Big Changes/Small Worlds
There’s going to be some big changes in my world soon.
I’ve been struggling with intermittent pain for the past five years or so, but by the time I have my surgery on December 6th, it will have been eleven months since the rapid deterioration of three of my lumbar discs set in.
Eleven months of being pretty much stuck in the apartment most of the time.
Eleven months where I went out on social gatherings maybe eight times.
Eleven months where I rode the subway twice.
Eleven months where I watched from my perch on the bed as the bare tree across the street grew buds, then leaves, then lost them, and now is bare again.
Eleven months in which my world has gotten steadily smaller. Except for the occasional bus or cab ride, my world consists of the building that I live in (which is expansive, a whole city block), and the sidewalk that runs around its perimeter where I walk Tony in the morning.
I know the world outside my little environment hasn’t changed just because I rarely venture out into it anymore, but in the few times that I have gone via cab to get together with friends, to go to a doctor’s appointment or to get my hair cut it sure seems different to me. Bigger. Wilder. Weirder.
As much as I am looking forward to the surgery and seeing how things turn out (nothing is guaranteed you know, plenty of people go through things like this and get no relief, but I try not to think of that), I’m more afraid of what’s going to happen after the surgery. I was telling a friend in an email last week that I’m not sure if I remember how to be a functioning adult out there in the big, wild, weird world.
When you have to take a bus to go two blocks to pick up some fruit because you can’t possibly walk that far even with a cane to support you, taking a cab down to Horatio Street to get a hair cut or to the Upper West Side for a teeth cleaning is like going on safari.
While my world is so much smaller, my personal discomfort zone has grown. I’m much more aware of the space around me now, fearing, even more than a typical personal-space-obsessed New Yorker, the jostling of a hurried crowd of people; an accidental brush of an elbow could send a spasm running like an electric shock from my spine up to my shoulder or down my leg. Someone’s casual misstep could knock my cane out from under me, throw me off balance, the pain seizing at my twisted muscles.
Though I’ve attempted to describe, meticulously, all the developments in the two ongoing processes: my own deterioration and the bureaucratic plodding toward the surgery, it seems that my world of words has shrunk as well. There are a myriad of words and ways to describe pain and disability, but I feel like I’ve exhausted them all, and frankly am none too anxious to coin any fresh ones. So preoccupied have I been with my physical situation and the surrounding health care drama that my own novel, as concrete a fantasy world for me as is possible, offers no escape. My mind swings, with the regularity of a pendulum, from any feeble diversion back to my reality.
My photography has atrophied too. Being restricted physically means that I have been restricted in what catches my eye. Potential subject matter is suddenly in short supply; in recent weeks it’s now mostly dwindled down to what can be taken inside the apartment or at the swimming pool: me, my dog, or the TV.
On Monday we’ll be in Philly for the pre-admission testing and to donate blood and I’ll be happy to get out in the world for a change of scenery. It’s déjà vu-ish that I’m going back to Philadelphia for this surgery twenty years after the other surgery on my spine. Back to the same floor of the same hospital with the same doctor, so maybe it isn’t all so big, wild and weird; maybe it’s a small world, after all.