Sunday, March 26, 2006

Blood pressure ballet blogging

Last December, during the routine gyno visit, I found I had the blood pressure of someone on the verge of keeling over and dying dramatically from a heart attack or stroke. My wakeup call.

Since that time, I've been busy. I follow a low-salt diet, choke down buckets of horsepill sized vitamins, record my BP(blood pressure) compulsively, and religiously take my BP meds. I even gave up my daily (10 cups of) coffee. However, since I've complained so bitterly to my MD about the med side-effects, I have a sneaking suspicion he made sure to stop the whining, at least to him, since he asked me to call him back in six months. No sooner. Ouch. So I whine to friends though I'll really be hurt if they ask me to call back in six months too.

Since I was initially told not to locomote faster than a slow walk, I was more than eager to leave behind my exercise-free life all in my quest to lower to my BP meds. Paradoxical intervention or not, I've gotten off my butt.

And so what did I do with myself? I followed this inexplicable urge to propel my BP challenged body into ballet classes, mind you, with no previous ballet experiences whatsoever. Don't know where the urge comes from but at times it feels as though it's been a case of following my bliss off that cliff.

Intimidated at first but I found that the instructor traditionally ignores the brand new ones. I tell myself it must be out of courtesy as we, the naive novices, courageously flail away self-consciously out of control. Ballet, at my level, is all about control over body parts after having been out of conscious mind for a long time: suck that belly in, tuck that butt in like you're getting a shot, and, dammit, relax those shoulders, all the while trying to keep up with the rest of the class doing whatever en croix.

I know I've finally progressed when the teacher no longer averts her eyes as she passes by. I now get whispered comments such as "ummm, darling, you're on the wrong foot", or "dear, you've got to elevate a bit more". Normally, this would make my cheeks turn red with embarrassment but I've observed attention is a compliment in ballet class, or so I mutter to myself.

Progress has come with drawbacks. The other day, a teacher grabbed my knee while I was in a hugely painful stretch, pushing the stretch even more. Except I'm far from limber unlike the others in the class who make it look so easy, and I do believe I heard my knee scream an obscenity.

Next class, I felt something tear in the back of the very same knee while doing my nonlimber version of the splits. The most recent insult: while doing jumps, the entire back of the leg with the messed up knee completely seized. I limped away, off the floor, defeated by the geriatric march of time on my body. At this point, everyone politely averted their eyes.

One class, taught by an incredible instructor 80 plus years in age, left me wilted for days. As my husband observed, this 80 plus year old woman kicked my butt.

Even though I'm sans turnout, sans flexibility, and sans sound knee, I'm still dragging my body to class. Perhaps this is a second chance or even more likely, my midlife crisis. Who cares. I just pray each time my bod would keep it together a little bit longer.