How I’m living

Two and a half weeks ago, I strained my groin. I think.

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I’ve tried to come up with a less inelegant way of saying that. Short of not saying it, though, I can’t. If you say you pulled a leg muscle, that doesn’t quite cover the scope of the injury. Pulling a hamstring, for instance, means you can’t run. “Pulling” anything sounds like a one-shot excess, something that heals pretty quickly. The groin I strained is in the same area where I got a hernia that had to be operated on last year. I don’t like mentioning “groin” because the word itself sounds like a church bell made out of slapstick ringing (groin…groin). I don’t like mentioning I have a groin injury because it’s not a sexy injury. When I was 21 I got mugged by 2 guys. I had contusions on my skull and my leg, a thumbprint on my neck for 3 days from where I got choked out, and my wrist was fractured. At least that’s a good, dramatic story. A strained groin sounds like something karma gives you to get back at you for that time in 10th grade you farted on the bus and blamed it on the quiet friendless kid in the seat in front of you.
No, I never did that. But I bet it made you think of a time you did something horrid.

I first injured myself helping my mother and sister lift a dresser. When they asked if I could help a voice in my head said, “No. That’s asking for trouble.” Ever since my surgery last year I’ve been careful about what I lift and how. I had a feeling this dresser was a bit beyond me. But the alternative would be to let my mom and sister do it themselves. That’s no alternative.
As soon as we finished lifting it, I knew something in my groin was…off. That night, after everyone had gone to sleep, I had to crawl on the floor from the living room to where I was sleeping. I couldn’t walk. This happened a few times in the first few months after the surgery: sometimes, my groin just…wouldn’t function. I couldn’t walk on it. Couldn’t put any pressure on it. No pain. It just wasn’t happening for me. I freaked out. I was supposed to start a great new job in 2 weeks. Not get my second hernia in a year.
For a week after lifting the dresser, I did everything right. Iced it for a few days. Then heated it. Took ibuprofen. Rested. Every day, it got a little better, and a little better. At the end of that week, I told my mother now odd I found it that I was obviously getting better, but I was also obviously not 100%, and I wasn’t feeling any pain. Just restriction in my movements.
5 years ago, I came down with a bacterial lung infection. I lost 25 pounds in a month. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t go outside. Literally, for 5 weeks, my life consisted of spitting army-green phlegm into a Darth Vader head cup every 15 seconds. If I went up a flight of stairs, I had to rest for a half-hour. It was the most frightening illness I’ve ever had.

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Ever since then, I’m more attentive than I used to be when something goes wrong with my body. The hernia surgery, especially, was freaky. I’d never been under anesthesia before. I’d never recovered from anything that took that long to recover from.
So when I told my mom how I wasn’t in pain, just restricted, she wondered, innocently, if maybe I was healing slowly because I was so afraid of re-injuring myself. Maybe I wasn’t as restricted as I was acting; maybe it was somewhat in my head.

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Me being me, i.e. stupid, I promptly changed into gym clothes, went to her backyard, and proceeded to perform a series of exercises with an intensity that’d make Sergeant Slaughter look like Richard Simmons. Jumps. Jogging. Full-out sprints. If there’d been a frozen slab of meat like in Rocky, I’d have punched it out and run up a flight of steps afterward.
I felt great! Oh, sure, my knee didn’t seem happy with the jumping…and my quad, which had been fine all week, began to throb…but hey: the groin was OK. It’s not like muscle groups in close proximity to each other are related or anything.
When I went back inside and sat down, there was a burning sensation in my groin that had not been there before. There was pain. Good Lord, was there pain. Soon there would be more pain, which was co-morbid with the shame of having to explain to my mother how my stupidity had taken a minor muscle strain and possibly turned it into a hernia.

I went to an urgent care clinic. The doctor did some poking around, and moved my leg around, and concluded it wasn’t a hernia, but a muscle strain. Told me to not lift anything over 10 pounds. Said all I could do was rest. I asked about getting muscle relaxers, since I was moving that week and couldn’t sit around and rest all week.
Just stick to the ibuprofen, she said.

