I am giving it one hour, I told Trouble 2. I was on my feet for the whole four-hour session.
I am trying out a different strategy this time. Because, damn it, I am not going to be flat on my back one more winter!
He dropped me off at Backenkyrkan, the Backen church, where my choir was lining up for the first out of three Wednesday evenings, recording a CD. I was linking my arm in his and he carried my bag with the sheet music binder and a thermos with hot tea. And I told him that I probably couldn’t do more than an hour, I would call him.
Trouble 2 and Audrey moved in with me on Monday. That’s when I called them and told them I had turned acute. Again. I managed to get myself some breakfast, but that was all I could do. I was on my back again.
I have been so much better this summer. Even had the confidence to say it out loud: I am better! I am doing a lot better! Starting to trust a real turn around. But September came with more pain and body restrictions, I actually got worse by the day. Two weeks ago the first sharp pain said hello, hasn’t happened since April. And this Monday morning I had to put on my “back-out-pants”, comfortable sweat pants that are the only thing I can manage by myself when I get this bad.
I still have home care, and they make my meals for me when I can’t do it myself. But when I get really acute, the nights are my nightmare. When I get this acute it is not safe for me to spend the nights alone. There is the night patrol. The city home care night patrol, they see to old or handicapped people who can’t take care of themselves during the night. It is a good thing. And for a month last December they put the key in my door every night. I was grateful and I hated it. I was brave and smiled and chatted cheerfully with different people every night, and I hated it.
This Monday morning struggling to put the back-out-pants on, I was thinking, I couldn’t take it. The sweat broke out only from the very thought of having foreign people come up my stairs putting their rubber gloves on. And I am realizing last years experience is a trauma. I just have to do everything I can to not put myself through that again.
So. I am calling Trouble 2. A year ago I couldn’t because he was in Paris. Now I can. And I do. And he says: it’s a beautiful day. Audrey and I were talking about driving over looking for chanterelles anyway. We can make dinner and then we go from there.
A couple of hours later they came up my stairs carrying a beautiful fall bouquet of yellow roses. Oh how I prefer yellow roses over rubber gloves!
I was served chanterelle pizza for dinner and hot fruit with vanilla ice cream and coconut flakes as dessert. And they said: we will stay here for the night. Don’t worry.
My children. My beautiful caring children. I cried. The relief. To postpone the night patrol. And maybe I will be better in a few days? I was half lying, there on my couch, having to tell myself out loud to be able to trust it. To relax and enjoy the dinner and my children: I won’t be alone tonight. I am safe for now. They have stayed six nights now. Trouble 2 brought his big screen computer and is cutting a short (film). Audrey caught a cold and is studying for her class wrapped in blankets and hot tea. My yellow kitchen is warm. It’s nice and cozy. It’s safe.
And, then, in the middle of all that I am standing on a hard and cold church floor singing for four hours. What’s that all about?
It’s about not giving in. For years now I have been listening to my body. Cause that’ what you are supposed to do, right? Now, to be clear; most of the time there hasn’t been any other option. You can’t negotiate with a knife in your back; it’s as simple as that. And you can’t walk if you can’t walk. You can’t sit if you can’t sit. You can’t drive if you can’t drive.
Before I became a weak and to some degree crippled person, I was a woman driven by will power, ideas and tons of energy. It took those worst-case scenario flues to stop me from whatever was on my mind and in my calendar. Although I woke up stiff like an iron rod every morning I went to the gym three times a week and at the age of 50 I looked like a super fit 19-year old. Although it was way too much for my from pain exhausted mind I anchored public radio all day hourly news casts and returned back home in the evening too tired to be a good mom. Although my back was bad I crossed the ocean several times a year, dragging along my super heavy Tempur-Pedic mattress, which was the only bed I could sleep on.
And I miss that person! Not the no good mom (well, it wasn’t that bad), but the person who performed and completed most everything she decided on and put her mind to. Since my first big back collapse in Seattle 2008 (that’s when the back-out-pants were purchased at Old Navy) I feel like I have been forced to put my will power in a drawer and lock it hard. Like this is not up to me. Like I have no say in this. It’s been more than five years. It’s been a very long time.
So, on Wednesday afternoon, knowing that my friends and colleagues of the Sångkraft Chamber Choir are preparing for making beautiful music together out of our fall rehearsals, my heart and soul are screaming: I want to be there! I want to be a part of that!
Maybe it’s time to speak up! Trouble 2, Audrey and I are having dinner. I am having problems even half sitting on my couch, but my mind is set on the recording. Trouble 2 is questioning me: is this a really good idea mom, aren’t you supposed to listen to your body? Yeah, but I haven’t done anything but listen to my body for five years now, maybe it’s time for a different strategy! Maybe it’s time for an alternative mind-set!
So, we arrive at the church. I am giving it an hour. I take my place between my alto colleagues Agneta and Ulrika. I sing. 95% focus is on standing up right. 3% is on not triggering a knife in my back while standing up right. 2% focus is on singing. But I am singing. I am there and I am singing. For four whole hours.
Last night my amazing neighbors Jenny and Hannes came over making a delicious dinner, and we had a great Saturday evening together. And they just left after cocking me a hot potato and leek Sunday soup. I am so grateful to them for food and wonderful weekend company, they are the best! Tomorrow it’s a week since I had to give in to asking for more help. I am hoping that I will feel strong enough sleeping by myself in a few days. It’s such a wonderful treat having Trouble 2 and Audrey here, but they need to get back to their lives.
I am thinking I need to find a way to visualize the Maria I once was. To remember what she felt like. I know she was always scared. Yet courageous the way she jumped from her mental diving boards, not always knowing there was water underneath. My body is scared now, but maybe I can find that Maria-will power somewhere deep inside me. Or unlock that drawer I put it in five years ago, gently take it out, put my hand over my heart, incorporate it in my body and make it my backbone. Ah, I like that. With a backbone made out of will power, there can’t be any more back outs, right?