By Marti Zuckrowv
My cat, Alfalfa, is perched on my desk, licking his
plump belly and watching from the window as a squirrel
scampers across the backyard fence. We have an agreement: he stays clear of my keyboard and I tolerate his noisy grooming.
Still in my PJ's, I am savoring my second up of coffee.
Then it's off to ballet class.
Years ago, my first round of returning to ballet after
having two kids, I refused to wear the standard issue
leotards and tights, referring to them as clothes of
bondage. Once again, after being away from ballet for
more than 20 years, I will slip into my lightweight
sweatpants, throw on a T shirt, drive across town and
take my place at the ballet barre.
When I enter the dance studio, I feel as though I step
into a sacred space: A space where concerns of the
outside world cease. My body wakes up, every muscle in
my body is alert, excited, eager to practice the
grueling exercises I must master in order to execute
the most subtle of ballet steps. Ah, but the
musicality of this task, the serenity, the reaching
deep into myself and finding self-expression and
rejoicing in the lift of an arm, or a turn of the
My performance is another story.
Osteoarthritis has not been kind to my body, although
I've managed it very well with exercise. My feet won't
point the way I want them to, my legs won't lift the
way they used to. My balance is off, my turns are
weak, and my jumps barely leave the floor.
At 63 I am blessed to be able to still dance and experience the joy of using my body as a vehicle of
self-expression. I am blessed to be an able-bodied person.
As a personal trainer, I work with several clients who have lost the ability to walk unassisted. They treasure whatever mobility they can hold on to. They work hard at maintaining this level. It is an honor to witness this, to be able to help them help themselves.
So many of us take for granted the fact that we can get around on our own, that we can "do" and "go" when the mood hits us. But what happens when the body fails? Eventually, many of us will have to accept some physical limitation. How will we deal with this?
I'll admit, there are times when I long for the youthful vitality and physical prowess I once had, when I am frustrated by my lack of get up and go, when my mind says "yes" and my body says" no". All it takes is a visit to one of my clients and I'm back on track.
Imagine living with Parkinson's or ALS, or another debilitating disease. Imagine being handicapped by the crippling effects of a stroke. The battle of "body and mind" is your constant companion. The messages from your brain simply cannot fire the muscles needed to walk, stand, avoid falling, drink a glass of water without choking, write your name legibly, tie your shoe, the list goes on and on. Once independent and able bodied you are forced to rely on others for many of your daily needs. How difficult would that be?
I have the great fortune to work with clients who refuse to give up. Regardless of if it's a good day or a bad day for them, they give 150% of their energy to be able to keep on keeping on, no matter what.
I only hope their courage and bravery and determination to enjoy life to the fullest rubs off on me. In the meantime, while I still can, I'll keep
Marti Zuckrowv, a regular columnist for MyStoryLives, comes to us from Oakland, California.