Wendy carries a clipboard and her work wardrobe consists of t-shirts and running shoes. No wonder she always seems cheerful when I show up for our appointments--it's 2:00 pm and she's still in her sweats. Sweet.
Her smile does not fool me though. She's there to kick my trash, and she always thinks I can do a little more. Usually she's right. Five years ago I would have laughed at the idea of paying good money for a personal trainer. Hans and Frans? Thanks, no. Work out in an air-conditioned gym? Lame. I would rather ride my bike up to Del Valle or run with my dog or swim laps or hike Brushy Peak. Yeah, well, five years ago I couldn't have really told you anything about Parkinson's Disease either.
Prayers are answered in a lot of ways. Sometimes the answer involves a clipboard and lot of work and some pain. Wendy is one of those answers. This is not about sculpted abs and toned triceps, it's about being able to manage the stairs in my house and use a keyboard and tie my shoes. It's about being able to body surf with my grandkids and whitewater kayak in Alaska in August and Lindy Hop with Bob and ride my bike to Yosemite next Spring. So Wendy works me . . . hard. Some days I just want to lie on the mat and cry or take an ice pick to the Bosu ball. But Wendy reminds me that, "When your core is strong, everything is stronger." So I keep working . . . hard. And the pain pays off, gradually. It always surprises me when I find that I can bear more weight or do more reps or maintain my balance better that I could eight weeks ago. Why should it surprise me? Wendy knows her stuff. I wish I had a dollar for every time she has said, "Keep your core engaged!" But I have something better to show for it than a fistful of singles--core strength.
Lately I have thought a lot about my other Core--my capital 'C' core--that singular essential center of my being that is not vulnerable to Parkinson's disease or any other physical limitation. If anything, Parkinson's has helped me put on spiritual muscle. But soul-building is hard work, painful even. Sometimes I just want to lie on the path and cry. Then a quiet voice reminds me to keep my Core engaged. So I keep working . . . hard. I work to trust God and to love His children and to hope tenaciously. I apply myself to patience and optimism and inner-stillness. Most of the time I cannot perceive my own progress. Now and then, though, I find myself surprised by a deep serenity and stability pooling inside me. I can bear life's weight better and keep my balance no matter what the world throws at me. When my Core is strong, everything is stronger.
Someday my Parkinson's will outstrip even my best efforts, and Wendy's expertise, at core training. That's OK. It will never outstrip my opportunity to develop Core strength--capital 'C' Core.