While writing Loved As If, I’m also recovering from Sjogren’s, Crohn’s, fibromyalgia and a mis-diagnosed dance injury that was treated as rheumatoid arthritis. For the past five-ish years, I’ve been disabled. But I hate disability. I’m a dancer. In high school, I was on the water ballet squad. Walking five miles each day in in NYC was average. When fighting with God, I’d walk as far as I could until I was so physically exhausted, I couldn’t resist anymore and suddenly, usually with a rush of tears, I’d tell Him the thing I was trying to hide. Walking leisurely back to my starting point, I’d reflect on how silly I must be to think I could keep anything from the One who has been with me and cared for me my entire life. Life is movement, at least for me, spiritual, intellectual, and physical.
When I moved to Houston for my health three and one-half years ago, I used a scooter to shop in the giant supermarkets. My pain was so bad, I swallowed 60 milligrams of a morphine derivative each day, 1600 milligrams of another highly sedating medication for fibromyalgia, and another 60 milligrams of sleep medication (not Ambien – I made macaroni and cheese while taking that drug). I wanted off them all. Sedation isn’t at all attractive. After a year of physical therapy, I no longer take the narcotic and treat fibromyalgia with exercise, diet and adequate rest. Until a few months ago, I was tapering off the sleep medication as well. Then came a Crohn’s flare-up.
Inflammation in my small intestines put an end to physical therapy using a power plate (a cool device). But I refuse to lose everything I gained. Writing requires me to be awake and as healthy as possible. Swimming was the logical alternative and highly recommended by my doctors. So on Friday, I slathered on sun block, pulled on my bathing suit and swam ten laps across an Olympic sized pool. In high school and college, twenty-five to fifty laps was warm-up. Today, ten laps is exhausting. Remembering that two laps in a half-sized pool was beyond me when I first moved to Houston is helpful. But ten laps still feels inadequate. So today, I developed a formula, 10 + X (where X = a multiple of 2). For two weeks, I’ll swim ten laps three times each week. Then I’ll add two laps every two weeks until I can swim twenty-five to thirty laps without stopping. It’s like looking forward to going to New York when I was a child. When circumstances seemed hopeless, the knowledge that I had a goal was one of the things that pulled me through. Whether 10 + X works out as I’d plan doesn’t matter. The goal and the attempt to reach it is what counts. I’ve learned, to look back every so often and am always surprised where I’ve come. I look forward to looking back in a few months at 10 + X and discovering what X equals then.