Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Poor Poor Pitiful Me, or Same Old Song Next Verse

I remember so well as a child sitting with my grandparents, and there was the inevitable grudging grunt or groan, and Grandma might quietly mutter "Danged Arthritis" but she would say it Arthuritis. And then she went quietly about her business.

Well now it is my turn. Now don't get me wrong. Unlike some, I have embraced aging, a sort of badge of honor for must being bull headed enough to survive until today. Age brings with it a social comfort that youth could not understand. These are the "NO BS" years, years where I know the world will not come to an end if I say or do something that may be unpopular. Mistakes can be made and beyond the normal apologies and personal corrections, the world really will not come to a screeching halt.

And now I can enjoy sitting by the garden watching the flowers grow, or long conversations with friends about nothing of any real importance. Having lost a partner to death and having found love again, each moment becomes somehow more special to share with those I love. And having survived many struggles and tragedies over a lifetime, just the knowledge that no matter how bad it gets, that it will pass, empowers in ways I could not have imagined even a few years ago.

But, and isn't there always a but? But a struggle facing me as never before has been dealing with an array of health issues, any of which alone would hardly be noteworthy, but as a cumulative total have produced something of a struggle.

Ok, going back, Prior to September, 2004, I was in great health. Daily I rode my bike, often traveling the Grand Rounds around Minneapolis, perhaps 20, 30 or more miles in a day. When I exercise, I naturally eat less fat and healthier food and the doctors loved my blood work and heart rates and weight. But in that early September, I collapsed at the State Fair, and soon after was diagnosed with likely viral meningitis.

Now that took a couple of months to overcome, and something happened during all of that and the immune systems were compromised, and so there was one infection after another. Homebound and ill much of the time, I ate...and ate... and, well you get the point.

Then came the issues with the knees. I had arthritis for a long time, but it became exponentially worse, a result of an unalligned leg from an accident 35 years earlier. It became so painful that even bike riding became impossible, and a healthy gait was replaced with pained hobbling with help from a cane.

So finally, much fatter and immobilized from a joint where bone scraped against bone, I had a knee replacement. Well at last one would think, things will get better. But alas that was not to be either.

As I began to get off the drugs for pain, we discovered a severe case of Restless Leg Syndrome and extreme insomnia. It has been several months finding a medication regime which allows any sleep at all. Fortunately I am retired, and my hours for sleep even with the medications had to be altered. And being run down, bronchial problems and asthma that I had not had for years returned. Damage to nerves and blood vessels in surgery probably contributed to the condition.

Ok alright already, enough whining! What this all means is finding new ways to face each day. We have focused on diet, eating healthy and organic foods. Exercise means traveling down and upstairs to wash clothes, or 15-20 minutes on the exercise bike. On good days, it is about doing what I can do, and on not so good days, being kind to self and putting one foot in front of the other and learning to do fewer things better.

Some are blest with good health till late in life, others perhaps face challenges earlier. It is what it is, and I still hope for that better health to return. But what I have is today, and my mind is still very much alive, and the garden is still waiting for tinkering, and the pets never tire of my company, and my partner seems to still like spending time with me as well.

A while back, I wrote a reading for our church, devoted to living and transcending our personal dark night of the soul. This excerpt seems somehow appropriate here:

And then that day comes, quietly we scream.
We have seen the vision of coming death’s door
Life lived, with unfulfilled dreams
Dark day is here, we are no more.

And yet a blessing indeed for love and soul
Love living on, in mystery so sublime
And our memory becomes part of the whole
Even as finite body recycles into the Divine.

And if we see Earth as living and being
And if we accept we are all part of whole
In all of creation we are seeing
Nothing lost, and love rooted at heart of soul.

And the shadow of fear is faced fully, and into the darkness we step, not knowing where the journey will lead. And if lucky, the darkness is transcended and on the other side, the light of love and the self which is true. And if well done, at the end of it all, a contentment in that realization itself.


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