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Damn I Am Weak!

January 22, 2012

Just now, I tried to kneel down on the kitchen floor. I wanted to get down there so as to work with Jack and Jake, who are filling in the cracks between the recently-sanded floorboards of our kitchen floor. Once the cracks are filled, we can finish sand it, vacuum it, and polyurethane it twice. I want to be able to do this. I love doing the hands-on work of fixing our house – be it re-plastering, painting, hanging cupboards, stripping woodwork, refinishing, tearing or washing down ceilings, tilework – I love it. These are all things that our house needs. They are almost all things that I cannot, or find extremely difficult, to do. They are all things that Jack and Jake do not like to do, but must do.

Pain prevents me from doing almost all the rest of it. I cannot bend my knees, because the muscles are so tight. I cannot rest my weight on my knees and feet, kneeling, without my feet beginning to tingle and burn, as if I have missed my gabapentin. All I can do is sit here and make detailed project lists, and listen to the sounds of their putty knives scraping wood filler between the slightly-shrunken 95-year-old pine floorboards.

I tried to get down onto the floor. I asked for our white kitchen stepstool, which I can use to get down onto the floor in stages. But I couldn’t even bend my knee to the level of the first step. It simply burned *too much*, and my muscles would not co-operate. Or was it that my mind wouldn’t co-operate? What if the pain was something my mind could overrules,? What if pain were only a sensation that I could re-imagine? Imagine that the sensation that I call “pain” I could re-imagine as nothing but coldness? Would that make it easier to get partially down on one knee?

No! My muscles would not co-operate.I asked Jack, “What is pain?” He said, “Well, you know what they would tell you if you were in the Marines.” “No, I said, “What?” “Maybe it was Work-Out-World,” he replied. “”Pain is weakness leaving the body.'”

I limped out of the room. “If that is true,” I thought, “Damn! I am weak!”

I could have “weakness leaving my body” all day long and never, ever have it stop. Never. I can perhaps get stronger, but it will never, ever hurt less. Ever. No matter how strong I get, I feel always still be weak, if pain is the definition.

I feel so sad, and useless, and guilty. I would never have bought this house if I’d had a stroke already. It needed far too much work updating it. It was a 1917 house with an interior that hadn’t been updated since 1963 (the kitchen.) The electrical system was grievously outdated, and its boiler that sent steam throughout its radiators had been built as a coal-fired boiler in 1917, as well, and converted to oil at some point. I saw the chestnut woodwork under that satin-finish industrial beige in which the entire interior was painted.

It was stripping the very woodwork with a heat gun, reaching overhead, that I first felt the TIA (transient ischemic attack) that preceded my stroke. I began to feel a strange tingling in the left corner of my upper left lip. I’d felt the same thing a few weeks before, and it had passed after approximately 30 seconds. So I chalked it odd to just another mystery, perhpas of my auto-immune disease. (My blood pressure as a cause never even occured to me.) That was in 2007, 4 years after we bought the house. We’d been living in the house for four years, and there was still so much to do! We hadn’t really even started on the kitchen rebuild then. But  that day was the day I became truly weak – the day that I had my stroke, and felt no pain, mo sense of the body occupying space, or moving, or hurting even when in painful contortions  in half a body that could do nothing. That, to me, is a body’s weakness. Paralysis, even partially, is the ultimate weakness of the body. But pain?

Some of the people with the most pain are some of the strongest people I know.

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