Reminders of Weakness

On Tuesday morning, as I was making the bed, my lower back spasmed. After a panicked thirty seconds when I thought I wouldn’t be able to move at all, I slowly got out of bed, got dressed, and headed in the direction of work. I was halfway there when I realized my back was hurting worse as time went on, so I got off the bus, hopped on the next one coming in the opposite direction, and emailed my managers to tell them I would be working from home. As the day went on, I found I could sit, and I could stand and walk around, but the in-between bits of getting to and from one or the other? No way. Super painful. I ended up working from home Tuesday and Wednesday, taking lots of ibuprofen and making liberal use of a heating pad.

I have a bad back. The first time my back went out, I was twelve. Back then, I was a cheerleader (no, really, I was!), and a stubborn middle-school ego combined with a coach who didn’t have the training or common sense to realize that a twelve-year-old couldn’t possibly understand the long-term ramifications of pushing themselves past their limits…well, it was a problem. (The day my back went out was a game day. My team was furious when I told them I couldn’t be the base for any of the floor cheers. I had to call my mom to come pick me up before the game, because I was scared that they would make me do it anyway.) I did irreversible damage to my back in the three years that I was a cheerleader, and it’s haunted me ever since. My back is always tense, and almost always hurts in some way. Most of the time, I can deal with it fine, because it’s just become the backdrop of life, and I’m not super conscious of it. Every so often, though, something like Tuesday morning happens.

It’s always the stupid little things. This time around, it was making the bed. The last time this happened (almost two years ago), I had leaned down to pat my napping partner on the head, and found I couldn’t stand again. And every time it happens, I am reminded of how fragile humans are. In the space of half a second and one half-hearted arm motion, it suddenly became difficult to do the most basic things like getting out of bed, or going to the bathroom, or putting on socks.

Bodies are weird and wonderful and amazing, even if we don’t fit the ones we’re in and have to take matters into our own hands to form them into shapes we can feel comfortable wearing. And even when I’m laid out flat from a back spasm, I’m thankful for mine: without it, I wouldn’t be able to experience this amazing life I’ve found myself living.

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