Breaking your back is like playing Battleship. After the snap and the crunch, the pain persists; a few days later, the doctor scours your spine, muttering, and triumphantly announces, “T-7!”
I used to have this fantastic soccer move, “the clingy scorpion.” I would fake a kick, grab a soccer ball between my feet, dive on to my hands and toss the ball over my head with my feet. I hereby retire it from my repertoire.
Two Saturdays a go, I did all of that except for the landing on the hands part; I dived onto my chest. When I hit the ground, I felt a sickening crunch. I tried to walk it off, smile it off. The pain persisted. I climbed twenty feet up a tree and sat around a while–I guess this is some sort of defense mechanism you learn when you grow up in the woods. The pain persisted.
I played a yard concert in Lower Delaware and camped out that night. The next day, I went to a 10-hour recording session for my new album. The pain persisted. I was excited to go to work, because I had a Midnight Moonlight Canoe Trip planned for 34 high school students from a charter school. There is nothing i love more than helping people form a sense of connection to place. Carrying all the canoes was painful. Sitting backwards was not only a good way to keep and eye on all the boats, but also to ease my back. It was a glorious night, we dipped our paddles into the silvery sky and watched our reflections glide across the moonkist waters of the Chesapeake Bay. By Thursday, I had worked a 48-hour week and the pain persisted.
Thursday night was another recording session; I lounged on the couch with the talk-back microphone, giving feedback while laying on my back. I had friday off from work to go to the doctor, so I took a nap at 6AM before driving to Wilmington.
“You aught’a be less healthy so we get to see you more often,” said the nurse. “You weigh 5 pounds less than you did 4 years ago when you were here last.”
The doctor came in with a customary handshake. He doesn’t know it, but he was thankful that that I wore deodorant for the second time in months. It was such a still, little room, and my shirtlessness was overwhelming. The protuberance from my spine confused him, because it was not discolored. He sent me for ex-rays on my way home.
The phone call with results came just in time. There is a minor thoracic compression fracture in my T7 vertebrae. I am to stay entirely straight and not lift anything over 15 pounds for 6 weeks. This was fantastic news; it meant that I did not have to cary any music equipment to the concert that night or to the Brandywine Folk Festival the next day.
There is an ancient Taoist Parable that my brother tried to recall as a few of us were sitting in the waters of the Potomac River this Tuesday. It is a long story involving a series of extraordinary events that happen to a Chinese farmer. After each great or terrible action, he repeats the refrain, “Good news? Bad news? Who can say for sure?”
That is my reply in the case of my fractured back. I feel frustrated and pent up not being able to bend or lift anything. My whole chemistry changes when I can’t run, swim, create, move. Have you thought about how you would dry your ankles with a towel if you couldn’t reach them? How would you put on your pants or trim your toenails without bending over?
On the brighter side, I have a cool new nickname: “Brokeback.” This would be more of a big deal if I was gay or homophobic. As is, it’s a good chuckle.
On the more serious side, I am now forced to rest. I have been sleeping eight hours a night and drinking one cup of coffee a day. For years, I have been burning the candle at both ends and in the middle. This body has had enough. Maybe some rest is good. If I did not care so much about my professional life as well as my artistic life, I would not be so exhausted all the time. I care.
In closing, here is an ironic video that Em shot of me recently. She took me to the tryouts for the Delmarva Folk Fest. It was a great time, and I was selected to play on October 4th at the festival! Anyhow, this video is ironic, because the song is called, “Back.”
Note: the first 45 seconds is a showcase of some premium public speaking.
Thank you for reading. Thanks for the support; I could use it right now–especially around good ‘ol T7. Haha.