For the past two years, it’s been post-surgery, post surgery and post surgery, the last one on November 5, a full-hip implant with a head, swivel and socket. I think I’m through this mega-recovery from the bad break in Ulaanbaatar on November 26, 2017.
I ask my surgeon when can I swim? When can I get on a stationary bike to pedal? When can I start Pilates? He looks at me with that small frown between his brows. I get quiet and wait. No swimming for six weeks, he says. No bicycling. No hiking. Importantly, no driving. You can walk.
I take this in. OK, I can walk.
Richard points out that all I said before I went into this third surgery is I want to walk. I am going to walk. I want to keep on walking.
And I do walk out of C.U. Medical Center hospital with a Leki walking stick for balance, without pain.
Boo gives me a post surgery gift, a square black screen on a rubberized watchband. A Fitbit. His and her matching Fitbits. If I’m going to walk, I’m going to focus on walking. Each day counts. Steps.
At the end of the first day back home in Santa Fe, having walked around the house with the support of my wheelie, the Fitbit strapped on my wrist marks 310 steps. That doesn’t make sense. I realize that if pushing my three-wheeled walker, the gadget doesn’t read the steps. So I fold up the tricycle and put it in the garage next to my Harley. I’ll donate it to the Senior Center in appreciation for the walker, wheelchair, shower stool and elevated potty seat they’ve lent me over the last three months. I try the walking stick around the house but I discover I don’t need it. I have full weight bearing. No pain in the socket. Surgical sutures burn a bit but they are clean. Muscle soreness in the quad. All expected. I can walk.
The next morning, I say to Boo, let’s go to Frenchy’s Park down the street. There’s a sidewalk route .33 miles long. It’s 38 degrees out. I walk the first third of a mile with extension poles, needing to rest. At the beginning, 769 steps the Fitbit calculates. I’m exhausted. I can’t do more, I say, and Boo drives me back home
On Sunday, we go again in the morning.. I bring compression walking poles and circumnavigate the park two times. I stop briefly just to say OK, I can do this. 1535 steps. I don’t think I can do anymore, I say. And Boo drives me back home.
On Monday morning, I ask if Boo will drive me over before he goes to work at St. Bede’s. I do two times around. At the end of the second lap, my Fitbit tells me my heart rate is up to l03 beats per minute. I haven’t seen a heart rate that high for two years. I’m going for it, I say, and start the third loop. I get up to ll3 beats per minute. 2348 steps. The little monitor with the footprints around the loop in a data circle like the loop I’m walking at the park sends me a wrist-message: “Hey you! 256 more steps to go this hour!” I hobble back to the car, 63 steps.
In the afternoon of that mile walk, my leg swells up like the Dakota Pipeline. I’m worried. I call Tena. She comes over, kneels down by the low supported guest bed and lightly massages the edema, brings the congestion down around my knee. Lying under her caring hands, I show here my Fitbit. 4623 steps!
She looks at my like I’m a lunatic and says I’m less than a week out from surgery. I need to give time for my capillaries to adjust, time to recover.
But I’m so excited that I can walk! I just want to walk! To keep on walking!
She says she’s going to take away my Fitbit.
I hide my gadget but I heed her advice, take Tuesday off, I just walk around the house, from room to room, doing light housework, organizing my files, cooking dinner. (2136 steps.)
On Wednesday, in my session with my psychiatrist, I tell Dr. Joe that I’m not doing enough, that I’ve become lazy, that I’ve lost my drive. He suggests that at mid-sixty, I’ve done everything I need to do. Well, yes, he recommends, I do need to put in the effort of recovery, the rehab, but not overdo it. He clarifies I’ve put in my time: three academic degrees, academic and story publications, dozens of grant projects and professional awards, a public school career, international contracts, and the last two years’ endurance through surgeries. I don’t have to “work at it” anymore, he says. I get quiet.
No one in my life has ever suggested that I’ve done enough. Dr. Joe offers that what I could do now, at this time of my life, is focus on developing a balance through integration of intellect, creativity, insight, and love and compassion.
This is something to ponder.
After the session, I walk to DeVargas Mall (2019 steps) to get a Starbucks cappucino and write this blog.
When Boo picks me up after his work and drives me home, he takes his gear and leaves for Chavez for his daily swim. I take off my Fitbit to recharge the battery, then go outside in the surprisingly warm afternoon and sit outside in my walled garden on an old wicker chair, crunching my butt on a pile of leaves I don’t bother to sweep off. I put up my feet in their multicolored knitted Tajik mucklucks on the Restore table. I note the Mongolian tea chest at the far end of the garden, wrapped in plastic for the winter, and the drop cloth-covered tiled table. The dried chili-ristras swing from their hooks. The abandoned barbecue, mid-garden the iron gate ajar, the empty hummingbird feeder, the dead blooms in the Oriental pots. Beside me, the stick like dried stems of summer’s coleus poke up beneath Ann’s passport mask, and dried leaves cascade down the cement steps around the patio lanterns. In my meditation on not doing, I see that I am in love with the transitioning backspace of my casita with its death and dying and its held hope for Spring. In a few minutes, I’ll get up and walk, but just now I don’t feel like standing up to straighten or sweep, empty pots or move lanterns, or put anything away. For the moment, I don’t want to change a thing in this November afternoon quiet of my recovery.