Friday, November 22, 2019

The Bag Lady and the rainy day

We spend the winters in Arizona rather than in Washington, where we have our family home. The rain and gloom begins in November there, and usually doesn't end until at least May. I struggled with the winter darkness for the 25 years I lived and worked in the Pacific Northwest. Now that I'm retired I choose the sun.

This week it rained in Arizona. After many weeks of sun it was a nice break; I knew it would last only a few days rather than months.

I'd been struggling with some low back and hip pain for a number of months. Not an injury, maybe related to being overweight or wearing shoes without proper arch support. Usually these things improve with time, but this one hadn't. I finally made an appointment with my doc. She said, "We'll want to get x-rays, and you'll need to get physical therapy. Are you ready for that?"

I said yes. I was weary from not only the chronic physical discomfort, but of thinking about it. I have health anxiety and usually make things much worse in my mind than they actually are.

I got to the x-ray place the next morning. I'd had to turn on my windshield wipers for the first time in several months. I was sitting in the parking lot and realized I'd left the x-ray order on the table at home. The retrieval of the order took half an hour. By the time I was back in the parking lot agin, I had thought way too much about my physical issue, and I did a foolish thing: I ventured alone into the dangerous neighborhood of my mind. And what I concluded, for some reason, was that I've lived a good life, and if I were to die, it would be all right. It wasn't a suicidal thought at all. It was more of an awareness, which is probably a good thing to have when you're 71.

After I got the x-rays I waited to hear from the doc. She didn't call that night so I assumed it was because she was trying to figure out how to tell me I had a tumor in my spine. Really, that's what I thought. See how my mind is a dangerous neighborhood?

I saw the physical therapist the next day. I explained my symptoms. He told me that the muscles in my hip and the muscles in my back were fighting with each other. Something about compensation for a less-than-perfectly-symmetrical alignment - and wearing shoes without good arch support, and being older. He showed me a few exercises and then handed me a paper with pictures of them. I said, "You mean what I'm experiencing is common?" He said, "Oh, yes." I have appointments with him once a week for the next month.

Later that afternoon I got a text message from my doc. She said the x-rays showed arthritis. As, most likely, would be the case for any other 71-year-old person.

So there we are.

But maybe it wasn't the rain that triggered my parking lot thoughts. Here are some other possibilities:

  • After five trips to Greece in the last three years to volunteer at a refugee camp, the nonprofit closed its Greece operation last month for lack of funding. The situation in Greece is as bad or worse than it was. Many of the people we helped have moved on; many are still living in the camp or on the streets of Athens. Many new people arrive every day. I keep repeating the starfish story..."It made a difference to that one", but politics and human nature being what they are, I'm not optimistic that things will improve.
  • I'm volunteering at an asylum-seekers' shelter in Tucson now, but we haven't had guests for more than a week because people fleeing for their lives from other parts of the world are being held at the border. Again, it's about politics. The situation may improve, but I don't know when.
  • I had spent several hours listening to the impeachment proceedings.

On the other hand, there was a fellow named Scott Warren being tried in Tucson for giving humanitarian aid to people who had walked through the desert from the southern border. I heard him speak a few weeks ago, when he acknowledged he was afraid of the possibility of prison. The day after I sat in the parking lot, he was acquitted.

"Humanitarian aid is not a crime."

The sun is out again today, and I had a wonderful massage this morning, and I'm meeting a good friend for lunch, and meeting up with other friends for dinner and a card came. I think I'm okay with being 71.


Linda Reeder said...

Many xrays and several MRIs and surgery later, I'm still OK with being 75, but it does get harder with each passing year. Just keep moving.

DJan said...

And I'm struggling with turning 77. I am eternally grateful for yoga and acupuncture, which I think help with my various aches and pains. My right knee has pretty serious arthritis, probably my left too, but for now all it does is click when I walk. :-)

susie @ persimmon moon cottage said...

I'm thankful that Scott Warren was acquitted. How have we come to this place in our country that a person cannot offer humanitarian aid to people who are in dire straits?

Awhile back,I read somewhere that there are people who go into the desert and search out water jugs that have been put there to aid people crossing the desert. Some water jugs are being contaminated by ignorant jerks or just emptied out and left dry. I never realized how many hate filled cruel people were in our country until now. Have there always been this many, or have we become a more cruel nation in the past few years?

Thank you for your volunteer work.

Barbara said...

I hate to admit it but I have the exact same health anxiety. There are enough limbs and organs to get out-of-wack without my making up more in my head. But what can we do? Just try to get through it and realize that we are imagining the worse and must just wait and see.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

When I’m feeling pretty good I’m optimistic and ready to make all kinds of plans, and then when I don’t feel so good I worry not that it’s the end but that I won’t back the stamina to do the social justice things I want to keep doing. It’s hard to still the voices and just do whatever I can do!

JudyC said...

I'm having a back problem that sounds like yours. I am nearly 80 but was feeling more like 60 until this. Anyway, went to physical therapist this week and he gave me exercises for twice a day. I am doing them religiously and will return for therapy twice a week. Also did aquatic therapy...exercising in a tank of water chest high. I loved it. Hope you will keep us posted on this . If you find a miracle cure I want to hear about it. I enjoy your blog.

#1Nana said...

Glad you're on the mend!

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Pains and aches are expected as we age but they play on our minds so much more intensity then before. You are not alone with your worries.
I am glad to read that your pain was not what you thought you went to the doctor and are getting treatment.

How horrible that the man was arrested for showing human kindness. I am glad he was exonerated from his “crime” but so sad at what this world has come to in these times.