May 27, 2020

Skiing, Achilles and Oppositional Defiance Disorder – All in a Winter’s Day

• By John F. Chisholm •

My wife enjoys cross-country skiing.  Her dogs, all 13 of them, simply adore it.

I used to enjoy it, too.

Sure, the dogs mill around me as I ski.  They step on them.  Trust me, that’s unhelpful.  In addition, they drag sticks onto the trail, dig for mice and generally raise havoc.  Paladin, in particular, noses into the snow, sugars his dark brown coat and luxuriates in powdered water.   Then he rushes back in order to shake it all off on me.  But, believe it or not, none of that explains why I have problems skiing today that I’ve never experienced before.

There’s more.

I used to ski circles around my wife.  Literally.  Now I have trouble keeping up with her.  Sure, I have as much misplaced masculine pride as the next guy.  Maybe more.  But that’s not the problem, either.

My Achilles tendons are ossifying.  Truly.  I wish I was making it up.  I’m not.  It’s a rare condition but very real for all its scarcity.  The glide step that once came so easily, so naturally, is now an effort.  More than that, it hurts.  I limp long, desperately trying to stretch my tendons, eager to enjoy the snow the way I used to.

It doesn’t happen.

I suppose that I could blame Thetis, Achilles’ mother, for holding her infant son by the heels when she dipped him in the Styx.  (Achilles was immune to injury everywhere else as a result.)  Being realistic, that doesn’t help.  My tendons would just be named after somebody else if history couldn’t pick on Achilles.

More to the point, none of this means that I can quit, cease trying, give up and simply stop skiing.  Worse than misguided, that would be folly.  In fact, I’m just back from skiing with my wife.  My tendons are very tender as I sit at my computer.  Because, beyond all this, something else has struck me.
Of course the slogan ‘Use it or lose it’ comes to mind.

But it’s more than that.  Skiing has become a matter of temperament.  My wife assures me that I suffer from Oppositional Defiance Disorder.  I like the acronym.  There’s no doubt that I’m odd.  But, like blaming Thetis, I brush that off, too.  In the end, it’s just a name.  But notice, please, that enjoying skiing has become irrelevant to the activity.

Inverse proportions multiply with age.  The shorter time becomes, the more precious it grows.  We all know that.  The list is endless.  But isn’t it peculiar how the more something hurts, the harder it becomes, the greater its importance and the more critical that we continue?

I should have guessed.  Perversity and Temperament are sisters.