ColumnWhen health issues get in the way of a Type A.
In case you were wondering, I spent last week in bed. Let it be noted that this isn’t about going green in style, but rather, this is about your editor going bedridden in style. Abject, miserable style.
The bed rest is owing to what my doctor calls an “isolated spastic event” and I call hell. (He is so diplomatic.) A sudden and severe back spasm well before the AARP years is insulting enough, but try not even having a good reason for it. There is no exotic escapade involving clowns or swings that I’ll take to the grave, no tragicomedy about the ladder and the nosy neighbor’s roof with which to regale dinner party guests into the next decade, not even a “We’ll laugh about it someday” sigh owing to the thing with the omelet and the Pergo. Nothing offends quite like acquiring a spasm for simply getting out of bed in the morning. I like to think I hold myself to high standards, health maladies included, so you can imagine the disappointment.
Also, a week in bed isn’t as decadent as it sounds. It isn’t even a good value. You would think you could find a lot to do while lying flat on your back, but you would be wrong. For one thing, sleep really begins to lose its luster when you realize you can have all you want of it. For another, you still have to get up to pee. Dispatches from the pillowtop soon go ignored as your friends lose interest in your boring injury. There is no competing with Lou, who sprained her neck while blowing out her forty birthday candles, the bitch, or Tom, who sustained sixteen paintball welts dashing across the shooting range and still found the strength to rescue yet another “orphaned” bunny. “Don’t you think it’s a little odd that this is the third baby bunny he’s rescued during paintball?” you ask, quickly adding, “And my back is like, level 6 right now, but could be up to 6.5 pretty soon if I don’t take another pain pill. It’s called Flexeril but the generic is…Hello? Katie? Hello?”
Despite the lack of support from both my lumbar and my friends, I was determined to keep calm and carry on for the green internets. With my faithful feline companion, Roo, beside me, I propped up my head on pillows and perched my laptop on my belly. I wouldn’t call this exactly ergonomic, nor the drugs exactly organic, but then beggars can’t be choosers. That’s why, when my hands would go numb from incline typing or I’d find myself slurring my emails in yet another prescribed cyclobenzaprine-and-ibuprofen bender, I took to long, so very long, episodes of gazing out my bay window at the San Franciscans walking by. It is thus my great hope that my pain can be your gain. Welcome to EcoSalon: Semi-conscious culture and fashion.
The first thing you will notice is that San Franciscans are inconsistently helpful. They are happy to inform you that the world is melting and how much they pay in rent or how many badges they’ve earned on Foursquare, unless of course they are anti-geolocation because they’re suffering from app fatigue. But when it comes to the weather, you’re on your own, cupcake. San Francisco weather is fickle; in the course of a day the city will rain, fog itself, sun itself, and rain again. But looking outside at the variously-clothed city passersby (mostly-clothed if you live in the Castro) to determine what you should wear in the event you ever walk again will only leave you more confused than before you took the pain pill.
Case in point, Monday, 8:30 a.m.: Sun peeking out, tall man in t-shirt and shorts and Tevas. If, like Lazarus, I depart my cave, I shall leave the coat inside it. Nevermind, that very fashionable woman is wearing a hideous puffer and looks upset. Clearly it must be freezing. The tall man is a masochist, or perhaps he is in the throes of euphoria from his Blue Bottle cappuccino. Then again he may be rebelling against his mother who always admonished him to take a coat, and he’s probably on his way to discuss it with his therapist right now. And this slight girl, how is she not shivering? In her tank top and American Apparel jeggings through which I can see her wedgie, or is it a thong, dammm thess Flehzexerelle druhgz, and yet her friend is wearing a Prairie Underground jacket from Clary Sage Organics with an awning of a hood. That thing could support an avalanche. Scratch the weather assistance, then. It’s fine. It’s not like I was going to walk anywhere, anyway. Stupid hills.
By Tuesday the ennui is unbearable. How’s the back, my writers ask, hopeful that they can stop hearing about it once and for all. How many more New Yorkers have I not managed to read? Back to staring through the looking glass. There are the compact, blond Pacific Heights wives in needlessly fattening mom jeans and diamond rings perpetually sliding around their spindly fingers, directing their imported nannies to direct their becurled offspring to direct their shizapoos and cavalieradors and chihuahauxers.
But wait! There’s more! Pay dirt: a couple right out of a Long Island summer catalog, he in khakis and a pink polo, she also in khakis and a pink polo. Then they turn and take pictures of my house, of me peering sideways out the window from the place where the magic happens, meaning the Icy Hot self application, one bedhead of the human variety and one furry head of the cat variety. Tourists. So much for that. I note Roo’s apathy in my journal. I am meticulous, or something.
Wednesday. I’m contemplating changing my email signature to: “Apologies for all of this, I’m on muscle relaxants and painkillers.” At least I think it’s Wednesday. I complain to a friend about my inefficient plight. “Find the Zen,” she says. “Isn’t that what it’s all about, consciousness and reflection? Maybe you got this because your body wants you to slow down and just be and you were ignoring it.” I draw a measured breath. “If you tell me to ‘have a heart’ for my back spasm, I swear to you I will hang up this phone.”
How often do I take the time to explore thoughts and feelings in a meditative, uninterrupted, conscious way? Not often enough for my back’s preference, evidently, which is why it would be great to get over this spasm so I can actually put that on my to-do list. In honesty, I suppose my friend is right: how very un-eco to assume restful breaks don’t fit into the fabric of a sustainably lived life. Whatever.
Thursday. Pretty sure I have bed sores. What is the purpose of this sentence, universe? And by sentence I mean being sentenced to bed rest, not the words preceding the question mark, although that would be both admirably meta and naively humble. I call my mother. I text my kid brother about my dating life. He indulges me and then asks if I have life insurance. I ask my father to send me a juicer. I don’t know why.
Friday. I’ve emailed the office so many days in a row about my continuing vertebrate drama, I only have to type the letter “w” and the subject line autofills “working from home again; back still bad; call if you need me”.
I am weary of the grown men parading past my window like bipedal crabs in their hipster skinny jeans with bottoms so saggy it looks as if they are wearing ill-fitting diapers. I want to throw eggs at them but broadcast my sentiment on Facebook instead. Plus, my back hurts too much. I decide today is the day I will sort and clear and assign stories and delegate tasks from my fresh folder of 497 bookmarks for February; I get to 11 and fall asleep. I wake at 6:42, pleased that I’m up earlier than usual, and realize after a full half hour has gone by – which involves frying up eggs for breakfast – that it’s the evening. Also, I am frying up goat cheese, not eggs.
On the weekend, I give myself mini-projects to do, hobbling around my apartment rearranging the orchid twenty times, reading fascinating entries about SEO and HTML5. I decide to take up meditation and lucid dreaming. I decide to forget about them. I Skype with our writer Mike Sowden in York, who tells me about his new kidney ailment and I tell him about my new back ailment. We quietly feel relieved that the other is worse off. Another writer is concerned that the spasm is lasting so long; I phone a physician friend for his thoughts. He promises to check in on me in another week. Another week! Listen to me, back, and listen good: it’s been fun being in the sack with you, lazing about like a slug, but I am better. Hear me? I am better!
I go to sleep and wake up Monday morning feeling much better. Pain scale: 3. Zen of the spasm: Check in on me in a week.
This is the latest installment in your editor’s column, The Insider’s Guide to Life, exploring topics such as media, culture, sex, politics, and style. Cheers and spellcheck!
Image: Madeline Louise