There's a whole lot to worry about these days. Hundreds of thousands of people are sick. Millions more are newly unemployed or questioning their job security. Maybe you are stuck at home waiting out the quarantine. Maybe you are out on the front lines, exposing yourself to potential illness to keep the wheels turning. No matter who you are I’m sure you’ve heard the news, you’re watching the curves, and the future is uncertain.
I am a working musician. Three weeks ago all of my bookings for the foreseeable future were canceled. Two weeks week ago my wife’s income was reduced to 20%. Then last week came the icing on the stress cake; I threw out my back. I was watching too much Netflix, as one does during a quarantine, when suddenly my cat flew at me from behind. I responded with a startled jerk, and when I stood up I knew something had gone horribly wrong. I could barely walk, bend, or twist without feeling a sharp pain in my lower back. I hobbled to the bathroom mirror and was horrified to discover my posture visibly crooked. This being my first back injury, I was pretty certain I would never walk again. Fortunately, after an unhealthy dose of googling, I had reassured myself that I wasn’t imminently dying. So I resigned to the hardwood, laying flat and hoping that my body would sort itself out sooner than later.
But here’s the weird thing. After a couple of hours mindlessly staring at the ceiling, I noticed that my anxieties had gone quiet. I didn’t think about the coronavirus. I didn’t think about the economy. The pain accompanying my every movement was driving me out of my mind and back into my body, and I felt relieved. There was simply nothing to do but stay put and wait for things to get better. By the next morning, I could walk again. I still couldn’t bend or twist, but I could make it from my bed to the floor without too much struggle. I began researching and experimenting with yoga for back problems. The next day was even better. I went outside and walked a mile. I did a little more yoga, and I could feel my spine slipping back into its appropriate position. Every day since has been a slow return to normalcy.
A week ago I could never have guessed that throwing out my back was just what I needed to get my head on straight. It forced me to confront the inevitability of aging and recommit to exercising, eating well, and making time every day for self-care. I know now that even when life is painful or uncertain, the floor is always beneath my feet. Anytime I am feeling overwhelmed I can lie down, stare at the ceiling, and come back to my senses. It took a lumbar spasm for me to learn that every crisis has a silver lining. This pandemic will end. Our planet will heal, and in doing we will be forced to confront and address societal vulnerabilities that have been ignored for too long. Ahead of us, I see a brighter future. In the meantime, the best that I can do is to stay grounded, stay hopeful and wait.