Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pain vs 1,600lbs

Hauling 1600 lbs of shingles up on a roof, nailing them down, after having ripped the same amount off and taking it to the dump is not what I would ever suggestion to someone else with Chronic Pain.

It probably would have been easier to just call the roofing company 2 years ago when I started doing this job in 3 stages, but when the first quote came in at $10,000 I thought I have got to be able to do this cheaper than that. Actually, my plan was that I was going to complete the roof in just 2 stages. However the first time caught me so much by surprise and I was brought crashing back to reality when I found out how hard roofing really was. I had done a bit before in my 20's but memory has a tendency of taking away pain and replacing it with a sense of pride or a badge of honour.

The pain in my neck, shoulder and hip had seemed to take a sharper tinge over the last few years. I am not sure why, it may be that the larger load of stress at work and other challenges, plus having succumbed to the erroneous belief that the injury was getting worse and that I should avoid certain movements just in case I wore the joints down to bone on bone or something terrible and scary like that.
This belief had become deeply implanted in me and my plastic mind had shifted with this false information.

So over the last 2 years I have been able to learn an incredible amount about Persistent Pain and Pain Science through a website called SomaSimple and through other great sites like BIM, PainScienceBBoyScience, and BetterMovement. Learning about the discoveries that modern Neuroscience has made and what this has taught us about the experience of pain has not only given me a better understanding of "why" my body hurts, but also why, after 10 years of this, it is so difficult to change.

The last time I was up on the roof, or phase 2, was 1 1/2 years ago. Springtime 2011. I was only starting to get into the Pain Science reading and the cognitive shift that is required to "get" what the new information meant in the day to day reality had not taken hold yet. So that job was a real killer. It took weeks for my shoulder and back to calm down and the normal day to day pain experience had been stepped up a couple notches from that. My right wrist had also added this numbness and pain in the carpal tunnel area that was terribly frustrating and distressing.

This time I am more prepared. I hope. I had started some preparation in the early summer. Some of it was not successful, perhaps my goal of being pain free enough to get up on the roof was a foolish one, but conditioning is definitely a big help. Working hard to build endurance and stamina with whatever movements I could do in a non threatening way with weights if possible.

I know I could have prepared more and planned it better. But getting through with what I had while working 50 hours a week and running a Yoga Studio with my wife, I was happy that I had done anything at all.

Day 1)  Friday. Surprisingly the first day of stripping has gone right according to my 3 day plan. I have a bare wood roof after peeling off the old shingles. Lucky for me my brother-in-law offered to pick the shingles up off of the ground and load the truck while I tore them up and tossed them down. A huge help, seriously. The rain has been threatening all afternoon and forecasts for tonight so lucky for me again, my neighbour has offered some nice big tarps and just jumped up on the roof to help me cover up.

Roof Stripped. Yes this is an old roof.
1851 to be exact.Some of these boards
are 24" x 1" x 14 ft. Not found at
Home Depot.

Day 2). Saturday. Things are not going as well. The shingles I used in the first phase have a class action law suit against them right now so Home Depot no longer carries them. Of course I don't know there is a class action law suit yet so I have hunted them down at a Rona. Again, lucky for me they do not have Two Tone Black in stock, if I want them I will have to drive to Erin Mills, no thanks, something at Home Depot will have to look close enough. Put that job off until tomorrow and just take the plywood and other items back today. I have a limited window of time to get all of my plywood cut and on the roof with the help of my neighbour. I had decided that cutting plywood is not my forte, nor do I want to attempt to carry 4ft x 8ft sheets of plywood up on a roof by myself. As it turns out, 1/4" plywood doesn't weigh much and I could have done that as well if I had to.

Day 3) Sunday. Now 2 things will slow down this whole process. 1) Squirrels had gotten into the attic a few years ago and apparently this was the section of roof that they had gnawed down to tooth picks. Some wood replacement is required. 2) I have two chimneys on this section of the roof. One of them is no longer connected to any fireplace, and when my shovel peeled the shingles underneath I thought the whole chimney would topple over. I think this one will have to come down.

Day 4) Monday. The chimney came apart surprisingly easy and reinforcing the area with some 2 x 4's didn't take much, fixing the section that the squirrels had modified also was not that difficult.But due to all this messing around we are now into Monday and I have a big project shipping out at work that I should be present for. So half day of work lost.

Day 5) Tuesday. I have a seminar to attend this morning, lose another half day. And now this cold I seemed to have caught is really kicking in.
Added some thin 1/4" plywood
on top to stop the shingles from
wrinkling due to the old wood
planks expanding and
contracting with the weather.

