Back in the saddle

Image result for shoulder brace after surgery womenAs everyone knows, starting something is the hardest part. A diet, a commitment, a new job, the toilet roll. Re-starting something might be even harder. This time around you know what to expect..how hard or painful it’s going to be. This time.. you think, maybe just maybe it’ll be easier than you remember.

Following 2 extensive surgeries on my shoulder last year I found myself restricted from all physical activity involving my arms, shoulders or upper body movement of any kind.  A sneeze rendered me in tears and lifting a mug of tea became my Crossfit. As an independent lass it pained me to have to ask for help lifting groceries into my car (where I’d carry them, one or two items at a time, up 3 flights of stairs) and I became adept at deciding what to cook based on whether I could cook and eat it 1 handed.

It was pitiful, with spots of hilarity (I fell over a LOT).

To call me disabled was an overstatement, but basically I became a human wine box with bruises for 18 months.

Fast forward a year and I graduated from my various slings and arrows, discovered pitches of screams I didn’t know I possessed and managed to carry my first gallon of milk. All in all, almost back to normal. Sure I’ll never salute an officer , throw down a Hiel Hitler (wasn’t going to anyway) or ‘raise the roof’ (ditto) but I can now wear a bra strap, carry a purse and blow dry the back of my head.

Exactly the qualifications for some mountain biking.

I’d wanted to get back on the back for a while… pretty much 10 mins after I came around from surgery the first time. But everything hurt, I literally couldn’t use my arm, and every time I thought about falling… the sense of doom was overwhelming. What if I fell and needed another surgery? Or a new shoulder? I packed away riding for ‘another time’. Which came this last weekend.

It had been so long. so so long. I think Madonna was on her first face lift when I last rode some dirt. And oh how I missed it. The fire in your chest, the thumping of your heart, the feeling of flying on the downhill. The smell of warm pine as you crash into a tree on a particularly tight switch back. Glorious. And I was finally done being afraid.

I packed myself into straining Lycra, grabbed the Percocet and headed to the hills.

I’ll spare the blow-by-blow suffice to say it went something like this:

  • Shock (‘holy cow this is hard’)
  • Concern (‘is my heart meant to be pounding this fast?’)
  • Horror (‘fuck me, I don’t think I’m even moving forward’)
  • Despair (‘oh god, those people with the old dog are passing me’)
  • Hope (‘oooo is that the top? is it? it is isn’t it??)
  • Devastation (‘damn fucking false flat…’)
  • Resignation (‘Why am I doing this ? I’m clearly too old for this shit’)
  • Self criticism (‘Popcorn isn’t a recovery diet dammit.. should have made more soup’
  • Motivated (‘Damn it.. I can do this.. I have to do this or I’ll get old and crinkly and die’
  • Thrilled (‘I did it!!! I rule!!!! I did it!!!)
  • Realization (‘HOLY FUCK GODDAMN THAT HURTS MY SHOULDER’)
  • Alarmed (‘OMG I need to ride down this fucker! This is going to hurt sooooo bad’)
  • Joy (“I’m gonna love every single second of this. This is why I ride’)

I got on my bike, full of Oprah fed wisdom and promptly rode into tree.

Starting again is hard. You look ridiculous, you feel like a loser and your brain never shuts up reminding you of how much better you used to be at this. But the alternate – a life of memories, of ‘remember when?’, fear and failing confidence  – is way way worse.

At my way,  I get to look good in Lycra.. some day.

In Search of the Holy Grail.. pain free kick ass shoes

heelsI have a secret. I have the feet of a Hobbit. Scrawny, knobbly, bent and twisted. Not quite the ragged hairy nubbins of Frodo, but my feet do seem to have channeled Shrek. Lets just say my bi weekly pedicures are necessary for the sake of humanity, and those attending my yoga class.

After 4 years working from home, my hobbit feet had become accustomed to the comforts of home. Clogs, Tevas, Ascis and Frye boots litter my closet. Wool socks formed the basis of most outfits.

I did wear heels .. but only on dates with tall guys or when I needed to feel particularly girlie.

