Just Call Me the Beam Lady

In 10 or 11 oh-so-careful steps, I can get from one end of this balance beam to the other.

It started as a brain-body exercise, a way I could gauge my recovery from a 2008 TBI. But soon the feat of crossing the little balance beam became much more: a way to connect with people during this time of isolation and masks.

I found the beam a few weeks ago on my usual run, after something made me turn right instead of left when I got to Lake Michigan. I eventually came upon my new toy, part of a “fitness trail” of exercise equipment.

“This looks fun,” I thought (or possibly said out loud, because masks make that socially acceptable).

After stretching, I carefully stepped up, noting that the thing isn’t any wider than my shoe. I made sure my hips were level and my abs were sucked in (yoga training) before slowly planting my other foot ahead.

Oops.

Many tries later, I managed a few steps before falling off—always landing on my feet. Good thing that beam is less than a foot high.

By the end of the week, I was able to make it across; in another week, I’d learned to pivot at the end and sometimes cross back. I kept improving, but some days I just kept falling. (More yoga wisdom: Every day is different.)

Better day, better balance

So my brain was getting tons of stimulation, and I was having a blast!

But as I said, it’s really the social aspect of my daily-ish beam routine that’s made it worth my brain’s while. Who cares about some middle-aged lady waddling along a curved strip of metal, falling off and getting back on again and again, putting on warmer layers of clothing when necessary because she’s too stubborn to give up?

Apparently, lots of people.

I gladly stepped off and aside when a mother and her kids stopped by. The young girl and boy made quick work of the beam, but the mom said there was no way she could do it. The kids and I traded tai chi and yoga moves before they walked on.

Then there was the man who said he’d seen me at my quest (well, what would you call it, obsession?) and admired my determination. We actually introduced ourselves. S-O-N-Y (sounds like Sonny, I think, but … masks).

I started getting balance advice, too. Guy With Dog (guy masked, dog not) urged me to look ahead and slightly down, instead of at my feet. (That’s a yoga wisdom fail on my part: To keep your balance, gaze at a drishti, or calming point, downward in the distance.)

Similar advice came from a 20-something passerby named Vince, who was accompanied by Mary. We had a long, socially distanced conversation when I learned about Mary’s epilepsy. That’s a condition I’ve had since the car accident that led to my brain injury.

Unfortunately, in her case the grand mal seizures are not treatable by medication or surgery. (I didn’t get her number, but if I see them again I’ll recommend our neurologist, who specializes in intractable epilepsy, as my husband suggested.)

Another day, out later than usual, I met two fellow regular beamers, Ellen and a different Mary. We exchanged phone numbers and texts. Ellen’s a yogini, like me, so we did a few poses for fun on solid ground.

She can walk the beam backward but hasn’t mastered the pivot. Mary had been afraid to beam-walk but figured if I can learn … Anyway, backward beaming is not among my goals.

Bad selfie of me, Mary and Ellen

A piece of advice that has proven especially useful came last week from an elderly woman named Christiane (“like Amanpour”). She critiqued my technique between fascinating tales (“Oh, wait; that reminds me of another story”) of a childhood in Europe and a stint with the circus—she switched topics too quickly for my brain to figure out when she was in Germany and Switzerland, and her mask obscured her age. Also, she may well have just seen “The Sound of Music.”

Who cares? Her advice—to keep a slight bend in my knees and tilt my pelvis up so I’m not even slightly bending forward—has gotten me to a personal best of seven times across and back, with pivots!

Does it always work? No.

Do I always have fun trying? Yes.

Am I about to put off finishing this blog piece so I can go running to the lake and play on the beam? You bet!

While I’m gone, please enjoy this photo of my former Beam Queen daughter. This was taken when she was a high school senior, but she went on to become a college champion.

Now, where were we?

