Shortly before 8AM yesterday morning, I reached down to pull on my boot before heading off to manage the lighting at my church (my church services are something of a production complete with an entire fleet of multimedia staff to manage the video, visuals, lighting, sound and wordmill) and my back spasmed so violently that I fell to the floor. Anybody that knows me well also knows that at this point, my body is a bag of flesh and a collection of thoroughly fed up bones, strung together with tape and spackle and kept together solely by the will of God. My knees are spent, my right ankle is more temperamental than a shopping trolley with a busted wheel, and my back tends to choose opportune moments to say “lol, oh girl, not today.”
So yesterday when my back flipped me the bird, I was hardly surprised—nay, I was resigned to it. This is the second time this year I’ve had to chug anti-inflammatories and strap heating pads to my flesh just to make it through the day; 2015 is giving me all the practice I need to stay functioning when my body just wants to nope on out until 2016. But as I lay there on my bedroom floor, my sassy black church dress acting as Club Med for all the accumulated dust I hadn’t vacuumed up (adulating is difficult, excuse the fuck out of me for not being on top of it 24/7), I knew without moving that this back pain was a different beast. I knew that I was dealing with the Usain Bolt of spine ailments; the overachiever of agony.
It hurt to move. It hurt to breathe. Blinking caused pain to ricochet from my lower back down my legs and back again. The dust bunnies swirled gleefully around my head and made for my afro. I made a sound not unlike something one might hear during a bovine birth. I located diclofenac in my first aid drawer, popped a couple and dragged down the capsaicin cream, which I proceeded to rub into my back. Lying there, tights half down, church dress ruined, massaging pain-relief ointment into my naked flesh (and feeling dignified as hell), I had to bite back to “what the shit?” that was barrelling down my tongue.
I found out last week that a very good friend of mine recently went through serious surgery to remove a tumour. I won’t go into details but he’s the kind of guy you look at and think “you’re too young for this shit.” He’s also the guy in your life that you think but how? He’s so healthy. I also found out that another friend of mine has a broken tibia which is fucking with all kinds of plans he had laid out; big significant plans that made me sit back and offer him all the props I had left. Plans that may not come off since walking is not so much a thing he is doing at the minute. Mama T is arriving in London tomorrow to attend the funeral of one of our best family friends. A friend I remember hugging not so long ago and promising I would of course answer any English degree questions her daughter had for me.
You’d think with the amount of sadness and tragedy in this world and with how I’m no stranger to shocking, messed up stuff in my own personal history that I wouldn’t even flinch when bad news hits in triplicate. But I’m not immune; no matter how badly I wish I was. I’m still guilty of making plans thinking they will pan out unmarred by illness or circumstance. I’m still cocky enough to think that terrible things happen to other people even though they’ve happened to me and mine enough times.
The lesson I am trying hard to put into practice these days, is perspective. Sure my back resembles the killing fields of Mordor but I can still walk and move and am, as far as I know, not in any greater danger. In a few days, I will start to heal and I’ll still be able to embark on the travels I have planned for this week. In the meantime, I’ll be worrying constantly about my friends, feeling ineffectual as I send out flowers and care packages, and worse, feeling grateful that all I have to contend with right now is painkillers, some cream and the loss of dignity as I hobble around the house in my pyjamas bent to a 90-degree angle.