Recently I read that, during an average 80 year life span, we each spend 5 years of that time waiting. That’s right, doing nothing but waiting. Mundane time-killers such as being on hold on the phone (that uses up about 20 weeks), idling at red lights (6 months), toasting our toast, standing in lines, ad boredeum, will eat up more than 6% of our entire lives. Add that to the 33% of life we spend sleeping and there isn’t a whole lot of productive life left.
Having a chronic disease like MS – especially MS – exacerbates (sick pun intended, where “sick pun” is also a sick pun) that dismal state of affairs. Beyond requiring more sleep than the average bloke, living with MS involves having a lot of extra time on one’s hands. I’d estimate that 6% growing to about 10% for the neurologically-challenged.
Some factors making up that time are:
- Hanging out in doctors’ waiting rooms, reading copies of Neurology Today that are so old they should be called Neurology Yesterday. If they weren’t old when you got there, they will be by the time you leave.
- Sitting on a vinyl recliner with a tube stuck in your arm waiting for the steroids or DMT’s to empty into your vein.
- Lying cramped in an MRI tube listening to the sounds of war, hoping your leg spasms won’t kick in, thus requiring a repeat of the entire process.
- Waiting for your energy to return so you can continue the day.
All that time must be filled somehow. Yes, you could just sit and veg the entire time, but here are some more productive ideas.
Music – Thanks to Sony first (the Walkman and Discman) and Apple more recently, we live in the age of Ubiquitous Tunes. If music soothes your savage breast, it might help you through a tiresome wait, too. But please pull the ear buds when you’re among the living.
While we’re on the topic of tunes, why aren’t MRI units equipped with the ability to play music? We should be able to bring in our favorite tunes on a CD or flash drive and hand it to the operator who could play them through noise-cancelling earphones.
Reading – The e-book is a tremendous advance for the person with MS who’s either tethered to any of the many disagreeable devices designed to pump toxic fluids into the
victim’s patient’s circulatory system or growing old in the neurologist’s waiting room. A thousand books in one place, only one hand needed to operate, and it lies flat. Thank God for technology.
But what about the person who must spend multiple hours in the MRI? Let’s face it, there are a limited number of activities available to the occupant of an MRI machine. Soccer, tai chi, pinochle, and water polo are pretty much right out. What’s left that can be done alone, while immobile, in a container the approximate size of a coffin?
Prayer – This is my first choice. No physical movement required. Undisturbed time spent with Someone who loves and cares about me and desires my undivided attention. Honestly, I can think of no better way to make the most of such time. To paraphrase the ancient wisdom of Mordecai as given to Queen Esther, “And who knows but that you have come to your position for such a time as this?” In other words, think of MRI time as an opportunity, not a punishment.
Giving thanks – One specific form of prayer is the prayer of gratitude. You could probably fill the entire time in the tube coming up with things you’re grateful for. If your gratitude list runs out before your tube time does, start thinking about why that’s the case.
Not the praying type? There are other options, but they require as much imagination as prayer requires faith. As a writer, I’ve found the dedicated time in the tube to be perfect for working out particularly tricky plot lines in my stories or fascinating blog post topics like this one.
If you don’t consider yourself a writer, here’s what I recommend: Try to imagine you’re lying on a tropical beach somewhere, the sun beating down on you, palm trees waving against a deep azure sky, waves gently lapping the white sand at your feet…