I jumped in the pool Saturday. The water felt cool, but a welcome cool against the humid late June air. I was there to work. My gym bag was filled with rehab tools: a pair of foam dumbbells, a pair of aquatic bells, a stretchy orange cord knotted in a loop and a yellow pool noodle.
My physical therapist gave me a laminated list of exercises from my last trip through aquatic rehab.
A case of pneumonia and months of layoff due to the coronavirus pandemic led to weight gain and weakness in my legs that make it difficult for me to walk more than a few hundred feet.
My doctor prescribed aquatic therapy, but the pandemic closed pools both for therapeutic and recreational use, including the one in my apartment complex.
The pools reopened, but between the time my doctor prescribed the therapy and the time the virus protocols allowed pools to open, my employer cut my job and I lost my insurance.
I bought insurance off the healthcare exchange, a part of the Affordable Care Act, which provides insurance to the poor and unemployed discounted through tax credits.
My plan didn’t cover aquatic therapy at the provider I used in the past. I could have used a different provider, but I only have unemployment to pay high deductibles and expensive copays.
So, rehab became a do-it-yourself job. Saturday was the first lap.
The first disappointment came when I pulled on my trunks. They were tight, much tighter than last year. This was to be expected, but to feel it is a tactile revelation of how badly I’ve deteriorated.
The second disappointment was how much range of movement I’d lost.
One of the exercises requires me to lift and lower my leg by pressing a pool noodle to the floor of the pool.
The biggest stress of that routine was getting the pool noodle under my foot. It took so long that I almost gave up.
The rest of the exercises went OK. I went slow. I did not want to injure myself. I went through a period of painful heel tendinitis after more vigorous pool workouts last year. I could barely walk. I don’t want to lose any more mobility.
I finished the workout. As I started to climb out of the pool, my left calf and shin started to cramp. I got back into the pool and let them spasm for a few minutes. Whatever hurt in water was going to be worse on land at full gravity.
The trouble passed and I got out of the pool just as a party started to gather. Someone was celebrating their 24th birthday.
The people who arrived were young and beautiful. Fit men with cut muscles in their arms and chests, and fit women in bikinis.
I felt like Quasimodo. I skulked back to my apartment to take a shower and pain relief medication.
I know I should celebrate the beginning of the effort to get healthy.
But I don’t.
My friend Lewis pointed out the other day: “Forty-five is different than 40.”
And it is.
My patience is thinner.
My obesity is fatter.
My disgust of myself and my failings higher.
My confidence is lower.
I would not describe myself as hopeless, but deeply discouraged.
What I’m trying to do for my health happens at the same time I’m in the middle of a seemingly futile search for a job and trying to launch a little business.
I like to leave readers with hope whenever I can. I am not a Pollyanna. Not all stories have happy endings and I won’t force one.
But this story is not about an ending.
It’s about a beginning, albeit to a sequel.
And when I close this elegant laptop, I plan to squeeze my fat butt into those trunks and go out to the pool and try again.
That’s the hope.
Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.
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