Thursday, March 05, 2015

(Sick) Leave

It's been my custom when the new semester rolls around to post something about my upcoming courses, but as even periodic J's Theater readers may have noted, I've posted nothing so far, and we're now into March. That is because I am officially on a research sabbatical--though I cannot get my vacation email program to work and thereby alert people contacting me via my university account that I am not on campus--for the first time since 2009. Like most people on such a break, I had mapped out very specific plans for writing and reading; I specifically was aiming, and still am, to finish my next book, an ample novel that still needs a bit of work. 

The best-laid plans can be derailed by life's vagaries, which in my case, as a few close friends already know, have been a series of health challenges that have followed each other in succession into the new year, and which have meant that I have spent more time at home recuperating and shuttling to various health care facilities in Jersey City and New York City than I have at the New York Public Library, where books I have called up still sit unopened on my research room shelf. I am now on the mend and all told, things could have been (much) worse, but it nevertheless has been tough not being to get out and about, see people, or do many of the things I usually do. As my recent posts probably hint at, I have been spending a lot of time watching TV and movies, and, when I can focus, I have been reading a lot too. The writing goes slowly, but it goes on, thankfully.

I have written in the past about dealing with kidney stones, and they popped up again right around the time I submitted the final version of my manuscript. I wonder if my body, entering middle age, decided to raise a few flags of exhaustion. The kidney stones lingered all summer and became so severe that I had to have surgery right before classes began in the fall. The lithotripsy went well, and I thought I was out of tunnel, so to speak. I taught, served as acting chair, and went into the holidays with excitement for my leave to come. At some point, my meal combination led to acid reflux so severe I thought my chest would explode, which meant that beginning of this new year made me wonder if I would make it to February. It took only a few diet modifications (far less coffee, no sugar, cutting out eating or even a casual drink after 10 pm, etc.), but that is under control. Again, I thought, I can't wait to get started on finishing and extending Palimpsests.

One Saturday in late January, I went with friends to hear a performance of 20th century Japanese music. One of my friends had spent six months in Japan, though she had not attended any contemporary music concerts while there, so we thought it would be a great plan to do so in New York. My knees, which have been a bit rickety for years, were hurting, and it was cold and snowy, which seemed to make them ache even more, but I didn't think much about it. We went to the concert, I came home, and felt okay. The next day I could barely stand on one of my legs, both knees were so sore I was not sure what had happened, and I seriously wondered if I would be able to walk at all. Since then, I have had to slowly rehabilitate both legs to get around. Old injuries, fallen arches and pronation, and too much weight (though I have lost about 15 pounds since the knees began to act up) all have combined to create a very difficult, painful month and and half. Things were so bad that I found myself almost hopping, to the extent possible, to make it through a wake and repast for a friend's late father.

As I mentioned, though, I am on the mend. I am in physical therapy (the therapists are wonderful), and now realize that instead of cutting out the leg portion of my gym workout about two years ago and telling myself I'd get back to it at some point, with walking taking its place, and instead of rationalizing the creeping pain I was feeling when I barreled through the streets with my too-heavy backpack or messenger bag slung over my shoulder, I probably should have redoubled my exercises while also getting things checked out as soon as possible. I have been able to avoid surgery so far, knock on wood, and hope to be back up and running fully--walking, I can do without running, having done quite a lot of it when I was younger--very soon. Including the library, a conference in Montana, and whatever venues materialize for my new book. I also hope this is it for the health challenges. I would like to devote far more mental energy to that novel, among other projects, and have this leave be, even for its final portion, a very healthy one.

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