/photos/uncategorized/2007/09/14/20070171crockett8630.jpg"> Long before you reach the last sign firmly nailed to a barrier that blocks the road, "DANGER: Road Ends, Bridge out!" you will have already passed the first sign five miles back from the last that reads, "Roadwork. Seek Alternate Route." Between these two, the first and last signs, many others adorn the road, each becoming increasingly insistent that drivers look for a different way to cross the river over which the bridge once stood.
The same is true of health, in my case my back. While driving along this stretch of road one may safely ignore the first few signs, only the sanity challenged ignore the last few. Sadly, I'm among that group. I ignored all of the warnings, even the last, courageously thinking that with enough speed and guts, my car would sail through the air making good the jump to the road on the other sign of the chasm. Besides, if I fell short, I'm a good enough swimmer...
My bad back is not congenital. I worked years, decades to degrade my healthy backbones from the rock-hard bones that they'd been to a cheese-hard Irish toothed appearance they have now. I had so hurt my back that it's as if my spine decided one day that," If that's the way you want it, then that's the way you'll get it." My spine and its allies, the disks launched a sneak attack, turning traitor, attacking the very nerves they were there to protect.
I have only myself to blame.
- Your back feels stiff after a long drive. Of course it does; whose doesn't? More than twenty years ago, before bulging disks regularly pressed themselves against my nerves, a long drive caused spasms within my entire back. I'd lay on a heating pad, often falling asleep, every movement in my nap snapping my eyes open. I used to hope that on waking, the muscles would have found relaxation. Knowing now the ultimate cost of ignoring pain, I wish I'd stopped every hour on those long drives and stretched; walked around a bit instead of driving through the pain, because after all, it was just a stiff back from sitting too long behind the wheel.
- You can lift heavy things. You were an athlete and heavy objects in the yard or the garage were a challenge just like a blocking sled or like free weights at the gym. Weren't you taught that forcing your body to lift ever increasing objects was the path to greater strength? I was. However, at that time I was in razor-sharp condition and years of working-out proved this to be true. Later though, when I was years beyond that condition, I wish I'd thought more about the advisability of bending over, picking-up boulders, and carrying them to a stone wall I was building. Age snuck-up on me; I was still strong but it was as much an illusion as the long drive. I could still lift the rocks, but I wasn't getting stronger, I was instead hitting the couch with my ice pack.
- Heavy things became heavier. This was a dead give-away; air conditioners that I used to be able to effortlessly hang became a day long project. Once in a while, towards my first blow-out disk, I'd even drop them sometimes (luckily, never out the window). This is when I learned that the sheet metal corner of an air conditioner was on of this world's most dangerous objects, much like metal bed frames and fiberglass insulation.
- Chopping a cord of wood became a week long project. I loved chopping wood. I loved the smell and the sweat; I had a perfect 4 inch thick disk that I found in the woods, which I rolled to my car. It was at least 2 feet across. It was green and I couldn't lift it. Using a plank I rolled it into my back seat. This simple machine, "the inclined plane" was however a two man job. I got it done, but again at great cost. HOT, HOT showers aimed at my lower back and industrial sized mineral ice (don't) used with a heating pad gave me quite a burn.
- The wood got chopped on an as needed basis. Did I tell you how much I love to chop wood in the cold at night. I'd then lay close to the fire, on my side with my back pointed at the flames. Leave Daddy alone, now.
- Why can't I feel my big toe. Oh, there it is...why does it feel like someone is sawing between my big toe and the next one over (the piggy that stayed home) with fishing line. At least it doesn't hurt...okay, it hurts a little...enough with the jokes, that hurts, now...Okay, you had your fun, now stop...I'm getting mad, quit it...THAT'S IT, ENOUGH!!...I'LL SHOW YOU, I'LL HURT ME...(I kick the wall. IT STOPS)...NOT AGAIN!!!!...(I think I broke my toe).
- That Beer Belly may well be the express train to a life of chronic pain; it pulls your spine in a direction it is not intended to bend.
- If you ignore it, it will go away. On this point, you might be correct, but I wish I'd asked for help sooner, lost the weight, learned to stretch, and then done it every day. I didn't. I had too big an ego to ask for help and I'd lost the discipline to keep my body in trim. It's too bad because those character qualities, which I no longer had I did have in abundance. Those very qualities carried me a long way in my life. I let them slip away and now pay a very hefty price.
- When you don't know, ask. When I worked, I was responsible for many people and preached to them that it was no sin to be ignorant; it is a grave sin not to find the answers you need. Had I done that one thing, my life might have been very different today than it is.
- It's only pain. True, but if I had the power to give you a small headache, one that never ended until your death, would that be worse than severe pain that passed in a day? The answer to me is obvious. Almost any pain is tolerable if you know that it will end. Interminable pain is a very different matter, regardless of its' magnitude. This attitude, it's only pain, is a key to a future life that is worth living even if you suffer from chronic pain due to some medical syndrome or disease. Imagine yourself as a dot within a circle where the circle is pain; you are a sub-set of the set, pain. In this case, it's all around you and you abide within a larger set, pain. Now consider a different example where you are the large circle but pain is only a sub-set of the larger set, you. You can see that in the first example all of "you" is contained by the "prison of pain", the big circle. Yet in the second example, there are many possible other sub-sets that may fit with the big circle, you. Thus the second example allows for components of "you" to abide without pain; pain is only one of the descriptors of you. To make this clear imagine a few pain free components of you: sleep (the type without pain). We all experience this. Try another, Faith...
I could go on and on, but I believe I've made my point. At last, I have no illusions of how many people will read this. Not many. I hope for one. One who may learn just a bit, enough to perhaps avoid this condition that many of us endure. I'd love to know; it's enough though to try. As I write this, my pain is eased. God bless, Colin