On April 5, I had surgery on my left knee to fix my meniscus and loosen my kneecap, which is about as grotesque as it sounds. I’ve had some time to recover and I’ve done a lot of reflecting on the things in life that are not to be taken for granted.
This isn’t rocket science, but it takes time and energy and there’s been a lot of value for me in identifying simple things that are deserving of acknowledgment and thanks for working right, when they do. I noticed I should be thankful when suddenly these simple-seeming things were suddenly impossible feats of strength.
#1. Eating and Cooking
I haven’t made anything more complicated than toast in almost a month. I can’t stand for a long enough amount of time to justify trying something more complicated. Enter my husband and our amazing friends. It happens that I fell in love with my husband back on our second or third date when he took me to the farmers market to go shopping for ingredients to cook me dinner. We LOVE to cook. We spend hours together in the kitchen preparing, on the couch eating, traveling visiting new food stuff, seeking out foreign ingredients in New Jersey (we have a broad ethnic grocery spectrum from which to choose.) So much of our relationship is based in the intimacy of eating that we never would have worked as a couple if one of us didn’t like to cook.
I don’t go around dispensing a lot of marriage advice. I’m saving that for when I’m a few decades in. But I will say two things. First, no it is not the same as living together. (Every time I hear someone say “We’re practically married anyway,” I want to sit them down for a tea and a chat.) And two, if you value food and cooking, and love to eat, dine, munch, snack, devour, everything from fast food to Gramercy Tavern to homemade sausage, DO NOT marry someone who doesn’t share those same loves. Sure, you might be able to tolerate their “adorable” habit of not eating vegetables, or their “no white food” rule for a while, but one day you’ll be on the couch ordered not to walk for two weeks and living on Lean Pockets is no longer just “their thing.”
As sad as a marriage devoid of shared love of food and cooking sound to me, I know lots of people who do it, later saying charming things like “opposites attract, right?” looking whistfully at me. It would be like me marrying a devotee of Nascar or a member of the tea party.
When the vows get real, and suddenly “sickness and health” means something, you want the partner standing by you to actually love to cook for you. I have been eating the most delicious, lovingly-crafted meals because he loves to do it. There’s no sense of obligation and there has been plenty of pizza. But that he says things like, “so what do you think of a roasted golden beet salad with arugula, watercress and pine nuts?” allows me to overlook the real petty opposites we do share because the stuff that counts is in the right place.
#2 Awesome Friends and/or Family
As far as I can tell, we as humans don’t get to choose the stork that picks the family we land in. Thankfully, as adults we get to craft the network of people that we are surrounded by, saying, yes you are awesome, and no you are toxic, to the other adults around us.
This is not something to take lightly in times of crisis. You want your friends to be the one’s coming over with dinner not just for tonight, but also with something frozen that you can heat up in a day or two. You want your friends to be the ones making you laugh even when it hurts to laugh. Craft a group of those close to you so that when you are stuck on the couch and can’t move, being in the same room with them is a good thing, not an anxiety-producing nightmare. That goes for family too.
Surrounding yourself with people who like to walk your dog is also very helpful in times of immobility.
#3 Sitting, stretching, walking, laying down and moving in anyway
This should go without saying, but take a moment, hug yourself and say, Hey, Thanks Body. I’m a fairly active and healthy person and suddenly not moving, not as a direct result of my knee, but because I have to realign how I walk and my spine is less than enthusiastic, hurts! Its like a taser to my back when I do something or don’t do something the right or wrong way. Completely unpredictable pain. Its especially fun when I’m trying to sit on the toilet, which really should get its own number. Just appreciate what you can do painlessly and thank the amazing machine that is your body.
This is reaffirmed for me three times a week at physical therapy where I watch ancient humans struggle across the floor under their weight or failing musculoskeletal system. I have made an oath to practice yoga everyday until I die. I want to be a 90 year old yogi triathlete dispensing marital wisdom.
#4 Painkillers and/or Wine
I’m practicing moderation with my painkiller prescription but holy smokes is that stuff a miracle. I won’t advocate pills, but better living through chemistry is something I am embracing. The only downside is the pill consumption has drastically cut into my wine consumption. One pill gives the physical feeling of drinking three glasses of wine, but there is none of the warm silliness, inflated sense of my good ideas, or palate cleansing deliciousness to pair with Hubs cooking in the pill form. Pills are a miracle of modern medicine but wine will forever be my beverage of choice.
#5 A Library Card and a Good View
Did you know the library just lets you walk out the door with piles of their books?? Its amazing! Having nothing to do but sit and read/knit/watch tv has given me a new appreciation for just looking out the window. I have a bunch of bird feeders and a compost pile which attracts a daily menagerie (including woodchucks, deer, and my own chickens) to go about their simple business of survival and I love to stare at them.
I said the list was simple, right? I left lots of stuff off. Namely that I haven’t had a cell phone for a bit since my iPhone imploded and I’m loving it. I’ve turned off my email notification on my computer and so all I’ve got is my landline and I’ve diligently kept the list of people who have that number well curated.
I’ll be teaching again on Friday night so my routine is slowly getting back on track, with some new-found appreciation of my routine.