Sunday, June 11, 2017

Blessed Pain

June 11, 2017

You know those old people who constantly complain about their aches and pains? "My arthritis is acting up again!" "I tore my rotator cuff, and it's giving me fits." "That slipped disc in my back doesn't let me get a good night's sleep." I never wanted to be one of 'those people.' Listen in on a conversation with old men and women, and invariably that's what you'll hear. I suppose it's because we tend to talk about whatever are our current life experiences. Young children talk about their toys and friends; teenagers and young adults talk about their boyfriends/girlfriends, school or work. Middle age folks talk about their kids, their bosses, their vacations and homes. Old people talk about their aches and pains. It's what we know.

So I'm going to talk about mine. I'm doing this at great personal risk, because Linda has no sympathy. "Have you called the doctor?" she'll ask. When I confess that I hadn't gotten around to it because during the day when I'm busy, I don't think about it, it's 'talk to the hand' time. "I don't want to hear about it." 

I can't blame her. I've done the same thing for years as she has been plagued with headaches on a regular basis. Never having had one myself, I have to confess that my sympathy level is not quite up to par. In my defense, whenever I've suggested a fix to any of her problems, it doesn't turn out well. "I need you to listen, not fix it!" she'll exclaim. Over the years, I've learned the rules, and can play that game. Now, when she is detailing a predicament, I'll ask if she wants me to just listen or to offer some suggestions. I'm a slow learner, but I'm not completely brain dead.

It was probably lugging my bass around campus for jazz band and ensembles that caused it; after all, it started bothering me about the middle of March, when rehearsals were in full swing. A string bass isn't heavy, but it is awkward, and carrying it meant grasping the handles on the case, nestling the neck against mine, and leaning to the left for balance as I walked from the car to the practice room. For the past month, my left hip has been jabbing me three or four times a day, particularly when I sit or lie down. I've been to the chiropractor twice, but even though I haven't picked up the bass in three weeks, that hip still gives me not-so-friendly reminders that it isn't happy with whatever I've done to it. I can live with that, however.

My left hand is another story. Touching thumb to little finger tip sends fire up my arm, and bending it is an exercise in masochism. I won't even try to do a pushup at this point. What bothers me is, as every guitarist knows, the left hand is the fingering hand. Electric bass wouldn't be so bad, but the upright is a very physical instrument, requiring at least a modicum of hand strength to press the strings. If I can't work through this, my playing days may be numbered. That I don't want to even think about.

So, lest anyone think this is just another old man rant, here's what I'm thankful for: Aches and pains are the price we pay for the privilege of living as long as I have. Too many are denied that privilege. I am grateful even for the pain. It's not so severe as to distract me from life itself. It's just a reminder to be thankful that I can get out of bed in the morning, feed myself, work and and pray and love. I may limp a bit, but I am walking. I continually stretch and massage my hand and wrist, and when my bass gets back from the shop, I'll practice gladly. I am here, aches and all, and grateful tonight for it.

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