I have been locked away from this site for weeks, so I need to strike while access is granted. Please excuse the breathlessness.
A couple of weekends ago I drew plans for a potting bench for the patio, bought 2x4s to make the frame, and cut the wood. My hands began to swell before I finished. The original idea was that I would complete the frame that weekend, and cover the frame in cedar plank the weekend following. However, that initial Saturday, by the time I had stacked the cut pieces inside the back door, it was certain I was not going to do any further assembly for at least a couple of days. By midweek, my hands were still swollen, and stiff and painful. A week later, the potting bench had not advanced. It still has not advanced. Business as usual has paused for a reality check.
Several days passed before the swelling in my hands went down enough that I could again wear a ring. Pain in my hands diminished to near what I consider baseline for these arthritic joints. More than two weeks later I am still not playing the bouzouki fluidly, but I can play. One thing certain is that my hands have not returned to a state in which I want to pick up a drill for another round on the patio project.
This is the first woodworking I have attempted in four years, and discovering how much my hands have deteriorated in that time is sobering. Besides arthritis, I have a hereditary condition that began to assert itself a couple of years ago. Deformation of my palms from sheaths growing around tendons in each hand remains slight, but clearly visible. Independence of the ring and little fingers is noticeably compromised in both hands. Much of my technique on Irish bouzouki can be accounted for by the ways I have had to compensate for stiffening digits.
Days of ache following an afternoon of sawing wood is cause for serious reflection, and, lazy bones that I am, I did not miss an excuse to lay about musing on vagaries of existence. My first conclusion was that I shall not be sawing wood for future projects. From this line of thought it was a quick skip to a hard look at the many and various figurative plates I have been attempting to keep spinning on as many figurative poles. To all and sundry, I used to spout, “I can do anything; I just can’t do everything.” Time now to admit that if that statement ever were true, it is no longer. There grows a list of things I cannot or can no longer do. Time and past time, Robert, old buddy, to get real.
A huge block in my creative output for several months now has been the long promised 3000 Weeks e-book. I had not originally planned to be the person assembling the e-book, but it has fallen to me to see the promise kept and the anthology produced. Initially, the task involved extensive reformatting, and in some cases re-editing, text, but following those milestones I have been lost in grand visions of an e-book anthology with words and still images augmented by embedded audio and video files. Ways exist to embed such media in a publication, and I have been struggling unsuccessfully to acquire the tools and expertise to accomplish this aim. Last weekend, before sawing wood, I tried again. Again, I was disappointed in the results. Today, after much thought, I say, “I surrender.” I cannot figure it out. My ambitions for the e-book dial back a notch to what I can accomplish: a simpler union of words and static images, with links provided to other media cached on the internet. This is what I can do to keep the promise of the e-book and then get on with what I need to be doing.
What is it I need to be doing? Creating. I need to be writing, making sound art and drawing. I need to redesign my websites in support of my changing vision. I need to ponder the nature of reality, and look up to witness the beauty and horror of the world. I need to remain plugged into my community of friends. I need to husband the functionality left in my hands. There are still many things I can do, but everything? I cannot. Let us be generous and call this maturity.