Looking back on my six weeks of leave, I see myself right before the surgery as wound up like a top that's about to spiral out of control and bang down those snowy steps where I wracked up my leg on the trip to Buffalo. I think the fall finally broke through my denial that I could go on with my life with the knee the way it was and somehow it would resolve itself. Five years ago, when an orthopedist told me that surgery wouldn't help me because I was too overweight, I sucked it in and added it to the many layers of sorrow and shame that I had accreted around my body over my inability to keep my weight off. As my knee problems grew worse and worse my exasperated husband would ask when I was going to go to the doctor and I'd say what for? So I could be told that I was a fat mess and there was nothing he could do and I should live with it? It took me a week before I felt like I could breathe after that appointment. I couldn't go through that again and I took the pain in my knee as a divine retribution for what I had allowed myself to become.
Thinking back since January, I didn't realize how much of a depression I was in. After years of financial and emotional stress over Stan's back and job problems, our whole family has lived on the edge of disaster as casually as if we were bomb-handlers for El Al. We took it in stride when bad things happened; they happened to us a lot. We also knew that we weren't the only people that bad things happened to. We had it all in perspective.
At least that's what you tell yourself when you pat yourself on the back for getting up each day and going to work when your spouse is in terrible pain, or you are in terrible pain, or your both are on the same day and you look at each other, raise your eyebrows, and then go get the newspaper. Of course, I kvetch a lot and I'm sure my family would pay me a million dollars never to call them and say these words again: My knee, my stomach, Stan's back. Literally. A million dollars if they had it. Coming back to New York had stabilized the situation by allowing me to go back to work and contribute my income, but it had also intensified the physical stress we both were under.
It's been a very rough six weeks, but I'm a lot calmer now. I'm going back to work with a knee that may be as screwed up as it was before I left. However, my head is screwed on better and I know that eventually I can get a knee replacement and have my life back again. My family has been wonderfully indulgent while I've been home, especially my husband who lives with this kind of pain all the time and still manages to get out of bed and wait on me and then go to work.
I'm sure there are other middle aged people who are struggling with medical issues that are impacting their families and their careers. It's a double whammy when you begin to view yourself as damaged goods and see it reflected in the eyes of those around you. It's difficult to extricate yourself from your daily obligations in order to get the help you need. It's also dangerous to stand up and draw attention to your infirmities in a society that values youth and fitness above everything else. I am not being paranoid when I say that I have anxieties about how my office will react to my return and I have no illusions that they will try to accommodate my physical issues while we are so short-staffed and under the gun with a high volume of cases. On the other hand, I will not allow myself to become so physically beat up as I did over the last six months.
It's healing for me to write this and hopefully not excruciatingly boring for all of you. You've played a major role in my recovery and without all of you, my family would have bound and gagged me by now! So thank you, and happy mother's day to everyone because we all came from someone's womb and we are all thankful to be here.