The Gift of Persistence

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Feeling helpless is something new to me.  The medical system up north is a pain in the ass, to say the least.  I will not bore you with all the details, but I was in tears at home after an afternoon appointment which had seen me shuffled around, leading to me being confused, angry and frustrated.

At issue is whether or not I need anything done to my knee.  I played hockey goalie until I was 42 and was a catcher when younger and played baseball until that same age.

My first knee surgery when I was 20, for a torn meniscus.  After 6 total surgeries, my knee gives me some trouble, lol.  About a decade ago was an arthroscopy to “buff things up” in there and suck out accumulated debris.  I know there is debate over whether or not this is a beneficial procedure, but I always found relief.  It is inconvenient to have bone chips floating around in the knee, especially if one gets in the joint while it is moving.  Ouch!

The issue is all about pain.  I hate being asked about what level of pain I am at.  I played sports hurt because that is what we did in the old days.  I wake up and function in pain all day long.  I use Tylenol 3 if I need to get something done.  If you have been following my blog, you know I was doing light running/walking for 1.5 km each day.  I can no longer do this.

So something has changed.  I did not suddenly develop arthritis…that has been there for a very long time and I am quite familiar with the pain.  AND I DETEST GOING TO THE DOCTOR!  So if I go to the doctor about pain, it must a significant thing.

Of course, these people do not know me that well.  We have been up here a relatively short time, so I get that.  And, really…I do look like I wandered out of the deep bush when I go into town.  I suppose if I wore a suit to my appointments, I might get a little more respect.   Course it never helped Rodney Dangerfield.

So my doctor got an x-ray of my knee and then proclaimed: “it really does not look like there is anything wrong other than mild arthritis.”  Which brings me to my point.

I worked in hospitals for a couple of decades as a chaplain.  I understand how the system works and I am the last person who wants to waste medical resources.  But I do live in a country with great medical care and do not understand why my opinion about my pain seems to carry little impact.

Then my angel, Sarah, who is away right now, sent me the following link, which says what I wanted to say, but much better.  Why reinvent the wheel, I always say.  It is here:

I know I am not alone.  Asking me to scale my pain makes about as much sense as asking me if I am feeling “crazy”.  “So, dear patient, could you rate your insanity on a scale of 1 to 10?”  That depends.  Are we talking about my crazy, or just general crazy.  I take meds.  Don’t be silly.  I feel great!

Are you inspired yet?  No?  Here…this will make you feel better.

All of us suffer pain.  It is a fact of life.  I can believe in the gods and live a life according to their various dictates, but I will have pain, nonetheless.  And if you are blessed with a long life, you will experience all kinds of pain along the way.  This is a cold, hard, fact.  But I don’t feel any more beautiful, do you?

And then there is the inconvenient suffering of others who are in our immediate setting.  Watching the world news again emphasizes this truth over and over.  It is not that there is no good in the world.  The good often seems flaccid in the presence of such pain and suffering.  Depression, anxiety and a whole slew of great mental issues can become a way of life rather than simply an illness which needs medication.

Simplistic, but true.  There are plenty of things we maybe cannot do because of our own special blend of suffering.  But there is so much we can do to short-circuit our own recovery.

One of those things is to only feel the pain.  As a man who is now in recovery from depression (a decade in a deep swamp of negativity), I can testify to the fruitlessness of bathing in the glorious defeatism of negative thinking.  I am now a man of gratitude and anticipation.  I love my life and now I see the grace and love that is all around me.

Let’s get down to a little practical stuff.  What did I do after my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? 

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I had a good cry.  I was feeling alone, frustrated and beat up.  A good cry can help a lot of things, in my experience.  Don’t tell children they should not express those tears when they are upset about life.  If we all cried together a little more often, we might not feel so alone.

I made a list of things I could do to help the situation.    It may seem fruitless, but I find that when I look at things on paper, they become more concrete and easier to understand.

On that list?  I need to take my pain meds before extended physical activity, instead of waiting until pain becomes intolerable.  I can exercise differently, using stretching to loosen things up before I go to work outside.  I can continue to keep my weight under control with more fruit and veggies and less meat.

