Monday, January 10, 2011

Tendo Calcaneus

Some people use their bank balance, number of facebook friends or even kilograms lost to measure their success. I use my achilles tendon.

Apart from a propensity to insert Milly the dog's name into popular songs and loudly sing them back to her or to count things in threes, it has been this rather small but essential muscle on the back of my lower right leg that has been the weathervane reflecting my internal life.

During the miserable five weeks working at Melbourne Uni (yes, I said it!), my Achilles had twanged itself for the second time. Two rounds of six weeks' rest from running with only the miserable 3km walk home in heavy traffic, careless right-turn drivers and off-road cyclists (how wide am I? I'm already on the far left side of the path, don't you think you can squeeze past me without trilling your stupid bell in warning?) and my mood was as injured as my leg.

A week after quitting the job and wondering just what the hell kind of conversation I was going to make with my family at Christmas time - 'Yeah, I'm a quitter; how's your career going?' 'No, I don't have any form of income at the moment; let's look at your renovation' - I realised that six weeks had passed again.

This time I was careful. A three kilometre power walk to the bluff, touching the parking sign pole as the official end of the course and running it back. Difficult but do-able with the Achilles whingeing slightly but not progressing to screaming or snapping.

A days' rest and then the walk-three, run-three trial again. Even better. I find myself participating more in dinner table conversations, more willing to make or take a joke. Hell, did Mum just spring me singing to Milly outside by the rainwater tank?

The walk-three, run-three technique is repeated another five times over the next week before battling the locust plagues and the wheezy laughter of Kerry O'Keefe during the ABC cricket broadcast as we drive the long trek back across the border to home.

Sapphire and I are eating lunch together. Her head is lowered and her eyes are brimming. After several gentle questions, the tear drops fall down her shirt and she says that someone called her fat. It doesn't matter who, it was said, so they obviously think so. Is it true?



But I too was called fat by my brothers. Fatty Arbuckle actually. In retrospect it sounded catchy and none of us knew that he was a silent film star whose career was ruined after being found guilty of raping and killing a starlet. The intention was merely to silence and hurt me and boy, did it work. I cried so many times with self pity and loathing and now when I see photographs of myself it is a normal-sized girl standing in the garden and two very skinny brothers who teased without any genuine malice.

I turn to my girl - also normal-sized - and know that just telling her that she's a great person and is fine won't work. She wants a solution, a project. "But hey, I keep reading that being fit - you know, all that cardio vascular stuff - can help with asthma and breathing and give you more energy. As you know I'm slowly getting back into my running again. Do you want to do some of that with me?"

Expecting her to quickly say 'no thanks' I was surprised when she agreed.

And so, for the past week, she's been out in the shed with me. The music is her choice - lots of Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift; the pedestal fan is directed towards her red face that doesn't yet sweat as easily as mine and I crack weak jokes about being her personal trainer, singing along in a falsetto voice to any of the songs I know and getting a rather big squeeze to the heart when I see her smile.

She ran 2.8 kilometres today. I was very proud of her and told her that she should be too."Yeah but you ran four, Mum."

"Maybe, but I've been doing it for over ten years and am a bit older and stronger than you. You're eleven and have decided to give this a red-hot go and are succeeding." It's now my eyes that are brimming.

Sapphire skips inside to tell LC who is busy making coffee and setting up my laptop in the kitchen. Yes, it's my original one, with the K, N, I, H and L keys that stick, the internet speed of a sea slug on valium and no bells or whistles. It suits me and allows me to stop hiding out in the hot study and instead sit at the table being part of the whatever LC and Sapphire are doing.

Now that they've set off to see Tron ("I'm sure it's going to be OK because Dad and I have the same taste but I don't believe that everyone's going to be wearing the same jumpsuit type of outfit in the future like every sci-fi movie seems to think"), I've showered, breakfasted and working on four chapters of the fledgling novel at once.

My Achilles is throbbing slightly but only to let me know that it's been tested.


Katherine said...

It's so sad that 'fat' is still the insult of choice for children. I was also called fat when I was a teenager (usually by idiot boys who couldn't think of a nice way to speak to me or get my attention!) and thought I was for a long time.... Photos from that age show me looking pretty normal and certainly not fat. I still carry that feeling with me today though so good on you for trying something positive to overcome that particular insult!

On the bikes ringing bells thing though... my husband (who, in apparently his mid-life crisis, has just taken up cycling) tells me that it is an etiquette thing that they do so pedestrians (especially those with headphones on) don't leap into their path out of shock as they go whizzing past. I've learnt not to move now - just keep walking (they can go around me - they've obviously seen me if they are ringing their bell at me).

Kath Lockett said...

Oh Katherine - and our names are spelled the same! I've been impressed that Sapph has grasped the 'get fit, get strong' idea and is not using it to 'get skinny'. I think that years of LC and I doing our best to keep fit means that she's now old enough and ready to do it too.

