Ligament. ‘A short band of tough, flexible fibrous connective tissue which connects two bones or cartilages or holds together a joint; a membranous fold that supports an organ and keeps it in position; archaically, a thing which unites people or things; a bond.’ Funnily, my torn ligaments highlight a lot of human and physical bonds. On the plane back from Europe, I read an email from my physiotherapist, reminding me of the importance of my range of motion exercises as the biggest predictor of post-operative knee pain in ACL reconstruction is a lack of pre-operation knee extension. Thanks to a lot of general activity and diligent focussed training throughout the past two months since I injured my knee, my range of motion is just fine, as well as my control of movements, flexibility and strength in the leg and, importantly, in my glutes, hips, core, ankles and what not, so that my whole body, in a sense, forms a healing-conducive unison. I’m just trying to listen to my body (and mind) and to understand its signs as I navigate the various/varying pieces of advice from doctors, physios, fitness fans and caring family/friends. Everyone offers sweet support and a lot of love, nurturing that outdated meaning of ligament.
Coming Back Ramblings. It almost seems too sweetly apt when I spill red wine all over Sweetbitter on the bumpy plane ride back to Singapore, the cover photo and content being drenched in wine as it is. It’s one of the juiciest, most captivating, funniest and cleverest New York novels I’ve read, and I’ve read hundreds of them. Well, it’s not Auster, Hustvedt, Salinger, F Scott Fitzgerald, but it resonates with me – a summer read with a punch. The kind flight attendant gives me a new mini bottle. Neither it nor the book lulls me to sleep. I’m wide awake, and anxious, on the entire journey. As we drive to Tiong Bahru from the airport through thick cloudy humidity, I don’t feel any hint of excitement or ‘gensynsglæde’ (an untranslatable word, sort of, ‘reunion happiness’). I miss the sweet dryness of Spain and the fresh sweetness of the Scandinavian summer. If it weren’t for S, I’m sure I’d be feeling homesick and unsure why I’m here. The flat is as light, bright and airy as always. It’s got our stuff in it, familiar bits and pieces that we’ve picked together, loving cards hanging decoratively from wires in the corridor, thriving exotic plants. Soothing to unpack a suitcase of clean clothes – thanks, mum! – and to mill around and organise, do some grocery shopping, splurging on organic whole foods and picking out a comfy Uniqlo-outfit to wear to the hospital, prepare myself physically and mentally for surgery the next morning. After a good night’s sleep, I’ll message my friends at home, the ones we saw and those we didn’t this time around. S asks if I’ve told my friends in Singapore that tomorrow is the day. Friends in Singapore. Right, they exist, and I must focus on them now. I love my friends in Copenhagen, London and Spain, and I wish I had an everyday life with them – walks, coffees, drinks, parties, events, spontaneous chats about high and low, timely support when things are tough – but I’m also happy with my current arrangement: a life here, knowing that those people are there in spirit, on FaceTime and when we travel. Right now, though, I want it all. In a few days I’ll be back to having my usual outlook – the jet lag will drift off. S and I go for an easy dinner at PS, picking our usual super food salad, treating ourselves to a glass of Rioja from one of the open bottles on the counter, handing the manager a jar of Spanish sea salt as a thank you for watering our plants while we were away. Although I didn’t sleep on the plane, I’m also having trouble falling asleep this evening. Feeling slightly nervous about this unknown thing that’s going to happen when I wake up, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s a standard procedure and if I just stick to the rules of rehab, I will be back to work, swimming, wandering, running and barre very soon. Repeating that like a mantra, I eventually manage to fall asleep, and when I wake up in the heat, do a bunch of sun salutations on the balcony, palm trees swaying softly next to me, and make breakfast while S is making chai, I slowly remember why Singapore is home.
