I need some outsider perspective, if anyone has any to offer. I'm kind of spun up and freaked out right now re:work. Background: I have an old injury that's flaring up right now. It's a compression fracture in my L1 vertebra, and over the years it's gone arthritic. It's something I've dealt with for a long time, and I know what I am and am not capable of with this injury. Structurally things are quite sound; my L1 is shaped like Idaho, but I'm not at risk of further damage unless I fall and land the exact same way I had been when I was thrown from a wildly bucking horse lo these many moons ago. I have radio frequency lesioning done around the fracture site to kill off the nerve endings to make the pain manageable. Eleven months out of the year I'm good to go and usually bouncing around like a maniac. In the winter, the snow/ice and cold can make the arthritis flare up a bit, but it's usually manageable. As such, after much careful consideration and review with my doctor, I decided I was well enough to pursue my dream career: mortician. For 3.5 years, during school and my apprenticeship, I worked in a funeral home and had no problem handling the physicality of the job. Yes, my back would hurt sometimes, but given a day or two of downtime, I'd be back to normal. No biggie: EVERYONE has back pain in this profession. Hell, everyone has back pain, period. It's a pretty common thing, no matter what your job. Sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day can leave you just as sore as hefting a 300 pound body. Trust. I've done both.

Last summer I started my dream job at a super nice funeral home, and in my first interview with the owner I disclosed my back injury, warned him about what it entailed, told him how I handled it, and I was hired anyway. I've been there for over 6 months and haven't had a problem until now. For the last 4 weeks, we've been SLAMMED at work. I haven't been getting any rest, but I've been chugging along with little to no problem (aside from general fatigue and achiness that isn't any different that what everyone else feels after enduring this kind of schedule/job). Earlier this week, a series of factors and events converged that ended up with me lying on the garage floor on Wednesday afternoon having back spasms, and I've been hunched over and gimpy ever since. I still haven't had any time off or any chance to rest; my boss did offer me some sick days to recover, but this weekend was my weekend on call and we had multiple services/new calls, so I offered to come in and work anyway and would take the recuperation time when we hit a little bit of a lull. I'm limping badly, but I can still work. I can't do removals, but I can do just about everything else (and when we're super busy, we call third party removal services anyway, so that's not even a big issue).

Today, my boss blindsided me by telling me I need to reconsider my career and start looking at options outside the funeral business because of my back. He said I do amazing work and no one works harder than I do and I'm great at my job, but that I couldn't be a mortician with a back like mine if I was going to get all limpy like this. He told me he wasn't going to fire me, but if I wanted to leave and pursue other options, he'd pay me unemployment until I could find a different job. Guys, I've only been limping since Wednesday, and I haven't had any time to recoup because we've been so busy. I understand that the folks I work with now have never seen me limp til now, and they're all freaking out and telling me I need to go to the hospital and whatnot. No matter how many times I tell them this is nothing I haven't dealt with before, I'LL BE FINE ONCE I GET SOME REST, etc., they all act like I need to be in traction. And now my boss suddenly tells me that I need to give up the dream career I've worked so damn hard for and go back to the call center from whence I came. All because of a limp that I warned him about last summer, with no chance to recuperate before threatening to pull the plug on me. His reasoning: "If I told you I couldn't be here tomorrow and we had a funeral, you couldn't run it in the condition you're in now." Oh really? What if you couldn't be here tomorrow and on my way into work I get t-boned by someone running a red light? Or I get food poisoning? Or I slip on ice at a cemetery and break my leg? Or have a fucking stroke because YOU JUST BASICALLY TOLD ME I'M AWESOME AT MY JOB BUT I CAN'T HAVE IT ANY MORE. Now that we have a few days with no services and my colleague is on call this week, how about letting me take that proposed day or two of sick time and letting me rest up and treat the inflammation before telling me I need to start sending out resumes? Just an idea. But I couldn't really get into that with him because of course he decided to hit me with this less than 20 minutes before a family was supposed to arrive for a service. "Just think about it," he said. As if I never considered the physicality of this job before I went back to school and did this same damn work for 3 years before starting with his business.


I'm freaking out because this is my dream job (how many times can I use that term in this post before I get all Cheryl Strayed-ish with her constantly being SHATTERED by how PROFOUND everything is?), I'm at a good funeral home in this region and really want to stay there, but how can I react to a boss who hits me with this when just last week he said he's so happy with my work that he intends on giving me a 10% raise at my 1 year anniversary? He said he's not going to fire me, but it sounded like he was trying to bribe me to leave (what with the unemployment pay crap). I feel like I can't be secure in my position there, even though I know I'm more than capable of the job because I've been doing it for the last 3.5 years with no problem until now, and once the pain/fatigue subside I'll be back to normal and will be able to keep kicking ass and being awesome without any limping.

I'm just really kicking myself for not taking the sick days when they were originally offered so that I could rest up and heal myself of the damned limp before he got all "YOU CAN'T BE A FUNERAL DIRECTOR IF YOU LIMP" on me. I thought I was doing the right thing by doing my job while we were busy so that the other funeral director wouldn't have to give up her weekend off to cover for me. Like I said, I'm still capable of doing the work, I'm just gimpy and moving slowly. I know my body and I know its limitations, and I know I don't need to go to the fucking hospital over this.

He's acting like this limp is permanent. How do I assure him that it's not? And how, once I'm back to normal in a few days (which I will be, because I've been through this before), do I stay on knowing that he's ready to shove me out the door so readily? It's not like mortuary jobs are a dime a dozen— I was extremely fortunate to get this one in the first place because the market is beyond over-saturated. I live alone, a single-income homeowner, so it's not like I have a significant other's salary to supplement unemployment pay while I try to get another job. I don't even want another job- I want the job I have now. I'm good at it, my boss says I'm great at it, but what the everloving fuck? Or am I just overreacting to his offer to pay me unemployment if I leave?