Monday, August 13, 2018

You always pay a price

Every choice we make requires that we pay a price.

Most of you know that last fall I made a series of choices along a path leading back to the practice of law. There were many baby steps. My sister Joanne insisted I had to meet with a law firm in the building where she works. They seemed really nice, and they were interested in meeting me.

I have a long standing policy of investigating every opportunity that comes my way. When I was in my early teens my Dad looked away from an opportunity that, in hindsight, would have been a game changer for all of us. I vowed that I would never do that. That vow led me to investigate many opportunities, a good number of which were game changers for me.

This blog, the vlog, and the chronicles you explore here are one example.

The dream of owning a Vespa, turned into the Scoot Commute, then Life on two wheels, the vlog, and adventures on two wheels in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Florida and Italy. That opportunity alone was like opening an old cardboard box and discovering unimagined splendors and treasures wrapped in old newspapers.

Where was I... right, I met with some really nice people at the firm and I realized there was an opportunity to return to the practice of law on my terms. Wow, I never would have guessed. That revelation triggered the baby steps. I had to come out of retirement, apply for re-instatement to active practice with the Quebec Bar; apply to the Law Society of Ontario for the right to practice in Ontario on an occasional basis; and then... why not fully qualify in Ontario?

Well you know how that turned out.

In January I began that quest. It seemed like it might not be excruciating. I only had to write and pass two exams. When I wrote the Quebec Bar exams, way back in 1980, there were six exams. That's like a two-thirds-off deal!  Then I found out that there were only two exams in Ontario. Every aspiring lawyer must leap those two hurdles. Two, seven-hour, 240 question exams. Gulp! At sixty-five, was my brain still up to it? At least Bar exams are open book. Still...

The materials made up about 2,300 pages, six three-ring binders' worth, in eight or nine point font, double-sided, with tiny margins. I bought highlighters. First yellow, then I added blue and green. I underlined, scrawled annotations in the tiny margins, took notes, did research, looked up Supreme Court cases, read key passages of more statutes than I care to remember. The Income Tax Act, the Criminal Code, the Residential Tenancies Act, the Family Law Act, the Personal Property Security Act, the Federal Court Act, the Courts of Justice Act, regulations under those acts... the list went on, and on, and on. I took notes. 497 pages of notes in 9 point font, plus 128 pages of subject matter, case law and legislation indexes. I have never, in my life, written so much.

Thank heavens the enormity of the task only became apparent bit by bit. Had I known the scale of the challenge before setting out, would I have done it?

How did I do it?

With the exception of two one-week breaks in Los Angeles, San Diego and Vancouver, I devoted 10-12 hours, every single day of the week, every week of the month, from mid-January to mid-June, sitting at my desk, surrounded by paper, chained to my keyboard, with my eyes alternating from the books on the desk to the computer screen.

I passed both exams.

What a price to pay!

And yet, like the price of a car, or of a fancy meal in fine restaurant, or of a kitchen renovation, the price to be paid comes with extras like taxes and tips.

In my case, that extra somewhat unanticipated cost came later, like a delayed final invoice.

In my mind, once the stress of studying, writing and passing the exams was behind me, I was going to spend a glorious summer riding and exploring, blogging and vlogging, celebrating my success with friends and family. Basically exploiting the law of averages by simply having a ball.


The final invoice landed on me a couple of weeks back. I knew I had gained weight. As my brother-in-law Chuck famously said, my exercise regimen for six months consisted of jumping to conclusions and pushing my luck. Between that, and consuming the calories my grey cells desperately needed, I gained weight. My office has mirrored sliding closet doors. I could see the weight slowly spreading like an unsightly unwanted bulge where my waist used to be.

Exercise would be the welcome cure. That's how I planned to balance the scales.

But wait... there was more.

Turns out that when you spend a ridiculous amount of time scouring pages and pages of paper, and typing endless pages of notes, your body decides that this is the new 'normal' and, without consulting you, adapts to what it perceives as the new rhythm of your life.

When you decide to return to the old 'normal', your body says "what the..." and rebels like a spoiled sulking ungrateful child.

In my case, in an attempt to keep me slouched in the best position for reading and typing 11-ish hours a day, my body threw me a curve in the form of what I'm guessing is a pinched nerve somewhere in the vicinity of C6 and C7. Before this I had never given my cervical vertebrae a second's thought.

Holy crap! I can't ride, heck, I can't even walk for more than twenty paces with my head on the level. Tylenol and Cyclobenzaprine are my new best friends.

It's possible that after two weeks, a trip to the doctor's office, a trip to the physiotherapist, two invasive deep massage sessions (feels like you're a chicken being boned without the aid of a knife), and four torture sessions with a chiropractor, I may be seeing a pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel.

