This weekend I have read the journals of two women that deal with constant pain. The journals were very different, but very similar. The exhaustion seeped into the words of both women. I didn't read of any immediate promise for the eradication of the pain, but I did read about women that live above what their bodies have been dealt. I saw women that have hope and love. I saw women that smile in the face of adversity.
Today I am sapped with the pain myself. Pain makes me introspective. I pull away from the reality of what my body is doing at the moment. I try to dwell on the things that I was told I would 'never' be able to do; things that I did despite the naysayers. Thoughts of things that I did to contradict the doctors always puts a smile on my face.
I have a sister that is four years younger then me. When we were teenagers there was a roller skating rink on the boardwalk. My sister took to roller skating like she had been born with wheels on the bottom of her feet. It was a natural progression that she take roller skating dance lessons. She was talented so she immediately attracted a partner. They had lessons several times a week. Add to that her desire to go skating every time the rink was open and a large portion of the week was spent at the roller rink. I loved watching her skate. I loved watching the freedom that I was certain she felt while she floated along on her wheels. So I wasn't the least upset when my mother decided that I would accompany my sister when she went to the rink. The rink was right on the ocean. If you looked out of a window you could see the surf slamming against the rocks below. It was a fun place to accompany a younger sister.
The rink had a balcony and I would sit up there and fantasize about being in my sisters shoes. I'd wonder what it felt like to have the wood floor slip under your feet. What did it feel like to have a partner pick you up, fly you through the air, and land you on your skates, all the while moving to the beat of the music coming from the bandstand. What did it feel like to move the skates fast and have the air part as you flew through the room. I was curious, I was envious, and I was happy sitting in the balcony watching my sister.
One evening, as I sat with my mother watching my sister float around the rink, I said, "I wish I could skate". My mother's response was, "Well, ask the doctor if he thinks it would be alright for you to take a few lessons." So on my next visit to the doctor I did just that.
"Skating lessons, are you crazy! That would be one of the worst things in the world for you to try. You could fall and break one of your legs. No! No! No! You can't even consider it." The doctor was emphatic.
The roller rink was owned by a star of the roller derby. Does anybody still remember the roller derby. I used to love that too. My mother never met a stranger, so naturally she had gotten acquainted with the roller derby star. During one of her chats with him she told him how curious I was about the feel of the movement of the skates. She also told him what the doctor had said. He listened, sympathized, and smiled at me. "I could try to teach her," he said.
I was sixteen. I was overjoyed. I also had heard the doctor say "you can't' and it was as if he had thrown down a dare. I begged my mother to consider his offer. It took her a week, and his promise that he would do his damnest to try to protect me from a dangerous fall, before she relented.
And so we made a date for my first lesson, or attempt at a lesson. I don't have an ankle on my right leg. Remember I told the story about having the ankle removed and a large staple put in it's place. So I was going to have skating lessons without the ability to move an ankle. Harder things had been learned, I was certain.
I wear two different sized shoes so it was a bit of a problem getting the proper skates on my feet, but that got accomplished and I was ready for the actual movement. My roller derby star instructor put his arms around me and helped me onto the actual skating area. He held me very tightly and talked to me as he helped me move. I held on to him very tightly too, but I was actually standing on a pair of skates and I was elated. As we started to move I can remember thinking, "I'm doing it, I'm doing it. I'm actually on skates. I'm actually moving on skates.' I kept my legs stiff and he propelled me forward very slowly. We were about half way around the rink when I tried to move my legs all by myself. The ankle that didn't exist stayed where it was while the rest of my body moved forward. He tried very hard to keep me on my feet, but the motion had been set and I splatterd all over the floor. My mother was on her feet instantly. I knew that because I looked over at her at the moment of impact. I laid there and moaned and groaned. It hurt like hell! My mother and the instructor both bent over me with guilt and worry on their faces. "Oh my God, Penny where are you hurt," my mother kept asking.
"My hip hurts, mom. It's my hip," I groaned. I could see that the instructor and my mother were about ready to call for emergency help so I reached into the back pocket of my pants. "This is the reason that I am groaning," I showed them. I had forgotten to take the lipstick tube out of my back pocket and that is the exact spot that I had fallen on. A tube of pink lipstick had ended my lesson!
That fall convinced my mother that her heart couldn't stand another one and it was decided that I should concentrate on something other then learning to roller skate; maybe read a book while sitting on the opposite hip. I had really given myself a beautiful bruise and sitting was a bit uncomfortable for awhile. But I had done it. I had experienced the feeling of standing on a pair of wheels. I had felt the floor move underneath my feet. I had tried something the doctor had said I couldn't do. Bruise or no I was happy!
And that feeling is what I have used all weekend to make the pain seem unreal. The feel of those skates under my feet is what I have thought as the real feeling.