The Blob

3.29.19

Did you ever see Steve McQueen’s first movie? It was a low-budget 1958 horror thriller called The Blob, in which an asteroid lands on earth.

The grizzled farmer who finds it in his field scratches his day-old beard and hitches up his dungarees while thinkin’ ‘er out. Then (reasoning like any scientist) he whacks the asteroid with a big old stick…

…and out oozes The Blob.

It’s a black, oily, gelatinous substance that gives no clue whatsoever to its goals, conflicts, or motivations. It just sits there, pulsing ever so slightly, waiting for someone (like a hapless old farmer) to say “Hey – what’s that? And what happens if you poke it with a stick?”

It consumes you, obviously. It flows against gravity up the stick and onto the old farmer’s hand. Hey – I can’t get this off! Help – hey, help, you kids!

Enter achingly-young Steve McQueen and some winsome lass. We’ll take him to Doc’s. He’ll know what to do. (Doc, it need not be pointed out, does not know what to do.)

Eventually The Blob eats pretty much the whole hamlet and the National Guard is called in. Steve McQueen freezes the diner-sized Blob (it’s eaten a lot) and Army helicopters fly the mass to be dropped in Antarctica where it will be immobilized by the cold, to await the really SERIOUSLY bad sequel in 1988.

HERE’S MY POINT:

Today is my husband’s deathiversary; he died two years ago. His death certificate actually lists The Day as tomorrow, since the rescue squad restarted his heart in the hospital. It was very noble of them, even if it did take his immediate and tidy death from a massive heart attack and draw it out into a 24-hour deathbed scene of massive brain damage and panting and an unconscious refusal to close his eyes even though he wasn’t in there any more – it was grim and horrible as you can imagine.

But March 29 is the day I found him dead in the doorway of the garden shed, so this is his deathiversary to me.

And I’m looking at my grief like I was a grizzled old farmer in a field.

The grief is black and oily and bloblike. It’s sitting there just pulsing, and I’m pretty sure if I poke it with a stick, it’s going to flow uphill and consume me.

So I’m walking around it suspiciously, scratching my day-old beard and hitching up my dungarees. I’m carefully choosing my stick. I’m setting up for the Blobbening. I’m hoping to ride it out and be left standing on the other side.

And it entertains me, as so many things do, that Jonathan thought Steve McQueen was a god. He would LOVE the idea that I’d need to be – if not rescued then at least exclaimed over – by Steve McQueen.

Who is ALSO dead. Jeesh.

Mental health. It’s part of the overall health quest, right? I get to write about what I want, surely?!

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Steve McQueen. Cute at every age.

The Weight

3.28.19

“Why do you have to weigh me to look at a bumpy place on my skin?”

My doctor, really a very nice lady, must have thought I was particularly annoying today.

I went in to see her because I have a bumpy-up place on my skin – right in the “bad sunburn” triangle that developed on my chest during a childhood spent grumpily reading books at the beach. (I am a vampire in a family of sun-worshippers, and until I was old enough to stay at the rented beach house alone, I used to be dragged unwillingly to various beaches, where I would inevitably lobster up but never, ever tan.)

My mother is constantly sporting bandages from the dermatologist where they’ve once again carved out a hunk of her skin that at last, after many, many decades of exposure to solar radiation, had finally begun to protest this abuse; mild forms of skin cancer are her daily bread.

So when I got the bumpy-up place (and it was mildly itchy), I hove myself over to the doctor for a look-see, just in case. And I noted the reason for my visit in the “comments” portion of the electronic appointment system.

Today, when the (entirely pleasant) nurse called me from the waiting room, she took me immediately to the Station of Shame. You know the one – stand on the scale, get your blood pressure taken, hold a thermometer in your mouth.

“Why do you need to weigh me so the doctor can look at my skin?” I asked her. “You don’t need to, do you?”

“Yes – it’s a vital sign. I have to get your vital signs.”

She weighed me.

“You know,” I said huffily, “I saw a study once that said many women were put on blood pressure medicine unnecessarily because they get anxious when weighed in a doctor’s office.”

“Really?” she said, not at all impressed with the scientific authority of “I saw a study one time.” “I maybe should take the blood pressure before I weigh people?”

It was nice of her to imply that she might change her time-honed routine. I grimaced and shook my head. “Won’t matter. I’ll know the scale is coming up.”

As it happens, my blood pressure is quite low – a genetic gift from my maternal grandfather – and she looked at me as if vindicated. Clearly MY blood pressure hadn’t been affected by being weighed. See? I just shook my head; she wasn’t going to be able to re-configure the entire massive Kaiser Permanente system just on my bitching anyway.

But while I was waiting for Dr. Long, I got to stewing about it. I didn’t need any prescriptions; there was no need to calculate pharmaceuticals. I had no chronic conditions like diabetes or anorexia that might make weight maintenance critical to a care plan. I had a bump on my skin.

Why did I have to be weighed?

The longer I sat there, the more I fussed. So when that kind, long-suffering woman walked into the room, I practically leapt like a wrestler who’d scaled the ropes to really get a good drop on her.

WHY??

I explained to her that I’d been spending the last three years coming to grips with the fact that the scale is a liar when it comes to being a good measure of health – and that having to be weighed just to enter the inner sanctum was an immediate reversal of all that good work. It was like she was saying my weight was the only measure of my health that she was interested in.

She explained that there are several easy constants that she – and all doctors – can use to map a body’s condition over time, and that weight is one of them.

Then – because she’s a very good doctor and likes a thoughtful question – she posited a few what if’s for me. What if I was a diabetic? Would it be wrong to do regular weight checks?

(But I’m not a diabetic, I replied with a pout, and this wasn’t a check-up; it was for a specific issue. And the nurse had stopped to check my file to make sure she’d gotten all the vitals she needed before putting me in the exam room; there could have just as easily been a note to her that said my weight was of annual – and not more frequent – interest.)

If you had an anorexic daughter, she asked me, wouldn’t you want her weight to be part of every doctor’s visit?

(I have very little experience with anorexia, but I offered the opinion that telling an anorexic that her weight was the key indicator of her health was a terrible idea.)

She told me that it happens that people don’t realize that they’ve lost or gained weight, and she can forestall larger issues (she said the word “malignancy,” which is like a trump card in any exam room discussion) if she can see what’s going on with their weight.

“Everyone knows what they weigh. You can feel it in your jeans.” I dismissed her comment.

“Not if they don’t want to know,” she shot back – and damned if she wasn’t right. We all see what we want to see, and if you fear that your sudden unexplained weight loss is a symbol of a returning cancer, you might very well choose to ignore the potential horrors.

She explained that weight can even be a factor in arthritis, which was a pretty good stopper to my arguments – and she clarified that for her, weight is not about shame or societal expectations or emotions; it’s a scientific measure of the body and that’s it.

“But my weight is ALL about shame and expectations and emotions to ME. You’re not weighing me to upset me, but that’s the result.” I was terribly pugnacious today.

If I was empress, I told her, I would change the policy in every doctor’s office. I’d have a scale in every exam room instead of one scale in the nurse’s area. And once the doctor came in and found out why the patient was there, the doctor could choose to say “Let’s see if weight is a factor in what you’re telling me; step up on the scale.”

“You’ve given me something to think about,” she said – which proves she’s a kind as well as a skilled doctor. And then she used nitrogen to freeze the bumpy place off my chest because it wasn’t even a remotely interesting case to the dermatologist she consulted.

It’s hard enough to give up the idea that my weight determines my health – it’s even harder to go up against the medical community. But I’m telling you: Weighing every patient, every time, is unnecessary and sends a bad signal to anyone who already feels badly about their body. It might even cause someone to avoid the doctor entirely.

I guess it’s easy for a basically-healthy person to say that. What’s your take?

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I’m really getting good at the ugly selfie. That’s my bumpy place, after being insulted by a nitrogen freeze treatment. There goes my career as a bikini model, at least for a while.

PS: I’ll be sending a link to this post to my doctor; maybe she’ll correct my errors in a comment! Hi, Dr. Long. Want to continue the discussion?

Is it Fear? IS IT??

3.16.19

If you were puttering happily down the road in a rusted AMC Pacer (remember that car? Fat-bottomed and proud of it?), and the passenger next to you reached over and flipped a bright red switch you’d never noticed before…

…and if a nitrous oxide engine boost alarmingly kicked on and rocket flames burst from your tailpipe and you were suddenly screaming down the road like a Fast and Furious movie…

…you’d freak out, right?

You’d feel a huge loss of control. There might be screaming.

I’ve spent the last three years attempting to become one with my glutes. Mind you, I didn’t KNOW that’s what I was doing when I started out – but you can be very sure that Barbara and Grace and Gwynn and Chip and all the experts at Falls Church’s Body Dynamics knew.

Barbara had me sussed in about five minutes. I use my back and thigh muscles where I should be using my abs and butt muscles. And frankly, it’s a lot easier (although not easy) to help a client find her abs. I’ve spent my life uselessly sucking in my stomach, so I at least knew those muscles were there.

But I’ve always been … let’s call it butt-blind. I knew those muscles were back there, wrapped for a long winter’s nap under ample downy blankets. I even THOUGHT I was using them. But I wasn’t.

Early on, magnificent trainer Barbara hooked me up to a strap like Farmer Ted plowing the back pasture. She’d put the strap around my hips and get behind me. “Now run across the room,” she’d say.

Barbara – nothing but lean muscle and intelligence and x-ray vision – is a slip of a woman. If I fell down on her, she’d be Barbara-jam. So dragging her across the room wasn’t actually THAT hard. Not easy – she was back behind me, digging in and dragging me back with all her might. But I made it back and forth a few times, giggling and panting. You really have to lean in, but it’s doable.

And it’s the leaning in that is the trick – because that’s when the glutes wake up and start getting involved.

Then she’d drop the strap. “NOW run across the room.”

And I’d go flying across the room like I was shot from a gun, glutes doing what they were supposed to have been doing all along. Like someone just flipped a switch on the nitrous burner. “Eeeee!” I’d shriek, horror and excitement warring in me as the wall grew in my vision like a cartoon disaster. “What the hell!”

