Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"I Guess I'll Make Time for the Pain" Was the Original Song Title

I threw my back out while lying in bed the other morning. That's not even the worst part. What's worse is that it's not the first time this has happened.

"No no no no no no no," I said, plus about a hundred more "no"s when I felt the pop in my left shoulder blade early on Monday morning, before the sun had come up. I wasn't even awake yet; I had simply stirred from my slumber in order to yawn and stretch my arms when the pop came and the entire left side of my back flooded with pain.

I can only think of three worse things to wake up to on a Monday morning (death of a loved one doesn't count because this is a Fun Blog!):

1) A whiskey hangover
2) A dog taking a crap on your bed
3) Finding yourself engulfed in flames.

That's it, just those three things are worse than starting your Monday off with a big ol' steaming cup of back injury. Trust me; I saw it on the Science Channel.

At first, I wasn't sure what to do. Michael was lying next to me and I considered telling him right away, but he had his own problems. Specifically, a back injury that he got over the weekend. Unlike me, he had no clue how his happened, but the pinched nerve kept him couch-bound all day on Saturday until he had to rally himself to play drums for a show on Saturday night. Sleep was elusive for him afterward, and Sunday night, and after the initial agony of my own back injury subsided into a steady icy grip, I felt guilty for injuring myself. Because it's a well-known fact that when the able-bodied children in a house outnumbers the amount of injured or sick adults, Armageddon ensues, complete with pestilence, locusts and horsemen.

Eventually, though, I had to tell him, because I think the fact that I rolled up on my coffee Quasi Modo style might have given me away. And, of course, I had to apologize. What kind of jerk-faced jerk head gets a back injury before their significant other recovers from their own back injury? A big, fat jerk-faced jerk head, that's who.

It's amazing how quickly a normal looking, mild-mannered desk chair can turn into a torture device that would make the 14th century Catholic church squee like little school girls. Even with the heating pad firmly attached to my back, I was in excruciating pain, sitting in that stupid death chair all day. Usually in situation like this, I call my chiropractor, but I've discovered over the past couple of years that chiropractic adjustments don't really work for me anymore. I end up feeling better in a about 3-5 days whether I get one or not, so what's the point? So for this injury, I decided to try something new for me: Deep tissue massage.

Massage has been strictly recreational for me up until this point. I can count the number I've had on one hand, and at least two of them were gifts. Not that I have a problem with massage. I think they're neat. I just haven't really been in a financial position to get massages with the frequency that very bored, very rich and very relaxed people seem to. So approaching it from a place of urgency seemed weird to me, and it was hard for me to get past the idea that I'm spending a lot of money on something so frivolous. But the pain eventually won out, and after calling half a dozen places in the area, I finally found someone to take me last minute.

Karen, my massage therapist, couldn't have weighed more than 100 pounds, and I feel like that might even be a stretch. I'm pretty sure my left leg weighs more than Karen the massage therapist. But what she lacked in bulk she more than made up for in some sort of anger issue that resulted in her not exactly massage me, but somehow managing to beat me internally with just her tiny hands and arms.

I am loathe to say it was the most painful experience I've ever had, because I do have a child, but I'd say it ranks right up there with breaking a finger. An index finger, even. Except much, much, MUCH slower.

So is it safe to say that it was one of the most painful prolonged experiences I've ever had? Does that still smack of hyperbole? Whatever. It is. Feel free to start a blog and write about how wrong I am.

"Do you ever have a chance to stretch," Karen asked while she dug her wee meat hooks into my pectoral muscles. I couldn't answer at first, as I was too busy sweating profusely and grinding my teeth down to nubs.

"Yes," I finally managed. "I do yoga about six times a week."
"Oh, that's so great! You should be pretty limber then."
At least, that's what I think she said. It was hard to hear her over my silent screams.

She asked me a lot of things, like what I do for work, how often I'm able to exercise, whether there's a lot of stress in my life. One thing that seemed glaringly absent from her line of questioning, however, was, "Does that hurt?" And my answer would have been, "YES!!!! OH FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY PLEASE STOP TOUCHING ME IMMEDIATELY!!!"

I don't know from deep tissue. Maybe that's how it's supposed to be. Maybe you're supposed to suck it up and take the pain because you'll feel better once you get through it. And honestly, my back did feel better when she was finished, but at that point, I couldn't tell if it felt better because it was better or if it felt better because I had so much adrenaline coursing through my veins that I could have taken a bullet in the kneecap without so much as a yelp. Either way, I managed to hobble myself home and settle into the couch in order to let the magical healing begin.

At around 5am this morning, I woke up suddenly. I tried to sit up, but every part of my body felt like it had been beaten with a stick, so I sort of rolled/crawled/fell out of bed. I limped to the bathroom and grabbed my handheld mirror and looked at my back. It was covered in bruises. Little, tiny, pointy finger tip-sized bruises, especially down around my lower back. Again, I don't know from deep tissue, but bruising after the fact seems a bit excessive. My back seemed better, or possibly much worse, but it was hard to distinguish the new pain from the old pain. So I packed up my heating pad and headed to work, where my death chair awaited me.

Only time will tell if the deep tissue massage was a good idea. Perhaps I'll wake up tomorrow and feel like a new woman, one free of aches and pains and bruises inflicted by petite massage therapists trained in grappling by the Israeli army. Or maybe I'll break my hip in the shower and sprain my ankle while peeing and check myself into a nursing home and be done with it. It really could go any direction at this point.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Salad Days and Nights

I nearly cried into my dinner last night.

