Lately, my head feels like a swimming pool of thoughts, many of which I cannot keep straight, others I can’t hold onto, and then those that I wish I could just get rid of. It’s not easy to live with me when I am this way, I know because I have to live with myself.
I have spent the last five months waiting and I cannot stand to wait when there is something that needs doing. In my case, it is surgery. Tomorrow, the waiting ends and it just can’t come fast enough.
Other than a few very important people in my life and my dogs, I love to workout. I have written about it before, there is something about pushing myself physically that makes me feel alive, centered, and focused. It requires me to have a schedule which provides me with much needed structure.It helps me determine what time I go to bed and when to wake up. It helps me set my daily schedule of tasks. It also forces me to utilize my time better. Without it, I am lost.
Lately, I have been lost. In early October, I was hit with two herniated discs, which brought an immediate halt to my workouts. For a time, they made it difficult to walk, sleep, stand, sit, and generally just be because of the pain that radiated down my leg.
I am a pretty tough person when it comes to blocking out pain and forcing myself to work through it. I have overcome my share of major injuries and have surprised people with my willingness to go to great lengths to workout when injured or sick. When this hit, it knocked me on my ass in many ways. It forced me to hand my life over to people and things out of my control and that was not easy to do.
After three months of patiently following the directions of others, it looked as if I had turned the corner. I was working out regularly again and there was great hope I would soon be back on my road bike in short order. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be and so it was back to the doctor, more tests and procedures, none of which accomplished what I wanted, and so now, I am a day away from going under the knife.
If all goes well, with the right recovery, I should be back to riding my bike for hours at a time, doing strength work in my home gym, and able to go on long walks and hikes without feeling like a knife is stabbing me in my buttocks. I will be able to resume looking for another part time job to fill my days, get some projects that are on hold finished around the house, and most of all, having something other than pain be the driving force behind my days.
I know plenty of people who happily traverse life without any set schedule. Somehow, they thrive with a more unpredictable life, chaos, and change. I am not one of those people. I am what those type other people call boring. But here is what I find truly boring: no schedule, few responsibilities, and nothing within your power to change it and this is what it has felt like for me since October.
There were days I was in a deep pain medicine aided sleep by 7:00 p.m. only to awaken before two in the morning in pain and unable to fall back to sleep. Unable to sit up and watch TV because it hurts too much to do so, I would quietly walk around the kitchen area hoping to knock out the pain without drugs before standing at my computer and reading stuff. I say stuff, because it is hard to digest any information when you hurt so I mastered the art of scanning headlines, which in turn made me think about what might have been written.
After a couple of hours, and often with the help of Vicodin, I might feel comfortable enough to sit and read something, pound out an article or two for my editor, and drink some powerful coffee, but never go back to sleep.
However, much of that time I would just fall deep into thought, sometimes about the fate of our nation under Trump, other times about the utterly nonsensical (I have what I believe to be an epic stand up bit about teens, parents, peanut butter, and sex all in one).
Don’t ask me what I am thinking about, it’s likely to be deeply disturbing in some form or nothing more than an old song. Case in point, I made sure to be the first in line this morning for a blood draw and spent the better part of 20 minutes singing the song “Magic” by the 70s band Pilot. Now I can’t shut it off from my head.
In some cases my editor has seen fit to print my ramblings, opinions, observations, and rants. Other times, they just bounce around inside my head like a pinball machine while I do all I can to keep the ball I am playing in play.
Through all of this, it occurred to me that there are many people, those who do not love exercise like I do, who would not be bothered by the pain I have dealt with. Yes, they would wake up screaming in pain at 3 a.m. and be taken to the ER like I have been, but once their pain was knocked out with drugs, they’d go on their way. Many would never consider surgery and would opt for whatever narcotic their doctors would prescribe to live on. ome would even claim the only reason they never workout, or do anything else for that matter, is because of their injury, failing to come clean with their past loathing and avoidance of exercise and life in general.
That just isn’t me. I may look and sound like an old man when I try to get up out of a chair and walk to the bathroom, but in my heart, I am still anxiously waiting for the day I am given the green light to resume full activity. I have a new bike frame waiting to be built up into a road bike. I have hopes of some day returning to running if I am medically cleared to. There is an endless array of workouts to dream up and do in my home gym. I have plans for a new backyard cover to build over the fire pit I designed last year. There are jobs to apply for, events to participate in, and a new community for me to explore. Most of all, there is a very special person in my life who has patiently supported me throughout all of this and who deserves more from me than I have been able to give lately.
There are no guarantees with any surgery. I suppose I should just be happy to wake from it with all my faculties. I do know, whether or not it does for me as I hope, I will be able to rest my brain knowing I did all I could to get back to the life I love. If I have to make some changes or compromises to it, so be it, but at least I will finally sleep well at night knowing the waiting is over and it is now time to start putting a new plan in place, once I am certain it will include working out in some form.
Photos by Tim Forkes
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.