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the nature of other people’s opinions…

I’ve been doing yard work often for hours a day over the past several weeks, and it’s taught me some things about Mother Nature and about my own nature.

To give you a little history, about 7 years ago I injured my back. The problems started with a herniated disc which occurred two short weeks after we finished building our house. Within four months, I ruptured the disc. I recovered well, until a year and a half later, I did it again. The same disc. Then, some time between 4 – 6 weeks after having the second surgery, I did it again. Only this time, the surgeon’s nurse didn’t believe me and kept telling me that nerve pain is tricky; I was still healing; I didn’t need to see the doctor; just give it time, etc. So, three months after the second surgery the doctor agreed to do another MRI, and, lo and behold, I had ruptured the disc again. The same disc. To do this twice is highly unusual. To do it three times is statistically unlikely. So, after getting the news that was honestly no surprise but nonetheless disturbing, I went to another surgeon. This time I went to a neurosurgeon, since I had permanent sciatic nerve damage that had begun with the initial injury. That third recovery was rough. I had laid on the sofa in our family room for at least two months in excruciating pain prior to that operation, and my body was worn out. By this time, the people in the county where we built our house had gotten to know me as “the one with the bad back.” Everybody treated me (lovingly, I know) like I was frail and weak. They didn’t know much more about me than that I kept hurting myself. After about another year, they started to treat me a little more normally. Until, I did it again. Just 14 months after the last surgery. Yes. same disc. Fourth time. My doctors said it was extremely rare for somebody to reinjure the same disc like I did, and no one could figure out how I was doing it, either. The last injury occurred while I was sautéing some onions and peppers on my stove. By the time I got the bad news again, it was two weeks before Christmas and all our children were coming home, so I decided to tough it out on pain meds and wait till the first of the year to have the fourth surgery, and this time I insisted they put something in to strengthen my spine. So, now I have rods and screws in my back. That was in January of 2010. So far, so good. I’ve been doing well. I am active. I ride bikes with my husband. I teach yoga and Pilates, I still clean the house myself. When I overdo it, I pay for it, but who doesn’t?

So, okay, I have a history. I get that. But I am not weak. I am not frail. I am not helpless. When my husband was preparing to go to Africa for a month, everyone we knew assumed I would have a tough time. Most reacted in shock that I was planning to cut the grass myself. Most people thought I couldn’t do it. I suspect that a lot of people thought I would get lonely and depressed when my spouse of 33 years was gone. People thought I wouldn’t eat or I wouldn’t be able to take care of a nine acre plot of land, a 2 story house and two Shi-Tzus. But I did just fine. When my husband left to go halfway across the world, he took my best friend with him. But I managed. I asked for help when I needed it. I took good care of myself and our house and yard. And I didn’t get hurt. The hardest day was the one about two weeks in, when David sent me an email with a link  to a youtube video of Alan Jackson’s song “Remember When.” I had a good cry over that music video and felt every single mile of our separation. But I proved that I am not as weak and fragile as people thought. And I realized that I am done with people, no matter how well-intentioned, treating me like a hothouse lily.

I learned very clearly that entropy is alive and well in the universe. As much as we try to control weeds and grass and broken branches and sticks and even discs in our back, we will never win for long.  Nature is much stronger than we are.  But I also learned that I am stronger than I thought.

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