A few weeks ago I threw my back out in a bad way and found myself, for the first time in my life, on crutches. The debilitating pain along with the awkwardness of learning to walk with 2 additional appendages aside, I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands. A lot. Screw summer solstice, being laid up made for my longest days of the year.
I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t sit, and I couldn’t even write; which means all I could do was think. For some, a little time to think might be great but for me it can be a dangerous pastime. I feel like the hemispheres of my brain are in a constant thumb wrestling match with both sides often equally victorious, and equally defeated. This time, however, I had to declare a winner or I would have spent all of that “free” time going down the rabbit hole.
At this point in my life, I believe there is a blessing in every experience so I forced myself to find the learning experience (blessing) in this situation. There’s the obvious of over-training and not enough stretching for the last 2 decades. Exercise to me isn’t just for physical fitness, it’s a great place for me to get out some of my frenetic energy and anxiety. I realized that the greater my anxiety, the harder I work out. Apparently I had some pent up shit, and now I’m forced to just sit with it.
The first order of mental business was crutches. As the doctor explained, I had a compressed disc and every step I take furthers the compression so the crutches decrease the pressure allowing my back to heal. Interesting. What about our emotional crutches? We have a drink to take the “pressure” off, or stay in a bad relationship to theoretically stabilize ourselves. So, crutches can be helpful in some situations yet bad in others? Can they allow for some momentary healing or just shut down the ‘muscle’ we need right now?
I kept struggling with relying too much on the crutches and since I plan to walk for the rest of my life my back better figure this thing out. It was a delicate balance between a little push, and not sending myself right back to ground zero. The crutches expediting my healing time, but I was also conscience not to fully depend on them.
We use crutches, real and figurative, all the time in a variety of ways. I ask though, wherein lies the balance? Exercise is a great stress reliever and the health benefits are innumerable, yet it can become a crutch and just as much a means of escapism as drugs. I mean, we’ve all got something so it’s not about asking if you have a crutch, but rather which one you’ve got.
Why do we reach for crutches, then? Are we really in pain or just feeling a little lazy at that moment? I know for myself that sometimes the world can feel like it’s just too much. There has been so much needless violence lately, our political arena is a shitshow, people I love are in pain, and life can just plain suck sometimes. No wonder we need a crutch! This is especially true for my tribe of magical beings, who love so hard it hurts. And hurt it does.
Its ok to feel sad or take an emotional time-out, but its not ok to stay there. That’s the real challenge. To walk crutch-free into the uneven terrain that is your psyche. To utilize an occasional crutch but not let those crutches walk you around instead. My current experiential summation:
- I have a choice: I can choose to wallow in misery, or I can take the time to count my blessings.
- It takes a concerted effort: Just like honing any skill, it takes practice and it’s worth it. You can actually re-train your brain to move freely without crutches.
- I’m fresh outta give a f:%#: Yep. All out. Anybody who takes on the problems and opinions of others is going to need a crutch so stop sweating the small stuff. There are so many other places to give your energy (like, yourself for example) than to petty crap.
- There’s so much good: There really is, despite everything that life throws to try to convince us otherwise. Take a minute to think about all the good in your life (because there’s a lot!) if you find you’re reaching for your crutches. Scratch that, especially when you’re reaching for you crutches.
- I still like whiskey: While making my mental list of personal potential crutches I got to whiskey and thought, nah. I just really love Jameson because it’s delicious. Plus, Father Jameson will hear your confessions and woes at any hour so it’s win-win.