My handicap tag quietly expired 9 days ago, marking six months since my knee replacement surgery. The last time I hung it on my rear-view mirror was a few weeks ago when I had to make a quick stop at a shop with no parking spaces open nearby except the handicap spot right out front. I tried to look a little crippled when I edged out of the driver’s seat in case anyone was looking, but I’m not handicapped that you could notice. Here is a six-month progress report. Continue reading
Right here, right now, a light dusting of snow brightens the gray day. I am conscious of not having written in forever but I am trying not to let that flummox me. My fingers seem a little stiff, like my knees. Oh my knees. My knee. I have used it as an excuse to slack off everything. I don’t mean to judge myself; that is just the term that comes to mind. Slack. Slacking. Slacker.
This morning I woke at 4:30, restless and uncomfortable. The discomfort grew to the point where I was thinking about getting up and taking a bath, my almost nightly remedy for vague achiness. I was too tired even to do that, let alone get up for the day. I am so focused on my body, which is one big reason I haven’t written a blog since August. It’s been body, body, body.
It started with a little skin cancer on the back of my hand and then a special dental procedure and then all the preparations for knee replacement surgery, including getting rid of an infection, which involved a questionable succession of antibiotics. And then the surgery itself, on September 17, which went well by all accounts, and the rehab, which also went well, but I am still extremely focused on my body and its imperfections and the continuing recovery process. I’m not there yet.
On the one hand it is good that I am retired and don’t have to be fully functional in a day job. On the other hand it might help to have something to distract me from awareness of aches and pains and low energy levels. I do power through when I have something else to focus on. Like lots of family time, starting with a trip we took with the family to a destination six hours north, just two weeks after surgery. But wow, I did suffer some. And then a succession of visits and celebrations including Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each time I have been brought up against my limits. Standing and cooking is hard on me. Being with the kids is daunting; much as I enjoy them I can’t handle them alone. I need days of recovery after each experience.
One of the biggest problems has been sleep. I got off pain medication pretty quickly because I didn’t like the side effects and the pain wasn’t bad enough to risk opioid addiction, God forbid. But I’ve been left with vague and sometimes sharp, tingly discomfort that is worse at night. After experimenting the doctors and I found a medication that at a low dose gives me at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep and often more. Getting to sleep is still hard and sometimes, like this morning, I wake up at 3 or 4, all antsy. Then I get up and walk off the jittery discomfort or take a hot bath and then maybe go to sleep for a few more hours. Every night of decent rest seems like a small victory. I would like to get off the medication (gabapentin), which is not addictive, but I am still dependent on it (there’s a difference, I think). I have tried going without it a few times and have had miserable nights.
In these past months I also edited a long memoir for a friend and I have played a role in Advent worship planning and leading. So I haven’t totally been lounging around. I have entertained a number of times, even if it is just making the main dish. I’ve kept the house cleaned and the laundry done and my husband and myself fed. If you go by outward appearances I am fully functional, maybe even back to normal. Other people see me say yes to most invitations, activities, and requests and walking at a normal pace, unassisted. They do not see my hesitation to commit to any activity that might involve walking more than a mile, total, or standing around for half an hour. They don’t see me shun the shopping mall, relying on meal kits to minimize grocery shopping, taking sleep meds, or rationing my trips up and down stairs, turning sideways coming down so it doesn’t hurt so much. Or if they do, or if I complain about these limitations, they may think my expectations, at age 74, three and a half months after knee replacement, are a bit high.
But with this last birthday, a month and a half ago, I was aware of how much older I feel than I did a year ago. This is what the knee injury (last spring) and surgery have precipitated: the inescapable awareness of aging. I feel older. Gravity pulls harder. It takes effort to feign energy and good cheer when I am just tired. Many days it is just too much work to push my physical limits as much as I should, continuing the painful stretches, getting out and walking. Will walking ever again be a joy and not a chore? Fortunately, I guess, sitting for too long is also uncomfortable. So I get up and move. It helps to have a destination, like a local bar called the Hideaway that has a great Moscow Mule.
I have no regrets about the surgery because I really had no choice. The knee wasn’t all that painful but it was unstable, not functioning properly. Now it is stable and functioning better, if not yet perfectly. I trust it will improve but I know that I have to keep working it.
