A Tale of Two Summers

One of my last ambulatory days of 2011
One of my last ambulatory days of 2011

I’ve been enjoying myself quite a lot lately. Other than the breathless busy-ness that is the inevitable outcome of trying to DO ALL THE THINGS, we’ve been having a lot of fun. This past weekend we spent at the beach, my children increasingly fearlessly ducking through waves. We’ve been hiking and camping and beaching and farmer’s marketing. I walked through London.

I was thinking, the other day, how much more pleasant this summer seemed than last. Of course there’s a lot that goes into that. I’m in a different job, which plays a role. My sons are 6 and 3 instead of 5 and 2, which also plays a role. But one of the most critical factors to my family’s happiness has to be the condition of my left knee.

As you all well remember, last May I epically blew it out. Or rather, I prosaically finished a long slow decade of disintigration with two major tears of my meniscus, precipitated by the fact that I had no ACL to protect those secondary tissues. I spent last summer in physical therapy, in my doctor’s office and in constant pain and fear. Pain obviously, but fear that I would step wrong or it would hurt worse. Fear that was, I should say, regularly reinforced by coming true.

Camping ended up being brutal. The shifting sands and rolling rocks of a beach, plus the fear that my then two year old would attempt to swim his way to France, meant that we entirely avoided the beach the entire summer. Last summer vacation, right after the MRI revealed the massive extent of the internal damage, I spent my summer vacation processing the reality that I would need my first ever major surgery. Mt. Rainier’s shoulders went unmolested by my feet – except for the tamest trails. I did PT in the hotel room and packed a large bottle of extra strength Ibuprofen. I planned ahead for my next “vacation”, quickly exhausting my paid time off and attempting to work through the sheer exhaustion of a healing body and pain-ridden system.

It’s amazing how much more fun it is to be out of pain and relatively healthy.

That’s where this post was intended to end two weeks ago, when I first thought it up. (What can I say, I’ve been too busy having fun to actually write about it!) My knee had finally reach all better, about the time I went to London. Look ma! I can kneel!

And then something went oogly. I’m kind of so used to limited motion and pain that it took me a bit to notice my knee hurt and I was favoring it again – limping a bit. I know it’s not the ACL, but I have to wonder if there’s still a tear in the mensicus, or even a new one. I think the way I was sitting might have “caught” it.Or maybe it’s the new normal – I have very little cushioning my knee now, with the meniscal tears removed. Maybe running for a bus one day is an action I pay for over the course of the next few weeks. I realize that the right thing to do is to call my dear Orthopedist and ask to be reviewed.

The idea of initiating anything like that is appalling. So instead I’m ignoring it for now. If it is a really remote meniscal tear that only gets activated when I sit a particular way, well. I can learn not to sit that way.

My husband and I were commisserating the other day. He was going through his extensive nightly ritual of caring for his hands and feet. When not attended to with slavish devotion, the skin on both tends to crack and not heal, which is just as painful as it sounds. This accumulation of familiar aches and chronic (minor) issues is almost like a rite of passage itself. It marks – as if our increasingly gigantic and independent children did not – our transition from the flower of youth to the fruit of middle age. You notice you’re walking with a limp – after 26 sessions of PT and two hours of surgery – and you kind of wonder if you will ever spend a full year in which you do not limp, and what it might mean to be the Mom that Limps a Little. (Of course, putting it that way almost resolves me to call my orthopedist. After vacation.)

What about you? What aches and pains have you accumulated, that have become as familiar as your own face in the mirror? Or tell me about ones you have resigned yourself to, only to be unexpectedly and permanently freed from them.

Pack in that relaxation!

There are down sides and up sides to age and experience. I can now chop an onion with a finesse my 22 year old self would never have dreamed of. I seem to grow extra arms as needed. I know how long the wash cycle on my washing machine takes, and I can get myself to nearly any destination not requiring a visa without being nervous about it. I am, in short, a Woman of Experience.

I have this week off. I am between. I am liminal. I have left Old Job and not yet started New Job. I have been EXPLICITLY INSTRUCTED by my new employer to relax and come in rested and refreshed. But this is a once every few years opportunity! Home, alone, without children, not terribly fiscally constrained and without obligation. This, my friends, is the holy grail. And I KNOW that it will go super duper fast and I will only accomplish a small percentage of what I intend in that time.

So here’s the potential list: (bold means already done or in the works)

  • Crazy complicated dinner (prime rib!)
  • Video game (Fable II for XBox)
  • Clean attic thoroughly and get rid of archaic equipment (see also: desktop computer)
  • Buy new computer
  • Centralize entire digital life on new computer
  • Transfer finances to new digital checkbook
  • Do all the regular chores so my husband gets a bit of a break too
  • Read several novels
  • Install a DROID development environment
  • Write a DROID application
  • Blog like I always think I would blog if time wasn’t a problem
  • Sleep in as much as possible
  • Read the APIs my new company publishes for the app I’ll be supporting
  • Watch all the football
  • Do everything in my email inbox so I can close the email
  • Practice trumpet
  • Stamp cards
  • Learn how to use my new phone and totally customize it
  • Recycle the old computers, having ensured all valuable information has been removed.
  • Have tea with a friend
  • Go out to lunches with my former colleagues (this was my original plan, but now I’m feeling so forward-looking I have mixed feelings on it)
  • Finish up my knee physical therapy (partially there!)
  • Goof off in all the amazing free time.

    Anyone see a problem with this list? Yeah, that darned experience tells me what it tells you. There’s no way I’m going to get through that list. I get so sick and tired of prioritizing, optimizing and being efficient. I come to loathe the down to the minute scheduling and night after night of making good decisions because I know better. This week, at least, that is relaxed and reduced. I’ve actually made some excellent progress.

    The key this week, I think, is balance. I need to make sure I neither work the whole time or goof off the whole time. A mixture of accomplishment, long term investment and leisure is the order of the day. I think I’ve done well so far.

    Last week I read several novels, working my way through the canon of Sherwood Smith, so far with “Crown Duel”, “The Trouble With Kings”, “Coronets and Steel” and “Blood Spirits” — thank you Kindle for making it so easy! I have played several hours of Fable II. I have gotten my DROID environment working, read half of a DROID apps book, read the first few chapters in a JAVA 2 book and consolidated all our CDs. I also cleaned out the closet in the attic and have my crazy fancy dinner planned. I bought myself my new central laptop, and am currently in the process of downloading a lifetime of pictures to it, as I simultaneously upload ancient pictures from my old desktop. I have had my final knee dr. appointment and been dismissed. I have three PT appointments scheduled. I found a new chiropractor. The dishes have been done, I’ve been careful not to spend too much time cooking (which is what usually happens when I have free time), and I’m watching Dr. Who while I fold laundry.

    So far, not bad. Here’s hoping I finish equally strong, and that I’m completely energetic and ready to go back to work in my new place on Monday!

    One final note… I am so a teenager. So I’ve been really careful not to get into the “staying up until 2 am reading” trap that I so easily fall into. My natural schedule is bed at 2 am and waking up around 11. I figured if I was careful with the going to bed, the waking up would come easily. But instead, I’ve had several nights where I’ve gotten 11 to 12 hours sleep. I mean, my sleep debt can’t be THAT bad, and I just had a week off for Christmas where I also caught up. I’m left to conclude that I naturally am quite happy sleeping half the time. And it’s not depression – I’m quite cheerful. I just like bed. This explains a lot.

    Not so bad.