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You know how life likes to throw curveballs? And, how sometimes those curveballs are really fully ripened spiked durian fruits? And, those durians are being shot out of a rapid firing high velocity canon directly at the peace and tranquility of your delightfully comfortable life? And, your only shield is a pair of cheap sunglasses and a gobsmacked look on your face?
2015 was the year of the durian curveball. I think it’s worth reviewing some of these for the purposes of being grateful things weren’t worse and to take time to make fun of it all since everything in hindsight can be laughed at. Right? Right.
That time when I hurt my back and said it was a post pregnancy issue.
I was riding high on the Gainz Train in Small Group Training when the unexpected happened: I hurt myself. For someone with such a highly developed sense of self preservation it seemed unlikely that I would ever be able to do that, but there it was. I hit a box jump wrong and now my low back was right and thoroughly effed. After roughly a week of trying to resolve the matter myself using liver-shriveling doses of ibuprofen and ice packs I went to a chiropractor.
Dr Chiropractor very cheerfully tried to fold me neatly into thirds, then into a concertina and then into a pentagram. When he was unsuccessful he cheerfully went after me with a pronged electric hammer of some kind, stuttering it across my hip flexors, striking a series of previously unknown verbal triggers that caused me to spontaneously lash out in a sort of situational Tourettes. While we gained perhaps a brief increase in range of motion it was offset by the spectacular pain that entombed me from floating ribs to lower ass cheeks. Finally, Dr Chiropractor rubbed his chin and said something profound.
“Your psoas won’t release,” he said, smiling.
“CRAP! BALLS! *grimace* What, like it’s holding a grudge? SACK! SACK! SACK! *grimace* Or, it’s spasming like a toddler tossed into a shallow pool full of YooHoo and M&Ms? FUUUUUUUUUUDGECICLE ICE POP!!!” I replied through gritted teeth. Here Dr Chiropractor stands up and points at one of many professional diagrams of the human body.
“This is your psoas,” he smiles, pointing. I nod even though I can’t really focus my eyes. “Normally it’s like this,” he laces his fingers together somewhat loosely indicating a supportive, though flexible muscle. “Right now yours is like this,” he smashes his hands together into an angry fist. This gives me my first visual queue explaining the source of the relentless, blinding discomfort.
“SSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIIIII-TUH!” I said, grimacing. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. How do we get it to unfist? YOW WOW OW COW!”
“Well, I think your L5/S1 is putting pressure on a nerve cluster and your psoas is taking a defensive response. But, to be sure we need to get an MRI to make sure it’s not bulged disc before we start any adjustments.”
Bulged disc. Bulged disc? How would a fairly healthy, if not slightly overweight, woman in her late 30s come across a bulged disc, you ask? Well, as it happens, the gift of childbirth is a gift that, for some, can give well past the third trimester into an infinite timeframe of bodily adjustments known hereafter as the fourth trimester. I was in my 4th year of the fourth trimester and the consequences of my second pregnancy were still being discovered, much like one discovers a new dinosaur skeleton: Slowly, over the course of many years using a hand brush to whisk away layers of sediment (aka adipose) to reveal the skeleton trapped in rock (aka years of relative inactivity).
Flash forward two more weeks. A five day taper of steroids got the psoas relaxed (and suspended all weight loss for 6 months), a change in diet, an MRI that I slept through, and orthopedic spinal surgeon consult yielded that not only was my disc not bulged, there were no other points of concern in the MRI to suggest anything other than a thoroughly pissed off L5/S1. Add to this several more firing squad sessions with Dr Chiropractor and his pronged hand gun and I was ready to slowly get back to working out. My coaches set the tone for my 2015 with one simple gesture: generosity. My small group coach came up with 4 months of progressive rehab programming to rebuild my midline and stabilize the back. My regular class coach and gym owner suspended my regular membership saving me several hundred dollars until I could re-enter general population again. I wasn’t going to waste this precious opportunity so I worked out within the bounds of the programming and let me tell you, I was frankly shocked that such simple moves could yield such remarkable feedback.
All I could think about when at the gym was getting back to Dr Chiropractor and his remarkable collapsing table. When I was at the chiropractor I was thinking about getting back to the gym to keep moving forward, even if it meant routine visits with the Airdyne.
