9 years ago today I woke up with a hangover. It wasn’t from drinking too much red wine or beer. It was from having been in hospital for surgery the day before. I’d had half my meniscus (cartilage) removed from my right knee having torn it 8 months earlier. You can read more about my surgery here: https://gymforthesoul.life/prayer-and-reflections/losing-control/
For now I want to say something about the day after the surgery. So back to the hangover.
My head was sore, my tummy was sore, my leg was sore. I was sore. My leg was swollen and still had the arrow marked on it from the day before to ensure the surgeon didn’t cut open the wrong knee. There were some brown stains on my skin from the iodine that the nurses had applied. All in all I was a bit of a mess. Out of the fug left in my brain from the powerful drugs administered to anaesthetise me 24 hours earlier I remembered the advice from the doctor upon my discharge from the ward- keep your leg moving and ditch the crutches.
And so I got myself dressed and, ignoring the crutches that I had been using, I resolved to take my first free walk in 8 months. I opened the front door of my house and felt the cold February breeze hit my face. It took my breath away and I began to get afraid. I tortured myself with self-doubt inner talk- ‘you won’t be able to do this’, ‘it’s too soon’, ‘go back and take another painkiller and lie down, you’re too weak’.
I noticed that I was beginning to breath quick, panicky breaths. I closed my eyes for a second, there on the door step, and allowed the cold breeze to hit my face once more. I allowed the coldness to become a wake up call for me. It began to work. It shifted some of the hazy hangover feeling and blew away the self doubt.
I purposely and purposefully slowed my breathing down, allowing the slowness to bring a calmness. And with it, calmness brought resolve. I put my right leg out first and took off, albeit gingerly. One small step followed another. I put my weight confidently on my left leg and a little less so on my right leg. Slowly but surely I made my way up the street.
Not using crutches meant that I could walk straight backed. I felt taller and this gave me a bit of confidence. I made it to the Gransha shops on the Glen Road; a whole three minutes from my house. I stopped and breathed in the scene around me. It was very normal with vans delivering goods to the shops and people and cars going up and down the road engaged in every day tasks. But my experience had been far from normal. My small steps and short journey had been a huge victory for me. After months of using crutches and of restricted movement I had the sense that I might have turned a corner figuratively and literally! I had done it one small step at a time.
Anyone who had seen me walk that day might have thought that I was a very slow walker. They might have thought that I was a bit awkward, weird even, as I tentatively sought out a stable surface to lay my right foot down. They could have told themselves and others all sorts of stories about me that were just not accurate. They didn’t know that I was taking the first slow steps to recovery.
Recovery from all sorts of hurts- physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual- takes time and often happens one small step at a time. The prospect of recovery often takes our breath away from us. It can seem too much; impossible. But recovery is possible nonetheless.
Recovery can look strange to the observer, but we should not judge how someone chooses to, or needs to, take their small steps towards healing. In fact, we should support them with kind words, hugs and prayers.
For those who have been hurt.; may you find deep breaths of comfort and courage. May you be supported to continue to take your small steps towards recovery. And may you know healing.
Peace be with you all.
(The 4 Corners Festival is happening from 31st Jan through to 7th Feb. Our theme is ‘Breathe’. Check out the events in the link and come along, albeit virtually, for free)