Oh, What a Year – 2022

“People cannot discover new lands until they have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre’ Gide

In the waning hours of 2021, I could not have fathomed what awaited me in the year to come. I was so caught up in myself and giving my life over to pain that I could not see much past tomorrow. I could not imagine that the words of a stranger but fellow sufferer would bolster me on a journey that would change my life and change my way of being in the world.

“Right now, your pain has no purpose and will only get worse.

After surgery, your pain will have purpose and you’ll only get better.” 

Those words were shared with me in a Facebook support group by a fellow runner and now fellow hippie-sis just a few days before I became bionic and was having second thoughts and way too much fear for the seeming unknown.

While her words were meant to encourage me as I faced down total hip replacement surgery – they rang true for the place in life I had been residing since my annulment and the back-to-back deaths of my parents. For 6 years I had been living in physical pain – popping enough Advil to earn me a blood transfusion but it was my mental anguish that kept me running – running through life and running away from life. I was lost; I was heartbroken; and I had failed in life – in a spectacular way. I couldn’t face myself because I didn’t know who I was anymore -beyond the pain and beyond my failures.

As 2022 dawned I was resigned to more of the same until one day in February I could not walk. My right hip had had enough of me pushing through. I went to my physical therapist who worked me over and got me walking again but something inside me knew this was a turning point. When I finally got in to see an orthopedist and heard the words “never run again and hip replacement” and left with a prescription for Oxycodone (which I never filled) I felt like the earth had stopped but I was still spinning away.

I spent a few weeks on the DeNile River in the Land of Woe but it got me nowhere. My pain – physical and mental- served no purpose and the longer I let it control my life it would only get worse.

It was then that I started to catch glimpses of my former self – the one who could do hard things – who had lived through hard things before – even faced down death. The fighter who smiled and laughed and knew joy and had purpose. Where had she gone?

I decided to find her and embarked on what would be a significant year-long transformation.

With a surgery date on the calendar – I began a training regimen with my physical therapist. I was determined to go into the surgery strong so I would come out strong. This gave me purpose. I am a determined woman. Occasionally my determination is mis-guided – but not this time. I succeeded!

As my strength came back, I was determined to find – not my former self again – but who she became and can still be.

It was hell.

Thank goodness part of my recovery plan was walking because I took a lot of long soul-searching walks and spent time doing some serious internal excavation – digging up long rooted and now rotted ideas of myself and replacing them with good soil in which healthier ideas and ways of being can grow.

We don’t always end up where we intended in life. Long before reaching our final destination, life happens, and we are forced to change course. My naive college vision board at 18 and the “seasoned” 26-year-old me’s long-range plans seem foreign to me now. I’ve always admired those who had a dream at a young age, made it happen and then kept realizing it and living it. In truth, that happens to only a very lucky few.

A BBC article discussing the topic of identity says that some people “struggle to imagine their future self as a continuation of the person they are today… It’s almost as if they see their future self as a separate person that has little connection to their present identity.”

While I struggle with seeing my future life as a continuation of today or seeing it at all for that matter –given how this year unfolded – I don’t see that as a negative thing and I certainly don’t envision myself being a stranger to who I am today. On the contrary, it is because my future seems – at least right now – “unrevealed” – that gives me hope and something to look forward to discovering!

But creating a vision for the second half of life is not as easy as it would seem.

The questions of “Who am I” “What do I want to be when I grow up?”, and “How am I going to get there?”  have leveled up a critical notch to Who have I become?” and “What have I done with my life?’ and “What do I do now?”

When the future was a long way away, the answers seemed so easy. Heck, we could be anything we wanted anywhere we wanted (for the most part.) Dream away! But when we have less of a future ahead of us than we have behind us, there is far more at stake – or so we tell ourselves. Having lost a dear friend to cancer this year – who had so much life ahead of her and had lived her life so fully – really made me stop and think about those questions again.

“Who have I become?” “What have I done with my life?’ “What do I do now?”

But here’s the thing that brings me so much joy on the cusp of a new year. I am actually excited by these questions again!!

That I have been given the opportunity to make a course correction and say yes to life is positively thrilling and a bit daunting.

As I close this annual tradition of reflection and evaluation of where life has brought me and who and how I want to be, I am grateful for those purposeful words of encouragement that helped me accept the challenge before me, make the most of.it and emerge better for it!

