The day before cochlear implant surgery, I lifted weights and took a long brisk walk. Five weeks later, I feel a flickering flame of vitality, fragile and easily snuffed out by stress or restless sleep.
Arctic weather pushes against me, but I gently push back. Today I’ll go uphill to the National Forest to walk on groomed trails. Yesterday, I walked to my forest and made an offering at my husband’s forest cairn. Even with a slower pace, walking boosts energy and calms my agitated mind. It’s a chance to look for beauty, too.
Intense exercise is forbidden until six weeks after surgery. It’s forbidden by this tired body, too. Walking is encouraged, but it’s been damned cold out there. How do I support my recovery?
I begin with gentle stretches with a focus on breath. Exercises to soothe rather than push. I know how to do this. I remember the yoga practice I learned at Esalen Institute and in various classes along the way, even though my practice has been on and off. My husband Vic also bought a rowing machine.
When Vic and I returned from California in 1967, we lived in a cheap apartment in rural Interlaken, NY. We commuted 20 miles to Ithaca in his old VW. On frigid mornings, I sat in the driver’s seat and he pushed from behind to get her rolling down the hill. The engine turned, and I hit the brake. He jumped in. I was good at firing up a cold engine.
After work and classes we drove to our apartment. It was always cold despite our purple walls. Before dinner, we did hatha yoga. It made us feel well and self-righteous. It’s harder to stick to the practice without my training partner.
We focused on aerobics in the 1980s and 90s. Vic and our sons created a trail that goes downhill from the house for a warm-up before flattening out along the stream and climbing a steep hill to the high point on our land. The cool-down is a walk back to the house with an exquisite view.
I taught strength training to all ages, including 80 year olds in a retirement community. I saw amazing changes at all ages, so I trust my body will grow stronger if I fan the flame. I feel it strengthening every time I walk or snowshoe, every time I load the woodstove with a chunk of firewood, every time I stretch.
“Don’t lift anything heavy,” my doctor says after removing the stitches in mid February.
“OK, but be careful,” he says. I’ve been his patient since 1995, so he knows I’m not an idiot. Just a little hard to tame.
I don’t tell him I have a furnace, but prefer a woodstove fire, my Hestia altar in the middle of the house. The Greek Goddess Hestia reigned over the central fire in all temples. I need this Goddess of the Hearth and Inner Fire.
I lift dry firewood, but won’t lift weights until I get the OK. I’ll start over, weakened but trusting the smoldering inner flame. Spring sun will fuel me every step of the way.
Have you been physically ill or had surgery and worked your way back to fitness? I need your stories of inspiration. You might enjoy the health section of my website devoted to various kinds of exercise and nutrition, including vegetarian recipes. Many of these articles remain popular even though I no longer promote them.
For an article about Hestia, see Home with Hestia: Goddess of the Hearth. For an article about hearing loss and how it changed my life, see I Want to Understand You: HearingLoss, Grit, and Grief. On March 18, I’ll be connected to cochlear implant sound, learning to hear in a new way. After surgery, many of the Meniere’s Disease symptoms such as tinnitus and vertigo faded or disappeared, a hopeful sign of what’s to come. I’m ready for the main act.