Posts Tagged ‘arthritis’

Shadow owes its birth to light. (John Gay, poet and dramatist)

My fractured metacarpal is healed. Or at least the break appears as a fading memory on an x-ray. Just below the mended crack, in my middle finger, the damage remains. Arthritis, lots of it. Severe. Yet, amazingly less painful than the word severe would indicate.

The bone’s joints are not aligned. Middle finger knocks its smaller digit comrades into a crossover position. Make-a-fist is no longer a realistic possibility. Adaptation is my next goal.

In fact, the doctor opens his computer and shows me guitar tools…thumb picks. He discovers devices to aid the less-than-perfect hand.

(I try to find the link later—no success. However, I can find guitar stores.)

“I guess I have a challenge then,” I tell the doctor. And he agrees. He also adds that studies have shown pain and attitude are linked. The more positive a patient is after surgery, the more likely the individual will need fewer, if any, opioids.

For me, surgery is not the best option, however. Maybe that is a good thing. Continuous movement is natural for me anyway.

My friend, Mary, recently broke her hip. She spent some time in a rehab facility. She managed her pain with only ibuprofen. At the time, I was amazed. How could she do that? Now I understand. She did it with her upbeat attitude.

Later in the day, I spend time with a friend who sees shadow even when her eyes are open. Nevertheless, she has brought me light. Ann is blind. I am driving her to a doctor’s appointment. We chat. About everything from our lives as they really are, not our show-selves, to who has the best fried chicken. Somehow, she knows what part of town we reach as I turn from one street to another.

I tell her about my granddaughter Rebe, how she and her sister, Kate, made a bridal veil out of a white shawl and a pair of my underwear. Ann tells jokes.

As we leave the office Ann says, “Okay if I drive home?”

“Well,” I answer, “only if you drive wa-a-y too fast. I need some adventure.”

A gentleman is waiting for the receptionist. He smiles. I hope we have made his day, too. Light mingled with shadow, in unpredictable patterns.

No, Ann does not drive my car home. She does drive my spirit in the right direction. And I am grateful.

light and shadow, flowers blooming in light

My crooked fingers remain less than photographable, better left to the imagination.

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A man should always consider how much he has more than he wants and how much more unhappy he might be than he really is. (Joseph Addison)

A new song for my small church community runs through my mind. It fits for the last Sunday in November when I will be leading our service, but I haven’t played guitar in so long my electronic tuner needs a new battery. I gradually stopped practicing after an injection of Kenalog in my middle finger did nothing for bone-on-bone arthritis. My finger picking had become uneven, jerky, irritating even to an audience of one. Me.

But, I have been missing my old friend, music. She speaks directly into my soul through sound, mood, and harmony. The new words and chord transitions that are coming to me won’t stay in my memory unless I let my fingers know how to find the magical connections along the frets. I can still hold a pick—for now. My right hand has been gradually turning into a claw. I can’t flatten it as easily as I can my left. And  those fingers don’t look that straight either. Maybe the hand doctor will bring some hope when I see him on Friday. Maybe.

In the meantime my Big Baby Taylor fits my short frame well. Big Baby is not a person, and therefore is incapable of human resentment. It doesn’t care that I left it in a gig bag for months at a time. Sure it is seriously out of tune. But a turn of a few keys and an enthusiastic greeting will renew our relationship. As I consider lyrics I realize that keep-it-simple is essential, in both message and style. Words like I-love-you may be ordinary, but a two-year-old understands what they mean.

When I accept less-than-perfect I’m ready to go. The finished song appears using four chords in a major key. And in between each beat I consider all the people in my life who struggle: I just learned about someone who has non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver and waits for a transplant. A very young woman discovered she has advanced cancer; Stories about inequities everywhere seem to rise from the ground and fall from the sky. I’m not sure I know anyone unaffected in some way.

Yet, if I never experienced darkness I’m not sure I could appreciate light. Perhaps the struggle to control my hands makes the sound they create sweeter—not in an accomplished sense—in a spiritual way.

The first verse to my song: ONE LIGHT is not written for any particular religion. The first verse is printed below. I aspire to live the Dalai Lama’s definition: “My religion is kindness.” Someday I may be able to share the finished work through YouTube. Right now my performance needs entirely too much practice.

Who knows? Maybe I will succeed. Maybe not. I know someone who plays exquisite guitar without several of his fingertips. Grandma Moses was 85-years-old when she started to paint. Right now I’m assuming that my hands will heal, or that I will find a way to maneuver with what I have.

