It’s been such a long week. I don’t know why I keep saying that. All of my weeks are long weeks. Plowing through a haze of medication is an improvement over plowing through a haze of pain, but in a sick way, I miss the five-alarm-fire pain I had before the nerve ablation shut it down. That sort of pain, as soul-sucking as it was, focused the mind and body in a way that this dull, constant ache, that ebbs and flows but remains largely manageable (relatively speaking), does not. I have just enough mental space now to ruminate. If I try to lose myself in activities, I will pay the price later, in soreness and in ice packs, which is what happened last night.
I left my part-time job yesterday afternoon to run a single errand, which ballooned into three when I couldn’t find what I needed at the first place I stopped. I kept getting back in my car and driving to another place, and then another, such that by the time I got home, I only had twenty minutes to eat lunch before getting back in my car to go a massage appointment.
While all of this was happening, I knew I was overdoing it, but dammit, I wanted to get everything on my list. I didn’t want to put it off until later; I have other things I want to do this weekend. I know I should have gone to one place, two at the most, and then gone home to relax for at least an hour before heading back out. I know I should have saved the last items for the next day, or perhaps the day after that, and so what if I didn’t finish everything in one weekend.
But I’m sick of having to treat myself like a cripple. Could it have been only a couple of days ago that I fretted to my psychotherapist that I was making too much of my injury, enjoying having the excuse of being injured to trot out whenever I didn’t feel like doing something? Because today I would give anything to be able to go back to the way I was before. Hassled, frantic, exhausting though it was, I could do things. I miss all of the normal, thoughtless things I used to do.
I could do so much in a single day. How could I have hated it? Because I certainly hate this. I feel like an actor who’s been cast in the role of a lifetime, only to discover she’ll be stuck playing it for the rest of her life. Playing a role, that’s what I do, when I’m in class, or at work, or talking to friends, or at physical therapy or massage therapy. I’m in pain all of the time, but I don’t like talking about it because it’s unpleasant and people don’t know what to say. But faking that it’s not a big deal, day in and day out, because I’m sick of it being a big deal (even if it is), takes a lot of physical and mental energy. By Friday, I’m no less exhausted than I was when I was trying to prove to the world how super-productive I was.
I used to be one of those people who hated her life so much that I kept praying for a hurricane or an earthquake to come along and turn my world upside down, because anything had to be better than the status quo. And now that the volcano has exploded and the lava has demolished my house, I want the old life back so badly it turns me inside out.
I sure don’t want this. But what do I want? If I didn’t want the life I had before, and I don’t want the life I have now, where does that leave me?
What I want may be hard to to figure out, but the one thing I do know is that I want to be able to slip in and out of it if I need to, like a sundress. I’m happy to wear it most days, but every once in a while I want to take a break from it and wear something else. Be someone else. But the problem with life is that you don’t get to step outside of it for a day or two whenever you need a recharge. It never stops happening; it never stops demanding that you pay attention to it and react to it. I would like nothing more than to get in my car and drive to the beach this weekend, and spend the next 36 hours all by myself, watching the surf, smelling the ocean smell, and letting the wind scrub me clean of all my little anxieties and obsessions.
But instead, I’m stuck here, in a life of unrelenting hedging, narrowing, and projecting. I have to concentrate on every single thing I do. As I stand in my kitchen and type this, I have to check my shoulder every few minutes because it will have hunched up. I have to do that when I’m meditating, too, because tension will find its way back in when my mind is elsewhere. I have to project a cheerful attitude at work, trying to convince people that I’m managing well, because I don’t want pity, and I don’t want them to tell me to take some time off. When I plan my weekend, I have to gauge how much driving I’ll be able to do and schedule around that, as well as what kind of activities I sign on for, because if any of them involve sitting, I will have to have space around that to come home and lie down.
I was talking to a friend after dinner last night and she wanted to hear all about my graduate program. My shoulder pain was so intense from having sat at the restaurant for over an hour that I badly needed to get home and put an ice pack on it. But I smiled and somehow managed to answer her questions, because I’m flattered that she’s interested, and grateful to be out of the house at all, as even this small outing would have been impossible two months ago. I want so desperately to be normal, so I push a little harder in order to keep pretending that I’m not in pain all of the time, and that I’m perfectly able to do all of the things that healthy people do.
But pretending is all it is. And the pretending wears me down. I feel like I fight and fight all week long, fight the sadness, the anger, the frustration, the listlessness, the anxiety that crops up when the physical therapist presses my shoulder in such a way that exquisite pain goes shooting through my back. She’ll ask me if it hurts and I’ll say yes, but as casually as I can, because I don’t want her to stop. I just want it fixed, and I don’t care how painful the fixing is. I let my massage therapist dig into me so hard on Tuesday that I was exhausted after thirty minutes of forcing my muscles to relax during her excruciating ministrations. But I would do that every day if it would help; I want her to get in there and do whatever needs to be done and I don’t care how much it hurts because please, god, please, please, somebody, please, fix it. Fix me. Put my humpty-dumpty shell back together again, whatever it takes.
I know that I should be grateful that I’m not in screaming pain all of the time, and that I will be able to get at least a little better, and that I have the financial resources to get this kind of medical care. I should be grateful that I have friends who care about me and check in on me. I should be grateful that I have loving pets, that I can afford to have someone come and clean my apartment, and that I’m still able to do some things that bring me pleasure, like baking cookies or bashing Oprah in my blog.
And I am grateful, for all of those things. As lonely as this all is, I’m grateful I can come home and drop my armor on the floor and start a post for this blog, and sit and cry, and then get back up and finish it without worrying or bothering anyone. So, just like last weekend, I will rest this weekend, even though I don’t want to, and force myself to stay home as much as possible, even though I hate it. And by Monday of next week I will feel well enough to strap the armor back on and head back out to the field.
And then drag myself home on Friday and fall apart again.