Today marks one month since I woke in the most excruciating pain I have ever known (yes, more than giving birth with no pain meds). I called to my daughters to dress themselves between my tears, sent off with their father, and drove myself to the ER.
That initial pain which caused me to literally beg the doctor at the ER to give me a shot of something to take the pain away has dulled, but it is still there all the time. I look forward to the morning I wake up and it's gone. I took my health for granted.
I make it a point in my life to find the lesson in every experience... I ask myself, "What is this teaching me."
Before the slipped disc, I was at Heart to Heart working out at least three times a week for about two hours a session. If I could get there five times a week, I would go five times a week. I was sticking to my vegan diet with a tunnel vision, very regimented, with little consideration for fine tuning or changing the diet as needed. My last two college courses had begun and there was an unhealthy amount of commitment to which I had extended myself.
I am one of those people who thinks I can do anything and as much of anything as I want and I don't need anyone to help me. I put pressure on myself in unfair ways sometimes to expect results. I have a vision of the way I want my life to be, and the pace at which I live is unnatural. I think much of this has to do with the time I spent with my ex-husband, which I often reflect upon as "wasted years" because I was in a stasis, waiting on him. From 19-31 years old, and then even after, I had to unlearn some very damaging habits I had developed with him. I often feel like I have to "make up" that time because I did and was "nothing" when I was with him. This is not true and if you are a woman who functioned in that type of relationship (or dysfunctioned) then you understand what it feels like to put your life on hold to please someone else. I look in the mirror and I see that I am no longer that girl, that at nearing 37, I am a woman progressing toward my middle years.
What have I accomplished? I ask myself.
This is dangerous. I have to veer away from this thinking. Because I'm constantly looking for an answer that would be something on my resume, not realizing that I've accomplished so much more than that, and it's not the courage to climb a mountain that's necessary, it's the courage to take the first step, and every step after that. I don't give myself credit for all those little steps.
With all the push, I had begun meditating and doing yoga in the morning regularly to help bring some balance to that, but it wasn't enough. My body did what my mind could not, and it did it in a way that literally brought me to my knees. It forced me to stop, reflect, be more thoughtful, depend on others, say no to others so that I could focus on reconnecting with myself, and it also gave me a healthy lesson in humility.
The pain from the disc is not the pain that brought me to beg the doctor for a shot to put me out of my misery, it's the pain from the pinched nerve. When the disc slipped, it pinched a nerve that runs along my left arm, and the pain deferred through the entire arm. The pain changes every day, depending how badly the nerve is pinched. Often it is a radiating current that is like an electrical jolt that runs up and down, but for a while it was that and a pressure cuff on the entire arm. Now, the pain has dulled to an aching, often a burning ache, in my back, elbow, one spot in my forearm, tricep., and shoulder. My pointer finger and thumb are still numb in the tip and along the length they tingle, like when you wake with a "sleepy" arm. There is really nothing that can be done to make the pain go away (except the "magic" shot at the ER which I needed a ride home after--thank you Melissa R. for that ride).
In the past month I have lived with the pain which at two points was so terrible I could do nothing but sit up and cry like a baby (talk about humility). There have been moments when I could not even hold a coffee cup in my left hand because of the weakness in my hand. The doctor did give me prescriptions to help dull it and help the muscle relax. This in itself was a lesson because I do NOT like taking meds unless it's absolutely essential: Flexerol, Tramadol, Oxy, Hydrocodon, Steroids... It was essential at the time, but at the last visit I refused any pain med, just deciding I would endure the pain and continue to see the chiropractor and massage therapist. The penultimate point in that decision came when I was on the Flexerol and Tramadol and that combo was causing me to feel extremely depressed. One night, between the drugs and the pain, I called my mom and just begged her to come over... I didn't know if I was going to be able to endure another night. She did and just having her sit with me was a balm. I drifted in and out of a drug induced haze that night.
While my back is getting better, I have not spent time doing much but sitting on my couch (really pleased with the color I painted my living room...). From where I've laid with an ice pack on my upper back and a heating pad on my arm, I've observed for quite some time the branches across the street that are so tall they extend well above the rooftops. I've seen them sway, dancing, stand still... lost them to the fury of a few snow storms... I've thought about the many blessings in disguises that have come into my life and reconsidered what they mean to me, reflected on the people who have contacted me over the last few months to tell me how I've inspired them, and thought about the people who have lifted me up in my darkest times (thank you Jill M., Wendy L., Amanda L., Bridget L., and my Mom).
I've mulled over the events in my childhood, reconsidered my own reactions to them, and shaped some new perspectives.
Last, the pain has resulted in an evolution of my thought. Yes, I do have goals. I have an idea about what I want from life and where I would like to be, but I don't need to push so hard or so fast, and what happens, will happen, and I have to be ok with that. This is it. This one life, so fleeting, is really only this one moment, now gone, now another, and it's gone.
This is the only time that really matters: Stopping my work to smile at my daughter, Ella, while I peel her orange, and tuck her hair behind her ears. To look at her, and really see her. The freckles on her nose. The dimple in her cheek. To listen to her laugh. Or leaning back to appreciate how the wind can make a branch wave...the stabbing shape of the icicles along the roof lines, the perch of a bird on the wires....calling my Mom to remind her that no matter our differences, I love her.
I am enough. This moment is enough. The people in my life are enough. I have and am everything I need.
The gym...and everything else...can wait a moment longer.
“There are times to stay put, and what you want will come to you, and there are times to go out into the world and find such a thing for yourself.”
― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid