Major ass cramp yesterday.
The Mister and I hopped into our old pick up and headed to our ski cabin to check on the renovations. A nice Saturday drive, plus I’d negotiated a stop for cheeseburgers on the way out of town. We were about to pull onto the highway when I got a call from one of our boys.
“Hey, I have the day off work,” he said. “Are you and Dad up to anything interesting?” My heart swelled with joy to know that my 20-year-old son wanted to hang out with us on his day off.
“We are about to hit McDonalds and go check on the cabin. Want to ride along? We’ll buy you lunch.”
“Definitely!” he said and I turned to my husband. “Things are going to be squishier than expected but the good news is that our kid wants to come with us.”
As we detoured to pick him up I rearranged my belongs in the confines of the pickup and slid to the centre spot, propping my feet onto the raised hump of the floor. Suddenly my purse seemed unnecessary – why did I bring that and why is it so huge? The only place for it was between my feet. (Thank heavens the truck isn’t a stick shift!) My clip board and paint samples were essential and must not get dirty, so I perched them carefully against my leg. My knees were just below my eyes, but it was the only option to create space for a third passenger. Discomfort was overshadowed by the pleasure of my son’s company.
Soon the drive-thru presented additional challenges, as balancing lunch is near impossible when one’s legs are at a 75 degree angle. Again, I focused on the delights of a junk-food treat and ignored the alarming messages coming from my torso and legs.
Everything’s fine, I’m okay! I have a cheeseburger, the Mister on my left and my son on my right. The sun is shining and we are driving to the mountains to check out this great project. I can manage. Pain began announcing itself but I had to ignore it. We had a lovely trip otherwise, all four hours of it.
Once back home, both fellows jumped out of the truck but I remained stuck. With my legs still folded into an unnatural position, I rolled sideways onto the seat and slowly extended my feet forward. I was well aware that this was a less-than-attractive move but I had no choice. I was the Tin Man in need of oil. I wiggled and shimmied off the bench seat and out of the door, praying my legs would hold me upright once I hit the ground.
“Everythings fine! I’m okay!” I chirped with relief as I landed, but the others were already walking away.
“Remember to lock it” my husband offered over his shoulder, a necessary reminder because I always forget that this base-model pickup has manual locks and have left the passenger door open more times than I can count.
As the evening rolled around I developed the deadened pain of the dreaded Ass-Cramp Hangover (a.k.a. ACH). ACH isn’t officially listed on webMD or the Mayo Clinic site, but I know from experience that it is a debilitating condition.
While watching tv, I couldn’t tolerate another moment of discomfort and jumped up. I threw myself forward at the waist and dangled my torso, feeling a sweet release as muscles pull out of their knotted grip down my back and behind my legs.
‘OH MY GOD!” I shouted alarmingly. “THIS FEELS FUCKING FANTASTIC!!”
My husband tossed me a deadpan gaze. Does anything surprise him?
“Oh God, oooooooh God,” I moaned almost sensually. “Oh this iiiiiiiiis incredible.” He continued to stare with growing interest – who could blame him? I was putting on quite a show. Good thing our son had gone home.
I leaned further forward and put my palms flat on the floor in an awkward grandma version of downward dog.
“Get over here and DO this!” I commanded. “You can’t believe how good it feels. Seriously,’ I gushed, “when was the last time you even touched your toes? It’s wonderful! You’ve GOT to DO this!”
It occurs to me now that an upside down pose can’t be attractive for my aging face, even when flush with near-orgasmic pleasure. My sparkling eyes may have looked dangerous from his vantage point.
The Mister responded from the sofa with one word: “Nope.”
What a metaphor for life. We contort ourselves painfully to endure situations that legitimately justify discomfort. It can take all forms: The hated job that pays well; the rude relative that mustn’t be offended; the convenient coffee shop that never gets orders right. The older we get the higher the stakes, and the more accepting we become of inevitable pain. When we move in opposition to discomfort, the relief is so joyous we want to share it with everyone.
(Join my church! Join my recovery program! Try these vitamins! Meditate! Pray! Floss! Buy these moistened butt wipes! )
But seriously, when is the last time you touched your toes? What everyday childhood pleasures have been forgotten, and what is stopping you from enjoying them right now? When was the last time you looked for shapes in the clouds or broke into a skipping trot?
I urge you, I dare you.
Take a moment in the shower to pull your lathered hair up to a point above your head. Peek into the mirror and see how it looks.
Stick a straw into chocolate milk and blow some bubbles. (For that matter, when did you last order chocolate milk?)
Buy yourself a KinderSurprise at the market checkout (American friends, you might have to Google that – I hear rumours you’re deprived.)
Twirl until you’re dizzy, hop up the stairs like a bunny, do ten jumping jacks in the kitchen.
Jumping, hopping, and being goofy feel good in a way we have forgotten to enjoy. I guarantee every one of these things will make you smile. Avoid that zany “look at me having fun!” mode just do it for your own pleasure. Say hello to those primitive impulses you stuffed down during adolescence as you tried to appear “grown up”; go back when you felt fully safe to be yourself.
Because oddly enough, everything I have learned about being an authentic person involves stripping away the layers of protection I built around my younger self. I stopped doing things that felt good and made me happy because I worried what others would think.
We can’t stop life from giving us ass-cramps, and life shouldn’t keep us from rediscovering the simplest of joyful remedies.