Tag Archives: musing

Girl Alone

Girl on the block alone.

One friend.

One brother.

I want to be a superhero. Really, ever since I was seven.

Share it with Milton Spivey. Trade stories.

He is cool because his letter to the editor is published in an issue of Spiderman.

Girl alone on 12th Street.

I love to read. To understand the world at large.

I sneak passages in my mother’s paperback copy of William L. Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” The pages thin, already starting to yellow, with that old paperback smell even though it is fairly new.

Love that I know his full name. The importance the author places on it.

I read about concentration camps and the number of Jews murdered from this and that European country. Some in the hundreds of thousands. Some in the millions. Going back to the table listing the number of deaths over and over again.

She keeps hiding the book and I keep finding it.

She needn’t worry. I already know the world is mad. Have known since I was five and learned about Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I am forever scorched.

Trying to imagine my superhero self, going back in time to smash the crematoria. To get the Jews out from behind the German lines. To make the shadows of the disappeared in the ruins of Japan come back to life again.

Girl alone.

I listen to Mom’s Coltrane, and my Chopin, and my Songs of the Negev on the portable record player Grandma gave me.

“I could be a soldier there,” I think, “the equal to everyone.”

Know that of anyone I know in the world, it is Grandma who would understand.

Girl alone. Springtime.

I like the silence of my thoughts. The feel of my hair in a plait down my back.

My beige jeans.

Worn-out Hush Puppies with my toes starting to poke out.

Myself. Nine years old.

Going somewhere as swift as the wind.

The moments I’m not prepared for

Mount Everest, Photo credit: The Tribune, India

Caregiving for a person who is losing themselves is the Mount Everest of experiences. One puts one foot in front of the other for some sort of forward momentum, but without really looking too far ahead. To do so is to risk one’s own break down and that plaintive, wistful, despairing question, “how can I do this?”.

As I ponder it all, I’m realizing the moments I’m not prepared for seems to be a growing list. This morning, Jed asked, “Who are you?” and I really didn’t know where to go from there.

I smiled.

Sweetly.

In the moment.

Said, “I am Malissa,” paused and added “we are married.”

Jed said, “I don’t remember things.”

He then smiled and said, “well Sheila, how are you!”

Now that was typical Jed. A moment of clarity in his fog of a mind, covering his sense of embarrassment at not being on top of things and making a joke of it all. We carried on with the Sheila joke for a bit before focusing on breakfast: a toasted slice of leftover cranberry walnut bread, our Christmas morning family tradition for years. He said, “hmmm, this tastes good, where did you get it?”

I explained, the Christmas morning stuff and he looked at me with wide eyes and a big smile and said, “you made this? It’s delicious.”

And so it went. Through breakfast. Through discussions about haircuts. Showering. the scabs on his arms and upper body from his newly acquired OCD habit of scratching and picking.

And no, none of it is ever something I thought of. I mean, really, who does? At our age, one thinks of the bad luck of cancers or heart aliments, diabetes or COPD from all the smoking we did as kids, but something that slowly erodes one’s ability to think or even recognize or put words to the people they know and love? No. Believe me. You don’t think of it. Not even if it is all around you, never for your own spouse or loved one.

As I write this, we’ve conquered the confusion of waking up and not being able to understand the most basic of things. Slowly though, I am watching as cognition returns. Yes. Morning meds and vitamins. A shower (no fight about it either), shaving using his electric razor, putting on spanking new duds from his Christmas haul. A pet to our kitty Mimi who is on her last legs from chronic liver failure. Sweet words to me about how much he loves me. Appreciates me. More talk about getting a haircut. And then an actual walk, our first in almost two weeks since he accompanied me to the Post Office to pick up stamps.

All went well, but the haircut didn’t happen. We lost the window, too soon when he turned from our apartment house entry way and too late when we passed it on the way home.

Walks are in fact, really tiring both physically and mentally, even our very short ones. He becomes overstimulated by the sights and sounds. People on the street. Noise. Shops. And today from wandering around the first floor of Barnes and Noble, the colors of the fruit stand, the plants and trees lining the brownstones on Clinton Street. And needing to stop as well. The sweat beading on his forehead, needing to catch his breath, this from the man who has circumnavigated Manhattan at night in a kayak by himself and written about it for a Weekend Warrior column in the NY Times.

