Saturday, April 12, 2008

Being strong for coworkers

I have always been reluctant to have men carry things for me, whether items in a grocery or retail store or books at school. This has continued into the workplace; if I feel I can safely lift something, I will do it myself. The job description for my position requires the employee to handle up to 70 pounds alone, so obviously they are making a concession for me. But I believe my willingness to regularly handle 25 to 30 pound parts has helped me be viewed as a more productive employee.

I have, for the first time since college, been exercising regularly for over six months now. One of the motivators for finally staying on the exercise bandwagon has been the disappearance of backaches: better muscle tone makes it easier to maintain good posture, and also better equips me to safely handle parts at work. (I have noticed some psychosomatic back pain, but making an effort to think happy thoughts banishes that fairly quickly.)

Nevertheless, I managed to injure my back this week. I didn't handle anything heavier than usual, but I did handle those 25 pound parts more frequently than usual. By Friday I was reduced to asking my coworkers to carry things for me (usually, I can just ignore the few jobs I can't handle).

I think emasculated would be a good word to describe how I felt. Everyone was very understanding and helpful, probably because they don't view me as masculine. Not that I think of myself as masculine. But it's difficult to not value strength in an environment where, first, one's ability to do the job one is paid to do is directly related to ability to handle parts, and second, feminine characteristics do not directly relate to paid job duties. So how is a feminist supposed to feel?


Jennifer F. said...

I have noticed some psychosomatic back pain, but making an effort to think happy thoughts banishes that fairly quickly.

It's interesting that you mention that: a few years ago I was starting to have some back pain that was really becoming an issue. I was just about to go to a doctor to get some kind of medical treatment when I read Sarno's Healing Back Pain book and, sure enough, when I accepted that the pain was caused by subconscious forces in my own mind (not that the pain wasn't real, but that the cause wasn't something medical), it went away.

Another interesting thing is that I read Alfred Lansing's Endurance right after that, and it seems clear that Shackleton had that same type of thing going on. (Which is a total tangent that I just had to mention.)

Anyway, so sorry to hear about your injury. I wish I had some good advice there.

lyrl said...

My whole family is disposed to our emotions manifesting as physical discomfort (primarily back pain, and intestinal problems that go way beyond "butterflies in the stomach"), so it's not a new concept for me. Even so, it's definitely easier to recognize in someone else than in one's self.

I'm only vaguely familiar with Sarno, but I think he's providing a much needed service getting the word out about causes of back pain that have not been traditionally clinically recognized.

Thanks for your well wishes on my back. It's been feeling better every day; I believe it will be all the way back to working order in another couple of days.