Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Ying and Yan of it

A word of forewarning: At the end of this post, I'm showing a couple of photos of my damaged right knee, one of which is a bit graphic....

Three weeks ago, I had the first modestly severe injury in my 54 years on the planet. Prior to that point, it was all simply a matter of cuts, bruises stitches——a few things causing small scars, nothing more serious. I've been damn lucky, in other words.

And my recent ruptured knee tendon is relatively modest in the greater scheme of things. In this time and place, there is nothing life-threatening or even permanently disabling about it. Still, it's the most truamatic physical insult I've ever had, and it will give me an 8 to 12 week experience of what it means to be disabled in our culture. I won't walk without crutches until late in the summer, and it may well be after the Christmas before I walk normally again.

Interesting lessons to be learned here. Principle among them is the reminder of the interplay of decay/death on the one hand, and restoration/healing on the other. It's never before been quite so obvious to me that these opposing energies are intertwined, codependent even, in everything we see around us.

The fact that my knee gave way so laughably easily on Father's Day, is, on the one hand, indication of the gradual progress we all make toward the "big dirt nap." Twenty years ago, I routinely jumped, fell, twisted, banged this knee with a good deal of vigor, and never had any problem with it at all. Now at 54 years of age, though, with soft tissues beginning to harden and lose their resiliency, a relatively gentle slip on the steps caused this important knee tendon to tear away with an audible pop, leaving me in a heap in the steps.

It is, of course, just one indication of the future coming for us. The aging process is quite naturally one of steady, gradual decline, and my torn tendon of today will become a faulty hip of tomorrow, a kidney stone the day after, a heart attack or stroke some time after that. It is utterly inevitable, and to pretend that we don't decay is to cruelly delude ourselves.

One of the benefits of having an injury of this sort, and especially of the physical therapy that goes into recovery, is that you are forced to become more health conscious and watch your body and care for it a bit better. And simple observation convinces me of something else indisputable. If decay can't be avoided, healing is also inevitable. I'm supposed to exercise my knee three times a day, massage it, study its pain patterns, break down the scar tissue to make sure the mobility returns. To do this involves a fair amount of discomfort, but it also shows me that the knee is ever so slowly, gradually, but inevitably, improving and healing. The scar down the center of the knee is beginning to lose its angry look, the motion in the joint now is nearly 90-degrees, and the knee itself now begins to feel like it belongs to me again, compared to just a week ago or so, when it looked and felt to all appearances like a block of concrete.

A second lesson is that healing in hindered, and pain increased, when we resist. The pain of physical therapy, for example, is very largely a matter of the fearful resistance we bring to the process. Healing is in large part a matter of learning to trust the knee again, to relax into the healing. What's true here seems very likely to be true of other forms of injury and insult—whether spiritual, psychological, or otherwise.

I see this because I'm required to pay such close attention to the knee, but I'm relatively sure that its also true of every form of injury and insult we ever experience. We do decay, constantly. But we also heal and evolve, constantly. And healing is in large measure a process of relaxing.

The following three photos are in reverse order. First, the knee today, second the knee a week ago. Stop here if you're squeamish. Below this photo will be what the knee looked like three weeks ago under the operating knife.


1 comment:

Jerri said...

That last image is brutal. Yikes.