Recovering The SelfA Journal of Hope and Healing


Rules For Life – Live Hard

by Ken La Salle

Welcome back to my continuing series of Rules For Life.

Recently, I’ve had a number of doctors tell me about various parts of my body that are, basically, falling apart. First, I tore my right rotator cuff doing push-ups. Then, I found out that I had herniated three discs in my cervical spine, due to disc degeneration brought about by advanced, spinal arthritis.journey in art

But I healed, right? I moved on with my life.

Unfortunately, I was feeling this twinge in my neck—and after all the other nonsense, I didn’t want to worry about it. Since it was right under my jaw, I decided to mention it to my dentist, when I went to see her. My appointment couldn’t have come fast enough because that twinge turned into a literal pain in the neck. My dentist found nothing, so I headed over to a nearby urgent care center.

My throat was swabbed for strep, because they can’t be too careful if there’s a lab fee involved. It didn’t matter that I told them it wasn’t my throat but my neck. By the way, if you’ve ever wondered what that whole “swabbing the throat” thing is about, I can tell you. They basically take one of those long cotton swabs – you know, the kind on a three-foot stick. They tell you to say “Ah” and then they plunge that stick as far as they figure they can go and still be able to retrieve it while you’re in the process of throwing up. Whole lot of fun, that one.

They also x-rayed my neck.

The doctor comes in and tells me I have a cyst in my neck. After he mentions that, he goes on to say, “Yeah, I took a look at the x-rays and MRI they took for your spine and… I gotta tell you… Wow, huh?” (I suppose I was fortunate this was all in the same medical group.)

I wasn’t entirely sure where he was going with that. It sounded a lot like, “I took a look at your murdered wife and, I gotta tell ya, Wow, huh?” So, I just repeated back, “Wow?”

The doctor says, “Well, you know, all that degeneration and arthritis in your discs. You’re a real mess.” Let me tell you, this guy had a winning bedside manner. He went on to say, “You must have had a heck of a childhood, huh?”

No, I didn’t remember having that remarkable of a childhood.

“You must have jumped out of a lot of trees.”

Well, yes. Of course.

“You must have had a lot of accidents, crashed your bike a lot.”

Of course. Check.

“You must have gotten into a lot of scraps.”


But, here’s the thing that I don’t think he understood. Sure, I did all of those things. We all did all of those things. We jumped out of trees and off of rooftops. We even jumped out of moving cars when we thought we could manage it, even if we couldn’t. Did I crash my bike? Listen, my first bike didn’t have brakes; the only way I could stop was to crash! And I was a scrawny kid with glasses and a smart mouth. Of course, I got into a lot of scraps, mostly on the receiving end – but certainly no more than any other child.

But then, as my night wore on, I remembered my shattered right arm and various other… mishaps.

You know, I often wonder about kind of life I have led. Have I experienced all life had to give? Did I “live hard” as they say? And when you wonder that at the age of 50, it helps to have documented proof in the form of a broken this or a degenerated that and so on – granted, documentation might have been less painful. But if I were to give you a rule for life this month, it would definitely be to live hard. Put your entire body into it. Don’t worry about bumps and bruises, scrapes and streps because at the end of the day, at the end of your life, it’s better to know you put everything on the table, even if they’re using it to set a broken bone.



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