The weeks are spinning by on me. Mondays turn into Thursdays with what seems like no Tuesdays or Wednesdays to speak of in between. Boxes are getting packed, drawers emptied, and my head is full of the mental math that goes with the endless decisions around things like, for instance, towels: which ones to box up, which ones we’ll need for the summer sublet, which can be given away. There’s triage at every turn (pricey ground cloves of indeterminate vintage: keep, give away, or throw out? Multiple futon mattresses: put in storage, hang onto one just in case, or leave the whole lot out on the sidewalk?) and there’s a permanent pile by the front door for whatever charity is passing through—Salvation Army, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Epilepsy Fund all have me pegged as a regular contributor. It helps to be able to offload stuff to a non-profit where someone will use it, or where it will be sold to put some money in the coffers to advance the cause, whatever the cause may be. Makes the offloading feel useful beyond my own clear-the-decks project, which is a good thing.
Signs like this have become a fixture of our front walk.
Meanwhile, simultaneous with the fluttering calendar pages, there are certain hours of my days that just…drag. The ones between when I put my head on my pillow and when I actually go to sleep, for instance. The ones between 3AM and 5AM can be particularly ornery. In addition to my creaky joints that began with my ACL blowout of 1988, I’ve recently been visited by one of those spine injuries that tends to happen when you’re not exercising, not even doing anything of note. I’d put vacuuming squarely in the “not of note” category. Which is what I was doing when something went twang in my lower back, and which has since migrated to my left hip (aka, until recently, “my good hip”) and has, for a month now, been sending little jolts and tingles down my left side whenever I sit or lie down. Walking around, fine. Packing boxes, no problem. So, yes, it could be so much worse. And it’s officially a complete bore to talk about. The good news is, I’ve gotten some physical therapy that helps, and some meds to get me through the night. And thanks to my devoted reader and woman of amazing contacts, my dearest Jo-Del, I now have a weekly appointment with a gifted Chinese message therapist every Friday morning.
It’s a walk over a bridge to a completely other world..
Ah, Mr. Zhang. I have no idea what you’re doing. I only know that on Fridays at 10AM, I get on your table and give myself over. Here’s a part of my life where I do wish time would stand still. Instead, these sixty minutes always tick-tick-tick away, an hour folded over into itself, somehow. Mr. Zhang’s street address is 138½, which adds to the magic—it’s like Harry Potter’s platform 9¾ , which similarly transported that young wizard to another realm. I step in the door, I take off my shoes, I lie down, and I give over to the realm of Mr. Zhang’s healing hands. I don’t even care how my inner thighs jiggle under his acupressure efforts. I lose all my compulsions to present myself as fit and smart and mindful—the sorts of contortions I go through whenever I speak to doctors, in an effort to not waste their time, to make sure they understand that I am intelligent, that I was a good athlete in my day, that I’m heavy but well above average, fitness-wise, that I’m not making this shit up. Mr. Zhang just checks for tightness, for asymmetry, and where he finds me tense out of kilter, he kneads, and presses, and asks, “This okay? This is tight, yes? This spot? Yes?” and I mumble back, “hmm, yeah, right there.” We listen to the local college radio station while I’m there, which at that hour is all jazz, and he covers me up in warm blankets. It’s a cocoon. It’s a relief. I adore my hour in his care. I have no idea if it’s doing any good, but boy, for that sacred sixty minutes, I’m somewhere else with my pesky body, and it’s a good place to be.
* * * * *
I have been the recipient of multiple lessons in recent days, around being aware, being present, being observant. Of myself, of my world. I like to think I’m fairly well wired for noticing what’s going on out there in the great beyond. I see things most people miss–always have. But so far as my physical being goes, I’m afraid I’m not so finely tuned. My Mr. Zhang visits make me realize how much of my time is spent trying to cover myself up, avoid my flaws, look the other way. I focus elsewhere when I approach anything vaguely reflective. I wonder how much of my joint pain these days has to do with a couple of decades of ignoring my joint pain when it was less vivid. I get bruises these days, and I don’t even remember what I bumped into. It takes a certain amount of cognitive dissonance to ignore cracked molars. And god knows how long it would have taken me to notice the lump that was picked up by that 3D mammogram. I’ve not always been my body’s best friend.
So, onward I go, facing renovations on all fronts. My body, myself, my house. Triage, everywhere I look. Wishing for some of what’s coming up to just be over with, wishing some of these hours wouldn’t fly by so quickly. Wondering what I can do to be more forgiving of my body and my psyche, as time marches on. It sounds so egotistical, but yes, I am my current project. Me, and my home, two improvement projects at once. My health and my fitness, just for starters. And after that, a more complicated “me” project–the one where I figure out what to do with my creative notions. It’s time to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, beyond devoted wife and mother, dutiful aunt and daughter-in-law, volunteer and fundraiser, ardent reader, mid-level New York Times crossword puzzler. Writer of blog posts, book reviews, emails and Instagram photo captions. Cookie baker, applesauce maker. Low intermediate birder. Red Sox fanatic. Home town docent and tour guide. Friend to many dear friends. Former athlete, hoping to work my way back to something resembling a present-day athlete.
As always, the first step is figuring out what needs to happen. The second step is finding help that actually helps. I figure I’m in good shape on the actual construction project, and I’m about midway on both those agenda items, on my physical improvement project. As for the what comes next in terms of an answer to the pesky “So, what do you do?” question, the how shall I spend my remaining years question…that one is still a little bit up in the air.
My dear 21 year old sent me this picture, with the comment, “I didn’t know they’d named a square for you, mom.” Well, they didn’t; this one’s for Arthur Schlesinger’s first wife. But I like that my son thinks I’ve filled those job descriptions.