So there I was, with a newly-destroyed back, pretty much unable to do anything that required putting any pressure on my lower back (which turns out to be almost everything) or reliably use my hands (trapped nerves). I was out on my first walk after the accident, tentatively taking Geisha steps, when it hit me: I was completely vulnerable. There was absolutely nothing I could do to defend myself.
I thought I’d always been aware of my vulnerability. I’m a very small person, and most people over the age of 12 could hurt me. However, I’d also always been aware of my willingness to make sure that the experience would cost them. They would most probably win, but it would cost them. It’s amazing how many situations you can get out of when your opponents take stock of that mindset. It ain’t the size of the dog in the fight, or the size of the fight in the dog: it’s the fact that the dog is rabid. People looking to engage in a duel seem to pull back when they realise they’re facing someone with no brakes. People looking for an easy target either give up before they start, or get surprised and amusingly offended when things don’t turn out as expected. All in all, the strategy has served me well. I always knew that it was useful, but I hadn’t realised how important it was to my identity and peace of mind.
Pain took it all away. I couldn’t fight. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t even walk away briskly. Absolutely anyone could have hurt me, and I couldn’t have done a damn thing to stop them. (This may or may not have been different if I lived in a country that allowed weapons for self-defence. If I couldn’t reliably hold a spoon, I don’t think I could reliably shoot a gun or use a knife.)
I was completely vulnerable. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the feeling, and I liked even less the possibility that it showed in how I moved, how I carried myself. Looking vulnerable increases your chances of being targeted. If anyone with ill intentions noticed it, I was completely screwed. I’ve been scared in the past, and with good reasons; but I’ve never been this scared.
So I did what I always do in times of trouble: I risk-assessed. It’s the best thing I’ve found for putting a stop to circular thoughts and converting concerns into practical changes. What I realised was that, without consciously thinking about it, over the years I had made a number of lifestyle choices that increased my safety. Working towards safety hadn’t been my stated goal, but it’s such an ingrained habit that I got there nonetheless. Although I could do very little to deal with any trouble coming my way, I’d managed to engineer myself a life where the possibility of trouble is greatly reduced. After a lifetime of fuckwittery, that’s quite an achievement.