Give it a name.

11 Jan

A few days ago, I named my L4-L5 disc “Larry.” I can’t believe it’s taken this long for me to give it a name, but we’re here now, so let’s not dwell on past mistakes.

What I’m talking about is the compressed and herniated disc between the fourth and fifth vertebra of my lumbar spine. I’ve had two chances to get that sucker snipped out in the past 14 years and declined both, so I live with what is likely still a one-centimeter protrusion in the middle of a hotbed of osteoarthritis in my lower back.

Tuesday, when I was out on errands with my partner, I got into the car, did a scooch-and-reach deal in the driver’s seat to pull down the back of my shirt, and during that there was the tiniest pop and my largest scream. (Note to self: work on a less awkward-sounding scream or I’ll never be cast in Saw XCVII.)

We relocated me to the passenger seat and I ultimately went on to limp around the grocery store without significant incident, and in the meantime I declared it was time to finally name my spinal nemesis. “Larry” came out as a second try and it stuck.

Why can’t I believe it’s taken this long to name Larry? Because I know better. When I was seventeen, I named my stomach “Harvey.” It was my fun way of talking about appetite and eating. Two decades later I recalled this name and started effectively using it to cope with my irritable bowel syndrome. I usually just call him “Harve,” and it encapsulates my entire digestive tract. Think about these rewrites:

“That’ll make my IBS flare up.” –> “Harve wouldn’t like that very much.”

“That’s rather innocuous for the gut.” –> “Ooooh! It’s Harve-friendly!”

“I’ve got terrible gas pains.” –> “Harve’s kicking.”

“I’m super bloated and gassy and shouldn’t leave the house if I don’t want to have an accident.” –> “Harve’s in a godawful mood.”

“I’ve got to poop immediately.” –> “Harve’s ready for action!”

I’ve got a very understanding partner, but still it does make things more comfortable–and certainly more lighthearted–when I personify my digestive system rather than detailing the gross symptoms. I’ve also named my uterus “Maude,” which has been quite useful. “Maude’s at her worst today.” “You know when Maude gets this miserable, Harve wants to join the party.”

Anyway, Larry has been a total jerk this week, and it’s inspired me to share this coping mechanism with you. And I mean it literally, as well as affirmatively like they use it in Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, when I say … Give it a name.

image from Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead


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