Sunday, July 30, 2017

Annual Goals

Years ago I decided I didn't like new year's resolutions. They're just too easy to break - for me anyway. Instead, I make goals for the next year. It might only be a semantic difference, but goals work better.

This year's goals include two walking goals:
1. Walk 100 miles every month
2. Walk 1200 miles for the year.

I've accomplished #1 every month this year: 7 for 7!
I have also already walked 1200 miles this year, as of yesterday. That feels like a really big accomplishment. It has required consistency, commitment and a willingness to walk even on the days when my body is saying, "Not today!"

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Blessing of Having Wonderful Friends

I have friends.

I have friends whom I've known for most of my life, and friends I've only known for a short time.
I have friends whom I see often, and friends whom I rarely see. With some of those rarely-seen friends, when we do get together we pick up right where we left off. Despite lack of regular contact, I know our friendship is solid.

And I have friends who spoil me.

I have some friends who go out of town periodically. When they're gone, I check on their house. It's a simple task for me, doesn't require much time or energy, and I'm happy to do it. And when these friends get home, they spoil me: they take me to a movie, out to lunch, dinner at their house, homemade ice cream. I suspect they feel like they owe me something, even though I've told them they don't. But it's their way of saying thank you. And it would be selfish of me to reject their expression of gratitude. There should be more gratitude in the world and these friends express it wonderfully.

And they are not the only friends I have who are generous with their gratitude.

First, a little back story:
For those who might not know, I used to be a golf pro - a teaching pro at a local golf course. I was a pretty good player. At my best I was about a 3 handicap. I once shot 64 (8 under par) in a tournament. That's pretty good golf - and it seems like a lifetime ago.

Now, I don't play often. My rheumatoid arthritis has affected golf like it affects all the other parts of my life. Last year I played one round. This year I've played three times. The last 18 hole round exhausted me; it took me a week to recover from that and I think my hands are still trying to recover.

Because of the RA, my hands and wrists are weak and don't have much range of motion. My shoulders don't work like they used to. Everything takes more energy and hurts more than it used to. Even so, I'm still able to scrape it around the golf course. Instead of a 3 handicap, I'm more like an 18 handicap. I can play bogey golf, which isn't bad for someone who plays a few times a year.

Part of my limitation now is my equipment. I still have the irons I used when I was a pro. They have stiff steel shafts, which are great for someone who can swing hard. I can't swing hard anymore so these clubs just don't fit my game. But because I only play infrequently, it makes no sense to buy a different set of clubs, or to have my clubs reshafted. That's just too much expense. So I make do with what I have. However, using those clubs intended for a good strong player takes a toll on my hands and wrists.

After that last round of golf I had decided that I might not be able to play 18 holes anymore. That much golf at one time is just too much. I think I'll have to be a nine hole player.

I was at the driving range the other day, talking with a friend about equipment. I mentioned my clubs and the steel shafts, saying I could benefit from lightweight graphite shafts, and a softer flex, but that I just can't justify spending the money. He told me he sometimes runs across good clubs for sale; would I mind if he kept an eye out for a set of clubs for me.

Sure. If he found some I'd be interested in seeing them.

That's not exactly what he meant though. He called me a few days ago asking if I had time to hit a club he found. So we met at the driving range. He hadn't found a club - he had found a set of irons for me: graphite shaft, senior flex (to match my senior swing speed), and he even had oversize grips installed. I thought he was looking for a set of clubs that I would buy, but he bought them for me.

Spoiled again. I've helped him with some things, so he wanted to help me, to express his gratitude. He wanted to find a way to make golf easier for me to play: lighter clubs, softer flex, bigger grips. I'm encouraged that I might still be able to play 18 holes since I'll have clubs that fit my swing. I swing like an old man now so I need to use equipment that matches that swing. I'm not too proud to take advantage of technology.

These two stories have some things in common:
1. I have friends who are so gracious. They humble me with their kindness.
2. While they're thanking me, I feel like I'm getting the better end of the bargain. I should be (and I am) thanking them. That seems like a good way to base a friendship: both sides grateful for the other.

I am so blessed to have the friends that I do - and these are two examples among so many more. I have been blessed beyond measure. I have received more than I deserve and I am so grateful.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Progress(?) of Life

At the last appointment with my rheumatologist, we discussed the nature of my RA: aggressive, non-responsive, and difficult to treat. The PA, who is really great, is frustrated that they can't find the right combination of meds. I think she's more frustrated than I am. During our talk I told her, "I live with the pain every day, but it could be worse. I'm functioning ."

To be honest, I'm losing confidence that my condition will ever improve. It certainly seems inexorable. The best I can hope for is to remain stable, which just isn't going to happen. On a day-to-day basis, I feel like I'm not getting worse. In the short term, I think I doing pretty well. But when I look long term I can begin to see how much I've deteriorated in the last 6 or 7 years.

When I first moved back to Nampa, and joined the Nampa Rec Center, I walked to the rec center every morning, then exercised, then walked home. While it's true that I'm still exercising on an almost daily basis, there's no way I could add the walk there and back. Despite daily exercise, my physical fitness continues to decline significantly.

One of the activities I really enjoy is golf. In case you're not aware, I was a golf pro for several years, and a fairly good player. I still enjoy being on the course, with my friends, enjoying the weather, and the company, and the creativity of golf. Obviously I can't play like I used to, but I can still play.

Yesterday I played 18 holes with some friends, my second 18 hole round of the year. It wiped me out. I can't begin to tell you how exhausted I was when I got home. Over the last few years I've only played a few rounds a year. I think I've reached the point at which I won't be able to play 18 holes any more. I might have to become a nine hole player only. Playing more than that just requires too much energy.

Or I might have to be a driving range player. I regularly go the range to hit a small bucket of balls. 50 balls takes me about an hour to hit, and is about the same number of shots I would take in 18 holes. Despite my enjoyment of the game, and desire to play, it's clear my physical ability to play golf continues to decline.

Even so, I hope I don't sound defeatist, or defeated. I have a great life.
I enjoy my life despite my medical challenges.