A week ago, I woke up to the morning alarm and tried to roll out of bed. Instead of rolling, I merely rocked a little bit to rest on my side, sharp pain in the middle of my lower back immobilizing me. What I did in the middle of the night that caused the pain was a mystery to me, I just knew that moving was going to be a challenge. Rather than give in, I eased my feet over the side of the bed, let them drop to the floor while I turned around and let my knees hit the floor. From there I was able to push my body into a semi upright position. No way was I going to let the pain win, so I old manned it across my bedroom to the bathroom. Nature was calling, after all. On top of that, I really wanted to go to work… really, I did.
This happens once or twice a year. My back rebels against me for a few days, then returns to normal. I live on ibuprofen for a bit, curse the pain, bent over and shuffling. It’s my body telling me thanks for the abuse over the years. The lower back issue started when I was in my thirties, when I used to be a softball fanatic, probably a result of throwing the ball or swinging a bat too hard. At first, my back would hurt for a few hours after a game, then was fine. Three years ago, I decided it was time to hang up my glove because my back wasn’t recovering in between games. I played my last tournament barely able to stand up straight. Bicycling always makes my back feel better, so I decided that it was time to focus my energies on the bicycle a bit more. Softball was taking away from my time on the bike.
The back pain was stronger this time, lasted longer. It probably didn’t help things that I helped my friend, Jim, move a bunch of furniture up and down stairs last Friday night. He’s a good friend. I couldn’t say no. So, I borrowed a heating pad, downed Doan’s pills, gave in to a coworker’s offer to try Biofreeze (that stuff is really good). Last night, Lisa brought over her tens massager for me to use. That did the trick. I feel almost normal right now.
OK, my BACK feels almost normal.
The tens is a little device that looks like an iPod, with two electrode pads that stick to the body. It sends electric shocks that contract and relax the muscle, acting like a very intense massage. The idea is to set the strength as high as one can stand. Every once in a while, it gives a mild shock, but it’s worth the little bit of pain that causes.
Monday morning, my boss told me that I could go home if I wanted to. Instead, I found a way to tolerate the discomfort. I am glad I pushed through. It ended up being a good week at work. Our team started the week with a huge amount of work, worked hard to whittle it down, and now we have a manageable queue. I am glad I got to be a part of that.
I guess life has taught me a little bit about perseverance. I hope it has, at least. Giving up rarely produces anything positive, although I suppose sometimes that needs to happen. There are times when we need to fight through the pain, see the benefits of seeing something through, realize that pain is usually just a season, temporary. Divorce felt like giving up, but in reality it was realizing that the pain it produced in my life would give me a strength I would not have gained otherwise. The pain was necessary, and I had to face it in order for my life to get better.
Cycling has also taught that to me. On a long ride, there is almost always a point along the ride where it gets so tough it’s tempting to quit, where the fatigue or pain is almost too much. There has been a ride or two where I gave in, quit, took a ride to the finish instead of finishing on my own. It’s not something I am proud of. I remember a ride where I pulled off the side of the road in a cold, freezing rain, exhausted from over 100 miles of the toughest riding I had every experienced. I sat in the middle of the road, cold and wet, the rain water rushing around me. There were only a few miles left to the summit, but the road was so steep that I really didn’t think I could make it to the top. I quit. Needless to say, I had to come back the next year for that same ride, determined to finish it. I had thought about it the entire year, the defeat living in my soul.
I finished the ride the next time.