Day 6) Wednesday. Rain is in the forecast so I think this will be an off day to hopefully recoup.

Day 7) Thursday. This work is bloody hard. All the conditioning I did manage completely neglected the hands and feet. Standing at odd angles for long stretches of time has my calves and ankles screaming murder and constantly grabbing, pulling, beating, and hammering has made my hands feel a little like hamburger. Each morning I spend some time just moving things around slowly and doing some simple warm ups and Yoga to make the work easier. Who am I kidding, it doesn't make any of this easier but it is at least a way of dialing the threats to my system down again. Today was my birthday and I have made a solemn oath that I will not entertain the idea of roofing a house again in this lifetime. There were some other prayers mixed in that one but I'll save my self respect and not share those.

On left side is the old shingles,
on the right side is the new
shingles. More or less.
Can you spot
the difference?
I don't care if you can.

Day 8) Friday. I am leaving for a week on Sunday to install a piece of equipment in South Carolina. There is no way I can take today off of work so the roof will have to wait until tomorrow. This is cutting it much closer than I had planned. We are already entering 8 days on a 3 day project. Yesterday went OK. At least shingles are getting laid down now. I have been bringing bundles up in sets that I have divided up over the whole project. Making sure to not get too wiped out doing it all at once which may cause me to move poorly due to being over tired. Perhaps that explains why this longer period of time has been good. I have gotten a little work hardened and did not have to move too much at one time.

Day 9) Saturday, I have to move fast today. No time for stopping, less breaks. Full out and get this done. Out of nails. For crying out loud, a trip to Home Depot steals an hour and a half. Today I have felt the stress of the project most. Knowing I have an immovable deadline and it is threaten rain at points today.
Each bundle weighs 75lbs.
This part really kicked my ass.
But I hauled almost all
of the bundles up on my
problem shoulder.
22 trips, 1,600 lbs - not bad,
and the pain didn't
increase at all.
How is this possible?
I have had to work hard to keep breathing as calmly as possible to prevent the stress from building. It is helpful that this is a physical project. Being able to work hard helps dissipate a lot of that stress. Nevertheless, my goal to end this project without increasing pain will need me to keep myself calm.

Somehow I manage to get to the point where I am putting the capping shingles on by 5:30pm. I have to cut each shingle into three pieces and angle them so that they lie neatly across the top. I am actually getting good at this part. The first time I did this in phase 1 I used about 2 - 3 times as many shingles as I should have and I cut the angle incorrectly so some pieces were peaking out that shouldn't have. But as I do this now I hear thunder in the distance. Being on your roof in a thunderstorm, I have heard, is not advisable. How close is it? I keep moving faster to get each cap in place. Another quiet rumble off in the distance. Faster, faster, but keep calm. The sun is going down now making this even more interesting. I manage to get all the caps on and take a picture for proof to show Mark Hollis in New Zealand. But I am still not done.I have to seal all the gaps and vents and chimney.

This is a pretty self indulgent article, I'll admit that. And most of the time I am just writing about the project. But I hope there is some take away points I can leave here and that someone will get something out of this somewhere.
A thing of beauty. Even if
I do say so myself. I sure
do have that capping down.
But don't ask for a quote,
I'm too expensive :)
  • If I had listened to the sensations in my Neck, Shoulder, and Hip I would never have planned to do this project. But I have learned that how they feel does not necessarily tell me whether they are capable or not.
    Pain is not an accurate indication of how much you should or can move.
  • Preparation makes everything better but we also live in a complex, shifting and challenging world.
    Don't wait for everything to be perfect to get started. Prepare as much as you can and then get going.
  • In the middle of this project, and incidentally in the middle of the other 2 phases, I wanted to quit or give up a lot. I had the voice telling me "this is too hard", "you won't finish in time" and "this is really going to cause you to suffer later". I had to ignore that voice a lot without ignoring every voice.
    When it is really hard just focus on the next little step you have to do.
  • Plan out your risks, learn as much about your strengths and weaknesses as you can and have back up plans whenever possible. I wore a safety harness, I had access to help if I needed it, and I wasn't working alone, someone was within earshot.
    Safety first.
  •  When things were getting really hard I remembered to breath deeper, to acknowledge that some of the thoughts I was having were not accurate I had to refocus my attention to what was really going on.
    Don't believe everything you think.
  • Finally after the project was over and I was on the plane Sunday and the rest of the week. I noticed that I did not have any increase in pain. In fact it had actually lessened a bit.
    Understanding pain and why we hurt can actually make a huge difference.
Oh and I really have to tip my hat to roofers everywhere. They earn every cent they get paid. Also, my wife, who absolutely hates cooking, did me the biggest favour all week and prepared all kinds of meals and coffee, helped a ton with ground clean up and warm hugs at the end of each night. She worked equally as hard as me and as always "it takes two to tango"

Monday, June 11, 2012

Doug The Great and Participation House

A few years ago I really wanted to be a professional speaker. I had been listening to people like Les Brown, Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins, Steven Covey and of course Zig Ziglar to name a few. Sandy and I went to courses and live lectures and I even had the idea of speaking more in my mind when I joined the Rotary club. It is something I would still like to do more of but it is on hold for a little while longer.

