I was off work with a throat infection at the start of last week, was getting ready to return on Wednesday when my back just ‘went’. Standing waiting for the kettle to boil, thinking of the bacon sandwich I had garnered all my energy to prepare, something exploded inside me. Not particularly nice to read, I appreciate, but it’s the only way I can explain the excruciating pain that left me fighting unconsciousness for around 10 minutes. I was so worried that Dave, my husband, would find me on the kitchen floor when he came home from work, I managed to phone a friend who was also off ill, to tell her incoherently, that if she didn’t hear from me in the next 15 minutes, to start worrying. It seems funny now and I think it will appear in my ( eventual) retirement speech as the friend I phoned is also my closest colleague at work… but at the time it was a frightening experience. I have not had any significant back problems so the pain and the subsequent disablement was alien to me.
I do everything fast- speak fast, think fast, move fast (probably explains my frequent trips to A&E departments all over the world), drive fast, eat fast and I should probably not carry on this list at the risk of becoming inappropriate… Suddenly I was confined to an (ergonomic) chair and couldn’t do anything for myself. It was sent to try me as my mother would have said. I also felt sick when I went online so my beloved I pad became an enemy rather than friend, my I phone went into hibernation and I was forced to sit still and rest. I decided to try daytime TV as a substitute for my usual busyness. After a session of house renovations, antique buying challenges, families moving to hotter climates with wailing relatives left behind I realised this was not for me. I found my solace in crosswords and Sudoki with bursts of news and politics broadcasts and then rediscovered Radio 4. Bliss. I lay there having stories read to me, listening to plays and debates which I switched off if they became too heated as it disturbed my calm. And I didn’t think about work!
I was able to talk often to my oldest daughter who is going through a recruitment process to a senior legal post and was struggling with dilemmas over family, work, loyalty to her current employers, fears for a huge step up in responsibility… I was able to respond to texts from my middle daughter who is also due to change posts soon and it was lovely to be there at the end of the day when my youngest daughter came home from work regaling me with stories of the conversations she had had with customers, both lovely and horrendous.
So. Back to work on Monday, armed with painkillers from mild to strong, with a gradual return to normal mobility. The learning in this challenging week has been interesting. We neglect Time in the middle of busy jobs and lives. We treat it as a cheap commodity when it is precious, a treasure to bring the magic out in each and every day. We normalise missed moments, missed opportunities as an inevitable part of everyday life.
While I would never wish backache on anyone, I have to accept that an enforced, if painful, rest reminded me of some eternal truths that may just have escaped me for rather too much of my life. Now the real challenge comes to weave what I’ve learned into the same work life I left last week. All in the end is around family and friends….
(The old photo is of my maternal grandparents at the green felt card table that followed our family house to house till it fell apart. simple pursuits…)