Mostly it’s been nice just to have conversations with people, whether it’s discussing the constantly changing beauty of Lake Michigan with Ellen and Mary, sympathizing with the other Mary over the injuries she’s suffered during seizures or agreeing with a passing couple that “We’re all crazy now” after they’d caught me talking to myself on the beam about which song I have to keep in my head to avoid falling off. (It’s the theme to “The Bob Newhart Show.”)

One day this week I was crossing the balance beam after pivoting when I heard clapping. It was Sony.

“Lisa, you’re doing great!”

I think we all are.

12 thoughts on “Just Call Me the Beam Lady

  1. Oh Lisa, I always love your blog entries but this is the best ever. In my first life I thought I was going to be a physical education teacher. I was terrible at it. You got good advice about the Drishti in advance of your feet. When we go walking together in better weather I’ll help you (even if I can’t still do it) go backwards on a beam without taking your eyes off drishti and using your feet to guide you. More fun challenges.
    And your new friends! Your garden grows because you’re a ray of sunshine.

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    1. Can’t wait! And I’m so glad we all still get to practice together on Zoom. It’s like the old song: Make new friends, but keep the old / One is silver and the other gold.

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  2. Love this Lisa! Inspires me very much!

    Cheers! Joyce from Linda’s yoga class

    Merry Christmas to you and your family!

    On Thu, Dec 17, 2020, 4:53 PM That’s Brain Injury For Ya wrote:

    > thatsbraininjuryforya posted: ” In 10 or 11 oh-so-careful steps, I can get > from one end of this balance beam to the other. It started as a brain-body > exercise, a way I could gauge my recovery from a 2008 TBI. But soon the > feat of crossing the little balance beam became much more: ” >

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  3. Lisa I love this blog, I mostly miss seeing you run down the street of Inverness Drive.
    You are so inspiring ❤ and strong. Keep blogging please. Love Linda Fagin.

