Do or Die

If you're anything like me, year-after-year, you tell yourself, "THIS YEAR I'll get my act together." "THIS YEAR I'll give up the cookies, cocaine and cigarettes." "THIS YEAR I'll exercise at least three times a week. THIS YEAR.,,,

Totally kidding about the cocaine--no interventions please.

But, let's get real. Intrinsic motiviation only goes so far and cookies are delicious. Grand and lofty goals like "get in shape" and "eat right" are seldom realized, and our "failure" to meet them often leads to self-loathing.

THIS YEAR, I'm trying something different, a little-something called "positive reinforcement." Or maybe it should be called "do or die"--I'm not sure yet.

Instead of making promises to go to the gym or jog each morning, I'm planning an adventure. Specifically, I am making plans to join a guided milt-day hike--maybe The W hike through the Patagonian Andes, or possibly a rim-to-rim Grand Canyon hike--that requires me to be in great shape. If I train sufficiently, the hike will be my reward. And, if I don't, well that's the "die" part. 

The point is, I need to be in better shape. My motivation is not vanity, but health-related. I have mechanical scoliosis, and well-toned, strong muscles are key to keeping my back from curving into an "s." The curvature in my spine is the result of breaking my left femur bone in a car accident when I was just ten years old. Instead of being put into a body cast, I had a metal rod attached with pins to the broken bone. Thanks to the stress caused by the impact of the accident, my femur refused to heal and the rod eventually broke. I had another surgery and a new rod inserted, but that one broke too. For the third surgery, the rod was upgraded from stainless steel to titanium and bone from hip was graphed around the break. During one of these surgeries, the doctors cut through a growth plate, stunting the growth of my left leg. I wear a lift on my left shoe to make up the difference, but to this day my left leg is weaker than the right, making my hips and spine uneven.

A few years ago, during a regular check-up, my doctor suggested I have surgery to lengthen my left leg. I left that appointment in tears, and sought a second opinion from a doctor at the Maryland Spine Center in Baltimore. My new doctor's approach suited me much better; her biggest recommendation was to exercise to keep my back and leg muscles strong. And, for the first year after that appointment, I was a fitness manaic. I took pilates and yoga. I walked everywhere and hiked every weekend.

I'm not sure why or how, but after that first year, my dedication to fitness wore off. Not only have I gained about 15 pounds, but also I feel slow, weak and imbalanced. I've had enough of feeling like a sloth--it's time to act.


Music is life

On the dance floor, the smell of baby powder invades my nostrils and coats the floor creating a smooth surface that allows my feet to glide across it with rhythm and grace.  The pounding bass consumes me, relieving my head of all cognizant thought and the vibration from the speakers makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck.  My senses heighten while my consciousness is lost in the flash of pulsating lights against the thin veil of my eyelids.  I feel powerful and alive.

After the breakdown, the beat drops. I stomp into action, letting my feet fall purposefully with the bass. I hop with my right foot to my toes and push off with my left foot. Mid-spin, I catch someone’s eye and for a brief moment, we connect. I do not know if the gaze belongs to a man or woman, a straight or gay person, a white, black, Asian person, and it doesn’t matter. All I can see is the white of his or her teeth. There are few things as reassuring as a smile. We may be different people from different corners of the universe, but in this brief moment, we unite, dancing to the same beat.

If the music stops, I just know the world will cease to spin.