Don’t see things quite the same as I used to
As I live my life I’ve got just me to be true to
And when I find that I don’t know about
Just what to do
I turn and look within to see what I should do
Now I’m not sure what it takes to be hip
A lot of people making music that to be ain’t shit
So I ask creation
For rhymes for this jam
Gimme guitar solo and I’ll take the mic stand
As the earth spins into brand new day
I see the light on the horizons not fading away
Gonna shine from within like a bright white sun
No need to hide and no place to run
Got the vibrations of the music
Bringing light to your mind
So you can move and groove
And feel the beat of the time
Sense the power in the air as it starts to move
You get a real good feeling that you just can’t lose
Contemplation time, intuition time
Evolution time, resolution time
Free your mind it’s time for good times
And let yourself move it’s a time to shine
Spread your wings in the sky, feelin’ good inside
Breaking fool with no need to hide
I got the music cuttin’ through me
Takin’ control of my soul
I can’t hold back I’ve got to let go
Stand together people come together now
It’s about time we’ve got to get together why’all
My alarm clock used to beep in the morning — at first quietly, and then it would gradually become louder and louder until it filled the air like the room was possessed by some hostile notion of punctuality, and I would be forced to leap out of bed. I had to change my alarm clock. Now, instead of this frightening beeping, the song Stand Together by the Beastie Boys fades into the room from my cellphone, which rests on the table opposite the bed.
This is a much less effective way of getting up in the morning. Unlike the traditional alarm clock, Stand Together wakes me up, but it is a long way from forcing me out of bed. I like the song; I don’t mind listening to it the whole way through. I listen to it two or three times in a row some mornings, even, as it plays in a loop. Eventually, I edge myself out of bed and crawl across the floor (in a quite literal sense) to silence the phone.Choosing the song over the alarm was a concession I was forced to make. I can’t be in a position where I need to leap at any time, let alone when I’ve been mostly immobile for the past eight hours. As some of you may recall, I was rear-ended by a drunk driver last fall when I was on my bicycle. In many ways, I was fortunate coming out of that accident. I broke no bones, had no head injury, and I didn’t even need to replace my bike. I got a new wheel and was ready to go in two days. I was walking with a cane for the better part of two months, but not for long enough that the novelty of having to walk with a cane ever wore off.
It has not been without long-term repercussions, though. My torso, which suffered a sort of whiplash, is close to healed but weak. I reinjured it cycling home from the grocery store. It wasn’t anything really in my control. I had a backpack full of produce that might have been a bit heavy for my present strength but, more significantly, one of the straps on the pack broke and I had to cycle home with a lopsided load. It was only a 10-minute ride, but enough to reinjure my back quite severely. Thus, I must be allowed to crawl out of bed slowly, and at my own pace, lest I be immobilized by back strain for the rest of the day.
I want to draw your attention to the way I wrote that last paragraph. Particularly, I want you to note how explicit I am in detailing how and why the reinjury wasn’t my fault. It’s a rhetorical device, but it’s one I’ve had to employ a lot lately. I started out just with, “I hurt my back again,” but that sentence has grown into the previous paragraph laden with explanation and abnegation. If I’m hit by a car, you see, my injury is understandable and unfortunate. If, however, nine months after that I reinjure it, I have somehow failed. Not only have I failed, for some reason I have failed not myself, but the person listening to me. It doesn’t seem to matter that this new back injury would never have happened if not for the car accident last year, and in many ways it’s not even a new back injury. I am, apparently, a fool. What was I doing, thinking I could carry things?
Regardless of where this back injury came from, there’s a whole host of irritating circumstances surrounding an injury like this. Practically speaking, there are many times when I am forced to choose between making two bad decisions. I move more slowly, especially in the morning, so I must often choose between eating breakfast and being on time. I can’t carry much, so I have to choose between straining my back and leaving things I need at home. And in both of those situations, I have the further choice of being independent, or being seen as weak, depending upon how many concessions I ask for, or how much help I request.
That last one is not just a matter of pride. There are a plethora of unsolicited opinions about my back and what’s best for it, usually from people who have never had a back injury, as well as a host of assumptions about how and why the injury happened (“Your core is weak!” “No, I got hit by a car.”). If I try to be independent, I’m often admonished for decisions I’ve made. If I ask for too much help, I’m not allowed to make decisions at all. And sometimes, it doesn’t matter what I do, I randomly get in trouble.
Here’s the thing: the vast majority of this treatment has been well-intentioned. I know that. I’m not bitter about it. It’s certainly not anything I can’t handle. But a lot of it comes from a place of ignorance, and to a certain extent, arrogance. Because I’m weak in some sense, I am less than in every sense. I spend a lot of time frustrated; I’m not just in pain, I’m consistently undermined by people who are sure they know better than I do.
It’s really only people who’ve had back injuries themselves who get it. They know how immobilizing they are, how painful, and when you mention it to them they all they say is, “Oh man, that sucks. Do you need anything?”
There’s a marked difference between these two ways of dealing with someone else’s pain. And it’s not just that the second way made me feel better than the first; it was also far more helpful. Going forward, I’m going to do my best to remember this feeling when I want to help others, be it someone with a back injury or a cultural group healing itself from historical trauma.
Ward is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer who spends her days (and most nights) working at a small Catholic college. Her less eloquent thoughts can be found at www.twitter.com/newsetofstrings