The Zombies Ate My Brains

Rescuing what might remain of the grey matter.

Slips, Trips, and Falls Part Four

by Stacy Parker - click through for her Etsy site

by Stacy Parker – click through for her Etsy site

Dad said, “Good God, Margaret, why don’t you watch where you are walking! You’re as clumsy as an elephant!”

A boyfriend said, “I hope you don’t allow yourself to get out of shape. There is no excuse for that.”

An ex-husband said nothing. It was the silent treatment after I had trouble climbing the steep banks on the shore of Lake Erie. I had to stop once or twice to catch my breath. He was enraged and disgusted.

***

I fell from a second storey balcony when I was nine. It took more than twenty years for the injuries to reveal themselves. In the meantime, I struggled to keep up in gym class. I’d trip over my own two feet when I was tired. People made it clear that I was lazy, inept, or not trying hard enough.

That’s the lesson I learned: I was not good enough.

When Reiner and I were “courting” we talked about the differences in our physical abilities and my worry that I couldn’t keep up. I was particularly concerned when he mentioned how frustrating it was for him to walk slowly to accommodate “the lollygaggers” in the crowd. He loved to hike and the more challenging the better.

“I love hiking, too,” I told him, “But I have some issues.” I told him about my weak ankles and wonky hip. I made a point of telling him the Lake Erie story by way of warning: I would not allow myself to be treated that way again! I have my limits and I am going to honour them!

He tries to accommodate my needs. He walks behind me so that I might set the pace. But when we walk along side-by-side holding hands, more often than not, I have to rein him in. Whoa, big fella, slow down!  Reasonable or not, that bothers me: why must I always need to remind him? How many times must I say, I have trouble climbing steep hills? My hip hurts. Slow down.

I got the answer to these questions several weeks ago.

Reiner and I decided to explore a new rail trail. He measured the distance on Google and brought along a copy of the map.

The day was fine. Cool and clear and still. Lovely. We started off at a brisk pace to keep warm.

Thirty minutes later, I started to tire. My feet began to drag and my hip was acting up. It would take another half hour to retrace our steps. I did not want to over-extend myself if I hadn’t already. I told him that it was time to return.

He said, “Oh come on, just a bit further.”

Slip.

I heard that as resistance and I resented it. I restated my request, firmly, and suggested we take the side road a few paces ahead.

He said, “Are you sure that way is correct?”

Trip.

I heard that as more resistance.

“Where’s the map?” I asked.

“I left it in the car. I didn’t think we’d be taking any short cuts.”

Fall.

I heard that as declaring that we had to cut short our walk because I was not good enough.

We made our walk back in silence. I was walking upright and more or less without issue physically, but emotionally I was in free-fall. Old garbage surfaced.

I held my tongue. I told myself to be silent, to speak only when the emotion has passed.

It was a lovely, still day.

Then the sound of a runaway train tore through the silence and echoed around the countryside. I watched as it approached and I watched it as it overpowered me and I watched as I spewed and spat and raged at everyone who had wrongly judged me about my physical ability.

“Do you think that I am making it up when I say that I hurt?” I cried at him.

I knew I was out of line and I said so. One minute I called him insensitive, the next I apologized for hitting him with the pent-up anger from decades-long pain.

By now he was upset, too. He was hurt that I would think so poorly of him. “My body aches all the time,” he said. “I figure that if I can get things done in spite of pain, you likely can too.”

I didn’t know that. His body aches all the time? That was news. He also confirmed what I had suspected. That he ignores his pain. He is able to suppress it. In his worldview, if he is able to suppress it, then other people must do that too.

We returned to the car and talked some more and we arrived at a better understanding how each other works.

This weekend I hope to find time for a walk. Maybe look for morels. I’d like to take in another section of the rail trail, too. I’m anxious about it, but we both need more practice.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

Thank you for following along on this hodgepodge journey of mine through the past and to the present. During the time that I composed this series, two posts came to my reader. They illustrate some of the sentiment that I have tried to capture.

Meg Poulin writes:

There is always a consequence for repressing and silencing who you are. Holding inside the thunderous release of expression does not make it disappear, and the release of that energy will find a different pathway.

Fran Macilvey writes:

People are not symmetrical, naturally, and there is no harm in that. Mostly, our hips and backs are able to compensate for minor differences, such as one leg slightly longer than its neighbour, or a slightly off-kilter spine. But put the whole mishmash together, and some days, she just wanted to dissolve into the water, so fed up was she with her short-sighted, just about can’t quite get it life.