I am grateful for the doctors who made my walking, hiking and yes even running again possible. I am grateful for my family and dear friends who walked with me in every sense of the word.

As this “unfathomable year” draws to a close I can honestly say I am so much better because of it! I feel wonderful, healthy, and strong. I feel like Erika again!

I am at peace with life – my life. That is so freeing!

I am finding awe in the present and joy in sharing life with others, in place of pain, regret, and darkness – my old friends. .

Having said that, I am so thankful for the journey that has brought me here today – to who I am! In the journey, I became strong.

There is much to look forward to. What that is – who knows? But I am ready to meet tomorrow with open arms, a smile, a skip in my step, and a warm embrace.

“People cannot discover new lands until they have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre’ Gide

Happy New Year!!!

Let your light so shine!!!

The Vast Eternity of Now’s Uncertainty

I lift up my eyes to the hills- from where will my help come?

So begins the Song of Ascents, Psalm 121, and a question that may be familiar to you – or not. Surely, you have looked to the horizon in search of answers at some point in your life.

I have been asked to include this Psalm in funeral services I have presided over and people of the Jewish and Christian faith often read it at the beginning of a variety of journeys – as a form of assurance in the face of uncertainty, grief, longing, and anxiety that come on the road of life. It is often found framed in the delivery rooms of Jewish hospitals where newborns begin the daunting journey of life. In times of economic and political instability when we all want to make a run for the hills – perhaps it would suit us better to take a deep breath and dwell on these words.

From my dining room window, I can lift my eyes upon Columbia Mountain and gaze for hours and ask that very question- ‘From where will my help come?”

Just four short months ago I was doing just that – along with the questions: Just how long is it going to be; what is going to happen to me; what if this isn’t the right choice? What if things don’t go as planned? What if something goes wrong? What if I am not as strong as I need to be? What if I am not who I think I am? What if You, God, are not who I believe you are? Yes, even THAT question!

At the time, I was preparing for a significant “life-event” you might call it. Total Hip Replacement. Just saying the words seemed so unreal. I was too young for that sort of thing! I didn’t have room in my life for that kind of disruption! While I was thankful I could prepare for the surgery rather than have it suddenly forced upon me, the whole process raised significant questions, unsettledness, and apprehension within me. For someone who boldly professed her conviction in the things unseen and her hope for things to come – the state of unknowingness I found myself in had me completely untethered.  My life felt suspended and I wondered if I would ever feel grounded again. Uncertainty reigned within me – me, the consummate control freak.

What if the things to come are not what I intended? (As if we have any control over that!) What if my choice was wrong? What if this changed me – what if I changed – CHANGED (gasp!!) forever?

Such questions are natural — whether one is contemplating a geographic journey through dangerous territory, a journey through the many ups and downs of a lifetime, or a spiritual journey seeking one’s true self and/or a reunion with God.

It’s dangerous out there – outside of our well protected selves. It can be dangerous within our overly protected selves too!  Disease, injury, accidents, war, or illness threaten our bodies. Natural disasters, recessions, depressions, unemployment, outsourcing, downsizing, insolvency, debt, and theft rock our foundations. Doubt, sin, evil, corruption, fundamentalism, extremism, and outright untruths vie for our allegiance.

The big what ifs that accompany so much of life – what do we do with questions like that? What do we do amid the vast eternity of now’s uncertainty???

The rest of the Psalm provides the answer – if we are so inclined not to just listen but also hear.

I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come?

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Not from escaping to the mountains and hiking away my troubles and anxieties as I so frequently do. In the weeks following my surgery – weeks that seemed like eons – I could only dream of hiking in the hills, forests and mountains again – but I rested in the arms of their Creator and help did come. The metaphoric mountains of life by their very existence bear witness to the hand of our Creator. It is often in the steepest of climbs and darkest of valleys – our most challenging times – that we grasp for a higher power and His existence is revealed.

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand.

As I slowly gained my freedom I was met with new anxieties – what if I fall, will my strength ever come back, will I ever sleep again? I stumbled and I fell – figuratively and literally. As my life began to return to “normal,” I found myself repeating old habits that I had eschewed in light of my diagnosis and prescribed remedy. But I was able to overcome them and step forward in new directions. Revealing again that God is a keeper. God protects, shields, watches over, guards, and keeps like a Watchman keeping guard over a city or a bird shielding its young in the shelter of Her wings.

