Another week. I’ve made it 5 weeks with the straight-legged brace (now only using on long walks). With the straight-legged knee brace off, I’m working on range of motion of the knee. 5 weeks ago, king pigeon with bending the left knee was no problem; pigeon was no problem; tree was no problem. As much as I have tried to prevent atrophy of muscles in the left leg, the muscles have atrophied somewhat, but more prevalent is the stiffness! The pure realization that my leg just stops bending at about 90 degrees; the realization that I’m not going to be resting in child’s pose for a little while, or sitting on my heels, or in easy pose sitting up (criss-cross applesauce for kids), comes firmly into focus.
Last week I mentioned about acceptance of “what is.” Sometimes this is extremely hard (a loved one is diagnosed with an incurable disease, loss of a loved one, an assault, etc). Even though the realization that I’m not Forrest Gump and going to break out of my braces in a full on sprint, is something I have to accept, it is merely an annoyance, a slight blip in my life that I have to accept. Yes, rehabilitation of my knee might not be as easy as I had thought, but unlike some other things that we are forced to accept, this does not have to be a permanent acceptance. My knee can get better. There is hope in this situation, which is why I label this situation as an annoyance and not one of the extremely hard situations to accept.
We all are pulled in multiple directions. This past month has certainly tested my ability to multi-task, my resiliency, and my ability to persevere. Opening a new business, breaking my leg shortly after, annoyances of flat tires and a minor car accident, my child falling off playground and an ER visit (luckily he was fine), and my daughter having a fever for the past 4 days and unable to go to school. These are all obstacles that can crowd around us and on a day where the knee aches, the kids are whining, and I feel like my yoga studio’s existence may not even be known to the general population, I have a decision; I can either spend time feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and in emotional paralysis, or I can take one step at a time and break down each obstacle, manage, and conquer. This is not to say that all of us don’t deserve a good cry or scream in frustration (I could use more of this), but we do not surrender to our emotional paralysis, when the obstacles can be overcome. We accept the obstacles and their challenges and fight back.
How is this different from accepting something that we simply cannot fight back? Something that just “is” and always “will be?” As I mentioned above, there are some conditions and situations that are beyond our control; a mountain that is insurmountable or that has no other side but a steep cliff. These situations are what I call extremely hard situations to accept, but necessary to accept. I realized this this past Sunday, Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is always complicated for me; I’m in awe of the children I have, but I also mourn the children I lost. This Mother’s Day, we were not able to do our tradition of planting flowers at the twins’ graveside. We went out in the morning; I paddle boarded (which was my wish with my healing leg) and meditated as I paddled from side to side subtly splashing the water and feeling cold water drop onto my bare feet. Everything seemed to be going just so well, even the sun was out and it was warm on Mother’s Day! We came home and my daughter had a high fever. Recognizing the unpredictability of life, but not initially thinking rationally, my mind immediately went into panic mode, thinking, “the last time she had this fever, she had a seizure and oh, my goodness, am I going to lose my daughter? Is she going to be buried next to the twins?” Yes, this is called catastrophization, irrational thinking, or negative spiraling (whichever term you use or all of them!). These are thoughts I would not accept and fought back and challenged. “Yes, she had a seizure…but she was completely fine. Yes I lost twins at 23 weeks, but they weighed just over a pound each and had all odds against them. Ruby is 2.5 years old, strong and healthy.” By challenging my irrational thoughts, I soothed myself back to the reality, was able to alter my plans, and accept the situation that was temporary.
The reality this Mother’s Day was that I would visit the twins’ grave myself without planting flowers and talk to them and remember in those 20-30 minutes or so that I sat there meditatively, the 2.5 hours that I was a mother to them. They were born and I was a mother for 2.5 hours (I had the twins before my other two children). Knowing that they were going to die, accepting this, no medical interventions were taken and the two little girls were cozied into hand knit sweaters provided by the hospital from volunteers and laid on my chest. Rather than give into my emotions and start grieving before the loss, I talked with them. I kissed their heads, said they would be okay and mommy would always love them. I ignored the resident that kept checking their heartbeats with her stethoscope, because as soon as the twins passed I would have to be taken to emergency surgery since I was hemorrhaging. I ignored the chaos in the room; my focus on these two babies from a pregnancy that had started with five could not be distracted. I accepted that I was going to lose the babies, but I did not accept when the high-risk doctor told me I needed surgery right away that I was not going to be a mother for those 2.5 hours. I made them wait as I enjoyed the peace of motherhood.
This is a situation that was extremely hard to accept, but that I had no choice. The only choice I had in this situation was to appreciate and soothe and act as a mother to my daughters for 2.5 hours. And that is what I did. I fought the surgeon to give me the time as a mother. As I sat at the grave alone, my thoughts did not turn to grief, but turned to those 2.5 hours. In extremely challenging situations that we have no choice but to accept (death, illness, injuries), we must find one comfort from the situation or if that is not possible (situations of assault, violence, rape), we must embrace that we have survived such a terrible event. Embracing our survival, we must feel pride in ourselves, accept that what happened cannot be changed, and be proud of just being ourselves.
The two situations I have described in this blog, the rehabilitation of the knee and the loss of children are incredibly different. Both require acceptance, but in the knee situation the acceptance can be temporary and can be challenged, because I can change the outcome of the situation. In the case of losing loved ones, I had to accept that I would not be a mother to these two newborns, this is not temporary acceptance nor can I challenge it, but I can hold onto a special memory. In situations in my life of being sexually and/or physically assaulted there is no special memory to hold onto; unfortunately, these incidents or situations cannot be forgotten either. They have to be accepted that they happened, they were horrible, and they are in the past. I can hold onto my presence in the moment; feel a sense of safety and love from my present family. Be aware that I’m here; I survived; and, this very fact is special.