 

***   ***   ***

 Updated May 25th for submission to the daily prompt. What can I say. I’m ahead of my time.

 

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Categories: Husband, Personal Growth

Tags: , , , , ,

57 replies

  1. Sound very familiar. I work in a communications department that trends very young. I am not only pushing sixty, Parkinson’s has made my left leg unreliable and the foot often painful. Last year the spring “fun” activity was a scavenger hunt. Five teams racing all over the place to come in first. I tried. I really worked at it, but at the end of the day I was the boat anchor. Better not to participate, I suppose, but that foists another set of assumptions on you that are largely incorrect. It is interesting that the older you get, the less people are willing to take your pain seriously.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment, Amanda. You do know what it’s like.

      I think I know what you mean about the “other set of assumptions” when you opt to withdraw. People consider you a non-joiner, gasp NOT a team player! It’s an uncomfortable place to be.

      I hate to have to request special consideration, because… well, I’m not sure why. I don’t like the vulnerability it evokes, I don’t like the attention. I certainly don’t want coddling or fussing. But how else to get the message across if from all outward appearances, I look “normal”?

      Your last line: as you get older, people are less willing to take your pain seriously. I’m going to have to mull that one over at bit.

      Like

  2. Most able-bodied people are oblivious to the privilege they enjoy. I feel so sad that you apologized for telling him you aren’t inventing your pain. I just read through your other posts on this topic. I can totally relate. do you remember the ad about the 60 year old Swede? http://scaa.sk.ca/gallery/participaction/english/motivate/swede.html

    Like

    • Hi Debra, and thanks. I’m both sorry and glad to hear that you can relate.

      I’d like to clarify regarding the apology. You know the drill about not bringing up ancient history when you have an argument? That was part of it. The other part is that I knew that I was being carried into overblown extremes by my emotion. He was on the receiving end of shit that should have been directed to my dad, my ex-husband, my gym teachers. That was displaced anger and it wasn’t fair.

      I do recall the ad. I would have been in tenth grade at the time. Have you lived in Canada, by the way?

      Like

  3. Boy, are we ever alike: suppress, suppress, suppress….SPEW!! In a major way. Why is it the male species can suppress and it doesn’t bother them? But females…it doesn’t happen that way with us. I am glad you both came to some sort of understanding but next time this happens: I’ll hold him down; you beat him up. 🙂

    Like

    • Hi Lois! Kindred, eh? I’m glad you understand.

      You ask a very good question. Why does it not bother men? I don’t know – is it a vulnerability thing? An evolutionary survival trait? Must not show fear, must not show pain. I get the vulnerability part because I don’t like to draw attention to my issues unless it is necessary or I have reached a level of intimacy with the other(s).

      I will keep you offer in mind for “next time”. 😉

      Like

  4. The business of what parents tell their kids is the thin end of the wedge; and if another person adds to the same theme, disaster looms for our self-esteem. I have NO IDEA how adults who have that in their childhood/earlier years can possibly manage to look in their mirrors and tell themselves they’re beautiful, or whatever is the current ‘thing’. But I am happy for you that you both made progress along the path to mutual knowledge, Maggie.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Oh, darling, I am sorry for all the opportunities you and your lovely husband have missed to understand one another. It is too easy, when we are sore, to believe that we are also alone. However, the truth is that more people than we realise are also in pain, are suffering and being brave and trying their hardest.

    It becomes harder to trust, when pain is so insidious it rubs away at our comfort, self belief and at our patience. When I feel like that, it helps to remember to re-join the circle, to hold hands with those who love us and look them in the eye. They are on our team.

    Bless you, and thanks for including the excerpt.

    Fran xxx 😀

    Like

  6. We all have limitations – even the ones who don’t show them, they have simply mastered the art of illusion.
    Normal is as normal does. What is normal anyways? 😉
    There is nothing quite like communication and after 11 years, me thinks the hubby and I are making a good go of getting better at it.
    Your post touched on quite a few things for me…always love the treasure of reflection to take with me 🙂

    Like

    • Thanks, RR – I’m glad you found food for thought here.

      It’s almost trite to repeat the sentiment that we are ALL carrying baggage and concerns in one form or another. It would benefit me to remember that more often than I do. I’m a huge fan and promoter of conversation and communication as regards relationships go. That is, a big fan, but not necessarily a well-practiced one. I’m in year 6 with my hubby. Hopefully by the time I reach eleven years, I’ll have made some strides!

