What is it like, being able to (insert athletic event here) after not having been to walk stairs or lift a full glass of water? Not for a week or a month but long enough to see the cycle of seasons repeat? It is simply glorious. And scary. Because I don't want to go back.
Having been brought to my non-functional knees for well over a year, I've lived pain. Loss of mobility is worse than you'd imagine. And as I ever so slowly (coming up on three years) claw my way back, I am grateful many times each day. The kind of grateful where you stop and think of nothing else.
I am grateful every time I climb a flight or two of stairs. "Look at me," I want to tell my neighboring Trader Joe's shopper. "I can climb up these. Also, back down. Also, I can do the ramp now. The ramp doesn't even hurt (stairs often still do)." Can you imagine being faced with such emotional prattle as you pop in for hummus and cheese on your way home from work? I wonder: would you consider me someone's silly, chatty mom and pacify me with a smile? Or might you pause and contemplate, even try to relate?
...which brings me to the fear part. My tangle of pain and enforced stillness continues to gradually peel itself back, revealing still-ripe fruit. I marvel at this progress. One triumph builds upon the next, and I revel in my yoga practice, ability to dance, and only recently, to swim. With some regularity, tears threaten to make my private thoughts public. Those tears are plentiful, and not always joyful. Like me, they are intense and layered.
I cry because I cannot believe that I have been given this chance, and I want to savor it and (hike, dance, swim) forever. I cry because I cannot fathom why I have been given this chance for renewal. I cry for my peers in disability and pain who will not have that chance. I also cry from fear. Mine was not a gradual slip--my illness and loss of mobility were sudden, akin to being thrown from a speeding car. One moment I was flying along, and the next, my body was screaming and everything stopped. This is how it happened. If it can happen once, it can happen again, and this awareness simmers just below every triumph.
Today I was able to kayak. This one feels bigger, because my back problems kept me from it even before my bodily implosion. It seems my rehabbing continues, because whereas six months ago I would have been unable just to get in, today I got in and paddled. As described above, it felt simply glorious. I asked my son to take a picture, which I expected to convey my joy. Then I saw the photo and aah--there it is, the wariness. I look serious. Which, in fact, I am. Taking my life back is serious business.