Back at it…

Photo by Sasun Bughdaryan on Unsplash

It happened in the middle of December, during that annual rush to get everything done for the holidays. It’s always a crazy time, as we have several November birthdays and celebrations, so I don’t get ready to tackle Christmas until November heads on its merry way. I’m simply not the “shop all year” type so it’s a short time period to shop, then wrap, plot menus, buy the food and decorate. Of course, life also offered up a myriad of other poorly-timed stresses which kept my mind on overdrive in an already-crazy month.

I was doing so well! Then, I picked up the last bag of groceries from a marathon two-store shopping session, the final items required for Christmas dinner.

My back unexpectedly expressed significant indignation at this simple of movements. In a nutshell, it hurt like hell.

Seriously? A simple bag of groceries? My mind seethed at the possibility, never taking a moment to consider the 12 bags of groceries already in the back of the car, nor the many days of lifting boxes of all shapes and sizes.

But the body communicated very clearly: My lower back abruptly resigned from practically all pre-Christmas duties and reiterated that intent in every single movement I made.

I hobbled to the drug store and grabbed a cart to support my aches and pains. Clutching that cart as tightly as I could, I bought practically every single pain-reducing mechanism I could find. I even tried an electrical patch that I taped to my lower back for a couple of days. Nothing worked. Absolutely nothing.

I was reduced to sitting in stillness in a soft chair, with a small pillow supporting my protesting back. Fortunately, I was able to find a pain-free position at night and my sleep was not affected much. A little wine in the evening soothed the raging beast.

My mind remained outraged at the body going AWOL. It continuously recited a litany of things that absolutely had to be done, only by me. Time is running out, the mind screeched. Get off your rear and get going!

And then a holiday miracle occurred. Things did get done. Christmas was lovely. Everyone helped. Slowly, oh so slowly, the back settled down, the screams reducing to mere grumbling. If I overdid it, it would cheerfully remind me in a hurry who was boss. But things got better.

Ironically, as December turned to January and a brand new year, the pain disappeared, almost as suddenly as it had emerged. Yes, it squawks now and again, but only, it seems, to remind me of the lessons learned.

Yes, lessons were learned indeed: To listen to the body when it sends messages, increasing in intensity until it is heard. To overcome the need to be in control of everything. To take good care of oneself and keep stress at bay. And a personal favorite: To shut down that non-stop voice in one’s head, especially if it’s negative, controlling or just plain annoying.

What a gift. I am back at it, and I have an itchy feeling there’s a certain body part that is pleased with a job well done.




Betsy Hayhow Hemming is an author and leadership coach. She writes fiction and creative nonfiction.

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Betsy Hayhow Hemming

Betsy Hayhow Hemming

Betsy Hayhow Hemming is an author and leadership coach. She writes fiction and creative nonfiction.

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