The annals of my hip (Or: How I spent my summer vacation)

I joined the local YMCA, and you'll be happy to know that there are many, many naked women in the locker room. Everywhere. It's an epidemic. Talking to their friends, drying their hair, toweling off after a swim, naked. Nude. Bold, cheerful women. It's funny how one thing leads to another. How, my hip pain, associated with a running injury I'm sure, has occupied so much of my time lately, invaded so many of my thoughts. After asking all my favorite "experts" (J, over and over again, my little brother, my high school friends, a random guy in the bar) I decided to go to a doctor. I ended up, after a few references, at the Duke Sports Clinic, The Nicest Medical Facility On Planet Earth.

I realized, upon arriving, how much money had been invested in the place, by so many famous athletes, no doubt, and after getting over my momentary annoyance, thinking of the inequity...the many places in this country the money for the nice chairs, the millions of nurses, the huge pool and other gorgeous facilities...could have been used, I settled in and enjoyed the scenery. I felt a little weird. I mean, here I was, a casual runner with some semi-minor, mysterious hip pain, amongst these very toned people with awesome gear. These athletes, doing their physical therapy with their spandex and their ice packs, they were a tier above. This was their life. Whereas I'm pretty sure I hurt myself because - after coming back from a month of many Budweisers and nachos at midnight, my sole exercise walking to the pool down the road and trying not to fall down while navigating my way around the rocky shore this summer - I started running again. In my hilly neighborhood in my very old running shoes. A lot. To burn off the Budweisers.

Last week I saw a doctor who, although I'm sure he's great at what he does, didn't seem that interested in what I had to say. He didn't want to chat for hours, like I like to do when in the presence of a true professional. He asked me a few questions, moved my leg around, sent me to get an x-ray and then, not having pinpointed the problem, started talking about how the "MRI would give him a better idea of the problem." MRI? I thought I was going to be given stretches and maybe a heating pad. Not an intense body scan.

Before I could even ask why I needed an MRI, the doctor was out the door. Up front, they scheduled the procedure, and I was sent home without any stretches or a heating pad or any instruction at all, except that I shouldn't run for a while, but could ride a stationary bike or use the elliptical machine.

Because not running was completely common sense (it very clearly made my hip and leg hurt) I followed the doctor's orders. And that's why I joined the Y, choosing it over other gyms because it is so close I can walk there, and because it's nice inside - both the people and the building.

Over the next few days I researched my options, using the old experts - my friends, and strangers, too - curious why I needed an MRI. Didn't it seem a huge measure for such a small problem? My team of researchers agreed. And then the kicker, I found out that with my current insurance an MRI wouldn't be covered and would cost $2,000 (TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS). Since I hadn't been sold on the idea anyway - a seemingly unnecessary procedure dictated by an impatient doctor - I cancelled it, certain there are other ways to fix the problem so that I can run again.

Even so, the incident frustrated me. The insurance, the disappointing health care, the many phone calls. Why was it so hard? I knew I couldn't complain too much. I'm a very fortunate person, and this certainly wasn't the worst thing that could happen. Far from it. But it was enough to drum up a fairly bad mood.

Add to that a few rejection letters - I've been sending out pieces to various magazines, trying to, you know, get published. And then I got a speeding ticket.

I was driving home after volunteering (I've been doing some work at a homeless shelter, which, believe me, makes the insurance woes and rejection letters seem so incredibly small), and then having lunch with my friend Carissa yesterday, when I saw a cop sitting in the median as I pulled over the hill on the main stretch of road before you turn off on our little street. As I passed him (and hit the brakes) he put on his blinker and pulled out behind me so fast you might have thought I had a dead body hanging out of my trunk. And a gun in my hand. And that I was laughing maniacally behind the wheel, instead of what I was actually doing, which was listening to NPR, and yes, hurrying home, because I had to pee.

The factors at play in this scenario (I was in a bad mood, coming straight off the highway, and it's a big wide, road - really it is) aren't that important I realize, in light of the fact that I was speeding, which the cop pointed out to me several times. "Do you know how fast you were going?" he asked me when he approached the window. When I answered that I didn't, which was sort of a lie, because I had a feeling it was near 50, he asked, again, "You have no idea?"

While I in no way, and I mean it, resent cops (in fact I love them, in the same way I love doctors - they are both keepers of the peace, whether working on the body or on the streets) this method of questioning always makes me feel a little less loving. He knew how fast I was going. There's no way he didn't, because I'm pretty sure he had a radar gun in there. So his asking me, it was just a game.

Because I was going 55 mph in a 35 mph (whatever you want to say to that, please remember the factors involved) I have a court date in January, where I'm thinking they'll announce a rather large fine and maybe tell me my license is suspended for a month. Don't worry, I'll fill you in.

I got home and only allowed myself to wallow for a short time before picking myself up and driving over to the newspaper office where I'm now freelancing (thus, certainly not doing nothing with my time lately, and while I'm figuring out my life, churning out a lot of clips I can use to prove to the people who keep sending me rejection letters that, hey, I do get published from time to time - LOOK). I was assigned a story on a new county program and set up an interview with the woman in charge. We met at one of my new favorite coffee places downtown and after a very interesting interview, proceeded to have a very interesting conversation about life in general, particularly (since the thrust of the new program is educating the public about their civil rights) how we, as individuals, can do the best good in our individual lives. Making the right decisions. Treating people with respect.

She and I shared a pot of Earl Grey tea and I left feeling much better.

When I got home I sent J a text message, asking if he'd like to meet for a drink after work. I knew that once he got home, and we were thinking about what to make for dinner, and taking care of the dogs, and doing the dishes, my desire to tell him all about my day would slip away, that I'd get distracted, and I wanted to fill him in on everything that had happened.

An hour later I picked him up and we headed out to a spot we like a lot, and over a beer (for him) and a glass of wine (for me) I told him all about what I'd done that day - how I'd been annoyed, but able to put life in perspective, how I'd had fun with my old friend, met someone new, how I'd been pulled over (and really, what can you say about that?) and he told me what he'd been up to.

On our way out, I saw the girl who'd been working for the paper I'm working for now. We'd gotten to know each other in meetings and, after I got back from Maine, and she left for a new job, she gave me her boss's card, saying he'd probably welcome any freelance work. And he did. It was great to see her so we talked for a while.

When I get the time to take it all in, while having a drink with my husband for instance, I realize that my decision to spend the summer hanging out with friends and not exercising that much, and consequentially, hurting myself somehow, led to this, to days like yesterday, a very good and, at times, not as good day, but a full and productive day. It's something I think about when I ride my little stationary bike at the Y, a boring endeavor at best, but it gives me time to think, a few moments of peace, before I go back to the locker room to retrieve my things and get on with my day, and, inevitably, run into all the naked women, maybe just after their water aerobics class, getting ready for their days, too.