Surgery. Considered by people I’ve met and Google searches to be the best hospital in Singapore, Mount Elizabeth Hospital is where the magic happens. It isn’t magic – it’s the incredibly fascinating skill of the surgeon – but it feels like magic when I wake up after 3 hours of deep, numb sleep in a soft bed with fluffy pillows and heated blankets, my leg locked in a big brace and a cartoon featuring an oversized duck, an orange monster and a chubby guy with a blue hat playing on the gigantic flatscreen tv hanging from the ceiling of my private luxury suite. ‘Camilla, surgery is over,’ a kind nurse informs me. In that same moment, I receive an sms from the doctor: ‘Surgery went very well. There was a ligament tear as noted and both meniscus were torn as well. The tears were removed and the ligament reconstructed. The final construct is stable and good. You were safe throughout the surgery. I’ll review you tomorrow.’ I send a smiley selfie to S, my family and the friends who’ve messaged me while I was asleep. S replies that I look angelic and that he’s on his way. My brother replies that it looks like my morphine supply is plentiful. A friend replies that I look blissful. I’m relieved, and I’m grateful for the surgeon’s work and my health insurance. When I push a button, smiling nurses bring me painkillers and water, or help me pee over a chair with a hole in it, making me feel like a cartoon character. S arrives with hugs, kisses and a spicy tuna sandwich and Perfect Balance juice from Joe and the Juice. We talk for a little bit, listen to an episode of DID, and then I fall asleep while he starts working on his laptop in one of the huge sofas in the corner of the room. Waking up briefly when visiting hours come to an end, I fall back to sleep after he has left and stay unconscious for 12 hours.
The Morning After. Waking up to / because of excruciating pain. Staring into space for a few hours as it grows light and sunny. I can’t read today’s paper, which I’m handed with my breakfast of toast, cut fruit and green tea, or my book; I’m just trying to focus on my breath. It hurts too much. Press the assistance button. When I ask if I can have some stronger painkillers, the nurse replies, ‘uh, can, can, no problem, you take care, lah.’ Four brief, delightful visits in succession – first the surgeon, who explains what he did and how well it went, the anesthetics doctor, who reassures me that he didn’t hit any nerves with his needles, the physio, who teaches me some basic exercises, and a nurse, who helps me in the shower. Napping, limping over to the window and smiling as I notice a row of beautiful private villas with swimming pools and lush gardens in the street below me, napping a bit again.
Home. Around noon, S picks me up and takes me home to a flat full of fresh flowers from the market. I spend all afternoon and evening lying flat on the sofa, staring into space, half-listening to podcasts, snoozing, my friend Anna stopping by with more flowers, S bringing me slices of rye bread with avocado for lunch and lentil soup for dinner.
The Second Morning After. The night is pain-free, even when I move from side to side, and I’m well-rested the next day. Still a bit stiff though, feeling weak, soft and constricted when doing my very basic exercises on the balcony. I want to go out in the glorious sunshine and run or cycle down to the barre studio. I was so into it, really part of the tribe there, and now they’ve grown so much since I’ve been out, with cool events happening every week. My Instagram feed is a roll of friends relishing in the current heatwave in Europe, gathering in parks and on beaches with chilled rosé and fresh seafood, cycling through grassy paths and exercising under blue skies. My friend in California calls me and says that just the other day, her husband, who had ACL surgery 6 months ago, realised that for the first time since falling off his electric skateboard and injuring his knee at Christmas, he hadn’t been thinking about it for a while (as we speak, they’ve just finished surfing and are drinking rosé in their leafy garden). I’ll get there too. This is temporary. Some day, in the not too distant future, I’ll stop thinking about my knee and feeling restricted. Appreciate my joints, muscles and health more than ever, but with a general sense of gratefulness rather than a constant focus. S comes out on the balcony with a steaming cup of chai and kisses me. I ask, ‘when I can walk without crutches again, can we go to the beach and watch the sunset with a bottle of rosé?’ He smiles and nods and walks back through the flat to take care of our laundry before sitting down to work, staying at home all day to keep me company. Hearing the calming noise of fingers tapping away on a keyboard, I smile to him from the sofa. I will be moving and working too very soon, but now it’s time to spend the whole day reading my book and Spanish Vogue. When do I ever get to do that?
