Working through pain

Wednesday 1

My back has been giving me grief for months. The best cure for a bad back is to walk for miles and miles, but I simply haven’t had time to keep to my usual schedule. Finally, I had enough of it and saw my doctor. He ignored my bleating that I just needed pain-killers and sent me for an MRI, and then to a surgeon, and now I’m waiting for approval for a second MRI. In the meantime we tried various drugs, which have helped somewhat. However, the bottom line is that I’m always uncomfortable and often in great pain. This is nothing new, but it’s as bad as it’s been in a long time.

Someone recently asked me, “How do you work through that?” Having been self-employed for decades, I have never given much thought to the idea that I had any choice. I have deadlines and I have to meet them.

Background pain uses up a lot of the mind’s processing time. With every movement, part of my consciousness is registering the fact that it hurts. (This is a great mechanism of the body, which really doesn’t want to fatally injure itself.) That means I make mistakes. When using power tools, mistakes can result in a lot more pain rather quickly. So I double-check every step, and that slows me down.

Pain makes you cranky, even when you aren’t feeling particularly mad. That person you think is always a crab? Maybe he has bunions.

All of this slows me down, but the reality is that I’m not 25 anymore. I take frequent breaks and I don’t work too late. The other day, I capitulated and bought myself a pneumatic brad nailer. Yes, I know how to use finishing nails and a nail-set, but I’ll do anything to save more wear and tear on my body.

I’m slower, and my work is less precise than it is when I feel well. That doesn’t mean I stop. I am here, today, working with the tools I have. Tomorrow I’ll do the best I can do, and so on, until I’m free to return to painting.

Carol Douglas

About Carol Douglas

Carol L. Douglas is a painter who lives, works and teaches in Rockport, ME. Her annual workshop will again be held on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park, from August 6-11, 2017. Visit for more information.