My Mom gifted my sisters and I each a pot of charming, royal purple pansies for Easter. As with any flower I’m given, I was delighted. They would bring life to our balcony throughout spring and summer.
My husband, Mark, and I were going to Florida that weekend to visit his parents, and my mom suggested that I move my plant indoors, as the temperatures were predicted to drop drastically (that's Indiana for ya). I brought it into our modest apartment and placed it in the sunniest spot, smack in the middle of the living area. Upon arriving home four days later, brimming with Vitamin D, we found my plant keeled over, clearly depleted of it. Disappointed, I set it outside and offered it some water.
“My pansies are so sad. I think they might die,” I texted my mom with photo proof.
“Oh, that is sad,” she agreed.
“Should I trim it or something?” I asked, helplessly. I’ve obviously never done any type of gardening at all.
“I’m not sure. I’ll try to do some research," she replied. I love that my mom didn't say, "How should I know? Google it." She responds to questions the way I was trained to do at every job I've ever had when presented with one you don't know the answer to. Whether it was a theme park, restaurant, paper store, or medical research office, I was taught to answer toughies with, "I'm not sure, but I'll find out for you." When you're on the clock, it's expected, but off the clock, I find it so considerate. I've tried to implement this into my personal life too, but certainly not as well as she does.
I decided to just keep an eye on my flowers, and yes, do a little investigating myself. They hadn’t turned brown or dried up completely, so I knew there was hope. I removed the crispy, incurable bits and propped them against the wall outside to sort of urge the stems upward. Stand, baby, stand!
I’ve struggled with my lower back for a year now. Technically, it started four years ago, but at that time I was able to recover after only eight weeks of physical therapy. Unfortunately, the problem returned, as sacroiliac (SI) dysfunction often does, simply while walking around Fountain Square with Mark. I have no broken bones or tears. The joint has simply fallen out of place, making even household chores arduous, as I'm unable to stand for longer than five minutes at a time. I’ve just started seeing a new physical therapist, Chris, an SI expert whose method is unlike than any I've tried previously. This is promising to me, as traditional approaches haven't been effective thus far. I'm learning that all healing is quite subjective. The solution is seldom straightforward, and the path is rarely clear. This makes sense, I suppose, as every individual is unique, but oh, how I've longed for a follow-these-five-steps-and-poof-you'll-be-cured solution. Though, I suppose that wouldn't breed much inner growth.
Some days I'm peaceful and Buddha-like, "This is my journey. I'll be healed when the timing is right." Other days I'm impatient, uncertain, and sour. "Journey, schmourney. Screw the journey. This sucks." Currently, Chris has me doing a list of "exercises" twice a day, which are actually just a series of positions to place myself in for a few minutes at a time to encourage my joint to return to where it belongs in my frame, much like the pansies-against-the-wall technique I invented. (Although it just occurred to me that I didn't come up with that method at all. Great idea, Chris!)
The other morning, I told my mom that despite going to physical therapy the day before and feeling aligned (and free!), I was all twisted up again. (Why do muscles and tendons insist on pulling back to the wrong place after they've been put in the right spot? Guys, learn your lesson! You are more comfortable where Chris put you! Stay!) Though there was nothing my mom could do to manually change the tilt of my pelvis the way Chris does at therapy, sometimes you just need to grumble. What she can do is offer empathy, which I find almost as healing as any physical treatment.
“I'm so sorry. Have you done your new exercises today?” she asked.
“Yeah, but I don’t get relief right away from those." Suddenly, it hit me. "I have a feeling my back will recover like my pansies. I can’t water them and then immediately watch them transform into healthy, prosperous flowers. It’s going to take some time. I’ll water them and leave them in the sun, and eventually I’ll notice that they have rebounded. It's going to happen gradually.”
“I hope so. Hey, don’t water them too much,” she warned, “But I think they’ll be okay. Aunt Kathy said pansies are resilient!"
Resilient? A pansy? Really? Don't school children use that word as a synonym for "sissy" at the playground? Someone who cries after falling down or won't accept the dare that could get them into trouble? At least it used to be that way. I shudder to think what insults kids are dealt now, but I recall that word being hurled in movies like The Sandlot or reruns of Leave It To Beaver to describe a weak person- usually a frail little boy (that I always wanted to dive into the screen, embrace, and adopt, even as a child). Can a pansy really be strong with a name like that? Apparently, yes. I've discovered that they actually thrive during the April days of cold rain and low temperatures unlike so many other flowers, and that they continue to bloom through June with minimal fussing. In fact, I probably shouldn't have brought them indoors during our trip. They would have been just fine despite the harsh weather.
Besides having a vulnerable name, pansies look delicate. These beauties don't have thick stalks like sunflowers to hold them upright- only a flimsy green stem topped with five velvet petals. Maybe I'm like a pansy in more ways than I initially thought. I started to feel a surge of motivation and excitement. Most people think they know the answer to my back problems when they see my little Bambi legs.
"You should lift weights," they advise. I only wish it were that simple. I inherited my mom's thin legs, who got them from my grandma. I believe in building strength, but I've learned that when your pelvis is out of place, it's either dangerous or a waste of time to do so. My new therapist won't even test my strength until we get my pelvis to look more like a circle than a figure eight. Then, we'll work on the muscles. I look forward to this training, but even then, I won't happen overnight, and I may never have Carrie Underwood legs. I'm okay with that. I believe that even my chicken legs will be able to support my body the way it used to eventually.
I've been through a lot the past eight years regarding my back and hips. It's made me stronger on the inside. I'm still working on the outside.
I walked outside to check on my struggling plant this morning after dutifully going through my list of pelvis positioners. I think it's looking better, and I think I'm feeling better. It's so gradual that it's tough to determine. A little direct sunlight for her; a little SI stability for me. Not too much water for her; not too much stretching or strengthening for me. Moderation is key for both of us.
Maybe I'm slow to recover, and maybe my stems look frail, but don't let my appearance or reputation fool you. I'll thrive in this storm. I'm tough. I'm a pansy.