We have a saying in puppetry, that “if it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right. Conversely, just because it hurts doesn’t mean that you are doing it right.”
When I did Little Shop of Horrors, there’s a point in the show where I had to lift a 125 lb puppet, at a time in my life when I weighed 127lbs, rest its fiberglass shell just above my knees and walk downstage. It left pressure bruises. It hurt.
On more than one occasion, I remarked to someone that if I experienced that level of pain without a reason that I would go straight to the emergency room. But the show must go on.
So…when I was experiencing back pain two weeks ago, it took me a while to figure out what was going on. We were setting up for the Writing Excuses cruise and the pain started as a knot in my back, about where I hold tension anyway. But the show must go on.
Then it felt like I had a misaligned rib, which I’ve had happen before. But the show must go on.
It hit a point where it hurt more than Little Shop, which caused me some concern, but movement didn’t make it worse so… the show must go on.
A week later, on the cruise, a rash erupted in a band around my right side. Thank heavens, my roommate recognized it immediately as shingles*. I went down to the sickbay, the doctor looked at it and said, “Yep. But why is it turning up now? It can’t be stress, you’re on vacation.”
I’ve been on the road more than I’ve been home. I was in the middle of twenty days of travel and hand been home for a single day before that, with only three days at home at the end. I was leading a workshop of 150 students.
He stopped me and said, “You have to slow down.”
So, I am. We’re canceling some events and nothing else goes on my calendar for next year. Because the show doesn’t actually have to go on.
And to reassure you, we caught the shingles early so it stayed pretty mild. I got the anti-virals. Yes, I’ll do the vaccine when this is cleared up to stave off a recurrence. If you see me, please don’t hug me. I’m in the super-sensitive skin phase right now, which means contact with my back feels somewhere between a sunburn and a cheesegrater.
As a note, having described it this way to a couple of people, I’ve also learned that my pain threshold is in a different place than many folks, because that doesn’t seem bad, just annoying. I voluntarily worked puppets that hurt worse than this on a daily basis. Which… actually may say more about life choices than anything else.
Anyway, here’s my question for you… what are you ignoring right now? And what’s the next act of self-care you’re going to do for yourself?