Staggering and Wobbling with Dignity and Grace. Or Not.

So I stagger and wobble and run into door jambs.

The door jamb part really isn’t in the same category as the other two, because staggering and wobbling are relatively new, but I’ve been door-challenged all my life.

Public Domain

Once when I was eight, visiting my Aunt Laura and Uncle Joe, the phone rang and I was the only one in the house. I ran from the kitchen and across the dining room, headed for the far end of the hallway, where the phone resided. When I got to the door from the dining room to the hall, I caught the sleeve of my sleeveless blouse–I trust you understand that–on the strike plate. I backed off and started over and caught my blouse on the strike plate–same blouse, same strike plate. I backed off and started over and got hung up a third time. On my fourth effort, I gave up on running and walked. That worked.

I’ve never repeated the strike plate episode, but I frequently collide with door jambs–usually when leaving the boss’ office–and I clip the corners of tables. I’m told the root cause lies in my corpus callosum and to just keep on colliding. It’s somehow worse when the boss is an attorney. I’ve learned to live with it.

But staggering and wobbling haven’t been going on all that long. I don’t have vertigo; I just get off balance. I know why I don’t get around as easily as I should–unsteadiness occurs when I don’t eat enough and when I don’t get enough sleep. Insufficient exercise is a contributing factor. I haven’t gotten much exercise for the past three-point-five years. There are both good reasons and excellent excuses for that.

Things are looking up. Last month I bought a Fitbit, which counts my steps and does various other helpful things. I’ve been using it, walking with purpose. I participated in two virtual hikes around Yosemite–Vernal Falls (15,000 steps) and Valley Loop (35,800 steps)–and now I’m hiking the Pohono Trail (62,500 steps). Twice I’ve been awarded stars for doing over 5,000 steps in one day. Today I began four miles of switchbacks that, instructions say, should save my knees and give me the opportunity to look back on what I’ve passed. If they think I’m going to look down from a switchback, they can just think again.

Well, anyway, when the oncologist heard my sad story, he said, Would you like a referral to physical therapy for balance? David said, Yes. From his answer, and the speed with which he gave it, I infer that he’s getting tired of my leaning on him just in case.

So I’m now in physical therapy for balance. In my personal lexicon, physical therapy means young, skinny people telling me to do things I don’t want to do. My spirit wars against it. I’ve discovered–all right, I already knew–I cannot walk a white line while sober. I cannot stand on one leg without tipping over. I can stand on a little square of foam rubber with my eyes closed for a minute without reeling, mostly. I can do more than I can’t do. That’s promising.


Cochlea and vestibular system, by Nevit Dilmen, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Via Wikipedia

Nevertheless, the therapist arranged a hearing test. I said, Oh no, I hear just fine, but I knew the left ear is better than the right. After the first test, the audiologist arranged for two more tests to find out if there’s anything vestibular going on that might affect my balance. They will check me for nystagmus. They might be able to help me.

Oh, joy. They will find something vestibular and then help me with more physical therapy. I will never get out of that place.

But despite all my moaning about PT, I accepted the prospect of hearing and vestibular problems with dignity and grace.

Then, two days ago, while waiting for the veterinarian to call William to the examination room, I picked up a magazine and it fell open to an article about Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome, “a sudden, non-progressive disturbance of balance.”

“Most dogs present with the sudden onset of loss of balance, disorientation, head tilt, and irregular jerking eye movements called ‘nystagmus’. Many dogs will become reluctant to stand or walk. Most dogs will lean or fall in the direction of their head tilt.”

They also stagger and wobble.

The good news is that most dogs recover.

And they do it without physical therapy.

Since I read that, I’m doing without dignity and grace.

A Secret Pleasure at the Gym

recumbent bike trainers with TV monitors on top
recumbent bike trainers with TV monitors on top

No, it’s not the swimming pool. It’s not the hot tub. It’s not the gorgeous male trainers.

It’s the closed captions.

Some machines at the gym have TV monitors attached so users won’t become bored. A wise move.

My first day on the recumbent bike, I said to myself, “Oh, pish-tosh! I don’t need television. I have an active mind and a rich internal life.”

The second day, I discovered my internal life isn’t rich enough to keep me pedaling for twenty minutes without my active mind imploding. So–on with the TV. Since I hadn’t brought earbuds, I turned on the closed captions.