The sun peeked through for a moment. I should get out and walk to the river and back. Maybe after lunch.
I have always been a morning person but recently it’s been taking me most of a morning to get fully charged.
I start with coffee but Vic complains that I’ve been drinking more than I used to, i.e. more than my share. Yet I still drink a bit less than he does. Why is this a problem? Can’t we just make more coffee? Well, the system we’ve adopted to make our artisan pour-over, deliciously strong coffee makes no more than 700 g of coffee at a time. (Yes, we weigh it.) If one of us needs more than our established share, we have to make another pot or partial pot. That’s too much bother first thing in the morning.
But coffee is just the start. I’ve been needing more than my established share just to do the next parts of my charging routine. Continue reading
With full awareness of all that is ugly in the world, I am obsessing about beauty. I don’t believe these thoughts represent escapism so much as astonishment. A lesson that has unfolded for me over the past year is that nothing in this world is to be taken for granted. And so I’m trying to keep my eyes and my heart open and when I do this the beauty of life nearly overwhelms me, as does the impulse to experience, create, and extend this beauty, which represents Love. Continue reading
After my post about knee pain I got lots of sympathy and encouragement about eventually replacing these achy knees. Everybody knows somebody who has been through the serious surgical ordeal and most have come through it well. But I got a somewhat different story from an orthopedist. Continue reading
Two things have disappointed me greatly since our move into the Pink Lady: my left knee and my right knee.
With the move, I looked forward to walking everywhere. So much is within walking distance. Walking distance used to be easily three miles for me, each way. Three miles from the Pink Lady would take me to the Notre Dame campus and nearby shops and restaurants, a long trail along the St. Joe River, homes of all of my friends who live on the north side, and a number of parks, to say nothing of all the downtown shops and restaurants. Continue reading
Gap years are the thing. My great-nephew hasn’t figured out whether he wants to do political science or biology in college, though he knows which college he’ll attend and has already been accepted. So he’s taking a year to work and figure that out. It seems that for an 18-year-old he has figured out a lot already and a gap year is a sensible part of the plan. Continue reading
The kind man who lets strangers hunt for mushrooms on our property had prostate surgery a week ago. He has given me permission to tell you this, and that he is doing fine. One tends to be shy about maladies that have to do with our more intimate body parts, like uteruses and breasts and prostate glands. Continue reading
My phone burbles with an incoming text. I know what the message is because it comes at the same time every day, five days a week. “Sending chi.”
I stop in my pre-Christmas housecleaning tracks, brew a mug of green peach tea and sit in an easy chair. Soon I am zoned out in a pleasant haze, getting my chi fix for the day. Chi and tea, a perfect combination.
In the next room my husband sits in front of his computer, eyes closed, hands spread. He, too, is receiving the energy flow but he is probably giving as much as he is getting. He is a powerful chi generator himself. If I need an extra dose, I often ask him to direct the flow my way.
We subscribe to a remote “chi clinic,” five days a week, a service of the Sun Shen center in Ann Arbor Michigan. An hour a day several healers send energy to participants, both at the center and in any remote location. I don’t know how this remote stuff works but it does, at least for us. It provides instant relaxation, sometimes relief from discomfort or sensations in the body, a meditative mood if you want that, or a burst of energy if you continue your tasks in a conscious way. The healers say the more recipients there are, the stronger the flow among us all.
A side benefit is that it creates a decisive break in the day, a stop, like Muslim prayers or Benedictine offices. I find it best to use it that way whenever I can, rather than continuing my work. It is a signal to shift attention, to connect with the energy of Creation, to receive and pass on this mysterious essence of life. Sometimes I pray and pass the energy to specific people. I often think about the connection of chi, intention, and prayer. Sun Shen combines Christian and Taoist traditions.
Feeling and working with chi–the basis of Chinese medicine and many other ancient spiritual and healing traditions–may take some practice. We have been beneficiaries of Sun Shen’s unique therapies for several years and find that our responses and awareness increase over time.
The Chi Clinic is a good way to start. Imagine taking a whole hour to relax every day in this busy time of year! Or using it for a fresh start in the new year.You can try it for a week, free. If you feel some benefit, you can subscribe to the service by the month. If you’re like us you may find it addictive.
Another text burble, an hour later. “That’s all for today.” Back to cleaning, laundry, and stacking gifts to wrap.