February 8, 2013: I open my eyes and for the first time see my deep purple marbled leg encased in the mid-thigh to mid-calf, weighted, black brace. It’s not a surprise. Dr. Gerhardt had given it to me two days before the surgery along with my crutches; he had detailed what would happen during the surgery and what would occur when I woke up and the process of the next four weeks. And although my brain and rational mind took in all the details the impact of the whole event didn’t sink in through the levels of denial until the unchanging view from the sofa assaulted me through the window and pressed me down into the cushions.
The brace locks my hamstring at a 70 degree angle and it is my constant companion day and night, save for a few daily minutes in the shower. As my apartment is a comfortable, but modest two bedroom place that I share with Katie, my roommate and as the 5 inch incision under my gluteal fold makes it impossible to sit my choices of perch are limited. It’s either the sofa or my bed for the next four weeks! Therapy is not even allowed to start until the brace comes completely off at the end of the month of imprisonment. As a person who has the energy of a hummingbird and the tenacious spirit of a Jack Russell Terrier, this confinement could be torture.
My surgery was on Friday. My brother, Geoff had come for the weekend and gone home on Sunday. Monday I have my first post-op appointment, but the two hour field trip leaves me wrecked. By the following Friday, I have not been outside of my apartment in five days and not likely to leave until the following week. It’s President’s Day Weekend and all of my friends are away out of the city having fun. Katie’s working doubles leaving me with nothing to do but to feel massively sorry for myself!
But then as I tearfully look out my window, I experience an epiphany: I am at least in the comfort of my own home. Physically, I am in excellent shape, enough to support myself in basic tasks. My windows look out on the sunny Pacific ocean, where I can see sailboats riding the wind. And most importantly, every single day I am getting better and headed to 100% recovery even if the road is long. How many people are suffering in hospital rooms and not mending? What do I have to complain about? I have had excellent support every step of the way, so much so that the experience has felt blessed…which feels odd to say, but totally true.
I mention my revelation to Christi, my Godmother who calmly replies, “Of course it’s blessed. You’ve been doing a lot of internal growth throughout the last year and you’ve been asking for your life to change. So the universe has replied by asking you, for the first time in your life, to sit still, to be silent and to only take care of yourself. You’ve been much more comfortable taking care of everyone else at cost to your own self. But now, you have nothing but time to put on your own oxygen mask. If that doesn’t constitute a positive change and opportunity for more growth, I don’t know what does!”
As the weeks continue, Dr. Gerhardt, all of my friends and my new PT, Mike continually impress upon me the severity of this injury. As Mike seriously says, “How many people do you know that are telling you to ‘take it easy’?” I reply, “A lot. Don’t worry.” “How many?” “Oh, um…you want an actual number? Like there’s my friends and roommate and…” “You’re missing my point. I want you to enlist the aid of every single person you know to monitor you and tell you to back off and not push it!” “Don’t you worry, I have more fun police than I know what to do with.”
For my entire life, I have been a “pusher.” Someone who puts my head down, shoulder into things and doubles my efforts when obstacles arise. But I reached the point where I physically broke from this way of life. And now I am discovering as Deepak Chopra says, “The Law of Least Effort.” If I am more still, gentle and calm with myself I can discover better my true strengths and my own inner voice. That does not mean that I am not strong. As an athlete, I look forward to my body being able to be agile and powerful again. But I don’t have to make up for anything I feel insecure about in this present moment.
So what this has taught me is to find my “victory” today. If you’ve just worked a 60 hour work week and stayed up late with a sick child, and every minute of your day has been scheduled, why are you taking a kickboxing class?! Take 1 minute out of each day and really check in with yourself and see HOW AM I? And make better choices for yourself off of that answer. Be your own Fun Police and feel blessed in every minute of your day, even in the face of challenge!