God kept watch over me when I wasn’t watching out for myself. I remember one evening midway through my recovery when I realized I had pushed my limits too far and walked much further than I should have. I was starting to panic as my legs got weak and I was 2.5 miles from home. Of course, I would not call for help – but as if on cue to my prayers of consternation – a friend pulled up beside me on the road and said “Hey there – you look a little tired. Want a ride?“

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.

The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

These words of promise by no means imply that those who walk in the shelter of God will not face harm or that nothing ill will come their way. On the contrary, the writer knows all too well the nature of this world we live in is not for the faint of heart – that we will meet with opposition and evil – not at every turn – but enough for us to grow weary and wary.

If my faith were as certain as my hindsight – I would have no trouble in life. But I’ve lived enough and long enough to know that the very essence of this life is why I/we need this psalm – these words of promise – to get us through the vast eternity of now’s uncertainty.

Since my surgery four “short” months ago, I have returned to the mountains with a passion and with a new appreciation for the mountains of life. Not only have I successfully and blissfully crossed physical boundary lines, but I have let go of a few mental ones too.

  • My fear of falling and failing that has held me back since my surgery and, quite honestly, throughout my life, has started to diminish and been replaced by a sense of freedom and confidence even amid the uncertainty of life.
  • I am who I am – not just who I think I am.
  • I am strong – by a standard much different than my idea of strength.
  • And, I am assured, not by what God promises to do but what God does. What God does for those who rely on Him when life turns upside down and your light is turned to dark, when the journey ahead is not the one you mapped out, when nothing makes sense in the moment, when uncertainty reigns within you. 

God guards you as you go on your journey of life and as you return home. As you go out and come in. As you face the vast eternity of now’s uncertainty forevermore.

Let your light so shine!!

When Light Leads

Leave it to Erika Morck to turn a 13.5-mile hike into a spectacular 20+ mile adventure!! But when the scenery just keeps getting better and better, honestly, who stops?

To think that just 4 months ago almost to the day, my dearest friend and faithful trusting hiking companion, Wendy, began her daily visits to walk around and around the block with me and my sexy walker – it still blows my mind!! I cannot believe how wonderful life is when pain is not my constant companion. That my hip is now as strong as my will is a miracle of engineering!

We two young ladies and Ember went west and were dolefully rewarded with treasure for the eyes and spirit we could not have imagined. Our target was Dome Mountain, but we kept going and going! We almost made it to Sugarloaf Mountain in the Cabinet Wilderness. Since we started our “day” in near darkness we knew we didn’t want to end it that way. Sadly, this time of year the light of day is not on our side, so with Sugarloaf in our sights but still at least a half hour more ahead on uncertain trail (meaning another hour total to our hike) we made the hard decision to turn around and revisit all the wonder we had traveled through in a new light. Besides, hiking uphill, sometimes straight up hill, for 6 hours was getting a bit much!! Going downhill, sometimes straight down, in the dark would be – well – dumb.

Ember, oh Ember, he saw everything four times over and kept coming back for more. I’ve never seen such a tired, dirty dog at the end of the day – but he loved every single second of sniffing and pointing and flying through the brush like the flying squirrels he was after.

When we weren’t on a mountain top or by a lake, we had the rushing and tumbling Cedar Creek next to us to keep us company. To say this was one of the finest days I have ever had in the mountains is an understatement. The company, the grandeur, the quiet and complete solitude (we were the absolute only ones on the trail) could only have been designed to perfection by our God and Creator.

20.5 miles 4700+ft elevation gain.

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy. ~ Psalm 65:8

Crossing Boundaries on Mt. Hefty & Thoma Lookout

Mount Hefty on the Montana/Canadian border.

45 years ago, I gleefully & boldly – as every five-year-old does – illegally crossed the border at my grandpa’s border patrol site in Eastern Montana. On a recent Saturday, still without a passport, I did it again at the opposite corner of the state – with some very fine friends – new and old!

Ember really pushed the limits of border security and went for bird – in fact the whole hike for him was one big grouse fest!! I held back a few feet across the border – straight and narrow as I am, you know – somewhat daunted by the vast wilderness before us. Nothing but mountains filled with bears, big cats, wolves and other wild things as far as the eye can see.

