It’s Going to be Just Fine

Steve’s back, June 2016

Yesterday evening, after dinner, after chores, after the heaviest of the rain had passed and what lingered felt soft and inviting, I walked into the woods. I love being in the woods when it’s raining, the way the wetness amplifies color and smell and the sound of the mountain stream that borders this land. Indeed, that’s what drew me in the first place; I wanted to see the rain-swollen stream, kick off my shoes and wade into it, feel the push of the water against me. Maybe even push back a little, because sometimes it’s nice to have something to push back against.

I have been stymied lately by a case of tendonitis in my right elbow; it was brought on by last summer’s frenzy of hammering, then retreated to a tolerable level for the winter, only to return with a vengeance this spring in the aftermath of heavy chainsaw work, then further exacerbated by haying. I applied my favorite remedy – denial – until my arm was essentially unusable for the pain, at which point I began experimenting with my least favorite therapy: Rest (coupled with ice, heat, massage, and still, in ever smaller doses, denial). It is recovering, but in the achingly slow manner of injuries long ignored, a lingering reminder of my pig-headedness.

Physical work is important to me for all sorts of reasons – it feels good, it gets things done, it clears my mind (and yet it’s also when most of my ideas come, how strange) – and it is difficult for me to stop dwelling on all the things I wish to be doing, but for the time being cannot: Building fence for the cows, cutting and splitting firewood, siding the house, and so on. I am glad for my nascent running habit, though leery too of the toll running can take on the body, and thus always holding something in reserve, rarely running as far as I’d like, and generally not on consecutive days. Still. It’s good.

I think often about how deeply we crave certainty and security, both individually and collectively, and how, to a certain extent, we are fools for doing so. Or at the very least, how we are fooling ourselves to think we can achieve these things in any permanent way. Impermanence is one of the few certainties of life, right up there with death and taxes, and it is where many of our most meaningful experiences reside. And yet still we resist, clinging to the idea that our well-being depends on things being and remaining a particular way. It is easy to see this playing out on the national stage right now; indeed, it is part-and-parcel of the modern political process, the ceaseless promises of safety and prosperity, and I cannot not understand why we continue to believe these promises. Simple desperation, I guess, some deep-seated human desire to move away from the discomfort of impermanence and its inevitable uncertainty.

I think it’s more difficult to stand in objective witness of how this process occurs on a personal level (and isn’t this always the case?); I think it’s more difficult to accept that our lives will always be in a certain degree of flux, that things will come together and fall apart, and then come together again, and then, inevitably, fall apart again, and that this will happen over and over again until the day we die. This is just the nature of things. It cannot be avoided. Better to make peace with it. Easier said than done, I know.

I came out of the woods after a half-hour or so, my shirt folded into a pouch, the pouch full of chanterelles. I never made it to the stream; the mushrooms proved too tempting a distraction, and I ended up wandering the woods until dark had nearly settled, the air still full of humidity but rinsed of the day’s heavy heat (you see, it’s actually not the humidity; it’s the heat, and don’t let anyone ever tell you different!).

I went inside, set the mushrooms on the counter for breakfast, dissolved Epsom salts in hot water to soak my tender elbow, suddenly pleased to realize it wasn’t as painful as when I’d soaked it the evening before. It’s getting better. Soon, it’s going to be just fine.


15 thoughts on “It’s Going to be Just Fine”

  1. My constant state of flux is very hard to accept! Among other things, I am selling my house and have no I idea where myself, 3 kids and 2 dogs are going to live! Rental housing here is insanely expensive, buying even more so! (Vail Valley) The funny thing is that I get more pressure from caring friends and family that keep asking “Where are going to live?” “i don’t know” doesn’t seem to be a responsible answer. I wish the pressure from outside my head would subside because, as you said, “Soon, it’s going to be just fine”

    1. There isn’t any affordable housing in the Vail valley. Maybe Leadville, but the drive would be a PITA.

  2. Wait till you pass the 60 mark. Aches show up just out the blue, for no discernible at all. The only thing that’s permanent is change.

  3. You’re absolutely right Ben; the only constant in this universe is change! (I am relieved to learn that your right elbow is demonstrating change . . in the right direction!)

  4. Magnesium oil might help. (Said from another that loves to use the “Denial” cure to pain as well.)

  5. I had tennis elbow too and it was a huge pain since the work has to be done whether you want to or not. I tried everything. What worked, and quickly, was to press about an inch above your elbow joint on either side. You will know you have the right spot as it will hurt like crazy. Then I found these exercises and did them every other day. It has been months with no recurrence. Hope it works for you.

  6. This really spoke to me today. Sudden, unexpected illness made this year our Worst. Homeschooling. Year. Ever. — and I’m still trying to come to grips with all the changes that chronic illness will bring for our family going forward. I’ve been angry, resentful, discouraged, frustrated, and just plain CRABBY about it, none of which helps in the slightest, so I’m trying acceptance and patience, things I know I should have defaulted to in the beginning, lol! Thanks for this, and good luck with the elbow.

  7. I’m about to dope up on some magnesium meself…goldenseal seemed to help with my shoulder, but who knows. Maybe none of the shit I did did anything, and the whole thing is some sort of illusion. Not funny! Play your illusions elsewhere! Whoever you are…..

  8. I myself am no stranger to pigheadedness and ignoration of physical discomforts. In my case inflammation in the shoulder joints at the blissful age of 18. Which became chronicle due to said ignoration. Which I kept ignoring for longer than I care to admit, turning it into impingement. Irreversible damage.
    Lesson learned here: pay attention to what your body tells you.
    But with these limitations come benefits; you’re forced to look for alternatives, as you have discovered yourself.
    It is not merely a handicap, but a roadsign urging us to look elsewhere.

    1. Yeah within every dang curse there is a blessing and it’s up to us to find it if we want any peace. Truer words were never spoken, Ron. Thanks.

      Every day I am grateful for my ability to lift my arms over my head. It wasn’t that long ago when I had a year of 2 frozen shoulders and could not. So yeah.

  9. How fitting a topic. I just had to put my 6yo sweet tabby cat to sleep this very day due to a tumor in her hip caused by a vaccine (presumably, one she got by her previous owner, a student who dumped her out at the end of the term). Who would think that a kitty this young would have to come to this? You’re right, Ben, the only thing that is certain is that there is uncertainty and insecurity, which are bookmarked by periods of seemingly certainty and security throughout our lives. Sigh.

  10. I am in the middle of 40 and I am having pain in my knees and my back. Working or walking for pleasure reduces pain! Doing things because they need to be done increases pain. Reading your words makes me think about life!

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