gag with your cold, bony fingers on my rigid spine and paint the walls anything OTHER than the color of "calm." Give me a painting to look at or maybe a pretty picture. But putting me in a sea foam green room is quite condescending really. People are in hospitals and rehab clinics to deal with some serious shit. Serious shit is not pale blue or diluted magenta or buttercup yellow. I hate buttercup yellow. Surgery and death and grief and anger are shades of bright, bold, saturated colors, so let's try anything that doesn't encourage patients and visitors to calm down or be "good sports." 

Wow. That felt good. Maybe the rest of the day will be a "good day." I'll have a glass of prosecco and decide.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Gimme More

This week I discovered for cheap, treehugging former fat kids. And I love it. Yes, I can get a lot of the featured products just a few blocks away at Whole Paycheck, but something about throwing my hippie treats into a virtual cart and getting ripped on shipping makes for a more exciting experience. Spencers Market has my fave Living Intention nut mixes and Go Raw chips.

Also discovered this week: Call the Midwife. It's a new British comedy on PBS to tide over those of us who are suffering from Downton withdrawl. It's not quite as addictive, but it's enough to to stop the sober shakes.