When self-discipline flies away

Everyone says I’m so good at it. Self-discipline and focus so finely tuned I sometimes get tunnel vision, losing track of what day it is, or that I actually need to eat. In the winter, spring and fall I have my routine; get up at six, get a coffee (or ten) in me and hit the keyboards. Two thousand words later, I would leave the office, eat, take care of domestic chores and complete life-sustaining chores. My afternoons were reserved for reading and research. In my six-day work week, I would also put a few hours aside for book marketing and blog posts. If I felt like I deserved it, I would perhaps treat myself to a walk in the forest late afternoon and maybe a movie in the evening. And, like clockwork, take one day off a week.

But when summer arrived this year, my self-discipline and focus flew out the window. Who knows, maybe it went to the beach? You want to hear my excuses? I thought you might.

On June 11th, while cutting wood for winter heat, I tore a ligament in my lower back. The pain was so intense, I could barely get off the couch for two weeks and was swallowing pain-killers like they were candy. During that stretch, the pain got so severe, I actually started to wonder if this new development would be a life-time injury.

It made me think. If I couldn’t play in the (often so inspirational and enjoyable) forest, and I couldn’t sit down at my desk for longer than five minutes to string a sentence together, than what was the point of living? You might think this is a bit harsh, but think about it. Two of the things I love most in this world are writing and enjoying the outdoors. And all of a sudden I couldn’t do any of them. Life is one thing, but quality of life matters more, at least to me. I couldn’t imagine going through life in constant pain, having to depend on others, and debilitated to the point where I couldn’t do some of the things that give me the most satisfaction.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Only two days ago, the pain decreased to the point where I’m off the pain killers. I can still feel a dull roar in my back, and I’m sure it’ll be another month before I can pick up a chainsaw. But at least I can sit at my desk for an hour or two at a time and write. I can take a walk in the forest. I can go to the beach and do light exercise, maybe even go for a swim if that’s what picks my fancy.

But just when the back pain began to fade, another pain took hold. I started suffering from severe headaches. While chewing. While talking. Even when I wasn’t flapping my jaws. Before I started down the dark path of self-pity and morbid introspection on quality of life, I got it diagnosed.

I have allergies that often create nasal congestion as allergens build up in my system. The nasal congestion occasionally causes the Eustachian tube in my left ear to get clogged. When that happens, I can’t pop my ears. Pressure builds up and causes severe headaches. The cure is a daily dose of antihistamines and a nasal decongestant. I’ve been on both for the last three days. And, wonder of wonders, today I am almost sure my ear actually popped. It was first thing this morning when I crawled out of bed at 8:00 am and yawned. I felt and heard some air escape and now fortunately I feel much better. Similar to the back pain, I still feel a dull roar in my left ear, but nothing like before.

So, back to work? Well, kind of, sort of. The weather is way too nice right now to return to my usual tunnel-vision routine. And something happened to me a few days ago that really gave my life some perspective. I was driving my utility tractor (affectionately named Freddy Krueger) up a winding road from my beachfront one night when all of a sudden the steering jammed in a left-turn position and sent me crashing into a tree. The tree was about fifteen feet off the road and I had ample time to slam on the brakes, barely scratching the tree, barely scratching myself.  That particular road, part of a moonshine operation during Prohibition, is affectionately named Cemetery Lane. Don’t forget, as a horror writer, I get a kick out of these macabre names.

Long story short, my trustworthy mechanic arrived a few days later with a truck and a winch, pulled Freddy from Cemetery Lane and rushed him into intensive care. The diagnosis—a broken front axle.

As he was examining Freddy, and doing a forensic analysis of the crash scene, his jaw dropped.

“What’s wrong,” I asked, watching the color drain from his face.

“You’re lucky,” he said, pointing to a large tree stump about three feet from the road that I had narrowly missed. “If the axle would’ve busted about three feet sooner, you probably would have hit that stump. It would have catapulted you off the tractor. It definitely would have totaled the tractor and who knows what might’ve happened to you.”

Thinking about it now, all the whining I’ve been doing about a lower-back torn ligament and allergy-induced headaches seems trivial in comparison to the Cemetery Lane tree crash. I could have died. Worse still, I could’ve ended up a paraplegic.

And here’s the perspective. Do the things you love to do while you can. See the people who matter in your life while you can. Life is short. Life is precious. It can be snatched away in the blink of an eye. So, no I won’t be resuming my normal routine until September. I think I can take a little bit of downtime without beating myself up with that powerful and useless emotion called guilt.

Oh, for sure I’ll do a little writing this month. I’m always working on a new book. I’ll even do a little research. But, I’m gonna take a little time to smell the wild roses in the back-forty and invite a few friends over to celebrate the thing so many of us take for granted. Life. And, now that I’m feeling way better, good health.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

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