Archive for category The Human Body

The Weakness and Strength of Achilles

I have sucked at blogging lately. You see, I wanted my posts to be thoughtful, substantive, honest, but not necessarily the ordinary blatherings of my daily life. That requires a bit of discipline, discipline I only sometimes have. Procrastination is the Achilles heel of many of us, and some times in my life I am worse than at others.

I have, also, a real Achilles heel to talk about–that of my husband, who suffered a tear on a recent skiing trip. And as long as we’re talking about Achilles, lets throw in the mythical figure we all know about. Let’s talk about all of the Achilles Heels at once: 1) My character weakness,  2) The Very Important Tendon, and 3) The mythical character.

That ought to be a grandiose enough project for me to feel sufficiently challenged.

My task-planning tends toward the grandiose. It is not enough, as I have said above, to write 700-800 words of my thoughts; no, it has to be thought about and gone over a million times to be not only the best post ever, but impervious to criticism and error. This is a really stupid way to go about writing a blog, turning a small thing into a major project and source of frustration. Besides, no one is smart enough to avoid error. Period. Wish I could get rid of this inner grandiosity, but it’s been with me all my life; perhaps I’d better learn to live with it.

Thetis, mother of Achilles, suffered from mommy-control-freak grandiosity as well, which was to make her son impervious to attack. She failed in her scheme, because there was that pesky heel of her son’s that she could not cover with the waters of the River Styx. She could not be perfect in her efforts.

Finally, the real-life Achilles tendon, the one that my husband tore while skiing last month. His grand scheme was actually rather modest: to ski down the hill one more time that day. Now he is on crutches, the tendon having been surgically repaired, and is doing fine. The weirdest part, for him, was the realization of just how easy it was to do this injury to himself. It was not a bad fall. Didn’t seem like it, anyway. It hurt, but not as much as one might think. He thought it was a pulled muscle, but when it failed to improve after a week, he sought medical advice, and learned the diagnosis.

The doctor gave him actual snapshots of the operation, before and after, but I deem it unnecessary to burden the public with such gore. I’ve opted instead for a nifty little public domain diagram of the Achilles area (from Grey’s Anatomy).

Respect Your Achilles Tendon and All Your Weaknesses

The illustration highlights an interesting disconnect noted in one of the Wikipedia articles I read on the subject of the Achilles myth, namely that while we have named this important tendon after the mythical figure, and have linked him forever with the concept of a crucial and relatively vulnerable point of the human body, the medical facts don’t mesh well at all. Achilles did not die from a tear or a severing of the tendon; he bled to death. Now, tendons themselves don’t really bleed, so Achilles was unlikely to have been shot in the tendon. More likely than not, the arrow hit muscle, not the tendon at all. Okay, I realize it’s a myth to begin with, but I assume the original author had some sort of logical intent, and was not talking about the tendon at all.

The myth does speak to points of weakness and vulnerability in ourselves, though. And it turns out my husband’s injury is a fairly common one. Not only does it happen to skiers, but football players, tennis players, and basketball players as well. The commonness of the injury suggests it is in fact one of the weaker points of the human body, one of those things, those vulnerabilities we just have to live with.

Can Thetis and I ever change? Will she ever give up on being such a helicopter parent to her son? (Now there’s an image.) Will I ever stop procrastinating and learn instead to love this blog, have fun with it, and stop worrying about somehow writing the wrong thing? Will Mike, my husband, ever ski again? And should he?

Not that I have any control over that.

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