Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Pushing Through

with 5 comments

It has been a long stretch of time since I played either of my guitars. Lack of playing tends to become its own feedback loop. Arthritis in my hand discouraged me from pulling out my instruments as often as I used to, and not playing regularly led to the loss of calluses on the fingertips of my left hand. Lack of calluses fed into an inclination to not bother playing and the situation dragged on and on.

Alas, recent activity to ready myself for the Tour of Minnesota bicycling and camping week triggered thoughts about bringing my travel guitar this year. Before fulfilling that idea, which I said back in February that I planned to do, I figured I should check out whether I could still form chords with my left hand.

I was a little rusty, but mostly functional. My session was rewarding enough that I felt inspired to try a second time a couple of days later. That went even better, despite the tenderness of starting the process of developing new calluses. Then I moved to reach a particular position and experienced the classic jolt of a painful joint.

(No, Mary, I have not had the surgery performed yet, despite your wise advice to not wait. The doctor preferred waiting, and I chose to not try convincing him otherwise.)

After that stab of pain, the rest of the session tended to become increasingly more comfortable. It seemed a little counterintuitive at first, but then I remembered a similar experience during a lumbar disc pain episode.

The body has a keen ability to constrict movement in the presence of pain, but remaining oblivious to what is happening in these situations can allow that avoidance of pain to become its own malady. I made a surprising discovery during an early assessment of my condition when physical therapy was prescribed.

The therapist asked me to show them how far I could bend over to reach toward my toes.

“Bend over!?”

My thinking was that I couldn’t bend at all without suffering that stabbing pain. That is why I was moving around like a stiff zombie!

So, I set about showing her how I could barely lean forward at all. To my surprise, those initial hints of possible pain that normally freeze any further motion did not get any worse as I pushed through them. I was able to bend a lot farther than I believed possible.

The same thing happened with my hand yesterday. The avoidance of pain had kept me from trying to play the guitar, bringing a mindset that it would no longer be possible. Pushing past that warning message of pain proved there is still some function left in the old joint.

I don’t have the strength I used to, but I can still manage a few chords for a reasonably short duration of pickin’ and grinnin’.



Written by johnwhays

May 30, 2019 at 6:00 am

5 Responses

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  1. Ah, John, let me tell you an inspiring story. Victoria’s mum used to love to play the piano but as age set in her fingers became arthritic and she stopped playing, being ashamed of her hands. At one point plagued by mental problems and medicinal cocktails that nearly finished her off, she had a moment of awareness and went to the piano and played anyway. I still remember her rendering of Chopin, maybe not so perfect but no less divine. At times, I notice that you are a conduit of all that is … don’t hold back: do what you are made to do.

    Ian Rowcliffe

    May 30, 2019 at 7:59 am

    • Deliciously inspiring. Thank you! I particularly appreciate, “…not so perfect but no less divine.”


      May 30, 2019 at 8:06 am

  2. Keep on pushing… I’m so grateful everyday for my pain free thumbs, especially as new pains surface in the aging process! I’m wondering if the dr can perform the same relief in wrists every time I get a twinge! 😏


    May 30, 2019 at 6:24 am

    • Ah, yes. The onset of new pains… This aging thing is not for sissies.


      May 30, 2019 at 6:36 am

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