The following week was my last week upstate before I returned to Long Island to start teaching. That meant I had to pack up all my stuff and load up the car. I was good for a few days, I really was. I rested. I lifted nothing. But Wednesday rolled around (Wednesday has a way of rolling that the other days don’t), and my mom and sister were both away at work, and I felt guilty about all the help they’d already given me, and I couldn’t fathom asking them to do more than they had…so, I moved some boxes. Nothing crazy heavy. I used gravity as my friend as much as possible. I used my good leg as much as possible. And the next day, the last day before I’d have to spend 9 hours stuck in a car, I was in the worst pain all week.

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I called the clinic and told them with the pain I was in and the 450 mile road trip and unpacking that lay ahead of me, ibuprofen may as well be Flintstone vitamins, and could she please write me a script for a muscle relaxer. The doctor said she wasn’t comfortable writing me a full script knowing that I’d ben on the road the next day, so she gave me a mini-script for 6 pills.
Yes, I fail to see the logic in that decision. If I was hell-bent on eating muscle relaxers and driving, giving me 6 of them is not exactly Alexander the Great cutting the Gordian knot at Phyrgia.
But no, there was no way in hell I was going to be ungrateful for something. 6, I’m told, is greater than 0.

The next day, 15 minutes into the trip, my leg was kind enough to inform me it was uncomfortable, then spent the rest of the trip becoming more so.
When I woke up the next day, I was in pretty bad shape. My good friend Byrd unpacked my entire car for me at my friend Violet’s house–a lot of you ladies like to give Byrd crap, for whatever reason, but he’s a true mensch–and we went to eat. Standing in line was brutal. Sitting to eat was torture. We sat and talked for only about a half hour, yet I felt like I’d been sitting there throbbing since the ’90s.

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I started teaching this week at Stony Brook. Because it’s the first week of a new job, there are all sorts of meetings to attend and people to meet and paperwork to fill out and run around. And Stony Brook is roughly the size of Patagonia, or at least it is when you have a bad groin and every place you need to get to it at the top of a hill. So after my first few days of teaching, my leg has practically detached from my body and run home on its own to get some rest. I don’t blame it.

I’m staying at my friend Violet’s house. Violet is an amazing woman. Every meal she cooks is practically Thanksgiving dinner. My first few nights here, some friends of hers caught blue-tip crabs from the water behind her house and grilled them right up. Violet has also modeled for Bat-Mom. If you don’t know who that is, pick up a copy of the Weekly World News and check out BatBoy…only to do that, you’ll have to get in your DeLorean and get up to 88 MPH so Mr. Fusion can generate the 1.21 gigawatts needed to travel back in time to when it was still in publication.

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My leg’s improving. I’m still not sure if it’s a strain or a hernia…I’m leaning toward the latter (as much as I can lean without re-aggravating it). Hope to confirm this next week.

I try to adhere to the view that the universe unfolds as it should, and that the way we choose to view that unfolding determines how we feel about it. So ideally, if you can see everything that happens as a blessing, that’s how you’ll experience it.
It’s been difficult dealing with this injury–not because it’s super-serious or anything. It’s just so frustrating. There’s nothing you can do but rest. It doesn’t matter how much you want to be healed–you’re not. It doesn’t matter how much of a loser you feel like having to walk slowly, or take steps two at a time, and how this makes you feel like everyone around you skipped a grade and you’re stuck repeating kindergarten–you’re not. It doesn’t matter what you wish your reality was–it’s not what you wish. It is what it is.

The blessing of this injury is that it symmetries the same acceptance I need to have with myself when dealing with my break-up. I don’t want to still have feelings or pain from a breakup that happened 2 months ago. My loss doesn’t compare to the loss of someone who suffers infidelity, or divorce, or a spouse’s death. I just want to be over it. But there’s nothing I can do but rest, and wait for time to pass. It doesn’t matter how badly I want to be healed–I’m not. It doesn’t matter how much of a loser I feel like having to take things slowly, having to accept that my precious precious self-control is rendered erratic by the feeling that I’m lessened for having been dumped, for not being ready to move on with someone new yet, for feeling like the freshman virgin at a party packed with nympho seniors–I’m not. It doesn’t matter who I wish I was. I am who I am.

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