My body, at 59, is like an old car: Get one thing fixed, and something else breaks.
Carpal tunnel surgery last month fixed a pinched nerve in my wrist, but an inflamed nerve root in my neck has me spending my afternoons dealing with pain. I teach in the mornings, and my afternoons are supposed to be for writing, not sitting in the recliner with ice on the back of my shoulders and neck, waiting for the Tylenol with codeine to take effect.
After my doctor, whose has a “wait and see” approach, advised me to take ibuprophen for two weeks to reduce the inflammation, I researched the condition online. It’s sciatica of the upper body, in particular, the neck, shoulder, and arm—wherever the nerve pathway goes, there’s pain. And there’s no quick fix. “If nerve inflammation is reduced and irritating movements and positions are avoided,” one site told me, “you should expect slow, steady recovery in 6-8 weeks.”
Six to eight weeks? My max for putting up with being sick or injured is three.
I spent most of Christmas vacation in a recliner with an ice gel pack on my upper back and neck to calm down the screaming nerve. There’s no pain if I’m just sitting. But vacations end, and real life resumes. Pain or no pain, I’ve a job, a house, a husband—in short, responsibilities. I have to find ways to tend to my duties without making my condition worse. I’ve got to work my way through the pain.
Just like life. We’d prefer to stay on the recliner, avoiding the pain that living in this world brings. But we can’t avoid it. And sometimes there are no quick fixes. We have no choice but to work our way through the pain, the setbacks, the slow progress, careful not to make matters worse. Sometimes life changes and we can never go back to where and what we were before.
In his book, 90 Minutes in Heaven, Don Piper describes the traffic accident that changed his life, forcing him to deal with constant, chronic pain.
“Some things happen to us from which we never recover, and they disrupt the normalcy of our lives,” he writes. “That’s how life is. Human nature has a tendency to reconstruct old ways and pick up where we left off. If we’re wise, we won’t continue to go back to the way things were (we can’t anyway). We must instead forget the old standard and accept a ‘new normal.’”
I once read a prayer that addresses normalcy. Although I’ve lost the written words, I still remember the first line: “Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, savor you . . .”
I’ve forgotten the rest. But it’s a good reminder that life changes. Sometimes things go back to normal. Sometimes we have to learn to accept a new normal.
Dear God, thank you for being the one constant in my life. Thank you for Your promise that You will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). Amen.
Special-Tea: Read Psalm 139