Do I need to bring anything?
No. Just show up.
“Parkinson’s disease is a disease of the brain” Davis Phinney Foundation Ambassador Edie Anderson’s Dr. told her upon diagnosis. Edie used this same phrase with her physical trainer when he suggested a balance exercise. She wondered how that would improve her symptoms. Trusting that he knew what he was doing, she showed up at the gym and after a few months improved her one-foot balance time from 3 seconds to one minute. We all know how significant balance is to a person with Parkinson’s. (Living Well with Parkinson’s virtual Victory Summit, Omaha)
A long time ago, when the world was “normal” I wrote about having some “tools” handy. I might need them if I got myself in a mess like falling off the step into a pile of cardboard boxes, getting up off the freshly mopped kitchen floor where I just landed on my behind or getting out of a deep bathtub in a convent in Spain where I was the only houseguest and the nuns were already secluded for the night. These kinds of events are things you cannot train for! Maybe If I lived in the jungle, I could use some Jimmy Choi, the American Ninja Warrior with Parkinson’s moves to swing from tree to tree. In reality, I live in a desert and I can hardly do a chin up, yet.
More recently my blog post titled “Lessons Learned from the Ladder” reminded me that what I do now in the way of exercises (physical, mental, and spiritual) will affect my future. It takes some level of physical strength to hoist myself out of my kayak (maybe about the same as a deep bathtub), so it’s important to keep exercise up. In the movie Titanic, two scenes come to mind. One is the scene where the band is playing as the ship sinks. What discipline they had to continue! They were experienced musicians, familiar with their instruments, playing standard songs that they had memorized years ago. They had the discipline to stay at their post. In another scene, the ship is listing to the side as a priest leads a small group of people in praying the rosary. (If you do not know about the rosary it is a reflection from the birth through death and resurrection of Jesus.) There are three prayers used in the rosary that Catholic children memorize and grow in understanding as their intellect matures: the OUR FATHER, the HAIL MARY, and the GLORY BE. The people gathered with the priest on the deck of the Titanic resorted to those rote prayers to bring them comfort and to connect them with God. By the rote memorization from childhood, they had a tool they could fall back on. The familiarity brought a calming effect.
I developed some “practices” during the pandemic. These practices help me to develop the “tools” needed to get out of deep bathtubs or get myself going when I feel like becoming a permanent fixture on the couch. The biggest tool was to keep to a routine. During the routine of my day I did these things, not necessarily in this order: Get up at 7 am. Reach out to one person in a low-tech way (phone call, write a note, drive-by or ride by their house). Exercise. Take some quiet time for reflection. Go to bed at a decent hour. Take my medicine as scheduled. Participate in online groups such as AMYSAYSDANCE. (Facilitated by Amy Carlson, Davis Phinney Foundation Ambassador)
But the most important practice was that I “showed up”. By “showing up” for my day no matter how bad I felt, I experienced some relief from my issues and got something accomplished. Having a fun activity at 8:15 AM helps. For example the other night I had weird spasms and my legs cramped horribly. I got the cramps settled down and took a warm shower. I showed up for AMYSAYDANCE and danced like a crazy fool. After that, I was able to participate in my morning boot camp boxing workout (Kimberly Berg firstname.lastname@example.org). And I managed a bike ride in the afternoon. Just because I used the tool of “show-up”. Today I had another “just show up” day. I had a terrible sinus headache. Four extra-strength Tylenol, two cups of coffee, a Claritin, and finally a Sinutab got rid of the headache but made me sick to my stomach. After “showing up” I was able to do 45 minutes of my 60-minute-high intensity workout and after a short nap and a bite to eat, I am finishing this post.
If you do nothing else, show up. The discipline of showing up is just one tool that can lead to other useful tools. Who knows, you may just find yourself stuck in a deep bathtub in a Spanish convent and the strength you gained from all those bicep curls from class to get you out.