So, I’d love to start off with the old “threw my back out” trope, but no. No, this is more like my own personal version of Japan’s earthquake-tsunami-nuclear meltdown trifecta.
After having been sick off and on for nearly two weeks, the cold came racing back with a vengance on Tuesday night, quickly turning into a cough, the cough then irritating the same zone around my shoulder and back that tends to flare up over the years. Only this time, like a bad action movie sequel, it’s the worst it’s ever been. On Thursday and Friday, my whole back seized up to the point I was walking like Quasi-Modo and had to call in sick at work. The cough and cold are gone: the pain remains.
Through it all, my parents bugged me to go see the chiropractor. “At least he’ll be able to diagnose you,” they said. “At best, he can fix it”. And, true to form, I resisted. I’ve never liked the ideas of running to the doctor for everything. I also have no health coverage, and would to have to pay out of my pocket for treatment.
Saturday morning was pretty damn bad, and my dad, as it turned out, was coming back from his appointment just as I was having breakfast. “You know, it’s slow today. Why don’t you just go see him?”
“Because, where am I gonna get the money to pay him?” I replied. “How much is it?”
“Sixty seven for the consult, and thirty-five dollars for every adjustment after that.”
I was about to return with my usual retort – “See? How am I supposed to justify spending that?” – when I realized: that was pretty damn close to the same amount I’d spent on Boxing Day sale DVDs three weeks earlier. Somehow, it was easy in my mind to rationalize spending that much on “Castle” and “The West Wing” then turn around and declare my brokeness when it came time to, I dunno, being able to walk properly again?
So I went to the chiropractor and spent the money. Turns out I’ve got severe inflammation rooted in a few places on my neck and spine: the pain and discomfort flow out from these places to my shoulder. Though this would heal naturally as before, each time the flare-up generates scar tissue that builds over time and periodically causes the same injury to happen over and over again. I got corrected and sent home, with another treatment scheduled on Monday. The flare-up does indeed happen at least twice a year. Now that I’m finally treating it, hopefully this will be the last time.
These first two weeks of 2012 have been full of learning. I planned it this way: I am not wasting any time in solving, once and for all, the lingering issues of perspective, vocation, courage, love, and true well-being that dogged me throughout my twenties and my first year of thirtysomething. 2012 is my year.
Essential to this process: trusting the unknown. Having a plan of basic intentions, but not becoming addicted to it. Being ready to let it go when life presents me with some unexpected wake-up call. My mind’s always working overtime, analyzing myself into a Zeno’s Paradox of why I can or can’t have something happen, so this kind of surrender to the fates has been a tough process, but I’m getting there.
So far, trusting the unknown has yielded good results: solutions and revelations have tended to appear, so far, in the form of clusters of little lessons and a few big ones.
The big lesson in this injury is simple: I am not as kind to myself as I need to be. This may, in fact, be the single root cause behind everything that’s currently not quite where I’d like it to be. Like the same inflammation searing through the nerves connecting my spine to my shoulders like a hot motherf*cking poker, my lack of self-kindness is the reason why everything else hurts.
This is both ironic and expected, because though 85% of the people I’m surrounded with regularly go to the doctor for check-ups and physicals and otherwise have a solid tally on their health, I’m not one of them because my first reaction to any health problem runs according to the following thought sequence:
Jody’s Thought Sequence When Suddenly Struck with Illness or Injury
1. Pfft! I can heal myself. I’m Wolverine, bitches!
2. You’re all a bunch of wusses! I can take it.
3. It’s too expensive and my OHIP card is pretty beaten up.
4. What I don’t know can’t hurt me.
Of course, what you don’t know CAN and DOES hurt you, as my chiropractor just showed me. I spend more on movies and chicken dinners than I do on non-covered treatments and I’m not making use of the free health care I have at my disposal to prevent future ailments. I’m more of a wimpy kid now that my back and shoulders are flared up than I would have been had I treated this in the first place. And, as hard as it is for me to admit, I’m not Wolverine.
Why? I suppose I could delve into any number of possible causes – years of working to support two people just above the poverty line at jobs I hated, but doing it because “you do what you gotta do”, confusing my more athletic muscular frame for “health” without seeing how everything on the inside was working, a runaway ego and stubborn assedness – but regardless, I’m here now, with a choice to make: keep doing what I’m doing, or change. Actually, it’s not much of a choice.
For the longest time, I’ve always pushed myself. Pushed myself and punished myself. With the divorce, it was taking on all the blame, even for the parts I had no control over (i.e. my spouse cheating on me was her chosen response to my actions: she could have just flat out left me, but she chose her actions).
With working, it was always wanting to be the guy who worked for a living and slugged along, never taking a time out for himself or making use of existing social supports to just relax and stop worrying, even for a little while.
With writing, it was getting a novel done with assembly-line efficiency and making the best use of all the free time I had, even though it meant divesting many of the things I did for fun and leisure (i.e. the reason I wanted a career in writing in the first place).
With dating, it was always this idea that, on an online profile, I should look as impressive as possible, and then make myself subject to my profile, out of the belief that who I actually am is not impressive enough to a potential girlfriend on its own.
Everything had to be perfect. Everything had to line up just the way I wanted it, or I wasn’t happy. And then, because I didn’t want to be one of these guys who blamed everything bad in my life on external sources, I would blame myself if the results were one iota out of place. I became my own Asian Parent Meme.
The Unknown’s shown me a lot, and now it’s taken me down to the absolute basic level of who I am: my physical health. This shit has got to stop.
There are ways to be compassionate towards oneself without compromising greater goals or becoming lazy. The most successful, generous, and kind-hearted people in the world begin by taking care of themselves, and that’s what I’m going to start doing, immediately.
Physically, that means getting back into a workout routine, getting check-ups, and not pushing myself too hard unless I’m doing it from a place of positive motivation (“get a better heart rate”) instead of negative ones (“you’re fat and weak”).
Mentally, that means not punishing myself for missing a few goals here and there, and forgiving myself whenever I screw up. Beyond that, it means also giving myself credit for even having goals and trying for something (that’s more than what a lot of people do), and just recognizing that I’m a good man.
I’d write more, but that’s really it.