Sunday, July 29, 2007

No pictures, just musing

I haven't been tremendously productive knitting, lately, so this is a pictureless post. I did recalculate the number of stitches I need for the sleeve of the sweater I'm creating for Kivrin, so I ripped out the five inches I'd done and started over. I think it's better, and since it's just stockinette, I've made up my time, and am now back where I started. I don't think I'll be taking it with me on the trip; it's a pretty bulky cotton yarn, which will take up more suitcase space than I want.

I'm still trying to make the "to carry on or not to carry on" decision. I prefer, strongly prefer in fact, to go carry-on when at all possible, and am, as a consequence, really good at fitting everything into a suitcase and a small backpack. The kids are equally good (I've long had this obsession, but it really gelled when I first travelled alone with a small child and had to both hang on to said child and fetch luggage from a carousel; so much easier just to go carry on). They've been managing their own luggage since Tess was 6 and Kiv 3, so that's not an issue. It's the liquid rules that are thwarting me now. I can manage on small amounts of shampoo and shaving cream and all, but getting enough shampoo for the kids is tougher. And I'd like to bring some chocolates for my SIL, whose family so kindly lets her bring us along to their camp in the UP, so I'd need to check the rules on that. Sigh... At least knitting needles aren't a problem here in the states.

We had an excellent day yesterday. I took the girls to see Hairspray with a friend of theirs and her mother. We all really liked it. I'm a total sucker for upbeat music to start with, and I loved both the body-image and the integration messages; very good for the kids to hear. I've never been a skinny person. Even as a lower-weight person, I was built with hips, which has always made waistbands an issue for me (if something fits the hips, it will gap a good six or more inches in the waist; ridiculous). I have this feeling that I should have been born in an earlier age, when people would have looked at me and not thought "no discipline", but rather "good famine survival material". Having daughters has been a challenge for me in terms of watching my tendency to say self-deprecating things about my body; I want so much for them to see themselves, not in terms of social fads in body type, but in terms of how healthy and strong their bodies are, and what they can do. So, I'm trying very hard to learn how to do that myself.

I was making some serious strides in that realm for a while, and then faced a huge challenge last summer when I had back surgery. After two years of pain due to a ruptured disc that was pushing on my sciatic nerve, I started to lose sensation and muscle strength in my leg and ended up having surgery that replaced the disc with a spacer and fused two vertebra together with titanium rods and bone grafts. Someday maybe I'll write more about that experience, but for now, the relevant point is that I couldn't do anything I'd been able to do before. Really, not anything; for a long time, my foot dropped every time I tried to pick it up. This does not make for graceful walking. It's not been until recently that I've been pain-free at the surgical site, let alone in my leg. That's a long time. And all of the things I'd become strong enough to do with my body weren't possible, and that meant that all of my learning to be proud of my body not because of how it looked, but because of what it could do, had to be relearned at a different level. I had to be proud that I could walk around the block, because frankly it was hard to do that. And I had to learn to be proud of doing things that looked easy to everyone else; talk about needing to let go of all external markers of achievement! It was quite a lesson for me.

I'm not saying I've really fully learned it, but I did definitely learn to be grateful for small things. Like being able to sit in a theater for two hours watching my girls enjoy a movie without pain. Like being able to touch my toes again in yoga (nope, still can't kiss my knees again, but I can wave at them from a closer angle now). Like being able to take my family to the Wild Animal Park and walk without pain (which we also did yesterday evening; so beautiful and fun!). It's been an amazing lesson in mindfulness, and in learning that sometimes The Plan just doesn't happen as, well, planned. And that I can learn something from what happened instead.

I also had to let go of all of the judgments I got from friends and acquaintances about what I should have tried before cutting my body open. I had to trust that I knew when the time had come, and that I had tried everything I could beforehand, and not rushed into surgery. Everyone's body is different, and knowing that I have finally, after a year of working at it, begun to regain some muscle control in my thigh tells me that I fixed this problem none too soon. I'm pretty clear on the fact that I'd rather walk around with titanium in my back for the rest of my life than not be able to walk well at all. But (in case the small tinge of self-justification here didn't give it away) it doesn't mean that I still don't feel judged by people saying, "but did you try ABC first?", and "my XX worked really hard at Y, and that fixed everything without surgery". It has definitely been another opportunity for me to pay attention to how and why I feel about those statements like I do, and an chance to remind myself to trust my judgment above all else.

So, this is all by way of saying that I have been feeling grateful lately. Grateful for what my body can do, and for what I have had a chance to learn about me in the past year. Grateful for my daughters and my husband and for the time we get to spend together. Grateful for my friends both for supporting me and for offering me opportunities to work on my Stuff. Life is good.

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