I Identify As Strong

Fashion, face paint and all things “girly” may be a stereotypical representation of my gender but my human instinct is to persevere.

The first thing the army taught me is I hate running. The second thing I learned is I could run for a long time without dying, even though it felt like I would. At the time, I believed my boots made each mile possible.

I remember how powerful I felt when I put on my combat boots. A non-gender related one size fits all. My confidence and self esteem soared. Those boots were all I needed to muster the will to bounce back when my body reached the point of collapse. I felt invincible.

I’ve since learned that the boots, nor the running had anything to do with my strength or ability to stay on my feet. It was me.

This is what’s going through my mind while I’m standing in front of the selection of work boots at the farm store. Buried deep inside seven aisles of men’s boots there’s one option with steel toe out of only four pairs to choose from for women.

“What do you think?” My husband asked.

“I think I’m bitter.” I responded.

I phoned my nurse case manager, Jane.

“I’m in crisis!” I wail. “I had to get rid of all of my shoes and I feel conflicted. The doctor says they’re no good for me but according to Marie Kondo, who is totally trending BTW, if it sparks joy I should keep it. I’m not feeling joyful over my Space Invader Vans. I’m too busy experiencing the horror of never wearing them again.”

“What are you wearing nowadays?” She asked, redirecting my poor me pitch.

If there’s a positive to being diagnosed with Osteoporosis at 44 years old it’s connecting with Jane as my nurse case manager. When the doctor said my “trampoline days are over,” it was Jane who understood exercise is my primary plan of attack against depression.

When spring came and the doctor said, “no yard work,” it was Jane who understood it’s my culture to grow what we eat and that his generalization of yard work is my livelihood. When I broke nine metatarsals over the course of two years it was Jane who asked, “what can you do to improve your situation?”

While doctors treat me as a chronic illness, Jane is the one who acknowledges that I identify as strong. Fashion, face paint and all things “girly” may be a stereotypical representation of my gender, but my human instinct is to persevere.

“For now, the aircast when I’m outside and New Balance with prescribed inserts indoors. Once the breaks are fully healed it’ll be New Balance and steel toe Caterpillar boots. The doctor and I negotiated a deal. I agreed I won’t register for any skateboard competitions and will toss my beloved shoes in exchange for yard work in a solid pair of boots. I’m good with that. The boots work well with my dresses.”

She laughed.

My husband thinks I should keep the shoes. “You can still wear them occasionally, right?”

I remember the first time I saw smutty lust in my husband’s eyes back when we were dating. He found me standing on my patio roof trimming the tree with a handsaw. I was wearing a strapless, coffee colored lace prom dress with a pastel pink crinoline and cowboy boots.

Jack Purcell classic Converse, slip on black Vans, ancient BearPaw hiking shoes and my winter boots with the pom-poms laid on the floor staring back at me. “No. They need to go. It’s not worth snapping a metatarsal like a dried up twig.” I picked them up and tossed them into the box across the room, giving myself two points for every completed free throw.

I handed my extra fluffy, neon purple Uggs to my daughter. She handed them back. “You keep them, just to look at because I know how much you love them,” she insisted.

But I need to let them go. They keep me anchored in a place of self pity because my skeleton is disintegrating, after all. It’s best to keep my attention focused on what I can do and not on what I can’t.

“It sounds like you’ve got things in order and you’re making progress,” Jane said. “How are you feeling about it?”

“Today is my 45th birthday and I started it off by scheduling my first bone building infusion at the hospital,” I informed her. “I’m nervous. I asked if it’ll have Wolverine like side effects but the woman on the phone laughed like it was a joke. You and I both know I was being somewhat serious.”

“Wolverine, huh? That would be epic,” Jane chuckled.

“I know!”

I was turning soil for crops when my husband and son cornered me in an attempt to disarm me of my shovel.

“As long as I can hold a shovel I’ll dig my own hole!” I bellowed.

“Um, mum,” my son sputtered with hesitation.

“I meant it literally,” I said.

“You’ve got to admit, it does apply metaphorically, too,” my husband chimed in.

“I don’t. No.”

I’m the one who has to live with the broken bones. I’m proceeding with extreme care, wearing my work boots and spreading a two day project out over a week’s time. I know my limit and when I need to rest. I also know my best line of defense is to maintain my strength.

I welcomed my husband and son to work along side of me, but I won’t be surrendering my shovel any time soon. Osteoporosis can have my shoes but it’ll have to fight me for my identity.

Behavioral Science ed/ reporter in Eastern Iowa. Informed and opinionated. My hobbies include petting cats, research and farming.

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