I could start this article with my usual apologies for my lengthy absence, but you know what? Pfffft. No. I’m not apologizing. I’ve had a crappy month. At the beginning of July I was what we in the legal profession like to call “kind of an idiot.” We bought a new computer chair for the home office. I was talking to my boss and decided to put my feet up on the table. I leaned back — and kept leaning back.
The chair had more give than I’d anticipated, and I went down like the Titanic. My left butt cheek had a bruise the size of a coffee cup, and it’s only just disappeared. Today’s the 21st. This happened July 4th weekend. I had to sit on my right cheek for almost three weeks! More important was the fact that my head hit the wooden floor. Meanwhile, I was talking to my boss while I fell. I could feel my mouth forming a very unprofessional word, managed to say “I’ll call you back,” and then called my dad in hysterics. Everything’s fine, nothing’s broken, the fusion is solid, but that was a hell of a setback. I am definitely looking forward to lumbar injections and a cervical radiofrequency ablation tomorrow.
My original point was that I am not going to apologize because I am working hard to improve my current situation, and that is a full-time job in and of itself. So. I have been attempting to pick up more work. I currently work a part-time position as an attorney editor, but I need to start picking up the slack. My therapist thinks that if I impose these goals and put them into effect, I will rise to meet the occasion. I agree. The worst-case scenario is that we’re both wrong and full-time work (or something close to it) is more than I can physically handle, and I have to quit. Again.
I worry that I will be unreliable. However, I know that this requires an important distinction, word-wise, which is why we are returning to the long-lost column I’d intended to make a weekly thing: WORD WAR WON!
[Insert theme music here]
Word War Won, for those who haven’t been following this blog for two years, is a recurring topic in which I stumble my way around aspects of cognitive behavioral therapy. Apparently, I was doing CBT without even realizing it simply by trying to reframe negative thoughts I have into positive ones.
Today’s edition of WORD WAR WON: BEING UNRELIABLE VS. MY BODY BEING UNRELIABLE.
I keep saying that I am unreliable. That’s not true. My condition is unreliable. I, for one, am actually quite reliable. I am on fire when I feel good. When I’m not dealing with a number of injuries, I can get a lot of work done. Since leaving my job, though, I’ve realized that I don’t like to make plans or put a pin in much of anything. Will I be able to make that appointment, or will my back be out that day? Will I be able to hang out with friends, or will my neck make it impossible to drive? “Sorry,” I tell people. “I’m unreliable. I have to make a game-day decision.”
No. I am reliable. Chronic pain and illness can make us feel like we aren’t. It’s like we have no control over our daily schedules because we don’t know how we’re going to feel in an hour, tomorrow, or next week. My current boss has come to understand that if I don’t have something done on Monday because of pain means that it’ll get done on Tuesday. I always have it done by the deadline, even if the path to get there was unorthodox. I work when I am able. I don’t put off work; I just do work when I know that I physically can. That is an important distinction, because I would be working far more if I could. I like working. I like producing things. It makes me feel accomplished and happy. I don’t like not knowing what I can promise because my body is unpredictable.
How do I handle my condition’s unpredictability? As I said, I work when I am able. This means very strange hours of productivity. I rest when my body calls for it. It’s hard because it seems like I am operating at 30 percent capacity when I know that I am capable of far more. It’s difficult to wake up one day and realize there’s all this untapped potential that is going to be wasted because my sciatica is firing off or my neck is causing my head to pound.
That is not me. That is my condition. That is my body. That is not what I am. I am a hardworking individual who wants nothing more than to contribute to society. It’s taking a very long time, but I know I will get back there. This fall off the chair was nothing more than a setback, and I am going to get back up to speed.
This week’s winner: I AM RELIABLE. MY BODY IS UNRELIABLE.
Side note: I got a Bamboo Spark drawing pad, which uploads what I draw up into the cloud. How cool is that? Check out my stellar art skillz, yo!