Thursday, August 8, 2013

Life Marches On and So Do I

After a really fun couple of weeks with a seriously aching back (read: not fun at all), I am on the mend. Kinda.

Even though I'm on desk duty at work, my doctor advised me that I could stave off a relapse by lying on my back with my legs propped up on a chair. Let's just say that I've ended up a few times lately with this as my view:

This end up.
At one point, my boss plopped down in the floor beside me, held up a stack of reports over both our faces, and we managed to have a meeting down there. Don't knock it. I'll bet her back felt better, too.

I have been going to physical therapy for a week now, and it has been an interesting experience. By interesting, I mean painful, mostly, but also rewarding.

One day while I was working on my "sit-stands" (which is exactly what you think it is, 10 reps, 2 sets, and yes, you can do it wrong--trust me), I scanned the room desperately, starving for anything to look at that would tear my mind away from the images of dull steak knives sawing me in half with every sit and every stand. I finally lit on one of the stretching tables where a therapist was working diligently with a determined-looking older man and his new artificial leg.

Suddenly, my sit-stands were a little less tedious. A bit. My PT, way too sweet for all my grumpy growliness, ushered me through my own paces and stretched me out like a stubborn piece of stale taffy. Eventually, she tucked me into a room with a heating pad, strung me up to an electrical thingy (yes, that's a technical term...or a brand name...or it should be) that basically electrocutes you a tiny, tingly bit, and then flipped off the lights so I could relax.

But I didn't. Not really. I thought about the man with the missing leg. I thought about him being my age, when he had two good legs. I wondered if he had appreciated them. I wondered if he wanted to go back in time to when he was four, when he scraped that knee and it bled real blood and pain. Would he tell himself to look close at that knee and that blood and cherish it because he might not always have the privilege? Would he go back to when he was a young man, in his twenties maybe, when he spent all his time on those legs, walking, running, dancing, kicking off the covers in the middle of the night? Did he ever think that there would come a time when he couldn't? Maybe he had played football, a kicker with a golden toe. Maybe he didn't and wished he did, cursing his own leg, which might have had a birthmark just like his father's, and never knowing that he would regret it with all his heart while he lay on a table to stretch a brand new leg that couldn't even bleed.

We were the last ones to leave in the evening, my husband, the nice PT, and me. I was stiff and sore when I hauled up off the table and waddled my way to the door. Just when I felt a self-pitying grumble well up in me, I glanced back to the table where the man had been. He was gone, finished for the day, probably eating his dinner and living his life, laughing to his loved ones about the ignorant people he caught pitying him, he who had two perfectly good legs as far as he and anyone who counted was concerned.

So I didn't pity him. Instead I respected him.

It's a funny thing about respect. It earns you so much more than pity. I did feel sorry for the man who didn't have what I have, what I got for free and didn't earn or especially deserve, but if I stopped there on that thought, it would have been pity. So I didn't.

I thought about what he did in the short time I watched him that I could do, too. He worked hard. He took advantage of opportunity. He went about the business of living his different-shaped life, and he made it look easy.

I could do those things, even with a messed up back. Maybe even better because of it. Anything, even pain, can be a gift if you sit still and get over yourself long enough to unwrap it.

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