After the Parkinson’s diagnosis, I often lay in bed watching the clock tick past 2:00 am, 3:00 am, 4:00 am, contemplating the cruelty of my life sentence. The disease was targeting my right side, which I’d depended on for years to compensate for the stroke that had weakened the left. I was running out of sides. One morning, I called my friend, Cathy, who was battling her second round of cancer treatments. I asked her how she did it, got through the nights. She said that though there were times that flossing before turning in seemed an exercise in optimism, she did do one thing before she fell asleep.
In the Introduction to Waking, Matthew Sanford writes, “There is a difference between seeking and looking for answers. I am not looking for answers. Rather, I seek to appreciate and believe in my experience.” (p. xi) My New Year’s resolution is to remember to take my calcium supplements. A bit lame, I realize. Perhaps I’ll add to it: Ward off osteoporosis and, instead of looking for answers, seek to embrace my experience.For more on Matthew Sanford’s inspirational story, go to http://www.matthewsanford.com/book.html .
My favorite number since, well, since I can remember having a favorite number, is three. Considering this journey I’m traveling on the eight-fold path of yoga, my head says the new favorite number should be eight. My heart, however, says, No. There is magic in three. When I was in fourth grade, my Uncle Don – also known as My Uncle the Priest – learned of my favorite number. I still remember his big grin. I think he figured I’d been paying attention in religion class to all the aspects of the Church that revolved around the mystical triad, trinity, three. The truth was, most of my attention had been spent on horses. For me, they defined power, focus, fluidity, gentleness. Especially Secretariat. He won the three legs of the Triple Crown, each one with ease. He was the image of strength and beauty and, oh, how I adored that […]
Friends were coming over for a walk in the woods followed by drinks and dinner. It was a wintry afternoon, the air sparkled and the sun was due to set noticeably early. How delightful it would be to return from our ramble and sit in front of the fireplace with a glass of sherry. Except we had no sherry. I dashed out – as much as someone with a movement disorder dashes – to the corner store before our guests arrived. The woman behind the register greeted me with a thick accent, “How are d’you?” “Fine, thank you,” I answered and shuffled down an aisle. I felt her eyes on me, but I was one of only two customers. And my gait isn’t exactly normal.
Parkinson’s Disease & the Art of Moving by John Argue is more than a how-to exercise program. In this pleasant surprise of a book, the author blends an inviting and sometimes humorous style with a solid understanding of the symptoms of the disease. There is a mix of yoga poses, voice training, face exercises and more. With years of theater experience as a teacher and performer, Argue promotes an “artful way of moving and speaking,” much like, he says, that of an actor. There is also a video, which I haven’t yet seen. For additional information, visit http://www.newharbinger.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=162
I used to work with a woman who had three trays on her desk: an inbox, an out box, and one labeled “Too Hard.” The third is where she’d toss customer complaints, twenty-page budget reports – anything that interrupted her work flow. She’d set aside time to tackle what had accumulated there, usually by bracing herself and taking a deep breath first. Turning in bed definitely gets filed in my Too Hard box of daily living. Add to it those times when my medication doesn’t kick in and I’m trying to undo the twist tie on a loaf of bread. Give me strength.
Yoga, one of my teacher training instructors often said, is about radical self-acceptance. Whatever the loss or limitation: self-acceptance. A challenge when that limitation shows and strangers’ eyes register Not Normal as they stare. I’m reminded daily – at the grocery store, doing errands – that one leg doesn’t quite work right, isn’t within the standard. I might rise above it, describe it in a personal ad as “Gimpy but cute,” but my point is . . . no, my points are:
As a crossword puzzle addict, I tend to skip right past the front page of the New York Times to the Arts section, leafing through music and movie reviews until I get to Will Shortz’ grid. I time myself on Monday’s entry – it’s the simplest, most straightforward. As the week progresses, though, there’s a lot more nuance, subtler understandings instead of uncomplicated definitions. By Friday, I’m still working on Thursday’s. I finished a Sunday puzzle. Once. A week later. Seven letters: How the body responds to stress. The Monday answer would be disease.
There’s a nearby farm stand that’s open year round. During the winter months, root vegetables, with the occasional greenhouse lettuce, make up the bulk of the local produce. But, it’s worth the snowy trip for the homemade soups and breads. I’d rounded the corner from the steaming vats of chowders and stews to the bakery aisle when I saw her. Tiny and tottering, she appeared to weigh in at about the same number as her age, somewhere in the nineties. Despite her size, she was blocking access to the bin of fresh rolls. Instead of pushing past her, I waited. And watched. She examined each scone with such focus, holding it close to her glasses, smelling it, smiling, placing it back on the shelf. She was completely absorbed in the yeasty aroma, the texture and weight of each scone. She had no idea I was there.
There are two words that can best describe my biggest challenge, my hurdle of all hurdles, my proverbial Mount Everest: voice lessons. I’m happy when I sing. The people around me, however, aren’t quite as content.