|health-seeking diabetic writer physical therapist|
Mind & Body: The Shifting Sands of Identity
For years, I maintained a regular blog, one that I thought would never end, at ReadingWritingLiving.wordpress.com. It started as a meditation on writing and reading to share with my writing students, but it eventually leaked into blogging about parenting and marriage, about daughtering, about food, about being an adopted person and travel and random incidents like accidentally throwing my keys into a trash can.
When I thought of myself as a writer, I didn’t really like acknowledging that I had a body. I didn’t feel very comfortable in it or happy with it. I was a person of the mind, a person of words and thoughts. My body was an inconvenient bag of flesh that I sort of reluctantly dragged around. I avoided mirrors and liked to dress in clothes that could double as pajamas.
Then after D-day, as it were, I threw myself into that body. I turned away from writing pages and instead began counting miles and shedding pounds and journaling about food and photographing meals. I didn’t have time to read novels or try and write them. I was fighting for my health and my life.I got healthier. Not cured, because what I have is a progressive disease. You can’t turn your back on it or it comes slinking back. Sometimes it grows against the best of efforts. But it turns out that my pants size was not the only thing that had shrunk – so had my literary brain, my writing life, my manuscripts (three book length projects in progress had all stalled to a halt). I realized, with a breaking heart, that although I now consider myself a runner (previously unimaginable) I struggle to think of myself as a writer.
Can we nurture both our brains and our bodies? Can we write, and read, and run and make a living, too? It all takes time and mindfulness. It seems that there is never enough to go around.
Finding that balance is the new challenge, it seems – the eternal challenge. I’ve returned to my first career as a home care physical therapist. It reminds me that this work was what drove me to want to write in the first place – I was amazed at the kaleidoscope of human experience I was witness to on a daily basis, and my clinical notes weren’t enough to contain the stories I was holding. The writing grew and grew, and finally I threw aside my health care work to get an MFA in creative writing.
I try to keep all the balls in the air. The physical therapy brings me a solid income and a flexible schedule. Which allows me to find the time to run or bike or swim. And to attend my first weeklong writing workshop in years.
I dusted off the pages of a book I started in 1992 and stopped, started, and finally stopped for good after I got diagnosed. In the world of marathons and triathlons, we call that a DNF: Did Not Finish. I desperately do not want this book to be a DNF. And so, nervous as a first timer, I return to the workshop, my pages clutched in my sweating hands.
Once I was a physical therapist who had a dream of writing. And then I became a writer who “used to be a physical therapist.” Then a struggling diabetic writer. Then an athlete. Now? I’m trying to be all of it: a health-seeking diabetic physical therapist writer.
I don’t know if we can ever completely shed parts of ourselves. They come around again, sometimes knocking at the door decades later, to surprise us. What can we do but let them in?
1. What do you want GITP readers to know about you?
2. Are you in a tight place right now, and if so, what do you plan to
do about it?
3. What do you hope to accomplish this year?
4. What inspires you?
5. What is your favorite legwear?