Strange Animals 09dec2020: Wherever You Go, There You Are

Yes, yes. I’ve been missing for a few weeks now, and I owe you Part 2 of an essay. Sorry about that.

The first week or two I missed because I was writing, and then I was busy, and then I missed this Monday because I had a bit of an incident.

I mentioned it on Twitter as a “health scare”, and that was pretty accurate. Emphasis on “scare”.

So here’s what happened. I’ve had a hip issue for about a month now. I moved wrong at some point, and misaligned one of my hip joints, which created a spasm in the muscles around it. That got solved with physiotherapy and the delightful IFT where they gently electrocute your muscles. But because of my uncharacteristically sedentary lifestyle over the last few months, I’d weakened my core and my butt muscles, so, adding in the misaligned joint, the muscle known as the IT band had to bear too much of the weight of my movements, and it’s not really built for that, so it started hurting, and I’d been doing physiotherapy exercises to fix that.

Last Friday, though, I woke up a couple of hours after I’d gone to sleep, and I was in excruciating pain. My hip hurt every time I moved even slightly, and in addition to that, the back muscle right behind my heart was in throbbing pain, my heart was racing at 150 bpm, and all my extremities had gone cold.

Needless to say, I was concerned. I was 90% sure it was not in fact a heart incident, but the remaining 10% worried me, as did the fact that I couldn’t move for almost an hour, because if I twisted left, my hip would hurt, and if I twisted right, my back would. My heart didn’t stop racing for the next five hours.

After careful stretches, I was able to move, and I took myself to the physio clinic, where they first ran tests for my heart and blood pressure, and then checked out my muscles.

My heart was and is fine, and they said this was probably an anxiety/panic-related incident. On the other hand, they were concerned about my muscles, and said that for the next few weeks, I shouldn’t sit in one place for too long, shouldn’t do anything that involved twisting, and definitely shouldn’t be working for more than four hours a day, and that too not at a stretch. I’m supposed to do a full body checkup once it’s easier to move around, but basically, this was a scare rather than an actual incident.

I’ve been doing the PT exercises for more than a week now, and my back is mostly fine (I still don’t know why that happened), but my hip still needs a lot of work. I have difficulty walking, and it hurts if I’m stationary in any position for too long.

Also, clearly, I need a break. I stopped exercising around five months ago because I had too much work, and couldn’t make the time, and that’s come back to bite me in the ass (literally). I’ve been running myself ragged for about eight months now, and have not been able to take a breather. 2020 had me lettering my highest number of pages of any year, by about 600 pages. And because I try my best not to sacrifice quality when I’m overworked, I sacrificed my own health.

So, with the alarm firmly rung, I pushed everything I could from my December slate to January and February, and I’ve been resting and recuperating while wrapping up the immovable stuff (working around 2-3 hours a day, no more) before I take the last week of this month off again. I also bowed out of a number of my future projects. I need a much smaller slate in 2021, and it was easiest to start with projects that hadn’t begun yet, so my clients had enough time to look for someone else. It was a wrench, because these are absolutely wonderful projects – the kind I dreamed of being on when I started lettering – but it was a necessary measure.

My aim in 2021 is to focus on my health, and generally give myself a break. I think I’ve taken a total of maybe two months off in the last eight years. I jumped from my corporate job into freelancing, and put my head down and starting working and never quite stopped. Like many people who grew up working class will identify with, you keep doing the thing because you think one day it might just all go away, and you don’t quite know when that’ll be.

But it’s high time I realise that I’m doing alright, and I can stop hustling for a bit. I’ve decided to cut down my total slate by about half, or possibly more, and just … have fun the rest of the time. I don’t need to keep producing constantly.

Anyway, that’s what happened. I’m now more sure than ever about the value of organisation – the only reason I was able to push books to next month and move things around efficiently without stressing myself out was that I had everything laid out in one place and I knew exactly what could be moved and what couldn’t.

And finally, I had so many friends, colleagues and clients checking in on me, and doing everything they could to make things easier for me. Everyone I mailed to postpone their books responded positively, and several clients saw my tweet about my health scare and wrote in to talk about how they could make things easier for me in the coming months.

Definitely made me realise that I need to be better about asking for help, because I’ve surrounded myself with people who will volunteer their help the moment they sense that I need it. I have the absolute best people around me, and I’m a very lucky person for that.

You’ll probably see one more edition from me this year – I’d rather not move into next year with something pending, so I’ll wrap up my organisation essay, and I’ll post a bunch of pending updates. But that’ll be it. After that, we’ll see each other next year.

Take care of yourself, folks!