Sunday, October 10, 2010

Anatomy Lessons

I'm very into several things lately. Grey's Anatomy, because it's almost too much to handle and thus is a wonderful way to escape real life. Lists, because they're a good way for me to feel organized and neat when in actuality, I'm not either of those things. Chocolate milk, because it's wonderful. So for today, I analyze my anatomy...with a Matilde chokolademælk in hand. From feet to head, then:

- Feet: Approximately size 40 (that's a good old-fashioned American 10; a Freed of London 7X). Ten toes, with a bizarrely long second toe on each foot. Strange bumps protrude from the big, second, fourth, and pinky toes, a result of spending hours on end in what amount to paper-mache shoes. The third toes on each foot are miraculously, strangely okay. A bruised big toenail decorates the left foot; a deteriorating toenail tops off the right second toe. No blisters, but there appears to be a gaping white hole in between the fourth and pinky toes on the right foot. This is a large, persistent corn. It is actively disliked. Heels are fine, minus the callused skin factor. The muscles underneath both feet have an alarming tendency to cramp without warning, but this can be remedied so long as I carry around a tennis or dog toy ball to roll under my arches.

- Lower legs: Ankles are unmemorable, though small. A chronic case of eczema or some other mild skin rash is apparent on both legs, just above the ankles, but it sort of just looks like a band of freckles around each shin, so I'm cool with this. The legs could stand a good session with the Venus razor. Due to pale skin and klutzy tendencies, small bruises scatter both shins, but this can be explained: Each time I extract my bike from the parking rack, I manage to stab one shin or the other into one of the pedals. Since I do this at least four times a day, it's a battered area of my body.

- Knees: Knees are relatively unscathed. Though the aforementioned bruising can be seen in a large, now-faded contusion just below the right kneecap--a result of one-too-many patella-centric positions in Svanesøen.

- Upper Legs: The thighs appear to be healthy, though they too could really use a shave. Like the rest of my physical self, the upper legs are freckled, but--in a Sunday-morning miracle--appear to be completely free of bruising. This is good. The multi-vitamin+iron pill I take every morning appears to be working from the area starting above my knees and ending at my hips. The hamstrings could use a good stretch, but this does not make them any different than most of the other muscles in my body.

- Hips: My hips are not terrifically notable. Neither perfect for child-bearing nor for high-fashion modeling, my hips are relatively nondescript but for the fact that they seem to loathe allowing leg heights above 90, maybe 110 degrees. My hips don't lie: They are not big fans of adagio.

- Butt: A wonderful ballet instructor once told me that it's very difficult to injure your butt, and thus there is no excuse not to use it. I would rather not discuss this particular physical asset. I have a jumper's butt, which basically means: It is certainly not nonexistent. That's all I'm saying about the junk in my trunk.

- Torso: My stomach is freckled, and I have an innie bellybutton. Which is located ridiculously high on my stomach. I have a short torso, shorter than my legs anyway, and it's pretty boring, I think. I don't have a six-pack, due to my general distaste for sit-ups, but my tummy isn't too mushy. I mean, I'm a dancer. The ribs and collarbone are somewhat visible, but nothing to write to a clinic about. I have a fun triangle of freckles down near my appendix area (which I still possess, FYI); when I was younger, I dubbed this cluster the "Bermuda Triangle," but that's just a sign of my bizarre tendency to name things and make bad puns. And as for my chest, well...Pamela Anderson has nothing to worry about.

- Arms: I have ten fingers. One, the right index, underwent plastic surgery to repair a destroyed nail bed and ripped cuticle following a previously-chronicled altercation with a car door. The rest of my fingers are normal, save for the fingernails. I am not a biter, but I pick at them. (I'm a nervous person.) My wrists, like my ankles, are quite small; my arms are freckled and magically unbruised. My elbows are not hyperextended, but if I straighten them as much as I can, I have a sort of exaggerated muscle that sticks out and creates a nice sort of ditch on the outside of the elbow joint. It's not huge, but I can imagine it might be useful for storing something small, like a penny.

- Shoulders: We now come to the part of my body which (along with my gluteus maximus) is the bane of my professional existence--my shoulders. Aside from their alarming tendency to creak and crack, the ball-and-socket joints I have been blessed with are perfectly healthy, for normal life. But their resistance to remaining "down," in a graceful, at-ease position makes them a burden to me. Literally and figuratively.

