I’m old. Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, my back hurts, right here, see? Where my hand is. I get up anyway, go downstairs and let Lilly the dog out, waiting just inside the door for her and absent-mindedly pressing where it hurts. After she comes back in, I take my hand away from the pain long enough to pour my coffee, take a sip. Then, I notice my hand is back again pressing, again, where it hurts. Maybe I’m trying to press the pain into my body. Maybe I’m trying to impress upon myself my own ability to survive the pain.
I throw up my hands in exasperation.
My hands are now in dishwater, and I’m concentrating carefully on the comfort of warm water and the beautiful luster of my red glass dishes. My hands are now smoothing bedcovers, and I’m careful to concentrate on brushing off all the dog hair and getting my pillows just right: red, pink, green and cream. I’m ready for the rest of my day, as they say, or at least I would be if it weren’t for this …
I realize my hands are clutching each other. So I make an effort to notice what’s going on outside my window, through the lace curtains. It’s a sunny day, I note. Then, I say aloud, as my mother used to, “It would be stupid to let this day go to waste.”
Oh dear! My mother was a wonderful woman, but do I think words like “stupid” and “waste” are going to help me now? I’ve got to stop this pain thing. It’s depressing.
Salvation comes in the warmth of early afternoon. I’m on the walking path. An impromptu band has coalesced in the open area next to the playground equipment, where kids are swinging and sliding and calling to each other. A guitar goes plink plunk. A recorder ripples. The drum becomes who I am. I am moving almost as fast as the breeze, legs pumping, arms relaxed, hands finally free. Lilly on her lengthy leash is keeping an eye out for stupid squirrels. I’ve just popped her bagged poop into the waste can provided by the nice people who run the park, so I don’t have to carry poop with me on my walk.
I look up from under the broad brim of my sun hat and there’s a green tree against a blue sky with white clouds, red roses and the rolling river in the background.
When I got out of bed a few days ago, I reminded myself to write down what I was grateful for. I’m supposed to do this every day before going to bed, but I often don’t, and I didn’t that day. At the end of the day, though, I did say aloud: a green tree, a blue sky, white clouds.
I laughed at myself for coming up with such a cliché. Well, a cliché is a well-known phrase for a reason: It’s so often the perfect thing. And what could be more perfect than a river, red roses and green, blue, white, clouds, sky, trees?
And the pain is gone.
[photo by Willow Hill]