I've been having a little trouble with my shoulder. It started, I think, when I was painting the stair railings last winter: too much time holding up a paint brush, doing fiddly work. But I get massages regularly, and my massage therapist showed me some stretches that seemed to keep things down to a dull roar.
But it has been getting worse, bad enough that my shoulder doesn't seem to want to support even the weight of my arm. So on Friday, after weeks of not getting around to it, I finally went to see a physiotherapist. The verdict: a little problem with my rotator cuff, compounded by arthritis. The remedy: a few weeks of a thrice-daily heat, stretching, ice routine. A big safety pin, to fasten my sleeve to my waist so my upper arm never leaves my side. Oh - and no gardening.
So there I was, lying on the examining table while the physio poked and prodded.
"Does this hurt? Is this worse or better?" he asked.
"Wait," I interrupted. "Did you say no gardening?"
"Yes, for a few weeks anyway." And then he began to demonstrate the exercises I'm supposed to do.
"Wait, wait," I interrupted again. "Do you mean no gardening at all?"
"No gardening," he repeated,"for a few weeks until things in your shoulder settle down." And then he started explaining about heat, and ice, and using pillows to support the weight of my arm.
"Wait, wait. Wait! No gardening, at all, for a few weeks?"
"No gardening. At all. For a few weeks," he repeated patiently, and kindly, probably wondering about his new patient.
So I lay there on the table, listening to his careful instructions with only half a brain, using the other half to do a complete rearrangement of my life and priorities. At least this wasn't happening in the midst of the spring rush, I thought. The fall clean-up of the garden would have to wait. Kim would have to plant the last two shrubs by herself. The next round of stair rail painting, and the last remaining tiling project would have to be delayed.
And then, all of a sudden, all I wanted to do was laugh. Laugh - in a good way - at the universe, or Mother Nature, or whoever was sending me, the ever-struggling perfectionist, this timely and loving lesson. And, inexplicably, I felt free and peaceful. I can spend this fall taking care of my shoulder. The garden can wait.
(Today, after only a day of the new regime, my shoulder already feels better. It feels like it's resting, happily. But I discovered one thing that absolutely couldn't wait: planting the garlic. So Kim stepped forward to do it, happy to pitch in. And this is what she said on her way out the door with a bowlful of fat, plump cloves headed for the dirt: "I'm on my way outside to pretend to be Miriam.")