Back in March, I fell and injured my knee. There was no bruising, no bleeding, and no swelling. No bones were broken. And yet for some reason I couldn’t straighten or bend my knee all the way, and certain activities caused me significant pain. (Ex: getting in or out of a car, putting on or taking off my pants, climbing stairs.) On the outside everything looked normal, but on the inside something wasn’t right.

At first I feared that I would need surgery. To be honest, I wasted a lot of time and many tears worrying about that possibility. But several doctor’s visits — and even an MRI — revealed nothing to operate on. To my surprise, I was disappointed by that news. As much as I had dreaded surgery, I appreciated the concrete-ness of it. It was a solution. Once it happened, I could heal.

But that wasn’t going to be my reality, and no surgery meant no clarity. As of today, I still don’t know exactly what part of my knee was damaged in the fall. I probably never will. The only “remedy” my doctor could prescribe was time.

He also recommended that I try some physical therapy to strengthen the muscles in my leg, so that those muscles could then ease the burden on my knee. I was assigned half a dozen exercises, totaling half an hour, to be done twice a day. They’re not even as strenuous as most yoga classes. How could this possibly help? I wondered. But after just two weeks, my range of motion improved, and the frequency of my pain decreased. Once again, on the outside everything looked normal, but on the inside things were happening.

It occurs to me now that much of life passes in this way: below the surface, making progress that can hardly be noticed, much less quantified. How close are you to getting that promotion? How much longer until you’re over that breakup? When will your panic and your joy over having a newborn settle into a comfortable rhythm?

Of course it would be great if there were clear, concrete actions that we could take to speed up these processes, but in most cases all we can do is press on and hope for the best. We may feel like nothing is changing, because we have no proof, no measurements. But even the tiniest of improvements add up, like grains of sand, building upon each other gradually, until one day you’re on a beach.

Even though I can’t see it on an X-ray or calculate it in numbers, I know I’m headed toward that beach. Someday I’ll be running across the sand full-speed, with no pain in my knee. I just have to trust that I’m making progress each day. I just have to give it time.

12 responses to “Progress”

  1. Julia Avatar

    You have described exactly why I love Jane Austen novels. Because nothing ever happens, yet everything changes.

    Often, we’re so focused on the distance to the finish line, we don’t realize the distance from the starting line. I say, ignore all that nonsense about never looking back. A good driver looks in the rear view mirror every 8-10 seconds.

    I hope your knee continues its slow, invisible, march towards healed. Ziggy believes that dog fur is magic and suggested that you cover your knee with Riley to increase progress.

  2. Emy Shin Avatar

    Your blog posts always make me pause and reflect. I especially love this line:

    It occurs to me now that much of life passes in this way: below the surface, making progress that can hardly be noticed, much less quantified.

    I am always focusing on the future, on goals and dreams and what will be, that I don’t pay enough attention the present until it becomes the past. But every little moment makes up a journey, and every little progress counts.

  3. Sean Avatar

    I love this post, and I’m glad you are feeling better.

  4. Anthony Lee Collins Avatar

    Very true. I had a similar problem with my knee a few years ago (well, similar in that it defied medical analysis — different in that it involved no pain but very little function). It got better, but very slowly, as you say.

    Which applies to a lot of things. Thinking back, I can’t imagine how I wrote a 170,000-word novel. Cripes, that’s huge! But I did it one word at a time, and there it is.

    Oh, and Julia is right (I’ve only tested this with cats, but I imagine dogs can be efficacious as well).

  5. Joelle Wilson Avatar

    Love the post.

  6. Juliann Wetz Avatar

    Hope your knee continues to improve. As someone who suffers from occassional knee pain (gout), I know how limiting it can be.

  7. Shari Avatar

    Joining in with the others: love this post. You have an incredible ability to make us all stop, think, and reflect :)

    Also – I hope your knee continues to feel better. My mom needed PT for a year after she fractured hers, but it truly worked wonders!

  8. Jon Avatar

    Good to hear your knee is recovering. Time is progress, right?

  9. Kristan Avatar

    I never thought of Jane Austen that way, but it makes some sense. :) You can tell Ziggy that Riley has been taking his duties as healer fairly seriously. (Although he would take them more seriously if he got extra kibbles…)

    I’m glad. :)

    Sean, Joelle, Juliann, Shari, and Jon-

    Yes, I didn’t draw the connection to writing, but I was certainly thinking it.

  10. Sonje Avatar

    This post reminds me of that great quote: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

    Also, I’m glad that your knee is feeling better. :)

  11. carol Avatar

    Love reading your post its interesting.I learn more from everything.

  12. Kristan Avatar

    Andy LOVES that quote.