Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Turning out

I've made it half way through a short experiment this summer. It's something I did in part to support my daughter while practicing what I preach in my work. The experiment is adult beginning ballet. I wrote about this on a recent post in a small display of self effacing humor. I'm not a little person. I'm overweight.

I love to cook and eat what I cook. I sit most of the day at a computer or in a car, or watching my kids do their thing. I walk my dog, but 45 minutes won't turn my body back into the high school athlete I once was.

I used to be a runner and a varsity volleyball player. I also danced - vigorously.

I resolved to embrace the body I have, and do something better with it. My legs are thick, my knees arthritic, and varicose veins are popping out so large that I if my right thigh was a map, I'd have the mighty Mississippi River twisting across the front and around to the back of my knee.

Yet once a week, I stuff my body into a very tight pair of tights and a leotard, wrap a long sheer black skirt that makes me look like a tent, and trudge into the studio with the rest of the ladies - none of them larger than a size 6. I'm a 14. If you do the math - I'm twice as big as any of them.

And I don't care.

My friends know that I'm  partial to Converse Chuck Taylor high top sneakers. I know Stacey London would be shocked to know that I wear them almost every day. And if anyone ever thought they should get me on the "What Not to Wear" show - I would tear Stacey's eyes out if she made me toss them. It's not because of a fashion statement. It's because they are the only affordable shoe that offers me the room to fit my orthopedic inserts and support my ankles. Some of my fashion minded girl friends shake their heads when they see my outfits.

And I don't care.

When I was five years old, my mom consulted with a pediatrician about the shoe inserts built into my Buster Browns. They made my shoes look like Frankenstein. I was forced to wear them all the time. Until I started to become self conscious. Then my mother gave up. As a licensed occupational therapist, she tried working with my feet. I used to have to pick up marbles with my toes as a way to raise my arch. My flat feet were caused by really weak ankles. When I stood barefoot, it looked like someone pressed down on my shoulders forcing my ankles to collapse.

I never got into heels. The highest heel I ever bought was 3 inches. I wore them to prom with a tuxedo. That was the year I was in charge of the event, and I knew I'd be running around. As soon as the pictures were taken, I enjoyed the rest of the night in bare feet. After I walked down the isle, my first order of business as a newly minted "Mrs" was to change into white sneakers.

And I didn't care.

In 1995 I had arthroscopic surgery on my left knee. The surgeon did a lateral release of my outside tendon to try to correct my knee caps. They float to the outside when knees are bent. Had I known that I should have done extensive physical therapy before the surgery, things may have gone a little better. A few years later and the knee cap was back to the wrong alignment.

It wasn't until I was 35 years old when I finally understood that the reason my knees were shot is because a lifetime of pronated feet which put my tibia higher than my fibula bones, scraping against the interior of my patella. Most, if not all of the cartilage is gone. I've tried all known treatments. Cortisone shots, synvisc injections, shark cartilage supplements, Advil (to near over dose), ice packs, knee braces.... I now take fish oil and glucosamine chondroitin triple strength. I'm too young for knee replacement surgery. It's still nice to be too young for something.

Inspired by some of my Twitter running friends, I went to a local running store and had a really smart salesperson find me the right shoe. I can even do the "Run Your Butt Off" program without causing debilitating pain.

But the real thing that I think is going to improve the situation is ballet. And I'm glad to say that I really felt it tonight.

Years of bad alignment have tightened my muscles so badly, that I can't turn out my feet wider than 45 degrees from parallel. Plies only go a little way down before knees and hips start grinding. I'm shaky, but I'm doing it.

Tonight, I had a small body awareness breakthrough when the ballet teacher touched the inner thigh muscle that is supposed to work the turnout. I have been working on that muscle with various leg lifts and other physical therapy - but no trainer ever got me to feel that muscle the way I felt it tonight. As soon as I engaged that muscle and concentrated on the tiny new movement, my knee stopped popping and I got a whole new sensational burn in my popo (that would be my derriere). The support from these newly found muscles actually got me up on my toes higher than I've been since I was maybe 3. And I was balanced.  I even managed a line of bourĂ©es across the room without toppling over. The last move of the class was without the barre. I was able to move through all of the positions with feet and arms in such a graceful way that I didn't want to stop. I felt strong. I felt graceful. I felt lovely.

And I cared.

#19 of 90in90 for #LUBlogTribe

1 comment:

  1. Wearing chucks does not give one the air of gracefulness. So even if you are as graceful as Darci Kistler you may not feel it or look it wearing your trademark foot wear. I have never seen you stumble or fall. #justsayin