three asthmatic oxen yoked together
by susan dayley in

We have twenty-two baby trees in our yard with supporting poles. The poles are three inches in diameter and sunk 3-4 feet into the ground. After two full years of growing, it was time to remove the poles. The trick was to loosen them before gripping low and heaving upward. In my exuberance to be a good ‘pioneer wife’ I forgot the adage: “lift with your legs, not your back.” I don’t think I helped with more than seven or eight poles (out of forty-four) but the damage was done. I had strained my back.

It has been nearly a full week now and I’m learning some interesting lessons. 1. It is harder to greet someone in the morning with a smile and ‘cheerful good-morning’ when I spent most of the night changing positions and waking up from sudden jolts of searing jabs; harder to give encouragement and to be willing to serve. Harder to keep flashing smiles. All in all, it is harder to get my mind off myself. I don’t like that aspect of this. 2. It is harder to concentrate on anything, and I’m constantly looking for a change of tasks to divert my mind from the pain.

I am healing and expect the pain to be gone soon (or another trip to the Chiropractor), but it has helped me understand the disposition of people who face a life of chronic pain. They have to cope, with not just the ever present physical agony, but also with the knowledge that it is not going away, but that the pain will be there day after day for the rest of their lives. Wow.

So I am also grateful for this situation (though I’m still going to exhort people to lift with their legs, not their backs). My back pain (which is ever present even as I write this) has taught me empathy for others in an added dimension.

And I learned that I have a bit of pioneer fortitude after all. My running distance actually increased this last week by half a mile. Not bad for an old lady who runs like three asthmatic oxen yoked together.


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