Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

5:35 am, October 1st: It’s getting slightly cooler in the mornings now, so my pre-dawn walks aren’t plagued by the same heat I experienced through the summer.  There are few cars on the road at this hour, even on my busy street, although I can hear them on the freeway below.  My knees, with their faulty ligaments, rarely pain me anymore.  As I walk down the front step of my apartment building, I take a deep breath of moist autumn air.  My legs swing freely beneath my hips as I step out, my head balanced easily on top of my spine.  And the crazy thought hits me: I want to run.

~

I still dream about my childhood body.  The gymnast who could flip through the air, stretch into a perfect split, who had, if not perfect mastery of her body, (I was mediocre by competitive standards), at least far more than that of the average human being.  In my dreams, my body is the way it was when I was eleven.  Graceful, and boundless.

At twelve, my knees started aching.  Then my back.

At thirteen, I quit gymnastics.  At fourteen, cross country running.  At fifteen, ballet.  At seventeen, I had an orthopedic surgeon (although he confirmed that there was no surgery that could help me) as well as a physical therapist, who immediately recognized that the weakness in my knees was also present in my right hip.

The pain in my hip wouldn’t show up for a couple of years.  The ankles started shortly thereafter.

I abandoned my body to itself.  I attempted to become a cerebral being.  I read and wrote, hunched over a table or desk.  I developed round shoulders and myopia.

But at night, I still dreamed that I could dance.

On January 16, 2010, I got married.  That spring, we radically changed our eating habits.  The pain in my joints became less frequent.  I started waking up early to walk in the mornings before work.  After a while, my half-hour walks became almost completely devoid of joint pain.  I walked faster.  I walked longer.  I felt alive.

And yet.  There was something missing.

~

I run! One step, then another.  Powerful.  Graceful.  Boundless.  For half a block, before I remember something else about running: pacing.  After a decade of relative inactivity, I develop a horrible stitch in my side and nearly fall over from a completely different kind of pain.  I stop, holding my gut in a state between bliss and disbelief.  After a few minutes, I begin again at a marathoner’s shuffle, and make it another block before slowing to a walk.  I am not eleven.  I am no gymnast.  But I am, against all medical prediction, somehow able to run for a moment as though I were.

And a moment is all I need to remind myself what it means to be alive.

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