Thursday, December 3, 2009


(Photo: Raymond Burr played the lead in "Ironside," a popular police drama that ran from 1967-1975).

It's been a turbulent week for P'UP. On Monday, I spent the afternoon at the health center. A painful exam and seven x-rays revealed I had a large crack in my heel bone, where it meets the tarsals. Instead of cracking the heel, as most adults do, I cracked the front portion that ends where one's arch begins. When I fell, twisting my foot, the bone cracked under pressure. The good news: I will not need an expensive surgery to pin and plate the break, as most people do. Instead, I'm to spend the next four weeks on crutches, another two in the boot, and then I get to do physical therapy. The bad news: Doc said it'll be three months before I'm walking "normally."

The worst news: Doc said he wants me to wait six months before climbing again.

Sitting in the exam room, sweating in the Boot of Doom, I teared up. He handed me a tissue, and told me we'd know more in six weeks or so, when he did another set of x-rays. "But usually," he said, "you can count on at least six months before resuming athletic activity. For now, just concentrate on everyday mobility."

My doc, a trim forty-five year-old runner, listened to me as I explained P'UP, my fitness goals, and how much I've learned so far.

"Rock climbing? At forty? Even I'm not brave enough to try that! Good for you!" he said.

"I'm just worried that my project will get derailed now. This is a huge setback for me. I was hoping to be on my first real rock trip in April. I have no idea what I'm going to write about now."

He sat down. "I know this is a setback," he said. "But it could be a lot worse. We'll get you up and climbing, it's just going to take time."

I spent a fair amount of my evening trying to figure out what I would write about, and how this setback could be framed in the larger P'UP project. I suppose, when one takes on a year-long inquiry project, one should expect to roll with the challenges and contemplate their meaning and potential. I know I said I had no idea where this project would take me and that I was willing to share my experience. However, I never anticipated it would take me to the orthopedic surgeon.

Doc said I should concentrate on the awesome upper-body workout crutches will give me, and the forearm strength I will develop. He promised that he would help me to figure out an exercise plan at our six-week appointment. And I suppose I could spend the next few weeks working on my grip - as soon as I send someone out to buy what I need to do that.

Until I was brought to this stop, I hadn't realized how active I had become. I was walking the mile to and from work each day, hitting the climbing wall 3-4 times a week, and doing yoga at home. Now, it's all I can do to take a shower, navigate my apartment, and get up and down three flights of stairs in my building each day. Getting around on crutches is difficult, cumbersome, and a general pain in the ass. And I have to rely on the kindness of others, like friends who have given me rides to work, done my grocery shopping for me, or sat at home with my daughter who just had her tonsils removed yesterday.

I went back to work today, and I'm exhausted. Even with the elevator, it's difficult to get to all the places I need to get to in that building. Just getting back and forth from my office to the central printer is a sweaty effort. One of my bosses suggested I use the wheelchair they keep in the office for just such occasions. When she did this morning, I balked. At three o'clock this afternoon, with my foot throbbing and painkillers fogging my head, I decided that perhaps I should use that chair until I got over this "breaking in" period of limitation.

I don't think I'll be able to make the wheelchair seem as sexy as Detective Ironside does ...

In the meantime, I think I'll continue working on recipes, interviews and profiles, as well as training. I'm not sure what form that training will take, but as it takes shape I'll be sure to share it. All I can say for now is this: I'm really disappointed. My climbing day in Madison was a good one, and I was feeling more and more capable at the wall. It seems as though Karma has other plans for me, however, and the journey of ascension will begin anew, from a more broken and difficult place.

I suppose it's just as important to document this part of the struggle as it is to share the "highlights." I won't blame you, dear reader, should you tire of the navel gazing and introspection. It's interesting to me that just as I reached a place of confidence, I was handed a tremendous challenge. I shouldn't be surprised. This is, after all, the way life really works.

In the weeks ahead, I'll make a point to stop in at the wall to visit with my new friends there. I'll continue doing interviews and profiles because it's the people that made the work so much fun, so inspirational. And I now have a new set of recipes: "Dinners you can cook sitting down" and "Tiny Tim Specials: God Bless Us, Everyone." Every time I set my crutches in the corner, I think of Tiny Tim, The Christmas Carol, and then ponder the power of painkillers.

I'm down, but not out. I'm not giving in - far from it. I suppose at this hour, when the ache goes deep into the bone and the heart feels a bit restless, I'm just tired. Tomorrow will be different. It may not be better, but it will be different. And I suppose that's something to look forward to - no matter what.

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