Saturday, July 16, 2011

Month of Pain

The back spasms that followed my presentation on population and consumption ended up being a sign of something more serious than stress: a herniated disc was pushing on nerves in one of the most critical parts of my spine. For a month I experienced chronic pain in my back and right arm, which even with medication was keeping me from getting enough sleep and doing more than the most basic activities. Luckily I was able to work at home with frequent breaks, since driving my normally long commute would have been excruciating, if at all possible. I know several people who have experienced far worse (and in a few cases, still are), and I appreciate them much more now.

The worst appears to be over, thanks largely to a treatment called “dry needles,” which is part of a physical treatment plan I started a week after my symptoms appeared (when I realized that I couldn't treat it on my own). With some medication and a bunch of exercises, including home traction, I am now nearly pain-free for hours at a time, and I'm getting much more sleep. My thinking has cleared too, and I can now write without distraction by pain, though I'll be stuck with taking frequent breaks for the rest of my life – the lack of which likely caused the problem in the first place.

I only peripherally tracked the news during that time, enough to see that the situations I cared most about weren't getting any better. Government remains broken, with one party blatantly terrorizing everyone else so they can gain total control and destroy whatever semblance of social cohesiveness our country has left, and the other party negotiating on the assumption that they have more honorable intentions. Climate scientists are being openly threatened by climate change deniers, which is disturbing on many levels. The evolving scandal involving Rupert Murdoch is showing what happens when people are able to gain unchecked power (the old adage still holds: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”); it remains to be seen if the lesson sticks.

Instead of writing, I caught up on some reading I had been putting off. For example, I'm almost finished with “A Concise History of World Population” by Massimo Livi-Bacci, which is teaching me what expert demographers have to say about the issues I've explored on my own. As a result, I can now add “demographer” to my list of possible new careers.

I'll be writing more as my condition improves, and looking for ways to address my interests without burning the candle at both ends. To keep stress below a healthy threshold, I'm going to try being more constructive and positive, and to have some fun along the way. My father lived his life as a constant adventure, and saw each turn of events as a step toward a future that, if it wasn't what he wanted, could be just as good; that's an attitude well worth emulating.