Facing Pain and Aging Mindfully
On Tuesday, March 13th, I will have hip replacement surgery. The surgeon predicts it will take about three weeks before I can drive, two-three months to heal fully.
So, I am declaring myself on vacation. I feel better approaching surgery as a vacation then as a dreaded time of suffering. I realize it’s important, in difficult times especially, to be nice to myself. For the next few weeks or more, instead of feeling an obligation to publish a blog or story each week, or do any business-type activities, I will do it only when it feels right. I have a blog prepared for March 21st (for the online magazine, Open Thought Vortex), but before or after that—who knows. I will most probably miss writing, miss you as an audience, so I don’t know how long my “vacation” will last. It rarely lasts long.
Despite the joy of a vacation, I am not looking forward to this. I have been through similar surgeries before. I already have a new knee and hip and had hand and wrist surgery last June. And, as with the previous surgeries, I became sort of used to the pain—sort of. It is hard to believe I really need to do this. I can get around and do almost everything—as long as I’m careful.
I find this interesting. The pain was diagnosed a year and a half ago, and I put off surgery. In the end of January, just five weeks ago or so, I had a new x-ray. The surgeon said the hip is now bone against bone, causing my whole body to strain to compensate; I couldn’t put off the surgery any longer. Once I heard that, the hip became even more painful for a few days.
I also realize that I feel more vulnerable this time because of the political situation. Much of this nation feels constantly under threat, so it’s no wonder that a surgery would just add to the dread.
When I was recovering from the wrist surgery, I used a mindful approach to pain management, which has also been helpful with my hip. I thought of pain as an opportunity to better understand how my mind and body works. I am allergic to most of the usual pain medications, and had to rely only on Motrin and Tylenol, so I had a rich field of study. When pain arose, I breathed it in—if I could. I noticed whatever was there for me—how the beliefs and expectations I held influenced the sensations I felt. My response to the pain influenced how much I suffered from it. When I let go of the thoughts and images, and focused on the breath, the pain sensations moved to the periphery of awareness, and lessened in strength. Without resistance, pain decreased. It became one sensation among others. My response went from flight-fight-freeze to something a bit more open, more relaxed. I hope to do that again after this surgery.
I have also accumulated a few good movies and books to enjoy. And I am forever grateful that I still have good health insurance. On Tuesday, please wish for me a good result, a healing. Thank you and may you be well.
**My friend Eileen Ain recommended Peggy Huddleston’s Relaxation/Healing CD.