Sunday, October 6, 2013


So, you know how your grandmother has that old toaster from 1957 that's got that electrical cord covered in fabric? In some places the fabric is worn down or maybe it's been chewed up by mice. Plug it in, put your bread in, and it does warm-up. But smoke comes out of it and the bread comes out too toasted or not toasted all. And the kitchen fills up with the smell of burning rubber. Every so often someone offers to buy your grandmother a new toaster. She won't have it though.

So, yeah that. The cord to that toaster. That's what my spine looks like. Worn down and frayed. Wires exposed. Every attempt at making toast is a little risky. In this case it's not making toast, but standing up, sitting down, taking a walk, and just about any movement you can think of. Your grandma can get a new toaster. None of us really has the option to get a new spine though. This is the one I have to work with from now on. I expect it will be something of a learning curve. 

Here is what I've learned so far, during the last few weeks, which have been a crash course in degenerative bone disease: my couch is no good for my back, sitting on the floor is no good for my back, reading from bed is not good for my back, using a laptop computer is no good for my back, carrying a knapsack is no good for my back. Almost everything I do by instinct is bad for my back. I've been doing everything wrong, for my whole life, and there's no taking it back. The damage is done.

On the plus side, I find myself happy, on a day like today, to feel strong and pain-free enough to do housework. Ice, which is good for my back, is pretty much free. Morphine and Flexeril are great fucking drugs. EMS drivers and emergency room staff are really nice. So is my physical therapist. My workplace is incredibly accommodating. I have really awesome friends, who will happily keep me company by text message through several hours waiting in the emergency room. Oh, and I've learned how capable I am of taking care of myself in an emergency, a piece of imformation which is a really good thing to have gained from this experience. 

I've learned too, that my mother, who lived with the same bone disease, was even more of a Spartan than I ever imagined. This pain, it's no joke, and she lived with it for so many years. I understand now how it changed her, and what it means when people talk about when they say that "it's the pain talking." It feels as if she and I are having a dialogue about this. In a way this is a chance at a do-over with my mother, regarding pain and what it does to a person's psyche and mood. A chance to revisit the times when pain made her difficult to be around, and when I took her moods personally. For the first time I realize her moods had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with intense and chronic pain. In retrospect, I think she handled it with such grace. Not to mention strength and fortitude. Since I've inherited this disease, I hope I've also inherited some of her strength and fortitude.

1 comment:

musing manatee said...

Hugs. A really good/awful description of your spine...