When we were learning about the art of speaking we found miles of information. How to prepare material, how to look and dress, the importance of humour and eye contact etc. etc. so when we went to the Jaycees event back in 2002 (boy that is back a bit) we were prepared to critique the 2 speakers of the evening.

So as a side note, I have told this story a few times but the problem is that memory is a very slippery and unreliable thing. I have probably changed some elements and details over the years of telling it. But the important point of this story is I don't remember anything about the first speaker. Not his name, not the topic, nothing.

However, I will never forget Doug Hunt or the "Doug The Great" as he is billed.

It wasn't because Mr. 1st Speaker (we'll call him that) was poorly prepared. No, he was polished, he made excellent eye contact, opened with humour, and by all accounts was very good technically but
a) his message didn't move us,
b) I am not too sure if it moved him, and
c) it was missing that life's purpose.
Doug on the other hand, didn't make eye contact for more than a few seconds. He kept looking at the ceiling for some reason. He bounced around in the beginning, lost his place, and didn't seem to have any plan for how to begin. But boy did he have a purpose. And it wasn't to be a great speaker.

Sledge Hockey is not for sissies
 Doug didn't spend much time talking about how he earned his 2 Guinness World Records for stilt walking but of course I still remember that. What he did spend a lot of time talking about was his experiences at Participation House in Brantford, Ontario. Participation House is a community living arrangement for Physically Disabled Adults. The goal is to help the residents live an active and integrated life. To Participate if you will. And the founders had this foresight in 1978 which is truly astounding. One story in particular that Doug told was about Sledge Hockey. If you haven't watched Sledge Hockey, don't let the fact that these players are sitting down mislead you. They are out for blood just like any other Canadian on ice.

The residents at Participation House (P.H) learned about some disabled people who were playing sledge hockey somehow and thought "Hey, if they can do it, we can do it". Doug and the others at P.H were always looking for activities and this seemed perfect so the group set to work. They first acquired the equipment, got some ice time, arranged for training, skills development, all the things you need if you want to become a first rate Sledge Hockey team. They set up matches to play each other and learned all the rules getting quite good at their new sport. So of course now is the time to up the ante. An annual tournament was held in Toronto, and teams from all over would come to compete. It was a perfect place for them to show off their skill, bring home the title, and reign as champions. The dreams were starting and I am sure fame and fortune were among the minds of some.

So after all the weeks of grueling training and preparation, their turn to compete came. They took to the ice against their opponents in the first qualifying match and it was a slaughter. It wasn't even close. The score ran up so high that there probably should have been a mercy rule called. They lost that badly. Yes, they lost!!!!!

After the game Doug was afraid to go into the dressing room. He knew that all the hopes and dreams of the players were now shattered and that he would have to spend time helping them pick up the pieces. He knew how hard it would be to face the fact that they really weren't that good at sledge hockey at all and should probably retire to avoid further embarrassment.

As he prepared to enter the dressing room he heard something unusual. Shouting, yelling, and......laughing? Yes laughing. The players were cheering and celebrating as Doug walked in. Dumfounded he listened to them regale each other with stories of the trouncing they just received. After all the hard work and preparation Doug was at a loss to understand or explain what he was hearing. Why were they so happy?

So this is the big take home lesson. I mean, when we heard the answer the room was completely quiet. That sound when something truly profound has been told and everyone in the room has been transported by hearing it.

The dreams of fame and fortune were in the minds of Doug, the helpers, and the trainers, not the players. For the residents of P.H one of the things that they didn't get a chance to do very much was participate. Even when they did get that chance it was usually choreographed and controlled so that no one would get their feelings hurt and every one would get to be a winner. What they had never, ever had a chance to do in their life was lose. To give it their best shot, to prepare and compete and fall completely flat on their face. And to the players this was a revelation. This was glorious. They finally had something real and they were ecstatic.

If there is ever a single lesson I would like to remember it is this. Being able to participate in life, being able to fail, and to lose is something not to take for granted. It is not something to whine about. As hard as it is, remembering that being here and present and having this experience of life is precious and fleeting. And I hope to relish it and savour it before it is gone.