19 April 2015

52 – Bottoms Up

This essay's inspired by a recent injury.

I said there’s no such thing as happily ever after in House Newf #51. That’s because shit happens in life no matter how happy you are. You might call me negative for saying that. I say I don't give a fuck. I call me an optimistic realist.

But what odds. Shit happened to me less than two weeks after I wrote that. And that shit happening triggered a new idea, and other essays I'd been working on got set aside. So #52 is an unexpected sequel to #51. Such is life when shit happens.

I hurt my back in mid-February. It didn't happen while I was working out, doing yoga, lifting boxes in the warehouse, or shovelling snow. It happened when I got hammered by a wicked flu. I lay bedridden for three days, ate barely enough to keep a bird alive, lost twenty pounds, and almost hacked up my lungs. That coughing caused a severe back muscle strain that I only noticed once the flu passed. Shit happens in mysterious ways.

Perhaps you felt the same way.

The strain pain crippled me. I couldn't stand up straight for two weeks. A month passed before I could raise my right arm above my shoulder. I often chewed on a towel to muffle screams of agony. I'm an active guy who likes doing physical things. Being physically unable to do anything had me drove. That's not a typo. In Newf-Land, simply saying you're drove is all that needs to be said.

That's all I say on that subject. You've probably dealt with worse injuries, so you don't need to hear any more about mine. Besides, my back's feeling much better now. Shit happens, but you don't need to waste time rolling around in it.

As the muscle strain healed and the pain subsided I started thinking about other things: my fitness, finances, and writing mostly. The muscle on my frame had withered and I felt weak as a kitten. I was all dunched up and felt stiff as a board. My savings had dwindled from not working for five weeks. And I'd lost the writing momentum I had in early February. Good things we work hard to build get torn apart pretty quickly when shit happens.

Accepting where I was after being laid up for five weeks was a tough pill to swallow. Sometimes I felt like I was starting over again. Sometimes I felt like I'd struck another bottom. Such are the side effects when shit happens.

But I didn't dwell down there for too long. I reminded myself that I'd struck bottoms before. That's no secret. I've written about them in #19, #33, and #40. More importantly, I reminded myself of what I've believed for a long time. It's something I've told both myself and others:

When you hit the bottom the only way to go is back up.

I also realized those bottoms had left me better equipped to handle future shit happenings. Falling down teaches us how to get back up. There's valuable experience and lessons to be had when shit happens.

These self-reminders made me think and feel better. I stopped fretting over the fitness, savings, and writing momentum I'd lost. I focussed on gaining those things back instead. I've been doing light rehab workouts and yoga for the past month. I'm building my savings back up to pre-injury levels. And words are filling pages again. I'm feeling like Bob again, and it feels great.

And that's the whole thing really. Striking a bottom when shit happens isn't the end. It doesn't leave us with no choice but to give up and quit. Sometimes striking a bottom leaves us with no choice but to pull ourselves back up.

I'm a long way from Peak Bob. It'll take a while to get myself back there. But I know the way.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm only talking about a specific form of shit that happened to me. We're all different, and shit happens to us in different ways. And I do know that some shit happenings are worse than others. But I don't know what'll work when shit happens to you. You're a big boy or girl. Figure it out for yourself.

They know sometimes you can only figure things out as the shit happens. 

But know that striking a bottom when shit happens can be a good thing. It can drive us to get our shit together and pull ourselves back up. And that's always the right thing to do. 

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What's a House Newf?

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The House Newf is from a rugged and beautiful island on the eastern edge of Canada called Newfoundland. He was first identified by a potter with a naturalist's flair, and he does in fact live in a house under the watchful eye of a cat that seems bewildered by the universe at large. That house is in Halifax, Nova Scotia and that's where the House Newf writes fiction and essays on things that add value to his life that may add some value to yours. You can contact him at bobharding80@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter @theHouseNewf, on Instagram @thehousenewf, and like him on Facebook. The House Newf is a unique specimen. Every home should have one.