I love the Christmas season--the music, the decorations, the food, even the shopping. I love choosing gifts and baking goodies for people that I care about. It's also a season that can bring stress and even pain at the same time. I feel the pressure to create memorable traditions and experiences for my family and I also feel the pain of remembering people who aren't here or past holidays that weren't so merry. This year, we were out of town for the week of Thanksgiving and then I came home and promptly got sick with a virus that won't seem to die. Add to that a round of physical therapy for a knee that I injured back in October and it's been an interesting few weeks. Let's just say I was not feeling the Christmas spirit and would have been just as happy to put it off until around Valentine's Day.
I really, really, didn't want to go to physical therapy. I knew that the injury was to the muscle, not to any bones or ligaments, and I just kept thinking it would get better. But it didn't. The doctor said in not so many words that, because I'm not 20 anymore, I would be risking future problems and even arthritis if I didn't properly rehab this injury. So, off I went, coughing, sneezing, kicking and screaming the whole way. The first day was pretty much awful. I barely made it through the 10-minute warmup on the stationary bike, and the exercises felt like climbing a mountain.
At the end of each session, I get to lay down on a table. That sounds like heaven unless you've had physical therapy, and then you know that this is the part of the session when the therapist comes over to perform "manual therapy"--e.g., what feels like physical torture rather than physical therapy. For my injury, that feels like the deepest, worst massage you've ever had on your knee and quad muscle. The first day I lay there thinking, why did I do this? I also remember looking up at the ceiling and feeling a slight sense of panic. A little over five years ago, I had rotator cuff surgery on my shoulder. The doctor didn't know until he did the surgery how extensive the repair would be, so I didn't know until I woke up what my recovery would be like. My arm was in a padded sling for six weeks, and then I began a very slow, months-long process of physical therapy to rehab my shoulder. In the beginning, I could only move my shoulder an inch or two at a time. After six weeks in the sling, the most I could carry in that hand was a coffee cup. It was arduous to say the least.
As I lay on the table a couple of weeks ago, letting the therapist pound away at my leg, I realized that my panic was the memory I had of that previous surgery and recovery when I felt so trapped and helpless. I was stuck in a body that wouldn't let me do the things that I wanted to, and here I was again. Certainly my knee injury was much less severe and significant, but I still felt confined and frustrated by it.
Even though I didn't wanna go to PT, I chose to go because I didn't want to feel restricted anymore. I was tired of having to limp up and down stairs and being uncomfortable sitting with my knee bent for any length of time. I was really tired of not being able to exercise, and feeling grouchy and irritable because I couldn't do much. So in service of my larger values and goals--feeling healthy, strong, and free to do what I want--I chose to go. And, amazingly enough, I am so much better already. I am halfway through the sessions, but I can already bend my knee much farther without pain and I'm able to use the elliptical for exercise. This week, the virus that has been plaguing me has finally let up a bit, and I have a lot more energy. It's like a rebirth.
All of this got me thinking about the Christmas season and it's real meaning. To me, Christmas is about remembering why we were born and what we are here to do. It's a time to return to the things that matter most to us--home, family, love, and connection. It's a time to focus our attention on the values that ground us and guide us throughout the year. We have a larger purpose for being here, just as that baby in the manger did so many years ago. We just have to look within and remember who we are.
So, in these next days before Christmas comes, I'm putting on my Christmas-colored glasses and soaking up all the joy and love that I can this season, even in the midst of what looks like chaos at my house right now. We will decorate the undecorated tree, frost the unfrosted cookies, and wrap the unwrapped presents. I will allow myself to enjoy the moments that make up this holiday, as imperfect as it might appear on the surface. I will hold onto the deeper connection that I have to myself, to those I love, and to the great love that is our source. I hope you can, too.