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About halfway through a very intense second week of work building an outdoor patio (see previous blog), both of my hands went nearly numb. I’d done a lot of shoveling, a lot of lifting, a lot of moving heavy objects. While laying the brick floor tiles, I spent a lot of time on my knees, leaning on one hand while working with the other.

Now, from forearms to fingertips, both hands feel as if they’d “gone to sleep” and are only about half awakened. They feel swollen, with tingling numbness and pain that’s relatively constant and keeps me awake at night.

A web search of my symptoms matches up with those experienced by folks with carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition usually associated with chronic repetitive motion such as gutting chickens on an assembly line, or spending eight hours per day at a computer keyboard.

I don’t do either of those, so I’m assuming for now that I just managed to overdo it, and there’s probably some swelling that impinges on the carpal nerve, and with rest it’ll go away. Since I’m currently on vacation, rest is high on the agenda.

For some reason, the experience of spending several days with sleepy hands brings to mind the danger of taking a similar approach to life, as many people seem to do. One of the catchiest tunes in the musical Wicked is called “Dancing Through Life.” It’s the philosophy of a young wastrel named Fiyero who parties from school to school with no goal beyond personal pleasure.

“Life is painless when you’re brainless,” Fiyero sings in one verse. Another contains these lines:

life is fraughtless when you’re thoughtless
those who don’t try never look foolish
dancing through life, mindless and careless
make sure you’re where less trouble is rife,
woes are fleeting, blows are glancing,
when you’re dancing through life…

In the musical, based on Gregory Macguire’s imaginative backstory to L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Fiyero eventually learns to care about something other than himself. It makes his life more complicated, but also more fruitful.

I expect to have the feeling back in my hands within a few days. More importantly, I want to live each day with a full measure of feeling in my heart, mind, and soul. I may be losing my grip, but I still want to seize the day.

[Music and lyrics to Wicked by Stephen Schwartz]

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