- Neck & Back: My neck could, in an ideal ballerina world, be longer. More giraffe-like. But as it is, I suppose it is acceptable. It likes to crack first thing in the morning, and while this sounds grotesque, in practice it feels pretty wonderful. And like the rest of me, my back is dotted with "beauty marks" (aka freckles). A very mild case of scoliosis might be noticed upon extremely close inspection, but the real issue lies in the muscles of my lower back. Which are not into being flexible. If the rest of me takes a few hours to fully wake up, and thus classifies me as "so-NOT-a-morning-person," then my lower back is practically nocturnal.

- Face: My face is just that--a face. At the moment, due to a heavy performance schedule (which thus requires a heavy amount of heavy makeup), my epidermis is staging a protest in the form of a few decidedly not-freckle spots decorating my face. My mouth is nothing spectacular, with two lips of fairly normal proportions and a mouth full of (admittedly small) teeth. Unlike my younger sister, I cannot touch my tongue to my nose. My nose is small, and upturned. (And unreachable by my tongue.) I used to like it but have come to fear that as I get older, my nostrils are growing more obvious. If my ears were a cheap tshirt, they'd probably be a size M/L. My eyes are not bad, actually; when the pupils are tiny, I can see a blue outer rim, green in the middle, and goldish specks around the pupils. The eyebrows, however, were a source of great self-consciousness for years, though I've recently come to accept them. Large and defined, they require frequent maintenance. Silver lining is, I don't have to exaggerate them with (even more) makeup for stage. My forehead, mercifully, is not a fivehead and does not require its own zip code. And as for my hair? More often than not, my hair cannot decide which direction it wants to take, and so ends up choosing "all of them."

- Brain: Perhaps the messiest part of my body is locked away, beneath layers of crazy hair and skull flap and bones. My brain. It is constantly too full; I worry or overthink or concentrate or imagine all the time. Literally. I have tried to master the art of meditation, of clearing my head of any thought. But the moment I feel like perhaps I am nearing achievement, of being a total at-peace Zen wonder woman, a thought interrupts my yogi master success. I'm not a very calm person. I used to use the logical side of my brain most of the time--the side involving facts and rules and science and math. I thought and reasoned in very black-and-white terms. But as I get older/none-the-wiser, the more I use that other part of the brain--the creative part, the part with too many words and too many weird day(and night)dreams and too many feelings. I think I prefer this part now, because the more I live life, the more I realize that it is like Scandinavia, and not like Oreos: much of the time, it's not cookie-cutter black-and-white. Life is a grey area.

- Heart: Finally, what might be both the strongest and weakest part of anyone's anatomy--the heart. It's a muscle, and a powerful, resilient one at that. For a long time, in fact, mine was possibly coated in iron or steel. I was not into discussing feelings, or admitting emotions, or really letting anyone in. I wasn't into vulnerability or risk, and this was safe. This, I thought, was a good armor. But you know, walls can't stay up forever. It's too exhausting. And maybe one day, all it takes is a figurative blast to knock it down; for me, moving across the planet did it. I came to this country a sarcastic, somewhat-stoic, occasionally pessimistic, precociously bitter (or maybe jaded), fairly private person. And 14 months later, I'm...well, totally not. I'm still sarcastic. And I'm still not glass-half-full. But I have let people in, and I have even used the word "feelings" in conversations, and I have had heart pain (and I don't mean indigestion; my smuggled Tums cure that easily enough, in smoothie flavors!). Over the past year or so, that wall I spent 20 years carefully building around the muscle I once regarded as my safest, as my most protected, has been broken down to reveal a frightening fact: the heart is alarmingly fragile. And as someone who is a ballet dancer and who is aware of injuries, I can tell you something else. No matter what physical pain you endure--a broken bone; a torn ligament; a stress fracture--the heart takes the longest to heal. There's no ultrasound treatment, no physical therapy, no Band-Aids. But there is time, and very good friends, and yes, (provided the wall has been knocked down) talking. Besides, for all of the badness the heart can endure, it can take a whole lot of goodness too. And trust me: knocking down the wall is totally worth it, just for the good parts.

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