If someone labeled me stupid when I was young, my self-confidence would be ripped to shreds, leaving me feeling worthless and undesirable. But at this moment, I deserved to be called out as a complete idiot.
On June 28th, I went in for what was deemed a mere procedure on my knee: nothing major, nothing life threatening, just a little tear in the meniscus. Having already undergone two hip replacements, I was sure my recovery would be easy-peezy.
That morning, I Ubered to Stanford Hospital for my 7:00 am surgery and woke eager to hear the good news a couple of hours later.
“Everything went fine,” my surgeon reassured, as he patted my arm. “But it was more than we thought. Do you have someone at home to care for you?”
Staring into his kind face, I wondered, what does ‘it was more than we thought’ mean? But being still groggy, I fell back asleep.
As it turned out, I had stage 3 arthritis up and down the side of my right leg. And, if you know anything about arthritis, you know it loves to feast on cartilage in the nooks and crannies of one’s joints, leaving bone to sit on bone. Another replacement would be in my future if I wanted to keep walking.
How can that be? my brain screamed when I finally came too. Aren’t two fake hips enough? But I decided to worry about this later. For now, I needed to recover from this surgery. As for help at home, hell, I’m a daughter of the feminist movement in the 1960s. Being a woman who’d been through many surgeries before, I tipped my hat to Hellen Reddy’s song “I am Woman,” and would roar my way to recovery — alone.
At first, I slept. Then, I read, slept some more, and by day four became stir crazy. But just as I was about to hunker down and view every episode of “Breaking Bad” on Netflix, the best medicine found its way to my inbox: Party at Dave and Kelly’s on July 4th.
“Yes!” I screamed as I slowly rolled out of bed to look in my closet for what to wear. Enough time had been spent suffering in silence. Instead, it was time for a festive celebration, but two days later, I was faced with a new dilemma — how to get there?
Ubering would be a ridiculous idea since she lived a half a mile away. The poor driver would make essentially nothing. Thinking of my other options, it came down to three: call Kelly and ask who else was coming, drive myself, or walk. Knowing I still had a few painkillers floating around inside me, driving was tossed to the curb as well. So, I decided to claim my true independence on our nation’s birthday; I walked.
Gathering up two bottles of wine that I threw in a backpack, out the door with crutches in hand, I went. An hour later (a walk that would normally take ten minutes), I hobbled in and asked for two things immediately — ice and a stiff glass of Chardonnay.
“Are you crazy?” Kelly asked as she wrapped me in her loving arms. “Someone would have picked you up. You’re so silly.”
“No, stupid is more like it,” I announced, wondering what possessed me.
Later, as I sat with a host of people I’d known and adored for over thirty years, I questioned, why do I constantly make things so much harder for myself than necessary? Was it because I’m a Capricorn, and we’re known to be stubborn goats? Or the conditioning I received as a child from my mother, that self-reliant women were strong women. Whatever the reason was, it was time for a mental makeover.
We were never intended to live in this world alone. It’s part of our essential soul-driven DNA to connect with others and be of service. Sadly, my fear of looking weak has never been pretty, but I learned something significant that day.
When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, it is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s a true sign of strength. First, it shows confidence in our relationship that those asked will be willing to help. But, more importantly, it shows a desire to be a part of humanity by being reciprocal — I give to you, and willingly receive as well. It’s the ying and yang that makes life flow beautifully.
That day, I realized it was time to get out of my own way. As I studied the faces around the table, I was reminded of all the times they reached out to me for assistance (which I was happy to give). Why should I have all the fun by being the only one to help when needed. They deserved to experience feeling useful too. Besides, parties are more fun when in unnecessary pain.