Ah so the bell ringing is for etiquette; that makes a lot more sense and reveals me to be far more sensitive than needed. :)

Kymmie said...

Oh, do you want to find that person who told your girl she was fat and beat them silly? No wonder kids have eating disorders. It is wrong that a normal sized girl be called fat. Maybe we should play the glad game and think about all that mum-daughter bonding you'll be doing in the shed... xx

Benjamin Solah said...

You're writing a novel? That's exciting. I'd love to hear more about it and how it's going.

Kath Lockett said...

Kymmie my first reaction was to force the name out of her and go and squash them into a bloody stain on the ground but I thought that no, it's best not to dwell on that misguided miscreant and instead dwell on how Sapph and I can do something together, something constructive. She might not stick at it once school starts again but her endurance is quite startling already.

Thanks Benjamin. Nothing too startling or 'out there' but I've got a story outline and am working on four chapters simultaneously so that I can vomit out the ideas before I forget them. No contract, no publisher no network. Still worth a crack though.

River said...

Go Sapphire! 2.8km !!!
I can walk that distance, but I certainly couldn't run.
And don't worry about "fat" insults. I've seen fat and you're certainly not it.
I got called lollylegs at school, because I was skinny and my legs resembled musk sticks.

Kath, working on four chapters at once? I'm impressed and can't wait for the book to be finished and published. So I can tell everyone I know that I know a famous author, that's why. I'm all about the bragging!.

Helen said...

2.8 km for just starting out is really impressive! I'm glad she's taking to it so well, she's been dealing wit so much lately, having something like running that she can enjoy should be a huge help!

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks River - hey don't brag until you find me someone who wants to publish it!

Helen I agree with you - I think being able to have a physical outlet for some aggression, frustration and good old thinking time will really help. Her and me.

Elisabeth said...

I admire anyone who runs anywhere. In theory I run, too, but not for exercise, only to get from point A to point B, in a hurry.

I have been set a series of knee muscle strengthening exercises by my physio over these last several weeks and I'm damned if I can remember to do it.

Today I spent more time than usual, bent of knee in my ergonomic chair to write and the whole leg, once broken, now aches, but I'd rather write than run any day.

As for the word 'fat' they should ban it and invent a new one that more accurately reflects the state of the human body as it grows.

Not all fat, as you say, is fat.

JK said...

Wow, what a day. Well done on all fronts, and Sapphire is a star, amazing effort running that well first time!

Vanessa said...

Firstly, why would you define yourself at family dinners by your career/work/unemployment? You gave it a go, it didn't work, move on.
You are much more than your employment status.
Fat??? God kids can be cruel. Especially at that age. Good on both of you for focussing on the positivity of exercise.
Wow, I will know two published authors by the end of the year! Actually you are already published so I already know one (my husband is due to hand in his first technical book to publisher end of Feb.)

The Plastic Mancunian said...

G'Day Kath,

I know one published author (struggling with his second novel but published all the same) and I am sure you will achieve his dizzy heights.

I used to be really skinny as a kid and got stick for that - you simply can't win. Kids will always find something to tease other kids about.

I wish I was that skinny now...




Baino said...

I think something happens when women turn about 45 they become invisible to all. I am not a small frame but am constantly 'bumped' into as if people can't see me coming. Kudos running 4kms I can't run for a bus! Shame about the insults, she's nowhere near fat poor kid but there's no harm in starting an exercise regime to the point that you love it eventually . . I'm waiting for the 'love' part to kick in.

Nuttynoton said...

I was bullied and called fat when I was 10/11 all the time, I was fat but it still hurt, then I shot up and flattened out until I hit my 40s. I think it is great that she wants to exercise with you Miss NN no 1 started jogging with me but she is as flat footed and bow legged as can be so not exactly elegant, we did some but she would not be seen with me in our village in the daylight! Frightening I must be but it is good for parental bonding and a great stress reliever. Tell her to keep it up she will only benefit from it and so may you. Good luck with the book and here is to agreat 2011

Pandora Behr said...

Oh Kath, I so hear what you're saying. My barometer is bronchitis - how our concerns and worries materialise in physical ways. But you're all doing great - and good on Sapphire - well done that! What you were saying about the family stuff brought a tear to my eye. You're not alone in all this. Pandxx

Verification work: ogeess - Or the doubting, teasing Thomas's who we all have to say - thank you for you opinion, now sod off and sort yourself out.

Helen Balcony said...

(how wide am I? I'm already on the far left side of the path, don't you think you can squeeze past me without trilling your stupid bell in warning?)
[end quote]

No, it's necessary. In addition to not causing peds sudden shocks, as Katherine says, you need to guard against the walker suddenly zigzagging. You may not zigzag, but others do. Of course, this should apply to shared bikepaths, not pavements, where the rider shouldn't be unless they are under the designated age where it's legal.

Kath Lockett said...

