Sunday, November 27, 2011

Relapses


We all make mistakes. Truism? Sure, but only because it's true. And bad things happen from time to time. I've been thinking about such things today mostly because my neck is sore. That always does it to me.

A few years back my right arm got sore, a couple fingers started going numb, and I went to the doctor. The thought was that it was a problem in my bicep, but after about a year of trying to treat it, my neighbor, a neurosurgeon, felt the sides of my neck and told me that one of my disks was bulging and likely herniated. Get it cut, he told me.

This story puts aside about seventeen months of ache. I was going to say pain, but the pain was only here and there. Mostly I ached for all that time and felt that something was wrong. So it goes in life. I sought this or that solution, this or that doctor or physical therapist, and all of it was for naught. I look back on it now and can see that the real solution was to have someone operate on my neck.

But things like that are difficult to face. They are for me. I tend to think I'm supposed to tough out the aching. It's not really that bad, right? And what if the surgery goes wrong? This is my neck that was getting cut open and my spine that was being played with. I thought many times about what it would be like to wind up paralyzed from this thing. So I tried to not face my problems, to play along like they weren't problems at all. I went in all the wrong directions. And I ended up making myself really unhappy.

And now my neck is sore again. I have a feeling that one of the other disks that the surgeon said was likely to go has indeed started to go. The decisions this time around are almost as complex even though I've been through it before. Relapses are like that. I think that I'm all set, that I have t all figured out and then I get stuck in the same situation and run up against the same old sets of solutions both true and false.

This time, however, I know enough to breathe. To take a moment and live with the situation instead of trying to respond to it. I'm not looking to beat the opponent, win the game, prove something to myself. Instead, I'm sitting still for this moment letting myself feel what there is to feel. And what is that?

My neck, down near my shoulder is sore especially when I lean forward. There is a slight, warm pain in my bicep and down toward my elbow. Today, there is a touch of something in my left arm that feels different from all of this. The pain in my neck (ha-ha) goes away when I lean my head back against the couch while typing. That's a good thing but not exactly practical since right now I'm typing this without any hint of whether or not I'm spelling actual words. So, I'm going to have to make some sort of change and leaning back all the time is not the sole solution.

I've talked with my wife today about it instead of trying to figure it all out for myself. She is well practiced at breathing with a situation and so hasn't said a great deal. She let me know that she feels badly for me. That's what I need right now from her and she somehow knows that. Next, I'll keep track of things for a week or two and see if things are constant. Lately, when I run, it gets better, so I'm curious if that keeps up. And then, if things are still wrong, I will get myself back to the doctor and let him figure things out in depth.

I guess, the point of this for me is that a relapse isn't a bad thing so long as it comes with some new knowledge and new ways of working through. I don't have to have figured out all the angles on this either. A relapse is a chance to learn again. And a relapse isn't a failure unless I choose to make it into one. This relapse is a chance to see what I can do this time around, to see how far I've come, and to make myself new again. And so, as things go, a relapse might be just the thing for me.

Of course, I wouldn't mind at all if this ache in my neck went away this week and was never heard from again. I think the lessons would still apply. Whatever happens, I'll write on.