Rector's Ramblings March 29, 2017
Ah yes. I am aging. Many of you laugh at that, no doubt, but it’s true. I am at the stage where things are starting to go downhill physically in ways I haven’t had to deal with previously. I’m not going to whine about it – it’s a part of life. Just noting that I’ve arrived. This week it was the reality that my right arm may never get back to 100% after a year of struggling with persistent tennis elbow. No, I don’t play tennis, but there you go.
It started last year on Spring Break when we kayaked to Sea Island for a picnic. I think I even rambled about it at the time. We left a little later than planned and faced paddling into the tide and the wind as we crossed Gould’s Inlet. My forearms were screaming by the time we reached shore and they hurt for days afterwards. It was shortly after that that I whacked my elbow on something incredibly hard; one of those hits when your funny bone isn’t very funny. Between the two, I apparently upset the tendons on that side and they never recovered.
I haven’t been pain free ever since, although it’s ebbed and flowed. I tried a cortisone shot in the fall, which alleviated the pain for a few months, but it came back. After a terrible February, I made an appointment to see my family doctor. He set up a consult with an orthopedist and a physical therapist. I’ve had both of those consultations. Both, in their own way, said I will not likely ever get back to 100% on that arm, but I can get back to 90-95%. That’s not bad for a lot of things. But it’s not 100%! Yes, I’m beginning to deal with things that I will have to live with “for the rest of my life”.
Believe me, I know there is more to come. My family has history of diabetes, macular degeneration, droopy eyelids that require surgery, cancer, depression, and a few other things thrown in for good measure. I’m not going to escape all of them. Although, I’m still the only one who doesn’t wear glasses, so there’s that. I recognize that this is part of life, but it has not been a part of my life until now. I have a benign arrhythmia, but even that hasn’t affected my lifestyle. The elbow has – I’m right handed, after all. I haven’t done much with it in the last year; no paddling, no pushups, and a lot less heavy lifting. I’m off and running on the physical stuff now… downhill apparently.
I think this is part of God’s plan to humble us. After several decades of feeling powerful and able and like we’re on top of things, our bodies start to slow us down and make us keenly aware that we’re not invincible or in control at all. I thought I was tough enough to do something physical, but failed to realize my limitations or to even acknowledge that permanent damage was a possibility. I was so young and foolish last year. Now that I’m older and wiser, I won’t be making that mistake again. At least not for a few months.
In all seriousness, however, just as my arrhythmia got my attention about life and death health matters a few years ago, a relatively minor problem like tennis elbow gets my attention about physical limitations. I am aware that there are those who live with physical disabilities from a very young age, or who end up with much more serious diseases and side effects. It gives me new appreciation for those who struggle with mobility and caring for themselves. I can still use my right arm for a lot of things, and I still have a good left arm. And I can walk! I certainly don’t have much to whine about, even though I joke about it.
The truth is I am inspired by those who do not let physical limitations limit them, whether those limitations are congenital, the result of accidents, or simply a byproduct of aging. It is all too easy to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves in the midst of very real pain and frustration. It’s another to see people find ways to keep going and struggle through the worst of it in order to keep living. Because that’s the point; even as we age and face illness and disability, we’re still alive. We still have an ability to contribute something to this wonderful world, from the relationships we foster to the ideas we contribute. I will never be a baseball pitcher, if I had to guess, but I can still type (sorry, folks). If I can get 90% back on my elbow in time, I’ll take it and be grateful. I’m already more humble and grateful as a result of this little bout with priest’s elbow (I’m renaming it – too much communion distribution and crossing myself contributed, no doubt).
May God the Father bless you, God the Son heal you, God the Holy Spirit give you strength. May God the holy and undivided Trinity guard your body, save your soul, and bring you safely to his heavenly country; where he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.