27 May 2012

Back Issues, New Opportunities

Ugh, I've been neglecting you, blog, and I'm sorry.  And I've been neglecting you for the same reason this time that I neglected you before.  It's not you, it's me.  It's because I've been hurt again, so I've been doing my usual thing when I run up against adversity: I get kind of insulated and isolated and basically hide out for a while.  What can I say?  I'm a classic conflict avoidance personality type.  So I'm trying to face this head on and writing about it would help, I think, but first I had to say, I'm sorry. 

Here's the deal: if you can't tell from what I've written to you before, I love to run.  In fact, I feel like it's one of the few things I'm naturally gifted at.  Short list of things I enjoy doing and am pretty good at (not to toot my own horn or anything): talk to people, take pictures of trains, run.  I've turned the first one into a career where I express ideas through spoken words for a living, mostly because I'm called to it, but also partly because the second thing on that list wouldn't pay the bills.  The third one I've only discovered more recently and it has become a true joy in my life. I love running because, as a tall, lanky kid who wasn't very coordinated (and still isn't really), let's just say that athletics and I did not get along all the time when I was younger.  Then all of a sudden, I found out that there was an athlete inside of me...once I took off my shoes and started to run. 

Of course, there's no greater pain that having one of your sources of joy taken away from you.  It's sort of like when your favorite baseball player decides to sign with the Angels after saying again and again that he wanted to retire as a Cardinal.  So that's how I felt when I received a phone call from my doctor a few weeks ago following an MRI on my lower back and he told me that I have a herniated disc.  I knew it was a possibility since I had been having sciatic pain in my left leg for a few weeks, but the confirmation of it hit me hard.  All of a sudden, I was facing decisions about injections, therapy, and surgery.  Running, which I hadn't done for weeks anyway, was seeming like an impossibility for even more weeks, maybe months, maybe ever. 

To top it all off, I had to inform a couple of my best friends that I wouldn't be able to go on our much-anticipated train watching trip to Montana at the end of May, effectively killing the whole thing for all of us.  They've been extremely kind about it, though, and I think I'm taking it much harder than they are.  It's just one of those things where life seems to be going along a certain way, you have plans made, you're not worried about certain things, and suddenly it all changes.  Things you used to be able to do without thinking (like getting out of bed, walking, etc) are suddenly painful and difficult.  I have to say that the first few days of this ordeal were some of the worst of my life.  I couldn't do much without pain medication and with it, I was in a perpetual haze and unable to focus.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I've had one corticosteroid shot into my back and it has helped relieve the pain.  I'm continuing to do stretching and strengthening exercises and hoping and praying that my body can heal without the need for surgery.  I'm still not running, but once my doctor assured me that this injury was not running related, but more likely linked to sitting in one position or poor posture, I'm starting to contemplate going out and just trying a mile or two.  Above all, my friends and family (and parish) have been great through the whole thing. 

Of course, my optimism and brightsidedness (I think I invented a word there) can't be totally squashed by this.  I've learned a lot about myself and other people, especially those who suffer from chronic pain.  What I'm going through certainly can't compare to what others face, but even a small taste of daily, constant pain is enough to make me realize how difficult it must be, both physically and psychologically.  Also, I'm taking advantage of the opportunity to start fulfilling a long-time dream and goal of mine: I'm building a model railroad.  I built a few small layouts when I was in high school, but never had the time or space in college and seminary to start over.  My best friend from college bought me an N scale locomotive for Christmas and the bug has bit hard to give it a place to run.  I've collected another engine and a few cars over the last few months.  Now, with the week that I had planned to spend in Montana and the money I was going to use to get there, my friends and I are going to work on building a small layout along one wall of my garage.  For those of you more interested in that sort of thing, I'm going to be chronicling my progress over on a new blog called The Rev Goes Railroading.  You'll find pictures and details of how it all comes along.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll even be able to throw a few reflections on life in there as well.