I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The state of my state

The bridge at Whatcom Falls
Here I am again, sitting in the dark in my bedroom, drinking tea and pondering what in the world I will write about this morning. I took that picture on one of my walks with the ladies on Saturday morning. It was miserably cold yesterday, but still more than a dozen of us showed up to walk together, since it's a wonderful way to begin the weekend and have coffee with friends afterwards. We only waited a few minutes for latecomers to arrive, because we knew that once we began to move in the cold we would warm up. It was in the mid-twenties (-4C) and my hands were frozen, even with heavy gloves. Yesterday's walk was on trails that would take us up some elevation quickly, and I knew that by the time I had gone a mile, I would be warm. But what a hard mile that was! My toes finally warmed, but my hands took quite awhile.

But then, suddenly, I realized that I was no longer cold anywhere and was toasty warm inside and out. My metabolism had been revved up by the walk, and for the rest of the outing I chatted with friends and enjoyed myself. We covered more than five miles before returning to our starting place. Cindy (the leader of the group) lives nearby and knows the trails intimately. Several of us commented that we had no idea where we were during much of the walk, although it's one of our usual ones. I've gone to the same area by myself and can never figure out the maze of trails and usually just stay on the ones I know so I won't get lost. My skill as a route finder is extremely low, which is one reason I like to have someone else lead me.

I feel very grateful that I am still able to walk briskly and hike every Thursday. My classes at the gym are simply habits to me now; they don't push me at all, but I need them to raise my spirits and give my day some structure. I'm sure that most of the people whom I see at the bus stop every day at 7:30am have no idea that I am actually going downtown for exercise and not going to work, as they are. I see the same people every day during the week, and I know those who go to the university by their absence when school is closed. It's a habit I cherish, and I will continue as long as my body holds up.

That's just it. After having read the book I mentioned last week, I realize that I need to appreciate every single day that I have the ability to continue my activities. Yesterday I woke with a pain in my back that defies by ability to ignore it. I get these every once in awhile, but this one, located between my shoulder blades, hurts like the dickens when I turn my head sharply to the right. Ouch! It's still there, today, a little better, but I never know when something will not get better. My knee that I hurt last year has gradually, a little at a time, gotten less painful, and now I don't need the brace all the time. It's returned to its pre-injury condition.

A couple of months ago I started getting a pain in the back of my right heel, with a hard lump right under the surface. It's worse after a hard Thursday hike, so I thought maybe it's my boots and got another pair to alternate them. I looked online and the symptoms fit something called "Haglund's Deformity," which is caused by irritation and will get better if you wear soft shoes. Well, there was no way I was going to be able to hike in those, so I just kept on treating it with ice afterwards and taking ibuprofen. It's gotten better, but it's still there and usually a bit on the sore side on Friday. It doesn't hurt at all in the soft running shoes I wear for the walks around town. It's progressing in the direction I want it to go: away.

All this is a prelude to my biggest dilemma of all: whether I have actually made my last skydive or not. Since October was a pretty wet and dismal month around here, I was only able to make it out to the Drop Zone once, and now the season is over. My gear will be out of date at the end of this month, and I have to make a decision about whether or not to get it inspected and repacked or not. I simply cannot reconcile myself to never ever having another chance to get under my wonderful canopy and fly it around in the sky. But now that my knee is better, should I take the chance of hurting it again on landing? Not to mention all the other parts of my body that are wearing out. You don't have to be an athlete to skydive, but it sure helps to be in good shape and able to recover from the inevitable bumps and bruises that one gets from the activity.

When I was in my fifties and sixties, I would make as many as a dozen skydives on the weekend, most of them teaching students and having someone else pack up my chute for me. But now I'm past that, no longer teaching, only jumping for the fun of it. And it's definitely true that it takes me much longer to recover from things these days. I'm almost positive I'll take my rig to the Drop Zone and get it ready to skydive, whether I use it or not. I've got to stop sometime, and it was so much easier to think of that last jump as being somewhere in the future, rather than having already done it. The whole activity occupied such a huge part of my life for so long, it's hard to consider myself finished.

Not to mention I have Facebook friends who are busy encouraging me to sign up for the SOS (Skydivers Over Sixty) women's record attempts in southern California that will be held in April. And I find myself considering it. That's where I hurt my knee in the first place, but I went back again and made another dozen skydives there, wearing a brace, and it didn't hurt it at all. Decisions, decisions! I know some of my followers are probably smiling right now, thinking "I told you so," and they were right. I will let you know what happens, but for now it's a moot point. I'm done for the season and will need to make that decision in the spring, not before.

