And I'd been so looking forward to it...
For this last week or so, I've been unusually busy, at least in terms of what my life has become. Most of my time had been eaten up by work on my newest useless sculpture for a group show in Millville NJ, so I wasn't able to squeeze in my routine bi-weekly workouts at the Y over in Summit. Even though I have to drag myself out of the house every time -- and often having to come back home for something I've left behind again -- once I get into the locker room, and change into my tatty workout gear, I slip into a kind of automatic mode. I've constructed a routine that I can usually do in about half an hour, that's followed by 20 minutes or so on a treadmill. And frankly, I've been very pleased -- more pleased than I would have expected -- with actual, visible physical results!
So, what with something like real progress taking place, even at my advanced age, and the added incentive/threat of an upcoming theatrical performance in which I will be one of only six practically naked men on a very small stage, I've been even more intent on maintaining my routine. One week off, I told myself, wouldn't do that much damage. I told myself. And today I could get back into my comfortable discipline, I told myself.
Well, aside from not having remembered to bring the usual t-shirt to get all sweaty in, I was only half an hour later than usual when I began what I had been hoping would be a nice, uninterrupted investment of time and energy, even if it might seem superficial to others. And, in celebration of my return, I even increased some of the weights by five pounds or so -- really an almost negligible amount, in most cases -- and it wasn't difficult at all. It had only been a week, after all.
Then, with only three more exercises to do, before that walk to nowhere on the treadmill, I decided that I wanted to try something different. The shoulder press station has always given me trouble, so I thought I would take advantage of the free weight room -- ordinarily empty at 2 or so in the afternoon -- and thought that starting with the modest weight of 25 lb. should be easily manageable.
To tell the truth, I've never felt comfortable in that particular weight room -- there seems to be something unanchored about the perfectly orderly arrangement of benches and other equipment. It just seems... rounder than I'm used to. In any event, one I found the 25 lb. dumbbells -- they've got an extensive collection, all apparently brand new -- picked up a pair, and turned to one of the mirrors, to keep an eye on my form. One weight in each hand, straight up from shoulder height and then back down again -- what could be simpler?
What could be simpler? What could be simpler would be confronting myself without recoiling, it seems. Maybe it's the lighting in the room -- though it doesn't seem that much different from the other place I exercise -- but what I saw looking back at me, with a 25 lb. dumbbell in each hand, was a washed-out, deflated, haggard old man. I raised the left dumbbell, a little startled that such a modest weight should feel so unwieldy; I started to raise the right one, but didn't even get the weight above my head when I heard an awful tearing in my shoulder, and immediately had to put the weights back where Id' gotten them, feeling shamed before the two solid college-age kids, sleek in their youth, who were in reality paying no attention to me at all.
I asked one of the trainers what she thought I should do, if I'd torn a muscle. She gave me one of those chemical ice packs, and said I should go home and take some tylenol, and then see my doctor. I was grateful for the coolness, and surprised, once I got out to the car, that I couldn't even get the car key into the ignition with my right hand. I had to shift from park into reverse with my left hand, and could only grip the very bottom of the steering wheel with my right hand, to steady it. I got home with no apparent difficulty, and have had ice on my shoulder ever since. John looked up 'shoulder injuries' on Google, and read me a list of symptoms and recommended treatments. I tried to get comfortable on the bed, without sliding my home-made ice pack down my back.
But mostly I was being furious with myself. Pointlessly furious, of course, but furious nonetheless. How could I have been so stupid? How could I have been so careless? Why wasn't I more cautious? More important, what kind of damage have I done myself, and how long with it take to recover, to whatever extent might be possible?
Stupid,, stupid, stupid. Oh, I know it could have been a billion times worse, and that at the worst, I'm still a billion times luckier than the vast majority of my fellow humans on the planet. But as I know I've mentioned before, I'm terrifically superficial, and for someone with such a low sense of self-esteem, I'm still semi-obsessed with my external appearance. And even more important, any diminishing of my ability to do things for myself, and to be (relatively) fit, is extremely upsetting to me. I keep seeing myself as one of those crochety old men in a disreputable nursing home, the sort of resident the underpaid attendants fervently hope will die in the night. How resentful I'll be, of their heedless strength and agility, their unappreciated mobility and quickness. I think I hate them already, and I don't even know them yet.
So, it's another whole day of ice on my shoulder, with the occasional fortified acetaminofen to keep the swelling down, and the pain more or less at bay. Perhaps another visit to the doctor on Wednesday -- it seems as if I've spent more time in doctors' offices in this past year or so, than whole earlier decades put together. A friend, who's in his mid-80's, has informed me that, in his opinion, everything is fine with us humans until we hit 70, and then... poof! It's like hitting a wall, he said. In his opinion. And I was reeling inside, because that gives me just four more years of (relatively) carefree living, before things begin to get really serious.
I don't think I'm going to like this. I don't think I'm going to like this one tiny, minute bit.
© 2013 Walter Zimmerman