I’m 44 years old. Apparently, 44 is the age when back problems become a thing. At least, they did for me last week.
As I clipped a barrette in my daughter’s bangs. Snap. My lower back was out. Like drop to the wood floor, unable to move, crawling around the kitchen out. No amount of Advil or self-talk was going to get me out of it. So, I rested. I stretched. I still took Advil. Drank a lot of water. Gave it a few days.
It was fine. But I noticed myself proceeding with extreme caution. I did not want that to happen again. I tentatively walked the dog, winced as I picked up the groceries, and reluctantly played (and lost) ping pong with my 9-year-old.
Finally, after a few weeks, I rejoined a Pilates class. Same faces I’ve seen on reformers for years. Same teacher I’ve had for over a decade. But I was nervous. And self-conscious.
I couldn’t keep up with the class as much as usual. My back was slightly hurting as I did some of the moves. I glanced around to see if anyone noticed; of course, no one did. I made it through, barely!
The whole experience made me think of this: no one walks around announcing their hurts. We don’t walk into that meeting, our kids’ school, a dentist appointment, or the grocery store and announce, “I’m really struggling today!”
We don’t attend that work party and lead with, “My marriage is in trouble,” or “Someone I love is battling addiction.”
People don’t show up to their children’s sporting events wearing a sign that says, “I am estranged from a parent and today is their birthday,” or “my loved one is waiting on a cancer diagnosis.”
We show up and do the moves, struggling along hoping no one will notice. We smile and make small talk with hard things lingering in the back of our minds. We get dressed and go through the motions.
It’s commonplace for us to put our best selves out there for people to see. But make no mistake, people you think you know (some you might even envy), they have hidden hurts you have no idea about. It’s cliché but true, everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.
Here’s the thing: when it’s a good day for you, when you have a period of ease, one when you are not struggling, be kind. Be extra kind. Because that person in the grocery store line, at McDonald’s, getting their haircut, or sitting right next to you on the bus . . . they could be hurting. Most likely, someone around you always is.
Class was over, and I was getting my shoes. “Tough class, huh?” a voice said. I looked over to see a woman who I had often smiled at but never really spoken to. She speaks with an accent, and I remember overhearing her say once, how hard it is to live away from her family.
I smiled. “So tough.” And we went our separate ways.