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
Well spoken here. Our parents didn’t talk much about getting older. I think they didn’t want to be one of those elders who are always complaining about it and I appreciate that. I do wish they had talked about it though. I do remember my dad saying one time, in his late sixties he just didn’t bound up the steps like he used to. Now when we find the same thing, we remember it’s normal that things change. He walked every day for years until he couldn’t. My mom and he would go to the track and walk 3 times a week at least, for many years.
Carol, I agree. I’m talking about this with my 80 year old mom and it’s a good thing. Also I’m finding there is a fine line between having grace and pushing yourself to stay active. I’m learning a new side of myself through these physical challenges.
Thank you for this, Anita! I so related to this piece. I have lived with pain and illness for many years and have learned to pace myself and push through. A few years ago I faced a new reality when I could no longer push through and pacing myself wasn’t helping much. That phrase, “My world has shrunk to the size of my pain,” that’s me. I have been learning to say “no” to many activities, including ministry. It may sound selfish but my priorities have shrunk to my own body, my husband, my family, my home, and my neighborhood. I first take care of my body by exercising every day and eating well (which means at this time of year what little energy I have is stretched to the limit in gardening and preserving food). I believe this is my spiritual worship, taking care of my body so that I can serve my husband and family, my immediate neighbors, and a few friends. I am learning to quit pushing so hard, to accept this new person that I am with the constraints on my energy, my flesh, muscle, and bone, and to literally take one day at a time, or one hour at a time, trusting God to sustain me as He sees fit.
Beth, it always feels selfish when we opt in favor of self care. But if we don’t care for our bodies, then we can’t care for those in our household. It is quite a difficult pathway to awareness. I’m grateful for God’s sustaining grace in all of it. Thanks for sharing some of your own journey!
Thanks for this excellent post. I especially appreciated this line, “I do need to grieve how my body is failing me, but still fight for all the mobility I can regain.” I guess I needed permission to grieve how my body is aging and the losses that come with it while still working to stay as healthy and fit as possible. I like the balance you’ve found. Thanks for the encouragement!
Thanks Peggi! The fight for balance is a daily one. But the more I speak the words to myself, the more I live into it!
I agree that sometimes we need someone to name what is happening, that these physical failures of our bodies are losses to grieve. It does help give us permission.