Not only did I cross physical boundary lines, but I also let go of a few mental ones too. The sense of freedom from letting go of my literal fears of falling and failing that have held me back since my hip replacement surgery and the confidence I gained in holding my own with some of the best mountaineers out there is huge. We covered 13.5 miles and climbed 2 mountains with 9400 feet of elevation gain – much of it off trail in under 6 hours!!! I just might have my mountain goat groove back!

I also realized – ironically while in that wandering place of mind you happen upon in the wilds – that I feel “at home” again – after years of feeling placeless- unsure of where home was – despite my stuckness. I’m not sure what this means beyond this moment in time – but it feels good.

Thank you, God – for moments of wonderful wonder and reflection in your grand creation!!! This stanza from In Christ Alone sums it up perfectly:

“In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My comforter, my all in all
Here in the love of Christ I stand.”

Yes, right here, in the love of Christ – I most surely stand. He is my home, my solid ground – no matter where I wander.

Let your light so shine!!

My Third Chance at Life

Today marks 55 days since my total hip replacement! I haven’t felt this good since 2016. This weekend I rode 50 miles on my bike and walked 30 miles over two days. No pain. I have shed so many tears of complete joy – giddiness does not begin to describe my emotions! My new hip is more than a miracle – it is giving me life again.

I am no longer a pill-popper!! For the last 6 years I grew increasingly dependent on my 8-pill a day Tylenol- Advil cocktail while covering it all with a smile and grit. I became the Martha Stewart of pain management – my drawers are filled with capsaicin creams, heating pads, ice packs, strange looking body rollers, tennis balls, TENS therapy units, etc. Have pain? I WAS your go-to girl!!

My life has been a bit chaotic in those 6 years – my mother died, a long term relationship ended, my father died, I bought my first house, I finished lay school for ministry, I met a wonderful man, we got married and then we were “annulled” in a courtroom. Within weeks of that courtroom scene we were plunged into a pandemic and I survived all by myself – really – all by myself. I broke my foot, and then my hip finally gave way. Through it all – extreme runs and workouts were what “kept me sane.” My life revolved around working out and managing the pain afterwards. Like I said – “It kept me sane.” It was the only way I knew how survive. The only thing I didn’t know how to do anymore was live.

Having this downtime after surgery and being forced to rest and “deal” with my life I have a whole new appreciation for who I am, and who I can be. I want to be more than running and conquering the next mile.

I am loving long walks with my dog and pain free bike rides on the back roads of the town I live in. I love not being crazed if I don’t wake up at 4am to get my 3+hour workout in before work. I love waking up when I wake up and seeing my faithful companion’s tail wagging ready for our time together. I love reading and playing the piano again – sometimes for hours!! Heck, I am even enjoying cooking and baking again – because I have time to do so! And then – there are the people I “didn’t have time for”. I think that is what hurts the most now – the realization of the relationships lost, broken, or unrealized because of my wayward focus.

I have missed out on so much life because I was just trying to manage my physical and mental anguish in ways that were not helping me in any way. Not every one gets a second chance at life – this will be my third. They say the third time is the charm. I’m not going to waste it!!

Let your light so shine!!

Aligning Life

“I want my inner truth to be the plumb line for the choices I make about my life – about the work that I do and how I do it, about the relationships I enter into and how I conduct them.”  — Parker J. Palmer

I first heard the term “plumb line” when I was about 9 or 10 years old. My dad was in the process of finishing our basement – building out a bedroom for my then college-aged brother. It made no sense to me then what a purple fruit that little Jack Horner pulled out of his Christmas pie had to do with construction! 

The next time I encountered the term “plumb line” it was in a completely different context. I had just turned 43 and a family friend who was also a personally influential pastor told me about his week-long “Plumb-Line” seminars and how they changed people’s lives. I had not yet started my in-depth studies of the biblical prophets for my Lay Pastoral Associate program nor had I furthered my construction career past hammering my thumb, so this idea was still a fairly new concept to me. I’ve now reached a point in my life where I’m ready to be “plumbed” and once again encountered the concept in a recent reading of mine.

