May 15, 2014

Speed Bumps in the Highway of Life

While purging our paper files, I found a printout of my son’s LiveJournal entry for July 2002. Because it’s still a few days after Mother’s Day, I decided to share this mother-son exchange. It’s rather weird that today I am quoting that blog that quotes one of my defunct Suite101 Inspiration/Motivation articles that quotes my son. Nonetheless, just a few thoughts for when we hit those minor setbacks in our lives. 

Date: 2002-07-19 22:01
Subject: speed bumps
Security: Public

A while back, I wrote my mother some e-mail about dealing with her carpal tunnel syndrome. For the unaware, CTS is the painful degradation of the delicate muscle-bone mechanisms that we call our hands. She wrote an article about it recently, and I'd like to share it here.


Screencap of Suite101 Inspiration/Motivation back in 2002
Welcome page of Suite101 Inspiration/Motivation 2002

Speed Bumps in the Highway of Life
By Ruby Bayan

Sometimes we want to believe we're immortal, or at the very least, immune to the frailties of human existence. Cancer happens to other people. Accidents happen to neighbors. Casualties fall on friends of friends. These gosh-awful things don't happen to us... until they do.

When I started calling myself a writer, I took all the precautions I knew, so that I wouldn't have to suffer what they call the "writer's syndrome" or CTS (carpal tunnel syndrome). I had an ergonomic chair, keyboard, and mouse. I was conscious of my posture, and took breaks from typing as often as I could.

It didn't occur to me that CTS would sneak up on me not from the keyboard but from packing and unpacking shelves of books and pieces of furniture from one house to another. My workouts didn't prepare my hands and arms enough for the torture I was going to subject them to when we relocated. As soon as I finished re-assembling and re-stocking our bookshelves, my hands literally died. CTS had set in.

I couldn't believe I had no strength at all to open a jar of peanut butter. A plastic bag of groceries felt heavier than a ton of bricks. Moving furniture -- out of the question. Typing sent tiny electric shocks through my fingers. Numb and painful hands woke me up in the middle of the night. I couldn't believe it. I felt miserable.

I told my folks about what had happened to me -- we had moved to a beautiful new home but in my excitement, I lost my hands. They all told me to take it easy, and to give my hands a rest. My son, ever fluent, and thinking otherwise, gave me the most powerful advice and encouragement I received:

"Hi, Mom. The source of CTS is the overexertion of the muscles through the wrist-joint mechanism. With the right amount of stretching and massaging, you can slowly counteract the damage, and realign the muscles within your wrist. It's going to take a lot of time and a lot of exercise, but I'm sure you can manage it. You always were the more diligent of the two of us.

"And what's this I hear about your not being able to move stuff around? I can understand not being able to do heavy lifting, but I do hope you're still keeping a moderately active metabolism. Fight the sedentary lifestyle -- there are people decades older than you and me who are still going strong because they just won't let it get them down.

"Be confident about your abilities. You were a mountaineer once. Don't just look back at it wistfully as an aspect of your past that you went through and moved on from. You're still that same person. You just haven't used the hardware in the same fashion in a while.

"I'm sure you can find the focus. Look back at all you've accomplished, and remember that you managed far more than the average individual because you felt like you could, and you went ahead and did it. Yes, acknowledge your limitations, but that doesn't mean you should just take it easy and take things for granted. It's all in the mindset, right?

"If you believe you can, then you won't take minor setbacks like momentary fatigue and muscular distress as if they were permanent roadblocks stopping you from walking down your old roads. Just think of them as speed bumps. You need to compensate for them, but darned if you're going to let them stop you, right?"

Ah, yes. My son gave me the gift of a bright and optimistic perspective: speed bumps in the highway of life. That's what this is. Just like all the other obstacles I have faced, I shall cope, I shall compensate. Then gain momentum once more, and cruise, and continue to enjoy the journey.


An uplifting postscript to Mom's article: her CTS is gone. Her hands have returned to full functionality, and she's doing great. If you'd like to get to know the true renaissance woman I call mother, mentor, friend and role model, visit her website 


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