Morning lies give way to pain symphony

Morning lies. There’re a few minutes after I wake up when my knee and its torn meniscus feels fine. It’s as if my body has forgotten the injury.

Sometimes I can make it across the bedroom to the bathroom with only the common stiffness attributable to middle age.

But the lie evaporates all too quickly.

Here comes the pain again.

The pain begins with a dull ache, almost like an orchestra warming up with chopsticks.

Then the first notes of symphony begin with a kind of throb, like kettle drums pounding in a Hans Zimmer score.

My physical movement acts as mad conductor Leopold Stokowski bringing the orchestra to crescendo using all the instruments to maximum effect.

At times, it feels as if a razor blade is sawing across raw nerves below my kneecap, back and forth like a witch’s hands on a cursed harp.

Still other moments, the tendons tighten and scream like the strings of a violinist attempting to bring about the Apocalypse with each stroke of the bow.

I don’t like the drugs but the drugs like me.

I swallow over-the-counter pain relievers the way a man far gone on the neighbor’s noisy stereo jams cotton balls into his ears.

I rub in lidocaine on the joint, but even the gentlest touch inspires a shrill mezzo-soprano vocalist to pierce the brain with violent notes of pain sustained for impossibly long breaths.

Finally, I wrap the flexible bandage around the joint in effort to muffle the damned symphony. I lie in my bed and try to contort the joint to some position that minimizes discomfort.

Slowly but eventually, the pain mutes. It is never gone, but it can be quieted.

An overture may erupt at any twist, turn, or bend.

The little movement I do during the day in my 650-square-foot apartment is all measured, slow, and tentative.

I feel like a Jenga tower teetering on a single block, ready to collapse at any moment. I lean heavily on countertops, walls, door frames.

Terror of alone.

The joys of living alone become terrors when your body fails you. I clutch my smartphone wherever I go, even if it’s just from the bedroom to the living room.

I fear the fall that leaves me a crumpled mess of fat and limbs on the floor, alone with no one to offer me a hand up.

To surrender to self-loathing would be — and is — easy. Intellectually, I know obesity is a result of childhood trauma. I eat to feel better and, of late, I’ve had damn little to feel good about.

But the idiot society, the one that shares cruel memes of people using scooters and laughs at others’ foibles, creeps into my brain. It stirs the already tainted brain chemistry sick with depression and anxiety.

Soon, I blame myself. I question my worthiness for the gift of life.

Behavioral therapy has taught me the methods to quiet those illogical outbursts by thinking of them as just poor results from a computer with some buggy source code.

But they are there.

Reforming the sinner.

Find me a stack of religious texts and I will swear upon them to never take mobility for granted again. I can barely walk 200 feet without excessive pain.

This means I have two, maybe three roundtrips down the hallway of my apartment or one trip to the car for an outing such as meeting a friend for lunch or a trip to the comic store.

I met a friend for lunch Monday. He’s a good, longtime friend. I love him like a brother. But for our first 10 minutes together, I heard nary a word he spoke, instead only the symphony of agony from my knee.

My pain generates in me a newfound sympathy for athletes who suffer injuries. I covered scores of such injuries when I was an aspiring sportswriter.

But I wrote about them like it was a plot point in the great unscripted drama of sports rather than a moment of human suffering.

Now I know.

Resilient. Again. Damnit.

Despite this column’s grim tone, hope lies ahead. My doctors are trying to get an MRI test approved by my insurance company. When that happens, we move toward an arthroscopic surgery that will cut away the piece of torn meniscus causing the trouble.

It’s not a permanent fix, but it will get me mobile again.

Resiliency wins again.


This is a good thing, I know.

But this in the future at the end of a long, hard path.

But sometimes I find myself thankful for those morning lies, when the brain has forgotten how much pain the body is in.

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.

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