      Like

  7. Those negative messages from the past are hard to fight off in the midst of physical pain. I’m so sorry for your struggles; you are not alone, but knowing that doesn’t really help you stop hurting, does it!

    I thought it was interesting that your husband is able to ignore his chronic pain. My Hub tolerates his much better (and more quietly) than I do. I read an interesting article recently – scientists/doctors are (finally) beginning to study why women have more chronic (usually undiagnoseable) pain than men AND why our pain threshholds (except childbirth!) are lower. They are beginning to realize this is NOT just women complaining – that the pain is very real and very debilitating. Even those of us who can point to injuries as a source still have chronic pain that manifests in other parts of the body.

    Usually I can sense how my body is doing by mid-morning. I find if I communicate ahead of time how far or how long I will do an activity, and make sure Hub hears me (!), it reduces the liklihood of having that “I need to turn back now” moment. I don’t know if that’s something that might work for you.

    Like

    • Thank you Sammy! I am grateful for your support. That helps enormously to know the findings in that study, AND to know that I am in good company.

      As for forecasting my abilities, yes, I can usually sense how the day will go energy-wise. The difficulty is, as you say, telling Hub, hoping he hears, and hoping he is not disappointed.

      Like

      • The information I’ve garnered does support that women have physiologically-based lower pain thresholds. However, most of the research does not support that we tolerate pain less well than men, but equally well. We, too, are brave little soldiers. We just endure more pain. And, as a redhead, I tolerate more than most, for our brains’ pain receptors are totally mucked up compared to the rest of you. Some of us even require more anesthetic when at the dentist. We are clearly intended to placed gently upon our stacked mattresses and thrones.

        Like

  8. Dear Maggie, I do feel for you. It is so hard admitting ones physical disabilities.
    The comment by Sammy D sounds sensible. Blessings to you! Ba….

    Like

  9. Um, I can kinda relate. My husband is prior military, which means he is broken, but also that he can function while broken. He’s run with his bones on the verge of fracture, he’s hiked with spinal nerve damage, and he’s done everything with all that, plus bone spurs and plantar fasciitis! I have one bad foot, one bad hip, and bad hands. SO, any time I want a break from running, hiking, moving furniture, carrying bags of top soil, shoveling, or riding a bike, I am VERY AWARE that he thinks I am a sissypants. However, I take my break anyway. I think I’m better for it, because I am a smart human who listens to her body. At times I think he only believes in the hand pain. At times, I think he can’t fathom the pain. That’s his problem, not mine, hmm?
    I can relate to the freak out. Last Fall, we went hiking and what was supposed to be a 1.5 mile, moderate hike which turned into a hike more than twice as long and quite rugged. I spent a great deal of time in pain, worried our clumsy child would fall down ravines, and of course, wrangling the dog. We had been hiking for over two hours when we finally reached an area near pavement. Upon our return, a series of steps and planks which seemed to lead to the sky itself caused me to have a freak out. When the stairs are 8 feet wide, I do find them suitable for lying down! lol Neither of us could read the map. We were, apart from direction, lost in the woods. I realize you don’t know us, but that says a lot. Between the anxiety and the pain, I do not think we will hike there again. Or maybe they could make better maps…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so touched by your story, Jolene.I’m kinda crying right now. Seriously, thank you for taking the time to write.

      I get the sissypants feeling. I don’t’ know if that is my husband’s intent or my interpretation of his message. Well, that’s not true. Sometimes it is his message. He whines or pleads or otherwise tries to compel me to continue. I feel shame. And anger, and a bunch of other things that are best not yodeled to the treetops, ya know?

      I completely get your dismay at the stairway. I would have lost it, too. I would have stood there, not knowing whether to sh*t or shine my shoes.

      I think we could all use better maps.

