Fandango asks a really thought-provoking Provocative Question this week, and is actually one that I’m pondering in real life right now. He asks:
Do you see a difference in settling for things and accepting the way things are? If so, in what way are they different? If not why do you feel settling and accepting are the same?
Hmmm… Well, the convoluted back story to my rambling answer is that I’ve had ongoing/ recurring problems with the ligaments in and around my right hip since my late teens and early twenties, when I was pregnant with my three kids for pretty much three years in a row.
I was diagnosed a long time ago with a Sacro-Iliac Joint Dysfunction which is annoying and extremely uncomfortable more than anything else and frustratingly it still plays up occasionally (usually when I’ve inadvertently done something to it), needing some concentrated targeted exercise on my part to mend – until the next time it plays up.
My kids are now all in their late 30s and I’m in my late 50s, so one way or another I’ve been dealing with my dodgy hip/ lower back/ leg pain on and off for a long time. By now I generally know when to rest it and when to push it to work it off, and it’s got me this far so I must be doing something right.
Recently, however, I hurt my hip while mowing the grass in the garden – not actually that unusual an occurrence for me. I kind of turned and twisted at the same time while turning the mower around and my hip protested immediately, admittedly to an acute level of pain way beyond the norm – it felt a bit deeper, somehow a bit more than I’d had before.
I tried my usual programme of a few days or so of deliberate rest and exercise and anti-inflammatory pain medication but although the ligaments and muscles seemed to be moving OK the internal hip pain remained and if anything, it got worse as time passed. So after a few weeks (I’m nothing if not stubborn!) I finally accepted maybe something else was wrong and I probably needed to see a doctor.
The doctor duly arranged for me to see a physio, and after a thorough manual examination the physio diagnosed osteoarthritis within the hip joint itself. I’ve got to have an X-Ray to confirm exactly how much degeneration/ disintegration there is, but it seems there’s not much doubt as to what’s causing my hip pain.
I have no more range of movement with passive manipulation of the joint than when actively moving my leg myself, and although my left hip allows for an easy 40 degree rotation before it meets any resistance at all my right hip sticks fast at a measly ten, at which point it absolutely hurts like hell, screaming in its refusal to move beyond the barest minimum.
The rest of the physio consultation consisted of discussing potential treatment of what is clearly going to be a long-term problem to learn to live with – no quick fix, no cure, just a sensible programme of mobility management on into the future, and the sooner I start thinking about that, the better. In one sense, it’s no big deal.
It’s an age-related wear-and-tear arthritis in my hip, so it’s inevitably going to slow me down a bit – I mean it already has slowed me down these past few weeks, it’s been depressingly debilitating at times – but it’s not something that’s going to kill me. I’m going to need to support and protect my gradually disintegrating hip joint as best I can from now on, carefully doing just enough to keep it strong but not enough to exacerbate it.
So here’s where the settling/ acceptance thing comes in. In my current situation I have no option but to accept that my ongoing hip problem is now a lot worse than it was, and clearly I’m not going to be able to continue to manage it in quite the same laissez-faire way as I have for the last thirty-odd years. I’m not going to be able to carry on doing everything the way I’ve always done it, and some things will have to change, like it or not.
Even now physically I can’t curl up on the sofa, because already my hip just doesn’t bend that way so I’m sitting differently. I’ve already been sleeping with a support cushion between my knees for the last few weeks to allow my hip to remain reasonably level, otherwise the pain wakes me up every time I turn over in bed. And I already wear supportive cushioned footwear due to having Plantar Fasciitis, so that’s a start.
I realise I might have to start walking with a stick at some point to further reduce the stress going through my hip joint with every step – to be honest I’d probably find it helpful even now, although psychologically I’m not quite there yet. And I’ll have to change the way I do the gardening, maybe creating some raised beds instead and rethinking long-term access to the back garden (currently via stone steps leading down from the patio).
But one of the reasons we bought a bungalow in the first place was due to looking ahead to potential mobility problems as we got older. This is maybe a bit sooner than we’d intended for contemplating such considerations but the planning was already in place for accommodating such a change in circumstances once we’d retired.
Thinking about the way I like to live my life now, I’m sure I can adapt the way I do some things – most things in fact – but probably not everything. Only time will tell. So for those things I will have to give up at some point, is that going to be me settling for something less than ideal, or simply accepting my new reality?
I think for me it will necessarily be more of a positive acceptance of my new limitations, because in my mind the idea of just settling for something sounds unacceptably second best, as if you’ve decided to spend the rest of your life mourning what you simply can’t have or can’t do instead of focusing proactively on what you still can do and still have in your life.
Perhaps what I’m saying is that once you’ve done everything you possibly can to improve any given situation, whereas ‘settling for something’ sounds to me like taking a glass half empty approach with something notably and regretfully missing from the past, ‘accepting the way things are’ is more about looking at the glass as half full of possibility and hope for the future, and personally I know which I’d rather do…