Am I The Same Girl


My recovery is finally at a point where I’m sick and tired of being cooped up in the house. When I leave, it’s for physical therapy, or for brief trips out; at the moment, I feel caged up and I’m ready to fly the coop.

It’s got me thinking about the things I am looking forward to doing — not just because I’ve got a new knee that doesn’t limit me like the old one did (well, to a point, it still does; I’m not quite at 100%, yet), but because I put in the hard work to lose enough weight and get in good enough shape that I’m on the verge of being able to do a lot of things previously off limits. These are just a few of the things I’m looking forward to doing.

Top of Pinnacle Mountain — I’ve been there.

Hiking. A couple of my friends post photos of their hiking trips. Mountains, waterfalls, woodland trails. These are all things I absolutely loved doing, once upon a time before my body became my enemy. I long for the outdoors, being able to hike without limitation and thought.

Swimming. I grew up across the street from a lake and I spent the vast majority of my first 16 years of life on the lake. Any chance I could, I was was swimming, canoeing, sailing, and in the winter, ice skating. I must have been a fish in a former life; I live to be near water. My best vacations are waterfront somewhere. A gym I used to belong to had a pool, and it was a sad day when I realized that swimming was out; my goto swimming stroke is the breaststroke and the frog kick put sideways pressure on my knee to a point where it buckled.

There’s not much scarier than having to fight the natural reaction to a buckling knee: gasping. You don’t gasp when swimming — not without water in your lungs. For my own safety, I had to stop swimming laps. I hated that; it was like a piece of me, gone. There has always been something ethereal to me in the ability to slice through the water, suspended and floating. I imagine it’s much like flying.

Dancing. I can’t say I’ve ever been a good dancer, but who says you have to be good at something in order to enjoy it?

Thinking less. This is the big one. Until you’ve been physically limited, it’s hard to understand how much active thought goes into just existing. As an example, we were part of a group of friends who played bar trivia every week at a restaurant that set aside their bar area for trivia. It was popular, so unless we got there early, finding a place to sit could be a real challenge.

I hated going there because of the crowd. I felt claustrophobic there. I knew that once I was seated, I wouldn’t even be able to get up and use the restroom, because that would mean asking any number of people to move so I could get out of my seat — and then back to it. I honestly felt like I wouldn’t be able to get out in an emergency. I felt literally trapped.

My physical limitations — both my size and my knees — meant I was constantly having to think about things those without these issues likely rarely think about. Will that chair hold me? The hostess is sitting us in a booth — will I fit? Can I walk that far, and if I can’t, how can I break up the walk so I have a place to sit and rest?

This has been a constant and ongoing process for me, and although I was able to leave the size component behind, the physical limits caused by bad knees are about to be behind me. My right knee was in very bad shape; my left will also be replaced but isn’t as bad. My right one would randomly buckle, lock, or twinge so badly that I’d nearly fall in an attempt to get weight off of it. Not so with the other, and while I don’t know yet when it’ll be replaced, it’s not going to hold me back in the same way the right one did. (I’ll likely schedule the second surgery next Tuesday, at my one month follow-up.)

I am excited to test that out. We’re going camping in a little more than a week; while I’m still recovering and I know I’ll have to take it easy, it’s still going to be different for me. I can actually trust my knee, now, to not do stupid things when I put my weight on it. There’s huge power in just knowing that joint isn’t going to suddenly do something stupid. I can put one foot in front of the other, and unless I’m testing out some dorky dance moves, I should stay upright and moving forward like a normal person would.

Me? Normal? How cool is that?

This is what I wanted: living life with fewer limitations. There are always limitations for everyone, but if I can do something to improve, that’s what I want to do, because handicapping myself was the dumbest, most oppressive thing I ever did to myself.

I’m still that same girl. Just better.


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