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  4. Great work! Get out and connect with other humans. At least the ones in masks. It looks like you’ve left the suburbs, and are doing well. About this time of year I find myself writing an xmas letter and sending it to only one person. You are this year’s recipient. This year it,s a good one and would go something like this:The year started out well enough. In late February, I remember lying in the hay while the camels, llamas, and goats ate. I love to hear them munch and push each other around to get what might taste better from another feeder. It all comes from the same bale. While lying there I was feeling very grateful for my life, my family, my animals, my business, my friends with a few caveats related to my relationship with my family. Oh well, I supposed that’s what married life with a teenager is about; suffering through the emotional roller coaster of a adolescent girl. In March just 6 hours before we were to leave for NYC where Violet was to play Carnegie Hall with her student orchestra as the viola soloist, NYC shut down due to Covid. A huge disappointment for her and all of us since we had tickets to Hamilton and an opera at the Met. Once home, our house become crisis central for the hospital, where Nina works, that did not want to take Covid serioulsy  and expected it to blow over. However, the hospital was filling up with covid patients from the Navojo reservation. ICU doctors were starting to panic, fearing for their lives. Nina was getting resistance from the administration about creating covid units and all the protocols necessary to keep the staff safe without enough PPE. That’s when I started making shields for the ICU. Violet appeared ill and was locked in her room for a week until her test results came back. I was furious with the leaders from government down to the hospital administration for their lack of concern about people on the front lines. Violet was trapped at home with me since we couldn’t go to school or work. Needless to say our house was tense.Sometime in April Violet took my car and drove to Phoenix in the middle of the night and drove around for three days. Of course we had no idea where she was and she would not communicate with us. She managed to stay with a girl she had recently met and keep herself safe. All of this is the set up for what came next. Nina got Violet back home after a five day stint in a mental hospital. I was told to move out to make Violet’s return easier for her. While staying at a hotel down the road for two weeks with the plan of returning, after the first week Nina announced that they could no longer live with me. I was crushed. I was on retreat in this hotel reading about cognitive behavioral therapy and how I could become a better person for my family. Interestly, my anger subsided. I was sad and confused but not angry.They moved out to a new house in July. I moved back to my house that I purchased in 1999, years before Nina entered the picture. In the six months that have passed, I have been processing all of this with a psychiatrist, the company of my chihuahua and my animals as well as good friends. This one joke says it all “what is the difference between God and a doctor?…… God knows he NOT a doctor.” Nina has some OCD going on which makes her a great doctor but a terrible spouse and parent. Ultimately everything was my fault; Violet running away, her lack of motivation for school, her anger, Nina’s anger. I felt trapped and was merely here as a handy man. I wasn’t getting much positive support or love out of the relationship with either of them. Sometime they had decided that they didn’t like me any more. Honestly when I had my surgery for my brain aneurism, I had decided that I really didn’t want to survive it.  I was miserable, my family was treating my like I was not family but something only for their convenience. “the toilet’s not working, the wifi is not working, fix my computer but don’t touch it, we don’t like your cooking, but you have to cook for us…..”  I could not say what I needed or felt without being condemned for it. I survived my aneurism and I was going to make my life worth living for me. The motorcycle appeared, it was time to fulfil the 25 year dream of owing a camel. However, when I would come in from meeting a friend or doing a bike ride Violet would often say “Mom’s mad at you”. What now? Nina wouldn’t discuss anything, so Violet became her voice just as I became Nina’s voice to Violet when Nina was not happy with her.  It seems that Nina was complaining to Violet about me, and telling me half stories about Violet to get me wound up to come down as the heavy. I was always the bad guy, Nina was the hero, and Violet was the victim. But all of that is a set up for this: I am happier than I have been for a very long time. I am not angry, my confidence is up and I am glad to be alive. I am riding my camels, playing lots of music, making art in film with the dance group I light. My relationship with Violet is improving since the sabotage has been removed. We are learning to trust each other and be open and honest. Unfortunately, Violet is experiencing much of the anger and OCD control that I experienced. That makes me very sad, and there is nothing I can do about it, except listen and be empathetic to Violet. Additionally I am seeing a woman I have known for about 10 years who I had been curious about. She thinks I’m great, and needless to say I think the same about her. Being together is so easy. None of the judgement, criticism, or the hoops I would have to jump through to dodge the emotional land mines that Nina wouldn’t tell me about, but I still had to navigate.  I see a future and it looks pretty good. Of course this is not the stuff that shows up on Facebook and since I am still married and in a very slow divorce process. It is all top secret stuff. Nina and my friend actually work together. Rumor has it around the hospital that “Nina’s ex husband is already seeing someone”.  Shame shame on me. Nina moved out of our bedroom in March under the guise of covid safety, but still spend time in the rest of the house. Violet is happier and hopes never to have to experience both her parents in the same room ever again. She was sick of our “fake” relationship. We didn’t fight or argue much. Nina hates conflict so much she would make me give other people bad news, and rather than work on our relationship she ran away. I asked Nina if she was happier and she said she didn’t know what happiness was. Par for the course for a person with OCD. I am much happier. And I lie in the hay listening to the munching and really appreciate being alive without the caveats or justifications. Happy Holidays Lisa. I am so glad you are becoming who you are as a yoga instructor, a writer, and a survivor who can help others get through what you have gone through. May 2021 be a year of healing and peace.Eric Souders928-606-2110

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    1. Hi! Just found this comment in the “pending” category while going in my blog’s comments sections. Started reading it and thought, “Hey, this sounds familiar.” Now I know who one of my anonymous readers is. Hope all is well.

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  5. Hi Lisa, Sounds like you are having fun living near the lake. You mentioned that you use a song to help maintain focus during your beam exercise. I do the same when golfing, to help me focus on my swing, but I use whichever song gets stuck in my head that day. It was nice to be able to golf again this summer, even if I did have to ride in a cart and am still a lousy golfer. Just getting out feels good. Have a lovely Christmas!
    Pat Daugherty

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