Once upstairs, he remembered about the haircut. “Maybe tomorrow,” he said. He had to go to bed, to drift for a while in the darkened room with drawn curtains and to eventually asleep.

Meanwhile my day. Yay to getting my delivery of Covid home tests after a pre-Christmas frantic search of medical supply companies on the internet. Yes to laundry, churning its way through rinse cycles and the dryer. Yes to a quick text touchpoint with my daughter. Yes to realizing just how overwhelmed I feel — and to the bits of tears in my eyes as I blink my way through a minute or two of silent meditation to keep myself together for the next steps of the day.

If yesterday morning was self-care at Gleason’s Gym, today, through chores (garbage out, laundry, vacuuming), I’m giving myself the sense of order externally. Sure, not spanking clean, but at least with some of the holiday disorder at bay.

And then I locate myself again. Clear my mind, breathe, inhale, exhale, and start it again. This is the way.

****

For more information about dementia and caregiving resources here are some helpful links in NYC as well as two of the main national organizations. And of course, always feel free to contact me.

CaringKind is a caregiver organization in NYC with remarkable resources, courses, caregiver groups, and other information. Link here: Caring Kind.

NYU Family Support Center has programs for caregivers to include a fully array of “zoom” meetings that range from looking at art with museum curators to music and caregiver “KaffeeKlastch” meetings. Link here:  NYU Family Support Center.

Alzheimer’s Association, website for information and resources for this disease. Link here: Alzheimer’s Association.

The Association for Frontotemperal Degeneration, website for information and resources for this disease. Link here: AFTD

Getting sick … the return

Sick bedI have been laid out flat with laryngitis, fever, a rib flailing cough, and all the misery of a GERD flare. Not to mention sore muscles from nights on the couch because my wracking cough shatters the calm of my husband’s sleep and sense of well being.

Okay. Enough with the complaining, right? I do, after all, mostly have my voice back, and, thanks to a plethora of drugs to include an inhaler, cough medicine (three tries till I could find the one that worked–Mucinex, the honey flavored one), antihistamines, massive doses of PPIs to stop the stomach acid, Tylenol for the first few days to stop the razor blades in my throat feeling, cough drops, which I stopped, because they exacerbated the GERD/Laryngopharyngeal Reflux Disease, and my lovely daughter’s TLC who came to stay for a couple of days, ostensibly to ensure that husband was okay, but worriedly keeping an eye on me, having already sent a humidifier via Amazon prime. Meanwhile, she’d slipped and fell and cracked the radial head of her elbow the night of her 22nd birthday, the same day I came down with the dreaded “L”.

My what a bunch my family is.

So now that I am taking a reasonably deep breath without a hacking exhale, I’m trying to put some perspective to all of this, admittedly a bit drugged up from the steroid in the inhaler and whatever cocktail of ingredients is in the cough medicine.

Still. In the throes of sudden vulnerability. Of coughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. Of fearing Covid for the first couple of days, even though I’d just had the third booster and knew the symptoms were for a different sort of virus. Of realizing that life is so fleeting and that I am so unprepared for its end. I mean, yes. I have wills and powers of attorney and that sort of stuff, but everything else is so messy and in the middle. It’s like my desk. I know where things are, but looking at it from an outsiders point of view. Where to start? How to fathom it all? How could I leave my daughter and my husband with this? And in particular, my husband? My beautiful Jed with short term memory so fleeting that he asks the same question 4-5 times before he figures out from a cue on my face that he’d asked it already.

A caregiver’s dilemma is always one of balancing the self with the non-self.

Self says, “hey, it’s my life, I do whatever I want. So what if there are unpaid bills? Or if I didn’t send in the signatures for the new account? Or even the latest round of retirement forms?”

Non-self doesn’t even say. Non-self is there soundlessly. A support bed of soft puffy clouds. A hand guiding without ever telling. A hand that gives full agency to the other. Allows them to find their way to the shower on their own to scrub the days of not showering off their body.  And doesn’t worry. Doesn’t feel wrecked inside at week two of not getting out of his pajamas.

Purple bootsOkay so I am in the throes of a lot of mixed stuff here. Me with laryngitis and me as a caregiver and me as a recently retired person trying to find her way and me as a 67 year old facing the fact that I don’t bounce back as quickly as I used to and me as a lot of other things I haven’t even figured out yet.

