It’s the choices—don’t pick up that quarter you see by the curb, don’t bend over the sink when you’re brushing your teeth, don’t put on your pants on unless you’re within arm’s reach of your dresser—that reminds you how a bad back guides what you do. Your decisions accumulate. You put your golf clubs away and, with some pleasure, hire a service to cut your lawn. You keep walking on the treadmill, lifting weights, and doing exercises to strengthen your back, but you worry that these activities are making matters worse. You try to find a comfortable position to sleep with little success and often hurt yourself as you work your way out of bed. You sit in only two places in your house to keep your back from tightening and one of those is hard for you to get in and out.
You tried ointments and muscles relaxers. You live on aspirin and Advil. You do not enjoy the pain. You worry that a time will come when the pain will be more than you can handle, like when you were travelling and you had to spend several of your vacations days nursing your back in your hotel room, or like when you fell to the floor in a class you were teaching as you bent over to help a student.
Some days are better than others, and on the better days, you let yourself become hopeful. Soon, though, the pain returns, wiping away the hope you had. Your wife is sympathetic, but her patience, like yours, must surely be running out. You believe you should go to the doctor. Perhaps just a massage or physical therapy would be all it would take. Perhaps X-rays might point to something easy to fix. Perhaps you’ll call, but you remain afraid of what might be found, of what might be ahead. You do not have much faith in doctors, particularly when it comes to something like back pain. You’ve heard horror stories. Your wife encourages you to make an appointment. You know she is right. You reach for the bottle of aspirin. It doesn’t feel too badly today. You decide you can wait until tomorrow to call.
Ronald Pellas lives in Lafayette, LA