Tuesday, March 25, 2014

White Chick in a Wheelchair

Being in a Chinese hospital is a bit like what I imagine it would be like to be in a free clinic where copious uppers and downers and steroids are distributed. There are swarms of people – twin boys wearing matching shirts with rabbits in heart-shaped glasses; an old woman with sensible but ugly shoes who walks with a cane, a 30-something with a gaudy purple rabbit fur jacket, a young mother with a long torso and proportionately short legs who teeters on 5-inch heels while her toddler grapples for her hand, another toddler with a hot pink baseball hat on sideways whose mother hands her a Smart Phone to keep her entertained. There were just so many people. I imagined that, at home, if I was in a place with the sheer number of individuals at the hospital, at the very least, I would recognize at least ten of them – I would probably know more. But here in this sea of faces, not one was familiar.
I had said, “We can’t walk like this,” meaning double-wide in this people-circus, which Helen thought to mean I couldn’t walk at all, so she got me a wheelchair and parked me in front of the fire extinguisher while she went to get our number, like when you’re waiting at the deli. This was, as it turned out, the last convenient place she parked me.

She drove with reckless abandon otherwise – a bit like Chinese traffic – and saddled me right up to the walls so that I had to pull my bad foot in and hold my knee up by my chest. She hit two people and one person hit us – just sideswiped us because she wasn’t looking where she was going when she was entering a room – and Helen would park me in the middle of a crowded hallway so she could ask questions, very few of which were answered adequately. Hospital staff sent us to an area on the first floor were we were told to go to the fourth floor when they should have sent us to the fifth. On the fifth floor, we were told we couldn’t be served so we would have to go to the ER. The elevators were slow and could barely accommodate a wheelchair and a person. Between flashing their current floor numbers, a two-letter message appeared: “FU.”

People were generally fascinated by me ad gawked at me. Everybody asked where I was from and if I spoke Chinese and were terribly amused when I uttered a few remedial words. When the doctor asked, I asked Helen to explain to him that I could count, introduce myself, ask what something is, and buy beer, which I suppose gives me the functionality of a drunken two year old.

Two doctors touched the top of my foot and asked if it hurt. I explained the ailment to Helen who in turn translated it for the doctors, but, you know, second-hand diagnosis, and, they told me I was probably fine but sent me to get an X-Ray anyway. After I got my slides back, they took a precursory – almost flippant – look at them, decided nothing at all was the matter, which still didn’t explain why I couldn’t walk – and told me not to wrap it, which I didn’t understand because even the flimsy gauze I’d had on it prior was a huge relief. The told me it wouldn’t work, and wouldn’t even issue me a bandage. I tried to reason with them via Helen, which got messy and confusing and just resulted in the doctor shaking his head repeatedly.

As Helen wheeled me out in her own special, manic way, she said, “Okay, we do this way: I will bring you the crunch.” She meant a crutch, and it turned out, she actually meant a three-footed yet still unsteady cane with a built in stool to accommodate the world’s smallest butt, which I guess beats the pillow I had been using to slide myself around the apartment.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Every Girl's Dream

I was trolling Facebook this morning when I stumbled upon this lovely gem of an internet meme:

Click "Like" if you think women have more options than this. I'm not getting into who posted this because I'm not interested in finger pointing (that doesn't solve anything) but all I imagined was that this person - this woman - must get out of bed in the morning and think, "Hm...should I have a bagel or the Slim Fast? I should probably have the Slim Fast so I won't get fat so I can be more attractive to men."

As if women don't have any options outside of worrying about men and their weight. Not to mention how conflated the two ideas are. This meme advocates a very clear patriarchy in which men imagine women dream about falling in love and women claim to dream about staying thin. But why would they need to stay thin if it weren't for being appealing to men? And stop it with this "every girl" thing as if we all share the same values because we have vaginas. And, this is petty, but if I need someone to click "Like" to agree with my opinion, I don't think my perspective is strong or valuable enough to last.

I guess if I had to work within this dichotomy, I would choose to make every girl's dream: "To exist in a mindset free of weight and gender stigmas."