Viewing choices are limited: some cable movies, lots of sports, a travel show, all about as stimulating as watching your knees rise and fall. But one news station runs unscripted programs, most related to business and the economy.

And the closed captions for those unscripted programs are a hoot.

During one session, I managed to take notes. Here are some of the fragments I recorded. Remember, the program was about finance, and my knees were moving up and down at 9.4 mph.


 1. … when people gathered to talk about the economy and cucumbers…

2. …too much of Peoria for political to sin…

3. …when like at Europe the monkey is struggling and falling apart…

4. …and to see Barry big surprise interest from some pastries…

5. …we have the armpit that all of our options fade with time…

6. …the importance of a kiwi in Europe…

7. …call the stow the hillbilly of what is coming…

8. …take on a ministry the comics not to forget…

9. …the markets found some milk without the markets coming up…

10. …learned from a tumor and people said a tomato…

All that in just one session of violent bodily exertion. What more could I want?

Yesterday earbuds were available, but plugging them in didn’t cross my mind. Nor did announcing my find.

Those captions are my own little secret. When other cyclers look my way, wondering why I laugh aloud, they can just wonder.

And when the rest of the health nuts have dropped out from indolence and ennui, and I alone register perfect attendance, and when the muscleiest trainer can’t drag me off the bike, the Powers That Be will admire, nay revere, me. And they will give me head pats.

Gad, I love those headpats.


If you missed yesterday’s post about torture at the gym, you can read it at O Treachery, Thy Name Is Puller-Downer Thingey.

And yes, I’m pretty wiped out today.

wiped out
pretty wiped out

O Treachery, Thy Name Is Puller-Downer Thingey

Brightly colored instruments of torture, heavier than they look.

hand weights

More colorful double-dealers.

046 balls
exercise balls

For strengthening the core. Deceptively innocent in appearance, but treacherous at its core. One mission: to unseat the trusting rider. Passive-aggressive.


For strengthening the cardio-pulmonary system. Old technology corrupted by new. See below.

recumbent bike trainers
recumbent bike trainers

Digital conspiracy #1: Information dump–time, speed,calories, watts, resistance, heart rate–heart rate? None detected. So much for cardio.

recumbent bike: "NO HEARTBEAT DETECTED"
recumbent bike trainer monitor: “NO HEARTBEAT DETECTED”

Digital conspiracy #2: TV monitor/pacifier. Vast wasteland pulls cyclist in, won’t let go. Twenty-minute rep turns into forty. Dr. Phil. “Shape It Up, Woo Woo!” (I did not make that up. It’s in Wikipedia.)

recumbent bike trainer TV monitor: Dr. Phil
recumbent bike trainer TV monitor: Dr. Phil

Vile trickery.  Toil masquerading as recreation. It seemed like fun. Too long did I tarry.

puller-downer thingey
puller-downer thingey

Today’s lessons:

1. When the trainer says to do 12 of something, do 12. Don’t do 30.

2. When you’re counting, pay attention. If you think you’ve done 12, don’t do another 8 or 10 just to make sure.

3. When the trainer says to go home and ice something, go home and ice it. Don’t forget and then decided it’ll probably loosen up and resume bending of its own accord.

4. When the sky opens and water pours onto the parking lot only three minutes before your cardio session is set to end, don’t just keep pedaling until the downpour stops. That’s too much pedaling.

5. Curb your enthusiasm. Stop doing more than the trainer and your brain tell you to. OCDs do not win. They just go home and ice things.


Promises, production, and pain

Last week CP and I made a pact to write at least 100 words a day.

When I began this manuscript, I wrote at least 500 words a day. But with one thing and another, over the months, production slipped. So, although 100 seemed paltry compared to what I used to do, or what I could or should do, I thought it a reasonable  minimum, small enough not to feel threatening or to spark the dreaded Writer’s Block.

If I’d known I was going to rejoin Curves today, however, I would have held out for only fifty.

I made one Curves circuit, fifteen minutes of pushing and pulling against hydraulic resistance. Twice would have possible but stupid. In the first place, I have no sense of proportion. No shades of gray. It’s all or nothing. If I’d stayed, I would have ended up putting every scrap of energy I possessed into doing battle with those machines. And at the end of the day, I’d have felt worse than I do now.

In the second place, …I’ve forgotten what’s in the second place.

That’s an indication of how fit I am to add 100 words to Molly’s story before I crater.

But a pact is a pact. Is a pact.