Pain isn’t fun, but it makes me feel alive.
Most days I feel more like 27 than 47, but when bicep tendonitis and an impingement cramped my workout style, I got a taste of the over-the-hill version of mobility — and it tasted bitter.
At first I ignored the aching sensation, telling myself that it was just a cramp. I had lifted weights for years and had never sustained a sports injury. I was in denial that the pain could be an indication of a more severe problem.
Eventually, activities I once enjoyed became painful reminders of my handicap. My arm sounded like the Rice Krispy brothers were having a snap-crackle-pop sort of party on it with the simplest of tasks — reaching to get a mug from the cupboard, swiping a dishcloth across the counter, curling my hair.
So, I stretched my shoulder, hoping to alleviate the pain. I rubbed Arnica gel on it — had deep tissue massage. I laid off the bench-pressing and the pullups, but after weeks of self-employed therapy, the cereal band’s ensemble on my shoulder had progressed to what sounded like an entire Boy Scout Troop snapping twigs. Finally, I indulged in a cortisone shot that also contained a pain reliever and oh, the bliss of being numb!
When I was released by the doctor to resume a light workout weeks later, my entire arm was sore, stiff and worst of all, weak. I could only bench three fourths of the weight I had been. My ego definitely took more of a battering than my shoulder did.
Instead of unrolling my mat in the front row at yoga, I headed to the back so I could modify my postures and grimace without the others in class noticing. I extended my arms as high as I could reach. I delved toward the mat in push-up formation. I braced myself in downward dog. I forced myself through the tightness while obeying an agreement I had with my body — if a pose brought tears, I’d stop. The last thing I wanted was to reinjure my shoulder and end up getting another shot to numb the pain.
The more I moved and lubricated the joint, the better my shoulder felt. I attributed this to the steroid because before the shot I’d been making the same motions, but the pain had gotten worse instead of better. I was thankful for the shot’s healing component, but normally I avoid being numb.
Feeling the physical sensations in my body is an aspect of my humanness that I like to foster, but embracing life often means embracing the pain that accompanies it. Sometimes the pain is in my shoulder, but more often than not, it’s in the form of hurt feelings, disappointments or misunderstandings between me and someone else.
There are many substances that can numb the mind so that relationship struggles are, at least for a speck of time, forgotten. But just like my shoulder, wounds that are ignored and denied get more painful and stiff until, eventually, rigamortis sets in.
Keeping this in mind, I do feel that sometimes a short numbing period is needed to reflect and to heal. The numbness in my shoulder gave me a bit of a relief before diving into a restorative workout routine, regenerating my stiff joints and revitalizing my attitude, but I won’t make a habit of getting injections. Living life numb is like watching a black and white version of the sunset, and why would I want to do that when I can feel the fabric of every color of the rainbow — when I can sip on the sweet nectar from a natural endorphin rush.
So, I will continue to gobble up all the joy I can as I work through physical aches and relationship pains. I’ll hum through the rainforests, mud splashing my legs, sweat dripping over my eyelids — lubricating the joy in my soul and the joints near my bones.
Michele Zirkle Marcum is a native of Meigs County and an author. Her column appears each Tuesday.