Absolutely Nothing

For the first time in a long time, I am doing nothing, not because I have to but because I can. Sure, I have a few things I could be doing, but they aren’t urgent and can wait. It seems bizarre that if something I want to do pops into my head, I have the energy to hop up and do it. It almost seems foolish to waste my energy on doing nothing, but I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.

So, why don’t I have anything to do? Because my final papers are in, my final exams are over, and my year of college is complete. Well, I do have an online class to complete, but that isn’t due until mid-July, so I’m free! Free, that is, until I get home and I’m stuck in my room unpacking, but for now, I’m enjoying the freedom of doing nothing. Problem of doing nothing is that there is nothing to distract you from the pain either. In fact, all this rambling is my attempt to do something so I don’t have to think.

My dorm room is pretty empty, since I’ve packed and taken most of my stuff home last weekend and the weekend before. In fact, I have free time to do something fun, but nothing fun to do something with (except my lap top obviously). I just have some clothes and my school books left.

I must say, I’m fairly proud of myself for finishing this semester. It may be the longest, hardest, and most painful school term in my life. Since January, I have had two surgeries, two nerve blocks, and a three-week continuous epidural in addition to numerous drugs but still have managed to complete 22 credit hours of school work. Not only that, but I have managed to pull off good grades as well (I think I have all A’s except one or two B’s).

Who said that CRPS ruins your life? I have overcame the pain and pressed on, even when others told me repeatedly to quit, to give up, to go home. I refused, pressed on, and emerged triumphant and I hope that this is an example to others. All of the long, sleepless nights (because of the pain or homework), the slow, painful typing, the excessive studying while in pain, all will have paid off if I learned something (I did) and if I grew closer to God (I did), and if I was able to make a change in others lives. I’d say it was a pretty successful semester, but I am glad it is complete, though I hate saying good bye to all my new friends.

How Can I Say Thanks?

During worship this morning, I stood gritting my teeth and holding back tears, desperately clutching my arm to my body in an attempt to protect it from the low bass sound waves ricocheted around my body. For some reason, my arm responds to low sound waves the same way your arm might if it was placed in a pair of vice grips, then tightened. As painful as it was, it wasn’t the pain that finally caused the tears to roll down my face.

“How can I say thanks
For the things You have done for me,
Things so undeserved,
Yet You gave to prove Your love for me.”

Standing there with worshipers singing around me in reflection of God’s glory, I was hit with the realization that I could not worship with others due to my pain. How could I say thanks to Him for what He had done for me when I couldn’t bear the music accompaniment? I couldn’t give my God the praise He deserves because of my physical pain. The emotional pain that ran through my mind is incomparable to even the longing to sleep on my left side. How can I not worship my God? Why would He create a disease that would inhibit the worship of Him?

As tears rolled down my face, I realized that I was missing the point. Worship isn’t about singing a song, though in American churches, that seems to be the accepted norm. Worship is giving praise to God with my whole life!

“Just let me live my life,
Let it be pleasing, Lord, to Thee,
And if I gain any praise,
Let it go to Calvary.”

It is the things I do every day, the fact that I choose to get out of bed, tell God good morning, and hop out of bed eager to discover what He has in store for me is worship. When I choose the hard road of servanthood, sacrificing my best interests for others, that is worship. I don’t need a tolerant hand to worship, in fact, I don’t need a hand at all, I can worship God solely through my actions.

I Can Niko

The purpose of this blog isn’t for me to complain, but to comment on my life with a chronic pain syndrome, which of course includes pain. Even though pain is a part of my everyday life, it isn’t always the thing that most affects my life. Sometimes the emotional struggles are just as difficult as the physical ones.

I realized the other day that I had not used my left arm normally in more than six months. I have not folded my own clothes, zipped a Ziploc bag, or clapped my hands in half of a year. I remember being insisting that people know my correct age, in half-year increments, when I was a child. My half-birthday was a big deal to me each year. That half of a year was important, and now my half-“birthday” of my injury has approached and passed almost without notice.

At first, thinking of the things I’m missing out on were a huge disappointment. After all, there are so many things I can’t do and may never be able to do. I think of the brand new pair of boots in my closet that I can’t tie, the half-finished scarf on my knitting loom, or the new material I can’t quilt. I pondered of all the frustrations I have faced and will face, including toilet paper out of reach, containers I can’t open, and meat I can’t cut.

While I was mourning the things I felt I had lost, my friend asked me if I felt like I had accomplished anything by overcoming my current one-handedness in order to do everyday tasks. At this point I began to think of the things I’ve accomplished. I can put on my clothes without touching my left arm, I can type fairly well one-handed (about 30 wpm, compared to 90 wpm before), and I can open and I can do a little dance while carrying a backpack, a pillow, and a key card while unlocking and opening the door to my dorm and not touching my left arm to anything. Not just anybody can do these things (though I’d like to see them try), in fact I only learned them out of necessity.

Loosing one part of your body requires compensation from the other parts, including your brain. I love being creative and figuring out puzzles, and living with CRPS in one arm makes my whole life a puzzle. Each normal daily activity that could originally be done without second thought requires careful thought and consideration. Do I really need to do it? Can I do it myself? Is it worth the pain it might cause? Is it worth asking someone else to do it for me? Is it something someone else can do for me?

I’ve learned to cope with the life God has handed me, but that isn’t enough. I’m not willing to sit passively and feel sorry for my lack of a working arm, I’m going to fight for all I’m worth to keep my independence and learn to overcome the things life hands me with a positive attitude.

That brand new pair of boots in my closet, the ones I can’t tie? They are the same kind of boot I wore on a leadership survival type week out in Wyoming (the original pair had a stitching defect that resulted in large blisters, this pair is identical, but brand-new and defect-free). During that week, I did things I never thought possible. The week was called Niko, which is Greek for overcome, because of the many things we overcame during the week. I believe God allowed me to get that identical pair of boots as my new “Niko boots” because I’m going to continue to learn to overcome.

I still feel a longing for certain things I can’t do with one hand. The thing I long to do more than anything is curl up on my left side, how I used to sleep and sleep one, long peaceful night. At the same time, I can feel I’ve accomplished something, I’ve learned to overcome, I’ve learned to Niko my one-handed life, and that isn’t something to regret, but something to be proud of!