Saturday, July 30, 2011

Oh, The Pain!

That first day on the treadmill really got me thinking: "The pain...oh, the pain!" Dr. Zachary Smith couldn't have said it any better.

As the one who coined that phrase as a dysfunctional character in the 1960’s series “Lost in Space,” Dr. Smith was the complete personification of self-centeredness. His schemes lead him from one problem to another, causing himself the pain of having to get out of his situation. Most of the time, he had the Robot and Will Robinson to help him get out of his predicament, and it usually worked out for him. Of course, his situations usually presented him with option of life or death, and the solutions always required action to be taken in order to succeed.

To some degree, I'm facing the same issue: I'm not worried about space creatures nor am I worried about assuming room temperature anytime soon. The life and death issues facing me are quality of life issues. Do I want to live a quality life, or do I want to practicing playing dead? I think there is a reason a couch is about the same size as a coffin. Most Americans practice playing dead on a nightly basis. I'm no different. Except I roll off the couch because I'm too wide. It's a funny sight, though. I'm just glad no one has a video of it.

Pain was my motivation for doing nothing, and now, pain is my motivation for doing something. Exercise pain was not something I looked forward to, but I was getting tired of the chronic pain that I was experiencing on a daily basis. It was to the point where it didn't make a difference whether I worked out or not. I was in constant pain just from scratching myself in a different area the day before. I'd say, "Why am I sore today? Oh yeah, I had an itch yesterday." So, when I started working out, I knew there were going to pain issues.

But as I worked out, I started thinking, "Seriously...this much pain, already? I had no idea that it was going to be equivalent to torture.

Idea: If the CIA wanted to interrogate terrorists, they wouldn’t need waterboards, just treadmills. Air-drop donuts over Al-Queda camps for two years, get them fat, catch them (they'll be too fat to run) and then put them on treadmills at Guantanamo, in July. I guarantee it...they'll talk.

When I started on the treadmill that first day, I knew deep down that I would feel some pain within the next couple of days, but I never thought that I would be feeling it the next minute. That first day I was beginning to hurt as I walked from the treadmill, and by the time I got to the door a hundred feet away, I was walking like Frankenstein. I also looked like I had been dropped upside down in a dunk tank. As I approached the exit, I'm pretty sure I saw a couple walk up to the door, see me, and turn around yelling “forget this” when they saw me.

The girls at the counter waved goodbye to me as I slowly exited the building. The counter guy (see prior blog posts) wasn’t there anymore; I think he passed out finally, although I didn’t see a body. I looked back at them, smiled/grimaced, and said “Ang yoo...ow-wee woo ayer,” which was my pre-stroke version of, “Thank you, I’ll see you later.” I think this was the result of neurological shutdown of the lobe of my brain that controls my fine motor skills, in order to keep the pain receptors at bay from the rest of my body. I was just thankful I didn’t have to go to the restroom. That would have required utilizing the part of my brain that controls involuntary muscles, and my neurons were shorting-ciruiting themselves because of the pain.

I shuffled across the parking lot (Death Valley) and got to my truck. I then spent the next ten minutes kicking up my right leg, trying to get it into the truck. I looked like a reject from a Rockettes audition. I finally settled into the driver’s seat, started the truck, and drove off. I didn’t even try to drive fast for fear of having to lift my foot to use the brake.

I thank God for friends who encourage me right now, because I know the people behind me on Palm Avenue were not cheering me on, and I know they weren’t telling me I’m #1 in their lives, but #1 elsewhere.

I made it home, stumbled out of my truck, slithered inside, and crashed on my bed thinking, “Oh, the pain, the pain.” Actually, I was thinking something that I can't publish here, but you get my drift. Deep down, I knew it had to get better. The question was: When? Not today. I lay on my back for about 20 minutes and decided to get up and shower to make myself more presentable, although there was no one at home but me and the dog, and she was hiding because of my loud groaning.

I got up. The pain was worse.

Everything was cramping up. I couldn’t sit up. I slid off my bed at the speed of a glacier and with the movement of a lava flow. Finally my foot touched the ground. Once I had both feet on the ground, I attempted to roll and push myself up off the bed. I felt like Cosmo Kramer in the Seinfeld episode where his jeans were too tight. In my case, my legs were too tight.

I took the first step and lunged for the doorway of my bathroom. I propped myself up with both sides of the doorway, and then took two more steps and made it to the sink. I looked at the mirror. I looked horrible. My eyes were red, they had eye boogers, I was still sweating, and I think half of my face was paralyzed. To top it off, I now a big zit on my chin. I began to second-guess submitting my modeling application for Muscle and Fitness Magazine.

Miraculously, I showered and made it to the living room. I spent the rest of the day recuperating, and fortunately I had recorded plenty of “Deadliest Catch” episodes for my enjoyment. It made me feel better that there were crab fishermen out there who hurt just as much, although they do get paid pretty good for their pain. Watching all that crab, though, really made me hungry.

By the way, pain is a good weight-loss plan, because it prevents you from walking to the kitchen, and even when you make it into the kitchen, you’re too sore to make anything to eat.

I was saved; Kathy did come home before long and was able to feed her pitiful husband.

Three weeks into this, I’ve been increasing my exercise time, but with lots of pain. It’s a chore to move after a workout, but it subsides with rest and ibuprofen (love that stuff), and I have faith that this will calm down after a while. No pain, no gain? No kidding. I hate that axiom.

So what is pain good for? The pain is a message to me because it is the result of doing activity that I’m not used to doing. It's telling me that my body is starting to live again. It's just stiff from the long sleep. I was used to an abnormally low activity level, sedentary, similar to that of a penned-up livestock animal. Moo. For years, I made a subconscious decision not to do anything about my situation. Conscious change will require pain. Not just physical, but mental as well. There are so many things taking place when you commit to making your life better. For me, it's not about just working out. It's about going through physical and mental rehabilitation, as changes take place in those arenas of my life now.

Like Dr. Smith, I’m paying the price for self-centeredness, for bad/no decisions leading to an unfavorable situation, which requires action to solve what could mean the difference between life and death. Even if I were to do nothing and stay alive, would I be really living? Not at all. I'd be playing dead, waiting for my day to catch up. I’m working my solution now, although it would be kind of fun to have Robot and Will Robinson to help me work it out; well, maybe just Robot. But, since I don’t have a robot and my kids aren’t nerds like Will, I’m going to have to rely on myself, with God’s power and the encouragement of others, and that's more than enough for me.

Bring it...


  1. It will get better John, just hang in there. The pain will probably stay with you for a while but I think you know that. Your honesty in what you are going through and how you feel is refreshing and inspiring. Praying for God's strength, perseverance, peace and people to encourage you along this journey.

  2. I am SO enjoying your blogs, John! Power to you on this are strong because you have the One behind you. He will give you the strength you need to see this through. He wants you to be healthy and feel good so you can continue to minister to people and to spread His word--I believe this is one of your gifts. The brief time I've spent in your presence has revealed this gift. I remember a worship session you led one Sunday at a swim meet at Central High. You spoke so eloquently the simple message that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. Thank you for that!
    Keep on moving forward! The Woods family is behind you 100%. We will pray you through this--keep leaning on our Lord...He's all you need to succeed!