In Which I Realize I Am An Olympic Athlete by Miriam Sagan

I fucked my leg up “hiking” last weekend. The Park Service described the walk as “easy” and fit looking young folk did it in fifteen minutes. Hidden Valley, a very pretty part of Joshua Tree. Up some steps, through a rocky crack, down, around…It took me an hour, and by the end I couldn’t feel my right leg. No surprise. This happens a few times a year. As I was walking, at first I felt euphoric. I had a vision in my head–if I didn’t have the will power I have, the help I’ve gotten (PT, osteopathy, rolphing, you name it) I’d be in a wheelchair in the Bronx. It felt true. Granted, I’ve spent very little time in the Bronx. But I knew what my vision meant. I might be slow, gimpy, and on my cane…but I was in Joshua Tree under a peerless blue sky passing by rock formations that seem to sing silently straight to the heart.
Towards the end of said “hike” I got a little weepy. “Rich, you gotta hit my leg,” I said. This is a great trick learned from a master body worker. Rich does a few karate chops or shiatsu moves on my leg and sensation returns. Recently I got some clarity on a diagnosis–the femoral nerve gets trapped in muscle/soft tissue spasms. And voila–or whatever the opposite of voila is–control of that leg is gone. This is just one of many problems from long ago illness and surgery.
So I made it back to the trail head, having done the loop. “Good work,” Rich said, which filled me with ridiculous happiness. I love praise, and we hit upon that as another way to keep me going. It seems silly, but it really perks me up. “I’m an athlete,” I thought. All these fit people from L.A. are in great shape, pushing performance. I’m in terrible shape, but I’m pushing too. Not one of these people could walk this loop with such a bad leg and so much pain. Heck, half my right lung is gone and I can still do it! If those fit hikers were me for five minutes they’d collapse. I rock!
Of course, I paid in the usual fashion. My leg hurt more than usual for a few days. I complained–maybe quite a bit–and to several people. I felt both pleased with myself and stupid for pushing.
But a certain euphoria has not left me. I can walk. And I’m not in the Bronx. I’m going to take credit for both those things.