Whenever I take a photo, I take moment to move the camera from side to side, higher and lower, deciding where, what or whom I want to be the focus of the photograph. The point is to capture the moment so I can recall the experience and how I felt at that moment when I look at the photo in months or years to come.
The focus of our lives is also adjusted. Not only left or right, higher or lower but sometimes we have to turn around and look through the camera in an entirely different direction. Sometimes we don’t like what we see through the lens. Other times, we’re delightfully surprised. We can be curious or resigned or even angry about our current view. But no matter what, we have to live with that view – even momentarily – until we can move on to another place, with different views.
Since March, when I was no longer able to work, the view through my life camera has been fuzzy most days, terrifying for a few days and confusing almost all the time.
Lately, though, it’s come into focus. I no longer think of myself as a music teacher. The mission that directed may life for all those years has been set aside. What’s emerged is a woman who recognises her gift for teaching and her talent for hand work – more specifically, embroidery. When asked “What do you do?” I now answer, “I’m an embroiderer, a teacher of embroidery and I teach piano to a few students.” It feels great!
About 6 weeks ago, something happened that meant my image of the new me is going to develop using time-lapse photography. For over a year (including the time when I was struggling so much at school and this probably contributed to my burn out, on retrospect) I’ve had pain and lost strength in both thumbs. For example, I couldn’t carry a cup of coffee with balancing it on the palm of one hand while holding it with the other. Finally, I went to the orthopedist who took X-rays. She sent me to a therapist. She sent me to a surgeon who told me clearly that my thumbs simply didn’t work any more. The osteoarthritis in both thumbs was a Level 4 – the worst possible. There is no cartilage left. No wonder I had pain and couldn’t function! Even inserting the needle through fabric was painful some days.
Fortunately, there is a solution that will give me “thumbs as good as new” according to my surgeon. Well, maybe with only 80% of the strength I had as a young adult, but compared to the strength I have now, it will feel like new! (The surgery is called CMC Arthroplasty or, in Germany, Epping Plastic.)
The first surgery was in late November on my left thumb and went really well. Very little pain, a comfortable hospital stay and, because German health care covers all the cost, no financial worries. The second surgery will be in late February on my right thumb. After each operation will be months of physical therapy so I can learn how to use my new thumbs.
So, the focus of my life has again shifted from creative endeavours through embroidery to hard work healing my thumbs. Am I happy? Well…sort of…yes. I am very thankful I’m here, where the health care is excellent. I have complete trust in my surgeon and therapist. I have time to care for my hands. I have a husband who loves me so much he’s will to do all the things for me that I can’t do for myself right now.
Am I frustrated and bored? Absolutely! But that all part of life’s rich pattern. I may not like what in the foreground of my life’s image, but in the distance, I like what I see very much!