Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wiggle Your Toes and Breathe

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):
video
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.
Attention Firefox users:

Since changing the layout of my blog last month, many of you who use Firefox (and often Safari for Mac) as their Internet browser are unable to leave comments or utilize the search feature. I apologize for this inconvenience. I've tried to change the ways in which comments can be left, but there seems to be no solution on Bloggers end. The only solution seems to be this: “Enable third-party cookies. In Firefox, go to Tools, Options, and click Privacy. Then put a check in the box that says 'Accept third-party cookies'.”

I realize this is a privacy issue and I don't blame you if you don't want to change your settings just so you can leave a comment on my blog. Just know you always have the option of sending me an email at lynnbering@verizon.net.

Thanks for your patience with this. Hopefully Blogger will figure out a better solution soon.

7 comments:

45+ and Aspiring said...

With your determination and stamina and mindfulness, Lynn, I'm sure you'll be wiggling your toes without pain again in no time.

Keep up the good work and take care!

debby said...

Wow that's so weird that blogger doesn't have that set up with Firefox--they're a pretty big thing, aren't they?

For me on Safari, I just needed to 'update software.' or something like that.

I really admire the determined way you have gone after your recovery in spite of the pain. Hope your doctor is impressed.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lynn,
I've been following your blog for quite a while but this is my first time posting. I want to thank you for your honesty on the recent knee surgery. I have never been able to get straight answers, your insight is absolutely refreshing and I appreciate it very much. I'm facing replacement surgery and am desperate to put it off as long as possible. I just don't want to do it. My surgeon says it is will have to happen at some point. "Sigh" Anyway, thanks for keeping us enlightened by your journey. Best....Lynn from Pittsburgh

biz319 said...

My husband has had THREE knee replacement surgeries, so my heart goes out to you.

His saving grace was the rehab - they even had him doing pilates!

Hang in there! :D

melissa fast said...

Hang in there! I'm glad you didn't get stuck in the if-only moments. Those can take a deep, dark spiral fast! Keep up the great work - and my hat goes off to you shooting the video - all natural. You are way braver than me. Every time I start thinking about posting a video, I look at myself in the mirror and think, "maybe tomorrow." Hee hee. Cheers.

Jane said...

You are one strong woman. The best to you in your recovery. Your weight loss story has been immensely helpful to me, as I begin my own. Thank you.

Lynn Haraldson-Bering said...

Lynn in Pittsburgh, I wanted to tell you that the surgery I had was more difficult than knee replacement, which is actually good news because now I know I can handle knee replacement. And so can you. Yes, it's difficult. Yes, it's painful. But it will be worth it in the end. Don't put off what will help you be pain-free and functioning. Let me know if you do choose to go through with the surgery. Email me if you'd like. I'd love to know who your surgeon is. Take good care.