Meanwhile, I bought a pair of purple boots and are they ever cute.

Courage …

Adult male lion in the Serengeti.
Photo Credit: Michael Nichols, Nat Geo Image Collection

My mind has been fairly unfocused when it comes to writing this week. Nothing specific. No traumas to speak of. In fact, mostly in the zone. Work outs going well, things at home in a stable place, nice talks with my daughter. Still, there is something unsettling and a word that keeps circling around in my thinking … courage.

As a kid growing up on East 12th Street in the early 1960s, courage seemed to be equated by its assumed opposite: cowardice.

As young as seven, kids called me out for this or that thing. I was, however, the child of young, idealistic, radical pacifists suddenly thrown into the maelstrom of a working class block — in the low rent mini-Little Italy area of what became known as the East Village.

On the First Avenue end, there was an Italian Men’s social club, wink, wink, where men sat outside rain or shine playing dominos under the stripped awning, or so it seemed to me.  That end of the block and its six-story tenements was mostly Italian, with kids that looked like shrunken versions of their parents: girls with teased hair, pencil skirts, sweater-sets, and boys with gold saints’ medallions showing through their open-collared shirts. These boys never seemed to wear dungarees or sneakers — the uniform even then of play time on the block. This was the north side of 12th Street between First and Second, with a giant nine-story social services building dominating the middle, where kids taken from their parents were processed. The looming building that seemed to instill fear in every one was the demarkation point between the Italian kids on one end and the mostly Puerto Rican kids, plus my brother and me, living in the tenement buildings trailing towards Second Avenue.

Michael K. Williams, Photo Credit: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

In attempting to tease it all some more, I realized that in the background, I have been tied up in the sense of grief and loss I felt at the death of actor Michael K. Williams. And more to the point, the release of the New York City Medical Examiner’s report a few weeks ago noting that he’d died of acute drug intoxication from a mixture of entanyl, p-fluorofentanyl, heroin and cocaine.

At first glance one could ask why I would be so affected. After all, our lives never intersected and yet, in his words, and actions, and struggles, they did. Always. From the first time I watched him perform as Omar Little on screen on The Wire.

Now what would the character of stone cold killer like Omar have to do with me?  I mean it’s no secret. I am a 67 year old Jewish woman from New York City. I reek of privilege, right?  I can go anywhere. But … and it’s a big one, I’ve spent a good part of my life passing. Not acknowledging that I’m a street kid too. A shorty. And a lonely one who fended for herself. Who had her own code. But who later in life used language and appearance to cover a multiple of early traumas.

As I think of it, that pesky 12th Street “c” word comes through too, but not the one about courage. No. The one about cowardice. And that’s where Mike from East Flatbush comes into the picture. Because he never passed. He always wore his scar with pride. With a truth to power, the power of those who hurt him over the years in his rear mirror, until the moments came when the dark meanies came back and they went up his nose or into his veins. But still with his chin out the next day. Figuring out how to live his best life. Showing us clearly and explicitly that this was who he was including his frailties.

Seeing Omar was seeing what I wanted to be as a kid. A fire fighter for justice. In my games with my pal Mara when we were nine, it was all about fighting nazis. We’d crawl through the culvert that connected my building with the one next door and in our minds, crossed behind the German lines to infiltrate and free prisoners from concentration camps. Many years later it occurred to me that coming through the culvert was also about finding my own authentic self. About owning all the parts–the good ones and the bad ones and pushing those truths forward no matter the consequences.

As I think of it now, it occurs to me that it’s one thing to be a spy in the shadows and quite another to push through with guns blazing. And that’s the intersection. That was Michael K. Williams to me. A purveyor of truth and authenticity in a world hell bent on crushing him. I’m sorry I never met him or had the chance to tell him that his story and the way he lived his life as Mike from East Flatbush touched me deeply, but he’d have understood.

May his memory be a blessing.

Spotify playlist: Trouble Man, For Mike from East Flatbush

What does it all mean?

What does it all mean?

I guess you could say I’m in a mode.

My personal world is rife with complexities and when I look around me to the world at large I feel roiled by the political landscape, our deeply troubled future as citizens of a rapidly changing environment on a planetary scale, not to mention, the myriad of problems associated with poverty, sexism, racism—and in fact all of the –isms.

