I’ll be taking a few days off. My body has finally given up: I pushed myself a little too far while doing some of the renovation work over the weekend and despite running a full and a half marathon, travelling to both ends of the continent, fighting off numerous proto-infections that threatened to derail everything, and doing dozens of hours of manual labour over the last two weeks while never taking a single minute more off of work, that part where I reached above the stove to adjust some venting was the metaphorical straw that broke… well, actually MY back. I’ve been sidelined and I think it’s my cue to take some down time for a couple weeks. When I can actually walk again without slouching in subtle pain, maybe I’ll do some short, slow runs, but until then…
It’s probably something that I don’t even realize I did. It’s usually that, isn’t it? I mean, I haven’t been in a real, physical fight since grade-school, so…
As I rarely discard a book, it should thus come as no surprise that I have overflowing shelves of novels I’ve once read, enjoyed, savoured and then swore up-and-down-back-and-forth that I was going to re-read someday. Alas, it is someday. I’m spending whole of 2016 revisiting my book collection, digging back into books I read once, but that I haven’t read (or listened to) in at least four years. So, we’re about to find out what was worth reading… twice.
As I finish each of the books I read –and then turn around and write about them– I often find it difficult to mark on the page a worthwhile interpretation of the story I just consumed. In part this is because it is not my intention to write a review, nor to summarize the story, nor to provide my readers with a motivation to read the book. But also in part this is because I feel like when I read a book, complete it and turn that last page marking the conclusion, that the book and the impression that it left on me is both worthwhile and obvious, though rarely is that actually true.
As I read the last pages of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon it felt like this should be true again. It felt, with themes such as war and censorship, identity and heritage, truth and love and imagination, all of it culminating in an epic story spanning twenty years and three continents, from frozen shacks on the end of the world to the top floor of one of the tallest buildings in the world, across emotions and loss, idealism and idealizing, it felt like there was something of weight that should have fallen from the pages of this book.
In a sense, it did, yes. In a sense there was weight and substance that filled the gaps as the rhythm dangled after the last few paragraphs. Kavalier & Clay is a wonderfully complex story filled with rich characters and intriguing narrative. The pluck and pain comes alive through Chabon’s writing and you ache and yearn for what might have been for these tragic geniuses who were oppressed by illogical actions beyond their control.
Worth a Second Read?
Yes, but I still don’t know why.
I felt all these things, felt the weight of the story, identified with the struggle of an expression of self through art and across purpose and by means of a system that cares nothing but as ultimately nothing more than a means to peddle whoopee cushions in the back of a pulp novel. But when I turned the last page the feeling in my gut wasn’t one of regret or ill-formed revenge, such as the characters embodies, but the simple desire to go buy a comic book.
But then, maybe that’s enough.
Caveat: I’m not a Doctor, but this is what I read…. See, I’ve been dealing with some knotty calf muscles over the weekend, benching me from my running, and in the course of massaging and rolling and beating the hell out of my calves in the recommended therapeutic way, it occurred to me how odd this seemed. I even asked Karin: what kind of weird physiology is at work when you are abusing your muscles, tenderizing them with pressure, to start the healing process? So, of course, I looked it up, and what I found actually made a bit of sense. According to what I read, pressure to the muscles is in essence suffocating them…. temporarily. You starve them of proper blood flow by pinching and prodding and crushing them. Muscle knots are kind of in a chaotic & active spasm, a handful of muscle fibers going crazy. So by putting pressure on them, you are in effect choking and starving those in-spasm muscles, causing them to have little muscle feinting spells, and like slapping a panicking character in a poorly-written sitcom, it resets them and they either die or go back to doing what they were supposed to be doing… and the healing can begin.
