Saturday, December 8, 2007

It hurts when I go like this

Yesterday I took 75 fourth graders to a production of The Nutcracker. I had to promote it to them as "the show with the 40 ft. Christmas tree and giant rats with swords", or else I feared a mutiny from the posse of boys who I was forcing to trade in their Wranglers for dress pants and a sweater. The kids were pretty good sports about it for the most part, and as we settled into our section of the 3rd balcony I looked back at the attentive faces and was proud of them in that vaguely maternal way that teachers feel when they realize their 50 hours a week of tying shoes and lecturing and smelling like a combination of desperation, glue stick, and stale coffee actually means something. It was going to be a great day.

Apparently, the great day concluded at the intermission. During our 15-minute break, one of our teachers approached me with a sweating, trembling little boy who said vomiting was imminent. I ran to one of the security guards posted around the theatre and asked him if I could take the kid to a sick room or a first aid station to cool him off and get him some water. They said the EMT wasn't available at the moment because another kid from another elementary school had managed to burn his left thigh (?) on a hot water pipe in the ancient bathrooms of this auditorium, but that we could wait until he was available in the lobby. We went downstairs where more security guards proffered folding chairs and a glass of water for my potential puker (we'll call him PP from now on). While he was drinking the water down PP told me upchucking was an imminent possibility so I frantically ran to the nearest trashcan and aimed it near his head. False alarm, so I laid PP down across two chairs and started to put on my winter coat so I could go get him some Gatorade from the bus. A gaggle of elementary school aged ballerinas were walking out of the show with their moms, having already performed their roles in the first act, and one stopped next to me, and kind of half whispered/half shrieked, "Mom, that lady is bleeding ALL OVER THE PLACE." I looked down and realized that a puddle of blood had accumulated on the toe of my high-heeled boot, and there were streaks of red on the folding chairs and the trashcan I had grabbed for PP. I had ignored the dull pain in my hand, thinking I had just pinched a nerve on the handle of the trashcan, but when I flipped over my palm I realized I had somehow made a huge, deep cut across my middle finger, and blood just kept pouring out of the wound while I stared.

At this point the quiet lobby turned into kind a scene from Keystone Kops. The security guards rifled through their bags for band-aids, while another escorted me to the nearest bathroom to clean the blood off me. I refused to stop moving because I didn't think the cut was that bad and I couldn't abide by the idea of some other person cleaning up my mess, so I kept trying to leave to go get paper towels to clean up the trail of red dots I had made across the marble floor of the lobby. When I finally made it into the bathroom to clean off my shoe, I guess the site of all the blood in the sink and all the extra blood that just kept pouring out was kind of too much, and I got a little woozy and had to be told to sit down on the bathroom floor by some society wives and a poor, traumatized little girl whose Nutcracker experience will always be tainted by "the day that woman's finger got cut off and she asked me to bring her paper towels".

Anyway, the rest of the afternoon involved the EMT and me getting PP to the first aid room to lie down, where he proceeded to lie on an ancient gurney-type thing and moan until I told him the ballet was nearly over and it was almost time for lunch, at which point he improved miraculously and decided he was cured. The EMT bandaged up my finger, which had still not stopped splooging out blood, and told me that I probably wouldn't need stitches, but just in case I did would I please sign this form that said the owners of the complex and the old, sharp, disease-ridden trashcan that slashed me open wouldn't have to pay for the stitches or receive any publicity or ever have to look at me and my poor maligned finger again? I took PP back to the ballet, where we had missed all of the second half except the last ten minutes, and I watched the pas de deux while catching the ever dripping blood in my good hand and wiping it on the ball of gauze the EMT had stuck in my purse.

When I got back to school, our nurse ripped off my Sponge Bob band-aid/gauze dressing on my finger and promptly sent me off to get stitches and a tetanus from the workers' compensation clinic in a nearby suburb. Everyone was super nice when I got there, and extremely worried about the ridiculous amount of blood I had lost and my very low blood pressure and thought I was going to flip out and faint when they injected me with the anesthetic in my finger, so four nurses stood at my feet and shoulders and kept encouraging me to breathe. I filed that away as a Scene From What it Might Be Like to Give Birth, except at the end of the procedure I was the proud mother of three stitches, a swollen tetanus shoulder, a giant, gauzy middle finger. and strict orders to take only baths for the next two weeks and to keep my left hand in a Ziploc bag if it's raining or I'm washing dishes.

So far I've found the finger issue very gratifying in terms of getting sympathy and also being able to flip people off to show them the dressing. The only annoying parts are the fact that I can't do all the job stuff I need to be doing a lot of right now...playing piano, playing guitar, typing's even hard to, like, put my hair in a ponytail or put on a pair of pants without restarting the bleeding and swearing like a dockworker from the little jolt of pain. The reason I mention this is because I wanted to address a comment Jarrett left on my last blog, and I had been struggling for a way to make people who wouldn't get it understand. My last post was about a feeling I get sometimes of not feeling "right" on the my body is more slow and sluggish than usual, and that things don't seem to be functioning like they ought to. I wrote how for me, it's such a specific feeling that I can even stand on the scale and tell you to the tenth of a pound, just how abnormal I feel at any given time.

