The Unspoken Pain of Sharing Celebrations
*This is a long metaphor or twisted analogy. It may not work, bear with me. You’ve been warned.*
Imagine you were in a horrible car wreck, broadsided by a drunk driver. You were seriously injured. You lost mobility, time, and a sense of hope. You gained scars, fears, and pity.
Imagine you rally, survive, and for some reason, want to punch fate in the throat by training for a marathon, something you had never considering doing before, having usually enjoyed team sports, or the arts.
Imagine you train, battling old injuries from the car wreck, acquiring new injuries from the training,. You run to the soundtrack of self-doubt announced from the voices in your head and repeated on loud speaker when you get home by the real people closest to you:
“You don’t have to do this. You can’t do this. It’s too much. Just being able to walk is good enough. Why run?“
Imagine you also battle financially because of lost time, work, and pain and limitations from the injuries, and a lawsuit that finally settles for minimal damages, because your pain and suffering are not visible or quantifiable. You have, reportedly, recovered from your injuries. The drunk driver was not injured. He was not prosecuted and retained his license to drive and does so without restrictions.
Imagine you sign up for the marathon anyway. It’s the big kind of marathon, similar to the Olympics where runners start and end in a stadium full of people. Most of the real work takes place on a journey through lonely, winding roads, though, with very few spectators.
And imagine running, without a partner, not part of a pack, and certainly without an endorsement deal. No one really gets why you’re doing it at all. You do get encouragement, however, from unlikely sources – complete strangers you pass on the road. They clap, they call out to you,
“You can do it. Way to go. Looking good!”
Imagine thinking that they are wrong, you can’t make it, that no one really expects you to make it, that it is ridiculous to even try and that your time would be better spent on more traditional endeavors for people like you.
Imagine wondering if stopping halfway might be good enough. Imagine knowing that no one would blame you for simply walking it, “It’s the finishing that counts, you don’t have to finish like the real runners,” the voices say. Imagine a cramp, then another, imagine feet on fire, imagine pain in joints that had never been there before.
Imagine continuing to run, regardless.
Imagine entering the stadium after over 26 miles and starting the last lap around the track to reach the finish line.
Imagine feeling suddenly and surprisingly overcome with emotions as the crowd cheers, because some people there know that in the recent past you couldn’t get out of bed — let alone run or race. You also know that some of the cheers are coming from people who don’t know a thing about you, but they recognize a woman fighting not only to finish, but finish in objectively solid time regardless of any personal struggles.
Imagine the emotions taking hold so suddenly and with such intensity that it causes you to stumble as you take your last steps. You stop dead for a moment and put your hands on your knees, trying to catch your breath and blink away sweat and tears.
Imagine seeing out of the corner of your eye, a flash of color? Another runner trying to pass? Is your mind playing tricks on you? Are the cheers for the other runner? You raise your head, wipe your eyes and try to sprint, hoping that your pumping arms will convince your legs to rise from the dead, but you have so little left. Still, you begin to run, the end is in sight and the crowd, pardon the overuse – is going wild.
Imagine right before you cross the finish line being wrapped in a blanket — covered by the flash of color that had come alongside of you. The flash of color from the driver, the same drunk driver who had broadsided you and put you in the hospital.
Imagine looking up to see his fist raised in the air and his smile as you are reluctantly led across the finish line by him, being robbed of the opportunity to cross on your own — which you would have done, which you could have done, had you been permitted. Had you not been intercepted. Had you not been broadsided, again.
Imagine seeing your unwanted escort in running clothes, but without a bead of sweat. He did not run 26.2 miles. He was just one of the thousands in the crowd, and, from the smell of it, he had recently eaten a hot dog.
Imagine the crowd on its feet, those who know the story — cheering you not for finishing the race despite the odds, but for your obvious show of public forgiveness by allowing the embrace of the drunk driver who had taken so much from you and caused you so much pain.
Imagine the front page newspaper story, showing a photograph of you in visual defeat, being assisted across the finish line by the man who inflicted the injuries you fought so hard to overcome. Imagine looking at yourself as you’ve now been memorialized to others, as a woman lost without his assistance, a woman who could not have finished on her own. Your mouth is open, seemingly in a cry of gratitude, but you know that is was a cry of despair that no one heard above the roar of the crowd,
“No! Let me finish. I can do it. He didn’t run. He wasn’t there. I did this. I did this!“
Imagine the newspaper headline:
They did it! They did it! They did it together!