Yet I am still here as we all are.

Here and facing choices as simple as what to wear to work or how to fit in the gym time—to the bigger questions we tackle related to the health and well-being of our families, our neighbors, and those extensions of ourselves that we count as having the same importance of those near and dear to us.

Perhaps I am thoughtful because on the Jewish calendar of my heritage it is the eve of another New Year.

This one, 5780, feels big.

Perhaps it’s because it ends on a round number – or perhaps it’s because this year is particularly big in my own cycle of new years having turned 65 this past June.

So yes, it’s loaded.

Loaded with my personal turmoil as I contemplate what my future looks like and the meaning of getting older—while tinged with that ever hopeful patina of faith that the future will bring about a better world no matter the challenges.

The sages of Jewish lore deemed the period of the New Year as a time to set the past aside to move forward to what is fated for the coming year. The High Holidays are thus an interregnum of sorts: a liminal world of becoming bounded by the foibles of one’s life on the one hand and a future state of more perfected beingness on the other.

That perfecting process, that transition to being one’s best self can take many forms. It can be as simple as casting aside one’s sins in the water as so many crumbs of bread—or the challenges one encounters on a deeper dive into one’s psyche where in a determined fashion, one truly examines one’s crimes and misdemeanors and devises a plan of action to face the meaning of those truths in order to move forward.

Both are easier said than done as we are all very, very good at cheating at solitaire. And it is that instinct to cheat. To not work through the necessary stages that is the most hurtful of all to ourselves.

In my late 30s I went through a time of deep spiritual crisis.

In those years I could not fathom what it meant to be.

In my search for meaning I clung to many things as a symbiote: my job, my relationships, my feelings of despair, even my own suicidal ideations as some sort of badge of singularity in the world.

I was able to work through that period of my life with a mixture of luck, a very deeply buried survival instinct, excellent psychotherapy, and an awareness that all the cheating, all the time I’d spent burying my demons were what was causing my crisis in the first place.

As I dive into the liminality of another New Year process, I carry with me a remembrance of that period in my life. And while it is distant and remote to the person I became afterwards, I know that in shedding that skin, it still remains a part of who I am. The difference is that in facing the truth, no matter how raw and awful it is, one has the chance for redemption and a forward momentum into the next part of one’s life.

So even though I have my doubts for the future, the work itself is one’s purpose, what I like to call the daily something. And while getting it right is a moment to moment thing, playing out one’s hand without cheating makes it all worth while in the end, even if it seems you never can “win” the game.

 

A few things I know

Sometimes speaking in platitudes is a way of getting at the truth of things. One of them that I’ve been mulling over lately is about not cheating at solitaire. That might seem fairly straightforward—I mean really, how silly is that—but ultimately it is something we do all the time. That old game takes many guises, but mostly has to do with not leveling with oneself about what one is truly doing.

In the game of boxing, as in life, getting the fundamentals right, and building upon them through repetition—those 10,000 hours of repetition to gain mastery—is the best way I know of to approach the process. In life, that can be translated into owning up to who and what we are, including those pesky faults we carry along with us as so much extra baggage we inevitably pay for as if we’d checked it in for a long haul flight.

Having just come back from ten days in Paris with my daughter, I’ve reminded myself about what it means to travel light—aside from bypassing baggage claim, where I admit to having some of my epic hissy fits across a lifetime, traveling light can also mean getting to the heart of things. When it came to my luggage—actually only half filled—I got down to the basics of bringing along only what I truly loved, including I’ll add a pair of hand wraps, just in case, and even then, I could have pared further.

Finding a convenient Laundromat, meant an hour and a half foray into the life of an average Parisian without a washing machine in their apartment, which in and of itself was a fun excursion, but it also meant that the clothes I wore were ones I felt most comfortable in—plus the bonus of maybe a little capricious shopping for something that tickled my fancy with plenty of room left over.

Okay, I get it, the clothing analogy in a suitcase is not necessarily what I’m after when I talk about cheating at solitaire, but the point of it is, we do carry a load of crap about who and what we are, and what our relationships mean, that bogs us down and sometimes keeps us from getting to the essential meaning of our lives.

