Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ruminating Over Lost Time . . .

Or How I Came to Realize We’re All Born With an Expiration Date.

In the past two months I have only been to my studio to pay the rent and to water my ficus, which I have to say is looking extremely happy since I repotted it a while back. I am so looking forward to reclaiming this space as a working studio and not the glorified, extraordinarily expensive storage unit it became on May 5.

It’s been over two months since I woke up with a pain so excruciating I could barely get down the stairs, into the car and driven to the nearest ER. It took almost a week to get the proper diagnosis of a ruptured disc in the T1-T2 area of my neck (the ER doctor suggested I must be at the beginning of an onset of shingles and sent me home with a three page write up on the subject and a prescription for a strong anti viral medication). And then it took another few weeks to get the right pain medications to keep me, for the most part, 24 hours pain free.

At the time my doctor told me it might take 4-6 weeks to recuperate on my own, I couldn’t take it in. I was in the midst of finishing up a commission piece. I had the possibility of starting another. We had a wedding to go to in Chicago end of June. Flights and hotel reservations had been made. It was only the beginning of May. Surely I would be fine by June.

But after my first trip to the Spine Clinic where I saw the pictures of my completely herniated disc pushing the normally rounded nerve root to a flat line, there was the specter of surgery hanging over me. It seemed this might be the only way I could keep from having a permanent disability - the rupture causing my arm to go numb to the wrist and my right hand to lose quite a bit of strength. But after seeing two different surgeons who both suggested I let time do the healing, I began a self-imposed shut down of my life as I had been living it, all the while not knowing if time and inertia would really do the trick.

Physically, doing nothing was easy since by mid May I was so doped up on morphine, medical marijuana (that’s another whole story) and sleep medications, the days went foggily by. It was my mental impatience which made it difficult to accept the "doing nothing" as nothing more than a waste of time. 

All around me, however, others were "doing" for me. My very kind and thoughtful friends arrived to deliver delicious dinners, drive me to and from, and bring me flowers, DVDs, books on tape, even a box of new drawing pencils and gum erasers in case I got the urge. Visitors came by and I held court in our light-filled sitting room, me supine on the sofa with feet propped up slightly, eyes probably glazed over and they, sitting opposite, being all up beat and encouraging. At the time, I couldn’t keep a thought in my head and I could barely keep a conversation going. Looking back, I see all I really had the energy to do was to heal.

Now it’s mid July. I am totally off the morphine and mj and working my way off the sleep meds. I am pain free with only the occasional shoulder ache (which is how this whole episode started, me thinking I had just pulled a muscle). There is no residual numbness in my arm but I still have weakness in my hand. My physical therapist says this will be the last thing to recover. Regrettably, we missed the wedding in Chicago, but have been invited to join friends in Lake Tahoe this weekend.

I have to remind myself I've come a long way from the days not too long ago when if I manage to get 5 phone calls done in a day I was “doing fine”. Yesterday, I drove myself to my first voice lesson in months (where I found out not only can your muscles atrophy from disuse but so can your vocal chords!); paid a visit to my studio to deliver my sketching paraphernalia, water the ficus and have a nice chat with my building mate, Tyrell; and then  took the dog to the dog park.  I was completely spent by the end of the day but hey, I managed to do it!

I so look forward to getting back into the rhythm of my former life. And I especially look forward to reconnecting with my creative self, and reclaiming the "overpriced storage unit" as my working studio.

Who knows, maybe the next series I start will be touched with a new perspective?  No matter where my creativity takes me, it has become abundantly clear that unfortunately, at a certain age, our body parts simply start to wear out.

So in the end, sad to say, we are all merely fragile vessels with a finite shelf life.

Too bad the expiration date isn’t stamped where we can see it.