Last week I had no choice but to ride Thunderbird for a legally-required safety exam prior to its sale to its new owner.

Look how happy Paul is!
That was sixteen-and-a-half painful kilometers.

I was praying for red lights. Long ones. Shift into neutral, come to a stop, release the clutch, and stretch my left arm over to the right side of the bike as I more or less kissed the gas tank... relief from the pain. The light changes, clutch, shift, accelerate, and the pain begins to travel from my neck, under my left clavicle, radiating down my left arm, cramping my elbow, throbbing in my wrist... taking my breath away... where is another red light?????

I survived.

In about a half hour I'm off to another chiro session. The last? I don't know. This morning I did return to the exercise regimen I foolishly abandoned last fall. That lifted my spirits.

Baby steps.

I will ride again.

Pain free.


I hope.


Unknown said...

Life would be boring without such challenges (spoken with tongue firmly in cheek).
Seriously, very well done, David.
As someone who, at 34 yrs of age, returned to university to study for a Masters degree (in Education), I can testify that one's capacity for study and learning declines over the years, however slowly. Your achievement will be applauded by sexagenarians (and I am one) everywhere.
I'm rambling now (and typing this on my Galaxy S8, in bed, squinting and trying not to wake my wife...) so let's just say that your achievents are very, very impressive and your 'injuries' will respond to treatment and patience. I hope.
Thank you for your uplifting post, David, and I hope that you regain full fitness very soon.
Ride safe (eventually....)

redlegsrides said...

Well, congrats on passing the exams! Bummer about your body now resisting the ergonomics of riding....but yes, that too shall be regained if you work at it. Work at being able to ride...seems wrong somehow. ;)

SonjaM said...

So sorry to hear about your body resisting or revolting for lack of a better word, not really surprised though, you pushed yourself too hard... Been there done that, too.. As for my recovery... still working on it. Baby steps, David. Take care of yourself, and give your body time to heal.

Steve Williams said...

I've been talking to a friend recently about homeostasis, that biological tendency to seek equilibrium. Sitting and studying for months with little else put your body in a new equilibrium. Changing course will definitely have your body saying WTF. There's a great book by George Leonard called "Mastery." He talks about the challenges presented by homeostasis.

Pinched nerves and back issues. Nothing, NOTHING makes you feel older and useless. If I neglect physical motion and activity my spine will punish me. A couple years ago I spent months recovering from an awful impingement in my spine. I had no pharmaceutical friends that helped. But eventually, with torture from physical therapy and a chiropractor, and abandoning a bed for a reclining chair, I healed. And have been more or less ok since. Don't give up hope. The Vespa will wait for you.

Hope all is well otherwise.


RichardM said...

Sorry to hear about your new physical challenges. I feel fortunate not to have to deal with pinched nerves these days. Really miserable. Congrats on passing the exams (I think). You're not doing the "retired" thing very well...

Coop a.k.a. Coopdway said...

Congrats on passing, what a milestone! Heal, improve, ride.

David Masse said...

Thanks Keith! I can now safely say that the whole pinched nerve thing is behind me. All it took was a trip to the doctor, a trip to a physiotherapist, two in-house deep tissue massage sessions, and five trips for torture sessions with a chiropractor. I'm back to doing the daily exercise routine that probably would have avoided the problem if I hadn't given it up while I was studying.

Nice job returning for a masters at 34! We're never too old for new adventures.

David Masse said...

Dom, it does seem a little twisted. I'm back in the saddle but the news of Michael Beattie's tragic accident is weighing on me. Having ridden with Michael I would have thought that if any of us were relatively immune from that kind of catastrophe, Michael was the one. Hopefully he makes a full recovery, but he's got a tough row to hoe.

David Masse said...

All is good now Sonja. Given the challenges you are overcoming, my little issue seems petty and not worth mentioning. Yet, when I was dealing with it, it seemed like it might never end. I guess the message for all of us it to tackle life's challenges head on, whether big, or small.

David Masse said...

Thanks Steve. I guess it's another manifestation of the inexorable law of averages. The chiropractor was the person who truly set me on the road to recovery. It was my first experience. I was (and remain) a skeptic, but the particular brand of torture he inflicted turned out to be the weight that the law of averages needed to get back on an even keel

David Masse said...

Ha! Too true! I guess it amounts to some extent to un-retiring. In truth, it was a big price to pay to get to the point that I can practice as much, or as little as I want. It will allow me to earn some mad money, the more to lavish on the retired portion of my life.

David Masse said...

Thanks for the prescription Doug! Turns out it worked :)

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