Yesterday morning I injured my right wrist in the shower. You might think that there was some sort of freak accident which involved slipping or falling or maybe both, but it was not nearly that dramatic. The sad truth is that I was simply washing my hair when it happened. The act of rubbing shampoo onto my scalp with my hand caused the injury to my wrist. I wasn’t rubbing particularly vigorously or pressing very hard. It just started hurting and has hurt since.
Since I turned 40 I have been noticing more and more that my body has become much more fragile. Injuries that used to take a day or two to heal now takes weeks or even months. Last year, on a trip to the coast, I made the mistake of hefting too many laptops in my shoulder bag. Result: a popping sensation in my left shoulder that has only recently gone away.
It wasn’t like this when I was 20 or even 30. When I was in college, I used to do crazy things so people would think I was crazy. One of the crazy things I did was to jump out of a second story window once when I was drunk. Because I came away from that experience completely uninjured, I concluded that I would never be injured jumping out that window and demonstrated my theory a few days later. Even though I “rolled” with the impact, I injured my right ankle enough that I rolled around on the ground in pain for several minutes before limping off for a beer.
It probably took only a week for that injury to heal, but it has come back numerous times to haunt me in recent years. In the last year especially, that ankle has gone from normal to painful in a matter of minutes. And the transition doesn’t even have to involve movement. I can be sitting with my feet off the ground for a long period of time but when I stand I’m suddenly in excruciating pain. The extreme pain fades but a dull pain lingers for days after. I plan to speak with my doctor about it next time I see him.
Sometime between jumping out that window and now my body decided it could no longer put up with my shit anymore. Or perhaps it was no longer able to put up with my shit. Whatever the correct shit-putting-up-with verb, my actions now have consequences on my fragile body. That fragility has not only created a greater awareness of physical consquences but has also led to increased caution and hesitancy. Straining to move that bookshelf a few inches further while the body is twisted awkwardly is no longer an option. Greater planning and frequent plan re-evaluations are the order of the decade now.
And when the body says, “Pain!” – it’s time to finally listen.