* * *
Imagine my son’s graduation from high school, with honors, and six college acceptances later, headed to a very selective college — accepted there because of his grades, test scores, challenging course load, essay, and leadership in many extra-curricular activities in both the arts and athletics. His accomplishments, not mine. But such accomplishments were not achieved in a vacuum, or even from a partnership, but achieved in a home atmosphere of encouragement, physical, psychological, emotional, and visual support created by me (and my supporters), coupled with a belief that we are just as good as everybody else. No excuses. I wore myself out making it possible for him to have opportunity and yes, the expectation, to achieve.
But now that it’s time to celebrate, imagine being hijacked at the finish line by the guy who, on one snowy night long, long ago said to me, his long time wife and mother of his five children, simply, “I have to go.”
Imagine sharing the podium with a runner who didn’t run — and who, previously, had broken both your legs.
It’s not uncommon for distance runners to vomit after a big race.
Just saying . . .
Just Me With . . . graduation festivities around the corner.
Could somebody get me a bucket?
Related: Misplaced Praise of a Father
My Aching Back
I’m not an exercise monger, but I’ve always been active one way or another. I’ve only thrown my back out three times in my life. The first time was at the beach. It was a drive-by water gun shooting incident initiated by my nieces and nephew.
My niece, the driver, drove up all slow like, the mini-van door silently opened, and her brother opened fire (water) on my sisters and I, which included his own mother. We scattered. I pivoted hard to dive into the brush to avoid the assault. They hit and drove off quickly into the night. My sisters and I walked back to the beach house — dripping and sore. By the next day I couldn’t move. It only lasted a day, though.
Fast forward to last year. I was laying a natural flagstone patio in my back yard. And by “I” — I mean “I”. I had help from guy friends for a couple of days for the really big stones, see Friends Without Benefits, but most days I was on my own. I’m always so careful with my projects, safety first, safety last, safety always. After the drive-by incident I have been living by the mottoes: “Lift with your knees, not your back” and “Take your time.” But one night after I’d completed the work for the day, actually after I’d completed the whole patio, I made a mistake. Instead of getting up to get my toolbox, I turned to grab it. I was probably already weakened from the heavy lifting anyway, but it was that quarter turn that got me down, literally. I felt a sudden pain in my lower back. After two or three days of back pain and walking funny, I got better. Still, I was benched from hard labor for a couple of weeks.
This was supposed to be part of my trying to manage my chronic depression. Changing what I can, acknowledging what I can’t, making attainable goals, knowing that I can’t do it all, taking care of me. Blah, blah, blah. I had gotten off the daily meds, see Getting Off The Meds, but I still have to be able to combat the depression without them. Universally the pros say that exercise is key. Now, I’ve been extremely physically active over the last couple of years, practically speaking. In addition to dealing with five kids, I’ve packed up, moved and renovated a house. I’m talking about being on ladders, heavy lifting, digging, up and down stairs constantly. But much of that work is done now. I thought I would try to start running. It’s cheap and effective.
Always so careful, I decided that running on a nice rubber track would be easier on my body and bones, plus I could keep track of how far I have gone and avoid being seen by the general public. I was surprised at how well I was able to keep going, running painfully slowly but continuing nonetheless. Mind you, I hate running, but I knew it would be good for me. I used to run track in school, which I loved, but absent the chance of getting a medal at the end, well, running for the sake of running has never been as fun for me.
Coming off of the back to school preparation with five kids, who can be difficult (autism, anxiety, depression), I was feeling overwhelmed. Still, I had been so proud of myself about getting the things done on my do-to list, getting the paperwork and physicals ready for five kids in a more timely fashion than in previous years, making sure they had the school supplies and clothing needed to start school, getting organized, girls’ hair done, etc. and having done all of this after having taken the kids on our first cross-country road trip.
Despite my careful planning, budgeting, “to do” lists and many trips to stores, one of my daughters (the anxious one) flipped out about not having “the right” pair of sneakers for volleyball try-outs. I tried to tell her that she has the perfect shoes to wear for the first day, actually for the whole season — basketball shoes. Volleyball is played on the basketball court, so that made sense to me. Plus, if she made the team and actually needed different shoes we could deal with that later. She wasn’t hearing it. She also refused to acknowledge that fact that even if I wanted to, I could not take her shoe shopping in one hour we had before her dad was scheduled to pick her up for the dinner visit (he doesn’t do any of the school preparation —- don’t ask). I tried to tell her that by the time we got to the store, parked and looked at shoes it would be time to come home. She did not believe me. Instead, she became furious with me. She was completely agitated. She said everyone would notice she had the wrong shoes. The more I told her that was not the case, the angrier she got, accusing me of causing her never to be prepared.