Relax. Reading my book. Flicking through my magazine. Hopping out on the balcony to do my exercises on my yoga mat. Smiling to S whenever we cross paths throughout the day. A friend comes over for a chat, bringing us our favourite coffees from Forty Hands. Other friends send caring messages. My mum calls me from Copenhagen Airport, ready to fly out and look after me. In the evening, S cooks us a dinner of salmon and veggies, the warm golden hour sunlight streaming in through the kitchen windows. We then book tickets to celebrate my birthday in … Bali!
Post Op Care – Momma B in the Tropics. Ah, how lovely to look down into the street from the balcony at 6:45am and see my mum, Momma B, as S has named her, step out of a taxi and smiling up at me as I call her name. From that moment follows a wonderful few days of doing as little as possible and having her and S to help me with practical things (like showering and carrying stuff) and generally feel loved and nurtured. Friday’s dinner at Tamarind Hill in the Labrador Nature Reserve – tasty summer rolls, tom yum soup, mango salad, duck curry and a few mocktails on the restaurant’s beautiful wooden veranda surrounded by lush jungle – is the only time I leave Tiong Bahru. Otherwise, I’m mostly hanging out on the sofa, with both of them keeping me company. Sleeping in, taking pills, taking more pills, taking frequent naps, reading the pile of Danish architecture, interior design and fashion magazines that my mum brought, watching S replanting our old plants in larger pots and carefully planting the Pilea P baby that she also brought, cut off from one of her gigantic, thriving ones. On Saturday afternoon, he’s off to Hari Raya celebration with friends, while my mum and I go for dinner at PS, the manager treating us to a scoop of lychee sorbet on the house. After a Netflix movie back home on the sofa, she then goes to sleep and I go into the office to cut pieces out of Danish Elle and glue them into a montage, which was one of my favourite activities when I was a teenager. I would be completely immersed in the activity of distilling the essence, as I saw it, of a particular fashion magazine onto a slice of A4 paper. Maybe laminate it, or coat it with transparent lacquer. Everyone would go about it in a different way, based on their own individual eye, sense of style and mood. That’s what I found exciting. Mine would be completely void of faces or brands, with just the colour scheme and striking designs of that particular issue shaping the outcome. It’s still pretty exciting, I discover, haha. On Sunday, we head down to Tiong Bahru Club for lunch with a family friend – my mum’s best friend’s son, who works as a bartender at a Japanese gentlemen’s club around the corner. In the late afternoon, S’s two best friends from Hong Kong come over for a glass of wine, charming my mum with cheerful stories and great questions, and eventually taking S out for some Eid celebrations.
Work and Happiness. This week is the fourth week off work I’ve had in the past two months, two for travels and two for sick leave. A lot of vacancy in a short amount of time, which has made me think a lot about the nature of work and its relation to happiness. In order to be content, most humans probably need to feel useful; that they’re using their talents and contributing to society in a positive way. Whether it be out of necessity or passion, if you even get / dare to choose between the two. A balance between pleasure, chores, charity and what not. For a month now, I’ve been soaking in love and good vibrations, living in a bubble of loving familiarity and great adventure, ‘contributing’ only in a very soft and bubbly way. I’m grateful that on Tuesday, after a public holiday, I’ll be back to performing those 8-hours-a-day-tasks that ‘justify’ my way of living. It is a dream job; I enjoy every aspect of it, from the work itself and communicating with my lovely colleagues to the relative independence and balance in terms of location and schedule it gives me, which creates mental and physical space for exotic travels, creative free time projects and taking care of myself and people around me.
Social Media and Happiness. I don’t look at anyone’s glossy pictures or read anyone’s great stories and feel envy or jealousy. I love good images and stories, but they purely create in me a sense of joy on other people’s behalf and serve as an inspiration. And, it goes the other way too. I don’t post pictures or tell stories to compensate for any nasty feelings of insecurity or inadequacy. I just love sharing images that, hopefully, bring joy and inspiration.
On Loop This Week: Lana del Rey’s Lust for life.´