I’ll never ever forget retesting the WOD that I hurt myself on: an 8 minute AMRAP of ascending reps of power snatch and box jumps. I have never experienced true heart pounding driven fear over an inanimate object like I felt jumping on that box. Even now my relationship with the box is completely dysfunctional. But I did it! And that four months was a complete blur. It was now early May and second high velocity durian had been fired as was due to make landfall shortly.
That time my husband came home and said he accepted a new job. In New York.
There are conversations that fall under the category of “necessary but uncomfortable” and then there are others that fall under the category of “Oh, I thought you were kidding.” The New York job conversation was of the latter sort. When he first told me about the company’s interest I blew it off as a “Haha, good luck getting us out of Texas you godless yankees!” I hadn’t anticipated on the job being both interesting and profitable. Leaving Texas had never been part of my 2015 Consideration Paradigm, but that’s the funny thing about paradigms. They tend to shift. I didn’t say it was funny “haha”.
As a stay at home professional domesticateer I have taken the approach that if my man is happy then the family is happy, especially given that the lion’s share of sacrifices are born on his shoulders. When he came home and said, “I’ve accepted the job. We are moving to New York. What do you think about that?” I admit I felt deflated like a mylar balloon in a cold car, but what I said was, “We are the barnacles on your career boat and we will happily motor into new waters with you.” And, I wasn’t lying. But, seriously, wow. We were leaving Texas and that made me inexpressibly sad.
Also, it’s worth pointing out that happy Texans hardly see the offer of, “You can visit me in New York! We can go see the city!” as an actual enticement. They have the whole state of Texas, for chrissake. Why do they need to see an overpopulated urban jungle that lacks queso and relies on public transportation? Only one person was honest with their reply: Coach Gene.
Gene: Where are you moving?
Me: New York.
Me: Matthew’s income is pivotal for our survival.
Gene: How are you going to live in such a tiny fucking state?
Me: It’s not that tiny. It has the Adirondacks. Plus, you could come visit me. We could go see the city!
In the distance I could almost hear the next durian being shot.
That time I had to get the house ready to be put on the market by myself.
Matthew left to start his new job on Mother’s Day weekend. I was busy trying to follow the guidelines for the Mystical Voodoo of House Staging in hopes of making our house marketable and appealing. As if by some dark magic our kid-assaulted and glitter-infused furniture would look less crappy if I took all the family pictures off the wall and had the front door refinished. In one of the most brilliant Mother’s Day coups of all time my selfless friends, Chuck, Ally, and Matt poured into my home and knocked out a laundry list of niggling little repairs. You know, those kinds of repairs that if we were still living in the house would probably still be undone, but because we were selling it I was 100% sure that someone looking at the house would notice the uneven nature of the seal on the shower door, or the slightly wiggly door knob. That kind of stuff. The biggest thing was our front door faced full west (which turned out to be a whole other issue) and the wear of heat, humidity, and sun had done a number on the finish. Chuck, selfless, giving, caring Chuck sanded and refinished the front door. This wasn’t no average 8 foot door, no it was a tall 10′ solid wood door positioned in full sun in May, which was high 90s, he stood there, enduring the heat and misery and refinished that door. That will live in my memory as one of the most giving gestures I’ve ever personally experienced.
By whatever skin on my teeth was left we made our listing deadline, only to have our listing pictures get taken on a dreary, rainy day. And, everybody knows that dreary rainy pictures make shitty furniture look exponentially more shitty. But there was nothing else to be done.
POW! Next durian!
That time I had to keep a house in show-ready condition with two kids still living in it.
This is a particular brand of hell on earth. How do you scold your children for living in their own house? It’s very difficult to do it and still make sense. How do you keep the yard in pristine manicured condition while wondering what kind of Armageddon is taking place inside? You put on headphones and pretend that the laws of nature and entropy don’t apply to you. How do you feed your children healthy nutritious meals when you don’t want to smudge up the cooktop? You don’t. You feed them a strict diet of Lunchables and Sonic until they plaintively ask when they’ll be getting some grapes and scrambled eggs. How do you not start panicking when it seems like all the houses around you are selling in one day and yours has been on the market for two weeks? You make yourself a boil on your realtor’s ass until her only option is to drive by several times a day and throw Starbucks at you as a defensive gesture. How do you survive imbecilic ideas like backyard renovations mere days before leaving for NY? You start bawling in front of one of your friends like a blubbering sack of sad and they offer to help finish the work. How do you deal with a giant black mulch fart stain all over the driveway? You ask your friend’s husband if you can borrow his power washer only to find out he’d rather do it himself because it’s “relaxing”. How do you manage a moving company coming in and packing your entire world up into boxes loosely labeled “upstairs” and “downstairs” and “garage”? You send your children to the neighbor’s house and dart uselessly from room to room laughing nervously and trying not to chew your lower lip off from unfiltered anxiety. How do you handle the moving company driving up two massive trucks and playing tetris with all your worldly possessions? You sit in a lawn chair destined for the garbage and slam Topo Chicos singing Talking Head’s Once In A Lifetime. How do you handle that your house still hasn’t received an offer but it’s time to go? You walk through each room making sure no lights are on, choke back excitement and terror, and go. Bye, house!
