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Saturday, May 27, 2000

Pain is a great motivator. I didn't need much incentive to rest my aching back today, but when it hurt every time I tried to do anything, I was thoroughly convinced that total inactivity was the way to go. With some ice, plus some very special chemicals, I was able to relax and enjoy a lazy Saturday. I listened to the ballgame, worked the puzzler in the new Atlantic, and watched an old movie (Butterfield 8 on TCM). I managed to sit at the computer long enough to check email. (And thanks to all who wrote with good wishes and suggestions).

This is a routine that I can keep up for a day or two, maybe. But the problem is that as soon as I start feeling better, I'm right back into the old habits, at least until the symptoms return. I can't lie around and do nothing when there are things I feel have to be done. As today went on, the rest periods got shorter and the walkabouts more frequent. As long as the pain was endurable, I wanted to make something out of the day. At the first twinge, though, I was back on my lounge chair.

That's my new standard for pain, by the way - the wrenching anguish that wracked my body last night. I want to be as careful as I need to so that I never have to go through that again. On the other hand, anything of a lesser magnitude becomes laughable. No more whining about insect bites and paper cuts for me, now that I've been to hell and come back. (At least, I think I'm back.)

It was tough being away from the computer all day, but that was the one place I most needed to avoid. Once I get started, I can stay there long enough, even on a good day, to get a stiff neck. I'm sure that trying to get some work done last night contributed to the back problems. It took a combination of willpower, fear, and recent memory to keep me from sitting down at the keyboard and not being able to tear myself away. This entry was written in a spiral notebook in the family room while icing my back.

Somehow, no matter what I did or didn't do today, I always felt as if I were teetering on the edge of a disastrous relapse. But then, at my age I guess I should count myself lucky that I haven't toppled off that edge already. I try to take care of my body, hoping to make it last. I watch my diet — although less carefully in recent days, alas. I exercise — although less diligently in the month since I moved. I'm getting a warning that the price for a healthy body is eternal vigilance, and that price, like the cost of insurance, goes up as I get older. Today I'm paying for a stupid lapse in judgment that in my younger days I would have got away with.

And now I can no longer get away with the slightest misstep. Not only could I get in and out of a chair wrong, I could sit in a chair in a way that aggravates the problem. Instead of reaching around behind me to turn on a lamp, I have to get up and walk around behind the chair and reach carefully for the switch.

salad mixTonight I fixed myself a salad. Okay, I opened a bag of salad mix. After all, I'm a single guy with no particular culinary skill and no desire to load up my pantry with vegetables that will probably spoil before I get a chance to use them. So when I took the bag out of the refrigerator, I bent my knees and lifted with my legs, just to be on the safe side. When I got out the bottle of dressing, I was chilled by the realization that I'd have to shake it before pouring. I actually stopped and thought about it for a few seconds before shrugging my shoulders (ow!) and giving the bottle a few tentative shakes (ow! ow! ow!).

Somehow I survived the ordeal, giving me some hope that I've turned the corner. I don't know if I'll have to be as careful tomorrow, but that will be my inclination. I'll be treading gingerly for as long as it takes to get back some confidence in my body's ability to withstand a few twists and turns. And then for a little longer.

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