I’ll be 59 in a few months. It’s sobering to feel like I’m in the twilight of my life with maybe 10 more years to go if I’m as unlucky as I’ve been the first 59.
Sure, I’ve had a lot of experiences, more than some, less than others.
I’ve worked as a commercial fisher, a tire mechanic, a Marine, a logger, truck driver, mechanic, weldor, student, hydrologic technician, massage therapist, handyman, husband twice, etc.
I’ve had an adventure sailing my 30 foot sailboat from the Pacific Northwest to Acapulco with stops along the way. I met my current wife in LaPaz on the Sea of Cortez, had the thrill of catching Dorado and Sailfish and Tuna in the crystal blue waters of the tropical Pacific.
I sailed from Cabo to Maui, 21 days of me and the sea, where my wife to be and I spent 5 weeks together before she returned to British Columbia. Then 23 days of shit and cold battering by the North Pacific back to North America. (I almost let go of the rigging one dark and stormy night as it all just seemed too much to continue.)
When I made it back, as lean as a high schooler (at least as lean as high schoolers used to be) and as exhausted as ————“a big old red and white Hereford bull standin’ under a mesquite tree out in Agua Dulce, just a sweatin’ and a pantin’, cause his work is never done.” Thank you Lyle Lovett.
What’s remarkable, really, is that due to an unhappy mother, crazy really, for years of my young life, and several physical injuries from birth to 14 years I have been one of the unlucky ones who experienced much of life through the fog of pain…back pain…and psychic pain.
The twins of suffering.
Don’t get me wrong, my ‘poor me’ is enmeshed with all the other poor me’s, so I don’t feel alone (most of the time) but it doesn’t really ease the suffering to know that millions of others also suffer. It really doesn’t help me to compare my own condition to another’s.
Pain is a stealer of vitality, the thing we really need to get the most out of life. It’s a depressant like the powerful pain killers which help dull the pain but also blunt everything from awareness and appetite to motivation and mobility.
I found out how much was enough one lovely winter in Mexico a few years ago when 54 milligrams of hydro-morphone collided with too many delicious margaritas and literally stopped my guts.
It’s a weird feeling when your guts stop.
You can tell you just fucked up!… it felt pretty good ’til that happened.
It’s like your heart. When it works normally you’re barely aware of it. When your heart skips and flutters and momentarily comes to a stop, it gets your attention. My arrythmias are definitely related to my back pain and the autonomic nerves being impinged by herniated discs and osteophytic bone spurs, which are out of reach of the surgeons scalpel, being too difficult and dangerous to access with current technology.
After I medicated my guts to a stand-still, I spent an entire week in withdrawal agony, hours spent sitting in the shower, just a bit hotter than I could stand, days of sweating so intense my long suffering wife had to change the bed 3 or 4 times a day and it was always soaked. The agony of withdrawals portrayed in the movies is pretty real but nothing like first hand experience can show you the mundane horrors of it.
On bad days I would gladly trade my pain for a wheel chair.
On really bad days, a morgue.
On good days I can still get things done, however the Lyme Complex I acquired from a tick bite years ago, rides on top of and merges with my pain with a deep, aching fatigue that is difficult to describe let alone experience. It re-emerged after a bad flu in 2011 about 15 years after my first encounter with it.
The first go-round took me 6 years to recover most of my stamina. This Spring will be the 5th (this time) and I’m nowhere near the recovery that I was. (the first time)
Yes, sometimes I can still get things done but the price is high! If I push myself for a few hours sometimes I can almost feel like I’ve accomplished something ‘normal’ and then, I’m in bed for two days, with a slow tapering ‘improvement’ over a few days…back to the ‘new normal’. If I’m lucky I get to feel 40-50% of old normal and even ‘old normal’ was probably only 80% of ‘potential normal’ sans injuries and dis-ease, which I’ve not known and can only guess at, in this lifetime.
The thing is, we’re only as good as today. The memories of yesterday are fine but they aren’t enough to sustain me in the wee dark hours of poor sleep. Tomorrow is a question mark for the fittest and healthiest among us but those who are fit and healthy can take tomorrow for granted.
Those with chronic pain and diseases which science doesn’t understand or doesn’t know how to treat can only endure… or opt out.
We can sometimes generate hope for tomorrow but tomorrow doesn’t contain the same in-built hope that the healthy know.
Surely The Best Things Are Yet To Come will mean shedding this ‘mortal coil’, or as my father said just hours before he died;
“I think I need to get a new body.”