In the Old Testament of the Bible, the prophet Amos spoke of God establishing a plumb line by which the people of Israel would be measured. (Amos 7: 7-17). “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

A plumb line – for those of you who may still be wondering – is a tool used by builders to find the true vertical using the force of gravity and a weight hanging from a cord.  A plumb line ensures the wall or structure you are building is at a perfect right angle to the earth. The plumb line Amos spoke of God setting served three purposes: construction, testing what is built, and destruction – or the casting down what cannot stand. God has always had a plumbline in his hand. God is not a careless creator.

The above message comes to Amos at a time of prosperity and peace – when it seems everything is right; but in reality, all is not well – not well at all. The “wall” is crooked and will fall. Just as his listeners were then, people can be manipulated into believing all is well, but the plumb line – the standard of good – cannot be manipulated and God’s justness cannot be manipulated.

Whether you are aware of them or not (like me for the first 43 years of my life), we all have multiple plumb lines in our lives. The values, qualities, beliefs, and priorities that guide our lives all serve as plumb lines. As a modern-day level shows us when our lines are not straight, our plumb lines serve as minders when our lives are out of whack and off kilter. They help us focus on what really matters and offer us strength and stability.

Plumb lines don’t just apply to or matter to the individual. As with the Israelites in the book of Amos, plumb lines are also communal in nature. Our communities, states, and nations have plumb lines in the form of laws and constitutions.

The plumb lines we set for our lives matter not only for us as individuals but also for our communities and our relationships. At their highest purpose, they serve as relational guides, promoting life and human dignity. In the hands of our flawed humanity, they can also diminish life and human dignity – individually and communally.

I wasn’t ready to hear about the plumb lines of life when my pastor friend shared what his plumb-line seminars entailed. I had just uprooted my life and moved at the time; and frankly, I couldn’t handle any more change in my life, nor did I have the will or the time to examine it – though in hindsight that would have been the ideal time to do so.

Sometimes we choose to reset the plumb lines in our lives. We sense that something just isn’t right – there is a gnawing restlessness bothering our souls. So, we make an effort to change – get away for a while – take a break – perhaps seek counseling – and reassess. Other times we don’t have a say in the matter. Other times events, circumstances, or experiences – pivotal points in our lives – start the plumb line swinging and we are forced to rethink everything. It’s as if there is a reset on everything, including our plumb lines.

Our country, our world, is at one of these pivotal points – just look at any newspaper or news program or social media feed. Grief; suffering; immense loss of purpose, place, and life; chaos and confusion; distrust and insecurity reign. The U.S. Supreme Court alone has provided a wealth of material in just the past few weeks while Congress follows in fast pursuit. Live video feeds capture the consequences of continued gun violence, followed by modern day “prophets” spouting words that are no less destructive. The plumb lines of our country have been swinging wildly and crashing into each other as our ideals and traditions are challenged. From mass shootings and civil & political unrest to economic instability and ecclesial division, who among us today doesn’t feel like he or she is having to reset the plumb lines of life?

But this is nothing new. Resetting plumb lines is a part of every life in every place and in every time. It is how we grow and evolve. Done well, a reset enlarges life – done carelessly it defeats it. Will the standards to which we align ourselves equate to common flourishing, personal responsibility and personal authority or the forces of control, power, economy, affluence, and narcissism?   These are the questions our nation faces in the coming days, weeks, and years.

As anyone who has found their life in complete chaos knows, you can’t do much when the plumb line is swinging wildly about. It would be nice and convenient if we all had the same plumb lines – our world would be a much more peaceful place.  But as it were – we do not.  We might think we share common ideals but our alignment to them will always be unique and even in conflict at times.  Setting and resetting plumb lines is a process  that takes time. It takes reflection, listening, hearing, experiencing, thinking and then, even more thinking. We aren’t, however, left to our own devices and thumb-hammering ways. There are numerous sources offering guidance to wondering souls, but I have a favorite recommendation.

The Bible provides us with adequate plumb line words of wisdom – perhaps the simplest and most concise advice for life in Jesus’ response in the parable of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:25-37) Jesus resets the plumb lines of the lawyer (and us!) who inquired about what he must do to inherit eternal life. The plumb line is revealed in the lawyer’s question, “And who is my neighbor?” It’s a polite way of asking, “Who is not my neighbor?” “Who is not deserving of my love?” “Whose life is not worthy of my time and effort?” “Who can I ignore, denigrate, hate, or pass by?” The plumb line Jesus resets declares, “No one.” (Levine, Short Stories by Jesus, 93). No one. These are good plumb-lines to live by and if I may opine – govern a country by.