I’m reminded of one of my favorite movies lines, from a woman to her grown daughter: “I never should have encouraged you to speak.” I talked to my babies incessantly, so they would learn. Now? They spew nastiness at me.
We weren’t going to the store and she was angry about it. She was completely convinced that she would not be prepared for try-outs and would be embarrassed. And that this was all my fault.
I had not anticipated this. This was not on my things to do list. I tried to explain that she would not be the only one wearing basketball shoes on the basketball court. (By the by, I know this for a fact because her three sisters would be there, also wearing basketball shoes on the basketball court). She wasn’t hearing that, saying that people (always these unnamed people) would notice her shoes because her shoes were different from her sisters’ black basketball shoes because her shoes have a red swoop (gasp!) Whoa. I did not see that coming either. I tried to explain that if she chose not to wear her basketball shoes she could wear her other sneakers. Her response? They were too small . ( She was wearing them at the time.) I explained that if she’s grown out of her every day sneakers and needed new ones that I would take her to get some but I just could not take her then (because of the visitation order and all, which pisses me off, too, but I digress.)
Why couldn’t she understand?
But she was being completely unreasonable. Generally speaking, an unreasonable person cannot be reasoned with. This I know. I must have forgotten it then, though.
So many things send this child into a frenzy — from having a braid that doesn’t hang properly, to someone burping in the car, to thinking everyone will notice that her sister’s hair is longer, to seeing a bug, to hearing someone talk about a book or movie, to being asked if her homework is done, to someone using her soap, to not being the first at . . . well, everything. etc. Note to parents of boys: This is not typical girl behavior. This is over the top. I’m only scratching the surface here.
I lost it.
Well, I lost sight of the fact that there was no reasoning with her. I wanted her to understand. I was tired of the back talk and the refusal to hear common sense — i.e. there is simply no time to go to the store right now! So when she tried to walk away from me, I blocked her. Physically blocked her. I just wanted her to hear me say that — yes she would be prepared for try-outs, that no one will notice her shoes, that I will take her shopping when the schedule permits. I don’t know, maybe I wanted some recognition for trying to get her what she needs, if not everything she wants. Mostly, I didn’t want her to walk away from me while I was talking.
So I blocked her. Or at least I tried. Rookie mistake.
My body was already weakened by my previous day’s running. This child is my smallest child, but she’s strong . . . and headstrong.
She dropped to all fours, like some sort of ninja wrestler, and began to push by me . . . with her head!
I admit, this pissed me off. “This child was not going to physically intimidate me.” Or so I thought.
I reached down to pull her up. (Lift with your knees, not your back, lift with your knees not your back, LIFT WITH YOUR KNEES, NOT YOUR BACK!!!!!!)
But it was too late.
I had reached down and pulled up. It was classic poor lifting technique. I heard a snap, felt a sudden pain in my left lower back and fell to the floor.
She stepped over me. I was roadkill.
Volleyball? Really? Clearly this child has missed her calling — I’d say wrestling or football are in her future — or prison.
This back injury has by far been the worst and the longest.
I rested it. It started to feel better. Then a different child wanted her hair flat ironed for her class picture. I thought I could do it, if I took my time and rested. No, the bending or whatever, the next day I was almost as bad as the first day. Then I caught a cold from another daughter who has a disgusting habit of letting her used tissues lie about the house. But, of course, when I caught it, I got it much worse than she had it. Every time I coughed or sneezed or had a chill it sent my back into spasm. That was the first week.
The second week came with one gig and two back-to-school nights which prohibited any real rest for me. Too much walking and lifting. For the gig I had to swallow my pride and out of necessity asked a fellow musician help me carry and set up my gear. At the last minute, though, he couldn’t help. I often rely on the kindness of strangers, and got the sound man to help, I had no choice. But it was not ideal, and it was stressful. Then I came home to children who had not done their homework or cleaned up after themselves. My progress regressed. So sore.
