So, where we ended yesterday was the beginning of what I consider to be one big life lesson…or perhaps many life/travel lessons mashed into one somewhat miserable experience.
I KNEW something was up with my back my second day on the road. I figured it would work itself out, so made the choice to just barrel through and “be a man” about the whole thing. I’d stayed in a hotel that first night, on a ridiculously uncomfortable slab of a bed and woke with my back in moderate discomfort. I’ve had issues with a disc in my spine in the past, so I’m used to it getting uncomfortable, and sometimes it’s just stiff in the morning. This was more uncomfortable than that, but I didn’t give it much thought besides briefly considering if I should call the front desk for help with my bags.
In hindsight, here is lesson #1 from this trip: If you think you might need assistance, and the assistance is there, ESPECIALLY when it comes to your health, ask for the assistance!
Instead, I stacked my rolling overnight bag, my camera bag and my laptop bag on top of each other and rolled my way on down the hallway. I passed a hotel staff member on the way and, again, briefly considered asking for assistance, just to be safe, but decided she looked busy and I was already halfway there. Please refer back to Lesson #1.
In the elevator, my bags toppled and I instinctively grabbed for them, jarring my back. Wincing, I righted my bags, exited the elevator and made my way, ever so slowly, to the front desk…where the busy looking staff member from upstairs was standing. How the heck? And why hadn’t I asked for assistance upstairs?
I checked out and then headed for my car. That’s right, once AGAIN, despite every step feeling like it was creating vice on my lower back, I ignored hindsight lesson #1 and did not ask for assistance, instead figuring all I had to do was get across the parking lot.
Being self-sufficient when on the road is one thing. Being stubborn about it may be quite another.
I will admit that the fifteen minutes I then spent in the car, fighting tears and waiting for my back to relax, REALLY should’ve prompted me to do things differently. But, I was being Ms. Unstoppable.
And here I think I should insert Lesson #2: Sometimes One Should Be Stoppable.
Really, if you need it, take a break. I’m often guilty of pushing myself too hard when on the road. I want to experience everything! But, honestly, there are a million reasons to slow down— you see more, experience more and can take better care of yourself if you remember to stop, catch your breath and evaluate yourself and your situation.
Unstoppable me had a rotten day on the road.
For one, I forgot to route AROUND Chicago, so I spent two hours crawling through smoggy traffic.
Lots of stops to rest my back, lots of traffic, lots of frustration, lots of discomfort, lots of putting off anything but getting down the road until I reached Minnesota.
In Minnesota, I made my way to Cahlean’s house. She was to continue on with me to South Dakota the next day, and with the government shut down effectively demolishing our original plans, we had much to talk about, but I spent only a few minutes talking with her before head to a hotel. I wanted to get some sleep and hopefully rest my back. That was actually a very good decision- I was taking the opportunity to be Stoppable.
It was a rough night. I’ll be brief and get to the ‘good’ part. Around 5 am, after spending hours in so much pain I couldn’t roll over or get out of bed, I decided it was time to call for help. It was the first time I’ve ever had to call 911 when on the road and I agonized over it too much. And I panicked a bit.
Lessons number 3 and 4: #3 In Case of Emergency, Call 911; #4 Don’t panic.
I’m sure a certain amount of my angst over calling for help was embarrassment. It’s silly and pointless and unwarranted, but I sometimes feel embarrassed over being sick or injured, though I never judge others for being sick or injured. I’ve found that this actually isn’t that uncommon, so I’m just going to put it out there and advise that we should all just ignore that embarrassment when the situation calls for action— like when you’re immobilized and in agonizing pain. Logic is a lovely thing.
I wasted a good bit of energy panicking over being in pain, having to call for help, the possible repercussions this would have on the trip, the inconvenience this would cause Cahlean, what was actually wrong with my back, how was I going to get home, how I would get myself from the hotel and a zillion other very much not helpful thoughts. I even spent some time being angry with myself for not being calm and rational about the situation- I SO love to take things in stride! Once I got over myself and my panic and embraced the logic of calling 911, I was immediately 80% calmer. Funny how that works.
We can make that Lesson #5- When Panic Sets In, Focus On One Thing At A Time.
A police officer arrived first to check on me. A group of firemen came to assess the situation because they were closer than the paramedics. And then the paramedics came.
Lesson #6- If you are taken away in an ambulance and your wits are still about, remember to take your ID, insurance card and cell phone.
Lesson #7- Remember your darn cell phone
Lesson #8- Remember your wallet.
Oh, just lots of lessons which would’ve made my life a lot easier had I kept them in mind!
At the hospital I realized that I had brought nothing with me. Sure, I was distracted by some pretty Dante’s Inferno-level discomfort at the time I left them behind, but it was still a dumb move.
In the midst of doctors and nurses and pills and such, I called home (collect) and realized another over site which brings us to Lesson Whatever Number We’re At: Remember to leave contact information for everyone you plan to see on your trip with your home base/home team.
My home team, all around emergency guru, is my husband…and I forgot to leave Cahlean’s information with him. He had quite the time making contact with her because of my bad planning.
The two of them worked behind the scenes and several hours after arriving at the hospital, Cahlean showed up with my cell phone and the news that she’d packed up all my stuff at the hotel and picked up my car. Cheerful as ever and happy to help me embrace the ridiculousness of my situation, I was put in mind of another life lesson that I’d already been embracing— when you meet good people, even those that live thousands of miles away, don’t be shy in cultivating that friendship; friendship is not dependent on proximity.
Until next time, when I tell you how things got really, really, really Awesome.