      Like

  10. You’ve got to be strong and maintain your position. I personally would rather take a break and be able to go on instead of suffering for what? pride? There are different lines of thought like victory is to be found in suffering, no pain no gain, overcome your body with your mind, but honest to goodness, I’ve never been into glory. No one will ever feel my pain, so I am my only advocate. It really is their issue, not ours. Try to keep that in your head 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Many thoughts:

    1. The average male will slow down his walking pace ONLY an average of 7% for a female he LIKES. ( http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267826.php ) The average male, in my opinion, is a selfish pig. (Some will happily help others only so long as no true self-sacrifice is involved.) Women, OTH, will adjust their pace to match their painfully-slowest friend. In my case, since I have a spine eaten by lupus bone necrosis, and my best friend in this city is short, this causes me intense backache. So, she is understanding of my need to occasionally walk ahead and back or literally walk rings around her to keep up the pace necessary to avoid my backache. And she certainly understands my need to stop as often as need be to rest my back. When I walk alone, at my own faster pace, I can chug along for an hour or two without stopping (on my good days).

    You are married, for better or worse, in sickness and health. You are partners. If your man won’t slow down for you now, what is he going to do ten years from now? Time to make your journeys part of the pleasure, you two. Zen out.

    1. I sympathize with your invisible disability. All of mine are typically invisible. The back thing is awkward. I can walk, bend, stoop, squat…but cannot stand. I cannot stand in line, at a store, a bank, Disneyland, waiting for tickets, attending a cocktail party or an art opening, or just to hang out with a new neighbor on the sidewalk and get to know them. It is remarkable how limiting this is, and how snobbish and off-putting I seem because of this. I can explain–once–but my explanation is immediately forgotten and the impression of standoffishness remains. I am well known, however, as the weird lady who suddenly genuflects in public places, and appears overly interested in people’s backsides!

    (Could I carry a small cart with seat or a cane with seat everywhere I go? Why of course I could. In addition to my purse. What a drag.)

    Like

    • “Time to make your journeys part of the pleasure, you two.” We’re working on it!

      Thanks for your considerate comments. OB. I appreciate the information.

      I am sorry that you have been dealt such a range if difficulties. Perhaps, at the risk of appearing dense or lewd, you could explain “overly interested in people’s backsides”?

      Like

      • Maggie,

        I just spent half an hour typing a LONG reply, only to have WP erase it. Sigh.

        Here is the shorter unwitty version:
        People don’t respect each other or personal space. When I drop, it is rare–fingers of one hand rare–that someone has asked “Are you all right?”. Instead, the parties in front and behind close up ranks, until I have an #ss in my face, and someone’s toes shoving at the backs of my feet and their head literally over my own. Then, when the line advances and I must rise to advance with it, I must twist my neck around (painful at times, depending upon lupus activity): “Excuse me, but would you please back up so that I can get up?”–For, in order to rise, I must shift my weight from a front squat on my heels or a genuflection posture to instead put my center of gravity back on my heels before rising–stepping directly onto their feet, and rising directly into their chin, if they haven’t yet moved.

        People are so irritating.

        Okay, here’s a little more:

        The few occasions I’ve tired of the floor and asked managers for a chair, it has typically been resented.

        LAX security tried to force me off the floor and out of line for my plane, telling me I must stand or get out of the line. I told them I would sue LAX, LAX security, and them personally for discrimination against the disabled. They left me alone after that.

        My last trip to Disneyland with my friend A., I gave in a rented a wheelchair. But the staff would not then let us wait in the regular lines. I was embarrassed to be forced into the shorter disabled lines (which weren’t all that short–more on this to come…). Rude comments were shouted at me as I left each ride and walked easily away, pushing my own chair. I called my own rude comments back, for what did these people know of me or my disability?

        But I learned later that fully-able-bodied folk rent the chairs, or steal them throughout the day, in order to cut lines and take the disabled-lines as a shortcut (thus lengthening those lines). I learned this when my chair was stolen and A. and I had to wait two hours for another–the park ran out of wheelchairs because of all the theft that day. Imagine had I been someone who couldn’t walk at all. I wish all those people were crippled for life.

        In Calfornia, we can petition for anything. I would petition for seats to be mandated everywhere for folks like me. But do you think one would be available when I need it? L.A. is a city where men don’t give up their bus seats for women nine months pregnant.

        On the good side, I am very flexible–could probably still do a backbend, with a spotter–and strong enough (guys think I work out–used to, and miss it). My disease symptoms are well-controlled when my stress and fatigue levels are controlled. So, really not much to complain about. Just enjoy the heck out of complaining. When I was a little girl, right after “I wanna be a paleontologist”, “curmudgeon” was next on the list. I think it’s important to have goals, don’t you?

        Like

        • It’s sad, infuriating, pathetic, almost all so to the point of hilarity. I’m glad you’ve got your strength, flexibility, (in more ways than one!) and your humour.

