Raise your hand if you like setting goals and creating To Do lists. Now keep it up if you like projects completed, dishes washed, emails answered, errands run, bed made, magazines read, fridge stocked, mail opened, sorted and filed. Hand still up? Good. Now imagine you’re zipping along, accomplishing tasks when bam! Your back goes out. And you’re stopped cold, your To Dos instantly forgotten.
A chronic lower back sufferer since high school, I was due for my biennial “Back goes out and I find myself kissing the Welcome mat” debacle. It happened in the shower. The first 48-72 hours are the most painful. And frustrating, as plans slip down the drain. Forget work or the gym, sitting, standing and even putting on socks is out of the question. All at once your world ceases and you’ve got no choice but to cease with it. Breathing becomes a chore. Lying down a laborious task. Rolling over? Never mind. Soon a new list emerges. Get Aleeve, get ice, and get the remote. But I can only watch so much TV until I’m climbing the walls. Granted these are much nicer walls than I’ve had in recent years, but still.
A taxi delivered me a few blocks away to Dr. Davidowitz, who literally (and figuratively) picked me up when I had my last episode two years ago. I was praying for a repeat.
As annoying as it is to not be able to do anything, sometimes we need to be stopped to let our bodies rejuvenate. Left to our own devices, most won’t and don’t stop, until, like me, I have no choice. Maybe it’s our bodies’ way of saying, “Slow down girlfriend!” I admit there were warning signs that went ignored, like the light that appears on a car’s dashboard. Raise your hand again if you’ve ever done that.
But something strange emerges each time I go through this. Just when I’ve eased into my new role of, “I’ll get to it, when I get to it,” and accept my new speed, the pain dissipates slightly and soon I can tie my sneakers without passing out, walk twenty blocks without wincing or sit at the computer for five minutes straight. That’s when I imagine returning to the real world, going back to work, getting back on my bike. And even though a pain-free existence is weeks away, that possibility of starting again, of having new goals, gives me a boost. And I promise myself that once I’m healed, I’ll slow down and stop rushin’. But I never do. That is until the next time my back goes out.