Notes From A Tripod

(Another take on my knee injury a couple posts back…)

The doctor reviews my MRI and informs me it’s a wear injury- a polite way of saying you’re getting old. The cartilage in my knee has worn thin from age and a simple turned ankle on a hike tore the meniscus which led to a stress fracture to the head of my femur.   “Stay off your knee for 4 months, non-weight bearing- crutches.  Watch that left hip.  It shows low bone density.  Don’t gain weight.   We’ll go from there.  No surgery, no easy fixes. See you after the first of the year.” Appointment concludes.  Crabby surgeon departs.  I remain in a state of shock.

What the doctor didn’t tell me is how to cope with this loss, this massive change in my life- no walking and no clear path to recovery, no dangling hope. All he sees is the injury and not the humanity surrounding it.  The quick fix laparoscopic surgery I expected disintegrated into months of recovery with no clear resolution.  My world shrinks from a universe to the size of an orange.  Will I get to walk or hike with my friends again?  Will I ever again see the tips of my cross-country skis cut through sparking snow?

Every day humans are faced with diagnoses, injuries, and other nasty things that upend their lives instantly.  It can be a lonely path to navigate.  Every day you’ve got to stave off the demons and keep on going, reframe your life, lower your expectations.  For me being a highly creative person and very goal-oriented, this is a challenge.  My big native plant garden project? – canceled until further notice.  Travel?  I don’t think so. Grocery shopping, housework?  NO. Cook?- barely.  This is my first major injury in six decades of living.  I am such a beginner

After weeks of flapping my wings against my cage, I’ve had to revise my life.

Focus on what I can do…

Get a new doctor (check)

Write

Draw

Read

Watch movies

Sing

Play guitar

Swim

Ride my bike

Get outside

Clean out some drawers

Breathe

Meditate

  • I have to remember to ask for help (hard).
  • I have to permit myself to pamper myself- hire a housekeeper, get a massage, buy audiobooks, get a therapist. (hard) 
  • Be humble- I just ordered a wheelchair as my back aches from weeks of crutches.
  • I have to allow myself some days of just being pathetic even though I know things could be worse. (easy)

I emerged from the doctor’s office that day feeling my mortality diminished

but still, I felt a pulse

and I had to drive home to beat traffic.

Said the tree to the sky

My limb is broken

I will have to find a new way

To dance with the wind

Artwork and poetry by the author

See my other blog on sustainable living at OneSweetEarth.blog

The Zen of Whitewater and Black Holes

Behind the fabulous raft trip in my previous post was my knee injury I had sustained last spring on a hike by twisting my ankle on a rock. The “no big deal” turned into months of pain.

My orthopedic surgeon told me not to go.”I’m going “ I told him.  He looked at me sternly and said “be sure you have  someone help you in and out of the raft.”  No worries.  In my mind, my knee was already shot.  Why stay home and be depressed while missing a trip of a lifetime.  Plus, it’s hard to injure yourself by watching the scenery go by in a raft.  Yes, there was that white water kayaking but I am experienced and the guides took care of all the camp chores.  No regrets. ( I did purchase that Life Flight insurance beforehand, though.)

The MRI results came in after the trip- worse than I thought.  I had a stress fracture in the head of my femur and a fully torn medial meniscus in my left knee.  My doctor said he didn’t think he could do anything for me.  WHAT?  “Stay off of it for four months and see me after the first of the year.”  Now I had already been severely impacted for months and this news was devastating.  I thought I’d have laparoscopic surgery and then presto!-be good as new.

Having a serious injury or illness is a humbling experience.  One day you’re fine and the next your life is turned upside down and full of pain. Walks are a thing of the past.  Daily chores seem monumental. Currently, I’m hobbling around on crutches hoping that the new doctor I will see soon is more creative and compassionate than my former one.

I’ve had numerous traumas in my life –  “black holes” I call them, fraught with frightening unknowns. This qualifies as one. Will I get my life back anytime soon? To get out of black holes it helps me to use a whitewater kayaking analogy.  It’s the same skillset I use in a big rapid but it also works to keep me from psychologically tipping over.

  • Gather my confidence.
  • Have on all my safety gear but rather than a helmet, floatation vest, first-aid kit, and a rope bring along friends and family, a journal, meditation, and spirituality.
  • Research the river ahead of time – research the condition.  Don’t rely on the medical profession to explain everything..
  • Keep up my momentum – my boat is more stable than I think.
  • Go with the flow.
  • If I tip over, hang onto my boat and paddle, find an eddy, and rest before getting back in.  It’s hard to be up all the time.
  • Get back in and keep on paddling – hard.

Aging, injury, trauma –  it’s all a wild ride.

Class 3

The sound of big water

I sit upright

pulse quickening

paying full attention with my body

the rapid comes into view

I spot my line

scouting for boulders, whirlpools

obstacles

that could flip my boat

The current grasps me firmly

taking me up, down, up, down

waves splashing over the bow

drenching me with exhilaration

as I paddle with intention

through a chaos of whitewater

knowing if I keep my balance & focus

my kayak will find its way to calm waters

where I turn

look upstream

raise my paddle with both hands

and laugh

On the Lower Salmon River, Idaho

Artwork by the author

Visit my other blog about living sustainably at onesweetearth.blog