A few weeks ago I had been asked to wear a cervical collar. It made me feel important. Whenever I used to see people walking around, looking straight ahead with this salmon-pink thing around their necks, there was an air of hauteur about them. At one point in time, it became a small ambition.
So when I went to purchase mine at the chemists, the guy asked, “Small, medium, large?”
“Medium,” I said with much anticipation.
He brought it out of the pack and let me try it. My doctor is next-door, so I asked her if it was the right one. I tried it on by propping up the foamy bit behind and strapping the Velcro in front.
“Not this way,” she said. “Look here...” and she showed me the curve where I had to rest my chin. I had attempted to wear it the other way. I could not even get this right.
“Just see this picture,” she said, pointing to the woman on the cover.
I did as I was told and felt like I would choke.
“The idea is that your neck should stay in one position.”
I don’t like such ideas that save my neck only to suffocate me. I wish all parts of one could live together. I wish life was not about the straight and narrow.
Anyhow, as it turned out, I did not wear it. Then I left to ‘hibernate’ and, although I was doing even more sitting for long hours in one position, the pain disappeared.
Is this a lesson about change? That just a little shift – in location, in thinking – and some things can get transformed? Was it the mere existence of the collar before my eyes that worked, as in silently telling me it will be there when I need it but I should reach out only when absolutely necessary? Was that choking sensation also a hint that one ought not to be too dependent on anything for nothing cures us as well as we ourselves do?
Every morning I would touch the collar, as though to assure it of my presence and feel reassured too. Yesterday, I brought out a bag and put it away. Am I preserving it for the future? Am I anticipating a neck problem? Why don’t I give it away?
It is there to tell me that there are some things I do not really require. For the few moments when there is a deep pain, I think I may need it. I am fooling myself. The cervical collar industry survives on a lot of us. We assume we want it. If my neck hurts, I shall let it. As long as I walk straight why should I let something stifle me, that too by appearing so deceptively soft?
If I must be deceived then perhaps I can do so by betraying myself into believing that pain is an illusion.
I touch the back of my neck. A few strands of hair have escaped from the clip. The sensation is of feathers on skin.