Tomorrow I have my first post-op appointment with my surgeon, Dr. Goodman – a somewhat ironic name considering he cuts people open for a living. He told me before I left the hospital, in no uncertain terms, that he wanted my knee bending 90 degrees when he saw me again.
One way I’m making that happen is spending up to 4 hours a day in a continuous passive motion machine or CPM. I took this very non-professional clip of me in the machine this morning (and please remember, IT WAS MORNING. Ignore hair and glasses, please):
I was at 85 degrees and said (if you couldn’t hear it) I was going for 90 at some point today. That point came much faster than I anticipated. Feeling cocky shortly after I shot that clip, I cranked the machine (and survived) to 90 degrees:
I was pretty psyched.
Knee surgery, and its subsequent recovery and rehab, has been the most physically painful and challenging experience I’ve been through. I say this not as a complaint. If anything, it’s been a gift. Not an under-the-Christmas-tree kind of gift, but one, I suspect, that will sustain me longer than new socks and underwear.
One of my favorite meditation teachers is Tara Brach. Although I’ve never met her, I listen to her weekly talks via her podcast. This week’s talk was especially interesting considering I just finished reading “Women, Food and God.”
Called “The Power of the Mind,” Brach’s talk focused on how to choose to be wholeheartedly and sincerely present. Although I’ve been practicing mindfulness meditation for nearly four years, staying present still (and probably always will) takes effort since my thoughts often live in the past, the future, and in fantasy – that “If only…” thinking that takes me into never-to-be scenarios in which all is good and perfect and painless.
One of my “If only…” thoughts the last three weeks has been, “If only I hadn’t been obese, I wouldn’t be recovering from knee surgery now.” Then I snap back to the present and remember that obesity merely speeded up the inevitable, which was that my knee would need some kind of repair because it was messed up due to genetics, not obesity.
Wanting to be anywhere but the moment is most prevalent (no surprise here) when I’m in the most pain, especially during rehab exercises.
When I have to bend my knee, or more specifically, when the physical therapist bends my knee, I get tense and forget to breath. PT always tells me, “Wiggle your toes!” Now she’s a really nice woman and all, but in that moment I want to scream at her, “I don’t WANT to wiggle my toes! I want to be as far away from my toes and knees and this god-awful pain as I can: in Iowa, the bathroom, watching The Daily Show, digging a splinter out of my toe…ANYTHING other than here with you bending my knee!”
But instead, I focus. I stay with the feeling of the awfulness of the moment, and then in the next moment, it recedes.
Kind of like everything in life, right? (Except we don’t always have a nice PT handing us a tissue afterwards and saying, “Good job!” LOL)
It’s not like every moment has special meaning or is memorable. Most aren’t, and that’s the point. We live in one moment and then the next one comes along. It’s how we respond in the moment that adds to or takes from our suffering. Sometimes all we can do – especially in those mind-numbing painful, hungry, fill-in-the-blank moments – is remain neutral, like Switzerland, and wiggle our toes and breathe, engaging wholeheartedly and sincerely in our lives.
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