Friday, February 26, 2010

Pain and Peaceful Co-Existence

I just received a very nice card from a group of people I know. One of the entries from John (thanks John), told me to "Keep up the good fight". That fit me perfectly. Pretty much my whole life when dealing with any type of chronic pain, my response was to fight it. Some people embrace pain, others manage it, accept it, still others ignore it - I always fought it. I don't think I came to this naturally; just swimming with my genes. In her 80's, my mother's diagnoses filled the first 400 pages of the Tabers Medical Dictionary. Her physician told me he couldn't understand how she stayed alive, but I did. She always lived her life under God's tutelage, but willed herself to live those last five years. So my response to pain was to build a defensive position, set out a perimeter with plenty of tripwires and then when the pain arrived, throw every resource I had at it. It was not my friend and unlike Brother Lawrence, I could not see God in it. I didn't want to learn from it, invite it for supper, put its picture on the refrigerator or send it a card on the appropriate holidays. The pain didn't care and worse, wouldn't even give me a senior discount (10% less pain on Tuesdays). CS Lewis said that pain is God's megaphone to the world. All I ever wanted to do was give the megaphone a knuckles sandwich.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I've never particularly regarded myself as a couch potato christian, but I guess in some ways I am. Whenever something big happens in life, I try to see what God is trying to teach. After the last operation, one item was that God is everywhere and involved in everything. Like most, I carry my thoughts in categories, only recognizing God in the categories I thought appropriate. "Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est"( where there is charity and love, God is there). He had me recognize He was strongly present and strongly felt in my deepest fears and dark corners as well as in the everyday. His embrace has no constraint. He also had me revisit some of my failings. I learned several years ago, hobbling around on crutches in public, it was always the young person with 6 body piercings and as many tattoos that would go out of their way to hold a door or help in some way. Always someone I would have crossed the street to avoid if locomotion allowed. If you are going to rebel against current society, you have to pay some attention to it and try to make things better. Given the facility, I would be too involved in my interior musings to offer such help if the positions were reversed because I wouldn't be that aware. Funny how you learn things and who God uses as teachers.

So after this operation in November, I've been a christian couch potato laying in wait and prayer. What am I supposed to learn? Maybe just this. During the recovery, without realizing it, I didn't fight the pain. I recognized it for what it was. Maybe it's my age, maybe it was the centering prayer I do, maybe it was the drugs; but I didn't expend energy on the pain battle. I'm still learning and learning is uncomfortable and lacks clarity until learned so I can't be definitive. So I'm stuck in the in-between.

Is this important? I think so. Lately, when I've wanted to know the great philosophical questions in life; I've googled. Not the important stuff like how many stitches on a baseball (108), how many square feet on a football field (58,000), or when your toaster oven breaks down why you can't toast a piece of bread in the microwave just catches fire..or so I've been told; not those. But why is pain useful? Google I did and obtained no answers so I've got to go to plan B; I've got to think.

Maybe it's as simple as this. Once the pain is accepted, some degree of honesty takes form, more authenticity and movement closer to God. When I'm fighting, I'm not progressing, learning, or being humble. Just fighting. It doesn't change at age 28 or age 62. It's the same. Acceptance can lead to movement, to the truth of possibility, realizing who we are and our place in the world.

I see this authenticity and acceptance in other people. Wife Donna is one and Kristen Symank (2nd entry blog - Get Shorty) is another. They are special people because of it. Meeting them is memorable. How they obtained it I have no idea, but maybe it was through what Wikipedia called "an aversive feeling."

Something called pain.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Winter Olympics BC.

Thinking of creating a new summer Olympics event. Calling it the "scoot".

I don't know about you, but I sit in front of the boob tube entranced over the winter Olympics. That fact is really strange since I'm watching sports I've never done or plan to do. Yes, as a youngster I learned to ice skate and of course sled down a hill or two after a snowstorm - always distinguishing myself by hitting something on the way, like another sled or a tree.

But I am just in awe of downhillers, lugers, skeletoners (skeletoners appear to be lugers who think it's boring to fly down icy tracks on their backs at extremely high speeds so they travel on their stomachs), hockey players, snowboarders, cross country, ski jumpers, and biatholoners...but not ice skaters...which I'll get into.

Things Good About the Winter Olympics..Eh!

The scenery is stunning! It is my first Olympics in HD. British Columbia is the perfect venue. Bad weather never looked so good. the games are located in a part of the earth we would all try and avoid in February. No one wants to sign up for the Athabasca tour this time of year. The Canadian Rockies and panoramas of Vancouver are simply breathtaking. TV should show more of the area.

Except for ice hockey and the dancing, its an individual sport which is the purest form of competition and for the most part very simple. You succeed by GOING FASTER
All events are timed. If you are the fastest, you win.

-It's also non-gendered. Because most participants wear spandex and helmets with sun screens (which you would think highlight sex differences, but don't), it's not always obvious if it is a "female" or "male" competition. I don't know why, but I like that. It could just be me.

Most of the events are an extension of life - at least life if you live in a cold country with snow. Downhill skiing, hockey, cross country, etc are derivative of daily life. Someone figures out you can move faster over snow if you put boards on your feet. Makes sense. Two guys with boards on their feet spy a mountain, look at each other and say, "Let's race" (downhill). Two other people spy a mountain with lumps on it and say, "Let's race"(mogul). Ditto luge, skeleton (sledding), snowboarding (short board surfing on snow), even ski jumping. As kids, I never remember seeing anyone in their hockey skates on a frozen pond saying, "Let's dance". I'm not saying figure skating is easy or not enjoyable to watch. Just saying I'm not sure it's a sport.

