March 22, 2007

Almost

My body is imprinted with all kinds of memories. That scar on my elbow reminds me of a summer day more than thirty years ago when, while I was bike riding near my parents' house, I collided with a dog in order to avoid a collision with a car and slammed my body against the pavement. The scars on my fingers remind me of the time I was investigating a trap door with a bunch of other teenagers, and the door slammed shut on my fingers. We never did get to see what was on the other side of the door. When it rains, my left leg aches, and I remember weeks of lying on my side with my leg in a long cast, my children playing on my bed and the floor beside me while I healed. The stretch marks on my breasts come from that summer between seventh grade and eighth, when my body grew like magic.

For the last two months, I've been conscious, every day, almost every minute, of my right knee, a body part that, to be honest, I don't usually spend much time thinking about. During the month of February, the knee injury throbbed at night, waking me up during the darkest hours of the night, spinning me into the dreadful introspection that happens during long winter nights. And during daylight hours, I had to think carefully about everything I did, planning my route around campus, for instance, so that I would get to elevators instead of stairs. I had to stop doing the things I usually did without thinking – like the simple act of stamping my feet to rid them of snow and slush when I walk into a building on campus.

The healing has been frustratingly slow. I've had to make deliberate choices every day, figuring out things I could do so that I wouldn't go crazy without physical releases like hiking, snowboarding, skiing, or belly dancing. I spent more time by the fire, more time doing reiki, more time talking to friends on the phone or writing long emails.

And gradually, the knee has gotten better. One day I noticed that I could walk normally again, without having to keep my leg stiff. Another day, I found myself walking down the stairs without pain. I'd wake up in the morning sometimes and realize that I had slept through the night. Sometimes I'd go for whole stretches of time without thinking about the knee at all.

I don't know yet whether the pain will completely disappear. Sometimes if I've been sitting too long in one position and get up quickly, a spasm of pain will remind me of the injury. My students invited me to go hiking with them in the mountains, and I don't think I can yet do that kind of upward climbing on an uneven trail. I think the knee still needs more time; I don't think I have yet gone through the last cycle of pain and healing. And I wonder, too, if some echo might not remain, like the other scars on my body, like the aches in other body parts, some twinge that will remind me of this winter, the year that I was 45 years old, with my kids growing up fast, my daughter overseas, and me at the threshold of a new stage in my life.

13 comments:

jenfromRI said...

That echo doesn't seem like such a bad thing.

Yankee, Transferred said...

What an excellent perspective.

Amelie said...

Thanks for letting me know I'm not the only one with stretchmarks before ever getting pregnant. One of several echoes -- which can also remind me that I made it through something, that things are better now.

Mona Buonanotte said...

I love the stories our bodies tell...fascinating and lovely and all bound up in our skin, waiting to be pointed out and recalled.

Bridget said...

this post reminds me of when i got braces and how much my mouth ached and I thought how I will never take it for granted to not be in pain. I do of course, but it is something I should be thankful for everyday.

BeachMama said...

I am glad to hear that your knee is healing up for you, it seems to have taken longer than thought, but hopefully it will heal right up and perhaps leave only the slightest of echoes for you, just to remind you of this past winter.

Anonymous said...

jo(e) - Boy do I feel your pain. I had my yearly check up yesterday -- for the first time in six years. Discovered I have sciatica and the doc said there is no cure, only treatment. I feel saddened by this . . . Not just because I can look forward to a life filled with pain but because it serves as a reminder of my mortality. And I haven't seen spring in 3 different countries within a short period of time yet! Gulp. Time to get living! Kathy in Kentucky

ccw said...

I love the stories the marks on my body tell. I only wish that I could make it sound as beautiful as this post.

jo(e) said...

Kathy: Oh, I am sorry to hear about the sciatica. I hope there are ways to keep the pain at a minimum.

Camera Obscura said...

I'm too lazy to go back and check, but I'm willing to bet you're just past the six-week mark from when you did yourself in.

Things will be better now, but I do have to tell you that it will remind you that it is still healing until you hit about the six-month anniversary of the injury.

How do I know this? Personal experience, confirmed by doctors: hyper-extended hip joint (try remembering not to pivot on one of your legs!), TMJ inflammation, tennis elbow, and breaking a foot bone every five years without fail for the last 18 years. It's really annoying that chewing one piece of bubble gum or painting the garage one afternoon or setting your foot down wrong on a 1/2" drop-off can lead to six months of debilitation!

Rana said...

I'm glad it's still healing. Onward and upward...

I think, for me, one of the things that defines no longer being young to me is that now, injuries don't ever disappear anymore, leaving me totally unmarked. I think about this on the days when my eye aches from too much heat and sun - it's not going to go back to how it was, ever, so now it's a matter of gracefully accepting it.

It's somewhat as if yoga has moved off the mat and suffuses my life more generally - every day is practice, even if I don't want it to be.

Lilian said...

This is a beautiful post, I'm glad you're almost there... healing takes time and is tough on our natural impatience (maybe you're different and more patient but I, for one, am just extremely impatient)...

Oh, yeah and about the beautiful photo on the previous post, like many other people, the first thing I thought when I saw it last night (that's when I read this post as well) was "there's the second picnic table!"

Silver Creek Mom said...

I hear ya. I will be 44 this summer and my body is not repsonding to well alot of things and I deal with some sort of pain every day. AND I'M SUPPOSED TO BE HEALTHY. No one told me or I refused to listen that getting older would me aches and pains. BUT I will not let that stop me no how no way.

We still have alot of living to do. I too and on that thershold.