“OUCH!!”

“Ouch, oh god!” I exclaimed.  “OW!”  Helen made consoling sounds but kept on working.

I was born with several congenital abnormalities and as a result I’ve had more surgeries than the average person and maybe a few more aches and pains.  Big areas are my hips, low back and since taking up pickle ball my shoulder and elbow.  I probably play more pickle ball than I should although who is to say?  (Is 14 hours a week too much?)

She calls it “Korean Massage” but what Helen does is outrageously deep tissue muscular therapy.  It keeps all my parts working and I see her twice a month.  She is a master at her craft and if the issue is muscular, she can fix it.  It might take a while but she will do it.  Her Christmas card to me said, “Thank you for letting me keep your body updated.  Happy Christmas.”  I supplement her work with regular stretching so I can joyfully and addictfully continue playing my sport.  (I take the creative license on my own blog to make up words!)

Helen is Korean and trained in her country and in the US.  She is soft-spoken, subtle, graceful, highly intelligent and respectful.  When I enter her space she performs a slight bow.  I return the gesture.  Her English is coming along but isn’t fluent.  We have a wonderful time together.  I am very good at understanding accents and I’m very patient and persistent in trying to understand what she is saying and we’ve made huge strides in in our communication.  She tells me I’m “opened mind” so she feels comfortable as we go back and forth until we understand what the other is saying.  We do all this while she is expertly finding any and all areas on my body where my muscles might be sore, tight or utterly killing me.

I look forward to seeing Helen every other week but I don’t look forward to the pain.  As I drive away however, I am pain free so it’s worth it.  Today as she worked on me I was saying “Ouch!! and OW!”  At these times she models a deep breathing technique and I can hear her and begin doing it myself.  Sort of like Lamaze for childbirth.

Then this gentle soul quietly said, “You say ouch and ow, some people I work on say son-of-a-bitch or mother fucker.  I know what son-of-a-bitch means but what about mother fucker?”


A Physical Exception

“Well, clearly you didn’t move to Texas for the weather. So, why did you move here?” the person would ask.

“My husband’s company offered him a promotion which we turned down because it required a move here. Then they sweetened the deal so tremendously that we would have been financial fools not to take it, so here we are,” I would answer.

“So, how do you like it?” the person would ask.

“I don’t. There is no nature and nothing here is pretty. I think people build these gargantuan houses to try to make something look pretty, but most of them aren’t pretty. I feel like a stranger in a strange land and I’m utterly homesick.”

I can’t tell you how many times I had that conversation after we landed here on September 11, 2013. (That was surely an omen!)

Right now Texas is dark, damp and very, very cold. This time last year, I didn’t have a life in Dallas short of surviving my first ever ice storm and learning new vocabulary terms like ice storm, inclement weather, tornedo watch, tornedo warning and wind chill factor.

This winter, what little life I was able to generate over the last year came to a screeching halt because of weather. Gorillas can’t be outdoors when it’s 30 degrees so my volunteer speaking job at the zoo is on hold. And, who plays tennis when it’s this cold? You may have noticed that tennis requires movement and you can’t move in the quantity of clothes you have to wear to be out there. This freezing gloominess makes it hard for me to keep my spirits up and I’ve never experienced myself as a person whose moods are affected by weather. Then again, I’ve never lived in Texas.

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The other thing that happens in this weather is that my aches and pains flare up. Not all my ailments are affected by the cold, but they all seem intensified when it’s dark and icy out. I’m in my mid fifties and I think everyone older than 45 or 50 have their share of body parts that hurt some of the time or a lot of the time, unless of course, you are my friend Chai-Fu.

Here’s my list starting at my head and working down to my feet:

–Dry eye, which doesn’t hurt but is annoying as hell. It started when I moved to Texas.

–Severe allergies, which last all year long; very unpleasant and annoying. Texas to blame.

–Achy chest from open-heart surgery in my 30’s for a congenital atrial septal defect repair

–Aches from extensive surgery on my right hip stemming from congenital abnormalities on my femur

–Occasional achy issues with my left hip from compensating for my right hip

–Low back pain from being the victim of living between the faulty hips

–I don’t know where from head to feet menopause goes, because it’s everywhere but this seems like as good a place as any.

–Ten days ago I had surgery to repair an umbilical hernia so I don’t know if that will cause aches and pains or not.

–Plantars Fasciitis in my feet, which will hurt for a year and not again for several years, which is weird

My arms and legs are fine!!

Now, I know what you are thinking, TMI! But I actually left a couple things off this list to keep it appropriate! I am not telling you this stuff to make you feel sorry for me. I literally count my blessings every day of my abundant life for what I do have like my beautiful husband and sleeping soundly through the night for 9 hours most nights.  I am telling you this so that you don’t feel sorry for yourself thinking you are the only person with aches and pains.

There is only one person I know roughly my age who has no aches and pains and that’s Chai-Fu. Chai-Fu and my husband Steve met on the tennis court years ago and since then he and his husband David have become very close friends of ours. Chai-Fu is 53 and he has the body of a 25-year-old competitive swimmer. He is 5’ 9”, lean and incredibly fit. I call him a physical exception. Chai-Fu was born with no physical abnormalities or imperfections and has worked hard all his life to build on that fortune.

I work around my ailments and manage to get plenty of exercise in spite of them. I am not an extreme exerciser but every day I either power walk, play tennis, ride my cruiser bike, do yoga, do the elliptical trainer, do light weights and I always stretch. Doing the right kind of exercise makes my aches and pains way better, not worse.

After coming from Taiwan and realizing he was too short to compete in the U.S. in his beloved basketball, Chai-Fu took up tennis and has become a formidable 4.5 to 5.0 player. He plays intense tennis 15 hours a week, hoola hoops for one hour a day (yes, I said hoola hoops) does 75 each of push ups, pulls ups, squats and lunges daily, power walks with his dogs daily, and does yard work several times a week. He said he’d like to put on a little weight but can’t seem to. Uh, yeah.

There are two things I envy about my dear friend Chai-Fu. One, he is a physical exception and two; he lives in Scottsdale, Arizona and not Dallas, Texas.

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