People told me “You will know when you are ready for joint replacement” I need both of my knees and my hip replaced. I have osteoarthritis that I think I inherited from my mother. It probably started about fifteen years ago but the truth is I don’t really know. Fifteen years ago, I was taking care of so many people I was not really paying attention. It did not happen overnight, that I know. It has been a slow progression over years of aching, icing, and physical therapy. When I stop, and think about it, it has been years since I have walked anywhere for fun or relaxation. I lay most nights on a large ice pack to numb my hip so I can fall asleep. I walk with a limp and have recently been told I walk like “The Penguin” from Batman. But I also work out at the gym with a trainer and until six months ago, I could do 45 minutes on the elliptical. So, what would it take to tip the scale? How much, is too much pain? What does “you will know” look like?
I have been working with Kathy, a friend and psychotherapist who is trained in hypnosis. She has been helping me with pain management. During a session with her last month, I found myself on a beach, walking effortlessly, turning, sliding, feeling the sand and the water on my feet. It was glorious. When I came out of trance I felt overwhelmed. I could not remember the last time I had moved with ease and joy. I held back tears as I hobbled up the driveway to my car. Is this the point?
Recently, I started using a cane. I hate it but it helps me limp less. One of the first days I took it to the city, I was so flustered getting it and my bags out of the car I locked my keys in the car in the parking garage. It was humiliating. It took three hours to get AAA to come and open the car.
In my first apartment in New York City, my roommate Sza and I had a print on the wall. It was of a woman in bed, but it was as if the bed and the woman were one. Her knee was bent and protruded from the covers and her arms reached up as if desperate to get up. We said it represented that feeling you have when you know you need to get up but you are so tired that all you want to do is sleep. The other day, I thought about the painting. I thought about my hip. As much as I want to get up and move, to engage in the world, I feel this pull that says, “don’t move, stay, it will hurt.”
It is as if the couch is trying to seduce me, to entice me to let go, give up, to accept my limitations. The lure of complacency is strong. I can sink into it, let it comfort me, keep me safe, free from pain, free from the risk that comes with change. “ Lay down, give into it. You are old, fat, embrace it”. The pull felt strong and it scared me.
Last week I made an appointment and scheduled my hip replacement. What was it that made me decide? Was it the cane and the humiliation at the parking garage? Was it the chronic pain? Was it the dream of walking on the beach again? No, to my surprise, it wasn’t any of that. It was the pull to give up and the fear that I would become complacent. That I would become used to saying “No, sorry I can’t do that.” Or “Thanks, but I will wait here for you.” I am fifty-eight years old. I love to be outside, to walk, to swim and to be active. So, I decided I am going to fight the pull and use it to propel me. Instead of complacency I will listen to and embrace my discontent. And when I am done I will once again walk, and be the first to say, “Let’s go!”.