Week 010 (9.11.20)
The fan purrs in the background. I close my eyes and attempt to abstract the noise by focusing on everything else I can hear. There is the voice of the receptionist, her intonations reaching me but not her exact words. Someone shuffles in their chair, the metal feet scraping on the floor. Keys jingle in a pocket. Pop music underlines every sound, the music somewhat muted by the fan but it is still too loud for me to relax. I try anyway, reminding myself that the sounds around are just that, sounds. I do not have to let them overwhelm me.
I shift my focus back to my body. I am lying down on a medical table, my head held in between two rolls. The table is too narrow for my arms to rest at my sides. I try letting them down but the weight of them is uncomfortable. I fold them back across my torso, the effort to keep them there making it difficult to fully relax.
Breath in for 1… 2… 3… 4… Hold. 1… 2… 3… 4… Breath out for 1… 2… 3… 4… Hold. 1… 2… 3… 4… the diagram on the door spring to mind, the rectangle bearing the breathing mantra guiding my focus. Breath in…
I worry that my chiropractor is going to enter the room while I have my eyes closed, startle me out of the exercise, and throw me off balance. I open my eyes and stare at the white ceiling, the paint immaculate.
I crane my neck to meet my chiropractor’s eyes. ‘Hello,’ I reply politely. He extends his elbow to me and for a moment I am unsure what he is doing. Quickly the penny drops and I raise my own elbow to meet his. Dimly I wonder if we would be shaking hands if I had attended sessions in the before world. I don’t think we would have, the logistics of me on the table and him standing up too awkward to make the gesture comfortable. But now it is easy for him to bring his elbow down and mine up, our bodies meeting in the middle. It is an odd gesture, one I have not used often. I am unfamiliar with it in a way a foreign greeting would be.
‘What’s been good,’ he queries settling on the stool next to me.
I am puzzled by his question. Nobody asks about good news. This is too specific a question. I glance at him. He is not looking at me, too focused on putting on his plastic gloves and apron.
‘My shoulder has not been getting worse,’ I finally say, my voice hesitant and small.
I can’t tell him about my NaNoWriMo
project, about the fact that I am avidly reading again, about the cuddles from the neighbour’s cat. I am certain that is not what he is asking.
He rises from the stool and positions himself behind my head, his hands gently holding my neck. His fingers move along my vertebrae, feeling his way to the ones he is looking for. ‘Ready?’
‘Yeah,’ I reply. He twists my head slowly until he reaches a position only he knows and jerks my neck in one swift movement. My bones crack loudly. ‘That’s a good one,’ he comments. He has already shifted my head to the opposite position, ready for the second adjustment.
He moves around my body, ordering me to adopt various positions I am sure I will come to memorise by the end of my treatment.
‘All good,’ he finally says taking a step back from me. I slide off the table and step towards the chair to retrieve my coat, keys, and phone.
I leave the clinic and head home. I resist the urge to pull my headphones out of my coat pocket. Instead, I look at my surroundings, the sky dark above me, street lights illuminating my path.
My steps are jagged, my brain wanting to rush me home and linger on the walk at the same time. Slow down, I order myself. Over the last few days I have had a tendency to block out thoughts and quiet time. I listened to music on loop, the songs of little interest. I checked my phone at every occasion, my fingers flicking between apps too quickly for my mind to fully register what my eyes saw.
You’re okay, I tell myself. You are okay. I take a deep breath, slowing the rhythm of my steps, anchoring myself to the ground.
I have been working from home for a week, enjoying it and hating it in equal measures. I have been avoiding thinking about this change, considering what it means, and facing how it is making me feel.
I know I won’t find the answers to those questions on the short walk home from the chiropractor but silence is needed to begin processing my thoughts and emotions. And I need those answers. I need to find a way to balance this shift in routine.
You can call the work mental health helpline if needed, I remind myself. I dive off the street and onto an unlit path between rows of houses. My eyes take a moment to adjust to the darkness, everything around me pitch black for a few seconds. I feel safe on this path, unseen. Darkness cocoons me and swallows my worries. I walk silently, ears straining to pick up any quiet footsteps in the mud of the path, any clicks of a bicycle approaching. None come. I am alone.
The journey is small and I am soon back in the middle of residential streets, lamp posts banishing the dark in a false sense of security.
I pass the house where a friend used to live before they moved away in the summer. My eyes are drawn to the dim light piercing through the curtains. I imagine them sitting on the sofa, playing a game or watching a film. I miss them.
I miss people. I think this is one of the reasons why I dislike working from home. I have no solution to this problem. It is one I will have to get used to.
A few more minutes and I am back in my street, back at my house. The light in the kitchen is turned on, my partner waltzing between the hob and the sink. I watch her move until she notices me and smiles. She disappears into the corridor to open the door. I hurry my steps to enter the warmth of our home.
I shed the layers protecting me against the cold outside and join my partner in the kitchen to finish cooking. I stir the pasta around the boiling water watching them float and swirl across the pan and for a moment, I think of nothing else, my mind quiet and still.