Back in 2015, my mom had knee replacement surgery. I travelled down and stayed with her for an entire month, to assist in her recovery process and provide the help she needed. The course of rehabilitation was pretty agonizing to watch at times. There’s really nothing worse than observing someone you love suffering in pain. It’s an incredibly helpless feeling. There was such a sense of wishing I could wave a magic wand and take all her difficulty and discomfort away. Yet, as we all know, that’s just not possible, nor it is always helpful.
The physical therapist came 3 times per week. The other times, I became the daily therapist. I remember early in this process, the excruciating pain she would experience when the therapist would push her physically beyond her point of tolerance. I knew there was great purpose in every painful movement she was inflicting, yet it was still difficult to watch my mom struggle. The therapist knew that if she stopped short and only went as far as my mom was permissive when stretching and exercising, she would not regain flexibility and her movements would be permanently restricted. By pushing beyond her comfort limits, which often incurred great pain, she was in essence insuring full future restoration and malleability in her joint.
Every few days, the degree to which she could bend that knee was measured with a tool. We charted her progress and continually nudged forward bit by incremental bit. The goal wasn’t massive daily improvement, it was just to be better today than she was the last time we measured. We just needed to see that there was constant, ongoing, daily progress. Going too far, too fast was a sure recipe for injury, yet slacking was a prescription for subsequent restriction.
There were so many days early on that I had to push my mom to do the exercises she didn’t want to engage in. She would ask, “Can’t we please just do this a little later?”, knowing full well the impending agony that was about to result. I felt her pain and dread, but I also knew by giving in, I was negatively impacting her outcome. By taking the less resistant path, she may have been more comfortable, but her rehabilitation time would have lengthened tremendously and it jeopardized the possibility of full recovery in her future. No matter how much I hated seeing her in current pain, the concern of long-term limitation and the resulting disability that it would cause was far greater, so I pushed on.
My mom progressed very well and made a complete recovery, in far less time than many, and with no complications. Even after her surgical wound had fully healed, there was still some remaining scar tissue around the incision. Scar tissue is dense, fibrous, and can be problematic as it inhibits flexibility and can significantly restrict movement. Even though her surgery was a complete success and had healed beautifully, there was a recommendation to continually massage the areas in question, to break up the scar tissue that could potentially spread and later pose possible restrictions. She was fully compliant and consequently, has now regained the full use of her knee.
Over the course of the next year, she encountered several friends and relatives that had the same surgery. Upon questioning, she quickly learned that those who were not pushing their limits were not progressing anywhere near as well. Those that took an easier road were dealing with significant movement restriction, even a year later. In hindsight, she was grateful for the additional push that she herself may not have accomplished, had she been addressing this all alone.
As I walk through my own path of healing, and as I encounter others who are hurting both physically and emotionally, I’m repeatedly being shown our journeys are so similar to that of my mom’s knee! We have wounds and injuries that run deep and require prompt, intensive interventions to restore full, unrestrictive functionality. These can be traumas, wounds, or simply fears and trepidations that can remain unresolved and prohibitive if left unchallenged. Often that work is temporarily uncomfortable or even painful, which leads us to shrink back and avoid it like the plague. After all, no one really wants to hurt, right? Yet left alone, to our own devices, we would rarely engage the level of therapeutic discomfort necessary to fully heal, expand, and experience exponential growth. This is the beauty of supporting partnerships.
We lose flexibility and become more rigid as we pull back from others into protective postures that keep us comfortable. While immediate comfort is always on the radar of the conscious mind, it’s rare that we fully factor in the long-term consequences of such. It is beyond imagination what we stand to lose by remaining comfortable, complacent, isolated, and not addressing these issues. Yet, we will often choose that comfort over the potential of breathtakingly amazing, which resides just on the other side of the struggle.
Without loved ones in our lives to push those boundaries and endearingly encourage us to move through the discomfort so we might reach our healthy goals and objectives, we would remain constrained. We need the love, support, and challenge of those in our lives to propel us forward in those sometimes uncomfortable spaces we would never journey alone. Just as with the knee, there’s a delicate balance here as well. Pushing too hard and too fast can be detrimental, yet the goal is always to see daily, positive growth. If we’re no better today than we were yesterday, we are stagnant.
So it is with our hearts, our mind, and our emotions. It’s a continual intervention of therapeutic love and challenge, growth and expansion, and the breaking up of scars that can encumber movement. This is an expedition that requires the involvement of others. To pull back, isolate, or protect from potential discomfort is to stifle progress and increase isolation of that heart muscle that so desperately needs to be stretched in order to be restored. My prayer is that we each aim to willingly stretch beyond our comfort levels each day, and carefully weigh the cost and benefit of simply remaining complacent when the exercises get tough. There is an inexplicable world of awe we have the opportunity to dance within if we’re willing to reach for more. I don’t know about you, but I want to dance.
Love & Light,
Laura Lum Corby