Sitting here and writing on my laptop, I can feel various aches and pains reminding me that I am an elder, no longer a spring chicken but an old bird, probably not even fit for the soup pot. But even old birds like to feel the wind beneath their wings, lifting them up, up into the air. As long as they work, shouldn't one flex one's wings?


June said...

Add this to your cogitations on whether or not to continue skydiving:

Anonymous said...

You are the extreme opposite of me. Lol. I hate to exercise. Of course, I do housework and a little walking up and down the street, but not so much that I break into a sweat.
David keeps encouraging me to go shopping with him, because that is a painless way to exercise. Maybe, I'll do that.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Oh I can hear California calling you...go..go..as long as you can go and want to go you should!
I think you should do a final dive sometime maybe with all your friends and then have wine upon landing...maybe that one will be the final one:)

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

It sounds like you really want to go. It can't be easy to give up something that is not only fun but also a big part of your identity. Sometimes we need a new challenge or passion to replace what we're leaving behind. For what it's worth, along with your other pursuits you're a pretty awesome photographer. Just an idea.

Elephant's Child said...

Your decision - but it sounds as if getting your gear packed and ready is a great idea. It would be heart-breaking to decide you really, really wanted just one more jump and couldn't because of your gear.

Arkansas Patti said...

Elephant's Child took the words right out of my mouth. Be ready and make the decision when it is time. You will know.
I was going to remind you of the Hot Hands to slip in your gloves on cold days. I'd still take them and when you warm up, just slip them in your pocket. I have one cooking in my pouch right now as my hands are cold a lot.

Friko said...

Yes, I’m sitting here smiling but not to say I told you so but at the way you repeat the question’ will I won’t I’ endlessly in your mind and always come down on ‘I will’.

Carry on until they carry you off the field or until they forcibly strap you down and physically prevent you from going up again. You know you will anyway.

And why not. You’re a fit old bird, not even near ready for the pot.

Could your heel be plantar fasciitis? That’s really painful and takes a while to disappear. But you can wear inserts for it.

The Furry Gnome said...

Well good luck finding that balance between carrying on and letting go. You've done well already!

Red said...

I like the metaphor you use in the conclusion about the old bird.
Our whole body ages gradually. All parts deteriorate at more or less the same rate. I'm not trying to be funny,but do you ever worry about getting up? Seriously! I find it harder and harder to get up. I'm aware of it but I don't let it bother .

Linda Reeder said...

I am not surprised that you are still considering jumping. You had more jumps planned this season, and then it just fizzled out. That's no way to end something.

Linda Myers said...

I should have known you'd pack the gear for another year! You rock!

#1Nana said...

Isn't it great being a grown up! You can make any decision you want, when you want to. It's your choice...and I'm resisting telling you what I think you should do!

I just want you healthy to join us again next year in Vashon.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I would say, yes, as long as they work, one should flex one’s wings. I am not a doctor, however, so don’t put too much into my recommendation. I feel much more confident in saying this: you are still doing just fine when it comes to sorting things out and making informed decisions about how to proceed. Now, please correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t skydiving share at least one thing with all other kinds of physical activity … risk of injury. It just seems that now you’re in that gray area (no, not your hair, ha ha) where the risk is starting to outweigh the reward. Didn’t I hear that one of our former US Presidents did a dive on his 90th birthday? Now, if I could put myself in your shoes for a moment, here is what I would do … I would get the gear refreshed and repacked and be ready to head to California next spring. I wouldn’t have to decide one way or another right now and, when the time comes, if all seems right, I would book a trip to California for SOS. Now, one more thing … How about last week? Wow, a full week of sunny, but cold weather! Unheard of for this time of year here in our Pacific Northwest. Have a fine week ahead and thank you for your comments on my blog. John

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Go take that dive!

troutbirder said...

I just read your what matters to me post and it touched me deeply. It spoke to my similar attitude about loss past present and future. Having lost my eldest son to suicide from the effects of bi-polar, my second son is now dealing with epilepsy and a spouse with Alzheimer's.

The Broad said...

I do believe you will know when the time is right for you to stop. It sounds to me as if you are just not 'ready' yet. I am trying to get myself into the frame of mind to go to the gym again -- after many many years. You've got to love your body to keep it going!