I have been very fortunate to have run close to fifty marathons over the past twenty years. Since people know that I am a marathon runner, there are two questions that I always get. I understand the first question. I do not understand the follow-up one.
The first question that I get asked is "How many miles do you run every week?" The answer is typically fifty miles. Then, there is the next question; "How are your knees?"
Thankfully, my knees are just fine. What I do not understand about this question is if I tell someone that I run fifty miles a week, all of a sudden, people have this worry that I must be in some excruciating pain. The unfounded belief that I must be in terrible pain is implied in the question itself. I have never gotten a response to the first answer; "Wow. your knees must be in great shape!" Even my doctor is concerned. Every year, after I inform her on how much I run, she asks me "how are your knees?"
Just to prove that my knees are just fine, I just hope these people do not expect me to run three or four hundred miles a week. Of course, my knees would be fine, except that by then, they would have fallen off of my legs.
I bring this up because I am closing in on sixty years old. I tuned fifty nine last week. I learned that, after I turned fifty, I entered the age group that starts to get focused on the topic of pain management. It turns out that everyone in this group has their own personal pain manager.
I have to start by saying that I am not fond of the term "pain manager." The term makes no sense to me. The reason is because, when I have pain, I have no interest in having the pain managed. I want the pain eliminated. I want to be pain to be gone, and out of my life. The faster it is gone, the happier I will be.
Compare this term to the term "babysitter." What is a babysitter? A babysitter is someone who comes into your house, and for a few hours, manages both the house and the baby. Nobody hires a babysitter, and instructs the babysitter: "I hope the baby will be gone when we get home!"
Don't worry. The baby should be home when you get back. But, if you get a pain manager, the pain will also likely be there when you get home. Every pain manager tells you a different thing. Try yoga. Try pilates. How about the Alexander Technique? Have you heard of Feldenkrais? There are just so many choices.
So, you settle on doing yoga. Again, there are more choices. They tell you to try Hatha Yoga, or maybe Bikram Yoga, or maybe ten other kinds of Yoga. Okay. You finally settle on Bikram. The yoga instructor starts the class by asking if anybody has certain limitations that the instructor should be aware of. You raise your hand, and spend the first ten minutes of the class explaining to the instructor your "top ten" limitation list. The instructor appeared to have shown some mild interest up to limitation number two, and then, appeared to have tuned out. You know that the instructor tuned out because you never received any guidance on how exactly to do the class with these limitations. Wait a second. You did get one instruction.
"Do the best you can."
You go through the class and you find out that you can do one pose. You try not to do another pose. It starts to hurt. You quickly learned that one pose will be good for your legs, but it can hurt your back. You find out that the other pose is good for your back, but it can hurt your legs. You should do Warrior One Pose, but be careful with Warrior Two Pose. If you do Warrior Three Pose, make sure you get back to do more Warrior One to offset any pain caused by Warrior Three.
When yoga fails, you turn to your pain manager, and this manager prescribes for you a variety of pain relief medication. I went hiking with friends the other day, and the two people I was with spent the whole time talking about the side effects of each pain medication they are taking or considering. One prescription may cause vomiting. Another causes diarrhea. One causes dizziness and heart palpitations. Another causes high blood pressure and heart attack. One may cause cancer, and finally, another may cause death.
After listening to these two comparing side effect notes for two hours, I could not take it any more. I blurted out; "These are not side effects? They are effects!!"
"Death is an effect! It is not something that just passes while you are digesting the pill."
Of course, after you get to the end of the prescription warnings list, it always says:
"If you get any of these side effects, please consult with your physician immediately." Needless to say, I am not sure that if I get this death effect, I will be calling up my physician.
It is an effect. You would never go to a restaurant, and give the waiter this order:
"For my main entree, I would like to get one scoop of the sorbet. Bring two spoons because we are sharing. And for the side dish, I will have the forty-eight ounce cowboy bone-in ribeye for two. Don't worry. I can finish it all by myself. Last week, I did the porterhouse for three!"
The point here is that we try to minimize the effects by simply calling them side effects. If something is minimized, we do not have to take them seriously. If they are side effects, they appear to be much smaller, and even more manageable. Even if the side effect is death, they convince you that it would not be permanent, and you probably will be able to get over it quickly.
However, I am concerned about our CrankaTsuris. If we look at the common CrankaTsuris, and we want to begin to embrace effective crankiness, there are no such thing as side effects. Everything is an effect. Some effects can ruin your day or week. Other effects are long lasting and have severe consequences. There are effects that can be something that causes loved ones a lot of pain.
When we appreciate the effects, and know that they are not side effects, we begin to take the causes more seriously. We examine what the cause is, and once we understand the cause more completely, we then come up with different strategies on how we can manage the CrankaTsuris.
Yes. This is where management is perfectly fine. This is where it is needed. When we start utilizing our strategies, we are on the path to effective crankiness.