Op/Ed

Jessie Raymond: The sun is out; now so is my back

JESSIE RAYMOND

Last Thursday while lifting weights, I felt a twinge in my lower back. I corrected my form, finished the workout and forgot all about it.

My back, however, held a grudge.

The next morning while feeding the chickens, I leaned down to pick up an empty plastic waterer. In response to this outrageous behavior, my back made a sound like a twanging rubber band, and I yelped loud enough to startle the hens.

The pain was fleeting, but it returned an hour later while I was weeding. I bent over to reach for a dandelion, and my back screamed, “Which part of this are you not understanding?”

Grimacing, I inched my way back to a fully upright position. The weeding would have to wait.

But the weather was beautiful. I don’t work on Fridays. And I had a lot to get done.

In the winter, the heaviest things I lift are my knitting needles; in the spring, I like to push my limits. I pride myself on not relying on Mark to do all the physical work, so it’s nothing to see me slinging a 50-pound bag of feed over my shoulder and sauntering down to the chicken coop belting out, “I am woman, hear me roar!”

The injury, however, got in the way of the day’s extensive to-do list. Stacking firewood was out, as were lugging my heavier houseplants outside and moving some good-sized rocks around the garden.

But I couldn’t let the nice weather go to waste. So, in a spectacular display of hubris — also known as What Not to Do When You Have a Sore Back — I decided to muck out the pigpen.

Usually Mark and I do this together, but the weekend was going to be hot and humid. And while cleaning out the pigs’ stall never makes my top 10 list of fun activities, on sweaty days it drops even lower on the charts.

Doing the work alone meant it would take twice as long, and picking up wet hay and mud with a pitchfork and shovel is, I admit, pretty much the definition of “back-breaking labor.” But I refused to be constrained by a bit of lumbar distress.

I spent three hours in the barn, with my time split between shoveling and wincing. At some point, my back stopped yelling at me and instead began sending me text messages reading, “Ur going to regret this later LOL.”

And I did.

As evening approached, the pain grew worse. I was OK sitting or standing, at least for short periods, but the transition between the two was fraught with agony.

I couldn’t figure out how to take a seat without whimpering. Lean forward? Lean to the side? Use only my legs and move slowly? Plop down and hope for the best? It all hurt.

Similarly, I could sleep on my side or my back. But I could not make the move from one position to the other without an assist from Mark. And to get out of bed, I had to pretend I was a liquid and sort of flow over the side while sobbing.

On Saturday morning, after a fitful night’s sleep, I got up at dawn and hobbled downstairs. While making coffee, I spilled a handful of beans and found myself just looking at them scattered across the kitchen floor. I sighed. There was nothing I could do.

I had to delegate my chores. I could not haul a basket of wet laundry outside to the clothesline. Or bring the pigs two five-gallon pails of water. Or take the snow tires out of the back of my car. I kept Mark busy all weekend.

Amazingly, I woke up Monday morning nearly free of pain. But the recovery has been in no way linear. How is it I can fasten my seatbelt without incident, but putting a fork in the dishwasher leaves me writhing and making baboon noises?

Not knowing which motions will rocket me into convulsions of pain, I’ve been moving like a chameleon. Picking up my toothbrush this morning took 45 seconds. And I still won’t attempt anything reckless, like reaching for the remote under the coffee table.

I’m sure in a few days, I’ll be almost back to normal. But this ordeal has taught me a valuable lesson in humility: “I am woman, hear me roar” is just one careless move away from “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

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