In a boxing context that can mean going through an awful lots of motions without getting back to the fundamentals that brought us there in the first place—or saw us to begin to develop the skills necessary for ring survival and mastery. The training is the thing in terms of stripping down because it is that mastery that brings us the room for artistry. And while my half empty suitcase may not be the exact analogy to drive home the point—those shoes I bought were pure poetry, and having the room for them has certainly brought a spring to my steps as I walk about my beloved Brooklyn.

 

Stamina

stamina

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I’ve been hitting Gleason’s Gym three days a week since the beginning of September.  The usual schedule has been to get to the gym before seven—two mornings a week, putting in around 16 rounds plus 100 sit-ups before the rush to get to the office. On Saturday mornings, I put in a longish workout to net out about 20 rounds of work plus sit-ups (150 this past Saturday), including sparring with my trainer, Lennox Blackmoore.  I also take time to stretch and get in a fair amount of schmoozing.

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Len and I having been sparring for a couple of years with some regularity, but bits of minor health issues on both sides have pushed us off the mark for the last couple of months.  We’ll certainly pick it up again, but the return to more consistent pad work, plus extra rounds on the heavy bag have given me new insights into the sweet science.

14212050_10208382068522073_5102702498388978962_nThe regular training is also a barometer on all the other aspects of health—mental and otherwise, and given that my weight’s been creeping up over the last six months (seeing the doctor on that one given that I eat and exercise about the same), it’s been interesting to measure its effect on the illusive construct of stamina.

What Len will say is stamina is a matter of mind—and there’s nothing like a hard workout at 7:00 AM to test the theory because, let’s face it, some mornings have just been awful, or have had bits of awful that flower as a chrysalis into “oh what a beautiful morning,” great.

This morning’s boxing was a case in point.  Having gotten up at 5:30—after a less than great sleep—I managed to find my way through my morning “ablutions.”  By 6:30 I was bundled against the 19 degree temperature, slowly making my way through Cadman Plaza to walk to Gleason’s, but not before stopping a minute to take a picture of the buildings and the small park set against the pre-dawn sky.

By the time I walked through the door of the gym, I was resolved to push through the tiredness I felt—but there was nothing doing, when it came to my first couple of rounds shadowing boxing.  In fact, we are talking, an “Oy, are you kidding me?” kind of creakiness as my knees crackled, my neck stiffened and barely turning from side to side, and with my supposed stamina nowhere to be found.  By the time round one with Len started, I could barely crank my arms to limply hit the pads—especially the right which earned me a cranky “wake-up, wake-up, straighten out your arm and turn your hip.”

I just nodded, wishing that I could find some pithy retort, other than to give it another go.

“Push it, push it, see.”

This from throwing the right with too much elbow sticking out from the inside.

“And turn your hip!”

“Yep, got it,” I replied, not really having got it, but figuring if I kept hitting it that way it would eventually find it’s mark.

Catching a glimpse of the clock between rounds, I did an inner groan at seeing it was only 7:35, but gamely turned to keep going at it.

By round three, it did start to make sense; it also brought me to an epiphany about stamina.  I was so busy trying to work through the task of throwing a straight right from the inside that I was starting to forget that I was tired and achy and less than enthused.  The previous workout I’d had, had been my best in weeks. I’d been peppy as I shadow-boxed for four rounds, and even peppier when Len and I went a full six rounds on the pads in the ring. Having it to ourselves meant that we really worked the corners and when it was done, I went on to the small water bag for four rounds, the doubled-ended bag for four rounds, and finished with four rounds on the speed bag before 150 sit-ups and a lot of stretching.

15107443_10208943471316792_3935173821081775570_nThe determinate in that case had been a decent night’s sleep—but for the workout at hand, something else was kicking in. Not exactly an extra gear so much as finding the space to just be. In other words, I was getting out of my own way and in doing so; tiredness, creaky bones and all of the other obstacles that had seemed fairly insurmountable began to peel away.

By the end of the fourth round I was ready to keep going—but having caught another glimpse at the clock I realized I didn’t have too much time left before I had to get going for work. Still, I remained in that moment, so to speak, as I practiced the straight right on the double-ended bag, and posed problems to myself from different angles and in different combinations from different sides.

And yes, my stamina was there. I could have kept going for many more rounds despite less than ideal sleep, and all of the other impediments that had felt like lead weights around my ankles.

