As is generally the case, I found a lot that was deeply thought-provoking and personally relevant in the sermon given today by our retired pastor. He asked the simple question: “are you content,” and then commented on various ways that contentment can be learned. We can forgive the past and stop giving people who have deeply hurt us room in our lives, stop expecting the world to be “fair” according to our own standards, and can seek through various means like travel, friendship, and service to get outside of ourselves and also to avoid the oppressive weight of knowing all of the stupid things that are going on around the world that simply make us upset. Of course, I would have preferred to have listened to the sermon in person, to ponder the way in which fretfulness and anxiety have perhaps led to the problems with inflammation that I deal with in my own life, but for reasons I will shortly discuss I was unable to be there in person, even if I was able to watch the webcast.
Who knows how may years they have left? Our retired pastor spoke of three people who had been wrongly convicted of crimes, one of whom had spent thirty years wrongly convicted of murder in solitary confinement but who had come to a sense of forgiveness of realizing that those thirty year were gone but that the rest of his life was not going to be ruined by the injustice that he had suffered. He also spoke of the same lesson being learned by Nelson Mandela in his own prison experiments on an island in Cape Town’s harbor where his human interaction was limited to the time when he was busy quarrying stone. I certainly do not know how many years I have left or what will be my condition in living them, but if many of those days are like today, where even though I was in generally good health in most of my body, both of my feet suffered from crippling gout attacks as well as other foot pain besides that, it may behoove me to ponder what it would take for my experience as a potential cripple to be less dire than it is at present, where I am more or less stuck in bed four feet off the ground unless I want a very painful hobble anywhere else.
I do not wish to wallow in my own suffering, and I was not sure at what point to bring it up in the first place, given that since Wednesday morning I have been gimpy, and that as the week has progressed more and more foot problems and pains have been added to each other, for reasons I do not understand, staring with redness and swelling that feels like gout on the ball of the left foot, then adding some injuries from the stress and strain placed on the right foot to compensate for a bum left foot, and then since this morning a gout attack in my right big toe on top of the existing foot pain. Clearly, it is possible that my foot pains will not only come singly in the future but increasingly in higher numbers of simultaneous problems that will drastically limit mobility, and that is a reality that must be prepared for, seeing as it is my experience for the moment (although who knows how long). It is appropriate for someone with two bum wheels to have a bed that is four feet above the ground that requires one to jump or climb while standing on the metal piece at the bottom? What would be necessary for a home of mine to be sufficiently prepared for mobility concerns that it would be able to allow me to comfortably and reasonably quickly make it to the restroom as well as be able to shower or bathe without submitting oneself to excruciating pain and a notable lack of balance.
It is uncertain how urgent such projects are, as the experience of being totally crippled is still a new one to me, but it is obvious that such things will have to be thought of. One thing is clear, and that it is a deep struggle for me to stay hydrated, and not something that I find easy to do at all. Even when I go to dinner and drink tremendous amounts of water, I find myself completely dry-mouthed in the middle of the night, and even when I drink more water in the middle of the night when I am awake to go to the bathroom, I still find myself dehydrated in the morning. Obviously, many of the foot problems I have relate to my problems in getting my kidneys to secrete the uric acid that piles in my blood, but how to get enough water and how to keep that uric acid low enough is a dire problem that does not look like it will get any easier. At some point, something like kidney dialysis may even be required to flush out my kidneys, and that is not an appealing thought at all either. But if that is the reality with the years that are left to me, they will have to be dealt with as cheerfully as possible, as a way of gaining greater empathy with others through one’s suffering and the knowledge of of the ways that the body is deeply connected and dependent on all kinds of little parts working correctly, from the lymphatic system getting rid of the body’s wastes to the kidneys’ abilities to flush everything clean. How to think about such matters as a life of indeterminate length with one’s body already starting to fall apart dramatically is a task that few may wish to ask for, but which is something worth solving. After all, one can set a great example for one’s cheer and contentment even in the face of great pain and difficulty, and while one cannot choose the sorts of situations one has to deal with, one has the responsibility to respond to the reality that one is given in an effective manner.