Thursday, December 13, 2012

Healing: Looking Forward to Pain

Two down, two to go: I’m halfway through having my right arm in a sling for 4 weeks. My rotator cuff is re-anchored and, now, tight as a drum – but healing. Surgery and post-op pain have been minor inconveniences. The happy miracle was the effectiveness of a yoga breathing technique: long deep belly breaths, using an image of sending healing prana into the pain, and removing it through the breath. I was amazed that as few as 2 rounds of this breathing technique TOTALLY removed the pain and was relieved to need no drug stronger than ibuprofen…and a lot of ice.

During the first week, every small daily task I’d taken for granted as an able-bodied person took forever. Getting dressed, eating, and bathing all take a lot longer with one hand. I moved the computer mouse to the left, but learning to use it with my non-dominant hand, to click and drag, much less type, felt awkward and was frustratingly s…l…o…w.

But by week two, I felt more energetic and started to go for little walks around the neighborhood, ride my stationary bike, and make a few trips by public transport. Over the weekend, in desperation to get out of the house and see a movie, I took two buses to see The Other Son – a moving tale of switched identities between an Israeli and a Palestinian, and what they and their families learned about each others’ cultures. But it was a lovely day and the hour-long, not-exactly-direct, bus trip would have taken just half an hour by bike (not to mention being free).

When I’m out, I look wistfully at the cyclists, taking trips in this still-mild winter weather. Every day, I force myself to get on the stationary bike. It burns calories, it tones my muscles, it works my heart, but there is no joy in the activity, as there is whenever I ride my “real” bike. And, of course, I don’t get anywhere on it. No matter how long I ride, I’m still sitting in my basement, drenched in sweat. I miss the momentum, the sun and wind on my face, the things I see, the places I go, and even the prickling cold fingers and ears. Several times this week, as I’ve been getting ready for a short walking errand, the thought has flashed through my head: how hard would it be to ride my bike 1-handed? But I quickly squelch that rogue thought. I wouldn’t be comfortable riding with one hand, even if the other wasn’t confined to a sling. I’m not about to risk a crash and mess up my newly repaired shoulder.

I know that I’ll ride my real bike again and that, eventually, I’ll be able to stretch my right arm above my head, lift heavy objects, and invigorate my whole body with a downward-facing dog pose. So I cultivate patience, looking forward to starting the painful, grueling process of PT next week. Unlike riding my stationary bike, at least I’ll be getting somewhere.