Thursday, January 29, 2009

no more ms. tough guy

1. my weightlifting career is in serious jeopardy

Until my best friend Shannon and I decided it was nerdy to get perfect attendance and played hooky the last day of eighth grade (though we still got our parents’ permission, which doesn’t help to disprove our nerdiness), I was always one of those kids who fought to go to school no matter how sick I was.

I think my pride in physical toughness is my one big butch quality. I was proud of making my high school’s bench-press wall of fame (if you call having your name written on a piece of construction paper in a musty, rarely-used weight room “fame”). I was proud that I didn’t cringe when getting my tattoo. I was proud that I didn’t need to take a single Vicadin after getting my wisdom teeth out, even though I might have had more fun if I did.

So when I learned yesterday that the mysterious lump on my abdomen was a hernia—meaning no weights or sit-ups until surgery—I had distinctly mixed emotions. The first was relief that it wasn’t cancer. Because while I’m tough, I’m also paranoid, and everything is cancer until proven otherwise. And “mysterious lump” has a pretty high burden of proof.

But then I started feeling all weird and invalid-y, and like maybe I’d caused this by not doing enough sit-ups to keep my ab muscles strong in the first place.

2. on the right person, eye patches are actually pretty sexy

Which is beyond dumb because it’s not like I look at other people with physical ailments and assume they did something to deserve them. My mom died of ovarian cancer (see paranoia, above), and it drives me crazy when people say that bad attitudes and stress cause such things. She was as happy as anyone, took walks every day, ate bowls of peas and carrots for lunch…and barely lived long enough to use her senior-citizen discount at Ross on Tuesdays.

But apparently there’s some tiny part of my subconscious that lives in a 19th-century novel, where you know who the villain is because he has a limp and an eye patch.

The more I think about having to baby myself—about having to answer yes to the question, “Would you like some help taking your bags out to your car, ma’am?,” as if being called “ma’am” isn’t punishment enough—the more I pout and baby myself emotionally. After going to the doctor’s yesterday, I spent my afternoon talking on the phone and reading Vogue, which I have to say was really great.

Right now it seems like a giant slippery slope, though, where by next week I’ll be Travis, this cautionary tale who was friends with my grandma. Travis had a horrible degenerative disease that resulted in loss of feeling in his limbs, amputations and the impression that the world owed him big time.

You know how, when some people are dealing with a serious illness, other people will say, “Wow, you handle it so well!”? I’m pretty sure no one ever said that to Travis. He lived to yell at nurses and people who parked in his handicapped spot and anyone who struck him as stupid, which was everyone. And he didn’t yell in a funny, loving, I’m-going-to-stab-you-with-a-spoon kind of way, but in a way where you just wanted to get out of there fast. Which made him lonelier and meaner and, as a result, lonelier and meaner still.

3. mostly complex carbohydrates, i swear

I guess I’m trying on different identities. Because hernia surgery is really not so special, I’m imagining and hoping I can milk Tough Girl for a little longer. But not forever. Someday something serious will hit, not because I’ll deserve it (unless it’s directly caused by carbohydrate consumption or playing Scramble on Facebook—but even then, Scramble happens to nice people, right?), but because I’m getting less young every minute.

And I just hope that I’ll be accepting and wise and irreverent, not an anxious ball of self-pity with a crusty shell of still-trying-to-be-tough. And I also hope that, before and shortly after hernia surgery, it’s still okay to go skiing and have sex. Because those things definitely help a girl’s attitude.


Don Cummings said...

As someone who watched them chisel out all four of his wisdom teeth in a mirror, while only on novacain, I can relate to your butchiness. And yes, no pain pills for me afterward...just a little TV...
And I CAN'T STAND IT when someone thinks that cancer is caused by some sort of attitude. It's absurd. Simply a medieval thought.

Tracy Lynn said...

I have faith that Tough Girl will be resurrected immediately after the surgery.

Most people don't get the fact that illness is a lottery. And EVERYONE gets a ticket.

Although my family maintains that obviously I can't have nice things, because I just ruin them. Like my kidneys.

Cheryl said...

DC: Damn, only Novocain? You out-butch me by far.

TL: Thanks for the vote of confidence, although it's probably healthy for Tough Girl to be humbled a bit.

At least with this mini lotto win, I can be fairly certain that long-lost relatives won't hit me up for a piece of my prize.

Claire said...

I only had something like novocaine when getting my wisdom teeth out too, but then mine weren't impacted so they didn't have to dig around a whole lot.

Also, did you see any of the women's weightlifting during the Olympics? I'm pretty sure their heft is not something you aspire to anyway.

Sorry to hear about the hernia. Do take it easy on yourself. From what I've heard stomach-area surgery takes a while to recover from since your core muscles are affected. Don't overdo it so you'll heal faster!

Cheryl said...

My friend Pedro had hernia surgery and was back at work in a few days. Of course he was 22 at the time and really athletic, but I'm going to pretend that's how things are going to go for me too.

Peter Varvel said...

I'm glad the mysterious lump wasn't cancer, although I can only imagine how much a hernia sucks.
A big bloggy ((hug)) to you in loving memory of your mom.
Celebrate her memory with some chocolatey desserty carbs!