I’ll be getting to the gym again tomorrow morning. With some luck, I’ll be able to pull the focus trick that’ll lead me to feeling bouncy and fit as I gyrate around the ring. And maybe if that happens enough times it’ll be more of a habit of mind than thinking that it’s only a manifestation of my physical condition—time will tell.

13 years …

13 years …

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The Twin Towers in July 1983, with New Yorkers taking in the sun on the beach created by the WTC landfill.                      Photo by Marilynn K. Yee/The New York Times

Sometimes I just can’t breathe if I think about it for too long.

Not only is it the towers, but in remembering the landscape when it was possible to walk on the landfill beach at the edge of the Hudson where it felt more like an end of the world place than a city. A landscape inspired by Fellini, in a New York that still had roughened edges with none of the cleanliness of our current patina of Disneyesque public spaces.

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Still from Frederico Fellini’s 8-1/2

Yes. Life moves along. But for some of us the Twin Towers still informs out sense of who we are in a world that seems to have become that much meaner in the void of their absence.

As always, I choose peace.

 

Women Box … Wordless Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Women Box … Wordless Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Women boxing http://www.vintag.es/2013/04/old-photos-of-women-boxing.html

Women in boxing gloves, 1890-early 1990s

The winter doldrums …

The winter doldrums …

Fortress of Solitude

Fortress of Solitude

Having blown off the gym tonight, I’ve been tucked into my WARM apartment with the family, the cat, some delicious potato-leek soup and lots of the Olympic sport of curling. I even watched a bit of women’s hockey and saw the American team score three goals inside of a few minutes in the first period, quite an impressive bit of playing. And of course yesterday, Sunday, I spent the afternoon and evening watching wall-to-wall figure skating and the men’s downhill, Friday night’s boxing. Oh, plus the Downton Abbey episode with lots of new possible suitors for Lady Mary in the offing, the dowager’s illness and more!

That the thread of the past two days has been non-stop sports and the vicissitudes of life for the upper classes not to mention denizens of their “downstairs” rooms is, admittedly, even for a devoted television watcher like myself, beginning to get to be a bit too much–but given the alternative, c-o-l-d, it is about the best I can muster.  Yes, yes, I was out and about too … party on Friday night, a fabulous lecture series at my daughter’s high school Saturday morning (“Knowledge College” at Bard High School Early College Queens), and a trip to Staples to get Spring term school supplies, but really … those freezing puffs of air on the way to and from places is getting to me.

What with the new season of Netflix’s House of Cards set to begin on Friday, there is that to look forward to, plus the next round of figure skating, so really, aside from the walk to and from work, and yes, maybe even the gym, I’m homebound for the duration until the the temperature reaches into the 50s!

 

Women Box … Wordless Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Women Box … Wordless Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Image 8.Texas Mamie Donavan

Texas Mamie Donavan (or Dunaman), Champion Female Boxer, 1905.

She was known to have boxed from 1905-1910 in Philadelphia and New York.

counting down ….

Counting down …

We all have things we count down for.

Sometimes it is something grand like a fight and sometimes just the tick-tock of the clock till the end of the work day.

When I get anxious, I like to think of things in three-minute intervals, plus the sixty-second rest.

It’s a way of organizing my thoughts which otherwise race around in what my old Dharma teacher used to call a monkey mind.

If I set the clock, I can think of things in finite terms. I can count out each second, or count out other things such as the number of sit-ups I can do in three minutes or the number of words I can write, or the amazing amount of tasks that can be completed in between the buzzers.

Imagine, one can actually pretty much empty a sink full of dishes, or run down four flights of stairs, grab the mail from the mailbox and come back upstairs and find that the clock hasn’t even hit yellow yet.

At other times the clock provides order out of chaos.  It quells the what-do-I-do-now panic of momentary indecision, or worse, the I-can’t-get-started rut can be kicked into gear to a set menu of things to achieve–even if that just means taking an interval or two to calm down.

I bring this up as person facing deadlines and the stress that accompanies that. Thinking of the clock and the ding of the round though is helping to soothe me. In breaking things down into the tiny snippets of time I am reminding myself that no matter how daunting something may seem, it is only ever made up of moments; moments that follow one upon another each carrying its own weight and import.

Much as when I train, I can set aside so many rounds for one thing followed by a set number of rounds for another.

