Did you ever do that experiment in science class about the use of opposable thumbs? Basically, you try to go a period of time–an evening, a full day, a class period–with both of your thumbs taped to your pointer fingers. How many of your daily activities are impossible without your thumbs? I remember attempting to brush my hair without my thumbs. Nightmare. The lesson was simple: we do so much with our thumbs that we take that evolutionary advantage for granted.
So what else do we take for granted?
I was faced with the reality that I am oblivious to so much. I can stand up, brush my teeth, wash my face, climb my stairs, and sit in a chair. It wasn’t until I couldn’t do these things last night that I was hit with how much effort these simple tasks are when my back, hip, and leg are uncooperative.
I’d noticed yesterday morning that both my thighs seemed tight. Perhaps it was because I’d been extra stressed at work or had a hard Pilates workout a few days before. Maybe I’d slept funny. No matter, I thought. I went to work, went to a massage therapy appointment for my back, and then went out for dinner with my husband (diet-friendly falafel, salad, and hummus). We walked around the area a little while, and then came back to watch a little television before bed–nothing out of the ordinary.
When I got up from the couch my thigh was incredibly tight. Huh, that’s never happened before. As I went up the first flight of stairs the tightness got more intense, and after I climbed all the way to our bedroom in the attic it felt like it was pulling my entire right side. Then, of course, my back started seizing. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. I’d sometimes had leg spasms with my back pain, but never this identifiable muscular constriction and progression up one side of my body. I was literally doubled over because it was too painful to stand up straight. I needed to hunch down and walk with my husband’s help, as my leg was suddenly incredibly weak and shaky. He had to reach for everything I needed and support my back while I spit the toothpaste into the sink or rinsed the makeup off my face.
I’d taken all these little daily actions and my ability to perform them completely for granted.
I felt ashamed, angry, embarrassed, and incredibly sad, and I was reminded of the fact that everyone assumes I’m fine (but perhaps on the lazy side). I show up to work and do my duties to the best of my ability while putting on a cheery face, but I have to calculate everything to the smallest detail.
Just using the mouse at my office has finally caught up with me. I’m faster with the Windows brand mouse they issued to me, but the movement makes my wrist increasingly painful. If I revert back to my ergonomic, thumb-directed mouse I’m not as fast. If I’m not as fast, I can’t keep up with the speed I need to be at to meet the manager-determined quota. For months I took using a mouse completely for granted, and now it’s something I have an internal debate about several times each day.
What do I do, then? I know I can better appreciate the little things I do on a daily basis now. I know I can clear out my bathroom even more so that when I do have an episode everything is at a more easily-accessible level. For now, I suppose I also have to determine which is more irritating: the wrist pain or the lack of speed compared to what I’m used to.