Things I have learned while lying down

A way to work while supine.
A way to work while supine.

Cape Town – It was a laundry basket that did it.

As I have done for years, I pulled the wet washing out of the machine and put it in the basket. Then I lifted the basket on to the top of the washing machine, ready for hanging out the next morning.

My back went into instant spasm – and the next morning I was being driven to the doctor for the first of many appointments. I’ve been prodded and poked, bent and banged, scanned and X-rayed. The upshot is that a disc in my lower spine has “extruded” and is impinging on a nerve, meaning that my right leg is subject to a constant dull ache and sitting down is well-nigh impossible. 

Go to bed, said the neurosurgeon. Lie down. No driving. Some physio. You can shower and go to the loo and amble gently a bit every day, but otherwise just lie down for at least two weeks. Then I will look at you again, he said.

So between that and a holiday (which happened while it was still being established what was wrong with me) I have not been writing my weekly column. But, dear reader, I am back.

With the aid of a thing called a lap tray on loan from my mother I am able to prop up a computer and do some work (oh alright, and also do a lot of pointless Internet surfing including watching Viggo Mortensen reading a lecture originally given by Albert Camus. Now, I would watch Viggo read the telephone directory, but I only managed about 10 minutes of this one.)

A friend said she felt resting was going to be a challenge for me. She was not wrong. I am by nature a bustler, a list-maker, a get-things-done kind of person. And here I am, not able to do anything useful at all. But everything in life has something to teach us. In no particular order, this is what I have learned so far:

* Until you are told not to bend over and pick anything up, you have no idea how often human beings have to do that. Seriously, how can so many things be so low down… the milk on the bottom shelf of the fridge, your feet when you want to wash them, the pen when you have dropped it on the floor?

* Not to take the simple things for granted. Ordinarily, if I forget my glasses upstairs, I just fetch them. Now, I make sure I have planned ahead so that I don’t forget those pesky glasses.

* People really do want to help. And if you ask, they will. I have been driven to the physio, visited by people who make the tea when they get here, have a friend on standby to fetch my son from school… the list goes on. I’m usually the one doing the helping. Now I see there is an inter-connectedness in being human, a back-and-forthness that makes me hopeful and happy.

* My IOL colleagues are the best. They are covering for me in all sorts of ways, and I am grateful.

* The DSTV radio bouquet carries the BBC World Service. Who knew? And what a joy that is – I now know all sorts of things about far-flung countries, all told with gorgeous British humour and professionalism.

* There is no situation in which I can be stopped from making a list. I have a meta list of things I want to get done (tidy out Google Photos, crochet a hat, learn to meditate). And a daily list that I duly tick off each day. This is obviously a DNA-deep oddity.

* My husband is wonderful. He has rearranged the lounge so that there is a single bed on which I can lie and see out of the French doors and watch TV. He is doing all the cooking and running the house and bringing me my evening sippy-cup of wine (one of the last vestiges of childhood still around, and how useful it is: I can drink lying down.). With not a word of complaint or sign of resentment.

* My son will still get on a bed with me and snuggle. All large 13-ness of him. That alone almost makes this worthwhile.

I don’t know how long I’ll be doing this. I am in the hands, so to speak, of my body as it heals. Patience is all. And when that fails, I can watch the rest of Viggo reading Camus.

This was originally published on IOL Lifestyle