|This is a herniated disc. It really, really hurts.|
I've had almost three quiet years since then. Regular exercises and careful attention to how I move and lift things seemed to have the problem under control until this winter. About a month ago Beloved had a flat tire on her minivan. Being the big, strong handyman of our family, I changed the tire, took it to our local shop, had them patch it, then put it back on the van. In the course of doing this I must have moved wrong or lifted something poorly, because two days later I was laid out on my couch with an icepack and regular doses of ibuprofen. Now, a month later, my nerves are still tingling - my left calf, hamstring and hip muscles cramp regularly, particularly if I have to drive my beloved Volkswagen, which has the double-whammy of apparently putting me in the worst possible position for my back AND being a manual, guaranteeing I have to use my left leg regularly and aggravating the nerves that much more. The great irony of all this is that running is the thing that seems to take the pressure off this particular nerve - on days when I can get in a good long run, my pain will go away for several hours because the muscles have fired as they're supposed to fire rather than because the nerves in my back are going crazy.
In the grand scheme of things, of course, this is not a big deal. Part of the reason I have this problem is I'm still about 30 pounds overweight - carrying around the extra weight is a strain on my back. It's neither life-threatening nor debilitating: I have every reason to believe that if it doesn't get better I can go back, get another shot, pay attention to my exercises and resume a normal, active life without much difficulty. But it hurts and it's affecting my life all the same. I'm not sleeping as well as I should. I've slowed down at work and around the house because I have to be careful of my body. Yesterday was a prime example. I had to drive to a clergy meeting about 50 miles away. Between that meeting and dealing with the miserable impact it had on my body, I didn't have a good day yesterday. I fell asleep watching TV because I was just exhausted from holding my body in just the right position all day. And, of course, on day 2 of Lent I'd already failed in my efforts to post daily as a discipline.
It happens. This is life. And I agree with my colleague Paul: it's not in the least bit redemptive or a thing of God's design. God. Does. Not. Infict. Suffering. The only lesson I have to learn from this is that I can't forget to take care of myself. I need to eat right. I need to do my exercises. I need to lift with my legs and be careful. And even if I do all these things, I may still suffer, because life is uncertain.
I'm tired today. Haven't accomplished a lot. Probably should have taken a nap. But I'm going to let it go and just let this day be what it was. Tomorrow will have suffering and joy of its own. God will be with me in all of it. We will limp toward the future together. If we're feeling up to it, maybe we'll run.