I tore something in my knee again. Don’t ask me how it happened. My knee is as weak as cheap toilet paper. For all I know, I simply looked at it wrong.
There’s no sense in going to my orthopedist. He’ll just tell me, for the zillionth time, that there’s nothing he can do except replace the old girl.
But I know what it feels like to recover from knee surgery, and it scares me to think of doing it again. I’d rather hobble around, lose sleep, miss out on almost every outing or fun time if necessary just to avoid that pain again.
This week, icing my knee while making the final edits of my book, An Obesity of Grief (coming out in June), I realized I deal with physical pain in much the same way I used to deal with grief: by ignoring it or convincing myself it was no big deal and that in time (and by some miracle) it would go away without any effort on my part.
The problem with that way of thinking is that both grief and physical pain only get worse when they’re ignored. Both cling like a spider web, and the more you fight it, the more it sticks.
Physical pain is hardly the only reason we grieve our bodies. For me, my weight was always (and sometimes still is) a source of grief.
When I was a teenager, my weight became everyone’s business (everyone as in “well-intentioned” relatives and the boys who called me fat). I internalized that my body was bulky and in the way, an annoyance and embarrassment to others. My body—and by extension, all of me—would never be good enough.
Over the years, I came to understand that my desire for my body to be something different was a form of grief, and that—no matter the cause—there are commonalities that make everyone’s grief stories relatable: fear, uncertainty, loneliness, an inability to articulate needs, brokenness, and the overarching question: Why?
I love when my words come back to
haunt remind me of something I need to relearn. As I write in my memoir, it’s important that I acknowledge—without running away— all the things I am and have been and might be: someone who is sometimes depressed and sometimes not depressed, angry and not angry, anxious and not anxious, a sometime loner and a sometime attention-seeker, 300 pounds or 140 pounds. I carry all of me with me all the time, so I get to choose what kind of companion I want to be.
And right now, I’m not my best companion.
Recognizing when and how I don’t accept myself, or when I’m denying physical or emotional pain, allows me to respond with more self-compassion.
It’s time I faced the fear of physical pain. This knee has to go. It’s gonna suck for a while, no doubt, but I know that when I face grief and physical pain, it isn’t as scary as I imagine, although I have a big imagination.