Our plumb lines reflect where our focus is, where our hearts find succor, and what matters to us. They reveal our aspirations and our fears and they direct the course of our lives. Is your plumb line swinging about? When you look in the mirror, what do you see? What questions are you asking? What answers do you seek? What do your fears reveal? What is number one on your to-do list? As you look back on your life, what used to matter and what matters to you now? Are you enlarging life with each passing day, week, month and year or finding it diminishing?

I’ve been posing these questions to myself of late.

Healing from major surgery has given me the opportunity to quit swinging wildly about, to slow down, and to rest. Both by choice and due to critical circumstances, I’ve had to reset what has gotten out of whack and way off kilter in my life. My desire is for a more meaningful and more purposeful approach to living the second half of my life.

Both endeavors are incredibly hard work! 

Healing from a hip replacement is complex. It requires lots of rest as well as exercise. It requires good fuel and incredible focus – one wrong step and I could mess the whole thing up!  It’s the torture and heaven of physical therapy. It is discipline and grace. It is the constant challenge of knowing your limits, but also not being afraid to test them.

However, the arduous work of excavating one’s life down to its foundation and doing a “reset of the plumb lines” in all honesty, is the most painful, critical and promising work of all. This “new life” of mine won’t just be a replay of my past mistakes.

It’s not all gut searching and wrenching work though. At times, it’s as simple as listening to the bees quiet down as the sun sets on another day. Grateful for nature’s little reminders of the proper order of life and the simple serenity of a quiet summer evening.

Let your light so shine!

O Happy Day!

I cried… but just a little. The smile and wind on my face wouldn’t let those tears of joy win!!

The last time I rode I also cried – it hurt so bad. I couldn’t even pedal without turning my right leg 45 degrees out and had to lay the bike on the ground to dismount because I couldn’t lift either leg over the bar.

Today, I felt like I was 10 again and trying out my bright blue brand-new Schwinn 10-speed for the first time!!

I didn’t even hurt getting on or off!

I kept it easy today – partly because I forgot to put air in those tires and partly because I still have what feels like a chalkboard eraser in my upper thigh which made pedaling feel a bit weird. But I will take weird any day over the nausea inducing pain of yore!

Keeping with the theme of TEN from above- I walked TEN miles yesterday (over 2 walks) and today my surgeon released me to live again – but take it easy, girl – my new hip is a PERFECT TEN – and he’ll see me in TEN years for a checkup!

O Happy day, calloo callay!!😁😁😁

45 days post total right hip replacement.

Let your light so shine like a 10-yr old!!!

The Bees Know

Healing is complex. It’s the torture and heaven of physical therapy. It is discipline and grace. It is the constant challenge of knowing your limits but also not being afraid to test them.

For me, it is also the arduous work of excavating one’s life down to its foundation so this “new life” of mine won’t just be a replay of my past mistakes. That I might have a fighting chance. This might be the most painful work of all, but it is also the most promising.

At times, though, it’s as simple as listening to the bees quiet down as the sun sets on another day. Grateful for nature’s little reminders of the proper order of life and the simple serenity of a quiet summer evening.

Let your light so shine.

Healing is Hard Work

The road is long.

Today marks 28 days of being a hippie – the titanium variation. I have literally made great strides in the last 4 weeks – remarkably so when I look back on those first few days. I felt like a newborn foal on wobbly legs, uncertain of every step and amazed that I could even take one! The initial pain and brain fogginess have subsided and now acetaminophen is the only medication I take – to ease the soreness and the zingers shooting down my leg from the thigh muscles and nerves that were cut. This is good pain. It serves as a healthy reminder that I am still healing – and I need to be reminded. I am only 1/3 of the way through the initial healing process of a total hip replacement and I have a good ways to go. My mind thinks otherwise and my body takes the brunt of lessons learned the hard way.

The body has an amazing ability to heal – if we allow it to.

