Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Better Pain

There’s worse pain, and there’s better pain, and I’m currently experiencing better pain, though it sounds worse than it is. Or does it sound better? Less pain, that’s what I mean. I’m not trying to say that I’m a masochist and the quality of the pain is suiting me nicely, thank you very much. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m totally on your side if you’re into pain. I won’t be inflicting the pain because I’m not a sadist either, but yeah, whatever makes you happy.

After a weekend wherein both legs decided it would be fitting to punish me for my lack of attention to their needs (whatever those might be) I’m quite happy to have less pain now. As if the fibromyalgia by itself isn’t bad enough, one knee is also inflamed and has been for weeks. I think the anti-inflammatories are starting to kick in though, just in time for the Thanksgiving Marathon.

This isn’t a real marathon, in case you were wondering where to sign up. It’s the standing in the kitchen type of marathon.

 I wonder how people with real pain, as opposed to my whiny, self-indulgent pain, deal with it. I can well imagine how frustrating and annoying it must be, as well as painful. For weeks I’ve been consigned to keeping off my bad knee, keeping my legs elevated when possible, and cutting down on my trips up and down the stairs. I went to Las Vegas in this condition, knowing it was a bad idea, but committed to a work conference I didn’t want to miss. When I returned home three days later my right knee was twice the size of my left, but the conference was worth it.

Since then, my efforts to keep up the appearance of occasionally taking care of my house have been stymied. I’m fortunate that I have 1) a desk job, and 2) a desk job in my own house, so I can keep the traveling to a minimum. How do people not as lucky as me deal with it? If I had to go to a job every day I’m pretty sure I’d be damn bitchy about it.

Yes. I’m pretty bitchy anyway. It’s always “me, me, me, ow! My legs hurt!” like anyone cares. And really, how bad can it be?

I am extremely lucky in my pain. I may wonder when it will ever end, if it will ever end, because sometimes it seems to go on forever, but that passes, and each day I decide that the next day will be a better pain day, and that I will wake up cured.

Over the weekend, when it was at its worst, I really missed running. I haven’t run in years, and I don’t really wish to return to it now, but the idea of it sounded very appealing, and that’s because, no doubt, I couldn’t do it at all. I used to run, and once, when I was quite a bit younger, I was even fast. I’m no longer fast, and I hobble more than I walk.

We’re often like that, I think. When we can’t do something we weren’t that interested in to begin with, we wish we could do it. It’s the possibility of it that we miss more than anything else.

I don’t, however, wish I could date again. I’m so happy to never have to go through that again. And high school. There’s something I’d never want to repeat. Talk about pain. But running? That wasn’t painful, and while I wasn’t thrilled about it overly much after high school, I could, and did, do it. Wishing I could again isn’t because I miss running, it’s because if I could run, that would mean my legs weren’t all washed up, and if my legs weren’t all washed up, I could do a lot of other things that are hard for me now. Like exercising – I’ve had to stay off the recumbent bike for a few weeks so it sits there in the corner of my office, all sad and forlorn, and I’m thinking that in the next few days I’ll give it a shot again. It misses me so, after all.

To everyone who has pain, I wish you less of it, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional. Whether you have pain or not, I ask that you not inflict any pain on yourself or others. Life has enough pain in it all by itself that we don’t need to make more of it. Everyone gets their share, fair or not, and if there’s anything I could do to alleviate yours, I would. Not to get all sentimental on you or anything, but you often don’t know what pain others are in, so keep that in mind.

Let’s avoid causing pain of any sort, because there’s certainly enough to go around already. Instead, let’s see if we can alleviate pain. It may not make it all better, or any better, but at least we won’t make a bad situation worse.

Anyway, we’ve got Congress for that.

Sorry. I had to slip that one in there. I could just use the generic term government though. All the same to me.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veterans Day. Really.

We love us our veterans, don’t we? As a peacetime veteran, I’m all about Veterans Day. I didn’t spend several years of my life hanging out in a uniform so I could get a day off once a year, which was just as well since it was many years before I had Veterans Day off. And I wasn’t in when there were conflicts and wars, only pretend let’s-get-ready-just-in-case practices. It was no big deal for me, because I am lucky.

But here it is Veterans Day again, as it rolls around each year, and I want to thank everyone who served. So there you go.

Last week I was in Portland, and on my way home. One of the freeway entrances that I frequent often has people on the corner. Cardboard signs abound, pleas for help, and sometimes cardboard artwork. The clientele differs. Sometimes they’re young and healthy looking, and I wish they had other options than to stand on a corner and wait for people to hand them money.

I know, I’ve been told many times that “they” make more than I do, that “they” could work if they wanted to, and that “they” will just spend any handouts frivolously. I don’t hand out money, but that’s mostly because I never carry cash. And I don’t carry cash because I probably would hand it out. And then there would be none left for me. I wouldn’t hand it out to everyone, but there are times when I see someone and I think, “I wish I could give that person something.” But I can’t do everything I want to do.

On this one day there was only one person on that corner, and he was old, and thin, and his sign said he was a veteran, and he was homeless. He couldn’t move very well, but there he stood, with his cardboard sign, inviting anyone to stop.

Was it true? As far as I know. People have said I should be more suspicious of others, but I’m not, and that’s just the way it’s going to be. He looked like a veteran, worn out and used, and then discarded because, well, he’s no longer much use to us, is he? He can’t be sent overseas to fight, and he can’t be put to good use, so there he is, on the street corner.

“He doesn’t have to be homeless,” people say, but I don’t know. I do know that many are homeless, and many have problems that aren’t addressed because there isn’t enough money to take care of them all, and we easily assume that their problems are because of who they are, not because we’ve let them down.

He reminded me of Fred, my once hospice patient who was also a veteran, until he retired. He went to war, he came home with health issues, and as he was dying he was still awaiting word on whether his exposure to Agent Orange qualified him for disability. He was dying from a respiratory disorder, but the VA said it wasn’t their fault – it was his own fault for smoking.

Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. I don’t know.

I’m not nearly as knowledgeable as I would like to be. I don’t have answers, only questions.

On this one day I had a ten dollar bill in my wallet. This happens very infrequently. I pressed the little button on my fancy car that tells the window to roll down, and the man with the sign hobbled over to me. I handed him the ten dollar bill, and then he grasped my hand firmly in his, and told me to enjoy the day, for it was sunny, the sky a clear bright blue. I told him to enjoy the day also, and he smiled, and then the light changed. He hobbled back to his spot, and I drove onto the freeway, lighter for the loss of ten dollars.

Sometimes being lighter is the best thing that can happen to us.

People will say, “He’ll only spend it on booze, you should never give them money,” but I don’t really care. Get this: I don’t even care what he spends it on. That’s his business, not mine. I’m not his mommy, I’m not even a social agency. I gave him a gift of ten bucks, and what he does with it is up to him.

What we do speaks volumes about what we think of our veterans, and no matter what we say, it’s our actions that tell the truth, not platitudes.

My nephew recently came home from war. I want to thank him, and tell him I love him, and I hope he never needs to rely upon the government, for it may let him down. But that doesn’t mean people will. The government is one thing. People are another.

People are what I still have faith in.