Apparently, as much as I figured I could sprint up and down twenty-seven flights of stairs –and despite winning the fastest time for the feat– my calves (as much trouble as I’ve been having with them this year) were not on board for the gig. I’ve had two days of debilitating pain following Thursday’s effort, and after stretching, rolling, pills, and creams –well– I’m still limping around the house like a guy twice my age… and that’s starting really say something. Working on some recovery for my run tomorrow, but as of right now I’ll be lucky to make it down the stairs without limping, let alone a ten klick run. *sigh*
Randomly inexplicable aches and pains. In other words, to stop aging.
I don’t even know what I did this time. I woke up Wednesday morning with a dull ache going all the way up and my calf and up the back of my leg. By late in the day it hurt to walk (so I skipped running, obs) and rested instead. Thursday it was a kind of electric jolt pain, and last night I was up most of the night barely able to lay down without feeling that oh-so-familiar back twinge that had sidelined me for a couple weeks last year. The catch: it’s on the other side of my back. It’s not even the same injury, but a mirror of it. I might be limping for a few days. *sigh* And… yeah: I can’t even tell you why it hurts. I just seems to have come out of nowhere.
I don’t usually cross-post this stuff, but I wrote this piece for another blog and it’s getting a bit of attention. So, in lieu of the fact I’ve been neglecting some of my other topics, here is a little parenting post for your enjoyment…
She is in her room, supposedly putting on her pajamas and getting ready for bed, when a blood-curdling scream erupts from her bedroom. “Daaaaaa-deeeeeeee!” She yelps at the top of her lungs before loudly barking out a percussive shouts of of “help me! help me! help me!” from a short distance down the hallway.
Thankfully, she hasn’t yet learned to curse.
Thankfully, she hasn’t yet learned to curse.
Five seconds later I’m standing in her doorway trying not to laugh as I’m watching her writhe around on the carpet, buck-naked save for a pair of underwear around her ankles. Blood is dribbling down the arch of her foot, and spattering on the light-toned carpet. “What the heck did you do?” I ask.
She’s hyperventilating, and barely able to answer. “I… I… hit my… f… foot… on the… b… b… bed!” She stutters, implying by the acrobatic nature of this injury that she was goofing around and that the tiny slice on the sole of her foot had been entirely preventable.
I don’t push that particular issue. Not now, anyhow.
“Well, get your pants on and I’ll get some tissues.” I say, deliberately too casual over the droplets of blood on the floor and the obvious pain.
When I return to her bedroom with a wad of tissues, a bandage and a glass of water, she’s sitting up, underwear where it should be, and trying to twist the bottom of her foot into her field of vision.
“Are you going to live?” I ask.
She glares at me and says in a voice still trying to gain its full composure a weak little “yes.”
“Then let’s get into the bathroom,” I say placidly, almost coming across a little too indifferent, but reaching down to help her upright and walk her to the other room. “I’ll wash it up and put a bandage on it, ok?”
set an example for handling emergencies: keep calm and carry on
One of the toughest things I had to learn about being a dad with a kid who has a world of opportunity open to her, is that sometimes that opportunity has a sharp edge. She’s going to get scrapes and cuts and bruises, and so long as there aren’t too many of the kinds that end up with a trip to the hospital, I’m probably doing my job. I still feel that hurt every time I see it, but I’ve made a conscious effort to keep calm and just play out those situations with a calm demeanor and a little humour.
Not over-reacting to those injuries is tough, but a valuable example to set. A level-headed response to minor wounds or simply not panicking when blood is dripping onto the bedroom carpet undoubtedly leads to practiced parallel responses when lives are actually on the line and when a “freak out” could cost valuable response time. As a parent, we’re important role models for how to handle emergencies, and doing so in a calm, deliberate way can’t help but build a kid’s independent nature in encountering the inevitable sharp edges of life.
This is a cross-post from an experiment I’m running. It’s an experiment partially about writing, a little bit about the web, and a lot about people. It’s more complex than it looks, and it’s precisely as good or bad as I intend it to be. And sometimes this experiment generates interesting stuff that I want to share here, such as answering the question…
Why does access to information make us terrible patients?
…or, why we’re now all digital hypochondriacs.
