Recuperating is not relaxing

Life has been a bit chaotic, so I apologize for the gap between posts. ¬†I was going to just post a picture that I took of my foot on the scooter wearing awesome shiny leopard print shoes, but in that moment of “silly snapshot” I started beating myself up for wasting time.

Here are the shoes…yay shoes ūüôā

Shiny leopard loafers & the footbar of my TravelScoot
Shiny leopard loafers & the footbar of my TravelScoot

That probably sounds ridiculous, but my train of thought was that I spend a lot of my time doing what people would consider “leisure” activities when I’m trying to recover from this overly busy life I lead (overly busy for my body at least). ¬†What I wasn’t thinking about is that those “leisure” activities are a way to try to pass time in a way that makes recuperating more tolerable. ¬†It’s time that I can’t work…either my pain level is too high or my medication is making me loopy (mostly the former as my current med regime isn’t working for the physical activity level I want to maintain). ¬†If I can’t work, then I’m left with things usually labeled as leisure activities. ¬†Watching TV, listening to an audio book, poking around my blog feed or social media, or (if I’m lucky) reading a physical fiction book. ¬†Especially when my pain is high, sleep isn’t an option and a person has to figure out how to pass the time in ways that don’t exacerbate stress levels (stress = more pain).

Recovering is not relaxing.  Recuperating is not relaxing.

Most people need relaxation, time that is theirs for the sole purpose of being pleasurable.

Joyful.

Happy.

Removing distress via de-stressing.

I realized that I needed to stop beating myself up for the time I take to survive life with chronic pain.  I also realized that I also need to take time to be silly, to do something because I want to instead of have to, to take a few spoons and do something that makes me feel like a whole and complete person.

As a doctoral student who wants to keep working in higher education (a tenure track job as my first choice), there’s a huge pressure to be constantly busy, to feel guilt when I do¬†anything that isn’t related to my career. ¬†Chronic pain is forcing me to challenge what it means to be a successful academic. ¬†I would have to say that this challenge goes beyond academe…what does it mean to be successful? ¬†What does that look like, what does it act like, what does it feel like?

I’ve learned that, for me, success isn’t about forcing my body to go-go-go when my body is screaming please stop! ¬†It’s not about trying to trick myself into believing that watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. while trying not to cry from excruciating pain is rejuvenating. ¬†It’s not about pushing myself to comprehend Foucault’s notion of biopower when I have to crawl from the bathroom to bed because my legs are almost useless.

It’s about living a life worth living.

More specifically, for me, it’s about finding a way to be a passionate scholar that still has the spark to pass along that passion, whether through my teaching or my research. ¬†If I keep trying to mash together recuperating and relaxing in a misguided attempt at multitasking (much like my attempts to text and push my manual wheelchair…I only have two hands), I can’t be that. ¬†It takes me longer to accomplish something and that’s ok. ¬†If I keep fighting my body, I won’t succeed. ¬†If I manage to complete my degree, I will likely resent the hard work and years spent working on getting my PhD. ¬†I will end up as a bitter “post-ac” trying to figure out how to get a disability-compatible job while being overeducated. ¬†That’s not what I want…I have too much passion for my research and I know it will make a difference in people’s lives.

I just need to remind myself that I can’t make a difference if I don’t take care of my body/mind. ¬†It might be a crappy jalopy of a body with parts missing and broken and patched together with titanium, but I don’t get to bring my body to a used body lot for a trade-in.

Recuperating is not relaxing.

Recuperating and relaxing cannot be combined for multitasking.

Relaxing is necessary for mental health.

Mental health is important for physical health.

Physical health requires recuperating.

 

Gimpy gym rat reborn!

Ok, so the title might be hyperbolic as I’ve still been active…just not as active as I wanted to be in the ways I found meaningful (it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a person working on a PhD in kinesiology would have a bunch of fitness equipment in their home)…but the scooter has indeed brought me back to being able to hit the gym like I knew it would! ¬†I’ve been using my university’s rec center, which was previously inaccessible because of a giant hill that I couldn’t safely climb with my manual chair and the walk would have angered my cyborg bits.