In the initial stages of recovery, this is not such a difficult feat. I was exhausted and physically could not do anything other than eat, sleep, move as prescribed, sleep again, eat again and sleep again. Gradually the need for sleep gave way to the need for more movement – a sign that I was reaching a stable state and my body was at a point where I could start challenging it to resume daily activities – like changing the bed linens, vacuuming, walking with less and less equipment assisting me, and returning to work. In this stage, I would quickly learn when I had done too much because my body would quit on me – right then and there – and I would give it proper rest. I often felt frustrated and defeated. I despaired at the level of fitness I had “lost” overnight. Mind you this was days 14-21. A mere 2 weeks out from my surgery!!

But now, here I am at day 28 – officially 4 weeks from the day my femur met the saw blade and my hip socket met a reamer. I have established a new routine and returned to work full-time. I walk in the morning and the evening and take short jaunts around the parking lot throughout the day to keep my hip from getting stiff. I do my balance work and resistance band exercises twice a day and I am making good progress. This is the first time in years I have been able to stand on one leg and hold that pose for a solid minute! BUT, I have always had a more-is-better mentality and this is where I struggle. This is when the healing process really gets hard. I want to push myself to go farther – to do more – to get rid of of the ants in my pants!

My patience for recovery is wearing thin. I’m tired of runners sprinting by me on my walks and bicyclists passing me by. I long for a mountain summit now that the rain has stopped, the sun is warm, and the wildflowers beckon. The urgency of now is the bane of my current existence!!

My mind remembers my 17-mile runs, my twice daily 6-8-mile walks, and my HIIT & strength training routines of just 2 months ago and craves the activity. Celebrating walking 4 miles twice a day just seems so – so miniscule – such a physical diminishment. And yet – my body is doing something greater than pumping iron and setting personal bests – it is healing the largest bone in my body, it is becoming one with titanium, it is recreating and building cut muscles and finding new nerve pathways. Why do I struggle to celebrate these amazing feats? Why is is so hard to let the healing process happen? Why does this slowed down present time feel like an eternity when it seems like just yesterday I was waking up to a wonderful new reality?

There must be truth to the old adage “Time heals all wounds,” or it wouldn’t have stood the test of time. It is a hard lesson to appreciate in the urgency of now but I know my future health and happiness depends on it.

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:28-31

Too Far Afield

Day 22 Post-Op.

Last night I went out for my evening walk. It was a beautiful evening and I started out strong. I am using walking poles as I walk alone with my dog (he has an e-collar and heels like a good boy!) and a my PT reminds me every session – falling is about the only thing I can do right now to mess this up. Having walked in the morning, I had planned to do 4.5 miles max tonight. At just under mile 4, we met this beautiful collie. I know her well – she is about 11 years young and the most docile dog I have ever met in the field. Ember, my dog, loves her too. The only problem was she was without her owner and seemed very anxious. Being the dog-lover I am and not having her owner’s phone number but knowing about where she lives, I decided to take the Collie home – it was only another mile – or so…

Ember & I got her home safely – at least I hope so as the owner was not home but she seemed happy to stay in the yard – and it is a secluded house – you can barely see it from the road. Ember and I turned around and began to make our way home. And then I realized I still had about 2 miles to go. 2 miles too many.

To admit that was crushing. I used to run 17 miles without blinking. I never gave in – I even ran after falling on the ice and hitting my head because I didn’t want to cut my workout short. I ended up with staples up the back of my scalp and a concussion as I didn’t realize I had split my head open in the fall – but I got my 12 miles in that morning! But that was another time. My perspective has changed.

And yet, I was adamant that I was not going to call someone. It’s a JUST A WALK after all. Who can’t walk two miles, I said to myself. I was mad for letting this happen. My hip was starting to get tight and hurt. I knew I was going to pay for this. And then out of the blue, a car pulls up next to me and I hear – “Hey there, friend! How is your evening going?”

It was a dear friend of mine who walked with me in my early post-op days. I had tears brimming but not yet falling as relief washed over me. I heard myself starting to say, “Great but I am a bit tired…” and she stopped me right there and said “Get in. I was just coming home from bible study and saw you out later than normal. Let’s get you home…”

Fortuitous timing, no? She was definitely a Godsend. Perhaps my earlier good deed had warranted an angel on my shoulder?

I iced my hip and went to bed.

I feel a bit worn this morning. My upper thigh is quite tight – but nothing aches – thank God. I walked a shorter route because it felt good to move, but I definitely crossed my limits last night. The hard things is – you don’t know you have until – well – you have already gone too far or done too much.

Trying to return to normal is such a process and a craft I have yet to master.