That time I thought it’d be just as easy to drive to New York as fly and have the car shipped.
No one said I was good at ideas. I’ve never claimed to be, so no one could point any fingers and say otherwise. So, plotting a five day route from Texas to New York was fully in keeping with my talents of poor consideration. We got to New York unscathed and my Texas bestie and co-pilot was still friends with me.
That time my last link to Texas flew home and I realized I had just moved to New York.
Now there’s a feeling. She gets in the car and drives to the airport and I go back inside and ugly cry. There are trees and squirrels everywhere. Nobody makes eye contact here. It’s barely in the high 80s and everyone is acting like they’re living on the surface of the sun. My children want to go out and have fun and I have no idea where to take them. We are up to our eyeballs in boxes and need unpacking. So, we started with the basics by finding to the grocery store which was a woeful uruk-hai breeding pit of Isengard compared to the ethereal elvish kingdom of all which is good known as H-E-B. Salsa aisle? Nope. BBQ aisle? Ha! Breathtaking stacks of meat? Not quite. What are rainbow cookies? Oh Lawd, what the hell is espresso soda? OMG!! THERE’S NO TOPO CHICO!! Add to that my grocery cart wheels were so gummed up with hair, bitterness, and broken spirits that it was incapable of making right turns, so my children and I circled the store making only left turns until it was time to give up and leave.
Next we tried out the neighborhood pool but found it was guarded by a little old Italian man whose only goal was to preserve the quiet, peaceful, non-kid aspect of the pool. After a testy inquisition related to where we lived in the neighborhood specifically, and did we know the people who lived there before, and were we renting, and what did our landlords say about pool access he let us across the threshold. My kids have only known our neighborhood pool in Texas which was a roiling octagon of children, families, and good times. They grabbed their pool rings and jumped into the pool. LOIM (Little old Italian man) jumped up and declared there was to be no jumping. Next, they got out some diving toys. LOIM jumped up and declared there was to be no toys at the pool. They played and splashed around and LOIM was insistent that they stop that immediately because it was getting the pool deck wet. For serious. LOIM was very frustrated with us and directed me to the list of rules that were posted on the clubhouse door – no less than 40 rules printed on a single 8×10 piece of paper using a small ass font. Now, at that moment I came to a crossroads: Do I let mama bear out and maul the LOIM for being the physical manifest of every preconceived douchey notion of what a New Yorker is? Or, do I let it go and make a point of only going to the pool when he’s not there? Choosing the latter, and most likely staving off potential assault charges, we took significant precautions to only go to the pool during the hours LOIM was off duty, which weren’t many.
Then there was that whole debacle related to trying to get my NY driver’s license and vehicle registration. Four trips to the DMV and spinning the malevolent Roulette Wheel of Arbitrary Requirements to get it done. Four trips. Four. The third trip was when I was supposed to get my driver’s license, but they decided I needed to get my marriage certificate to prove the link between my birth certificate name and my social security card name. Standing there, looking at the DMV worker I realized we were both completely drained of hope. I had already been there for close to two hours, stood in three separate lines, produced enough proof of identity that even I didn’t want to be me anymore and they wanted one more thing.
“You’re serious?” I whispered, closing my eyes.
“We have to be able to prove you are who you say you are,” She replied flatly.
“That will mean I have to come back here a fourth time,” I pointed out, the will to live leaking out of my pores.
“A fourth time? You’ve been here three times for this task alone?” She asked, her eyebrows arching ever so slightly to indicate an unexpected emotional response.
“This is my third trip. To try to get a driver’s license. Because I fucking live here now,” My voice stayed calmed as I pressed the palms of my hands into my eyes to keep them from bulging out of my skull from the pressure of repressed rage.
