Confessions of a 32 Year-old Control Freak (August 19, 2010)

Control freak

Those of you who check-in with my work periodically, or know me personally, may be aware that I am just a wee bit of an exercise fanatic. And by “wee bit” I mean, a complete slave to my physical fitness routines. I can never quite decide if I push myself so hard because I love having an outlet for my considerable energies (and there is definitely something to that), or because I am compelled by my own phobias: weakness, aging, dependency, wasted time and potential. Somewhere in the messy recesses of my mind both schools of thought fight for dominance, but on the days where I feel grumpy, bloated and unmotivated, it’s definitely fear that keeps me going.

In 2010, I made a concerted effort to push myself harder than ever. In registering myself for an 8k race, I set out to try something in which I never fancied an interest: running. Previously believing this activity too boring and repetitive, I never realized how much I’d love it until I took myself outdoors, in the dead of winter. Forget about the bracing cold: I had serious people watching to do. I was also able to stay abreast of the latest developments in my neighborhood, and made a mid-January game of jumping over ice patches and drilling through snow drifts. All I needed was my iPod and 45 minutes. In fact some of my best thinking was often done with red cheeks, a full sweat and the open air.

From January until the end of June, I was the Little Boop that Could: running ever farther, faster and making up new courses for myself in order to sustain my interest. I’d run in the sand at the beach near my apartment. At 5 AM, I’d take a turn past the row of nursing homes on Sheridan Avenue in Rogers Park. The elderly are notoriously early risers, and a great many fascinating conversations were held as I stopped to catch my breath and imbibe a swig of G2.

One fine Saturday morning just as summer had begun, I knew something was terribly wrong. I stepped out of bed to start my day. My usual morning routine of feeding the cat, sweeping the floors and checking in with the New York Times columnists (routines are clearly huge with me) was rudely delayed by an agonizing, hot pain I felt on the underside of my right foot. I was taken aback, but as the discomfort disappeared almost as quickly as it came, I did what I always do when confronted with the possibility of my own physical limitation: I ignored it.

My trainer, the long suffering and loyal Rob, asked me nicely to stop running until we could figure out what was going on. Bah! What does he know anyway? He is only a perfect physical specimen, trainer, and veteran of the Navy’s Search and Rescue Program. I am, after all, invincible. Can’t he see that? So for the ensuing seven weeks, I disregarded every obvious signal that I should slow down on the cardio and see a doctor.

Flash forward to Sunday, August 8th, better known as the day of my 32nd birthday. After wearing insensible shoes to my birthday party the evening before, the bottom of my right foot was on fire – worse than ever. Naturally, I decided that the only thing to do was throw on a pair of flip flops and head out with my friends to a street fest. Four hours later, I could hardly walk or stand. I drew the conclusion that it might finally be time to lay off the running. Ya think?

However due to my lifelong phobia of all things medical (stories of me running from nuns with needles, and ripping IVs out of my arm in the emergency room abound), it was going to take a lot more than lameness to motivate me to seek a doctor’s opinion. This is when a ridiculously patient Rob threw his hands in the air and said, “It’s bigger than me Becky. Get an x-ray.” I wish I were able to include an image of his obvious fatigue and disgust as he uttered these words, with the resignation that can only accompany a long acquaintance with yours truly. To say I am stubborn and bull headed is an insult to the relative pliancy of that animal. Even more unendurable? I am usually not a bit sorry to be so.

When I had exhausted every conceivable option (like wishing with all my might that the injury would heal itself), I finally agreed to go to an urgent care facility after work last Friday. The doctor was very thorough, taking multiple x-rays and asking questions that clearly exposed my complicity in aggravating what was likely a minor issue at the outset.

I have deep tissue tendonitis at the front of my right foot. It is very painful and very debilitating, even though it sounds silly (and feels that way too). I have been prescribed two weeks of anti-inflammatories, with an absolute ban on any avoidable walking or standing. At the end of a fortnight, if all is not much better, then I compelled to undergo an MRI, which will likely reveal a tear requiring surgery.

So off I hobbled for the necessary quiet time to heal and castigate myself for my own stupidity. Eddie graciously offered to pick up slack around the house, and I have a group of wonderfully supportive co-workers who have generously assisted me with a variety of mundane tasks that would otherwise require movement.

Am I grateful for these blessings? Most certainly not. Instead I am angry at myself, ashamed of my dependence on others and well aware that this is a crisis of my own making. I do not even have the grace to trust my husband to manage the household in my stead. The mean part of me worries he’ll just mess everything up that I have worked so hard to keep in order. And forget about setting him loose unsupervised in the grocery store. Instead I had him push the cart while I was holding onto the back of it, feet up on the rails. When you are limping through Whole Foods while wearing a pair of men’s slippers, you tend to stop worrying about your image.

General, we have met the enemy….and it is us.


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