In their totality the time winds up to be the same as what had been originally allotted, but somehow in breaking it down into smaller bits, one can see and touch the progress as so many things that have already been accomplished.

 

 

Moaning and groaning … oh yeah, about that shoulder!

Moaning and groaning … oh yeah, about that shoulder!

Shoulder Anatomy (Credit: Massageitsgoodforyou.wordpress)

Oy … so here’s the story.  Back in December my shoulder started hurting after boxing.  I didn’t think too much of it and let it slide for a while.

By February I noted serious “ows” when I swam–so I stopped doing that, but kept boxing, avoiding things like the right cross.  By March it was still hurting and making “popping” noises so I saw an orthopedist and after getting an MRI got the diagnosis:  A torn labram.  Specifically, I was diagnosed with a SLAP Tear (Superior Labrum from anterior to posterior), a tear where the biceps muscle tendon connects with the labram in the shoulder joint.

Labram Tear (Credit: Healthandfitness101.com)

Here’s a good explanation from About.com: An injury to a part of the shoulder joint called the labrum. The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint, similar to the hip; however, the socket of the shoulder joint is extremely shallow, and thus inherently unstable. To compensate for the shallow socket, the shoulder joint has a cuff of cartilage called a labrum that forms a cup for the end of the arm bone (humerus) to move within. A specific type of labral tear is called a SLAP tear; this stands for Superior Labrum from Anterior toPosterior. The SLAP tear occurs at the point where the tendon of the biceps muscle inserts on the labrum.

The MRI also showed tendonitis of the supraspinatus tendon (the tendon at the top of shoulder) and bits of inflammation in a couple of other places).

Next up was a course of physical therapy — and no more boxing for the duration.

I worked with a terrific therapist name Eddie who patiently took me through a myriad of stretches and strengthening exercises.

Twice a week I  lay on one of the tables while I had a heat pack applied to my shoulder that felt GREAT–for a few minutes. Next up was a massage and gentle manipulation to try to improve my range of motion–and get me out of pain.

After the heat and massage came the hard part: lots of exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and improve range of motion which I had already begun to lose. The biggest problem was my shoulder was feeling even more unstable–meaning lots of popping when I moved it plus it hurt even more after PT was done.  In other words, not a great sign.

So … back to the orthopedist I went only to learn that I was also developing a frozen shoulder, meaning my shoulder was stiff and losing range of motion big-time.

I’d already known that I hurt when I tried to move my arm up and to the side or across my body–but the shocker was realizing that I couldn’t scratch my back anymore on my right side. I had also started to wake up in the middle of the night in pain, and trying to put on a sweater was becoming a challenge (not to mention hooking a bra!).

In other words my favorite shoulder Yoga pose was a pipe dream and I could no more do the pose than launch into space.

Options??  Well pretty much only one if I want to gain back the use of my right shoulder — arthroscopic surgery to repair the labram tear, clean up the “junk” around it  and to “unfreeze” those parts of the shoulder capsule that are impeding range-of-motion.

Arthroscopic means that the surgery will be performed through 3-4 small incisions around the shoulder using a camera and specialized surgical instruments.  Depending upon the severity of the repair, tiny ceramic screws may also be inserted to help stabilize the shoulder joint.

Surgery typically runs from one to two hours and may also entail repairs to the biceps tendon depending upon the amount of damage.

Recovery is another challenge. Immediately post-op, patients wear an ice-pack on their affected arm for 72-96 hours and pretty much keep the arm immobilized in a sling for upwards of four weeks.  PT starts pretty early though and patients usually start a course of exercise from about the second day or so.

The prospect of surgery is miserable to say the least — but given that I can’t even run because the motion hurts my arm gives some indication of its necessity.  As my surgeon said, if I want to be active at all, I kinda’ have no choice and given that I DESPERATELY want to box again, onward I march into a summer in recovery mode.

My surgery is scheduled for June 20th at NYU/Hospital for Joint Diseases.  I’ll let you know how it goes from the other side.

For further information on Labral tears here are a few good resources.

