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  • Writer's pictureDonna Gerard

My Body As My Guide

We went on a cruise with friends and had planned everything out, including our excursions, with special focus on the activity I had my heart set on: swimming in the cenotes, little bodies of water in underground caves.

On the day of the trip I could barely get out of bed. I had so much lower back pain I was leaning on walls to walk. Getting up from a chair was excruciating. There was no way I could go anywhere but to the ship’s hospital. I was brought there in a wheelchair.

Besides physical pain and disappointment, I also felt something akin to guilt because my husband refused to leave my side. Now I was messing up his vacation. On the other hand, I would have stayed with him that day if our situations had been reversed.

Going forward, there were plenty of occasions for me to reciprocate and plenty of other occasions for me to be the injured party. Here’s the question to wrestle with: Do we always have to stay back with the person who is under the weather? Here’s the answer we have come up with: No.

My husband has had his own share of back injuries, a broken foot, a cough so bad it broke a rib, and cancer. I have had to do at least four extended stints on physical therapy for back pain, and once was out of work for a “sports injury” that affected the nerves in my shoulder (I fell off my bike while mounting it and holding the dog’s leash). We have had plenty of time for caregiving in our forty years of marriage. We have also had plenty of time for going off on our own.

When I had the shoulder injury, Perry went to a wedding I couldn’t attend, and went ahead to a couple of football games. I used to love hiking in the woods, but he often didn’t feel up to it for various reasons ranging from fatigue to upper back pain to to dislike of cold/heat/bugs/mud. Off I went. I wouldn’t want him to push himself beyond what he feels he can do. Likewise, I don’t like going to football games because the seats cause my back to hurt. I have recently been having problems with my knees. On bad days I have no trouble declining walks, nor do I care if he goes without me.

People, especially older people, have physical issues that pop up. I will not let myself develop a case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) if my body is giving me instructions. My body gives lots of instructions.

Don’t eat that greasy sandwich. Order the salad.

Your knees hurt. Take the elevator.

You have a cold (flu/Covid/whatever). Stay away from everyone. Drink lots of fluids. Read a book and take a nap.

My body (and everyone else’s) has it’s limitations. If I violate those limitations it will have no chance to heal and I will be sidelined even longer. I don’t like having to sit out activities I want to do, but my body is my guide. So far, all the issues have resolved themselves in time.

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