It’s a month now since I found myself climbing on the surgery gurney for a knee installation on my left leg. My right leg, ever the competitive First Child, was there first, six months ago. With the help of family, friends, and a whole infield of life coaches, I convinced myself it made sense to complete the job on the other side. The logic was watertight: I’d profit from my first experience and skate through it the second time.
I’d be able to rehab both knees at once. In a year from the start of the project, I’d finally have enough mobility for anything I might want to plan. This, after all, was the ultimate, carefully calculated, reason. I had worked out the math story problem years ago: If a titanium knee lasts 20 to 30 years, when is the best time for a patient to replace it in time for the Grim Reaper to get the leftovers?
I might as well get it over with, my mind chanted. And so I did. It seemed like I’d made the right decision afterwards, too, until the power drugs wore off. And then came the real recovery. Lots of the last month has been spent noticing this thing called pain, keeping it out of the way when I need to move and when I need to sleep, and finding out that a good coaching session or class is the best pain reliever there is.
I’d feel more spiritually evolved if I could truly say that I was able to be a compassionate witness of my own pain, and used it as a fulcrum for spiritual transcendence during this process.
But did you notice that I didn’t say anything like that?
The reality is that a lot of the time I believed my mind, which was dang sure that I had abandoned my body, at least, and tortured it at worst.
“Beam me up, Scotty!” became my mantra. I watched a ton of movies and a couple of TV series. and read about a dozen fine books, mostly novels, cover to cover. The distraction technique had certain advantages, but it began to wear thin.
And then there were the other moments, or moments inside the moments, when the only option was to surrender. When I saw that there was nothing in the situation that I needed to escape or to resist, it occurred to me to simply relax. I especially noticed in those moments how very much I could trust everything around me, beginning with my husband of 45 years. How did he learn to be such a thoughtful caregiver without my knowledge? The more I looked, the more reasons I’ve had to just…let…go.
After all, that’s who I am without my story that I need to keep it together. It’s very, very simple.
I’m just now getting a tiny peek of the original sanity that led me down this thorny lane of pain and recovery. There’s lots of hope around the corner, just past the edges of the walker. But what I never expected, truly, is that it would be there all along, just waiting for me to notice.