A few days ago I had arthroscopic knee surgery. This has been a big lesson in slow-the-fuck-down. Too much jumping around in Zumba and too many years of jogging, I think. Everything went well and I’m mending in bed, wallowing in a sea of fashion magazines, pug hair, pistachio shells, books, and my own body odor because I am not allowed to bathe and get my knee dressings wet. Sammy the pug is really happy. Uninterrupted mommy-time where I do nothing but sit in bed with him, from sunrise to sunset, is his dream come true.
So, yesterday, I went to get my bandages removed at the orthopedic surgeon’s office. I asked my mother-in-law Gloria to drive me because I can’t drive my own clutch, manual transmission cars, and I wasn’t sure what sort of shape I’d be in when I left their office. Gloria has her own issues with driving these days. She popped a Xanax and we cruised at 40 mph the whole 45-minute trip. At one point, we got passed by a school bus. Pretty much a life metaphor right now.
Oh my gawwwwd, when the nurse removed the bandages and wiped my itchy skin with alcohol, it felt soooo good. I wanted to scream, “Don’t stop, don’t stop!” This must be what my dogs feel when I’m scratching their butts and they’re clicking their teeth in ecstasy, what Hannibel Lecter feels as his jaw shudders at the prospect of eating his friend’s liver with fava beans and chianti. Then my surgeon came in and said my knee had been a “complicated scene” when he saw it in surgery, because while the meniscus was in pretty good shape and he scraped troublesome stuff away, I had a couple of tears that required tacks. Both he and his nurse emphasized that I cannot dislodge these tacks, which means no impact for the next 2-3 weeks. Here I’d been really proud of myself for gimping into their office with nothing more than a cane for support and very little discomfort. Now they say I am better off using crutches or a walker so I don’t overstress the knee. I still cannot get the site wet. “How am I supposed to take a bath or shower?” I asked. “Well, you can arts-and-crafts it any way you want,” said my doctor. “Just don’t get it wet and don’t do anything stupid like go in a hot tub.” I gave the walking stick back to Gloria and told her that I might need her crutches and walker, after all.
This is a truism of surgery, I guess. Your doctor makes it sound minor and asserts how you will be back up to 100% in no time. The reality is that you operate at about 25% for a really long time, and it takes a huge toll on your family life, work, fitness, household routine, and self-image.
My life has gone from me being an ADD-fueled monkey, jumping (and often screaming at the other monkeys in the house) from one floor to another, switching tasks and activities at the slightest change of my mental channel, to a kind of wounded, silent tortoise, cramming as many purposeful tasks into slow, deliberate movements to exert as little effort and impact on my knee as possible. At some point, I just peeled off my clothes because I was sick of feeling sweaty and grubby. My husband liked that at first. Now I am stumbling around naked, with a walker, like some kind of elder-porn. This cannot be attractive, but he is wise enough not to say anything.
I’m feeling guilty about my complete exclusion from the household honey-do roster. Nobody hollers at me or asks me to do anything. Husband has to do EVERYTHING like feeding the dogs, shoveling their poop off the beach, giving them supplements and eye drops, feeding us humans, loading the dishwasher, doing laundry, collecting the trash and dirty dishes from all three floors. This morning after he cleaned up some dog barf, I just didn’t have the heart to remind him that Wednesday is recycling day and that he needed to take all the household bins to the curb before he left for work.
So here’s all the good stuff about being stuck in bed for days on end. I’m getting all kinds of shit done, like:
1. Lots and lots and lots and LOTS of reading. September issues of Vogue and Elle, essays on how we’ve fucked up in the Middle East, the works of Albert Murray, a new-to-me Swedish mystery writer named Ake Edwardson, the brilliantly fun memoirs of Grace Coddington, and a true-dat tale of working in the public library called World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne and a story of his uneasy coexistence with Tourette’s Syndrome. I’m reading through the blog archives of Stuff White People Like , which turns nearly every word, gesture, and thought of my existence into a hysterical cliche. In fact, I wish this blog hadn’t ended in 2010 because it’s been sort of liberating to feel that every breath I take, every move I make, has been somehow pre-ordained by the all-knowing hyperaware Christian Lander.
2. Starting a Pinterest board about Andre Leon Talley. Now, you KNOW this was something that everyone wanted to see.
3. Finally watching the last season of The Wire on dvd and episodes of Lewis on Netflix. (See above-mentioned Stuff White People Like post about how white people love The Wire.)
4. Actually replying to some emails from friends, instead of thinking that I’ll do it later when I can compose my thoughts and then never responding.