‘Doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something’ Winnie the Pooh.
Do you ever think that you never knew a thing was an actual thing, until it becomes a thing to you? That’s how I feel about my torn calf, which in the last 72 hours has become a really big, annoying thing.
A trip to my beloved Saturday morning bootcamp came to a fairly catastrophic end when my calf muscle audibly popped much to mine and my fellow bootcampers’ mutual horror. A few hours of histrionics later, which saw me almost faint, then puke into a gym bin, and culminated with me being carried out, shamefaced, onto the street by the gym manager to a waiting car; I was rendered completely immobile in my bed. Cue three days of ice, elevation, the occasional hobble to the loo and…not much else, which gave me plenty of time to reflect firstly on the entire humiliating experience and secondly, on what there is to learn in doing nothing:
1. I don’t think it will ever matter how old I am, I will always cry when something hurts.
I sobbed for a few good minutes at the gym and didn’t care. Sobbed for my pain, sobbed for the shame, and sobbed for the epic ball ache I instantly knew this torn calf was going to cause me over the coming few weeks. People stared, people looked away, one or two came over to check if I was okay. One kindly man grabbed his coat and wordlessly wrapped it round my heaving shoulders, not knowing what else to do. Crying is as obviously discombobulating for an audience as it is embarrassing for the cryer, but in that moment I really didn’t care. It hurt. I howled. It helped.
2. I am most definitely not a human being, I am a human doing.
I had not realised what a gargantuan effort it takes to do literally nothing. It’s a fairly mundane observation, but when you are laid flat on your back, you realise how much of your normal day is geared towards just getting on with achieving things and doing ‘stuff’, big or small: doing the washing, preparing food, cooking it, working to earn money to do more washing and buying of food you can eventually prepare, and cook; moving, walking, weeing, nipping to the shop, taking the rubbish out, aimlessly wandering about your house tidying, chatting to the people you live/love with. The stuff of life is good, and you miss it when you can’t join in.
3. Family and friends are everything.
It shouldn’t take a minor sports injury and a few days of helpless inactivity to be reminded of this, but it certainly does help. And whilst I wasn’t actually going anywhere, there were things I still needed: milk for tea, someone to make me tea, someone to apply my frozen peas, the odd glass of water, someone to just be in another room and listening out for me in case I needed something, someone to pep me up when I felt overwhelmed by the fact that I couldn’t drink the cup of tea they had made me, because it was just out of reach, someone who would text me in the morning to ask if I had slept well, someone to push my hair out my eyes when I had my hands full with crutches, someone who googled torn calf recovery and sent me links, and a very special someone who brought me breakfast, lunch and dinner, moisturised my back, and lent me their actual shoulder to cry on when I slipped on the dining room rug and took a tumble and tore that damn calf even more
4. Outside is beautiful…but also hard.
When all you can do is stay in, all you really want to do is go out. Out is lovely, out is interesting. Out is where things are happening. Glimpses of the top of the copper beech tree from my bedroom window and watching its russet leaves tremble against an unpredictable May sky kept me entertained for a fair few hours, as did watching the wall dapple and dance with in the late afternoon sun beams that slant in through my living room window. But I’ve learnt that outside is also difficult when you have even minor mobility issues. It’s hard out there if you can’t move well. Kerbs are often very HIGH and undertaking lots of steps up into a shop or a cafe impossible to countenance. Cobbles are not quaint, they are a bloody nightmare. There are not enough ramps, and pavements are too uneven and parking access for those who can’t be pedestrian is woeful. Outside would be way more beautiful for everyone to enjoy if city planners and architects remembered from time to time that one day it might be them.
5.Perspective is important.
I get it. I don’t have cancer, my leg is not broken, I am not going to lose a limb or my mind. I am not dying of consumption, malnutrition or anything else hideous. I have merely torn a muscle for god’s sake. Muscles knit, limbs bruise, tendons heal, and pain subsides and slowly but surely I’ll find myself getting back to normal. But perhaps a more reflective and grateful normal for all my time doing nothing, and that can only be a good thing.