By Teresa Swartz Roberts
Blog post 31. Copyright 2020
I put on a bra today.
I was supposed to write this month’s blog about Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month, which is April. But how can Parkinson’s Disease compete with a global pandemic that is racking up fatalities and affecting every facet of daily life and our world’s future? Answer: It can’t. It shouldn’t.
And yet, I would still say that PD casts a pretty big shadow over my life, maybe even bigger than COVID 19 because I personally have not lost anyone to the virus –unless I count John Prine. As much as I’d like to think that the man who wrote songs to describe feelings I didn’t know I had was actually my friend, he was a celebrity whose music and battle with cancer inspired many people. I’d like to quantify, but I can’t know how many people Prine inspired. It’s a big number.
The coronavirus numbers I see on TV are too big to wrap my head around. One of our local TV stations states after showing how many Georgians have tested positive and how many have died, “Just to put that into perspective, there are more than 10 million people in Georgia.” The numbers don’t mean a whole lot, anyway, because a lot of folks have not been counted because they were not tested.
From here, I can slide into the quicksand of finger-pointing and politicizing that makes enemies of Facebook friends. When I was a kid, I was sure that someday I would need what I learned from TV –that the best way to get out of quicksand was to stop struggling and grab something solid. If there is not anything to hang on to, then you swim to the side, treating the quicksand as thick water. Both scenarios include calling for help and accepting it when it arrives.
I’m going to try to stay out of the quicksand altogether. Bad feelings breed bad feelings.
Back to that bra statement.
One of the steps I have taken to battle Parkinson’s is to have a life outside my home. I live my best time of day –around 10 a.m. – exercising with friends at a county pool, exercising with my husband at our neighborhood gym, or exercising my spiritual and intellectual muscles at a church study group meeting or worship service. Before COVID 19, I was sticking to a pretty rigid schedule that put me on the road before 10 a.m. every day.
With a stay-at-home order in place, I don’t go anywhere at 10 a.m. Even as Georgia takes steps toward reopening, I’m not ready. I’m not stepping into the controversy. Here’s where I’m supposed to be inspirational. That’s what I try to do with my blog: inspire. To be honest, I’m tired, and I’m a little confused. I have to watch the morning news or look at my phone to know what day it is.
I keep a schedule, though, because my Parkinson’s demands it. I have some tricks to avoid the quicksand. I try to stay on solid ground with things I do every single day. I exercise. I take my meds, now relying on alarms set on my smartphone throughout the day. I love, which includes practicing my religion. Loving is so easy because of my wonderful family, especially My Honey here and The Boy far away building a good life with a good woman. I miss my friends and extended family, so I have been reaching out. I call my dad or write an old-fashioned letter to my brother or text an old friend. I pretend that it’s for them, but they are the branches I grab when I’m on the edge of the quicksand.
I can’t swim in the pool, but I can swim through the quicksand by finding other ways to get my exercise. We put our weight bench in the living room. It’s the perfect height for me to lift weights or do seated yoga. My balance isn’t quite good enough anymore to punch the heavy bag in our garage. But I can dance sitting down, and I can dance a little holding onto my walker. I use plastic fitness drumsticks to pound out frustrations and sweat while I play YouTube roulette. I nearly always start with “Uptown Funk.” It’s the first song I danced to when I had completed my Big and Loud therapy for Parkinson’s.
Before I knew how serious coronavirus is, I was thankful to have a few days to have an excuse to stay home. I’m a natural homebody, but Parkinson’s can augment my introverted tendencies until I become apathetic and believe it’s too much trouble to go out. I used to stay home to do projects. I don’t have enough momentum to do as much of that as I would like. It’s dangerous to let myself have a day on the couch in my pajamas. I might never get up.
So I get up. I work out. I shower. I dress. And today I put on a bra. I was going to the drive-through pharmacy and not even getting out of the car, but I had the need to feel normal, and that meant full undergarments, even if elastic and hooks can feel confining. Today I used a bra to avoid the quicksand, a booby trap to avoid a booby trap.