Abandonment Issues

The super thick exercise mat won't arrive until tomorrow. But I'm hyped up to begin, so I improvise. Two curly bathroom rugs tease. I place one on top of the other and plop them on the hallway floor.

From my filing cabinet -- a cardboard box stored in a closet -- I retrieve a folder labeled, Medical Soloway. Did I place my physical therapy exercises here, or could I have tossed them in my recent move?

Found! Now, I have no excuse to ignore the suggestion from my internist that began with her question: "Does the pain start in the butt and radiate to your leg?"

"Exactly," I had said during a consultation the previous day.  Was she clairvoyant, I wondered, or had a glance at my online chart revealed this was a recurring symptom?

"I've booked an appointment late in September for an epidural injection," I said. "Those shots helped in the past."

I went on, "The pain started after walking at least a mile." But instead of congratulating me for my daily treks as I had hoped, she announced, "sciatica."

Then she turned from the computer screen and said, "Actually, physical therapy may be better for sciatica than undergoing the needle."

As she was reaching for a prescription pad, I confessed, "Um, I did six weeks of PT in Los Angeles."

Her face brightened, "Did it help?"

"While I was doing it," I said.

"Well, perhaps you should try again before the epidural. Let the surgeon know the results and maybe you can avoid the shot."

That was the conversation that had me flat on my back, with stomach muscles pulled tight, and counting to 10 with each stretch. After the last maneuver, compressing on the two rugs, I scolded myself for abandoning these beneficial exercises.

If they were indeed easing the pain encountered with long walks, why did I shove the instructions deep into the file cabinet and ditch a padded mat in the L.A. apartment I recently left? I wondered: why are good intentions so easily dumped?

Instead of remaining on the duo mat to ponder the question, I retreated to my bed, the better to meditate on my latest desertion. With my eyes closed and the sliding door open to a morning breeze and the sounds of early traffic, I retraced other worthwhile plans I had promised to pursue, but instead paused.

Let's see, there were courses on speaking Spanish beyond the present tense, lessons on swimming while breathing on either side, private piano lessons so I could play Rogers and Hart, and group singing classes to accompany myself.

The most enjoyable part of all of these activities -- including my recent physical therapy -- was the pre-research and purchases. There might be new workbooks, wardrobes, equipment, and other necessities.

And once an instructor and location were determined, came the exquisite next step of entering the details on electronic and paper calendars. Ever the optimist, each activity would be "a recurring event," which I would optimistically stretch out for an entire semester.

Oh stop it. I know you're imagining I flunked at all of those endeavors, threw out the workbooks, tossed the goggles, sold the piano, and cursed the composers. Well, no, nothing so abrupt or dramatic. Each one slowly slipped away, like a full moon that disappears from the sky.

If friends or family inquired as to the status of any pursuit, I'd say, "I just got too busy with work and couldn't fit it in any more." (Substitute "lazy," "bored," or "discouraged" and you'd be closer to the truth.)

Fortunately, I barely remember the tails of my attempts, but I easily recall the beginnings. So, after a year's time, when a fresh catalog appears in my mailbox, or when a new apartment offers both an indoor and outdoor pool, or when a promotional flyer is pasted on a nearby bulletin board, I feel the familiar lures of  "Why Not?"

Of course, doing daily physical therapy exercises doesn't exactly match the pleasures I would win if I were to hablo español, do laps, tinkle the ivories, or croon. On the other hand, if I performed them every morning without fail, it's possible I could walk a mile without returning home for an Advil, heating pad, or icepack. And perhaps I could cancel the epidural.

And, if I were able to repair my body and walk or trot without stabs, perhaps I could one day run a marathon. Hold on; let me look into that.