Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Jiving to the Thumpa Thumpa

Some days when when Husbandman is finally out of the house, and E is happily on his way to preschool, I steal away at "my office" (usually a local cafe) and commune with an absurdly strong coffee and my computer. Occasionally, the muses are kind to me and half-way decent writing gets up there on the screen.

Some days, even though I'm still laid up with darn broken leg, I gamely search for employment hoping that the wilds of NJ will start to feel less foreign. This doesn't actually work but I do it anyway.

As I get older, (I'm 46) and tighter and less ambulatory and let's face it, crankier, the one activity that always makes me feel better (I'll save sex for a future blog ) is exercise. I'm now an obsessed member of my local Y and the gym therein.

I was already exercising by the time the leg broke but I had no idea if I could continue any kind of routine while I was healing and officially off my feet. I saw my self getting older faster and fatter and God forbid, crankier, sitting on my ass at home watching way too much HGTV--another inexplicable obsession. Unable to contemplate this future vision of myself, I went to the gym in my wheelchair, in the cast. I presented myself to my Maureen my favorite trainer (who rocks) and I asked, what can I do now?

Maureen brought me to the "weight room" a space filled with muscle-bound bipeds who grunted often and sweated even more.The room was cold and vibrated with 'athumpa thumpa' music. She moved lots of equipment out of the way, anchored the wheelchair on the shiny floor. She put weights with long cables into my hands and said, "Pull this."

I pulled. And I pull again. Soon I was pulling cables from every direction, working up a sweat in my unassuming wheelchair, trying to shoulder press large heavy objects that would kill you if they dropped on your head, and realized afterward that I was feeling a whole lot better because I didn't have time to think about anything else. I was jiving to the thumpa thumpa. Every time I came across an exercise I couldn't do, Maureeen and I and other trainers found ways to do the exercise in a universally user-friendly way. Here's a quick pet peeve: I get really sick of the word 'adapt' or 'adaptive' when referencing pwd's. When will equipment and non-crippy people for that matter, adapt to us?

Who knew that cables and weights could offer hours and hours entertainment and education? Well, I did. But there's a huge difference between thinking about something crankily, and actually doing it. In the evening I tell the soft bellied husbandman that "I had a really good work out today." He looks up from his Time Out magazine and nods vaguely in my direction. He has no idea that when my skinny left leg is finally set free I'm taking it and the rest of this body back to the gym. This time we're hitting the pool.

In Between

I missed myride today--my paratransit ride. I couldn't get out of my house. I mean, I got out my house, I just couldn't close the side door that leads to my fabulous ramp which brings me to the street where the damn bus was waiting. I could n't close the side door because I had the legs rests on the chair and I couldn't lean forward far enough to reach the door knob. I bent down to move the leg rests, but they jammed so I lunged for the door knob, finally reached it and closed the door. Slowly. Slowly enough to give the cat time enough to escape if he'd had his wits about him but luckily cats are nocturnal and for once he was more interested in napping in the basement than in dashing out to the backyard chewing grass and then gamely puking it up.

By the time the door was actually shut and my wheels slid down the ramp the bus was pulling away and I heard myself yelling, "Wait! Wait!" and then Motherf***er! repeatedly to a silent, mostly empty neighbourhood. I heard some construction work going on nearby and I hoped that I 'd yelled loud enough for someone to hear me. There's something oddly satisfying about swearing loudly and with feeling into the suburban miasma.

The paratransit office was hardly interested in my hard luck story and asked if I still wanted my ride back home.

"Yes!" I yelped. Off the phone, I packed my computer and called a cab. I could still get a coupla good hours of writing in before E's return from preschool.

These near misses have been happening a lot lately. I'm moving, but not quite fast enough, my leg is healing but very slowly, I'm writing but it's more of a chore than a joy these days. I have a physical therapist who's telling me to stay off my right leg(the uninjured onme) because of a recent stupid tendon injury, and an orthopedist who's telling me to walk more.

I am whatdoyacallit? Stuck. In "Wait" mode, waiting to get on with things. The mature adult me knows that everything is fine, that I'm lucky for so many reasons, that time will pass quickly whether I want it to or not. Today I'm tired of being in this "In between" stage of my life. Today, I'm impatient, pissed off, restless, would love to get up and get lost in the city, find a lover, a skilled one at that, eat good indian food, surround myself with art and artists and take in the energy of the 8 million heartbeats. That sounds like a good plan for the next several years.
Of course I'd have to come back for Ethan. I can't living without hugging and kissing my boy. I'd take him to the city for his first subway ride. He's been wanting to do that--go on the number 6 train just like the little one he carries in his hand. I'd take him to a museum, stare at some paintings and then we'd go the museum cafe for a snack. My mother and I used to go regularly to museums, stare at some paintings and then take a pastry break. In Ethan's case it would be a chocolate chip cookie break. With cold milk.

If nothing else this "in between" time in my life has givin me time to reflect on where I am in my life and where I want to be. It's no wonder I'm restless With so many people talking at me these days, issuing orders, offering advice I might simply choose to stay perfectly still, not move at all and take the time to read a book today--at least until paratransit comes to bring me home again.

I gotta get out more.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

9/11 Union Square

On September 11th, I was on my way to work, in a cab, late, as usual. I was in the Union Square area about a mile and a half away from the towers. I worked at CIDNY an Independent Living Center in Manhattan. The driver and I noticed the smoke in the sky. By the time I got out of the cab the streets were already thick with people. The first plane had hit. By the time I got to my desk, my co-workers had turned on radios, tv's any kind of communication device we could get our hands on. A group of my co-workers went back out to stand on the corner of University Place. The had a clear view of the the towers as they went down. I watched people crying and spinning in circles in Union Square. They were talking to themselves and holding on strangers. All at once, my co-workers, my supervisors and I began to grasp the enormity of what had happened. At that moment, our lives changed, and so did our jobs, We all had the same job: We pulled out our lists of clients, huge lists, and called everyone on those lists. There were and still are many PWD's living in lower Manhattan and Battery Park City, because many of the neighbourhoods are accessible with disability-friendly housing. We made it our business to FIND people. Sometimes it took weeks to track people down and we'd celebrate when they called us. Many were trapped in there apartments because of dust and debris. We made sure they had their meds, their equipment, shelter, food and whatever else they needed to survive and keep going. I always knew I was part of a community of people with disabilities, but nowI felt it and saw it all around me. I lived in Lower Manhattan too--about a mile and half from my office and two miles from the towers. That afternoon the only way I could get home was to walk. I walked slowly with a group of my co-workers. We dealt with the crowds, heat, confusion and that burning smell. For the next couple of days we camped out at my apartment together as we figured out how to get everybody home. I was grateful to be able to offer my home, to take care of people whom I loved and respected. It felt like the only possible response to the chaos. The burning smell lingered for a solid year. With or without a mask it was always there. I'd walk around my beloved New York City visiting people with disabilities in hotels and shelters. I'd think about fire and bone and melting metal and file cabinets, paper clips, suit jackets, and wedding rings. I think about the people with disabilities who were told to stay where they were and wait.I think about the pwd's who chose not to wait. I think about three thousand souls rising.