After I broke my kneecap, when I woke in the night, I replayed my unnecessary slip and fall – full of regret. My mom was a rusher (she broke her collar bone when rushing), so I’ve known the dangers of hurrying and inattention (maybe the latter the bigger offense). What was so important?

And even worse, when I tried to go back to sleep (after waking at 2 a.m. for half a peanut butter sandwich and Advil dose), the current regret attached to old regrets (deriving from the sub-category of stupid things I’ve done), resurfacing to swirl in my head. Not helpful.

Recently I read an article in the New York Times by the psychologist Jennifer Taitz, describing the silver lining to be found when one redirects regret. In an earlier time I might have rejected this article as impossibly Pollyannaish. For so many things, how could there possibly be a silver lining? But now, four weeks on – “I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two” (as the commercial says) – and I think there are silver linings, and to look for them is a positive thing.

But don’t ask me about upsides when I am on the physical therapist’s table, and he is holding my lower leg so that it dangles and the weight encourages the knee to bend – definitely against its will. Or when his colleague, a young and strong woman who is kind and apologetic while she pushes my knee to bend against the resistance caused by weeks of immobilization as the kneecap healed. (What women we are, she repeated “sorry, sorry,” and I said “sorry, sorry” apologizing for tears). Nothing silver there. Except there is – because they are going to make it so I can walk again.

A wise woman once told me that as we age, it is hugely important to be able to be dependent (gracefully, a friend said in a comment). When you go in an instant from fully functional and rushing to scared and hobbling, it would be good to have considered ways to quiet that interior monologue – even if you fail at first. I do better listing the many, many kindnesses I have received – the goodness of people, the patience of my family and friends, this little house that functions, the professionalism and talent of medical people. The many ways I am lucky.

I did love Valentine’s Day this year – all those heart emoji – making the cards to send to the little loves of my life. And my good-natured husband Valentine has been heroic with the household chores and the grocery shopping – including lovely tulips for me to share and try to paint.


18 thoughts on “Regret

  1. There is nothing like a serious accident or ill health for learning how to receive, even for all of us proudly strong and independent souls. We are so lucky in so many ways, even in the midst of a hard recovery. Hang in! I know you will.

  2. Now that I’m out there again doing the wimpy walk about my neighborhood, I keep thinking that my fit, sprightly Katy will come out of the park as usual. It will happen! This past year was an eventful one for my walk about, breaking a foot and then smashing my head(still am a little dizzy on occasion.) I needed the silver lining message, but even before that, I am eternally grateful each morning when I wake. Marching through late 70’s is fraught with admonishing lectures from all sources to eat this or that, move more, stay out of sunshine, etc. etc. etc. I am about to have cataracts removed from both eyes, and the next time we meet on the neighborhood walking paths, I will recognize you more quickly!

  3. I can relate to your reflections on the need to be more mindful of movement. I have not broken my kneecap but wrenched it badly a couple of years ago when I climbed wet deck stairs too quickly. I love your watercolor too!

  4. And you DID the lovely little painting, which is so bright and regret-free. I surely do admire your forging on ahead in spite of the overwhelming difficulties of the simplest everyday chores. And I am selfishly grateful to be able to read your Tuesday morning posts. Life keeps on, and love and art help keep it moving! xoxo

    • And today I sat for longer – figuring out how to keep the knee propped and moving off and on while drawing — that’s a huge improvement. You’d laugh at me the way I cart things that are stuffed into, piled atop, or attached to a little basket on my walker. My walker, now there’s a word, longing to be a walker instead of having a walker! Thank you about watercolor – it is better to try and paint instead of doing the everyday chores xox


  5. I’m in Darwin as I read your blog post. So thankful your recovery will have you walking again! I can’t imagine you not being able to “walk about” on your daily jaunts and family treks.
    I find myself watching my steps on unfamiliar terrain here in Australia, fearful of failing and being sent home. It must be what comes with aging; caution sneaks into my every move where once it wasn’t even a consideration.
    Your art is joyful and your spirit strong-heal quickly my friend; we have walks to do in our future. ❤️

    • Thank you Ben – such folks might be more realistic than I – but it’s our job to find meaning, right? Or at least search – and definitely not speedy this process but leaves you thankful for what does work and wishing I’d thanked my patellas and promised to be careful for them each time I stepped out the front door, or out of bed for that matter! I’m glad you wrote.

  6. Your tulip painting is lovely, Katy. It makes my heart sing to see these hardy plants come up every spring – having survived freezes, snows, and dark, underground, winter environments – and then produce such colorful, joyful blooms. After going through this “dark” episode, you, too, will emerge as an even stronger person than before, ready to produce more of your beautiful blooms and take long walks. It’s amazing how fast the body can heal, as I have found out from several injuries of my own. Good luck in your recovery!

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Carol, and I really agree about the joy of seeing the stalwart bulbs bloom again! Today was sunny and just warm enough to know there is hope for blossoms in our near future!

  7. Thank you for sharing your lovely tulips – such a cheerful reminder that warm, sunny days are just around the corner. I’m truly sad to read about your knee injury, Katy. Like you I was blessed with a good natured Valentine husband who has taken that role of cook and grocery shopper far too many times. Having had knee surgery, I know it can seem so impossible to bend that knee again but it does get there and you’ll be enjoying your walks again. You can do it!! My thoughts are with you, dear Katy.

  8. Oh, I remember that PT — I had one knee replaced and know how very difficult it is to make it bend when your very soul cries out against it, But it will and it does get better, A period of invalidity is good for all sorts of learning — not least, as you said, learning to be dependent. And learning to take joy in small things — your tulip painting shows your joy. Endeavor to persevere, dear Katy!

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