But really, women - astonishingly enough - have the capacity to dream, worry, wonder, and otherwise verb about many things apart from these two societal norms. Here are some potential dreams of some women (feel free to add your own!):

To solve world hunger.
To have a family.
To be millionaires.
To start and run a successful business.
To learn karate.
To bake a three layer cake.
To go sky diving.
To touch her toes.
To run a marathon.
To write a book.
To teach math.
To cure cancer.
To sew a quilt.
To never ever see another meme like this one.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Movement and Me

Lately I've had a prolonged case of the Februaries. The general apathy mixed with a kind of overwhelming funk. I tend to get the Februaries every year, but this year, so far away from everything I love and amassed in an almost constant, chronic phlegmy-cough inducing smog, it's been particularly bad. 

When March comes, I normally like to get out and take a few deep breaths of the hint of spring hanging high in the air. But when I did that here I just coughed on the fumes.
A bit like a caged lion, I've been pacing around the apartment, loathe to go outside and loathe to stay in.  

Today, Jake went to to play basketball with a friend and for a bit I sat around feeling sorry for myself and generally bored. I thought about doing Pilates, but I'd done it for three workouts in a row. I thought about doing Zumba, but every time I do worryingly large chunks of hair fall out. So I sat in front of the computer and sighed.

Finally, I opted to do something I don't normally do: kickboxing. I did two kickboxing workouts, then a light weight/high repetition Tae Bo. I was sweating a lot and chunks of hair were, as expected, lining the floor, but I was feeling really inspired, so I created four new Zumba routines. Two and a half hours later, my muscles were shaking and I smelled like sewer, but I felt fucking awesome.

That was a really roundabout way of saying this: movement rocks. I wasn't a kid who liked movement for several reasons. Firstly, my own preferences; I preferred to do something else than be active. Secondly, I only ever moved with the intention to lose weight from the ages of probably 10 to 20, and the results were minimal. Thirdly, other people. I didn't feel comfortable moving because I got made fun of when I did it. As I've said before: hypocrisy is ugly. You can't tell me I'm unhealthy and then ruthlessly torment me for practicing healthy habits. Make up your damn minds! Anyway, at least in this department, I've decided that those people, to put it crudely, can suck it. They do not have any jurisdiction any longer on my relationship with movement.

I know a lot of you are either going to roll your eyes or want to rip out my throat when I tell you that I actually enjoy working out. Sure, there are days when it's a struggle or a chore, and there are days when the couch is more alluring than my sneakers or my yoga mat, but most days I love the  feel of sweat beading on my forehead, the feeling of my heart pumping blood through my veins, my muscles contracting and pulling, the oddly sweet rush of water that quenches my dry mouth. More than that, I love how relaxed and accomplished I feel afterwards. 

Now, at the end of the day, I firmly believe that your health is your own business and nobody has a right to tell you what you should and should not do with your body except you, but I strongly encourage you to find a movement that you like. I know a lot of you are like me and have had a bad relationship with movement because of other people and because you've only ever worked out because you want to be skinny. If you can get past these things - for me, the first came pretty easily, by joining Curves and an African dance class, but the second required (still requires) a continual reminder that my health and my body size ARE mutually exclusive - your feelings about movement and working out might have a complete overhaul. Especially when you keep on mind that all movement is good movement. We get told quite a bit what movement we should do, and those change about as fast as diet trends. So I say find a movement you love. Find many movements you love. And throw away all your Jillian Michaels workout DVDs (unless you really like being bullied while you workout. In which case, why are you reading his blog?)
I'd also like to share some advice I recently read. In this culture, we're bombarded with misinformed and financially-motivated messages of health and beauty, most of which encourage us to give up things In order to achieve what the proverbial "they" think is the gold standard. No cookies. No cake. No chips. No pizza. No wine. No.. If you believe in reverse psychology (or you've ever dieted) you know that every time you look at that candy bar/bag of chips/whatever it is you want and say to yourself, "I can't have it," you want it more. AND THEN you have it and feel GUILTY,  which probably makes you want more. The advice I read turned that around and suggested that we try adding things. Have another glass of water. Have another piece of fruit. Have another serving of vegetables. Add another 5, 10, 15 minutes movement to our day. 

As I said, ultimately your health is your business and you can do whatever you want to do. As for me, I'm really sore, so I'm going to park it on the couch and rummage through the fridge for something for dinner. You can choose to sit here and read more of blog. You can go out and take a walk. You can dance like a champ to your Paul Simon album. But remember to move for you and not for anybody else.