It’s been suggested to me a couple times that I may want to continue on with my Tall Girl Series: A Body of Work. The series was a healing project in which I found my voice and released a very old harrowing tale from my body and the imprisonment of my mind. It took me four years to complete the work and even when I was finished I was unsure if I was actually done! As I continue to live in the body that was surgically reworked I continue to come across other adaptations I might need to address as the story evolves.
The most recent of these is the two knee replacements of the past 14 months. Although it didn’t seem like it at the time I skated through the rehabilitation process of my right knee in October 2011. Fast forward nine months and the left was replaced. I was overjoyed as I thought these final two surgeries would change my life forever; probably not unlike my parents’ hope for the original shortening surgeries.
The nearly five months since the second knee replacement has been perhaps the most challenging time since the original mid-century tall girl surgeries. I just assumed I would be stronger and have increased mobility with no limitation. Instead I traded one set of issues for another due to life-long weakness.
Recognizing that PT was going to take me only so far despite ongoing weakness I recently began working with a personal trainer. She is fantastic, patient and encouraging. Her background is in dance and she is teaching me how to function in my body. I don’t recall that I ever have learned function. I learned only coping mechanisms. I learned to walk any way I could so to get out of the house at age 18 when stuck in a wheelchair. I learned how to fall down and get up the easiest way. Easy is not always functional. So now I am learning these new ways to function with symmetry in this body. Talk about old dogs learning new tricks!
Twenty years ago when my knees began to break down the concession I made with myself was that my body is broken and I would do whatever I could to maintain mobility given the limitations. It felt like a gift to honor myself so. Now I am reprogramming my brain to envision a fully functioning and properly aligned body.
That which initially felt like a gift is now instead a HUGE burden, a heavy pack I have been carrying for most of the past two decades when the debilitation began. As a result of ‘completion’ of the tallgirl series I have accepted the choices made, the surgeries conceived and carried out, the long rehabilitation, the concessions of ‘good enough’ and the acceptance of my physical and mobility limitations. Now I believe the time has come to let go of all of that. It is a new chapter.
The day after my first knee replacement when I was on morphine I had a dream of a jail cell being unlocked and the door left ajar. It was not lost on me even in a stupor how significant that image was. Today I really get it. What once comforted me in my disability now is stifling.
I do believe there is a new chapter for the Tall Girl Series… on acquiring a new sense of self within this body. It may always be (surgically) broken but no longer has to cripple my mind.