“Well, let me see what I can do,” She said, turning around, causing the entire line behind me to audibly groan. She whispered to someone standing in a corner wearing a sweater vest who looked at me, looked at the papers, looked at me, shuffled the papers, said something quietly to the lady, looked at me and flipped through the papers some more, looked at me again and hit my papers with a random stamp and handed them back.
“Here,” said the DMV lady, with the barest hint of a smile, “Take these to that line over there to get this finalized. Four trips is too many.” What a relief to know that even the DMV had limits as to how far they’d torture the population. Off to the line I went, finalizing my driver’s license process. A fourth trip was still required to get the vehicles registered appropriately, but at least the massive hurtle related to initially getting into the system was, y’know, hurtled.
It was after this series of activities that it occurred to me that it was going to be my job to give my kids a good experience and that this good experience wasn’t going to plop out of the sky like bird shit on an unsuspecting beach goer. So, we shifted gears. We went to the Natural History Museum in the big city!
We rode a ferry and went to the north shore of Long Island!
We went to the south shore beach in Long Island!
We painted extensive works of art on the backyard table!
We went hiking in our new town!
We visited historical farms and pumpkin patches, and found wild raspberries growing behind our new house.
Next durian, please
That time I found out my 4yo was expected to attend Kindergarten in the fall.
Oh hell no. She needed another year of preschool! She was my baby! They wanted me to send my tiny little 4yo to big bad kindergarten? Oh, the emotional turmoil and paperwork that came with this decision. Nothing like choosing your pediatrician based on appointment availability, amiright? Of all the strange and unexpected things that had happened, this was one thing that got the most mental anguish when, in fact, it wasn’t necessary. Granted, she’s led Beelzebub’s dark army on a rampage of poor choices, including grifting at lunchtime and a brazen B&E on a classmate’s backpack, but mostly she’s met the challenge with fortitude and determination. She thrives, and continues to do so. And, if it wasn’t for her in school I wouldn’t have met a couple of truly awesome women! So, yeah, that durian didn’t turn out to stink so bad!
Final durian of 2015!
That time I found a new Crossfit home that was different than the one I thought it was going to be.
Kids were in school. Husband was a work. House was unpacked. I was getting fatter, and I could feel the vestiges of anxiety starting to take root again. Now the decision matrix became whether or not I was going to go back to working out or start exploring the depths of ice cream sammich varieties and pharmacological solutions for anxiety. I stopped by Crossfit Mount Kisco and was greeted by a clip board toting young lady more concerned with optimizing her cleavage than either coaching her crew or answering any of my questions. So enraptured was she with her top and how much mileage she was going to show of her boob connection superhighway that I was almost compelled to offer suggestions, but instead I left feeling not terribly impressed. I tried again a week later with even less luck getting information. I assumed Crossfit Bedford Hills would end up being my workout home, so I toddled myself over to Crossfit Bedford Hills. They were very very friendly, charged me $20, and then made me do terrible things.
That went about as well as could be expected.
But Crossfit Mount Kisco was just so darn close I couldn’t give up on the idea. So I checked in again and met Coach Phil. Class was running like a machine, everyone was giving it their all, and Phil was holding an athlete’s baby so she could workout with full peace of mind. Phil was very friendly, charged me $0, and then made me do terrible things.
I remember thinking that first week how fit, fast, and happy everyone was. In that trifecta I was at least happy, so I figured this must be the place to be to become fit and fast. This was a case where first impressions were so entirely overwhelmed with first experience and that durian sailed over the fence and landed somewhere entirely untroubling. Crossfit Mount Kisco was home and that has turned out to be an unquestionably awesome decision. They
accept tolerate me with greater aplomb than is probably warranted.
2015 seemed to fly by as I dodged durians. I found myself wishing for the end game, for when the situation would rectify or be different. I lived 2015 always on the hope of tomorrow and not so much with the appreciation of today. I can’t promise 2016 will be much different, but since we’ve made some very nice friends, found a gym packed with amazeballs, found our routine, discovered Fresh Direct grocery delivery service, have proper coats, and have each other my goal is that I’ll be more cognizant about being in the now, as it were. Appreciating each day’s gifts, even when they are smelly and wilted. Even when things are unexpected and frustrated, crazy and coming off the rails our little family laughs more than it doesn’t and for that I’m very grateful. Our first full year of living in New York will be great and I fully intend to do as Weird Al advises: Grab life by the lips and YANK!
Giddy up, y’all.