April 30th, 2004


Pavlov's Reject

I'm not always very good at learning from my mistakes (at least, the little ones). I'm also not especially good at re-training myself.

I still have a significantly bad knee. It's weight-bearing, but I can't do things like twist or hop yet. This means my balance is impaired - you know how, when you stand on one leg, you often do little twists, shifts, or hops on that foot to keep your balance centered. Well I can't do any of that on my right leg, at least not without pain and potential injury.

One would think that this decrease in ability would mean that I would carefully sit down to put on my socks, shoes, or pants. One would be wrong.

The problem is that I forget. I've been agile and well-balanced for the majority of my life, and I only had the surgery 5 weeks ago. So when I'm in a hurry to get ready, or just not thinking about what I'm doing, I'll just casually step into and out of socks, pants, etc, wherever I happen to be standing.

Several times, this has caused me to bobble, and it has frightened me. One time I even started to lose my balance and had to catch myself with one hand on the floor. This has caused a variety of hurts and twinges from my bad knee.

Each time, I have chastised myself. "What are you doing, you idiot?" I'll demand. "You need to remember to sit down or lean on something. You're going to hurt yourself." I will remind myself to sit next time.... but generally when next time comes I'll have forgotten.

The habit is too deeply ingrained, and no amount of pain, scolding, or reminders has changed it yet. Pavlov would have kicked me right out of his bell-school to keep me from ruining all of his experiments.

Last night I was particularly stupid. I was going upstairs to change clothes and go out for the evening. I got to the top of the stairs, and I casually started pulling off my pants. I stepped out with my bad leg, then I was standing on the bad leg, pulling the pants off my good leg.

As is easy to do, my foot got stuck in the pant leg. I was off balance, my good foot caught in the air, and I started toppling backward in the other direction. Right behind me, of course, were the stairs.

It all felt like I was in slow motion. My leg was too injured to just hop sideways, to compensate for the shift in my center of balance. I saw the corner post of the stair-rail behind me, and considered grabbing onto it, letting the fall just pivot around the post, supporting my weight with my upper body. At least I wouldn't fall down the stairs. But I also immediately could sense that the angle was wrong, and it would involve a major twist of my knee if my foot stayed planted.

Still in slow motion, it was as though the leg knew what it had to do. I could feel all the injured muscles gather together, bend, then heave! I leaped sluggishly into the air, then landed again on the same leg. Close enough to the rail this time so that I could easily balance myself and check the fall.

I think even before the pain started, my face assumed a silent Scream, because I knew it was coming. It hurt, as expected. I over-strained my weak and injured thigh muscles, but fortunately I didn't twist or strain the knee itself. Nothing permanent.

"You are such an idiot," I told myself angrily when my equilibrium was recovered. "Now will you learn to be careful and not try to balance on one foot anymore??"

... Fast forward to this morning -- I sat down on the bed to put on my socks. I felt so proud of myself for remembering to be careful, until I noticed that I was already wearing pants. I definitely had not remembered to sit down when I put them on....