A week ago, something happened in my shoulder. I still haven't been able to pinpoint the exact time or act that caused the calamity, but the end result was a majorly crapped out shoulder, neck and arm. Complete with buzzing in certain fingers, jolts of sharp pain in my thumb and a seized-up neck, shoulder and upper back. Yippie, back to that. I upped the meds, slowed down a little and continued preparing for my table at the artists’ area at the International Day for People with Disabilities last Friday. Had ultrasound on Thursday, things were better and then, Thursday evening it all went Very Bad Indeed.
It took me a couple of hours, but I finally faced the fact that being there on Friday would come with a significant risk of aggravating the injury to the point where I'd spend the next 2-3 months back in a place I didn't want to be. And so I canceled. Not unaware of the irony that I had to bow out of that celebration of an international day for people with disabilities because my disability acted up.
Very quickly after making the decision, I also became aware that I wasn't upset. In fact, I was at peace and suffused by the feeling of having made the right decision. As I normally have to be dragged kicking and screaming into admitting that my disability may mess with my plans, this was a feeling that was totally alien to me. And that's when the lightbulb went off.
Things have changed this year. I have learned to be more careful, I have come to understand that I can reduce my pain by reducing my activity - don't laugh, it was hard won - and in the last six weeks of receiving regular ultrasound treatments, I have experienced remarkably manageable levels of pain for the first time in about a year and a half. And I am convinced that had that not happened, I would've gone. Had I not had a break from the intense pain, I would have gone to Variety Village on Friday and suffered the consequences. Because what's the difference between intense pain and slightly more intense pain, right?
And by the way? When you've had that break and the Big Pain comes back, it packs a much harder punch.
But there I was, having tried manageable pain and minimizing the risk of going back to hell again became of paramount importance. Not going meant I had a reasonable chance of healing this in a couple of weeks, could have that two-week vacation planned to start next week instead of it turning into a sick leave, could go back to work, to Christmas, to writing The Book and to all the rest of what ability brings with it that had become so precious in my life and I deemed it more important.
It was stunning. For what may be the first time in my life, I – me, my health, my life -was more important. And it did so partly because I now believe there’ll be another chance and that it’s possible – probable? – that I’ll be around and able to do it instead of feeling I have to do it rightnowthisveryinstant because who knows if I’ll be able to participate should the chance come around again. And so, on a quiet Thursday evening, proper perspective arrived in my life with no fanfare, no red carpet, just sort of snuck in.
Earlier this year, it occurred to me that perhaps I didn't have to live exclusively in the present, that there was a reasonable basis to believe that I could have a five-year plan. And now, after eight months of living with this knowledge, acting upon it, some sort of major paradigm shift has happened within me. Because not only do I believe that there's a future to be had, I am now also actively protecting it.
And this is the moment where those of you who've been reading this blog for several years may be sitting in front of your computers with your jaw on the floor. It's okay. I still haven't picked mine up.
You shift the prism, turn it slightly so the light catches another facet and suddenly, in a burst of rainbow colours a different image emerges, a different reality. And after a life of pushing myself relentlessly because I never knew what tomorrow would bring, I seem to have learned that there's a difference between working hard and working foolishly. Seem to have absorbed this new reality of a pretty decent chance that tomorrow has a reasonable potential to be fine. And that instead of some nameless, disembodied and capricious force being in control of how that tomorrow will be, I seem to have realized that I have a significant role to play in that outcome. Seem to be in a position where I have some - not total, because none of us do, but some - control of my future.
It boggles the mind.