Sometime last week I must have “done something” to my foot. Perhaps I overexerted it, stretched it too vigorously in some contortion, pushed down too hard on the elliptical trainer, or maybe that sudden misstep at the curb had indeed been more intense than it felt at the time. Whatever the trigger, by the time the weekend rolled around I was limping, my foot was slightly swollen across the top (where the long ligaments are – same area as the top of your palm). And it hurt.
Still does, actually.
By Monday it was so bad I went to a walk-in clinic (this is what you do in Canada if you don’t have a GP, and many of us don’t), where a very brisk young doctor in her early thirties almost immediately filled out a chit for radiology because, she said, it was quite likely my foot had some kind of stress fracture.
She asked, “How are your bones?”
Straightaway, that question sounded wrong to me.
Then it hit me: I heard an implied “dearie?” at the end. As in: “How are your bones, dearie?” I just know that’s what she was thinking.
In my mind I am not a “dearie” – and with any luck, I never will be. But that’s what I heard: You’re of that age, [dearie]… the bones …you know …brittle bones, brittle bones.
It wasn’t just the imagined “dearie” that aggrieved me. It was the betrayal I felt – the betrayal that aging implied. I trust my body. It’s a wonderful body that has held me in good stead (and steady on my feet) for a long time. I haven’t always treated it well, but I’ve always come back to it, and it has always, always stayed with me. We’re in this together.
Hearing the [unspoken] “dearie,” however, revealed a glimpse of an abject body: one that breaks down, that wears out or betrays you – develops cancer, has an aneurism or a stroke, gets Alzheimer’s, has osteoarthritis. The one that’s growing old and makes you unhappy because it can’t be trusted.
Happiness and Trust
Happiness studies show that trust is key to happiness. If you can’t trust your neighbors or your colleagues or your family or your friends, you’re less likely to be happy.
A network of trust increases happiness.
Maybe that should read in the plural, as in “networks of trust.” At the center of it there’s you with your body, which in itself is a bunch of networks in which you trust to get you through the day, to make that day fly, to make it shine.
Literally hobbling just one small segment in the network can trigger a cascade of real and imaginary failures, of mistrusting, in the rest. Studies which show that “happiness dips and then rebounds after people lose a limb” or worse (source) might suggest that rebuilding a sense of trust is key to rebounding. I guess that applies to accepting senescence as well, which probably goes a long way toward explaining religion and the solace of belief (that is: trust) in the beyond.
I moved through the rest of Monday and all of Tuesday in a cloud of anger. Well, actually, anger alternating with depression – they’re supposedly two sides of the same coin, right? – because if you google foot fractures, you’ll find plenty of reasons to feel blue. At 5pm on Tuesday, I called the clinic back to learn whether my x-ray results were in. I learned only that the radiologists were not able to discover fractures – which immediately made me a lot happier: “Yay, body, you can be trusted! You don’t have brittle bones and aren’t completely falling to pieces!” Followed immediately by, “But why the frack does my foot hurt so much, eh?”
…Trust, but verify…
That doctor is not going to call me back (it’s not in the protocol of walk-in clinics), so I’ll have to hobble over there again to learn if there’s anything else they can diagnose or advise. I will choose to ignore the websites that suggest x-rays aren’t conclusive for finding foot fractures and instead choose trust: trust that I got off lightly, that there’s nothing wrong with my well-nourished and -supplemented bones, that with any luck, my delightful body and the mind it accommodates can continue to be happy together.
Just don’t call me “dearie”…
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