She is the friend I’ve known the longest. We went through puberty together where hay rides became car rides and girl’s night transformed into double date night.
We lived life loudly together with one of us typically experiencing a milestone before the other. The unspoken rule was to share all information in detail so that the other can be completely informed of what was ahead. This went anywhere from our first periods, first pimple, first kiss, passing the drivers exam and yes, the first of firsts.
She was the one to experience the first back injury and subsequent surgeries. I saw the pain etched on her face and echoed in her voice. Here was a mother of three energetic boys and a devoted husband who was becoming more and more depressed with the lack of her ability to participate in their lives to the fullest. It wasn’t until I fractured my low back five years ago that I knew her pain, physically and emotionally. This was definitely an experience I didn’t want to share.
After many years of agony and a slow loss for life, I chose to have a spinal fusion. I remember my final consultation with the surgeon prior to surgery. Tears stung my eyes and the tightness in my throat barely allowed the words to come, but I asked what was most weighing on my mind; will I be able to run? Can I ride roller coasters again? Can I walk long distances or ride a bike? My questions may have been simple, but these were what were most important. I will never forget when he looked me dead in the eyes and said I would be able to do anything.
Lying in the hospital room after the successful surgery, I remember my mother in law gently washing my face, arms and hands with a cool cloth to wipe away the sweat from my fever. I not only felt loved, I began to feel human again; a human with hope.
This week, my friend chose to proceed with a fusion. In the last few weeks, I have answered all the questions she could come up with, the big ones and the little. Today, I went to see her in the hospital – 3 days post op after her successful surgery.
I didn’t bring flowers; instead I paid it forward with a basket of wash clothes, lip balm and a brush. As I washed her face, arms and hands she began asking questions about her recovery and I saw the fear and doubt in her eyes. Occasionally, her eyes would wander to the wall where her walker stood – a symbol of pain and restraint.
I told her that walking was the key to healing. That exercise could no longer be something she did when she could fit it in, it had to become something her new life was built around. She had to see herself walking then running and swimming and riding roller coasters and living the life she wants. That everything she wanted in life was right in front of her, waiting for her to reach out and grab it and be happy.
It didn’t hit me until I was walking to my van that my words of advice had never fully been applied to my own life. Am I in pain? No, but I am not as healthy as I could be and certainly not as fit as I should be. My words of advice that she clung to began to mock me as I came to the realization that I was a hypocrite. I knew she could and would do what it would take to fully recover and yet nearly one year later, the pain is gone, but not much else has changed.
My inability to commit to anything that requires work and results in change will continue to hamper my ability to fully move forward. Eat healthier. Exercise. Get out in the world again and do the things I so desperately want to. The question is at what point will my intentions transform into actions? When will my long term well being become more important than the short term discomfort?
I guess I really should take my own advice!