One light can shine through darkest times.

One light can pierce great fear.

One love can touch a heart of stone,

And teach it how to sing.

Peace and light upon all!

believing something amazing is about to happen

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We are a landscape of all we have seen. (Isamu Naguchi, sculptor and architect, 1904-1988) 

 As I enter the lab for routine blood tests I see the phlebotomist, a physician from Pakistan working her way into the U.S. system, talking to someone getting ready to leave the building. The two women laugh and embrace like old friends. Apparently they have been sharing similar life experiences. Their meeting has been a blessed serendipity.

I think about unexpected moments I have had: encouragement from unlikely sources, the answer to a pesky problem when I hadn’t brought up the subject, a story about overcoming tragedy when I need a dose of courage.

In fact, before a water aerobics class I talk to a fellow Y member who tells me his sister died from a brain tumor when she was three. He admits that the experience was not easy for him, but he does not speak as if that event exists now—only that it happened. His childhood journey had its metaphorical rocks and broken glass.

The chlorinated water soothes me as the class kicks and jumps and makes waves. Actually this hour wouldn’t be much fun without the action. And life would be pretty gosh-darned boring without its difficulties. Although in the everyday-doing I would like to spare my youngest granddaughter open-heart surgery. My right hand, gnarled with arthritis, would uncurl and flex with ease, not work toward tightening into a claw. I’m fighting that; I have an appointment with a hand specialist soon.

In the meantime I plan to write as much as I always do and let the warm pool water embrace my body and spirit whenever possible. I let the relaxing movement remind me of the gifts I have been given: My youngest granddaughter will not teach nuclear physics to a select elite—she will teach anyone who meets her about love and acceptance. My middle granddaughter exudes imagination, humor, and honesty. My oldest granddaughter spreads enthusiasm and determination. Last week my oldest granddaughter and I talked about how difficult it is for celebrities to maintain perspective when they are viewed as center-of-the-universe figures. I am impressed. She sees with depth, not a me-me-me attitude.

Two women on the other side of the pool laugh; they wave at me. I met the beauty of who they are last week. The landscape of all I have seen expands. I pray to use those gifts well.

knowing darkness before knowing light Optimism Revolution

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Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans. (John Lennon)

Canceling our vacation plans seemed so strange I didn’t unpack for at least twenty-four hours. We expected to travel to the west coast. However, a family emergency demanded that we stay here, one of those no-brainer situations. Anyone who can spell the word emergency—and many who can’t—understand how that happens. It’s called reality. Insert any situation here. Little imagination required. Our emergency looks like it will be resolved, possibly even erased. Don’t know. That answer is left to the unknown future.

After the shock lifted, time appeared, hours of it. Sure I expected to make friends with a sequoia. That may happen eventually. Instead I tackled a manuscript that had felt like stirring congealed concrete. I finished a major edit.

Next I faced a physical issue I’ve been avoiding. I love parks and the outdoors. A three-to-five mile walk in a nature preserve equals love. I can think like a poet, examine the lines of trees, and follow the flight of a bird from a branch into the clouds. Within the past few months that experience has meant a big pain in the knees. Arthritis? Probably. That Art-form has visited many, many folk. And he doesn’t leave after a casual hint or two. He fights until bone rubs against bone. I have one finger in that condition. The rest of my body isn’t that far gone. It isn’t ready to plod through mountains, hills, and glens either. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up, however. Mr. Arthritis absorbs the couch potato.

My doctor referred me to a specialist. This ten-day space, the time to think, led me to accept vulnerability. I decided to live in the as-it-is present. Of course visions of the past show up as I recognize my awkward, uneven, old-lady gait. I recall my mother as she grasped the handrail and ascended the stairs one at a time.

She didn’t complain about how much each step hurt. Now, I appreciate the difficulty of those movements. She had knee replacements during earlier days of the surgery. She didn’t waste time complaining about her lot in life. Not much point to it. I pray that I can follow her example.

In the meantime beauty exists everywhere: in a sunburst, laughter, a recent uplifting conversation with my brother, Bill, and sister-in-law, Lisa. It appears in words and songs, in encouragement, and in the gift of simply being.

Jay and I will probably make plans for another vacation—some other time. Chances are we’ll actually make it through security and all the way to our destination. I create chaos without at least a little structure. But, for now, my husband and I have been repeating John Lennon’s words frequently. Yep, life is happening all around us, and I feel blessed to be in the midst of it.

enjoying scenery on a detour

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