Later that evening, I talked on the phone with Sarah. I do hope you have someone like Sarah in your life.  Someone you can trust enough to be both compassionate and honest at the same time.  What a valuable gift these people are in our lives.  Seek them out.  You don’t have to talk about issues.  Simple enough to have coffee with someone and experience the gift of their humanity.  Often I find a simple conversation with someone who is more grounded than me at the moment can also help ground me.

We are social beings.  Being different can make it more difficult to connect with others, but it is not impossible.  Be creative.

And, most difficult of all, I made a choice to help myself by taking concrete action.  I recognized that I get very anxious going to appointments, and even when I write things down, I forget things that were discussed and decided.  I have serious problems with short-term memory and anxiety greatly decreases my ability to be as helpful as I might be.

So Sarah will be going with me to my appointments.  This is a great blow to my pride and makes me feel old and inadequate, but I am simply making things worse by being stubborn.  I need to make some adjustments.  Simple as that.  If something is necessary, it is necessary.  Fighting inevitabilities is a waste of time and energy.

And then I sat back and worked a little gratitude into my life. This is critical to any recovery program.  If I sit around and do nothing but focus on the negatives in my life, of course I will be miserable!  So I took some time and thought about how fortunate I am to have so many blessings in my life.

We live in the country, where it is quiet and I can be close to nature and work in my gardens.  I can still manage that stuff just fine.

And whatever is wrong, as frustrating as it might be at the moment, is likely fixable.

And I’m old enough to know how short life can be.  So I am grateful for my life and the people I love and cherish.

Do you see the process?  I am not a victim any more.  I have taken some control over the situation by addressing what I can do to change things.  I cannot change the medical system, and perhaps this is just how things work now.  Instead of sitting around moaning about what life has handed me, I do something practical.  Something to help me.  Because if I am hurting, I really need to pay attention to my needs.  I am no good to anyone else if I cannot function.

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It is that simple.  Honest.  It may not change your immediate situation.  But it will help.  Use the power you possess and do what you are able to do and you will gradually build confidence.

Sending you a blessing.

John of the Asylum

KID’S CORNER   (Sarah and I have raised a blended family of four boys and four girls.  We have three grandchildren and likely more on the way.  I made my fair share of terrible parenting decisions, and could likely be described as one of those “toxic parents”.  But we never get a “do-over” with our children, so I thought I would take a little time in each blog to say a word to my kids)

Parents can be a little negative sometimes.  I do not think it is an intentional thing.  We love you little bundles of joy, and you are always trying to test the boundaries of your existence, climbing too high, staying up too late, indulging in questionable activities, and so on.  We know this, because we did the same thing.  We are supposed to test limits.  It is what we are made for.

Most of all, we remember all the “stuff” we did in the day and we are horrified at the thought of you doing those same kinds of things.  I would never apologize for caring for and protecting you.

However…sometimes I could have been more positive.  Less negative.  But none of you picked up any of that thinking, so no need to worry, Pops.  We are good here.

You know I try to be careful not to impose my feelings regarding partner choices.  You guys have always surrounded yourself with pretty decent people, so I respect your choices.  Nuff said about that.

But your choices do matter.  If you are in relationship with anyone, there is a reason.  If you care about that person at all, please take the time to be a good human being with them.  Shower them with love of all kinds.  Little surprises that make life so much more fun.  It is not a money thing.  It is a consideration thing.

And please do not tell me they are not that way with you.  If you are with someone who makes you miserable more often than happy, that is also your decision.  Don’t waste your life on people who are harmful to your spirit.  They will weigh you down and together you will live in despair.

Thanks Dad.  Despair.  Nice.

Take a chance with that person and make your caring visible.  Say and do the sweet things that make love blossom and grow.  It will help you be a better person, and that is all that you can do.

Love deeply.  Whisper sweetness in your lover’s ear.  Let them know they bless your life.  Trust me on this one.  Guys and Dolls.  All of you.  Sweet dreams.  Daddy loves you.



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