Dear Readers:

I recently had back problems and disk surgery. I have learned many
lessons that I wanted to share. These are tips about harvesting
physical and spiritual lessons from physical adversity, and about
navigating daily life.


Dear Recuperating:

One of my Torah teachers tried hard to teach me that the most important part of
loving and having faith in G-d was to be able to say Thank You for lessons
learned through hardship with as much sincerity as one says Thanks for those
learned through joy. It’s a rare person who embraces that teaching easily.
In addition to the spiritual insights, here’s some very practical tips for coping with
debilitating body issues: An early side effect of chronic pain is loss of energy.
You might be more tired during the day, have trouble with the daily chores, and
care less about what remains undone. There’s simply less of you to go around
because your body is fighting pain. You’ll start taking over-the counter-
medications but go to your doctor soon to get a handle on what’s appropriate and
safe. There’s a great website (and maybe others) called that’ll
help you know what not to mix together. That’s fine for 2 a.m. info, but ask your
doctor for the right diagnostic tests to find out if what you have will pass on its
own or needs more serious interventions.


Buy the right accommodation tools. For backs, here’s my minimum set: a long-
handled grabber that’ll save you from reaching too high or bending too low. Ditto
for a long-handled dustpan and broom combo, great for when the cat food dish
slips from the grabber and makes a mess on the kitchen floor. Ask about the right
positions to sit and lie down in. You can make things much better or worse with
wrong choices. A recliner is better than a soft sofa. Buy some really large gel ice
bags, placed in a reachable place in your freezer. Have water bottles with sippy
tops everywhere you might lie down. Ditto reading glasses, books, tissues, and a
pen/paper for writing notes to yourself.


Take an inventory of family and friends who’re available to help. Don’t burn them
out too early, because you may need them if you have surgery later. A household
full of family may also impose too many requests on you, so make it clear what
you cannot do. Living alone poses other challenges; see if you can find a reliable
teenager you can pay to do heavy cleaning and lifting If you cannot drive, line up
folks to take you to doctor appointments. Admit this going to last a while and plan
accordingly. Eventually life gets better.