It's spirited and life-affirming that we have the ability to use daily activities in life and make them fun. Think about it - cross country is just walking, but with skis. I know if I grew up in fairly flat, remote snow country and mom told me to go out and get milk; I'd get plenty of exercise and be a great winter athlete. As I usually did in my youth, I would come back with the wrong item, ("I told you 1%, not 2% milk"!) and have to go back to return it and get the right item hereby doubling my training time. Who knew I'd be participating in an Olympic event. I coulda been a contenda!

I know the same probably applies to the summer Olympics. Throw a ball into a crowd of people and they will know what to do with it (soccer), but how did basketball really develop? OK, it's derivative of life, but with a great deal of thinking and planning. Biking, running, swimming, all natural, but waddling (creepy) and sailing (see ice dancing: why is this a sport?, it's one step above going to the beach: even I can sail, except for that one time, no make that two times). Judo?, don't get me started. Marathons are impressive, but different than watching Bode Miller going up to 80 mph down a steep hill. Marathoners want to stop forward locomotion during a race, they stop moving their legs. Alpine skiers want to stop forward locomotion, they have to hit a fence or a tree.

I love they way the cross country skiers pass the finish line and just collapse in their lanes a few feet later, leaving it all on the field. A basketball player will finish an Olympic game, scan the audience for scouts, sign a contract for about 10 million dollars; for what is essentially, well, winter work.

I do love the summer Olympics, but the winter Olympics have an edge. There are just too many "did they really do that?" moments. I've watched a lot of the short track ice racing and I still cannot figure out how they pass each other. Amazing!

Needed Improvements in the Olympics

I'll try and be brief. I don't know about you, but memo to Bob Costas and NBC; show more events! Please! Enough of the personal interest stories. Some are good, but if a participant had their #2 pencil stolen from them in middle school, we do not need valuable air time taken up by face-to-face, family, and coach interviews back grounded with stringed adagio. And then have a recap.
It's great Wayne Gretzky lit the Olympic whatchamacallit display, but it doesn't warrant an interview the length of a hockey game. We've all lit a candle.

NBC: Cover the event and the entire event without breakaways. If NBC covered a baseball game like they do the Olympics, it would take 22 hours. After each at bat, there would be a personal story on the player, then of course family interviews and recap. by the 9th inning, the poor catcher would need two knee replacements - and the TV coverage would ensure he would have enough time for a lengthy regimen of physical therapy.

I love Bob Costas, but he has to start showing age. He's the Sean Connery of sports announcers. If you could pull his broadcasts from 20 years ago and compare it to one yesterday, I doubt if you could pick the most current.

Bob, at our age we develop little lines in our faces called wrinkles and guys over 45, never, ever see their belt buckles once dressed. If you will not change (and frankly, I don't blame you), take the bag of Doritos away from Al Michaels and give him the microphone. Al looks more like us.

I could be wrong, but shouldn't you be representing a country that has snow if you are in the Winter Olympics? Last week I was watching a female (no, you really couldn't tell until the graphics appeared) cross country race. The entrant was representing Brazil. Now I've never been to Brazil, but I don't think they have snow at the lower elevations - elevations conducive to flatness for cross country. Could be wrong. Just guessing.

Let's face it. The Canadians are nicer than us. It's a wonderful country and unlike us, has always been a good neighbor. From this country, no one has ever apologized for invading Canada three times - and they still like us! I hope Canada wins all the medals going forward. Except Sweden and Norway can have a few. The only negative thing I know about Canada is that it uses the metric system - but only a little bit. You want political bi-partisanship? Next election we need to vote for a Canadian!

While I'm at it - why have country designations at all? Stop the country medal count. Individuals win competitions, not countries. If most of the athletes want to represent something appropriate to their lives, given their continuing injuries, they should represent health care facilities. "Medal count today has Mayo clinic in the lead. UNC Medical Center thrashing Duke University Hospital Systems - Mass General pulling up the rear". Makes sense to me.

Finally, as an aside. If proof is needed again that God's favorite sports team is the Boston Red Sox, I will provide. Hannah Carney of Vermont won USA's first gold in the women's mogul. Huge Sox fan, wore a t-shirt at the opening ceremonies with Jacoby Ellsbury's picture on it..Red Sox center fielder.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Picture is Worth...

Just thought I would give you an update. I go to see the surgeon next week and hopefully he will let me put more weight on the leg. Still using the sticks with a small amount of weight on my left leg, but my mobility is still inhibited. I've gone from about 8-12 pain pills a day to 2, so I am not resembling a zombie so much anymore. I have cabin fever in spades, but do manage to get chauffeured every once in a while.

It is said that when two people view a mountain they see different things. That is probably as it should be, but when I see the x-ray (sorry - hope it doesn't gross you out)I hope you see some of the things I see. I think of all the medical skill and time that went into me - by many, many people; the staff at Duke Orthopedics, the staff at the Durham VA, the staff at Duke University Hospital, and not least, my wife and son. All the notes and cards I received I was again reminded that John Donne and Paul Simon had it wrong, no man is an island. I think of all the people around the world who need the appliance more than I and will probably never receive an artificial anything (especially Haiti). And last, but most importantly, I think of all the prayers in my behalf by some people I know, and most amazingly, by people I do not know: all wrapped in Ernestine's prayer blanket. We are all God's paper clips, connected in ways that are beyond thinking, but connected none the less.

I am grateful.

PS: Don't you think the "erector set" plate - the titaneum strip with the holes remind you of a flying buttress from the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris?
Wonder if one day I'll start speaking French.