Empathy is a funny thing. And if by “funny” I mean “awful.” I like to think I can appreciate the misfortunes of others without having to experience them directly. No, really, Universe. I’m good.
Well, okay. There are some situations I have been less than empathetic about because I don’t have personal perspective. Like whatever brain parasite causes people to wear skinny jeans. I will never empathize with that. Anyway, this post isn’t about those situations, but one I have actually now experienced firsthand.
Generally speaking, I’ve been extremely fortunate throughout my life in terms of my health. I mean, I’ve experienced lesser issues like horrible acne, comical near-sightedness, braces, and that nasty bout with Crohn’s disease which has fortunately remained in check for the most part. But I didn’t inherit any kind of “fat” genes (skinny genes don’t demand skinny jeans), and I even still have a decent head of hair (knock on wood). I am used to going throughout my daily life in a constant state of non-pain. Now, let’s flash back to two weeks ago.
It was in the middle of that horrific month-long cold snap that had us hovering around zero (Farenheit, duh) every day. I stubbornly refused to alter my activities and so went on my usual evening run. This night it was about 4 degrees, which may have broken the record for the coldest weather I had ever run in. Needless to say, I was pretty anxious to get home. So I ran my 4 miles in 28 minutes, which as far as I can recall is faster than I ever had before. I was pretty proud of myself.
Then, a couple hours later, Katie and I were having a sock fight with the kids, wherein you gather all the clean socks in the house and throw them at each other. Naturally, there are very technical rules to this battle, but let’s stay focused here. I bent over to pick up some socks and felt a sudden twinge in my back.
“Aha!” you’re now saying. “It’s a ‘bad back’ story!” And I’m sad to say that’s true. I’ve never had a bad back, but I’ve certainly heard from so many people who do over the years that it’s payback time – pun most definitely intended. I’ve strained my back a bit on occasion, like when I spent a day moving, or putting in sprinklers or whatever. But in each of those instances I only felt it for a day or so. This was a whole new level.
I tried to pretend nothing was wrong, but for a week I felt it every moment of every day, whether I moved, sat, or stood still. I couldn’t sleep well because lying on my stomach made my back hurt. (Yes, I’m a weirdo stomach-sleeper. You back-sleepers snore, so shut up.) Sitting in my chair all day at work made me horribly stiff. And, worst of all, I couldn’t run for a week. Now that two weeks has gone by, it’s quite a bit better but I can still feel it several times throughout the day.
So, while a couple of weeks of pain can’t compare to people who have dealt with it for years, but I definitely have (unwittingly ) developed some sense of empathy toward bad-back people. You are martyrs of humanity, doomed to suffer in (occasional) silence. Never again will I take for granted my mobility. In the future I will devote at least half an ear to listening to your groaning. I will even try (though without much hope) to refrain mocking you for visiting a chiropractor, desperate for anything that will ease the pain even slightly. Bad Back People, I offer you a (hunched-over) salute.