22 April 2008

My Knees Hurt!

I've been reflecting a lot in the past few days about how lucky I am for my health and strength. It wasn't long ago when I couldn't even stand up or walk without someone to help me, let alone drive or climb stairs or any of the other little things that we take for granted each day!

A dear friend of ours who was injured in Iraq fell down and hurt himself last Monday because he was trying to do more than he is capable of doing right now. This, understandably, was somewhat frustrating for many of those who know him. If he could just accept his own limitations, things like this wouldn't happen. I get that, I really do. I understand how difficult and frustrating it is to see someone you love hurting simply because they are too stubborn to admit that they need help.

At the same time, I really empathize with this friend. What the others don't and really can't understand is how absolutely frustrating it is to suddenly be unable to do so many of the things that were second nature to you before. It eats away at you and makes you feel like you aren't quite a person anymore, somehow. It hurts, too, when people you know and love start looking at the injury and noticing the disability more than they see and notice you. It makes you want to push harder than you know you should, just to get some semblance of normalcy back in your life. You want to prove to everyone else that you really are still the same person you always were, and so you try to act like you always did. Sometimes, that brings painful (or just plain embarrassing) consequences!

I remember when I was at Relief Society Camp with some of the ladies from our ward here. We were out on the "lake" (more like a large pond, really) on a raft, just enjoying the day. Well, one of my friends suggested trading the raft for one of the paddle boats. I agreed to go with her, so the other ladies on the raft paddled us over close to the shore so that we could wade out and over to the paddle boats. I got off of the raft and started to walk to the shore. The water came up almost to my knees, so I was walking very carefully so that I wouldn't get my rolled-up jeans wet. (I hadn't thought about going out on the lake, so I hadn't brought any extra clothing with me. It was just an overnight campout, and I planned to wear the same clothes home in the morning and shower before getting dressed for real.) Anyway, I took about 2 steps before disaster struck. I thought that my right foot (the one that I can't feel anymore) was on the ground, and I lifted up my left foot to take a step forward. My right foot had not yet hit the bottom of the pond, however. So when I lifted up my other foot, I didn't have a leg to stand on, so to speak! I went down, completely under the water!! Of course, I found my footing and I was up again quickly - the whole episode took probably less than 30 seconds from the time I left the raft - and I played it off as just a silly little thing. But I have to admit that it was quite frustrating and embarrassing and even pretty scary.

I wasn't scared that I would drown or anything like that. I'm a very good swimmer with good, strong swimming arms, and like I said before, the "lake" was not deep at all. When I was standing, it only came up to my knees, after all! No, the scary part had nothing to do with the water. The thing that scared me was the thought that I may never be able to do all of the things that I used to do without giving it a second thought - all of those simple, little tasks that we do every day... and some of them aren't so simple anymore.

I am so grateful this week as I ponder on these things that I am regaining so much of my strength and ability. I still don't have full feeling in my right leg or left hand, and to tell the truth, if I were to get full feeling back now, it would probably throw me off just as much as losing the feeling disoriented me in the first place. I've gotten so used to compensating that I don't know what I would do if I could feel what I'm doing, you know?

Still, I sometimes forget that I have limitations. Sometimes, I still injure or embarrass myself because I forget to think about what I can't do easily anymore. This afternoon, for instance.

The kids and I went to the Post Office on base to send a small package to Phil. When we were finished, we were walking back out to the car, on our way to the Commissary to buy groceries. I looked over at one of the kids beside me to say something, and I forgot to think about the fact that the sidewalk slopes slightly down from the door of the Post Office to the parking lot. It's not a steep incline, really barely noticeable at all, but it isn't completely smooth, flat and level either. Suddenly, somehow, I lost my balance. I'm guessing that the high-heeled boots I was wearing just made the incline a tiny bit more pronounced to my senses, and it was too much for me. Without warning, without even really taking a step, I suddenly pitched forward and went down. I twisted my ankle and landed hard on my knees. I tore my new jeans (guess I'll be going shopping again sooner than I thought) and severely injured my pride. Of course, all of the kids came running to see what had happened. That wasn't too bad, because I could simply explain to them that mommy lost her balance again, but it was okay now. Unfortunately, we weren't the only people in the parking lot. A gal who had been just getting into her car witnessed the whole thing and came over to see if I was going to be okay. I really felt silly, especially since I really didn't have an explanation for what happened!

We made it through the Commissary and home again without further incident, although I almost went down again when Katie took hold of my hand in the Commissary parking lot and pulled on it gently to try to get my attention! I think that the worst part of the whole thing was that, in the fall, I managed to break the heels on both of my boots, so now my favorite boots are history!

But, you know, it could have been so much worse. I could have hit my head rather than my knees when I fell. Or I could have broken a bone. (It wouldn't have been the first time that a dizzy fall has given me a broken bone.) I could have been incapacitated in some way and left my kids with no one to take care of them... Pride is easily mended, and I will soon forget (at least, mostly) this incident. In the meanwhile, I will try to remember to be grateful that incidents such as this one are growing to be less and less frequent as I grow stronger. And if nothing else, this whole situation gives me a little inkling of understanding for a dear friend who is struggling to find a way to be the man he has always been, even as he comes to accept the fact that he may never be able to do all that he has always done.

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