My damned big nose and finding my way

Tales from the unbalanced: Part 1

Created by Nikki Barr via Canva

As a small child, it’s been my understanding via the stories of multiple people, I would disembark from the couch head first. My image of this is a snake-like graceful move down the side of the sofa to the floor, where I would, in an ungraceful manner bang my head and hurt my nose. The retelling of this phenomenon counters that fanciful illustration such that I actually somersaulted off the couch — not unlike my cat does today. Unlike my feline companions, I would land on my head.

The blame was always placed squarely on the fact that I had a “damned big nose” that caused me to get hurt. My aunt started this, from what I’m told, and it took off like wildfire, following me well into middle age. The only conclusion that I can make from this assessment is that my nose is what has thrown me off balance my whole life.

And I do have a damned big nose. In fact, I have my grandmother’s bulbous tip — more so even as I get older. If we removed that generous dollop of cartilage, my nose would actually be on the small size. Of course, I’d probably have broken it many times over if that were to actually happen. That padding has undoubtedly saved me from looking like a prize fighter.

For as big as my damned nose might be, the issue more likely stems from historically low blood pressure, migraines, and a propensity to push myself mentally and physically when it isn’t a good idea.

Photo by Damaris Isenschmid on Unsplash

Seeking adventure

During my late teens and early 20s, I was always looking for “my thing.” In high school, my cousin was a runner. In college, I had friends who loved running, playing tennis, kayaking, and would take weekend trips to go camping. It seemed to me at the time, my best sport was partying. I wanted to love something like they did. I took up step aerobics — I enjoyed it even if I tripped over the step for most of the class and actually hated following a class schedule.

For a while, I would get up at 5 a.m. with a couple of friends and go work out. I have never been a morning person and while the workout was good, and my friends were impressed by my ability to lift heavier weights, I hated every minute of it and just counted down until I could go home and crawl back into bed. It only lasted a couple of months.

When the multi-day breast cancer walks started popping up, I signed up for a three-day walk. This was training I could get into. I’d done an abundance of charity walks in the past… easy five-kilometer walks that required no training, but 60 miles in three days was a challenge I was up for. I could train solo, on my own schedule, and there was no one to compete with but me. I loved it. For the next several years, I would do multi-day walks and train year-round — as if I might be asked at any time to unexpectedly walk a marathon on any given day.

On the last walk I completed, I injured myself. I was determined to finish the first marathon day in 8 hours — which I did. The second day was a half marathon, and I pushed myself through in just under 4 hours. In the end, I collapsed on some steps at the finish line until I could pick myself up and get to my hotel. A week later I ran my first 5k, crossed the finish line for a personal best, limped to my car, and started physical therapy a few days later.

Physical therapy allowed me to run. And so I did it daily. I hated it, but I did it. It was a quick way to get a workout. It wouldn’t be long before my next physical therapist would tell me to give up running and stick to an elliptical.

So I took up hiking. It was better than just walking and I would go every weekend and occasionally after work. I loved it. It wasn’t until one hike after a hurricane had blown through that I fell going over a downed tree and had to hike out a mile on a banged-up leg and what would turn out to be a minor rotator cuff tear.

I have also tried surfing (cue rotator cuff tear in my other shoulder), trapeze class (hanging upside down is not good for those with a damn big nose and are easily dizzy), basketball (some people are too focused on the rules of the game), tennis (see basketball), rollerblading (I was actually pretty good at as long as I stayed inside the roller rink, and there weren’t a lot of people around), biking (did I mention I have a big nose and poor balance), which leads us to the gym.

Created by Nikki Barr on Canva

Gym rat days

Until the pandemic, I’d always been a member of a gym. Most of that time I’d go five days a week, do an hour of cardio, some ab work, stretch, and go home. Once in a while, a push up or squat challenge would find me glowering in a corner while I pumped out whatever was needed to hit my challenge goals.

The hamster wheels, my affectionate name for all things treadmill in nature, provided me ample time to listen to podcasts — especially after the gym to which I dedicated most of my sweat dropped the 80s hair metal video channel. Most often it was the Rich Roll Podcast since they were always long enough that I didn’t have to find something new halfway through a workout. Plus, he always had really cool guests. One guest talked about strength training to build endurance and reduce injury when doing cardio. I was intrigued. I also loathed the idea of strength training.

I’d had lousy experiences with personal trainers in past gym lives, so I started watching a few around the gym from behind my monolith of machines. Most of them seemed nice enough. I gave it a go knowing it would be the only way to keep myself accountable.

The trainer assigned to me was awesome — she was funny, smart, and most importantly, seemed to deal well with my (let’s call them) idiosyncrasies. And because I liked her, I didn’t dread the appointments — and even started to look forward to them.

One day, I found myself doing strength training between sessions. Maybe this thing was working after all. I pointed out one day to Christina mid-session that I had a baby muscle in my arm starting to pop out. Just the left arm though, and I was concerned about (further) imbalance in my body. It wasn’t too terribly long after the arm muscle showcase that she suggested we venture back to the free weight area. Convinced this was the worst, and scariest idea I had ever heard, I balked at the idea. But back we went.

Life would never be the same.



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Nikki Barr

Nikki Barr


Normal human in an extraordinaire world. Memoir / Humor / Just Life