Later in the week I had to attend two back-to-school nights, one of which in theory required me to be in four places at once, eight periods in a row. I felt beat down. But the kicker was when the anxious ninja wrestling child had yet another fit because she needed my help with her homework — at midnight. She had refused to do it earlier. She refused to let me rest. I could not remove her physically and she followed me where ever I went. She was in tears worrying that she would be in trouble and unprepared. Again, somehow, it was all my fault. Still, my help, in her world, must not include actually talking to her or reviewing the assignment. No, no, it consisted of me just sitting being there and taking the verbal assault from a child who is truly distressed and anxiety ridden. (I’m looking to get her some help, in case you’re wondering.) It was hard to sit in one position while she worked so I thought, stupidly, “I’ll empty the dishwasher.” ( “Resting” my back had turned my house into potential Hoarders episode). So, I carefully leaned over to pick up one plate, just one plate . . . and . . . snap!
My progress had regressed yet again.
The pain! It had gotten so bad I actually went to the doctor, not usually my thing. He gave me muscle relaxants, told me to take Tylenol, gave me back exercises, and I got a flu shot.
Oh yeah, and did I mention the dog was sick? She was vomiting and had diarrhea all over the downstairs, the floors are tile and therefore easy to clean — but not if you can’t bend over. Lovely.
By the time the dog was pooping blood I figured she had to go to the vet. She weighs only 12 pounds yet I had trouble picking her up. I made the girls go with me to help. I had a back spasm at the vet parking lot, good thing the girls were with me, they had to check in for us while I was outside leaning against the railing, waiting for the spasms to subside long enough to go in.
The Vet said, “You don’t look like you’re doing too good.” Yeah, ya think? Embarrassing. Painful. Typical.
Well, things got bad before they got better, the cold with the back spasms continued throughout the weekend. The kids went with their Dad for their half-weekend, which left me to deal with the dog’s poop and vomit — alone.
The kids had only been gone for 34 hours but when they got back they immediately asked me,
“What’s wrong with your face, Mommy? Why do you have droopy eyes like Daddy?”
“I do not have droopy eyes!!” My indignant response. (I have my suspicions as to why Daddy has droopy eyes, but I digress.)
I was deeply hurt. I mean, I was in pain and I had a cold and certainly was not at my best, but still there was no need to insult my looks. When I finally hobbled to a mirror I was slapped with understanding. Bumps, welts, and swelling all over my face, neck, shoulders. Lovely.
Then the itching began. Lovely and fun.
What was it? The muscle relaxants? The flu shot?
Back to the doctor, who determined I had developed hives . . . probably from the Ibuprofen, and told me to switch to Acetaminophen.
More attempts to rest my back, which meant no housework, but I still had to do everything else. Not to mention the anxious child and the depressed child have been fighting . . . a lot. But I kept my physical distance. I’ve learned my lesson. And I had another gig, which required moving the gear again. But this was week three and I’d started to feel a little bit better. I thought I could handle it. I moved my gear slowly, using my knees, not my back. I asked for and accepted help when I could get it, but I was still alone. I’m always alone . . . I digress again. At least by this time the hives were small and couldn’t be seen from a distance, even though my face felt like sandpaper. No matter, nobody was going to be touching me. Sigh. I got my gear moved and played the gig. But the next day?
Apparently the pain was just packing up to move elsewhere. Since the gig I have had excruciating constant pain from my hip to my knee. Both interior muscular and exterior pain — it hurts to the touch like a burn. The internet gods tell me that this is sciatica, nerve damage which can follow a back injury. Whatever, it hurts.
This time I just made a call to the doctor, because I don’t feel like going anywhere. (Plus, I’m afraid he thinks I have a crush on him by this point.) My doctor referred me to physical therapy. I’m still taking the muscle relaxants and I can also take sleeping pills, he advised, since I’ve been unable to sleep. Let’s hope I don’t end up on Intervention. (Wow, a Hoarders and Intervention reference in the same post, A&E should be paying me, but I digress, yet again.)
In the meantime, the demands from my kids are unrelenting. At least the dog got better. But the complaints from the kids about our house being too small and that everybody else has an iPhone and iPad and “I’m so bored” coupled with, can you pick me up or . . . can you take me . . . can you buy me . . . and can I do . . . blah, blah, blah . . . Well, it’s all a bit much these days. Feeling this badly for so long has not helped my depression. I’m coming up on week four. The tears are back, one time in public. Ugh.
My grand plans for taking care of me, taking charge of some things, well, everything has been “back-burnered.” heh heh. Actually, this sh*t ain’t funny.
My load is a bit too heavy right now. Ask my back.
Anyone out there considering running? — Or having children, for that matter? Give me a call. I’ll have you channel surfing on your couch, popping birth control pills and swaddled in a body condom in no time.
Just Me With . . . a different kind of “back story.”