My cat and I had major surgery four days apart. I got a new knee. Cozy had an ear polyp and cartilage removed from her ear. We are recuperating together, alternating between sleeping in the recliner, me with my leg iced and elevated and Cozy with her ear supported by my chest, and learning to manage with unfamiliar bodies.
When basketball players can’t move forward, they step on one foot keeping their other foot in contact with the floor. This allows them to pivot in several directions, keeping the game moving while remaining in one spot. This is a pretty good analogy for my life these past two weeks. I am not able to move forward in a way I would like, but I am learning to compensate.
My house is small, and manipulating my walker has been a challenge. I learned to pivot in the kitchen, where I could stop the walker, pivot to get a glass from the cupboard and fill it with water. It works in the shower too- one foot stands firmly in place while the other pivots to reach the shampoo and body wash.
Cozy too, has learned to pivot. She lost hearing in one ear, and has already learned to rotate her head in order to present her good ear when I am talking to her. Being a cat, she takes naturally to the extra naps that healing requires. It has been a little more challenging for me. I have never been a person who naps. I don’t want to take a nap. I am used to accomplishing things. I am learning to be like a cat, and when exhaustion and pain increase, I sleep.
I knew this surgery was difficult, and that I would have a long recovery, lots of pain, and major readjustment. I underestimated what I would be able to do. I stocked up on books, thinking that I would while away the hours reading. I am disappointed to find that it is difficult to read, the words swirl on the pages and my attention span is brief. I can barely follow a television show. It is better when I am off the drugs, but without the drugs I can’t do my physical therapy.
If there has been a major pivot point, it is with my physical therapy. Everyone told me that it is difficult, and that you will have to work through the pain. No one told me that lifting my leg would be painful beyond reason and that I would cry every day. My therapists adapt the exercises when I can’t do them, and try to keep me feeling positive. I am distressed to see such small progress with so much effort. It is hard learning to accept what I can do, rather than what I want to do.
My pretty little Cozy is changed too. Her ear now flops, and will never stand straight again. She looks goofy with her hair shaved around her head and her ear pinned back. She is a sweet, quiet, cuddly little cat, but she cries more now. She looks up at me with sad eyes, and I wonder if she is feeling pain too. I wonder if surgery was the right thing, if the pain in her ears is better than before. I wonder if I did the right thing myself, if the pain will get better or if I was better off before.
Just like the basketball player, pivoting on one foot and trying to keep the game moving forward, we can’t go back. The only thing we can do is the next best thing. It may not be what is optimal or even what we want to do, but it is what we need to do in order to get to where we want to be.
And so, together, we are learning to pivot.