Friday, November 30, 2012

When Bad News Is Good


I scheduled my neck surgery for the 17th after a couple bad months of pain radiating down my arms, across my neck, throughout my back, and I was happy to have made the decision to move forward. Then, as if just because I had made the commitment, my neck felt better for the last few weeks. Even this afternoon after I played basketball with my students -- a thing that usually reduces me to stiffness and soreness -- I was feeling good. Should I, I wondered, cancel the appointment?

Then, happily, I went out with friends tonight and while sitting at a bar, turned to my left and looked upward at a basketball game for an hour. Now, I can barely move my neck and there is no comfortable position in which to sit other than with my head leaned back and my eyes closed. This makes it challenging to check for typos, so bear with me.

The news from my neck is bad but in its own way that's good. I was wavering on what to do about my condition, wondering if I had over reacted to it. Then I was worried that I was just scared to have it done and was finding excuses. After that I was just confused. Tonight, despite having had a couple beers, my confusion is lifted. I need to have my neck repaired and the sooner the better.

I'm already noticing how this condition has seeped into other areas of my life. I'm having trouble sleeping the night through. I wake at four in the morning and then toss and turn until time to get to work. I'm a good sleeper. Hell, I'm a great sleeper, able to go through major disasters without stirring, but now I'm likely to wake myself by turning my head.

Beyond that, I'm not running. It's not that my neck hurts when I run. Quite the contrary. Running seems to make it better. So the reasoning here is more complicated. Being hurt in this way provides me with all sorts of chances to fall into depression or at least bluesy moments. These are especially acute in the morning when I should get up and run. Instead, I lie in bed waiting. For what, I do not know.

The neck is also being my first choice of conversation material and, I imagine, my friends' last choice. It's just that it is what's on my mind. I'm finding it difficult to concentrate on loftier pursuits when the connection between my head and body is worn out and sore.

So it's a good thing to have found that I really, really do need to have surgery. Even if I wake tomorrow feeling great (which I very well might), I will know from tonight's experience that I still need to have the thing fixed.

This is the upside to bad news and not a bad thing for me to keep in mind. Pain is a good way for my body to get messages to my brain.

I received another message tonight from a couple of my friends. It was that I need to finish the book of poetry that I started putting together last year. It is a project I have resisted because it feels difficult, challenging, and frightening on most every level. Much like the surgery, I was hoping that there would be a way around doing it.

I know this is crazy.

Like the surgery, the thing keeps popping up and it was clear to me tonight that it is a project to which I have to return. The bad news is that I haven't done it, but there's good news in there too: I get the chance to do it now.

And finally, in other bad news, tonight is the last night that our youngest girl will be eight. Obviously, the good news is that tomorrow she will be nine and thrilled to be ripping paper off of presents, playing with new toys, and blowing out candles on a cake. Still, there is a part of me that mourns the passing of time even as I know that it is senseless to do so. Night is a time when it is easy to dwell on the bad news. Darkness has a way of making that happen. But here's the thing: the sun is already rising on the world and in fact it always is. I'll wake tomorrow and the day will begin. My daughter will be nine years old, I will have a book of poetry to put together, and my neck will be one day closer to being repaired. And I, just to keep up with the sun as we spin around on the Earth's axis, will simply write on.