Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Journey - Some Days Are Hard - September 20

I stood in the shower naked today, crying over my swollen foot. I felt very tender - "it's so mangled," I managed to whisper between tears.

I have been overwhelmed by the beauty in the eyes and hearts and letters of people who care that I heal. I have embraced the silver linings of finding personal strength, of feeling the deep love from Melissa, of finding grace in small interactions with people. But still, some days are hard.

Unwrapping my leg for my daily dressing change is always a vulnerable moment for me. The idea of recovery can feel uplifting; it can feel like a pleasurable challenge or heroic journey. These ideas help me to make meaning out of this ordeal. And yet, when we unwrap my leg, the magnitude of injury chafes against lofty conceptualizations. I can hardly imagine moving from this unsightly appendage to a leg on which I could hike or run. I look at my still swollen heel, as large as a softball. I have little feeling, and the mild discoloration has not faded. I touch the area of my skin graft. There is no fleshy padding, and It feels hard against my tibia. It is warm to the touch, yet I have no sensation. Like waking up when one's arm has fallen asleep, I regard my leg almost as some foreign creature. I have been given permission to start bearing weight - up to 25% - on my right leg. However, my heel won't even touch the ground, as my achilles has tightened up. The outer edge of my foot touches down first; it screams and throbs before the ball of my big toe contacts the ground.

The cry helped. It had started earlier, when I noticed that my other foot and ankle was swollen. I felt mad, taken off guard by this unexpected ailment in my left leg. In all my efforts to be tender, hopeful and loving towards my injured right leg, I have resisted urges to be angry at it. When my other foot started to swell, it bore the brunt of any resentment that might have been brewing. I wasn't cheered even when Melissa reminded me that my left leg lost a whole muscle and a giant patch of skin; a little swelling was entirely reasonable after that trauma.

Finally, getting into the shower, it started. I could feel the tears welling up. I grieved, I felt better, I resolved to continue - to continue believing in the power of humans, individually and collectively, to heal. And when that level of belief isn't possible, I resolved at least to suspend disbelief about being able to stand on top of a mountain again one day.

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