Elisabeth your readers want you to continue writing instead of running as well but REMEMBER your exercises so that your leg heels (typed miraculously whilst waggling my finger at you in nagging mother style);

JK, I keep telling her that and she just says, "Oh you're biased, Mum."

Vanessa, your advice to 'move on' is very apt on so many levels!

PlasMan, a second novel you say? I'd be happy with a first. And as for being skinny yes, they were teased too, but as a 'fattie' I envied them.

You do end up loving exercise and being fit in the end, Baino. Maybe not just as the alarm goes off or your slugging it out in the first few minutes but something kicks in and you feel proud of yourself. And vibrant. But mostly proud.

Thanks Nutty. I bet you could outrun all of your old tormenters these days!

Pandora there *is* something about our physical aches and pains that's a clear sign, isn't it? After writing this, I twanged my Achilles again - so badly that I couldn't sleep last night with teh pain of it and am seeing the doctor tomorrow. However, that doesn't mean I can't cycle or power walk and still feel fit and ready to sit and write.

Zig zagging, Helen? Yep, I can understand that too, esp if the walker is wearing headphones (which I don't 'out on the streets', just on the treaddie).

Anonymous said...

There is an odd balance of trying to teach "youre normal, not fat" with a dose of "fat doesn’t mean lazy/ugly/gross". It is such an ultimate insult because in any attempt to defend oneself (or others) "fatter than me" people are thrown into the crossfire.

Try and get a hold of the TV show Huge if you can - the show has been cancelled but the first season is fabulous.

(another Katherine)

River said...

Ummm, now I'm feeling a bit guilty for neglecting my shoulder exercises. Not because they hurt the shoulder, they don't, but after doing them my neck and back hurt so much. It's definitely a no-win situation. I'll be discussing it with my doctor on Friday.

kath, maybe you should wear some form of support for the achilles for a few months?

Kath Lockett said...

Anonymous Katherine - "There is an odd balance of trying to teach "youre normal, not fat" with a dose of "fat doesn’t mean lazy/ugly/gross". It is such an ultimate insult because in any attempt to defend oneself (or others) "fatter than me" people are thrown into the crossfire."

- I've read and re-read your comment a few times and am still wondering how to respond. The last thing I want to do is throw anyone into the crossfire (fat or otherwise). Dad and I used to go running together when I was fourteen until I left school. He was into marathon running then and I'd join him three mornings a week on his short runs and it was our time to talk together which we both cherished. Sometimes we'd see someone fairly, um, hefty riding a bike or walking and Dad said to me, "Never think, 'oh look at that fat person' instead think 'good on them for getting out there'." Perhaps that might be seen as patronising but in my own adult life my weight has yo-yoed from 63 to 83 kilograms and through all of it I've been pretty fit. Never ever slim, but fit with a pretty good reserve of energy and strength. Fitness is what I want for Sapphire so that she doesn't have to go on ridiculous diets and can see what amazing abilities her body has. Yesterday she ran 2.8 again and I said, "Did you think that your body could do that?" and she smiled and said, "No." She's getting it.... I've just waved her and Love Chunks off because they're going ice-skating together today. I'm not sure which one is more excited!

River - like Elisabeth, ya need to keep at the exercises. When my Dad had shoulder surgery he was the best 'pupil' his doctor ever had and that was because he didn't want to risk not being able to pick up a grandchild or swing a golf club again.

franzy said...

D'oh. Late to the party.

"you're fat" = "I'm too dull to breathe"

Please stop being such a dedicated writer. You're putting me to shame.

Anonymous said...

Sorry if I wasn’t clear - it was more of a general thought on how society views “fat” and what a complicated insult it is, especially for girls.

I think you are doing a great job in focusing on what the body can do (strength, endurance).

Another Katherine

Kath Lockett said...

Franzy - can I write "Puts Franzy to shame" on my fantasy dust jacket?

Thanks 'Another Katherine.' It *is* a complicated insult, the worst one in fact. No matter how we try to view things it's the one that hurts the most and the tormenters know it. Damn 'em.

Sophie said...

I've met your daughter and she is NOT fat.

Show her the scale of weights and heights and I'm sure she'll find she is in the very healthy range.

My mum was a fat child - not by today's standards of gross obesity mind you - but she was overweight.

She's been skinny as hell for the rest of her life and she still feels fat. Those labels from childhood can hurt.

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks Sophie. You know it; I know it but the child who gets called fat - unfairly and mean spiritedly - doesn't yet know it. Your mum is a perfect example of how utterly hurtful such an insult can be.

TOM said...

I was labeled "A tall lanky individual with spindly arms and legs!" so I spent my youth trying to bulk up, not realizing the time and a slower metabolism would help me do that in my later years...Oh to be spindly again....Now it's diet and the loss of 35 lbs over the past year and I feel great.

Enjoy the workouts with Sapphire and tell her she looks great just the way she is! Take care of that tendon!!