Wednesday, March 31, 2021


Today is the first in a five-day preparation for hip replacement surgery next week. It starts with the daily application of a disinfectant soap.

I will confess to having some anxiety about the surgery for which I'm scheduled next Monday (I have to show up at 5:30AM for the procedure!) I think I'm not so much concerned about the surgery itself; I am assured --and not only by the doctor who'll be performing it, but by numerous kind friends who know from experience--that it's an easy, fast, in-and-out process these days. They aim to have you on your feet and walking within an hour after surgery, and send you home as soon as possible once the effects of anesthesia have worn off. 

So, no, it's not so much the surgery, though I don't relish the thought of being drugged out of consciousness and sliced open with a scalpel. It's more the recovery period that I anticipate with some anxiety. And even then, not the pain. Pain is somehow private, a transaction between mind and body that I believe (hope?) I can negotiate with some dignity thanks to the years I have devoted to my meditation practice. What provokes the anxiety has more to do with the physical incapacity and dependence, the difficulty in getting around and performing simple, daily tasks without needing help. It is perhaps a rehearsal for still more advanced old age--though I trust, now, without the incontinence that can sometimes accompany that time of life and which I truly dread. (It would be a good time, perhaps, to re-read Ram Dass's book, Still Here, written after his debilitating stroke, in which he writes about the need to learn a dignified, even joyful acceptance of dependence). 

There's another, deeper fear. It's that the surgery will succeed in relieving me of the pain in that one part of the body, but leave me with the knowledge that the source of the pain I have been experiencing of late--physical, yes, but also (related, surely) emotional and spiritual--is more than just one wonky hip, and will not miraculously produce the bright, pain-free "new man" that well-meaning friends have been promising me. Suppose I find out that the "old man" walk--that slow, hesitant, tottering forward motion I have been observing in myself, to my distress--turns out to be endemic to my advancing years, and not merely attributable to that one bad hip? Suppose I find out that this old, deteriorating body is really who I am? And that I have to learn to live with it? 

So there's the rub. There's the source of the anxiety. Next challenge: to address it!


Marie Smith said...

It is good to acknowledge the source of your anxiety. Now, as you say, you can begin to deal with it. Whoever called these the golden years was not living the lies of any seniors I know. As we age, we become masters of adapting, often with lots of help.

You got this!

Peter Clothier said...

Thanks, Marie. I just started re-reading "Still Here"--a fount of wisdom! Cheers, P