Johns Hopkins Orthopedic Surgery

NYU – Shoulder Labral Tear

American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons

Missing the gym …

Missing the gym …

Gleason's Gym

Okay, I promise this won’t be a “boo hoo” post or anything, but I’ve got to tell you having a boxing related injury plain s-u-c-k-s!  I mean really, I can’t even put a jacket on these days without a yelp, never mind shadow box!  Even my old shower favorite, slip the water streaming out of the nozzle isn’t exactly cutting it and I’ve got to tell you that attempting a run with one arm pasted to the side of your waist is ridiculous!

When I have gone to Gleason’s Gym over the past three weeks, I’ve been downright wistful.  I mean there were tons of women there last Saturday for the second annual All Female Boxing Clinic — exciting right? — and even saw my friend, wait for it blogger Amy Scheer, who’d come in for the clinic, but was I elated?  The answer is no, I actually felt kind of sad.

Well it seems I am not alone in all of this.  Medical scholars are pursuing research in the psychological effects of sports injuries on Saturday athletes like myself on through elite practitioners.

In a journal article for the Journal of Sport Behavior (1994), authors Nancy Quackenbush and Jane Crossman have written that:

… athletes experience feelings of separation, loneliness, guilt and a loss of identity and independence, because they feel that they are no longer vitally contributing to the team and that they are reliant upon others in the rehabilitative process. 

The fact is that athletes and fitness enthusiasts get injured all the time, when injuries necessitate time away from cherished activities, however, it is important to understand that recovery is not only physical.  There can be a psychological component as well.  And just as it takes a long time to build-up skills to a level of one’s own peak performance, rehabilitation of the injury doesn’t happen overnight either.

If I use my own recovery as a case in point, my shoulder rehabilitation is actually progressing.  During my first week of physical therapy, I could only use one-pound weights for certain of the strengthening exercises, however at the onset of my third week I progressed to three-pound weights.  And sure, it still hurts, and on some days worse than others, but I can actually lift my right arm straight up which I couldn’t do at all in my first week.

My basic four rotator cuff exercises. (Curtesy JumpUSA.com, Topic #474)

And I guess that’s part of the secret. Realizing that progress is relative.  That, and giving yourself a kick in the butt for feeling sad at those points when being in a place like your favorite gym usually brings you nothing but joy!

I also came across a helpful article on coping with sports injuries that may be of interest to anyone going through the same thing.  The link to the article by Elizabeth Quinn is here:  Coping with Sports Injuries: Sports psychology strategies for coping with and recovering from injury.

It is worth the read!

Job done and idling.

Job done and idling.

As often happens after big events whether boxing matches won or lost or worse yet, called as a draw; or in the world of work where major projects are completed and all that is left is the mundane, the hardest part is pushing through to the next big moment, especially when there isn’t one in the offing.

That idle time aka “the devil’s workshop” can wreak havoc with your conditioning whether it’s your physical prowess in the ring or the mental gymnastics you apply to a new task, not to mention that steady spiral to that pesky inertia again where nothing seems to move and one feels wedded to nothing more than bad television, too much ice cream and an otherwise cranky disposition.

Rather like empty streets in the in the morning which one can walk around in at will with no one to jostle you or impede your way; the waiting period can be your opportunity to perform all those personal maintenance tasks you never get to. Such as … have you been to the doctor lately? Had your mammo, colonoscopy, bone density scan, round of blood tests? Okay, I know I’m revealing my age a little bit here, but you can get the point.  Had a massage?  Been to a museum? Cleaned out your closets?  Seen your grandmother? Started that blog? Wrote that short story? Signed up for a computer class?

We all carry our lists around of “things to do” whether it’s the daily list of chores of the pick-up dry cleaning variety or the larger ones that have to do with family, friends and importantly our own personal growth.

Given that I am in the middle of just such a period, I can really, really relate to anyone having difficulty getting “on the stick” so to speak. Suffice it to say, I am grateful to have the chance to write about it in Girlboxing, and thank you all for indulging me as I thrash about trying to get my motivation on!

I will say that while I haven’t quite made it to 300 sit-ups yet this week (I’m at 225 with 14 hours and counting till my midnight deadline), I have made my weekly goal of modified push ups — well, actually, I’ve exceeded that one: 60 = goal, 75 = attained.

Okay, we are not talking about a climb to the top of Everest or running a marathon, the little things do count towards the larger goals, even when those goals are not in focus. And sometimes, those little things add up to opportunities you never considered for yourself, and those sorts of surprises lead you right back to the winner’s circle again.