Adjusting My Path Accordingly


“The pessimist looks down and hits his head. The optimist looks up and loses his footing. The realist looks forward and adjusts his path accordingly.”

-- Robert Kirkman

I like to think of myself as an optimist -- especially when it comes to my health and well-being. Each time I come out of surgery, I set goals and prepare for the battle ahead. The battle is with myself and I have to keep my eye on the prize. I cannot settle. I can even go as far as making unrealistic goals in the hopes that I'll come out of this better... faster... stronger.

However, each new day has it's way of knocking me back to reality. I have to be realistic. I have to adjust my path accordingly. This is the case for so many things -- goals, expectations, feelings.

For nearly six years I have really wanted just one thing -- to walk normal again. Sure, no pain would be great, but again, experience has taught me that is not a feasible goal for myself. My circumstances have been a roller coaster ride filled with important lessons along every drop, flip and turn. And I know that the absolute wildest part of this particular ride is behind me. Surely, there are more rides to come, but I'm ready to hop off this one with a thrill-filled smile on my face, exit through the turnstiles and never get back on.

I return to work a week from today. I came out of surgery feeling strong and optimistic. That optimism carried me through two full weeks of recovery with hardly any wavering. At the height of my optimism, shortly after leaving my physical therapy assessment, I decided that my goal was to return to work completely aide free. That day, I'd switched from my walker to my cane and I was feeling really good about it.

The weekend passed and my first physical therapy session came on Monday. I got little sleep the night before because of the pain (it's the worst at night) and wasn't feeling as confident or as well as I'd hoped going into it. About 20 minutes in, I asked to sit and began to feel nauseous. I couldn't go on any more, because I knew it wasn't a sick feeling that would easily disappear. I reluctantly told my trainer that I was done for the day. That tore me to me pieces to say out loud. There were others in PT dealing with far worse circumstances and they weren't quitting. But I did.

As I waited for my dad to pick me up and the whole way home, I kept my head down and my eyes closed, wondering how I let this happen. I kept replaying the moment when I told the trainer I was sorry and she replied with, "it's OK -- your body has been through so much."

Eventually I realized that she was right. It had. And I was being really hard on myself. I was being overly optimistic, a touch pessimistic and not realistic. And it was not doing me any favors.

I went back to physical therapy on Wednesday, but I returned as a realist. I made it through the full session and left feeling like I'd made some progress. But the realist in me knew I still have a ways to go. The realist in me knew I wasn't going to go back to work aide-free by next week.

During my hip replacement, my femur fractured. This has lengthened the healing process and made it extremely difficult to get my gait back to normal. I'm still compensating for the pain and the muscles in my entire right leg are readjusting to new angles and trying to break out of old habits that have lasted years. I can't really expect all of that to just get better four short weeks after a hip replacement.

One thing I can say is that I will not be a consistent pessimist. I will not look down and hit my head. This entire experience from being diagnosed with Avascular Necrosis has seen me through stages of pessimism, optimism, and realism. When your body is your own worst enemy, it's sometimes easy to be all three in a single day. But these past 5-plus years have taught me many lessons about staying out of the pitfall of pessimism.

In the past, I've felt negatively about my progress, about the care [or lack thereof] from others, or about whether or not I'd ever be able to do simple things like paint my own toe nails or chase after my children. But I've learned to manage those negative feelings. I've learned to use my recovery time as a time to grow and evolve. In the silent, still moments of the day, I can wallow or I can refuel my heart and soul -- and though I do have moments where I do wallow, more often than not, I choose to refuel.

I put my faith and trust in a God that is so much larger than any circumstance. I can spend my days on the deck reflecting on His beauty, singing and reading words of His promise, and living in His grace. For me, there is no better way to deal with my realities and be reminded that I am loved, I am healing, and I can be patient with myself. I will miss these moments once I return to the hustle of a typical day.

Do I wish I could return to work and regular life without a cane? Of course I do. But I can't force things that aren't meant to be.

I have to be a realist. I have to look ahead. And I will adjust my path accordingly.

"In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight."

-- Proverbs 3:6

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