Sunday, March 13, 2011

Body blows....and no necks

I used to have a neck. When I was in college, admittedly a long time ago, I sported lots of turtlenecks. Even then, my neck still had a bit of skin showing above the folded turtle, if that’s what it's called.

A few years ago, I began to notice that same fold was pushed up against my jaw, making me squirm with the touch of claustrophobia that runs in my family. But mine seems to be completely gone now.

I now wear lower necklines, if only to breathe easily.

My massage therapist spent 15 minutes yesterday stretching my neck muscles. Not a pleasant experience, as it turns out. I know all about bone loss in the spine and realize that most of us do begin to lose a few inches as we age. That’s one of the reasons I’m so faithful about my weight-bearing exercises at the gym. But I think there is more to this neck shrinking issue for me, and maybe for lots of other women, especially.

We’re waiting for the next blow to hit.

I was divorced when my daughter was barely four, and for the next fifteen years, the two of us made our way alone. I taught school during the day, worked the counter at a dry cleaner after that job, and then tutored kids after that one. If something broke in my house, it either stayed broken or I had to find someone to fix it for free. And there aren’t a lot of handy people in our family. I drive cars until the wheels fall off, sometimes literally.

If I ran out of money before my next paycheck, well, too bad. There was no one at home to pick up the slack and write a check to cover the bills or buy food. When the school district I worked for “forgot” to tell me until May that I wouldn’t be paid over the summer due to some bureaucratic snafu, oh, well, suck it up and work two more jobs to keep the lights on and the roof over our heads. You do what you gotta do.

When a hobby shop refused to refund $20 hard earned dollars for a duplicate birthday present for my daughter, I had to pitch such a fit in the store they threatened to call the cops. But I NEEDED that $20, and I didn’t care that the darn box had gotten thrown away. (Not one of my finer moments, I admit.)

No one at home to help me, no one there to pat me on the back and console me. And every time something happened, I felt my shoulders hunch up near my ears, waiting for the next body blow to hit. I might as well have put my arms up to protect my head…it was such a visceral reaction.

And I don’t think I am unusual. There are many women, and dads, too, who literally have to fight their way through life. There are  millions of other people warding off body blows now as the economy beats us all up, with threats of losing our homes and transportation, food and gasoline prices skyrocketing out of sight. 

I'm 62 years old and still have to worry about just holding on to what I have. My work could disappear at any moment, poof! I have enough to last maybe two months without work. Retirement? Are you kidding me? 

No wonder we have no necks.

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