Thursday, October 05, 2006

41 + Books = New Pain

Here is another reason why I am not a yuppie: I am old. If I had any doubt about that, if, say, my chronically adolescent lifestyle and habitual wearing of baseball caps, gigantic shorts and black t-shirts had convinced me that I was successfully fighting the effects of time, I was reminded this morning in the most harsh of ways that this is not the case.

I am not a small person. I'm not freakishly large, but certainly no one would describe me as "slight." Certainly I am large enough to lift three bags full of books out of my car without suffering injury. Certainly, unless I were 41 years old and had not stretched sufficiently before attempting to lift three heavy bags of books, that is.

But first, a quick summation of my pre-existing conditions: I've had a crushed bone in my left elbow since age 11, chronic tendonitis and calcium deposits in my left shoulder since I was a mediocre 18-year-old high school pitcher. Atop that I have the usual aches and pains, but no knee problems, ankle problems or back problems. Leg problems, I figure, usually develop following traumatic injuries, while back problems, I've always assumed, are the exclusive domain of tall guys. Sometimes I'll have something like this week, where on Monday, at the gym, I tweaked something in my lower back. Nothing major. In fact, I only noticed it when I was sleeping.

I have this mental game I like to play. I invented it right about the time I turned 40. How about this, it says: instead of having spent the past 23 years semi-engaging in a variety of careers, what if I was a 41-year-old lefthanded pitcher, nowhere near the dominant flamethrower I once was but still able to get lefthanded hitters out with regularity? What if the chronic shortage of lefthanded pitching -- especially with the watering-down of talent due to repeated expansion -- had made it so that some team picked me up, paying me a reasonable $800,000 for the year, knowing that I could help the club.

I'd still be me, after all. And this year would be the year that Sandra Bullock tells me to think about hanging it up, but I still love the game and love the competition, so I stick it out for just one more year. Sure, my shoulder gives me fits, and getting in shape is more difficult each year, but darn it, I love the game. Next year I'll retire and spend more time with the Jawa. I'll become a writer or something. After all, I did major in English in college.

That's my fantasy world. True, it is a simple one, and probably reveals plenty about my self-esteem and lack of ambition. After all, if you're going to have a fantasy, why not make yourself a superstar? You take your fantasy; I'll take mine.

Meanwhile, back at the car, I reached in and pulled out the three bags. With the third, I felt a sharp pain in that spot I was only noticed when I was sleeping. "Ooow-wow!" I said.

Then it went away. I carried the three bags into school, up a flight of stairs, and deposited them in the library. I walked back down the stairs, stopped to talk to Jenny from the Block, went back out to the car and drove away.

I am now sitting in a chair. It is several hours later. Every three minutes or so I squirm, trying to find a position that does not result in shooting pains down my leg. I have been stretching, fidgeting, laying on the floor, on the couch, standing up, sitting hunched over, sitting straight up, lying on my side in the fetal position. Nothing helps. Sandra Bullock has promised me Tylenol laced with codeine. Maybe that will help. I am now, at least for today, a guy with back problems.

All day I have been announcing, "I AM NOT A GUY WITH BACK PROBLEMS!" to which the low-key but occasionally sly woman who sits next to me at the biotech said, "Yes, but you are 41."

Today was a celebratory day at the biotech. They've secured a big private funding deal and signed papers that will eventually allow the company to move into San Francisco. To mark this, the entire company -- save for contractors whose wives hold lofty positions within the organization and feel that having their lowly husbands present might cramp their style -- took off work at 10:15 and loaded up into buses that took them to the Embarcadero, where they then boarded a luxurious yacht to enjoy a bay cruise.

Contractors whose wives hold lofty positions within the organization and feel that having their husbands present might cramp their style were officially invited to this party but unofficially discouraged from attending. Instead, they stayed behind, wracked by back pain so new and unexpected that it would not have been inappropriate to say the shehechyanu over it, squrming in their office chairs as they filled out endless equipment status forms with only the Woman who Speaks Loudly on her Phone About Food for company.

As you may have guessed, this arrangement did not last until the previously agreed-on 3:00 end time. Once I realized that we had forgotten to work out Shack's lunchtime feeding, it was very easy to rationalize the idea that I should leave at 1:00 pm and continue my status forms at home. In pain, but without the persistent hacking cough of the Woman on the Phone, the day brightened considerably.

As much as a day that involves your back constantly reminding you that you are 41 years old, that is.


Blogger Sluggo said...

My advice to you is to apply achohol internally until the pain subsides. Then, take some aspirin for the pain in your head.

8:07 PM  
Anonymous Gedalya ben Yitzhak said...

I'd kill to be 41 again.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

as a person who has had chronic back problems for about 12 years, i can suggest laying on your back with 2 or so pillows under your knees and feet. and try to sleep that way too. it has helped me in the past.

8:31 PM  
Blogger Lefty said...

wow, there goes my theory about back problems being the exclusive domain of tall people.

8:36 PM  
Anonymous flush puppy said...

As the wife of someone with back problems occasionally so severe he cannot get off the floor, apply ice. If the pain permits, lay on the floor, raising one bent leg to your chest at a time and holding a few seconds then alternate. It will stretch your back out. A good yoga move (which SB should know): laying on floor holding both knees to chest. Sluggo's got the right idea also, but that might lead to further ill-advised activities.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

I have been told that underdeveloped stomach muscles are the root of all back issues.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous the hammer said...

As I told SB last night, it's all downhill after 40, as both of you can now attest.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Lefty said...

you're all correct. as an update, i went to the gym today. precor good, stationary bike bad. haven't tried sluggo's remedy yet.

11:23 AM  
Anonymous zin gal said...

Sluggo's advise is sound. However, let me know if you need the Vics to go with the ice. As a back pain sufferer I am always well stocked up. Oops, I am not tall either!

1:22 PM  
Blogger Butter Goats said...

Thank (insert deity here) that my back hasn't gone out for quite awhile now. As FP said, I'll be immobile for a couple days until the muscles relax. Ice and Advil work for me. Love the Advil. Good for dulling the pain from getting tattooed also. Not to be a downer, but once you get a pain like you described it will be with you until the end. Mine first went out when I was 18. As for the age part, just don't think about it. LOL Our try to ignore it like I am. Just got a single speed road bike that I'm going to ride tonight to get a couple pints and watch a friends band play. Of course I'll be 10 to 15 years older than everyone else.....(insert soft sobs here0

3:57 PM  
Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

jeez, all the comments for this blog entry are putting to rest the myth that old people can't use computers...

so you really wanted to be a left-handed mike morgan?

8:12 PM  
Blogger Lefty said...

not at first, but yes.

10:35 PM  
Anonymous zelda said...

clearly now that you are enduring such searing pain you should pay more attention to BG's post and get a tattoo. i have a fabulous artist i can recommend to you. maybe a piece to celebrate how young and tall you still are compared to many other people? unless you aren't down with the tattooed jew thing. in which case, just do yoga.

6:17 PM  
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