by Anita Lustrea

Walking has always been my exercise of choice. Not jogging, walking. Walking my neighborhood in the spring and summer and walking a treadmill in the fall and winter. I worked on the 10th floor of a building in downtown Chicago and I really enjoyed walking  the stairs up to my office a couple times a day.

When my husband and I moved from Illinois to Florida and transitioned to semi-retired life, I no longer had 10 flights of stairs to help me stay in shape. I’d also managed to injure my hip while packing and lifting heavy boxes for our move. My 2.5 mile-a-day fast walk through our neighborhood was no longer an option.

After our move, I knew I needed to find an orthopedic doctor. Just having to look for one made me feel old. Knee replacements – that’s what popped into my mind when I thought of an orthopedic doctor. I only knew older people, certainly older than me, who had that kind of surgery. The doctor used the word, “osteoarthritis”. Lots of people have arthritis and are just fine.

“Your hip will be fine for a few more years,” the doctor said. “When the pain becomes intolerable it will be time for hip replacement surgery. You’ll know when it’s time.” He added, “In the meantime, we’ll give you a cortisone shot and prescribe physical therapy.”

Seriously? Eventual hip replacement? Physical therapy maybe, but hip replacement surely wasn’t in my future.

The cortisone shot, unfortunately, didn’t do the job those types of injections often do. Physical therapy helped. I’m now in the midst of round 2 of PT. I’ve not been able to continue my walking regimen. I ride my bicycle and swim. The benefit of Florida life is being able to do both of those year round. I limp every time I rise from a sitting position and I don’t like how the physical changes make me feel.I feel sad that I can’t do what I used to do. At times I feel angry that I can’t move at the speed I used to.

I have become one of those people I used to grumble about when I was younger. I’m one of those women I would come up behind on the sidewalk  You know, an older woman walking slowly. I would clear my throat or make heavier sounds with my feet so she’d hear me and move over for me to pass. You know you’re going to turn into that person some day and, when you do, it is humbling.

What I’m learning now:

  • Self compassion. I’m learning to have patience with others, but it takes more grace, somehow, to have patience with my own slow pace.
  • I don’t have to accept this reality. After going to a consultation for my second round of physical therapy I realized there is much that I can do about my current state.
  • I can follow the lead of my Physical Therapist and keep doing stretches and exercises that can help alleviate my pain. A friend’s mom who is more than 20 years my senior was always physically active and she loved to travel. Slowly, with physical changes taking place, she ceased her travels and struggled to even go to the grocery store by herself. She made this profound statement. “My world has shrunk to the size of my pain.”
  • I do need to grieve how my body is failing me, but still fight for all the mobility I can regain.
  • I do not need to be embarrassed by my slow pace. I just need to keep pressing on.
  • I can lean into and learn new things that can be helpful like gentle restorative yoga.
  • I need to keep moving. Fitbit is not a dirty word, it’s my friend!
  • I do not need to beat myself up for the unwanted pounds that have creeped onto my frame because I’ve not been able to move as well or as swiftly as I used to.
  • I can be grateful that my current circumstance has allowed me to slow down and notice more. Notice people who might need my assistance. Notice that life is not a race even if I thought it was in my 30’s.

The word grace has worked its way firmly into my vocabulary. Today I have grace for others as well as myself. My prayer, whether I get back to 100 percent or not, is to never lose my grace-filled perspective.

Anita Lustrea hosts the Faith Conversations podcast. She is a Spiritual Director, Author and Media Coach. (Click here to visit her website.) Anita’s most recent books include What Women Tell Me: Finding Freedom From the Secrets We Keep and Shades of Mercy, about her beloved Northern Maine.

Cover photo by Anna Sullivan on Unsplash