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Thursday, April 08, 2010

In defense of sitting on your . . .

I've had a very strange last few days. Last Tuesday, I had what I thought was a garden variety fall in my kitchen--one of those where the feet fly out from under and you fall flat on your back moments. The only problem was that afterwards, I couldn't sit. I went to my GP, who prescribed muscle relaxers and Darvocet, and said to stay out of work for a couple of days and rest as much as possible. She thought I'd sprained my hip. I went ahead and taught my fiction seminar the next day and forced myself to sit through half of it, but then on Thursday, I woke up quite literally screaming in pain.

"That's it," Mark said, and we went to the emergency room. Of course you can probably guess the rest of this story. Yes, I broke my coccyx, or, in other words, I fell on my ___ and broke it! The emergency room doctor upped the meds from Darvocet to Vicodin and suggested a specialist, whom I'll see tomorrow. "And stay off it," he said. "Do you need a note for work?"

And the whole thing got me thinking how much of my life is spent sitting. Every time I go to get on the computer, or to sit down to eat, I think about it, not to mention riding in or driving a car! (Bless his heart, Mark's been driving me to classes so I can lay down in the seat or sit on one side; then I uncurl myself and limp off to teach) Every time I check this blog (which I now do standing), I think about it. And every time I get the urge to create--which has been quite often this week due to the disembodying effect of the narcotics--I feel it.

"I have to be able to sit!" I said today to one of my students, who is going into medicine. "I'm a writer! My whole life is sitting!" My student, who is also a very good fiction writer, smiled and nodded, and murmured sympathetically. And then I thought about writers who can't sit for long periods of time, people for whom my (hopefully) temporary situation is a permanent one, and I wonder how they work. How do they handle the stresses their situations put on their bodies, and how do they modify what they do?

For me, it's been a challenge, and one I've met mostly by resting. I've spent a lot of the past nine days lying on my back in the one position that doesn't pinch my nerves. I've read a lot of Dracula. I've started in on a few other books I've been wanting to read. I've graded papers with my arms in the air, green pen making hopefully legible notes in the margins, and then stood at the kitchen island to type up the end comments. I typed up part of the interview I did earlier in an email on my cell phone and mailed it to myself, but I'm so slow at that it's frustrating. For someone who normally types 93 words a minute, texting drives me nuts.

But I've survived. I've gotten through. I'm learning how to make adjustments and do a lot of what I normally do sitting either standing up or lying down. It's been a very odd paradigm shift, and one that, sadly, has not been good for my writing. Because I'm at the editing stage and the stage of massive cuts and pastes, it's really hard not to sit. But I'm still devising strategies. And the good thing is that I want to, because somewhere in the haze of narcotics and pain, my pathological liar character with Münchhausen finally showed herself. She appeared first in the doctor's office and addressed me directly, telling me what it was exactly she loved about going to the doctor. And since I loathe clinical settings and pass out at the sight of my own blood, it was really interesting to hear her tell me these things. And for once, when I was there, lying on the stretcher, having the warm blankets brought to me, she finally began to tell me her story--her real story. I saw her in all her pathological complexity and suddenly understood. It didn't make me want to get this over with any less quickly, but I understood.

Now if I can just sit on my butt and write about it!

4 comments:

Joy said...

Another excellent commentary. Thanks for sharing your process with those of us who are just beginning! And get well soon!

Anonymous said...

Ow, ow, ow! Hope you're feeling better soon, but good for you for continuing to fight the good fight!

Colleen, whose password won't work

Mylène said...

I was watching 'Dancing With The Stars' Monday, and one couple decided to end their dance with simultaneous, back-to-back tailbone slams to the floor. Deliberately. One of the dancers was Evan Lysacek. I thought: Are Olympic gold medalists who participate in frivolous ballroom competitions INSANE? Have they not heard of what happened to my friend Kathryn?

Anonymous said...

When I was 12 and practicing high kicks for drill team tryouts, I did the same thing. Only...doctor diagosed right away -- with the help of one xray -- did not give me any pain pills except for aspirin (this was 40 years ago) and told me to sit on a rubber donut. Imagine a 12 year old girl going to school with a rubber donut to sit on in class. Very mortifying...but eventually, I got well. Granted 12 years heal faster than..30 somethings but still...its an interesting commentary on medicine to me as well...first one doctor misdiagnosed forcing you to go to emergency room and incur much more cost...and much more medicine...
Anyway, hope you are feeling better...and take heart. It WILL heal! Meanwhile, see if you can find a rubber donut ;-)