Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Endings and beginnings

I don't usually talk about my own health in here, except on the rare dramatic occasions when I fall down and end in the hospital! but I do have continuing problems with my hands. A combo of arthritis, what my doctor calls normal wear and tear for an artist in her seventies doing hands-on nursing care for an invalid, and trigger thumb and finger, both thumbs and first two fingers on each hand.

What happens is that pressure, even moderate pressure, can cause them to lock up so that the fingers and thumb are frozen in place, and need help with the other hand to thaw them out, so to speak. But much worse is the pain in the thumbs, which is on some days almost disabling, since every move needs my thumbs.

So I've had to look at what I can delete from my life and what I need to preserve my hands for. In order to have HP continue to be at home, where he is very happy, doing well, and having a life, I need to be able to continue to attend him, including hooking and unhooking the lift morning and evening, fraught with pain when my hands are playing up, and all the dressing and turning and reaching and exercising and so on that he needs. So that has a priority. I really want us to continue to be together in our own home.

On other fronts, I have noticed much more trouble after an hour of tapestry making, so I have retired that for the moment at least, and have had to cut back on knitting, though I can do that for a while. The painting was fine, no pressure on holding a brush, etc., though the framing was not so fun, but that's done now. So painting can remain. And drawing. And printmaking. Spinning is done, I think. And carding. And unraveling sweaters! At least for now.

I'm doing various remedies short of the surgery that might be in my future if I'm unlucky. Including arnica pills, which are helpful, and hot and cold hand baths, and I suddenly realized, after being reminded about resistance exercises, that when I do my free weights, my hands tend to do better. So I've put that back into my life, too, tended to get left out of the day's work, considering all the other stuff needed around here.

Cooking is fine as long as I avoid picking up heavy stuff or my nemesis, a stack of dishes all at once.

So I've figured out the art and homecare and cooking side of life. But then there's music.

And one of the culprits in my hand pain is the flute. It's a silver instrument, heavy for my hands, needs to be held at a kind of unnatural angle, wonderful sound, heavenly to play, and has been a huge adventure. But I had to say good bye to it.

She left today to return to her owner, having given me a couple of years of great pleasure and exploration and self teaching and a door open to a whole new sound. It was wonderful, and now it has to end. I went through a similar wrench when I had to give up violin because my body just couldn't do it. That's how I came to playing recorder, in search of an instrument I could play forever.

So, on the ground that it hurts less if you do it fast, the bandaid approach, I quickly packed her and shipped her home. She will go to another person later this year, the owner tells me, so this is good. I would have had to give her up sooner or later, so it may as well be sooner, I guess.

It twere well to be done, twere well to be done quickly, or words to that effect, according to Will S., except I'm not planning a murder here. But it was very very reminiscent of saying goodbye to a beloved animal. A musical instrument you hold in your hands gets to have a relationship with you. I thanked her as I packed her in her case.

So that adventure is done, and I am telling myself it will make a place for the next one. That's what I'm telling myself.


  1. Know that you are in my thoughts and prayers for healing, my dear. It's hard enough to deal with your own maladies, but I know how difficult it can be when you need to stay ahead of it all to be able to take care of someone else...especially a loved one. Please remember to take care of yourself, even as you say goodbye to some of the items that brought you so much pleasure.
    Sending healing hugs your way.

  2. I'm so sorry to hear that you had to give up the flute. You are a good and brave person, I think. My thoughts and prayers go with you. I wish I had wiser words, but my heart goes out to you.

  3. I am having to contemplate something similar myself at the moment so I feel your sorrow. It seems so unfair that our bodies pack up so that we can no longer do the things we love. Healing thoughts coming your way. Glucosamine and fish oil are really good for arthritis. Hope you're able to get back to the other things you love soon.


  4. Oh Liz how my thumbs and forefingers are in sympathy. So far warm water (at last, a good reason to wear rubber gloves and do dishes in nice hot water), and glucosamine are keeping mine in a semblance of order. I shall send you vibes each time I do the dishes to remind you to put on your gloves and have a soak. Some days it's hard to see the perks of retirement age.

  5. With knitting, have you tried knitting alternate to your preferred style? I have chronic aggravated tendonitis (precursor to carpal tunnel) from 25 years as a hair dresser. Since giving that up, it is pretty well sort of in remission excepting the days when I knit a lot (or at a tight gage). One of the things that helps is if I switch from English to continental when I first feel the twinge, I can at least still knit more if I want to. I am a very zen knitter anyway, so not a real issue if I have to put it down.

    Of course I still do some hair on the side and had to retrain myself for the way I hold the scissors.

    Also, have you tried acupuncture for the pain? I would think you might find someon who does home visits as it is already an alternative medicine and practitioners tend to think outside the box. Might also be something beneficial for HP.

    Just my thoughts on the matter. Hoping you have many pain free days ahead and holding a good thought...


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