So basically once or twice a year. And mainly for sitting down.

Then I moved to CA, moved back to working in an office environment and tried to reintroduce my feet to footwear that didn’t resemble something available with a prescription or worn exclusively by retirees.

The result, unsurprisingly, was pain. Lots of pain. Pain that radiated from my toes all the way up my legs and at one point through my eyeballs. Trying to walk into a meeting with aplomb was akin to firewalking. Best achieved at high-speed and with quick intakes of breath. I managed to make it to my car with a combination of tip toeing and waddling.. anything to avoid the feeling of nails being driven through my toes and heels simultaneously.

Why bother you might be thinking? Why no just sling on some flats and be comfortable?

I tried flats. I really did. But several comments about my ‘little girl’ height and jokes about me not seeming like my usual confident self made me question what heels did for me. Heels gave me authority. Heels enabled me to look people in the eye instead of the nipple. Heels enabled me to wear pants without paying $25 per pair in alterations.

Hey, I’m cheap.

Of course I could straighten my spine and walk tall (5 ft 2 isn’t quite midget status), but honestly I’d rather look my boss in the eye and who can resist looking more authoritative, slimmer and just a little sexy? After all, I am single, I work with senior execs all day and hell..if I have to dress up for work, I’d rather not be the poster girl for lesbian chic. I left that look back in Colorado. There has to be some version of heels which doesn’t result in sobbing …right? I mean people have been rocking these things for 50 years.

I started with a few requirements…..

  • The ability to walk at high-speed without losing them. My job involves running across conference halls/ airports/ hallways on a regular basis and I have left at least 2 shoes in the middle of a cross walk before now. Straps or laces, however it works.. but ‘firm fit’ is key.
  • Able to fit my weirdly skinny ankles and bizarrely shaped toes without causing nail loss. I don’t rule out square toes, but I’d prefer if my heels didn’t resemble something from the early 90s.
  • Suitability for a hetero 30-40 something woman who wears skirts, dresses and pants. i.e. Huge platform soles and knee-length lacing are out.. along with anything with the name ‘comfort’ in the title.

But since I’m wearing them all day every day, I figured.. money no object. At least for one pair.  No problem right?

WRONG.

A Facebook request to friends led me to Franco Sarto, Cole Haan and Nine West. A gift certificate led me to Macys. After exhausting everything from kitten heels to wedges, Sam Edelson to Prada and an entire weekend I came to several conclusions.

  • It doesn’t matter how much you spend.. boots win out every time for comfort, fit and style. Bummer because I now live in CA. Where its warm. All year.
  • Elastic or leather with stretch are your friends.
  • Most shoes will fit your heels or your toes.. but rarely both.
  • Fancy straps, chains, buckles or slingbacks generally result in blisters about 30 mins after you wear them for the first time. Wear them around the house for a few hours – vacuum, clean, cook, do laundry. By the time your clothes are in the dryer, you’ll know. (plus if you live with someone, kinda kinky).
  • Expensive ($250+) does generally get more comfortable and more long-lasting but you’re going to be spending a minimum of $250, $400 or $1000. Which to most single chicas who aren’t Meg Whitman means an annual treat if that.
  • Comfort and style don’t mix. I’ve tried all of the ‘so called’ solutions and the closest I came was a $550 spanish brand that still resembled something you’d wear to perform a stompy fiesta dance with a tambourine. Fine if I were living in Spain, or about to head out for the evening, but a tough mix with my all black, formal wear, wardrobe.

So in the end I wound up settling for slightly uncomfortable, slightly more than I could afford, and perfectly office appropriate. I’ve already taken them out for a test run up and down the halls a few times, and I can stand in them for about 6 hours. Not perfect, but hey.. at least I can make it to the car without walking like a constipated duck, no-one is making comments about ‘the single chick with comfortable shoes’ and I’ve not broken out a single band-aid yet. Yay for Donald J. Pilner.

But in the meantime I’ll continue my search. I figure anyone who finds that ‘style and comfort’ solution for women’s heels will make millions.

If I find them first, I’m buying stock.