Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ignoring My Limits

I grimace with each step as I descend the staircase, but it's better than yesterday. Then, I would yell "Ow! Ow! Ow!" in time to my footsteps on the treads, making my oldest son run to the bottom and watch curiously as his mama hobbled towards him with some invisible injury.

Living on a farm in the country, there is always a list of things that need to be done. And living at a house that hasn't seen its first birthday yet only adds to the list. With a husband who works in an office five days a week, I'm used to working more like our ancient women ancestors than women of today...and waking with a corresponding tinge of stiffness in various muscles.

For instance, Friday morning, I spent four hours shoveling, moving, and spreading out rocks around the utility area of our house in my attempt to stop grass from growing in an impossible to mow section. The next morning--an almost imperceptible twinge in one shoulder. In other words, I was good to go.

But by Saturday evening when my parents arrived to see the fruits of our labors, I'd gone well beyond the limits of physical exhaustion.

It all started with husband deciding to sod our yard with St. Augustine, one of the few grasses that will crowd out the Alicia Bermuda grown in the hay fields surrounding the house.

To make the project inexpensive, he said we would sod it the "poor man's" way--him taking a machete and cutting up each piece of sod into 6 or 8 pieces, then me planting it every 4 to 6 feet around the entire 50-foot "yard" we had measured off surrounding the perimeter of the house.

As planned, Friday afternoon, husband brought home a truck-load of sod. Even from my short height of 5'3", the stack of pancake-thin squares looked deceptively small. It sounded small, too, sold under the name "one pallet. And besides, it was only grass. Grass--yeah, real shaking-in-your-garden-clogs kind of scary.

Saturday morning, husband and I went to work. After wielding the machete, myself, to cut apart one square of sod, I quickly fired myself from that job. From the looks of it, my attempt was more of a mauling than a cutting. The sod breathed a sigh of relief as I turned away.

I then tried my hand at using my dad's Mantis tiller to rough up the ground and create a shallow "hole" for each of the 1000+ squares of sod...but that felt like I was like holding an energetic bloodhound in place as I forced it to dig down when all it wanted was to race forward across the field after an imaginary fox. After I labored a half hour or so digging holes, husband said I looked like I was going to fall down, so he took over that job, too.

The remainder of our 8 1/2 hour marathon was a simple repetition for me--bend down, stand up, bend down stand up...once for every time I spray painted a dot every four feet around the house so husband would know where to dig, for every time I worked freshly dug earth back around the small square of sod.

By nightfall, the yard looked like it had been attacked by a hoard of angry gophers. Success.

But also importantly, by nightfall, I had reached and surpassed my limits--not a good thing. Within an hour of calling it a day, I was too nauseous to sit upright and my temperature had risen two degrees, sending me huddling under several blankets to counter the feeling that I was freezing.

By Sunday morning, I was almost back to normal...except for a few unhappy muscles running down the tops of my thighs and insides of my knees.

As I prepared for morning worship, I dwelt on the thought that the pain was really my own fault. Halfway through the afternoon, I had known it was time to stop, but husband wanted to keep going and finish the job because rain was coming Monday (1/2", praise God!). And so, I ignored his words to "quit" as well as my own body's warning bells to keep pressing forward.

At heart, it's not really a stubbornness problem but rather a listening problem, one God has to keep reminding me of.

Listen to the body. Listen to the Spirit within.

If I don't, the repercussions may be much worse than a few sore muscles.


  1. Oh, Jennifer... I tossed my back out this weekend for the millionth time -- but I never have these great stories to go with it, nor an amazing landscape to show for it. Mine usually arises from bending over to brush my teeth, stepping wrong into my pajamas, or sneezing. This time it was from something as exotic as sleeping.

    What a project you have... And what stamina, even if it comes disguised as stubbornness. Hope things start feeling better soon -- and have a big lemonade while you wait.

  2. As my 91 year old grandmother likes to say- "you need to know when you've had your right ammount". I still haven't gotten the measure right yet because Monday when I used the weed-eater to tackle our 1 Acre yard, I too over dosed my ammount. ;) Secretly, I love being sore from yard work and I love being my yard (weirdo- I know).