Slow down

A crushing to-do list is all fun and games until someone smashes her pinky toe on a chair in the basement.

But let’s start at the beginning…

In late March, it all began innocently enough with a list—soon to be called THE LIST. I scribbled down the tasks I needed to accomplish before Flicka’s high school graduation reception. But she’s not my only kid, so I added what the other two girls required to complete their school year. The to-dos and to-buys spanned pages. I dove into The Painting of the Basement—the biggest job of all. And while the painting would one day be cosmetic, for now it was utilitarian, calling for us to brush the cinder blocks with endless coats of a special viscous goo to prevent any more water from seeping in during heavy rains. While each layer dried, THE LIST jerked me around the house to other things.

My low back hurt. I slapped an ice pack on it and kept going. Between phone calls required to run a household, I repainted almost every room in our home. I filled out forms for school and doctors and summer camps. I ran vehicles hither and thither for bodywork or oil changes, acted as therapist for friend crises, watched badminton matches and track meets, prepared food for potlucks, and scheduled doctor and orthodontic appointments.

Slow down.

My bully of a list shoved me around some more: print, address, and send graduation invitations; shop for grad clothes; coordinate dog care for Memorial weekend; call the doctor about my back, the insurance agent, and the electrician; clean up the yard (pick up dog poop, plant, mulch, mow.)

Slow down.

A school volunteering gig, more painting, physical therapy, sorting, second-hand store runs, ice packs, and finally, an MRI for the back.

“This is what happens when you get old,” my doctor at TRIA Orthopedic said, only in fancier terms.

“Hm,” I said.

Slow down.

Then one day last week, I scurried around the basement in flip-flops, dodging tools and paint cans while heaving a laundry basket. On the way to dump the clean clothing onto the couch, I whacked my foot on a chair.

I dropped the basket and crouched to assess the damage. My left pinky toe had flopped to the side. “Oh no. No, no, no, no, no.”

I shoved the toe back into place, hobbled upstairs for the first aid tape, and wrapped the injured one up with his buddy next to him. Grabbing an ice pack, I headed back to the couch. I plopped down, propped my foot up on the pile of unfolded laundry, and bawled.

Husband hurried downstairs to me, his eyes wide. “What happened?”

I described the accident, mascara-blackened tears splashing onto my old paint shirt. (And good thing, because dashed expectations can stain fabric if you’re not careful.) Memories of the broken pinky toe on my other foot eight years earlier whooshed to mind. I had limped around for six weeks before shoes felt good again.

“Does it hurt a lot?” he asked.

I waved away his question. “Now it’ll slow me down for the next four to six weeks.”

“Maybe that’s the idea.”

“I’m a mess.” I sniffed. “You better turn me in for a newer model.”

Compassion edged his half-smile. “It’ll be okay.”

But for a week, it didn’t feel okay. I blamed myself for the incident. If I had worn more protective shoes, this never would’ve happened. If I had paid attention to the placement of the chair, if I had neglected the laundry one more day…

I sat down often, iced my back and toe at the same time, and imagined the clock ticking away precious minutes. But I also heard the birds chirp outside the window and remembered I had a little something called breathing I could once again practice.

And THE LIST turned back into the list.

Well, shoot.

Well, shoot.

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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.