I woke up and my left knee hurt. Two days later, it was my left shoulder. Like the Rodney Dangerfield joke, I’m afraid to go to bed because my head may fall off.

It’s not like I did anything. No intervals. No calisthenics. I went to bed feeling like I was 20 and woke up as if I had played a tackle football game at a 40th high school reunion.

Life is a contact sport. However, we also bank on injury-free zones. Getting hurt in bed is like getting hurt in a Jacuzzi.

I’m treating the shoulder and knee as athletic injuries. It’s better that way because it allows you to cast the injury in heroic light. Imagine yourself as the Warriors Steph Curry or Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers. You are a valued member of a team. They're paying you to do a job that you love and you got hurt doing that job.

The only problem is they’re not paying me to do this job. Not only is no one paying me but my team doesn’t care because I don’t have a team. My kids are gone, my grandkids don’t understand and my wife is afraid I might be unraveling and that I could become a giant millstone around her healthy little neck.

If you lack a team, a good story helps. ‘I planted wrong while I was hitting a backhand overhead. Even though my knee crumbled and and I tore every muscle in my shoulder I won the point and got a standing ovation from the crowd.’

If you’re hurt, better the story be uplifting. Inspirational. The kind whereby the listener says, “I hope when I get injured, I get a standing ovation.”

I had a story but it wasn’t a good story. My story was like an Irish novel, tinged with melancholy and regret. It was a story with question marks rather than exclamation points and periods.

When you get hurt, all you can think about is drugs. Previously, I have been shocked and horrified by the opiate crisis that is tearing apart this great nation and I have given my opinion loudly and now I’m wondering where I can get some no-questions-asked.

I checked in the medicine cabinet and found some Aleve. Aleve sounded promising. I felt better just holding the jar.

A friend with a long history of orthopedic injuries from legitimate athletic combat suggested three Advil, three times a day to knock down the swelling. Although I didn’t want to trade a knee injury for a liver transplant, I went to Costco and bought enough Advil for the Dodgers for the rest of the season and the playoffs, should they make it that far.

“You want to ice it for three minutes and then put some heat on it for three minutes,” he said.

I filled a gallon freezer bag with ice which eventually leaked all over the brown recliner and oatmeal colored carpet. Better if it had been blood. Improves the story.

For heat, I filled a white Thorlo athletic sock with a pound of Basmati rice and put it in the microwave for three minutes. After four or five turns in the microwave, the rice began to burn and fill the house with a burned rice smell.

“What’s that smell? Sue asked.

It’s my sock filled with rice harvested on the slopes of the Himalayas. It’s my story. It’s all I’ve got at the moment other than a house that smells like burned rice bread.

I’d like to say that my sports injuries are getting better, but they aren’t. This isn’t like Pilgrim’s Progress. This is like the Crusades where half the people end up on crutches with one leg.

I’d also like to think this is making me a better person but it isn’t. People say you can learn from pain and you do: You learn that pain hurts and that’s why they call it pain. Pain can make you feel sorry for yourself and resent those people who are bouncing around on their toes like boxers.

Maybe the solution lies in bed. I go to sleep and I wake up and I’m 21 again. Now that would be a story worth telling.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or (661) 395-7279.

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