the sun and I will have our ups and downs

When your back is wrecked, you sometimes can’t walk, sit, stand, or lie down without a whole lot of pain. When it’s on the mend, you sometimes need a reminder of the things you can’t do.

1. You can’t go grocery shopping and pick up the giant box of large-size Milkbones from the bottom shelf, put it in your cart, put it on the conveyor belt, put it back in the cart, put it in your car, and bring it in your house. You can’t even do the first thing.

2. You can’t lug your new kneeling chair, which you discover was delivered without so much as a knock at the door (you know, because your junkyard dogs would have made a fuss), into the kitchen. You can’t even squeeze the 19.55 pound box from the place between the railings where the UPS guy wedged it.

3. You cannot put together the chair that you cannot lug into the kitchen from the front porch, especially hunched over in another chair while holding the heavy metal parts in the air until you get their holes matched and their screws tightened.

4. You cannot sit on your ass for hours writing, while your L5 throbs, and your feet grow numb.

5. You cannot make the bed! Do not make the bed! You don’t even make the bed when you’re feeling good!

6. You cannot take forty of your husband’s long-sleeved shirts off the hangers to the washing machine in the basement; take them out, wet, to put them in the dryer; and bring them all upstairs, where you cannot hang each of them back up in the closet, fastening at least the top two buttons while you lean over the bed. And you cannot do this after having done this with forty short-sleeve shirts, and you cannot do it again with forty more long-sleeve shirts. And your husband, who refuses to wear deodorant, but whom you caught hanging up a shirt he’d just taken off after working in it all day—on a day he walked a mile to work-doesn’t even understand why you would.

7. You cannot squander the sunsets. You cannot miss the chance to carry your heavy camera up three flights of stairs to the attic, slide up the window screen, and lean, crookedly, on a narrow, dirty sill filled with dead bees, and shoot the sunset.

Because when the time comes that the list of things you can’t do grows unwieldy, itself a thing you cannot lift, your ability to enjoy the sunset—no, your desire to enjoy the sunset, your not having given up on the sun’s big, smeary, wet goodnight kiss—is the test of whether you should continue—making lists, adding to your list of days.

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