Today is my birthday, as it was in the picture. In it, I’m holding an album by the Beach Boys. I remember bouncing from couch to couch with wild abandon listening to “Fun, Fun, Fun.” When we’re young we don’t give our bodies a second thought. We bounce with impunity, blithely unaware that one day our backs might go out reaching for the car keys.
Over the forty-something years since that picture was taken, my knees and hips have whittled down to bone. Surgery is no longer optional. It’s scheduled. Having nothing to lose, I decided to go all in with alternative therapy. In January, stem cells were removed from my butt and injected into my knees. Three months later, PRP was injected to stimulate the cells. Five weeks after that, the left hip was replaced.
I consider myself body conscious and moderately healthy. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, and I move all day long. I’m an active gardener and avid walker. Unfortunately, Operation Bulletproof Knees didn’t turn out as planned. Thanks to my training in Essentrics®, I knew what needed to be done.
While there is a distinct flow to an Essentrics® workout, everyone is encouraged to find their own pace. Additionally, we never work in pain. To accomplish this, we move slowly in a relaxed state. As soon as pain is sensed, we back off. This is what allows the body to heal and rebalance.
There is a cultural misconception that it’s strengthening to work through pain. Yet where there is tension, there is less flexibility and blood flow. Injuries need oxygen-rich blood to pump through the body to nourish them.
Back to the Basics
Healing often begins when we’ve hit our lowest point. Whether you’re a junkie or a broken-down body, there’s a moment when something has to change. For me, it was surgery. It was both my rock bottom and source of inspiration.
The experience of being dependent, vulnerable and frail for six months taught me how to surrender and Be Here Now. I am more present and aware and grateful for it. It also sparked a fire in me. Knowing bilateral knee replacement is up to bat has inspired me to go “all in” one more time using exercise as medicine.
The ability to repair – be it your body or relationship – is a life skill. We’re not taught how to do this, we have to learn it ourselves which is not an easy task. We’re a fast-paced culture that doesn’t encourage slowing down, but that’s exactly what healing demands. Time.
As usual, I was rushing the net.
In the health and wellness field there is a saying, “motion is lotion.” To repair my hip, I have to walk pain-free. And in order to walk pain-free, my knees have to stop hurting. To get my knees to stop hurting, I have to slow down. This is where Essentrics® saves the day.
I still take the stairs at a snail’s pace but have turned it into a study of slow motion. Descending is a game of articulation and alignment. While ascension is about connecting muscles into long chains. I’ve never applied this much attention to walking in all my life and it’s a gift to be able to do so. It’s allowing me to measurable witness the healing process and deepen my understanding of body mechanics.
At this point, I’m not strength training to look good in yoga pants. I’m working out so that when others look at me, they think “Damn, I bet that bitch carries in all her groceries in one trip.”
I’ve known for years that the free ride of youth is over, but I’ve been stubborn to let go. Most days my body feels like a spool of wire in need of uncoiling. After twenty minutes of sitting, it can take a hot minute to stand upright with ease. It’s not rocket science to see where this trajectory is going. If I want to keep putting on my own socks, movement must be a part of daily life – like brushing my teeth. Period. I’ve seen the future.
On the bright side, there are some wonderful people in “the future.”
A Simple Life
As often as possible, I’m in the garden. It’s physically demanding, honest work that feeds my body and soul. Lately, I’ve been strolling more than toiling, which opened a sweet window of connection with my older neighbors. We ask about each other’s health. I talk about gardening and they talk about grandkids. These are healthy, vital, interesting people and I hope I’m like them in twenty years out walking their dog as they please, gardening and making new friends. That’s a good life.
Reminds me of Marcia Muth. She’s a painter. She says, “As you age toward ninety you realize that somewhere along the line there’s a stop. That’s it. So, every day is something you want to live really to the fullest.”
I’m grateful for the wake-up call. It’s been a rough two years, and with great challenge comes great change. There is an opportunity here to step forward with clarity about what matters most. I’ve grown up and am ready to start caring for my older self now. The struggle is real, as they say, but I’m no longer fighting against it or ruefully ignoring it. I’m finding my own pace.