Jarrett wrote this very thoughtful comment in response:

For me, being active is important. I'm a year away from earning my black belt in karate, and I want to work myself up to running a marathon in 2009. Those are my goals. Completing those things will require a lot from me. I don't have some weight goal. I have a fitness goal. I want to be able to do those things. Weight goals just seem so arbitrary and self-defeating.

Why do you want to lose weight? Do you plan on being a model, where your weight - just the raw number - is important? Are you going to lounge on the beach in a way-too-small bikini all summer long?

Do something! Make the weight loss a secondary effect of some bigger goal! Make your life a physical one. And? It's really hard to be depressed after spending an hour at the gym. How can you not feel good after that?

It worked for me. It worked for my wife. I'm not saying it's perfect. Just something to think about.

I read through that comment a couple of times trying to figure out how to respond, because there will always be the 3% of me who sees a question like "Are you only losing weight to wear a bikini?" with a "Yes, please!", even though I know the rest of me thinks that's shallow.

Maybe I didn't explain myself very well in the post before: my impatience and frustration and not feeling great every single day isn't a matter of numbers, or of seeing the scale dutifully knock off a couple of pounds every week. Some days I wish it would, because it's much easier blog-wise to come back every week and report a loss on the scale than to say, "Dear Blogosphere: today my left ankle looks less fat in my work shoes than it did last week. Progress!", but I totally get that the scale isn't a desirable, or even reliable, way of measuring true weight loss.

I think my impatience stems more from the fact that when I feel my body getting icky on the inside again like it did last week, I know that'll be that much more time before I CAN start planning for marathons or more tango classes or black belts. Because, at least for me at 5'1" and just a little under twice what I ought to weigh, my body's just not ready to go out and push for a fitness goal or train for something big and grand that would make the weight loss secondary. I already am exercising, but I don't talk about it because I don't want to jinx it, and I also don't think it's something really worth talking about. I exercise so I can get into a healthy enough state where the exercise is meaningful, and not just recuperative. I have done the training stuff when I was this size before and it ended up in big injuries and setbacks, so right now I know the responsible thing to do is to take it slow, even though it's driving me crazy. Based on previous experience with all this stuff, I know when my body is going to be ready to run again, or dance without being awkward and overtired too soon, but every single time I feel my body getting stubborn and refusing to metabolize like it ought to, or just feeling run down and toxic and lardy, then that's just another day where this has to be a weight loss thing, and not a healthy thing.

It's kind of like my giant ass is the big, gauzy middle finger that screws up the rest of my life.


Shauna said...

Oh erin, i am with you on this one! especially the 'not wanting to jinx it' bit and the healthy enough where exercise is meaningful bit too.

People used to write and tell me I shouldn't focus on weight loss goals, I should find an Event or set fitness goals. But it just took a long while to feel ready for that kind of thing, both the body and the mind.

What a DAY out with the kidlets. Hope your finger is on the mend soon comrade!

Nory Roth said...

DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN!!!! WHEN, OH WHEN, WILL THESE IDIOT PARENTS STOP SENDING THEIR CHILDREN TO SCHOOL SICK??? You KNOW full well that child did NOT feel well when he got on the bus that morning. How totally UNFAIR to you, and to the other 74 students you took on the trip! (Not to even MENTION the HUNDREDS of other people who were exposed to PP's lovely virus.) AAARRRGGGHHH!!! And now you have a lovely battle wound to show for it, which you will carry with you for LIFE!!! Honestly, Erin, I think we should get hazardous duty pay when we take the "petri dishes" out of the building! I am SO sorry this has happened to you!

One bright note: I have taken your advice, and am taking a dose of Airborne EVERY day, and I have not come down with so much as a sniffle since Thanksgiving. I don't care if it's placebo effect or not -- I'll TAKE it!!! I have also started popping Zicam zinc lozenges when my kids have a cold, and that seems to help the throat too!

Anonymous said...

I love the idea behind Jarrett's comment--that if we could just focus on a fitness goal we would forget all about what our bodies actually looked like and one magical morning we would run in that 5K marathon and then look down and realize we already were the fit, athletic, attractive woman we were trying to be. If only it were so easy...

Erin said...

That was one bad day at the ballet! I am sorry you got hurt and I hope your finger is on the mend! I'm sure you are looking forward to your Christmas break from the little germ factories.
You know, you have to be proud of yourself because regardless of how slowly your number is going down, it's going DOWN!!! That in and of itself is a wonderful accomplishment and I applaud you just for keeping at it.
I'm sending my best!