The physical kind, that is. I’ve had chronic pain issues since my late 20’s. I had to stand for many of my classes in law school because sitting for an hour at a time hurt my herniated lumbar disc so badly. From that time forwards, every X-ray or scan I got, except for my brain scans LOL, showed osteoarthritis. The pain wasn’t too bad from that until I turned 50. Then Celebrex was my savior; then my insurance company stopped covering it and by the time they deigned to cover it again, I had developed a serious allergy to it. I’m now deathly allergic to all NSAIDs, the non-steroidal anti-inflammatories that can provide relief for osteoarthritis.
In my 50’s I developed fibromyalgia and also had a number of broken bones from falling. My latest big fall, in January 2016, aggravated a condition called stenosis in my spine, meaning that the openings in the spiny processes are narrowed. In my case, the neck and lower back nerves that issue from the spine are pinched because of the stenoses. What all this means is PAIN, the physical sort. My best days, now that I’m in my 60’s, rank at a number 7 on a 1 (no pain) to 10 (emergency room needed) graded pain scale. My bad days are 8’s and 9’s. I have many bad days.
The first couple of years that I survived at this pain level were terrible. I was bed-bound, either by doctor’s orders or just out of despondency and a hope that bedrest would improve my conditions. But it didn’t. Instead all that lying in bed did was to make me very depressed. In the past year, although my pain is worse than ever, I’ve gone from merely surviving and existing to living a pretty full life again despite the pain. For me, it was a matter of choosing to be active and upbeat. Although I do have some physical disabilities, especially from the osteoarthritis, I have chosen to do everything that I want to, as I’m able.
It’s pretty amazing all the things that I can do, notwithstanding the pain. It’s a rare day that finds me surrendering to being in bed, and on those days I find that my focus on the pain makes it all the more hard to bear. Earlier I had chosen to let the pain rule me; now I choose to rule the pain. I can’t take anything but Tylenol for pain relief, and that hardly helps at all. But being with people, socializing or volunteering in good causes, are darn good pain relievers in themselves.
One of the ways that osteoarthritis and its pain has limited me is in playing my musical instruments. Some I have given up entirely because I do not have the required dexterity anymore. But last summer I got an inexpensive (read: cheap) nylon-strung guitar that I can strum for a few songs a day, if not the hours of intricate finger-picking that I used to do.
Lowering my expectations of myself as a musician has been difficult but worth it. I’ve even played out a couple of times this summer, at church and at a cookout. Not terrifically great stuff, but I enjoyed doing it and I think, or at least hope, that others enjoyed it a bit too.
The title of this blog, “Let Us Live Like We Mean It,” is there to remind me that it is our CHOICES that largely determine our joy in daily life. I try now to choose wisely and joyfully!