I Hurt My Back (Or, Hello)

It’s not the most convenient thing in the world when you have a lively three year old bounding with energy, but I throw my back out once every 3-4 months or so and I have done for about 10 years. My back is even out right now! Why, you ask? While that question is simple, the answer is not, because my back pain has an awkward origin and its persistence, several causes. But I’ll try my best. Storytime!

Flat on my back, heating pad on high, stiff and wearing a 7-year-old, ratty t-shirt.

Once upon a time, there was a slightly-pudgy, 20-something lady who really liked to feel attractive, but because of the aforementioned pudgy-ness, often did not. This young lady – let’s call her Shawna – had a very cute, popular boyfriend – let’s call him John – who always seemed both to like her immensely and to also be a little bit disinterested in her company, except when it came to sex. Shawna, being quite discerning, noticed that John’s incredible presence and focus during sex fed her desire to feel attractive, and, inevitably, she observed her enthusiasm grow with each more frequent and exuberant encounter. And so, a symbiotic sexual relationship was formed.

One day, fueled by her confidence in John’s favor and some as-of-yet unexplored attention-seeking tendency, Shawna got the bright idea to choreograph a sexy strip tease for the couple’s three-year anniversary, complete with costume. “Double bonus”, Shawna thought. “Not being a dancer, I’ll have to practice the dance like crazy to get it right. All those hours spent dancing are bound to un-pudge me a little. Then I’ll R E A L L Y feel attractive!” This strip tease idea was ticking all the boxes.

And true to her word, practice like crazy she did! Because Shawna and John often worked opposite hours, she as a bartender for a chain restaurant and he as a front desk supervisor for a chain hotel, Shawna found herself with several hours every day to experiment with moving her body to sexy music. She dipped it low and brought it up slow. She bent and snapped. She Naomi Campbell walked. And she felt really damn attractive. One day, however, Shawna felt that she needed to up the ante – and if she was really being honest, the caloric burn – in her dance practice. It was on that fateful day that Shawna decided to practice her dance wearing her performance heels. (See an example of Shawna’s performance heels below.)

Intimidating, I know.

It should be noted that Shawna had never worn such things before and she certainly hasn’t worn them since. For God’s sake, Shawna’s a mom now.

However, being an artistic soul, Shawna felt there was true value in practicing as she would perform, and so hoisted those sexy stripper boots up over her knees. Goddamn, she looked good, if a little wobbly. Shawna strutted around, she steeled her nerves and her ankles and practiced a few controlled hip dips. Feeling confident that she could probably handle her dance, especially if she purposefully restricted her movements while she got a feel for the heels, Shawna started her music and stuck out her tits. (Shawna could still say things like Goddamn and tits back then, she wasn’t a mom yet.)

The first 16 counts were just basically the entrance, so Shawna was good there: she just had to take a step every two counts to walk forward seductively and on beat. Easy. For the next 8 counts, Shawna had to bend her knees and swing her hips left and right four times. Fairly easy. Then, Shawna had to take the following 8 counts to slowly lower herself into a closed-kneed squat, pop her knees open and lean forward on her hands, then, finally, pop her booty into the air with straight legs, and hold for a sexy, here’s my ass, stripper-like maneuver. (Probably. Shawna had never actually seen a real-life stripper.) N O T E A S Y. (See an example of this move below.)

This, but hands on ground & wearing stripper boots. Please note this is not me. This is bazillionaire Russell Simmons livin’ his best life.

That move had previously made Shawna feel ultra-sexy, but today, when the toe pad of her heels (which were fashion heels, not dance heels, and so had exactly zero tread) hit the plush carpeting of her apartment bedroom floor, her foot slipped, and Shawna felt only the intense, searing pain of some random, very angry muscle in her low back being ripped in unnatural ways. She cried out in pain and prayed to God that her roommates didn’t hear and come-a-knockin’. Defeated and immobile, Shawna crumpled to the floor and, with great pain, rolled onto her back, where she stayed for several moments.

“What just happened???” Shawna wondered, upset as she’s ever been. “Did I not warm up enough??” (No.) “Did I not stretch enough??” (No, fool.) “Should I have gone slower or waited longer to try this dance in heels??” (Duh.) “It’s OK,” a miserable Shawna consoled herself, “It’s just an injury. I can recover. I’ll rest today and stretch tomorrow. I can apply ice and heat, I can sit in a hot tub, I can even go get a massage. There are still several weeks before our anniversary. This is fixable.”

She didn’t do any of that. She rested, yes, but only kind of, because she also attempted to sit up and stretch every 45 minutes “just to see.” She didn’t ice or heat her injury because she was a lazy idiot. She didn’t sit in a hot tub. She didn’t stretch in subsequent days because it hurt and, again, she was an idiot. After a few weeks the pain subsided and the muscle stiffened, and when it came time to perform her dance, Shawna did, with some added choreography that allowed her to remove those stupid-ass boots about two seconds in. Sadly, she could tell her moves were hindered, and somewhat jerky to boot, but John was very kind and watched the entire awkward fiasco unfold with diligent patience and hardly any embarrassment registering on his handsome face.

A grainy photo from that fateful anniversary. We dressed the part of Horse Derby enthusiasts and bet on some races.

Did you guess that I am the Shawna in that story? I am. That happened 10 years ago, and for 10 years I’ve continued to neglect my health and physical fitness, likely for some psychological or emotional reason I have yet to discover, so I aggravate my back injury on the reg. Seriously, I’m still way stiff in my low back so if I arch too hard or sit slumped for too long, I re-injure myself. If I exercise too hard or lift too heavy an object, like my kid, I re-injure myself. If I stand for too long, or sit for too long, or stretch the wrong way, I re-injure myself.

I tell myself I’m totally fine. I was athletic when I was a kid, I’m totally fine, I used to play sports, my back is fine, I’m in OK shape, everything is F I N E, guys. Three years ago, after I gave birth to my son, I told my husband, John (same dude), that my spine felt inexplicably like a bobble-head doll, meaning that my trunk muscles felt so weak and my center of gravity, so suddenly shifted, that my spine felt wobbly at the point where my waist dipped in, as if a spring was balancing the top half of my torso, jiggling it like a bobble-head doll with each step I took. I was a brand-new first-time-mom, so had neither the time nor the wherewithal to take any purposeful action to correct my bobble-headed situation, and I’m now three years postpartum, pregnant with my second child, laid up with back pain, and wondering what I can do to care for and heal my decade-old injury.

So, I’m walking and stretching. I’m currently clocking 2 miles a day about 4-5 days a week and enjoying some slow & stretchy prenatal yoga with Jo Tatsula at YogaGlo. I could probably walk more than that, in all honesty, but I’m trying to be smart about this. I’m 18 weeks along now, and my goal is to increase my stamina and flexibility throughout my pregnancy, working up to walking 5 miles a day, every day, and limbering up with stretchy prenatal yoga along the way. It’s a feat, that’s for sure. But I figure if I can endure the same painful injury flair ups F O R T E N Y E A R S then I can surely handle nine months of walking.

Oh, and hi, by the way! Nice to meet you, dear reader, and welcome to my blog. I’m Shawna, and I love telling stories, so this space is dedicated to just that: stories from my life, usually told with some comedic flair because life is short and you gotta laugh, man. I’m a mom, a wife, an actor, a creator, and a lover of personal development. Thank you for being here, and I promise we’ll talk again soon. (Like, hopefully tomorrow, but #momlife so we’ll see.)

xoxo

Shawna

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