Thursday, December 1, 2011

Balancing in the Nut Department

I've been a little obsessed with 'balancing' ever since I started stroke rehab. I even borrowed the incredible Man On Wire documentary about Philippe Petit, the guy who walked a highwire between the twin towers of New York City's WTC. Now, when I'm heel-to-toeing across a line of gaffer tape on the rehab floor I picture myself as Philippe. Hell, I can walk twenty metres heel-to-toe without falling over, I bet I could have done what Philippe did. Only I probably would have had trouble doing the dancing bit in the middle.

Apparently Melbourne ravers are recognised all over the world because one of us invented 'the Melbourne shuffle'. I can actually do it. Or at least I could - haven't had much of an opportunity lately. I learned it from architect Randal Marsh who told me the main trick was to be confident, though a strong sense of balance is also pretty important. And Randal could walk across a crowded dancefloor balancing a full pot on his perfectly shaved head. Balancing for him came naturally.

This morning, at my favourite fruit and vegie shop in Cato Street, Prahran, I lost my balance. It wasn't a dramatic fall or anything. Melons didn't roll everywhere Mack Sennett-style. All I did was squat down low to where the pistacchio nuts were, and as I reached for the scoop, I felt myself going over backwards. Fortunately nobody saw it and 'the only thing I hurt was my dignity', as people always say in those shithouse letters they send to women's magazines in an effort to win fifty bucks. I ended up lying in a foetal position in the nut department. Philippe Petit, the man on the wire, would have pissed himself laughing. After a few seconds I felt confident enough to stand up, and I worked out why my fall had happened. I keep discovering new muscles in my body that my brain has forgotten about. I haven't used that little muscle in my ankle since the stroke. (It's near the Achilles' tendon, but I don't know the name of it.) There's been no reason to squat down so low on my haunches. But now I have to remind my brain that there is actually a muscle there and that I need it when I squat or I'll tip over backwards in the nut department. (I probably should stop saying 'the nut department', I just think it has an interesting ring.) So I'll be doing a lot of 'squatting and reminding' tonight. And I confess I'm a little disappointed, because even though there have been a few hiccups, my recovery has been pretty good. I'm better than my therapist at mental maths, and I can use pretty much every machine in the gym without embarrassing or hurting myself. I've been counting the days till my major assessment at The Alfred when Dr Palit and my stroke team work out if I've recovered enough to drive a car. I don't want to trick them, or anything, as I genuinely want to know if I am capable of driving a motorised vehicle without posing a danger to man or beast. If I just 'pretend' that everything is okay, I know I'll never forgive mnyself if I knock someone down in Fitzroy Street, though I would add that some of the guys I've been seeing lately in Fitzroy Street really have it coming. So, it looks like any tightrope attempts are still a way off, even though those prongs on The Bolte Bridge look tempting.
I wonder how many more faulty bits of me I will discover in the ensuing weeks? I'll keep you posted­ - but not too closely. Let's just say that it's a good idea to have a very patient partner if you undertake post-stroke 'connubials' as Kath Day would ever- so-piss- elegantly say.


Megan Jackson said...

The nut department - gnaws own hand off at elbow to stop with the juveline responses... Squats are good for your glutes - I'm sure your physio will be stoked to hear that you've been practicing them.

dverkys said...

Glad to hear you're getting there mate, keep on fighting, try not to lose balance again and fall on your nuts ;)

Denis Wright said...

As our mutual friend Michael Jongen may have mentioned, I've shared this experience with you and can relate to it fully.

For anyone else interested, it's here:

Keep writing, and keep wriggling those muscles around! There are so many that a lot of exercises don't get to. After two years fighting, I know that physical exercise is critical - and that sense of humour!