          OB’s Goals:
          Curmudgeon: check. Up next? Paleontologist. So you got your goals reversed. No biggie.

          Like

  12. I wish I could make us all heal and soon. We have to to take care of our bodies. We only get one and once you’re ill it’s a long way back to health; if you’re lucky enough to get there.

    Like

  13. I have no words.
    What you wrote, in such a way that makes me want to give you a standing ovation.
    Amazing how sometimes saying something makes you know another better

    Like

  14. Oh Maggie – how unfortunate for us that we carry our self-esteem baggage with us for our entire lives and then the dam bursts one day over something that we might overlook on a different day?
    Reading through all the comments it seems your post has struck a nerve with so many people!!

    Like

  15. It took me years, and several failed relationships, to be able to talk things out. Whether it’s old baggage or new doesn’t matter. You have to talk! That is now my mantra and I probably talk more than my wife when I am hurt or something is on my mind.

    Like

  16. In addition to a bum knee, bad ankle and sometimes ungainly walking, my balance betrays me as well. All part of aging perhaps but I do know how you feel, Maggie. For the most part, people are kind but feeling clumsy does mess with the psychi. The catch 22 is gaining weight because exercise hurts. I would love to wear pretty shoes again, but the truth is, I’m just happy to remain upright. Thanks ever so much for voicing the concerns we share – and just so you know, I read all of your posts and love them!

    Like

  17. I am so happy to read this post. I have Scoliosis and Spinal Stenosis. Last September I had a right hip joint replacement. My left ankle is weak and has been since childhood. Consequently, I learned to use my right leg and foot to pull me along. The right knee cartilage has worn out, so now I have one leg painfully shorter than the other.

    In sum, the shorter leg is the leg with the artificial hip and kaput cartilage. Yes, it’s very painful to walk. I squawk about this to anyone who will listen. After she asked me if I was always going to walk like I currently do, my 52 year old daughter suggested I might want to talk to my podiatrist about a shoe lift. If only shoe lifts could fix things…sigh.

    Re your query. I am in DC. Remind me to tell you the story of the time my husband told me he was sure footed as a mountain goat, just before he slipped into a moat in England. Perhaps I will write about it in my blog very soon.

    Like

    • Now. Before I forget. Consider this your reminder to write about the moat in England. That sounds like a great story!

      Thanks for reading, and for your great comment. I’m glad that it struck a chord with you. I’ll have to research (i.e. Google) Spinal Stenosis.

      Like

  18. Glad to have found your blog, Maggie Too. I asked for a seat by the plane door as it has more leg room and I was flying to Australia.I had an operation on my knees which hasn’t gone so well and the only way I am comfortable is with my legs outstretched. I was told that I couldn’t have those seats as in the event of a crash , I would be too slow getting out of the plane. (Believe me I wouldn’t) I was seated by the bulkhead where the babies cots are fitted and I had nowhere to put my feet. If the plane crashed probably no one would get out. Thank goodness I still love flying after all the comments about crashing. My husband would never go to the doctors until it was too late, what is it with men?

    Like

    • Hey, thanks for the follow! Glad to have you aboard (speaking of airplanes and such.)

      OK. I have to ask. If being seated next to the door is NOT the shortest route to the exit, what the heck is? I suppose they don’t want a bottleneck. So that means vulnerable people are shunted to the back and good luck. ???

      That must have been an excruciating trip for you. Flights to Australia are long hauls from North America, and I assume it was no different when you traveled.

      Speaking of husbands and doctors and the gap between visits. There’s a post brewing in my drafts folder. For now, let’s just say 2012 was the year of medical mayhem with my hubby. Mostly because he did not seek help. What is it with men, indeed!

      Like

      • My husband had a concrete block fall on his feet years before we left for Australia but he still suffered. He sat with me over the 26 hour flight and a little boy, ( his baby sister was in the bulkhead cot nearest us) was taken with him and kept standing on his feet so he could get close. For him it felt like 46 hours. We stopped in Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Adelaide before landing in Melbourne in 1997. Exhausted and very jet lagged, I didn’t properly wake up until two days later. I’m OK when I visit my sister in California, thank goodness.

        Like

        • Oh wow, your poor hubby!

          I don’t travel very far from home so the idea of a trip to Australia is not a consideration. But even if it were, it might as well be to the moon for the time it takes to get there.

          Like

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