I have a cane now and it is pictured above.
The story of the cane begin last year with visits to a sports physician who informed me that I had osteoarthritis in the right knee.
For a person who bikes, uses public transportation, walks and enjoys manual labor and "get down dirty gardening" this was not good news.
Throughout 2013 the knee got worse until, finally, I was sent to Indiana University Hospital physical therapy. In the meantime, I started using a cane to keep balance while walking. But wielding the cane was often awkward (once, I almost hit a woman while trying to move the cane from hand to hand) and it also ID'd me as an "old guy" and not strong while walking in urban areas where mugging is always a possibility. And, it just embarrassed me. So, this is where all these years of exercise, good eating, and taking care of myself have gotten me?
The knee hurts and is often stiff. I think twice about some activities. Yes, I whine. Yet, so many people have it worse in some circumstance of health or life. Will I fight this knee thing? Will I look for a quick fix or expensive, intrusive surgery?
More important: I ask myself if I should lean into this health condition (actually not so unusual for a guy my age) or if I should fight it. Truth be told, I do a little of both.
The fighting part has to do with not suspending any activity, even if it sometimes does hurt. Not keeping active seems to me like a slippery slope that ends with an old man hanging out in his recliner. Fighting also means learning about the knee and doing as much as I can medically to work on it. This has to mean more than popping Aleves or Advils. Physical therapy has proven surprisingly good at strengthening the leg and knee. The young therapist has given me much excellent professional attention and has encouraged me even to return to the gym . . . something I thought was in my past.
The leaning in part is where, in daily prayer or meditation sessions, I do a gentle body scan, starting with my feet and moving upwards, body part by body part. When I get to the knee I thank it for all it has done for seventy years. I let my hand hover over the knee cap and sometimes (okay, I know this sounds a little nutty) I do feel a warm energy surround it. And I ask for the pain to just teach me whatever it is meant to teach me. The leaning into the pain actually helps me deal with the pain . . . my kind of pain management.
While fighting and leaning into the arthritis, things do seem sometimes to have shifted subtly into slow motion. Yes, I do think that the slowness of walking now is the slow, slow . . . slower of walking and hurting at the same time.
My spiritual director pointed me to the Welcoming Prayer by Mary Mrozowski (1925-1993) that has given me much strength in recent days . . . especially in the work of leaning in.
Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me in this moment
because I know it is for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions,
persons, situations and conditions.
I let go of my desire for security.
I let go of my desire for approval.
I let go of my desire for control.
I let go of my desire to change any
situation, condition, person, or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God
the healing action and grace within.