Before this year, the last time I sprained my knee was back at the end of 2001, when my family and I were still living in a hotel room following the house fire earlier that spring. I was walking down some stairs, my left foot slipped out from under me, and in an attempt to catch myself, I somehow landed with my left leg underneath me. It was probably a miracle that I didn’t break something, but my knee was basically shot. As luck would have it, I had just finished up my first fall semester at the University of Toledo, and I didn’t have to move around that much in the hotel room, so that aided in my recuperation. I still had a noticeable limp when I returned to campus a couple of weeks later, but all things being equal, that could have been a lot worse.
Several weeks ago, after one of the many snowstorms we got here in southwest Wisconsin this past winter, I managed to sprain my left knee while trying to walk down some stairs again, only this time I had laundry hampers in both my hands. Well, my body was also over twenty years older, and once again, I somehow managed to mess myself up big-time without actually breaking anything. I was able to move my classes online for a week during my initial recovery, but I couldn’t keep making my students do that, so I bought myself a walking cane and used that for several weeks as my knee healed. That was a painful reminder that I still have more of an ego than I’d like, because I was still kind of mortified by the physical necessity of needing a cane to get from place to place, and even though I knew it was a temporary inconvenience (I haven’t needed it for weeks now), using it for the brief time I did still made me feel like I’d aged far more than the twenty years that had passed since my most recent knee sprain.
It didn’t help that I turned forty-seven a couple of weeks ago, and yeah, I’m still trying to figure out how the fuck that happened. Even after Mom’s passing back in 2016 and everything that followed, I still felt like I was able to keep a youthful mindset there, but I think the COVID-19 pandemic really changed that for me. I honestly feel like I’ve aged more in the past three years than I did in the previous thirty, and I don’t see that trend reversing any time soon. Even though so much of my life is going better than it ever has right now, I find myself battling ennui almost every day, and it’s getting to the point where I’m wondering if I’m not burning myself out again by trying to do all the things I’m working on right now, even though a lot of those things are simple activities that I feel like I could have done in my sleep just three years ago.
I think the physical problems, with my knee injury and my lack of energy, would be easier to deal with if I felt like I was getting a lot done, and the problem is that I can tell that I am, objectively, getting a lot done, but it doesn’t feel like it. With the way everything around me is going — not just in my little corner of Wisconsin, but in the nation and the world as well — it’s hard to believe that all the stuff I’m pushing myself to do here will amount to anything that significant. Knowing myself like I do, my next big fall will probably happen a lot sooner than twenty-one years from now, and I can’t count on being able to survive that fall like I did the one I had earlier this year.