April 12, 2011
The Comfort Zone
The first month or so after my accident, I had to wear this stiff leg brace they called an immobilizer. It kept my knee perfectly straight and I rolled around in that wheelchair with the left leg sticking straight out on a footrest. The immobilizer was a wrap-around canvas thingy almost as long as my whole leg, with metal rods going down the length of it. It did a great job of keeping my leg still while I was in the acute phase of recovery, but that bulky thing was not much fun to sleep in!
Every time I needed to care for the wounds, I unstrapped it from around my leg and let the whole area breathe. And every time, I was a bit nervous that the leg, which had a mind of its own, would accidentally flop off the wheelchair's footrest or roll off the side of the couch. I didn't have much, if any, muscle control over that left side. They say if you don't use your quadriceps (the thigh muscle) for one week, it deteriorates and you have muscle "wasting." I went about six weeks without using mine. Once I tried to slide into the bed from the wheelchair without the brace, and the knee bent on its own. Needless to say, I didn't sleep much that night and was in great pain that next day.
I think my doctor sorta, kinda, like, forgot I was using it, because of his concern over other complications, and I used it a bit longer than I should have. When he finally told me to put it away, I was surprised to find that things had changed drastically.
Over the course of time, the floppiness in that left leg became stiffness. The soft tissues weren't soft anymore, and they kinda dried up and got tight. (My PT explained it like toilet paper that gets wet than dries again, and it's all stiff and crackly. But without the stink, haha.) The knee joint got super stuck in the extended (straight out) position, and refused to budge when I wanted it to bend. There was a big difference in the size of the calf and thigh muscles of the right leg, and the hanging skin where my muscles USED to be on the left leg. As much as I liked the security of that brace, it did damage while it did its job.
The past few weeks while I've been retraining the muscles to work and the joint to bend, I've thought about that brace from a spiritual standpoint. How often do we stick in something that's comfortable way past the time we should, because we fear what might happen if we step out of it? How many times do we think that some situation has "a life of its own" and back away from it because we fear not being in control? ("He's not a tame lion....") How many times do we worry that God will drop us off the side of the couch and we'll spend the next while in pain? I reckon I've been guilty of staying put in the comfort zone past my allotted time at least once or twice. :)
I can tell you that the recovery process for my leg is probably a bit more difficult than it has to be because of the damage from that brace. Retraining a weak leg is one thing, but breaking the stiffness--loosening the places that have gotten "stuck in their ways"--is by far more painful than the work I'm doing to strengthen my weaknesses. It hurts, and it hurts a whole lot. I wonder how many times I've made life harder--more painful--because God's had to break things in me (habits, control issues, attitudes, selfishness), as a result of me staying comfortable in something I'm familiar with. How much easier would it be if I could just let Him strengthen my weaknesses and get me ready for the next phase. I say I love change and I live for the next adventure, but on whose terms? Is it MY adventure, or God's adventure? Am I the only one who sticks to the comfort zones?
I pray that the things He prescribes for a certain time in my life don't become things that I cling to for too long out of fear and ignorance. I pray that I remember the lesson of that stinkin' brace. May we go where He wants, when He wants, and do what He wants, without fear....