Thursday 30 August 2007

Playing the Changes

I've had some good/bad news recently.

To background, I've played guitar (and other instruments) on and off for about 25 years. Over the last 4 years, my left (fretting) hand and arm have felt, well, weird. It wasn't pain, exactly, but it was discomfort. I found that, by the end of a session, my left hand was so weak it could barely grip. Lately it's been in the middle of a song with too many bar chords that my hand has started cramping, because I've been overcompensating with my thumb to both push the strings down and to actually hold my hand up to the level of the neck.

About 18 months ago I finally saw my doctor about it, after some initial dabbling in physiotherapy, and he referred me on to a sports injury specialist. Over the last year or so I've been through a combination of physiotherapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, meditation therapy and lots and lots of scans. To the point where I finally cracked and said that I am willing to consider surgical options because nothing else is working.

Monday saw me go in for a pressure test on my left forearm and the results indicated that I do, indeed, need surgery. (I'm not detailing the type of problem or surgery as it's not exactly common and don't want this site to show up in searches for it - email me for the gory details).

And that's the good news - after 4 years or so, I now know what the problem is and there is a treatment for it.

The bad news is that I've had to make one of the biggest decisions of my life and hang up my guitar(s).

This is precautionary as I don't want to get any worse prior to surgery. It's also precautionary in case the result is that, even after surgery, I'm no longer able to play.

In contemplating this, I have been quite sad. See, we usually are defined in 2 ways - external (how others see us) and internal (how we see ourselves). As we try to minimise the influence of the external definition, so we try to grow the internal definition.

My big internal definition is as a musician, even though my career path has lead in other directions. No matter if I've only played for 5 minutes in a week, or 50 hours, I still see myself, in part, as a creative, musical type. Picking up an instrument and bashing out something reasonable is what I do and what I love. And now I face the real prospect of that part of me disappearing.

One of life's lessons is that we need to roll with the changes, but without losing who we are. I guess I have allowed the thing I need to look at changing to be very much part of who I am. And just when I was about to buy a new pedal to add to my collection. Sigh.

Anyway, my list of questions for the pre-surgery consultation so far are:
1. Will the procedure return me to 100% function?
2. If not, will I still be able to play a musical instrument again?
3. What is the post-op recovery time expected to be?
4. Will the scar be sexy?


Icy said...

Oh wow, that kinda sucks. At least you know what is causing the pain...

Maybe it's an oportunity to pick up another instrument, or even one of those guitars you play on your knees? (Please excuse my musical ignorance by not knowing the correct name).

2BarRiff said...

Icy, you are pre-rmpting a soon to be posted post. Stop it! :-)

Actually, lap steel would still affect me as there is a bit of wrist movement (less than guitar but still enough to be painful).

2BarRiff said...

pre-rmpting, of course, is a totally cool, new way to spell pre-empting.

Really, I'm surprised you didn't know that :-)