I can tell you now, the little things that happen in life, that you barely notice, far more often than not, turn out to be the biggest things. John Lennon noted this as life happening while you’re busy making other plans. There’s how you think your life is going to be, and how it is. And hopefully the difference is, as you get older, how it is turns out to be all right.
Last weekend while grocery shopping, I leaned over to bag some onions and brushed my stomach against the rail of my cart. In doing so, I felt a small lump just above my belly button. I felt it with my finger. What the hell is that, I thought. A bruise? I didn’t recall bumping into anything. Some type of muscle strain? It didn’t hurt. It was just sort of there for no reason. Made note of it. Weekend went right on rolling, lifting weights that afternoon, boxing on Sunday.
But I noticed by Monday, that lump hadn’t changed, gotten any better or worse. Long story short, I went to the doctor later in the week and learned that I had a small umbilical hernia that could be repaired through very straightforward out-patient surgery that takes less than an hour.
That’s the Readers Digest version.
The real version? Christ, what a pile of shit I went through mentally and emotionally this week leading up to that relatively positive prognosis. The worst thing you can do is what I did … immediately hit the web typing in stuff like “lump over belly button” and such … and coming up with all sorts of bullshit, some sensible, some demented, all geared to make my imagination run wild with dark thoughts of impending doom. And I can guarantee you, your mind dwells on this shit leading up to actually finding out about whatever’s really going on.
In my mind, I had already homed in on the hernia explanation as it matched my symptoms: no pain, strange lump appears for no apparent reason in that exact location, disappears when the body is in a reclining position. Or at least I was hoping it was that, given the other options would be cancerous or non-cancerous tumor or some type of contusion.
But this song pretty much describes how I felt: all alone in the center ring. I have never felt so alone as in those two or three days when I dwelled on every possible negative outcome of this. Self pity. Self loathing. Fucking up. I spend a lot of time alone – once I got out of a small house filled with seven people, I guess the novelty of being on my own never wore off. I’m one of those people who really don’t mind being alone.
But, man, there’s a massive difference between that sort of comfortable solitude and the truly desolate mind-fuck that you go through when faced with the prospect of something going very wrong with your body. Next to Dad's passing, it's the bleakest emotion I've ever felt.
You have to understand, last time I required medical attention was in summer 1977 or so when a farm dog bit me on the ass while riding my bicycle on the back roads around my hometown. I’ve pretty much gone through my adult life with the concept that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. (And I still subscribe to that.) Your body will tell you when something is wrong. Well, earlier this week, my body told me something was wrong, and I didn’t screw around trying to second guess or self prescribe. I got it looked at, and thankfully it’s something that can be dealt with directly (and I’m hoping decisively).
And I’ve gone through my adult life with the attitude that you need to work out routinely, at least a few times a week, to keep your system running well. It seems to me like not exercising is a bad idea, that people run into all sorts of shit, physically and mentally, when they become more sedentary. Well, as I’m also figuring, this thing could have happened from working out too hard, or carrying too much body weight while routinely working out hard. Another guy in my gym, in his late 50s, is going to need hip replacement surgery, based mainly on cartilage in his hip wearing down from years of running and biking. (This guy worked out like a fiend leading up to this … running 4-6 miles a day, biking 3-4 times a week and taking my boxing class same number of times.)
And who knows, could just be in my genes that one day a tendon in my abdominal wall would give in just a little and give me this little lump to ponder. Some things in your life were put into play long before you were born, and they simply open up like light and dark flowers when the time is right.
As I’ve noted before, life is blissfully unaware of whether you’re happy or sad, rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy. It will give you good things when you least expect it, and bad things without warning. It doesn’t care … it just happens. Good things happen to bad people? Bad things happen to good people? No. Things, good and bad, happen to all of us. And it’s our lot in life to take the good and bad in stride and go on living.
Good’s already happening for me from this thing, although you might want to ask me about this again when I’m high as a kite and cursing God for the stitches in my abdomen. I needed an excuse to drop weight … boy, do I have one now, it’s already happening. I was hardly eating earlier this week with my nerves on edge, and I’ve since realized when I do get back to working out, less weight will mean less strain on my tendons. So all that fear and darkness I felt earlier in the week has served as profound incentive to truly get my ass in shape when the time comes. Because I don’t ever want to feel that sort of darkness again.
But I will. That’s the downside of something like this: a glimpse into the future in terms of my body betraying me. Because that’s old age and eventually death: your body betraying you. That simple. I got to gaze into the crystal ball and see this for myself. Everyone who goes through some type of unforeseen physical shit does … and usually in situations far worse than mine. I can also see into the light in the darkness, that the best you can do is be strong, handle whatever’s been put in front of you with grace. I wouldn’t call this optimism. I’d call it reality for a sane person, sizing up options and making the best possible choices. Knowing that somewhere down the road, we’re all going to get a knockout punch that we will not get up from.
Aside from that, pretty quiet week. Got my Roku box working again, watching the first season of Justified, enjoying the end of winter. This stuff may sound trivial, but it feels good to think trivial thoughts, and write trivial things, the comfort level that implies, because I know life is at its best when you’re just quietly doing things like this that make you happy in some small sense, that keep you sane, that keep your mind occupied and your sense of self engaged. It’s been 35 years between doctor visits for unforeseen bullshit, and I’m hoping it’s 35 more.