She doesn’t do that any more. Now we actually run – on the streets or on a treadmill. She’s got Gwynn the masseuse unlocking fuzzed fibers and educating me about the three muscles that make up the mighty, mighty ass. Grace and now Chip are brightening up the stabilizing muscles.

So now when I walk, I have this slight unease. What the HELL is going on back there?

And just as the AMC Pacer owner always admired the Ferrari, I don’t know what the hell to do with this power. I thought I wanted it, but now that maybe I have it, I am … well … a little scared of it. I’m all off-center. That is NOT where power usually comes from. It’s like walking while someone behind you is continually pushing you off-balance.

You mean those muscles have been there all along and I just never noticed? That’s weird. No – don’t flip that on. I’m not used to that. We can just putter along in the Pacer. We’ll get there. We don’t have to go like a missile.

Right?

I’m thinking – maybe it’s fear that’s my biggest obstacle. This is going to take some getting used to.

I know that pro-5K people will immediately decide that it’s my “horror glutei” (fear of ass muscles) that is holding me back from running a joyous 5K, but SHUT UP. I just have no desire to run a 5K and still haven’t heard (even from the most eloquent) any benefit to group agony that persuades me this is something to be desired. THIS post is simply about accessing unsuspected (and terrifyingly powerful) muscles, so let’s let the 5K thing go, ‘kay?!

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The AMC Pacer inevitably makes it to any list of “The World’s Ugliest Cars,” but I always liked it. It didn’t look like every other car on the road. It was proudly plain. Boastfully humble. And it never set a speed record. Yes, a Ferrari would look prettier as my image for this post – but as noted, I’m a little afraid of the implied speed. I’m poking along, working up my courage. Ferrari later.

Undecided

3.5.19

My trainer Barbara has me on the horns of a dilemma. (A most uncomfortable position!)

She returned to an old chestnut that I’d foolishly hoped had died long months past – that I was ready to run a 5K.

She seems to think there’s something so joyous about running in a group that I, like so many others, would suddenly discover I was having a good time. This seems unlikely to me; I’m not much of a joiner; I’m not much motivated by shared experiences.

Anyway, I feel that, were I to join with others in a 5K, it would be more likely that any runner in my immediate vicinity would end up walking and then stopping completely, bitching vigorously about how much faster this would be if we could all just get in our cars and drive the stupid course. I would have a net negative effect on the race as a whole.

But that’s beside the point. I ventured my primary objection to Barbara.

“I can barely make a mile, and you want me to go 3.1 miles? That’s insane.”

And Barbara – with the implacable logic of a mother – ignored me completely. “You just don’t THINK you can do it, so you can’t. If you made up your mind that you were going to do it, you could do it. You’re ready.”

This filled me with a rising tide of smoky, swirling frustration. Like, your hands are full but there’s one single hair tickling your face and you’re not going to be able to get it frustration. Overwhelming.

Barbara thinks my problem is attitude. She thinks my limitations are mental.

I KNOW my problem is physical. I think I’ve demonstrated a pretty impressive positive attitude throughout this entire process, and to suddenly claim I was defeating myself – well, that’s just a slap in the face of all that I’ve accomplished.

I believe in the power of a positive mental attitude. I believe in the mind-body connection.

And I stupidly thought that Barbara, jogging slowly beside me for all these months, correcting my foot placement and rib cage angle and use of butt muscles while no doubt plotting her fleet-footed streak across the landscape at the Boston Marathon, was seeing my desperation.

I thought she realized that I was saying to myself, “Okay – I’ll get to that corner before I walk. Okay – I can make it to that bush. That fire hydrant. That crack in the sidewalk…. No, no I can’t. I’m walking now.”

I thought she could feel the rawness in my lungs as the mission to suck in oxygen became critical.

I thought she understood that my entire body turns to lead and moving ahead at any speed requires every ounce of strength I have.

She must have thought I was kidding when confronted with that last fatal hill and I would grit my teeth with an audible crunching sound. She must not have noticed that I put my head down and refused to look up to see how far away the top was. She should have been able to feel my desperation and determination and longing to drop dead of a massive heart attack so I didn’t have to take a single step further – but she didn’t.

She thinks my problem is MENTAL.

It is SO not mental. Mental is what gets me to the end of the mile, far beyond the bounds my body would accept without the slave driver in my brain viciously using the long whip to get those damned mules moving through the mud.

But here’s my problem: Barbara is ALWAYS RIGHT. She’s earned my deepest respect over the last three years. She can see inside my shoes and inside my ponderous belly. She knows which butt muscles I’m using when I don’t even know.

So how can she be wrong about this?

So how can she be RIGHT about this??

This conundrum has so stymied me that I’ve stopped blogging while trying to figure it out. And I still haven’t. So I’m blogging, instead, about not knowing the answer.

I’m sorry. No words of wisdom today. Just me – all undecided.

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This is potentially the least-flattering photo of me in the history of mankind, but it does sort of typify my confusion on the subject – and CLEARLY this blog is not about me being particularly attractive. So… truth in advertising!