“The greatest test of courage on Earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.”A man named Robert G. Ingersoll spoke the words above. He was the Attorney General of Illinois, was friends with Walt Whitman, and was regarded as one of the greatest orators of his time. After leading his Illinois regiment in the Battle of Shiloh in the Civil War, he was later captured. Like Ingersoll, I am fighting in my own war, with battles waged on a daily basis. Sometimes I am able to walk away victorious, and sometimes I’m not.
…the pain and numbness had increased significantly. My R.A. had never presented in that fashion before, so I was understandably concerned. I decided to do a bit of research on my own, but I had a sinking suspicion I already knew what the outcome would be.
As some of you know, I am working on my first novel. I am always my own harshest critic, but even so, it is definitely the best work I’ve ever done. Because of this, I am eager to finish the book and begin the long process of finding an agent and a publisher. I have been working at a frantic pace, writing three or four thousand words a night. As you can imagine, this much typing would put a heavy strain on a healthy person’s wrists and fingers. Unfortunately, “healthy” is not a word that is frequently used when my wellbeing comes into question.Last week, I began to experience wrist pain and a tingling numbness in my ring and middle fingers. I simply assumed this was due to the overuse of my hands, which in turn aggravated my underlying Rheumatoid Arthritis. So, I kept on working at the same pace. A day or two after that, the pain and numbness had increased significantly. My R.A. had never presented in that fashion before, so I was understandably concerned. I decided to do a bit of research on my own, but I had a sinking suspicion I already knew what the outcome would be. After an hour or so of reading and one e-mail to my doctor, my worst fear was confirmed. I was the proud recipient of a brand new case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.Now, I am no stranger to hardship. You’ll have to forgive me if I sound boastful, but I can truly say that I have experienced pain on a scale that is incomparable to anything that most people have ever felt. Pain at a level that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Pain that, well, you get the idea. Sufficed to say, my threshold for pain tolerance is well above most people’s. This time, though, it was different.I have worn many hats in my life. I have been a DJ, worked at McDonalds, swept up movie theaters, worked as a public library paige, been a law clerk, and even promoted parties in New York City for drag queens (that’s a story for another column). Despite holding all of these jobs and many more, I never felt that ubiquitous passion that many who have found their calling claim to experience. I enjoyed some of the jobs immensely, but none ever made me feel like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. That is, until I began to write.Two years ago, when I began to put into words how my disease made me feel, I suddenly and completely knew that being an author was exactly what I supposed to do. It simply felt like slipping into an old comfortable shoe. I now knew what everyone meant when they described it as a “passion,” for that’s exactly what it is. So, there I was, doing what I knew I should be doing, and enjoying every minute of it. A week ago, when I found out that R.A. has a well known side effect of promoting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, it was sobering. Not only did I now suffer from yet another illness, but I also found out that it was possibly avoidable. While that was upsetting, it was not the worst part. The passion that I had found for writing had come with an unwelcome dark side. The very tools that I used to ply my newfound craft had been handicapped.It goes without saying that my mood was anything but glib on that day. God, the thoughts that were flashing through my mind at that point were epic in their despair. Why me? Again? What did I do to deserve this? Are you kidding me? Do I not have enough to deal with? Am I being tested? Seriously, what the hell else can happen to me?It’s not as if I haven’t dealt with similar issues before. When I lost a portion of the sight in my right eye, I was originally told that I would probably lose all of it. Being told that your sight, the most used and the most vital of the five senses, was going to fail in a short time, can quite literally “rock your world.” Fortunately, a more optimistic second opinion turned out to be accurate. Yet even on that horrible day, when I thought that my disease and the side effects of my medication had taken my sight, it did not quite compare with the grief that I felt last week. But something positive also happened, something quite unexpected.After a few hours of feeling sorry for myself, I got up, went to the local CVS, and purchased two Carpal Tunnel wrist support gloves. I arrived at the check out counter, and the attendant scanned the price code for both gloves. After he rang up the purchase, he said “sixty two fifty.” In response, I said something that shouldn’t be repeated in polite company. “Holy cow!” I thought. “Sixty bucks?” I couldn’t believe it. A few bits of cloth and metal were almost sixty five dollars. American dollars! Geez! It was unconscionable how companies preyed upon handicapped individuals such as myself. It was just wrong. Corporations priced devices to aid people like me at such a high point simply because they knew we would pay for it. And I did! But then I realized something. I was so angry about paying over sixty dollars for these stupid gloves, that I had completely forgotten about my despair over adding yet another ailment to my growing list of infirmities.Without turning this into some bright and shiny tale about taking life’s lemons and making lemonade, it is important to realize the moral of the story. You have to decide what you want to be remembered for. Do you want to be someone who is defined by the tragedies that befall you, or do you want to be defined by the way you react to life’s trials and tribulations? When I realized that paying almost seventy dollars for gloves affected me almost as much as having Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, it truly cleared my vision. So, the next time you are feeling down because you lost your arm, remember, at least you only have to buy one glove.