Not only does it feel awesome that I’m back in a gym, but I’ve been able to see first-hand some changes that were initiated because I commented on some access issues on a comment card. ¬†The notable one is that it would be awesome if they could make sure that a couple of the recumbent bikes had space next to them to park a wheelchair or scooter as many wheelers are able to use their legs (it used to be that the only machine with room was the handcycle). ¬†I zoomed in and was delighted to find a couple bikes that I could park next to!

Carpet in the background with a mobility scooter in the foreground along with part of a blue pants-wearing leg
My TravelScoot parked next to the bike I’m on

It’s not a great photo, but for a spur of the moment shot it does the trick. The photo shows the grey carpet of the Rec as the background with my scooter in the foreground along with a bit of my blue pants to show that I’m sitting on a recumbent bike with my scooter next to me. Huzzah!

When I got on the bike, I completely forgot about the problems I had last time I tried to ride a recumbent bike for a workout because of a combination of my hypermobile joints and my borked spine (this was pre-surgery). ¬†I would be in agony with electric shock sensations down my legs and would get spasms if I went longer than five minutes (which I would do because I really wanted to work out). ¬†I’m actually glad that I forgot so I could be mindful of my body in the here-and-now instead of fretting about what might happen.

I intended to ride for about twenty to thirty minutes…which turned into forty-five minutes. ¬†Once I felt confident that I wasn’t going to have severe issues (meaning I would tolerate an increase in pain and some spasms, but anything that caused verbal outbursts or the desire to cry meant I was done), I was in my element. ¬†My heart started pumping, I started sweating, and I felt awesome. ¬†I think I could have cried from pure joy. ¬†I cranked out about eight miles (Fitocracy has the actual stats recorded) and left the Rec with a gross sweaty t-shirt and a dopey grin on my face.

I’ve been to the Rec several times since that workout and have left happy & sweaty every time. ¬†On top of that, I ran into a classmate at my office who offered to give me free personal training at the gym she works at so she can show off her training skills. ¬†I’ve only had one session with her, but we’re figuring out how to keep me a happy healthy gimpy gym rat. ¬†It’s a bit of an adventure, especially as I’m trying to heal tennis elbow that I got from using my forearm crutch.

Next adventure? ¬†Finding my cute workout clothes…or acquiring new ones (I¬†am in pretty dire need of new sports bras).

Pavement in background with a fat white woman sitting in a manual wheelchair with workout clothes, race number, and flexing one bicep
I’ve done a 5k on wheels without training…

Access and Technology

My orange tabby Bela watching ST:TNG on my ancient iPad
My orange tabby Bela watching ST:TNG on my ancient iPad

I’m working on a piece for Conditionally Accepted about how university classrooms aren’t designed with the thought that the professor might be disabled. ¬†For an example of something I’ve written here, my post about TAing this past summer has a¬†photo of the standard technology podium that is too high for me to use even when standing because of my dwarfism (I’m even a tall dwarf at 4’11” thanks to medical technology)…forget even trying to sit at one of those and use it. ¬†Because of things like this, I’ve been much more aware of all the pervasive technologies in Western/US-centric society that are inaccessible to various groups of people (which is utterly ridiculous honestly….Universal Design is awesome, and thanks to my friend Pattie Thomas for the guest post about it).

I’m mentioning this because there’s a really awesome Kickstarter that I found recently. ¬†It’s entitled¬†Online Training: Make Apps and Sites Accessible to All by Knowbility. ¬†They’re putting together a training to help programmers, developers, and other computer program related folks know and understand how to make their software accessible. ¬†Here’s their Kickstarter video with captions (because, funnily enough, Kickstarter’s video function doesn’t have a captioning component…that needs to change):

Money’s a little tight here as usual as I scraped together money for a conference registration fee, but even $1 helps them get rolling and it shows that people recognize the importance of accessible technology. ¬†Heck, the recent Reading Rainbow Kickstarter was funded by a lot of people donating $1 & $5…every little bit helps. ¬†Even just passing it along will help make it more visible!