It had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that our favorite local Italian restaurant was filled with loud-mouth rednecks sporting goatees, massive beer bellies and construction company teeshirts. It also didn't matter that, while Michael, Madeline and I dined on our entrees, a woman whose g-string was conspicuously displayed well above her butt crack and outside of her jeans was so hammered on a Tuesday night that she had to be carried out of the bar by her three girlfriends. It was 7:45pm. And it was no consequence that the ratio of dudes with neck tattoos to dudes without was surprisingly lopsided.

We come to expect those things in our town, which is why we eat dinner at home most nights and when we do splurge on restaurant food, it involves calling ahead and taking out. The world is just too full of ignorant, racist, very loud douche bags for us.

I nearly cried into my dinner last night because I am officially, 100% sick and tired of eating salad. Which sucks, because I actually love salad. Which seems lame, because how can you love a salad? I love salad because it's easy to make and endlessly versatile, completely portable and an elegant way to get several servings of vegetables in one sitting. Green leaves provide an excellent canvas for everything I like to eat: Black beans, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, all manner of cruciferous veggies, nuts and seeds, and even a little bit of good cheese. I bring one for lunch every day, and frequently have one for dinner many times a week. And since I'm a vegetarian, it's a pretty reliable fall-back option when we go out to eat, and a lot of the places we go will be fairly flexible with what I want to add to a salad that I order.

And that's what I ordered last night when we took Madeline out to dinner to our favorite local Italian restaurant. It's a good one, too: A giant pile of romaine with a house-made garlic and red wine vinegar dressing with feta, blue cheese and Parmesan sprinkled in. Madeline ordered penne with marinara. Michael ordered spinach and cheese ravioli with pesto cream sauce.

"Why do you keep looking at my plate," Michael asked.
"I didn't realize I was looking at your plate," I answered.
"Yeah, you're staring at it like you're in a Bugs Bunny cartoon and you're trapped on a desert island with Daffy Duck and he's starting to look like a giant porkchop."
"Sorry. It looks good."
"Do you want a bi..." Before could even finish asking, I grabbed his fork and sawed off a bit of cheesy, spinachy, basily, creamy goodness and shoved it into my mouth.

It was so good. There's just something about pesto that delights my tastebuds. And I can only get away with using "delights my tastebuds" for a few things without worrying that I'll sound like a moron. Pesto. Any time lime is added to something chili-based. Indian spices. And that's about it. That little creamy bite melted onto my tongue like a tiny cloud of tasty sin. I instantly wanted more.

"Is your salad okay," Michael asked.
"Yeah, it's good. As usual."
"Why are you just pushing it from one side of the bowl to the other, then?"
"I don't know. It's just not the same now. Your bite ruined me."

It was true. One bite of that pesto cream sauce had destroyed my appetite for my salad. Suddenly, my dinner seemed cold and soulless. Devoid of pizzaz, empty and thin and completely without body or substance. It seemed so pointless. I hated my salad. My salad represented all of the frustration I've been feeling lately in my struggle to lose weight. All the hard work and sacrifice and deep, DEEP life changes I've made in a commitment to shed these pounds so that I can feel better about myself and live longer for my family. All of the advice I've taken that has failed to yield results, all of the time I've put in working out, the special meals I've prepared, the things I've wanted but have turned down. It all culminated in the salad that I tried to eat last night in our favorite local Italian restaurant. I pushed the half-full bowl away, unable to stomach another bite.

Perhaps this makes me sound weak, but I'm not sure how much longer I can keep going like this without seeing any change in my weight or at least the way my clothes fit. It's not the working out that's getting to me. I've actually grown to love that part of it. I'm in the best shape I've been in years. My energy is almost boundless now. I feel so strong, and I am stronger. I sleep better at night. I love the feeling of sweat pouring off my of me and my legs burning during spinning class after I've completely maxed out the resistance, the release and relaxation I feel from yoga, even the sore muscles I get in the morning after lifting weights and doing crunch after crunch after crunch. When the snow melts, my feet will be hitting the concrete again, like they used to many years ago, and I'm looking forward to it.

It's the food I miss. I'm tired of the constant preparation and organization involved in planning every single thing I put into my mouth. If I was at least SLOWLY losing weight, it would be enough for me to hang my hat on it, to keep going. But the fact that the scales have not budged in two and a half months has made me contemplate chucking it in. Remaining active will not change, but the restrictive eating is becoming too much, all the time.

Can I do it? Can I stop making it about weight loss and focus on simply being healthy? Can I stop counting every calorie and carbohydrate? Can I accept my size and be happy? Can I not worry that people will look at me and think, "She must be super lazy. Look how fat she is" and be satisfied in the knowledge that I am most certainly NOT lazy, and that this fat girl could probably run circles around them? Can I act as an example to my daughter that size and shape ultimately don't matter as long as you are the healthiest person you can be? Can I fight years of toxic reasoning that drives me into obsessive behaviors and focus on the big picture, which is being completely present, both in mind and body, for my family?

I don't know right now, but I feel like I'm the closest I've ever been in my life to being a whole and complete person, not a pointless, aimless being cobbled together with self-hatred and justifications and diet pills. It's going to be a one meal at a time type of deal, so ask me again at dinner, which will almost certainly not be a salad. And oh yeah, I brought soup for lunch today.