An unexpected journey…

December 31, 2013

Many times when one finds themselves in a hospital, it is unexpected.  An accident or illness, perhaps, requiring care and attention.  In my case, I knew the date of my knee surgery months before it happened.  By the time that the actual day arrived, it still seemed so surreal that I was planning on replacing an entire joint in my body.  Sitting in the surgery waiting room prior to being called back for pre-op, I kept looking at my right knee and wondering… am I even remotely prepared for this?  Am I doing the right thing?  No answers were forthcoming, so I said goodbye and thanks to my crunchy, old knee, and began the journey.

What followed was pretty typical of any major surgery.  Pain, nausea from the anesthesia and heavy duty drugs, disorientation, and a constant flow of nice people coming in and out of my hospital room at all hours of the day and night, taking vitals or drawing yet another vial of blood.  It is all kind of a blur now, two weeks out from the surgery, yet I do remember how incredibly helpless and weak I felt.   For an independent person such as myself, this was particularly challenging.

Since I have been home, there are a few things that have struck me in a profound manner, beyond the initial, “holy crap, I can’t do a bloody thing for myself” awareness at the hospital:

  • Lee is a remarkable caregiver.  He goes above and beyond the “in sickness and in health” marker set by our partnership.  I am so grateful for his help, both literally and figuratively.
  • There is no way I could have been prepared for this experience.  Period.
  • I am not a patient person.  In fact, I am really, really impatient.
  • I do not appreciate my life, my person, my *everything* like I should.

The last one on appreciation is where I must expound, for it is important.  We so glibly will say things like, “better appreciate what you have before it is gone”, or “live each day like it might be your last”, or “carpe diem”, and yet we don’t have a clue as to what that really entails.  Now that I am re-learning how to walk, get in and out of a chair, or use the loo, I realize that I do appreciate what I had now that it is temporarily ‘gone’, but there would have been no way for me to know this fully before the surgery.  Not in any real and meaningful way, that is…  So, how do we appreciate the small things of our everyday lives *before* they are taken away or gone, or injured?  How do we stop and appreciate the fact that something so simple as taking a shower is a miraculous feat of physical dexterity?  It seems like in order to do that, or have a mindset that is open to that realization would require an almost dream-like state of hyper awareness.  Probably not very practical or realistic.

So, I propose this:  try and take a few moments out of each day to really, really pay attention to what you are doing.  No matter how small or simple the task.  Be that washing the dishes, or petting the cat, or making a bed.  Be amazed that you can do these things!  It may sound silly or trite, yet it isn’t.  Perhaps if we can inch in a moment or two of complete awareness in our regular, sometimes boring, lives, we will know appreciation.  The kind of appreciation that enriches our present experience.

I was thrilled the first time I could maneuver my leg under the covers without help.  I was ecstatic with my first shower after surgery, albeit a sitting one, yet it was marvelous.  I look forward to being able to manage the stairs again so I can do laundry.  Wow.  Who knew how exciting my ‘old life’ used to be?

The unexpected part of this planned reconstruction of my right knee has been the lessons I am learning everyday about appreciation and living in the present.  I thought I knew what that meant.  I thought I knew about being grateful.  I didn’t have a clue.

My goal for 2014 is to be healthier in mind, body and spirit.  I will endeavor to pay attention to the small things.  The daily things.  The sometimes mindless things.  I will be glad for my hands the next time I begin a quilt.  I will be grateful for strong arms and fingers as I play my guitar.

I will, I will, I will…




One Response to “An unexpected journey…”

  1. Lynne said

    Ali, thank you. Another friend of mine is going through a recovery period after her independence and physical abilities were taken by illness—she says, in her way, much the same thing about gratitude, patience, loved ones being amazing caregivers. I suppose it makes sense that I’d be drawn to women of such heart and determination. I hope I can use your words and example in the best way possible. Many more blessings to you as you heal and continue to love life. xo, Lynne

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