It didn’t seem like much to ask. I mean, I did it last year and I somehow survived. My sister asked, incredulously, “You’re gonna use your spoons for THAT?” And I brushed her off. I did it last year, I told her (and myself) and besides, I only have to rake the leaves into the street for the Township to come suck them up with that machine they have! Easy-peasy.
My beloved home has a giant tree in the front yard. That’s it up there! That is my actual tree in front of my actual house. And those are my actual leaves – both on the tree and everywhere else. To be honest, it’s part of why I fell in love with my house when I first saw it. I love that freaking tree. I also love the even bigger one in the back yard – but the front tree is the one that truly grabbed my heart right from the very first time I saw it! I knew this house should be mine. I knew I needed to live under it’s leafy protection. I’ve sat on my porch gazing up at it’s limbs in all seasons, both literally and figuratively, and felt safe and happy.
I’ve never considered cutting it down! Not even when it’s branches threatened my sewer line and resulted in semi-annual poop-water floods in my basement. I mean, when you have a plumber in waders holding a tampon by the string in your basement while he’s knee deep in poop water and he’s saying, “This here’s your problem. Can’t use these with that tree out there. Can’t do both.” You question things. Basic things. I was scarred. And I gave up tampons.
I love that damn tree.
I’ve been listening to things people tell me, again. You know the things. I hear them quite frequently. They sound like this:
“I move slowly too! We’re not getting any younger!”
“I’m always in pain. Everything hurts. I know how you feel.”
“I get really tired too. You just have to push through it. You can do it.”
“Take a rest, when you need to, but don’t stop trying!”
“If you tell yourself you can’t, then you won’t. So stop telling yourself you can’t.”
“Don’t go courting troubles you don’t yet have. Think positively. Stay in the moment!”
And in that moment around 2:30PM on a gloriously sunny Sunday afternoon, I listened to those voices and I said, “I can do this! I did it last year. This is nothing.” And happily walked to the garage to retrieve my rake. I bought it brand new last year! That’s partially how I’m so sure I raked last year. I had to buy a damn rake.
I started out OK. I made progress. By about one third of the leaves in, I started to feel the pain creep over me. It started in my shoulders and began quickly running down the back of my legs. Very soon after that, it was the “shaky legs” – when you put a foot down but you feel like rest of you could just keep going right along with it? That’s what I call the shaky legs.
Then the “franken-leg” feeling kicked in shortly after the shaky legs started. Franken-leg syndrome is when each leg hits the ground with a resounding thud and when you start bending over because you can’t really stand up straight because your knees have inexplicably stopped working like knees are supposed to work. I thudded to the steps and sat down. I took a breather. I used my rake like a cane to stop myself from going down on the way to the steps. A few minutes later, I started again.
About halfway through my knees started to feel like they couldn’t support my weight. I had gotten a bunch of leaves into the street – but there were a whole bunch more left and I hadn’t gotten to a logical stopping place yet. I hobbled to the steps again and sat down, and waited again for the feelings to subside. Then I went at it a third time. By this point in the process, my thighs went numb. I did a little bit more – but had to give up. That was gonna have to be it. I was plumb out of goddamn spoons. I had to stop or go down. And I wasn’t gonna go down. There were neighbors outside frolicking all over the damn street! I wasn’t going to put on that particular show that day.
I had to pee but I was too tired to walk to the bathroom. I sat on my porch swing thinking, “Of course now I’m gonna have to add ‘leaf raker’ to my list of people to hire to do work for me! Of course, because these people are SO EASY to find and are so READILY AVAILABLE.” I closed my eyes and continued swinging. I felt so defeated. I was defeated by some stupid leaves after a relatively nice, quasi-normal-feeling weekend. It was a glorious day so I tried to focus on how nice it was just to be outside and sitting on a porch swing watching the leaves continue to fall in the light breeze, completely unaware of their irony.
But it bummed me out. A lot. It bummed me out the most as I crawled upstairs to use the bathroom, on my hands and knees, so I wouldn’t pee my damn self. I feel compelled to note that I did not pee myself. It was close. But I made it.
Here’s the thing: I’ve listened to those good-intentioned voices before. I’ve found out the hard way they don’t really understand. They want to. They truly try. They intend to make me feel better, not worse. They attempt to make me feel not-so-alone and not-as-hopeless. They have the very best of intentions. but unless they’re sitting with you in the infusion room, and unless they too have MS, and unless they too have MS that happens to affect their strength and legs predominantly (MS is much like a snowflake…no two experiences are the same)…they just don’t know. They can’t. It’s not their fault,but it is my own for succumbing to them yet again. I know better.
So I’m starting out a new week with a shortage of spoons. I’m popping ibuprofen like candy because even after a long night of sleep, my body can’t recover. I have a business trip tomorrow (after I vote, of course!) that will require me to be “on” for most of the next two days as well as travel by planes, automobile and wonky-legs. I don’t WANT to be a ‘what if I can’t?’ person, but despite my best efforts, I find myself haunted by those thoughts all day and all night. Even in my dreams! My dreams aren’t even safe.
What if I can’t?
Because the truth is, there’s a pretty good chance I can’t. Then I guess I can hire someone to do that? And the list of “thats” gets longer. Sometimes I think I’m eventually going to have to hire a “life live-r.” Can I find one of those on Care.com?