I’ll admit that the first thing I did when I threw out my back last summer –as soon as I could stand it from the pain– was to prop up my laptop computer at the end of my pillow, position myself into the least uncomfortable position I could find that still allowed me to type, and then Googled “back pain.”
Back pain, I learned, is a serious condition (you don’t say?) except when it’s not, and that you can treat it by doing a variety of strengthening and stretching exercises (which I tried) except when you shouldn’t. There are whole lot of medications, painkillers, anti-inflammatories, and topical therapies you can try (which I purchased) except when you shouldn’t do any of those things.
Did I say serious? I meant complicated. And I meant to mean that I probably shouldn’t have been one of those guys who self-diagnosed and self-treated a potentially (or maybe not so potentially) devastating injury.
We all do it, though. I read doctor blogs and listen to call-in radio shows with doctors who are learning about a whole new field of patient treatment: getting past the internet cloud of mis-information that clutters minds with preconceived notions of I’ve-already-diagnosed-this-myself-itis.
And I kick myself (or was that a sciatic nerve stretch?) that I’m the kind of self-crediting rational-thinker who doesn’t do that kind of thing. But I do, too.
I’m not a doctor, but I work in a field where a similar type of problem occurs –albeit one where no lives are on the line and I doubt I’d ever get sued for getting something wrong: web design. And the biggest beef web designers tend to have is that a client either knows (a) nothing whatsoever, not really even the reason they think they want a website other than someone suggested it and now they’ve hired you or (b) nothing but thinks they know everything, and come into the process with an exacting idea of what they think the end product should be and –dammit– you’re going to build this no matter how impossible or unusable or maintenance-resource-intensive it is going to be when it’s done. I prefer the first type, but I’ve been meeting more and more of the latter.
Doctors and web designers, both of us, deal with clients who have figured out a problem on their own and are looking for justification and validation. (Thanks internet.) The problem is that doctors, web designers, and probably a thousand other fields of service, support, or care are based on a problem-solving approach.
This approach is simply that a client has a problem: and an expert is called in to solve that problem.
The new problem is related: the old approach doesn’t work very well when the client thinks that they already have the solution. It’s not good for the expert and it’s not good for the client… but mostly the client, because they’re not getting the best solution they could be.
In web design, a crappy solution give you a crappy website.
In medicine, a crappy solution could leave you dead… all thanks to the internet, and the rise of terrible patients (like me) who vainly try to self-diagnose.
I’m pushing myself. But then today was a good day. I wish I’d started recording these daily updates sooner. I feel like I just started and –bam– I’m getting better. The dull ache is still lingering, and it was a little creaky getting out of bed and standing up whenever I sit somewhere for more than ten minutes in a row… but I was active all day: did some more yard work, had a backyard cookout, went for a looooong walk with Claire, and –drum roll!– ventured out on a one klick run around the park. Verdict: not perfect, and I’m not going to push it too far too fast, but things are looking bright and shiny tonight.
I’m cautiously optimistic. If I’m still using the number scale, then I’ve spent the better part of the day around a 2… which is good… damn good. It’s especially good since I haven’t taken so much as a milligram of pain meds all day. It could be that I had the day off and wasn’t sitting at a desk all day, either. Moving around a lot seems to help. I mowed the lawn, killed some weeds, and planted some shrubs. A few twinges here and there, but there were spans of time when I wasn’t even thinking about it. So? Cautiously optimistic, though still no running until at least Tuesday. *sigh*
I’m back up to about a 3… whatever that means on the random pain scale I’ve created in my head. In other words, I’m better than yesterday but there is still this annoying knot of ouch in my lower back. Karin was helping me out with some focused massage last night, kneading her hand into a couple of the more tender spots and putting like 80% of her body weight (which isn’t actually that much) as pressure onto a couple points. It was a good hurt, and it loosened some things. But I’m still hobbling around today as I try to get out and about to stretch it and keep it limber.